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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why do we have prophets?

Why Do We Have Prophets?

One important aspect of becoming involved in family history is that it is an activity that raises our spiritual awareness. Researching our origins helps us sort out what is really important in our lives though an appreciation of the challenges and difficulties experienced by our ancestors. In our efforts to uncover the past, we can more fully understand the present. 

I have often wondered why so many people can accept dead prophets and reject living ones. Modern-day prophets and apostles have continually taught the need for Church members to enable the salvation of the dead by performing temple and family history work on behalf of deceased ancestors. See "Family History Work Vital, Prophets and Apostles Say." If family history work is vital, (which it is), why is there not a greater acceptance of it generally and in the church?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Explosion of Digitized Images on

Most serious family historians and genealogists are aware of the progress of the digitization of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm archived in the vast Granite Vault outside of Salt Lake City, Utah by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For many years, we have watched the progress of the conversion process as important and vital historical records have been made freely available on the website. Technological improvements in the digitization process have pushed greater and greater numbers of documents online. For example, the first item on the list above, the
Italy, Agrigento, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1820-1865, contains 1,212,762 images. But the records added to the Historical Record Collections is not all of the digitized records. You can view the list with the most recently added records by clicking on the column heading "Last Updated." This will sort the column by the most recent date. 

To really understand all of the digitized records, you need to search for records in the Catalog. The catalog contains two ways to view the records. For example, here is a screenshot of the "Case files of the U.S. district courts for the Territory of Utah, 1870-1896 : NARA, M1401" from the catalog. 

This link, indicated by the arrow, tells the users that the entire collection has been digitized and is available online for viewing. However, this does not mean that the collection has been indexed. The indexing of the documents is lagging far behind the digitization efforts. In many cases, merely having the images is sufficient to do research. Most genealogists with research experience are used to the idea and the process of searching microfilmed records and the digitized records are so much easier to search and use. 

But the Catalog carried the record availability further. Here is a screenshot of the list of records in this same collection.

The camera icon on the list indicates that these records are available in "film strip" format. Here is a screenshot of those records.

By putting the records online in this format, has advanced our ability to search the original records. By clicking on any one of the images you can see the images in the context of the whole roll. 

Navigation of these original documents is facilitated. 

The Catalog and the Historical Record Collections need to be used in conjunction to be used most effectively. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Family History for Non-English Speakers

Genealogists or family historians are usually not well integrated into the larger history centered community. Earlier this year, in March of 2016 The Church News reported about the Church History Symposium jointly organized by Brigham Young University and the Church History Department. Quoting from an article by R. Scott Lloyd, a Church News staff writer in an article entitled, "Presentations Examine Global Reach of Church:"
How The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is adjusting to meet the needs of an international membership was the theme this year of the annual Church History Symposium jointly organized by Brigham Young University and the Church History Department. 
The two-day symposium, titled “The Worldwide Church: The Global Reach of Mormonism,” began Thursday, March 6, on the BYU campus in Provo with a full day of scholarly presentations and an evening keynote speech by Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond in Virginia and a prolific and popular author on intellectual topics about Mormonism.
It is unlikely that any dedicated genealogists who were not also involved in the history community were even aware of this event. But the concerns expressed in the keynote by Professor Givens apply equally to the Church's genealogical community.

For example in Provo, Utah there are 18 Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nine of those Stakes have Spanish speaking wards. In addition, there also Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Sign Language wards. As I visit wards throughout the Church in the United States, I often note a significant Spanish speaking population in surprising places around the country.

As an integral part of the Church and its teachings, genealogy should be viewed in the context of the global church. All of those working on the website should be aware that the website is availabile in the following languages:

In case you cannot recognize the names of the languages, they are German, Portuguese, English, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Here is what the website looks like in Chinese:

Perhaps you were not aware that the Research Wiki is also found in the following languages:

The languages are German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Chinese.

In those areas where there are non-English speaking people, the Church leaders should be particularly careful to provide support for family history in the languages spoken by members of their wards and stakes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The People Page in FamilySearch Memories

The Peoples section of the Memories section is a quick and sometimes very impressive way to view the photo contributions of your extended family. For some, viewing the Peoples section for the first time can be a highly emotional surprise. According to the Help Center document, "People page in Memories," the People page includes thumbnails (small copies) of memory items for a person, even if that person is not yet attached to the Family Tree. The system adds Memories of people within your "Scope of Interest or SOI" for four generations of your ancestors and relatives. In my case, this is hundreds of individuals.

You might note from the screenshot above, that some of the people on the page do not have photographs. Apparently, people are included as long as they have at least one memory. However, I have found some without a thumbnail photo who actually do have photos in the program. Here is an example.

