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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Where is the approved training for FamilySearch Family Tree?

A question came up about whether or not the content of the new FSFamilyTreeUserGroup.com website was "approved" by FamilySearch or some other entity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the context of a Sunday School "class." The real question is whether or not there is any approved training at all and further, what would constitute approved training? 

The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts, discusses a Family History class during Sunday School and says the following at page 17:
Holding a temple and family history class is a good way to increase participation and interest in family history. The class can be used to help with ward activation, retention, and missionary efforts. Anyone may be invited to attend the class. The ward council may decide to invite certain ward members.

The class is taught by an effective instructor, who may or may not be a family history consultant. The class may be taught during Sunday School or at another time that is more convenient for members. It is taught under the direction of the bishopric rather than the Sunday School president.  
Lessons are generally conducted as workshops in which members actually complete their own family history work, either on the computer or on paper. Where feasible, class participants should have access to computers. Many meetinghouses are currently being equipped with wireless Internet connections.

The number of class participants should be limited to the number who can be given personal help. The class can be repeated as often as necessary to accommodate all who desire to attend.

Family history consultants can provide personal help to participants during the class as well as after the class in members’ homes or family history centers.  Resources available for the class include the Instructor’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, the accompanying Temple and Family History Course DVD, and the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. Leaders should go to the Serving in the Church section of LDS.org to find additional resources.
Note that the class is conducted as a workshop where class members come to learn about doing their family history. It should be noted that none of the resources mentioned in this section talk about the FamilySearch.org website. Does this mean that the FamilySearch.org website is not approved? Obviously not. Since the only way that members of the Church can now submit names for Temple ordinances, it is absolutely necessary to have instruction about the FamilySearch.org website and the Family Tree program in particular. Where does this instruction come from?

Again referring to the Leader's Guide at page iii:
FamilySearch is the name used by the Church to describe its family history efforts, products, and services to the general public. FamilySearch.org is the name of the primary website where patrons can discover, preserve, and share their family histories.
Continuing at page 4:
Register online at FamilySearch.org/serve to receive access to additional resources specifically for priesthood leaders.
The Leader's Guide goes on to encourage members and leaders to "Use FamilySearch.org and local family history centers. The Church has the world’s largest collection of family history and genealogical resources." See page 13. See also pages 16, 17, 19 and 20.

Well, for example, I serve as a Church Service Missionary at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. The Family History Library has an extensive library of resources online for use my missionaries and anyone else who wants to use them. This includes a YouTube.com channel of video class presentations. See the BYU Family History Library channel for a number of videos in support of Family History.

Where is the "official" instruction on FamilySearch Family Tree? This is a very interesting question to try to answer. By the way, FamilySearch has its own YouTube.com channel. See the FamilySearch channel. I might mention that one of the videos features me on the subject of social media.

What about the resources of the FamilySearch.org website? Well, they are mainly located in the Get Help menu and on the FamilySearch.org Blog. There are several of my own blog posts on the FamilySearch blog Tech Tips section.

It is important to note that the guidebook, "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013)" has been discontinued and has not been updated since the date in its title. Obviously, we are intended to look elsewhere for information.

As I mentioned, the Get Help menu contains a link to the Help Center for FamilySearch. There is a specific section for the Family Tree program, but one of the main resources is the Riverton FamilySearch Library Handouts and Guides, exactly the same type of material provided by the FSFamilyTreeUserGroup.com website. In addition, there is a FamilySearch.org Learning Center that includes hundreds of video presentations from Family History Centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In addition, there are FamilySearch partner programs. These are third-party family history oriented programs that are entirely separate from the Church or FamilySearch. They work with FamilySearch to provide additional functionality to the FamilySearch Family Tree program. In addition, members are encouraged to use the other online database partners with FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com. None of which have any Church approved instructional materials.

It would seem to me that the question of the content of a Sunday School workshop should incorporate all of the available family history resources. There are detailed instruction on Family Tree program on FamilySearch.org, but there are also an abundance of wonderful supplemental resources from people dedicated to helping members and those who are not members to accomplish the task of connecting with their ancestors.

I think the FSFamilyTreeUserGroup.com is another extremely valuable resource for learning about family history and particularly about FamilySearch Family Tree. I also suggest that anyone who is involved in a Sunday School activity concerning family history follow the guidelines set down by the Leader's Guide and also follow the counsel of the Ward's Bishop who is responsible for the direction of the class. I should also point out that the Bishop can call upon his Stake High Councilor, Stake President and Area Family History Advisers for help in training about family history work in the Ward. I would also suggest that it would be a good idea for any Bishop to read the Leader's Guide and follow the counsel given.

Can I stop people from making changes to my ancestors on FamilySearch Family Tree?

The answer to the question asked in the title to this post is technically no, but in reality, there are several things you can do to minimize anyone making irresponsible changes to your ancestors' entries on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. As I pointed out in my previous post, there are some fundamental reasons why changes are being made to the Family Tree, but in wikis it is he (or she) who lasts the longest who wins the battle of changes.

My experience with the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki is a good example of lasting the longest. One of the Special Pages of the Research Wiki illustrates this principle. The current statistics page (part of the Special Pages) says that of the date of this post there were 80,646 total articles in the Research Wiki and a total of 159,812 pages in all. There have been 1,955,690 edits since the Research Wiki began for an average of only 12.24 per page.

OK, so here is the deal. There are many more pages in the Family Tree than there ever will be in the Research Wiki. But you will note that there have been an average of only 12.4 changes per page in the Research Wiki. I would understand this to mean that on the average it will not take a whole lot of effort to preserve the integrity of the Family Tree once the novelty of the program wears off. The most telling statistic is that although there have been over 305 million views of just the main Research Wiki page alone, there are currently only 319 people who have made changes to the Research Wiki in the last 30 days. I can only suppose that the same thing will happen to the Family Tree. There may be an initial flurry of activity as new people are added to the program but over time only a very small number of people will continue to make changes.

The oldest page in the Research Wiki was added in December of 2007. The last change to this page was made on 28 July 2008. This is what will happen with the Family Tree also. Mark my words. There will be a lot of changes early on in its existence but as time goes on, the older entries will not be looked at or changed.

If you are currently trying to "correct" the entries in the Family Tree, you are fighting with the overall changes to the program as outlined in my previous post. In addition, you are confronting people who are discovering the Family Tree for the first time and have no idea what they are doing. They will soon get discouraged or lose interest in existing ancestors. No one is particularly telling these people to spend time with existing entries, they are being told to find ancestors' names to take to the Temple. They will soon begin to ignore most of the work that is already done and where there are no green arrows or temple icons. Since no instructions are being given about what to do with existing entries, the existing entries or new entries that do not show Temple ordinance availability will be ignored. Most of the changes to the FamilySearch Research Wiki that comprise the average number of changes pertain to the time when the pages are being first edited and developed. Once the pages are developed, there are almost no changes made.

This is why I say those who persist win the battle of the changes. The casual user will simply lose interest.

