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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Look Before You Leap -- Data Problems in FamilySearch Family Tree

The new Landscape version of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is slowly making its way onto computers around the world. The most significant change is that the new interface shows the icons that are presently confined to the Descendancy view. Here is a screenshot of the various icons that are being used by the Family Tree:


All of the messages conveyed by these icons are important, but the most important one is the red marker suggesting Data Problems. Unfortunately, these Data Problems are far from rare. It is relatively easy to find these red icons scattered throughout the Family Tree. Here are a few of the messages that come up when you click on the icons:







I found all these in one descendancy family in about five minutes. When I went to another ancestral line, I did not find a single one. Obviously, there are some families whose data is less accurate than others. Also, as I go back in time, the Data Problems increase dramatically.

Here another one from another line:


Unless you are aware of these issues, as you go back into your ancestry, you may be relying on this faulty data. Be warned. It would be nice if the Family Tree warned users about these types of problems before the data was made a part of the program.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Look Before You Search -- Part Two -- Finding out what is there

As I pointed out in the first post in this series, each of the partner database programs has a way to view the contents of their collections of records. In the case of FamilySearch.org, it is important to realize that there is a catalog containing a listing of nearly everything in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and other collections in Family History Centers around the world. This is the FamilySearch.org Catalog. There may be some very recently acquired records that have yet to be cataloged, but the intent of the catalog is to contain all of the records available.

Since I started this series, I finished teaching a class on this same subject at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and a video of the class was uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. The video is called, "A Closer Look at FamilySearch Partner Sites." Some of the information in this series is covered in the video.

Learning how to use a library catalog is a skill that can acquired only through practice.  Every library catalog has it own unique character. Cataloging is a slow and meticulous process. With the vast resources of the Internet, we may get the impression that everything that needs to be known is available on the network. This is true for trivial information. It is not true for those who frequently search online. Serious research into family history will soon convince you that there is still a long way to go before all of the world's information is online. At this point, it is important to ask whether you know what is in the libraries closest to you? I will be talking about the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, but what about your local and state libraries? Do you know whether or not they have any information about your family? What about the 4600 plus Family History Centers worldwide?

This brings up a fundamental rule of libraries and online websites, it does not matter how large their collections are if they do not have what you are searching for. So, before you get wrapped up in searching through the piles both physical and virtual, you might want to know if there is a chance what you are searching for is actually there. You might also want to know if that local library I mentioned has what you are looking for. I have found some pretty unique references in some very small local libraries.

Catalogs are both finding aids and directories. This means that they both teach you how and where to find your needed information and also direct you to where it can be found. This distinction is very important, especially if you are accustomed to think of library catalogs only as directories. Let me demonstrate a sample search from the FamilySearch.org Catalog and show what I mean.

Here is a screenshot of the Catalog's search page.


There are various ways to search the catalog. You can search by place, surname, title, author, subject or keywords. Even though there are these different methods of searching, I would suggest that the one I use nearly all of the time is to begin a search by place. The reason for this is that family history related records are generally organized by place and then by topic. Searching for a surname or other specific type of information is this, or any other, extensive catalog is usually counterproductive.

The reason for this statement is simple. Much of the information in the Family History Library and elsewhere in the Family History Center organization is not indexed by surname, title or author. For example, there are millions of rolls of microfilm cataloged. Relatively few of these rolls have been indexed for every name contained on the records. The Catalog will assist you in finding the roll, but not the individual names found in the record. Even indexing is not a total solution to this problem. Indexing rarely includes every single name entry in every document indexed.

If I am trying to find a specific book or record, I may use one of the other methods of searching. But usually, in doing family history research, I am looking for information about a specific person or family and do not know about a specific book or other record. In this regard, many researchers do a superficial search of a library catalog and conclude that the library (or other entity) does not have any information about their ancestors. In the case of a large reference library, such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and the FamilySearch system of Family History Centers, this conclusion is generally false. I have found information in the library about my family after years of searching that was sitting in the Family History Library all the time. My searching involved asking the same question over and over again in different ways until I found what I was looking for.

Now back to the catalog. Effective searching for family history related records involves knowing exactly where an event in your ancestor's life occurred. I mean the geographic location with some reasonable degree of specificity. You then search through the catalog, entry by entry, for material that corresponds to your ancestor's location at the time period when the record may have been created.

Hypothetically, let's suppose I am looking for a record of an ancestor that lived in Joseph City, Arizona in 1890. My very first level of searching does not involve the Catalog at all. It involves verifying the place at the time of the event. Was there a town named Joseph City in 1890 in Arizona? The answer is simple. The town was previously called St. Joseph and the name was changed to Joseph City in the 1920s. Now, it you don't just happen to know that type of fact, you had better spend some time looking at the history of the locations where you propose to search.

Now I start my search. Do I go directly to Joseph City or whatever in the Catalog? No. I start by looking at every level of jurisdiction where records may have been kept. In this case, I start with the United States. Here is the screenshot of the records.


The idea here is that there are records that could contain information about my ancestor living in Arizona in the 1890s that are only available and are maintained at the national level. I should examine the entire list of record categories and search any record that appears to cover the same time period I am searching. I cannot assume that the Federal Government did not create and/or maintain a record that involved my ancestor.

If I click on the link that gives me places within the U.S. then I will see a list of states. This also works with the countries of the world. The results is a list of categories of state records (or country subdivision records) available. Each of these that apply to my ancestor's time and place must also be searched. The next link is to counties and then, if available, to cities or towns. At each level, there are unique records that may contain more information about your ancestors.

Looking at the list of record types may also suggest other records you may wish to search on websites besides FamilySearch.org. By using the Catalog in this way, you will be able to see immediately, whether or not a certain type of record or particular record is in the Family History Library or elsewhere in the system.

See the first post in this series here:

http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2015/03/look-before-you-search-part-one-overview.html

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Discovering Your Heritage

The Overson Family
Everyone has a heritage. I am always sad when I talk to people about their ancestors to find out how little they know. One of the most interesting and impressive ways to get through this barrier of knowledge, for anyone associated with the FamilySearch.org program, is to take some time to look at the Memories section of the website. Photography has been around for almost two hundred years and great discoveries are being made all the time. Recently, a previously unknown daguerreotype image of Wilford Woodruff, former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was discovered online on eBay.com. The person who found the image had searched over 70,000 images over the past two years before finding this treasure.

