San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Genealogical Conferences

by Maggie Melaney

Have you ever been to a genealogical conference?  It should be a requirement for all aspiring family historians.  There are several to choose from, including the upcoming SCGS Jamboree at the end of May

I’ve just returned from Rootstech, the Olympics of genealogy, held each year in Salt Lake City.  Here are a few of the highlights:

1.  The vendors.  From Ancestry and FamilySearch, through the DNA testers to the small book sellers and regional groups, there are enough booths to keep you busy all day without attending a single talk.  Most have presentations, and many offer discounts on products to attendees.

2.  The speakers.  It seems like everyone I’ve ever heard of was there.  I saw Thomas McEntree, Dick Eastman, Judy Russell, Lisa Louise Cook.  Also ran into our own Richard and Janet Rands, who were there as volunteers.  And I got to meet and shake hands with Henry Louis Gates Jr.  What a thrill!

3.  The talks:

  • The Sheboygan Dead Horse story with Colleen Fitzpatrick.  Learning how to evaluate photos for location, date, and other information
  • The National Archives (UK) - digitising the collections with Audrey Collins from the UK.  This was one I really wanted to attend, since I do lots of British research.  It was great to hear it from the horse’s mouth - the family history records specialist at Kew.  She had lots of good tips on searching the records online and what they hold
  • Using Geo-Tech Tools to Answer Research Questions with Fred Wertz.  We all love maps, right?  Here’s how to use location to tell a story and answer questions.
  • Big Data: Buzz Word or Family History Revolution?   Joshua Taylor spoke on “big data”, which are the trends and patterns behind the raw data we generally focus on.  What are the migration patterns?  the naming patterns?  Where did people go to church or seek employment?  Looking at the big data helps narrow a search or eliminate conflicting results.

Joshua also spoke on Diversity in Family History Tech.  This was a real emphasis of Rootstech 2018.  Someone asked me when I came back what I thought the ethnic makeup was this year.  Just from a look around at the attendees and vendors, it seemed much more diverse in terms of countries and groups represented.  And a much wider age range as well!

Here’s a sample of exhibitors:

  • 23&Me
  • Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • DAR
  • Desert Book Co.
  • Epson printers
  • Family Tree magazine
  • Irish Family History Centre           
  • New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
  • Quebec Genealogical eSociety
  • and yes, the Ukrainian Bar Association for Foreign Affairs

Much more information on the highlights, as well as rootstech 2019, can be found at

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