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

Friday, March 24, 2017

What is Family History?

Members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can look to the website in addition to the website for information about family history in the Church. There is also additional information on the website. Quoting from the website shown in the screenshot above, we find the following explanation about family history and the Church.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use family history records to perform sacred temple ordinances, such as eternal marriages and sealings of children to parents, for their kindred dead if these deceased family members were unable to perform the earthly rites themselves. This gives deceased ancestors the opportunity to accept these ordinances in the afterlife. 
While the reach of genealogy is as vast as humankind itself (the Church’s website currently holds over three billion records and grows daily), family history work also functions on the local level. Church members accumulate and save the stories and photos of their ancestors and record their own stories for their own posterity, thereby linking generations who would otherwise not know each other.
 There are also, a large number of resources and links to resources on the website.
Some of the information available is basic and directed at beginners. But many of the links lead to extensive resources even for advanced family historians.  By clicking upon the "Learn to Use" icon on the above webpage, you can access more extensive support information.
Each of the options listed on this page are links to further, more extensive, instructions contained in The Family History Guide, an extensive online instructional website for family history.
I have long been convinced that many people in the Church a reticent about doing their family history merely because they do not know how to get started. What is becoming very apparent is that the Church has been quietly and consistently adding extensive training and educational resources directed at family history. I am still surprised to find how few people, overall, in the Church are regular viewers of the website. I am even more surprised to find out that there are still many members that do not have or do not know their login and password for an LDS account and therefore have not logged into It is clear that there is a definite movement towards making all of the Church's resources available online. However, if the members of the Church do not make the effort to regularly access the Church's websites, they will miss all of the opportunities afforded by these vast resources.

One example, in my own Ward, which had an active newsletter posted regularly on, was surprised to learn that the Church was discontinuing the newsletters on the website because of lack of interest. In addition, I regularly teach classes to Church leaders in which I show the resources available on for family history and the response from the classes that very few if any were aware of these resources before the class. Groucho Marx is quoted as saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get him to float on his back then you've got something." I can paraphrase this by saying, you can provide all the resources possible about family history but until someone actually uses them you have not got anything.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Which items on the FamilySearch Memories are searchable by Google?

From time to time, it is important to be reminded of the relationship between the Memories program and the rest of the internet world. At the bottom of the web page shown above, there are the following links.

For most of us, these links fall into the category of the statements made on food containers and the fine print on guarantees. Interestingly, when I first began law school many years ago, I became acutely aware of all of these "fine print" documents. But over the intervening years, I have realized that if I want to buy the product or use the service, I am essentially stuck with whatever is there and so I, like most everyone else, tend to ignore almost all of these boilerplate type agreements.

But from a legal perspective, you have to realize that those statements are there because they are, in many cases, enforceable should a controversy arise. In any event, an argument over the application of these types of provisions can become extremely legalistic and even end up in court. Hmm. Then why do we put up with them? The simple answer is that we could only avoid them by living in a cave, never using any mechanical devices and not talking to anyone. Even then, we would probably be subject to the fine print on the use of the cave.

But every once in a while, it is a good idea to read the fine print, even if it makes you uncomfortable or irate.

Returning the to the bottom of the page, we find "FamilySearch Rights and Use Information (Updated 2/3/2015)" and the "Privacy Policy (Updated 3/18/2014)." So these provisions have been around in their current form and likely, you have used the program quite a few (maybe thousands of times) since the provisions were implemented. So what do they say?

Actually, this page is quite long. In essence, what this long statement says is that when you put anything on the Memories page (or anywhere else on the website) you are giving FamilySearch a license (permission) to use that content in any way they would like to do so. Of course, the wording goes on and on into a lot of other issues, restrictions, and obligations, but from the standpoint of the user (you) FamilySearch can do pretty much what they want with the content once you put it up on the website.

Most of us, perhaps almost all of us, are glad to give FamilySearch that opportunity. We realize that we do not own our ancestors or their historical records and so giving FamilySearch a license to use these old photos and documents is somewhat meaningless. So why is this provision included? For those instances when someone actually owns an interest, such as a copyright, and later decides that they made a mistake by putting it on the website and then decided to claim that FamilySearch was somehow at fault for their own negligence. There are probably quite a few other reasons I could come up with if I were addressing a specific instance where the fine print agreement might apply.

If you care to do so, I would suggest that you read through both the documents linked on the bottom of the pages and by the way realize that all of the items you put on the Memories pages are searchable by Google.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Web Indexing Goes Live on

Web Indexing on may still be rolling out in stages, but it now appears as a main menu selection under the Indexing tab when I log in. Apparently, both the local, downloaded Indexing program and the Web Indexing program are both still available.

