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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Response to Supreme Court Decision on Marriage

Those who framed our constitutional government recognized that there was a need for balance between the various governmental institutions. During a crucial time at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in July of 1787, the Convention was deadlocked over the issue of representation. Quoting from the United States Senate website, "July 16, 1787, A Great Compromise:"
In the weeks before July 16, 1787, the framers had made several important decisions about the Senate’s structure. They turned aside a proposal to have the House of Representatives elect senators from lists submitted by the individual state legislatures and agreed that those legislatures should elect their own senators. 
By July 16, the convention had already set the minimum age for senators at thirty and the term length at six years, as opposed to twenty-five for House members, with two-year terms. James Madison explained that these distinctions, based on “the nature of the senatorial trust, which requires greater extent of information and stability of character,” would allow the Senate “to proceed with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom than the popularly elected branch.” 
The issue of representation, however, threatened to destroy the seven-week-old convention. Delegates from the large states believed that because their states contributed proportionally more to the nation’s financial and defensive resources, they should enjoy proportionally greater representation in the Senate as well as in the House. Small-state delegates demanded, with comparable intensity, that all states be equally represented in both houses. When Sherman proposed the compromise, Benjamin Franklin agreed that each state should have an equal vote in the Senate in all matters—except those involving money.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, delegates worked out a compromise plan that sidetracked Franklin’s proposal. On July 16, the convention adopted the Great Compromise by a heart-stopping margin of one vote.
The Senate article further explains the Great Compromise as follows:
Their so-called Great Compromise (or Connecticut Compromise in honor of its architects, Connecticut delegates Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth) provided a dual system of congressional representation. In the House of Representatives each state would be assigned a number of seats in proportion to its population. In the Senate, all states would have the same number of seats.
Another crucial issue in the formation of our system of government was also established by the Constitution; the Separation of Powers. The history of our government since the passage of the Constitution has been, in part, a struggle between the three governing bodies: the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court. When the balance of power shifts towards any one of these entities, at the expense of the will of the people, we are in danger of tyranny.

One idea that came from the Constitutional Convention concerning the Separation of Powers, was to organize the Congress with a system of checks and balances through different methods of representation and that the other branches of the government would also moderate each other's actions. To refer to a quote from James Madison in the Federalist Papers, No. 51 (1788):
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
I speak about this subject both as an experienced trial attorney who has taught and argued constitutional law, and also as an active member and supporter of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My comments are not made as a representative of the Church in any capacity. The position of the Church has been made clear in press releases available on the LDS.org website. I wholeheartedly support and affirm the position of the Church.

The danger we face as citizens is not so much wrapped up in any one decision of the Supreme Court as it is tied more strongly to the Rule of Law and the ability of the citizens of this country to govern themselves through a representative system.

In reading a number of commentaries about the recent Supreme Court decision, it was interesting to note that very few news articles mentioned the name of the case and almost none referred to the actual Court opinion. For reference, here is the name of the case and a link to the Slip Opinion:

Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al. Argued April 28, 2015, Decided June 26, 2015.

I have a somewhat unique background in litigation and court decisions about marriage issues. Some of my ancestors were known as polygamists and convicted in the Federal Courts of unlawful cohabitation. One, that I know of, was sent to prison after his conviction. The law then and now, concerning so-called polygamy, is based, in part, on a series of statutes passed by the United States Congress including the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 (37th United States Congress, Sess. 2., ch. 126, 12 Stat. 501) and a subsequent law entitled the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1882 and other legislation. The Edmunds-Tucker act declared "polygamy a felony, revoking a polygamist's right to vote, making them ineligible for jury service, and prohibiting them from holding political office. These restrictions were enforced regardless of whether an individual was actually practicing polygamy, or merely believed in the Mormon doctrine of plural marriage without actually participating in it. All elected offices in the Utah Territory were vacated, an election board was formed to issue certificates to those who both denied polygamy and did not practice it, and new elections were held territory-wide." See Wikipedia: Latter Day Saint polygamy in the late-19th century. The climax of this legislation and the subsequent decision of the Supreme Court was that all of the property of the Church was confiscated by the Federal Government in 1887.

The constitutionality of that act and the seizure of church property was upheld by a Supreme Court decision in a case called Reynolds v. United States decided in 1890.

