FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference Recap

FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference Recap

RootsTech logoThe Federation of Genealogical Societies/RootsTech combined conference was held February 11-14 in Salt Lake City, and was the largest genealogical conference ever in the U.S. with over 23,000 attendees.  This year was the first time the separate FGS and RootsTech conferences were held together, which enabled a huge expo hall with vendors covering many aspects of genealogy, storytelling, photos, games, and historic preservation.

The FGS conference had a librarian’s day and society day before the main conference, and RootsTech held an Innovator’s Summit for tech developers who work to build software or apps for genealogists. The core FGS conference sessions mainly focused on genealogical methodology and records, while the RootsTech sessions covered technology, software and online searching or connecting with family.

FGS2015 SpeakerBadgeI was honored to deliver one of the FGS keynotes and three other lectures during the conference:

  • Society Day Keynote:  New Growth
  • Communicating on a Shoestring Budget:  Cost-Effective Solutions for Societies
  • Using Constant Contact’s Toolkit for Society Communications
  • Beyond the Census:  The Non-Population Schedules

RootsTech is sponsored by FamilySearch, so it is no wonder that many of the new companies or developers who debuted their apps were certified partners of FamilySearch. Most of these apps provided extended functionality or unique views of the FamilySearch Family Tree, making it more apparent where gaps in research or possible errors exist.

FamilySearch logoSeveral of these newer Family Tree apps include:

  • KinPoint – Mainly a research aid by use of color-coded dots, that provides error notifications, missing records, hints, timelines, photos, and the ability to explore ancestors’ occupations or countries of origin
  • RootsMapper – Plots the birth location and migration paths of ancestors with lines on a Google Map for up to 10 generations
  • Puzzilla –  A descendant and ancestor viewer that uses color-coded dots to diagram a 360-degree view of a family tree, visually indicating where additional research could be done at end-of-line locations on the tree
  • TreeSeek –  The ability to print decorative charts directly from Family Tree or via GEDCOM file, including fun charts like popular male or female name clouds from your own tree
  • RecordSeek – A bookmarklet app that makes creating source citations easy by saving website links with genealogy documentation directly to Family Tree or into a “source box” to review later

In order to use these apps, an individual needs to have a free FamilySearch username and password to access the features, and should build out a few generations on the Family Tree if they aren’t already there. Some apps also offer additional premium features for a modest subscription price. After seeing the features of these apps, I had an “a-ha” moment that I really needed to build out more branches on the Family Tree so I wouldn’t miss the analysis benefits these tools can offer.

One new company named MooseRoots provides free ad-supported “interactive data visualizations” of historical records and trends to such things as demographics and name popularity. Searching for the name Rufus reveals that its most popular year was 1880 when it was the 88th most common baby name—not surprisingly, my great-grandfather was given that name in 1881. Searching for a 1920 census record of one of my ancestors allowed me to drill down into statistics from the county where he lived, providing insight on such things like racial and urban/rural composition of the county, literacy rates, and historical facts from that decade placed into the context of my ancestor’s life. Clicking around on this site and seeing various charts, graphs and statistics was fun, and revealed social context that can help enhance the story of an ancestor’s life.

Another new company named HistoryLines debuted in beta at the demo theater, and just recently went live last week. This company has a simple “discover-build-share” model. Based on a date and place, discover how life was for an ancestor, including education, clothing styles and cultural influences in his or her region. Build upon this base story by adding personal events, stories and memories to the historical timeline. Then finally, share the ancestor’s story in a variety of online platforms or in printed copies that can be handed out at a family gathering. This company is one of several that is using historical context to enhance our understanding of what it was like for our ancestors; this context is what aids us in appropriately interpreting the records and clues we locate so that we draw correct conclusions from them and can write a fuller story of their lives.

Last, on the fun side, I picked up a couple sets of The Game of Genealogy. This board game resembles the game of Clue, but is adapted for genealogy where you visit courthouses, cemeteries or archives to gain clues or points and “discover” more ancestors. The game made a fun family activity while on a recent visit with relatives, and could also be used at society game nights or family reunions.

The FGS/RootsTech conference offered many opportunities to learn, whether in the classroom sessions, computer labs, or when wandering the various demos in the expo hall. If you have not been to a large genealogical conference, consider attending one—you may be pleasantly surprised at all you can learn!

RootsTech 2016 will be held in Salt Lake City February 3-6. FGS 2016 will be held in Springfield, Illinois August 31 to September 3.  I hope to see you there!

Deena Coutant & Jen Baldwin

Deena Coutant & Jen Baldwin before FGS Society Day keynote 11 February 2015. Photo by J Paul Hawthorne.


Save Your Photos Day Press Release

Save Your Photos Day Press Release

SaveYourPhotosDay Logo

Learn How to Protect Photos Before a Disaster Strikes
One Year after the 2013 Flood, Colorado Save Your Photo Alliance Members Host
Save Your Photos Day – Saturday, September 27th


For immediate release                                                                                                            August 19, 2014

Now that it is summer and the sun is shining, most people are not thinking about planning for the next disaster in Colorado. However, almost a year after the 1,000-Year Flood, it is a great time to consider how you can protect one of your most treasured assets: your photos, photo albums and other memorabilia.

