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

RootsTech 2014 Official Blogger

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Understanding the Private Spaces on FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the ongoing concerns of the users of the FamilySearch Family Tree program is the privacy of the entries for living persons. Recently, has implemented a system of private spaces. You may have seen the following notice appear on a detail page for a living individual in the program:

It turns out, that each user of the Family Tree program is automatically given a "private space" to manage the privacy and confidentiality of the data in the program. All living people, i.e. people without death dates born within the last 110 years, are automatically given a private space. Any records created by the living person are included within the private space and are not visible to anyone other than the person who created the record. As stated in the Help Center document "Understanding Private Spaces," private spaces cannot be shared. This may change in the future.

Again quoting from the Helped Center document,
A living person can be represented in multiple private spaces as a different Family Tree person, and that person will have a different ID number in each private space.
Living people cannot be found by searching either by ID number or by name. However searching by the ID number will not find the person in any other account besides the one that uses the number being searched for. In other words, you can only see your own private space.

In addition you cannot add sources to living people. As explained by the help Center, Family Tree does not compute living people, even after they are older than 110 years. Users will need to mark their copy of the individuals his deceased and then search for any possible duplicates. I am speculating that this rule change because of the overwhelming number of people being created with separate ID numbers who are presently living. Imagine a situation where all of a living person's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren include the person in their private space. There could be well over 100 copies of the same person needing to be merged. It would seem to me to be a good idea to Mark the living people as living and tie them into a common living person so that when the common living person was marked deceased all of the copies would automatically be merged.

The Help Center contains the following information for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
  • Each living person will have a different ID number because each person is listed as a separate individual in each living record. Living records do not sync.
  • For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, membership information will be used to create certain people in their private space to help start their tree (mother, father, children, and so forth). Once created, these living people can be changed by the user, but such changes will not modify Church membership information.
  • Church members can modify their private space in Family Tree without having to ask the ward clerk.
  • Please contact the ward clerk if you feel the membership records are incorrect.
  • When a ward clerk records that a person is deceased, then Church membership will create a deceased person in Family Tree, making it public. The ordinances that the person had done while living will be recorded on that copy. This will not affect the copy in your private space, and you will need to add the information that shows the person is deceased in your private space. You will then need to search for Possible Duplicates and merge your copy with the membership version. If a person made his or her personal space copy show the person as deceased, that person should merge these two records together. This procedure will need to be done by each person who has created a living person in his or her own private space.
There is more information about the private space in the Help Center. Search for "private spaces."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't discount the benefits of the FamilySearch Partnerships

For the past couple of weeks, I have been teaching classes and helping both missionaries and patrons at the Brigham Young University Family History Library learn about and The classes have focused on the agreements between FamilySearch and these two online genealogy database websites. Many of the missionaries had received an invitation for a free subscription to these two programs as well as some time ago but had not taken advantage of the offer. I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences from this process of both teaching about the programs and helping people, one-on-one, to begin using them.

In many instances, both the missionaries and patrons are finding ancestors they could not find previously. One patron, a very meticulous genealogical researcher with years of experience, ask for help in entering her family names into As she entered the names, I helped her look at and evaluate the sources that appeared as a result of the Record Match and Record Detective programs. From time to time, while she continued to enter the names she had carefully researched and documented, I helped with specific questions. At one point, she indicated that she had come to the end of her line of research with a great-great-grandmother. She was entering the name and information she had on this ancestor as she explained to me that she had been searching for years for this particular ancestor's parents. As she typed in the information, a Record Match appeared with a marriage certificate for the ancestor that included her parents' names. The patron was overwhelmed.

This type of experience has happened frequently, sometimes not as dramatically, but I am receiving a constant flow of positive feedback from both patrons and missionaries. Almost all of these individuals have, more or less, experience with genealogical research. Those who are just starting out are sometimes overwhelmed and amazed at how quickly the sources come from both and as they enter some of their known family information.

Last week, FamilySearch formally announced the availability of the free subscriptions to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See Help spread the word about the free subscriptions. I made a brief announcement in a class on Sunday about the announcement and was amazed at the lack of real interest and the negative comments. I had a conversation after the class with several people, one of whom was quite upset with the offer because of a lack of understanding about what was involved. Despite the fact that the offer has been available to many members for some months now, most had not heard anything about the offer and were not really interested.

The contrast between the lack of interest on the part of some of the members and the experiences I have been having in helping others get involved in the programs is dramatic.

One issue we have been having over and over again at the BYU Family History Library is the registration procedure. Many of the potential users of the programs have been unable to complete their registration for the free subscriptions, usually because of failure to click the tiny check boxes required during the subscription process. Some of that may have been solved with the addition of the subscription to a page in the Help Center of But the page is buried down a couple of levels and is quite hard to find. There is a direct link, but unless you have a way to find a reference to the link, you have no way of knowing how to subscribe. Here is the direct link:

On my startup page there is also a link when I sign in. Here is a screenshot of the link:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

New BYU Family History Library Video on goes on

This is the first in the videos of a a class on at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. The remaining sections of this video will be uploaded shortly. We are working on the quality of the videos and in the future, hopefully, they will get better. Remember that the class schedule is published regularly on the BYU Family History Library Facebook Page.