Meanwhile, there are several things you can do to minimize the impact of people making changes. Here are my five top suggestions:

No. 1: Add as many sources as you can to each individual
The person who has the most sources wins. It is true that some new or inexperienced users will make changes without considering the sources listed. But, these changes are like maintaining a car or house, they will just be a constant background to the use of the program. They will diminish over time as families educate the new generation of users. In my own family, involvement with the Family Tree is slowly expanding among my older children. The larger families will start to form cores of experienced users and the problems with maintaining the Family Tree's integrity will start to diminish dramatically for existing families. The key to all this is adding every available source to each individual in the Family Tree.

No. 2: Correct existing entries
If an ancestral entry is incomplete or lacks detail, it is an open invitation for improper changes or merging. I am amazed that people seem to work on their family but fail to correct the existing entries. I wrote a blog post about the process of correcting the entries recently. See Cleaning up Entries in FamilySearch Family Tree.

No. 3: Watch all of the family members of a target ancestor
Each individual in the Family Tree can be "watched." This function provides that FamilySearch will send you an email once a week outlining all the changes to watched people in the Family Tree. Reviewing this list gives you an idea about what is happening with the Family Tree program and your watched ancestors specifically. You can then go to the changes and correct improper changes or review any new additional information you previously were not aware of.

No. 4: Communicate with anyone making an unreasonable or incorrect change
There is a basic flaw in the Family Tree program. Not all of the users are required to have contact information available. In every case where changes are made by a person without contact information, you should report abuse. There is a link to report abuse on every individual detail page. But if there is contact information, you should make the correction to the detail page and then notify the person why you made the change. There is absolutely no reason to wait for permission to correct an error. If necessary, you can use the revert function from the History page to correct extensive errors or merges. Do not make changes to the page if there has been an improper merger. Revert the merge before making any changes. But always send an email explaining the problem and the correction even if you do not get a response at all. Just make the corrections and talk about it after the fact. If there is a real disagreement with sources etc. then get into a conversation about the issues. Remain calm and don't fight.

No. 5: Be persistent
If you are wrong, admit it and allow the changes, If you are right, be sure to review any sources and and additional information provided because you might be wrong. Take time to think and reflect and not react as if the changes were personal affronts. But overall be persistent.

Most family historians are not used to instant collaboration. They are used to working on their own without anyone taking an interest or giving them feedback. Remember to be courteous and kind. But be firm in making your case and providing sources. If you do not provide a source, I will consider your change to be wrong and reverse it. Count on it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why is FamilySearch making changes to my ancestors on the Family Tree?

Changes made to entries in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree are a constant source of anger and frustration to many users. However, the ability to make changes is a basic function of the program and the anger and frustration is misdirected and inappropriate. Users who are used to working on a static storage-only genealogy program are essentially entering a new world with Family Tree. If you or someone you know is suffering from the frustration of the changes being made at any level, please take the time to make this explanation available to them. If you have further questions, please make comments to this post so that others may benefit from your experience.

Family Tree is a wiki and as such, it is designed to allow all of the registered users to make changes, add entries, correct entries and delete information. Users who approach the program with the attitude that they own their ancestors and that they have all of the absolutely correct information about them will be instantly frustrated. In the first place, Family Tree is still under intense development. Changes to the operation and views of program are being made regularly and will be made in the near future. In fact, I have just received notice of some changes that will be made within the next few weeks and as soon as I attend a presentation on the subject will be reporting those changes unless they show up before I get to the presentation.

The basic information in the Family Tree program was seeded and continues to be seeded from several preexisting databases: the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, Church membership records and Temple records. These basic sources created a huge complex of duplicates and conflicting entries because of the submissions made over a period of over 150 years. If you want to blame someone for this mess, blame your own ancestors and not Family Search or the present users of the Family Tree program.

At the second level, Family Tree is still being developed and seeded with the information contained in the now Read Only program New.FamilySearch.org. This means that information about your ancestors may still be added to the Family Tree at any time. It is the nature of this historical data, historical in the sense that it may have been contributed anytime in the last 150+ years, that it may not agree with current research. The results is that we are in a "correction phase" of the program. We are, in a true sense, put in the position of correcting the data previously submitted by our own ancestors over the years. You will see these changes coming into the program as being contributed by "FamilySearch." But FamilySearch is merely the messenger. They are moving the data over as quickly as possible but it will still take some time to move completely. Some of the frustration in this regard comes as a result of users making corrections to the data when all of the data has not yet been added. Hence, corrections are made over and over again. In this case, I would suggest patience. Wait a while. See what happens. If changes are being made as you watch your individual ancestors, then see what happens with the changes before you get into the battle and try to dominate the changes. Take some time to communicate with relatives and establish a game plan rather than thinking that the task is entirely your own.

The next level of changes being made by users of the program. Not everyone working on the Family Tree has the same level of expertise in finding and recording data. For many, this is the first time they have been actively involved in entering data into a family history program. At the other end of the spectrum, we have users with years of experience, some at a professional level. The professionals will certainly be frustrated at having to share the same space with beginners, especially those intolerant experts that can't abide a little bit of slack in the system. When changes are made arbitrarily and without sources, it is usually an indication of a new user. Take this opportunity to help and educate rather than rant. If a users fails to have contact information or keeps making the same changes despite being provided with sources or explanations, then use the "Report Abuse" link to report these issues directly to FamilySearch. They need to know that people are abusing the system. Continued reports of people failing to respond or acting without contact information should alert the developers to the need for more stringent rules concerning involvement in the program and help them provide a way for people who are afraid to reveal their contact information publicly to be contacted directly through the program in some way.

If you are totally frustrated with the program, stop using it for the time being. Use Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com to store your data online in their family tree programs where other users can't change "your data." If you feel that you have information that is inappropriate to be shared online at the present time, then keep it in a local program such as RootsMagic.com, Ancestral Quest or Legacy Family Tree. You can also use the programs linked to the online programs such as Ancestry.com's Family Tree Maker and MyHeritage.com's Family Tree Builder. RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker and Family Tree Builder all have Apple Macintosh versions of their programs available also.

There is really, at the end of all this explanation, no reason to become overly frustrated or angry about the Family Tree program. Family Tree is not the problem. It is the solution. Let's add a measure of charity, patience and long suffering to the program and start making progress rather than ranting.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tips for adding sources to FamilySearch Family Tree

The good news is that the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program provides a robust method for adding sources with an adequate place in the program to store the added sources. The bad news is that adding sources is still in the "suggested" category and not a mandatory requirement. The FamilySearch statement about adding sources is fairly simple as set forth in the Help Center Frequently Asked Questions article entitled, "Adding sources for the information I contribute in Family Tree." The article states:


Yes, you should provide a source for the information you submit. You can use personal knowledge, family records, letters of correspondence, and so forth, as legitimate sources. You are strongly encouraged to provide as much source information as possible for each name and event you contribute.