 However, if I select Web Indexing from the menu, I go directly to the Web Indexing program.

My immediate reaction was to try to do indexing on my iPad.  After signing him on my iPad, I went directly to the Web Indexing program.  Since my iPad is an iPad Pro, I can use the external keyboard instead of the on-screen keyboard. If I were using the on-screen keyboard, the process would be measurably more difficult. However, with the external keyboard, I see no reason why I could not use my iPad Pro for indexing.

The issue here, of course, is that Indexing is a data-intensive activity. Not only are we trying to read the handwritten, historical documents, but we are also entering large amounts of information into the computer. Although having a web-based program facilitates the use of mobile devices, the existence of the program does not overcome the limitations of entering information using an on-screen virtual keyboard. The main limitation being the size of the screen and the amount of information that can be reviewed at the same time. The larger screen of the iPad Pro and the use of an external keyboard overcome most of those problems.

My wife, who is an experienced indexer, after trying the web-based program, returned to the desktop-based program because she said it was more efficient and faster for her. In a meeting held recently, discussing web-based indexing, several concerns were expressed about the difficulty in converting existing indexers who were used to using the desk-based program to a new web-based program. it remains to be seen whether or not adding a web-based program will attract new, younger indexers. It may certainly attract more affluent users who have access to tablets such as the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface.

One of the major advantages that I see to a web-based program for indexing is that I will have access to the program from any computer connected to the Internet. It will be interesting to see how developments progress as we get further into the web-based program.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Getting Started with Indexing Online with FamilySearch

After years of waiting, web-based indexing is finally getting started on I am certain that developing this massive project was a very difficult challenge. I understand that the program is being rolled out in stages and it may still be a while before it appears as an option when you click on the indexing tab at the top of your startup screen. Apparently, the downloadable version is still being offered, but my wife had the experience of starting a batch in the downloaded program and then finding that she could not continue the same batch when she switched over to the web-based program. The instructions are clear and fairly simple.

When you click on My Indexing, you get to select a batch of records to index. I selected a batch of English records.

Here is what I saw when I opened the batch.

I suggest carefully reading through the instructions before jumping into the process, even if you have done a considerable amount of previous indexing.

Here is the entry page with the record showing.

This seemed much more efficient that the "old" program. I guess I am very much used to filling in forms online. I am sure I will have a lot of comments as I go along.

What's New with The Family History Guide

Some websites have a "What's New" section that never seems to be kept up-to-date. The Family History Guide is the exception. It's What's New section is very up-to-date and detailed. One of the latest additions to the website is the Online Tracker system for registered users of the website. The idea of the tracker system is to provide both the individuals using the website and those using the website to teach others with a way to "track" or record progress in working through the Projects, Goals and Choices in the program. Of course, the paper-based system using Microsoft Word forms is still available.

To begin, after you register and sign in, you are given a list of Projects to track. Let's suppose you are just starting out and click on the first Project. Here is a screenshot of the list:

If I select Project 1: Family Tree, this is the first online tracking sheet.

You can see a list of choices and a place to keep notes and mark the status of completion or mastery of the subject. The status slider gives four possible states: not started, started, good, and proficient.

By referring to the tracker sheets, an individual or instructor can immediately see both the progress of the individual or where they might need help.

From time to time, I have been asked about how this website will be kept up-to-date. I can assure all of the users that we diligently reviewing the program, but it is also a good idea to notice that there is a Contact link at the bottom of some of the pages. You can use this for suggestions, questions and comments about content that may have become unavailable for some reason.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How much technology is enough?

As I write this post, I am surrounded by technology. Very few things that I can see here on my desk would have been in existence when I was a teenager. Of course, pens, paper, eyeglasses, and a box of tissue would all be familiar to my teenage self, but the rest would have been pure speculative science fiction. This is especially true because I am sitting here talking to my computer and a program is transcribing my words onto my blog post.

What is even more interesting, that without the Internet and other worldwide developments in electronics, none of the items would've worked back then. So what do I have on my desk? What do I think is absolutely necessary to enable me to do genealogical research as I would like to do today? This turns out to be a serious question and one that is frequently raised by those I teach in classes.

Here is a list of the devices that I used on a daily basis.
  • Desktop computer
  • Laser printer
  • Smartphone
  • Laptop computer
  • Flatbed scanner
  • Sheetfed scanner
  • Various hard drives
  • IPad
  • Digital camera
  • External CD player
  • Bluetooth headset
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Flash drives
  • A tangled mass of cables and accessories
Some things that are always present but not visible are the multitude of software programs and apps that I use every day. These represent a substantial cost.