The FamilySearch.org website is an extremely valuable place to look for previously unknown photos of your own ancestors. Although the program has not been online for very long, there are already millions of photographs available. As you look at your family members in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, if anyone has uploaded a photo, document or story, there will be a number in the Memories link to that individual. Here is a screenshot showing the link to an ancestor's Memories:


When you click on this link, you will see whatever your relatives have added to this person's Memories. Here is a screenshot of this same person's photos:


You never know what treasures you will find. If you want to see all of the photos added by your relatives, then you click on the Memories link at the top of the page and look at the People link. Here is part of my People page:


What if you don't find any photos? Then get busy and upload some of your own. You can add .jpg, .tif, .bmp, and .png images up to 15MB is size by simply dragging the icon of the photo from your computer onto the upload section of the Memories. Here is a screenshot of the upload section:


Once you upload a photo, you can tag the people in the image and attach the photo to each person's detail page, such as was done with the image of Henry Martin Tanner above.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Closer Look at FamilySearch Partner Sites


This class on the FamilySearch.org partner websites engendered a marked degree of discussion. The classes are presented to each of the different Service Missionary shifts over a period of two weeks, for a total of 16 presentations. The next round of classes starts this coming Monday, 30 March 2015. The schedule for the classes at the Brigham Young University Family History Library are on the BYU Family History Library Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/byufhl?fref=ts

The short training videos and the classes are archived on the BYU Family History Library YouTube.com Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7hqNOQt-2AfeVEpDuc7sCA. I think we are getting close to a hundred videos on that channel. The most popular of these videos have had thousands of views.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Eliminate Arbitrary Changes on FamilySearch Family Tree

I am apparently the lightning rod recipient of a constant stream of vocal and written complaints about arbitrary changes being made to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I know exactly how to resolve this thorny issue. In fact, the resolution process is already in place and works very well. Thank you. Most of those who complain are trying to fight against the very nature of the program. The question you need to ask yourself is this: do I really want to understand how and why FamilySearch Family Tree operates or do I merely wish to revel in my misery and complain?

I have mentally gone back over the "animated discussion" I experienced in the class I was teaching earlier in the week. See "Misinformation and disinformation on FamilySearch Family Tree." Not once during that exchange did any of the participants recognize the true nature of the Family Tree program or propose any solutions to the perceived problems caused by unsupported and arbitrary changes. I also realized I had witnessed just exactly that kind of reaction much earlier in my life when, as a child, we would get into animated discussions (arguments) over the rules of a game we were playing. These arguments usually arose because no one really knew or cared about the actual rules of the game, but merely wished the rules to work in their favor.

Now this is the key. Those who are complaining about suffering the effects of changes being made in the FamilySearch Family Tree are really wanting a rule change to favor their own contributions and changes over those of any other person in the Family Tree, i.e. their own relatives. This is an issue about control, not about rules or changes. I never hear anyone complain about the fact that they can go into the program and make their own changes.

At this point, I need to quote one of the "rules of the game" set down by FamilySearch. This is a quote from a Help Center article entitled, "Reason statements for adding, editing and deleting information." Here is the quote:
When you add, edit, or delete information about a person in the tree, you should explain the reasons for your change. Providing reasons helps prevent improper changes and directs other interested researchers to sources supporting the information. 
In your explanation, use the guidelines below:
  • Write clearly. Use complete sentences.
  • Avoid “I” statements (such as “I found.…” or “My research indicates....”). Write in third person (such as “The census shows.…”).
  • Keep your tone professional and neutral.
  • Focus the explanation on the ancestor whose data is being recorded and the sources used to find the information.
  • Indicate information clearly supported by sources and information still needing sources. For example, if the birth month and year came from a census, say so.
  • Identify the sources used. If possible, attach the sources to the person, and tag sources to appear with the information supported.
  • If the records contain contradictory or incorrect information, explain why you think the version you added is the most correct..
  • Explain your reasoning if information contradicts family stories.
  • Explain why you feel the information is correct, if others could form different conclusions.
  • If you derived or estimated information, explain how you reached your conclusion.
  • If you are deleting information, explain why you feel the information you are deleting should be deleted instead of corrected.
  • Point out relevant discussions.
  • If you are unsure, ask someone to read what you have written to make sure you communicated clearly.
 The reason fields are not the place to hold a dialog or debate with other users. Use the Discussions feature to post questions or request for information from other users.
Oh my, you cry! My relatives really aren't playing by the rules!! Oh, but are you? Hmm. Let's go on and quote another rule, shall we? This one is entitled, "Why others can change information, and how to reduce improper changes." How many of you knew that there were rules to this game called Family Tree and have read them? Here I go again with another quote:
In Family Tree, all deceased people you add in Family Tree can be seen and are accessible by other users of the tree. Any user can change almost any piece of information, regardless of whether he or she originally added it. On the other hand, living people you add are not visible to other Family Tree users. 
Family Tree is intended to become a genealogical record that is correct, that contains sources to prove its accuracy, and that endures longer than any of the people who add information to it. See About FamilySearch and Family Tree (272598)
Most contributors do their best to ensure that their information is correct. However, sometimes the records required to prove something are not available. It is possible that future researchers will have access to better records than we do now. We need to allow future researchers the ability to correct and add better information as it becomes available. See Reason statements for adding, editing, and deleting information (71944) 
It is not always easy to collaborate with other researchers. Evidence may be contradictory. Incorrect family legends are common. Disagreement can arise. See Collaborating with other contributors in Family Tree (54091). Family Tree has several features that are intended to encourage people to provide accurate information and to prevent improper changes: 
If you want to maintain control over the records for your ancestors, you may choose to work in trees you create elsewhere. These could be online at other sites or with programs that can synchronize with Family Tree. Information about these can be found at: https://familysearch.org/apps/.
Note carefully the last paragraph. In essence it says if you do not want to play the game by its rules, you can leave any time and work on "your own" family tree on another program. I can say with all certainty that if you yourself play by the rules, you will see a dramatic decrease in arbitrary changes.

I am thinking about a second post on this same topic. At the same time, I am beginning to think about a standard response to complaints that says something like: Have you read and studied the rules?

The real question is am I going to read and play by the rules?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Possible Duplicates Exist -- Warnings from FamilySearch Family Tree


This is a screenshot of the warning from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree that accompanies a "Green Arrow." There are no obvious duplicates, but a search on this entry showed the following information for the wife:


The issue is that there is, in fact, a duplicate, but that the program still initially identifies ordinance work as available through the green arrow. Here is a screenshot showing the "Green Arrow."


