Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Relatives at #RootsTech 2018

#RootsTech 2018 is quickly upon us. Of course, I will be clear across the country when it starts, but maybe you will have a chance to be there. One bonus of being at the conference is the possibility of interacting with some of your relatives. If you have the FamilySearch Family Tree mobile app on your smartphone, you can connect to those around you who happen to be relatives. I am sure if I were there and using the app, I would probably have a few hundred relatives, but for some, the experience would be interesting and perhaps amazing. Here is the long link to the full explanation about how this works.

Just in case that link doesn't work, here are the instructions:
Before the conference
Download or update to the latest version of the Family Tree mobile app.
Allow the app to use Location Services by clicking Yes when prompted or in the OS settings. 
You can download the FamilySearch Family Tree app from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. 
At the conference
Launch Family Tree app while inside the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Tap the Relatives at RootsTech option at the top, and follow the prompts to opt in.
Discover who at the conference is your cousin!
FamilySearch also suggests the following:
Meet up with your cousin in a special place in the FamilySearch booth in the expo hall. People who share their photo on social media using #RootsTech are eligible for a special prize (while supplies last) 
More information will be available at registration and in the FamilySearch booth.
In past years the Wifi connections at the Conference have been spotty, let's hope that all this connecting works. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Family History Mission: What I have learned so far

No. 38

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

This image is a document from the Maryland State Archives dated in 1854. Can you read it? Interestingly, every Senior Missionary at the Archives I showed this to could read it instantly and completely. Here is a photo of another interesting document from our work at the archives:

This document, a Probate Estate Inventory, was folded up into a tight bundle. None of these old documents have been opened since they were filed away over 150 years ago. Working there is like opening presents for a special occasion every day. Here is another document showing an unusual style of handwriting but more readable than the first example above:

You can click on the images to see more detail.

What have I learned so far on our mission?

First, almost all of my preconceptions about serving as a Senior Missionary were either wrong or inaccurate. Serving with my wife in the Maryland State Archives is nothing at all like being a young missionary in Argentina or anywhere else for that matter. It is very much like the last 14 years I served as a Church Service Missionary, but spending full-time rather than part-time. Overall, it is a very interesting and worthwhile experience. I suppose that there are senior missionary experiences that are more intense and harder to deal with, but we are happy to be here in Annapolis and thankful for the opportunity to serve.

What we do with our spare time away from the Archives is pretty much up to us. Since we are FamilySearch missionaries, we are doing what we have done for years; helping people with their family history research and finding names to take to the temples. We have had many good experiences already in the time we have been here. We also enjoy working in the Spanish speaking Branch here in Annapolis. We are already having experiences helping them to find their ancestors.

Being away from our home is not as much of a challenge as we might have imagined it to be. We have a nice apartment and it is centrally located and close to the Archives and to most of the stores and other businesses, we need.

One of the best parts of the mission experience is getting to know and work with the other missionaries who are assigned here in Annapolis. We have a wonderful time talking and having activities together. We are also enjoying our time with the Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy which is about five minutes away from our apartment.

One thing I have learned is the value of the documents we are processing. We have been working on probate files including guardianships, indenture documents, and Certificates of Freedom of formerly enslaved people. It makes me sad to think how many genealogists miss a great opportunity in not becoming familiar with more kinds of documents. These probate documents are a fabulous source of information about families.

I have also learned that we can get up every work day at 5:30 am and be to work by 7:00 am and then work all day. I am not sure I would choose that schedule absent a mission call, but it is possible to do.

I have been pleasantly surprised also, that I have time to write and do my own research.

I have learned we can live in a place that has all four season's weather in one day: warm and sunny, cold, ice, and snow, rain, wind, fog and almost every variation possible of all of them.

We will probably learn a lot more in the next few months.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Finding Francis: More Breakthrough Discoveries

Will of Nathan Tanner
One of the most challenging and elusive all-time research projects I have been involved in is finding the parents of my fifth-great-grandfather, Francis Tanner.  As I have chronicled in previous posts about Finding Francis, the traditional accounts of his parents are contradictory and simply wrong. Despite having hundreds of thousands of descendants, none of them seemed to have questioned the early published origin of the family. Back in 2017, I published a copy of a will of a William Tanner with a son named Francis who died in 1757. Since that time, I have re-evaluated the will and do not believe that it is the will of my Francis Tanner's father. The Francis Tanner mentioned in the Will was a minor child in 1757 and by 1757, my Francis Tanner had a wife and family.

