Feb 092016

CiCoNO and I are now back in the homeland. The Eagles have landed. The luggage has arrived in one piece (just)…. well, two pieces of me, but that part was planned. I had too much stuff to bring back and so had to check two bags in to the hold. No problem apart from the fact that in SLC, we had to leave our bag at the security screening area. Not happy campers with the idea of just leaving our luggage in limbo, so we had our picnic lunch and waited until our cases had toddled off on the baggage conveyor belt. “Do not leave your luggage unattended” – well it kind of is if you leave it in a security area! A very foreign concept for us Brits.

I scored 20 points in the ‘Who can spot a genie first?’ game as it transpired that my genie-mate Sharn White was on the same flight as us to Chicago (Leg 1). Packed in like sardines on an American Airlines two-by-two plane, CiCoNO and I were not even able to sit together…. Well, that was a quiet flight for both of us! We read more of our books during that three-hour period than we have during the rest of the trip!

It was not the most comfortable flight I have ever had. Sudden drops in altitude rather than gradual and the final descent seemed to creep up on the cabin crew with a very rushed ‘tables up and electronic items stowed’ announcement and about 90 seconds to landing. We were delighted to find that there was a quick way to transfer to Terminal 5 without going through security again – always a bonus. Oh, and I missed the fact that in SLC we were given special security clearance! No ‘take out your electrical devices and liquids’ and ‘remove your shoes’ malarkey. Wear it all and leave it all in there…. Unless you have a metallic belt as, in my case, that sets off the alarms (thanks Ma & Pa FWL for the Christmas present, not to be worn again on travels!).

A quick wander around Chicago Terminal 5 – who am I kidding?! – and a duty-free purchase or two, I suddenly heard GRAY over the PA system. CiCoNO said there was no way that was me, until we heard VALENTINE as well! Oh heck! There we were hoping that we were to be upgraded to Business Class but sadly, that was not the case. Just a passport and boarding pass check…. What a shame! The quick wander wasn’t quick at all, as there were 2,500 steps still to be walked before midnight is some time zone or another, so these were completed in the front row of World Traveller Plus whilst we waited for everyone to embark.

Our flight was slightly delayed as Storm Imogen was raging in the UK and so the outbound flight from Heathrow to Chicago had been delayed. But, after a brief de-ice (that would never happen in England!), we departed less than half an hour after our scheduled slot. Amazing!

Drinks, dinner and then a cat nap before arriving back in Blighty. Could we really have been away for ten days? It sure doesn’t feel like it in many ways. But now, it’s back to normality, whatever that is.

Feb 092016

RootsTech 2016. It’s over. How did that happen? Well, on Saturday night, I could easily have told you how that occurred. Being an Ambassador is a great honour but a great way of exhausting yourself over the course of three days! Having decided not to opt for the ‘get out of Salt Lake City quick’ flight, me and CiCoNO had a day to spare at the end of our trip. What to do? Well, the answer came much earlier in the week when good friends of mine, Andrea Harding and Mr Andrea (Matthew) Harding suggested that they might hire a car and head out of the City, and invited us to go with them. “Oh yes please!” was our collective reply!

20160207_105310Something resembling a plan was hatched on Saturday evening (before our visit to Harmons Grocery Store for our food purchases) over hot chocolates for three – it transpires Mr Andrea doesn’t partake in such things.

Thank goodness, the alarm did not go off until 8am. EIGHT IN THE MORNING…. You have no idea what a luxury this is when I have been up at 6am for three days in a row! Our chariot awaited at 10am and off we trekked out of the City in a rather large automobile. The weather was just amazing and the sights en route were clear as crystal (unlike the polluted City I wrote about previously).

Our first visit was to Park City – a ski resort near to Salt Lake City. Having found a suitable place to leave our hefty automobile, we found Main Street and did the usual tourist things; took lots of photographs, visited all the nick-nack shops and generally marvelled at the surroundings. We even managed (within minutes) to notice the Family Tree Center. Comment from me: “There is no way that will be open on a Sunday!” How wrong was I? It was open and we were welcomed with open arms, especially as we were ‘foreign’. Sister Oojimiflop wanted to extol the virtues of FamilySearch and all its wonderful functions and I think she was a little disappointed to find that we knew about most of them already.

20160207_141630Onward and upward, and then downward to take in all the shopping possibilities. A few purchases made by all (none will be mentioned to avoid spoiling the surprises) and then a ‘light lunch’ – haha! I certainly don’t think that one of those exists in the USA.