Lela Melinda Turley is fairly well documented in the Family Tree with six listed sources. There are a number of reasons that an entry cannot be merged. For a complete explanation see the Help Center article entitled, "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree." In this particular case, the duplicate entry is incomplete. Here is a screenshot showing some of the information for the duplicate entry:


The duplicate has no sources and  the information is sketchy but it is an obvious duplicate of the information in the more complete and sourced record.

The addition of the cautionary warning is a welcome addition to the Family Tree. There is a link in the warning message to the Help Center article entitled, "Merging duplicate records in Family Tree." As a matter of fact, checking for duplicates should be a routine matter when using the Family Tree. Information is still being moved into the program from New.FamilySearch.org and users are adding names to the program all the time. Even for individuals who have been checked for duplicates previously, there is a strong possibility that duplicate entries might currently exist.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Misinformation and disinformation on FamilySearch Family Tree

I just got out of a rather animated discussion about the problems caused by misinformation and even disinformation being added to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. The problem is caused either by inattention, by negligence, by ignorance or even in some cases by deliberately adding false information to the Family Tree. The results are that unsourced and unsubstantiated changes are made ostensibly for the purpose of creating "names" for ordinance submissions. The gist of the earlier conversation was that the people adding inaccurate information were being "pressured" to meet a Ward or Stake challenge.

The question is whether or not submitting names for Temple ordinances supersedes all other considerations, such as accuracy in identifying ancestors, doing duplicate ordinance work etc? Further, does the fact that the individuals attend the Temple also outweigh any other consideration?

My opinion is clearly that FamilySearch Family Tree is the ultimate solution to these questions. The Family Tree is designed to be user corrected. This means that FamilySearch does not need to take on the task of verifying the entries and other changes in the Family Tree. The verification task is being done by the people who have a motive for keeping the information accurate and complete. Since this is a correction after-the-fact program, there is no way to prevent prevent the changes in the first place.

Let me illustrate with a hypothetical situation. Doe feels the need to "find a name to take to the Temple." It does not matter for the purpose of this hypothetical situation where Doe's motivation comes from. Doe is a relative newcomer to the Family Tree and has done no original research. Using the Family Tree suggestions in the form of colored icons, he "finds" a family that "needs" ordinances. He adds the additional children and other family members and is off to do the ordinances. Along comes Roe. Roe is an experienced family historian with years of experience in submitting names for Temple ordinances. She sees the changes Roe has made to the program and immediately recognizes that Doe is way out in left field. It takes Roe an hour or two, but she corrects the wrongly added family members and in doing so, discovers duplicates and is certain that Doe falls into one of the categories I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Who is right? Who is wrong?

I can answer this question by saying neither Doe nor Roe is either right or wrong. Perhaps Doe should have been more careful in adding new people to the Family Tree. Perhaps Roe should not have attributed some motivation to Doe when she really did not know why Doe put the "incorrect" information into the Family Tree and would really have no way of knowing that motivation. The fact is that there will always be a certain amount of ordinance work that will be done for the wrongly identified people or other reasons. The nature of a program such as the Family Tree allows for this kind of situation, but the program also allows for corrections to be made by anyone who knows the correct information or cares to look for it.

So, those who find themselves in the position of Roe are angered, frustrated and at least upset at having to correct Doe's mess. Guess what? That is why and how the program was designed the way it is.

We can liken the Family Tree to a motor vehicle. We would all like to drive a car that never needed repairs. Some of us so dislike the idea of having to make repairs to our cars, that we buy a new one every few years or even every year. The fact is that we are really just pushing those repairs off on someone else. Those of us who drive the same car for 15 or 20 years get used to the idea that maintenance and repairs are necessary. This is what happens with the Family Tree. We can't really expect a new program every time we have a maintenance issue, but we can expect that the program will allow us to make those repairs. We have been living in an artificial world where we control our own "family tree." There are those who would still like to live in that world. Now, we are in the "real world" of maintenance and repairs. This will take time and effort, just like owning an old car. But in this case, unlike the car example, the effort is worth the time and trouble.

Let's stop griping about the situation and get to work. Adding sources helps to keep the integrity of the Family Tree. Get busy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Get Help with the FamilySearch Family Tree


The Get Help link on FamilySearch.org is in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. The screenshot above shows the Get Help link and the top of the Get Help page for Using the Tree. One of the most helpful sections on this page, is the one entitled, "Frequently Asked Questions." Here is a screenshot showing the Frequently Asked Questions section:


The area outlined in red contains the ten most frequently asked questions. Just above this section, there is a blank where you can pose additional questions.

Next, we have the Learning Center on FamilySearch.org. Here is a screenshot of the learning center:


The arrow points to a series of online classes known as the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos. This in depth series is an invaluable help in learning the details of using Family Tree.

Both the Help Center and the Learning Center are on the pull-down menu from the Get Help link. You might notice that once you move to other pages on the FamilySearch.org website besides the Home page, that the link to the Help Center tends to disappear. But you can always click on the logo in the upper left-hand corner of each page and return to the Home page for help.

On Google's YouTube.com, there are presently 72 videos from various sources, including FamilySearch, on the subject of FamilySearch.org and the Family Tree program and that's just the popular videos. YouTube.com also has the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library Channel,  the FamilySearch Channel, and about 33,500 videos on genealogy and family history.

Before you get frustrated and cross, you can also use the other Get Help resources right on the FamilySearch.org website. They include telephone support and live chat. If you still can't get an answer to your questions, try talking to someone at a local Family History Center. You can find the nearest Center by using the map searching capabilities of the FamilySearch.org Get Help link to "Find Local Help."  Here is a screenshot showing the Centers in the Utah Valley area:


Don't give up. Help is available.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Five Steps to Success with FamilySearch Family Tree

It is fairly common at the present time for leaders of Stakes and Wards in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to issue challenges to their members to "take a name to the Temple." For this to be successfully accomplished the members of the Ward or Stake must be taught how to do this. Finding ancestors whose Temple work has yet to be completed could be as simple as filling out the names for the first four generations on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. In many cases, the names of these recent ancestors can be obtained from family records or the memory of older living family members. There are, however, a significant number of members of the Church whose ancestors joined the Church before the year 1900. For these members, facing such a challenge can be overwhelming.

