Monday, May 12, 2014

"Bravo Zulu" to!

Dating back before radio communications, it has been a long time Naval tradition to use signal flags for communicating between ships within visual range.  There is a flag for each letter in the alphabet.  Combining the "B" and "Z" (Bravo & Zulu) means "well done".  Certainly among naval personnel, and even reaching into the civilian world; the term Bravo Zulu is often used to praise someone for a job well done.

The Son's of the American Revolution (SAR) started the Operation Ancestry Search (OAS) program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with the support of  The program's  purpose is to get Wounded Warriors and their medical staff involved in genealogical research.  To facilitate their research, Ancestry provides each participant with a year's subscription to their new World Explorer Plus data base, which includes, and Fold3--a $398 value!  The SAR provide beginning genealogy and instruction to the service personnel, as well as one-on-one ongoing volunteer support by local genealogists to assist the service personnel in their research.

The San Diego SAR Chapter, with support from the San Diego genealogical community, recently extended the OAS program to Wounded Warriors at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.  Once again Ancestry provided free subscriptions to all participating Wounded Warriors and staff to their World Explorer Plus data base.  Additionally, they provided them with copies of their genealogical software Family Tree Maker which enables the service personnel to record and manipulate the data on their personal computers.

To my knowledge, Ancestry hasn't sought any publicity for their participation in this program.  However, I think they; along with The Son's of the American Revolution, should be given a hearty "Bravo Zulu" by those of us within the genealogical community for supporting this very worthwhile program.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

RootsTech Final Day

Today was the final day of RootsTech.  The Keynote speakers for the day's opening session were Todd Hansen and Stephanie Nielsen.  Todd is an emmy winning producer and TV host.  He hosts and produces The Story Trek on BYUTV.  Story Trek involves Todd randomly knocking on peoples doors and in the process of interviewing them finding a unique and interesting story about the life of the interviewee.  The theme of his show, "everyone has a story to tell", reinforced the theme of the conference. 

The second speaker, Stephanie Nielsen, was a young mother of three when she and her husband were in a serious airplane accident in which they were knocked unconscious, the plane caught on fire and she was burned over 80% of her body.  For the first several months she was wrapped up like a mummy and she could hardly move her body.  The doctors told her that the rest of her life she would be severely limited as to what she could do.  Her story was heart wrenching and in many parts she was brought to tears relating stories about her children.  I don't think there were many dry eyes in the audience either.  She blogged about her life and recovery and has written a New York Times bestseller, Heaven is Here.  Again, her main theme echoed that of the conference--everyone has a story to tell, so get busy telling it. 

I attended a couple of very helpful sessions today, particularly the final one of the day which discussed the pros and cons of the alternative methods for backing up genealogical computer data.  Following are more photos that I took today.

Above is the Backblaze Demo Theater.  About every fifteen or twenty minutes throughout each day various vendors were give 10 to 15 minutes to talk about their company and product(s).  I found it very worthwhile to spend some time there whenever I could.  Not only did you have nice comfortable seating; but the time limits forced the company representatives to really give you the "meat" about their products.  I think both the vendors and audience benefited from this type venue.

The Cyber CafĂ© provided by the Family History Library.  The computers all had access to the library's catalog and Family Search program.  Every time I walked past the area, almost all of the computer were in use.

Family Search Demo
 Find My Past Demo Area
As I mentioned yesterday, the demo theaters within each of the big four vendor exhibits were very popular with attendees.  Similar to the Backblaze Theater, the demonstrators had only a few minutes to focus on a specific feature of their software genealogy programs.  However, the audience was much smaller in number; thus, there was usually more interaction between the instructor and the audience.

Above is a photo of one of the labs where classes were conducted.  All the labs required pre-registration and an additional fee.  One of my regrets is that I didn't sign up for a couple of the labs.  I tried to stand-by for the lab on Evernote; but it was completely sold out and even if there were empty computers they wouldn't let you in, as they were concerned that the person who had signed up might show up late.  I even went down to the Registration Desk after the class started when I observed there were unoccupied computers.  They wouldn't let me buy a ticket because tickets had already been issued for all the seats.

