RootsTech London 2019 – my thoughts


I’ve mentioned before that I consider the potential benefits of a conference from a combination of factors: learning opportunities + friends and networking + location (which includes travel and research options).

Ultimately I decided to  try out the London RootsTech as I’d been to two in Salt Lake (2015 an 2017) and it also meant that I could add on a week of Scottish research beforehand.

So how did RootsTech London stack up for me?

LEARNING BENEFITS

  • Ancestry Pro-Genealogist, Ursula Krause, helping us get started with German research.

    There was a good diversity of speakers on a range of topics. Many were very knowledgeable and professional in their delivery. As always there were always more than one that was of interest in almost every time slot. Mercifully the handouts counterbalanced the need to choose. In particular I enjoyed, and learned from, presentations by Myko Clelland, Fiona Fitzsimons, Maurice Gleeson, Celia Heritage, Michelle Leonard, Ursula Krause and Jonny Perl.

  • The focus on British and European research as well as tools and techniques was particularly helpful. I didn’t attend as many DNA talks as I have in Salt Lake having recently benefitted from the amazing intensive of DNA Down Under in Sydney.
  • The facilities were good and easily accessible offset by the unpredictability of room size for different talks – how were the rooms allocated I wonder?
  • Lots of “Ask Me” assistants in this picture.

    Keynotes were very interesting. Dan Snow’s media professionalism was evident but it was his need to reflect on one ancestor’s adverse actions that was relevant to anyone who discovers less than appealing attributes of their ancestors and their lives. Kadeena Cox was less polished but no less inspiring with her emphasis on how her family’s role-modelling had helped her when she suffered what many would consider impossible health challenges. Once again I missed Donny Osmond – judging on the crowds I seem to be in the minority in my indifference. I spent time with a study buddy instead.

  • Michelle Patient (NZ) and Janet Few (UK) met up at the Name & Place stand.

    There were lots of helpers to guide mystified attendees to the rooms or provide advice. “Ask Me Anything” said their T-shirts.

  • The Exhibition Hall provided plenty of diversity with a wide range of suppliers featured. I was particularly keen on learning more from the owners of “Name and Place” and am now even more keenly awaiting its release date. It seems to be an invaluable boon to those of us with an interest in One Place Studies. I’m also curious to follow up more on Reliving Ltd.

Just a partial view of the Exhibition Hall during presentation time when it was quieter.

NETWORKS and MATES

This was absolutely the highlight for me.

  • Sharn, Pauleen and Angela on a grey day at Kew Gardens.

    I was able to have a pre-conference outing to Kew Gardens with my friend Angela, an Irish blogger, and Sharn, a genimate (and spouse) from Sydney. We had an absolutely fabulous day exploring the gardens and seeing the wonderful Chihuly exhibition. And then the chance to go around again with other friends on the Saturday evening to see the glasswork lit up…spectacular.

  • The chance to re-connect with my study buddy, Kate from Essex Voices Past, with whom I studied the Advanced Diploma in Local History through Oxford University. It was great to have a chance to hang out and chat – even if we did get distracted by some weird and wonderful outfits from Comic Con.
  • Cheri from Carolina Girl Genealogy and Cassmob.

    Meeting up with overseas genimates from RootsTech conferences past was also a winner as well as Facebook friends who I’d only ever known by reputation or virtually. It was great to meet Cheri from Carolina Girl Genealogy from whom I’d won my pass to RootsTech.

  • Thanks to GeniAus, the 50+ Australians in attendance had a networking “edge”. We already had a Facebook group in which to share news, meet others and plan the usual “pre-conference” dinner meet-up. Even so, on the last day we were still discovering Aussies who were living overseas or who hadn’t joined the Facebook group. I made new Aussie friends who I know I’ll meet at other conferences around the country. We also generated quite a bit of curiosity as some of us had adopted the US practice of conference ribbons.

Just some of the Aussies at RootsTech London. Why have we got our mouths open? We’d been saying “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oy, oy, oy”.

I took the chance to visit St Paul’s Bloomsbury where my Partridge ancestors were married.

LOCATION

  • It was clear from all the Facebook posts, and photos, as well as conversations, that many people had taken the opportunity to visit ancestral sites before/after the conference, or to do research in relevant archives.
  • Given the expense of flying from Down Under, accommodation, and exchange rate considerations, the mix of benefits is critical.

“COULD DO BETTER”

A good portion of the problem areas came from the ExCel venue and the combination of RootsTech being held at the same time as the obviously popular Comic Con event.

My genimate @TravelGenee rocking her ribbons.

  • Closure of the Customs House DLR station on Friday and Saturday eliminated one travel option.
  • Access to the walkway through ExCel was blocked leaving anyone on the western side to walk 1.3kms outside in the weather – we were lucky it wasn’t pouring! This was of particular concern to those with mobility issues.
  • Along with access issues was the prohibition on RootsTech attendees being able to access all the food outlets throughout the complex. This particularly affected those with dietary/allergy issues. Luckily I found the E16 café offered decaf coffee so they became my go-to place.
  • Comic Con brought with it lots of crowds of all ages, some eye-popping outfits and K9 units.

My ribbon spread though I didn’t add all the DNA ones – it just got too long.

RootsTech however also let the attendees down in these regards:

  • Delayed communication relating to the conference – it seemed like RootsTech Salt Lake 2020 was being given information sooner than the London conference.
  • Late disclosure of the fact that RootsTech would be at the eastern end of ExCel meant many of us had booked months before – at the western end. Earlier notice might have avoided some of our angst. There seems to be a gap in understanding that for attendees travelling vast distances to get to the conference, flights and accommodation have to be booked months in advance.
  • After many speakers waging an education campaign to make attendees realise their slides were copyright and couldn’t be photographed, London RootsTech changed the rules and each speaker’s initial slide indicated photographs were allowed. Sigh.

SUMMARY

I thought my travel dollars were well spent and I was satisfied by the experience. It was less crowded than Salt Lake RootsTech, making it less confronting for the newbies. Would I recommend it to others or go again myself? Yes, provided research or holiday travel could be combined with the conference to maximise the benefit of the total outlay.

18 thoughts on “RootsTech London 2019 – my thoughts

  1. A good summary Pauleen – I’m glad I attended although, after 7 weeks ‘on the road’ I bailed on the third day as I knew it would be the busiest. Thanks to all the Aussies that connected, it certainly made it less daunting and isolating for a RootsTech first-timer.

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  2. Great summary Pauleen. As a newbie, I really enjoyed the experience even with the issues you have mentioned. The talks were good and the exhibition was excellent. I agree that to enhance the experience (cost etc), combining with research is a really good plan. That didn’t happen this time for me, with the new twig born in London, but I’ve got a list of research ops for next time! Hopefully there’ll be another Rootstech London and they’ll fix the issues encountered this time. Thank you for your blog; I enjoyed reading it.

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  3. Another great blog Pauleen and I’d agree with your summary of the event. Your last point is particularly valid – I initially planned my visit around the Unlock the Past cruise and like previous UK visits to hubby’s home country, visiting friends and relatives. Then along came MyHeritage Amsterdam – oohh, my mate is going to be there, so I’ll pop over from Exeter where I was researching for a long weekend.
    Then along came RootsTech. Like you I booked accommodation at the Custom House end and didn’t realise the conference was at the other end until shortly prior to it. I had made up my mind that RootsTech Salt Lake City was simply too big for my comfort levels and London seemed a great alternative. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, as you say – our Facebook Group was a fab advantage and GeniAus is to be thanked for setting it up. I had trouble limiting my chosen sessions in lots of timeslots as I had 2 or 3 I’d have liked to attend, so like you, I downloaded the notes. I would add that didn’t happen at the MyHeritage conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed but more so on the social aspect of it, getting together with my mate and meeting lots of new Genimates (and the Beatles party was unforgetable, it was such fun!).
    My fellow GSQ mate Helen V Smith remarked about getting together with her ‘Tribe’ at one of the US conferences and I now understand completely what she meant. Genealogy is such a fab hobby, and the biggest bonus of all is the wonderful friends you make along the way.

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  4. Pauleen, a great summary of RootsTech London. I agree that what you can add to a conference trip is what makes it worthwhile. The opportunity for me to finally meet my DNA cousin, archive and library trips, meeting a big bunch of my Shepherd family for the first time, walking more places my ancestors had walked, shopping, Chihuly at Kew gardens and enjoying my time with my cousin and co.

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    • Thanks Fran. It’s the mix of all those isn’t it? I wonder if the organisers don’t factor in those considerations. Travelling farther we want more for our money and time.

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  5. A great summary Pauleen. This was my first RootsTech experience and I have to say meeting so many enthusiastic fellow family historians was my personal highlight – and the Australian contingent were an absolute joy to meet.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and journey! I appreciate your expressions and walkthrough of both the pros and cons as well as the similarities and differences between SLC RootsTech and London RootsTech.

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  7. The choice to allow photography in the classes was left to each individual speaker. RootsTech provided alternative slides for those who did not want pictures taken.

    I heartily agree that the schedule was provided much later than was helpful for those of us needing to book flights and accommodation. Hopefully if the event returns to London that will be rectified.

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    • Thanks for the info re photography Alison. It seemed odd to me that so many speakers permitted it when that’s not usually the case. I do hope they repeat RootsTech at London because I think it offers something different from SLC.

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      • Slides should ideally only display key points of your presentation. So if you’re putting the everything up there it’s just asking for trouble. I did attend one of the classes where the speaker permitted photography, but added the caveat, “Not every slide.”

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