SaveYourPhotosAlliance LogoIn honor of the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Colorado flood, the same organizations that came together to rescue more than 20,000 flood-damaged photos and over 240 videos & films, are now co-sponsoring Save Your Photos Day. We’re planning to help hundreds of thousands of people save their photos in one day! This international event is organized by the Save Your Photo Alliance, and will promote Save Your Photos Day events happening all over the world.  Events will include presentations and hands-on workshops on collecting, organizing, and safeguarding photos, documents, videos, and other memorabilia for current enjoyment, as well as for generations that follow. Presentations will also provide information on how to prepare for, and hopefully prevent, an unexpected loss from large and small accidents, fire, wind, and water.

Colorado members of the Save Your Photos Alliance will be hosting two events on Saturday, September 27th, one in Boulder and one in Lone Tree. The events will include free, educational workshops in morning and afternoon sessions shown below. FREE photo scanning (up to 25 loose prints per participant) is being offered on-site, 10:00 to 4:00 at both locations.

Each of the host organizations – Couragent, maker of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, Memories to Digital, DigiDeena Consulting and Picture This Organized – has extensive experience working with photos. Additionally, Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Memories to Digital owner Gwen Scherer, and Deena Coutant of DigiDeena Consulting have experience with rescuing photos and other media in a disaster situation. The three business leaders worked together to organize a 6 location, 80+ volunteer photo rescue effort during the 2013 Colorado flood. Nuttall was also instrumental in helping rescue photos damaged in Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The most important thing is to get the word out so people can take action to prepare their memories today before a disaster strikes,” says Gwen Scherer. “Many of these priceless items can be preserved with a little work in advance, and we’re here to help.” Deena Coutant adds, “The planning and organizing that goes into these preservation activities actually allows people to enjoy their photos and other memorabilia in the process of preparing the preservation plan—it’s a win-win.”

The two host locations of the Denver-area Save Your Photos Day events are:

  • Memories to Digital – Boulder: 2525 Arapahoe Ave in the Village Shopping Center near McGuckin Hardware
  • Memories to Digital – Lone Tree: 8481 S. Yosemite in the Home Depot shopping center


Both locations will offer the same, free presentations and workshops, with both morning and afternoon sessions:

  • 10:30a and 1:30p      Why Save Your Photos? (Save Your Photos Day intro)
  • 10:45a and 1:45p       Organizing Photos for Digitization
  • 11:00a and 2:00p      Storing & Preserving Photos
  • 11:15a and 2:15p        Scanning Options and Best Practices
  • 11:30a and 2:30p       Backing-Up and Cloud Storage Options
  • 11:45a and 2:45p       Emergency Readiness
  • 12:00p and 3:00p     Organizing Digital Images


FREE Scanning Offer:

FREE scanning of up to 25 loose prints per participant will be offered on-site at both locations on a first-come, first-served basis.


About the Save Your Photos Alliance

The Save Your Photos Alliance’s goal is to prevent the unforeseen loss of valued family photo treasures by educating people on what to do BEFORE a disaster strikes.  The Save Your Photos Alliance is committed to being the world’s premier organization for the SAFEGUARDING, RECOVERING, RESTORING, and REUNITING of photos and treasured memorabilia before and after disasters occur. It strives to accomplish this through a unique blending of individual professional service providers, associations, government and not-for-profit organizations whose common pursuit is to educate, reach out and serve.

About Couragent and the Flip-Pal mobile scanner

Couragent is a Colorado corporation based in Fort Collins, and maker of The Flip-Pal mobile scanner.  The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is the world’s original color flatbed scanner for photos, cherished memorabilia, and documents that does not require a computer to operate. The patented flip-and-scan technology allows scanning photos in place without removing them from an album or frame. The included EasyStitch software quickly and automatically reassembles multiple scans into their larger original.  For more information, visit

About Memories to Digital

Memories to Digital is a local, Colorado company dedicated to helping people enjoy, share and preserve their photo, video, film and audio memories in a digital format. Started in 2003, Memories to Digital has stores in Boulder and Lone Tree with a full-range of services to digitize photo, film, video & audio media or create custom-edited productions from the digital memories. Visit or find Memories to Digital on Facebook.

About DigiDeena Consulting

Deena Coutant is a professional genealogist who uses modern technology to facilitate successful search, storage and sharing strategies for family historians in the digital age.  Her company, DigiDeena Consulting, educates the community through group training sessions and individual coaching, conducts client research and review, and also offers services related to photo organization and digitization.

About Picture This Organized

Picture This Organized is a Denver Metro based business uniquely qualified to help families manage their photo collections.  Photos, memorabilia and home media are viewed as a cherished glimpse into each family’s history.  Picture This Organized offers premium services for organizing & digitizing print and digital media, backup and photo sharing solutions, and custom designed photo books and slideshows.  Owner and founder, Julie Kessler, is a certified member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers and a board member of the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. For more information, visit or look for us on Facebook.


The Save Your Photos Alliance Member contacts for these events are:

Gwen Scherer
Memories to Digital

Deena Coutant
DigiDeena Consulting

Gordon Nuttall
Couragent, Inc.

Julie Kessler
Picture This Organized