Years before the decision of the Supreme Court, an army under the direction of General Albert Sidney Johnston (who was to fight for the South in the Civil War) was sent to Utah to enforce the Federal Law and to "quell the Utah insurrection." This event is known as the Utah War.

In light of this history, only briefly outlined here, it is not surprising at all that the Church and its members would be concerned about the recent Supreme Court decision on a similar topic; marriage. The concerns expressed that this Supreme Court decision could result in active persecution of the Church and its members is firmly based in history. What happened before, could happen again.

The dissenting opinions to the decision of the Supreme Court in Obergefell strike directly at the issues I raise above. Quoting from the dissent by Justices, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas:
But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton) (capitalization altered).
Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational. In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition. 
Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.
The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.” Ante, at 11, 23. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are? 
The dissent further quotes Justice Curtis in his historic dissent to the Court's decision in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, 19 How. 393 (1857) as follows:
Justice Curtis explained that when the “fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws [are] abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control” the Constitution’s meaning, “we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is, according to their own views of what it ought to mean.” Id., at 621
Exactly my point. I respectfully agree with the dissent. Who do we think we are? I would encourage all who are concerned about the long-term ramifications of the Court's decision to read and re-read the dissent.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Basic Challenges with FamilySearch Partner Programs

For some time now, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had "free" access to four major online family history database programs. In case you have been ignoring family history completely during the last two years, the four programs are;


I recently taught a class on MyHeritage.com and the difficulties experienced and expressed by the class members seems to be a general issue with first-time users who try to get access to the programs. Mind you, these are not problems with any one of the programs themselves but reflect basic problems with accessing the "free" accounts. I put the word "free" in quotes, because, in reality, nothing about these or any program is free. The user has to have a computer, some basic computer skills and access to the Internet. All of this takes time and money. In addition, effectively, the members of the Church have paid for this access with their tithing and other contributions.

Here is the list of challenges I commonly observe and a brief explanation of the solution to each one.

1. The potential user of the programs has a basic problem with his or her own email account.

When the user registers for FamilySearch.org, they fail to add an email account or after registering for FamilySearch.org, they change their primary email account and do not change it on their FamilySearch.org Settings. The Settings are found in a pull-down menu that appears by clicking in the user's name. The selection tab in the Settings Menu is called "Contact." The new user needs to check to see if the email listed in this Contact section is the one they are currently using. The issues I encounter most frequently, include the fact that the person trying to sign up for the Partner programs has changed their email and not updated FamilySearch.org or has forgotten how to access their email program. All of the Partner programs use the email account registered in FamilySearch.org, either to verify access to the free programs or as the main login. The email used to register for the accounts must be the same as the one used to register for FamilySearch.org.

This leads to the next issue.

2. The potential user has forgotten one or more of their passwords and does not have them written down.

FamilySearch.org has made it as easy as possible to restore a lost password, but if the person is trying to restore a lost password from one of the Partner programs, they then need to access their email account and many people have forgotten the password they used to access their email account. There are many ways to record and recall passwords, but the need to have passwords available is somehow lost on a huge percentage of the people. I suggest either having them in a password protection program or recording them in a code fashion on a piece of paper you carry with you in your wallet or purse. I have had whole classes of people come to the Family History Library and almost none of them could access FamilySearch.org or any other program because they had registered and could not remember their passwords.

3. When potential users register for the Partnership programs, they fail to check all the boxes and do not completely register for the free LDS Access.

I have literally had hundreds of people who have gone through the registration process, or so they thought, and had the Partner programs advise them that they needed to pay for an account to access some features. There are parts of some of the programs that are not available with the LDS Access subscription, but these messages are for the regularly available features. The only solution to this problem is to go through the registration process again (maybe more than once) and make sure to check all the right boxes and agree to the provisions of the program. You also need to remember that if you have ever been into one of these programs previously with your same email address, they program will consider you a previous user and you must make that selection upon re-registering.

