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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Some thoughts on duplicates in FamilySearch Family Tree

The guidebook called, Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013) LDS Version, at page 152 gives a number of specific reasons why merging duplicate entries in Family Tree may not be possible:
You cannot merge records in the following situations:
• The gender on one record is male, and the other is female.
• One record indicates the person is alive; the other is deceased.
• Both records come from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints.
• One of the records came from new.familysearch.org, where it has been combined
with too many other records.
• The duplicate record has already been deleted due to another merge.
• One of the records has restrictions that would prevent it from being changed.
Let me put this as concisely as I am able. Family Tree inherited thousands of duplicate entries from New.FamilySearch.org (NFS). Many of these duplicate entries exceeded an arbitrary limit of the number of combined entries allowed in NFS. Because the two programs have been using the same database, this arbitrary limit was imposed on Family Tree. Therefore, there are a huge number of duplicate entries in Family Tree which cannot be resolved. In fact, because of limitations in the find function used for the merge process (not the overall find function) many of these duplicates cannot be found even when both are showing on the screen at the same time. In short, merge does not yet fully work.

The merge function will work properly if none of the above criteria are present.

What are the results of the merge function's inoperability?

More duplicate Temple work.

In effect, with un-merged duplicates, one of the duplicate entries can show all of the Temple work completed and the other can show all of the Temple work available to be redone. The availability of the Temple work is shown by a "Green Arrow." You would think that users of the program would realize by now that famous people and their pioneer ancestors probably had all their Temple work done years ago, if it could be done at all. But, that is not the case. They still keep clicking on green arrows and redoing the work.

You might also suspect that FamilySearch would have some kind of notice out there that the merge function does not work. Guess what, you just read it above.

There is no stated time frame for when NFS and Family Tree will finally be separated completely and more of the merge functions start to work, but that will be the day I start cleaning up the existing entries on my ancestral lines. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Genealogy is also stories

My new Ward in Provo, Utah has a website where the members can relate short stories about their personal experiences illustrating how The Book of Mormon has affected their lives. Stories like these are really the vital essence of genealogy; the meaning behind the names and dates. These are the same types of stories that should be going onto the FamilySearch.org website.

The name of the website is Nearer to God. It is a relatively simply designed website but could be used by families or other Church organizations as a model of the type of website that could be done effectively for a variety of purposes. Since I see things through genealogical eyes, I see the value of these stories to the families of those who are contributing them.

I recommend that you take a look and see what is going on in areas closely related to genealogy.

What is the most practical way of working with FamilySearch Family Tree?

There are now four different views available from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. These are: Descendancy, Fan Chart, Portrait and Traditional. Each of the views has its adherents, but the new Descendancy view shows the most promise for a practical approach to working through the program. Here is a summary of my thoughts on each of these views:

Traditional View
This view is only traditional from the standpoint that experienced genealogists recognize this as a simplified pedigree chart. It is relatively difficult for newcomers to the program to understand what they are looking at. I find that most of the people who see this view for the first time do not understand that the female line branches off from the bottom of the name boxes. Here is a screenshot with the lines emphasized for effect:


This view does give a lot of information about the families, especially if you hover over the boxes with your mouse. But it is easy to get lost. All of the views are connected to the Detail View of each individual. But it is difficult here to get to one of the children of any of the families shown without clicking on an individual to see the Details View. For example, I could hover over Henry Tanner to see his wives, but clicking on the down arrow to see the children, only shows the children for the wife showing in the main box. Here is an example from a screenshot.


If I want to see the children of a different wife, I have to figure out how to show her, rather than the wife that is visible. The visible wife is the preferred selection.

This is just one of the issues with working with the traditional view. Otherwise, it is a good way to navigate through your pedigree, assuming of course, that you have a good understanding of your family relationships to begin with.

Portrait View
The Portrait View has even more of the same limitations as the Traditional View. Here is a screenshot showing this view:


This is what most people with no experience in genealogy think of when they think of a graphic representation of a family tree. It is very cumbersome to navigate and shows much less information about the families and individuals than the Traditional View. It is graphic and easily understood by most beginners, but can be difficult to use for entering names and information about the family. Again, clicking on any individual's box, will bring up the same Detail View. Here is an example of the Detail View:


Initially, the beginner does not know what to do with this Detail View page. Mainly, they do not realize that most of the information about the individual is not showing and they must either click on fields or scroll to see more information.

Fan Chart
This Fan Chart View is a popular way of depicting the ancestral family tree. You either like it or you don't. I am an outspoke critic of this view because of the fact that people tend to focus on missing ancestors. As with all the views in Family Tree or any other family tree program, if the connections and relationships of the ancestral lines are not accurate all of the views give false information. The Fan Chart View gives the least amount of information of any of the Family Tree views.  Here is an example:


Just as with the other views, clicking on any one of the names will bring up the Details View page for that individual. It has the same limitation as the other previously mentioned views in that it shows only the preferred wife and parents.

Descendancy View
By far the best innovation so far in Family Tree is the Descendancy View. The first and most important issue here is that this view shows all the wives and all the children of an individual. It also coveys a lot more, but very different, information about the individuals and the families. Here is a screenshot:


This view may take some getting used to. It is outside the general pattern familiar to many genealogists and most beginners. But it has some features that make it the most practical way to view and use the Family Tree program. First, is the addition of four types of information, some available only to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are: Request Ordinances, Record Hints, Research Suggestions and Data Problems. Here is a screenshot of the Settings box where this list is located:


I would strongly suggest leaving all those items checked as they appear by default.

You can navigate through the families by clicking on the Expand link. Here is a screenshot with an arrow showing the link, followed by another screenshot showing the navigational screen that results:


Here is the results of clicking on the Expand link:


You can now move up and down through your ancestors. You move down, by clicking on a child in the Descendancy View. You move up or back in time, by clicking on one of the ancestors shown in this view.

I think you will find that because of extra information shown in this view, it will become the most practical way to work on your ancestry.

Join the World Wide Indexing Event


Upcoming on July 20 and 21 is an international Indexing Event sponsored by FamilySearch.org with the goal to have over 50,000 indexers and arbitrators to submit at least one batch in a 24-hour period! The goal is an attempt to break the record set on 2 July 2012 when a total of 49,025 FamilySearch indexers and arbitrators joined together to set the all-time record for the most indexing participants in a single day.

