My trip to RootsTech 2017: part 3

Click here to read parts 1 and 2 in this series . . .

Where in the world does time go? I’ve been busy researching my biggest “brick wall” and have totally neglected this blog series.

So now it’s time to finally “WRAP IT UP!”

FRIDAY February 10th

Friday was African Heritage Day and was kicked off by LeVar Burton’s inspirational keynote speech, truly one of the highlights of the week. I particularly enjoyed hearing him reminisce about his story-telling mentors, including his mother and a guy named “Fred” – he said we might know him as Mister Rogers.

My first session of the day was at 11 o’clock – “Using Autosomal DNA to Help Extend a Lineage” by Thomas Jones. This session was probably my favorite of the week. I had so many take-aways from this presentation but I’ll just share this one . . .

  • If you ever get a chance to hear Thomas Jones speak, GRAB IT!

The next session was “Instagram: 5 Reasons Genealogists Should Use It!” by Maureen Taylor, otherwise known as The Photo Detective. About a year ago, I had a phone consultation with Maureen about a few unidentified photos. You can read about that consultation here.

I was curious about this session – wondering if there might be any applications for genealogy bloggers. A couple ideas she shared along those lines . . .

  • Attracting people to a surname group
  • Sharing orphan photos and asking, “Who are the people in the photo?” or maybe looking for additional information about a photo, i.e., “Where are they standing?”

She also talked about watermarking photos, which I found to be helpful. Click here for a video she prepared on this topic.

At  3 o’clock, I attended another interesting session by Thomas Jones, “When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?”

Again, this session was a little over my head but I really wanted to hear him speak again. No matter the topic, I feel like I always learn something new from this guy.

I visited the Legacy Family Tree Webinars web page to see what presentations he has done there.1 And he has done three presentations, one of which is free. Click here for the link. And there’s more good news! On September 19th, 2017, he is doing the same presentation I watched at Rootstech – I might even watch it again! Here’s the link to sign up for free.

That evening, my husband and I attended the MyHeritage RootsTech After Party. Everyone had a great time!

Here’s a short video from that night. There’s a quick peek (and I do mean quick!) of me and my new friend Yvonne2 at the 11 second mark.

SATURDAY February 11th

I was unable to attend the General Session on Saturday morning, which was disappointing since I wanted to hear CeCe Moore. Luckily, her presentation was taped. Click here for the link.

The first session I attended that morning was “Irish Research – Using Online Resources”, taught by Rick Sayre, a genealogist who specializes in National Archives records, federal and state land records, military records, using maps in genealogy, urban research, and government documents.

I learned a few new things . . .

  • Castle Garden, America’s first official immigration center, has some immigrant records that are not on Ancestry.
  • The most comprehensive Griffith’s Valuation records are at FindMyPast, including the original maps.
  • FindMyPast also has Landed Estates Court Rentals (1850-1885).
  • There is also a database at FindMyPast for landed deeds (including deeds from the 1890s) – the records are scanned but not indexed.
  • The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has some records related to the Republic of Ireland.
  • FindMyPast will probably end up scanning and indexing the Valuation Revision records for the Republic of Ireland.

During the lunch break, I took some time to walk through the Expo Hall. Near the back of the hall, behind the Media Hub, was this amazing chart (30 ft x 100 ft) from Genealogy Wall Charts.

At 12:30, a group of Geneabloggers met in the Expo Hall so we could have a group picture taken. Here we are – I am third from the left.

I also made a point to visit the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) booth. As much as I loved RootsTech, I’m interested in attending the SCGS conference known as Jamboree. Probably not this year – but I’m already savings my pennies for next year!

At 1:30, I attended my last RootsTech session, entitled “Sources and Structures for Successful Genealogical Research in Germany”, presented by Dirk Weissleder, a leading genealogist from Germany. My biggest brick wall on my mother’s side is her German line so this presentation was particularly interesting to me.

A few take-aways from this session . . .

  • Germany is divided into 16 states and each state has its own collection of records
  • Germany has no census records, at least not in the way we think of census records in the U.S.
  • Legal restrictions are very tight in Germany, making research even more difficult
  • DNA research is just beginning in Germany
  • There are no one-name study groups in Germany

I have to say I left this presentation feeling a bit discouraged. I hadn’t fully comprehended until then how difficult German research could be . . . especially when a certain researcher (yeah, that’s me) doesn’t have a clue where in Germany her ancestors came from.

And that reminds me . . . I forgot to mention the 20-minute free consultation session I had with a professional genealogist earlier that week. And I used that opportunity to discuss my German brick wall. So as I think about it, I’ve decided to write a separate blog post about that session. Stay tuned for that post, hopefully in the next few days.

