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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Family History Training Presentations

Family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is undergoing a major structural change. The most visible part of the changes that are happening almost daily involve the name change for Family History Consultants to Temple and Family History Consultants. The basic structural change involves creating a clear line for training and support from a Ward Temple and Family History Consultant to a Stake Temple and Family History Consultant and then to the Area Temple and Family History Consultants. Previous to this change, the Stakes did not have a designated organizational slot for family history. In addition, few members of the Church are aware that there are specifically called Area Temple and Family History Consultants for each of the Church's geographic areas.

As part of this expanded organization, there are quite a few additions for training to the website. The three presentations above are only a small part of the expanded training resources now online.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Consultant Planner -- A New Tool for Temple and Family History Consultants

Located under the Get Help drop-down menu on the startup page, the Consultant Planner is a very useful way to begin assisting and teaching others about their family history. All Temple and Family History Consultants should be aware of this new method for allowing consultants to view and help those who need assistance.

In the most recent past, providing assistance to others on the Family Tree involved personal contact directly with the person being helped i.e. sitting side-by-side working on the computer or establishing contact through a helper number. For example, I have an elderly friend who is physically unable to efficiently operate his computer. As a volunteer, and as a Temple and Family History Consultant, previously I would've had to obtain his name, helper number, and date of birth. Then I could work on my computer and view his portion of the Family Tree and make changes if necessary. Any changes made would show as having been done by my friend. Theoretically, he could also follow and observe any changes or actions taken by logging into the Family Tree while I was working. Although working with the Helper Number was possible, it required some explanation and was, in some instances, awkward.

It is also possible, in close family relationships situations that family members could share their both their logins and passwords. I have several friends who are actively working on their spouse's genealogy and use their spouse's login and password to gain access to that spouse's portion of the Family Tree. Of course, this is not a good procedure for people who are unrelated and especially without explicit permission. In reality, if my spouse were not visible in the Family Tree, I could add in my spouse's information (thereby creating a duplicate entry) and then add in information about any living parents or grandparents (also creating duplicate entries) and then I would be able to view all of the information about the deceased people in that family. This is a result of having a unified family tree.

In the past, to help people with their portion of the Family Tree, I have merely requested that they supply me with the ID numbers of their first deceased ancestors and I was able to assist them in their research efforts. Obtaining this information was sometimes complicated. has now provided another way to provide help which involves an easier method of establishing contact. This is the Family History Consultant Planner.

Using this method first involves contacting the person to be helped directly to obtain permission to view and work with their portion of the Family Tree. It is also a good idea to explain in detail why you are asking to help and how you will proceed to help them find names to take to the temple. If permission is obtained, the consultant then clicks the link on the Consultant Planner on to invite the person to be assisted. FamilySearch then sends an email message to the person requesting their permission to allow the consultant access to their portion of the Family Tree.  When the person allows this contact by clicking on the invitation, the consultant is notified that the invitation has been accepted and can proceed to work with their Family Tree portion.

In addition, the Consultant Planner provides background information about the content of the person's ancestry. The Consultant Planner also provides links to resources provided by FamilySearch including record hints, obituaries, featured records, and other links. In the case of my elderly friend, unfortunately, he has no family members who can provide the assistance he needs. So, I am able to act and help him obtain names to take to the temple. In the case of teaching members how the process works, consultants can now expedite the contact necessary to do the preparation for a one-on-one training session. See Principles for Helping Others.

From my perspective, I think it is very important that the consultants have the expertise to properly support those who need help. In the case of preparing for instruction, the consultant should use the access to the Family Tree merely to review and examine those people who are the ancestors of the person being helped. Where direct help is needed, the consultant should be careful to make sure that the help is necessary and that all entries made are properly documented with sources. For more information on the process involved, take the time to read and study the blog post cited above.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Three

What is and what is not a source? I have written about this topic a few times in the past and it seems to come back to haunt me every time I work on the Family Tree (or any other online family tree program for that matter). If you are an academic writer, you are probably thinking of footnotes. Historically, genealogical writers copied their sources into their books, if they mentioned them at all. Here is an example from the following book.

Brown, Cyrus Henry. 1983. Brown genealogy of many of the descendants of Thomas, John, and Eleazer Brown, sons of Thomas and Mary Newhall Brown, of Lynn, Mass., 1628-1915. Boston: Everett Press Co.

The author of the book takes the time to transcribe an entire deed and notes right at the end of the transcription that the original is in the possession of one of the family members.

Where would I go today to find a copy of this deed other than the transcription in the book? Absent some specific location for a copy, the citation is really no help to me at all. I must trust the author's transcription of the deed entirely. If the original has now been lost or destroyed in some way, we are grateful for the transcription, but there is now no way to verify the transcription's accuracy. Is this an important issue?

