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Organizers say 10th annual RootsTech conference should be the biggest, best yet

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Zipporah Miles looks through a water feature at the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It started 10 years ago as an event dedicated to bringing genealogists and technologists together, with about 2,000 people at the first gathering in 2010.

This week RootsTech organizers expect 30,000 to pack the Salt Palace Convention Center, including patrons from at least 37 countries and 45 of the 50 states, along with 100,000 online viewers.

The 10th annual RootsTech Conference promises to be the best yet, said Tyler Stahle, marketing and communications manager.

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Attendees walk through RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“To see how it’s grown over the past decade has been inspiring for all of us,” Stahle said.

The 2020 conference will feature prominent keynote speakers and entertainers, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, new events and activities, more than 300 classes for people of all ages and interests, new family history technology and innovations, and more.

The theme centers on “The Story of You,” Stahle said.

“We recognize that in the genealogy industry, we’re really good at looking back, analyzing and recording the stories of our ancestors,” Stahle said. “But sometimes we forget the importance of our own story, and how important it is that we’re documenting and preserving our story for our future generations. We’re hopeful that the messages and some of the classes that you’ll experience here will help you think about your story.”

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Diana Gillmore hands out genealogy charts at the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, will likely introduce the theme, as well as look back on the last 10 years, when he opens the conference Wednesday afternoon.

Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother who inspired the book and film “The Blind Side” will be the keynote speaker Thursday.

Jen Allen, event director, said Tuohy’s story has “captured hearts across the country.”

“She has a powerful understanding of the meaning of family, inclusion and supporting one another,” Allen said. “Her message is perfect for the RootsTech stage.”

David Hume Kennerly, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and White House photographer, will take the stage on Friday.

Comedian Ryan Hamilton is scheduled to perform stand-up comedy Friday evening.

If you’re a Dallas Cowboys or NFL fan, you might want to go Saturday to hear the league’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, deliver his keynote remarks.

“Emmitt is a passionate individual and one of the best examples of determination and grit —two traits that are often found in many of our ancestral stories,” Allen said.

“Family history and football are two of my favorite things,” Stahle added.

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Elder Gary E. Stevenson and sister Lesa Jean Stevenson pose for a photo in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 2, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Saturday is also designated as Family Discovery Day, a free one-day event for church members and Latter-day Saint families. The featured speakers will be Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson.

Several sessions, including the keynotes, will be streamed live on RootsTech.org. If unable to attend, patrons can purchase a virtual pass with access to 30 conference sessions.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing the Mayflower, and the historic event will be commemorated.

FamilySearch partners’ Ancestry, MyHeritage and other genealogy companies will demonstrate their latest technology innovations in a new innovation and tech forum, Stahle said.

“It’s the perfect place to see what the cutting edge of technology in the family history space right ... looks like,” Stahle said.

Paul Nauta, public relations manager for FamilySearch, looks forward to the new technological innovations each year.

“For me it’s always fun to see what new innovations and adaptations of innovations are available through vendors in the Expo Hall to help individuals tell their personal or family history story, or share or preserve it. It’s always fascinating to me,” Nauta said. “You think you’ve seen most of it yet you’re always surprised by it.”

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Attendees walk through the booths RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

Deseret News

Among many new interactive activities, patrons can visit their ancestral homeland through virtual reality headsets or consult a local history expert to determine the value of family heirlooms, Nauta said.

There’s always something new happening in the world of DNA research, he said.

“The conversation is moving into health care to figure out health markers, medical issues,” Nauta said. “Come take a class on DNA.”