Steve Rockwood: 4 Four Ways Innovators Can Redefine the Genealogical Industry


There’s a unifying and motivating feeling that comes with doing family history. Finding, preserving, and sharing one’s story often evokes feelings of happiness, satisfaction, unity, and love. These feelings motivate even the most seasoned family historian to continue to dive into records and seek ancestors.

“We have found, being all over the world, that there’s an unbelievable thing in family history. It is so powerful, it’s so core, and it’s universal. It’s these feelings that people feel when they engage in family history,” said FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood in his address at the RootsTech 2016 Innovator Summit. “They’re feelings of the heart. I don’t care where you are; people tell you what feelings they felt. . . . They’ll tell you, ‘I feel love; I feel joy; I feel peace.’ These are powerful, core feelings that everyone has.”

In light of these feelings, Steve Rockwood shared a few specific experiences that he hopes every person has while engaging in family history—and how today’s technology innovator can solve some of the industry’s most complex problems:

  1. Facilitate Discovery Experiences. Discovery experiences are the first, basic experiences we have that ignite within us a desire to know more about our past. If we can facilitate these experiences for people just starting family history work, they will want to come back for more.
    “These are those first, initial heart-training experiences—as simple as a story at the dinner table or extremely sophisticated algorithms that bring about hints on your family tree,” said Rockwood.
  2. Make Searchable Records Available. Having a pile of records available at a family history library is great for the expert genealogist, said Rockwood, but to encourage more individuals to participate in family history work, the real challenge lies in getting these records online and searchable. Having easily accessible records increases the number of people who can participate in family history work.
    “If you and I want to involve many more people, we as an industry have to figure out how to make those records searchable. How do we do it faster, more effectively?” asked Rockwood. “This is a huge, huge nut for us to crack together that will require innovation and technology.”
  3. Preserve Memories. To drive the genealogical industry forward, Rockwood said it is crucial to encourage millennials to share and preserve their stories in their own unique way.“I’d submit that the millennials and the teenagers of today are a journaling generation like the world’s never seen before,” he said.
    “They just happen to do it in small little tweets and posts and snapchats. How can you and I take that everyday event that’s going on throughout the world and add to that the emotions of family history, the skills, and the results?”
  4. Provide Contextual Help. Much like the rest of the world, the genealogy industry isn’t standing still. The challenge for innovators and passionate genealogists is to figure out how to give users the help they need, when and where they want it.
    “What about the help we’re going to provide the teenagers and the millennials who don’t want to call a call center, who don’t want to come to a family history center?” said Rockwood.

Figuring how to incorporate family history in people’s everyday lives is the challenge that lies before every innovator or passionate family historian, said Rockwood.
“Let’s continue to focus on how we can help family historians do their wonderful thing. Then let’s grow that space.”

You can watch Steve Rockwood’s full address at RootsTech here.


You may also like:

3 Tech Tools Every Genealogist Should Have0000017c-7f43-df3f-ad7d-ffef5c350000

3 Ways to Use Your Smartphone for Family History0000017c-7f43-df3f-ad7d-ffef5c650000

3 Tips for Using Google for Genealogy0000017c-7f43-df3f-ad7d-ffef5c990000









About the Author