Category Archives: RootsTech

RootsTech, Day 3

Though I was up later other nights, last night my eyes just couldn’t stay open even long enough to post some photos. It was a less busy day. I stayed home for the keynote, arriving later for a couple sessions. I skipped one and the other speaker was a no-show, but three of us sat in the room and had a nice, off-topic conversation about development.

I stuck around after closing to watch what happened with the MyHeritage balloons. I witnessed the carnage of the deaths of more than half of them. Then I headed south to Janet Hovorka’s house for dinner. I had no idea how many people she had invited, and was surprised that I was one of the earliest arrivals, having left at least an hour after the conference ended. I met even more people, including Jim Ericson, where we discussed the developer’s challenge a bit. I learned some interesting details about last year too.

In the end, of course it all turned out great. No matter how annoyed I was at a variety of things, I knew I’d still enjoy myself since, for me, it’s not about the conference, it’s about all the people I get to see there.

RootsTech, Day 2

Sometime after posting yesterday’s blog post, I realized how many people I met in the media center that I didn’t mention. But I’m so tired now, if I tried to list them, I’m sure I’d miss most again. I went to some more developer sessions. One was great, one was not. I was the only woman of about three in one (so that makes twice) and the only woman in the boring one; I also left that one early.

I seem to have a lot of overexposed pictures today, along with plenty of blurry shots too. Not sure if I just shot badly or was tired and couldn’t see what I was doing.

Caroline Pointer had mentioned wanting a Who Do You Think You Are? viewing party, along with the drinking game, in a hotel bar or someone’s room. Terryn Barill heard this and immediately called her hotel, the Peery, for permission to take over the TV in the bar. We invited the bloggers and a few others and had a blast. Back at the FHL after, I kept Daniel Horowitz company for a couple hours.

RootsTech, Day 1

I can’t begin to list all the people I saw and the new ones I met. I didn’t get pictures of a lot. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be even more snap happy with the camera. I also have a lot of blurry ones today. I wasn’t allowed in the media hub, but later I got past the guard dogs while they were talking and sat in for a while with the bloggers. Finally met Caroline Pointer, Denise Levenick, saw Thomas MacEntee, Amy Coffin, Kerry Scott, Ancestry Insider, Randy Seaver was in there, Pat Richley, and I’m certain about twice as many as I’ve mentioned. Later, I was spotted by Terryn Barill and Brooke Ganz.

I went to a developer session of about 60 people and I think there were maybe three other women; I could only see the backs of their heads, but was sure at least one was. I verified it was Brooke later.

Overheard at the after dinner event:

“Sweet potatoes are a lie.” – Daniel Horowitz
A French cat food story – Steve Morse

If only I could remember every word that was said, that list would be so long. After the comedian, Daniel wanted a steak. The rest of us (six of us) just went to keep him company and had a great time. I also learned that I am now the very last person to be using Eudora; Daniel has switched to Gmail.

RootsTech, Day Minus 1

Genealogists have been coming to SLC for a week. One person today thought she came in early by arriving the day before the conference. That was cute.

Let’s see, who did I see and meet today?

Carol Starin, Elise Friedman, Jill Ball, Robert Ball, Randy Seaver, Russ Worthington, Jan Brandt, Elyse Doreflinger, Jan Meisels Allen, I saw Elise and Elyse meet (so cute, I should have gotten them to pose for a picture), Pamela Weisberger, Steve Morse, Dan Lynch, Daniel Horowitz, Mark Olsen, and Yuval Ben-Galim.

Yep, it was a fun day already.

GenAssist – RootsTech Reject

RootsTech has once again put me in a bad mood. They’re getting too good at this. This time, it’s the developer’s challenge. The challenge was to imagine and then write a brand new program in less than two months. And I got started late. Looking at the finalists, I’d say that either some of them have been working on their programs for more than two months, or I have been left in the dark ages of web programming.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. The prizes are pretty significant this year. Maybe I should have looked at this program as if it was my full time job and put that much effort into it. Maybe that’s what the finalists actually did. Or maybe I somehow knew that I would be left in the dust in the end, so I didn’t.

Either way, I created a program to help beginning genealogists: the people that have just gotten started and found sites like FamilySearch and Ancestry, or maybe a few more, but don’t really know what they’re doing; the people that haven’t been to conferences, webinars, or society meetings; the people that want to know their genealogy but either don’t know how or don’t want to take the time to learn.