See Attaching historical records to an entire family (72210) for ways to attach images of sources, such as census records and birth records.
Contrast that statement with the 885 page book by Elizabeth Shown Mills:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.

and you can begin to see that there is a huge gulf between the bare concept of adding a source and reality of sources and source citations in the more professional realms of family history. I must say, however, that I tend more towards having sources tell rather simply where you or someone else can find the source of the information you submit rather than dwelling on the issue of formatting formal citations. Unfortunately, the default in Family Tree is to submit information without a source at all. 

I find it interesting that the "academic" and formal journal citations dwell so heavily on format and on standardized content that they often fail to tell where the information might be found. This is not particularly true for entries concerning Internet sources because the URL suffices, but in most cases citations to books and other printed material gives the book reference but not the place where the book can be found either online or in a library or other archive. I fear that I am guilty of doing this myself. An alternative is to always give a link to the entry in WorldCat.org or at least the OCLC number for the item.

The Help Center for FamilySearch Family Tree also has a "Tips" section. The Tip about sources is entitled, "FamilySearch Family Tree Tips for Adding Sources." Here is that tip:
To search Historical Records and find sources for a person, under Research Help, click Search Records. Family Tree searches Historical Records with the first name, last name, birth year range, and birthplace from the Person page (if available). A new browser window or tab displays possible matching records. 
To attach a historical record you've found as a source, click Attach to Family Tree.
Yes, it can be that simple. Of course there is a catch. You have to make sure that the "source" found by FamilySearch really refers to your ancestors. The link to the historical records under the Research Help links will automatically add a source citation to your ancestor if you attach the record. But what about records and sources from other websites or libraries or archives etc?

This is where the system becomes strained. It is not enough to say that the record came from Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com, it is also important to give enough information so that the search for the record can be duplicated.  This is especially true of sources found in other websites. In addition to a link to the actual item, the rest of the description of the record should also be included in case the link is broken for some reason.

Although it may seem unnecessary to the new family historian, adding sources is one of the main ways that the Family Tree program will become a believable resource.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reflections on Changes in FamilySearch Family Tree

Two days ago, I received a very long letter from a person who was essentially overcome with the changes to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and wanted to know how she could delete her family tree. I realize I have addressed this issue numerous times, but apparently all the writing I can do has almost no effect, especially among those who come to the Family Tree with little or no connection to the greater online genealogical community. In case of this rather long email I received, it was evident that the person had no understanding of online family tree programs in general and almost no understanding of the Family Tree program. This is not at all unusual since the vast majority of the users of the FamilySearch.org website and Family Tree in particular simply jump in and start using the program without bothering to find out what they are using.

The tragedy of the lack of awareness of the basic structure and mechanics of the Family Tree is that the users become frustrated and antagonistic, just as the lady who wrote to me expressed. It is interesting to me that almost every issue she (and others) raised about the program are actually features and are functioning exactly like the program is supposed to function. In other words, the program is doing what it is supposed to do and the people are frustrated because they are unaware of how or why the program acts as it does.

As I see it, the problems arise as a control issue. The dissatisfied user is unaccustomed to collaborating with others in real time and feels his or her control was being threatened. Rather than use the features of the program that allow users to contact each other and work together, the unhappy person is ignorant of those features. For example, the user is likely not aware that there are a whole series of steps that can be taken to minimize the impact of other's lack of information. These steps include:

  • Watching selected individuals
  • Posting requests and information about specific individuals
  • Responding to changes
  • Providing notices and sources for every entry
  • Reporting abuse to FamilySearch
  • Making corrections to data changes rapidly after giving notice
  • Reviewing the change report sent by FamilySearch each week
In some cases, I am not sure there is a solution. The dissatisfied user simply refuses to go through the educational process needed to "come up to speed" with a program that does not function in a way they are accustomed to seeing a program work.

Much of the frustration expressed stems from two major flaws in the program:
  • Family Tree allows users to make changes without any contact information
  • Family Tree allows users to make arbitrary changes without either justification or source citations
These are flaws because the effect of allowing users to operate anonymously and without justification puts the primary information supplier at a distinct disadvantage. It is not surprising that these two challenges lie at the heart of the vast majority of the complaints I receive. 


A further tragedy is the lack of use of the extensive educational and training tools available to anyone who takes some time to review them. Here is a list of just a few of the basic resources available.


There are also a number of webinars and YouTube.com videos available.


Riverton FamilySearch Library Online Guides


The Riverton FamilySearch Library has a substantial number of handouts and guides. These are online and located through a link from the Get Help section of FamilySearch.org. This FamilySearch Library is located in Riverton, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City.  The above image is an example of the type of handout or guide available.

This particular resource illustrates an important point about FamilySearch and FamilySearch.org. There are a tremendous number of resources explaining how and why everything on this vast website works and how it all works, but you need to do some digging and exploration to find everything. It is important to go to the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of every page of FamilySearch.org. Here is a screenshot showing the link:


I keep mentioning this fact because I continue to get questions that can be answered in a few minutes using the Get Help link. You may have to dig around a little or better said, click around a little, to find the answer, but there is more information here than you can begin to use all at once.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thoughts on Genealogical Sources

The seemingly simple question, "What is a source?" raises some relatively complex issues.  The easy answer to the question is that and source is a person or a document with information relevant to a particular family history inquiry. But the real question goes much deeper than that facile answer. I think we need to focus on a more specific use of the term. To me, the term "source" implies origination. I would think that a good definition of the term would be something like this:
A source is the most reliable person, place or thing from which we can derive genealogical information. 
To illustrate what I mean, consider the difference between these two questions:
  • What is the source of your information about a particular ancestor?
  • Where did that particular piece of information originate?
The difference is an investigation into the proximity and reliability of any particular genealogical data. For example, let's suppose I record an ancestor's birth date. What did you use as a source? Your answer: "I got the date from Great-grandmother who told me when the person was born." Now, from my perspective, as a former attorney, I would say that what you got was "hearsay," that is, secondary evidence in the form of a statement made by someone who was not available to be cross-examined about the statement. With a few exceptions, most hearsay evidence is excluded from court. From my standpoint, accepting information merely on someone's say so, is very risky.

Let's suppose that instead of telling me you got the information from your great-grandmother you say, "I was there at the birth of the ancestor and then recorded the date in my journal." If you were there and witnessed the event and then recorded your observation either at the time of the event or shortly thereafter, then you have moved away from the definition of hearsay and you would likely be allowed by a judge to give your testimony.

By giving these examples, I do not wish to imply that the legal Rules of Evidence should apply to family history research. The basic idea here is the reliability of a source. In the process of helping people begin their family history efforts, I frequently hear questions about the need to add sources to support entering individuals and families into various programs. For example, suppose the person is filling out a family group record for the first time and is entering their own personal information. Often, the person is surprised when I raise the issue of adding a source. Sometimes the reaction is "I know my own birthday, why do I need a source?" You might be surprised at the number of people that do not know their own birth date. Family history can be full of surprises and one of those may be finding out you were not born when you were traditionally told that you were.