4. The potential user has no idea what they are going to do with the program once they are registered.

I get endless questions about the reasons for signing up for these programs at all. It takes me sometime to explain to potential users what they have and how to use the programs. Even when they do overcome all the sign-up problems, they still have no idea why they have gone through that procedure. This is a common reaction among those who have done little or no online family history research or are even interested in doing so. I get all levels of experience in my classes. Most of the people are eager to learn, but there always seem to be a number of participants who came for reasons other than learning (dragged along by a wife or husband perhaps) and simply refuse to become interested.

5. The user's computer skills are so lacking that they cannot find the menus or follow the instructions.

This is really one of the most common problems and it is not necessarily limited to "old timers." In groups of young people, I often find them off looking at websites on the Internet or lost and unable to locate the programs. Just because a person can send text messages with a smartphone does not mean they can do family history research.

These are the most common problems. I can tell that FamilySearch and the Partner programs have tried very hard to minimize the difficulties experienced by the users, but they will likely never get the process down to the level of those who have these kinds of problems. Meanwhile, I will keep teaching classes and helping people on an individual basis.

See Partner Access to get started. See also "FamilySearch Partnerships: Some Questions and Answers."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Family History Missionary Opportunities

For more than ten years, I have been serving as a Family History Church Service Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife and I began our service in 2005 and with one or two short breaks, I have been serving since that first opportunity. Our initial service was at the Mesa Family History Center, now called the Mesa FamilySearch Library (presently closed for upgrade). When we moved to Provo, Utah, we immediately began serving at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and just recently renewed our calls for another two years.

Family History Church Missionaries can serve from home, serve close to home (like we do) or away from home. Men who serve need to be 18 years old or older and women need to be 19. As we have seen, there is almost no limit to the upper age, as long as the person serving has the physical capacity to serve. The time commitment is a minimum of eight hours per week. Church Service Missionaries serve for a minimum of 6 months, but they can also serve for 12, 18, and 24 months. The missionaries can also extend their callings, as we have several times, but every 30 months they need to submit a new Recommend Form. See Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

My schedule is rather flexible. I usually serve consistently one or two days a week, but I frequently serve four or more days a week. My wife and I both have additional Ward callings. We also presently have an additional calling in our Area.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I did not have the opportunity of serving frequently in a major Family History Library or Center. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and wonderful experiences I have had in working with missionaries and patrons. I hope to keep working until I am physically or mentally unable to do so.

I would invite you to seriously consider the option of a Church Service Mission. Click here for more information.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Training Page from the FSFamilyTreeUserGroup



The FSFamilyTreeUserGroup has created a single page contents page for their library of instructional materials for use in conjunction with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. The page can be accessed by clicking on this link. The materials linked on this page are high quality classroom or group teaching materials that are able to be freely used to teach about the Family Tree.

Those who contribute to the FSFamilyTreeUserGroup are looking for feedback and comments. Please take the time to send in some comments.

Read Only on FamilySearch Family Tree

I was surprised recently to find the my Great-grandfather, John Hamilton Morgan, was marked "Read Only" in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Here is a screenshot of the page:


This will likely occur more and more frequently in the Family Tree and it is important to understand why and how it happens.

The current basic reference is found in the Help Center for FamilySearch.org. The article is entitled, "One of my relatives has a restricted record." Here is a screenshot of part of the article:


You should be aware that these entries can and do change frequently. It is always a good idea to check with the Help Center entries before becoming frustrated over any change on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree.

What is happening here and only partially explained by the article, is that the Family Tree is a moderated wiki. This means that changes to the tree are not a Wild West shoot out, but the individuals in the Family Tree are subject to being "locked" and there are and will be more such locked individuals in the future. As the article explains, any changes to a "Read Only" individual must be submitted by the users and approved by FamilySearch.

In my case, the reason is likely because this particular ancestor was prominent in Utah history. Historical figures and other frequently changed individuals may also fall into this category. You need to be aware of this trend and realize that much of what we see today in the Family Tree is subject to revision.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Entirely New View on FamilySearch Family Tree

In between my morning class and the one in the early afternoon, FamilySearch.org completely updated the Family Tree program. Here is the new look to an individual's Detail page. The main changes are to the Family Members section:


This is sort-of a no net gain/no net loss change. I mean that it doesn't affect the operation of the program and it doesn't seem to add any features or functionality that wasn't already there. If I am wrong and missing something, I suppose someone will leave a comment correcting my error. The little icon on the redesigned children and spouses is a link to edit the relationship. The empty photo circles just seem decorative at the moment, but who knows (except FamilySearch) what might happen to the program before my next class.

