Kirby Heybourne shares the RootsTech theme.

Tech took a front seat at RootsTech this year, specifically, generative AI. But at the end of the day, the “root” of RootsTech was all about remembering. Coincidentally, “Remember” was the theme of RootsTech 2024. The beauty of it was that the power to “remember” our ancestors – both past and people living today, can only be enhanced by Artificial Intelligence, if we are careful.

The idea of Remember Strikes a Chord

Things got exciting surrounding RootsTech several months ago when RootsTech releases a touching video about how people feel they will be remembered. People loved it and it got them interested in the idea of remembering. For us at Evalogue.Life, this also meant something considering our passion for oral history interviews and capturing memories any way we can. This year, RootsTech picked up where the tender video left off. The video was also shown a couple of different times – before the first keynote address on the opening day of RootsTech and parts were also shown at the media dinner the night before RootsTech kicked off. It helped all of us feel the power of remembering and why we wanted to be at RootsTech – to help ourselves and others remember. Kirby Heybourne the official “host” of RootsTech got us all thinking at the media dinner as he shared family photos and a bit of his “why.” “We are all full of beautiful attributes…with remembering,” he shared. After the video about remembering aired just before the first keynote address FamilySearch Managing Director Steve Rockwood asked the large crowd, “Who do you know that needs to feel what you feel right now?” Lights went on across the room as people started thinking of people whose stories they have captured.

Building Family History One Brick at a Time

Legos also took the stage at RootsTech this year. Steve Rockwood shared a family tree lego and told all of us at the media dinner how Lego had a contest asking people to share things they valued. The winning Lego was a family tree. The idea of building family histories like building Legos became a theme of sorts. On the first day of RootsTech all attendees at the first keynote were able to grab a lego brick after Rockwood told us that we are builders of our family history. And we know he is correct about that. He noted that RootsTech is here to help people build their family history. “Let us help you build what you need. Have fun and play well (this weekend),” Rockwood said.

We loved all the “swag” we received at RootsTech this year. A small lego brick was included which really went along with the theme.

Generative AI is the Future – Proceed with Caution

As mentioned before, there was much talk about AI and where it fits with family history. Rockwood compared the wave of excitement to that of DNA about 7 years ago. DNA is still a hot topic and the technology behind DNA has changed the face of family history work. But now,. generative AI is next. It is big and it is already changing family history work, but us family history lovers and story tellers must proceed with caution. Both Rockwood and Kevin Hamilton Executive Director of the Family History Department for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints told a small group of media representatives that the future of generative AI is exciting and that FamilySearch is carefully stepping into the world of AI. “We know there needs to be guide rails and the importance of discernment,” Hamilton said. “We have those in place,” he added. This was comforting news for us Evalogue.Life as we are also carefully stepping into the realm. As we have been researching how to handle this in our work we are finding the best way to proceed is with caution and to use generative AI to enhance our work, but not do our work. This seems to be the same stance as many fellow geneologists. The future is exciting for sure and we can’t wait to see where it goes.

Keynotes Did Not Disappoint

This year I was more unclear about the keynotes and what messages they would share, but they did not disappoint and I learned much! Comedian Henry Cho had me laughing as he shared much about his Korean family living in Tennessee. He talked about the challenges and language barriers his parents experienced and also how he handled it. When we had the chance to chat after his presentation, it was refreshing to hear how keeping his act clean over the years has blessed his family. He talked about how putting his family first never let him down. For him, that is his story and I left his interview with a smile and my mind set to keep that a goal in my own life.

I was awed by Lynne Jackson, great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott. She easily shared how a prompting from her Heavenly Father urged her to learn more and share more about her great-great-grandfather. She didn’t hesitate and took the nudge, founding the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation where she has worked to help people remember him and all he did. In the process she has worked with the Supreme Court Justice he voted against him and his family have been supportive of Jackson’s cause as well as the family who “owned” Dred Scott’s family as slaves. We all sat awestruck and she shared her journey of discovery and humility through the process. I was further impressed as I was able to interview her following her address. She talked about the value of service and family and how important it has been to her to share her stories with her family and urging all of us to do the same. She also talked about the power of forgiveness. “People can say they are sorry but I don’t forgive them, what does it do to harbor that anger. Forgiveness and acceptance is important,” she said.

Lynne Jackson shared a powerful story at RootsTech this.
It was a pleasure to meet and interview Henry Cho this year at RootsTech.

The Personal Side of RootsTech

I can’t let my RootsTech re-cap pass without sharing my own experience. I had the great chance to teach two classes this year – one with my husband, Mat – “What’s the History in Your Family History” and another with Rhonda, about writing our stories and the stories of our ancestors. Both experiences were exceptional. Although last year was our first year in person after the global pandemic, it still felt new and a bit awkward. This year all of that was gone. It felt like pre pandemic days 100 percent! Friday afternoon as Rhonda and my class filled every seat it almost brought me to tears. It was gratifying to see people have such a deep desire to write their stories (and their ancestors) that they took time to come to a class to learn more about it. I loved watching people scribble notes during both classes and snap photos of our slides so they could remember important truths to think about later. I loved in my husband and my class when I asked the group to think of three historical events they had seen and write about them they didn’t hesitate to write their thoughts and then many came up and shared those with me afterward. It was touching to hear people wonder how to address sensitive topics and how they can make that happen in a soft and tender way. It made me remember why I love this work so much and it made me remember my own ancestors and to stop being one of the cobblers children and not addressing my own family history work. There is room for my work and work for others.

Rhonda and I got to present to a full class this year at RootsTech. What a joy to remember!

In the weeks to come I look forward to exploring the online side of RootsTech and finding more information and learning more about how to tackle my own questions and improve my work.

Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on,, Meridian Magazine, and She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

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