The Will I found for a William Tanner illustrates the difficulty of doing research during this early time period in Colonial America. Just when you think you have the matter resolved, additional research shows that you are off on the wrong track. This is mainly due to repetitious common names. As I pointed out in a blog post on Genealogy's Star, I now have documented 12 possibly different William Tanners that lived during the applicable time period. See "12 William Tanners? A new record for confusion."

What the consistent documents do show now, it that the father of Francis Tanner had at least three sons: Francis, Nathan and another son named Benjamin. His name was William Tanner and he had a wife named Elizabeth. All of this information has come primarily from Wills and probates. The latest discovery is Nathan Tanner's Will shown above. This will confirms Nathan's wife's name was Mary and that his mother's name was Elizabeth. The will also contains a witness named Francis Tanner who in an additional discovery, is named the Guardian of two of Nathan's underage sons: Nathan and Abel. Another son, David is the Executor of his mother's estate. Apparently, she died a few years after her husband, Nathan Tanner.

We now know that Francis, Nathan, and Benjamin were brothers and all the children of a William Tanner and Elizabeth. We have wills for both Francis and Nathan. The additional existence of a Guardianship established for Nathan's sons with Francis Tanner as the Guardian further supports the existence of the family.

Now, we need a William Tanner, married to a woman named Elizabeth with three sons named Francis, Nathan and Benjamin.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Millions of Mexican Civil Registration Records Added to

The screenshot shown above is only a partial listing of the millions of Civil Registration Records added to the Historical Record Collections during the past month or so. Searchable images of all of the records are available. Here is an example of the list of microfilms that have been digitized. This example is from the State of Guerrero.

Here is an example of one of the microfilm image sets.

Here is an example of one of the records on this particular roll of microfilm:

If I zoom in on the image, here is some of the text.

If I use the search function to look for an ancestor for someone whose family came from Mexico, this is what I might find:

Just as with any other name searches, the user must add in dates and a location or family members to find a particular instance of a common given name and surname.

In addition to this huge collection of Mexican images, the website has added images from El Salvador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Panama and many other countries. You need to keep searching and checking back to see if new records have been added.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Family History Mission: Expanding our Horizons

No. 37

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

Quoting J.R.R. Tolkien from the Lord of the Rings,
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
To paraphrase, it is an interesting business going out your door to go on Senior Full-time Mission, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. 

In our case, we have been swept off into a whole catalog of new and different experiences. Most recently, we started to attend the Spanish speaking branch here in Annapolis and we were certainly swept off. Besides Sunday meetings in Spanish, teaching family history class in Spanish, singing hymns in Spanish and speaking in Sacrament meeting, in addition, we have attended a wedding in Spanish and the lively reception that followed and a baptismal service for the newly married husband and wife and all this is only the first week or so of our involvement. Even after speaking Spanish for over 54 years, this was the first Spanish speaking wedding I have ever attended.

Part of our new experiences are those that accompany moving from one city to another for an extended time but many are new and unique. Obviously, we have never both worked in an archive digitizing records, but after almost two months, we are getting used to that activity. But it is decidedly different for both of us to have the same job and the same schedule.

One thing is certain, the traffic is part of the overall experience and easily the greatest (and most dangerous) business. This week saw our first extended driving in downtown Washington, D.C. I am sure driving in D.C. is one of the major challenges in the entire U.S. road system, heightened by the fact that there are almost no right angle intersections in the city. I have driven in every one of the ten most populous cities in America and none of these come close to D.C. which has the densest population in the country and I am sure they are all out driving cars.

As to the weather, I think my daughter put it right when she observed that "It looks like they take every kind of weather and temperature and then randomly assign it to different days or times of day." The weather can start out warm in the morning with sunshine and then rain, followed by snow and by the next morning sun with warm temperatures. This is the first place I have lived in recent memory where the temperature can go up when the sun goes down. Continuing on with my daughter's comment about D.C. weather, "Over a few days this week, we had sun, clouds, wind, rain, sleet, snow and temperatures from 20 to 70 degrees."

We are adjusting to living in an apartment and having two flights of stairs to carry in all our groceries and such. We are also have figured out things like where to shop, buy gas for our car and get the oil changed. Interesting adapting.

The Impact of Billions of Records

Family history is all about records. Many of the members of The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States are descendants of those early members of the Church who crossed the plains back in the 1800s. Even those who are not new members or who have joined the Church since 1900 are surprised to learn that they have "Mormon Pioneer" ancestors. I talked to one such individual this past week at the Maryland State Archives.

There is an inaccurate and very nearsighted common belief among those who ancestors were early members of the Church that all of their "genealogy" was and is done. This was usually accomplished by some very active "genealogist" in the past. There is also another related myth that "someone in my family is doing all the work." This person is usually a sibling, a parent, or some other relative. This near relative may be "providing names to the family members" sometimes hundreds of names.