Here are the details of this event from FamilySearch:
This remarkable goal will require help from every current indexer and arbitrator out there, plus many new volunteers, but it can be achieved if generous volunteers like you commit to participate. So mark your calendar and spread the word! Invite friends and family to join you. Organize an indexing party; create a fun family challenge or a society or church service project. Everyone is needed. Everyone can make a difference! 
No matter where you live or what language you speak, you can participate and add to this historic worldwide achievement. You may choose to work on any project you prefer. However, we suggest that you work on the following projects in your native language: 
  • US—Obituaries, 1980–2014
  • US—Passport Applications, 1795-1925
  • US, New Orleans—Passenger Lists, 1820-1902
  • UK, Manchester—Parish Registers, 1787-1999 
The record-setting begins at 00:00 coordinated universal time (UTC) on July 21, which is 6:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (MDT or Utah time) on Sunday, July 20. It ends 24 hours later, at 23:59 UTC (or 5:59 p.m. MDT) on Monday, July 21. Check the FamilySearch Facebook event page for your local start time and status updates.
New indexers can visit https://familysearch.org/indexing/ to learn more about how to join the FamilySearch indexing effort.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mystery Solved -- How Names and Places in FamilySearch Family Tree Work Revealed

For some time now I have been fussing about the standardized names and dates in FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Well, one of my kind readers finally figured out how their system works (or doesn't work, as the case may be). I got a series of comments from Gordon Collett. With his permission, I am going to quote his comments and interlace some of my own observations. I will put my comments in italics so you can see what I have to say on the subject.

Before I get to the comments, please understand that this explains a huge issue with Family Tree. It clarifies how the program functions and justifies the use of "standard place names" and "standard date" format. Also understand that none of this is reflected in the guidebook "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide." Thanks to Gordon for figuring this out and making it reasonably clear. Now to the comments. These comments were made in response to my post entitled, "What are the "basic guidelines" for entering information in FamilySearch Family Tree?"
As you imply, basic guidelines for data entry in Family Tree are sparse and hard to find. You have listed a nice summary, but that basic information leaves out some critical explanations that really need to be included. I would like to share information that I have discovered through discussions on the feedback boards and personal experimentation that, when understood, prevent all sorts of frustration with Family Tree and reveal some of the great power and flexibility built into the program.

Date information in Family Tree is stored as two separate pieces of information, the display date and the “standard” or sort date. Comment: This particular idea is new to me. I did not know that FamilySearch kept both types of information. The display date is for other researchers to read and evaluate. It can be entered in many different ways and can be tailored to fit nearly any situation. The sort date, located in the green standard box, is only visible when the date edit box is open. It is for computer use only, to give the program a completely unambiguous date so that the Family Tree program knows exactly the date of the event. The sort date must be set to qualify for ordinances; for children to sort by birthdate in the Family Members listing and pedigree charts; and for the Search and Find routine to function properly. Comment: This comment shows that there is a solution to my objection of standardized place names and also explains some of the random comments I have had from FamilySearch about the subject in the past.

When a date is first entered, a quick-entry list will appear. When the date you are entering appears on the list, you can complete the entry by clicking on the date in the quick-entry list. This will set both the display date and the sort date to the same value. If you desire the date to appear in a different format than what appears in the quick-entry list, finish typing in your entry. Then click outside the text entry box or press tab. Do not press the Save button. The sort date will then be set to the first entry on the quick-entry list. If this is not the correct sort date, click in the green box to choose the correct sort date. After both the display date and the green sort date are set correctly, click the Save button or proceed to enter the event’s place name. Comment: Although this is the heart of how the standardized date issue is resolved, it is a cumbersome process and no notices are given to the user that would allow the user to do this every time successfully. 

Place information in Family Tree is also stored as two independent pieces of information, the display place name and the “standard” or keyword/search place name.The display place name is for other researchers to read and evaluate. It should be as genealogically accurate as possible, following any acceptable guidelines for recording place names. It can be tailored to fit nearly any situation. The keyword/search place name, located in the green standard box, is only visible when the place name edit box is open. It is for computer use only, to give the program a completely unambiguous place name so that the Family Tree program knows exactly the unique spot of ground on the earth where the event took place. The keyword/search place is typically the modern name for a place, although many historical names are included in the available choices. The keyword/search place must be set to qualify for ordinances and for the Search and Find routine to function properly.

When a place name is first entered, a quick-entry list will appear. When the place name you are entering appears on the list, you can complete the entry by clicking on the place name in the quick-entry list. This will set both the display place name and the keyword/search place name to the same value. If you desire the place name to appear in a different format than what appears in the quick-entry list, finish typing in your entry. This will most commonly be the case when you are entering a name for a location whose name has changed frequently though history. You will want to enter the most accurate historical name for the time period of the event. After completely typing in the place name, click outside the text entry box or press tab. Do not press the Save button. The keyword/search place will then be set to the first entry on the quick-entry list. If this is not the correct place name, click in the green box to choose the correct place name from the list that opens. After both the display place and the green keyword/search place are set correctly, click the Save button.

Examples of Display Places:

Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Great Salt Lake City, Territory of Deseret, United States
The Avenues, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
105 North 2nd West, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
In the red barn five miles directly north of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States

These will all trigger the green keyword/search place to be Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States.

Please feel free to use this information any way you want, no attribution is necessary. Comment: This is a very generous offer. Thanks again to Gordon for figuring all this out and making it understandable. Please also reformat it any way possible to make it as understandable as possible. Most people I’ve discussed this with do catch on quickly to the concept of two different values and the reasons for them once it was explained. I really wish there were instructions that presented it clearly and were easily available to Family Tree users. On a very regular basis, the Family Tree feedback boards have two complaints:

Why won’t the children in this family appear in birth order? They are listed randomly! Why is your stupid program broken?
2) Why do I have to use a standard name? They are wrong! There was no (fill in place name of choice) in (fill in year of choice)!

If people could see right from the start how the data entry works, these would never be an issue.

Personally, I almost alway use the speed-entry date so I don’t have to worry about mis-spelling “May” and set the green value that way. Comment: The speed-entry date is a reference to the popup menu that appears with a standardized selection list.  The exception is with some Norwegian parish records of the 1700’s where there is not a date to be found. All the christenings, weddings, and funerals were held on named Sundays and other feast days and recorded as such. I like being able to enter the date as it stands in the record, such as Dominica 4. Adventus, with my conversion in editorial square brackets so other people can immediately see the date as given in the record and evaluate for themselves if my conversion is correct.

I rarely use the speed-entry place name because currently I’m working with residences that are Norwegian farms. I include the farm name such as Tveit, Stord, Hordaland, Norway. There is no “standard” for that name. My choices for the green name are Tveit, Hordaland, Norway or Stord, Hordaland, Norway. I pick the second one for the green name so when the match routine searches for duplicates or other records, it sticks to the same parish. The trouble with the first, is that there are about thirty farms by the name of Tveit scattered around Hordaland so the match routine would be pulling up names from dozens of different parishes.

I am not a great fan of the term “standard,” as used in Family Tree as you can probably tell. There are people who have gotten the impression that “standard” means “most correct,” even when it obviously is not and have tossed out valuable displayed data, as you mentioned you could see as a problem. I really wish the programmers would replace “Standard Date” with my preference of “Sort Date” and “Standard Place” with something like “Search Term” or “Search Keyword.”