This may seem a trivial example, but the concept here is to choose the most reliable sources possible to extend your family lines and then record the origin of the information. That is what we call a source. As I alluded to above, sources can be either original, that is created at or near the place and time of an event, or derivative, created at a later date. The information in a source is further divided as to whether or not it was obtained at or near the time of the event or at a later date. For example, a death certificate is usually considered an original source because it is a record created at or near the time of an event, i.e. the death of a person. But the death certificate may contain other information that is not original or primary, such as the deceased person's birth date or other such information. If there is a conflict between two pieces of information, the one recorded closer to the time of the event is preferred.

Finding and adding a source, however, is just the beginning. Each source needs to be evaluated and reviewed, not only to make sure the information is complete and accurate, but also to make sure that you follow up with additional sources that may be suggested.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cleaning up entries in FamilySearch Family Tree

What do I mean when I say that the entries in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree need to be "cleaned up?" This process includes the following steps:

  • Entering a life sketch when available
  • Checking the names of individuals to see that they are correctly entered
  • Verifying and standardizing dates and place names
  • Removing "Christening" dates for LDS entries
  • Completing and regularizing death and burial information
  • Eliminating duplicate entries from the "Other Information" category
  • Editing remaining information in the "Other Information" category
  • Verifying and editing family member information
  • Adding sources and editing existing "Legacy NFS Sources"
  • Reviewing any discussions
  • Deleting inappropriate notes transferred from New.FamilySearch.org

When I start to talk about this process in a class, I find out that there is a measurable amount of opposition. The most frequent response is "Who cares, the Temple work has already been done." The next most frequent response is "I don't have time to do all that, why does it have to be done anyway?" The conclusion is that only a very small percentage of the people who end up using FamilySearch Family Tree will realize the benefits of cleaning up the entries and do something about it.

Here are examples of what I mean by cleaning up the entries. Note that some of the steps from the above list are combined into one step. I did this when editing the information turns out to be trivial.


Step No. 1 Entering a life sketch when available
The information in a life sketch can be essentially the same as would be found in an obituary. Longer entries are better placed in the Memories section for the individual. It may well be that there is no information for a life sketch. This indicates that little historical work has been done on this particular individual by those using Family Tree.

Step No. 2 Verifying Names
You can see from the "Other Information" whether or not the primary name has been submitted a number of times in different formats. The primary name should be the name earliest recorded, preferably at the time of birth. If there is a disagreement, then the family members should collectively decide on the primary name shown and alternative names should be shown as alternatives not birth name. This particular individual has an the alternative name of "Keziah Morgan" indicating that there may be a wrongly combined individual.

Step No. 3 Regularize and correct date and place information
Most of the entries for this particular person are incomplete. This may reflect a lack of sources for this person or it may simply mean no one has spent the time to do the research. Be careful when using standard place names from the suggested entries from Family Tree that you do not put in an inappropriate current place name for the actual location where the even occurred.

Step No. 4 Delete duplicate birth names and other inappropriate entries in "Other Information." 
Many people do not seem to know that you can delete inappropriate information from Family Tree. All you need to do is click on the entry and select delete. If the name variations are true variations and not just misspelling or poorly copied, then these "Birth Name" entries should be changed to "Alternative Name" entries. Check the additional entries to see if they make sense and either edit or delete those that do not.


Step No. 5 Review, correct and add to the entries for family members
It is evident that this entry lacks any particular research. There is no death date for the mother. There is only one child listed and it looks like from the entry for the father/grandfather that there is some confusion about Garrard Morgan and Kesiah Morgan. All in all, very little research seems to have been done or there is a dearth of record sources.

Step No. 6 Add Sources
In this case, there are no sources listed, even for the information that is already in the entry. Source would assist in finding additional family members and in documenting the dates, place etc. of currently listed family members.

Step No. 7 Review, add to or delete any inappropriate or incomplete entries 
Many of the entries in these categories will come from comments made in New.FamilySearch.org and may no longer apply or be incomplete and meaningless. These can be deleted or at least edited so as to make sense.

This is the basic process of cleaning up the entries in Family Tree. It is very likely that this will occur over a period of time. You may wonder why I haven't "cleaned up" my own entry. This particular ancestor is seven generations back in my ancestry and I am slowly getting all the entries cleaned up back that far. I have been hesitant to do much very far back until FamilySearch completes the transfer of all the information from New.FamilySearch.org, so I do not have to do the task more than one time.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Comments on missing or wrongly displayed ordinance information in FamilySearch Family Tree

Many issues with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree can be resolved by investigating the questions through the Help Center. Sometimes the trick in finding the correct information involves knowing how to ask the question. This is difficult when the questions involve a whole series of sometimes only distantly related issues. Most of the information for this post came from an extensive Help Center article entitled, "Ordinances are missing in Family Tree (Not displaying)." Some of these articles are only visible if you are logged in with an LDS Account. The status of Temple ordinances and information about Temple ordinances are not available to those without an LDS Account.

Some of the issues covered in the Help Center article deal with the reporting of Temple ordinance information, including the following:

  • Ordinances known to be completed are not showing in Family Tree.
  • No dates are shown for ordinances but the entry says "Completed."
  • Records of completed ordinances are missing.
  • Ordinances are not shown for living people
  • The ordinance information shows "Request Ordinance" or "In Progress" but the ordinance has been completed previously.

One of the very first answers is this quote from the article.
Ordinance information for living individuals will not be visible in Family Tree and have a status of Not Available.
I do not find this to be an issue and I do not remember being questioned about this issue. I do, however, field a constant stream of questions concerning the way the ordinance information appears in Family Tree. The key point is made again in the article:
Sometimes ordinances do not show correctly in Family Tree. If you cannot find ordinance dates for an individual and believe the work has already been done, please do not resubmit the name for temple ordinances. Instead, please review these possible solutions to some of the common problems with missing ordinances. (emphasis in the original)
If you are sure that ordinances have been completed, you should contact FamilySearch by e-mail at support@familysearch.org, or by clicking "Get Help" and under "Contact Us," click the link "Call Us" for the number to call. Be sure and have the detailed information concerning the completion of the ordinances and the Personal ID numbers for each of the people concerned. If you send an email be sure to title your correspondence "Missing Temple Ordinances" and include all of this information:

Requester information:
Details of the individual needing attention:
  • Name:
  • Birth date:
  • ID number:
  • Also include the following:
  • The names, ID numbers, and birth dates of any other individuals involved.
  • An explanation of what is wrong and what the correct data is. Please also provide any supporting documentation.
  • The case number, if one already exists.
If you have official documentation indicating completed ordinances with dates or the Temple card that clearly shows the checked and stamp dates do one of the following:
Please title your correspondence "Missing Temple Ordinances," and include the information noted below in "Information required to request that FamilySearch make a correction." You have two options;
  • Option 1: Scan the official documentation as a .jpg image, attach that to an e-mail, and send it to Support@familysearch.org. Note: Include the case number in the subject line if one was provided.
  • Option 2: Copy the official documentation, and mail it to: 
FamilySearch Support
Worldwide Support Services
15 East South Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-0403
If you are unable to find the ordinance dates in Family Tree and you have the original temple ordinance card that clearly shows the checked and stamped dates, another option is to do one of the following:
  • Take the card to the temple where the ordinance was completed, and request that they rescan the card. Please do not take a large number of cards.
  • If the temple where the ordinance was done is not near you, contact the temple to see if they will accept a faxed or mailed copy for rescanning. You can locate a phone number at http://lds.org/church/temples?lang=eng.
In many instances where the ordinance information is missing and the Family Tree program suggests that you "Request Ordinances," the ordinance information may be missing because of a duplicate entry in Family Tree.There are several reasons why duplicates might exist. But in every case where ordinance information is authorized by the program, you should search for a duplicate entry. The best practice is to search for the individual's name using the "Find" function in addition to using the link to find duplicates. Unfortunately, there may still be a duplicate entry that is not found by Family Tree. However, the only way we presently have two determine duplicates is by making the searches indicated.

