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

RootsTech 2014 Official Blogger

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How do you choose a genealogy program? -- Part One

If I wanted to do so, I could probably sell you on almost any one of the dozens of existing genealogical database programs out there on the market. They all have good features and lots of enthusiastic users. Frequently, I get asked the question about which program I would recommend. I tell the inquirers that I have a lot of the programs and would recommend them all. The key here is that purchasing a genealogy database and then using it to keep your genealogical information is very personal. I suggest that people download the free copies of the programs available and use them for a while to see which one they like the most.

Because of my technical background, learning a new program is usually a very trivial activity for me. But I am certainly aware that for many people it is a major issue. Moving from one program to another can be a daunting prospect. I also realize that there are a lot of people still using Personal Ancestral File (PAF) who have yet to move on to a current program. I have heard many different reasons for staying with PAF, but none of those reasons are at all convincing. You may like your 1958 Chevy, but you simply cannot convince me to give up the conveniences of my newer cars. Let's face it, you are using the older program out of inertia. You could sit there for an hour and tell me all the reasons you are satisfied with PAF, but none of those reasons would make any sense given the state of genealogy today. You have to realize that PAF was developed and was last updated when the online genealogy community was in its infancy.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the field of useful programs has expanded dramatically with the agreements between FamilySeach.org and Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com. Two of these other companies have proprietary programs. Ancestry.com produces Family Tree Maker and MyHeritage.com has Family Tree Builder. These programs are in addition to the FamilySearch Certified Programs listed on their website.

One factor in choosing a program is which of the online family tree programs you are going to primarily use? With the free availability of Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com to members of the Church, this becomes a real question to answer. There is also the announced intention by FamilySearch and the other companies to make it possible to move users' tree data from the other programs to FamilySearch Family Tree. But this is only one consideration.

Since FamilySearch.org Family Tree is presently the only way to submit names to the Temples for ordinance work, ultimately, any information developed by members that they wish to incorporate in Family Tree must be entered into that program before the work can be done. The key question here is how many names and how much information will you need to add to Family Tree. The Certified Programs on the FamilySearch list change from time to time. If you have a lot of names (hundreds) it might be best to stick with one of the Certified Programs but if you only have a few names from time to time, you should understand that it really doesn't matter which of the programs you choose.

Before going too much further, I guess I will list the current completely certified programs and the other programs from the partnership companies, not in any particular order. This list of Certified Programs comes from the FamilySearch.org Product Page as of the date of this post. You might want to check the page before purchasing a program for any possible additions. I am listing only those programs that are completely Tree Share Certified and also have LDS Support. I am also now adding in the other two programs from Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.

Ancestral Quest $29.95 there is also a free version of the program called Ancestral Quest Basics
Celebrating My Family Tree, $56.00 a program offered by the Celebrating Family History website
Family Tree Heritage, $39.99
Legacy Family Tree, $29.95 the Standard edition is free
RootsMagic, $29.95 also a free version called RootsMagic Essentials

All of these programs are Windows only. There are presently no programs full Tree Share and LDS Support Certified for the Mac OS X operating system.

Family Tree Maker, $29.99 for Windows and Mac. (Ancestry.com)
Family Tree Builder, Free (MyHeritage.com)

To take advantage of all of the features of these programs you will need a full subscription to Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com until that access is free to members.

Now, this is an important point. There are many other very good and perfectly adequate programs out there for both Windows and Macintosh OS X operating systems. I suggest you evaluate how you intend to use the program and whether you have a need to link directly to FamilySearch.org Family Tree because of the quantity of work you are doing in entering names for Temple work. I might also suggest that if you still have questions, you ask them as comments to this post and also read the next post in this series where I will discuss how each of the programs might be used and also talk about programs I have not yet included on the list. Meanwhile, if you would like to get some reviews of all of the possible programs, you might want to look at GensoftReviews.com.



Friday, April 18, 2014

The Living and the Dead in Genealogy

Apparently, there is some confusion over the post that I wrote recently concerning a question involving a descendancy book starting with great-grandparents. Let me be a clear as I can be without referring to the question or subsequent comments.

