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

Monday, May 2, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part Four

Tree, Structure, Networks, Internet, Network, Social

There are three ways to benefit from the vast resources of the Research Wiki:
  • You can search by topic such as probate, vital records, land and property etc.
  • You can browse by geographic area 
  • You can dig down on a subject by starting with the broad, geographically defined area such as a country and follow the same topic down to the smallest geographic subdivision, such as England, County, Parish etc.
Because the Research Wiki is essentially organized as a web-based tool, if you follow the links, the program will continue to provide more information on any particular subject. Of course, the Research Wiki has its limitations. Some areas of the world have very few readily available family history resources, especially those available through the Internet, but as you become involved in using the Research Wiki as a tool, you will begin to develop and more expansive view of what can be used as a resource.

In addition to guidance about strictly genealogical resources, the Research Wiki also contains thousands of articles of general interest about how to do genealogy. The program also comes complete with its own instructions for use and involvement in the Research Wiki community. Any discussion of the Research Wiki could easily dissolve into a list of pages and topics. But the idea behind wiki programs is that you need to explore the contents for yourself, at your own pace and as you develop new interests and needs. The introduction to the Research Wiki is really contained on the startup page. All the links you need to get started are right there.

As shown by the links on the bottom of the page, the Research Wiki even comes in ten different languages. Some of these other language editions of the Research Wiki have had hundreds of thousands of visits.

Given the general nature of the Research Wiki startup page, it is important to realize that there are some basic genealogical research tools built into the program. Here is a summary of the tools found on the Wiki Tools for Research page.

Watching Pages
This is a particularly important function if you find that the Research Wiki is not complete and an article or page needs more detail. The idea of a wiki is that if you know something about a topic and that information is not in the program, then you always have the option of adding the new information. But if you don't know the answer, you can always wait and someone with the information you are seeking may add it to the program. Every page in the Research Wiki has a star at the top of the page. By clicking on the star, if you are a registered user, you will add the page to your own watchlist and will then receive email notifications of any changes made to your watched pages.

Most of the Research Wiki articles have one or more categories listed near the bottom of the article or page. These categories are constantly being expanded and revised to give an expanded view of articles or pages that the contributors think are related.

Talk Pages
Every page on the Research Wiki has an accompanying Talk Page. In many cases, these pages are blank, but if you have a specific question about an article or the content of an article or page, you can post a question or comment on that page's Talk Page. To add a question or comment, you click on the Edit tab and add in your question. It is appropriate to add your signature to any comments on the Talk Pages. This is done by typing four tildes (~~~~) at the end of your comment.

Navigation List
Links to some of the most useful areas of the Research Wiki are found in a list on the left-hand side of each page. This list is semi-permanent but the content of the linked pages is always being updated.

Ultimately, you may find that you want to edit or contribute to the content of the Research Wiki. Once you are registered as a user, you are automatically registered on the Research Wiki and can begin to contribute or edit as you wish to do so. Contributing and editing does require some background, but all of the information you need to get started is already in the Research Wiki. Just click on the link on the startup page and you will eventually find more information than you could have dreamed that anyone would write about contributing.

If you are going to contribute to the content of the Research Wiki, it is a good idea to have your own user page. Whenever I edit or contribute to the Research Wiki, a link to me is automatically generated and recorded with the change information. Many people make changes to the Research Wiki without creating a User Page, but if you create a user page, you can refer people to an explanation of your qualifications for adding new content. The User Page can be of your own design as long as you keep within the objectives and design rules of the Research Wiki.

Finally, it is a good idea to review the policies and procedures of the Research Wiki occasionally to make sure you are operating within the guidelines. Here are some links to the policy pages.

Here are the previous installments of this series.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April, 2016 -- What's New on FamilySearch

For some time now, has been posting a monthly update of the changes and new features on the website. Some of the updates are a little premature and give glimpses into changes that are still in the future. Some of the changes, such as the long awaited upgrade to the Research Wiki go unnoticed in the list of things that have changed. Notwithstanding these limitations, there are always a few nuggets of information about the changes to the program.

One of the features that was already announced previously and implemented some time ago, is the ability to see how many people are watching a specific individual in the program when you make a change. I know this exists, but I have only run into it very infrequently since it was introduced. It looks like very few people are watching those ancestors I am concerned about. I did have a rather pleasant interchange with one user who was making unsupported changes to individuals without checking to see in the sources she was adding really applied to the person they were being added to. But apparently, telling her that I was watching that individual did not deter her from making an inappropriate change.

My Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, probably has tens of thousands of descendants. If I go in to make a change to his Details, I see a notice that says that "10 users of Family Tree are watching this person. If you change this information, these users will be notified." Here is a screen shot of the "warning."

The last change was the addition of a source attached and the addition of his baptism as a "Custom Event" in 1860. This is a duplication of the information in the Ordinance list that shows his baptism on 11 June 1860. Do I delete the duplicate information or let it stand? Additionally, the source cited, the Utah, Early Mormon Missionary Database, is not a valid source for ordinance information. Where do we end up drawing the line on changes?

FamilySearch is still waiting to add an Updated Person Card to the searches and they are planning to expand the ability to send messages directly through the program. We will continue to watch for these changes when they come.

FamilySearch did make it easier to add an unindexed image as a source in the Family Tree. They described this as follows:
FamilySearch has made it easier to attach an image that has not been indexed to a person in Family Tree. If you find an unindexed image that has information about your ancestor, you will be able to edit the title, select the Family Tree person to attach the image to, provide a reason statement, and attach the image to other family members who may appear or be mentioned in the image.
Anything they can do to make attaching sources easier and more efficient is much appreciated.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part Three

I have often referred to the Research Wiki as the most valuable genealogical resource on the Internet and I am still of the opinion that it still. The upgraded format resolves many of limitations and issues I had with the previous version.

The Research Wiki is organized in a way that is completely analogous to the way genealogically important records are created and preserved around the world. Records are created in response to events in a person's life, such as birth, marriage and death. There are an almost endless number of different kinds of records that can be created. The records are most commonly created either by someone who was present at the time of the event or had some kind of duty to record the event. Those responsible for making these records create layers of jurisdictions that correspond to geographic locations of the various events in a person's life. These jurisdictions pile up like pancakes.

Pancake, Crepes, Eat, Food, Crepe

At the top of the pile are records created at the national level such as military, census and tax records. The next level down is the state or province. At this level in the United States, we find birth, death and other similar records. Moving down in the jurisdictional stack in the United States, we find counties with the records that are usually created and maintained in the county, such as marriage and land and property records. Proceeding downward, we get to municipalities, including cities, towns, villages and other similar divisions. At this level we have records of school districts, churches, voting districts and other such organizations. The bottom layer consists of personal records; journals, diaries, letters, Bible records and other such items. In order to do effective research, it is necessary to search for records at every one of these levels and all other possible records.

The Research Wiki is organized in the same way as records are created and maintained. For almost every topic, there is a corresponding layer of information for each layer of jurisdiction. Here are some screenshots showing these layers of information in the Research Wiki. I will start this example with a reference to Land and Property Records.

Here is a screenshot of the United States level of the Research Wiki with an arrow to the link to Land and Property Records.

By clicking on this link, you can see the general reference to Land and Property Records in the entire United States. You can start with any other country and find references to records organized like this in layers. Here is the article for United States Land and Property Records.

At the bottom of this page (out of the screenshot) there is a list of all the states. If I choose one of the states where my ancestors lived, such as Arizona, I can see more information that is specific to Arizona.

Now, the Arizona page has a further list of all the counties in the state. Here is a screenshot of the list.

Now, if I go further, I could click on Apache County and see even more resources for Land and Property Records depending on the status of the information contributed to the Research Wiki.

You can see that searching for information in the Research Wiki involves learning about the available records in different layers of the organization and digging down into the references to find even more records. You can also search the Research Wiki by topic, but it is more effective to research by jurisdiction and start at the bottom or top.

Stay tuned for next installment of this series. Here is a link to the previous post.

Friday, April 29, 2016 Submission Agreement and the Upload Guidelines

The FamilySearch Blog for What's New on FamilySearch--April 2016 has the following notice:
The first time you upload memories using the Gallery, you will be asked to accept the FamilySearch Content Submission Agreement. To indicate that you will comply with the agreement, you must check the box. To read the Content Submission Agreement and the Upload Guidelines pages, click the links. If you do not accept, you will not be able to upload memories.
This type of agreement is very common for large, online websites and most of us click through these notices without a thought.  But there are some provisions of the Content Submission Agreement and Upload Guidelines that might be surprising to the average user of the program. The FamilySearch notices (i.e. agreements) are probably ones you will want to read.

