RootsTECH conference 2014

Let me start with what I dig about RootsTECHmostly everything!:)

Everybody knows I’m a HUGE proponent of technology integration as it applies to genealogy research. Sit aside my being a professional Techie – I’m a historian/genealogist living in the 21st Century!

Though I’ll soon call New Mexico home, my Ancestors roots were planted in Virginia, South and North Carolina long before they found their way to Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio. Descendants of once enslaved Ancestors don’t have the benefit of a bounty of records, stored in easily accessible places. To progress, we must spread our net across a broad field of data and utilize EVERY tool in our kit to oft times answer the most basic query.

Add work demands, Mom duties and the reality it takes a village of folks to help conquer my Ancestor challenges — smart technology to support my genealogy work makes practical sense, Techie or not. Technology has been the gift that keeps on giving to my family research.

So I applaud and stand behind the efforts of RootsTECH/Family Search. The work they’re doing — developing smart technology and educating/training genealogy users is essential. If this were not the vision being shared in 2014, I’d be alarmed!

But that said, after returning online in August, I made a deliberate decision to NOT [physically] attend the upcoming 2014 RootsTECH Conference, due to the lack of diversity in the Sessions — 238 total — being presented.

Following RootsTECH via Twitter, I hadn’t seen much engagement of ethnic audiences online; it didn’t feel like we (people of color) were included in the “conversation” at all, and as I’ve settled in from my 2 year hiatus offline, I’ve found that to be the case in general.

When I took hiatus in August 2011 I left behind a diverse online genealogy community, who’d graciously tackled some pretty big historical challenges — together. As with any community, there were instances of awkwardness. Let’s face it, our shared history is BEYOND ugly but at least there were deliberate efforts made to engage and support one another as a community traveling the common ground of genealogy and Ancestor reverence.

This is not the online genealogy community I returned to. Sure for an isolated few (and that doesn’t include me and/or anyone associated with AAGSAR, my Facebook group) there are the niceties of an occasional RT. But are the diverse groups of online genealogy folks talking, sharing and working together now? No. They each appear to have retreated to their respective “corners”. The sense of a group of folks attempting to work-through a marred historical legacy, has completely vanished.

RootsTECH TWEETAttending RootsTECH is the equivalent of my yearly vacation — a personal investment. So when I didn’t see engagement online I reached-out to their team via email on 10/16 and did not receive a response back. Following a Twitter prompt from @RootsTECHConf on 12/3 encouraging folks to provide feedback on their keynote speakers, I responded with a request to consider adding more diversity to RootsTECH in the future and followed that tweet with an email reiterating my concerns. That chain of events lead to an afternoon phone chat with the RootsTECH team yesterday.

Let me say kudos to RootsTECH for being willing to jump on the phone to address my concerns. When folks can opt to ignore each other online, making the effort to have a conversation is refreshingly old school — human and courteous. So MAJOR props for that!:)

In brief, here’s where landed:

  • DIVERSITY. We all agreed the upcoming 2014 RootsTECH Conference does not include technology Sessions specific to the nuances [and challenges] of African American research as a result of Slavery. That said, I was asked to consider presenting at RootsTECH 2015 to address this acknowledged void, and I happily accept!:)
  • 2015 PRESENTATION TOPICS. I was also asked to be a champion, encouraging the online African American genealogy community to submit 2015 Presentation Topics when the call opens in May. From what I understand some 400 responses were received for 2014 and not 1 of those was specific to the technology research needs of African Americans! A post for a different day [and several of days past] I will say this to African American  genealogists leveraging Family Search and Ancestry EVERY DAY – that’s unacceptable! If you’re willing to lobby complaints about the challenges we encounter with our research, be open to playing a part in finding solutions. I know RootsTECH can count on at least 200 [AAGSAR] submissions in May and I pray every other AA researcher online will join us in doing so!
  • 2014 GUEST BLOGGER INVITE. Diversity specific or not there’s a BOUNTY of knowledge to be absorbed from RootsTECH and integrated into your genealogy research! I’ve received an invite to Guest Blog RootsTECH 2014 remotely and will be polling the online African American community to get an idea of the Sessions they’d have interest in me weighing-in on. I know beyond a doubt ALL THINGS DNA will be at the top of the list! Thanks to RootsTECH for the offer to participate!:)
  • 2014 OFFICIAL BLOGGERS. At the end of the day, be you an AAGSAR Member, GeneaBlogger or Independent, we’re all genealogy bloggers learning and leveraging the same technology. I would encourage everyone to stay plugged-in to the tweets and posts of @GeneaBloggers and @FootnoteMaven, who’ll be onsite at the conference. I’ve also learned from RootsTECH that Sista’s In Zion are the African American bloggers onsite this year. Do follow and show them some too!:)

So we’re good here. For me this is a PERFECT example of why open, progressive, communication is vital for any and all groups needing to co-exist and PROGRESS.

I am encouraged! Support RootsTECH!:)