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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Family History on the LDS Media App
The LDS Media App is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can download the app to your smartphone or tablet or iPad from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store for free. The LDS Media App page on (see above) has links to Guides for both versions of the app. Quoting from the webpage:
Wherever you teach, the LDS Media Library app gives you complete and searchable access to the Church media library. Complement Sunday lessons, Family Home Evenings, or missionary discussions with easy-to-find videos, images, and music content.
The resources on the LDS Media App can also be downloaded for use without an internet connection. Items are downloaded automatically so they can be used for lessons and other presentations. One very important point is that the videos of conference talks or other videos can be trimmed down to play only the portion you want to present. Cable adapters can also connect your device directly to a monitor, TV or projector for use in a class.

You will be surprised at what you might find for use in family history classes or for talks about family history. A search for media will result in dozens of images and videos.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Family History Mission: Changes from the Past

Large wall plaque in the Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah
No. 7

I could not help but reflect back on my experiences years ago in the Language Training Mission held in the old Knight-Mangum Hall on the Brigham Young University Campus and compare my original experiences with those we experienced in the Missionary Training Center or MTC this past week.
Here is a quote from a Deseret News article entitled, "The development of the Language Training Mission (LTM)."
Previously serving as a women’s dormitory, the Knight-Mangum Hall on the southeast edge of BYU’s campus became the central office for what became known as the Language Training Mission on June 16, 1963. All missionaries learning a foreign language were sent to the LTM, with similar facilities eventually established at Ricks College (for Dutch and Scandinavian languages) and at the Church College of Hawaii (for Polynesian and Asian languages). Through August 1976, the Knight-Mangum Hall served as a place for missionaries to live, eat, learn and worship.
Recently, Knight-Mangum Hall was demolished to make way for the new Brigham Young University Engineering Building.

My mission experience as a young man began with a trip to the Salt Lake Mission home on North Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. We were there for one week before being transported to the LTM in Provo. You can get an idea of our life there from an article entitled, "A Day in the LIfe of a Language Training Missionary," published in the New Era in March of 1971. Our experience in the LTM was vastly different than the one experienced today in the MTC. In fact, in talking to senior missionaries this past week who have served missions previously in the past few years, they also said that today's program is vastly different than it was just a few short years ago.

When I started at the old LTM in 1964, they were only teaching a few languages. Today, the MTC teaches 55 different languages. But the main differences come from the emphasis and the training offered to the new missionaries. The current MTC experience is centered on teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Preach My Gospel publication. Our instruction during the week was a mixture of practical lessons including using electronic devices and the apps available to testimony building activities in actually presenting lessons to others.

The experiences I had at the LTM were intensive and life-changing, but I can tell from our short first week at the MTC, that today's missionaries are vastly more prepared to serve than we ever were.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Inactive Ordinance Reservations Being Released

Today, 9 December 2017, the following announcement appeared on my startup page of
The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun unreserving user temple reservations that have been inactive for more than two years. If you have reservations that you haven’t been able to complete, now is a good time to share them with family members via email, or with the temple. 
Unreserving inactive temple reservations has become a priority due to the large number of ordinances that currently fit that two-year window, and is in line with instruction from the First Presidency to ensure that temple work for ancestors is completed in a timely manner. The process of unreserving ordinances that have extended beyond two years is being repeated periodically on an ongoing basis.
The issue behind this action is the simple fact that some people are hoarding temple ordinance reservations. The limit for maintaining a long list of reserved ordinances is two years. The reserved ordinances will not "go away" they will just become "unreserved" and return to the Family Tree as "Green Temple Icons." This will give other family members the opportunity to do the temple work.

Some users reserve far more ordinances than they could ever do even if they attended the temple every day it was open, all day long. Realistically, there is a physical limit to the number of reservations that could be accomplished by a single individual.

