Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

RootsTech 2014 Official Blogger

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Research Hints in FamilySearch Family Tree

The Descendancy View in's Family Tree opens up a new world of adding sources and correcting entries. For example, here is a screenshot of my much documented Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, and his family:

The arrows point to three different types of icons that provide additional information about the individuals in the family. The explanation for the icons is in the pull-down menu on the extreme right-hand side of the screen:

Here is a screenshot of the menu items:

You can see that most of the icons for this particular family are for Record Hints. This emphasis on adding source records to the Family Tree is extremely valuable and more than welcome. This screenshot shows the Record Hints for my Great-grandmother, Eliza Ellen Parkinson Tanner.

The other colored icons suggest additional research, or in the case of the blue Temple icon, confirmation of previously done Temple Ordinances or the history of the present attempts to re-do the ordinances. This is crucial information in the attempt to limit or eliminate duplication of the ordinances.

Each of the levels of the Descendancy View can be expanded to show more members of the descendant family and therefore more opportunities to add sources and expand or correct data problems.

New Video from the BYU Family History Library

Part One of the video prepared by the BYU Family History Library has been uploaded to the Library's Channel. The videos are recorded live in the classrooms surrounding the Family History Library in the underground portion of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The lighting isn't optimal (not because it is underground) but because the presentations have to balance between an ability to see the screen and also see the presenter. We will likely have quite a few more of these "classroom" videos in the upcoming weeks and months. At the time of this post, the rest of this class had yet to be uploaded, but I expect that will happen in the near future.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Free FamilySearch Partner Programs Problem with Registration

If you think you have registered for one of the free partnership programs from, you may find that the programs are asking for money to sign up. This is almost always caused by an incomplete registration. You may think you have gone through the registration process, but you have not completed the registration and must go through the process again, until you actually have registered for the free programs.

During the past month or so, I have been helping dozens of people "re-register" in order to obtain the free access to, and/or The trouble lies in some tiny check boxes that must be checked during the registration process. Failure to check the boxes and accept the conditions results in an incomplete registration.

The answer to the problem is:


I would like to give you a screenshot of the problem, but I am already signed into all three programs and cannot duplicate the screens. This problem may disappear as they continue to develop the method for signing into all three programs. You might like to read my previous post about the newly added links in the Get Help/Help Center menu. See Rejoice, and be exceeding glad...

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Harold B. Lee

President Harold B. Lee was born on 28 March 1899 in Clifton, Idaho. He became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 7 July 1972 and died a little more than a year later on 26 December 1973. He is best known for his involvement in the Welfare Program and Church Correlation. 

Here are some of the quotes from President Lee about Temples, Temple work and the salvation of the dead.
If the acceptance of the gospel is so essential to the welfare of man’s eternal soul, you may well ask what is to become of the millions who have died without a knowledge of the gospel or the Lord’s plan, by which the full effect of his atonement might be realized. If missionary work were to have been limited only to mortality, many souls would have been condemned without a hearing. Every one, good or bad, because of the atonement, will be resurrected, for “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.) But only those who repent and are baptized for the remission of their sins will lay full claim to the redeeming blood of his atonement. … Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the only means by which man can accept the gospel, is an earthly ordinance, and so in the Plan of Salvation, our Father, with equal consideration for all his children, has provided a way for all members of his Church and Kingdom on the earth to be “saviors on Mt. Zion” by performing a vicarious work in behalf of those in the world of spirits, “the prison house,” that they could not perform for themselves. 
This work for the dead performed in holy temples by members of the Church does in reality make of them who do this work “saviors” to those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel, for thereby they may claim the complete gift of the Savior promised to all mankind through his atonement. Reference to that service that may be rendered for those in the spirit world, as it was undoubtedly being performed by the saints in the days of the Apostle Paul and which we can now perform for our own dead, was given by him as an argument in proof of the resurrection. Said he: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29.) Temples in this day have been built in which this work so essential to the work of salvation might again be performed. Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 118–19; paragraphing added.
President Lee had this to say about our genealogical work;
[In our genealogical research] the Lord is not going to open any doors until we get as far as we can on our own. We have to go toward that blank wall and then we have to have enough faith to ask the Lord to help to make an opening so that we can take the next step. And there can be information given to you from sources that reveal the fact that heaven and earth are not far away. 
Many of you have lived to a time in life where you have had loved ones who have gone on. You have had certainty of the nearness, sometimes, of those who have drawn very near to you. And sometimes they have brought to you information that you could not have otherwise had. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 584.
I have a conviction born of a little experience to which I bear testimony that there are forces beyond this life that are working with us. … 
I have the simple faith that when you do everything you can, researching to the last of your opportunity, the Lord will help you to open doors to go further with your genealogies, and heaven will cooperate, I am sure. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 585.
President Lee's comments continued about genealogy (family history):
If we were united in our temple work and in our genealogical research work, we would not be satisfied with the present temples only, but we would have sufficient work for temples yet to come, to the unlocking of the doors of opportunity to those beyond who are our own kin, and thus would ourselves become saviors on Mount Zion. Our failure to be united will be our failure to perpetuate our family homes in the eternity. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 584.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

26 Classes Taught in Two Weeks

During the past two weeks, I have taught 26 one-hour or longer classes. Along with all the support before and after the classes, that is a lot of talking. More importantly, this experience has re-emphasized the need for basic genealogical instruction. Most of this time was spent helping individuals get started with and Most of the people attending, with a few notable exceptions, were only slightly acquainted with A few more of the people had been using In some cases the participants, all of whom were directly involved in genealogy, described the experience as "life changing."

