RootsTech 2022: New family history technology, keynote messages

RootsTech 2022 picked up right where it left off last year — by reaching more than 1 million participants in over 225 countries and territories in its first day.

Many more are expected to participate in the free online family history conference before it ends on March 5, according to a FamilySearch news release.

Participants who log in to RootsTech.org can choose from more than 1,500 learning sessions on 185 topics in over 30 languages, as well as can create custom playlists of sessions they would like to watch now or later on demand during the year. DNA, family history research, technology, travel and storytelling are among the popular topics.

The conference has featured messages from a diverse lineup of keynote speakers.

The large gathering also provides a prime opportunity for organizations such as FamilySearch, MyHeritage and other major sponsors to introduce new technology, updated tools and innovations.

Here is a quick look at some of the new technology and thoughts on connection from featured keynote speakers.

What is ‘Get Involved’?

FamilySearch has developed a new volunteer online experience called “Get Involved” that uses handwriting recognition technology. The new tool was released at RootsTech.

FamilySearch has developed a new volunteer online experience called “Get Involved” that uses handwriting recognition technology.

Here’s how it works:

  • A user pulls out his or her phone and clicks on the “Get Involved” app.
  • The user selects a country where his or her ancestors are from.
  • A record appears with a highlighted name. The user is provided with options to confirm the name, edit it or click “Unsure.” The name appears correct and the user confirms it. 
  • The app guides the user through a batch of names on records. The names confirmed are saved on FamilySearch for use in building a family tree
  • The task takes less than two minutes to complete.

In 2021, FamilySearch completed the microfilm digitization initiative, a new database with names and information for billions. FamilySearch hopes volunteers will use “Get Involved” to help digitize those records to help people find and connect with their ancestors.

The first projects available in English will be refining United States Wills and Deeds collections from almost all 50 states. The 1950 U.S. Census will be released in April. Additional projects in Italian, Portuguese and other Latin American countries are also in the works.

Learn more at FamilySearch.org/GetInvolved.

MyHeritage releases ‘LiveStory’

Last year, MyHeritage launched “Deep Nostalgia,” technology that brought still pictures to life with AI animation. It quickly became a global sensation. Many had fun using the technology to give movement to historic images of famous people.

This year MyHeritage released a new photo feature called “LiveStory.” LiveStory creates an animated video narrative of an ancestor as if they were telling their personal story.

“This incredible feature gives voice to your family stories and enables you to connect your ancestors in a remarkable new way,” said Maya Lerner, vice president of product at MyHeritage.

Learn more by watching a presentation on LiveStory from Tal Erlichman, director of product management for MyHeritage.

RootsTech keynote speakers

Actor Matthew Modine was thrilled when he was offered a part in the 1990 film “Memphis Belle” because he would play the captain of the airplane, just like his uncle in World War II. His uncle flew 17 combat missions before he was shot down over Belgium.

When Modine told his uncle about his new role in the movie, his uncle walked him to the closet and let him try on his old military uniform. Incredibly, it fit him perfectly and his uncle invited him to wear it in the movie, Modine said during his RootsTech keynote.

Matthew Modine played a pilot in the 1990 film, “Memphis Belle.”

Matthew Modine played a pilot in the 1990 film “Memphis Belle.” He said his uncle flew 17 combat missions before he was shot down in Belgium during World War II.

“He said, ‘Do me a favor. When you put on that uniform, don’t disrespect it,’” Modine said. “I told that story to the other actors. It changed the temperature of the behavior of each of the actors in the movie, that we had a responsibility to those people, that when you are projected onto a motion picture screen, when you stand on a stage, when you come into people’s homes, on television, that the things that you do, the behavior that you have is going to have an impact on people’s lives. Every one of the actors in the film really shouldered that responsibility.”

The anecdote was one of many shared by a diverse group of RootsTech keynote speakers so far in the conference. Here are some thoughtful messages from the other keynote speakers:

  • FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood: “Each one of us can connect in our own way. Choosing to connect is a powerful agent of change. Connections turn our sights from a divided world to one that is united,” he said. “As we choose to connect we will see the positive impact it has on our outlook in life.”
  • French baker Apollonia Poilâne: “What I realized was taking over the family business was possible not only because I had amazing colleagues, a team that my father had patiently crafted and worked with for many, many, many years, but also because they had friends,” said Poilâne, who spoke to a live audience in Paris, France. “What I came to realize in taking over the family business was that my family, my parents’ friends, and my friends were all that family.”
  • Palestinian comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid: “My legacy is extremely, extremely important to me because I didn’t have children. I tried to have children, I tried to adopt, it didn’t work out, so I don’t have children. So I believe that the only thing that will be left when I’m gone is my legacy. What I want my legacy to be is equality, specifically for people with disabilities. I think it’s really important that we always remember it’s up to you to create a positive legacy,” she said. “I choose to view the world through the lens of comedy. So it allows me to take things that anger me or scare me, and make them palatable and understandable. Comedy helps me connect with people, there’s power in numbers. When you choose connection, you can do so much more, be more effective, and I believe have more joy.”
  • Argentine singer Diego Torres: “You associate something with a song and when you play that song … and it’ll take you right there. It’s like you’re living that moment again,” said Torres, who recorded his keynote in Buenos Aires, Argentina, performing several songs in front of a live audience while telling about his life in an Q&A-style format. “And so the connection is really deep.”
  • Brazilian actress Thaís Pacholek: “I think this topic of genealogy is marvelous,” she said. “I believe very much that we are what we are today because of all those stories that exist in this genealogical tree of ours, to which we all belong.”
  • Cookbook author and Food Network show host Molly Yeh: “Legacy to me means building something that exists after our lives have ended, after we’re gone and something that will extend beyond our lives, whether it’s stories, or material objects or recipes or traditions,” she said during her documentary-style keynote session. “I’m carrying on the legacy from my ancestors and from my family members and the traditions that I’m a part of, and I’m passing them on to my kids and building something that they’ll hopefully continue on to their kids and their kids and feeling like you can connect with ancestors who are no longer with us, but we can still do this thing to honor them.”
  • African boxing champion Azumah Nelson: ““I am a proud Ghanaian with a Tabon DNA, power and spirit. You must be interested in your family history. It is important to connect with your family members, both past and present,” said the winner of three featherweight world championships and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. “It is very important for us to know that even with our different genealogy, we are part of the global family. The world will be a beautiful place if we decide to make it. We are one people.”

Elder Ulisses Soares, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, will be the featured keynote speakers at the event’s Family Discovery Day.

RootsTech will conclude on Saturday, March 5, but content on RootsTech.org will continue to be available on demand for months to come.

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