I mentioned in yesterday's blog that it should be interesting with an estimated 4,000 youth attending today.  They were everywhere; but seemed to be interested and were well behaved.  I didn't see many in the classes; but they were all over the exhibit hall.  I think it is great that they are exposing young people to genealogy in a venue like RootsTech.
A couple of impressions from the three days.  I think there are a lot of companies chasing the same business.  There are a lot of new companies; but I don't see how they can all survive as many seem be in the same niche market.  Lots of people chasing multimedia methods of packaging people's stories, family histories and data--books, charts, videos, and photos in hardcopy and digital.  There are also some middle sized companies offering subscriptions to their data bases of genealogical data that I don't believe will be able to compete for long with the bigger players.  I asked the question in a session given by one of those companies today, "what data bases could they offer me that I don't get with my subscription.  Their answer was pretty weak.  I think they will either be absorbed by the larger companies or fade away.
Next year RootsTech will be held in conjunction with The Federation of Genealogical Society's annual meeting on 12-14 February.  I will probably just attend Jubilee in Burbank next year; but will take advantage of the many RootsTech session that are provide via streaming video on line. 
I believe the most important thing I got out of attending RootsTech 2014 is a much better appreciation for the role technology is playing in genealogy and the types of products and developments to expect in the future.  I think the leadership of the event also did an excellent job of impressing their theme upon attendees, the importance of telling their story for the benefit of future generations.  That is certainly my main objective as a genealogist! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

RootsTech Day 2

Well I am pleased to say that I enjoyed Day 2 better than Day 1.  Both of the speakers at the mornings opening session were excellent.  Judy Russell gave a very inspiring speech that strongly supported the theme of the conference, sharing our stories, by using examples from her own family history.  Not only did she have a good story to tell; but she is a very polished speaker.  She was followed by Dr. Spencer Wells.  Obviously a brilliant scientist, he did a superb job of describing, in a clear and understandable way, DNA and its application to genealogy.  He related that when testing of individuals began in 2005 about 10,000 people entered the data base. They reached 1M people in 2012 and in 2013 added 1M more.  He predicted that future growth will be even more spectacular.  I attended four additional sessions and felt I learned at least one new helpful thing in each of the sessions.

During the day I came to the recognition that this is the first conference I have attended that I didn't take hand written notes.  All of my notes were taken using Evernote on my iPad.  In one of the sessions the speaker noted that two years ago about 25% of the people who visited his booth in the exhibit hall had a smart phone.  He polled the audience and not only did almost everyone have a smart phone, about the same amount also had a tablet of some kind.  It has been related a couple times in the conference that mobile technology is one of the fasted, if not the fastest, growing technologies in our history.

There seem to be rumors floating around that there are going to be some more near term cooperative efforts announced between Ancestry and Family Search, and possibly others.  I have no idea if near term is day, weeks or months.  I was talking with a senior person from one of those companies when he made an apparent slip in response to a comment by a customer that he had read a comment by a blogger about the rumor.  His reaction led me to believe the rumor is true.  Later today, when a speaker from the same company was asked about the topic, he responded that he couldn't comment.

I ran into Lisa Alzo today.  She arrived last night after being delayed almost a day by weather back east.  She had a presentation scheduled for yesterday that had to be cancelled because of her delayed arrival. 

I have seen Randy Seaver a number of times.  As expected, he spends a lot of time in the media/blogger area.  I had to chide him a little today for wearing a short sleeved shirt.  He claimed to be comfortable; but I prefer long sleeves when it is in the 30s to 40s outside!

Tonight was Pizza night for RootsTech attendees at the Family History Library.  I went and spent about 30 minutes doing some research; but I had exhausted researching the documents and film that I had identified prior to the trip here and didn't have the drive to delve into the Catalog to identify more documents.  I also didn't want to have to stay up late tonight doing this blog.  As a side benefit I am watching the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony while doing the blog. 

Tomorrow will be the final day and then I fly out on Sunday morning back to San Diego. 

Following are some more photos:

Exhibit Hall
The big four vendors in the exhibit hall are Ancestry, Find My Past, Family Search and MyHeritage.  They each have large demo areas and banks of computers to allow attendees to use their product.  Family Search, the sponsor of RootsTech, has by far the largest display area.
Family Search Demo
During the 30 minute intervals between presentation sessions the Demo areas at the Big Four are particularly busy, as seen above.  These conferences are a great place to get any technical problems you may behaving solved, as the companies have most of their top technical people here. 
Since tomorrow is Saturday and there is no school, it is youth day at the conference. They expect about 4000 will attend tomorrow.  Should be interesting. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

RootsWeb Day 1

Today was my first day at RootsTech and I must say it is with mixed feelings.  I have never been to RootsTech; but have attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's JAMBOREE about 5 or 6 times.  So far, other than having more vendors in the exhibit hall, I am more impressed with the presentations I have attended at Jamboree.  I batted about .500 today.  Two of the presentations were pretty much a waste of time and I thought I learned something in the other two.  I am hoping tomorrow is better.  Maybe my choices today were just poor. 