Blog Update from FamilySearch

FamilySearch has been busy recently adding a lot of blog posts. Most the offerings in June 2015, so far, have related to Father's Day. But there are a smattering of posts on updates and other announcements. This list has been formatted into a citation format for the first time and put in alphabetical order:

Amanda L. Wallis. “FamilySearch Adds More Than 3.7 Million Indexed Records and Images for Belgium, England, Germany, the Philippines, and the United States.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familysearch-adds-37-million-indexed-records-images-belgium-england-germany-philippines-united-states/.
Bingaman, Tim. “United States Research Seminar.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/united-states-research-seminar/.
Blogger, Guest. “Dallas Genealogical Society’s 2015 Summer Symposium.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/dallas-genealogical-societys-2015-summer-symposium/.
———. “Fathers Around Us.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/fathers/.
———. “The Testimony of a Youth Family History Consultant.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/testimony-youth-family-history-consultant/.
Davidson, Bill. “My Father Is My Hero.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/father-hero/.
Davidson, Rose. “Just Me and My Dad.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/dad/.
Decker, Steven. “Get Out – A Father’s Day Story.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/fathers-day-story/.
Duran, Rodrigo. “A Second Rescue in Santiago Chile.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/rescue-santiago-chile/.
Greener, Glen N. “Father’s Day Recollections.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/fathers-day-recollections/.
Gurtler, Deborah S. “The Great Family Reunion Wrap Up.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/great-family-reunion-wrap/.
Howard, Hadley Duncan. “Youth Find Strength in Service to Their Community and Ancestors.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/youth-find-strength-service-community-ancestors-2/.
Judson, Michael. “A Call to Arms (and Hands and Fingers!).” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/call-arms-hands-fingers/.
———. “Why Is Joan Smiling? Why Is Ingrid Frowning?” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/joan-smiling-ingrid-frowning/.
Kemp, Thomas Jay. “GenealogyBank Announces Huge New Collection of Online Newspapers.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/genealogybank-announces-huge-collection-online-newspapers/.
———. “GenealogyBank’s Detailed Revolutionary War Burial Lists.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/genealogybanks-detailed-revolutionary-war-burial-lists/.
Kuehn, Duncan. “Three Loving Couples with Lasting Bonds.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/loving-couples-lasting-bonds/.
Mayer, Jan. “Living With a Super Hero.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/living-super-hero/.
McBride, Lisa. “The Fruit Thereof, It Filled My Soul with Exceeding Great Joy.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/fruit-thereof-filled-soul-exceeding-great-joy/.
Murphy, Nathan. “#RootsTech2015 Video Interviews by Lisa Louise Cooke.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/rootstech2015-video-interviews-lisa-louise-cooke/.
Pysnak, Sylvie. “June, 2015—Teach Yourself and Others: New Online Training Now Available.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/june-2015teach-online-training/.
Reed, Thom. “Breaking Through the 1870 Brick Wall: The Significance of the Freedmen’s Bureau Records.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/breaking-1870-brick-wall-significance-freedmens-bureau-records/.
Sagers, Diane. “10 Things Dad Taught Us On the Way to Somewhere Else.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/10-dad-taught/.
Shelley, Savannah Kate. “Looking Down the Line: Golfing Today and Yesterday.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/line-golfing-today-yesterday/.
Slaugh, Eric. “Making Family History Impactful for Me: The View from a Young Single Adult.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/making-family-history-impactful-view-young-single-adult/.
Sorenson, Yvonne. “Free Webinar—Learn How to Find Your Danish Ancestors.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/free-webinarlearn-danish-genealogy-research/.
“Start Your Family Tree.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/start-family-tree/.
Steele, Logan. “Top Ten Reasons Why Dad Is the Best!” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/top-ten-reasons-dad/.
Steve Anderson. “CNN Reports on the Challenges of Cambodian Saints Searching for Their Ancestors.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/cnn-reports-challenges-cambodian-saints-searching-ancestors/.
———. “Find Your Ancestors Using Immigration and Naturalization Sources.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/find-ancestor-immigration-naturalization-sources/.
———. “New Collections Recently Added to FamilySearch—May 2015.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/collections-added-familysearchmay-2015/.
———. “What’s New on FamilySearch—June, 2015.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familysearchjune-2015/.
———. “What’s the Value in Doing Descendancy Research?” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/whats-descendancy-research/.
Tanner, Ron. “FAQ — 2-Year Reservation Release.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/reservationreleasefaq/.
“What’s New on FamilySearch—June, 2015.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familysearchjune-2015-2/.
Woods, Debra. “How Partner Sites Can Help You Find a New Name to Submit to the Temple: Records.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/partner-sites-find-submit-temple-records/.
———. “She Told Me She Loves Me.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/told-loves/.
Wright, Matt. “Family History and Temple Work—The Ultimate Mission Prep.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familyhistorymissionprep/.
———. “It’s Sunday Afternoon—Help!” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/sundayafternoon/.
———. “Sunday Family History Activities for Kids.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/sundaykidsactivities/.
———. “You’re Already Doing Family History.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed June 25, 2015. https://familysearch.org/blog/en/alreadydoingfamilyhistory/.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Watching the Avalance


