How RootsTech & Thomas W Jones Changed My Life


This post may read like a love letter to RootsTech & Tom Jones.  It kind of is.  But I’m really writing this for genealogists and family historians, from beginners to professionals, in the UK and Europe who haven’t bought tickets to RootsTech London.


Because once upon a time I was an avid genealogist who lived 54 miles from the Utah venue where RootsTech is held and I repeatedly missed the opportunity to attend RootsTech thinking it wasn’t worth the expense.

Boy was I wrong!

So sit back and let me tell you how RootsTech & Tom Jones changed my life.

But first, my genealogy backstory.

My genealogy interest began in childhood.  When I was 21, I started actively doing something about it.  In my mid-twenties I traveled from my home in Idaho and visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City for the first time.  I walked in with a pitifully small pedigree chart for my Scottish great-grandmother and said, “What can I do with this?”

Many trips and incredibly productive visits later, a genealogist on B2 told me about ScotlandsPeople.  I had been using for several years but had never heard of nor used ScotlandsPeople.  That changed everything about my research habits.  I didn’t need to go to Salt Lake anymore to build great-grandma’s tree.

That change really propelled me to seek out additional online records.  Internet genealogy was in its earlier stages and there wasn’t a lot available, but I had become more of a hunter.

Time passed, FamilySearch began adding searchable record collections to their website.  Then they launched New.FamilySearch.  (I was a beta tester!) was growing like crazy.  I was in a good research-(mostly)-from-home rhythm.

Then we moved to Utah.

Normal life moved on.  I kept researching.  I started sharing some of my finds with friends and family more regularly on my family blog.

Time passed.

I started this blog.  If you read the “About Me” page, you will get a pretty good picture of where I was at in my pre-RootsTech-attendance-genealogy-life.  (I really should update that page…)

Some of my new local friends suggested I should go to RootsTech, but being a bit of an introvert who doesn’t like crowds, it sounded soooooo intimidating!

But it nagged at me.

What might I learn if I went?

In 2015 I had a 3-year-old at home (plus two teenagers) and attending in person seemed too hard.  So I watched the live-streamed sessions.  I LOVED them!  I still remember two that were so fantastically enlightening and helpful.

Sitting on my couch in 2015 I decided right then that I WAS NOT going to miss RootsTech ever again.  So when 2016 rolled around, I arranged some childcare, booked a hotel (I knew going back and forth would be hard), bought my ticket, and attended.

It was the best thing I ever did for my genealogy education!

The second session I attended was “Inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities Indirectly,” taught by Thomas W. Jones.

I sat there in awe, while also writing furiously.

For the first time in my life I listened to someone explain how to use indirect evidence to prove a relationship.

Tom Jones was singing right into my soul!

He outlined a case study and the whole time, all I could think about was my 3rd great-grandmother Esther Brouillette.  There are no records for her life that list her parents.  I had built this entire case for who her parents might be using indirect evidence and I didn’t even know it!  I thought I was still looking for a record that named her parents to finally prove what I was suspecting.  But sitting in that large classroom I realized I might have already found every record I needed to prove who her parents were indirectly.  I just needed to look at my work with fresh eyes and a new understanding.

I attended two more classes taught by Tom Jones and I bought his book Mastering Genealogical Proof.

There were two things that Tom said that really stuck with me.

First – he talked about how his own research life changed when he started reading the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.  He said that prior to that, he had been researching for thirty years and those years were mostly a waste.  Once he started studying the articles in the NGSQ, everything changed for him.

Second – he talked about genealogical institutes and encouraged us to attend them.

I didn’t heed his advice on either suggestion that year, but I have since followed his very excellent suggestions.  He was 100% correct.  Studying the NGSQ is genealogy-life-changing.  So is attending a genealogical institute.

In the three-and-a-half years since I sat in a classroom and listened to Tom Jones for the first time, my genealogy life has completely changed.  Every single year since then I have thought to myself, “I learned more about genealogy this year than in the previous (insert appropriate number of years here – 19, 20, and 21) years combined.”  And every single year that thought has been true.

I attended so many amazing classes at RootsTech in 2016.  But that first Tom Jones class is the one that changed my genealogy life forever.

Now I am working toward earning my CG.  I complete client research.  I present more often.  I had the privilege of serving as a RootsTech Ambassador this year for RootsTech Salt Lake and RootsTech London.  I will be presenting at RootsTech London in October and RootsTech Salt Lake in 2020.  I research more effectively.  I am solving increasingly difficult and fascinating cases.  I more fully understand how to seek out the genealogy education I need to solve certain genealogical problems.  I love writing about genealogy even more than ever before.  I have been volunteering at my local Family History Center for 7 years now and I can help pretty much anyone who walks through the door.  That is a great feeling, and a wonderful opportunity to give back (and learn more!).

My genealogy life was good before my first RootsTech experience.

But my genealogy life is amazing three-and-a-half-years after that first RootsTech experience!


If you live close enough to attend RootsTech London in October and haven’t bought a ticket yet, do it!  You won’t be sorry.  It just might change your life.


Can’t afford the full conference?  Buy a one-day pass!  (Pssst – either way, use a coupon code.  25DONNY will save you £25, and PuppyLove25 will save you 25%!)


Thank you RootsTech for creating such a wonderful genealogy conference experience that included Thomas W. Jones just when I was ready for him!  And to the very wonderful master teacher, Tom, who will never read this, thank you.  You have changed my life and I am so very, very grateful.



Happy Monday, I hope you will share this with someone you know in the UK or Europe who just might need to figure out how to get themselves to RootsTech London in October!  xoxo