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

RootsTech 2014 Official Blogger

Friday, January 30, 2015

Where are the duplicates in Family Tree?

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are urged to provide accurate information when submitting names for Temple ordinances. Part of the process of being accurate with the Family Tree program is resolving any duplicate records. Referring to the Help Center about providing accurate information I find the following statement:
Assuring the accuracy of the information involves documenting and presenting the information used when submitting a name for ordinances. In many cases the FamilySearch software assists in this process. However, some additional steps may be required and should not be skipped - such as evaluating possible duplicate records.
How easy is the process of finding duplicate records in the Family Tree and what are the consequences of ignoring this requirement?

 It is important to understand several facts about the Family Tree:

  • The program inherited its data set from
  • The original data added to consisted of several large databases which already contained duplicate entries. Those databases included the Ancestral File (AF), the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) and the International Genealogical Index (IGI). 
  • The program did not resolve the issue of duplicate entries.
  • Information from the program is being imported into the Family Tree. This process is ongoing and will not be completed until sometime in 2016.
  • The Family Tree program is full of duplicates. Some of the entries have dozens, perhaps hundreds of duplicate records. 

If you know what to look for, you will see that finding duplicate entries is quite simple and easy. Usually, the program marks the potential duplicates for you by Green Arrows or Green Temple icons.

Here are some examples from my own perspective:

1. My Grandfather's Family

Here is a screenshot of my Grandfather Harold Morgan in the Family Tree traditional view:

Notice the Green Arrow. This does not mean that Temple ordinances are available. It means that there are duplicate entries. Here is a screenshot of the duplicate entries, all for the same person.

I choose the first entry to try and merge in the two obvious duplicates and here are the results:

The record cannot be merged with the obvious duplicate at this time. When will I be able to merge the duplicate record? When the program is finally taken down and all of the information has been transferred to Family Tree. Reviewing the ordinances for this family reveals that his parents were married in the Temple and he was "born in the covenant or BIC" The only ordinance that needs to be done is sealing to parents which has already occurred.

However, there is a third copy of this person. Here is a screenshot of the third Calvin Christensen Morgan:

This third record is interesting. Even though there is a death date showing on the record, the file shows up in a Private Space that came from FamilySearch. I did not create this record. It also does not show up as a duplicate even though it is obvious from the list of children in the family that it is a duplicate.

Hmm. So let's do a little more digging. All of the changes to this third Private Space person came from FamilySearch. How did a person with a death date get into a Private Space?

Let's go back to the Family Tree. For the time being, I will stay on the same family line. To speed up the process of looking for Green Arrows etc. I change to the Descendancy View and look at all of Harold Morgan's descendants. On the descendancy view, there are two Green Temple Icons for Calvin Christensen Morgan:

Good news here, although there are clearly Green Temple icons, there are also warnings for possible duplicates. But nevertheless, I could proceed with the ordinances assuming I was the closest living relative.

All of the descendants of Harold Morgan's father, John Morgan, started out as members of the Church. In going back in descendancy view, I find two individuals with ordinances in progress. Once I get back a little further in the pedigree, I find more opportunities marked by icons but the information is scanty. For example, there is a Temple icon showing that ordinances have been printed and reserved for a person named only "Addison" with no firm birth date, no death date, no sources or any other information at all.

I suggest that we follow the rule and check for duplicates and do some documenting of the people.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

570 Million New Hints added to FamilySearch Family Tree

According to a recent blog post by Robert Kehrer entitled, "FamilySearch Releases 570 Million New Hints Between Family Tree and Records" FamilySearch announced the following:
On Thursday, Jan 22nd FamilySearch began displaying 570 million additional historical record hints for ancestors in Family Tree. With this release, over 120 million Family Tree ancestors, with no attached sources, now have potential records to document their vital information. A significant percentage of these records also reference new family members previously not identified but who can be added to Family Tree relationships.
Record hints appear on the Detail page of each of the individuals who may have such hints available. Here is a screenshot showing a link to hints for one of my ancestors:

If you go to a Descendancy view of your ancestors, you will see all of the Record Hints displayed. Here is a screenshot of my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner's family and the Record Hints now available. 

The brown icons indicate Record Hints. Clicking on the icons gives a link to the record. Be sure and review the record before attaching it to your ancestor to make sure the right person has been identified. I do find that the hints are quite accurate and very helpful in adding sources to each individual in your ancestry.

