It's the weekend before RootsTech, and all through the night, I've been trying to catch up with one particular connection tool available to conference participants: Relatives at RootsTech. Sure, there's a lot to be done to prepare for the beginning of the event when RootsTech opens this coming March 3 - 5. I certainly want to set up my RootsTech play list, for instance; even though there are nine hundred new sessions available, it seems like the fifteen hundred sessions from last year will still be available through the FamilySearch Learning Library. That alone will take some planning to navigate.
The theme for this year's free online conference is Choose Connection, and what better way to convert that sentiment into action than to participate in Relatives at RootsTech. That means, of course, signing up for a free FamilySearch.org account, if you don't have one (done). That also means registering for the conference (check) and clicking the statement indicating I specifically wish to participate in Relatives at RootsTech.
Those are all simple steps, of course. Far easier to accomplish than the next hurdle: making sure my ancestors' presence is included in the FamilySearch tree. For those who have been active participants in the universal tree build at FamilySearch, that task is as done as it ever will be, but for someone like me, who prefers the curmudgeonly plodding way of building my own tree in the solitude of my own subscription at Ancestry.com, it's not like I can simply upload my twenty-something thousand relatives onto FamilySearch via a GEDcom. Oh, no, think again: it means going step by step, adding my favorite—or at least most desperately sought—ancestors onto their tree, one by one.
I did, however, persevere. I now have a token presence on the FamilySearch.org tree. Mainly, the lines I input represent my paternal grandparents' no-longer-mysterious Polish roots, and a few of my mother's lines. And you know what? In doing that process, I was amazed to discover that several of those individuals turned out to not have any matches already resident in the database—which means I contributed new information that, hopefully, others will be able to find and, perhaps, build onto from that stub of my building project.
Face it: every new bit of information we provide can, in turn, help someone else with their brick wall ancestor. Since RootsTech is such an international event, of course I have a selfish motive: that someone from Poland might discover some of the ancestral entries I included and be able to build out the line to current descendants halfway across the world from me. If those connected relatives happen to be able to speak English, connecting through chat at RootsTech might mean I can reach out to a long-lost distant cousin whose ancestors might have always wondered what became of my great-grandparents after they left their homeland. An exciting thought.
Apparently, I've already amassed over nineteen thousand "relatives" who have signed up for Relatives at RootsTech this year. Not a one of them is from Poland—so far—but I can keep hoping. Most are from the United States. While there are plenty of Broyles, Taliaferro, and Tilson connections I've spotted, a match is only as good as the data it is drawn from, and some of those ancestors "in common" are names I've never encountered before. I'll wait until I see the proof on paper before I become ecstatic about some of those sixth cousins (or beyond), but I've spotted a few third cousins of interest—yet another way to look at a theme like "Choose Connection" for a fun application like this.