The announcement gives some options for those who wish to avoid having the reservations unreserved:
What you can do
If you have a large reserved list, there are different things you can do to help ensure that the work for these ancestors is completed in a timely manner. Here are some ideas to help you get started. 
  • Review your temple list: Your temple reservation list is located under the temple tab, which appears in the top navigation once you log in. You can also follow this link. We’ve added the ability to sort the ordinances by reservation date. Check to see which ordinances you will be able to do yourself, and which might be good candidates for sharing.
  • Share with family members via email: We have added the capability to share temple ordinances with family members and friends through email. This is a convenient, “cardless,” way to share the blessings of the temple with the living, and the dead. Click here to learn how this works, or read about someone’s experience with this feature on the FamilySearch Blog.
  • Share with the temple: If you don’t have family members that are able to perform temple ordinances, you can also share the ordinances with the temple. This is a great way to ensure that ordinances are performed expeditiously, as there are members all over the world who regularly attend the temple and need proxy names.
  • Un-reserve/re-reserve: If an ordinance has been on your list for two years, and, for personal or research reasons, it needs to stay there, you can unreserve the ordinance and then re-reserve it to restart the clock.
  • Do nothing: A final option is to just do nothing. The ordinances on your list that exceed the two years will automatically be unreserved and other family members will be able to snap them up.
I have not been waiting for the automatic un-reserving to occur, I have been creating my own unreserved list. See "My Unreserved List."

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Family History Mission: Our First Week in the MTC

The Provo, Utah MTC showing one of the new high-rise classroom buildings. 
No. 6

My wife and I have finished the first of our two weeks in the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center or MTC. It would be an understatement to say that the week passed quickly. Since we live close to the MTC, we stayed at home all week rather than staying at the MTC, but we were there all day, Monday through Friday, and in the evenings on Monday and Tuesday. Overall, we felt that the MTC experience was wonderful and rewarding. We met some wonderful people and had an exceptionally good time.

Quoting from the website:
The roots of the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) go back to the earliest years of this dispensation. Starting in 1832, the School of the Prophets was organized so elders could 'teach one another' the gospel and other subjects and 'be prepared in all things' in their missionary callings (D&C 88:77–80, 118). 
Since that time, the Church has trained missionaries in several different locations, including
  • The Brigham Young Academy (1894)
  • The Ricks Academy (early 1900s)
  • The Latter-Day Saint University (1902)
  • The Salt Lake Mission Home (1924)
  • The Missionary Language Institute (1961)
  • The Language Training Mission (1962; located in Utah, Idaho, and Hawaii)
  • And finally, the Provo Missionary Training Center, which began serving missionaries in 1978.
The MTC’s campus has 19 buildings on a 39-acre site, with a capacity of housing and training 3,700 missionaries. Over 600,000 missionaries from nearly every country in the world have come to the MTC for training. The MTC trains missionaries for all of the Church’s missions and gives instruction in 55 languages.
On my earlier mission to Argentina in 1964, I was sent to the Language Training Mission or LTM at Brigham Young University. I was in the LTM for about twelve weeks to learn Spanish and wait for an entry visa into Argentina. Today's missionaries stay variable time periods for language training, but not 12 weeks.

Our days passed quickly and we had a wonderful time. Highlights of our time at the MTC were the young BYU instructors and the opportunity to associate with and talk to missionaries going to all parts of the world. We had classes primarily focused on our Savior Jesus Christ based on the contents of the Preach My Gospel handbook for missionaries. Although we did not see the visits by General Authorities that were the rule when I entered the Mission Home in Salt Lake City back in 1964, we had wonderful classes and testimonies. Some of the practical experiences we had turned out to be extraordinary opportunities to meet and talk to special people.

The food at the MTC was generally good and it was an experience to see hundreds of young adults consume mountains of food. We ate only lunch at the MTC and ate dinner at home in the evenings. The facilities are spotlessly clean and modern and the entire physical facility is beautifully maintained and accommodating. 

We have really enjoyed our total experience so far. 

Explore the LDS link on The Family History Guide
In the upper right-hand corner of the startup page for The Family History Guide, you will find a link to all of the resources for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Goals for LDS users include the following:
LDS Goals: 1: FamilySearch Icons and Policies 2: Temple Opportunities 3: Descendancy Lines 4: Other Resources 5: Printing Temple Names 6: Reserved Ordinances 7: Inspiration 8: Find, Take, and Teach 9: FHE Activities 10: O-Apps Gallery
In addition, there is a section on the Consultant Planner:

As The Family History Guide continues to evolve and become more valuable, it has become the go-to place for both individual and group training for genealogy around the world.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Family History Mission: MTC update and how you follow our blog

No. 5

We have now spent our first few days in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. We had one day with a little bit of snow and it turned very cold. Because we live very close to the MTC, we are living at home and driving a few blocks every day. There is a large map of the world and all the missionaries have their picture taken pointing to their mission assignment.