If Ward or Stake leaders contemplate issuing a challenge to the members, they should also take steps to insure that those same members have the opportunity to be trained. If at all possible, this training should begin with Stake and Ward leaders and should be conducted through one-on-one help sessions. These sessions should continue with the Family History Consultants working with members in their homes. I suggest implementing some or all of the following activities.

No. 1: Work with the members so that they have a login and password to the FamilySearch.org website.
In class after class and in meeting after meeting, I find that there are still a significant number of people who do not have or remember their login and password to FamilySearch.org. When groups of members come to the Brigham Young University Family History Library for training, we strongly urge the organizers to make sure all that come are already registered and know their login and password. Even with these prior instructions, it is not uncommon for the members to come for instruction and still not have access to the programs. While individually helping members learn about the programs, I find that it is still very common that they do not remember or have never obtained access.

No. 2 Work individually with the members to help them become familiar with their ancestors.
The concept of "turning the hearts" involves an unstated need to have a relationship with your ancestors. It is difficult, if not impossible, to "turn your heart" to someone you do not know. It is extremely important that the members take some time to "get to know" the people in their FamilySearch.org Family Tree. We have found this is best accomplished when the members have the opportunity to sit down with a mentor, someone with experience with FamilySearch.org, and be shown how to navigate the program. In becoming familiar with their ancestors, members should be encouraged to view the Memories section of the FamilySearch.org website.

No. 3 The members need to be taught the skills necessary to navigate and work with the FamilySearch.org website.
Members should be shown how to add photos, stories, documents and audio files to the Memories section of FamilySearch.org. They should also know how to tag the people in the photos and attach documents as sources for individual ancestors in the Family Tree. They should understand the Record Hints and know how to evaluate a record and attached the record to an individual in the Family Tree. They need to know how to search for duplicate records and clean up the records by eliminating duplicate, incomplete and inaccurate information. They should understand where to find sources and documents that will help them clean up the records and extend their family lines.

No. 4 The Ward Family History Consultants should be qualified to instruct the members in the use of the FamilySearch.org website.
Ward Family History Consultants need to be adequately prepared to go into the member's homes and teach them the skills necessary to be successful in finding ancestors who need Temple work. They should be familiar with their assignments as outlined on pages 19 and 20 of the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts.

No. 5 The Leaders issues challenges to their unit members should be committed to accomplishing the goals they set.
My favorite comment about leadership is that "you can't push a rope." If you are a leader and wish your members to be successful, you must also be willing to lead out and accomplish the same goals you issue to the members in your Ward or Stake. It is my opinion, that if the Stake Leaders have already tried to accomplish the goals they will likely change their opinion about how easy or hard it will be for the members.

For more information about this process, please refer to Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Take Charge of Your Entries on the FamilySearch Family Tree

The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is a unified family tree program based on a wiki format. As such, entries in the Family Tree can be changed, edited, added, deleted and supplemented with sources, notes and discussions. To the uninitiated this format bespeaks instability and inaccuracy. To the contrary, it is a design that promotes stability and predictability. The ability of the program to adapt to the larger online FamilySearch community is the hallmark of the way the program evolves and becomes more accurate over time. Rather than becoming a balkanized camp of warring interests, the Family Tree will become the paragon of accuracy and last resort for establishing familial cooperation.

One of the predominant negative aspects of modern society which includes the FamilySearch community, is the tendency that participants in our society have to an attitude of victimization. A person with a victimization syndrome blames outside forces for their misfortune instead of taking control of their own life and refusing to submit to considering themselves a victim. It is certainly true that very bad things happen to people all the time, but a person suffering from a victimization syndrome believes they have no control over the way events happen and they constantly try to blame others, even vague outside forces, for things they can overcome. I have seen this happen with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree.

The most common symptom of victimization in using the Family Tree is to complain about "all the changes being made by FamilySearch." This usually focuses on specific changes or additional information added to a specific ancestor. Rather than understand how or why the changes are being made, the person retreats into their victim mentality and concludes that the program is broken. The last thing a person with the victimization syndrome wants to know is that they can do something about the situation. They revel in their status as victims.

One my early experiences in viewing a graphic example of victimization syndrome was watching a movie called "Tobacco Road." I won't go into the movie (or the book) but this depiction of people who seemed to have no control over events in their lives and who made short-sighted decisions based on expediency, had a very deep impact on me at the time.

Here is a list of some of the facts about the Family Tree that explain the seemingly random changes:

  • The transition from New.FamilySearch.org is not complete. Information is still being transferred from the old program to the Family Tree.
  • The information is only physically being added by FamilySearch. They did not create the content.
  • The content of the Family Tree represents an accumulation of all of the research done by anyone who submitted that information to FamilySearch or any of its predecessor organizations.
  • The collection online FamilySearch community can presently add additional information to the Family Tree and some of this information may be different than that in our own files.
  • Differences exist over the details of our ancestors families and even over the choice of ancestral lines.
  • All historical data including family histories are subject to revision with the addition of newly discovered or interpreted data.

The attitude of a victim to this scenario is to give up and complain that the Family Tree is "broken" or worse yet, refuse to use or even look at the Family Tree. The victim believes that they own their own data and that it is the only correct version of the family history. Therefore, any changes are negative and not positive.

The truth is that the Family Tree is a perfectly level playing field. Granted, no one likes to be told that they are wrong and have been for years, but anyone who signs into FamilySearch and begins work on the Family Tree has exactly the same level of right to use the tree as anyone else. In this regard, experience, knowledge and innate ability do not give any one participant an advantage over another. The Family Tree is an absolutely democratic method of displaying family history. It gives no advantage to autocrats or oligarchies.

Now, how do I propose addressing the random changes and incorrect information? First and foremost, I do not retire into a cocoon of victimization. I realize that there are things about the Family Tree I cannot yet control and will never control, but I do take charge of my own ancestry and work to provide accurate, sourced information about each family member. This is a slow, methodical process. Will I disagree with others in the Family Tree? Yes, certainly. Does that make me a victim? No. I only become a victim if I give up and fail to keep working to improve what I do have control over. It does no good to blame FamilySearch for all of the misinformation added from what was done by my own ancestors. Likewise, it does no good to blame the ignorant or careless who add wrong information to the Family Tree. I begin by focusing on those ancestors in my first four generations and do not carry the battle out to the 1700s or 1600s until I have adequately added all the sources and verified every fact connecting me to those more remote ancestors. I follow the basic admonition of family history, I move from the known to the unknown. But I do not forget that I must know something before I move.