Where to next? Well, it would be crazy to have come all this way and not to visit the Utah Olympic Park. What a spectacle! The ski jumps are even bigger in reality than they appear on the television and, although I have been down the Calgary Olympic bobsleigh run in a bobsleigh, the idea of going down the run on a luge or skeleton just seems a little bit bonkers!

The photograph opportunities are endless and although a few moments are captured here, there are several dozen other snaps for the ‘album’. This trip really has been quite momentous. Would I come back to RootsTech again? Definitely, yes…. But I would do it very differently to the way I did it this year. Lessons learnt; fly to Vegas and then fly back to SLC (or indeed, take the direct flight to SLC which we were reliably informed by our taxi driver in SLC who was from Sheffield, will be in place in May!), take a mask to avoid the effects of the pollution, try to avoid falling over on the ice and prepare (better) for your research in the Family History Library.

Now, CiCoNO and I are headed back to the homeland. Ten days has quite honestly flown by. Back to the day job …. Like we ever stopped!

Feb 082016

During the course of the last three days (and even before the conference began), I have learnt an enormous amount…. more about the Mormon faith, more about Utah, more about family history/genealogy and more about pollution. Yes, you read that correctly. I am not one for sniffs and snivels, or coughs and colds…. but since Tuesday, I have been struggling with both. Without going into the graphic details (which is clearly not what you came to this blog for), my ailments were not of the viral variety. So, I decided to do some research into why – altitude aside – I was struggling in the sinus region. The answer is short (you’ll be pleased to know!). The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2015 report puts the greater Salt Lake City area at No. 7 in the most polluted cities in the USA (generally for short-term spikes in particle pollution). According to the report in the Salt Lake Tribune (29 April 2015), “Air that’s unhealthy to breathe is especially hard on the 289,284 Utahns — 11 percent of the population — with lung problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for the very young and the old”.

20160206_120428Thankfully, RootsTech Day 3 has, for the most part (once again), been an indoor affair. For the second day running (the first day, we were shown around as a large group of Ambassadors), I was the first one in the Media Hub. An early start means that blog posts can be scheduled, Facebook messages planned and Tweets in hand for the rest of the day. For today, I was determined to get out of the Media Hub and see at least one lecture and network with some more exhibitors. I succeeded!

Family History Takes Place: Geography and Genealogy had my name written all over it. Having been a founder member of the Society for One-Place Studies, I could not possibly miss it! Dan(iel) Reeves and Dan Shellman were speaking about “the geographical context of our ancestors’ lives at culturally sensitive places, proximity versus jurisdiction, historical changes to places, and data sharing implications with others”…. this fitted right into my thinking with comments such as “every event in history has its time and its place” and “people make places“. I tweeted like a crazy person and it was great to see some interaction from the #NotAtRootsTech community.

20160206_174952I don’t think I would be talking out of school if I told you that many of the Ambassadors ‘hit the wall’ early afternoon. It ain’t easy you know…. but Jill Ball and I managed to score a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card when an interviewer failed to turn up to interview the winner of the Innovation Summit. So, as we were there in the Media Hub (and are well-known good eggs!), we were given the opportunity to interview Gabriel Roybal from TapGenes. Well, that gave us a third wind! I would recommend you take a look at the TapGenes website…. a totally free app which “helps you crowd source your family’s health information, helping you understand the thread that ties your family’s health together”. I have already registered and will be delving deeper.

My RootsTech day ended with an interview with Shannon Combs Bennett and Jennifer Alford from The In-Depth Genealogist, along with my colleagues, Jill Ball and Judy G. Russell. We were talking about Ethical Dilemmas (à la panel session yesterday) and, strangely enough, managed only questions from Shannon and Jennifer, as we all talked so much!

Having finished my tasks for the day, the tortoise shell (otherwise known as my rather extensive backpack) was deposited back at the hotel and we (me and CiCoNO) took our last trip to the City Creek Shopping Centre. You may well ask why we did not wait until tomorrow (Sunday) for our shopping trip. Simple. It’s not open! It is owned by the Mormon Church and Sunday is a day of rest.

Purchases made (we won’t say what so we don’t spoil the return home surprises!), we met up briefly for a hot chocolate with Andrea and Mr Andrea (Matthew) Harding to plan our escapades on the road tomorrow. Park City and Utah Olympic Park….. so excited! Watch out for tomorrow’s blog for more information and pictures.

