Before my brain switches to holiday over-decorating mode, I wanted to post my RootsTech London review.
It was a blast!
But you probably want more details.
For me, the 4,825 paid attendees from 42 different countries pretty much declares it a success, particularly if you compare those stats to RootsTech’s inaugural conference in 2011.
In Relive RootsTech 2011, FamilySearch’s Paul Nauta reported that in its first year, the conference drew 3,000 in-person attendees from 42 states and 15 countries, along with 4,500 addition people tuning-in via the Internet. He called this “a runaway success.”
RootsTech London Review in more Detail
I doubt anyone on the RootsTech planning team would deny that there’s a learning curve putting on a conference this size in a new venue in a new country.
I give big kudos to the team for their grace in dealing with the glitches and keeping everything running smoothly.
Almost everything about RootsTech London was positive. It felt a lot like RootsTech Salt Lake City: Great atmosphere, diverse speakers on interesting topics, friendly volunteers, an awesome musical presentation, and well-appointed gathering spaces. (Read also RootsTech London versus RootsTech Salt Lake City.)
(You can still watch and listen to all the keynotes here.)
I found Dan Snow’s keynote particularly moving. Likewise, Keedena Cox was inspiring. I loved that FamilySearch helped her to discover her own family heritage.
That’s not to say Donny Osmond’s keynote wasn’t well received. It was. But having heard him speak in Salt Lake City, the other morning sessions made more of an impression on me.
Nick Barrett, who served as host, was underutilized. With his background in history and genealogy, articulateness, and humor, he had much more to offer.
The Venue: London ExCel
The ExCel’s physical layout, classroom technology, signage, and food vendors were great. However, I didn’t see any place where individuals with disabilities could rent a motorized wheelchair.
The logistical management of the two simultaneous conferences (RootsTech and Comic Con) created some inconveniences for RootsTech attendees. (To keep the two sets of conference goers separate, security personnel cordoned off many of the food vendors and forced RootsTech attendees to walk around the entire building rather than use an exit close to their hotels.)
Full disclosure: I suffer from Wanderlust. For me, the opportunity to travel with my husband, take in awesome scenery, and tread where my ancestors walked made going traveling to London for a genealogy conference an easy decision.
Without question, the organizers strove for inclusivity, and not just in ethnicities. As it does in the USA, FamilySearch made a concerted effort to reach out to the non-hard-core genealogists.
For instance, hoping to attract people from Comic Con, the exhibit hall was open to walk-ins, and Harry Potter’s and Luke Skywalker’s family trees were posted in the lobby. (Unfortunately, the Excel security team didn’t get the memo and wouldn’t let anyone in a costume near RootsTech.)
Donny Osmond was another example of that. The loooong line (and associated craziness) that snaked through the expo hall for his “meet and greet” proved that a lot of people were excited about his presence.
In my non-LDS opinion, Family Discovery Day went exceedingly well. Despite the emphasis on the LDS community, interesting classes continued, and the exhibit hall remained navigable. I didn’t feel like an outsider.
With the experience of London 2019 behind them, I believe any future European conferences would easily outpace the 2019 results. With 97% of FamilySearch patrons having European roots, the allure of visiting ancestral places while gaining European expertise could attract Europeans as North Americans.
In particular, it would be great to see more genealogical societies and small business vendors.
Will it be repeated? Regularly?
Organizers haven’t made that announcement. I gather there’s a lot to consider, including
- Profitability or required subsidization
- If the UK/Europe market has room for an annual (or bi-annual) RootsTech along with the already existing genealogy conferences
- Whether they have the staff in place to do this year after year
Personally, I would love for RootsTech to try a couple of other European cities. Edinburgh gets my vote.
Were you at #RootsTech London or #NotAtRootsTech London? What’s your RootsTech London review? Please comment below.
 “RootsTech London 2019 in Review,” FamilySearch.org, November 11, 2019, https://media.familysearch.org/rootstech-london-2019-in-review/.
 Ambassador interview with Jenn Allen, October 25, 2019.