I talk to those who criticize the Family Tree all the time and yet have not taken the time to enter the information and sources they already have into the program. They seemingly wish to remain victims and lose the opportunity to benefit from this fabulous tool.

FamilySearch.org Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. The problem lies in ourselves. Quoting from William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar (Act 1, Scene 2):
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Let us not be underlings or victims.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Take Advantage of Sponsoring a Family Discovery Day


As an aftermath of RootsTech 2015, FamilySearch is sponsoring a series of locally sponsored events called "Family Discovery Days." They are providing a turn-key package to Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world to organize, publicize and conduct these local events. Over the next year, FamilySearch is hoping to have over 1000 of these events worldwide. See "RootsTech 2015 Breaks Records and Keeps Giving."

The complete package of instructions for holding local Family Discovery Day event are online on the LDS.org website. There is a whole section of the Church's website dedicated to these activities. See Family Discovery Day, Blessings for the Living.

In just the short time since the RootsTech 2015 Conference, my wife and I have had several opportunities to either attend and teach at conferences or help with the organization. One recent conference was sponsored by two local Stakes and was attended by over 200 people. It was an unqualified success.

If you are involved at all in family history, you should be asking your Ward and Stake leaders if they are planning on conducting a Family Discovery Day in your area. Go online at Family Discovery Day, Blessings for the Living and watch the videos and you will certainly see why I think this is an excellent idea.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Keep Looking! Find Me Please


I often feel a great sorrow in my heart for all of the lost children of the world. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to digitize records from the Mesa City Cemetery in Mesa, Arizona. As I digitized records such as the one depicted above, I was overcome with the feeling that this piece of paper may be the only earthly record for many of these children who died. It is extremely likely that there is no formal death certificate for this baby. Absent some family record, this may be the only record. I could hear them crying out to me and saying, keep looking! find me please.

If we are truly seeking after our dead and listening to the Spirit, we will feel and sometimes hear, these promptings, pleading with us to find our ancestors. Quoting from the The Family, A Proclamation to the World,
IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
 My personal experiences over the years has shown me without a doubt that this is true and that these promptings of the Spirit come because of this need to have families united eternally. Those who are living in the world of the spirits do not want to be forgotten. President John Taylor, while an Apostle made the following statement in the Tabernacle in Great Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, 11 December 1864, Journal of Discourses, Volume 11, 1867, page 27.
We are preparing ourselves for those mansions, and others are helping to prepare mansions for us who are behind the veil. We shall operate for those who are there, and they for us; for they, without us, cannot be made perfect, nor we without them. We are forming an alliance, a union, a connection, with those that are behind the veil, and they are forming a union and connection with us; and while we are living here, we are preparing to live hereafter, and laying a foundation for this in the celestial kingdom of God.
When we feel the need to seek out to our kindred dead, we need to nurture that feeling by taking action and beginning the work of family history. As we do so, we will receive additional promptings helping us along the way and guiding us with deep feelings that cannot be denied.

Puzzilla Premium now on Family History Centers Portal


Free access to the Puzzilla.org Premium edition is now available for free on the Family History Center Portal. In a blog post from FamilySearch entitled, "Puzilla Premium Services Now on the FHC Portal" it was announced:
Family history centers now have free access to Puzilla Premium on the Family History Center Portal under Premium Family History Websites. Members with very full trees often struggle to find ancestors who are in need of temple work. Puzzilla Premium offers new tools to help members look at their ancestors’ descendancy charts in new ways. Using the family history center portal, locate the link to Puzilla and click to enter their webpage. Once on the website, users must sign in with their FamilySearch account. In the control panel on the left, select which data request will be sent to the Family Tree. The button will change from gray to color.
This is the program that started the revolution in finding cousins on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Coupled with the Descendancy View on the Family Tree, these valuable utility programs add an extended level of analysis to the Family Tree giving users the ability to more efficiently find families that may have been overlooked in past research efforts. Some of the featured added to the free Puzzilla.com program by the Premium Edition are as follows:
  • New Research Targets ̶̶̶ Highlight persons that may have missing family members where new research opportunities may be available. 
  • Search ̶̶̶ Highlight records that match a specified name, location, or Family Tree ID. 
  • Hints ̶̶̶ Highlight FamilyTree records that have pre-matched historical records. Hints do the searching for you. 
  • Sources ̶̶̶ Highlight records that have sources attached. This reveals records that lack sources to help you improve the quality of your tree. 
  • Changes ̶̶̶ Highlight records that were created or changed by you. 
  • Possible Duplicates ̶̶̶ Highlight records with possible duplicates to help improve the quality of your tree. 
  • Incomplete Ordinances ̶̶̶ Used together with Possible Duplicates, the combination helps find ordinance opportunities for records that do not have possible duplicates.
For more information about the Premium Services see their Frequently Asked Questions and also, this excerpt from the FamilySearch blog post:
For more information about using Puzilla and Puzilla Premium see the videos under How To in the toolbar at the top of the Puzilla web page. Puzzilla is a wonderful tool to help members with partial and full family trees find family members who are in need of temple ordinances. It is also a fun tool to use as we teach others about success in finding ancestors to take to the temple. Remember that Puzilla’s basic services are free everywhere. Puzilla Premium Services at the family history center adds a new tool to the Find, Take, Teach toolkit.
Premium Services are available for $39.95 for an annual subscription with a FREE 30-day trial. Your card will not be charged until after the trial.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Look Before You Search -- Part One: An Overview

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are beginning to become involved in family history are being exposed to large online data base programs for the first time. Because of the "free" partnership access FamilySearch has negotiated with other genealogical database providers, members are beginning to sign up for Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, findmypast.com and now, AmericanAncestors.org. Many times, the members sign up for these websites without the vaguest idea of their content. In fact, many researchers with more than a basic understanding of family history, are also only aware of the content and limitations of these other websites or even of the content of FamilySearch.org.

All of these websites, including FamilySearch.org, have finite, limited collections of records. Their holdings may be vast, but the particular information you are seeking may simply not be located in any of these huge online collections. So how do you determine what they have available?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. You look at the list of collections (also called databases, records and other designations) listed on the various websites. For example, does the particular program you are using even have any records from the place where your ancestors lived? In some cases, the answer can be no.