So that’s it for my wrap-up of RootsTech 2017. The general sessions were great fun and the presentations were interesting and informative. I had a great time meeting genealogy enthusiasts from all over the world, and especially other family history bloggers.

Featured Image Photo Credit: “wrap it up, 3D rendering,” CanStockPhoto ( : uploaded by argus 11 Jun 2016; downloaded 06 Mar 2017).

  1. I HIGHLY recommend these webinars, by the way. The monthly subscription fee is just under $10 and the annual subscription is just under $50. Definitely a good deal for the quality and breadth of topics discussed!
  2. I met Yvonne, a genealogy blogger, and her husband earlier in the week.

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My trip to RootsTech 2017: part 2

Click here to read part 1 . . .

WEDNESDAY February 8th

I debated whether to go back to the Family History Library (“FHL”) or head over to the Salt Palace to watch the Innovator Showdown.

Folks standing in line for registration on Wednesday morning. Photo from author’s collection, taken February 8, 2017.

I decided on the Innovator Showdown – and was glad I did. The presentations by Liz Wiseman and Steve Rockwood were great! Here are the links . . .

Rookie Smarts: Why Leaning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work by Liz Wiseman, President of the Wiseman Group.

General Session 2017 – Steve Rockwood, CEO of Family Search International

Next were the presentations of the ten Innovator Showdown semi-finalists. There were some great ideas this year and I was particularly interested in the presentations by Crowd Sourced Indexing and Double Match Triangulator. Here’s a link for all presentations by the ten semi-finalists . . .

Innovator Showdown Semi-Finalists

At 3 o’clock, the 200-plus break-out sessions began. Yes . . . I said 200 plus!

So you can imagine that it was difficult at times to decide which session to attend. Over the next few days, there were several times when there were as many as four or five sessions that looked interesting – but since there is only one of me, a choice had to be made! Luckily, the RootsTech app helped us all keep track of the conference schedule, as well as our own schedule.

The first session I attended was a panel discussion entitled “How will DNA continue to disrupt our industry?” The panel members were Dr. Scott Woodward, Angie Bush, and CeCeMoore. Here are my “notes to self” from that session . . .

  • The more family members that test, the more reliable the matches become.
  • Autosomal DNA can sometimes be used further back than 400-500 years.
  • 5th-8th cousin matches are good, but can be difficult to prove.
  • Chromosome mapping will eventually allow us to learn something about how our ancestors looked. Wow!

At 4:30, I attended “The Digital Revolution in Irish Genealogy”, presented by Brian Donovan, CEO and Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast. I really enjoyed Brian’s teaching style.

And a few “notes to self” from this session .  .  .

  • Don’t forget to check Church of Ireland records – even though my ancestors were Roman Catholic – because penal laws in Ireland sometimes caused people to change religions.
  • Griffith’s Valuation records were updated annually – but they are not yet available for the Republic of Ireland.
  • Military Archives from the 19-teens include witness statements, some of which cover earlier times.
  • Findmypast has quite a few land records, including preparatory work for Griffith’s Valuation from the 1830s to the late 1840s.

At the Welcome Party that evening, the five finalists from the Innovator Showdown were announced. Digital Match Triangulator made the cut but Crowd Sourced Indexing did not.

THURSDAY February 9th

Drew and Jonathan Scott, aka “The Property Brothers”, were the keynote speakers on Thursday morning. These guys were fun and seemed genuinely happy to share stories of their family and their Scottish heritage.

Honestly, it’s hard to tell them apart . . . but I think that’s Drew on the left and Jonathan on the right. But don’t quote me on that! Photo from author’s collection, taken February 9, 2017.

Click here to see their presentation.

After the keynote, I headed over to the Expo Hall to wait in line – along with everybody else. Just had time for take a quick spin through the hall and then head out for another busy day of three sessions.

Waiting in line for the “grand opening” of the Expo Hall. Photo from author’s collection, taken February 8, 2017.

At 11 o’clock, I attended the “DNA Triangulation” session with Kitty Cooper. I was in over my head on this one but I’ve learned with DNA that you just have to hang in there. After awhile, some of the concepts start sinking in. My take-away from this session was simple. I need to spend some time reading Kitty’s blog!

After lunch, I attended the “DNA Matching on MyHeritage” session with Dana Drutman, Products Manager at MyHeritage. It was interesting to hear that MyHeritage is getting ready to add a DNA chromosome browser.

Click here for a link to her presentation.

At 3 o’clock, I went to the “From Click to DNA Connection” lab with Diahan Southard, author of Your DNA Guide. For the most part, I was familiar with all the tips and tricks that Diahan shared – but I did learn a few new things. And I particularly appreciated her reminder to stick with high probability matches, so as not to spend too much time chasing rabbits down the rabbit hole.

