At one time, studying family roots was mainly a Mormon thing. The LDS Church believes that the family unit is eternal in nature and family relations continue beyond death.
But the advent of commercial sites such as Ancestry.com and the television show "Who Do You Think You Are?" has greatly expanded interest in genealogy.
That’s why the RootsTech 2014 conference is expected to draw more than 10,000 people from 49 states and 21 countries when it opens its three-day run Thursday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
"The RootsTech conference continues to grow in popularity because people of all ages have an inherent desire to discover and share their family stories and connections with each other," said Dan Martinez, RootsTech conference director.
According to Martinez, almost everyone is engaged in family history sharing, taking pictures, writing journals, doing research or capturing key events from the lives of individual family members.
Interest in family history is high and has become interesting to more than just members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That said, because of its interest in eternal families, the Mormon church has collected the world’s largest family history database.
The church’s genealogical records are managed by FamilySearch International, the largest organization of its kind in the world. It is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Utah-based LDS Church.
"Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources and services to learn more about their family history, including research, building their family trees and preserving family photos and stories online for free," said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for FamilySearch. "To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving and sharing genealogical records and associated technologies for over 100 years."
According to Nauta, the website www.FamilySearch.org has more than 5.3 billion historical records available to the public. They are available free online or through more than 4,800 family history centers in 70 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
This is the fourth year FamilySearch has presented the RootsTech conference, which has become the largest family history conference in the world. In addition to the more than 10,000 people expected to attend, another 15,000 to 20,000 are expected to watch online. Among those attending, more than 4,000 youths are registered this year.
In addition, there is a pre-conference Innovator Summit scheduled Wednesday for developers and entrepreneurs.
Information on registration, events, a schedule, the expo hall and family discovery day can be obtained by logging on to www.RootsTech.org. Some of the sessions will be broadcast online free.
"I love sharing stories about my family and our experiences on the ranch, so I’m really excited to be part of RootsTech this year," said Ree Drummond, who will be one of the RootsTech opening keynote speakers. "It’s all about finding ways to share family stories and strengthen the family connections. And, of course, not all stories have to be about life on a cattle ranch or buttery adventures in the kitchen. Every family has its own unique history."
Other speakers at RootsTech include NieNie Dialogues blogger Stephanie Nielson, D.C. Thomson Family History CEO Annelies van den Belt, The Legal Genealogist website founder Judy Russell, National Geographic Genographic Project director Spencer Wells and The Story Trek host Todd Hansen.
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