Steve Rockwood, the recently appointed CEO of FamilySearch International, addressed attendees at the kick-off event of the 2016 RootsTech Conference - the Innovator Summit.

The Innovator Summit is the premier industry showcase of the best and most cutting-edge technologies working for the greater good of the genealogy community.

And what better person to address the group than the CEO of FamilySearch, in his first public address since assuming the position in October of 2015: Steve Rockwood possesses a unique combination of innovative entrepreneurial success and a deep knowledge of the genealogy industry (he served as director of the international division at FamilySearch prior to becoming CEO).

Genealogy turned upside-down and inside-out

Mr. Rockwood did not disappoint - he challenged the innovators present to bring "inside out and upside down" ideas to the table, as he did in other industries as a young entrepreneur.

He suggested the genealogy community as a whole should move beyond attempting to bring people in to our own (very welcoming) circles - that the true way to bring the joy of genealogy to everyone is to export our ideas, skills and emotions out into the world.

He challenged the innovators to bring forth fresh ideas, like incorporating DNA or medical history into our trees to better the health of our family, or capturing everyday social media posts to memorialize our lives for future generations. According to Rockwood, any idea is is fair game - "crazy ideas are welcome."

Future vision for genealogy

He also spoke of the feelings so often evoked by genealogy - love, joy and peace. He suggested that these core feelings translate to skills and eventually results. He challenged us all to continue evoking those emotions in our work.

He also briefly outlined five categories of genealogy experiences that evoke these emotions, and remarked that FamilySearch would focus on improving the following categories of experience for all users:

  • Discovery - Discovering ancestors and the joy of genealogy itself
  • Family trees - Innovative ways to share and catalog information
  • Searchable records - Bringing more searchable databases online and improving existing search technology
  • Memories - Turning momentous and everyday events in today's world into memories to share with future generations
  • Contextual help - Cultivating an educational structure not only for enthusiasts but for beginners as well.

It was a well-received and inspiring address. If you didn't get a chance to hear it, don't worry! He will be back again as a keynote speaker for the general session tomorrow morning sharing more of his insight.