I am one of those who has an extensive LDS heritage. Of those in my direct ancestral lines, all of my great-grandparents and some of my great-great-grandparents joined the Church during the 1800s and nearly all of them crossed the plains as pioneers. My personal experience with genealogy parallels the experience of many of those who claim that their work has all been done. But, fortunately, I realized very quickly many years ago that the claim to completeness was illusory and false.

What has changed? Why couldn't our relatives "do all the work" years ago?

We are presently helping as full-time Record Preservation missionaries/volunteers at the Maryland State Archives. There are presently four cameras digitizing records and a significant number of volunteers processing the records for digitization. After being here for a while and seeing the number of images produced by the camera operation, I estimate that we will produce between 1.5 and 2.0 million digital record copies during this year. Most of these records have not been touched by anyone since they were created and initially stored away in the county record repositories. None of our ancestors had access to these records. They were not on microfilm. They were not even available unless the researcher went to the individual counties and accessed the records. Now, they are being put online for anyone to access with a computer and an internet connection.

Multiply the number of digital images we are producing by the 303 cameras in operation and you can see that there are millions of records being uploaded every month. There is absolutely no comparison between what we are doing today and can do to find our ancestors and what could be done even five or ten years ago. If we add in the billions of records on the FamilySearch Partner Websites, we have billions of records that were not available to our expert genealogist ancestors.

There is no excuse for not becoming involved in family history and there never was.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Planning for a Mission

Nauvoo Temple Sunstone
No. 36

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

This particular example of the Nauvoo Temple Sunstone is in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History NMNH in Washington, D.C. Back in 1992, the Museum purchased this original Sunstone for $100,000 from the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams Counties in Illinois. When we recently visited the Museum, seeing the Sunstone in D.C. was like seeing an old friend. We have a day and a half off each week to recuperate from our work schedule and take care of all things we need to do to live in Annapolis. 

For example, we are required to provide our own transportation. That means bringing a car across the country and maintaining it in Annapolis which includes oil changes, tire rotation and etc. We also purchase and fix all our own food. Of course, we did that at home, but here we have to take the time to go to the stores and work out where to do all the things we need to do to survive. We have a very nice apartment and it is centrally located very near the Archives where we work. So we do have only a five minute or so drive to the Archives. 

My previous full-time missionary experience as a young missionary in Argentina was dramatically different than our experience here in Annapolis. We have wonderful opportunities to help the local members with their family history and we have other opportunities to serve and help, but we are not out on the street every day proselyting. We have a very defined position in the Archives and limited interaction with the staff. Fortunately, here in Annapolis, we have other Senior Missionaries. This gives a small, but important, support group.

If you have ever thought about serving as a full-time Senior Missionary, I suggest you think seriously about how you would like to serve. I can only imagine, but I am pretty sure that serving a FamilySearch mission in Annapolis is vastly different than serving a CES Mission in New York City or as a Farmland Reserve Church-Service Missionary. Every month the Church publishes a Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin. In thinking about a mission, you should take a look at the opportunities available. You will likely find something that uses your own special talents as well as sounds like a wonderful opportunity. 

Moving to a new city, town or village for a year or more has its difficulties, but so does living at home. For us, the biggest challenge has been getting mail in a timely fashion. This could be solved by having someone at "home" who can forward the mail or sort through it and follow instructions. In planning for a mission (and old age) we have almost all of our periodic bills paid online automatically. This saves us from having the mail situation impact keeping our payments current. 

Before we left, we got referrals for doctors and had our prescriptions transferred to a local pharmacy. This can be done through most of the major pharmacies. We sold one of our cars and have debated whether to stay a one-car family or not when we return. There are a lot of other such considerations that do not apply at all to younger missionaries. 

Since there are both full-time and part-time missionary options that allow the missionaries to serve while staying at home, many of these issues can be avoided. 

For some, financial considerations and leaving family for a period of time are the most important factors. As I have pointed out previously, neither of these issues was much of a challenge for us. We are sorry to leave the children we left behind in Utah, but we have children all over the country and we have already had the opportunity to visit with some of them while here in Annapolis. Ideally, we would love to have all of our children and grandchildren living close by, but that is not our reality. 

In visiting with the other senior missionaries, health and finances are the two major considerations. One way to prepare for a mission is to work at staying healthy and saving for the time when the money might be needed. These are both a lot easier to talk about than actually put into practice. I think every senior missionary couple I have talked to has had one or the other of these issues. The difference is that they "put up with" the problems rather than letting their lives be ruled by those same problems. 

What it seems to come down to is making up your mind to do something productive when you are older and not expected to do anything.