Genealogy research is a puzzle. Not only are there methodologies to learn, but you must also learn what records are available. Were your ancestors in Florida? Did you know there are state censuses for 1935 and 1945? Certainly a beginner wouldn’t know. So how does a new genealogist easily find out what’s available?


In order to research your genealogy, you have to know how to do the research, to know what to look for, and to know what records are available. With GenAssist, you just enter the information about an individual and it will suggest document types in which you might find your relatives.

And while it’s telling you what records to search, it is also teaching you. It will explain why to search for certain records.

However, my program has been left in the dust of this contest. The judges found an error and only informed me when I pestered them that they were behind schedule to announce the finalists. They also hadn’t entered the sample information, because my database is extremely limited at the moment. When they finally entered the sample data, they didn’t do it correctly. (When I say to enter 1980, 1908 will not produce the same favorable results. Genealogy and programming are both more precise than that.)

Therefore, I am opening it up for you to try. Login with username “blog” and password “gjg” (without the quotes). Try the “View History” to see the two sample entries, so you can get an idea what kind of data is already in the database. Then add your own if you like. Keep in mind that your individuals are recorded and visible in the history, and this is a shared login for whoever reads this blog post, so don’t use the living. Besides, you probably won’t find much about the living in my database.

Remember that this is just what I got done in about a month in some spare time. Clearly it is nowhere near complete, nor is it incredibly pretty, because I spent my time on the cool programming part instead of the web design part. There is almost no error checking, so don’t test if it can figure out your misspellings. But let me know what you think of it and if I should keep working on it. I do have a lot more ideas for it (you’ll find some on the “RootsTech 2012″ page), besides the obvious of filling in the database with genealogy record data.

Also, I will likely not leave the login open for very long. Since my blog gets a lot of spammer comments, who knows what they’ll do to my program.

So, is my program worth working on more? Or should I let it fade away into oblivion?

RootsTech – Photos

Since I didn’t embed any pictures into my recaps of RootsTech posts, I’ve decided to post all the good shots together. I have a new camera that fits into my shirt pocket, but it took me a couple days to start really taking some pictures. Still, it’s better than I’ve done at other genealogy conferences, so it’s a start.

With this new camera, I haven’t yet figured out how to do a serious zoom (or even kind of a wimpy zoom) and still get a non-blurry picture, so I took a picture of the audience and the camera from the keynote on the first day. I arrived a little late and stood in the back, clearly.

I ran into Rochelle Kaplan, an officer in UJGS, in the Expo Hall the second day. She took a picture of me leaning on the red phone booth that brightsolid brought, but she didn’t get the booth in the picture. She did get all of my ribbons.

In return, I took a picture of Rochelle Kaplan while we were at the MyHeritage booth.

Minutes later, I got a nice photo of Daniel Horowitz and Shelly Dardashti and the MyHeritage booth.

Later, I spotted another UJGS member, Gary Bowen, chatting with Shelly Dardashti.

At the showing of Who Do You Think You Are? I caught Amy Coffin and Lisa Alzo tweeting. Judging by the timestamp, it looks like we had a few more minutes before the show started.

An audience picture at Who Do You Think You Are? night at the FHL.

The next day, back in Blogger’s World, I met Kerry Scott (@cluewagon), Missy Corley (@baysideresearch), and Kimberly Powell (@lovegenealogy).

Thomas MacEntee and Amy Coffin were often found at their favorite seats when in Blogger’s World.

And another shot with Laura Prescott, Kerry Scott, and Missy Corley.
[Thank you to Amy Coffin for identifying Laura.]

Tami Glatz came to Blogger’s World a few times. I was at her session, so we talked about it for a bit and then I asked for a picture.

I stopped standing at their booth and finally sat down inside, where I got another shot of Daniel Horowitz. (I needed to make sure a got a decent picture of him. He just spoke at his second UJGS meeting and I still didn’t have one.)

I learned something from Jill Ball (@geniaus), who is from Australia. Apparently, down under, they pronounce the A in genealogy, unlike how it’s sometimes misspelled as geneology around these parts.

Steve Morse visited Blogger’s World after his DNA presentation. I also captured Shelly Dardashti (@TracingTheTribe) and Lorine McGinnis Schultze (@LorineMS) in this one. I believe that’s Lorine’s husband, Reg, in the hat.
[I have learned from another blog that the backpack was standing in for the @AncestryInsider; no wonder it wouldn’t get out of the way, it was posing!]