There are situations where the entries show only the word "Completed" and all dates are missing. Here is the explanation for that condition from the article:
If the baptism contains a date but the confirmation says "Completed," then no action is required. The same is the case when the endowment has a date and the initiatory says "Completed." Before 1960, the initiatory ordinance was completed on the same day, at the same temple, and by the same proxy as was the endowment. Before 1990, the confirmation ordinance was completed on the same day, at the same temple, and by the same proxy as was the baptism. No corrective action is required to replace "Completed" with the ordinance date, since the program is working as it was designed.
 One of the difficult situations encountered concerns the term "Completed." Another Family Tree "Get Help" article, "Why ordinances show as "Completed" indicates:
Ordinances may show as "Completed" for the following reasons:
  • The "Completed" ordinance might be a patron opinion from a GEDCOM submission with any type of information in the ordinance date field.
  • The "Completed" ordinance might be from an Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource File submission.
  • The "Completed" ordinance might have been entered in the older FamilyTree Project, which is an outdated product that is no longer available.
  • The "Completed" ordinance might be part of an incomplete TempleReady submission or an incorrectly entered temple submission.
In my opinion, because most of the reasons given in this article involve ordinances that have been completed, unless you have specific information showing that the ordinances were not done, such as the fact that you were the contributor of the file and know that the work was not done or has not been done subsequent to your submission, then you should submit that information through the methods outlined above. If you were the person who entered the individual, the article indicates as follows:
If you are the contributor of the GEDCOM file and you know that the work has not been done, you can delete the individual. In doing so, all of the information that you entered on that individual through that GEDCOM will be removed, including the incorrect "completed." The individual can then be entered manually if needed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Do We Add Sources?

I had an interesting question recently. Why do we add sources? I guess the question was somewhat unexpected. I have been adding sources for so long that the question of why I am doing it has not occurred to me for some time. When I was asked the question, I tried to give a satisfactory answer but I could tell that the person asking the question was not convinced.

If you are an experienced, seasoned family historian, I can only assume that you have personally resolved this issue of adding sources. But for newly minted family historians, the idea that you need to spend your time copying out source citations is not very appealing. The first step in beginning a family history is to exhaust the memories of the people who are still living. The next step usually begins the process of looking for written, recorded sources for additional information. In some instances, new researchers look to older family members who have collected names and information about the family. This can be from an informal source such as a family Bible or a more formal source such as when the relative has compiled an entire family history. In today's world, the new family historian may find additional information readily available online in family trees.

At this point the researcher can assume that all of the information they find is correct and simply copy out the parts that refer to the researcher's own family, or take a more realistic view and try to verify if the information proffered online is correct.The real question is how to determine whether or not the information gathered from relatives either in person or online is correct. It is much better to determine the correctness of the information early on in the research process than later when the researcher finds out that they have been pursuing the wrong family lines for some time.

The best way to compile reliable research is to base that research on records that were created at or near the time of the event reported. The process of doing family history is essentially that of examining compiled records about your ancestors. Once you realize what this process entails, you will begin to understand the need to record where you obtained information about your ancestors. It is quite common, for relatives to supply information which lacks any record as to where the information was obtained. If the source of the information was not recorded there is no way to verify whether or not the information is correct other than doing the research over again. Unfortunately, failure to add sources for the information transmitted from relatives has resulted in much inaccurate information being transmitted.

As we examine records for information about our ancestors, we find that the records themselves may have conflicting information. When we encounter conflicting information we are forced to search for additional records to resolve the conflicts. If we failed to record where we have searched, we may end up our searches every time we return to our family history research. So, not only does the process of recording are record sources assist in verifying the accuracy of the information, but it also prevents duplication of the same effort in the future.

To summarize:

  • We obtain information about our ancestors through searching records containing information about our ancestors and their families.
  • As we examine these records, we make notes, sometimes called source citations, about where we found the information so that subsequent researchers (even ourselves) can find the record again.
  • Of course, we record the information that we find about our ancestors along with the record of where the information was found.
  • We then, evaluate the information to determine whether or not it is reliable and for additional clues as to where further information about our ancestors could be found.

This process suggest a simple way to evaluate the reliability of both records and of information transmitted from our relatives. We can examine both the records and the information to see whether or not the sources cited are reliable. If there are no source citations then the record's reliability is suspect.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to completely explain this to the person asking the question in the introduction to this post but hopefully that person and others in similar situations will take the time to learn enough about the family history process to realize the importance of recording the sources for any information added to a family file. This principle applies whether or not you are compiling your information in written format or entering it into a dedicated, genealogy computer program.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Top Five Tips for FamilySearch Family Tree

One intriguing entry in the FamilySearch.org Get Help Menu is the article entitled, "FamilySearch Family Tree Top 5 Tips." In reviewing these tips, I thought it a good idea to expand on what was in the original list. Here are the tips with my comments:

Tip No. 1
There is no guarantee that the information in Family Tree is accurate. Data comes from many sources, and anyone can edit the information in Family Tree. It is your responsibility to verify names, dates, places, and family relationships, and to provide sources when available.
This is a very frank admission of the status of the content of FamilySearch.org's Family Tree. In fact, it applies to any user submitted family tree on any online program. The key here is the last comment, "provide sources when available." Despite a huge influx of the source citations to Family Tree entries over the past, almost three years, there are still many entries with no supporting sources. But what is more serious, is that users of the Family Tree make changes to existing records without sources and even more seriously, without consulting the sources that have already been supplied. 

There is an even more serious question, can we add names to the program without providing sources? The recent addition of source hints to Family Tree illustrates that the times when sources are not available are really quite limited. In almost all cases, going back about 200 years, there are many more sources than are usually assumed. For example, adding an entire family to the Family Tree and citing a marriage record is not adding a source when available. The marriage record is not a source for the births of the children. 

This Tip should also be kept firmly in mind when people go fishing for names to take to the Temples. There is no guarantee that a name without a source in Family Tree is not a duplicate and further that the name is actually an ancestor of the user. 

