RootsTech: Making Family History Accessible to Young People
Last year was my first time attending RootsTech. In prior years, I watched the live streamed sessions from home. I knew that I wanted to go eventually, so after I started this blog in August 2015, I decided that I would go to RootsTech in February 2016. Although I was pregnant and had two kids at home, I made arrangements with my family and a babysitter to be able to attend. I flew to Utah on Tuesday and arrived at 9pm.
The next day, I attended the Innovator Summit while my mother (Diana) researched at the Family History Library and attended some RootsTech classes that afternoon. I’ll share more about my experiences at the Innovator Summit in an upcoming post.
On Thursday we were delighted by keynote speakers Steve Rockwood, Paula Madison, and Bruce Feiler. Bruce Feiler’s talk about children who know family history was my favorite keynote of the conference – I wrote about it here. Later that day, we attended many advanced methodology classes.
On Friday we heard keynote speakers Josh and Naomi Davis, David Isay, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Josh and Naomi Davis of the Love Taza blog talked about being parents and making memories through blogging, photography, and social media. I resonated with Naomi’s discussion of being a mother. She said, “So much of my life is just the everyday, but I really do believe that the everyday is such a beautiful thing if you live your everyday with purpose.”
I attended the class entitled “Make History: Family History for Teens and Youth,” where they encouraged teens to use the technology they love to create connections with their family’s past. (See the Make Family History website here). Their ideas included making ancestor stories into short videos and sharing google map locations on social media that were significant to their ancestors.
On Saturday, we heard from keynote speakers Mike Leavitt and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Mike Leavitt spoke about writing little bits of his personal history so that his descendants would know about his life. After that, it was time for Family Discovery Day to begin. Elder Dale G. Renlund, his wife Ruth, and daughter Ashley, had a family round-table discussion about how LDS youth can benefit from family history and temple work.
Next, I loved hearing from Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, LDS Primary General President. Her talk was about “A Child’s Anchor in the Wind” – she asked, “Is there a taproot that can anchor them in the wind?” How can we strengthen children against the challenges that will arise in their lives? Sister Wixom spoke about helping children become “drought tolerant” and resilient by giving them a strong knowledge of their identity by learning who they are and where they came from.
Sister Wixom said, “How do we make our ancestors real? We tell their stories. Too much courage, faith, and real-life challenges have gone into their lives for us to let their examples dissolve like faded ink on paper.”
At the end of Family Discovery Day, we heard from Taysom Hill and Britain Covey, rival quarterbacks for the BYU and Utah Football teams. They talked about family and priorities. The young men who came from my mother’s LDS ward seemed to be pretty interested!
Young single adults and other interested youth are invited to attend a special session with Kalani Sitake, BYU’s head football coach. Sitake played collegiately at BYU as a fullback, and he served as an assistant coach for the Oregon State Beavers and Utah Utes before taking the head coaching position at BYU in December 2015.
Hank Smith is a BYU professor of religion and popular public youth speaker. Hank’s life has been touched by family history work, and he plans on sharing some of that experience at Family Discovery Day. Joining the speaker lineup is Vai Sikahema, a former NFL football player and current television personality. He is well-known for his diverse skills as both an anchor and sports reporter and can be seen co-anchoringNBC10 News Today weekday mornings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Family Discovery Day will engage and inspire families, youth, and single adults to discover connections and share family stories together.
At last year’s RootsTech conference, I noticed a concerted effort to make family history accessible and exciting to youth and young people. Discovery center experiences in the expo hall – like this face replacement photo that we tried – and even a “treasure quest” during Family Discovery Day that engaged the kids with playing games their ancestors enjoyed and doing a “find a grave” hunt.
Many of the talks and classes at RootsTech were about sharing family history with children. From Bruce Feiler, to Rosemary Wixom, to Josh and Naomi Davis – RootsTech was full of ideas for passing on our passion for genealogy and family stories to the next generation.
I was inspired to put some of what I learned into practice and share more family history with my children. I am happy to be putting my training as a history teacher to use as I engage my children in our family’s past.
For next year’s RootsTech conference, I’ve teamed up with two amazing bloggers, Melissa Finlay of the Finlay Family Blog and Emily Schroeder of Growing Little Leaves to present our own ideas for inspiring children in family history.
Our class, “Kid Genealogists: Inspiring the Next Generation,” will be on Saturday, Feb 11, at 3pm. We will be posting syllabus materials on our class landing page: Kid Genealogists, so check back in February!
If you’d like to enter our first giveaway contest for a free pass to RootsTech 2017, check out my mom’s post here: RootsTech 2017 Pass Giveaway: Memories of LeVar Burton.
Disclosure: As a RootsTech ambassador, I received free registration for the conference in order to promote the event through blog posts and on social media. Last year, I was not an ambassador and I loved it! I’m happy to be promoting the event.