Rootstech: What is it and Why Should BYU Students Care?

Family history is not exclusively a Latter-day Saint phenomenon–in fact, it’s a common interest among the world’s population, as we noted in Connections a few months ago. And nowhere on earth is genealogy a bigger deal than Rootstech, the biggest family history conference on the planet. That being said, the LDS Church is a heavy proponent of connecting to our ancestors, so it’s no surprise that students and faculty at BYU are getting involved in Rootstech like never before.


This isn’t the first year BYU has been involved in the conference, nor is BYU’s involvement consigned to only one department. The school’s History department, Center for Family History and Genealogy, Family History Library, Computer Science, Bachelor of General Studies program, Independent Study, and Economics will all be represented in a large booth in the expo hall, “so they can talk to people about the various family history resources here on campus,” according to Lenore Carrier of the Center for Family History and Genealogy.

“Any students that are interested in family history would benefit from attending the conference,” Carrier continues. “There are lectures for beginner to advanced researchers, as well as fantastic general sessions with high-profile celebrities like LeVar Burton, the Scott Brothers, and Buddy ‘Cake Boss’ Valastro.” Last year, nearly 30,000 people attended the conference.

Discounts for Rootstech are available for students who are registered at an accredited high school, college, university, or online program, and who have some form of valid credentials proving their status as a student (student ID, registration letter, valid class schedule, etc.).  You can receive the discount by emailing your documentation to Although faculty and staff unfortunately do not qualify for the student discount, they are still encouraged to come!

In the April 2010 LDS general conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”


Family photo courtesy of Flickr.


Research Logs: Essential When Doing Your Family History


These days, family history, as we’ve mentioned here, is less about finding information about people and more about organizing the amazing amount of information available to anyone who looks. Access to records has greatly increased in recent years, but it might be a challenge for some to keep track of the research they do to find a particular person or straighten out a particularly convoluted limb of the family tree, even with the many online tools and apps available. One tool that has proven useful for many in past years is logbooks. At their most basic level, logbooks are a simple means whereby people looking for their ancestors can record what searches have been done, what results have been found, and which documents are relevant to the question at hand. Peg A. Ivanyo, in her 2016 Family History Conference class for genealogy beginners said that they can contain notes, citations, stories, and even links to blog posts. But how exactly can they be helpful?

Research logs serve to make things easier. Jill Crandell, a history professor at BYU, says that research logs help to decrease duplication of effort and make one’s searches more efficient. Her own research log website,, serves to help people plan their research, catalogue their findings, and record their interpretations. Of research logs, she says, “[they] logs need to be detailed and kept consistently. If they are, the logs will prevent researchers from searching the same sources multiple times, documents will be organized and accessible, and research analysis will be higher quality. Find a research log format that works for you, one that you are actually willing to use to record your work, then use it.”

Many years ago, she was working on tracing a nomadic family who had lived in New York, Canada, and Scotland, with a common name. The man she was researching never identified his parents in any of his documents. To solve the mystery of who his parents were, Dr. Crandell turned to her research log. Through it, she was able to learn that this man had been traveling with other people who had moved to all of the same places as him. By studying the documents saved in her log, Dr.Crandell was able to further this genealogy.

The benefits of doing genealogy, to both the doer and the ancestor, are plentiful, and logbooks are some of the many tools available to anyone who has a desire to connect with those ancestors. Paul Cardall, the noted pianist who spoke at BYU’s most recent Conference on Family History and Genealogy, spoke of the relationship between family history and missionary work. As Mormons, we believe that families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died…for Mormons, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead.”



What Tips to You Have for Doing Family History?

Family History as a Tool for Missionary Work


Often when we think of missionary work, we picture knocking on doors, handing out Books of Mormon, and teaching investigators. Family history isn’t the first thing that comes to our minds. While explaining the Restoration is one key way to bringing people to the Gospel, helping them explore their family history can help them to love it. As many who have done genealogy can attest, researching our ancestors gives us a feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Nothing illustrates this better than the story of pianist Paul Cardall, whose own genealogical experience expanded both his horizons and those of the family members he didn’t know he had.

