RootsTech Survival Guide: Famous Faces

smiley-vector-illustration-star-face_7JUia-_LAside from the many genealogy rock stars that you’re likely to find giving presentations, teaching workshop, and wandering the expo hall, RootsTech has invited several other VIPs to present keynote addresses, perform in evening entertainment, and, well, to just attend the awesome conference.

Below is a list of some of these famous faces and RootsTech VIPs that you might find yourself rubbing elbows with, along with photos and bios, so you know who to ask for autographs.

AJ JacobAJ Jacobss

AJ Jacobs is a New York Times best-selling author, editor at large at  Esquire magazine, columnist for Mental Floss magazine, commentator on NPR, and most recently known in our genealogy world as the organizer of the Global Family Reunion, a massive undertaking which includes building a single family tree of all humankind.  His writing often follows his role of a “human guinea pig”, immersing himself in a topic for an extended period of time. His first book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World followed 18 months spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. His next, The Year of Living Biblically… details his attempt to follow all of the rules in the Bible – right down to his comical attempt at stoning.  This is AJ’s second time attending RootsTech.   (photo credit: Wikipedia)


Britain CoveyBritain Covey

Family Discovery Day, Youth & Family Session

Although some may identify Britain Covey with his grandfather, the well-known author Stephen Covey, Britain has made an impressive name for himself in the world of football, currently  a freshman playing for the Utah Utes. Covey, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received his mission call this week, and announced he will be serving a two year mission in Chile. He is expected to return to Utah at the start of the 2018 season. (photo credit: Steve C. Wilson, University of Utah)

Bruce Feiler

Keynote Speaker, Thursday, February 4.

Bruce Feiler is the author of 12 books, six of which were consectuvie New York Times nonfiction best-sellers. He regularly writes the “This Life” column in the Sunday New York Times, and is also the writer/presenter of the PBS miniseries Walking the Bible and  Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler. Bruce has written for The New Yorker and  Gourmet magazine, and is a frequent contributor to NPR, CNN and Fox News.  Bruce has written about families, and the importance of children knowing their family history, in his book The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More.  (photo credit


David Isay

Keynote Speaker, Friday, February 5

Best known as the founder of StoryCorps, David Isay is an American radio producer and recipient of numerous broadcasting awards and honors, as well as the author/editor of several books based on his public radio documentary work. StoryCorp is the largest single collection of voices in existence, having archived over 50,000 interviews with 100,000 participant, preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Participants are anyone and everyone, from notable figures to the guy next door. StoryCorp recording booths and events often appear in public places to collect the widest variety of stories possible. (photo from


Love-TazaJosh & Naomi Davis

Keynote Speakers, Friday, February 5.

Mommy blogger Naomi Davis is known for her wildly popular family blog,   The family blog follows Josh & Naomi’s life together, starting in 2009 just after their marriage, and continuing on to chronicle the births of their three children, and their lives, triumphs and challenges raising a family in New York City. (photo from


Doris-Kearns-GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin

Keynote Speaker, Friday, February 5

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She has written six New York Times best-sellers. Her most recent is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, (November, 2013). She received the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She appears as both consultant and guest for many television shows.  (photo from


Ken-Krogue-RootsTech-2016Ken Krogue

Keynote Speaker, Innovator Summit

Kenneth Krogue is the cofounder of, a platform which assists in sales, engagement tracking, forecasting, and hiring. He is a contributor for Forbes online, and shares his trade secrets on his blog


Lower LightsLowerLights

Closing Event, Saturday, February 6. 5:30 pm Hall D

The Lower Lights is a “gospel-folk collective” whose music leans towards everything from familiar Christian songbook hymns to Hank Williams tunes. Notice the word “collective”? Their debut album lists 42 members in the liner notes. Lower Lights is made up of musicians from several genres – indie, country, pop and gospel – all coming together to create a wonderful, rather unique sound. (photo from


Mike LeavittMikeLeavitt

Keynote speaker, Saturday, February 6

Michael Okerlund Leavitt served as the 14th Governor of Utah, an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and co-leader of the Prevention Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center. In 2012 he was an advisor to Mitt Romney during his campaign for president.  (photo from

Paula-Williams-MadisonPaula Williams Madison

Keynote Speaker, Thursday, February 4

Paula is the past Exectuvie Vice President of Diversity at NBCUniversal, and currently Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles based media consultancy company. Paula produced and is the subject of a documentary researching her Chinese and Jamaican roots, Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China. HarperCollins published a memoir of her journey in April 2015.  (photo from

 RenlundDale & Ruth Renlund

Family Discovery Day, Opening General Session

Dale Renlund is a cardiologist specializing in heart failure, and his wife Ruth is  a personal injury trial lawyer. An inspirational couple, Elder Renlund was recently called to be an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


 RyaCaleb-Chapman-Super-Bandn Innes & Crescent Super Band

Opening Social, Thursday, February 4, 6p

Created by Caleb Chapman, the Crescent Super Band is made up of 25 teen-aged musicians, combining vocalists with big band instruments: trumpets, sax, trombones, guitar, bass, piano, and drums. The group regularly perform publicly, playing their own modern arrangements of popular songs of the past and present.