When I click on the thumbnail icon, I can see that there is a photo for this person.

What I found was that I had to "set my preferred portrait" and then the thumbnail will show a photo. Here is what it looks like after I clicked on the image in the upper left of the Memories page and selected the photo:

Sometimes the thumbnail photo will show a gravemarker or a document if there is a photo missing for the person. If there is a photo and yet it does not show, you may need to set your preferred photo to the image you want to select. Again, you go to the Memories page of the person and click on the icon in the upper left-hand corner.

When you click on the icon, you get a selection of photos to use as the default image.

One significant recent change is that previously, the photos were displayed in alphabetical order by the "first" given name of the ancestor or relative. Now, they are organized by the surname.

If the People page shows more than one icon for a person, then this more than clue, it is an indication that there is a duplicate issue.

The photos in the Memories section is probably one of the most dramatic attractions of the entire program. If you want to get people engaged with the Family Tree, introduce them to the photos.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blessed, Honored Pioneers

Some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have gotten an email from about their pioneer heritage. My email gave me a link to the above website listing a few of my pioneer ancestors. Here is a copy of the email.

The pioneers listed also link to the wagon company that crossed the Plains. Here is a screenshot of the pioneers in the Amasa M. Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company that included some of my Tanner ancestors.

The Pioneer Ancestors website can be accessed through For additional information see the Overland Trails Website.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Limits on Entries in the FamilySearch Memories and the Family Tree

The Memories section of the website continues to evolve. With the recent upgrade of the entire website, there have been a few limitations put on the entries. Here are some of the numerical limitations imposed:
  • 1000 -- the total number of memory tags or links you can have for one individual. If you have more than this number, then you cannot add any more tags. This means that the total number of photos, stories and records cannot exceed this number. 
  • 5 MB -- the size limit for stories uploaded or entered into the story area. This is equal to about 1,000 pages of text.
  • No limit -- to the number of total items you can contribute to Memories at this time. 
  • 15 MB -- the file size limitation for .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .png, .mp3, and .mp4a files that can be uploaded
See the following Help Center articles
In the Family Tree there are the following limits;
  • Spouses: 200
  • Parents: 100
  • Children: 400
  • Names, facts, and events in the Other Information section: 200
  • Sources: 200
  • Memories: 1,000
  • Other persons identified as "not a match": 400
  • Discussions: 50
  • Notes: 50 (each note can have up to 10,752 characters.) Please be aware that relationship notes can only be up to 12, whereas Individual notes can be up to 50.
See Limits to the data about persons in Family Tree. I am sorry that we are limited to only 200 spouses and only 400 children, however, I am certain that very, very few people will run into these limits. But there are probably some of them, such as the limit on the "not a match" that you might eventually run into with very commonly named individuals. 

Here are some further limits on the data fields in the Family Tree.
  • Note: 10752 characters
  • Name: 256 characters per part of the name (first name, last name, title, suffix)
  • Place: 256 characters
  • Life sketch: 10,000 characters
  • Reason statements: 2,000 characters
  • Description field of a fact: 2,000 characters
Most of these are more than adequate, but you might run into these limitations if you are not aware of them. See Character limits in the fields in Family Tree. Here are a few more limits to family relationships:
  • Sources: 50
  • Notes: 12 (Each note can have up to 10,752 characters.) Please be aware that relationship notes can only be up to 12, whereas Individual notes can be up to 50.
  • Couple relationships can have up to 40 marriage events.Parent-child relationships can have up to 40 relationship types.
You may have to think about some of these for a while before they make any sense, but the limits set are not likely to pose a problem to very many users of the program. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Family Food

If you are an American, there are somethings that you can always talk about: the weather and food. You need to stay away from the usual politics, sports and etc. due to their controversial nature. Everyone has something to say about both the weather and food. But for family historians, food takes on an entirely different dimension. Let's call that "traditional food." 

I married into a family that has a multi-generational heritage of food. My wife can recall what was served at almost every significant family gathering for the last fifty years or so. My wife, my daughters, dautghters-in-law and other assorted relatives even have a food blog called, "Family Heritage Recipes."

As usual, this post has a lot to do with family history. As genealogists or family historians, we often find that people are not all that interested in talking about "genealogy" per se. What they are interested in is their family and even more, the foods they remember from family gatherings. Talking about their memories is a sure-fire way to get into the topic of saving those same memories on the Memories website. If they decide to share a recipe or two, they can make them more significant by telling the story about their origin and significance to the family. 

Some families come from recent immigrants and the foods and traditions of the "old country" are still preserved in the collective family memory. It is time to broaden our understanding of genealogy to include these valuable, traditional stories and memories.