To summarize, there are two types of entries for both dates and places; standard (not an appropriate name) and display (what is seen by the user). In order for some of the Family Tree program functions to work, there must be a "standard" entry. But Gordon points out the importance of preserving the original source notation and therefore how to both use the standard place name or date, while at the same time preserve the real historical place name or date.

This solves the issue of the program showing children in right birth order. The dates have to be referenced to the Standard for this to happen.

This may seem complicated, but it solves a basic issue with Family Tree. You may want to help others understand how this works.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Using the FamilySearch Research Wiki

It may not occur to most visitors to FamilySearch.org, but one of the most valuable tools on the website is the Research Wiki. The Research Wiki is a vast collection of articles detailing how genealogy is done, where to find sources and what to do with those sources once they are found. Because of the huge number of contributors, this website has become the most comprehensive reference guide to genealogy in existence.

The link to the Research Wiki is contained in the drop-down menu under the Search link on the FamilySearch.org startup page. Here is a screenshot showing the location of the Search link. Hovering over the link with show the drop-down menu.


The startup page of the Research Wiki contains links to get you started in using this reference tool.


For example, if you were just starting out in accumulating records about your family, this page of the Research Wiki, entitled "Begin your genealogy quest" will give you several ways to get started.


If you are an expert or very advanced in genealogy, there is still a lot to learn from the Research Wiki. For example, here is an article that begins the series of articles on land and property:


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 find the information you need to find them. Take some time to follow the links and I am sure you will be amazed at the amount of information that is already in this huge reference site.

If you do find a page or article that is incomplete, look at that as an invitation to contribute your own knowledge. Any who wants to take the time, can add in their own knowledge and experience. Go to the startup page for links to how to get started contributing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What are the "basic guidelines" for entering information in FamilySearch Family Tree?

Please take time to read the comments to this post. Thank you. I have also written a subsequent post with a solution to the standardization problem in Family Tree.

When you begin using FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program, except for a link to the Get Help menu in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, there are no evident rules or other guidelines for using the program. The very first time you log into the program, you may get a video orientation about the use, but unfortunately no guidance about how to enter information into the Family Tree. In fact the Getting Started video tells you, you do not have to worry about those "pesky pedigree charts." It also says to "look for the green arrows." It looks like they are still stuck in the New.FamilySearch.org mode of looking at the data.

The guide book called, Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide is dated back on 18 October 2013 and there is no direct link to the Guide available in the Get Help menu. A careful reading of the Guide will reveal a few general guidelines for entering information into the program. But I thought it would be a good idea to summarize the specific provisions. Here is a list of some of the information I found with a page number where the specific provision is located in the Guide beginning at page 44.

  1. To enter names, enter the person's main name, i.e. the complete name he or she was given at birth.
  2. Enter nicknames into the Alternative Names section of the Details page. 
  3. All females should be entered with her maiden name, if available. 
  4. It is optional to enter suffixes such as Jr., Sr. or other words that appear after a name, but do not include them in the main name fields. 
  5. If you do not know a mother’s or wife’s name, enter the husband’s last name. Do not enter a first name. Do not enter “Miss” or “Mrs” in any of the name fields.
  6. For a husband with an unknown name or a child who died without receiving aname, enter only the father’s last name. Do not enter a first name. Do not enter Mr., Miss, son, or daughter. Be sure that the gender is correctly entered as male or female if you know it.
  7. Do not put any other words, other than the names, in the name fields.
  8. Place names should be entered in order from the smallest jurisdiction to the largest, i.e. city or town, county, state, United States. 
  9. All place names should be entered as they existed at the time of the event recorded. This is contrary to the Guide that says to use the standardized place even if the system does not have a standardized place-name for the place that you enter. Generally accepting genealogical practice requires the place name as it was at the time of the event. Place names should be entered, if possible, in the language of the place where the event occurred.
  10. If there is a matching standardized place name, use the standard name. If the name of the place has changed, do not use the standardized place name, use the name of the place at the time of the event.
  11. Dates should be recorded as day, month spelled out completely, year.
  12. All dates should be standardized if known.
  13. Do not use any abbreviations for any entered information.
  14. When entering notes or sources, use complete sentences so that future researchers can understand what you are saying.
Standardized dates and places are designed to help the find feature of the program. They are not necessarily designed to preserve the correct place names as they appear in the historical record. The list of standardized places is being augmented over time, where possible and when it will not change the original place name, you should use the standardized place names. 


A Time-lapse Video of the New Provo Temple Construction

The new Provo, Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being constructed using what is left of the Provo Tabernacle which was destroyed by fire in December of 2010. Here is a time-lapse video of the construction so far:


There are several videos of the original building and the fire, here is one of them.




This is a very prominent location in downtown Provo and right on the corner of University and Main Street. We are looking forward to the dedication of the Temple when it is finished.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New FamilySearch Certified Programs

FamilySearch.org has a number of Certified Programs that assist with special features not completely available in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. From the blog post announcement:

FamilySearch is also pleased to announce ST ViewScan Premium, and MagiPhoto for Windows Phone are now Tree Access Certified. Find-a-Record Research Assistanceis now Tree and OrdinanceAccess Certified . “Certified” means the product is compatible with FamilySearch.org and has features that conforms to our strict standards of quality.
The different levels of Certification are as follows:
  • Tree Share (full tree read and write) - Certified to read and write Family Tree data to match, compare, and modify records. Also includes required certification for sources, discussions, change history, and interaction with community members.
  • Tree Access (tree read only) - Certified to read Family Tree data to analyze, display, or print family history reports and charts.
  • Sources (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read Family Tree data allowing user to match and reference online "sources' such as records, photos, documents, and media that provide evidence of events and relationships.
  • Discussions (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read, write, and comment on discussion threads for individual records in Family Tree.
  • Change History (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read and list changes made by contributors to the Family Tree, sources, and discussions.
  • LDS Features (Tree Access or Tree Share required) – Certified that specific data and features for 'LDS members only' can only be accessed when the user is appropriately logged in to FamilySearch. Tree Access Certification is necessary for reading ordinance information, Tree Share Certification is necessary for requesting, changing, sharing, and printing Family Ordinance Requests (FORs). 
If you go to the FamilySearch.org startup page, the link to the Products is found by clicking on the "About" link at the bottom of the page. Here is a screenshot showing the link with an arrow:


Next, you click on the Products link on the About page.


A description of the products and links to their websites are incorporated in the lists of products.


Monday, June 23, 2014

FamilySearch adds one billionth record to Historical Record Collections


If each of the billion records consisted of a page of text approximately 8 1/2 x 11, laid end to end, they would stretch roughly 189,000 miles of paper. Think about it every single one of those one billion records has had to be handled by a person and scanned or photographed into the collections on FamilySearch.org. If you looked at each record for 1 second, it would take you approximately 277,777 hours to look at the records or almost 32 years. Good luck in trying.