Cardall’s Experience

Cardall, as the keynote speaker at BYU’s recent Family History Conference, said: “As for those whose hearts have turned, I believe we will see greater faith among people if we do the family history work.” When people do it, their hearts open and they become more receptive to the love and blessings the Gospel provides. It is from there that the change of heart Alma spoke of in Alma 5:26-27 can begin to take place.

As part of his concert tour and family history undertaking, Cardall was invited by President Grant to share his thoughts on changing hearts and his spiritual experiences.

He and wife Tina experienced that effect as they worked on her family history. Through their efforts to find her ancestors, which proved difficult due to the fact that she was from Slovenia, Cardall and his wife were able to meet and connect with family they had not known they had. Tina’s mother was also able to reunite with kin she had not seen in forty-three years. Together, they had the opportunity to introduce more than fifty of Tina’s family members to the Gospel.

Family History Can Bridge the Gap

Families, being one of the core tenets of the Church and of society, have the potential to be instrumental in converting others, in a broader sense than ever before. Of this, Cardall says, “I told the young missionaries who come here from foreign lands that I believe the key to having a meaningful conversation is by turning the hearts of the children to the deceased fathers and mothers.” Family is something everyone understands.


Not only is it a way to bridge the gap between the secular and the spiritual, but also brings together people of all ages. Elder Bednar in the 2011 October General Conference, as quoted in the 2016 Connections, in regards to the youth of the LDS church said, “Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family.” In addition to those remarks, Bednar also highlights some of the amazing tools available now days for genealogy work such as


Family history is a means to bring people together, bridge spiritual and secular gaps, and connect with people you might not know otherwise. It’s about helping people understand both their familial and spiritual roots.

Do you know who’s in your family history?



Registration Open for Family History and Genealogy Conference

Registration has opened for BYU’s  48th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy, which will take place this summer (July 26th-29th). The conference will offer more than 100 classes with topics ranging from Youth and Genealogy to DNA Research. Conference attendees can expect to feel inspired, to learn a lot, and to have a lot of fun!

This year’s keynote speakers will be president and CEO of FamilySearch International, Steve Rockwood, and professional genealogist and author, Paul Milner. Rockwood spoke at RootsTech this year – the largest family history conference in the world. During his speech he encouraged the audience to think about the potential enhancements on daily life if family history was used and thought about more frequently.

The Growth and Goals of the Conference

Over the last several years, more and more people have become interested in family history work. The growth has shown in conference attendance numbers. Last year there were more attendees than ever before—over 900 people signed up to participate in one way or another. Conference organizer, Alisse Frandsen, expects this year to be just as big or bigger. She said,

“Our goal is that each participant walks away from the conference feeling more confident in their genealogy skills. Some participants come with a lot of experience and very specific questions. Others are just starting out with family history and come looking for direction—a jumping off point, maybe. This year we have 163 classes planned and each of them are different. Out of those 163, we’re sure that there is something for everyone who comes.”


Words from Past Participants

Family history work isn’t limited to pedigree charts anymore. Many people come to the conference to discover new ways to connect with their past, present and future family. A 2012 Conference Participant said of her experience,

“I truly enjoyed myself and am so excited to try new things and solve some problems I have had. The presenters were very knowledgeable and helpful. I enjoyed the speakers. I will come again. Your staff was very helpful and courteous.”

Nearly everyone who attends the BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference has a story to tell. The organizers invited past conference participants to share their stories, either by email or in interviews. They received some amazing and inspiring results, which can be read here.

