Thursday, 9 February 2017

#NotAtRootsTech Survival Guide

If you're like me this second week of February, you're pouty, irritable, bitter, desolate and periodically inconsolable.

As I sit virtually penniless* in frigid Ontario, genea-peeps across the world are convening at this very moment in Salt Lake City at the epic event that is RootsTech 2017. RootsTech is presently touted as the largest family history event on the planet. With an attendance count rumoured to reach between 30,000 - 40,000 souls this year, you certainly get that impression. 

Held at the exquisite Salt Palace Convention Center, the RootsTech conference is located steps away from every family historian's mecca - the Family History Library, which is a dream worthy of its own entire blog post. Staying on topic, though - I attended this conference for the first (and, sadly, so far only) time in 2015 and can say with confidence that it is a totally mind-blowing experience. The largest genealogy conference I'd attended previously had around 600 registrants, maaaaayyybe 45 vendors in the Marketplace and only 2 - 4 choices per session time slot. To this date, at conventions in this neck of the woods, I am still frequently the youngest** in attendance by at least 15 years. By contrast, at RootsTech learning cannot be avoided in both the myriad lecture streams (upwards of 24 choices per time slot) and ENORMOUS Expo Hall; opportunities for networking, connections and fellowship are almost limitless [I was asked for my business card after a brief chat in the ladies' washroom, for instance!]; and, there were more people my age or younger in the first session I walked into (which was half-full, by the way) than I've seen at all of the other conferences I've attended COMBINED!

RootsTech is an intense and invigorating jungle where genea-celebs wander free and newbies gawk openly. It's the place where probably-unneeded-but-still-irresistible samples, pamphlets and swag magically appear in your grubby little paws [I have, like, 100 pens and pencils] and advice you didn't know you knew spills from your lips at the encouraging faces of strangers. Camaraderie. You were born for this jungle! Cutting-edge technology and top-notch education are king and queen in this captivating wilderness. Industry news and the thrill of discovery dance and swirl at every turn. You can't help but be caught up in the excitement, mesmerized by innovation, inspired to motivation...

.... Have I convinced you yet???

Now, there are pros and cons to this type of huge conference, of course, but at this time of year I am hard-pressed to remember what the cons are [as you may be able to tell]. All I can focus on is the fact that I'm not there and not able to join in the fun!! Which is where the #NotAtRootsTech hashtag comes in.

In attempt to channel my distraught energies, I am compiling a list of ways YOU (like me!) can participate in this epic event without being there in person. You didn't know you could do that, did ya? 

1. Watch the live-streamed sessions.
Last year, apparently over 150,000 people (including moi!) watched the schedule of streamed lectures remotely. Believe it or not, this IS something that people do! It's quite like watching live TV or YouTube, actually.

Broadcast sessions usually include key note speakers, the Innovator Showdown Finals and a variety of lectures on topics that are, probably, of interest to a broader range of people. To watch, simply navigate to the homepage. You will be prompted to enter your name and email address in order to gain access to the live stream.

This year's Streaming Schedule can be found here:

2. Follow the hashtags on Twitter in real time.
These days, most events (not just genealogy-related) will have an official hashtag. You can and should follow them even if you are attending the event but they provide a direct way of participating, learning and interacting for those who cannot attend in person. 

For Roots Tech, regardless of year, the official hash tag is always #RootsTech. Sometimes, though, variants will be used frequently enough that you should watch them too.

Here is a list of hashtags I recommend following on Twitter during RootsTech 2017:

#NotAtRootsTech ***

Through following these, you may even discover a few more hashtags worth investigating!

Now, are you wondering how you're going to follow all of these or even just one in real time??
  1. Get yourself a Twitter account[I can't believe you don't have one already!]
  2. You can click on and follow the links above ... or ...
  3. After you've logged in, enter the hashtag (#hashtag) of interest into the search box at the top, left-hand side of the page. The default is to show you the Top posts first; those will be the ones with the most interaction regardless of when they occurred. I recommend clicking on the "Latest" tab/link (as pictured below) which will update automatically with the newest public posts containing your searched-for hashtag. You can scroll to view posts earlier in the day and so on.