Where do you find these lists of collections? Let me assure you that each of the programs has such a list and further each of the programs has a way to search the list or to filter it to show pertinent collections. Here is a summary of the location of the lists on each of the programs. Remember, new collections are being added by these programs constantly. Checking back frequently is well advised.

FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch.org has a highly organized and searchable list of its holdings including online digitized collections, microfilm, books and other resources. These are all contained in the FamilySearch Catalog accessed under the Search tab on the FamilySearch.org startup page. Those items that have been digitized and are available for free online are clearly marked in the Catalog entries. The Catalog contains items in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah as well as other major collections in Family History Centers around the world. There is also a list of all of the currently digitized files in the Records section of the website when you click on Browse All Published Collections.

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has a feature called the "Card Catalog." If you are using the Library version of the program there may be a link to the Card Catalog somewhere on the startup page. It may also be a link to view all collections. If you are using a personal version of the program, you can find the link to all the collections as the last item in the Search pull-down menu.

The Card Catalog page has a selection of filters along the left-hand side of the window. You can use these filters to focus in on a particular type of collection. If you filter the collections by their location, you can quickly see whether or not the program has any information on the area of your research.

MyHeritage.com

The complete list of all of the collections on MyHeritage.com is located under the Research tab on the startup page or Home page. On the Research page you can search the collections or filter for specific collections or types of collections. There is also an interactive map at the bottom of the page. You can use the map to see if MyHeritage.com has any collections in the area of your research interest. When you click on a specific country, the program will show a list of the collections available for that area.

findmypast.com

There is a tab link on the home page or startup page for findmypast.com to Search all records. On the Search page, there is a link in the upper right-hand corner that says "A-Z of record sets." This is a link to complete listing of the record sets or databases or collections on the findmypast.com website. You can filter the sets by area or search for specific titles. The title search appears to be a word search so do not rely on searching for a specific place, it is more productive to look for general locations.

AmericanAncestors.org

The newest partnership website is AmericanAncestors.org. The complete listing of all of the collections is located under the Browse link on the Home or startup page of the website. If you Browse all of the databases you will get a complete list and be able to search the list of all those available.

Summary

In every case, remember that records can only be found if the websites have the records you are searching for. You will save yourself some time if you make yourself familiar with the holdings of each of the websites. I will be looking at some of these websites in more depth in a subsequent post.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On again, Off again -- The FamilySearch Family Tree New Interface

I barely had time to look at the new interface on FamilySearch.org's Family Tree when it disappeared yet again. I am back to the old Traditional interface. I am trying to analyze the reasons why it shows up and then disappears. I do use a variety of computers in different locations, including computers at the both the Family History Library in Salt Lake City,Utah and at the Brigham Young University Family History Library in Provo. The new interface seems to poke up on a random computer with a random browser and at random times. I'm off to another class at the moment, but I will keep everyone posted and if I do get another peek at the Landscape Interface, I will do a little more exploring.

In a recent blog post, I quoted a blog from FamilySearch about some more new developments. I am still looking for the link that shows the details of ancestral relationships and some other features. Maybe these are being "phased in" also.

Monday, March 16, 2015

First Look at the FamilySearch Family Tree New Interface


What to my wondering eyes should appear but the new interface for the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. They must be up to 10% or something with the release. Perhaps they just decided to speed up the process of adding new people to the new interface.

I really like it a lot more than the previous one. It is a lot more inviting. I also like having the icons available  previously only on the Descendancy View on what is now called the Landscape View. We are definitely moving away from Traditional in a good way.

Hovering over the people does not do anything anymore. No more appearing and disappearing additional information. You can see the list of children. Here is a screenshot showing some of the children.


The icons still suggest that Temple work is available, but they are more clear about the existence of duplicate entries.


Good improvement.

Do the Math, Check the Places, Look at the Facts

There are three ways to improve the quality of your own research and to evaluate the validity of what you find online, particularly in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. They are the following:

  • Do the math
  • Check the places
  • Look at the facts

I found the following entry this morning in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree.

Elizabeth Medhurst born 1665 died 1663

Here is a screenshot of the family information:



The husband was born the same year that his wife died. Both children were born after the wife died and if we look further at this particular entry, we find the following

Daniel Mitchell b. abt 1663 of Westfield, Suss. Eng.
Married abt 1687, of Westfield, Sussex, England

What this says, in reality, is that who ever entered this information did not know any of the birth or death dates and did not know any of the places where the family lived. The source for this information is listed as follows:


What this shows is that there is no support for the information at all. All of the entries and information in this particular record are entirely suspect. There is nothing to support the existence of this particular family and it inclusion as an ancestral family at all.

If you examine you own pedigree on Family Tree, you will find similar entries. Remember the three cautions above.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Acquiring a good foundation in family history

Quoting from Saint Augustine, "The higher your structure, the deeper must be its foundation." To many of us who begin building their family history do so without laying any foundation at all. They begin by clicking through an online database, such as FamilySearch.org's Family Tree, without a thought as to what they want to accomplish or how they are going to go about learning about their ancestors. I had this pointed out to me in class I helped teach this past week with several of the participants. After some instruction, we asked them to look at their Family Tree. Most of the class started to browse through a look at the entries. Some of the class members raised their hands and asked essentially the same question; what am I looking at?

Maybe what is most needed in advancing family history research and the submission of names for Temple ordinances is not so much why we do Temple ordinances as how we go about actually doing family history research. Here is one definition of family history research from the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki:
Family history research is the process of searching records to find information about your relatives and using those records to link individuals to earlier and later generations.
Doing family history is a process and it is a process that must be learned. It is not enough to be motivated, it is also necessary to have some specific training. Some of us acquire the basic training through our life experiences. I acquired my own background in computers, research, library use, languages, reference materials etc. long before I became interested in family history per se.  Some people need to acquire a few or all of those types of skills before they can feel comfortable researching their family history. If we ignore the need to acquire certain skills to do family history, we will ultimately find that people become frustrated and do not value either the activity of family history or its goals.

A good example of the type of information that is needed for doing family history research is the new presentation in the FamilySearch.org Learning Center called, "Family History Research Basics for Consultants." This type of presentation needs to be extended and used for everyone who starts out doing their family history. Paraphrasing what one of my friends said to me recently, we want the members to do their family history, but we focus on the end product and not the process. We want them to have the benefits of doing family history research but talk about advanced topics and do not emphasize enough the basics of starting out. Many members still need to learn how to sign into the FamilySearch.org program. They are a long way from doing productive research. Most of the people I teach and help do not know how to critically examine the information that is already in Family Tree. The new iconic help system is pointing people in the right direction, but they still need to be taught what the icons mean and what to do about the problems.

