When I had the opportunity to apply as an Ambassador for RootsTech London, earlier this year, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the very first RootsTech in the UK?
Was RootsTech London different than RootsTech Salt Lake City? Yes, I thought it was, but not better or worse, just different.
Attendance in London totaled over 9,000 people, which is pretty amazing when you know that the first RootsTech in Salt Lake had just around 3,000 attendees. There were people from 42 countries, and the Excel Exhibition Hall got hopping when the children arrived on Saturday. I think it was the sheer size of the Excel Hall (100,000 sq meters) that made it seem not crowded.
Something that I’ve been doing at RootsTech (any RootsTech) now that I’ve been an Ambassador for the past several years, is not only to take in all the excitement in the Ambassador area but to tour the marketplace and attend the classes. After all, isn’t that why we attend conferences?
With so many classes to choose from, it can be tough not to have more than one class checked off at the same time. My focus this time was to take in as many of the DNA classes as I could. One thing I noticed that was different compared to Salt Lake is that the attendees were quiet before the classes, at least in the classes I attended. Usually, there is a lot of chatting among the attendees. I couldn’t stand the silence, so of course, I changed that by asking my neighbors about their research. I figure genealogy conferences are the one place you can discuss your research, and people will understand.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the marketplace because it was smaller than what I am used to at Salt Lake City, but all the DNA companies were represented; Ancestry, LivingDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. How perfect is that for those of you with English ancestry because now you’ll have more cousins to connect with.
But I did get to the magazine and book vendors and of course, I added a few things to my collection.
One of the perks of being an Ambassador is that you get to interview the keynote speakers. Of the five keynote speakers, I got to interview four. They were; Nick Barratt, Dan Snow, Kadeena Cox, and Donny Osmond.
I enjoyed all the keynote addresses and interviews, but there are a few hi-lights that remain vivid in my memory.
The first was when Dan Snow spoke about and showed clips of him learning about his great grandfather, Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow, and his participation in the Battle of Somme. In Britain, there is a term; “lions led by donkeys,” which I’d never heard before but refers to the soldier of WWI being lions and the generals who lead them as donkeys. Dan Snow learned the hard fact that his great grandfather was one of the donkeys. If you’d like to watch Dan’s keynote address, you can find it HERE.
Often you find that the people in your family history aren’t always heroes, and this would have been a hard thing to deal with.
Kadeena Cox has her own story, a story of perseverance. She is a British parasport athlete who participated in sports from an early age and then was diagnosed in 2014 with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 23. But this didn’t stop her; she went on to win two gold medals and a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics. You can listen to Kadeena’s interview/keynote with Steve Rockwood HERE.
Kadeena was so excited to learn about her family history at RootsTech and that she was going to receive DNA kits so she can gain even more knowledge.
The final keynote was Donny Osmond. This is the second time that I’ve met Donny but the first time for me to interview him.
You might ask, what has Donny Osmond got to do with genealogy? But he is a genealogist just like us; he is the keeper of the Osmond research. I think what I got from his address is that we need to tell our stories. Of course, our stories probably don’t include growing up on television and singing “Puppy Love,” but we all have a story to tell. You can listen to his address HERE
I found it interesting that he referred to DNA several times in his speech, so when I interviewed him, I asked him a DNA question. You can listen to his reply HERE.
Another thing that surprised me was the mob that came to his VIP meet and greet. It was very much like you’d see in the movies where everyone was hurrying to get in line to speak with him and have him sign whatever they’d brought to have signed.
My final thoughts on RootsTech London is that I had a blast. Genealogy is about connecting and belonging. It’s about understanding who you are through the people who came before you.
RootsTech is all about Connecting and Belonging. That’s what I enjoyed the most is the people I’ve been able to connect with. The other RootsTech bloggers that I’ve met over the years and the new ones I met on this trip. But it wasn’t just RootsTech it was the entire trip I made to England where I connected with so many cousins. Including my cousin’s wife; Eleanor who came to the conference and shared lunch with me each day.
Will there be a second RootsTech London? I guess time will tell. I’ve heard a comment that it might take place every second year and I’ve heard that there are plans already in the works for next year. So I guess we will have to wait and see.
One thing I do know is that RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City is coming fast. I’m going to be there and I hope you’ll consider going to the 10th Anniversary of this amazing event.
Affiliate Link Disclaimer
Note: The post above contains affiliate links. This means I make a small percentage of the sales via these links. This does not INCREASE the price you pay as a consumer. This is a supplement to my income so I can continue to support The DNA Angel Project and to make donations to the Alzheimer’s’ Society.
As a RootsTech Ambassador, I’m given a free conference pass for myself and another to give away as a prize. All other travel expenses were paid by me.