More than 433,000 family history enthusiasts are participating in RootsTech Connect 2021, many for the very first time, making this the largest gathering in the event’s 10-year history.
Participants from over 235 countries and territories are registered for the world’s largest family history celebration, which runs Thursday through Saturday, February 25–27, 2021.
FamilySearch usually hosts RootsTech in-person in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, at the end of February, but the annual gathering is all-virtual for the first time because of COVID-19. Attendees also will be able to join the nearly 2,000 live and on-demand sessions at no cost — another first.
“I think the pandemic will be remembered as the greatest accelerant,” said Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, during a virtual news conference on Monday, February 22. “People are turning their hearts to their family, whether it’s past, present or future.”
“It’s just incredible when you look at [the fact] that 89% of these people have never been to RootsTech before,” added Jen Allen, director of RootsTech.
Actor Erick Avari, a keynote speaker at RootsTech, admits that he is also new to the growing family history trend.
“What was interesting about my experience with RootsTech is that I didn’t think I was a candidate at all,” said Avari, who most recently was part of the cast of “The Chosen,” a television show on the life of Jesus Christ.
“For several reasons, which you’ll find, it turns out, I am not only a candidate to speak on this subject, but I’ve started to see more and more reasons why [it is important to connect with family],” he said.
“As one gets older … one feels that tug and that yearning to connect with your roots, and it just seems so natural and primal,” shared Avari.
“This is not just a genealogy conference,” explained Rockwood. “This is not designed for those that are interested in genealogy, although, [to] those that are going, this is their Disneyland. What this is really designed for: people that want to connect. This transcends political borders, it transcends oceans, it transcends race.”
“Now the magic of RootsTech goes beyond the three days of live and can be expanded to 365 days of on demand,” said Rockwood.
“What we are really creating now [is] this online, virtual learning library that will live on all year long,” said Allen. “We were not able to do that in an in-person event. We brought a few classes virtually, but now everything is recorded.”
Allen said participants will also be able to connect with exhibitors and other attendees through a chat feature.
Some well-known entertainers and sports figures are among this year’s keynote speakers who will share their family stories with the global audience. Senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are again participating in this year’s event.
RootsTech Connect keynote speakers include Erick Avari, Bruna Benites, bless4, Will Hopoate, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Francesco Lotoro, Diego Lugano, Sharon Leslie Morgan, Lorena Ochoa, Sunetra Sarker, Tita (Milton Queiroz da Paixão), Astrid Tuminez and Nick Vujicic.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Patricia Holland are the featured speakers at Family Discovery Day on February 27, 2021. The broadcast begins at noon (mountain standard time).
Presentations from over 1,000 other speakers and presenters will originate from locations around the world and will be available in 11 languages on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, YouTube, the Latter-day Saints Channel and other media. Watch any of the offerings live or view recorded broadcasts later on demand.
Companies and vendors from around the world are helping users make personal and family discoveries through an interactive, virtual expo hall experience. Users can see the latest in new product demonstrations in a virtual demo theater, get hands-on instruction and receive personal assistance.
Participants will be able to explore other cultures through the eyes of locals. Attendees from around the world have submitted personal videos depicting celebrations of their heritage with foods, local sights, cultural dances and other fun traditions and holiday celebrations. Special content is also planned for youth and young adults.
RootsTech began in 2011 to create a forum to unite innovators of family and family history-related technologies with potential audiences for those tech products and services. The first year drew 3,000 attendees. By 2020, the popular international event had grown to more than 25,000 in-person attendees and over 50,000 online viewers. Organizers attribute its success to the popularity of consumer DNA, new innovative technologies, a proliferation of mobile devices and exponential access to online historical records.
For more information, visit rootstech.org.