I did find some statistics provided by Family Search's CEO interesting.  There were over 8000 people registered, there are 32 countries represented and 49 states (South Dakota was missing); all of which qualify it as the largest Genealogy conference in the world!  They have 135 vendors represented in the exhibit hall.  Including the live streaming of sessions that they are doing world wide, they expect RootsTech to reach over 150,000 people. 

Following are some photos.

Me during Lunch in Temple Square

I arrive on Tuesday and spent about half a day doing research at the Family History Library (FHL).  I spent the full Day Wednesday at the library.  The above photo was taken during a break for lunch.


Registration Opening Morning

Fortunately, I registered Wednesday evening when the line was no more than two people deep at any one of the many windows.

Leaving Opening Session

There was only about 20 minutes to get to the first presentation as we left the Opening Session and the halls were packed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RootsTech Day "Minus Two"

RootsTech Day "Minus Two"

Arrived today in Salt Lake City two days prior to the start of RootsTech.   Flight was actually about 10 minutes early arriving, I had not checked any bags so went directly to the TRAX (Salt Lake City Transit) station, purchased a ticket for $1.25, boarded the train and it departed about 4 or 5 minutes later.  It took about 20 minutes to get into town and I only had about a 5 minute walk to the hotel from the transit stop.  Checked in, had lunch and was in the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL) doing research 2 hours after landing.  Was a little chilly, as temp was in the low 30s; but not too bad.  We had a few flurries of snow; but it soon quit.

I spent about 4.5 hours at the library and then headed out for some dinner with my  roommate, who arrived at the library a couple hours after I did, as he had a later flight. I spent the whole time on the top floor where the books for the U.S. and Canada are located.  I picked up a few facts that were helpful; but no major breakthroughs.   Tomorrow I will focus on microfilm, which I find a bit more tedious.  However, I think my prospects for finding some very useful information are very good, so that will keep me motivated.  

I did decide that I need to revise my Research Log form, as I don't have enough room to adequately describe the results of my research for each document.  Since there is no way I am going to later remember what I was looking for and the results; it makes sense to leave lots of room for a description of what I searched and the results.

I have been to the FHL three times before and was amazed at the large number of people on every floor of the library.  Almost all of the computers were occupied as well as the open desks and I am guessing the majority of RootsTech attendees haven't even arrived yet.  Tomorrow will probably be even more crowded at the library.

Well I need to sign off so I can double check my iPad to make sure I have made selections for all of the presentation segments on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  There are so many choices that you really need to study the topics and presenters to make an educated selection. Even doing that, I am sure I am going to miss some great presentations.

Monday, February 3, 2014


RootsTech 2014

Tomorrow I am off to attend RootsTech and plan to share with those of you still out there my impressions and a few photos.  I have never attended this event before and am really looking forward to it.  However, I will admit I am a little apprehensive about being there with almost 10,000 people--the advertised attendance. I plan to get to the presentations early to get a seat.  I have heard from past attendees that the more popular presentations fill up quickly.

I am going a day early to do research at the Family History Library.  In preparation I have spent some time on the library's catalog and have prepared research logs for attacking my two "brick walls".  With the documents listed by title and catalog number, all I have to do is obtain the book or microfilm, do the research and then log the results on my research log.

The weather will be  a little different than San Diego; but it is only about a block to the Conference Center and three blocks to the library from our hotel.  I am sharing a room with a friend and fellow member of the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego, Tom Smith.  This will also be Tom's first time at RootsTech.

I attend the Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree in Burbank, but this will be much larger and have a somewhat broader selection of speakers.  I always enjoy visiting with the vendors and it appears that they have everyone who is anybody in the Genealogy word represented in the Exhibit Hall.  

Should be a fun time!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

Merry Christmas to All!

Best Wishes to All for A Very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Blessed New Year!

San D, Joanne & Del

Christmas Eve from our backyard (note the temp)!

Celebrating the Holidays with friends.

The Red Sweater Group!