RootsTech, an annual virtual conference that rightfully bills itself as the world’s largest family history conference, is organized by FamilySearch (FS), a project of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
FS is an extensive database of records about millions of people in the US and many other countries used to create family trees and conduct genealogical research. Follow this link for more information about FS and Family Tree.
Why does the LDS support FS? Aside from being a place to share educational information about genealogy, used by LDS members and non-members alike, including yours truly, it’s also a place to gather genealogical records in order to perform religious ordinances for the dead. In other words, the religious imperative is to baptize people posthumously.
For those of us who are not LDS members and who conduct genealogical research for secular reasons, FS is a treasure trove of information – all at no charge.
One of the more interesting features of the RootsTech conference, which is free and open to anyone who registers online, is the View Relatives function. For example, as of this writing, I see that I have 45,541 relatives. The total number of participants is 323,270, which means that I’m related to 14% of them, at least on paper. As you can see above, I am currently the only “Ashwill” participating in this conference.
These relationships are based on family tree records not DNA, which means not all of them are correct. The more distant the relationship, the less likely is it to be accurate. Since so many of my ancestors emigrated to British Colonial America in the early to mid-17th century, however, there’s a likelihood that the percentage is in that statistical ballpark.
If you’re searching particular lines, it’s a useful way to reach out to distant cousins who might be able to share information. You can search by ancestors (Jacob Cooke III, paternal 6th great-grandfather), location (country or map), maternal/paternal, or name. After determining your relationship, e.g., paternal 4th cousin, maternal 5th cousin, and looking at your pedigree chart, which displays the line from you to them, including common ancestors, you can reach out to them via a messaging system.
Here’s a recent essay I wrote about the connection between ancestor worship in Viet Nam and genealogical research: A Vietnamese tradition inspires a genealogical journey (21.2.22). This 12-21 essay, published by CounterPunch+, is related: From New England to Vietnam: Settler Colonialism in Cross-Cultural Perspective. And, yes, many of my ancestors and distant cousins are LDS members. Going back to the early 17th century, they represent virtually every Protestant denomination and sect in the marketplace of religious affiliation that was British Colonial America and is the USA. In the early days, there are also a few Catholics, who were English aristocrats, sprinkled into the mix.
Shalom (שלום), MAA