November 2

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RootsTech London – what did I think?

By Cathie

November 2, 2019


So what did I think of the first RootsTech I have attended and the first at which I have presented? While I am sure that my experience in the USA in 2020 will be different this is my take on the London event.


The program

Overall, I thought that the program was generally good.  If you were researching ancestors in Great Britain, there were certainly plenty of presentations of interest but there were also excellent ones on Dutch, French and other European collections.

Many of the sessions I attended were pitched at the beginner and when looking at the program overall, it seemed to be the most common descriptor. The speakers for some of these sessions were brilliant but I would have loved to have heard a session or two on unique/unusual records (though there were two which came close). There were numerous DNA presentations for beginners and two which I enjoyed were Maurice Gleeson on combining DNA with Irish Research and Jonny Perl on predicting relationships with autosomal DNA.

My presentation went well with no technical problems and the response from attendees was very positive – especially the slides which people thought were excellent!

Overall, there was coverage of most of the key areas in family history so I think the program enabled attendees to make a choice for each session.

At the back of the room in Jonny Perl’s presentation

The keynote speakers

I went to two of the three keynote speakers. I missed Kadeena Cox because I had found an issue with my presentation slides so spent some time checking these in the room in which I was presenting the following morning.

Dan Snow, the keynote on the first day, was quite good – started really well and was entertaining. His presentation included an overlong clip from his appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? It told a story about an ancestor who wasn’t one you could boast about, but in my opinion, I felt that it was a filler and didn’t really add to Dan’s story and would have loved to have heard more about his Welsh grandmother, for example, where did the love of history come from? Why did the family move from Canada back to the UK? However, he was an excellent presenter and seemed to be very down to earth. He encouraged us all to go beyond the records and walk the ancestral trails. I encourage all of my clients to do this as it helps to orient you in their lives – some scenery may have changed but in many places it remains just as it did over 100 years ago.

I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Donny Osmond. His presentation was entertaining but I guess you couldn’t really expect anything else with his background. He showed images of his great great grandparents and talked especially about the tenacity of his great great grandmother, Elizabeth Williams.

The venue

Excel is a huge venue but RootsTech is for a certain demographic and if you had mobility issues but weren’t in a wheel chair, the walk from the lifts or escalators to the presentation rooms was quite a hike.

Tech support was good, the computer and data projector worked well and everyone could see the screen in the smaller rooms, but it was more difficult to see in some of the larger rooms if your seat was right at the back.

The rooms for most of the general sessions were around the same size so there were sessions where the room couldn’t hold another person so some missed out. This is not something that can be known in advance by the organisers but would have been disappointing for those who really wanted to hear that particular presentation

The exhibition

As expected, Ancestry, FindMyPast and the DNA companies were busy all of the time but the Ministry of Defence, Society of Genealogists and the Guild of One-Name Studies appeared to have a steady flow of customers on the occasions when I walked through. There were numerous other smaller exhibitors and each of these would have gained wonderful exposure for their activities.

The networking and overall

As a speaker, I was paid for the event but it was a very thoughtful gesture for the organisers to provide a small gift and handwritten card for each speaker. This was not expected but was appreciated by all of those to whom I spoke. The speaker’s room was small but well appointed with water and snacks available. This was a great place to just sit for a bit but you could also network with others who came in and out of the room.

Would I come back to another RootsTech London? Well, the answer to that has to be yes because I have already booked in for RootsTech in Salt Lake City next year. 

It was terrific to meet people I have only communicated with either by email or phone. This was a great experience and I am very much looking forward to the 10th anniversary in Salt Lake City in 2020.

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