Linda Clyde | Mar 1, 2018

Steve Rockwood Keynote Highlights Innovation and the Emotional Side of Family History

Steve Rockwood

The Emotional Side of Family History

FamilySearch International CEO, Steve Rockwood shared a powerful message at Wednesday’s evening keynote address, highlighting human emotion as the primary element that engages people with their family history.

This year RootsTech introduced a theme for the first time, “Connect. Belong,” of which Rockwood spoke of at length. Humans are born with an inherent need for connection and belonging. We are all connected, one big human family, and when we recognize that truth, “we treat each other differently,” said Rockwood. He then posed two questions for consideration, “What if every class in school, workgroup or congregation found their family connections to each other? What if before every political race and sporting event, the opponents found out how they were related before the opening debate, kick-off, tip-off or face-off?” Certainly, the likelihood of treating each other with greater love and respect would increase dramatically.

Rockwood spoke of a simple cycle that occurs when we start to make connections to our family and our heritage, these discoveries cause us to feel something. These positive emotions then drive us to gather and preserve our family memories so that connection and belonging can be passed on to the next generation which will help inoculate them “with resiliency to better withstand the epidemics of violence, addictions, pornography and loneliness.” Discovery experiences unite us with our families and even help healing occur where it is needed. He also noted that these experiences are most powerful when experienced on a personal level, “one by one.”

Exciting Innovation and Industry Partnerships on the Horizon

Innovation and the future of the industry were also prominent elements of Rockwood’s address. He mentioned that in just a few short years over 100 million individuals will have ordered a DNA kit and that the drive behind the purchase is always discovery, connection, and belonging.

He presented exciting innovative ideas connected to other industries, such as mapping, travel, and virtual reality. We already have Google Maps, but what would it be like if you could visit a street and experience what it was like to stroll along it in the year 1880? What if you could see what your ancestors saw, walk where they walked, eat what they ate, and even sleep where they slept? What future opportunities might be available for family history centers and genealogical societies? Countless opportunities to link the family history industry with other industries is sitting just on the horizon.

Gathering the Human Family—”It Matters”

Rockwood expressed his love of the family history industry and those involved with it calling it a “there you are” industry full of “there you are” people, an industry that promotes selflessness and taking note of others. “We all matter in this rich tapestry of the human family.” “Everyone deserves to be remembered,” he said. There is a great gathering movement underway, and “we are all gatherers.” Records and memories are being collected at an unprecedented rate, and while our involvement might initially stem from self-interest, it quickly evolves to love and concern for others.

“It matters,” said Rockwood, pointing out the tragedy that ⅓ of the world’s population is currently undocumented, but today’s innovations such as DNA and teaching computers to assist with indexing can help us gather individuals, their stories, and reconstitute communities, families, and the human family tree. “Imagine what we will be able to do when the written records of mankind and the genetic records of mankind are unlocked, searchable and connected.”

Linda Clyde

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