Feb 062016

This is my first ever RootsTech and I am an Ambassador. In some ways, I would recommend being an Ambassador and in some ways, perhaps not…. at least on your first visit! Those who follow me (MD@FWL) on Facebook or Twitter will have noticed that I have been a busy bee. On Day 2 (and indeed, Day 3 as I sit and write this blog), I have been the first person in the Media Hub each morning. There are no set rules and regulations for what we should do but I feel that being given the opportunity to be Ambassador, I have responsibilities and so I have been somewhat ‘omnipresent’…. a word generally described as meaning “present in all places at all times”. It’s commonly used in a religious context which is quite apt given the fact that we are in Salt Lake City!

20160205_145226Anyway, Day 2 began on the main stage with Josh and Naomi Davies, and David Isay. Naomi began her blog back in 2007 to “share photos of newlywed life in NYC with her family out west” – an online diary. But, it has become much more than this and her blog is now a global business. There are lots of (what I believe are called) Mommy Bloggers here, some are ambassadors for the conference. It’s all a bit alien to me, but I guess that what we do is equally a little odd to them!

David Isay, according to the RootsTech Conference Guide is “one of the most trusted and respected broadcasters working today”. He is an author and founder of StoryCorps – “an award-winning organization that provides people … with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their life stories”. Definitely a key note not to be missed!

The Expo Hall was really busy on Day 2. There are so many exhibitors here, from courses leading to postgraduate and undergraduate level qualifications and commercial providers, to membership-based societies for various religions, counties etc. and free resources for family historians. There are even printing facilities here where you can print pretty significant sized trees. The opportunities are endless.

20160205_202514My Conference Day 2 finished with our Ethical Dilemmas panel, headed up by Jill Ball. Not a full audience but the room was massive! Lots of good discussion and questions from the audience too about what should/could be done in various situations which often occur in the field…. for example, the ‘Can some kind soul who has a subscription to X, please look up the details of Y for me?’ You know the ones….

After a brief ‘Feet up Friday‘ moment or two, the FWL Team took to the road again as we had been cordially invited to the MyHeritage bash at the Marriott City Creek Hotel. And wow, what a party! Giant Jenga, karaoke and all sorts of other games …. who knew that so many genealogists could sing so well (OK, I am not going to lie, there were some pretty terrible ones as well!).

And so onward to the final day of RootsTech…. we are to be deluged by 10,000 children. Batten down the hatches…. 4,000 of them are between 8 and 12! More on that in ‘RootsTech – Day 3’…..

Feb 052016

20160204_074936Anyone who knows me will know that I am a night owl not an early bird. So, getting up when the alarm says 6am, halfway around the world, is not my idea of a good time! That said, the early start was so that we (the Ambassadors) could have a tour around the Expo Hall before it officially opened …. definitely worth it to know the lie of the land, figure out where everything is and generally plan the next three days…. Well, that’s what I hope to do, sometime, maybe….!


This is my first trip to RootsTech and I am taking my Ambassador role very seriously, networking with fellow professionals, commercial providers and promoting the event as much as physically possible both within the conference itself and to those not able to attend in person. I think it would be fair to say that I have never used Twitter and Facebook so much in any one day in my entire life. The mobile phone and laptop have not been far from my finger tips all day!

There have been key notes from Steve Rockwood, the MD for the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President/CEO of FamilySearch International – now that is a long job title. He and Paula Williams Madison (producer and subject of Finding Samuel Lowe) started the day off in style and there seem to be a number of photographs of members of the audience wearing masks??

OK, I have a confession to make. I did not manage to make it to even one ‘class’ yesterday. Not one. I did a few interviews with people (videos to follow) and a whole pile of writing and talking to people. Today (Friday), I will do better. Mainly because I have a ‘class’ to participate in myself! My guts will be for garters if I am not there, for sure. The plan is to hit some other ones too, if I can. The problem is that there is so much to choose from (15+ concurrent sessions) and so much to do here. It’s not the kind of place you can come once and take it all in. It’s an experience…. and a half!

One of the more American experiences was finding that suddenly a motorcycle was riding into the Expo Hall – Stan Ellsworth from American Ride. I am not sure that would happen at one of our genealogical conferences in the UK but I guess, anything is possible! Maybe we need to plan bigger – Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Birmingham is certainly not a patch on RootsTech (but then it is better than the event it replaced at the Royal Horticultural Halls).

The evening ‘Opening Social’ event was quite something – big and loud from the Crescent Super Band and Ryan Innes (a contestant on the fourth season of NBC’s The Voice in 2013) …. it took me back to my saxophone section roots in a Big Band in yesteryear. Even in the evenings there are so many different events (generally involving food) laid on by sponsors, you could easily have three dinners. Thankfully, I have not done so, otherwise I may not fit back in the aeroplane seats on the return trip!

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