It is time to develop some really basic training and figure out a way to get more of the members, including the leaders, to take the time to look and learn.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is a Unified Family Tree?

FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program is a "unified family tree." That being the case, what is a unified family tree? The basic idea is to create a single, collaborative family history resource where various types of pertinent family history documents, photos, stories, and other associated materials can be archived and viewed by anyone interested in the family. Further, the idea is to extend this collaborative family history to the entire world and include all those who have ever lived. This may seem to be a rather overly ambitious project but modern technology, particularly the development of the vast online network we call the Internet and more particularly, the development of the type of program that allows an unlimited amount of information to be organized in a workable fashion called the wiki program, has now enabled FamilySearch to create such a structure.

The main limitations of such a program involve primarily the accumulation and maintenance of such a vast amount of information. Secondarily, the information must be managed in such a way as to make it accessible to anyone interested in contributing, correcting, documenting or merging duplicate information. So far, FamilySearch has been extremely successful in creating such a structure. In order for the Family Tree to be useful it has to be accessible. Because of the wide dissemination of the Internet, accessibility is no longer an issue. For example, if the Family Tree were still limited to some sort of paper based system, it would reside in one location and only be accessible to those who went to the location to consult with the family tree. This was the case when FamilySearch accumulated the vast collection of family group records now contained in the Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969.

Presently, the FamilySearch.org Family Tree contains more than one billion records and on the FamilySearch.org website there are more than 3.5 billion names in searchable records and many more on microfilmed records with an estimated 20.6 billion names.

The hallmark of a unified tree should be and is that the records are completely accessible to every individual. The reasoning behind this accessibility is rather simple. The individuals recorded in the unified family tree have multiple descendents. Each of those descendents should have an equal opportunity to add information, edit existing information, delete or correct inaccurate or inappropriate information and explain existing information. In this regard, Family Tree has succeeded.

Unfortunately, those who come and view the Family Tree, seldom have the perspective of what is being accomplished. There are a number of obstacles to the concept of a unified family tree that arise as a result of social, cultural and personal interests. One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is the concept of "my family" as a closed unit. It is difficult for most people to conceptualize the idea that the entire human family is interrelated. This is a popular "liberal" topic about there being a human family. This concept is both politically and socially popular in the abstract but extremely difficult to implement at the personal level. In addition, it is apparent that individuals have a tendency to claim ownership of anything they produce or are significantly involved with. Conflicts over the accuracy of the historical data in the Family Tree are usually reduced to differences concerning the opinions of the various family members based on their preconceived ownership interests.

Users of the Family Tree have a tendency to view changes to the tree as "threats" rather than opportunities to collaborate. Family historians in particular have not been particularly collaborative in the past. Most family history research is conducted on a highly personal level and collaboration has been extremely rare. For example, over the past 30+ years of my own family history work, I have had only very sporadic and superficial collaborative involvement.

Accessibility implies change. There is no question that the content of the Family Tree will continue to change. The changes come about as result of increased interest as well as diligent addition of source records and other documentation of the program. Some of those individuals involved in family history dismiss the program as trivial. Their assessment is entirely attributed to their previous experience. They include the FamilySearch Family Tree with the other individually-based family tree attempts online. There is no question that the Family Tree is an entirely different endeavor.

It will be extremely interesting during the next few years to see how the Family Tree evolves.

Friday, March 13, 2015

See Posts on the New Features of FamilySearch Family Tree

Sometimes I have a hard time deciding between what to post on this blog and what to post on my older blog, Genealogy's Star. Today, I posted two posts on Genealogy's Star about changes to FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program announcing changes to the FamilySearch website and new Partner certifications. I am not sure how many of my readers of this blog do not also follow my Genealogy's Star blog, but I decided to let everyone here know that these two important posts were on the other blog. The two posts are:

http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2015/03/new-features-added-to-familysearch.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2015/03/new-partner-certifications-on.html

You might also note that we have two other blogs; WalkingArizona and TheAncestorFiles. I share Genealogy's Star with my daughter Amy and I share her blog TheAncestorFiles with her. She writes 99% of the TheAncestorFiles blog, which is the blog with all our family history and stories.

Sources in FamilySearch Family Tree -- Why do we need sources?

This is a series on sources in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. The series will examine the reasons behind adding sources, the benefits from adding them and the mechanics of doing so. I am firmly convinced that the long term viability and integrity of the Family Tree program can only be maintained through the systematic examination, correction and documentation by adding sources to the existing entries and by adding documentation, sources and supporting documents to any new entries. The inclusion of incomplete, inaccurate, and in some cases, inappropriate entries is unacceptable and tends to make the Family Tree program less credible.

 It is evident, that there are a significantly large number of sources being added to the Family Tree program since the implementation of the "Record Hints" feature. However, the addition of a source does not in and of itself constitute valid documentation of the events in an individual ancestor's life. Sources cited in the program must contain valid supporting information for historical events in the ancestor's life. In addition, the sources must actually refer to the person to whom they are attached.

It is important to understand the concept of a "source" in the context of adding that type of information to the Family Tree. Family history research is exactly that; history. The main task involved in the process of investigating and recording a family history is the examination of historical documents containing information about a target ancestral family. For example, if I were going to document and extend the Tanner family line, I would begin by examining what information was missing and then attempt to determine historical sources that could supply the missing information. Obviously, the research process is considerably more complex than this simplistic example. But, I believe that the research process can be summarized in the following steps:

  • Reviewing existing family history information for inaccurate or incomplete information
  • Determining appropriate historical documents or records that may contain information about the family
  • Locating the historical documents or records
  • Examining the historical documents or records
  • Analyzing the information contained in the records
  • Extracting pertinent information
  • Recording pertinent information in an appropriate family history database
  • Documenting where the information was obtained i.e. by adding a source

This is not a strictly linear activity. You may find information that is unexpected or pertains to a totally different research topic, but eventually, you will have to go through each step of the process.

It is common to examine many historical records without finding specific information about the target ancestral family. Good family history procedure would dictate that you needed to record all of the documents examined whether or not they contained any pertinent information. It is outside the scope of this particular post series, but I'm not completely in agreement with that practice. Basically, my disagreement lies with the inference that creating a research log is like a checklist of places you have already looked. I have found, that it is absolutely necessary to review some historical records multiple times in order to extract all of the pertinent information. If the purpose of a research log is to preserve the location of previously visited records, then it certainly can have some value.