These notices and agreements are in small print at the very bottom of each page of the website and are clickable from the words, "Rights and Use Information." Here are some highlights of the provisions, but certainly not all of them. I have bolded some of the things you might want to consider.
By using this site, you agree to all of the terms and conditions set forth herein (“Agreement”). If you disagree with any of the terms or conditions, do not use this site. We reserve the right to change this Agreement at any time, so please check for changes to this Agreement each time you use this site. Your continued use of the site following the posting of changes to this Agreement means that you accept those changes.
Well, how many of us do just that? Here is another provision to think about.
All content found on this site (including visuals, text, icons, displays, databases, media, and general information) is owned by us or licensed to us. You may view, download, and print content from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use, or for your use as a volunteer indexer in connection with the FamilySearch Indexing Program pursuant to the FamilySearch Indexing Program Terms and Conditions or the FamilySearch Indexing Software License Agreement. In addition to the foregoing, unless otherwise indicated, content may be viewed, downloaded, or reproduced by media personnel for use in traditional public news media. You may not post content from this site on another website or on a computer network without our permission. You may not transmit or distribute content from this site to other sites. You may not use this site or information found at this site (including the names and addresses of those who have submitted information) to sell or promote products or services, to solicit clients, or for any other commercial purpose.
Hmm. FamilySearch owns all the photos on the site or did you give them a license? As a matter of fact you did when you put the photos on their website.
In exchange for your use of this site and/or our storage of any data you submit, you hereby grant us an unrestricted, fully paid-up, royalty-free, worldwide, and perpetual license to use any and all information, content, and other materials (collectively, “Contributed Content”) that you submit or otherwise provide to this site (including, without limitation, genealogical data and discussions and information or data relating to deceased persons) for any and all purposes, in any and all manners, and in any and all forms of media that we, in our sole discretion, deem appropriate for the furtherance of our mission to promote family history and genealogical research. As part of this license, you give us permission to copy, publicly display, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise distribute your Contributed Content throughout the world, by any means we deem appropriate (electronic or otherwise, including the Internet). You also understand and agree that as part of this license, we have the right to create derivative works from your Contributed Content by combining all or a portion of it with that of other contributors or by otherwise modifying your Contributed Content.
These provisions are not new, they have been on the website since it was introduced. The terms of this agreement don't really matter to me, but I am mindful of what I put online and especially what I put on You should be also.

There is also a Content Submission Agreement. This says a lot of the same things as I have cited above, but here is one very interesting provision.
You agree to provide true, accurate and complete information. If we determine, in our sole and absolute discretion, that any information you provide is false or misleading, we have the right, but not the obligation, to take any remedial or preventative action we deem appropriate, including restricting access and/or deleting or editing any of your Contributed Content.
I guess I could use this as a reason for deleting information from the Family Tree. Here is also a link to the Rules for images and stories uploaded to FamilySearch Memories. You'll have to look at this yourself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part Two

The Research Wiki is an almost inexhaustible source of information about where and how to find genealogical resources around the world. This is not to say that every country and every subdivision of every country is yet completely represented, but the basics are there and the details are more than most need or can comprehend. Despite any claims as to how "easy" it is to find your ancestors, it is really a very challenging and therefore satisfying pursuit. Here are some important introductory points about the Research Wiki:

  • The Research Wiki is not a place to go to search for your ancestors. It is the place to go to find out how and where to search for your ancestors.
  • Because it is a wiki, the Research Wiki is user created and maintained. This means that there are constant changes and updates.
  • The Research Wiki is not now and will never be complete. It will always be a work in progress. 
  • The current form and underlying program of the Research Wiki is nearly identical to the program used by and
  • Editing the Research Wiki is now possible with any browser on any computer or mobile device operating system. 
  • All of the instructions for using, editing, correcting, programming and any other activity with the Research Wiki are in the contents of the Research Wiki itself. 
Each page or article in the Research Wiki has multiple layers. There is the main page and then there are standard support pages represented by the tabs at the top of each page. Here is a screenshot of the Arizona, United States Genealogy page;

The arrows show the tabs that bring up the supporting pages, the Talk page, the Edit page and the View History page.  Here is a screenshot of the Talk page:

The Talk (or Discussion) page is the place where you can express your opinion about the content, layout or whatever of the main page. This is the Arizona, United States Genealogy Talk page and it contains any discussion about that particular page. There really isn't much here because there are very few issues with the Arizona pages.

The Research Wiki is a moderated wiki. This means that there are people watching all of the changes and the content. In the background, there are volunteers, either associated with FamilySearch or not, that watch all of the changes to all of the pages. This is possible because of the structure of the wiki. The maintenance workers keep track of the wiki and make sure that the content conforms to the terms and conditions set down by the Research Wiki's sponsoring institutions, both FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not to say that the Research Wiki is restricted from doing its primary job, but it does mean that certain types of information, as set forth on the FamilySearch Wiki: Policies page are enforced.