There are hundreds of missionaries in the MTC at all times. They come and go by rotation. Right now, there are about 80 or so senior missionaries. They are going to all parts of the world. For example, we have met missionaries going to Africa and to New Zealand. There are about a dozen Record Preservation Missionaries going to different parts of the world to help FamilySearch digitize records. We are the only ones going to the Washington DC North Mission. The missionaries going to countries other than the United States are usually called for 18 months or two years.

Our time at the MTC consists primarily of classes teaching us about our upcoming missionary service. The classes are taught by young returned missionaries attending BYU. It is amazing to see how mature and knowledgeable they are. On our first evening in the MTC, we had a joint meeting with all of the senior missionaries. Almost all of the senior missionaries are married couples except for a few single sister missionaries.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, missionary service is part of the basic religious and social culture of the Church. Quoting from the LDS Newsroom article on the "Missionary Program:"
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' missionary program is one of its most recognized characteristics. Mormon missionaries can be seen on the streets of hundreds of major cities in the world as well as in thousands of smaller communities. 
The missionary effort is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ (see, for example, the work of Peter and John in the book of Acts).
The article goes on to explain,
More than 70,000 full-time missionaries are serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most missionaries are young people under the age of 25, serving in more than 400 missions throughout the world.

Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two years and single women serve missions for 18 months. 
Missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language. 
Prior to going to their assigned area, missionaries spend a short period of time at one of 15 missionary training centers throughout the world. There they learn how to teach the gospel in an orderly and clear way and, if necessary, they begin to learn the language of the people they will be teaching. The largest training center is in Provo, Utah, with additional centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.
Like all of the other missionaries serving the Church, our service is voluntary and self-funded. We pay all of our own expenses while we are serving except travel expenses to and from our mission assignment. We even pay for our food while attending the MTC. Here is a link to a short video further explaining the missionary process.

Mormon Missionaries: An Introduction

How do you follow this blog?

You can use a program such as the Digg Reader or any other reader aggregator program. See "Top 7 Free Online RSS Readers," for a short list.

You can also follow me on Facebook or Google+ and see my blogs as they are posted. You can always check back and see the latest postings anytime.

Correct your Consultant Planner Fan Chart

The Consultant Planner is a marvelous tool for assisting others in discovering their family connections and participating in the Find-Take-Teach program. It allows those with more experience in using the Family Tree to find temple opportunities to help those who have not yet had that opportunity. If you need help with the Consultant Planner, please see the following video on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel.

The FamilySearch Consultant Planner: For Find-Take-Teach and Beyond - Kathryn Grant

When you start using the Consultant Planner to assist someone, you are provided with a fan chart, such as the one above, showing the countries of origin as they are shown on the Family Tree. This is the problem: some of the countries are duplicated or inaccurate. These problems reflect the status of the entries on the Family Tree. If the entries are standardized and/or corrected, then the fan chart will be more accurate. Of course, those helping others to find their own ancestral opportunities are not expected to make the corrections, but everyone should be encouraged to “clean up” their portion of the Family Tree.

Here is an example of what happens when the places are not standardized.

The list includes Utah USA and the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Wales. It also has Denmark and De. For help with Standardization, see the following video from the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel.

The Ins and Outs of Standardized Places and Dates in the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Changes for
Beginning on December 13, 2017, will require all users to register for a free account and sign-in to use the website. Those who have already registered will simply have to sign-in every time they go to the website. Many of us, already sign-in routinely. However previously, many of the resources on the website did not require user sign-in.

The reason for this change is summarized by FamilySearch as follows:
Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.
Essentially, the issue is website security and preserving the integrity of the information. Access to many records and the Family Tree have always required registration and signing in.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Family History Mission: The First Day in the MTC

No. 4

Our first day in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah started out with a light covering of snow and freezing temperatures. There was not enough snow to stick on the streets. It took us just over five minutes to travel down to the MTC and start the check-in process. Everything about the process was completely organized and there were missionaries to answer questions or give directions at every possible turning point. We were scheduled to arrive at 10:40 am and it was soon evident that there had been about a hundred senior missionaries arriving at staggered times during the morning. We were among the last to arrive. We were given a parking pass and a place to park during the time we serve at the MTC.

The overall impression is one of organization and order. As we get to know the other Senior Missionaries, we find that there is a common denominator: we are all old. Otherwise, they come from all over the United States and have varied backgrounds and experiences. There are quite a few Record Preservation Missionaries going to Ohio and other locations. One couple is on their way to Colombia (in South America).

