Neeley Ops

RootsTech 2016 Keynotes

Yesterday, I attended RootsTech 2016. It’s a family history conference, sponsored by the major online family history sites such as, and a long list of others. My church passionately encourages us to be involved in family history work. I enjoyed it! The keynotes were great, and I learned about a ton of new stuff.

Have you ever heard of Story Corps? They set up a booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, where you and another person can sit down for a forty minute interview, where YOU are the interviewer. Before the interview they help you prepare great questions. They record the whole thing, and then send it to the Library of Congress, where it will be kept FOREVER. This was so successful that they started travelling the country. To top that, last year they won a million dollar award from TED, which they used to create a mobile app. Right now, today, you can record an interview with an important person in your life and send it to the library of congress. From your phone.

Of course none of this matters without people willing to tell their stories. Story Corps has the largest collection of human voice ever recorded. They have more than 62,000 interviews to date. We heard segments from several very touching interviews during the keynote address from Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ founder. He said the most common thing their staff has learned over the years is that ‘people are basically good’. It is so easy to forget this! In one story, we heard a woman interview the young man who had shot and killed her only son during a gang fight when the two were teenagers. He had been in prison for twelve years when she first came to talk to him. Over time they developed an incredible relationship, and they are now next-door neighbors. Powerful, powerful stuff. Needless to say, I’ve found a new podcast to listen to.

The other major keynote was from the couple behind, a family’s blog. This encoraged me that writing down my thoughts is worthwhile, and sharing them is an opportunity to be a voice for good in the world. It’s an interesting phenomenon. I have a hard time going next door to talk with my new neighbors, but I can sit at my kitchen table and write something for anyone in the world to see. Writing this makes me simultaneously sad about my failures and excited that perhaps I really can overcome them. After all, if I can handle a world stage, what’s so hard about meeting the people next door? What a crazy, backwards way to think–and yet that’s me.