Robert Kehrer goes on in the FamilySearch blog post to state:
FamilySearch hinting builds a cloud of data around an ancestor in Family Tree using all the information from the ancestor and their parents, spouse and children. It then compares that cloud of data to the data indexed on over 5 billion FamilySearch historical records and returns records for a person that displays a high confidence of being the same as the Family Tree ancestor. Current accuracy has been verified at better than 98%.
 This is very impressive and is now on par with's Record Matches. These new technologies are a boon to all those who take advantage of having their family trees in these online programs. 

Here is a concluding quote from Bob Kehrer at FamilySearch:
Since its release last summer, the simplicity of hinting, coupled with the side-by-side data comparison, has opened up opportunities for new researchers to contribute valid genealogical information and add new ancestors to the Family Tree based on actual historical records. Because of how hinting works it is not uncommon for it to identify and present records that would have been very difficult to locate through other means. 
Users are currently attaching hundreds of thousands of new record sources to Family Tree ancestors each day and these new 570 million hints are expected to dramatically increase those numbers. These record hints has resulted in the Family Tree becoming one of the largest and most accurate genealogical trees anywhere. 
We invite everyone to visit to FamilySearch and see records you may have never seen about your ancestors, find a new ancestor in records to add to your tree, and if you are experienced with genealogy, reach out and share your excitement and skills with family and friends who have yet to discover the joy of getting to know their past.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Trouble with obtaining an LDS Account to

During the past few months, I have helped dozens (hundreds?) of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sign into to obtain their "free" account from Many people try to sign into receive the account but do not follow the steps outlined carefully and then end up with a limited, "free" account with that does not include the features of a full subscription to the program. When the potential user tries out, they receive a message saying they need to pay to receive the special Record Match and Record Detective features of the program. 

Today, I got yet another question from a reader and sent her the following instructions about how to solve this issue.
Hi,Yes, as a matter of fact. You did not set up an LDS account completely. You needed to go back through the process. If I were there to help you, it would take less than three minutes to set up the correct free LDS account. Here are the steps:
  1. Go to and sign in. You must have an LDS Account with FamilySearch.
  2. Go to the Get Help link in the upper right hand corner and click on the pull-down menu
  3. You should see a link to the Help Center and click on it.
  4. In the Help Center there should be a number of icons. One is the Partners icon.
  5. Click on the partners Icon and then click on the bar that says Partners.
  6. There should be a list of the free partnership programs.
  7. Click on the link to
  8. Follow the screens carefully and watch for the small check boxes at the bottom of the screen. Make sure you check the boxes. Also, choose the option that you already have an account.
  9. Sign in to with your email and password.
  10. Click on your name and look at “My Purchases.”  
  11. You should see two 1s in parentheses and it should say you have an account. If not, try doing the whole thing over again.
I have done this over a hundred times since I got here to Provo. The trick is to carefully read the screens and click on the boxes. Also if you have ever had an account previously, free or otherwise, you need to choose the box that says you had an account before. 
 You can also go directly to the Partners page by going to but you will still need to make sure you are signed in to with an LDS Account.

Once in a while, I have found that people have actually signed up for multiple accounts with This can cause a problem. The account with is called a "Website." Your Website can have several family trees. Some people confuse the family trees with the website. If you want to see which Websites you have, you click on your name in the upper left-hand corner of the start up screen. If you have created or joined family trees that you do not wish to have, you can "Manage" your trees from a link under the Family tree menu tab at the top of the page. One of the options is to delete a tree. Be careful not to delete a tree you are working on.

If you get too tangled up, you may have to delete all your trees and start over again.

I do not suggest uploading GEDCOM files to (or any other online family tree program for that matter). You should begin your family tree by entering the information you already know, one person at a time. This will allow to help you build your family tree from sources. There is a rather long discussion here about my opinion, but in the long run, I have found this to be a better strategy. You may have to add enough individuals with dates, places etc. before will "kick in" and start giving you Record Matches. Once the Record Matches start to come, it is important to use every one of them. If you don't get any Record matches for a while, it is usually because you are not working on the tree. Try doing a research search on one or more individuals to find additional records and that will usually start the Record Match process again.