Lunch in MTC is an experience. There is one common lunchroom and it is huge and full of young missionaries; hundreds of them all talking at the same time. The food is about average for a huge institutional organization, but we were speculating about the quantity consumed by all these teenagers and a little older missionaries.

Our instruction in the afternoon and evening was mainly about the Plan of Salvation and based on sections of Preach My Gospel. We will be in the MTC for two weeks. Now we are off to our second day.

This ongoing series of posts will report our mission with the tagline of "A Family History Mission."

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Family History Mission: Why Serve Another Mission?

No. 3

Back in 1964, as a very young man, I began serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Argentine Mission. I spent two full years in Argentina learning to speak Spanish and teaching the people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of modern-day prophets. It was an interesting and challenging time. It is easy for young missionaries to come home and say that their mission was the best two years of their life, but now more than fifty years later, I would have to say that many of my years have been my best two years, in fact, I would probably say that the last two years have been my best.

Over the years, there was always the background idea that someday, I would like to serve another mission. As time passed, my life became more and more focused on family history. What began as a project turned into a passion and that passion became a central goal of my life. Almost fourteen years ago, I was prompted to volunteer to work at the then Mesa Family History Library in Mesa, Arizona. I was still working full-time as a trial attorney but decided I could spare the time to volunteer. I was told that they would rather have me serve as a Church Service Missionary, rather than just volunteer, so after some discussion, both my wife and I decided to serve. When I finished that two-year mission, I just rolled it over into another two years and that just kept happening until I finally moved from Mesa three and half years ago. By then, I had served for about ten years.

Meanwhile, I had retired from my full-time job as a trial attorney and also spent five and half years as an ordinance worker at the Mesa, Arizona Temple.

When we moved to Utah, both my wife and I were already tagged by the Brigham Young University Family History Library and asked to serve another Church Service Mission. Church Service Missionaries are asked to spend, at least, eight hours a week serving. We ended up serving a lot more than that. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the BYU Family History Library. But we all get older and in the back of my mind was the idea that maybe another full-time mission would be possible.

As things worked out, we saw an opportunity to serve a FamilySearch mission in the Washington, D.C. North mission doing document preservation. That seemed like a perfect match for both a missionary opportunity and family history. So now we are on our way to the Missionary Training Center to start another best year of our lives. If I add up the time spent in my original full-time mission and add in the time I spent as a Stake Missionary (a calling that is no longer in existence) and then add in my time at the Mesa Family History Library and here in Provo, I have served over twenty years as a missionary.

This ongoing series of posts will report our mission with the tagline of "A Family History Mission."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Family History Mission: Almost There, Getting Set Apart

No. 2

Our call to the Washington, D.C. North Mission as FamilySearch missionaries will be for one year. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, missionaries and others who serve in various Church related positions, serve as volunteers after being "called" or requested to serve by a person in authority in the Chuch.

As full-time missionaries, after volunteering to serve and after completing all of the requirements, such as medical, dental and financial considerations, we were called by the Prophet and President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson. Once we accepted the call, we began the process of preparing for our mission. As I noted, our call is to a specific mission of the Church that comprises a specific geographic area. We have been specifically called to serve as FamilySearch missionaries and further to digitize historical and genealogically significant records as Record Preservation Specialists to help preserve records at the Maryland State Archives.

Before leaving for our mission, we were also "set apart" as missionaries by our local Stake President. Stake Presidents are the ecclesiastical leaders of a geographic area of the Church comprised of a number of smaller units called Wards. Being set apart is the last step before officially becoming missionaries. Beginning immediately, we will be attending some training at the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center or MTC. Because, we live so close to the MTC, we will be living at home during this training period.

We were fortunate to have one of our daughters and her family as well as five of our grandchildren who are attending Brigham Young University or BYU, in our home for the occassion. Being set apart for a Church calling is a special opportuntity as is explained in a talk given by Elder Kenneth Johnson, of the Seventy, entitled "Called and Set Apart to Serve." See Ensign, June 10, 2010. Elder Johnson explains:
The principle of setting apart those called to serve is expressed in the counsel of the Lord to Moses when He instructed Moses to “lay thine hand upon [Joshua]. … And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him” (Numbers 27:18, 20). 
Through this divinely established pattern, we can rise above our individual frailties, limitations, and even opposition. Consider the experience of Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman: “The Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words” (Helaman 5:45; see also verses 17–19).
Following this anciently established pattern is an important part of the entire experience and process of becoming and being a missionary.