The main thrust of the issue is whether or not it is appropriate to include information about living people in a family history book or otherwise.

Point No. One:
FamilySearch.org Family Tree encourages users to upload their own photos and stories to the program. However, if the people are living, those photos and stories as well as the general genealogical information about the person are only visible to the person who submits the information. It is my understanding that this information would only become visible to other users upon the death the person submitting the information to the program or the death of the person about whom the information is submitted. This limitation applies to any information added to the program. As far as I am aware, this is the only guidance given by FamilySearch or the Church on this subject.

Point No. Two:
I have previously expressed my personal opinion that compiling a surname or decendancy book about a family where most of the people are living for general publication was not a real good idea. There are certain to be privacy issues. I did not say and certainly did not want to imply that gathering such information on a family basis is not desirable or that people should not write their own personal histories or maintain journals. I think that publishing a book containing information about living people for general publication falls into almost the same category as adding information to online family trees about living relatives where the programs only identify the person as "Living." I am sorry if anyone cannot see the difference in what I am saying. I regret if anyone understood this to mean that I did not think preserving such history was important.

Point No. Three:
As I have expressed many time previously in my Genealogy's Star blog, I think that identity theft is misunderstood and extremely overstated by the media and because of this, by most people in the community at large. I think it is very sad that people are afraid to include names in the genealogy or let their names be used by others for genealogical purposes out of a fear of identity theft. I have yet to hear of even one documented case where genealogical information was used for identity theft and person using such information was convicted of a crime under either state or federal law. If you know of such a case, I would be very glad to review here or in my other blog. As a side note, I think it is lamentable and highly inadvisable that banks and other institutions use genealogically based security questions such as asking for your mother's maiden name.

Point No. Four:
As members of the Church we have a primary obligation to seek out our ancestors. Yes, we also have a obligation to compile and keep our own family histories, and your opinion may differ from my own as to where our primary effort should be directed. I keep a journal. I encourage others to preserve the oral and written histories of their family members. I become involved in family organizations and reunions where they are available. I see no problem in compiling a family directory for family use only. But with all this, I think our primary responsibility still lies in seeking out our ancestors.

Point No. Five:
I am entirely unaware of any policy statement whatsoever from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that addresses the issue of identity theft as it relates to genealogy. The only statement I am aware of was posted on LDSTech in post entitled Identity Theft (Family Safety).

I am sorry if any one was personally offended by my previous post, but I believe that the criticism was misdirected through a failure to carefully read what I did and did not say.

Disclosures and Disclaimers

There are several things that need to be disclosed and disclaimed when I write a blog post.

I am employed by Family History Expos to participate in the Expos held around the country. I am paid for expenses and some time. Also, from time to time, I have been paid or employed by other entities for presentations and writing.

I practiced law as an attorney in Arizona for over 39 years. However, I am now fully retired. Anything I write in the blog is not intended as legal advice on any current case or controversy. I do not represent Family History Expos or any individual employed by them in any legal capacity. I presently have very few clients left and will not undertake to represent any more clients in the future.

Any mention I make of products, services, websites or any other entity is fully my personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of any other entity, however I may be teaming up with some providers of genealogical services to make special offers to my readers for which I may be compensated. From time to time I have been provided with free products to review, however the reviews are my own opinions and not those of the product supplier.

I am not currently associated with FamilySearch or any of its subdivisions or entities other than in a purely voluntary basis. I am a Church Service Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently serving at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. This may change as I move to Provo, Utah. I volunteer to help patrons and teach classes on a weekly basis. I am an active volunteer for FamilySearch as a member of the Wiki Support Team and I am Moderator for Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. I also volunteer for FamilySearch in a variety of other capacities.

I am currently writing and publishing books and other publications for profit. Those publications I write are published both on paper and electronically. From time to time, I may promote my own personal writings on this blog. I am also a professional photographer and links to my photography blogs are on this site.

