One of my favorite parts of Rootstech has been the development of the “Relatives Around Me” feature at FamilySearch.

The physical gathering of 30,000 family history enthusiasts in downtown Salt Lake City was bound to include a few relatives. But how to find and connect with them? Using cell phone technology and an enrollment process via FamilySearch they found a way to do it. Last year, which feels like a million years ago now, a few of us did get together and took the following picture:

Descendents of Edwin R. Westover

Rootstech this year is entirely different. As of this writing, about a half million attendees are enrolled. Given that many people from around the world, how many relatives can be going through the Rootstech experience at the same time?

Well, they’ve adjusted the technology and we can see who is enrolled who we are related to. This year I can see that nearly 40,000 related to me are at Rootstech.

Obviously we cannot meet this year. But can we still connect? Well, I’m trying — one by one — to reach out to as many of my cousins out there as I can.

I’m introducing them first to the Edwin Westover Family Project.

While that is very important to me I feel the overall effort we’re making here on this website and at FamilySearch is more important. Somewhere in the closets of those 40,000 cousins could be a lot of great information. It could be pictures, it could be artifacts, it could be journals or whatever. We’d like to copy it all and archive here. I think among all those cousins is a bigger family story to be shared.

I want to meet you all, too.

The Edwin Project, which is simply a modern gathering of Edwin Ruthvin Westover’s descendents on Edwin’s 200th birthday, is a great way to meet so many of these cousins.

But let’s face it – Edwin is the low hanging fruit. I’d like to find more information about those generations who came before Edwin. We have a branch of the family in Canada, another in Missouri, more in Michigan and New York state. There are histories there from the 18th century we need to learn.

So when I am reaching out to cousins at Rootstech is not only relates to Edwin. I’m interested in all of you.

So don’t be shy. When I sent that message you may have seen at FamilySearch, it’s not just some weirdo you don’t know stalking you at RootsTech. It’s me. Your cousin! And yes, I’m a weirdo but only in the nicest possible terms and I just want to know you.

We have a tremendous shared heritage. I’m anxious to learn more of our story from wherever I can find it.

So if you have information, pictures, journals and family history stuff, please share. And I’ll share with you. That’s what we’re here for.

Rootstech

RootsTech this year is all online and it is free. It is scheduled for February 25th-27th and you can sign-up at Rootstech.org or FamilySearch.org.

What is RootsTech?

Rootstech is an annual convention for Family History enthusiasts. It features classes and speakers who address all levels of experience. Most major vendors of family history products and services are there — Ancestry, My Heritage, Find My Past, etc. Of course there are vendor showcases and all kinds of products for sale.

I have been fortunate to attend RootsTech every year for the past decade. I find it a very refreshing break from the rest of my year as a time to solely focus on my family history and new ways to find it.

At Rootstech I’ve connected with family I have not known or met before and have learned so many things over the years about how to research and discover.

If there is one good thing to come out of the pandemic its the fact that Rootstech is free. Usually I spend about $200 each year to attend the event, plus whatever hotels, meals and other incidentals may come up. I’ve never considered this much of a burden because I’ve been able to gain so much from going. But it is nice to think that this year I can take it all in from home, which is bound to be more comfortable than convention center chairs and miles on foot going from class to class.

One of the unexpected pleasures of Rootstech is the motivation you receive from attending. There is an energy to this event to be enjoyed as you hear speakers share their family stories. I’ve seen quite a few famous speakers at these events but despite their notoriety they usually reveal themselves for human beings as they share their family stories.

The spirit of this event makes it very different than just about any convention or trade show you can attend. I highly recommend you take in at least a sample of Rootstech this year since it is free and comes to you in the comfort of your own home.

Recording History

Where were you on November 22, 1963? What were you doing when you found out about 9/11? What about the day of the Challenger disaster?

In the course of our lives we all have those days when the world stops turning and a moment is forever frozen in time.

Sometimes we make a record of those things. Most of the time we do not think to so or feel it isn’t necessary because we can recall it so vividly even years later.

I’m not sure if March 11th, 2020 is one of those days.

Probably not.

But it is the first time since this whole “coronavirus” thing began that I saw the light kind of flip on for some people.

“Uh-oh. This is really happening.”

~ Is it History? ~

As I write this we really have no idea how much this changes the world.

Panic seems to be a word thrown around too easily. Markets are crashing, businesses don’t know what to do and, doggone it, there is no toilet paper and bottled water to be found anywhere.

I don’t want to speculate. History with this thing seems to be moving in slow motion and where it goes is anyone’s guess.

I just want to suggest something.

If your world comes to a halt, if you find yourself in quarantine with nowhere to go and time on your hands – let’s do some family history, okay?

~ Really, Jeff? ~

Yeah, really.

I see the downtime of the coming weeks and months as an opportunity. It’s a chance to do some good things with time you never saw coming.

It seems in our rush in latter-day life we have turned the term “family history” into something to avoid. You say it and eyes glaze over. At church, knowing my calling is in family history, I seriously run into to two types of people: those who are so into family history they want to talk and those who are so turned off by it that they run the other way.

Even in the family we have folks who won’t touch it.

And I get it. I’m not here to hound you.

But if you’re reading this and you think you’ve got some downtime coming please consider doing a little something when it comes to family history.

Don’t know where to start? Hate the idea of family history?

Let’s talk about that.

~ Things You Don’t Know About Family History ~

Some people think family history is all about trees, digging up genealogy and wading through the endless detail of names and dates.

I’d like to suggest there are lots of other ways you can do some family history:

– Record Your Thoughts Right Now

We’re going through something historic, right? Why not create a record of what you’ve seen and experienced with this thing? As I shared a couple of weeks ago, my great grandmother on my mother’s side tragically died from the last great pandemic. What I wouldn’t give to have more detail from that time. Why not put down on paper what you are going through with this event?

– Dig Through Your Closet

Everyone has hidden treasures tucked away somewhere. What do you have that might be scanned and shared? It might be pictures, maybe it’s Dad’s high school yearbook, perhaps a baby book Mom put together years ago – who cares? This would be a good time to find something significant from someone you love and share it in some way.

-Tell a Story to a Youngster

Every smart phone is a tape recorder. It takes only a second to set it up to record voices talking. How hard would it be, during the long boring hours of quarantine, to tell the kids something they didn’t know from your past? How did your parents meet? What was the one time you really got in trouble when you were a kid? How did you select the names of your children? The topic possibilities are endless – and most stories can and should be told unscripted. That smart phone, by the way, can easily and nearly instantly share that audio recording to FamilySearch or on social media.

-Ask for Help

If you’re truly stuck and want help getting onto and using FamilySearch why not call your local Family History Consultant? Or, even use our own toll free number and call me? I’d be glad to talk about your family history situation and help you get organized and trained on what it is you want to do?

– Copy Your Census Form

All of us get to fill out the 2020 census. April 1st in census day. For those who have delved on to FamilySearch and have tried finding names you know how valuable any census can be. But did you know the census stuff you fill out will not be available for use in research for 70 years? Yup, we just got the 1940 census – but we have to wait 70 years from the date of each census after that. Why not save your children and grandchildren some waiting and just copy your census form before you turn it over? Seriously – just scan it and save it as a digital file or go to FedEx and copy it. It’s a vital record, it’s about family and it’s family history. Simple and easy to do.

The recording of history as it happens would be important to do if we have the presence of mind. Usually, when we take a big trip or have a major event like a wedding or a graduation we at least take a camera with us to record the moment.

But this moment in history with this Coronavirus thing represents a unique opportunity.

Let’s take advantage of it.