DSC_0242I know it’s hard to believe that anything could beat yesterday’s FGS/RootsTech, but today did, bringing one great experience after another as if we were on top of the world.

First up, D. Joshua Taylor, the man of the hour. You know him best for his work on PBS’ “Genealogy Roadshow.”  Josh is also President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and national conference co-chair of this FGS 2015 Conference. Yesterday, he represented FGS and the “Genealogy Roadshow.” Today he wore a different hat, the one for Find My Past.

Taylor described the company’s goals for data, accessibility, and partnerships. For data, they currently host ten million pages of British and Irish newspapers, plus the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), and 26 million new U.S. records. Special today, they are adding a new record set each hour. Their accessibility goals are to make family history available to anyone anywhere. As for partnerships, the company has formed partnerships with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, FamilyTree DNA, and Story Press. Story Press is a tool for individuals to make their own “Who Do You Think Your Are” episode.

Next, Laura W. Bush stepped on the stage. No introduction was needed for this champion of education, health care, and human rights. Putting her political position aside, she reflected on times in and after the White House, how her agenda going into the presidency was that every child should learn to read, of how the presidential agenda changed with the onslaught of terrorists on 911.  Expressing sorrow for those who lost their lives on that terrible day, Mrs. Bush counseled, “All we know we have is now,” and reminded us to cherish the relationships we currently have.

She said criticisms don’t bother her because she knows who she is and she knows who George is. She quoted President Bush saying, “We’re the big ship America. We may lean to the left or right, but we stay the course.” She stated, “The job of any American, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is to take a stand and make a difference.”

Whether as a school teacher, librarian, or First Lady, Laura Bush has shown us how to take a stand and make a difference.  I was touched by her whole demeanor and grace.

After Laura Bush’s speech, Jenna (Bush) Hager, interviewed her mother. Jenna has followed in her parents’ footsteps in serving those less fortunate. She worked as an intern for UNICEF in Latin America and chairs its Next Generation Initiative. She has written the best seller, Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope, based on a young HIV positive, single mother she met while interning with UNICEF. Jenna was the perfect person to have this conversation with her mother, because she knew the questions to ask that would help her mother to open up. It was fun to see the relationship this mother and daughter share, comfortable with each other, laughing at the same events, and anticipating each other’s sentences. 2015-02-13 10.34.03

After the keynote session, RootsTech sponsored the first “Innovator Showdown.” This was the place to see the latest cutting edge technology in the field of genealogy with innovators vying for $25,000 in prizes. It kind of felt like the television game show, “The Price is Right.” As part of the audience, we were coached how to vote with our cell phones, did a few practice runs, and a some prizes were randomly given away including an iPad!

The field had been whittled down to four contestants for today’s competition. Each contestant had five minutes to present their product, then the judges questioned the innovator for five minutes. The judges included A. J. Jacobs, Amy Rees Anderson, Curt Witcher, Dan Mano, and Jay Verkler.

The innovators included:

And the winners picked by the judges were:

  • 1st Place, $10,000: “StoryWorth”
  • 2nd Place, $7,000: “Argus Search”
  • 3rd Place, $3,000: “GenMarketplace”
  • The People’s Choice Award, $5,000: “StoryWorth.”

I spoke with many vendors in the exhibit hall. Today, I’d like to tell you about Family.me. This is a site designed to help social media meet genealogy, kind of like a separate Facebook page for just your family. Harrison Tang, the Family.me chief executive officer has said, “We created Family.me to give all members of the family a game-like, mobile-friendly and easy way to share both past and present memories.”

Key features of the website include a tree builder, the ability to invite family members to participate, memory sharing, record searching, and a mobile design. Family.me has partnered with FamilySearch and ties into their historical record and collaborative tools.

Subscriptions are free to the first 10,000 people to sign up, so head over to the Family.me site and get in for free while you can!

This evening featured a cultural night, “Celebrate Your Heritage,” filling the exhibit hall with a Bagpipe Parade, a Country Western Band, an Asian Dance Troop, immigrants in traditional colonial attire, etc.

The sound of the bagpipes transported me to Scotland, though I’ve never been there. It was another top of the world experience. After all, I have the McLeod DNA!