Two “notes to self” . . .

  • Check out Diahan’s web site, Your DNA Guide, and
  • Don’t forget to upload a gedcom file to FamilyTreeDNA!

For the last session of the day, I attended “Searching for Surnames” by Kristy Gray. Kristy is a well known lecturer based in the UK and author of The In-Depth Genealogist blog. She shared lots of good surname searching ideas and I enjoyed the “expect the unexpected” samples she shared. In fact, it gave me the idea to write a future blog post about the U.S. Census record that indexes my grandfather as CIEL SPATIN – instead of CID DALIN. Hmmm.

Another long but fun day! After dinner that night, I took this photo across the street from the Salt Palace before heading back to the hotel.

A night shot of the Salt Palace. Photo from author’s collection, taken February 9, 2017.

To be continued . . .

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My trip to RootsTech 2017: part 1

What a trip! What a week!!

I’ve been back home a week but still feel like I’m floating on air a bit. I thought I had prepared myself but really – I think that’s impossible where RootsTech is concerned.

Note: The original post was getting long so I decided to split it into three parts. This post covers Monday and Tuesday, February 6th and 7th.

Another Note: Proceed reading at your own risk! After I wrote this post, I thought about cutting it back. But then realized I might enjoy looking back on this at some point in the future. So there it is.

MONDAY February 6th

Standing in line on Monday morning outside the Family History Library. Photo from author’s collection, taken February 6, 2017.

Having arrived the evening before, I was up early, had a quick breakfast, and then took the light rail to the Family History Library (“FHL”). I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but having never been to the FHL before, I was a little teary-eyed while waiting in line for the doors to open. Wow. What a genealogy geek!

I did a little research and then headed to DearMyrt’s “Mondays with Myrt” Google hangout, which was recorded live at the FHL. (“DearMyrt” is the non de plume of Pat Richley-Erickson – author of the DearMyrtle Genealogy Blog. I highly encourage everyone to follow the link over to her blog where you’ll find lots of great info and all the links for her weekly live and archived hangouts.) And oh yes, Myrt is the reason I went to RootsTech this year, thanks to the free pass she gave away last October.

The week before RootsTech, Myrt invited any of us who wanted to sit in on the hangout to drop by. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I was a little nervous to participate – but since I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone a little more these days, and I wanted to thank her personally for the RootsTech pass, I decided to give it a try.

A few days ago, I finally worked up the courage to watch the recording – and since I don’t think I embarrassed myself, or any of my family members too much, I’ve included the video below. It starts where I have a short chat with Myrt.

After the hang-out, it was back to researching my brick wall. I finally took a lunch break and met up with a new Facebook friend, Yvonne Demoskoff – author of Yvonne’s Genealogy Blog, and her husband Michael. One of the highlights of the week was meeting other genealogy bloggers – what a treat!

Then it was back to researching for the remainder of the afternoon. Sad to say I didn’t have much luck that day.

I had dinner that evening with a cousin who lives in Salt Lake. It was fun to catch up and share family stories.

TUESDAY February 7th

Up early again and back to the FHL. More dead-ends that morning and then lunch again with Yvonne and Michael.

One of the rows where microfilm is kept inside the Family History Library. Photo from author’s collection, taken February 7, 2017.

Back for more research in the afternoon, which included looking through several old microfilm reels of German birth records, hoping to find a reference to my ancestor LEWIS (Ludwig?) BLACKER, born about 1806 in Germany. No luck.

So I decided to turn my attention to all the wonderful books they have at the library. I randomly picked some of the states related to my family history – since many of those books are not digitized or available anywhere but the FHL. The first state I picked was Kansas. Thought maybe – but probably not likely – I might find a reference to my great great grandfather John Buchenau.

In recent years, I narrowed down his death to some time between 1900 and 1910 in Kansas, but had never been able to determine an exact death.

Bingo! I located his death record!! I’ll write a blog post specifically about this topic in a few days. But suffice it to say, I was pretty excited!

It was a great way to end the day, so I headed back to the hotel, looking forward to Wednesday – Day 1 of Rootstech!

Click here to read part 2 . . .

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We’re Related | part 4

Note: This series on Ancestry’s “We’re Related” app begins here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted new “cousin” matches from Ancestry’s “We’re Related” app. But here’s the newest group of fourteen.








All but one of these matches are on my mother’s paternal line. Dr. Spock is on my father’s maternal line.

Based on preliminary research, the most promising matches in this new group are Dick Cheney and Josh Brolin, although additional research is needed to confirm both.

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