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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

Day 3 – #RootsTech – #NotAtRootsTech – #Genchat - Fri, 2 Mar 2018


  1. Caught up on my Twitter feed from last night. One tweet from Nicole Dyer led me to her blog post about Diana’s classes on Source Citations and Getting Organized. They made the presentation slides available so I took a look and also downloaded their great handouts from the RootsTech App.

    I do disagree with Diana’s very first step:  “Divide papers by families”, as I am of the philosophy that you should keep all source material by where you got it, which retains context and relatedness. Otherwise her presentations and ideas are excellent.

  2. Turned on the RootsTech live stream.I liked how Jason Hewlett started off by highlighting the #NotAtRootsTech posters who sent a tweet of themselves watching RootsTech. This was the winner:

  3. Ben Bennett of Findmypast: “We also believe that the benefits of a shared tree can be watered down if we have too many shared trees, and so we asked ourselves, what if we didn’t actually build another shared tree? Instead, what if we focused our efforts on contributing to a community that is already alive and progressing?” – So FamilySearch is partnering with Findmypast (just as they are doing with MyHeritage as announced a few days ago). Findmypast will be building a new suite of family tree products including their shared tree, reference tree, and updates to their private trees is still in development. But it appears to me that FamilySearch, with MyHeritage and Findmypast now aligning with them, is winning the battle of which shared tree will become THE shared tree. If that ends up happening and we end up with one shared tree for all, then the efforts that got the big companies to get together annually at RootsTech will have paid off the genealogical community big time! Congrats to all the big companies.

    The 5 big DNA companies got together on Day 1 of RootsTech. They will compete and cooperate with each other and maybe the ultimate result will be one big DNA tree integrated with the one big shared family tree. Wouldn’t that be something!

  4. Watched Scott Hamilton. Wonderful. He made me cry.
  5. Read Roberta Estes’ blog post on Day 2 which includes a detailed summary of Gilad Japhet’s MyHeritage lunch speech that includes MyHeritage’s new innovations and plans. It seems like the push is towards combining DNA, family trees and historical records seamlessly. Hooray!
  6. Right after that, I received in my email a press release from MyHeritage DNA about their new changes. And these are monumental! You can now download your match list. They now have a 7 person chromosome browser. And the best part is that the chromosome browser will show triangulations and you can download the exact triangulation segments. Wow! This really changes everything. I immediately tweeted:

    This of course distracted me from RootsTech for the rest of the afternoon as I tested out the new features. What I found will deserve a blog post on its own.

  7. It was appropriate that while I was feeling out the new MyHeritage DNA downloads and triangulation features, that I could simultaneously watch Jim Brewster of Family Tree DNA giving the talk: “Finding the Right DNA Test for You”. He gave a nice intro which surprisingly was so different from Yaniv Erlich’s MyHeritage talk yesterday that they had hardly any overlap. It is worthwhile watching both talks.
    Jim Brewster of Family Tree DNA
  8. 3 p.m. Mountain Time (4 p.m. in my Central Time) was Curt Witcher (my right-booted compatriot) and Amy Johnson Crow with “How Not to Leave Your Genealogy Behind”. I love librarians. My first part-time job after school was in our local library, and that’s likely where I got an interest in research.

    Best lines I’ve heard so far from the conference, by Amy: “You know what, I’m pretty good at guilting my kids. Guilt can be a good motivator.” And Curt responded: “I will haunt you from the grave.” And Amy said: “Yeah, I think I’ve actually used that line.” … Curt: “Guilt is only worth about one generation, at best.”

    ”Don’t forget about your genealogy software. … How do you expect others to get that out? … You’re asking them to be a genealogist. … That’s asking a lot.” – says Amy.
    Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher.