I also drive a Prius but I do not work for Toyota in any capacity. I also had an old Chevy Truck, since sold, and I refuse to work for General Motors. But I certainly appreciate anyone who does.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Joseph F. Smith

President Joseph F. Smith became Prophet, Seer and Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1901, thus ushering in the 20th Century for the Church. He was President of the Church for the site dedication of the Cardston Alberta Temple on 27 July 1913, the first outside of the United States, but died before its dedication on 26 - 29 August, 1923 by President Heber J. Grant. He also dedicated the site for the Laie Hawaii Temple 1 June 1915 but died before its dedication on 27 - 30 November 1919 also by President Heber J. Grant. The Laie Hawaii Temple was the 5th Temple built and the first outside of the Continental area of the United States. The Cardston Alberta Temple was the sixth temple built. 

President Joseph F. Smith received the important revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 138. Speaking of the mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, President Smith wrote:
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengersclothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the cremission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
 President Smith left many other great and marvelous teachings about the importance of the redemption of the dead and the vicarious work for the dead in the Temples. The following quotes are taken from

Smith, Joseph Fielding. Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1959.
This is the work that we have to perform. God has shown us the way and given us the means by which we may consummate and fill our mission upon this earth and perfect our destiny; for we are destined and foreordained to become like God, and unless we do become like him we will never be permitted to dwell with him. When we become like him you will find that we will be presented before him in the form in which we were created, male and female. The woman will not go there alone, and the man will not go there alone, and claim exaltation. They may attain a degree of salvation alone, but when they are exalted they will be exalted according to the law of the celestial kingdom. They cannot be exalted in any other way, neither the living nor the dead. It is well for us to learn something about why we build temples, and why we administer in them for the dead as well as for the living. We do this that we may become like unto him, and dwell with him eternally; that we may become sons of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Tabernacle Sermon, June 12, 1898.
President Smith explained that we must do the work for all of those who have departed this life and that the efficacy of the ordinances depends on the acceptance of those living in the Spirit World. If they do not accept the Gospel, they will have not benefit from the ordinances performed. 
In relation to the deliverance of spirits from their prison house, of course, we believe that can only be done after the gospel has been preached to them in the spirit, and they have accepted the same, and the work necessary to their redemption by the living be done for them. That this work may be hastened so that all who believe, in the spirit world, may receive the benefit of deliverance, it is revealed that the great work of the Millennium shall be the work in the temples for the redemption of the dead; and then we hope to enjoy the benefits of revelation through the Urim and Thummim, or by such means as the Lord may reveal concerning those for whom the work shall be done, so that we may not work by chance, or by faith alone, without knowledge, but with the actual knowledge revealed unto us. It stands to reason that, while the gospel may be preached unto all, the good and the bad, or rather to those who would repent and to those who would not repent in the spirit world, the same as it is here, redemption will only come to those who repent and obey. There is, no doubt, great leniency given to people who are anxious to do the work for their dead, and in some instances, very unworthy people may have the work done for them; it does not follow, however, that they will receive any benefit therefrom, and the correct thing is to do the work only for those of whom we have the testimony that they will receive it. However, we are disposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the dead, as it is better to do the work for many who are unworthy than to neglect one who is worthy. Now, we know in part and see in part, but steadfastly look forward to the time when that which is perfect will come. We are left largely to our own agency here, to exercise our own intelligence and to receive all the light that is revealed so far as we are capable of receiving it, and only those who seek the light, and desire it, are likely to find it. Improvement Era, Vol. 5, December, 1901, pp. 145-147.
About the importance of the work for the salvation of the dead, President Smith wrote:
Administering ordinances that God has revealed are essential to the salvation of the living and their preparation for greater exaltation and glory here and hereafter, and also for the redemption of the dead. What can you think of greater than this? To my mind, there isn't anything so great and so glorious in this world as to labor for the salvation of the living and for the redemption of the dead. We read of the Savior going to preach the gospel to the spirits in prison, when his body lay in the tomb. That was a part of the great mission he had to perform. He was sent not only to preach the gospel to those dwelling in mortality, but he was foreordained and anointed of God to open the doors of the prison house to those in bondage and to proclaim his gospel to them. Young Woman's Journal,Vol. 23, 1911, pp. 128-132.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sharing Blog Content