I have been fascinated with avalanches since I was carried down a mountainside in an avalanche in the Wasatch Mountains a few years ago. You can get a brief idea of my perspective on avalanches from the short video above as I rode the avalanche about 1000 vertical feet down the side of the mountain.

Sometimes, I get a similar feeling (although minus the death issues) from watching the huge numbers of records being added almost daily to the FamilySearch.org Historical Record Collections. A screenshot of the most recent additions shows millions of new records being added or updated.


You can see the list sorted by the most recently added or updated records by clicking on the colomn title "*Last Undated." If I click on the the name of one of the collections added, such as the Vermont, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1732 - 2005, I would see the following:


If you look closely, you will see that there are 1,386,297 images in this one collection. If I look at one of the images, I would see something like the following:


In other words, there are a number of entries on every page so the total number of individuals in the collections is much higher than the number of images.

One thing you can see from the partial list above is the need for Indexing. All of the collections labeled "Browse Images" are waiting to be indexed. In addition, many of the collections that show numbers of records are far from being completely digitized. For example, the United States, Freedmen's Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872 show 4,641 records. By clicking on the name, you can see that there are many more images, 44,734 to be exact. Here is the screenshot showing the number of images:


FamilySearch.org is not unique among the large online, genealogy database programs in adding millions of records. Any researcher should be aware that the number of records in these programs increases almost daily.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Indexes and Record Images in a Single View on FamilySearch Family Tree

In a blog post by Jim Ericson, FamilySearch announced a new search experience on FamilySearch.org that allows researchers to compare extracted indexes and the image the index came from in a single view, which results in fewer clicks and faster conclusions. The post is entitled, "FamilySearch Combines Indexes and Record Images in a Single View."

To begin to understand how this works, here is a screenshot of a search for a U.S. Federal Census record:


As you can see the basic information from the record has been extracted in the index entry, seen above. You can also view the image of the original record. This is important because the extracted information may not be correctly interpreted from the document itself. Here is the view of the document accessed by clicking the link.


The new part of this experience is the added indexed area outlined in red. Now there is no need to switch back to the first indexed view of the record. You can see exactly what the indexer interpreted from the record. Now, all that is needed is a way to enter an alternate reading of the document if the information in the index is wrong. Since this is a record about my family, I am more likely able to accurately read the handwriting of the original document, so it would be very helpful to be able to attach a "alternate reading." It would be even more helpful if the alternate reading then became searchable.

This is a great step by FamilySearch. As stated by FamilySearch in the post:
Volunteers have indexed billions of names from historical records that have been digitized and made available at FamilySearch.org. The indexing process makes key pieces of information from the original record searchable using modern technology, so researchers can find a record based on name, date, location, relationships, and other key pieces of information. While these indexes are invaluable, those reviewing records must still compare the index with the digitized image to ensure the index is accurate and to discover additional information that was not indexed. Prior to this new improvement, the indexed information and the actual digital image were only found on separate web pages. This meant that comparing the two versions of information required navigating back and forth between the index and the image or opening up multiple tabs or browser sessions to compare the pages side by side. 
Now, the new hybrid record view makes the information that was indexed from an historical record visible when reviewing the digitized image of the record. This is achieved by creating a split pane, where the index appears below the image.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What about the pioneers? Where do we find their records?