Additional Information

Registration is $185 with a $50 discount for Family History Consultants. Follow this link to register:

Youth who are interested in family history work should consider attending the myFamily History Youth Camp, which will also take place July 26th-29th. Conference organizers noticed a steady growth in the number of teenage participants at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy and decided it was time to give them a conference experience of their own. This is the second year the camp has been offered. It will include a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a combined dance with Especially For Youth, and a chance to become an expert on family history research. For more information, visit




Rootstech and BYU: Enthusiastic About Family History


Connecting with your ancestors has never been easier and BYU is right there in the action. Students and faculty showcased the good work being done on campus for Family History this weekend through their interactive booth at RootsTech, the largest family history conference in the world.


BYU has participated in RootsTech every year since it began in 2011. This was the first year that most of the BYU departments that participated in the conference came together to form one large booth. This interactive booth encouraged conference attendees to explore BYU’s many resources for family history. It highlighted BYU’s 4-year family history bachelor’s degree, library resources, innovative computer applications, and opportunities to publish family history. Seven departments from BYU participated in the booth:

  • The Center for Family History and Genealogy,
  • Family History Program/Degree,
  • Family History Library,
  • HBLL Special Collections,
  • Computer Science,
  • Print & Mail,
  • Bachelor of General Studies/Independent Studies.

Steve Rockwood, managing director for the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President/CEO of FamilySearch International, as well as a BYU alum, was a keynote speaker during the conference. He spoke about the ever expanding definition of family history. “The millennials and the teenagers of today, they are a journaling generation like the world has never seen before. They just happen to do it in small little tweets and posts and snapchats,” said Rockwood. He encouraged participants of the innovator summit to think about the potential enhancements of everyday life if family history was used and thought about as frequently as math. He asked if anyone had used an alarm clock to wake up or determined what time to be out the door in order to make it to the conference on time. “You actually did math this morning and you didn’t even know it!” he said. Watch his full speech here.

Family History Portal page.JPG

One focus of the conference was looking to the future. Our own lives will one day be the family history for our posterity. Taysom Hill, a BYU football player, participated in the conference and spoke during the Family Discovery Day Youth and Family Session. In September 2015, Hill suffered his third season-ending injury, this time as the senior quarterback. Many stories have been told of his leadership, determination and influence on and off the field. Hill was asked what stories he thinks will live on with his children and grandchildren. Hill chose to focus on the future, not the past. He said, “As I look back, I’m 25-years-old, you know, I hope that I haven’t hit the pinnacle of my life. I hope that I can still accomplish a lot of really great things that will make my kids proud.”

Check out BYU’s new Family History Portal, where all of the resources we had available at Rootstech, plus many others, are available in one convenient place online. And find out more about our college’s involvement in RootsTech and in the nationwide surge of interest in family history in our upcoming 2016 Connections issue!


Did you attend Rootstech? What was your favorite part?

Rootstech Volunteering = Rootstech Pass

Love family history? Want to attend the largest family history gathering in the world? Come volunteer for the RootsTech conference for at least nine hours and receive a free RootsTech pass. The conference is scheduled for February 3rd through the 6th. Below you will find the shifts that are available:

6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Wednesday-Friday

6:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday

This conference provides an opportunity to network with family history professionals and learn about the inner-workings of a large conference. Help is wanted. To volunteer, contact Ann Baxter, program administrator for Conferences and Workshops at BYU.

In addition, BYU will be helping with the registration area and will need at least 15 people throughout the week. If you need transportation, the Department of Conference and Workshops will provide a van to transport volunteers from the Conference Center (near the Marriott Center) to the RootsTech conference.

The benefits of a pass include access to the keynote sessions, more than 200 classes, the expo hall, and all of the evening events.  Please note Family Discovery Day on Saturday does require a separate registration.


If you are eager to work additional hours, there are additional rewards:

  • Lunch for each 9 hour shift or longer you volunteer
  • Up to $5 in parking reimbursement per day if you do not have Temple Plaza parking privileges

Volunteers who give 10 hours or more will also be given a conference bag.

Volunteers who give 18 hours or more will be invited to a volunteer thank you luncheon after RootsTech.

Contact Information:

Ann Herd Baxter

Program Administrator

Conferences and Workshops

Brigham Young University