One billion is a really large number but the significance of this is that progress is being made every day in digitizing the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in the Granite Vault and other records being digitized by missionaries are also contributing to this huge number of images. A billion records also means billions of names of people that lived and died (or are still living).

Quoting from the blog post announcing the milestone:
FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) announced today the online publication of its one billionth image of historic records at FamilySearch.org, a feat that took just 7 years to accomplish. If you don’t have the time or means to travel where your ancestors walked, perhaps you can begin unveiling their fascinating lives through the tidal waves of new online historic records that can recount the stories of their lives. The billionth image was published in FamilySearch.org’s growing Peru civil registration collections
“Although a few social sites like Flickr and Facebook can boast over a billion photos contributed by users, there is no site like FamilySearch.org that has published over 1 billion images of historic records online,” remarked Rod DeGiulio, director, FamilySearch Records Division. “And a single digital image can have several historic records on it—which means there are actually billions of records in our browse image collections online for people to discover and volunteers to index.”
Tragedy of this situation is that there are so many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who could benefit from these records and who are almost totally oblivious to their existence. I was talking to a person on Sunday who mentioned that he was from Denmark. He said his family had "done all the work" I thought, oh not again. Here we go with someone who hasn't even looked at his family history. I continued the conversation and yes, that was the case. His family had done all the research "years ago" and of course, there was nothing left to do. I suggested that FamilySearch and other websites had added millions of records that were not generally available to researchers years ago, but the statement fell on deaf ears.

I enjoyed the brief history of digitization in the post. Here is another quote:
FamilySearch started preserving and providing access to the world’s historical records for genealogy purposes in 1938 using microfilm and distributing copies of the film through its global network of 4,600 local FamilySearch centers. In 2007, it made the shift to digital preservation and access technology and began publishing its massive historic records collections online. 
It took 58 years to publish the first two billion images of historic records on microfilm—which was limited to patrons of its local FamilySearch centers and affiliate public libraries. In the past 7 years, it has been able to publish one billion images at FamilySearch.org, which expands access to anyone, anywhere, with Internet access. DeGiulio projects the next billion images should take about 3 to 5 years to publish. 
70% of the online images currently come from FamilySearch’s initiative to digitally convert its huge microfilm collection for online access. 25% comes from new camera operations—275 camera teams digitally imaging new historic records in 45 countries that have never seen the light of day or the Internet. And 5% come from agreements with partnering organizations. 
Currently, FamilySearch publishes about 200 million images of historic records online each year (averaging about 500,000 per day) making the vast majority of them accessible for the first time to more people from anywhere in the world. 
It also means more historic records are being preserved and protected against future damage and loss, and the speed at which they are being made available online for research is rapidly increasing. For example, it took 18 months on average for FamilySearch to make a historic document available to the public using microfilm. With the new digital technology, a camera team digitally captures the image from its current resting place in some archive somewhere in the world today, and in just 2 to 4 weeks, it can be accessible online for the first time. It’s a new dawn for historic records preservation and access. 
This should be a wake up call for all those who think their genealogy is "all done" and for my part, I will do everything I can to help, teach, and implore them to make the effort.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Family History Resources on LDS.org

LDS.org is a valuable resource for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For those involved in family history callings there are more and more resources being added regularly. It is surprising to me, how few members are aware of these resources. The awareness of the members of these resources varies tremendously from Ward to Ward. The Family History links are available to any member when they sign in to the website.

Here is a screenshot showing the present location of the Resources link. Like most Church websites, this website has changed dramatically from the time it was first introduced. It has recently gone through another makeover. There is also a link from this page to FamilySearch.org. I have two arrows showing the links.


Clicking on the Resources link gives you the following drop-down menu with a further link to Family History.


This link takes you the main Family History Page as shown in this screenshot:


The number and variety of resources is very amazing. This page can be explored for a quite some time. I would point out the link to the Family History Callings. This is the link every one of us involved in family history should be using to educate those around us. Here is a screenshot showing this link with an arrow:


Here is a further screenshot showing the links for training on family history at all levels from Stake and Ward leaders to Family History Consultants. Note especially the new instructions for High Priest Group Leaders and Family History Center Directors.


The trick, of course, is not just getting the Ward and Stake leaders to be aware of this instruction, but also to follow the guidance given on this website and in the handbooks.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What do we do with someone completely new to genealogy? The Answer in 5 Steps

The question in the title to this post was asked of me more than once in the last week. Genealogy seems such a huge burden to dump on unsuspecting interested neophytes. Unfortunately I think we, as experienced genealogists, tend to try and covey all of our years of experience all at one time. This reminds me of the classes I had in genealogy years ago where the instructor would come in with a hand truck loaded with huge 11 x 17 inch binders. The lesson would essentially be a dissertation on the joys of hauling around 200 lbs. of genealogy materials. Of course, we left the classes thankful that we didn't have that burden.

Some of us are still stuck in the "hand the neophyte a paper pedigree chart" stage of teaching people about genealogy. Well, I have a few suggestions that might move us out of that dull, dull, dull syndrome. Another mistake is teaching a class or series of classes on genealogy that has no instruction about finding ancestors. The classes may be very inspirational but motivation is not a problem if people are already sitting in a class where genealogy or family history is the topic. They want to know how to start. they want to know what to do.

Here are my 5 Steps to starting people in genealogy. They will need their Membership number unless they already have a FamilySearch.org or LDS.org login and password. They will need both the login and the password. I would be a good idea to tell them to bring a photo of a family member or an ancestor to the class. Remember that many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints likely have some or many names in the Family Tree program.

Step One:

The key to starting a family tree is FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Get the person signed into the program and show him what is already in Family Tree. It may be nothing but his or her name or it may be hundreds of names. Frequently, if a person's parents or even grandparents are living, it is necessary to "connect" the living person with the first dead ancestor before the rest of the pedigree will appear. Here is where the instruction begins. It is a one-on-one experience getting the person started entering family information. Make sure the person knows that he or she can "get into the program" from home.

Why do I think we need to start here? Because any other method, especially on using a paper form will likely result in a loss of progress made. If the person puts any information in Family Tree it will be there the next time there is a class or log on.

What about encouraging them to get a "genealogy program?" I would suggest this be left to much later. It makes no sense to try to teach both Family Tree and another genealogy program at the same time.

Step Two:

Show the new genealogists FamilySearch.org's Memories, i.e. Photos, Stories and Documents. If their family has been active they will see photos and stories and perhaps some documents. If not, then they need to see an example of what can be done. Make arrangements by having them bring a photo, to scan a photo and upload it to Family Tree.