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can trace their ancestry back to "pioneers." In Utah, pioneers are technically defined as people who arrived in Utah between 1847 and 10 May 1869, when the railroad was completed. Generally, people who died on the way to Utah are also considered pioneers. See National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, Pioneer History. But the main issue here is not "pioneers" per se, but immigrants and travelers. Even including Native Americans, all of us living on the American continents have immigrant ancestors. The only difference is the time they arrived.

But more particularly, I would like to focus on the people who came to the western states of the United States (sometimes before they were part of the United States) and settled. In Utah, we have a specialized State holiday on the 24th of July to celebrate the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. I could get picky and note that some of the "pioneers" arrived before the 24th of July, 1847, but the official day is celebrated on the 24th.

When I was growing up, during the summers in Eastern Arizona, the 24th of July was the biggest and most celebrated holiday of the year. We had a rodeo, a Camporama (outdoor picnic event), a parade, dances, barbecues, races, and a lot more activities.

Many of those with pioneer ancestors do not know much about the details of their journey to Utah or other states. Where do we go to find these records? This is probably one of the most well documented area of our collective history, but there is still a lot of room for discovery.

You might also want to remember the Family History Library and the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. They both have extensive online catalogs.

I already mentioned the Sons of the Utah Pioneers website. There is also a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers website. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (usually called the DUP) also has an extensive museum in Salt Lake City, Utah called The Pioneer Memorial Museum. Almost every town of any significant size in Utah also has a museum or historical society. If you can locate where your ancestors first settled or where they ended up, you should take to the time to visit the local facilities. Here is a sample of some of the museums and societies:
Here is another list of resources from the Utah Division of State History:
You might also want to look at the following:
Well, that should get you started in finding out about your ancestors as pioneers. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Are We Really Related?


This morning, I used the Relative Finder program to check to see if I am related to my wife in some way. I showed that I was a 6th cousin, 1 times removed to her father and a 7th cousin, 1 time removed to her mother. Does that make us related? The relationships provided by any program such as Relative Finder is ultimately limited by the accuracy of the data upon which the relationships are calculated. For this reason, many "serious" family historians dismiss the program as a novelty and not a useful tool.

I have been thinking about the Relative Finder program and see that it can be a valuable research tool. What is more interesting to me than the possible relationship, is the fact that the connections come through lines that are actively being researched by both families. It is possible that further research will either confirm or deny any potential 6th or 7th generation relationship. The fact that the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program shows such a relationship is an incentive to involve both my wife's family and my own family in a joint project.

If you think about the way that Relative Finder works, you will begin to realize that the program is far more valuable than merely demonstrating potential and sometimes inaccurate relationships. When I show all relatives, the program, I will see that I have a relationship with those individuals in other groups calculated in the program. In my case for example, I see potential ancestral connections in groups that are well documented. This opens up the possibility that my own ancestral research can expand into the records of that particular group. For example, many of my "relatives"  and a few of my direct line ancestors appear in the Joseph Smith Papers, a project of extensive documentary research. Perhaps, some of the issues I have to resolve with my own ancestral lines can be clarified by using that research source.

For this reason alone, Relative Finder goes well beyond the realm of mere interest and novelty to become a serious aid to research. Most of the discussion of the program has centered on the novelty of finding a relationship to a "famous" person. Although many have emphasized the importance of this novel attraction to motivate an interest in family history, those of us who are more involved in family history and doubt the validity of the program need to reassess our attitude towards the program and realize its potential for aiding research. Without the example of Relative Finder's connections to the Joseph Smith Papers, for example, would I think to look in that resource for information about my ancestors?



If we dwell on the assumed inaccuracy of the Relative Finder program will will lose the opportunities presented by its positive benefits.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

LDS Church Records for Family History

Many of the extensive records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are available online, other historical church records are available in microfilm copies. The two main sources of such records are the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Church History Library also located in Salt Lake City. Both of these libraries have extensive online catalogs.