Help spread the word about the free subscriptions

On September 27, 2014, I received the following notice from FamilySearch:
As of today, free subscriptions to the FamilySearch partner sites,, and will be available to ALL Latter-day Saints. 
These subscriptions provide access to the premium tools, features, and resources available on each website and can be used in the comfort of home. This free benefit is a $900 annual value and is a recognition of the investment of time and tithes members of the Church have made in the shared records. Free subscriptions are available here: 
Open New Doors of DiscoverySubscriptions to these commercial family history sites provide Latter-day Saints with about 3.5 times the online content (more than 17.8 billion records) to help them find and bring temple blessings to their ancestors. Currently, Church members can submit names to the temple through and; similar functionality is being developed on and

Spread the WordWe encourage you to share the good news with family, friends, and neighbors — and, of course, those you serve in your family history calling. Forward this email, post it on your Facebook timeline, and print this informational flyer and share it at church on Sunday.

Learn MoreVisit to register for free accounts (youth ages 13–17 require parental permission). For additional information about free LDS subscriptions to partner websites, contact FamilySearch Support at or 1-866- 406-1830. 
Gaining access to the programs is only the first step. There are lots of us out here who have already been on all three of these programs for years. Please ask around for help and visit your local Family History Center to ask questions.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Finding a Cousin Who Needs Temple Work on FamilySearch Family Tree

A new link appeared on my startup page today. Her is a screenshot of the link:

I must admit that I feel a sense of trepidation when I seen this kind of invitation. It harks back to the days of the green arrows on when there were hundreds of duplicate names created and submitted for Temple work from my family alone. The idea has somehow gotten ingrained in the family history community that FamilySearch Family Tree is somehow an endless source of names to take to the Temple.

You might not see the same links because these links are contextual and show up depending on your particular circumstances and ancestry.

I was pleasantly surprised that this particular link led to a page that expanded the simplistic view that mining Family Tree was the way to produce "names." Here is a screenshot of the next page in this series:

These options showed different aspects of the new descendancy view in the Family Tree program. Although the introduction emphasized how "easy" this process could be, otherwise, the concepts were sound and a refreshing change from the idea that the Family Tree program is an endless source of names. There still seems to be a fear that telling people they may actually have to do something besides click green icons will somehow drive them away from genealogy and family history, but all in all, this approach is a very positive step towards helping members with families that have belonged to the Church for years to find available research opportunities. However, there is still very, very little support for those who need to "add missing family members to Family Tree." This is especially true if we are talking about family members who lived in the 1800s or before.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Official Announcement of Free Access to Commercial Family History Websites

Deseret News, 26 September 2014
If you have been using the free partnership accounts from the past few weeks or months, you are probably wondering what the fuss is about. But a news release, blog post and newspaper article here in Utah are all announcing the general availability of, and to the general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Here is the official announcement:
SALT LAKE CITY (September 26, 2014)—FamilySearch, the family history arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, today announced that Church members can now receive free personal subscriptions to,, and Access to these services is provided at no cost for Latter-day Saints as part of individual agreements between FamilySearch and these commercial family history websites. These subscriptions provide access to the tools, features, and resources available on each website, and can be used in the comfort of home. To sign up for a free subscription, visit
Used in tandem with the latest FamilySearch tools, these commercial family history websites can open new doors of discovery and enhance members’ ability to identify more ancestors and make more family connections.  
“Free subscriptions to the three major family history websites provide Latter-day Saints about 3.5 times the online content to help them identify their ancestors. This is possible because of the great relationship we have with these companies, their generosity, and a recognition of the investment in time and tithes members of the Church have invested in the shared records,” said Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO.   
Brimhall emphasized this collaboration benefits everyone. Through technology sharing, patrons of these commercial websites will now have access to FamilySearch content, and the general public will have free access to these websites when they visit one of the 4,800 LDS family history centers worldwide.  
Members of the Church (youth ages 13-17 require parental permission) now have access to more than 17.8 billion records through and these commercial family history websites—a free benefit that would otherwise be a significant investment for members.  
To sign up for a free subscription, visit
I wonder how many of the members know what these programs are or what they do? At the BYU Family History Library the past few weeks, I have been spending a considerable amount of time helping people register for these three programs and then showing them how they work. The registration process does not always result in getting free access to the programs if it is not done completely right. Correcting the problems of registration is simple except for issues with logins and passwords. I would say that almost half of the FamilySearch Church Service missionaries and volunteers working here in the Library had some kind of trouble completing the process.  I will try to address those issues with explanations of the workarounds in future posts. If you have a question, please leave a comment.

All the Links in the Chain must be Strong

By Toni Lozano [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts clearly outlines the responsibilities of each of the links in the leadership chain that extends from the Area Leadership to the individual member of each Ward. Quoting from the Leader's Guide:
Priesthood leaders provide doctrinal and administrative direction to temple and family history work. Their direction is essential to lead members to the temple through family history efforts. They teach members and encourage them to attend the temple and participate in family history work. See page 3
Starting from the Area Leadership each of the links in this chain of responsibility should be involved in this important work. As the Leader's Guide states:
Area family history advisers work closely with the Area Seventies and coordinating councils. Generally, priesthood holders or couples are called to serve as area family history advisers. The Church’s Family History Department provides orientation and training for the new advisers. See page 22
However, the Area Advisers cannot do their job without the support and cooperation of the Stake Presidents. Here is an outline of the Stake Presidents' responsibility:
The stake president presides over the work of salvation in the stake, which includes temple and family history work. Stake presidents can use temple and family history work as a way to strengthen members and their families. Stake presidents consider ways to use family history to help with missionary work, convert retention, member activation, and teaching the gospel.  See page 6.
This chain of responsibility extends to the High Councilor, each High Priest Group Leader, the Bishops, Family History Consultants and ultimately, each member of the Church.

We have a common saying that refers to the "weak link." If you find yourself in one of these leadership positions, do you want to become the weak link?