Step Three:

Show them the different "Views" in Family Tree and explain each view. Especially show them the Descendancy View with the notifications if they already have a lot of their ancestors. This is especially true if they feel that "everything has already been done." If this is the case, show them and explain Puzzilla.org in addition to the Descendancy View. In each case, carefully explain that all these "dead ends" are opportunities to find ancestors that need Temple ordinances.

Step Four:

Once they have seen the basic program, go to the Record Hints and Research Help and help them find and attach a source to one or more of their records. Explain why we need to attach sources and suggest that they may wish to add sources to any family members, especially their immediate family, that are lacking in the program. Explain that they need to look at the sources to make sure the record refers to the same person.

Step Five:

Help them find a missing family member. This may involve more than one or two sessions. But it is important that the new genealogist see the process of adding a name. Using Puzzilla.org and the new Descendancy View, it should be possible to find a family to research.

Once they are to this stage, they should be encouraged to continue. Now is the time to suggest going through records, photos and such at home to find additional information. The old paradigm of "get a box" is out of date. We have a box. It is called Family Tree. Get busy.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Locking Files on FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the facts of life when working with FamilySearch.org Family Tree is that some of the ancestral lines are a mess. I have a fully documented and very well settled ancestral line to three of the Mayflower passengers. Unfortunately, in going back in FamilySearch.org Family Tree and trying to follow the lines to the original Mayflower passengers, the data is so confused that this is virtually impossible. There is no controversy whatsoever over that particular line. It has been documented better than most genealogists can imagine. I recently spent a week in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah verifying my own data on that line to see if there were any "new" developments. There was one note to a research project extending one of the lines that had been reviewed and published in the The American Genealogist.

I can't even adequately illustrate the problem with screenshots. For example, coming down two generations from the Mayflower passengers, my direct line ancestor, Philip Taber married Mary Cooke, the daughter of John Cooke and grand-daughter of Francis Cooke of the Mayflower passengers. If you need some reference here, you might start with the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, usually referred to as the Mayflower Society. There are few people better documented than the Mayflower passengers and their descendants for at least five generations. Notwithstanding this huge amount of readily available documentation, Philip Taber in Family Tree has 21 different iterations of wives. I cannot begin to straighten out this mess because the program has more than 15 different unresolved duplicates for his wife Mary Cooke.

This is why I have been not-so-patiently been waiting for years to see if this tangled mess could ever be resolved. At last, there is a glimmer of hope. FamilySearch.org has finally began to openly lock some of the entries in the Family Tree program. The locked files are appearing with a banner indicating that the files are "Read Only." This is a positive step and very welcome. I give me hope that the process of finally converting the old New.FamilySearch.org data over to Family Tree is almost finished, or at least in the state where it could be finished.

The locking of files appears to affect somewhat random selections, including some prominent historical figures and others not so prominent. If the entries for the Mayflower passengers and their 5 generation descendants were corrected and then locked, this would simply my life immensely. There are other sets of people that would also benefit from this practice. Even if these individuals were locked temporarily we could have a vacation from random changes being made until the files were finally consolidated and New.FamilySearch.org was finally turned off.

There is a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Initial Thoughts on FamilySearch Family Tree Source Hints

Without much fanfare other than an email with a broken link to a blog post, FamilySearch.org introduced a new feature. The email notice is entitled, "Hinting is Here: We Search for You." Of course, they didn't have to search far for me, if they had my email address and were aware of my blog, but it was nice of them to look for me anyway.

Oh, I get it. They are doing the searching of the databases for me! Actually, they have been talking about adding this feature for quite a few months. Interesting that they have comments from users who were testing the Beta version. The real question is does it work? But first a little background.

Ancestry.com introduced their "Shaky" leaf source hints back in April or May of 2012. You can read an initial review by Randy Seaver in a blog post entitled, How Accurate are the Ancestry "Shaky Leaf" Hints?" dated 7 May 2012. Of course, if one software engineer can come up with a "feature" other engineers can follow and improve on the initial product. MyHertiage.com did a complete and very positive makeover of the entire concept with its Record Match program and then added more values with its adjunct Record Detective. MyHeritage.com raised a high goal with a claimed 97% accuracy. Now, more than a year after MyHeritage.com's intro and with a lot of history with Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org throws their proverbial hat into the ring.

OK, I am being too coy. This is a really good addition to the Family Tree program. In the email, Ron Tanner says:
Hints are a method where “we search for you.” We look at the information in FamilySearch Family Tree, compare it to information from our indexed records, and bring back the most likely matches. Our goal is that, on average, 95% of the records we suggest to users will be correct matches. (This won’t be true on every person in the tree.) 
After a user reviews a hint, they will be able to attach it to FamilySearch Family Tree and, using the enhanced match functionality, we will help them compare and attach it to other people in the tree. This process will provide documented information to qualify existing people in the tree for temple work and it will also help add new people to the tree who need temple ordinances. 
Using this feature is quick and easy, just login to FamilySearch.org, go to an ancestor page, and Record Hints box is on the top right side of the page!
All of that is true. Here is a screenshot showing some of the hints suggested in my Family Tree. I had to go back a ways because we have already added a lot of sources and if they are already added, the hints don't seem to find too many more. I know this is unusual, but I had to search for a while before I could find anyone with more than one source hint. So, I finally gave up and did a screenshot of a person with one hint:



Here is the attach screenshot:


The feature looks fairly accurate and very useful. Good for FamilySearch.






Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If you don't make a deposit, you can't make a withdrawal

FamilySearch.org Family Tree is very much like a real-world bank. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints find their ancestors through research in historical records, they "make deposits" of those ancestors into the virtual bank account of Family Tree. As deposits are made, withdrawals in the form of Family Ordinance Request forms can be generated and name cards printed to do the ordinances for the depositors' ancestors. But what happens when someone goes to the bank and and wants to make a withdrawal without having made a deposit? They could end up "borrowing" names from other family members who have been diligent in depositing those names in the Family Tree bank. But there is a real problem if the bank runs out of money i.e. Family Tree runs out of eligible names ready for Temple ordinances.

If you know anything at all about the bank of names called Family Tree, you would realize that it is not a savings bank. It is more like a checking account. Your ancestors did not make deposits of family names just so you could come along years later and take those names to the Temple. Virtually every name put in the Family Tree bank was already targeted for Temple ordinances. The accumulation of names in the Family Tree bank is evidence of Temple ordinances already done in the past, not savings for a future investment.

Now we have a problem. There are those who think that FamilySearch.org Family Tree is some kind of endless loan account. In fact, there are many members who think all they have to do to get a name to "take to the Temple" is open the account (Family Tree) and check out a name. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the most recent past, many members overdrew the account by doing the ordnance work for the same people over and over again. They chose to ignore the invalidity of those ordinance withdrawals and went deep into debt. Other more frugal members were appalled at the overdrafts. Many of those people who had been listed in the Family Tree bank for years had their ordinances done over and over again.

Slowly, the Family Tree bank managers began putting safeguards in place to prevent this overdraft. The duplicate withdrawals dwindled to a trickle but there was always some leakage as members went back time and time again, even making up false accounts, to obtain withdrawals. But now, the vast majority of the members who go into the Family Tree bank to look for easy withdrawals are frustrated. They find out, most for the first time, that you can't make a withdrawal without making a deposit. Unfortunately, this overdraft situation seems to be lost on the members' leaders. Too many of them challenge the members to find some money in the Family Tree bank. They do this by giving them a deadline to find names to "take to the Temple." Neither the leaders, nor the members realize that honest work and real sweat must go into creating a valid Family Tree account with names to withdraw.

Will the Family Tree bank go bankrupt? There is a real danger that it will. Will the members be able to continue to borrow names to take to Temples? Where will those names come from? From duplication of previously completed ordinance work? From pools of "free" names? How long can the overdraft continue? Will the workers who are busy making deposits be able to keep up with the demand? Can we recruit more workers to help fill the bank's coffers? Will some of those people who find that the bank had dried up be motivated to begin their own bank accounts? Will adding prizes and rewards entice more depositors? All of these are questions that cannot be presently answered. Only time will tell.

What happened to Puzzilla.org?

For some time, FamilySearch.org featured Puzzilla.org on the startup page with a link called "Finding Our Cousins." Puzzilla.org is a very valuable aid to finding the limits of research done in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program. Suddenly, without warning, the link on the FamilySearch.org startup page goes to a new Family Tree Descendancy View. As it turns out, Puzzilla.org is still alive and well. What has happened is that several of the features developed by Puzzilla.org have now shown up in the new Family Tree Descendancy View. The two programs provide some of the same information but the graphic representation of the information is so different, it may be hard to tell that you are really looking at the same thing.

I think the graphic view of Puzzilla.org is elegant and conveys information about the Family Tree file in a succinct and useful fashion. Basically, the program provides end-of-line information.  You might want to refer to my previous post entitled, "What is Puzzilla.org and how does it work?" for more information about the mechanics of the program. In this post, I am going to compare the functions of Puzzilla.org and the new Descendancy View in Family Tree. I think you will see that both programs are valuable and assist in identifying needed research in Family Tree, so don't make any assumptions about the change on FamilySearch.org other than it is a change.

The new Descendancy View for Family Tree shows all of the wives/husbands and all of the children of any selected ancestor. Here is a screenshot of the descendancy view of one of my ancestors:


You will notice the large blue rectangles at the right-hand side of the screen. There are several different types of markers that indicate problems with the data, additional research opportunities, lack of source citations, possible available Temple work and data problems. For example, if I click on the blue icon next to my Great-grandmother's name I see the following message:


In some cases, the icon will be green and show an outline of the Salt Lake Temple. Here is a screenshot showing that icon expanded:


You will note that the icon specifically refers to the need to merge duplicates before allowing the Temple ordinances to be done. In some cases, there are three icons. Here is a screenshot showing all three types:


If you expand the red icon, you get the following message, depending on the problem with the data:


You can see that these are certainly valid issues with the data in the file. In some cases, the suggestions will also point out the need to do more research:


Although this is not the same information conveyed by Puzzilla.org. It is similar and can lead to the same productive research.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Importance of Moving Our Family Records Onto FamilySearch Family Tree

Let me start out by listing a number of very persuasive reasons for preserving valuable family records on an online archive such as FamilySearch Family Tree.
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornados
  • Dry Rot and Mold
  • Termites
I guess you get the idea here. But genealogy has a much more insidious enemy: apathy of children and heirs. Many a life's work of records has been disposed of in the nearest dumpster by heirs who didn't want to be bothered by the clutters.

There is another less apparent danger; technological obsolescence. We are still dealing with entire collections of dozens of floppy disks when it is harder to find a 3.5 inch floppy drive that will read the disks. Yes, it is still possible to buy an external 3.5 inch floppy disk drive for under $20. But then we have to worry about the evil twin of technological obsolescence, that is digital obsolescence, that is programs that will no longer function in any of today's operating system environments. Even with the USB floppy drive, if the file format of the genealogy files cannot be read then there is no hope that the files can be recovered.

OK, now that we have the idea of what can happen, we need to be aware that these dangers are not speculative. They will happen. How can we prevent catastrophe? We can back up our data to our hearts content, but if our backups are in the same house when the house burns down, there goes the backup along with the original. We can parcel out our data to our children, assuming they aren't the ones who are going to throw it all away. We can backup to commercial online storage, but what happens to your data if your heirs refuse to make any further payments? Look at the storage agreements. The data usually gets erased.

But today, there is a solution. We can depend on the good guys at Family Search to securely preserve our data and park a copy on Family Tree. That means every document, photo, story and all the sources. If we do this we can sleep at night and not worry about what will happen to our genealogy.

I have now been in the process of moving my data to Family Tree for a couple of years. It takes time and effort. Part of the effort will diminish as the technology improves and the data in Family Tree is finally straightened out. At this point, we will have a secure place to store our data with the assurance that every effort on earth and under heaven will be made to secure that data.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How does genealogy in the Church differ from genealogy outside the Church?

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are admonished regularly to "search out their ancestors." I am sure that most of the active members of the Church are aware of this injunction and the doctrinal basis for it. But that knowledge does not seem to be motivation enough for the members to become actively engaged in genealogy. This is interesting to me, because of my total involvement in genealogy and because understand most of the reasons for the lack of interest in actually doing something about the belief. I would also observe that family history, as it is most commonly referred to, is a topic of general interested in the population as a whole. If you were to measure the interest in genealogy by the whether or not a person had uploaded ancestral information online about his or her family and nothing more, the number of people involved in genealogy in the United States, possibly including those in the Church, exceeds 10 million. In other words, there are more people interested in genealogy (family history) in the United States than there are member of the Church. The LDS.org Newsroom reports the present Church population in the United States to be just over 6 million.

Where does this number of people interested in family history or genealogy come from? It comes from the 71 million members of one website; MyHeritage.com. one of the very few, if not only genealogy website to publish its membership numbers in detail. If the Church were a large factor in that membership number then you would expect that a state such as Utah would have a high concentration of MyHeritage.com members. But Utah has 89,031 MyHeritage.com users, compared to 595,899 MyHeritage.com members in New York. There are 1.9 million members of the church in Utah and only 80,535 members in New York. I could see no correlation between the number of members of the Church and the number of members of a website such as MyHeritage.com whose sole function is to involve people in genealogy. In fact, there are roughly almost 5 times as many members of MyHeritage.com than the entire membership of the Church worldwide. Another interesting fact, if you were to assume that every single member of MyHeritage.com in Utah was actually a member of the Church, there would still be only 4.5% of the Church membership in Utah on MyHeritage.com. Of course, given the figures for MyHeritage.com membership in other states, it is very, very unlikely that a very significant percentage of the Utah MyHeritage.com members are also members of the Church.

