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Family history enthusiasts from all over the world will meet in Salt Lake City this week for RootsTech 2017, the world’s largest family history conference. The annual event will be held February 8–11 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. This year’s theme explores the cultures and traditions that bring families together.
“I think family is a natural affection,” said Elder Bradley D. Foster, executive director of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It crosses all the lines, and everybody wants to know who they were made of and who they were, who they came from.”
Technology has made it possible to make family records and information more popular and accessible to people interested in their genealogy. Attendees will also learn how to collect, preserve and share their family stories.
“Really the first and best thing you can do is just have simple, low-tech, heart-to-heart conversations. But what technology has done has allowed [us] to have those conversations take place literally all over the world,” said Stephen Rockwood, managing director of the Church’s Family History Department and the CEO of FamilySearch International.
Rockwood and author and top 10 business thought leader Liz Wiseman will be keynote speakers on Wednesday.
A host of celebrity keynote speakers and activities are planned for RootsTech, including “Property Brothers” stars Jonathan and Drew Scott, “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, author and actor LeVar Burton and others.
Family has always been important for the Scott brothers, who made their careers buying and renovating homes. They will be among the keynote speakers Thursday.
Thursday night at the Conference Center, a concert titled “Music, It Runs in the Family” will feature the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It will include special guest soloist Dallyn Vail Bayles and music and stories by Rodgers and Hammerstein with narration by Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Tickets are available online at lds.org/events.
Burton, known for his roles in “Roots,” “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” will participate with a group of speakers taking part in Friday’s African heritage celebration.
Also on Friday, finalists competing in the Innovator Showdown will present their family history technology products before a panel of judges and a live audience in hopes of winning prizes.
Saturday’s free Family Discovery Day is one of the most popular days of the conference. Events are planned for members of the Church. Speakers will include President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his wife, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, and members of their family.
In addition, genetic genealogist CeCe Moore and Valastro, a fourth-generation baker and star of “Cake Boss,” will be on stage. As part of Valastro’s visit, there will be a cake decorating competition.
More than 200 classes are scheduled for this year’s conference for all levels of experience. Hundreds of exhibitors will also be there to share the latest products available for family researchers and historians.
More than 20,000 people are expected to attend RootsTech this year. Thousands of others will view the conference online. Organizers hope to reach millions more through local RootsTech Family Discovery Day events worldwide after the conference.