Back to sources. A record itself is not a "source" until you determine that it contains pertinent information. The threshold for what is and what is not pertinent is very low. You should record as a source, any record that contains information about your ancestors, no matter how trivial. In addition, the best practice is to record all sources even those that are repetitious. For example, the same record for the same year of the United States census. But it is important to record the location of both copies of the record in the event that one becomes unavailable. In this sense, there is no upper limit to the number of sources that should or could be added.

The process is very straightforward. When you examine an historical record and find information about your family your record not only the information, but also the place where the information was found. This is done for two reasons: first, to enable you to return to that location in the future and second, to give other researchers the benefit of your research experience. One of the biggest problems with family history research is the fact that much of it is done over and over again. This duplication of effort can be avoided by the addition of detailed sources.

In addition, sources add credibility to the record and dissuade subsequent researchers from making changes arbitrarily. One of the major concerns of the users of the Family Tree is that there entries are subject to change by other users. This problem can be largely avoided through the process of adding substantial source information for each individual in the program. My own experience indicates that adding sources has substantially diminished the number and frequency of changes being made to my own ancestral lines. Those ancestors who were not yet documented are still subject to frequent changes.

I cannot understate the importance of examining the historical records to verify that the information is pertinent to the particular target ancestor to which it is to be attached. Too many times, researchers get into the "same name – same person" syndrome and simply add sources where the names match the target ancestor. Fortunately, due to the accuracy of the FamilySearch Record Hints, this is not yet a major problem.

One very important reason for adding sources is the fact that the sources add stories, photos, and supporting historical documents to each individual in the Family Tree. In addition, the very process of adding sources becomes the major method for adding additional ancestors to the Family Tree and thereby providing a supply of individuals who need Temple ordinances. During the past few weeks, my wife and I have both added individuals to our family trees by the process of adding sources.

The Family Tree program will only advance and become more useful as the individual family historians continue to have valid sources to each of the individuals in the program. A natural outgrowth of the additional sources will be the correction of the data and the addition of new people.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the series.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

5 Ways to Begin at the Beginning of Family History

It is easy for someone new to FamilySearch.org and all the partner programs to become quickly overwhelmed with starting out doing family history. In their enthusiasm, many of the more experienced family historians want to "dump the entire load" on the beginner as quickly as possible. In doing this we need to remember the scripture from Mosiah 4:27:
27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run  faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
As King Benjamin points out "it is expedient that he (we) should be diligent..." This certainly applies to family history. In the recent past, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been challenged repeatedly to "do their family history." But we also need to remember what President Spencer W. Kimball said in General Conference in April of 1978. He said,
I feel the same sense of urgency about temple work for the dead as I do about the missionary work for the living, since they are basically one and the same. I have told my brethren of the General Authorities that this work for the dead is constantly on my mind.
The key word here is "work." We cannot convert the living or the dead without doing the work that is necessary to accomplish that goal. So keeping in mind that doing our family history is work and also keeping in mind King Benjamin's caution, I think we need to remember these five things when we start out to "do our family history." Too many family history instructors want to make us all run before we have even learned to walk.

No. 1: Sign into FamilySearch.org and remember your login and password

I can say from spending more than ten years working with patrons and members of the Church in wards, stakes and in their homes, the one biggest obstacle to getting started in family history is that many, many of the members have never registered for FamilySearch.org (or any of the other LDS websites) and if they have, they have forgotten their login and password. There may be statistics showing the dramatic increase in the use of the FamilySearch.org website, but the majority of the members of every Ward I work with are completely unfamiliar with the program. This applies to Stake Presidents, High Councilors, High Priests Group Leaders, Bishops and most of the other members. If you cannot remember logins and passwords, write them down and keep the record in a place you can remember.

No. 2: Look at the FamilySearch.org Family Tree

I am constantly amazed at the number of members of the Church I encounter who have never looked at the Family Tree program on FamilySearch.org. I sat down with two Ward members yesterday and neither one of them had every even looked at the Family Tree before. When I say look at the Family Tree, I mean click on the link to the Family Tree and start exploring what is there. If you find yourself being the only person listed, then it is clear you have never seen the Family Tree at all. Start by entering in your parents and grandparents. You may have to search for them if they are dead, but you will need to add them in if they are living.

No. 3 Watch the instructional videos on getting started with your family history

Too many of the people that I work with as patrons in the BYU Family History Library and that I worked with at the Mesa FamilySearch Library wanted to run (i.e. take a name to the Temple) before they even understood what FamilySearch.org and FamilySearch itself were all about. You life will be a lot smoother in this regard if you will just take the time to watch a few of the many instructional videos that are available. Here are the links to places where you might want to start:
No. 4 Get to know your ancestors

38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
The only way I know how to find out if my "fathers" have planted the promises made to them in my own heart is by turning my own heart to my fathers or ancestral family. This will not happen until I get to know who they are, where they lived and the struggles they faced during their life on earth. Taking a "name" to the Temple without doing the work necessary to turn your own heart does not, in an of itself, accomplish this purpose. We must become actively involved in the process of salvation for the dead. We can do this by learning about the people already in FamilySearch.org Family Tree or by adding them in ourselves. We cannot do this casually or on a one-time basis, we need to spend the time, do the work and come to know our family. When we do this, there will come a point in your learning when your heart will begin to turn and you will understand what the Angel Moroni was saying to Joseph Smith. Take some time just to look at FamilySearch.org Family Tree and click on all the menus. See how the program works and look carefully at the entries in your own family. Are they accurate? Do they make sense? Do you need to add a photo, document or story? Take time to look at the sources if any are listed. Become interested in your ancestors as people that you need to get to know.

No. 5 Persist in learning about your family

Remember the scripture in Ecclesiastes 9:11
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
 We all find ourselves at different levels of time and opportunity to become involved in family history. It is not something that happens in day. It is work over an extended period of time. I love this quote from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. From Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), U.S. president. Broadside distributed to agents of the New York Life Insurance Company (1932).
If I were going to suggest more ways to overcome our collective inertia in this work, I would suggest taking classes, watching more online instruction and using the help menus for all of the programs. If we are called to lead, let us lead. If we are called to follow, let us follow. But in either case, let us do the work.