It is my personal experience that many members of the Church are surprised when they find out that so many people outside of the Church are interested in genealogy. Because even with the constantly reminded motivation, the members are not particularly involved, they are really surprised to find out people that they view as having a lesser motivation are more involved than they themselves.

Why is this the case? I find that a very high percentage of people overall are interested enough in their own family history to make some effort to find out about how to become involved in genealogy. On my recent trip to Canada and Alaska, I met very few people who were members of the Church, but I had many discussions about genealogy. In fact, when I mentioned that I was doing genealogy "full time" almost everyone I talked to was interested in finding out information. In many cases, I ended up giving my address card to people who were very anxious to find out more about genealogy. In one case, at a breakfast discussion, I ended up giving my card to a couple who were sitting by us and when I got up to leave another lady, who had not been in the conversation asked me for a card. I then had about a half hour discussion with her and husband who wanted to tell me all about their genealogy.

From my standpoint, I find that people outside the Church are almost uniformly interested in their family history, but strangely enough, I do not find the same interest within the Church. When I attend a Ward, other than my own, and mention that I do genealogy full-time, the members are seldom interested and change the subject. Isn't this exactly the opposite reaction you would expect? If you can explain that conundrum, you have more information than I do.

So how does genealogy in the Church differ from that outside? Simply put, there are more people interested in the subject and that is at the heart of a question that I and many other people would like to answer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- David O. McKay

President David O. McKay is the first President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I can remember seeing during my own lifetime. He was born 8 September 1873 in Huntsville, Utah Territory. He was ordained an apostle in 1906 and was sustained as President of the Church on 9 April 1951.

President McKay is probably best remembered for one of the notable phrases, in the April, 1959 General Conference he urged, "Every member a missionary." Another notable quote came from the April, 1935 General Conference when he said, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." Here are several quotes from President McKay on the importance of Temple work and searching out our ancestors:
There is the Temple “endowment,” which is … an ordinance pertaining to man’s eternal journey and limitless possibilities and progress which a just and loving Father has provided for the children whom he made in his own image—for the whole human family. This is why Temples are built. See The Purpose of the Temple (1976), Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (closed stacks, pamphlet), 11; paragraphing altered.
One of the distinguishing features of the restored Church of Jesus Christ is the eternal nature of its ordinances and ceremonies. For example, generally in civil as well as in church ceremonies, couples are married “for time” only, or “until death dost thee part.” But love is as eternal as the spirit of man; and if man continues after death, which he does, so will love. See The Purpose of the Temple (1976), Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (closed stacks, pamphlet), 5-7; paragraphing altered.
It should not, and it need not, for when Jesus was upon the earth he told his Apostles: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19.) And with the restoration to earth of the Holy Priesthood, the Church asserts that this power was again given to chosen men, and that in the house of the Lord where the marriage ceremony is performed by those who are properly authorized to represent our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the union between husband and wife, and between parents and children, is effected for time and all eternity, and that for those thus married the family will continue into the eternities. See The Purpose of the Temple (1976), Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (closed stacks, pamphlet), 5-7; paragraphing altered.
A Chinese student, returning to his homeland, having graduated from one of our leading colleges, was in conversation with a Christian minister, also en route to China. When this minister urged the truth that only through acceptance of Christ’s teachings can any man be saved, the [student] said: “Then what about my ancestors who never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus?” The minister answered: “They are lost.” Said the student: “I will have nothing to do with a religion so unjust as to condemn to eternal punishment men and women who are just as noble as we, perhaps nobler, but who never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus.” 
One who understands the truth, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph regarding this doctrine, would have answered: “They will have an opportunity to hear the gospel, and to obey every principle and ordinance by proxy. Every man here or hereafter will be judged and rewarded according to his works." See Improvement Era, January, 1945, 15, 45. 
Now the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances thereof. [See Articles of Faith 1:3.] Nor is the term “all” restricted in meaning to include only a chosen few; it means every child of a loving and divine Father. And yet, hundreds of millions have died without ever having heard that there is such a thing as a Gospel plan. 
All nations and races have a just claim upon God’s mercies. Since there is only one plan of salvation, surely there must be some provision made whereby the “uncounted dead” may hear of it and have the privilege of either accepting or rejecting it. Such a plan is given in the principle of salvation for the dead. … 
Paul referred to [the] practice of baptism [for the dead] in his argument in favor of the resurrection. He said, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?” (1 Cor. 15:29). … Not a few commentators have tried to explain away [this passage’s] true significance; but its context proves plainly that in the days of the apostles there existed the practice of baptism for the dead; that is, living persons were immersed in water for and in behalf of those who were dead—not who were “dead to sin” but who had “passed to the other side.” 
In the Kirtland Temple, April 3, 1836, the Prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and delivered to them “powers of the priesthood” that authorize the living to do work for the dead. These “keys” were restored in fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachi: 
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5–6). The hearts of the fathers and of the children will be turned to one another when the fathers in the spirit world, hearing the Gospel preached and realizing that they must obey the ordinances thereof, know that their children on the earth are performing those ordinances for them. 
All such “work for the dead” is performed in temples, dedicated and set apart for such purposes, where proper records are kept, and where everything is considered sacred. See “Salvation for the Dead,” Millennial Star, 25 Oct. 1923, 680–82.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Do I really need more than one family tree online?

Members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are in the process of being given free access to three of the large online genealogical database programs; Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com. One of the most common questions raised by these potential users, so far, is why do we need four online family trees? The main concerns center around the difficulty of keeping more than one online family tree in synchronized with each other and at the same time maintaining a centralized desktop database with a master file.

Before addressing the issue of multiple family trees, it is important to understand that Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com provide searching programs that automatically match individuals in your family tree with sources in their respective databases or collections. If you do not have a family tree on these programs, you simply miss out on one of the major benefits of both. Both programs find sources that you would not find by doing your own user-directed search. Essentially, the time and effort it may take to maintain the separate family trees is far out-weighed by the utility of the automated searches.

In addition, FamilySearch has made it clear on a number of occasions that there are plans to have the three other programs exchange data with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree directly in a manner similar to the way that some desktop genealogical software programs already exchange data (synchronize) with Family Tree. Even if this feature is never developed and the only way to exchange data is by manually copying the entries, having the automated search features are well worth that extra effort.

I have a few more days left to work at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and it is apparent that much of my time is going to be spent assisting members who have received the notifications to access the three programs. It is not that the process is at all complicated, but there are enough variations, including lost or forgotten pass words to keep many of the missionaries busy during the day. I was surprised at how large a percentage of the missionaries had not yet gotten the "invitation." I was sure that some of them had simply ignored the email notification.

