Altspace Genealogy Family History Meetup Notes – 8 Oct 2018

This meetup is an introduction to DNA testing for family history research. This is an incredibly vast topic and we will be sharing more on how this all works in the future, but for this event, we kept things very simple and concentrated specifically on:

  1. Choosing a DNA testing company.
  2. What to do while waiting for the test results.
  3. What to do after you receive the test results.

Choosing a DNA Testing Company

DNA tests are not the answer to every family history brickwall nor genealogical question. DNA tests are just one of many tools in your genealogy tool box.

DNA tests show you where on Earth people who share your DNA are most like to be today, not necessarily where they were in the past. Combined with historical references and the data in your family tree on the DNA testing site, the results are assumptions of where your ancestors may have been in the past.

We recommend that you test across multiple companies to get a more fair view of your ethnicity, ancestry, and answers to your genealogy questions.

Test yourself and your oldest living relatives in your direct line, and your cousins’ lines such as a great aunt or uncle. The more tests you have, and the more you share the information from your tests, the easier it is to answer your DNA and genealogical questions.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to know?
    • Answers to health and medical concerns?
    • Discover your ethnic roots?
    • Find matches to other people, living or dead?
      • Answer genealogical questions?
      • Have adoption or unknown parentage questions?
      • Support your family history research?
    • Identify geographic regions your ancestors came from?
    • And do you like surprises?

Answers to these questions will narrow down the decision on which tests, and which companies, to start with.

The most popular consumer DNA testing companies with a focus on family history are:

DNA Test Types

There are three common DNA test types for family history research, beyond the scope of medical and health tests. All of these tests will generate matches with people who’ve also tested. If these matches also offer public or accessible family tree data, it makes the process easier to understand your familial matches and expand your family tree data.

Y-Chromosomal DNA Tests: This test explores the father-to-son or paternal line of your ancestors. If you are specifically researching surnames or identification of male direct line ancestors, this is an appropriate test. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the most popular testing companies for this test.

mtDNA – Mitochondrial DNA Tests: This test explores the maternal line, the mother-to-daughter pedigree. If you wish to identify the direct line female ancestors, your mother, your maternal grandmother, your maternal grandmother’s grandmother, this is the test for you. It may also help to narrow down or identify hard-to-find females in your family tree if your matches have well-documented family trees. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the most popular testing companies for this test.

Autosomal DNA Tests: This test explores both the male and female pedigrees based upon speculative maternal and paternal lines. Using sophisticated chromosomal matching techniques against reference DNA groups and individuals as well as those who’ve taken the same test, it helps to identify what is called “cousin matches.” While it make identify siblings, parentage, and other closer relationships, more often it identifies cousins to multiple degrees of separation such as first, second, third, and so on cousins, or cousins once or twice or more removed. This is the most common test available to the general public. All consumer DNA testing companies offer this test including Family Tree DNA, 23andMe,, MyHeritage, and Living DNA Ancestry.

The following chart is a simple assessment of the five most popular DNA testing companies and their options.

Simple comparison chart of DNA testing companies Oct 2018The average price of a DNA test as of October 2018 ranges from $49-99 USD and up, depending upon the specialty and options of the tests. Look for upcoming holiday and Black Friday sales and discounts for even better prices.

What to Do While Waiting for DNA Test Results

We’ve gathered some anecdotal data and found that the waiting times for DNA results, including ordering and shipping, taking and mailing the test, and waiting for the results, to be an estimated total wait time of 4-12 weeks. So there is plenty of time to prepare and improve your DNA results by researching your ancestors and building your family tree.

The better the information in your public family tree, the better the results for DNA companies with family trees.

  1. Build your family tree on the DNA testing service. Ensure it is public (and the living are marked living to hide their identities).
    1. Start with what you know.
    2. Support what you know with fact-based evidence and records.
    3. Identify the missing pieces.
    4. Research, find, and document the answers.
  2. Learn more about family history research.

The more you learn about family history research by studying online, reading books, reading blogs, joining family history groups online, attending conferences and workshops, and joining local genealogy societies and attending meetings, the easier and better your research and the more you will improve the odds of finding valuate information in your DNA results.

What do Do When You Get the DNA Results

It is exciting for many when notification by email comes in regarding the results of your DNA test. Many are nervous, others eager for answers. Remember, your expectations and hopes may not meet the reality of the information you receive, so be ready for disappointments, confusion, and surprises, just in case. Otherwise, expect to have fun with this.

We say this because some people have found out, at 70 years old, that they were adopted and no one in the family alive today knew anything about it. Or find out that the family story of your ancestors being from Spain or Portugal is revealed to be actually Northern Africa or the Middle East, hidden from the descendants for some reason. Discovering a new ancestor may reveal that they were a criminal, adulterer, or some other surprise. Most people find out their family history is normal, and their expectations are met, but many find a variety of surprises, good and bad.

When you get your DNA results, explore your diversity. Find your tribe. Research them. The more you learn about the groups your ancestors are associated with, the better for everyone, especially with your family when you share this story.

Identify the locations of your ancestors. This expands the areas you may wish to research and find records and documents about their lives. It may also inspire you for your next vacation destination.

This is an opportunity to not only find living cousins but expand the data in your family tree through the open and public family trees of those who match. This is great for planning your next family reunion with new additions to the family.

Most importantly, if you have genealogical questions, like who were the parents of your grandmother, or what were the names of your grandmother’s sister’s children and what happened to them, this is where you may find the answers. currently offers the most visual, easy-to-understand maps and charts regarding your family’s DNA and ancestral information.

Be ready for anything. And make it fun. This is fun. Family history research can be hard work, involve a wide variety of research plans, but it is mostly fun. Even the surprises can be fun. At the very least, the information adds to your family’s stories. The visual maps and charts hook into historical references for massive migration moments in history and big events to help put your family history in context of the times.

MyHeritage offers similar features but they are new to the consumer DNA market and expect to see changes and improvements over time. This applies to all DNA testing companies. just updated their algorithms and many were unhappy with the changes. Expect them as the technology improves.

Once you have had fun looking at all the charts and information, shared them with friends and family, and contacted some living cousins for more information and answers to your questions, expand your reach.

In addition to taking more DNA tests and getting as many older family members to test, you can export the raw DNA data from most companies and share it with others as well as upload it to other third-party DNA tools and services. This not only gets you more bang for your DNA buck, so to speak, it helps you expand the potential for matches and help others do the same.

Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage allow for uploads of tests from other companies to create cross-reference data points.

GEDMatch and DNAGedcom allow you to upload the DNA test data from most of the other popular companies to their services so you may use their free tools to analyze your DNA or compare it to other DNA tests. You also become a larger part of the DNA reference pool, increasing the odds of finding more matches and family history data.

For more information on DNA testing and choosing and using DNA tests, see:

Upcoming Events

We highly recommend you become involved with your local genealogy and family history society or group. Check out a list of them from the US Federation of Genealogy Societies (FGS), FamilySearch Wiki’s List of US Genealogy Societies, and your state and providence historical societies and governments. Also consider joining the Virtual Genealogical Association, a new society based on the web and irrespective of geographic locale.

