RootsTech 2015

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This event, which has grown so dramatically over the last few years, is now the largest family history exhibition in the world. This year more than 22,000 people had pre-purchased tickets on opening day. Part of the reason it was so big this year was that RootsTech combined with the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference, which ran in parallel. Moreover Saturday was designated “family day” and local parents and kids trooped in to meet the exhibitors, most engaging with genealogy for the first time. The number of exhibits was also very large. Occupying two connected halls, there were at least twice as many vendors (nearly 200) covering twice the space of last year’s RootsTech or the last year’s London WDYTYA Live event.

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So what was the big news from 2015? The things that stand out for me:While the sheer scale of the event was extraordinary, the excitement of the event is still the same as it was when it was started. At its heart RootsTech is an innovators event, where technology meets entrepreneurs. The Innovators Summit on Day 1 is the crucial part of the event where new technology, new services, new partnerships, are presented to the community. This is where the people shaping the future of family history meet and exchange ideas, test prototypes, and check out what competitors are doing. The creative environment is, I think, quite unique. Well done to StoryWorth who won this year’s Innovator showdown.

 

  • The genealogy industry in coming of age. While Ancestry is still the biggest commercial vendor, they are being seriously challenged by Findmypast and MyHeritage. This competition is opening up potential opportunities throughout the business for new vendors, archives and voluntary groups.FullSizeRender
  • FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the Mormon church, continues to play a key role as facilitator and innovator. The new Discovery Centre in Salt Lake is a case in point, and an exciting attempt to connect to a broader audience.
  • Record digitisation. The number of releases of record sets at the event was staggering. Findmypast gets top billing here with the release of hundreds of new records sets and hundreds of millions of records. In fact they released new record collections every hour during the show!
  • Partnerships are growing between the major service providers. Of the several announced that by Findmypast and FamilyTreeDNA sounds the most interesting.

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  • Societies are also doing interesting things, despite being eclipsed to a certain extent by the bigger players. I was fascinated by the whole redevelopment and rebranding of the long-established New England Historic Genealogical Society as AmericanAncestors, and their bid to compete with the online records vendors. Its one to watch.

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A lot more could be written, but its unquestionably an exciting time in world genealogy. I was proud to see Eneclann there, the only Irish organisation that exhibited. We hope we’ll be joined by others next year.

By, Brian Donovan

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