    It can be a pain in the buttinski trying to follow events in this fashion, though. Instead, I recommend using TweetDeck which is a Twitter application.
  4. a) Sign in with your Twitter account information to TweetDeck. I believe you can download and use this application on your smartphone but I find it most convenient to use on my laptop viw the web address.
    b) Add a column for your Notifications so that you will get immediate notification of any activity directed at your account.
    c) Add columns for each relevant hashtag. This will enable you to view and interact with all activity involving all selected hashtags in real time.

    Here is an article that will help you get started with TweetDeck. You don't HAVE to use this application but I find it makes following along in real time much easier. There are also other apps out there that can help you follow real time discussions but I do not have enough experience with them to make any recommendations.

3. INTERACT on Twitter.
Part, if not most, of the fun of virtually attending a live event is interacting with other sad sacks who couldn't make it to the real deal. You interact by Liking (click the heart), retweeting, quoting (adding a comment to a retweet) and replying to the posts of other tweeters. Go ahead - ask questions, make comments! Don't be shy! Interact with vendors exhibiting in the Expo Hall! Keep an eye out for special conference-only deals, discounts, and contests from your favourite genealogy-related companies. Remember, even if they're not officially hosting a booth, many smaller societies and businesses in attendance have an accessible virtual presence on the Expo Hall floor to talk with prospective members, clients and customers! Share photos of yourself relaxing in your jammies or re-share pics of your friends who are having fun in person at the event. No friends attending? This how you start new friendships and spark connections with colleagues who could one-day help you with some aspect of your research!

Include the official hashtag as often as possible (unless the conversation gets more specific/personal and may not be of general interest). 

4. Follow the hashtags on Facebook.
Did you know that hashtags are also something you can follow on Facebook? That's right! Log in to your Facebook account and enter the hashtag into the search bar at the top left of the page. 
The default is to show you the Top posts first though I prefer to follow the Latest tab/link (as pictured above).

Following are links to the hashtags on Facebook that I recommend keeping an eye on during Roots Tech 2017. You could probably bookmark these links into a folder so that you can go back to review them without entering in all the text again.

5. Make Facebook friends or Follow-Backsies.
Further to #3... If you find yourself having a good conversation or enjoyable small talk with a particular tweep or person on Facebook, don't let the virtual relationship end there! You clearly have at least one subject in common and each of you probably have a specialty or special knowledge that may complement the other's at some point in the future. You never know what contacts and connections may come in handy one day. You certainly never know which random networking efforts will end up becoming your new BFF, your Genealogy Conference Husband or Family History Twin.

Cultivate your new genea-relationships by continuing the social media interaction after the event. Everyone likes to be followed back on Twitter! Request their friendship on Facebook or the URL of their business FB page so you can follow them there, too. In the more immediate future, you may benefit from more direct access to their posts related to the ongoing conference and subject matter. Following each other also enables you to send Private Messages.

6. Take the opportunity to share your blog, website or other social media links on Twitter.
So you're stuck at home with a somewhat captive audience who is clearly interested in your favourite subjects: genealogy and family history! Is this not the perfect time to force upon others (IOW, share) the address to your genealogy blog or website and/or the URLs to whatever other social media accounts you use frequently (ie, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc)??

Especially on a Friday, using the hashtag #FollowFriday or #FF, put yourself and your links out there. These two particular tags are meant to direct people towards new accounts to follow. Depending on the days the event occurs on, you could also make use of hashtags like #SurnameSaturday or #ThrowbackThursday to share your surnames of interest or topical blogposts with the larger audience the event hashtag will add. Use your imagination - or google! 

Of course, you must not forget to include that Official Hashtag! Do refrain, however, from spamming your information (IOW, sharing repeatedly and excessively). Keep in mind that any tweet has a lifespan of about 15 minutes BUT virtual attendees of an event like RootsTech should not be considered Joe or Jane Twitter User in this instance since they are, likely, closely following the same event feeds (hashtag threads) as you. Err on the side of restraint.

Getting back to more specific #NotAtRootsTech survival tasks... 

7. Watch Power Sessions live-streamed from Genealogy Gems.
Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast celebrates its tenth anniversary and 200th episode this year. To celebrate, they're giving away tons of prizes and freebies on-site. That doesn't help us virtual attendees much, does it? Nope. Way to rub it in, LDC. [Sorry!]
Anyway, the part of interest to those of us #NotAtRootsTech is that select 30 minute classes will be broadcast LIVE over the Periscope app or on their Facebook Page (via Facebook Live). These are indicated in the schedule (below) by the little blue and red pinpoints. Alternatively, click on the image to go directly to the Genealogy Gems webpage in question for additional info.
All times listed in MST.
PS. Congratulations!

