Family history should be about your trees, your stories, and your experiences

If family history is your thing, then you probably delved into the ancestor-finding fun this past weekend at Rootstech, the world’s largest conference centered on genealogy. Held in downtown Salt Lake City, Rootstech hosted over 20,000 people interested in the process of connecting generation to generation.

“Family history should be about your trees, your stories, and your experiences,” said Joshua Taylor, the Director of Family History for Findmypast. “It is these experiences that allow us to connect families across the past, present, and future.”

Taylor spoke of the key ingredients that make Findmypast such a powerhouse in the genealogical world: data, accessibility, and partnerships.

“It’s (data) what helps us to tell our family’s stories,” Taylor said. “Without the data and content that we search, we are lost. And let me tell you, Findmypast has plenty of data. This year we have reached more than 10 million pages, from newspapers from the U.K. and Ireland. That is thousands and millions of names for you to discover only on Findmypast.”

Traditionally, finding information about your ancestors has been painstakingly slow, as anyone who has sifted through ancient documents and photos can attest. The digital age is changing this. With so much information readily available online, gaining access to your ancestral past has never been easier.

“Last month we launched Hints,” Taylor said. “Now Hints currently searches across millions of birth, marriage, and death records, to provide a richer story to connect into your family tree. Hints are free and will automatically do the searching for you. Family history should not be about searching, it should be about finding.”

Ever thought about using DNA testing to trace your origins? Neither had I, until Taylor introduced the partnership between Findmypast and Family Tree DNA, touted as the largest ancestry DNA database in the world. Remember all that talk about connecting past with future? Using DNA testing to learn about your ancestors seems like a picture-perfect example of that.

Joining forces with Family Tree DNA wasn’t the only recent partnership formed by Findmypast.

“Earlier this week, we announced our partnership with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society,” Taylor said. “This partnership will allow New York G&B members access to millions of records from across the United States, while also provided Findmypast members with incredible collections from the great state of New York.”

In addition to a multitude of speakers and activities, Rootstech featured The Innovator Showdown, a pitch-competition designed to find and reward the coolest innovation in the genealogy marketplace. 51 companies in all made their case, with the four finalists pitching before judges and a live audience on Friday: Argussearch, a handwriting-recognition software; Genmarketplace, connecting you with the right expert for your family history questions/searches; Lucidpress, scrapbooking made digital; and StoryWorth, the “easiest way to record your family stories.”

Both judges and audience fell in love with StoryWorth — represented by founder and San Francisco resident Nick Baum — who claimed $15,000 total ($10,000 from the judges first place vote, $5,000 from the audience vote). Argussearch took home $7,000 for second place, with Genmarketplace claiming the $3,000 third place prize.

Published 2/16/2015