This ongoing series of posts will report our mission with the tagline of "A Family History Mission."

Some Random Observations About The FamilySearch Family Tree

I had a question recently about how many people could be helped and stored in the Family Tree Consultant Planner. I learned that, supposedly, there is no limit to the number of people that can be helped and no time limit yet set on how long they can remain in your Consultant Planner list. Questions like this arise, from time to time, inside continue to work on the Family Tree. This program becomes more complex the questions become more frequent.

The question concerning the Consultant Planner is not a trivial question. For example, initially, there were no limits in the Family Tree program to the number of individual types of Memories that could be stored for an individual. However, eventually, a limit was placed on each type of memory, i.e. photos, documents etc.

As the Family Tree becomes more complex and the underlying programs on the website become more sophisticated, it is inevitable that even people who work with the program frequently will lose touch with all of the features. For example, years ago when I began using wordprocessing programs it was easy to learn all of the functions and features of an individual program such as the early MacWrite program from Apple. However, as word processing programs became more and more complex, I no longer even have an incentive to learn all of the features. There are presently programs that I use regularly, such as Adobe Photoshop, where I have no idea about some of the features of the program, even when those features might be beneficial to my use of the program.

Has the FamilySearch Family Tree program reached the point where the features exceed the ability of the average user to comprehend the program's complexity?

I think we may be getting close to the point where the entire website exceeds the average ability to know about or use all of its functions. Right now, the Family Tree program is about the right level of complexity from my standpoint. However, I also recognize the fact that many other people are completely lost when trying to use the program. I'm certainly not advocating "dumbing down" program. In fact, simplifying the program would begin to destroy its utility.

In making these observations, I also recognize that the complexity of the data far exceeds that of the program itself. Working with the Family Tree program is trivial compared to the complexity of dealing with historical genealogical research and accurately representing that research in the family tree format. Most of the frustration that I see among users of the Family Tree involves the information or data incorporated in the Family Tree, not the program itself. There are however certain functions of the Family Tree that have exceeded the ability of the average user such as the standardization issue. Since I am by no means an average user of any program, how can I make such an observation? Basically, I talk to people about the program almost daily and have done so for years back going back to the program's inception.

Since complexity is inherent in doing genealogical research, making "family history" simplified and available to a low common denominator of user is a really bad idea. The focus of a program such as the Family Tree should be aimed at adequately representing the complexity of the data rather than adapting to the lack of ability of the users. You cannot make this issue go away by ignoring it. No effort to popularize genealogical research will minimize its complexity. Likewise, efforts to simplify the Family Tree program would be misplaced. More effort should be placed on training and supporting users rather than simplifying the program.

 To see my opinion about the need for user training, see The Family History Guide.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Standard Finder or Place Research is still on FamilySearch

The Standard Finder, also known as Place Research, is still on the website although you might have to search for a while to find a link. If the Standard Finder wasn't so hard to find, it would be an excellent reference site for illustrating the standard place names implemented by the website. Illustrated above is a search for the place name, "Colombia." The long list of responses indicates the popularity of this name for places around the Americas. Here is the detail page for Colombia as a country name.

Here is a screenshot of a list of the country name in different languages.

The web page contains a detailed explanation of the Standard Finder application. Quoting from the about Place Research page:
Place Research is a FamilySearch application which provides access to standardized information about locations. This information is used by several FamilySearch applications to assist researchers in searching for exact spellings, checking whether locations exist, as well as determining alternate name spellings/variants to expand research.
This is not a resource that immediately seems useful until you work with it a bit and explore the many options. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Family History Mission: Being Involved in Preparation

No. 1

Introductory note

For those of you who either may be new to this blog or unaware of impending changes, a note of explanation is necessary. My wife and I have been called upon a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Washington DC, North Mission. We will be serving as Record Preservation Missionaries in the Maryland State Archives located in Annapolis, Maryland. We have decided to use our existing blog as a report to talk about our mission experiences. I have chosen the above tagline to identify those blog posts particularly directed at her missionary experiences. Of course, I may also post other items as I have done in the past, depending on the time available.