I have been using Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com for years. If you have read my other blog, Genealogy's Star, you will probably know that I am a particular fan of MyHeritage.com but I am also an avid promoter of Ancestry.com. My judgment is still out on findmypast.com. I do not do that much English, UK etc. research and the newer family tree program still has a ways to go before it is fully functional. Unless you are sure that none of your family came from the UK, Ireland, Scotland or Wales, I would suggest that signing up for and uploading a family tree to each program is essential.

I noticed that Ancestry.com automatically uploads, at least, a four generation sample of information from Family Tree as soon as you confirm a new membership. If you have had a previous subscription to Ancestry.com, you will have to try and dredge your login and password out of your memory or records. Ancestry.com considers you to be a current customer and will tell you that your email address has already been registered.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Genealogy in the Ward begins with the Stake President

Traditionally in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints researching family history for submitting names to the Temple has been an individual or family responsibility. In the past, there have been times when the Church programs included structured classes on how to do family research or genealogy. But for some time now, the involvement of the Church in fostering genealogical activity has been confined to offering a series of motivational classes to Family History Consultants online and on DVDs. At the same time and for the past few years, the Church has been developing a sophisticated website, FamilySearch.org, that assists in the members in researching their ancestors. Most recently, the Church has increased its emphasis on genealogy or family history and included the ability to upload and store photographs, stories and documents on FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program to help members recognize a more complete ancestral story. There have also been a number of programs such as Indexing, the My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet, the RootsTech Conference and other such programs that add emphasis to family history work.

In addition, most recently, the Church has been modifying the administrative portions of the family history program to more clearly define the roles of each of the Stake and Ward leaders responsible for family history and Temple work. In a recent post called Where do I receive training for my family history calling?, I outlined the resources available to each of the administrative levels of both the Stakes and Wards. But from my own personal experience and the success stories I have heard from others, I believe that the participation of the Stake President is one of the most decisive factors in fomenting family history in both the Stake and Wards. It is certainly possible for the individual Family History Consultants to function in their capacity in the Wards. But unless there is a coordinated Stake President initiated program, following the outline of the program in the handbooks, the Ward efforts will be very limited in scope. Occasionally, a Ward, with the involvement of the Bishop, may be able to organize a Ward-wide effort for Indexing or a short-lived program for increasing Temple submissions, but a long term effort needs the support of the Stake leaders to succeed.

The duties of the Stake President are clearly outlined in the online materials. Basically, he is responsible for calling Stake Indexing and Family History support people that will follow the program as outlined in the handbooks and carry the programs into each Ward in the Stake. It is crucial that the Stake President be not only aware of the assignments given to the High Councilor over Temple and Family History, but also be an active participant on a personal level. The video called, Training for My Calling: Stake President, outlines the role of the Stake President in using temple and family history work to strengthen families and individuals. It is also helpful if the Stake President supports the High Counselor and the High Priest Group Leaders in the Stake in learning and functioning in their callings. It will not take long for High Priest Group Leaders to realize the importance of their participation in the family history program in the Ward, if they are held accountable to the Stake President in their periodic interviews. More specific instructions are available in the Leader Resources on LDS.org about Family History Callings. 

As I travel around the Church, I see many opportunities where family history work could make a difference. I recently visited a small branch on Vancouver Island in Canada. The day before the Sunday meetings, I had done a presentation to 120 people at a genealogy conference held in Parksville. For a change, it turned out that the Family History Center Director was aware of the conference, but there was no participation by the Family History Center or the Branch in supporting or attending the conference. The number of people attending the conference was many times greater than the total number of members in the Branch. I felt frustrated at what I saw as a lost opportunity to involve not only the Branch, but the Full-time Missionaries in the Conference. At a minimum, the Family History Center could have had a table to pass out information about the Family History Center or helped sponsor the conference. I wonder if the Stake President or other Stake officers knew about this lost opportunity?


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What are we supposed to do with FamilySearch Family Tree?

The obvious answer to the question in the title of this post is that we are supposed to do our genealogy or family history work and submit names for Temple ordinances. But the question raises some more additional fundamental issues, particularly for those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that find much of the work of finding their ancestors has been done. We find a clue to how the word needs to proceed in the Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants where it states as follows:
Each new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants has corrected past errors and added new information, particularly in the historical portions of the section headings. The present edition further refines dates and place-names and makes other corrections. These changes have been made to bring the material into conformity with the most accurate historical information. (emphasis added)
Those of us who find ourselves in the position of inheriting a great deal of genealogical information as shown by FamilySearch.org's Family Tree, should take a lesson from process of revising the scriptures outlined in the Introduction quoted above. We need to go through the existing records as reflected by the Family Tree and bring them into conformity with the most accurate historical information. This can best be done by adding sources and correcting the existing information where necessary.

I can best illustrate this by showing some screenshots of ancestors on my own lines on Family Tree. Because my ancestors have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for generations on all of my family lines appear to be "complete." All this really means is that there is some minimal amount of information about each ancestor taken from previously submitted records. When I first opened Family Tree, I saw all of the information that had been added from the New.FamilySearch.org program. Much of this information was incomplete and very few of the entries had any source citations. To correct the information from "the most accurate historical information" as in the example from the Doctrine and Covenants, I needed to go through the process of adding source citations and correcting the information shown in the Family Tree records by examining and analyzing those sources. Not all the information in the sources is accurate or correct, but it is important to record both the accurate and inaccurate sources so that future researchers do not have to go through the same process.

Fortunately, we are not left alone in our efforts to correct the records. Since Family Tree is a unified family tree program, all of the users, i.e. my relatives, have the ability to add information, add sources, make corrections and help with the overall work of the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot showing an ancestor's list of sources that have been added by me and others for my Great-grandfather.


This is not a complete list, but illustrates the types of records that can be added as sources. Of course, if I look at many of my other ancestors, I will find much less information has been added. Here is an example of one ancestor where there are very few sources:


Of course, there are likely many ancestors with no source citations at all. This means that the information has not been verified or brought into conformity with the best historical sources. As you proceed with this process, you will likely find mistakes, inaccuracies and other wrong information in the Family Tree program. The great advantage of this program is that any of the users can change and correct the information so the burden of correcting the records does not fall on any one individual user, but is the obligation of all of the related members of the family.

One question that is frequently raised is what happens if there is conflicting information or if someone adds incorrect information. This is why it is important that the family members using the program have contact information available, usually in the form of an email address. In this case, the members of the family having correct information can communicate with the person whose information is less accurate or complete. The program also has a "Report Abuse" link if people refuse to cooperate or are adding inappropriate information.

The idea here is to systematically work through the existing information, one individual at a time, and add information, make appropriate corrections and then add all the photos, stories and other documents that you may have available. If we do this, we will also have the benefit of adding in any new individuals whose Temple work remains undone, such as skipped children and others.

For information on adding sources see the following: