So let’s talk about RootsTech.
It’s hard to know what to say, because so many others are covering this conference well. If you want to read about specifics, there are lots of great places to find that sort of thing. I’m just going to talk about my own personal experience (because yeah, it’s all about me).
First, a confession: I hate conferences. I’m not a person who learns much from lectures, and I’m a huge introvert. Two days of flying plus three days of going to sessions and trying to find a pop machine and talking to strangers and hanging out in noisy places and sleeping in an uncomfortable bed in a hotel that doesn’t get the channel with the Real Housewives? That’s torture.
I went to RootsTech because I’ve already been to NGS (once in 2002 and once in 2003), and that was one time too many. FGS is held the week that the kids start school, so that’s not an option for me. That left RootsTech. I knew I needed to get out and meet my genealogy blogging friends in person, and I had a frequent flyer ticket that was going to expire. My expectations weren’t high. I was looking forward to seeing my peeps, but to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward much to the conference itself. I’m just not one of those people who comes home all fired up from this sort of thing.
So imagine my surprise when I found my mind completely blown. BLOWN. Seriously. My brain is so full of good stuff I can hardly see straight.
Here’s another confession: I’ve wondered lately whether genealogy was going to be a fit for me. There are some elements of genealogy that remind me of my old life in HR (and not in a good way). There’s the debate over who is “qualified” to join the professional society. There’s the poo-pooing of people who use Facebook, Twitter, or blogs. There’s the idea that anyone who doesn’t put the semicolon in the right spot on their citation is probably an idiot. There’s the idea that it’s important to impress people inside your profession, and maybe less important to impress the people who actually hire you. It all feels familiar, and it all makes me feel like maybe I’m going to be a fish out of water in this field, just as I was in the last one.
I’m over it. I found my tribe. They’re at RootsTech, and there were THREE THOUSAND of them. This was the first RootsTech ever, and THREE THOUSAND people came. In genealogy, that’s a huge number. That’s a sign that the marketplace is looking for something fresh. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to learn that it’s not just me.
It turns out that there’s a huge community of people out there who are genuinely excited about the changes we’re seeing in the field. There are others who think there’s been such an over-correction on the sources thing that we’re losing newbies altogether. There are others who don’t care where you put the comma. There are others who get that it’s insane to be having a discussion of how to get new business as a professional genealogist without including Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and blogs. There are people out there who get it. Even the guy who gave the Dark Ages talk a while back gave a speech this time that would have knocked your socks off if you’re a 21st century genealogist (I don’t know what changed his mind, but the dude totally rocked it out last Friday, and I hereby un-roll my eyes at him).
One thing I do miss about HR is the fact that I had colleagues (colleagues who were often obsessed with whether people were following the dress code or getting personal emails at work…but colleagues nonetheless). Genealogy can be a lonely profession, and it’s even lonelier if you’re a stay-at-home parent on top of it, because it’s not easy to get away to stuff like this. I expected to make some contacts at RootsTech, but what I actually made was…friends. I had no idea there were others like me out there in this field.
If you’ve felt like maybe you were alone in your desire to move forward instead of looking backward, this is your conference.