Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 RootsTech Update 6

The second day of RootsTech came fast. I woke up too early, but made my way to the Friday general session. Curt Witcher (of the Allen County Public Library) was the speaker, and I'd never seen him in person.

The title of the talk was "The Changing Face of Genealogy." Admittedly, I had minimal expectations from this session. I expected a pep rally of how cutting edge genealogy had become. I've heard this before, seen it argued about on discussion lists (yeah, we're still fighting via email) and just become jaded on the whole subject.

Witcher told some nice stories about his patrons finding the joys of family history. He used the middle of his talk to illustrate the online tools being used today by genealogists. Jaded me sat smugly hearing the same speech I've heard several times before. But then Witcher threw a curve ball and got all "librarian" on the crowd. Allow me to explain...

He talked about the importance of the experience of genealogy. It's supposed to be fun. He mentioned "Who Do You Think You Are?" and the subsequent post-show sermons by genealogists waving their Evidence Explained books about proper research procedure. Somehow we've lost focus, and Witcher called the community on it. The most important thing is to get the person in the door. Show them the satisfaction and joy that can come from searching one's history. This is what it's all about, as opposed to throwing the book at them when the comma is in the wrong place.

3/4 of the way through the session, I was drinking the Witcher Kool-Aid. I've been saying the librarian mottos of "get 'em in the door" all along. I've been saying it's supposed to be fun all along. And here was this guy telling everyone else it was supposed to be fun, too.

Witcher ended with some blunt words about where genealogy is headed. It's all about technology. This doesn't mean everything will be online. Rather, the tools you need to find, save and share the information will be. The writing is on the wall. I wonder how it was received by all those watching from home?

After that session, my head was spinning so I went to the media center to talk to some other bloggers. I wasn't the only one who dug the Witcher talk. It was more proof that I found my people at RootsTech. Heck,  I was already making plans to attend next year.

I paid a visit to more vendors including the Geni crew. I'd been talking with them online, so it was nice to put names with faces.

Lunch was a great meal with good friends Missy and Kerry. We talked about genealogy as a profession and the role of APG in that. Our break time was just as informative as a session. That's what's cool about conferences and that's why you network, folks.

The 1:45pm session was a panel discussion blogging. This was led by Thomas MacEntee and had several notable genealogy bloggers at the table. I went to this session to support my homies, but ended up learning a little bit from the audience. I've been in several blogging sessions before where the panel had to explain--and sometimes defend--blogging to the audience. This crowd knew what blogging was and wanted to know more. Their questions were sincere and they had great interest. This made me happy as I swear by blogging as a genealogy tool and social magnet.

My 3:00 session was an unconference with Jay Verkler. Basically an unconference session is not structured and the subject is determined at conference time. This topic was "technology and genealogy societies." Members of several societies were present. Verkler led the discussion and wrote main points on a board. Issues included print vs. electronic publications and how to get more members. I kept my mouth shut in this session because much of what people think is working is precisely why I don't belong to many societies. However, I did appreciate the session and Verkler's involvement in it. He showed sincere interest in what the audience said and offered some ideas to ponder. I also loved that RootsTech introduced this session format to the genealogy world. It's a nice change from the standard lecture.

In the evening, I attended the special viewing party of "Who Do You Think You Are?" at the Family History Library. That was a lot of fun. I sat next to Lisa Alzo and we chatted during commercial breaks.

After the show, we listened to the Geneabloggers radio show being broadcast from the first floor. We debated calling in from the third floor when Thomas said Tim McGraw seemed "detached," but were too tired to pull it off. We ended up walking back to the hotel at 9pm, though it felt like after midnight.

Sorry for the long post, but as you can see RootsTech is just packed.


  1. Great post, Amy! I was surprised by all of the keynote speakers -- they really brought new energy and thinking to the event. I hope to see it continue in the field!

  2. Great recap. You really captured the Witcher talk in particular. In fact, I think people will talking about that speech for quite a while.