It was just another Saturday in Spring, Texas. But instead of gardening, or even sitting inside watching the History Channel, on February 28, family history enthusiasts made their way over to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the annual Roots Tech Family Discovery Day.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating Families Across Generations”, was – as always – a free event hosted by the LDS church and FamilySearch. Most of the classes were pre-recorded in Salt Lake City during a five-day RootsTech Conference. The live Utah event offered over 300 classes. Of those, roughly thirty were streamed to the Klein LDS Stake Center located on Kleinwood Road, which also houses the Klein Family History Center.
Many of the classes offered were about using the latest and greatest technology. Family history enthusiasts no longer have to spend hours in dusty libraries as they learned ways to research and preserve family records, organize and share with others, as well as how to capture and document one’s own stories.
Kerry Speers, one attendee, said his favorite part about family history work is “solving mysteries.”
“I love the joy that comes when someone you know should be there finally materializes on a source record that is reliable, like a census or obituary,” Speers said.
One of the classes he took even discussed DNA.
“I learned that the DNA from a person’s country of origin is not passed along to each child the same,” Speers related. “For example, a father that is 50% German and 50% Irish may pass along 100% German to one child and 25% German and 75% Irish to another child. I used to think it would be 25% German, 25% Irish and the rest from the mother’s line.”
Besides learning that one should never just rely on one spelling of a name (Ellis Island often messed that up), participants were also introduced to a website called WolframAlpha.com. This neat little site has the ability to calculate things such as a birth date from the death date info found on a tombstone as well as what the proper relationship name is for someone’s great grandmothers niece.
Among the streamed classes, live presentations were offered as well, such as ways to prevent losing everything with a hard drive crash. Mike Ball, a retired IBM Database Architect, taught class participants about the best ways to save research, including implementing and using the “cloud”.
According to Ball, the most common computer issue – when it comes to family history work – is when another related genealogist makes changes to your family tree.
“Having a safe backup of your family tree on your PC will help you to get your ‘limb’ restored to it’s original condition,” he counseled.
“There have been times when each of us have lost important data due to hardware failure, software malfunction, user error, and other people’s errors,” Ball continued. “When you have spent a great deal of time collecting that family history, it’s important to not lose it. Precautions will help avoid permanent loss.”
Why are some of these patrons drawn to family history work?
Thirteen-year-old Max Hall-Brown loves family history work because, in Max’s words, it is a “puzzle and a challenge.”
“I think that as a youth family history work is exciting because it pushes me to do stuff that is harder than what I do all the time, but I can still find places where [family history work] isn’t too hard and I still make a difference.”
One long time Family History Center volunteer, Janellen Hair, talks about how this work can center a person.
“As a military ‘brat’, I rarely spent very long in any one place,” Hair reminisces. “I learned that putting down roots only resulted in pain as I was forced to yank them up in a year or two. Genealogy has given me roots that are buried deep and can last forever. I love it and the family it has helped me find and know and love.”
Missed the event? No worries. Many of the presentations are recorded and can be watched for free at rootstech.org.. Visitors to the site can even sign up for RootsTech emails with information about upcoming conferences.
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