The day before her performance of “Remember Me” at the Academy Awards presentation — where it won the Oscar for best song — Natalia Lafourcade performed it in Salt Lake City at RootsTech 2018, the world’s largest family history conference.
Lafourcade is the Mexican singer-songwriter-guitarist who recorded the song with fellow pop star Miguel for the movie “Coco,” which also won an Oscar for best animated feature.
Lafourcade made an instant connection with her audience at the keynote session on Saturday, March 3, the fourth and final day of RootsTech, no doubt due to the movie’s family history-oriented narrative set during the Mexican national holiday, the Day of the Dead, which is observed Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
It tells of 12-year-old Miguel, who goes to the land of the dead, where he discovers his ancestors and solves a mystery regarding his great-great-grandfather. Thus he creates a strong personal connection and finds a greater sense of belonging.
For the RootsTech audience, Lafourcade gave the song its first live performance, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.
Just before performing the song, she was asked about her family roots.
“My last name, Lafourcade, is like a French name, but we still don’t know why,” she said. “My father told me it was because of pirates that went to Chile, but I think it is just a story he made up because he loves pirates.”
But after the performance of “Remember Me,” FamilySearch product manager Tamara Stansfield came on stage to enlighten Lafourcade about her family history.
“You were born in Mexico City, but that’s not where your story began,” she said. “By locating and examining the records of your ancestors, a heritage rich in courage, intellect and music was discovered.”
Her paternal roots did begin in France, where her great-great-grandfather Pierre Lafourcade was born in Bordeaux in 1842 and later immigrated to Chile.
“Maybe he spoke with a pirate accent,” Stansfield quipped.
Lafourcade was visibly excited and touched to have the information.
That afternoon, the Family Discovery Day portion of RootsTech was held, which is directed expressly to members of the Church. It drew some 25,000 attendees to the Salt Palace Convention Center, the location of the conference. President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, headlined Family Discovery Day, sharing personal experiences involving their family.
Another event of the conference expressly for Church members was the Family History Leadership Session March 1, at which General Authorities and officers of the Church gave instruction regarding how ward temple and family history consultants instruct members in gathering God’s family on both sides of the veil.
Some 15,000 attendees hailing from every state in the Union and more than 42 countries gathered for the four-day event that began Wednesday, Feb. 28 and included keynote sessions each day, more than 200 breakout sessions and an immense expo hall exhibiting family history technology.
Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch, which organized the conference, gave the opening keynote address near the end of the first day.
A simple cycle transpires when people’s hearts turn to their ancestors, Rockwood said, comprising three steps: discover, gather, connect.
The cycle is “very, very fun, but also profound,” he said.
“We have all felt the emotions of discovery. We felt it when we got our first DNA results; when we discovered a family story; when we got a new hint in our family tree or when a family member who was lost is now found.”
He said the discovery process always involves a smile, and at times, tears of joy.
“It requires kindness,” he said. “It requires curiosity. More than anything it requires you and me leaving our ego at the door. It requires ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart to discern what simple question to ask or fun thing to do that can connect that person to their family or to their homeland.”
Technology helps out, certainly. A unique feature of this year’s RootsTech was found on FamilySearch’s “Family Tree” app for mobile devices. A function called “Relatives at RootsTech” enabled a conference attendee to immediately discover who among the thousands of others conference-goers were his or her first, second, third or fourth cousins and beyond. Newfound relatives could then message one another on their mobile devices.