If you like what you read here in the Rejoice, and be exceeding glad... blog, you might consider sharing the content with others, maybe those who are not likely to read blogs. I have found that there are a considerable number of genealogists and others who are interested in family history that have no idea that blogs about genealogy even exist. Part of the process of helping and teaching others about genealogy is helping them to understand the vast number of online resources available to teach and for research in original sources. But all of that goes unknown by the vast majority of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some ways you can share the content is to repost the blog link on Facebook and other social networking sites.

In addition, if you have any suggestions for topics or would like to write a post yourself, I am more than willing to consider topics and to further consider blog posts. Be sure and give yourself credit for writing and if i can, I will publish your post here on this blog with your own name and any other contact information you would like to share. I will share your posts with you as a "guest blogger." So, get busy. If you have been thinking about a topic, send it to my at my email address below:
Hope to hear from some of you soon. Oh, just in case, you need to know that anything you publish online is automatically copyrighted under the law in the United States. But the nature of the Internet is that good content gets copied, sometimes without permission. You have to be willing to take that risk to publish online. One more thing, if I think your suggested post needs editing, I will probably offer to edit it with your permission before it is published. Don't be surprised.

Bridging the Chasm of Genealogy -- Getting Started with Research

In a blog post of 22 April 2013 entitled "The Chasm" and in previous posts, TheAncesryInsider made the following comment,
In genealogy there is a chasm. On one side of the chasm, genealogy is easy. On the other side, genealogy is hard.

On one side of the chasm are the ancestors and relatives we know personally. We know them as people. We grew up with them or with our parents talking about them. On the other side are ancestors and relatives that we know only through records.
 The idea here is that when we begin to have an interest in our family's history, we rely on the source material that we have readily available. There is a marvelous description of the process of beginning your journey into your family's history in an Ensign article by President Boyd K. Packer entitled, "Your Family History: Getting Started" from August, 2003. Quoting part of that article,
It is a matter of getting started. You may come to know the principle that Nephi knew when he said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Ne. 4:6).

If you don’t know where to start, start with yourself. If you don’t know what records to get, and how to get them, start with what you have.

There are two very simple instructions for those who are waiting for a place to begin. Here’s what you might do:

Get a cardboard box. Any kind of a box will do. Put it someplace where it is in the way, perhaps on the couch or on the counter in the kitchen—anywhere where it cannot go unnoticed. Then, over a period of a few weeks, collect and put into the box every record of your life, such as your birth certificate, your certificate of blessing, your certificate of baptism, your certificate of ordination, and your certificate of graduation. Collect diplomas, all of the photographs, honors, or awards, a diary if you have kept one, everything that you can find pertaining toyour life; anything that is written, or registered, or recorded that testifies that you are alive and what you have done.
As genealogists, we refer to this as gathering the "low hanging fruit." This is the information we already possess, even if that information is just a few names on a Bible entry or what we can remember from our childhood. The real issue here is getting started. But then, as the AncestryInsider points out, there is a point at which you have to move from learning about people you know personally, to learning about your family from the records they left behind. The fact that you personally are not aware that these records exist does not mean that they do not exist. It is very important to understand the lesson taught by President Packer in his Ensign article, as he said in that article,
Things began to emerge once we got to work. We still are not, by any means, experts in family history research. We are, however, dedicated to our family. And it is my testimony that if we start where we are—each of us with ourselves, with such records as we have—and begin putting those in order, things will fall into place as they should.
Now, this will not happen without a considerable and consistent effort on our part. Fortunately today, there are a huge number of places to go to get help with finding additional information about your family. It may take a trip to Italy, as related by President Packer, but the information is there waiting for us to begin. When you reach the edge of the chasm, start building the bridge. Here are a few bridge building steps:

Step One: Reach out to a wider ring of family members.
Try to find the oldest members of your immediate family. Even if these people are distant cousins, they may have valuable memories about your own family that will help you in your search. Look for photos, books about your family and stories that might help you understand more about your family origins.

