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

Monday, May 22, 2017

DNA and the Family Tree

I recently received the results of my DNA test with Interestingly, only recently introduced the Consultant Planner that includes a fan chart showing family origins. Here is my fan chart from

This fan chart is part of the Consultant Planner but to see your own chart, all you have to do is invite yourself and accept the invitation. See the following video for instructions.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

In my case, there is a significant difference between the information in the fan chart and what I received as a result of the DNA test. This creates a quandary. What do I do with the DNA results? How do the results help me with my current research in Rhode Island and England? I will continue to explore these questions in this blog and in Genealogy's Star. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quick Links to all the Temple and Family History Resources Online
If you look closely at the startup page of The Family History Guide, you will see a tab entitled "Misc." The resources in this tab are valuable for a number of reasons, but the most valuable for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the selection designated "LDS."

Here is a screenshot of the LDS page.

This section of The Family History Guide contains links to a huge number of resources for individual members as well as those with family history callings. Near the bottom of that webpage are two choices that link family history articles from the Church publications and family history videos.

Members might remember that The Family History Guide is now the official FamilySearch training partner.

In addition, there is a section under the Training menu item for Consultant training.
This section gives even more resources for helping, teaching and training in family history.

The Family History Guide can be an invaluable resource for expanding and emphasizing family history in your ward or stake.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Seven

I feel like I am just getting started writing about sources in the Family Tree. Here is a definition of a source from the Help Center article entitled appropriately, "Sources in Family Tree."
  • A primary source is a record created at or near the time of an event by someone with personal knowledge of the event. Examples of primary sources include birth certificates, death certificates, census records, newspapers, letters, journals, tax lists, court documents, or church records. Published books can be primary sources if they contain accounts based on personal knowledge of an event.
  • A secondary source is a record created after the time of an event by someone who did not experience the event personally. Most histories are secondary sources.
  • Sources can also come from personal knowledge about a person or from interviews with living relatives or other oral sources. 
  • A citation is a reference that describes the source and how to find it. Citations for oral sources should include who provided the information. Citations are important because they help users know where information came from and how reliable it is. They can also help users find more information.
 OK, this is the "widely accepted" method of categorizing sources; i.e. primary vs. secondary. But there is a serious issue with this simplified and mostly inaccurate method of classification. For example, the definition above uses a "death certificate" as one of the types of records assigned to the category of "primary source." Here is an example of a death certificate. This one is the death certificate of my Great-grandfather I have used many times before.

The right-hand side of the certificate is filled in by the attending physician. The information fits the definition of a "primary" source, that is, "a record created at or near the time of an event by someone with personal knowledge of the event." However, some of the remaining information does and some does not fit this definition. The information concerning the date of birth, the age at death, the birthplace, the names of his parents and their birthplace was all supplied by "Mrs. Roy Fuller." The burial information was filled in later and may or may not have been added by someone who had personal knowledge of the event. So is this a primary source or not?

We may or may not know the identity or relationship of Mrs. Roy Fuller to the deceased (who happens to be my aunt and Henry's daughter), but we certainly do not know the individual who signed the certificate at the time it was filed. Classifying this entire document as a "primary source" glosses over the questions that can and should be raised about the reliability of each of the items contained in the document. If we just look at the document, we can see that part of the document was typewritten and part was hand written. So the document was created sometime after the events recorded. We can assume that the doctor wrote the handwritten portion after the creation the typed portion. The doctor was then reporting events in the past, either by memory or from notes. This may be true due to the fact that the portion of the document signed by the doctor is undated.

So, how reliable is this "primary source?" I would suggest that reliability may have nothing to do with when the information was recorded. However, proximity in time to the event does increase the possibility of reliability. For these reasons, I usually do not find that the distinction commonly made between primary and secondary sources to be of much use or significance.

How then do we approach a record such as a death certificate? The answer is simple. All historical conclusions are tentative and are subject to revision as additional historical records are examined. We could use Henry's birthdate from this death certificate by adding it to our own "family tree." But it is entirely possible that a subsequently discovered record could modify our understanding of the actual birth date. In some cases, we may never find another birth record and the date will become accepted because it is the only record we have. This is not the case with Henry Martin Tanner. We have 13 sources listed that address his birthdate.

Now here is a test. Is a U.S. Federal Census Record a primary source? By the way, the real answer is that the question is irrelevant because a census record does not fit the category of either a primary or secondary source. The main reason being that the person who supplied the information is not identified so we have no way to determine the status of the information. In Part Five of this series, I set out a series of questions that we should be asking about the reliability of any record or document we use in our genealogical activities. Rather than classify documents or records into categories, it is a much better practice to go through the process of asking questions.

By the way, using the terms primary and secondary is not the only classification method. All of the other methods of classification have the exact same limitations.

Previous posts in this series

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Helping Others with the FamilySearch Family Tree Just Got Easier

The new Consultant Planner on is available to those who are helping others with their family history. Of course, this includes all of the Temple and Family History Consultants at every level and as you can see, we can also see our own Consultant Planner. Here is a recent, short video about the Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp from the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

This video covers most of the important features and answers many of the questions about the Consultant Planner. I have been using this system since its introduction and I find it to be a tremendous aid in helping and supporting others in their family history. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Instructions for Web Indexing now in The Family History Guide

At least locally, there has been a downturn in Indexing activity. Part of this downturn may reflect the uncertainty surrounding the introduction of a web-based Indexing program from As I posted a short time ago, web indexing has now been introduced.