Tip No. 2
To find an individual in Family Tree, click Find in the top menu. To find a Historical Record, click Search in the top menu or click Search Records on an individual’s person page.
This Tip is really about using the program as it was designed to be used. In other words, part of the function of working with Family Tree is to use the Find menu option to determine if there are multiple copies of an individual in the Family Tree. It is not enough to rely on Find Duplicates function alone to determine if duplicates exist. Likewise, the links to Historical Records are also there for a purpose; to be used. It is time to get away from mining the Family Tree for names to take to the Temple and begin adding names from verified historical records.

Tip No. 3
On the Tree page: To view or edit an individual’s details, click the name to display the individual’s summary card. Then click Person or click the person’s name.
 It is not enough to merely view a person's details, it is also important to study and evaluate what you see. The new Descendancy View in Family Tree has highlighted the vast number of inconsistent entries in the Family Tree. Most common are when the ages and/or birth information supplied about a family is inconsistent: children born before their parents and people married at very inappropriate ages. Incomplete or very approximate dates, vague locations and other missing data are a dead giveaway that the person is likely not accurately identified. The real clue as to the status of an individual is the lack of any sources. Missing sources indicate information that is unsubstantiated and incomplete.

Tip No. 4
On the Tree page: You can move the tree by clicking and dragging the page (similar to Google Maps). You can also use the up, down, left and right arrows on your keyboard.
The fact that this Tip is necessary, acknowledges the fact that many Family Tree users lack basic computer skills. There is a need for basic computer instruction. This simple operation is something I have had to show to new users of Family Tree many, many times.

Tip No. 5
On the Tree page: To view a couple’s children, hover over their box and then click the Children tab that appears beneath it.
The idea of hovering over an entry is also a learned computer skill. Most people discover this by accident. Experienced computer users learn to hover over different parts of a program to see if there are any functions that appear. Again, this type of action requires basic computer skills that are missing in a significant number of people who come to the Family Tree program.

Conclusion
I am sure that there are a number of other basic tips that would help all of us learn to use the Family Tree program more effectively.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Saga of Philip Taber -- Another Cautionary Tale of Woe

This is a woeful tale of genealogy run amuck. It is tale with an almost certain tragic end and one that should be a lesson to all those who tread the paths of uncertain and unsubstantiated research. The object of this saga is one of my distinguished ancestors, Philip Taber, b. Abt. 1644 and d. before 4 March 1692/3. The protagonists in this tragedy are unsuspecting family historians who are dutifully "correcting entries" in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree, without a single clue as to what they are doing. Let me give some basic facts about Philip Taber and his place in the Family Tree program that will begin to show how the plot of this saga will unravel with time.

Here is a screenshot of the subject, Philip Taber



Point No. 1
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 and their publications. There are few people better documented than the Mayflower passengers and their descendants for at least five generations.

Point No. 2
FamilySearch Family Tree has no less than 95 separate duplicate entries for Philip Taber, all of which have their own unique Person Identifier Number. He also has 5 entries marked "Not a Match." Most of these 95 entries show a marriage to Mary Cooke who has 29 possible duplicates and 2 Not a Match people. 

Point No. 3
People have been editing both Mary Cooke and Philip Taber. It would be tedious to look at all 95 entries for Philip Taber to see if any of them had sources attached, but it is certain that the current one being edited has no substantiating sources attached. There are two legacy "sources" that show the source as "individual or family possessions."

Point No. 4
Despite the attempts at correcting entries, the information is inaccurate. The Mayflower Society has been unable to determine a specific birth date. The entry for Philip Taber in the Mayflower Society books, see Wood, Ralph V. Francis Cooke of the Mayflower: The First Five Generations. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1996, shows that he was baptized 8 February 1646 and he died in Dartmouth before 4 March 1692/3. Apparently those who are making changes to Family Tree have no idea what is meant by the compound date. Because of the calendar change, genealogists are forced to account for ambiguous record dates for English and colonial records from 1 January through 24 March, in years prior to 1753. If you do not know how to account for this change, you should not be entering dates into Family Tree during this time period. 

Point No. 5
Philip Taber most certainly qualifies as an IOUS according to FamilySearch. There is no way of currently telling how many Philip Taber records were already combined in New.FamilySearch.org but all of the ones floating around in Family Tree are in excess of what was previously combined. 

Point No. 6
This particular Philip Taber entry has been sealed to his parents twice and to his spouse, at least, eleven times. I am not going go through all of the other 95 entries and figure out the total number of duplicates. But some occurred as recently as 2013. 

Point No. 7
According to FamilySearch in a blog post and in a Get Help Menu Item entitled "new.FamilySearch.org Will Be Turned Off on February 1, 2015" The following cannot take place until the new.FamilySearch.org (NFS) program is completely shut down sometime in 2016 or so. 
It is important to note that many highly desired features of FamilySearch Family Tree cannot begin to be developed until new.FamilySearch.org has reached the final milestone and is completely shut-off. Once that has happened, work can begin on features such as:
  1. Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records.
  2. Highlighting and fixing other data eccentricities, such as when a person appears to have been married before birth, a child appears older than a parent, a child appears to be the spouse of a parent or grandparent, and so on.
  3. The ability for users to change the gender of an ancestor.
  4. The ability to see a spouse’s ancestral line by default.
Note the reference to "Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records." This is a reference to their current way of referring to IOUS people from NFS.

So where the the tragedy? Simply put, these people are spending valuable time trying to correct something when they have no sources, no idea what is correct or incorrect, no concept of the problem inherent in the program that may not be fixed for more than a year and they are going to see everything they do change anyway because it is wrong.



Use the Find function in addition to Merge on FamilySearch Family Tree

There is a serious issue with the merge function in FamilySearch.org Family Tree. With certain individuals, the program fails to find obvious duplicates. This issue extends to the use of the "Find Duplicates" function also. Let me give an example.

I will use one of my ancestors, Sidney Tanner. He is one of those individuals in the Family Tree that is considered to be an IOUS or Individual of Unusual Size. This comes about because of the large number of descendants who have submitted records on his behalf. In New.FamilySearch.org, he had dozens of combined records. By the way, New.FamilySearch.org will be "turned off" on February 1, 2015. Anyway, let's just say that there are problems with his entries in Family Tree also. But for the purpose of illustrating the problems with searching for duplicates and merging, he is an adequate example.

Here is a screenshot that shows the results of clicking on the "Possible Duplicates" link on Sidney Tanner's Details Page:


You will note the warning message, "Can't Be Merged At This Time (1 result)."

Since I cannot merge the two obvious duplicates, this creates a problem in knowing which of these individuals will be survivor if and when the merge function begins operating. The two duplicate individuals are as follows:
  • Sidney Tanner KWJ6-DZX
  • Sidney Tanner LZXK-Y57'
What am I able to do at this point? The two records actually contain different information. Will all this information be preserved if the two entries for the same individual are finally combined? This is a real question since the merge process is somewhat based on the judgment of the person effectuating the merge. Here are screenshots of the pertinent parts of the two entries showing the differences:


This is the second one:


One important difference, besides the "Other Information" contained on each record, is the changes that have been made. If people think they are correcting the record concerning Sidney Tanner, they are mistaken since the changes to one instance of the record do not show up on the other record. Apparently the people making changes are not aware that there are two different Sidney Tanner entries. Which changes will survive? Will all the work done by one group of people on one of the entries be entirely lost?