Step Two: Seek help from a local FamilySearch Center
There are over 4600 FamilySearch Centers (also called Family History Centers) around the world. Even if the one near you is only open a few hours a week, there are still going to be people associated with that FamilySearch Center who have learned something about researching families in your area. You can find a FamilySearch Center by visiting FamilySearch.org and clicking on the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of the startup page, then clicking on the Visit Us link. This will take you to a search page where you can find the nearest FamilySearch Center on a map.

Step Three: Do not become discouraged
You will find that there are a huge number of classes, instructions, videos, webinars and other instructional helps online and available around the world if you just look. Take time to learn about how to find your family. Do not assume that it will be easy or fun. It may turn out to be hard work, but you will be successful. As President Packer has said,
Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work of Church members has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. They understand that they are tying their family together, their living family here with those who have gone before.

Family history work in one sense would justify itself even if one were not successful in clearing names for temple work. The process of searching, the means of going after those names, would be worth all the effort you could invest. The reason: You cannot find names without knowing that they represent people. You begin to find out things about people. When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names or the number of names going through the temple. Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers—we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them.

In doing so we store up treasures in heaven.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

What do we need to do to clean up FamilySearch Family Tree

For over 150 years members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been submitting names to the Temple to do ordinance work for their ancestors. As a result of this work, pedigrees and family histories have been compiled by the members. About the time that the Temple work in Utah was being done in more than one Temple, there began to be a concern about the duplication of both the work and the effort that went into researching ancestral lines. It was noted, even in the late 1800s that the same work was being done by family members in Logan, Utah as was being done in St. George. See Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995 for a more complete explanation of these early concerns.

Because of this concern, there has been a steady stream of innovations and programs in an attempt to diminish the number of duplications. As soon as I can unpack all my books from moving, I will be able to review those historical efforts to resolve the duplication issue. For the purpose of this post, it is enough to know that there have been a series of programs aimed at a solution.

The most recent effort attempting to solve the problem is the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. But the reality of the situation is that the Family Tree program has inherited the pre-existing duplications in addition to all of the differences in the submissions since the beginning of the work. In some cases, the number of duplicate pedigrees (not just individuals) is huge, into the hundreds and even thousands. Much of the work of combining individuals has been accomplished in New.FamilySearch.org. But the flaws in that program enabled additional duplication and did not provide a way to eliminate the remaining errors and duplicates.

Presently, a complete solution to the problem of duplicates is unavailable and will continue to be unavailable until the New.FamilySearch.org program is discontinued entirely. There is no publicly announced timetable for this to happen. Notwithstanding this limitation, there is still a huge amount of work that can be done to resolve the existing issues with the program. These issues fall into the following categories:

  • Duplicate entries that cannot yet be resolved for a variety of reasons
  • Duplicate entries that can be resolved
  • Duplicate information for individuals that is unnecessary that can be deleted 
  • Families containing the wrong relationships for children and couples that can be deleted and resolved
  • Sources can be added to document and correct entries
  • Source entries from New.FamilySearch.org can be corrected or deleted if inappropriate
  • Dates and places can be standardized where appropriate only when the standardized date or place agree with the place and date as it was at the time of the event
  • Notes can be corrected and fragments or inappropriate notes deleted
  • Names, including capitalization can be corrected
  • Titles included in names can be moved to the other information category
  • Life sketches can be added for all family members
  • Photos, stories and documents can be added for all individuals

This is just a few of the tasks that can be done. Most of these can be accomplished for many individuals even though the duplicate entries are still unresolved. If you suspect that there may be an unresolved duplicate, move on to another ancestor. You may be adding information that will be redundant after the program is fixed and duplicates can be resolved.