Seems that by the third day, I was finally behaving more like a shutterbug. Moments later, I captured Lorine, Illya D’Addezio (@illyadaddezio), and Jill Ball.

Oh no, I didn’t get a picture of Pat Richley. Someone took one of me and her together, so I hope that shows up somewhere.

RootsTech – Day 3

I thought I’d make it to the keynote on time finally, but didn’t. Twitter was buzzing about the keynote as I prepared to leave, so I watched for maybe ten minutes then headed out to make a 9:45 session.

I went to hear Christopher Starr speaking about Family Social Graphs. From the syllabus, it sounded like he would be speaking about an idea I had for the Developer’s Challenge. Unfortunately, he was having trouble getting his laptop to work with the projector; tech support finally got it somewhat after 20 minutes. I stuck it out for another 20 minutes but lost interest, as the topic didn’t seem to be what I thought it would.

More Blogger’s World Perks

Back at Blogger’s World, I met Missy Corley (@baysideresearch), chatted again with Pat Richley and Dick Eastman (who I’d seen in the Radisson lobby the day before), and then Kerry Scott (@cluewagon) and Kimberly Powell (@lovegenealogy) came around too.

Grant Brunner from Geni came over to talk to us, bringing T-shirts. I had a conversation with him for a bit about the privacy issues on his site and the private and public trees, and he informed me that the GEDCOM upload which I’d once had trouble with wasn’t even available anymore. Really? I’d have to add all my 3000 names manually? Not likely to happen, sorry. He said they were also working on supporting adoptions too, which was their biggest priority.

What’s a Blog?

Visiting my friends at the MyHeritage booth again (yes, I was there more often than I’ve mentioned, if you hadn’t already noticed), we saw Steve Morse sitting in Blogger’s World. So I asked him about his blog, he said, “What’s a blog?” I then relayed a question from Schelly Dardashti, inquiring when he was coming out with the one-step tool for being in two places at once. He explained that that was a two step tool, and he didn’t cover those.

Blogger’s World seemed a little nuttier each day. It was a blast.

A new set of bloggers had sat down including Jill Ball (@geniaus) and Illya D’Addezio (@illyadaddezio), who I’d seen for two days before, but I finally engaged him in a bit of conversation.

A quick lunch before the next session with my previous dinner companions Schelly and Christine, and I took off for the Developer’s Challenge Presentations.

Session 1 – Dev Challenge

This was kind of sad. There were only three people who had done enough to present something for the challenge. I had an idea that I think was better than two of the three. If only I hadn’t wanted to attend the conference and sleep for 8 hours (spread out over 2 days), I probably could have won one of the prizes. But even though I read about it just before RootsTech started, I knew I didn’t want to take the time to try to program something for it. Sadly, I probably should have.

That’s All Folks

The closing session gave away a bunch of prizes, announced the winners of the best speaker votes (which I had forgotten about) and the developer’s challenge (the results were exactly as I thought they should be).


Unlike NGS, a lot of the Twitterers/bloggers that I chat with online attended, so I got to meet and talk with them in person. Blogger’s World was a fantastic idea; we loved hanging out in there together.

Tech support was sadly lacking for a conference that should have been about half “tech”. With each presenter needing to hook up their own laptop, they needed more tech support at the start of every presentation in every room to be sure things worked smoothly.

Wi-fi was also badly missed. We did figured out that there was wi-fi in the session rooms but not in the expo hall. That was just goofy. Blogger’s World had wired coverage, which I used with my laptop the one day I lugged it around.

I had lunch twice in the expo hall, so that was convenient to have a huge area of tables and a few choices for lunch. It was pricey, but that was to be expected for the convenience.

The MicroSoft Playground was a great idea. I didn’t use it much but wanted to.

Repeating myself here, I thought the Developer’s Challenge had sad results. I might have participated, but I had this silly notion of actually participating in the conference instead. I saw it in the syllabus just before the conference started, but was it anywhere on the site sooner? Maybe next time, they’ll start that a week earlier so we have some time to formulate a clever idea and get working on it.

There were other things going on that I didn’t pay attention to like the uncoferencing and product demos. There was just so much happening at once sometimes that I focused in on a few things to keep from being completely overwhelmed.