The main reason for this reaction is the effect both of these online programs are having on the way genealogy is approached. From their respective websites, it is very likely that neither company is aware of the effect their programs are having on genealogical research. They both promote their products as innovations but if they do understand the impact of their technology, they have not communicated the impact in their promotional material.

To understand what is going on, it is necessary to describe the "traditional" method of genealogical research as exemplified by the "Research Cycle." For an example, see the Research Process. As this is translated into common practice among genealogists; the process involves obtaining the names of ancestors and then searching a variety of records to "find the ancestor." The main task is trying to find the names.

What if this process were just redirected 180 degrees? What if genealogical research became more about finding sources and extracting the information and less about names? The transition from name-based to source-based genealogical research began with the creation of indexes to collections of different types of records that could be searched all at the same time. The next step in this process of revolutionizing the way genealogical research is conducted was when programs began doing the searches automatically.This was followed by the important step of automating the search process with a high degree of accuracy, first introduced by about two years ago.

In order for this new way of approaching genealogical research to work, it was also necessary for the programs to acquire a sufficiently large number of source records to make the automated searches useful to a huge number of people. Presently, most of these records are focused on Western European countries, English-speaking countries and the United States, but millions of additional records are being added almost daily. The results of this accumulation of records, coupled with the automated search techniques, has eliminated most of the steps of the Research Cycle for those involved in these programs.

For example,'s revolutionary Record Search and Record Detective programs can examine billions of records and match the records to individuals in a family tree with more than 97% accuracy. The average person with ancestors that match the record set, can expect to have the program supply records (sources) with the claimed high degree of accuracy after entering only a very minimal amount of information about his or her family. During the past week or so, I have seen's Record Detective program find almost 100 source records for one family after just a few minutes of entering known names and dates.

Rather than spending time searching for available records, the programs themselves,'s Shaky Leaves and's Record Match and Record Detective technologies provide many, if not most, of the more common records for any beginning family tree, but may also provide some records that would remain entirely unknown to most researchers. In both cases, the researcher's pedigree is built by reference to sources rather than hearsay from family members. Both programs add newly discovered individuals by making a few clicks.'s Family Tree is also working its way into the automated search arena by adding Research Hints and semi-automatic searches for records based on the individual's details.

The process is simple and anyone with access to either or (or both) can experience the benefits of this change in the way research is accomplished. Here are the steps involved in getting started:

  1. Sign in to either program.
  2. Start a new empty family tree and avoid the temptation to upload an pre-existing GEDCOM file.
  3. Enter some basic information about two or three generations
  4. Watch the programs find research hints
  5. Click on the hints and evaluate the information to make sure the right person has been selected
  6. Attach copies of the sources to each individual found
  7. Continue following the chains of suggested sources adding in any new individuals found in the records
  8. Continue until all of the research hints have been applied to your family tree
  9. Watch your pedigree grow from sources
Make sure you examine each source to determine if it is correct. Extract only those facts that are correct and complete. Keep building your pedigree. You will soon realize that this process is substantially different than the traditional methods. 

More About the BYU Family History Technology Laboratory

The BYU Family History Technology Laboratory has the following purpose:
The goal of the Family History Technology Laboratory is to create technologies that will empower better and more effective family history research. It is not our role to deploy such technologies but to create demonstration prototypes from which libraries, societies and technology vendors can develop offerings for family history researchers to use. Our fundamental goal is to develop technology that moves family history out of the libraries and into the homes and lives of ordinary people.
They are presently involved in the following projects:
Digital Microfilm LibraryThis project is a series of prototypes to demonstrate the capabilities of a digital microfilm library that can simplify the index extraction process and provide access to the microfilm library from home.
Automatic Indexing of Handwritten RecordsThe goal is to create a set of image features which can be used to index microfilm images of handwritten records.
Multiresolution Downloading of ImagesWe desire to create a image format for microfilm images which can download at various resolutions and/or partial fragments. By downloading fragments or low resolution summaries we can deliver digitized microfilm images over ordinary phone lines at interactive rates.
Extracting genealogy information from free-form HTMLA great deal of new genealogical information is being published on the WWW using HTML. There is wide variability in the formats used for displaying such information. We seek automatic means to extract and utilize such information.
Automated online research assistantWe seek to provide better automatic advice for new people trying to do family history research. In particular we wish to use all of the information that they already have to generate and filter searches on various online archives. We also seek to develop an open architecture into which experts in various areas can contribute automated advice and thus enhance the overall system.
It is possible that some of the genealogy companies out there are interested in the same types of projects. If you or someone you know may be interested, you may wish to contact the BYU Technology Transfer department. While you visit this website, make sure you read about the development of carbonated yogurt (what does this have to do with genealogy??).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

LDS Access to Free Partner Accounts on FamilySearch Get Help

Access to the free LDS Account memberships in the partnership accounts with, and, is now available through the Get Help Link. Here is a screenshot showing the link to Get Help"

To find the link to the partner accounts, you must be signed in to with an LDS Account (i.e. be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). When you click on the Get Help link, you will see a drop down menu like the following. You click on the Help Center link.

The Help Center page looks like this:

The arrow is pointing to the Partners Link. This is a screenshot of the Partners Link:

You can then choose which of the partnership accounts you want to join. Here is a screenshot of the page for

Here is the page for

Here is the page for

Each of the pages has extensive help documents and flyers to give information about the process of obtaining free access to the individual programs.