Rootstech LogoRootsTech has announced two conferences this coming year, one in Salt Lake City, Feb 27-March 2, 2019, and a new one in London, England, Oct 24-26, 2019. The Salt Lake City conference opens registration September 20.

2018 Virtual Genealogy Fair with US Archives.The Annual Free Virtual Genealogy Fair with the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 10AM – 4PM EDT. We will be Live Streaming the day-long event in Altspace, so please join us. Desktop/2D access is recommended.

For information about local and international genealogy and family history events, chek out ConferenceKeeper and their calendar.

Q&A and Things to Know

As this was our first meeting, much of the meeting was spent discussion the future of this meetup.

Please note that because we will have speakers over time as well as educational and informative events, it is good to know that there are two free ways to access Altspace.

  1. Virtual Reality: Using a headset such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, or another, you may participate in 3D, which means your eyes will be covered and it is a challenge to take notes.
  2. 2D/Desktop: Altspace installs directly to your computer or phone as an independent program or app. Once installed, you may enter Altspace in 2D on your Windows or Mac machine, using your mouse and keyboard to navigate, or your phone with the option “without headset.” Both methods are “eyes-free,” meaning your hands are free to type or take notes during the meetup.

Future topics were suggested and included:

  • 3D Tools and Modeling
  • AR Tools and Apps
  • Certification
  • Digitization
  • DNA
  • Genealogy Technology
  • Guest Speakers
  • Industry News
  • Regional Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Society Issues and Challenges
  • Study/Research Groups
  • VR Applications
  • Watch Webinars

Much thanks also goes to my assistant, Darrell Gulstrom, professional genealogist.

The next meeting is 22 Oct 2018 at 6PM PDT. Hope to see you there!

Altspace Genealogy Family History Meetup Notes – 24 Sep 2018

Our first Genealogy Family History VR Meetup in Altspace was a success, believed to be the first genealogy meetup in virtual reality. Today is “episode two” in our Altspace Genealogy Family History VR Meetup.

Due to popular demand at the last meeting, I and my team of volunteers have been asked to offer some some workshops at this and the next few meetups on the basics of family history research. Many have recently purchased DNA tests and wish to know more about the process of researching their genealogy, so here is the first of these Basic Family History workshops.

Family History Basics

We played two family history games during this meetup, Interviewing Yourself and How Many Records, two ways to begin to think about the process of family history research.

The simple basics of family history research are:

  1. Plan
  2. Research
  3. Analyze
  4. Document
  5. Share

At this meetup, we focused on the first step: Plan.

The Research Plan: Interviews

To begin any family history research, you begin with making a plan. When planning for an event, activity, or project in life or work, we tend to list everything we need to do to get it done. In family history, we’ve learned that this can quickly overwhelm a researcher, new or advanced. So we work with simple questions, research questions, that begin with:

  1. What do I know?
  2. What don’t I know?
  3. What do I want to know?
  4. Where will I find answers?

As with all family history research, you should start with the living and move onto the dead. Ask yourself the above questions of all living people in your family, then move on to ask them to help you answer these questions about their lives.

Many family history researchers focus on the BMD, the Birth, Marriage, Death events of a person’s life. Just as there is more to your life than these three events, there is more to everyone in your family tree. It is critical to gather as much information about the story of a life.

The Interview Yourself Game

To demonstrate this process, we introduced the “Interviewing Yourself” game. By starting the interview process with yourself, it is easier to apply to other living members of your family or others researching their family tree.

Signs with template fill-in-the-blanks paragraphs were posted around the room and participants were invited to gather in pairs under each sign. They had 3 minutes to complete the template paragraph without discussion, just nudges of help if necessary. Then participants moved to the next sign, and so on until all six signs were completed.

The template paragraphs were:

  • Birth: I was born ___________. My parents were __________. I was ___________.
  • Childhood: My earliest childhood memories are _____________.
  • School: I was _____________ in school. My favorite subjects were ___________. My least favorite were ______________.
  • Work: My career started with ______________ then ____________. I succeeded with ______. I struggled with __________.
  • Relationships: I started dating when I was _________. Significant experiences included __________. I am now ________________.
  • Life in General: Regrets: __________. Wishes: ____________. Happiest Moments: _________. Want people to know: _______________.

This is a fun activity, formal or informally presented, at reunions and family history meetups and meetings. Other topics could have included Family Life (childhood and adulthood), Health, Finances, Mental Health, Family Details (great grandparents, parents, siblings, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.), and so on, but we decided to keep it brief for this first round as an example.

We then discussed some discoveries and how we would apply this to other family members to start our research.

Moving onto developing a research plan, we briefly tackled the concept of Where to find the answers?

How Many Records Game

Before playing the game, “How Many Records,” we discussed two of the three types of evidence found in researching family trees.

  1. Direct Evidence: Information that answers the question directly.
  2. Indirect Evidence: Information that infers an answer but isn’t the answer.

Using the example research question, “When did Martha Bell marry Todd Edlestein?,” we listed examples of the two types of evidence:

  • Direct Evidence:
    • Marriage Certificate
    • Marriage Records
    • Newspaper Article(s)
    • Living Witness
  • Indirect Evidence:
    • Scrapbook
    • Wedding Invitations
    • Diaries
    • Photographs
    • Living Witness

Comparing the two, a marriage certificate or record and newspaper article are created after the event as verification of the event. The first two are typically signed by or list the participates, officials, and witnesses to the event, and the newspaper article(s) contain information supplied by witnesses and easily corroborated evidence. These are direct evidence of the event taking place.

A wedding invitation is indirect evidence. Why? Because the marriage might not have happened. Same with other types of records such as marriage applications, intentions, and bonds. They are pledges and agreements that a marriage is to take place, but we don’t know if there was follow-through.

Scrapbooks, diaries, and photographs are evidence of a marriage, with photographs of the ceremony and participants, but sometimes the information in these are vague. If specific, listing the date and including copies of the marriage certificate would transfer these to the direct evidence column, but often they contain information such as “A June Wedding” or “Marriage August 1965” with no other information about the actual date, location, or other relevant information that answers the research question.

Notice that “Living Witness” is on both lists. This is where we learn about the quality of the evidence. In genealogy, we measure the quality of the evidence of living witnesses (or testimonials by now deceased individuals) by their direct involvement in the event, their relationship to the parties involved and the event, the distance in time between the event and the testimony or record creation, and other details.

“I was there,” isn’t good enough any more. While it lends credibility, the family history detective must find collaborating evidence to support their testimony. Once the quality of their testimony about the event is collaborated, then it could be direct evidence or indirect (“I’m sure it was sometime in May 1965.”).

We don’t judge the evidence as good or bad. We analyze and evaluate it. We collaborate it. Part of the Genealogical Proof Standard of ethics and practices genealogists live by states that “complete and accurate source citations” or evidence must come from at least two separate, verifiable, informants. In other words, two witnesses, so to speak.

For example, to determine my grandfather’s birth date, a man raised for many years in an orphanage in Portland, Oregon, who knew his parents, I have no birth certificate, but dozens of records indicating he was born on Sept. 29 or 30th, 1903, 1904, or 1906 in Michigan, Washington, or Canada, or somewhere in between. After years of research, I could’ve concluded he was born on 29 Sep 1904 based on the quantity of answers. Then I realized that he provided information for every record. He was the informant. Someone must have told him that these were his birth days, and he played around with the birth year for gain, lying to get into the military at an older age, pensions collected early, etc. We may never know, but in analyzing the information, I learned more about my grandfather and his relationship to his birth.

Onto the game, “How Many Records,” we asked participants to come up with as many record sources to answer the research question:

What is the birth date of Sally Smith born in the US in the 1960s?

My team came up with almost 50 answers, so it was fun to see how many the group thought of.

  1. Baptismal Records
  2. Birth Certificates
  3. Birth Records
  4. Cemetery (tombstones)
  5. Census, Federal
  6. Chancery Court Records
  7. Church newsletters
  8. Church records
  9. Compiled Genealogies
  10. Confirmation Records
  11. Consent Papers
  12. Court Records
  13. Criminal Records
  14. Death Certificates
  15. Divorce Certificates
  16. Divorce Papers
  17. Draft Records
  18. Driver’s License
  19. Employment Records
  20. Family Bible Records
  21. Family Pedigree Books
  22. Funeral Home Records
  23. Funeral Records
  24. Hospital Records (Archives)
  25. International Genealogical Index
  26. Land/Property Records
  27. Marriage Applications
  28. Marriage License
  29. Marriage Records
  30. Memberships
  31. Military Records
  32. Newspapers (birth)
  33. Newspapers (death)
  34. Newspapers (marriage)
  35. Obituary
  36. Online Family Trees
  37. Parish Records
  38. Passports
  39. Pension Files
  40. Personal Letters/Papers/Diaries
  41. Photo Albums/Scrapbooks
  42. Photographs
  43. Probate Records
  44. Returns and Registers
  45. Social Security Death Index
  46. Tax Records
  47. Town Histories
  48. Yearbooks
  49. Ask the living

Again, these may offer either direct or indirect evidence to answer the question.

When you start any family history research plan, this is the process to go through. You create a very specific research question, list all the sources that may provide an answer, then make a plan to find each of the records until you have enough information to draw a well-formed conclusion on the answer.

Upcoming Events

We highly recommend you become involved with your local genealogy and family history society or group. Check out a list of them from the US Federation of Genealogy Societies (FGS), FamilySearch Wiki’s List of US Genealogy Societies, and your state and providence historical societies and governments. Also consider joining the Virtual Genealogical Association, a new society based on the web and irrespective of geographic locale.

Rootstech LogoRootsTech has announced two conferences this coming year, one in Salt Lake City, Feb 27-March 2, 2019, and a new one in London, England, Oct 24-26, 2019. The Salt Lake City conference opens registration September 20.

2018 Virtual Genealogy Fair with US Archives.The Annual Free Virtual Genealogy Fair with the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 10AM – 4PM EDT. We will be Live Streaming the day-long event in Altspace, so please join us. Desktop/2D access is recommended.

For information about local and international genealogy and family history events, check out ConferenceKeeper and their calendar.

Q&A and Things to Know

As this was our first meeting, much of the meeting was spent discussion the future of this meetup.

Please note that because we will have speakers over time as well as educational and informative events, it is good to know that there are two free ways to access Altspace.

  1. Virtual Reality: Using a headset, such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, or another, means your eyes will be covered, making it a challenge to take notes.
  2. 2D/Desktop: Altspace installs directly to your computer or phone as an independent program or app. Once installed, you may enter Altspace in 2D on your Windows or Mac machine, using your mouse and keyboard to navigate, or your phone with the option “without headset.” Both methods are “eyes-free,” meaning your hands are free to type or take notes during the meetup.

We will be continuing with these basic family history workshops for the next month or so. We are also working on presenting and bringing in guest speakers on the following topics per your feedback (keep it coming):

  • 3D Tools and Modeling
  • AR Tools and Apps
  • Certification
  • Digitization
  • DNA
  • Genealogy Technology
  • Research Organization
  • Industry News
  • Regional Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Society Issues and Challenges
  • Study/Research Groups
  • VR Applications
  • Genealogy Software and Applications
  • Genealogy Mobile Apps

Much thanks also goes to my assistants, Darrell Gulstrom (“Darrell”), professional genealogist, and Kelly P. Leonard (“Kelly”), teacher and family historian.

If you would like to volunteer to help or present on a family history topic, please let us know. I am “Relle” in Altspace or you may also use the contact form on this site to connect with us.

The next meeting is 8 Oct 2018 at 6PM PDT. Hope to see you there!

Altspace Genealogy Family History Meetup Notes – 10 Sep 2018

Our first Genealogy Family History VR Meetup in Altspace was a success. It is believed that this was the first ever genealogy meetup in virtual reality, and much appreciation goes to the awesome events team at Altspace for helping make it a success.

Here are the notes from the meetup.

Recreation of Ireland’s Beyond 2022 VR Project

In 1922, Dublin’s Four Courts Public Record Office building was burned to the ground at the beginning of the Irish Civil War, destroying hundreds of years of birth, marriage, death, and other national to local records and documents. Trinity College Dublin’s School of Histories and Humanities and the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology in the School of Computer Science and Statistics, along with The National Archives of Ireland, The UK National Archives, The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and The Irish Manuscripts Commission are working together on Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury. Their goal is to recreate the original building, complete with access to as many books and records digitized from international collections, in virtual reality.

…Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost of Trinity, said: “Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury will be a public and academic resource with global reach and impact. This international, collaborative project makes a significant contribution to the national commemorative effort by reuniting collections destroyed by war. It forms part of our strategic research theme ‘Making Ireland’ — a transformative collaboration in Irish studies.

“By reconstructing a lost treasure, Trinity is seeking to create a lasting and meaningful legacy and an invaluable resource for researchers and educators at all levels which will continue to grow beyond 2022. By moving beyond the divisive legacy of the period, the project will also reopen Ireland’s deeper past to the general public at home and in the wider diaspora.”

You can find more information on Facebook and the project site, Beyond 2022.

Upcoming Events

We highly recommend you become involved with your local genealogy and family history society or group. Check out a list of them from the US Federation of Genealogy Societies (FGS), FamilySearch Wiki’s List of US Genealogy Societies, and your state and providence historical societies and governments. Also consider joining the Virtual Genealogical Association, a new society based on the web and irrespective of geographic locale.

Rootstech LogoRootsTech has announced two conferences this coming year, one in Salt Lake City, Feb 27-March 2, 2019, and a new one in London, England, Oct 24-26, 2019. The Salt Lake City conference opens registration September 20.

2018 Virtual Genealogy Fair with US Archives.The Annual Free Virtual Genealogy Fair with the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 10AM – 4PM EDT. We will be Live Streaming the day-long event in Altspace, so please join us. Desktop/2D access is recommended.

For information about local and international genealogy and family history events, chek out ConferenceKeeper and their calendar.

Q&A and Things to Know

As this was our first meeting, much of the meeting was spent discussion the future of this meetup.

Please note that because we will have speakers over time as well as educational and informative events, it is good to know that there are two free ways to access Altspace.

  1. Virtual Reality: Using a headset such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, or another, you may participate in 3D, which means your eyes will be covered and it is a challenge to take notes.
  2. 2D/Desktop: Altspace installs directly to your computer or phone as an independent program or app. Once installed, you may enter Altspace in 2D on your Windows or Mac machine, using your mouse and keyboard to navigate, or your phone with the option “without headset.” Both methods are “eyes-free,” meaning your hands are free to type or take notes during the meetup.