  9. Went to my in-laws for supper so I didn’t catch the last live stream “Finding Elusive Records at FamilySearch” with Robert Kehrer
  10. Back home at 9 p.m. Central Time for this week’s Twitter #genchat session. Today’s topic is quite relevant. It’s: “RootsTech / Not At RootsTech (Will you survive it?)”. Below are the Q’s that I A’d to.

    Q1: Who went to #RootsTech? Who was #NotAtRootsTech?
    A1: I’m a #NotAtRootsTech this year. But I spent the whole time watching live stream, tweeting, facebooking, reading blogs - I’m just as exhausted as I was in past years at #RootsTech #genchat

    I counted about 30 people answered question 1 with about 6 at RootsTech and the others not.

  11. Q3 Non-Attendees: Besides livestream, did you follow via other methods? #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech #genchat
    A3: Yes I followed #RootsTech every which way possible. And I blogged every day as if I was there. Posting for Day 3 right after #genchat ends and including #genchat highlights.

    Q5 Non-Attendees: Who were some of the folks who contributed to your virtual experience? #genchat #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech
    A5: The best people at #RootsTech for information about what’s going on are those on social media.  Randy Seaver is maintaining a compendium of blog posts. Several others are posting to YouTube, interviews, experiences, etc. And then there’s all the #RootTech tweets #genchat

    Q7 Non-Attendees: What sessions would you like to have seen that you didn’t see? #NotAtRootsTech #genchat
    A7: #RootsTech is as hard on attendees as non-attendees, since there’s 20 sessions on at a time and you can only pick one. But for those #NotAtRootsTech there’s no choice. :-( #genchat

    Q8 What was your favourite moment?
    A8: My favorite #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech moment was the standing ovation given to Deborah Abbott after her Thursday afternoon talk about her stories #genchat

    The other questions that I didn’t answer were:

    Q2 Attendees: How did you spend your time? In session? Exhibit Hall? Networking?
    Q4 Attendees: Did your sessions meet your skill level?
    Q6 Attendees: How were the logistics? (Layout, distance from your hotel, meals)
    Q9: Will you go next year?

    10 p.m. #genchat over. That’s a wrap. To see all the answers everyone gave, select the latest tweets from a Twitter search of #genchat and roll back to the evening of March 3, 2018.

    Here’s some photos of #genchat people at RootsTech.

Day 2 – #RootsTech – #NotAtRootsTech - Thu, 1 Mar 2018


  1. Watched the Live Stream Keynote Speaker: Brandon Stanton. “I get to wake up in the morning and choose the work I want to do.” “Following your dreams, is nothing but hard work.”

  2. Took a look at Randy Seaver’s Compendium for new posts I hadn’t seen.
  3. Read Jill Ball’s post on Day 1 and watch Jill’s interview of Hannah Morden of Living DNA, who happens to be Australian.
  4. Saw Blaine Bettinger’s post on Facebook about Jonny Perl’s win, which reminded me to join Jonny’s DNA Painter Facebook group. Once there, I watched a 5 minute video of Jonny’s presentation of DNA painter to the contest judges and a small crowd. If I can find a public link to that presentation, I’ll post it.
  5. Watched a 6 minute video by Lara Diamond of an interview by several people of Brandon Stanton in the media hub, also on Facebook with no public link.
  6. The great thing about the RootsTech Live Feed is that I can take a shower and then rewind the feed so that I don’t miss anything. That’s one advantage over being there in person. Of course, all the people at RootsTech can watch the live stuff from the feeds after they get home. But there’s nothing like the actual experience of being at RootsTech.
  7. Read Thomas MacEntee’s article about Living DNA’s announcements. New to me were details of the Orion chip they use, that tests over 656,000 autosomal, 4,700 mitochondral and 22,000 Y-DNA SNPs.
  8. Next was the live stream of Yaniv Erlich of MyHeritage DNA. It started with a very nice intro to DNA testing with a good description of how the chip determines each SNP using synthetic strings of DNA that finds the complementary strand of your DNA and joins with it. He explains the phasing they do and claims a 99% SNP accuracy. Then he explains imputation when comparing two individuals to fill in missing SNPs with “very good accuracy”. “You would not get bad results, but you would get better if they are from the same company.” They then “stitch” together identical sections that have a small split, e.g. due to an error in phasing.