The citation above mentions the "Stoningtown 2d Book for Deeds (follio #535) this 30th of December 1714..." Is this enough for me to find the original deed?

I can search online for information about Stonington, Connecticut and I find the following in Wikipedia: Stonington, Connecticut.
The town of Stonington is located in New London County, Connecticut, United States, in the state's southeastern corner. It includes the borough of Stonington, the villages of Pawcatuck, Lords Point, and Wequetequock, and the eastern halves of the villages of Mystic and Old Mystic (the other halves being in the town of Groton). The population of the town was 18,545 at the 2010 census.
Now, if I go to the catalog, I can find out if there are any documents preserved from that town. I do find quite a list.

I do find the Land Records, 1664 -1907.

The FamilySearch Catalog does list this particular records set. but when I try to view the records, I get the following notice:

So, for today, my search to verify the accuracy of the transcription is frustrated. This example illustrates the source and citation process. Here is a summary of what happens.

I find some reference in a document or record to an event in my ancestor's life (my example here was an old deed) I record the information in the deed (in this example, there was a complete transcription). I tell where I got the information (what was provided with the Connecticut deed, may or may not turn out to be sufficient to find the original). Some subsequent researcher comes along (me in this example) and tries to verify the information I have obtained from a record or document. What I have recorded may or may not be enough for the subsequent researcher to determine the accuracy of the information I provided from the "original" where I obtained the record.

In my example, let's suppose that I am researching the Brown family and find this reference to the deed. I can simply copy out the transcription and use the book as a "source." Subsequent researchers could then look for the book unless I copied all the information from the book and included where the author indicated he got the information in the first place.

This example raises many of the issues involved in the process of doing research. The best research practices involve examining the best possible source for all the information included. I was recently doing some research in Mexican Civil Registration records. I found three separate references for one individual which were all indexes. Because I don't always trust indexes, I spent the time to look for a copy of the original civil registration record. When I finally found the record, I discovered that the three indexes, which had recorded the person a male, were in fact wrong. The original record showed that the person was a female. All three of the indexes had been listed as "sources" and all three were wrong. I find this issue to be a factor in many of the items listed as sources. Careless researchers cite books, indexes and other extracted references as the "source" of the information. Yes, these references do tell me where they got the information, but they also raise issues concerning the information in the oldest or original source.

Sometimes we are forced to rely on transcriptions and indexes. But we should always remember that these documents are not "sources" in the sense that they are conclusive of the information they contain. A source is, therefore, more than merely a listing of where you got the information. A source should also be found that is as close as possible to being an accurate and contemporary record of the event recorded.

Previous posts in this series.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Leaders Guide to Family History Added to Gospel Library

Screenshot of Gospel Library section on Temple and Family History
The Gospel Library is an App on both Android and Apple iOs devices. This includes smartphones and tablets. This week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added the long-awaited Family History Leadership Guide. Here is a screenshot of the Gospel Library web page on
Many members are using the Gospel library to access the scriptures, lesson manuals, Conference talks and other important Church publications. But the Gospel Library also serves the function of providing leaders in the Church with important manuals and handbooks. Many of the handbooks, such as Handbook 2, Administering the Church, are found in the Gospel Library. Stake Presidents and Bishops including Stake and Ward Clerks and other leaders can also access reports and other information they need from the Gospel Library.

This points out the importance of leaders and all members utilizing the Church's websites and online resources. For those members involved in Family History, as I have been pointing out in quite a few posts lately, all of the training materials and descriptions of the duties of Temple and Family History Consultants are now online. Those who fail to take advantage of all of these resources will simply be lost and uninformed about their callings and in some cases about changes in Church procedures.

The benefit of the electronic dissemination of these previous paper-based materials is substantial. Many people around the world have access to smartphones and tablets who would not otherwise have access to paper editions of the documents because of the cost of printing and shipping. The Church also saves a huge amount of money formerly used for that same printing and shipping. How many of us received a paper copy of a class manual and never used it?

The challenge here lies with the leaders. Each leader in the Church will have to be proactive in seeking out and studying the online material. But the fact that all of this reference material is readily available at any time of the day or night is a great boon to the whole Church.

I have spent some time recently working my way through the Gospel Library and was pleasantly surprised at all of the resources available. If we all begin using those resources, especially the Family History resources, and mentioning them in classes and during meetings when appropriate, they will become integrated into the everyday operation of the Church.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Helping Others to Love Genealogy

I would agree with Mike Sandberg, the core purpose of serving in a family history calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help others to love family history. In the recent past, many individuals who were called to be ward "Family History Consultants" felt as though they were left in a boat in the middle of a lake without a paddle. That should not be the case today. As I have been posting about recently, there are now many online resources for newly called Temple and Family History Consultants at all levels. The above blog post is the first of a seven-part series outlining the process of becoming a faithful and diligent family history teacher and leader. I would also suggest watching the following videos from President Russell M. and Sister Wendy Nelson.

