RootsTech held its first-ever family discovery conference outside of Salt Lake City, Utah at London’s ExCeL Convention Centre (24-26 October). With a total of 42 countries represented, nearly 10,000 attendees came from across the United Kingdom, continental Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of the world, exploring innovative ways to connect with ancestors and celebrate family heritage.
Special guests included Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accompanied by their wives Sister Susan Bednar and Sister Mary Cook.
The RootsTech London experience followed a similar model from the successful Salt Lake City events – including keynote speakers, more than 150 classes taught by industry specialists, and an interactive exhibition hall where visitors can become familiar with the latest technologies to research family history.
Reflecting RootsTech tradition, Saturday events included family discovery experiences hosted by global Latter-day Saint leaders and industry experts. A highlight was hearing from Elder David A. Bednar and his wife Sister Susan Bednar as they shared inspirational stories of faith and family.
He emphasized that we all have the privilege and responsibility to participate in this family discovery work and that, while we don’t know all what we should do, when we exercise faith in Christ our efforts will be blessed.
“We can all experience the increased power and meaning in knowing that we are never alone and that together we can discover, gather and connect our families,” he said.
Sister Bednar said, “God has provided the tools and resources to [help us] fulfill our responsibility.”
She said that features found on the Family Tree app and other family history resources “can help us draw closer to others, ‘turn’ strangers into friends and maybe even relatives.”
Class topics on Saturday included information on mobile apps, ten easy ways to navigate family history and interactive activities for children and youth to make family history engaging and fun.
Keynote Speakers and Special Guests
RootsTech London welcomed keynote presenters and special guests who inspired attendees through personal experiences and songs.
Dan Snow, a British historian and television presenter, was the opening keynote on the event’s first day. He explained how hearing the stories of our ancestors can give us a better picture of ourselves.
“The critical figure in my life is my grandmother,” he explained as he described times in his childhood around the fire in Ontario, Canada where she would tell her grandchildren “who they were. What she was doing was giving us her great love of storytelling, of learning, of the importance of our past.”
Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox shared her personal story of determination and perseverance. Cox was a competitive athlete from a young age and in 2014 and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She did not let that discourage her and went on to win two gold medals, silver and bronze at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio.
She learned the values of hard work and resilience from her mother and grandmother and said, “I’ve built upon my upbringing and where I came from. Setbacks don’t have to define you.”
Donny Osmond entertained the audience as he shared his personal journey of family discovery. He told them that his ancestors came from the British Isles and he draws on their examples of perseverance and tenacity.
Learning about your family history can help keep you going during difficult times, according to the international singing star. It is “is all about stories and realizing that when you discover more about your ancestors you discover more about yourself.”
Visitors also enjoyed the smooth vocals of Tre Amici who were featured in a special performance titled, Connecting Through the Power of Song.
Community leaders honored
A special reception and dinner were hosted by Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Quentin L. Cook, in association with RootsTech London, to honor community leaders who support the importance of family connections. Attendees included prominent individuals from the government, churches, and the family history sector. London-based diplomats were also given VIP tours at RootsTech.
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. FamilySearch is a service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.