SALT LAKE CITY — It is the biggest gathering of its kind in the world: RootsTech.
Whether you are into finding your ancestors or wouldn't know where to begin, there is something for you.
When it comes to finding your ancestry and discovering your genetics, Utah is ground zero — and never more so than at RootsTech.
"RootsTech is my, you know, if I were in the fashion industry, this would be my Fashion Week," said D. Joshua Taylor, president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.
Is it just a hobby? Hardly. It has become the new passionate pastime. Tens of thousands come from around the world — people of all races, religions and cultures — searching for connections to who they are. And it has hit a fever pitch because it's fun and addictive.
Searching brings answers to the question, “Who am I?”
My interest in family history started when my grandmother showed me that she was working on a census, trying to prove someone was a son of someone. It was a mystery and I was 10. I got hooked.
“It's this never-ending detective story,” Taylor said. “The best thing about family history is when you find one person, you've got two more to find because of the parents. So, it's this perpetual mystery and perpetual discovery."
This is the seventh year of RootsTech, and some big names will headline. The Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, who have built an empire in entertainment and home renovation; LeVar Burton of “Roots”, “Reading Rainbow” and “StarTrek” fame; Buddy Valastro, also know as “The Cake Boss”; and CeCe Moore, also known as the family history detective, who is an expert at finding hidden truths about family relationships.
"Whether you have a family history calling, whether you're a beginning African-American genealogist, whether you're just a family wanting to come in and do something fun with your kids and learn about new technology resources and family history, we've got it,” said Thom Reed, senior marketing director of Family Search International. “And you can be entertained."
Saturday is Family Discovery Day. This day is free for LDS Church members.
“Sheri Dew, Vai Sikahema, Hank Smith, Kalani Sitake, all of them will be there.” Reed said.
Just in time for RootsTech and long after it ends, the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City has had a multi-million-dollar high-tech upgrade. Interactive, personalized exhibits bring people together and find answers to the search for identity and family.
"In many ways, it's a gift to the community,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It's a gift for families, it's a gift for groups large and small. It's terrific for students and schools."
Tired of looking at small pedigree charts? The public can now work on 55-inch touch screens. You can find out what was happening in the world the day you were born, what famous people you are related to and more. It's free and open to everyone.
"We hope people come and just find a piece of themselves that maybe they didn't know about before," said Tamra Standfield, manager of the Family History Library.
“It’s massive but massively good,” Reed said. “We’ve really got RootsTech down to a well-oiled machine. It’s not an overwhelming experience for anyone; you can find your niche. You can find what you’re looking for.”
RootsTech is underway at the Salt Palace Convention Center and continues through Saturday evening.
Contributor: Xoel Cardenas