Future topics were suggested and included:

  • 3D Tools and Modeling
  • AR Tools and Apps
  • Certification
  • Digitization
  • DNA
  • Genealogy Technology
  • Guest Speakers
  • Industry News
  • Regional Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Society Issues and Challenges
  • Study/Research Groups
  • VR Applications
  • Watch Webinars

Much thanks also goes to my assistant, Darrell Gulstrom, professional genealogist.

The next meeting is 24 Sep 2018 at 6PM PDT. Hope to see you there!

Genealogy and Family History Games

Note: Some links may open in new web page.

Disclosure: Some links are affiliate links.

Games put the fun into genealogy, a subject often seen as dull, boring, and “must-dusty.” I’ve done a little research and found some ideas for genealogy and family history games for you to play with friends, family, and at family reunions. Some can even be played alone – though it is always more fun to play with others.

I’ve always loved question-and-answer games. You could keep it simple by having all the players write down 2-5 questions on a pieces of paper, put them in a bowl, and go around having players draw the questions and either answer them or ask them of another player, making it even more fun. Or write up your list of questions and put them in a bowl from one of the many family history interview questionnaires online such as 50 Interview Questions to Ask Your Relatives,

A fun and novel game to play at a family reunion is a spin-off from Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey. Print out signs with short bios and place descriptions of family members and ancestors with no names, just hints, and tack them onto the wall. Hand out “playing cards” with the photos of the people and places and ask players to stick them onto the sign they think matches. This could lead to people debating over which bio or place matches their card, and a competition for who gets the most right.

Consider creating a “This is Your Life” program with one or more of the oldest members of the family. Or asking family members to dress up like their ancestors, bringing in a variety of fun clothing and costumes. “Guess the Baby” is fun to showcase baby pictures and have people vote on identification.

Games - The Game of Genealogy How to Find Your Ancestors game box.The The Genealogy Game was built by genealogists for 2-10 players from age 7 and up. A fun board game often featured at genealogy conferences, you play for points awarded for visiting locations or finding and verifying information to help identify the “elusive ancestor.” It is a great way to learn about the challenges associated with genealogy research, and recreate the research process, a good test of your detective skills as well.

Roots & Branches – The Connections Game is another family history game for family and non-family parties.

PANDO The Family History Game is described as the “siblings battle to reveal the story of mom and dad.” Not limited to parents, this is a great game to get people talking and sharing their family history stories in a fun and comfortable environment. Players are challenged to guess the answer of the other players such as “What is the first movie I ever saw in a theater?”

Hanging out with more experienced family history researchers? Consider playing the Family History Games App by Ponder Games on your smartphone to test family history vocabulary and word skills.

Want to be really creative? Consider creating your own customized genealogy family tree board game. Build a Custom Family Tree Board Game by Make: offers step-by-step instructions. Udemy offers a paid kit and educational course for those who are serious about their family tree board games.

Also check out the lists of genealogy and family history games at Games Genealogy on WikiTree Free Family Tree and Genealogy Games from the Victoria Genealogical Society in Canada.

Reunion Family Games

There are many articles and suggestions for games specifically designed for reunions. Some work better with reunions with a long history of gathering, and others are excellent as icebreakers for new family reunions. offers Family Reunion Icebreakers, Games, and Activities with some fun ideas for exploring the family history, lifestyle, and characteristics of those alive today as well as our ancestors, and excellent examples of trivia games.

While not specific to reunions, the Toss ‘n Talk-About Family History Ball is a plastic beach ball covered with great ice-breaking questions for any event to get people sharing family stories such as “Who were your friends when you were growing up?” and “Did you have any pets growing up?”

Genealogy Insider suggests Name Games to jazz up a reunion and test participant’s memories.

While the site is a bit dated, the site offers an excellent list of activities for a fun reunion including physical games for children and adults like the timeless 3-legged or sack races, and other games and ideas to make your family reunion a success.

Reunions magazine is a go-to source for information on hosting or attending reunions of all types, including game activities. They also offer workshops and classes around the US on reunion planning.

101 Fun Family Reunion Games List by Gathered Again features a long list of activities for a family reunion.

Check out 10 Steps to Family Reunion Success from Family Tree, Cyndi’s List of Reunion links and references for more ideas.

Online Family History Games

Games - BYU Tech Labs - Wheel of Family FortuneBUY Family History Technology Lab offers a wide variety of online games they’ve developed include:

Ancestor Games is a collection of other games they’ve created based on your FamilySearch tree data that includes a matching game, ancestral coloring, crosswords, word searches, and word scrambles.

Some of these games link into your FamilySearch tree and require you to be logged in at the time with your free account. If you have a large computer monitor or casting or web-TV capabilities, these would be fun to play around with in small groups.

FamilySearch Wiki offers a list of Family History Activities for Youth, designed for ages over 11. Examples include identifying for place in history, or that of your ancestors, using timelines, searching Wikipedia, and entering the date of birth (or event) in Google to search for what was happening on that date. They’ve also included other more creative activities, along with standard genealogical tasks such as entering information about the family into a family group sheet, creating trees, and conducting Family Interviews (pdf). At the bottom, they recommend some Fun and Games such as Kings and Queens, You be the Historian (play detective tracing the Springer Family), and Mystery Case Files.

The DNA Learning Center offers a sequencing game online with interactive 2D animation to use gaming to learn about how DNA works.

Games We Used to Play

I learned how to play Seven Card No-Peak Poker with my father before I was seven. We rarely bet with anything of value other than matchsticks and pennies, but it helped teach me basic math and comparative analysis, and a little risk-taking. He learned it from his father, and who knows where his father learned it. Likely from his fellow ship mates on the USS Arizona in the 1920s. What games can you pass onto the younger generation?

Also consider the games of old that our ancestors may have played:

  • Chess
  • Backgammon
  • Go/Wei Chi
  • Pente
  • Yahtzee
  • Shogi
  • Chinese Chess
  • Fanorona
  • Snooker
  • Roulette
  • Dominoes
  • Cricket
  • Cribbage
  • Baseball
  • Badminton
  • Shut the Box

The Online Guide to Traditional Games offers extensive information about many traditional games from around the world, including rules and guides.

Historic Games & Celtic Art, Macgregor Historic Games Store, and Ancient & Historical Board Games offer a wide range of period games for historical reenactments and “just plain family fun” worth exploring and using at your next reunion or reenactment, or for your education and enlightenment. Examples include a wide variety of playing card games, dice games, Hnefatafl & Morris, Captains Mistress, 3-way Chess, Cribbage, Game of the Goose, Mancala, Senet, Checkers/Draughts, Fox and Geese, Bagha Chai, Maj Jong, and other pub, outdoor, casino, and board games.

Consider adding the Dutch Blitz card game to your traditional game inventory. developed by a German immigrant from Pennsylvania Dutch country, it is still played today by the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish communities, and a fun card game where everyone plays at the same time. For up to 4 people of most ages.

Explore History

There are many online games to help you explore history, for children and adults. These games help us all understand better the life and times of our ancestors. I’ve listed just a few to help you get started.

