2nd virtual RootsTech conference kicks off with focus on connection

Eight of the keynote speakers for the 2022 RootsTech conference are pictured. The annual family history conference began on Thursday, will run through Saturday, and is completely virtual again this year.

Eight of the keynote speakers for the 2022 RootsTech conference are pictured. The annual family history conference began on Thursday, will run through Saturday, and is completely virtual again this year. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the 2022 RootsTech family history conference kicked off Thursday, FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood said those who take the opportunity to discover their family connections through RootsTech will be enlightened and inspired.

Rockwood said this year's conference aims to help people connect with friends, family, cousins, culture or heritage, their principles and each other.

"Especially at this time, when so much division is being thrust upon us, the beauty is we get to choose — connection is up to us," Rockwood said in the opening keynote address.

RootsTech this year is completely virtual like it was last year. It began on Thursday and will continue through Saturday with all of the virtual content available online afterward.

Andrew Parker, marketing manager for RootsTech with FamilySearch, said when the conference was held in person, tens of thousands of people would attend. Last year when the conference was digital, it had about 1.5 million people in attendance, and RootsTech officials are expecting that number to grow significantly this year based on participation in early events.

"One of the benefits of having the online conference is that it's allowed RootsTech to go global ... on a scale that we just haven't ever seen before," Parker said.

Last year, most of the videos were made remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he said this year the conference was able to film presentations around the world in the native countries of many of the speakers. Attendees can see the commonalities among people around the world as they look at each of the lives shown in the keynote addresses and others, Parker said.

Although RootsTech videos can be accessed all year, there are aspects of the conference that people should take advantage of during the RootsTech conference dates, including a Relatives at RootsTech feature that will help people find relatives among other attendees, historical figures and some of the keynote speakers.

During RootsTech, people can also get live help with questions about the conference and personal family history. Parker said there is an army of people behind the scenes available to help. Although FamilySearch provides family history help year-round, during the conference it can also help refer people to other companies or vendors in attendance.

These aspects of RootsTech are geared toward helping people make connections. Rockwood said people, particularly young people, should look for more meaningful connections.

"We know that you want to connect. We know that you want to belong. We know that you are already connected to friends and family, and maybe you're connected online to many who don't even know you, but we're anxious to show you how to make edifying, meaningful, deep connections that can blow the socks off these shallow connections that are trending today," he said.

As he was speaking, Rockwood encouraged people to reach out to those on their contact lists.

In creating his keynote speech, Rockwood traveled around the world to talk with people about how they connect through soccer, music and food. He suggested finding commonalities to build a connection while celebrating differences in thought and background.

"Choosing to connect is the powerful agent of change. Connections turn our sights from a divided world to one that's united. As we choose to connect, we will see the positive impact it has on our outlook on life," he said.

Rockwood suggested that people help teach artificial intelligence that they want positive content and stories of hope and connection by interacting with uplifting materials online.

"When we choose to scroll, like, comment and share messages of connection, little by little we might all see the world differently," Rockwood said. "If we can't change the world, perhaps we can certainly change our world by choosing connection."

He explained that artificial intelligence is also very helpful in family history, and experts are still finding new ways that it can help. One example is indexing, FamilySearch will use artificial intelligence to index the 1950 census when it is released in April, which will lead to searchable access within hours, rather than months. People will still be needed to verify the index, which will help improve the AI.

RootsTech is focused on building personal family history and the history of relatives who are still living, Parker said. Even those without a lot of background in family history will be able to find things that they can do to build personal histories from presentations at RootsTech.

"I have great stories from my ancestors that I love and I share with my children. But you know, the ones that they want when we're sitting around the dinner table? ... They want to hear about stories from my past or my wife's past and the people that they know," Parker said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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