It would also help to review this talk from President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency.

Gathering the Family of God by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency

Of course, we all need to increase our skills and FamilySearch now has an official training partner:

Thursday, April 20, 2017 Online Resources for Temple and Family History Consultants

As soon as the changes to the structure and names of the Family History Consultants and Advisers were changed to "Temple and Family History Consultants," the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began to dramatically increase the number of resources on, the official Church website. We have been getting emails regularly notifying us of newly added resources. I have a rather extensive list of web pages left to highlight.

One of the interesting aspects of these current changes is that the implementation is entirely online. Even handouts and the guide books and manuals are being disseminated online rather than through paper copies being sent to the Stakes and Wards. The effect of this change is obvious, those leaders who are aware of the need to check for new information online are becoming well informed of the changes, but those who ignore email and do not look at are simply operating without the guidance of the leaders of the Church. Although it took the Church a while to go online, all of the resources now available are either partially or exclusively available for English-speaking leaders and members online rather than in print format.

As shown in the screenshot above, there is a specific page of dedicated to the Temple and Family History Consultants and their duties. See The sections are linked by the image icons and include the following:

Over the past few years, as I travel around the country and talk to the previously designated Family History Consultants, one of the most common complaints has been a lack of training. Now, there is no excuse. All of the detailed training needed is readily available to the newly designated Temple and Family History Consultants in the English-speaking world. How long will it take for the Stakes and Wards to use these resources and make the changes and teach the members? That is the question of the day. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Two

In my previous post on this subject, I referred to the following rule.

A source tells other users where you got the information and reminds you also of where you got the information.

Any discussion about sources among genealogists inevitably turns to the topic of "citations." The reason for this is that formal publications such as academic journals and books often require a particular citation format. For example, The American Genealogist which is described as follows:
The American Genealogist is an independent quarterly journal dedicated to the elevation of genealogical scholarship through carefully documented analyses of genealogical problems and through short compiled genealogies.
The American Genealogist was founded back in 1922 by Donald Lines Jacobus who is often referred to as "the father of scholarly genealogy" in the United States. If you were interested in submitting an article to The American Genealogist, you would soon discover the Submissions requirements. Here is a quote about submissions to the journal.
Manuscripts may address any period, region, and demographic group within the United States or the (North) American colonies. Manuscripts may consist of compiled genealogies, problem analyses, corrections to printed genealogies, annotated transcriptions of (short) genealogically significant sources, or other related types. Whatever the format and focus, submissions should consist of original genealogical research that is carefully presented and properly documented with citations to primary (and appropriate secondary) sources. Citation format is not as important (in the submission stage) as clarity and consistency—though TAG generally adheres to the citation styles of The Chicago Manual of Style. [emphasis added]
Here is the citation to the latest version of The Chicago Manual of Style.

The Chicago manual of style. 2014. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Now, this citation is formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style and would likely be acceptable for a citation to an article published in a formal academic journal. Hmm. But there is one problem. The "citation" does not tell me where to find the book. If I want to go back and refer to the book cited, where would I find that book? Now, let's look an example of a citation or source form from

This citation format has the following fields:

  • Source Title (required)
  • Web Page (Link to the Record)
  • Where the Record is Found (Citation)
  • Describe the Record (Notes)
  • Reason to Attach Source
  • Select the Information or Events in this Source
  • Add Source to My Source Box

This format is quite different from the one required by the Chicago Manual of Style. Here, we are given two opportunities to tell the world where we all can go to find a copy of the book or whatever. Here is an example of the same form with the information about a book filled in.

One significant difference between this "citation" and the one required by the Chicago Manual of Style is that I can click on the link to the and see exactly where to find a copy of this book. Here is the link.

Now, as genealogists, very few of us are going to be publishing our conclusions and findings in formal genealogical journals. If you fall into that category, you can go find yourself a copy of the manual of style that is required by that publication. But for the rest of us, I suggest we focus on recording enough information about where we get and got our information to let everyone (including ourselves) know where to go to get a copy of the stuff we are citing.

Here is a bad example from the Family Tree with the name of the contributor blotted out.

Perhaps I should point out that there are a few million Family Trees and this much information simply tells me that the person working on this entry did not have any source records for the information he or she added to the Family Tree. Many of the sources added to the Family Tree are just about this informative. But wait, isn't that true about the required source citations from most academic journals? Yes, unfortunately. They are more interested in form rather than substance. In both cases, I am left with the task of re-verifying or finding the the source of the information. Granted, I might be able to find a book, but I am completely lost in trying to discover which Ancestry Family Tree supplied the information used by the FamilySearch contributor.

Stay tuned for more.

Previous post on this subject: