RootsTech 2019 to Feature Elder and Sister Bednar, Actress Patricia Heaton, and Subject of the Film “Lion”

Contributed By Trent Toone, Deseret News staff writer

  • 26 February 2019

Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan R. Bednar, answer questions during a member meeting in Hyderabad, India. The Bednars will speak at this year’s RootsTech, scheduled for February 27–March 2 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Article Highlights

  • RootsTech is happening February 27–March 2 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
  • The theme of the conference is “Connect. Belong.”

Patricia Heaton is one of the celebrity keynote speakers coming to Utah for RootsTech 2019, but the actress has a more personal reason for showing up at the largest genealogy conference in the world.

Heaton wants to know more about her family history. She recently submitted a DNA test—her second—to Ancestry.com because the first results left her a little confused.

“For years I've been telling everyone I’m Irish Catholic, grew up in Cleveland. But when I took the test, I was like 99 percent British,” Heaton told the Deseret News in a telephone interview. “So I’m curious to see what else they find out about me and my family.”

Heaton, an Emmy Award-winning actress most recognized for her motherly roles in family television shows Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, is part of a lineup of keynote speakers and entertainers headlining the conference, scheduled for the week of February 27–March 2 in the Salt Palace Convention Center.

People can still register for the conference by going to RootsTech.org. The theme for the conference is “Connect. Belong.”

The keynote lineup includes Saroo Brierley, author of his international best-selling autobiography, A Long Way Home, and the subject of the 2016 film Lion; Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele musician and composer; and Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International.

Derek Hough of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and members of the BYU ballroom dance team will also be featured in an event called “Connecting through Music and Dance.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, will speak to a Latter-day Saint audience on Saturday morning as part of Family Discovery Day. The event will be streamed live on the home page of ChurchofJesusChrist.org beginning at 9:30 a.m. mountain standard time and on ChurchofJesusChrist.org/familyhistory in English. Members of the Church around the world are invited to participate.

As in past years, attendees can also wander through an expansive expo hall of vendors or attend more than 300 classes, breakout sessions, and activities for individuals and families designed for different ages and levels of interest in family history. Some classes and events will be broadcast live through RootsTech.org.

RootsTech organizers also hope to increase customer service by providing more information desks and having “ask me” volunteers available to answer questions.

In addition to finding out more about her roots, Heaton is a big advocate of “belonging” to a big family. Her mother was one of 15 children, and she often runs into people claiming to be a cousin. She won’t be surprised if that happens at RootsTech, she said.

“I always love having that connection to family and this sense of pride. I think it’s important to feel like you belong to a family, to a tribe. It gives you a sense of place; it gives you a sense of history,” Heaton said. “To know where your family comes from and what they’ve gone through for you [to be] here today somehow feeds your soul.”

The conference will be a new experience for Shimabukuro, who admitted he’s never been to anything like RootsTech. He’s honored to be a keynote speaker and looks forward to connecting with people through his music, he said.

The ukulele virtuoso described family parties, or “family jam sessions,” where there’s no shortage of musical instruments and there’s always a stage with a sound system. Shimabukuro hopes to reciprocate the fun feeling of bonding through music with those at RootsTech.

“I’m looking forward to the conference,” Shimabukuro said. “Nothing brings people together like music: the bonding, the communication, the connection, the emotional stimulation. Enjoying music together—spending time together—is extremely powerful. There’s something magical about it.”

Because of the movie and his book, Brierley’s story of becoming lost at age 5 in India, getting adopted, and being raised in another country before finding his way back decades later is well-known. He hopes his story will resonate messages of hope, determination, identity, and love of family, he said.

“I never thought anyone would take an interest in my story. I lived it, I’ve been through it, it just happened. I’m humbled and touched that people are taking a liking to the story and find it sort of enchanting,” Brierley said. “I'm out here trying to help others with the knowledge I have and share it with the world. My book, my story in the movie, it’s my gift to the world.”

For more information on RootsTech, visit RootsTech.org.

In this May 10, 2012, photo, Fatima Munshi, mother of Saroo, holds up a photo from their reunion in February 2012 at her home in Khandwa, India. Living in Australia, Saroo Brierley, 30, was reunited with his biological mother, Munshi, 25 years after an ill-fated train ride left him an orphan on the streets of Calcutta. Brierley will appear at this year's RootsTech, scheduled for February 27–March 2 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Photo by Saurabh Das, Associated Press.

In this January 24, 2011 photo, recording artist Jake Shimabukuro poses for a portrait in New York. Shimabukuro will appear at this year’s RootsTech. Photo by Jeff Christensen, Associated Press.

Deborah (Patricia Heaton), right, often had a contentious relationship with her mother-in-law Marie (Doris Roberts) on Everybody Loves Raymond. Heaton will appear at this year’s RootsTech. Photo courtesy of CBS.

Attendees walk through RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 3, 2018. This year’s RootsTech is scheduled for February 27–March 2 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.