Monday, March 3, 2014

RootsTech Family History Fairs (Global)

Alert! The RootsTech 2014 Conference lives on through global Family History Fairs coming to a corner of the planet near you! Read on for more information about the global RootsTech Family History Fairs, and a note about one coming to Kentucky THIS Weekend!

First: This Saturday, March 8th, a RootsTech Family History Fair will be happening in central Kentucky, at the Kentucky Historical Society. For more information, check out the event link on

Second: So how many of you KNOW what the RootsTech Family History Fairs are all about?
Let me fill you in...

During FGS 2013, the RootsTech folks announced an open invitation for societies to sign up their venues to host a RootsTech Family History Fair in 2014. As soon as I heard the announcement, I jumped over to the booth and signed us up....without knowing many of the details.

Since then, I have learned a bit more - some that might surprise you - and some that might not.....

The RootsTech organizers were shooting for a global number of Family History Fairs in the neighborhood of 600. Did they make that goal? (apparently, they conducted a small satellite program in 2013 to gear up for 2014) Pretty close from what I've heard, but here's why you haven't heard much about this....

After the FGS announcement, the publicity, or solicitation for societies to sign up, faded among the mainstream channels. As a result, apparently, only 10 general societies, or non-LDS organizations signed up. Why? Because the remaining solicitation push retreated to LDS organizations. As a result, you still might not hear too much about the Family History Fairs outside of the LDS groups.

As a non-LDS society that signed up, we were kept informed as information was made available. Prior to the RootsTech conference, we didn't get a lot of information....but that was not intentional. They did not have a large number of staff members planning this program. We were told that there would 43 sessions recorded and made available to the Family History Fair (FHF) societies as soon as the conference was finished. Most of the 43 sessions recorded were not going to be the same sessions used for live streaming and then later available online for indefinite viewing. The purpose of the 43 sessions was to provide a set group of sessions that would be available exclusively for the use of FHF hosting societies.
By late fall, I was already asking for more information as I began planning the KHS programming schedule for 2014. After talking with the Kentucky Genealogical Society, we decided this would make a great Second Saturday program (Free joint genealogy program offered every Second Saturday of the month at KHS) - with some alterations to expand the day for greater impact. That expanded schedule and joint program is what you see on the event entry.

Still, we really didn't get a lot of information. I was notified that my RootsTech session was one such session selected to be recorded and offered to the FHF hosting societies, which then placed me in a circle of information that was not common knowledge. Speakers who were chosen for recording were given a sneak peek at the list of sessions that would later become available, which helped us pre-plan, session-wise, a tiny bit.

I asked for help in planing the event, such as media/PR packets, or guides for the event, but those never came, even after the main conference was over. Then we got a look at the full list as offered to FHF societies: only about 15 were general sessions. The rest of the recorded sessions were LDS track. SO...we dropped back and planned our event accordingly. I will have to say that the planners did get back to me very quickly regarding the video download links and creating a non-LDS space for this use. They have been very nice and accommodating - so heads up, non-LDS groups thinking about this for next year if it is offered again!

Our event this Saturday in Frankfort on the 8th will contain 10 sessions. Three of which are from the live streamed, current online offerings that anyone can watch. Why are we using some of those when we have other exclusive videos available to show? Because, after a brief, informal survey, most of our attendees are not hugely familiar with RootsTech, and are not watching the available online videos. Plus, some of the videos available online are very popular subjects given by great speakers = wider appeal.
As we expanded the day's schedule, 6 of the sessions will be recorded offerings that are NOT available on the main RootsTech site, and will only be available if you attend a FHF.

Here's the thing about the rest of the global offerings.....there are others slowly coming to the calendar throughout the country. I have noticed that one was offered this weekend on March 1st in Texas, and another is happening on March 8th in Virginia....although, they are both LDS History Centers. I've not heard of any general societies hosting a FHF in the near future.

Are we the only ones? Not sure. Will the local Kentucky LDS Centers host a FHF later? Have no idea. I do know that if you search RootsTech Family History Fair, you generally run into announcements and promotional instructions for the LDS "Stakes". We are no such "Stake", but we are taking full advantage of what they offered.....and we are excited about the event!

If you are even remotely near Frankfort Kentucky, and you have never been to RootsTech, or were just unable to get out there this year, you should take advantage of this FREE event! The full session list is available on the event page which I linked to above.

At the end of the day, I suspect this is practice for the future. I really think the 600 location goal will increase, and they will offer more and more recorded sessions each year. I'm sure this will grow to wondrous proportions someday as technology evolves and expands.....and more than likely, the number of non-LDS venues will increase more closely reflect the RootsTech conference attendance. The only big improvement I hope they make in the future: making the promotional material available to non-LDS events. Otherwise, I'm going homespun on this balloons and color printer, here I come!



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