I had the pleasure of attending the RootsTech/London conference for the past 3 days. To sum up the conference in one word: “Wow!”
The London conference was a first-time ever effort for FamilySearch. Indeed, FamilySearch has held nine RootsTech conferences in Salt Lake City, Utah in the past nine years. These annual conferences have exploded in popularity. Today, the RootsTech conferences have become the most popular family history conferences in the world. This year, the conference organizers at FamilySearch decided to “take the show on the road.” A second show was held in London, England, on October 24 through 26.
The London conference was held in the ExCeL (Exhibition Centre London) in the Custom House area of Canning Town, East London, England. This was an excellent choice of location, in my opinion. The Exhibition Centre is a very modern, state-of-the-art facility with all the latest capabilities one expects these days.
First of all, the ExCeL is huge. The building includes approximately 479,493 square feet (approximately 44,546 m²). For those of us who have a problem picturing that many square feet or square metres, I will simply say it is roughly a city block, all under one roof. The facility is easily accessed by a light rail station beside the exhibition centre. In addition, the centre’s car park is capable of handling about 3,700 automobiles. For food and lodging, there are six hotels and more than 30 bars and restaurants in or within walking distance of the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. The Centre is located across the River Thames from London City Airport. It is an 8-minute walk or a 5-minute shuttle bus ride from the airport to the exhibition centre, although a much longer distance from either the Heathrow or Gatwick airports.
Best of all, unlike most other conference centres I have been in, the heating and air conditioning seemed to work well during the 3-day RootsTech/London conference. I wasn’t freezing while attending various presentations!
The ExCeL Exhibition Centre is capable of holding two or more large events simultaneously. Indeed that happened this past week. RootsTech/London was the smaller event. I never obtained the headcount, but clearly several thousand genealogists were in the building every day for 3 days. The last two days of the genealogy conference also were the first two days of Comic Con London. If you are not familiar with Comic Con, my first comment is that it is VERY different from a genealogy conference!
A few of the attendees at Comic Con: There was no confusion in the conference center as these folks don’t look like genealogists!
I will write briefly about Comic Con London in another article.
Hundreds of presentations were made during the RootsTech/London conference about a wide variety of genealogy-related topics by many of today’s leading experts and lecturers. There were also various keynote presentations made during the three days of the conference. Here are (slightly modified by me) quotes from the RootsTech web site describing the presenters:
Nick Barratt was the RootsTech London Emcee. Barratt is known for his work on Who Do You Think You Are, House Detectives, Hidden House Histories, Secrets from the Attic and Missing Millions. Barratt is a committee member for the Community Archive and Heritage Group, and President of the Federation of Family History Societies.
Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, explored the connections and belonging that come through family history.
Dan Snow, is a popular historian, broadcaster, and television presenter. Snow was born and raised in London. Having graduated from Oxford University, he went on to present military history programs with his father, Peter Snow. Their series Battlefield Britain won a BAFTA award. He has appeared regularly on the ONE show on BBC1 and has contributed to several books including Death or Victory; The World’s Greatest Twentieth Century Battlefields and The Battle of Waterloo Experience. Snow spoke to the audience, sharing stories and his own experience with family and history and everything in between.
Kadeena Cox has lived an incredible story, and she shared it with the RootsTech community. Cox is a Paralympian with multiple gold medals to her name. She won two gold medals and a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics. These medals made Cox the first Briton in 32 years to take gold in two sports at the same Paralympics games. Cox has broken records, won medals on the world stage, and made her country proud. She took to the RootsTech/London stage to share her story, her family, and her inspiring spirit of determination and courage.
Donny Osmond is known internationally for his talent as a singer, songwriter, actor, television series host, and as a best-selling author. After years of entertaining crowds, inspiring more than a few dance parties, and making memories around the world, Donny Osmond came to the RootsTech stage in London to share his story, his talents, and his passion for family history. He shared stories about connection, finding family, and his deep connection to the UK.
I must say that I was very impressed by all the keynote presenters. I happen to have known four of the five presenters for some time and will say they all lived up to my expectations. However, I previously knew nothing about Kadeena Cox and her accomplishments. I was deeply impressed by this young lady, the difficulties she has overcome, the accomplishments she has already achieved, and her attitude towards the future and about families supporting their members.
