Late last night, I returned from a trip to Oslo, Norway where I attended the first-ever MyHeritage LIVE Conference. This two-day event turned out to be the most memorable genealogy of the several hundred conferences I have attended over the years. It also was the most international of all the genealogy conferences I have attended. Besides all that, it was a blast.
The MyHeritage LIVE 2018 Conference was held this past weekend, November 3 and 4, in Oslo, Norway. Originally, I had some doubts as to the possible success of a genealogy conference to be held in Norway in the late autumn. I shouldn’t have questioned the idea. It turned out to be great. In fact, you need to scroll down to see the video at the end of this article to watch one high point of the conference!
MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet explained in his conference keynote speech that Oslo was selected simply because it was near the center of MyHeritage’s customer base. With thousands of customers in North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere, he wanted to find a location that was as close as possible to as many of those customers as possible. In hindsight, I would say he succeeded.
Conference attendees wore name tags that also listed their country of residence. Therefore, it was easy to see where everyone was from. As I expected, a high percentage of the attendees were from Europe but many other countries were also represented. In the last session of the conference on Sunday, Aaron Godfrey of MyHeritage reported that attendees from 28 different countries were at the conference!
I talked with conference attendees from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States of America, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, and some other countries that I cannot recall right now.
I was especially impressed that one couple from the Republic of Mali in West Africa were at the event as I saw them in several of the presentations. I am not sure if they traveled to Oslo strictly for this conference or if perhaps they combined the trip with other plans as well. In any case, the lady’s colorful African style long dresses and a matching turban that always matched her dress was quite noticeable.
In addition to all the in-person attendees, many of the sessions were live-streamed on the Internet. More than 60,000 people attended at least one session live, an amazing number when you realize that many of these attendees were watching live presentations in the wee hours of the morning in their own time zones!
One other sight common at this conference is rarely seen at other genealogy conferences: attendees wearing headphones. Obviously, it was easy for MyHeritage customers in Norway to attend this conference but not all of them are proficient in English. (All presentations were made in English.) Live translation into the Norwegian language of each presentation was available for anyone who preferred to listen to a Norwegian presentation. Live translators were in a booth in the back of each presentation room, speaking into microphones which then rebroadcast their Norwegian words to wireless headphones worn by some attendees. The presentations also were translated into sign language live as each speaker made a presentation. Yes, this conference was like a mini-United Nations in more ways than one!
As you might expect from a conference sponsored by one corporation, many of the conference’s presentations were about the use of MyHeritage’s many online records, historical newspapers, shared family trees, DNA services, and similar topics. However, if you look at the list of presentations on the conference web site at https://live2018.myheritage.com, you will notice that other topics about genealogy research also were made available. I know I learned about a number of new (to me) research ideas.
I believe all the attendees enjoyed the MyHeritage LIVE 2018 Conference. Everyone I saw was smiling and the people I talked with all were enthusiastic about their experiences this past weekend. I know I loved it.
Perhaps even more important, the employees of MyHeritage who were at the conference also were smiling late on the last day. The entire conference had been conceived, planned, and executed in about 8 or 9 months, an incredibly short time for a major genealogy conference. The logistics of holding it in a country several thousand miles away from the home office of the sponsoring corporation only made it more of a challenge. Obviously, the MyHeritage crew can be proud of their success.
On a personal note: this article is being published a day later than I would have expected. I spent many hours Monday (the day after the conference) in Stockholm, Sweden’s Arlanda Airport. I had planned to fly from Oslo to Stockholm, switch planes, and then take a nine-and-a-half-hour non-stop flight to Orlando. It seems the plane that was to take me from Stockholm to Orlando was delayed earlier in the day at some other airport and didn’t arrive in Stockholm until several hours later than scheduled. I did eventually get to Orlando but at a much later time than I had expected.
So what was the conference REALLY like? I cannot describe everything in words but I will share a number of photographs I took in Oslo this past weekend. Perhaps you also can appreciate the success of this conference.
What do genealogists do on a Saturday night in Oslo?