I can assure you that every one of these items has been used and some have been upgraded and replaced many, many times. This what I have enough? The answer that question would be a tentative yes. It is tentative because some of the items are quite old and may need to be replaced or upgraded as new technology develops. Now let's suppose that you have never purchased any of these devices. First of all, that would put you in a small minority of the overall population of our country. But, for the purposes of illustration, I will start with a hypothetical situation where a person has no technology. What would they buy first?

For genealogists today, access to the Internet is indispensable. The first purchase should be a device that connects to the Internet. From my perspective, I need a keyboard. So, whatever device is selected, it must have a usable, full-size keyboard. Over the past few years, I have been debating whether it would be more economical to have a laptop computer that connects to a large monitor and an external keyboard, instead of purchasing both a laptop and a desktop computer. This is a decision that would have to be made by the individual. I talked to many people who find using their laptop connected to a large monitor and keyboard when at home to be sufficient. In my case, laptop computers still lack enough internal memory storage and connectivity to be a primary computer.

The next most important item is a printer. What about the difference between a laser printer and an inkjet printer. Although I am trying to eliminate printing altogether, I still find laser printers that use toner cartridges, are more economical than inkjet printers. Inkjet printers are practically free but the cost of the ink quickly makes up for the low initial purchase price.

Immediately upon addressing the issue of purchasing electronic equipment for genealogical purposes, the cost of the equipment becomes an issue. As I pointed out many times in the past, we will buy that we are interested in buying. I do find, however, that some people use the cost of the equipment as an excuse for not doing genealogy which is pretty silly from my perspective.

For genealogists, if they are using either a laptop or a desktop computer, they should be backing up all their data regularly to an external hard drive, a flash drive, or to online storage, or all three. Fortunately, the cost of buying external storage has dropped precipitously in the last few years and promises to drop even further in the near future. There is really no excuse for losing data because you failed to make a backup.

What would be next? For my own convenience and to increase my ability to do work while traveling away from home, I choose to have a laptop computer in addition to my desktop computer. For that reason, a laptop would be my next purchase.

Because I have been dealing with a lot of paper that includes records, documents, and other items that relate to my research or were inherited from my predecessors, I have always had a scanner. My first purchase would be a flatbed scanner. But because of the volume of the documents that I have a process, I've also chosen to purchase a sheetfed scanner. Both of these scanners are used frequently.

At this point, I should also point out that my wife and I run and manage a couple of businesses in addition to our genealogical pursuits. Some of the equipment is justified by reason of the fact that we work at a professional level. For example, I cannot imagine living without a camera. Over the years I purchased perhaps dozens of cameras. I actually have two main digital cameras that I use constantly. However, from a genealogical standpoint, I could use my smartphone, in my case, an Apple iPhone. Actually, I use all three. I would suggest that the utility of having a digital camera available to take notes, preserve documents, take pictures in cemeteries, and a multitude of other uses justifies the cost of having at least one of these devices.

Because we read a lot of books and like the portability and convenience of tablets, we have several iPads. One issue that is beginning to appear is the fact that tablet computers may replace laptops. As I have found out over the last two or three years, the issue now is software development. Tablet computers, unless they are actually laptops in disguise, do not yet have the complete software capability of the desktop or laptop computer.

My external CD player is necessary because none of my new computers have an internal CD drive and there is still a lot of media on CDs.

The Bluetooth headset, the Bluetooth speaker are both for convenience. I now use a Bluetooth headset and voice recognition software to write when I am pressed for time. The Bluetooth speaker is good for presenting a class when there is limited access to amplification systems.

Presently, flash drives do not have the capacity to act as primary backups. But they do provide the ability to transport larger files. In using computers and remote locations, I have moved from carrying a flash drive around to using online storage. I do use flash drives as a backup for my presentations, just in case Internet connectivity is not available.

How much does all this cost? A lot. But all of this electronic equipment is used for personal and business purposes that overlap into our genealogical pursuits. One thing I can say about the cost of this equipment is that it is a lot less expensive than it used to be just a few years ago.

A Place of Rest

One can only wonder how this turtle got up on that branch. However, this scene brings to my mind the fact that leisure and rest are highly overrated in our society today. I would rather work than rest anytime and leisure is a concept I've never been able to comprehend.We all have such a short time on this earth, I am often reminded of the words of that old hymn, "Click Your Shoulder to the Wheel."
The world has need of willing men
Who wear the worker’s seal.
Come, help the good work move along;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
It seems to me that we all need to work more and worry less about leisure.