Sheri L. DewSheriDew

Family Discovery Day

Sheri L. Dew is an American author, publisher, and president and chief executive officer of the Deseret Book Company. She is a well-known and inspiring leader particularly among the Latter-day Saint women’s community. (photo credit


Stephen-T.-Rockwood-ResizedSteve Rockwood

Keynote Speaker, Thursday, February 4

Stephen T. Rockwood is the managing director for the Family History Department and President/CEO of FamilySearch International. He previously served as director of the international division at FamilySearch. (photo from


RootsTech Survival Guide – The Innovator Showdown Semi-Finalists

As mentioned in the last installment of our RootsTech Survival Guide, The Innovator Showdown is the contest held for developers and entrepreneurs who have created a product that may be of benefit to genealogists. Of all of the submissions received, the field of entries has been narrowed down to twelve semi-finalists. These  semi-finalists entry projects will be on display at RootsTech in a special area so that attendees may review the submissions.

RootsTech attendees who choose to attend Friday’s Innovator Showdown on Friday of the conference week (10:30 a.m. in Hall D) will be able to vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice Award, and the first, second and third place winners will be chosen at that time by a panel of judges. The prizes total over $100,000!

While the twelve semi-finalists and their websites are posted on the RootsTech website,  we’ve taken some time to look into all twelve projects, and are providing a short summary of the entry projects for you below. Please do take the time to check out these sites when you can.  There are several that are operational already, and pretty fun to use too.

Here are the 12 Semi- Finalists, a link to their website, to their contest entry video, and a brief summary of what we learned about them from what is online.

AncestorCLoudAncestor Cloud

Website    |         Submission video
AncestorCloud is an online community of genealogy information “Seekers” and “Helpers”. It’s free to post and view requests. Seekers will offer a “reward” for the help they are requesting, and Ancestor Cloud takes a small portion of that reward.



Website    |         Submission video
A French site with the option of English, Famicity boasts “A unique place to write and share your story”. Build a family tree, and add documents, photos and stories to complete biographies.



Website       |         Submission video
In German, when translated using Google Translate (so pardon any oddities), GenSoup is “The European Online platform for your family History”. The site is an online platform which enables users to enter or import their family trees and to help them with their research. The first part of GenSoup is now in private beta and can be tried and tested at




Website       |         Submission video
A site promoting journaling not only for family history, but also for personal growth, with both private and sharing modes. The site offers many prompts in several areas, the ability to create many different journals, and ultimately the ability to create a book from your entries.


Kindex Kindex

Website       |         Submission video   |   Sneak Peak!
The Kindex web app helps users create a “living archive where anyone can contribute, index, and share family records”. Think of it as your own personal Family History library, including images of items and documents that you or your family members that you share with are in possession of or have access to. Kindex will be available for subscription purchase.



Legacy Scribes

Website       |         Submission video
Digitize your old journals, and they will be transcribed and made searchable. One-time fee for unlimited, permanent cloud storage.



Website       |         Submission video
A journaling website promoting collecting and sharing your own family photos, stories, daily activity and history, using a format similar to familiar social media outlets.



Studio (by Legacy Republic)

Website       |         Submission video

Studio is a portable photo album scanner. It provides scanning and photo restoration technology of albums and scrapbook pages without removing or disturbing the pages or photos, which can ruin the images.  that first makes a 3D laser image of old photos, then combines them with iphone photography, adjusts for paper and aging issues, enhances and auto-crops the final image, and overall mimic the human eye. Company “Legacy Maker Consultants” will operate the equipment for users.



Website       |         Submission video

Build your family health history in a cloud-based, family-tree type environment, with the ability to include medications, allergies, etc. Invite your family to participate to get a bigger picture of hereditary issues as well.



The Family History Guide

Website       |         Submission video

A free website, with step by step lessons on just about every aspect of family history research. Provides goals for learning; links to videos, articles, and records from FamilySearch, Ancestry, and other websites; as well as classroom materials for self-study or group instruction.


HistoryProjectThe History Project

Website       |         Submission video

Offers the ability to create your family story by creating a timeline. Each timeline is considered a project, and you can create multiple projects.  Events are moments on the timeline, and can contain images, audio, video or text documents that you upload or import from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox or elsewhere. You can invite others to collaborate, or work privately. Free if you want to create it yourself, but also offers a fee-based option if they help you create your timeline for you.




Website       |         Submission video

Automatically creates your timeline by adding milestones and/or photos you upload from your computer or Facebook, and allows you to write the stories that go with them. You can include your family members’ events as well. It’s an easy way to see your life in pictures and then fill in the stories as you have time.


What are your thoughts and impressions on these innovative genealogy/technology projects?