    Very interesting and something I’ve never seen a DNA company explain before was how they do confidence classification, so as to include as many likely true matches as possible and exclude as many “child-only” matches as possible. This was a good DNA talk.

  9. Read on the #RootsTech twitter feed that:

  10. Last year at RootsTech, my Fitbit told me I was averaging close to 14,000 steps per day. It’s 3 p.m. here in Winnipeg and I look and I’m at (ugh) only 1,400 steps. That means the #RootsTech is 10 times better than #NotAtRootsTech. I don’t use Google Photos and really don’t use Catholic Records, so the next two live streams were not of interest to me. What better time than to stretch my legs with a walk to Tim Hortons.
  11. I always appreciate the sponsors of any conference. It’s amazing how many sponsors RootsTech has this year, including some interesting ones who you wouldn’t suspect, like WordPress and Dell EMC:





  12. And Jason Hewlett tweeted his selfie from the screen cap that I made at the exact same time which I included in my blog post yesterday:
  13. Read Carole Steer’s blog post about Brandon Stanton’s talk this morning.
  14. Here’s Jill Ball’s 5 minute interview of Jonny Perl.
  15. Finished off the day watching the final live stream by Deborah Abbott: “A Gift of Life. Who’s Writing YOUR Story?” She said: “The things that I’m going to talk about, you have to make it relate to you.” Here’s some of the things she told us to record: That first boyfriend. How was that kiss? Did they like their spouse right away when they met? What extraordinary things did they do?  “Before writing your ancestor’s story, write your own…. As you talk about yourself, you can pull those ancestors in. … Write your memoirs. Tell you descendants about things they know nothing about.”

    She said to record every bit of what you went through
    … and she told us her stories.
    Deborah Abbott received a standing ovation for her talk.

See today’s Live Stream here: 

    Day 1 #RootsTech From Afar - Thu, 1 Mar 2018

    RootsTech 2018 has started. This year it is a 4 day affair running from Wednesday to Saturday. They added on Wednesday, which last year, was an Innovator Summit day and an extra you had to get a ticket to separately. This year, the day was part of the package.

    Last year there were a lot of people on Wednesday, and swarms of people from Thursday to Saturday. This year, the swarms started on Wednesday. Registration for attendees opened on Tuesday and the lines were hundreds of people long. If you weren’t a RootsTech Ambassador or otherwise an insider, you’d have up to 2 to 3 hours in line to register.

    The number of people also filled up many of the talks. I read a number of reports of people wrote that they couldn’t get into some of the talks they wanted to. Unfortunately, that’s what success brings. There’s the old joke about being told how terrible a restaurant is because you can’t book a reservation as they’re always full.

    I had the pleasure (honour) of going to RootsTech in 2012, 2014 and 2017. This is my off year, so I am what’s technically called a #NotAtRootsTech-er this year. LDC of Ottawa has a wonderful #NotAtRootsTech Survival Guide and made buttons for those of us not there to display:

    Having been a past participant of RootsTech, I know what it’s like. I gave a talk to the Manitoba Genealogical Society on Monday, and one person couldn’t be there because they were at RootsTech. I asked how many others had been. Not one of the two dozen there had. So I spent the next 20 minutes expounding upon how they must make the trip at least once.

    With the experience of RootsTech fresh in my mind from last year, I didn’t need much to get in the RootsTech spirit. Between the Live Feed yesterday, social media Twitter tweets under the hashtag of #RootsTech and #NotAtRootsTech, Facebook posts, Blog posts and YouTube videos, there was enough to make me feel totally immersed and involved all day. At 8:28 a.m. RootsTech time, I tweeted:

    Day 1 was a bit of a different day. The Keynote by Steve Rockwood was at 4:30 pm, rather than first thing in the morning, so people got to attend talks prior to that all day. Also, the Exhibition Hall did not open until the evening, which likely contributed to the overfilling of the talks, because the huge hall was not available as an alternative. I’m sure it will be easier getting into the talks on Thursday and Friday.

