RootsTech 2017: Genetic Genealogy, African American Ancestors, and Changes in LDS Consultant Callings

Last month was RootsTech, the annual genealogy conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I was fortunate enough to attend! I did just have a baby last November, so I brought her along, and while it was a bit cumbersome at times, I am glad for the experience. I was one of the few people in attendance with a baby, and most people were so helpful and kind!

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I flew in on Wednesday from Philadelphia with a short layover in Denver, and after landing and getting my rental car, I hopped on the freeway to meet up with a distant cousin, Jone. It was our first time meeting in person, but we have been in contact for a few years. She is both a genetic and a genealogical cousin- double second cousin twice removed, as a matter of fact! We met at Cafe Rio for lunch and she told me all that she knew about our ancestors. It was great. I really enjoyed it!

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While in Utah, I stayed with family. I love saying that! Yes, I have family in Utah. A few years ago, mine and my mom’s DNA matched us to Jeff and his wife, Kristi. Jeff is my second cousin once removed. I absolutely love their family and I feel so blessed to know them! Kristi and I had a wonderful time at the convention with her family, and I even found out through the interactive FamilySearch display (powered through Relativefinder) that we are 8th cousins once removed. So, I guess I am related to both of them. šŸ™‚

I really enjoyed talks given by DiahanĀ Southard and Kitty Cooper on DNA and genealogy. It is amazing to me how genetic genealogy continues to change how we piece together our family histories. It has inspired me to read Ā The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger, which I am told is an essential guide to genetic genealogy. So far it is very in-depth and scientific, and I am really having to hearken back to my college biology days.

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There were too many noteworthy exhibitors to count, but one that I really liked was Pioneer Maps. I was in awe of this beautiful Mormon Trail map that was printed from an 1899 original and I am in the process of ordering one for my home. I also got to stop by the Extreme Genes booth, my favorite podcast, to meet Fisher, David Allen Lambert of NEGHS, and Tom Perry. It was so cool to meet them, especially since they kept me company on the road last Summer!

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l was in a one second clip of a promo video for RootsTech, making a goofy face, so that’s pretty cool. šŸ˜†

Keynote speakers The Property Brothers Drew and JonathanĀ Scott were incredibly entertaining, and I regretfully did not make it to hear Levar Burton‘s speech because my baby girl was fussy and jet lagged, which is frustrating because it is not available on the website and no one can give me a straight answer why! I was told that Thom Reed of The Freedmens Bureau Project came on stage to present Burton with his genealogy back to 1815, and it was a very touching moment. Reed visited Philadelphia about a year ago and I attended his fireside at the LDS Stake Center. What an inspired project! There is lots more happening here in Philadelphia with African American family history, which I will be talking more about in the near future.

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There have been some changes in LDS family history callings, which I think was a much-needed clarification for our role. We are now called a Temple and Family History Consultants. I am grateful for the opportunity to assist youth and adults in my local community in finding their ancestors,Ā and having spiritual experiences that will strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ.

I will definitely be attending again next year and the world of family history is so incredibly exciting that it feels like drinking from a fire hose sometimes. It’s overwhelming. I hope you will take some time and watch some of the conference sessions if you have the time. If there is anything I can do to get you more excited about finding your ancestors, please let me know!

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