Note: Some of these are online games that may have specific computer and web access requirements. The list includes online games, web games, video games, and games you can play offline.

Game for sale on Amazon - CatanOne of the hottest board games on the market right now is Catan. Published by Klaus Teuber in 1996, this board game now includes extensive expansion cards and player packs, travel set, web apps, and a long list of awards such as “Game of the Year,” “Hall of Fame,” and “Game of the Century” in the United States, Germany, and other countries. There is even a chocolate version. The goal of the game is to be the dominant force on the island of Catan through exploration, trade, building settlements, defenses, and culture. There are fun spin-offs including Rise of the Inkas, Game of Thromes, Star Trek, and Settlers of America. Played around the world by all ages, and popular in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, this could be a modern board game to get your family or reunion into the joy of history, exploration, and migration. The game is available on for the starter kit and elsewhere.

Here are a few more I found on Amazon.

Genealogy and Family History Games Suggestions and Ideas

Have you played genealogy and family history games? With friends and family or at reunions? Please share them so we can build up this list to help others looking to use entertainment for education, and encourage the future of genealogy. After all, family history research isn’t as dull and boring as it seems.

How to Give Back to Genealogy

Part of the reason I became involved in the WordPress Community in 2003 was to give back. WordPress is free, open source programming that creates a web platform upon which I stand to publish. It’s free. Free as in costs-me-nothing but some time and energy. With all this free and freedom around, I, like millions of others, wanted to give something back, pay our dues for this amazing program.

So I volunteered.

I poked and prodded around the newly forming WordPress Community, hooking up on the live chat boards, helping answer questions around the web, and eventually in the WordPress Support Forums. Technical documentation was just beginning to find a home in 2004 with the WordPress Codex, our wiki, and it was a mess. I poured through the pages one by one as they were added slowly from other sources, then one day couldn’t resist hitting the edit button because I was so tired of seeing the word separate misspelled. My life would never be the same.

For over 10 years I was a senior editor of the WordPress Codex, writing, editing, and corralling others to volunteer their contributions to make the Codex the single most complete guide and manual for WordPress users. That wasn’t in my plan but it became part of my gift back to WordPress.

As I look at my years in genealogy, first as a passionate hobbyist, now moving into becoming a professional, I look at how I’ve given back to that community as well, and how much that giving paid off in the long run. Let’s explore opportunities for you to do the same.

Join a Genealogy or Historical Society

Michigan Genealogical Council Booth Sign Boards - FGS 2017Nothing says love and support than a check in the form of a donation and/or membership in a genealogy or historical society. You are giving back to keep alive the education and preservation of the heritage and culture of our ancestors.

Join a local group, or one associated with your genealogy location research or group such as a religious or cultural historical society. Even becoming a member of a local or far-off group helps increase their membership numbers and income. Be sure and ask for a digital copy of their newsletter rather than printed and mailed version to help them save even more money.

Participate. Don’t just join. Give back by your presence at regular meetings, board meetings, and educational programs and special events. A warm body does much to warm the soul of a society, knowing people care enough to show up.

Then do more. Volunteer to help with an event or class. Join a committee. Throw in your name when the election committee comes calling.

When you discover you have a little extra at the end of the month, or you are reviewing your donations every year, consider donating to a genealogy society to ensure they keep doing their good work for so many on into the future. Or consider donating to a historical or genealogy society your research, records, photo albums, whatever historical artifacts and treasures that your family won’t want, won’t appreciate, or would support.

Do a Google search for the name of your community, town, county, or state, or maybe genealogical interest such as DNA, Daughters of the American Revolution, or Quakers, with the words society, group, or association.

Also try the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) for the US, and check the calendar at ConferenceKeeper, the schedule of genealogy and family history events and activities.

Attend Genealogy Workshops and Conferences

Conferences - Stillaguamish Northwest Genealogy Conference 2017 - photo by Lorelle VanFossenIt may not seem like you are giving back when you attend local and distant genealogy workshops and conferences, but you are helping. Your ticket and presence keeps the event alive and prospering. And more.

The events you attend also help direct future events by your enthusiasm and feedback. It supports educators, teachers, and experts in the field who attend and speak at these events, helping others to learn more about their specialty.

If you cannot attend, consider giving the gift of a ticket to a family history event or workshop to someone else to help them learn more about genealogy, especially family members new to family history research. Or donate the ticket price back to the sponsoring organization so they may offer scholarships and tickets to those in need, a generous way to share the wealth.

Check with local, state, and national (and international) genealogy societies and organizations for event dates, as well as ConferenceKeeper to find a workshop and conference near you.

Help Digitize

More traditional glass plate book and document scanner in use at RootsTech in FamilySearch booth.As digitization methods become more affordable, many historical and genealogy societies and groups are working hard to digitize their record. With recent fires of historical archives and government agencies, and the risk of more, the urgency to duplicate their precious inventory of books, papers, photographs, manuscripts, photo albums, etc., increases.

Volunteer to help with digitization. This could involve donating money, helping to write grant proposals, or hands on labor to assist with the process. You don’t have to have technical expertise to volunteer, but it helps if you do.

FamilySearch features a web page for Active Projects displaying where the non-profit family history company has scanners, cameras, and other archiving resources around the world working to preserve local historical records. Check with local Family History Libraries to see what projects they may have available. Many work with local agencies and archives to assist with digitization and indexing. Contact your local historical or genealogy group or society to find out what help they need to digitize their records. Also check libraries, state and national archives (some accept volunteer help), and local museums.

And consider volunteering with the Internet Archive. Their projects range from local to international and they need help at every level and expertise. Their work to conserve and preserve history through digitization by working with governments, archives, and local level groups helps protect human history into the future.

Index Records

Years ago, I’d visit a local Family History Center or library and volunteer to help index records. Today, you can volunteer to index records right from within your home or on your laptop or tablet from anywhere.

It isn’t just words you are asked to transcribe and index today. It is maps, photographs, and a wide variety of scanned records and materials. The British Library has a volunteer program for georeferencing and geotagging points on a map, allowing old maps to be just as valuable as new ones.

In Oregon where I live, Betty Winn (90) was honored recently for her volunteer work of 17 years indexing historical records of the Oregon State Archives. Trust me, Betty needs some volunteer company.

Indexing and other transcription volunteer projects can be found at your local library, museum, historical society, government offices, or archives. Check with your local genealogical or historical society for other local projects, too. Note that some institutions hold special events to encourage indexing and transcription during a specific set of dates and times such as the Worldwide FamilySearch Indexing Event. Here are some other suggestions and examples.

Hunt for Graves

Find A Grave and BillionGraves are eagerly looking for volunteers to help find graves, document them, and create memorial pages for the residents when possible.

Both services include grave sites and cemeteries from around the world, so this is a give-back you can do locally or as you travel researching your ancestors and walking in their footsteps. Mobile apps make the task even easier.

Both services also link up needs with those living in the local area where someone needs cemetery and tombstone information if it is lacking. When you register to volunteer, let them know if you are available to research for those living far away.

Heirloom Reunions

Museum - Wood Plane from Brashear collection and photos - Heinz Museum History Display - by Lorelle VanFossenAn article on Genealogy Gems mentioned heirloom reunions, finding artifacts and reuniting them with their owner’s descendants.