Now to the second issue. If I search using the Find function, after having searched for duplicates, then I will find at least one more duplicate record. In fact, the list of "Sidney Tanner" entries is quite large; 58 results. Here I find a "Sidney Tanner MSSC-K9X" born in Beaver, Beaver, Utah in about 1835. Interestingly, there is no further information on this potential duplicate. But note, that the date, 1835, is well before the arrival of the pioneers to Utah in 1847 and many years before the founding of Beaver, Utah. Here is a screenshot of the entry:


This is a good example of entries that were made with insufficient information and without searching the existing records for a duplicate. It is also a good example of entries made without thinking about the historical context. However, I consider this to be a duplicate entry. Which of the two entries above should I consider it to be the duplicate? The last step is to search to see if this duplicate that was found from searching for a duplicate with the entries above, will itself find a duplicate. Here is the result of the search for a Possible Duplicate. Bear in mind, I know of two actual duplicates already.


The results: No results found. The Family Tree program did not match to either of the existing duplicates even when this record was found by searching for duplicates.

The conclusion is that doing any more editing to Sidney Tanner or anyone else in the family line before him is a risk that all of the work will be lost with an improper merger when that is possible.
In addition, if you fail to do a Search for additional copies of your ancestors in addition to using the Merge function, you are running the risk of missing obvious duplicates and there may still be more duplicates out there the program has missed as shown by the last results from the search. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Living to Deceased and Deceased to Living in FamilySearch Family Tree

The consequences of a person who is dead showing up in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program are interesting. The creation of a "Private Space" for living people results in the following notice showing up on the individuals' Detail Page;


The most important point in this issue is the fact that Family Tree does not compute the likelihood of people being living, even after they are older than 110 years. Users need to mark individuals as deceased and then search for any possible duplicates. The additional consequences of a person being marked living when they are, in fact, deceased are reflected by the additional consequences of the Private Space as outlined in the help menu option "Understanding Private Spaces."
  • Each user of Family Tree has a private space. Private spaces help both protect privacy and allow users to enter information for living family.
  • All living people and relationships are stored in a private space.
  • Currently, private spaces cannot be shared.
  • Each owner of a living record can modify information independently from others.
  • Deceased persons should each be represented only one time in Family Tree and have a common ID.
  • A living person can be represented in multiple private spaces as a different Family Tree person, and each instance has a different ID.
  • Searching Family Tree using the name of a living person returns no results. Searching by the ID Number does not find the living person except the one using the ID entered.
  • Living people cannot be sourced.
You can tell if an individual is marked as living in Family Tree because of the following: (See How Family Tree displays living people)
  • In the tree, the word “Living” appears beneath the names instead of a death year.
  • On the person’s summary card and details page, the word “Living” appears beneath the name instead of a death year.
  • On a person’s details page, the word “Living” appears in the header instead of a death year. In the Vital Information section, the word “Living” appears instead of a date in the Death field.
If a dead person has been inadvertently marked as living, or dies and needs to be marked as deceased, the procedure for doing this is outlined in the Help Center article, "Changing a living person to deceased in Family Tree." Here are the steps:
  1. Go to the Family Tree Person page for the person you want to change to deceased.
  2. In the Death field, click on Living.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Select the radio button next to Deceased.
  5. Enter the date, place, and reason this information is correct.
  6. Click Save.
If the person was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the membership record of the Church is involved and the procedure becomes significantly more complicated. Please see "Deceased individual's membership record has missing or incorrect information" for the proper procedures.

If a person is marked deceased and is found to be still living, the procedure is also rather complicated. You need to closely follow the instructions in the following two Help Center articles:
Again, if the person is a member of the Church, you should also review:
Information that you can see from LDS Church Membership Records about living individuals (71953)

You may also wish to review:
Rules Used to Determine If a Person May Still Be Living (71928)

Monday, December 15, 2014

FamilySearch adds link to Joseph Smith Papers

FamilySearch.org has created yet another new website, the Joseph Smith Papers/Family Search website will allow users of FamilySearch.org to search the Joseph Smith Papers for mentions of their ancestors. Here is a screenshot of the new website:


An announcement of the new website appears in the LDSChurch News Section of the Desert News for 12 December 2014 in an article entitled, "Joseph Smith papers project and FamilySearch" (actually there is a typo in the article title and Joseph is misspelled as "Jospeh). It is always comforting to know I am not the only person in the world that makes typographical errors. This website joins another one previously announced called, "Sacrifice, Faith and Miracles" with information provided by the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website. Unfortunately, this website is down until the first quarter of 2015 for maintenance. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should also be aware of the Brigham Young University, Immigrant Ancestors Project that uses emigration registers to locate information about the birthplaces of immigrants in their native countries, which is not found in the port registers and naturalization documents in the destination countries.

I am guessing that very few members of the Church are aware of these valuable research websites. There is no central place where they are all listed.

The FamilySearch Joseph Smith Papers website has an alphabetical listing of the people mentioned in the records. Here is a screenshot of the list:


One of my ancestors is mention both in the LDSChurch News article and in the website itself. The article states:
“The majority of the papers that were written by the Prophet Joseph Smith or written on his behalf, were about people,” said Reid L. Neilson, managing director of the Church History Department. “These people have living descendants. Now you can see how your ancestor once interacted with the Prophet of the Restoration.” 
FamilySearch patron Ben Godfrey was able to make several family discoveries for his fourth great-grandfather, John Tanner. In the Joseph Smith Papers online, Brother Godfrey was able to confirm a family story that John Tanner had made a generous financial donation to the Church that helped prevent foreclosure on the mortgage for the Kirtland Temple block. In another entry, Brother Godfrey discovered that John Tanner was severely beaten by angry mobs in Far West, Missouri. 
“Seeing the sacrifices that John Tanner made inspired me as his descendant. It gives me courage to face the daily challenges in my own life and to understand how we might be the answer to another person’s prayers,” said Brother Godfrey.
Personally, I find it very sad that a descendant of John Tanner would be learning about these stories from a FamilySearch website for the first time. I grew up with the stories of John Tanner and was had access to several books with these accounts when I was very young.

Not much is said in the article about the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Here is a screenshot of the website:


Ironically, all of this information about John Tanner is listed as sources in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program. Additionally, all of these accounts are already attached to John Tanner's entry in the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot showing the entries available:


But it should be noted that many of the descendants of those whose stories appear in the Joseph Smith Papers may not be so fortunate. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on John Tanner. Here are several other John Tanner links:


There are literally thousands of references to John Tanner online. Maybe this link to the Joseph Smith Papers from FamilySearch.org will inspire some to investigate the stories of their ancestors.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Linking Living Individuals to Deceased Ancestors in FamilySearch Family Tree: Understanding Private Space

One of the more common problems encountered with FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program is the need to link living individuals with those who are deceased. When a new user registers for the program or investigates it for the first time, they may encounter a situation where they cannot see any of the people who may already be in the program. This is especially true when the person has more than one generation back to the first deceased individuals, i.e. when their parents and grandparents are still living. This may also involve the "Private Space" created by Family Tree.