First of all, Kadeena Cox obviously is not a polished entertainer or experienced public speaker. I have to say that her method of speaking in public is one of her more endearing qualities. I suspect everyone in the audience realized this is a “real person” describing “real problems,” “real solutions,” and support from her “real family.” Her presentation was my personal highlight of the conference, with or without a polished presentation. She inspired me more than did any other speaker this week.
I cannot describe Kadeena Cox’s background and experiences properly, so I am going to extract several relevant items from the Wikipedia article about her:
“Cox was born in Leeds, England in 1991 to Jamaican immigrants.”
“Cox began sprinting competitively at the age of 15 after her hockey coach suggested she try the sport. Over the next three years she competed at regional under-17 meets gaining several podium finishes in the 100m events.”
“On the 18 May 2014, Cox entered the Loughborough International: two days later she was rushed to hospital after showing odd symptoms and was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. After two months of physiotherapy she recovered back to normal health and began training again. Then on 15 September 2014 she experienced burning sensations in her right arm, which over the following few days worsened to numbness in her arm and right leg and she was again taken to hospital with suspicions of a stroke. After extensive tests she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.”
The above medical problems would have stopped the athletic career of most people. However, again quoting from Wikipedia:
“Intent on making the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio, Cox was classified as both a T37 track and field athlete, to continuing her sprinting career, and a C2 track cyclist.
“A month later Cox was selected for the Great Britain athletics team to compete at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, where she entered the T37 100m and 200m sprints. In the heats leading up to the final of the 100m sprint, Cox posted a time of 13.59s to beat the world record set by France’s Mandy Francois-Elie. Later that day she ran in the 100m T37 final, taking the gold medal in a time of 13:60, beating team mate Georgina Hermitage into second place.”
(Some details omitted here for brevity.)
“Cox was selected for the Rio Paralympics in July 2016. At the Games she took a gold in the T38 400m, a silver in the T35-38 4x100m relay and a bronze in the T38 100m. She also set a new world record of 1:00.71 to take the gold medal in the T38 400m. Cox was subsequently selected as the flag-bearer for the British team at the closing ceremony.”
Winning medials in track and field events after suffering strokes and being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis is very impressive but apparently that wasn’t enough. She then switched sports and:
“In September 2015 Cox entered the British National Track Championships where she took the gold medal in the C1-5 Mixed Gender Sprint Time Trial.
“In March 2016, Cox represented Great Britain at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Montichiari. Despite being reclassified as a C4 cyclist the day before the event, she still went on to win gold in the 500m time trial with a world record of 37.456s. On 1 August, Cox was named in the Great Britain team to compete at the Rio Paralympics with the potential to race in the 500m time trial and the road race. Cox won gold in the 500m time trial in the 2016 Paralympics: her time of 34.598 seconds also set a new world record.”
“Cox was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to athletics.”
OK, the next time I feeling discouraged by any of the various problems we all encounter in life, I am going to remind myself of the talk by Kadeena Cox!
You might want to read the full Wikipedia article at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadeena_Cox as well as any of the hundreds of other online article about her by beginning at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%22Kadeena+Cox%22&t=h_&ia=web.
I spent a lot of time in the RootsTech London exhibition hall, with more than 100 stands from all the leading genealogy vendors as well as many smaller ones. Several new (to me) vendors displayed products and services that I had not known about previously. A few of the products are not quite ready for the public just yet but instead are in late beta test.
I have included many pictures in the following article, many of which were taken in the exhibition hall. Those photos should provide a great “flavour” of what the place looked like. I also plan to write individual articles for you about several of the new products and services in the next few weeks.
For more information
To see a lot more information about RootsTech/London, see the conference web site at: https://www.rootstech.org/london. It contains all the information provided in advance of the conference. You can find the full conference schedule at: https://www.rootstech.org/schedule. You also might want to read the daily reports from the conference written by Elizabeth Miller by starting at: https://www.rootstech.org/blog.
I hope the FamilySearch folks won’t change the site for a few weeks so that everyone can see what they missed. However, I would also suggest you not delay too long before reading it as I am sure the web site will soon be updated with information about RootsTech/Salt Lake City to be held in February.
If you were not at the conference in person, you should know that many of the conference presentations were recorded as videos, and those will become available online within a few days or perhaps in a few weeks.
My only complaint about RootsTech/London?
It wasn’t long enough! I could have spent a week in the place.