    On Day 1, I enjoyed the live feeds of “Family History in 5 Minutes a Day” by Deborah Gamble, “DNA—One Family, One World” by David Nicholson and Hannah Morden of Living DNA, “Organizing and Preserving Photograph Collections” by Ari Wilkins, and the General Session and Innovation Showcase to close the day.  I have to admit I didn’t watch the WWII talk since I personally have little interest in WWII research. I went to the online RootsTech app and downloaded the handouts for each of the talks as I listened to them.

    Jason Hewlett was again the entertaining host. It was a pleasure meeting him (albeit clean shaven) last year:

    There were several announcements that I found very interesting, most on a DNA front:

    Living DNA was making the biggest splash. They are all-in this year, being a major sponsor of RootsTech. And they are working to put themselves on equal footing with Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, Ancestry DNA and MyHeritage DNA and turn the big four into a big five.   
    Above: Hannah Morden and David Nicholson of Living DNA

    One thing they showed in a video during their presentation just blew me away:

    David and Hannah during the day announced that Living DNA had a new “Family Networks” offering. As part of this, they will be making match data and a chromosome browser available.

    Later during the Innovation Showcase section, 5 representatives from the 5 DNA companies were on stage together, which might be a first:

    Ran Snir (MyHeritage DNA), Jim Brewster (Family Tree DNA), David Nicholson (Living DNA), Robin Smith (23andMe), Sarah South (Ancestry DNA) and Scott Fisher moderating.

    They were asked if they’d be able to work together. David Nicholson said: “I think it’s great that we’re all onstage together. That’s a start.” But then Robin Smith said that competition is healthy and good for everyone,. I agree that both of them are correct. Both cooperation and competition is needed.

    Another big announcement was from MyHeritage announcing a New FamilySearch Tree Sync, allowing FamilySearch users to synchronize their family trees with MyHeritage.

    Prices for DNA kits at the Conference are as low as they’ve ever been. No better place to pick up a DNA kit than at RootsTech. Which company? Why not all of them?

    It was also nice to see Curt Witcher, Judy Russell, David Rencher and moderator Scott Fisher on the Innovation Panel. image

    Being a contestant (and 3rd place winner) of the Innovator Showdown in 2017, and someone very interested in DNA software, I wanted to know what was going on with the DNA Innovation Contest this year. This was a somewhat last-minute thing announced by Grow Utah in December. This is a $30,000 cash and $20,000 in-kind contest with 3 prize winners ($15K 1st, $7.5K each runner-up).

    That did not give contestants much time, but they still got a really good group of entrants together. The six finalists were given space to display in the Exhibit Hall:

    The six finalists include:

    The winner was Jonny Perl of DNA Painter. Jonny had to fly in from England for this and it was quite an adventure. He has really done an amazing job in adding useful and easy to use features in his free online offering.

    The two runners-up were RootsFinder and ItRunsInMyFamily. I was very happy for Dallan, who was in the 2012 Developer Challenge with me (I had entered Behold, Dallan was a top-6 finalist with his GEDCOM parser) as well as Heather Henderson who works with Dallan. They had entered RootsFinder in the 2017 Innovator Showdown and I got to meet Heather as she was the presenter for RootsFinder in the semifinals.

    That was quite a first day. I look forward to what else comes out of RootsTech over these next 3 days.

    And be sure you read what everyone has to say about RootsTech. Randy Seaver is keeping up his Compendium of Blog Posts for RootsTech 2017.  Each person has a unique perspective and you get a different taste of RootsTech from every post, so pick some to read and enjoy.