One of the most useful categories of records are the Census Records kept by the Church. These records include the following categories:


Additional types of records include the following:
  • LDS Emigration and Immigration describes the records of Saints who emigrated from Britain, Europe, and Scandinavia, and the journey of the pioneers to Utah.
  • LDS Missionaries gives information about indexes and records of members who served full-time missions for the Church.
  • LDS Patriarchal Blessings discusses how to find copies of blessings given by Church patriarchs, and explains their genealogical value.
  • LDS Priesthood Records explains what quorum records are, how to find them, and how to trace priesthood lineages.
  • LDS Temple Records describes how to locate official documents created by temple recorders showing living and proxy priesthood ordinations, endowments, sealings to parents, and sealings to spouse.
  • Ward Membership Records
Some of the most valuable Ward Membership Records are the Annual Genealogical Reports, Form-E. These are described by the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki as follows:
The “Form Es” were submitted at the end of each year by Ward clerks to the Stake. They were kept concurrently with the membership records. They contain blessings, baptisms, confirmations, priesthood ordinations, marriages, missionaries leaving or returning, divorces, excommunications and deaths.
These are generally available on microfilm and can be found in the FamilySearch.org Catalog by the location of the Ward under Church Records.

Many wards and stakes of the Church compiled extensive histories. A significant collection of these histories are digitized and available on FamilySearch.org in the Books section. Additional records may be available in local branch, ward and stake libraries throughout the world.

Friday, June 19, 2015

More Discussion about Birth Names on FamilySearch Family Tree

Commentator Enno Borgsteede left the following question on my recent post entitled, "Birth Names on FamilySearch Family Tree."
In todays "Weekly FamilySearch changes for things you are watching", I found 4 ancestors/cousins whose alternate name was updated by FamilySearch. In all 4 cases, the alternate name was of type birth name, and identical to the primary name shown on top of the person screen.

For 3, the alternate but identical birth name was added on June 12, without any other change, meaning that the persons were not merged or modified in any other way. only the birth name was added as an alternate. One other person had 2 alternate names added, on June 10 and 18, both of type birth name, and also identical to the primary name.

Since they look redundant, I'm inclined to remove them, but if there's some sort of automated process that adds them, this feels like not making much sense, because then I would be fighting a computer program. Any idea what to do? Can they be results of data moving over that doesn't show as a merge, because it isn't a merge, technically?
The answer to this question and the associated issues is quite complex. Yes, there is an "automated process" that adds them into the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Here is another example of the "Birth Name" list for one of my ancestors.


Some of these variations may actually be Alternative Names, but the question is this: What was this person called on the earliest record available? If there is some sort of birth record, then that is the name that needs to be entered. If there is some sort of later record, the earliest recorded name is the proper one to record. It might also help to find a document where the person recorded their own name (assuming they could read and/or write).

As I have written previously, this list of names is a reflection of the historical submissions of this person as shown in the FamilySearch files. These submissions include the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, the Pedigree Resource File, the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Church's temple records.

In some cases, not shown above, this list might indicate a wrongly combined individual from new.FamilySearch.org. In the case above, all of the names seem to be variations on the spelling of the primary name in the Vital Information area.

What is the significance of an indication that there are one or more wrongly combined records? First of all, you should not be asking this question unless and until you have documented your family line back to this person (or the person with the list containing a suggested wrongful combination). If we need an example of wrongfully combined individuals that create a problem, all we have to do on this line is go to Thomas Brownell's wife, Esther. At this point is is important to understand this is one of the most documents lines in my entire pedigree because this is the line I have documented back to the Mayflower passengers. However, the current status of the Family Tree would not seem to indicate this connection. Here is a screenshot of the issue:


In this particular case, there multiple copies of this same individual with multiple copies of his wife and children. There are nine different sets of parents for Esther Taber. What can we do with all these copies? All of the descendants of these individuals need to be "cleaned up" before we address this issue. If we look at Esther Taber's husband Thomas Brownell we see the following list of "Birth
Names:"
  • Birth Name: Thomas Brounell
  • Birth Name: Thomas Brownell Jr
  • Birth Name: Thomas Brownelle
  • Birth Name: Poss Thomas Brownell
  • Birth Name: Living
  • Birth Name: Thomas II Brownell
  • Birth Name: Thomas Browell
  • Birth Name: * Thomas BROWNELL
  • Birth Name: Thomas Brownwell
  • Birth Name: Thomas Brownell
The variations here need to be resolved before we address the problems with Phillip Taber. In fact, it would be necessary to go back several generations before the individuals were settled enough to attempt to make changes. In my case on these lines, I am waiting for the Family Tree to "settle down" a bit before I tackle these obvious errors.