As a result, The Family History Guide has been quick to add links to the instructions for learning about the web-based program. The Family History Guide is the official FamilySearch training resource. The instructions for the Indexing program begin in Goal 2 of the Indexing Project. Hopefully, with these readily available and structured instructions for using the program participation will begin to increase.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Uploading and downloading from the FamilySearch Family Tree: A very bad idea either way

I had an interesting experience recently. I was asked to help a patron in the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some trouble she was having with a large file. I asked her what she was trying to do and she explained that she was having trouble with her genealogy program on her computer at home. She couldn't work with the file and had been told that it was too large. After further discussion, and repeatedly asking what she was trying to accomplish, she indicated that she wanted to make sure that her file was uploaded to the Family Tree. I asked her about the size of the file. She indicated that there were approximately 33,000 names in the file. She had been told, that perhaps she had exceeded the size of a file allowed by the program she was using. I assured her that this was probably not the cause of our problems.

While this discussion was going on, I noticed that she was using two different computers. For some reason, which was never made clear, she had decided to "download" her portion of the Family Tree to a flash drive. For this purpose, she had started to download indicating that she wanted to download 100 generations with all of the associated information. For this purpose, she was using a different program than the one she had at home.

As a side note, I am purposely avoiding using the names of the programs. I will explain why this is being done later in this post.

Apparently, she thought that she was downloading her portion of the Family Tree or approximately 33,000 names. The program she was using indicated that there were over 350 million names left to be downloaded. In other words, she was actually attempting to download approximately 1/4 of the entire Family Tree.  At this point, I was totally puzzled as to what was going on. If she wanted to make sure that all the names in her personal file were in the Family Tree then I could not see any reason for downloading what was already in the Family Tree. Of course, her flash drive was totally inadequate for attempting to store 350 million names. In addition, the process would probably take several days and could not be completed in the Library because the library would close.

This experience was one of many similar situations have confronted over the years since the Family Tree was made available. Two of the most frequent questions I hear are about how to download information from the Family Tree or about how to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. There are two or possibly more programs that have connections to the Family Tree that would allow you to download portions of the Family Tree. There is also a roundabout way to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. I am purposely avoiding writing about either process in detail.

The basic problems with both uploading and downloading files involve duplicate entries, inaccurate entries and the time involved. Some of the information in the Family Tree is verified and correct. On the other hand, some of the information is entirely fictitious and/or incorrect. Because of this fact, there is no way you can rely on the accuracy of information downloaded from the Family Tree unless you do so one entry at a time.

Those people who assume that the information contained in their own personal file is free of duplicates and absolutely correct are fooling themselves. In addition, a personal file of any size will likely contain a considerable number of duplicates of people already in the Family Tree. Even if you believe that no one in your family has ever had contact with the Family Tree previously, you cannot be sure that some of your family records are not already in the Family Tree unless you check every name. Time after time people who have had no connection at all with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found that some of the relatives are already in the Family Tree.

What about the person with thousands of names that wishes to share them with the Family Tree? The best way to do this is to purchase one of the programs that connect directly with the Family Tree. I mentioned earlier in this post that I was avoiding using the names of the programs. The reason for this is because the issues of either uploading or downloading information from the Family Tree are really program independent. None of the methods of either uploading or downloading information avoid the problem and the challenge of examining each and every entry individually. The Family Tree was built this way intentionally. Can you imagine the mess that would be created if people could easily upload GEDCOM files? We already have a mess in the Family Tree and don't need any help adding to the mess.

So bite the bullet. The restrictions on uploading and downloading files are there for very good reasons. Get busy comparing your own file with the information in the Family Tree. You can find some good programs that will help you avoid retyping all the entries, but the process will still involve examining each entry. You may find your own file is inaccurate, or you may need to correct the entries in the Family Tree, but this is how the process works.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Investigating FamilySearch Family Tree Lite

If you find yourself trying to use the Family Tree on some tablets or smartphones, you might get overwhelmed with navigating an interface that is not suited to a small screen. In addition, there may be features that you do not need. You may also face the situation where your internet connection is slow or almost non-existent. In these situations, you will likely appreciate the new Family Tree Lite edition.

The blog post shown in the screenshot above describes the program in more detail. The link to the new program is the following:

It may take a few minutes and some clicking to get used to the program. To move backward in time through generations involves clicking on a person and then looking at that person's family. You may find yourself lost and have to return to the beginning by clicking on the "Me" menu option. Here is a screenshot of the program as it appears on my iPhone 7.

Right now, it appears that the only way to access the program is through a browser directly on the internet. I see no reference to a FamilySearch app or shortcut. However, if you have an iPhone, here are the instructions for adding a website, such as this one, to your home screen.
Here's how to add a website shortcuts on the iPhone/iPad Homescreen:
  • Open Safari.
  • Type in the web address.
  • After the website loads, tap on the share icon at the bottom.
  • In the share sheet, tap on Add to Home Screen.
That short process added an icon-link directly to the program. I am sure there is a similar process on Android devices.