Once lost objects such as bibles, photographs, photo albums, scrapbooks, military dog tags, school yearbooks, and other heirlooms can be returned to descendants with some serious genealogical research. There are an increasing number of stories about such discoveries and reunions reported, and many are turning it into a hobby as part of their passion for family history research and detective work.

If you have found some heirloom artifacts, consider researching them or donating the items to those who reunite such items with their original owners, or their descendants. It’s a worthwhile gift of history, and may reunite families with precious memories as well as historical souvenirs.

Give DNA Tests

The price of DNA tests are dropping rapidly, especially with the many sale events recently. Buy several from one or more companies and give them to your elder family members. Then make their DNA test results matter.

While waiting for the DNA results, which can take weeks or months, start building the family tree in the service where you purchased the DNA kit. This will help match DNA results with your tree, improving the chances of finding matches when the test comes back.

Once the DNA test results are available, download them from the paid service and upload them to GEDmatch, GEDmatch Genesis (the “new” version of GEDmatch), Family Tree DNA, and DNA.Land, as well as the other services you’ve joined as a member such as MyHeritage and

By sharing DNA test results across a wider spectrum of databases, you not only increase your changes of finding relatives and connections, but you increase other people’s chances of the same success: finding you and your relatives.

The more we share our DNA data, the more the entire system improves. Through triangulation and just the increase in data points, the better the results and findings.

Give Time

Give of your time and skills as a family history researcher and help others. They may or may not be members of your local genealogical society. Reach out into the community.

Genealogists helping each other on laptop during FGS conference 2017 - photo by Lorelle VanFossenHelp your grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and other family members to understand and preserve their family history.

Talk to your friends. Help them get started.

Be patient. Be kind. Move at their speed. Help them with the technology, and with the step-by-step process of researching their family. The more people around you enthused about genealogy, the more you improve your support group and the more you help others protect their family histories.

Give Away

Books - Old Books - The Ancestory and Family History books - photo by Lorelle VanFossenI have always believed in giving without expectation of return, enjoying the process of giving rather than seeking other rewards. Consider all the ways you may give to genealogy.

  • Besides donating money, consider donating records, research, photo albums, photos, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, and other historical artifacts to your local genealogy or historical society, or even the state or national organizations if they welcome such gifts.
  • Gift historical and genealogy books to local libraries.
  • Donate a basket or bag of family history research supplies or kits to your local family history group for special events.Donations - Gift bag Stillaguamish Genealogical Society bag with family history research tools - photo and gift by Lorelle VanFossen
  • Donate an or other bookstore or office supply chain gift card to your local family history group for event giveaways.
  • Donate a couple hours of your time as an assistant researcher at your family history library, local library, or historical society.
  • Have a blog or are part of an active social media group? Consider donating some of the above ideas to them as well.

Do Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is a global volunteer organization committed to connect volunteers with genealogical acts of kindness around the world.

Volunteers make themselves available to do local research at least once a month in an act of kindness. They visit cemeteries and take photographs of tombstones, look up records in local government offices, churches, archives, and wherever the records might be found, and help as best they can to answer questions and inquiries.

Volunteers donate their time, but the research request person must pay for all expenses incurred in the research process such as copies, printing fees, postage, parking fees, etc. I’ve been asked to compensate the amazing genealogists who’ve helped me around the world with little more than a LinkedIn endorsement, following them on Facebook, or other non-monetary request as well as covering extraneous expenses through a PayPal payment, far less than I would have paid a professional genealogist. Not to say you shouldn’t, but this is among your options when researching beyond your geographic range and expertise.

Have an expertise in a geographical area or specialty? Live near a popular library, archive, or research region? Have some free time and want to help others? Consider volunteering to become a member of RAOGK and help others solve their genealogical questions.

Give Back as Much as You Can and More

I’ve long believed that the more you give the more you get back. I’ve experienced it repeatedly throughout my life, and often in the most surprising ways.

I give without expectation of return, the secret to true gift giving. I recommend you do the same. Gifts without strings are a beautiful thing.

Also give because of the learning experience. Those times helping with indexing, researching other people’s family tree, and sitting through presentations that I thought would be snores that ended up teaching me new things about this whole research process I’ve been banging my head against since I was a child. You never know where a lesson will come from.

I hope this inspires you to give. How do you give back to the genealogy industry and community? What do you wish you’d do more of when it comes to encouraging others?

What Inspires Me

Pinder Lula Bell and son Howard West c1904.I pick up my phone early in the morning to begin the process of sifting through the news feeds for the latest in genealogy, family history, historical archives, and technology, and I’m inspired.

A news article catches my eye on the ease of web indexing with new technology, making it easier than ever for volunteers to use the web, a laptop, tablet, or even their smartphone to assist with indexing records on FamilySearch, and I’m inspired.

A photograph in the hallway is of my great-grandmother holding my grandfather, the only picture we have of her, and the clue that revealed her existence to me, and led me on the path to genealogy studies over a lifetime, and I’m inspired.

I walk into my office and see my family history chart, all color coded to match the file folder colors in the filing cabinet nearby, and I’m inspired.

On my desktop computer, the web browser is opened to an obituary in a newspaper of one of my ancestors, and I’m inspired.

A simple web search turns up several hundred possibilities that may answer a genealogy question for me today, and I’m inspired.

A comment from a fan of my family history site asked a good question about how to resolve four conflicting bits of evidence for a birth date of her great-ought grandmother, and I’m inspired.

A fan of this site asked me what the latest news was on digital book scanning for home offices, and I’m inspired.

A post by a fellow genealogist takes a moment to thank the volunteers that make our family history research possible today, finding, preserving, digitizing, transcribing, and indexing records, and making these available to everyone researching their family tree, and I’m inspired.

I walk up the long gravel road to the mailbox and find a personal thank you letter from my local genealogy group for being such a valuable member, and I’m inspired.

An email from a cousin in Wisconsin uncovers some family papers that might uncover more details in our research into our Norwegian family branch, and I’m inspired.

A friend swings by to drop off some supplies for an upcoming conference on writing I’m producing, and asks me if I’m still into this “family history thing.” We sit down and she says, “About my own family, I’ve been wondering…” and I’m inspired.

I am inspired by the big things in genealogy research and technology today, but it is often the small things, the things we tend to take for granted, that inspire me to keep going, minute by minute, hour by hour, year after year.

To all the small things, and the people who make them happen, I thank you. You inspire me.

The Survival Guide for After RootsTech

RootsTech 2018 Badges and Relics - photo by Lorelle VanFossenThere are many around the web offering advice for what to do to prepare for RootsTech, the world’s largest genealogy conference happening every February in Salt Lake City, and many helping you figure out the ins and outs during the conference. I’m here to tell you what to do after the conference is over, after you’ve come home and collapsed.