Preparation can be complicated

Over the past two months, it has become abundantly clear that leaving on a full-time mission for a young missionary is rather simple compared to the complexity of serving a full-time mission as a senior couple. This complexity comes from our involvement in a local ward, and extended family and personal and property interests.

One example involves downsizing from a two-car family to a one car family. Since we will be driving across the United States to serve our mission, we felt it necessary to sell one of our cars rather than leave it sitting for a year. Selling the car turned out to be a rather simple process comparatively. What turned out to be the problem was the remaining car. In gathering important family documents and records, we discovered that we did not have a title to the car. When we purchased the car initially, we finance the car through a bank. The bank loan was paid off years ago but, for some reason, we had never received the title and the bank lien had never been removed from the title. This and other issues involving checking accounts and other financial accounts ended up involving multiple visits to our local bank. Once we got the lien issue resolved, we still had to obtain a title. The problem was that the title was in Arizona and we were in Utah. Conveniently, we took a trip to Arizona to be with her family for Thanksgiving and at the same time visited the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles and got a clear title to our now very well used car.

If you take that experience and multiply it by a few dozen other issues that needed to be resolved, you can see that the idea of preparing for a mission can be complicated. However, throughout this entire experiencing, we have both felt that we were doing the right thing and are anticipating the opportunity we have to serve.

Another, rather sad, experience involves one of my wife's close friends. During our entire preparation time, my wife's friend's husband has been in declining health. As it turns out, one of the last things we will do before entering the Missionary Training Center is to help prepare for a funeral.

Fortunately, we have had excellent support and help from the missionary department and from FamilySearch. Another interesting development has been the rather extensive contact we've had with genealogists and other missionaries serving in the Washington DC area. Primarily, because of my blog and other genealogical activities, we have several contacts now in the area of our mission and likely a number of ways to serve.

We began the process of applying for a full-time mission back in July 2017. We received our mission call rather quickly and were somewhat surprised at what seemed like a long period of waiting before we had to leave. As it turns out, the length of time we had to wait was barely sufficient to take care of all of the details involved. Because we were looking at our personal affairs with the idea of leaving on a mission, we ended up with a long list of items that needed to be resolved that really had nothing to do with submission directly.

In many ways, deciding to serve a full-time mission has already blessed our lives. In a very direct way, our decision to serve a mission has become a catalyst for resolving all sorts of background issues and problems that should have been resolved in any event.

We now only have a few days left before entering the Missionary Training Center. Another interesting difference about our mission is that because we live so close to the MTC we will be living at home rather than at the MTC itself. This is commonly the case with missionaries who live within a certain distance of the MTC.

Stay tuned for further developments. Elder James and Sister Ann Tanner

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Steps for Correcting and Adding Entries to the FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the basic steps in learning to use the Family Tree is understanding the nature of the information presented. The information contained in the entries in the present Family Tree is a composite of the contributions of tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of people for over 150 years. Some of that information is inconsistent, inaccurate and duplicated. Most of us would like to ignore the existing information and move on to try and find new names to add to what is already there. But it is inevitable when we ignore the existing problems that we will be either duplicating work that has already been done or adding people to our family lines who are not our relatives.

During a recent successful research session, I decided to write down and explain each of the steps I went through to add an entirely new family to the Family Tree. Because new information may be added to the Family Tree at any time by some other family member, it is a good idea to go through these steps every time you begin your new research whether you are trying to extend a family line or looking for additional descendants of people already in the Family Tree. Here I go.  If you need any help with the steps outlined below, I suggest that you refer to The Family History Guide. I will be suggesting links to the various sections that might be helpful.

1. Review the existing entries on the Family Tree leading up to the place where you would like to begin your research. 

The step is similar to doing a safety check of an automobile or airplane before traveling. What I am trying to accomplish is verifying that I am actually working on my own family lines and not on someone who is unrelated. Fundamental to this issue is the need to "watch" each of the individuals in your portion of the Family Tree. If you are just beginning, then you need to start with yourself and proceed backward through your parents and grandparents. After this initial survey, you can pick up where you left off previously unless there have been some changes that need to be resolved. See The Family History Guide, Project 1: Family Tree

2. Standardize all dates and places

Standardization may seem to be a bother but it is a necessary housekeeping operation. In fact, the Family Trade now marks nonstandard dates and places with a red caution icon.  See Goals 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.  Here is an example of this particular reference:

3. Review all Sources and add all of the information from the sources to the Vital Information

This might seem to be a simple step but it is essential. With the automatic Record Hints available on the Family Tree that is relatively easy to add a source without making sure that the information in the source agrees with what is shown for the individual's Vital Information. Simply open up each source and check the information to make sure that all of the additions and corrections have been made if appropriate.

