RootsTech Connect 2021!

It’s February which means RootsTech! This year RootsTech has gone virtual and is also completely free. From the comfort of your home, anywhere in the world, you can enjoy hundreds of inspirational classes from speakers around the globe, and inspiring messages from celebrity keynote speakers. There will be a virtual marketplace where you can see the latest innovations, or get help via video or live chat. Watch and celebrate the world’s cultures with demonstrations on homeland cuisine, music, and other activities. And the best part …. all the recordings will be on demand and available for a whole year!

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers are an integral part of RootsTech! Now you may be wondering what someone in the sports world, or a musician, has to do with genealogy or family history. Over the years, some of my favorite keynote speakers have been people who had nothing to do with professional genealogy but who shared inspirational, uplifting messages on hope, overcoming life’s challenges, resilience, fortitude, faith, family, and connection. This year at RootsTech Connect 2021 will be no different. Check out the keynote speaker lineup here.

Another equally integral part of RootsTech has always been the entertainment and I am thrilled to see one of my favorite South African bands, 5-time Grammy Award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo joining the lineup of keynote speakers/entertainers. Here’s a sneak peak of Ladysmith Black Mambazo in action:


This year classes will be shorter in length, about 20 minutes. While this was challenging for the speakers, it will be great for the attendees. It’s a lot easier to watch something for 20 minutes and really take it in, than for an hour. As I am a presenter this year, I have had a sneak peak of the incredible energy, expertise and information that the speakers will be bringing to you! The diversity of speakers, languages, topics, and countries represented is simply astounding. Although the schedule of classes is not out yet, I do know that you will be able to create your own personalized playlists. And remember, everything is on demand, meaning you can watch a class when it fits into your schedule.

For a sneak peek of the website, and more info on all things RootsTech Connect 2021, check out this informative video.

Relatives at RootsTech

Have you signed up for Relatives at RootsTech? This is a fun way to see who your cousins are that are also attending RootsTech Connect 2021. A couple of things to note:

  • It works with the FamilySearch Family Tree, comparing 10 generations of your tree with 10 generations of the other attendee’s trees.
  • You need to opt in to the experience. Attendees can sign up for RootsTech and access some of the classes and sessions without choosing to join Relatives at RootsTech.
  • It’s an in conference experience so for now you’ll only see the number of family members who have signed up. Once the conference starts, you’ll be able to see the relationship and send that person a message, if you like.
  • As well as showing you your relatives, it will also show you how many people with your surname are registered to attend, and where they are from.
  • but remember, it’s only as good as the information on Family Tree! An incorrect link somewhere on the tree and you will get connections to people that you really aren’t connected to.

So far I have 159 relatives signed up, 362 Thomas’s, and 1 McNelly (me!).

I hope you’ll join me and thousands of other attendee’s for RootsTech Connect 2021! And if you haven’t registered yet, there is still time. And if you’re interested in South African research, these are the 3 classes I will be teaching:

  • Getting Started in South African Research: The class will explore a very brief history of South Africa and how historical events shaped the records now available. We’ll cover the major record types such as church records, estate files, cemetery records and military records. This is a good general overview for someone who has not worked with South African records before, or someone wanting to brush up their knowledge of record types.
  • My Ancestor in South Africa: This class will explore the records of enslaved persons brought to South Africa in the 1700s-1800s, as well as the various assisted emigration schemes which many settlers took advantage of, including those from the British Isles, Germany, and Norway.
  • Online Sources for South African Research: The class will look at online sources, discuss the National Archives database and how it works in conjunction with FamilySearch to locate original images of records. We will look at major record collections at various online repositories including libraries and archives. The class will also look at resources for adding historical and social context to South African research. 

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