Monday, February 15, 2016


Seeking Identity  and Sharing our Stories- A Rootstech Message

Josh and Naomi Davis of the Love Taza Blog. Keynote Speakers at Rootstech16

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we do our Family History? What  inspires our curiosity about the Past? What motivates us to collect names of People from the past and the Places they came from?  The PAST, the PEOPLE and the PLACES we research are intrinsic components of our identity.

Our identity - who we are - is integral to how we perceive ourselves, as individuals, as members of families, communities, groups, cultures, nations and the ever increasingly globalized world in which we live. 
(See my past blog post)

I left the 2016 Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City feeling that something momentous had occurred. People from 37 countries around the globe had come together to learn about researching family history, to share family stories, and to be a part of a global gathering of genealogists. To me, the greatness of Rootstech is that in much the same way that the Olympic Games does, this conference brings people together in a way that transcends common barriers in our global society.  Race, language and nationality infuse into a single  melting pot of  friendship and commonality at Rootstech. We are all as one, seeking our roots, learning new methods to research  and bonded in friendship by our collateral purpose. 

Rootstech Registration Image SharnWhite 

This year's keynote speakers impressed upon the Rootstech audience a compelling message - the importance of sharing stories. As a genealogy blogger, sharing stories about my ancestors is something I do regularly, however, at Rootstech this year, I realised that my own story is equally important to preserve for the future as are the tales of my forebears.  

Josh and Naomi Davis share their family stories through the blog Love Taza

Fortunate is a family historian who has been left journals or letters which bear witness to the stories of their ancestors' lives. After all, that is what family historians are seeking.  Understanding as much as possible about our ancestors' daily lives adds rich texture  and colour to their stories. For the most part it is not difficult to to compile a timeline of events in our ancestors' lives. Names and dates are important evidence of the existence of ancestors but it is the stories behind those facts that make family history come to life and feel real to us. Without stories passed down from one generation to the next, we can only surmise how our forebears felt on the important dates which marked their lives.

Naomi Davis "Imagine if Grandpa had Instagram?" Image SharnWhite

Unless an ancestor left us a diary or letters and such precious keepers of memories have survived the passage of time, his or her stories of our past are lost forever. As family historians we can try to piece stories of ancestors together as best we can, through photographs and through understanding the social and local history of the places where they lived. How much more meaningful would it be though, if we could hear our ancestors' tales from their own mouths or pens. Understanding what shaped the lives of our ancestors allows us to understand the  identity which we have inherited from family in the past.

Paula Williams Madison sharing her story of seeking her identity at Rootstech
We are privileged to live in an age of technology. Whether our stories are the ones we unearth about ancestors, or our own stories which we choose to pass on to future generations, we live in an age where technology has made the sharing and preserving stories so simple. 

Geneabloggers at Rootstech16 ... Blogging is a way of sharing stories

Social media allows us to instantly share moments of our lives with our families or a worldwide audience. How wonderful would it be if we could know how our ancestors really felt about momentous events in their lives such as when they undertook a long voyage to make a new life in a new land. Today we use twitter, google plus, facebook, instagram, pinterest and a host of other social media platforms to share moments of our lives with our families, friends and even with a worldwide audience if we so choose.

David Isay of StoryCorps, speaking about sharing stories 

In 2014, I took part in a blogging meme which was called The Book of Me. This 52 week blogging event was written in response to given prompts about my own life and included topics such as schools I attended, homes I lived in and so on. I completed only a small part of the challenge, however,  since attending Rootstech recently, I have been inspired to to revive The Book of Me, and to complete it. I grew up fascinated by the stories that my Irish grandmother told me about her childhood on a flax farm in Brookend, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and I do not want to miss the opportunity to leave my own stories and my own legacy.

My grandmother from County Tyrone... ( I wish I knew the story behind that beautiful hat!)

Sometimes as family historians, we become so engaged in searching for stories from the past that we forget the significance of our own lives to the future. I will continue to write and share the stories I discover about my forebears, however, Rootstech has reminded me to set some time aside for sharing my own stories. My anecdotes may be left quietly for my family or I may decide to share some of my stories with a wider audience. I have not yet decided the how of my sharing, but I have learned that I have a legacy to keave in the rich and colourful stories of my own life.


  1. I do hope you share some of those stories with your friends.

  2. Well said. I am lucky enough to have a copy of the diary that my grandmother's teenage sister wrote when they emigrated to Australia on the Merkara in 1887. The diary (which I donated to the John Oxley Library) covers the day they left home (northern England), three days in London, the voyage itself, and their first days in Queensland. It's interesting to read about it from a teenage rather than an adult perspective.

    1. You are indeed fortunate Judy! I wish more of my ancestors had left diaries.

  3. I forgot to say that I also have copies of a letter (dated 1879) from my gr-gr-grandfather William HUDSON (Stockton-on-Tees, Co.Durham, England) to his son Joseph, and a letter (1901) from his son George describing life in Queensland. They both came from a very distant relative in Britain. I put a lot of effort into researching siblings and tracing their living descendants, and it was certainly worthwhile!

  4. Sharn, it's interesting to read what others get out of RootsTech. So much to take in and hard to decide which areas to follow up first. Fran

  5. I have listed this blog in Interesting Blogs at
    Thanks, Sharn