Overall, I enjoyed this conference immensely and I’m looking forward to next year. Hopefully with the feedback from this year, and a few more than seven months for planning, it will be even better. Twitter is full of people declaring their attendance in 2012 already. We should probably warn the committee that Blogger’s World may need to be even bigger.

RootsTech – Day 2

It felt like a good five hours of sleep, but the lack of sleep caught up to me in the afternoon. I woke up two hours before my alarm, did my morning catching up online, and even wrote another blog post.

I almost made it downtown in time for the keynote speech. I missed the beginning, but Curt Witcher, of the Allen County Public Library,¬† had plenty more to say, going overtime, with The Changing Face of Genealogy. He was great to listen to, but one of the funniest lines for me was when he recalled a conversation where he claimed that his library “had just become the largest genealogical library in the Milky Way galaxy… [with] our pretty decent collection of stuff in Fort Wayne. And then we have our remote storage facility in Salt Lake.” Being in the room, I paid more attention to what he said than the previous day from home.

I stopped in to a session about API Development, but it turned out to be FamilySearch API specifically, which was a new title from the syllabus. I couldn’t get into it that early in the morning, so I chatted with someone at random in the hallway and headed back to Blogger’s World, where I got to speak to a couple people before I headed out for the next session.

Session 1 – One Step

All those years going to IAJGS conferences and I never heard Steve Morse speak. I finally changed that today when I went to his session on Creating One-Step Search Tools. He was finished in 20 minutes. “That’s all. We’re finished. That’s all you have do to… Really, I’ve told you everything you need to know about how to do this.” Then he continued explaining about more options and customization. I had never tried his one-step creation tool, knowing I could program such a thing myself and didn’t need it, but I may just use it someday. At the very least, I’ll take a look at his search algorithms and learn something from them, I’m sure.

Wandering back to Blogger’s World, I was hungry an hour earlier and eventually had lunch with Sue Maxwell (@geneasue) and Renee Zamora (@rzamor1). Then I headed off for my volunteer time.

Session 2 – Stories Online

Tami Glatz’s Finding Your Family’s Stories Online was next. She had been recently relocated to the big room where the keynote was given, and she had quite a crowd in there. I’m not even sure I read the description, and just before going, I predicted it would be about online newspapers. To my surprise and delight, it was about finding online books, journals, libraries, other things, and newspapers weren’t mentioned until at least about half way through.

Session 3 – Wikitext

Another FamilySearch themed session that wasn’t named as one, Don Stringham presented Building Programming Libraries Using Wikitext. About a year ago, I was beginning to put all my genealogy data into a wiki, and I eventually gave up because the old wiki and newer version (of TikiWiki) weren’t so compatible. The wikitext Don spoke of was specifically for MediaWiki, the same wiki used by Wikipedia, and specifically the FamilySearch wiki. I found it unexpectedly interesting, considering I was interested in their wiki when I first learned about it, though I haven’t been back to it in quite a while.

Evening Entertainment

Returning to the vendor room and Blogger’s World, I spoke with Pat Richley (@DearMyrtle), Joan Miller (@luxegen), Lorine McGinnis Schulze (@LorineMS), and Lisa Alzo (@lisaalzo). I know I’m probably leaving out at least one person here. I’m not good at remembering people in bulk.

Dinner with Schelly Dardashti and Christine Mueller, then to the FHL for the party.

Watching Who Do You Think You Are? with all those genealogists was a blast. There were a few great moments where Tim McGraw asked a specific question, and so conveniently, the genealogist/historian said¬† “I have this other record…” and everyone laughed.

A bit of research, then a much later dinner with Daniel Horowitz and Ran Peled, and back at home and I’m blogging again.

I was also happy to see three UJGS members so far. One walked by me quickly on day one, and I saw two in the expo hall on day two; one was just visiting the expo hall, which was free to the public.

RootsTech – Day 1

I just got home, after 10pm, from the first day of RootsTech. I didn’t sleep last night, knowing I’d never be able to wake up early enough, and I still didn’t make it downtown as early as I wanted. I watched the webcast of the keynotes.

Keynotes from Home

I found my mind wandering quite a few times during Shane Robison’s (of HP) talk on A World of Information, but I think I got most of it. That was followed by the “cool-down” from Jay Verkler, CEO of FamilySearch International, Turning Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs. My favorite part was near then end when he listed the similarities between technologists and genealogists. I am both!


