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RootsTech 2016 a 25,000-member 'studio audience'

RootsTech 2016, the largest family history event in the world, got underway Wednesday, drawing the vanguard of an expected 25,000 registered attendees from all 50 states and 40 countries who will gather at the Salt Palace Convention Center each day through Saturday.

As large as it is, this sixth annual RootsTech conference is merely a “studio audience,” said Steve Rockwood, the new CEO of FamilySearch International, the LDS Church-owned Internet genealogy service that sponsors the conference.

“We have another 125,000 people who will be live (Internet) streaming,” he said at a dinner Wednesday night attended by an invited group of genealogy bloggers, media and other guests. “So while we love you and will feed you, we’re always thinking about those that you don’t see, because that’s another huge audience.”

Later, family history fairs in some 1,500 locations around the world will use content recorded at the conference, Rockwood said, “where we could expect as many as 250,000 more people experiencing what you’re experiencing.”

The bulk of the attendees — some 22,000 — will flock to the Salt Palace on Saturday for the “Family Discovery Day” portion of the conference appealing primarily to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including 4,000 teenagers and 3,000 children ages 8-12, Rockwood said. The event, featuring LDS general authorities and other officers, will be broadcast live on the church’s website,

The theme of the conference is “Celebrating Families across Generations” with an eye toward attracting newbies to the pursuit of their family history by offering them “bite-size stories and meaningful traditions,” Rockwood said.

Activities began Wednesday with the conference’s annual Innovator Summit, a competition for developers, entrepreneurs and business leaders creating new technologies for the growing family history market.

A field of 12 innovators presented their ideas in a semi-final event on Wednesday, where they each gave brief presentations and were questioned by judges. This field was narrowed down to six, who will then compete on Friday morning for $100,000 in prizes in an “Innovator Showdown” styled after the “Shark Tank” TV show, where judges and audience members decide the winner.

These are the six finalists with their respective websites where further information is available:

— Ancestorcloud, an online community that collects family researchers with willing helpers and professional genealogists (

— JRNL, a company that seeks better ways to keep journals. With Internet and mobile apps, the software lets users record their thoughts, upload content and reflect on past entries and experiences, regardless of time, place or setting (

— Studio by Legacy Republic, a portable photo and document album scanner that creates a high quality archival scan of each album or scrapbook page, all without removing or disturbing any pages of photos, thus avoiding damage to images. The app publishes the archived photo album onto a USB flash drive and uploads it to a private cloud account, from which it can be shared (

— The History Project, an online tool allowing users to create a personal history timeline using key information, photos, documents and oral histories. The program adds music and news from different time periods (

— TapGenes, a Web-based tool that uses the idea of Crowdsourcing to help families together create a more complete and accurate family medical history, thus identifying medical conditions that may run in the family and helping family members understand what steps they can take to be healthier (

— Twile, an interactive timeline made up of photos and milestones, such as births, marriages and deaths, telling the story of one’s family from the earliest known ancestor to the youngest member (

Main RootsTech sessions and classes begin with a Thursday keynote event featuring addresses from CEO Rockwood, documentary filmmaker Paula Madison and Sunday New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler. Other keynote speakers will include former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, former U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, who will speak Saturday morning.

For more information and for live Internet streaming, go to