The key here is working with the program systematically. The main reason that I do not recommend adding a GEDCOM is because very, very few people have a completely sourced family tree. Why add unsubstantiated data? You can watch my video on about here:

If after all this, the program still does not seem to work, then seek help from someone using the program or contact me. In some cases, I have spent up to two hours untangling what people have done without knowing how to use the program.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

You can't avoid change and changes on FamilySearch Family Tree

Here is the simplest way I can think of to explain change and changes in the Family Tree. I will start by referring to some recent FamilySearch blog posts. Here is one statement made in a post clear back on November 10, 2014. Here is a quote from the blog post entitled, "FamilySearch Announces Milestone for Retirement of"
The next milestone is scheduled for February 1, 2015, when all access to the program will be discontinued (data from will be accessible at All public-facing Application Programming Interfaces (API) will be disabled, as well as access via login by all users of the program. In effect it will not be visible or accessible. However, there are still many tasks that our engineers will continue to work on, such as migrating and synchronizing datasets to Family Tree, as well as verifying and validating all data. Because of the enormity of the task and the desire to not lose any data, we can only give an estimate as to how long it will take to complete these final tasks. We believe it will take a year, possibly more, before we can reach the final milestone. 
The final milestone, where we completely retire will, therefore, occur in early 2016. At that point, once we are certain that all data has correctly migrated, we will begin work on very important data enhancements for Family Tree including:
  • Merging of gateway ancestors and other famous people (also known as IOUSs)
  • Highlighting and fixing other data issues, such as: individuals who are married before they are born, child older than a parent, child who is a spouse of a parent or grandparent, and such.
  • Ability for users to edit the gender of an ancestor.
  • Ability to see current spouse’s line by default.
If you try to access today, you will likely get a statement about the fact that will be turned off on February 1, 2015. The rest of the statement contains language very similar to that quoted above. Here is the statement from the notice:
On February 1, all public APIs (application programming interfaces) will be turned off, as will be the ability to access the program. This step is necessary as we enter the final phase, which is to transfer and synchronize all of the remaining data from to FamilySearch Family Tree. It is anticipated that this final phase of data testing, transfer, and retesting will require a year to complete. Once this phase is completed in early 2016, will be completely shut down. 
It is important to note that many highly desired features of FamilySearch Family Tree cannot begin to be developed until has reached the final milestone and is completely shut-off. Once that has happened, work can begin on features such as: 
  1. Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records.
  2. Highlighting and fixing other data eccentricities, such as when a person appears to have been married before birth, a child older than a parent, a child who is the spouse of parent or grandparent, and so on.
  3. The ability for users to change the gender of an ancestor.
  4. The ability to see a spouse’s ancestral line by default.
 Read these statements very carefully. You will find that FamilySearch is saying the following:

  1. Data is still being transferred from to FamilySearch Family Tree.
  2. Data will continue to be transferred even after is "turned off."
  3. That data transfer process will likely take at least another year until sometime in 2016. 
  4. Nothing will be much done to resolve the IOUS (Individuals of Unusual Size) aka legacy ancestors aka gateway ancestors aka people with large records until this transfer is complete.

Now, what this means is that as long as data is being transferred by FamilySearch from the program, changes will continue to show up in the Family Tree program.

This will continue to affect the ability to merge or effectively work with the people with large records. So, if you are working on trying to "correct" information about an ancestor, you may well experience some considerable frustration as FamilySearch continues to add data if by chance that data affects your ancestor.

In addition, suppose you have some ancestors that joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1830 and 1900. It is very possible that these ancestors have dozens or hundreds or even thousands of descendants who are now members of the Church. When you are trying to "fix" the information for these ancestors, you are in a sense competing with all the other descendants of that same person. So you may see a huge number of changes as various of your cousins start working on the program.

The combined changes of both FamilySearch and your cousins can become overwhelming. What do we do about this? Note the time frame set forth by FamilySearch above. Why not do something else until at least FamilySearch is done and has started to resolve the issues with your ancestors?

Meanwhile, FamilySearch is locking selected individuals in the Family Tree program. This will likely be done to many of the so-called gateway or IOUS ancestors. Here is an example of a Read Only detail page for President Abraham Lincoln:

This is likely to happen to many of those individuals in our ancestry that have thousands of descendants. This will help to stabilize the Family Tree.