My guide assumes you’ve experienced RootsTech to the full, attending all the keynotes, a dozen or more workshops and classes, special event lunches, after-hours special events, and wandered dozens of times around the exhibition hall getting your scavenger hunt stamps collected and exploring all the new gizmos, gadgets, books, classes, and technology there is in the family history industry. PLUS you’ve spent at least a few hours if not a day or two in the Family History Library, the parent of all the Family History Centers around the globe offering genealogy information and guidance through the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

In other words, your brain must be exploding and your feet are the size of two blimps. You’ve laughed too much, cried a few times in public, have an overstuffed suitcase or two to unpack, and are fighting the desire to sleep for a week to recover. That’s when you’re ready for this guide, and you know you had a great time at RootsTech.

Stop everything right now and go get a list to take notes. You’re going to need them.

Now, it’s time to seriously unpack and sort.

RootsTech 2018 - Unpacking from the trip - Conference stuff on bed - photo by Lorelle VanFossen

Empty the Suitcase and Sort

The first thing you need to do after the swelling has subsided in your feet, and your head isn’t beating a brass band, is unpack.

Throw the dirty clothes in the laundry. They can wait.

Sort all the rest into piles. I recommend using your bed as a sorting table. This encourages you to finish the job so you can climb in. Nothing like a little motivation.

Make a pile for all the wonderful books, DVDs, CDs, or whatever other readable, listenable, and watchable material you purchased or gathered from the exhibition hall goodies.

Make a pile of all the pamphlets you collected as well, all the advertising, marketing, and promotional material from the various booths, displays, exhibits, and societies.

Make another pile for the gadgets and gizmos you collected along the way. I love all the product tech available at RootsTech, from lighted magnifiers to sticky notes for research documents.

Make a pile of business cards and scraps of paper you collected from people with contact information on it. Honestly, you should attend a conference like this with an easily-made business card with your contact information, mostly your name, phone, email, website, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, along with your key ancestral names, places, and dates, or your research specialty such as Norway, Ireland, or Australia. Print it out on your printer on some inexpensive business card stock from the office supply store, or onto some other card stock that you can cut with a paper cutter or scissors to the size of business cards. Don’t overthink this, just make sure you do it for your next genealogy conference or workshop. Others are doing it and you need to make a pile for their cards.

Make another pile for your notes and the printed worksheets and materials you collected from the classes and workshops you attended during the busy days.

What else did you pick up that you can sort into separate piles? Gifts for friends and family from Salt Lake City? A little bottle of salty lake water on a key chain? Chocolates? T-shirts? Goodies from the Church History Museum Store and Gift Shop across from the Family History Center? Whatever else you brought home, group it into separate piles.

With the gift pile, find some plastic grocery bags or gift bags and quickly sort those into bags for the recipients, clearly labeled. That’s quick and easy. Do it now, or you will forget who you had in mind when you picked up that little do-hickey.

Let’s look at the rest of the piles individually.

Business Cards - photo by Lorelle VanFossen.

Business Cards

Take the business cards and scraps of contact information paper and flip them over. On the back of each card, write in pen “RootsTech 2018,” or whatever the year of your attendance. This will remind you of where and when you met the person.

If you are a professional or techy, use your phone or scanner to scan the cards into your contact information app. Doing it now (or on the plane on the way home) gets it done and out of the way. Trust me. I waited for years and now have a huge box filled with business cards and no memory of meeting 90% of these people, nor desire to spend my life adding their information now to my contact database. Do it now before it piles up on you.

Flip them face up and go through them one at a time and make a note that will remind you three years from now who this person was and why you have their card. If you scan the business cards, make a note (and add the RootsTech2018 tag to each) as you scan them. Do it now while you remember why they were important to you in the moment.

When done, either wrap a rubber band around the cards or slip them in a small zip storage bag with notes that say “RootsTech 2018” on it and store it where you keep the rest of your collection of business cards, or pull out the ones that you definitely wish to respond to, and keep those on your desk and throw the rest away.

Write on your task list to contact the people you’ve pulled out of the list by the end of the week. Contact them sooner rather than later so they remember who you are and how you two met.

While you are at it, if you used the Find Relatives at RootsTech feature on the FamilySearch app and connected with relatives, follow up with them. They might be your new source for family information. Hopefully, you took screenshots during the event of the app’s results as those go away when the people are more than 100 to 500 feet away from you. It’s GPS-centric. I forget each year, so I added a note to my conference notes to remind me for next year.

Genealogy Books on shelf - Research - photo by Lorelle VanFossen.

Books, CDs, DVDs, Etc.

Pull out your smart phone and ensure that you have some form of inventory app installed. It might be Goodreads, My Library, Personal Library, Magic Home Inventory, Book Crawler, My Library, Full Version Home Inventory Organizer, Encircle: Home Inventory, or any of the other personal home or personal book library catalogers. Flip over each book and look for the ISBN number and barcode on the back. If there is a label over it, do your best to remove it with a hot dryer or use Un-Du Sticker, Tape, and Label Remover so you can get to the barcode. You don’t need much, just a tiny strip of the width. With your app, scan the barcode to add the book to your inventory.

I’ve added 50 books, manually when the ISBN number isn’t found, and by scanning them in less than 25 minutes. I keep all my books on my phone so next time I’m at a conference or workshop, I can check to ensure I’m not buying a book I already own, something I used to do way too often.

Do the same thing with CDs, DVDs, and other reading material. If you purchased magazines, add them manually to your inventory app so you don’t repeat purchase those in the future, and you know what you have or don’t.

When done, put the books into your library where they belong, or by your favorite reading spot so you can get busy when you are done with everything else you’ve brought home from RootsTech.

RootsTech - Genealogy and Family History Marketing Material - photo by Lorelle VanFossen

Brochures, Pamphlets, and Flyers

Next, sort through those brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and all the scraps of paper you brought home filled with products, services, classes, society memberships, and other flotsam and jetsam.

Sort them into piles as to their categorization, class material together, memberships together, products, services, etc.

Take a moment, pen in hand, to go through each and make a decision on whether or not you will use any of these. While they are all good to know they exist, which will you truly use. Toss the ones that you don’t need and consider what’s left.

If any of these require action on your part, to register for an event, subscribe to a service, join a membership, make a note on your task list to act upon these and add them to the pile with the business cards for immediate action.

If you wish to file away any for future reference, do so immediately so they don’t pile up.

Family History - Personal Business Card with Family Branches and Brickwall - Lorelle VanFossen

Review Future Strategies

Each time I attend RootsTech, I learn new strategies for getting around. This is even more important as the conference continues to grow, attracting thousands more every year.