One of the first questions that often arises in the context of a wiki is how accurate is it? The answer is not as simple as it might seem to be. Since anyone who is registered can add, delete, edit, modify or correct any information entered into the Research Wiki (or most other wiki such as the Family Tree), then the information is as accurate as the latest corrected update. One of the most common problems, for example, is maintaining all of the thousands of links to other websites. As the Internet changes, the Research Wiki must also adapt to those changes. Most recently, the Research Wiki was updated with newer software. This upgrade changed a lot of the format and operation of the Research Wiki. This made some of the links and features to not work properly. Over time these will all be fixed by the work of the volunteers who are scrambling around on the Research Wiki looking for problems and fixing them.

If you find something on the Research Wiki that you want to correct or know something you want to add, then you do not have to ask anyone's permission, you can just sign in and make the change or add the new content. If you want to get started in contributing to the Research Wiki, then see the following page:

Any explanation about the inner workings of the Research Wiki could get rather complicated, but most of the editing and contributing can be done without learning a great deal about those inner workings. 

Stay tuned for next installment of this series. Here is a link to the previous post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part One

The more things change, it seems the more they stay the same. The Research Wiki recently had a face lift. The program went from narrow limited screens to wider, more easily navigated ones. If you haven't visited the Research Wiki in a while, you might not even notice the change unless you read the notice in red on each page. The most noticeable change is the redesign of the menu items that used to appear in an outlined sidebar box. All the features and options remain pretty much the same, everything has just moved around a bit.

 The Research Wiki has now grown to over 83,000 articles and has been viewed over 310 million times. To refresh your memory or to introduce you to the wiki, it is important to point out that the Research Wiki is dedicated solely to the topic of genealogy and family history research. In addition to the more than 83,000 family history oriented articles there are tens of thousands of additional pages providing instruction on the operation of the wiki.

The Research Wiki is an entirely collaborative resource. Any registered user can add to, modify, correct or format any of the articles or pages. Due to the current upgrade, some pages and articles may not appear or function as expected. Previously, the Research Wiki had a link to each individuals "user" page where information about the individual users could be posted. The pages are still in the wiki but the link seems to have disappeared. Accordingly, I decided to set out on a voyage of exploration of the new, updated Research Wiki.

The top of the page has been completely redesigned. The former menu items have changed. The current items include the following:

  • Page
  • Talk
  • Read
  • View source
  • View history
 If you sign into the Research Wiki the menu bar changes.

The additional items that appear include the following:
  • Edit
  • Edit source
  • View history
You are only able to edit the Research Wiki if you are a registered user of the website.

A continuation of the menubar adds the ability to watch each page and also provides a search field. The watch link is confusing because it is a "Star" so you might believe that you were rating the page but in fact you are marking the page so that you will be notified every time there is a change made to that page. If you accidentally watch a page you can unwatch the page by clicking on the star. The page and read links work together and simply provide the normal view of the Research Wiki.

The Talk Page is really an open forum where users can post comments about the content or the formatting of each page in the Research Wiki. The small logo that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the pages refers to the program which is the basis for the construction of the updated wiki. Previously, the program had implemented part of the open source wiki program features but the new upgrade is more closely aligned with the standard format. For individuals who are familiar with other programs such as, the transformation of the Research Wiki will seem easier to manage. For those of the users who are not familiar with either, the change probably won't make any difference at all.

Here is a screenshot of one of the articles on the state of Arizona.

Editing articles and pages is measurably easier with the conversion to the format. The difference between making an edit and editing a source really depends on the degree of sophistication of user. Source editing requires the user to have a degree of familiarity with the standard wiki formatting commands and a few HTML commands. The Research Wiki pages contain all of the information and instruction necessary to completely operate and edit the program. 

In the jargon of the Research Wiki, an "article" refers to a content page containing information about family history related topics. All of the other pages in the Research Wiki are referred to as "pages" and containing either help related information or explanations of the structure and operation of the wiki.

Depending on the user's preference, the Research Wiki can be viewed either as a static reference resource or as an interactive, collaborative workplace.

This is Part One of a series. Stay tuned for further installments. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

FamilySearch -- Communicating with Videos

For some time now, has been posting explanatory videos on with information that is timely and addresses issues with the Family Tree. These are usually rather short videos and are very specific in their topics. Here is the latest offering:

Ron Tanner has been one of the most visible presenters recently, but there are also recent comments from Brian Edwards and Rober Kehrer.

Brian Edwards - Using the History List to start your research from your previous stopping point

Robert Kehrer - Difficulties editing information when attaching records in FamilySearch

Even if you don't subscribe to the FamilySearch Channel, you should check back periodically to see what new offerings have appeared.