Mean while, what can be done? You can work on cleaning up the Family Tree and working on descendants of those ancestors who are not IOUSs.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#RootsTech Family Discovery Day Sold Out

The following announcement was posted on the website:
Family Discovery Day for LDS Members 
Due to overwhelming interest, the Family Discovery Day portion of the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City has filled up, and we are no longer accepting registrations for this specific event. 
Tickets are still available for the main RootsTech conference, starting at $19. RootsTech includes speakers like former First Lady Laura Bush and entertainer Donny Osmond as well as over 200 classes, an interactive expo hall, and evening entertainment. Learn more here.
Looks like the Salt Palace where #RootsTech 2015 is being held will be very crowded on Saturday. This is an interesting development.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beware of working on duplicates in FamilySearch Family Tree

NOTE: This post deals with a situation limited to those who have legacy or gateway individuals in their ancestry. If your ancestry includes people who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1830 and 1900, you may very well encounter this type of challenge. If your family has more recent membership or none at all, you will not likely see any of these problems.

Some of the entries in the Family Tree have duplicates that cannot be merged at this time. These entries are usually those who are classified as Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUSs). One of these is my Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner. He presently has two very prominently displayed duplicates. Here is a screenshot showing the two duplicate entries:

These two obvious duplicates cannot be merged at this time. This situation is caused by the fact that all of the information from has yet to be moved into Family Tree. This situation is likely to exist well into 2016. Here is a screenshot showing the warning that these two Sidney Tanners cannot be merged at this time:

The problem is that people are constantly adding information and making changes to both of these duplicate individuals. Let me say that again. There are people adding content to both of these individuals who are the SAME PERSON. They cannot be merged. When FamilySearch finally transfers all the information from, which of these duplicate individuals will survive? Which of the duplicate individuals will retain all the sources and other information added to each? What if the person undertaking to merge the two makes wrong choices about what information survives the merger and what does not?

I need to emphasize that these two duplicate individuals in the Family Tree have each been extensively modified. They both have sources, notes, additional information and discussion material. One of them happens to be missing the wife and children of the line I come through. Because they both appear with the same father, in this case, they do not each start their own pedigree. But there is another issue here.

Let's take this another step, what if I do a Find for Sidney Tanner? I find at least 13 people in the Family Tree named Sidney Tanner without an additional middle name. But fortunately, at this point, I only find the two Sidney Tanners showing in the John Tanner family group. Are there more out there?

For this step, I use the RootsMagic program for a more in depth search of the Family Tree data. I find that there are two Sidney Tanner's that appear with the same Person Identifier Number; KWJ6-DZX. RootsMagic cannot solve the merge problem.

The solution, for now, is to make sure that the copies of the person that cannot be merged contain the same information. Then, no matter which of the copies survives, all of the contributed information will also survive.

In recent statements, FamilySearch has stated that they will not be addressing this problem until after program is finally taken down and is no longer online at all. See FamilySearch Announces Milestones for Retirement of Read what is said carefully and you will see that they are saying the issue with "gateway or IOUS" ancestors will not be addressed until after is taken down.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

FamilySearch Family Tree Lists and Filters Family Tree has several ways to list information and to filter the results from a search. The first, and most obvious of these is the list of Family Tree views in the upper left-hand corner of the view screen. Here is a screenshot showing the pull-down menu of view options and the links to show a different number of generations for the Descendancy View:

If you go to a detail page, there are additional lists and pull-down menus. If you are signed in with an LDS Account, you may see several different colored icons from the Ordinance view. There is a link to the "Legend" in the right-hand corner that gives the following explanation:

  • Completed
  • Request
  • Not Printed
  • Printed
  • Waiting
  • Shared
  • Shared Printed
  • Not Available
  • Not Needed
The categories correspond to colored icons that may or may not be visible for any particular individual. 

At the top of the Detail page, there is a link for "Lists." There are two options, "People I'm Watching" and "Changes to People I'm Watching." Here is a screenshot of part of my "People I'm Watching" list:

Below the link to the list, there is a filter box that lets you filter the list by entering a surname, a first name or any other identifying information. Here's what happens when I filter the list for the word "Massachusetts."

You can experiment with different filter terms and see how it affects your list of watched individuals. You will also see that the headings on the list are also pull-down menus that will let you change the arrangement of the Watch List. The lists will be sorted according to your selections. 

You can also see only those people in the list who have had changes. The list shows up in chronological order. You can also hide the changes you have made to see only what other people have changed. Here is a screenshot with arrows showing the link to the Changes list and the checkbox to hide the changes you have made. 

The names in the list are linked to the individual's Detail Page. 

You may want to click on other links and menu items in the Family Tree to see other possible features of the program.