I make a note in my conference file on my computer to remind me of these tips and tricks for the trip to Salt Lake City. I do this for every conference. Examples include:

  • Bring self-made business cards listing my contact information (phone, email, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and summary of my family branch names. Also include a list of the people you identify as your brick walls. You never know who you will meet that might help you with your research, and this may trigger a memory or research after the event. If there is a bulletin board for those seeking their relatives, tack the card on the board.
  • Map of the Salt Palace Conference Center with notes as to the fact that room 155 is not in order with the rest of the rooms. You must go RootsTech 2018 - RootsTech App - Salt Palace Mapupstairs, walk a long hallway, then downstairs (or escalators) to the rooms in the furthest reaches of the convention hall. You think there is another way and there isn’t, so stop trying.
  • Note the “best” bathrooms. They are located on the second and third floors near rooms 255. The bathrooms at the back of the exhibition hall also rarely have much of a line.
  • Remember the ballrooms have access along the main hall and in the middle down a narrow hall. The letter order doesn’t make much sense until you get the hang of it.
  • Each year I experiment with what and how I carry my laptop and other odds and ends through the days of the conference. I make notes on what worked and what didn’t to remind me to make improvements next year. I’ve almost got it down to a science, but I change things as I travel throughout the year, so this helps me remember. I recommend a small backpack or small to medium tote bag for carrying your stuff around. While there is a coat check, it is often a long line to access, so you are likely to carry your coat with you throughout the day. Registrants receive a small branded tote, which makes an ideal thing to carry around. You will pick up goodies in the exhibition hall. Some vendors offer branded totes, so use, too.
  • A list of my memberships, societies, and associations. They often offer sales and discounts for new members and renewals. I’ve been able to save several hundred dollars on various memberships and subscriptions by renewing at RootsTech. The list helps me remember which groups I belong to and which I should consider joining if the price is right.
  • A list of vendors to visit. There are so many, and it can take a couple days to get through the entire exhibition hall with the little time you have to explore. I make a list on my phone to ensure I visit those I need to see first.
  • Bring food for lunch and snacks. There are grocery stores, a Subway, and a pharmacy within a block of the center to grab some sandwiches and snacks. If you choose to eat there, the food is found at the back of the exhibition hall along the entire length of the L shape. Fresher food is found at the very back near the stage.
  • For dinner, Olive Garden is diagonal across the street past the open park area. Also try the hotel restaurants, Market Street Grill (on Market Street – two block walkish), Benijana’s, or walk one block away from the center on Main and explore the fun restaurants, pubs, and cafes on the street or in the City Creek Center. Note that many close early, about 8 or 9pm on weeknights. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I recommend you call for a reservation unless you wish to sit in the bar and you’re a party of two or less.
  • Weather reminder and notes. As I sit here finalizing this, a freak snowstorm is dropping over a foot of snow on Salt Lake City. I dressed for being inside the convention center and Family History Library, not trudging through snow on my way to and from these places. I make notes on the weather each year to remind me to dress appropriately.
  • Other things I remind myself to do are:
    • Make screenshots of the FamilySearch Find Relatives at RootsTech feature on the FamilySearch app of the people at RootsTech on my family tree. It is GPS-centric and has a limited range. After the conference, they leave, and the list is no longer there to remind you of the connections.
    • Shoe and feet inspection. I make a note about the shoes I wore and how my feet felt walking a thousand miles over 5 days in the convention center. This year was the best with my Keen sandals. I’m going to wear them next year, too.
    • Take pictures of the name tags of the people I photograph. Sometimes their name tag is visible, but often it is turned over or hidden, and I can’t remember their names.
    • Bring small safety pins to pin the name tag ribbons after day three when they start to lose their stick and fall apart from all the hugging, tugging, and wear across my chest and stomach.

RootsTech 2018 - RootsTech App - Class ScheduleRootsTech 2018 - RootsTech App - Class Info

Workshop and Class Handouts and Material

There are so many workshops and classes at RootsTech, by the end of the week, the information sloshes around in your skull like mush.

I recommend you sort through the stack of printed teaching material to group them into related topics. Put all the DNA material together, the ethnic research (by country, region, or language), the citation and research material, whatever the categorization of the workshops you attended. Paper clip or rubber band them together and put them in a pile on your desk or next to your reading spot.

Many workshop notes and materials are found online. Using the RootsTech app (Android/iPhone), or the links found in the workshop notes, when your head has settled a little bit more, get online and download those documents and files. While most educators leave their notes online for a good length of time, some don’t stay in the same place or accessible after a few months. You don’t have to look at them, just download them before you forget. Look later.

Note: If you were one of the 4,000 early registrations, in 2018 you would have received a USB thumb drive with most of the class handouts and syllabi. Unfortunately, there were duplication errors with many of them. Replacements were handed out during the conference for those that noted the errors. Even the replacements had errors. Go through your thumb drive carefully and note which files aren’t working, and download replacements through the RootsTech app and email them to yourself or share them via OneNote or Evernote.

In a couple days, when the headaches are truly gone, feet feel normal, and your mind is clearer, but not longer than a week, go through each of these stacks, print and digital. Review your notes. Maybe print the digital versions for easier reading and storage in a notebook. Add more detail to your notes to ensure you understood the material. Make some sense out of them. Don’t forget about those downloaded versions.

I often will write a summary of what I learned and why it was important for me to learn this material, along with notes recommending myself to use these, and what to use them on. Something that will remind me of this session’s importance five years from now.

Explore the class handouts for the other classes you didn’t take. Watch the free videos on the RootsTech site.

When you are done exploring your notes, walk over to your scanner (a required tool for every genealogist), and scan them to your computer. Name the files immediately, highlighting the educational topic, and store them in an Education folder on your computer or wherever you store educational data files. Make sure the file name includes RootsTech 2018 to ensure you remember where you picked up the material.

Then toss or file as is your custom.

Family History Research Tools - photo by Lorelle VanFossen.

Gadgets and Gizmos

I saved the gadgets and gizmos for the last. Why? Because they are a distraction.

Oh, they are the right kind of distraction, but as you have many things on your list to do before you can clear off the bed and climb in for some more much needed sleep, you must resist the temptation to play. I know that new Flip-Pal Scanner is calling to you, but resist.

I recommend you put them all in a bag and put them in your desk or work space area and leave them to be laid away the next day. At that time, you can play all you wish because the bed will be empty.

Clear Your Bed and Have a Cuppa

Put away whatever else you need to sort and store, but before you reach for that cuppa whatever relaxes you, there is one more thing to do.

Yes, you need to clear the bed, but you should do something else.

Put your suitcase back into travel mode.

That’s right. I want you to change your mindset about travel when it comes to family history. I want you to travel more and make your life easier as you do so.

  1. Start the laundry with your travel clothes only (not what the other family members left for you to do when you got home). When they are dry, fold them up and put them back in the suitcase. Only the items that were comfortable to wear and ones you wore, not the ones you wish you had worn.
  2. While the laundry is going, wipe out the empty suitcase. Dump everything out and with some water and white distilled vinegar, give it a gentle wipe down. Most of us come home with dirty laundry rather than waste time during those last few days. We’ve shoved our shoes in the suitcase, shampoo, wet towels, who knows what. Give it a quick wipe to ensure it stays smelling clean for the next trip. While wiping it down, inspect for damage and replace parts and pieces or fix them, or consider it junk and start planning for a replacement.
  3. Restock your makeup and bathroom kit and put it back in the case.
  4. Restock your personal business cards and tuck them into a pocket of the case.
  5. Find all the other little do-dads that you can’t travel without. Clean them off, and put them back in the case.
  6. Add the clean clothes once dry, packed as you like to travel, rolled up or stuffed into compression or packing cubes.
  7. Once closed, check the luggage tags to ensure they survived the flight, and tuck the suitcase away ready for the next trip.

Now it’s time for that cuppa.

Sit back, relax a bit, reminisce about the great time you had in spite of your aching feet and back and pounding head. Get ready to tackle your task list tomorrow, taking things one step at a time.

And don’t worry. By the time RootsTech arrives next year, you will have forgotten about the pain and be eagerly awaiting the next round of family history madness.