Rootstech is not just a gathering of genealogists. It is a technology conference, too. It is also a great place to meet with family members who share a passion for family history. Once again I was able to meet up with Don Westover.
Upon arrival at Rootstech 2020 the first thing I did was open two apps on my phone — the Rootstech app and the Family Tree app from FamilySearch.
At the right is a screen grab of a feature made possible through these two apps. It shows how many relatives were also in attendance at Rootstech.
They actually introduced this capability a couple of years ago but this year they took it to a whole new level. That screenshot shows how many were there at about 8am on Thursday morning, the 2nd day of the conference and the day that most actually arrive to attend.
The 3474 relatives in that list were sortable in a variety of ways. My favorite kind of sort showed me how many relatives by ancestor were there. For example, I could see all the attendees there who shared a connection to Edwin R. Westover.
Both Don and I were checking the app constantly to see if we could connect with other descendents of Edwin. Sometimes there were just a few of us and other times there as many as about 10 or so.
Naturally, the futher back you went on the family tree the greater number of relatives you could see. On Saturday I checked the app just before the start of the general session and of the nearly 10,000 people logged onto the app more than 6800 relatives were connected to me there. The greatest number were descendents of Hannah Crowell, grandmother to Electa Beal. There were more than 100 of us there on Saturday morning.
As I scrolled the list I spotted the name of a former member of our Stake Presidency, a man who I have grown to know as a fantastic family historian. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see we are related! I quickly messaged him and said, “President Wassom, we’re cousins! Who knew?”. His reply thrilled me, “Hey, we’re family! Call me Steve”.
From that little thrilling exchange you can quickly see the power of the great work being done by FamilySearch and the Church in bringing family together.
Don and I had already learned that lesson, and I have to tell you, Don was absolutely relentless in pursuit of the Edwin R. Westover Family Project while we were at Rootstech. In fact, those efforts paid off in a little family history while we were there. Below is a historic picture:
What makes this historic? It’s the first time in history three descendents from each wife of Edwin R. Westover have been together (that we know of).
Edwin R. Westover married three women in his lifetime — Sarah Darrow, Sarah Jane Burwell and Ann Findley. On the left in the photo is Kevin Westover, a descendent through Sarah Darrow; on the right is Don, descended through Sarah Jane Burwell; and in the middle is me, descendent of Ann Findley.
The next day we made a similar connection. In this photo is Don, my brother Jay Westover and myself with Joyce Williams, Vicki Williams and Judy Morgan — all descendents of Edwin and Sarah Darrow:
There were others at Rootstech we were able to meet or to message while we were there. We were able to explain to them the scope of the Edwin R. Westover Family Project and it was very positively received. I think we will soon be expanding upon the information relative to the living family tree of Edwin Westover.
More importantly, I think we learned the value of not only identifying each other in Edwin’s tree but in gathering together, exploring the information and research we have, and sharing whatever photos, records and details each has acquired. More importantly, all of this moves us forward in finding all family members and working towards completing temple work where it is needed.
We will be increasing our efforts as we keep our deadline of 2024 to complete the gathering of Edwin’s family. Don as already set up a Facebook group. We will be working other social media channels, too.
And I will reach out to the folks at Rootstech. These informal seach-and-find efforts of Rootstech this year are just a beginning. Next year for Rootstech, scheduled for February 3-6, 2021, I would like to see if we can set up both a time and a place where we can have a simple meet-and-greet. If there was one thing Rootstech this year taught us its that there were more family members there than we anticipated and each connection was a precious moment in time.
We are hoping to tempt family members who have never attended Rootstech before to consider it for 2021. Yes, we recognize there is considerable expense involved. It will take time away from family and work.
But it is a worthwhile event on several levels.
I went this year to pursue several objectives, most of them connected with my role as a family history consultant. I invested a lot of time with FamilySearch this year and came away with the unexpected broader vision of the effort the Church is making. I heard the CEO of FamilySearch say — twice! — that the bold purpose of FamilySearch is to build the family tree of all humanity.
What FamilySeach has done in just the past year is astounding. Billions and billions of new records have been added. You can literal search for information on a given ancestor on one day and not find it only to find it the following day. That’s how fast they are adding and adding to what is available.
The reach of FamilySearch is expanding as well as they get deeper and deeper into the cultures of societies and countries in Africa, India, China and even the Middle East.
For all they are adding several of the presenters from FamilySearch shared that they are falling behind — that the records coming in are flowing faster than their ability to get them available online.
Clearly my efforts not only with those I try to serve personally but here on this website need to be better focused on FamilySearch. We simply need more family members signed up, logged in and working the vast resources available there.
You have already seen a lot of changes come to our site in the new year. I haven’t really talked about those changes yet because I’m not yet ready to. But part of what needs to improve going forward is some tutorial-type content related to our family. FamilySearch will be central to that effort.
Another and perhaps the greatest reason to consider attending Rootstech is the greater understanding that comes with the global view of what is going on with family research. It warms, inspires and motivates.
If you want to get started with family history and do your part within it, please consider coming to Rootstech 2021 and meeting with us as family. We want to help you and we want to include as many as possible. Stay tuned for more details.