Unless we clear up the earlier generations first, we risk losing all of our work due to choosing the wrong alternate line to work on.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Issue of Combined Records on FamilySearch Family Tree

Here is part of a recent comment from commentator, Gordon Collett:
Here is the answer for this blog. Incorrectly combined records from New Family Search are a major concern. Sometimes wildly incorrect alternate names in Family Tree are the last remaining clue that an incorrect merge occurred. Take your example of Jeane Cheverill and Jane Richard. Those two last names are so different that it is highly likely that a bad merge took place in New Family Search. This means that without checking, you don’t know what information in the Family Tree record, including birth information, death information, marriage information, spouses, and children are Jeane’s and which are Jane’s. These are all fairly easily to correct by going back to the records, correcting the information for your ancestor, and letting the descendants of Jane recreate a record for Jane, or work of an existing duplicate for her, and correct her record. What is not so easy to correct, however, is the ordinance page. Currently, looking at that page, there is no way to tell which ordinances are Jeane’s and which are Jane’s. For all you know, Jeane has never had any ordinances done at all even though they look complete, because all the ordinances showing are Jane’s. 
We’ve been told on the Family Search feedback boards that at some point in the future, Family Search will give us the ability to look up our ancestors in the ordinance database and verify that the ordinances showing in Family Tree really belong to our ancestors and that we will be able to request corrections in Family Tree. At this point, where there has been an obvious bad merge in Family Tree, I am putting a note to that effect, warning that the ordinances showing may not be valid. Also, I am very glad that I have never gotten around to copying any ordinance information from New Family Search or Family Tree into my personal home computer genealogy program (except for ordinance work my family has personally done) so all the dates there are from the IGI, that is pre-NFS, and I know those dates are correct. 
This is a screenshot of the list he is referring to a person named Jeane (Jane) Cheverill b. 1674:


Let me point out a few additional comments and issues.

Most of the names appearing in this particular list are obvious mistakes. For example, Mrs. Morgan. However, let's suppose that there are two entries that have been wrongfully combined; one for a person named Jeane Cheverill and another for a person named Jane Cheverill. Since there are no sources attached to this person, how can I tell, from this record, that there are, in fact, two different people combined in this record?

In some cases, this may be very difficult to determine without access to the list of combined individuals. Are we then to assume, in all these suspicious cases, that ordinance work needs to be redone to assure ourselves that it has been completed for both combined records? I think not. This case is probably more typical than it is unique.

This particular line was part of my initial survey beginning over thirty years ago. In fact, as far as my records are concerned, my extended line differs considerably from what is presently in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. For all practical purposes, my line ends some generations before the one shown on the Family Tree. I suggest that as I begin working on this particular problem, which presently is not on my short list of things to do, that the issues will be resolved. I am guessing that this particular line will "disappear" from my pedigree with further research.

The combined person issue has some other aspects. Given the origin of the information poured into new.FamilySearch.org, the ordinance work for these individuals with multiple submissions, as evidenced by the number of alternative birth names, was more than likely done multiple times. Arguably, if this is not the case and your ancestor was wrongly combined with one of these multiple combination people (aka IOUSs) then you will not see that all the ordinances have been done for your person, they will simply not be in the Family Tree.

Essentially, there may well be a good reason to verify that all the ordinances have been done when and if, such a list becomes available, but presently there is really not a great need for concern. Not only were the ordinances done for these individuals, but what is more likely, the ordinances have been done multiple times for all of the combined individuals, both real and imaginary on this list.

The real solution to this problem is what I am in the process of doing, working systematically through my pedigree on all my lines, adding copious sources and verifying every possible date and event. Right now, I see no need to be concerned about the fact that one of my ancestors may have missed an ordinance when the opposite, multiple ordinances, has been the case for many years.