According to a blog post published in September, 2014, FamilySearch states the following:
FamilySearch.org is currently in the process of doing the following:
  • Moving the data of all living people from new.FamilySearch.org to Family Tree.
  • Removing links that tie information about living LDS Family Tree users to their Church membership records. (This is the case only for those tree users who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who are not members of the LDS Church never had these links to begin with.)
  • Giving each person a private space for viewing their own private information.
 From the same post, here is an explanation of the Private Space:
Each Family Tree user now has a private space that allows them to manage their own private information. The information in that space can only be seen by the individual user and no one else. All living people, their relationships, and their data will be stored in that space. For example, I can view information about myself and my close living relatives that I have added to Family Tree in this private space but no one else can. Information that someone else has added about living people, their relationships, and their data will be stored in their own private space.
Essentially, the Family Tree program adds a unique Personal ID number for any living individuals who are added by a user. This means that the program creates a duplicate entry for any living person who is already listed in the program. So, for example, if you find that your parents are not visible in the program and they are still living, you can add them in but only you will see the new entries and if they are already listed in the program, the new entry will be a duplicate. These duplicates will have to be merged into the original entry when the person dies.

However, in order to link a living individual to deceased people who do not automatically appear, it is necessary to add these duplicate living people to the Family Tree. One way to do this is to search and find find the first deceased ancestor in the main surname line. This means that you will use this direct line ancestor to create a link back to yourself by adding in the living people between you and the deceased ancestor. So, if your great-grandfather was the first deceased person in your line, you would add your grandfather and father, who are still living, as children and then add yourself as a child. Here is an outline of the procedure as found in the Help Center:
  1. Find the nearest deceased father and deceased mother.
  2. Take note of your ID number.
  3. Take note of the number of generations between yourself and the nearest deceased father and mother for each line. There are four generations in this example. Those marked with hashed lines presently are not linked to you and will be added.
  4. Start with the nearest deceased parent. Edit that family by adding the direct line living child (select Add Child).
  5. Create a new record (select Add Person) showing only the name, gender, and birth information of the living person.
  6. For the living person you just added, go to his or her Person page, scroll down to the Family Member section, and select Add Spouse to complete the couple. Repeat step 5 to add the spouse's information as a living individual.
  7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for each couple until you are ready to add yourself, using your ID number.
  8. Finally, add yourself to your parents by clicking Add Child (see step 4) and selecting the Find by ID Number option. Enter your ID number, click Find, and then click Select on the next screen.
There are several things to note, also from the Help Center:
  • This is a temporary record for linking purposes only and can be updated and merged when the person is deceased.
  • In the event the spouse is deceased, you can select Add Spouse or Find Person or Find by ID Number (if you know his or her ID number).
  • You can link your living mother to her nearest deceased ancestors using the appropriate steps above to build your pedigree on both lines.
It is really a lot less complicated than it sounds. The main idea is to connect a deceased person with the living user of the program by adding in all the necessary generations of ancestors. In the past, adding in one line would add in all of the other lines, however, with Private Spaces, this may not happen and you might have to repeat the process for each line of ancestors. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Use the birth name

During the past week or so, because of the blog posts I have written about names, there has been a lot of discussion about how to record names. This is especially true in situations where the ancestor's name has changed from its original. The general rule is rather simple, although, in practice this can be very challenging. The rule is that the primary name is recorded as it was at the time the person was born. Any subsequent name changes or usage, is also recorded and documented.

Names have taken on a degree of importance because so many search programs (search engines) use the name of the individual as the primary search item. This has been carried to an extreme by researchers who are convinced of the "same name = same person" syndrome. Names are only one of the many factors that need to be considered in determining relationships.

What a person was called during their lifetime, often has little or no bearing on the name given to them at birth. Even in these situations, recording the birth name as the primary name is important to maintain continuity with previous generations. There is a considerable amount of confusion among genealogists when individuals in succeeding generations have the same or very similar names. In this regard, the terms "junior" and "senior" are often appended to a name to distinguish between the generations. Unfortunately, many times these generational designations are included as an actual part of the name of the person even when the designation was not given at birth. Confusion concerning which of the similarly named people belonged to which generation is rampant among genealogists. This is especially true with the "junior/senior" designations. In the past, these terms were not used exclusively to designate father and son relationships, but were sometimes used merely to differentiate two people in the same community with the same or similar names, In these cases, the two individuals may not even be related.

Attempts to sort all these similar names out to the proper parties, often results in adding a number to the persons name. I have examples of this in my own lines with a series of ancestors named Garrard Morgan. Usually, they are distinguished as Garrard Morgan I, II, III and IV. Although this may be helpful in sorting out the relationships, it is important to document and distinguish between names added for convention and the actual names given to an individual at birth.

It is also common to see names where the entire name is not recorded. There are instances where the name given to a person at birth included a single letter. For example, I have an uncle whose birth name was "Rollin C. Tanner." The "C." has no equivalent that I have ever found. Sometimes individuals adopted a middle name or initial merely to satisfy a requirement to have a middle name for school, military or other purposes. I have seen instances where the U.S. Army recorded a name using the initials "NMN" meaning "no middle name" and those initials have been subsequently recorded and used by a family historian.

I am commonly asked about which name should be recorded when it appears that there has been a change of name due to immigration or another occurrence. The answer is simple. Record all of the names, but use the birth name, if known, as the primary name.

There is also a tendency to add names to people when those names were never recorded or used during their lifetime. See my daughter's post on Middle Name Creep: A Cautionary Tale.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Flood of FamilySearch Blog Posts

For a long time, FamilySearch.org seemed to treat blogging as the last thing on their mind. When FamilySearch blog posts would come out, they came out every couple of weeks in bursts of three or four. Over time FamilySearch blogging became more regular and predictable. Well, presently, it seems like they have become entirely consumed with blog posts. Just as an example, I thought I would go back about seven days and give a list of posts I have received. Hmm. When I started to go back I cut the number of days to three. Yes, folks, this is the last three days of posts from FamilySearch. Now, there are a very few that are very specifically targeted at a very small audience that I have excluded, but here are most of the blog posts:
Mind you, I am not complaining. It is really about time FamilySearch started communicating at this level. The problem I see is that most of these blogs are "trapped" in the obscure link to the blog on the very bottom of the FamilySearch.org startup page. Here is a screenshot with an arrow pointing to the link:


Putting out that much information is not valuable if it is not getting to the target audience. I have no illusions about blog posting. I have been at this for about 8 years now and have written 3540 posts. But guess what? I can count the number of people in my own Ward that even know I write a blog on one hand, much less actually read it. I still know a lot of people who have no idea that blogs even exist. But it is comforting to know that FamilySearch is now putting forth the effort.