8. Watch DearMYRTLE's Ambush Cam et al on her YouTube channel.
Not quite live, usually, but soon enough after-the-fact to be relevant and to make you feel like you're participating from home! DearMYRTLE's Roots Tech 2017 play list already boasts 10 videos (around 2 minutes each) and it is, presently, still very early on in the event! Alternatively, follow her on Google+ (a social media forum which tends to confuse me more than it probably should but might be more your cup of tea), Facebook or via her blog which are all kept quite current. Wait, you say? Just who is this DearMYRTLE character?? Check out her bio HERE.

9. Read and follow Randy Seaver's RootsTech 2017 Blog Compendium.
This blog post is a genea-community fave! Looked forward to by many (including yours truly!) every year, this post will be updated, at least, daily throughout the conference with relevant blog posts by genea-peeps talking about their experiences at RootsTech 2017. Live vicariously through the prose of posters present! Enjoy the photos! Resist the devious draw of gluttony and hold fast to the inspiration and motivation! You can do it. I believe in you. Then, spread the love by commenting with your thanks and sharing their work on social media.

10. Watch the recordings of the live-streamed sessions.
All live-streamed sessions are recorded and, generally, posted 
  1. to the website within hours of the conclusion of the day's events. Scroll down past the schedule of the next sessions, currently on the main page, to the Did You Miss A Session? section. Click on the appropriate day.
    Wednesday's sessions can be watched HERE.
    Thursday's sessions can be watched HERE.
    Friday's sessions can be watched HERE.
    Saturday's sessions UPCOMING!
  2. Alternatively, watch from the Mormon Channel on YouTube.

11. Make sure you enter the genealogy contests you're eligible to win!
There won't be many, but every year there are a couple more. This year, people #NotAtRootsTech are welcome to enter SIX genealogy contests:
  1. "Watch for an official giveaway Tweet from the RootsTech account (@RootsTechConf)... Then, to enter, simply tweet a photo of you watching the conference online with the hashtag #NotAtRootsTech. Winners will be selected at random during the day. If your photo is selected, prizes such as a RootsTech t-shirt, hat, or backpack will be mailed to you". -- via the FamilySearch Blog
    Prizes include three WD My Passport hard drives!
    UPDATE: via @RootsTechConf selfies tweeted do NOT have to include your face if you are #NotAtRootsTech and the contest continues on Saturday!
  2. Enter to win a FREE DNA ANALYSIS from Legacy Tree Genealogists (valued at $350 USD) to help you interpret your DNA test results or create a DNA testing plan to aid in your genealogy research.

    a) "Like" the Legacy Tree Genealogists Facebook page
    b) Complete the form HERE.
    Winner will be announced during the LIVE DNA Q&A on the Legacy Tree Genealogists Facebook page on Saturday, Feb.11th at 4:00pm MDT.
  3. Enter to win an Artisan 5® Digital Scrapbooking Program from Shop The Hound valued at $59.95 USD (approx. $79.65 Canadian). "Great for beginner or expert scrapbookers. Telling your story is easy; you start by choosing some of your favorite photos and then adding your creativity, and you have a special keepsake. You can create scrapbooks, photobooks, cards, calendars, mugs and much more. You can literally build a book in minutes and believe me when you make something yourself it’s the best gift of all".

    Follow THIS link.
    Giveaway ends at 6:00pm CST on 14 February 2017. Open to Canadian and US residents where allowed by law. 
  4. "Innovator Summit semi-finalist, JoyFLIPS, is giving away four Apple iPad-2 tablets to celebrate their RootsTech 2017 launch and you don’t have to be in Salt Lake City to win!! Anyone opening a free JoyFLIPS account from 8 February 2017 to 11 February 2017 will be entered into the daily drawings. (All JoyFLIPS accounts created before the event opens will be included in the drawing on 8 February.) Winners will be picked each day at the JoyFLIPS booth #1335". -- via The Ancestry Insider
  5. Enter the drawing for a chance to win one (1) Ancestry DNA kit and unlock your family history. Brought to you by
    Follow THIS link.
  6. Enter to win a FREE DNA test from Living DNA.
    Find out more about Living-DNA here:​
    a) Read this blog post.
    b) Guess what percentage of the writer's total DNA result will fall within Living DNA’s geographical definition of ‘Northumbria’.
    c) Submit your guess and contact information, HERE.
    The competition closes on 31st March 2017. The winner will be announced during the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ Live event at the NEC in Birmingham which runs from the 6-8th April.

12. Visit the Virtual Expo Hall
You've gotta admit that one Plus about not being able to attend RootsTech 2017 in person is that crowds are definitely not a problem. Just think - you get to take your time, browse and learn in peace!! [Yeah, I know. Trying too hard, there, LDC]. Anyway, you really should follow the virtual map and investigate all of the new and established vendors RootsTech 2017 has to offer! Check out their websites, follow their blogs and social media accounts, shop through the products, ephemera and software. Create your wish list! The money you've saved NOT attending and/or NOT travelling to this conference might just come in handy now, eh? ;-)

You may also find more live-streamed, Facebook Live or Periscope sessions offering first-hand peeks at the action! Do not fret if you miss the actual live stream, it will usually be preserved to play back at a later date or time.  

13. Keep an eye out for Roots Tech SALES and DEALS!
Now, I've hinted at this before but -- while you're reviewing all of these vendor websites, blogs and social media pages, you absolutely MUST keep watch for any special offers, discounts, freebies (ie, shipping) or sales of which non-attendees might be eligible to take advantage. For example, a discount on the digital magazine, Going In-Depth has been advertised on The In-Depth Genealogist Facebook page.

Normally, a subscription which includes 12 months worth of new content plus access to all past editions runs for $35 USD. So you will save $15 USD if you order between February 9th and February 13th. Use the code 2017RT on the subscription form to take advantage of this great deal.

Here's another deal!!

TapGenes has a deal for us "locationally-disabled" non-attendees too! #NotAtRootsTech attendees are eligible for their exclusive show discount:
get 50% OFF a Premium Plan through 2/28 with promo code RT17
Visit to get immediate access. Once in the platform, click on the Genetics section to upgrade!

Another #NotAtRootsTech DEAL comes from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies which can also be found in the Expo Hall if you are not "locationally-disabled".

Share any of @geneastudies tweets during RootsTech2017 and receive 50% OFF the registration fee for one of their courses or 10% OFF an entire course package!! Your discount code will be sent to you via PM. Offer ends Saturday, 11 February at 11:59pm MST.

Don't forget to SHARE finds like this with ME -- I mean, your new-found "presently-challenged" mates via your own social media outlets!

14. Make the most of the RootsTech app!
I know, you haven't bothered to download the 2017 RootsTech app because it can't help someone who isn't actually attending the event. WRONGZO!! The app is FREE and provides exclusive access to the downloadable handouts for each and every conference lecture! You're clearly wondering what possible help a handout for a talk you're not attending could be to you. Well, some won't be helpful. You won't care about some topics and, frankly, some lecturers are just crap at creating effective handouts. But there will be at least a few containing tips and tidbits you didn't already know or about which you could use a reminder. There will likely be links to online resources you haven't explored. Contact information for lecturers themselves, businesses, other events -- you never know what you might find... unless you look!! Hey, that reminds me of a hobby we all seem to be pretty invested in... 

Which is a pretty good note to end a previously grump-tastic blogger's blog post on, IMO!

Yes, The Asterisks Mean Something
* Okay, okay. I'm being melodramatic. Humour me.
** Or second youngest because, yes, I know The Other young Canadian genealogist! LOL 
*** Who was the first sad non-attendee to use the #NotAtRootsTech hashtag? Christine McCloud appears to have scrolled back to the beginning to determine it was Susan Kitchens
Screenshot via LDC's tweetdeck dashboard.


  1. Great blogpost. Lot of stuff in it. Took probably a while to collect all this amazing information or?
    I have no Twitter account, but searching for hashtags works for me. Lisa Louise Cooke has also a Periscope channel.
    The quality of the streams in there are little bit better as on Facebook. I like it more.

  2. I have included your blog in FRIDAY FOSSICKING .. in General Interest, Roots Tech

    Thank you, Chris

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