I arrived downtown a bit after 11am, checked in as a volunteer quite a bit early, then wandered around the vendor room. I stopped to say hello to Daniel Horowitz at his MyHeritage booth, then headed for Blogger Central. I saw Thomas MacEntee, Schelly Dardashti, a couple others I didn’t actually speak to yet, and met Amy Coffin. Yeah, I’ve met another one of my geneatweeps! (I have two more days to meet more. Oh, and now I’m officially listed on GeneaBloggers, finally!) I collected some ribbons from Thomas’s stash and headed around the rest of the vendor room, finally making it to the FamilySearch booth, where they have you visit all the sponsors to get a free T-shirt and enter the iPad drawing, so I had to go back to a few, finishing just in time to get a shirt and get to my afternoon session.

Volunteering is Sometimes the Way To Go

Having decided there were only a few sessions I really wanted to attend a month ago, I asked if there was a possibility of volunteering for entrance to those, which there was! I found out when I arrived that they were quite short on volunteers. If I had known a few days sooner, I would have tried to recruit from UJGS.

Session 1 – TreePad

So my first session was to oversee the computer workshop from Jan Gow, Create Your Own Family Reference Library. Having finally read the description, unfortunately the title sounded more appealing to me than the actual topic — how to use a certain program. I had a list of pre-registrations and a crowd of about 30 people. The three on the list got in first, then I just let the rest pile in and it was standing room only. I didn’t catch much of the presentation, but Jan was teaching what she loved about the program TreePad. Unfortunately, Jan is so excited about the program, she spent 45 minutes on her PowerPoint and only 15 on the hands-on stuff. She had to repeat it later, so I hope she switched the times a little.

Session 2 – Browser Plug-ins

I was told to stay on watch at that room, so I was there for David Lifferth’s Lessons from Building Browser Plug-ins. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t supposed to be a computer lab, even though the topic was programming. I actually found his talk very informative, though it wasn’t on my must-hear list. Some people found it a little beyond their skill level. In my previous life, I was a computer programmer, so I followed along just fine. (OK, yes, I’m still a programmer now.)

Session 3 – No SQL

From there, I went to another technical presentation. When I registered, I chose technology “user”, but I think I chose wrong, especially given my lecture choices. Jimmy Zimmerman was teaching about No SQL – Exploring the Super Powers of Graph and Document DBs. He mentioned they were kind of new, but I somehow recall vague mentions from college, making them not quite so new. He reviewed three document databases and one graph database, then listed a few others that he wasn’t so familiar with. Some of the information from the document databases sounded interesting for genealogy use, but I don’t know that I want to reprogram my entire database. But I may keep it in mind for the future.

Fun Time!

From there, I collected Daniel Horowitz and we arrived at the planetarium at 6:30. He had the 5:30 ticket and I had the 7:30, so we were right on time. Hubble 3D was first. I know my brother hasn’t gotten that close to a shuttle launch and he lives in Orlando and has gone to them often. We were actually in the steam as the shuttle lifted off! Yeah, it was a good film. The second film was about Saturn, but after over-stuffing the larger theater before, the smaller theater couldn’t hold all the people who wanted to see the film. The only other option at that time was Hubble 3D again, so we grabbed a bit of food and walked over to Gateway so Daniel could do some shopping for his kids. (Sweet, right? He bought them shoes.)

We made it back just in time to run upstairs to the Laser Light Show, Rock on Demand, again in the smaller theater. It wasn’t crowded that time. I enjoyed that one too, but not as much. The crowd got to choose the artists. At one point, someone yelled out “Justin Bieber”, to which the host replied, “I’m sorry sir, but I’ll have to ask you to leave now.” They played a lot of classic rock.

I must say that for the problems they are encountering, which isn’t bad after only having seven months to plan this conference, if nothing else, doing the planetarium night was awesome.

We took Trax back to the Radisson and parted ways for the night. Day two is tomorrow and I need to catch up for skipping a day of sleep. I want to meet some more of my tweeps, so be visible. I’m hosting 1:30-4pm, but the rest of my time is mine.

Disclaimer, because I think it’s one of those rare posts that I need one: I am attending the conference for free because I have volunteered my time to help. I am not otherwise being paid for my service or for promoting anything on my blog.