4. Delete all Duplicate Birth Names or convert appropriate ones to Alternative Names

Many of the entries, particularly those from previous submissions, have variations in the way that the name of the individual was submitted. These variations show up as a list of different "Birth Names." The actual birth name should be the one shown in the main Vital Information section. Any names listed which are merely orthographic alternatives to the main Vital Information entry should be deleted. If there are actually alternative names, such as nicknames or alternative spellings that are reflected in original records, these can be preserved by changing the entry from a birth name to an alternative name. See Goals 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree. 

5. Resolve any disparities between the information in the sources and the Vital Information

 This would seem to be a redundant step, but it is essential to increasing the accuracy of all of the entries. Sometimes the disparity between the information contained in a source and that recorded for the individual or family raises questions that need to be resolved immediately by research and not ignored. See Goals 8: Learn about sourcing and why it's important.

6. Add all Record Hints

 This question comes up frequently when there are seemingly duplicate record hints. Yes, all of the record hints should be added. If you care to do so after they have been added any duplicates can be detached. However, in order to let the computer program know that the information is correct, you absolutely need to add in all of the Record Hints.

7.  Begin any necessary research to verify existing information and to supply missing information.

This is one of the things that is easy to say but hard to do. Every entry in the Family Tree should have a corresponding source reference. Any information in the Family Tree without a source reference is automatically suspect. There should be no presumption that the information contained in the Family Tree is accurate without supporting sources for further information detailing where the information was obtained. See Project 4: Discover

8. Review added records or sources to make sure they are attached to the correct people and determine if there is any additional information that needs to be added or changed in the Vital Information section.

As you continue to find records, you should go back and make sure that the records are attached to the correct people. This may seem like a repetition of earlier steps and it is. I have to do this several times during the process.

8. Search for additional records on

Now, I have reached the real research step. This begins the process of looking for additional people beyond those that are already in the Family Tree. Remember that there may still be duplicates and those duplicates will have to be resolved.

9. Be sure and check for duplicate records both by searching for duplicates and by looking at the Record Hints and source found by searching.

This may seem like more busy work, but I keep going back through the same processes over and over again. Each time I spend the time to do this I find new names to add to the Family Tree.

There are probably more steps that I am not aware of at a level that I can include them. I seem to do a lot of the work automatically, almost without thinking about what I am doing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Unreserved List

I am discovering that many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are reserving names on their temple lasts in numbers far beyond their ability to actually do the temple work. In the last couple of years, our ability to find and process names for temple ordinances has increased dramatically as a result of the improvements made to the Family Tree. My own list has grown much longer than our family is able to reasonably process. In thinking about the number of entries on my Research List, I came to the conclusion that there are three options:

  • Keep the names on the list until their mandatory removal by after two years
  • Share the names with the temples
  • Unreserve the names and return them to the Family Tree as green temple icons
The reality of keeping the names on the list is that other family members are also generating their own names. So they are otherwise occupied in doing their own work for their own family members. Obviously, different families vary in their involvement in temple work as well as their involvement in doing basic research and producing new names for the Family Tree.

In any case, I strongly suggest that a careful and critical evaluation be made of the possibility that the names on the Reserved List will be done in a realistically short period of time. There is a point when adding more names to the Reserve List is simple hoarding. For example, my wife and I live only a few blocks from the Provo, Utah Temple. We have been able to do quite a few names over the past year. However, even with our close proximity to the temple, we are not going to be able to finish all the names on our Research List before we moved to the Washington DC area. This is especially true since the Washington DC Temple will be closed for most of the time we are there.

The next option is that I could share the names with the temples. This is a perfectly acceptable solution and should be considered. However, I would suggest an alternative. Unreserving the names will allow other individuals to find validly documented green temple icons. For this reason, I have been primarily unreserving names. I am then keeping a separate document listing all of the names I have unreserved. In going back through the document, I find that many of the names I have unreserved have been found and ordinance cards printed. In some cases, however, the names of nearly been added to someone else's Reserve List. I hope in these cases that the person actually does the work and is not merely hoarding names.

You might consider reserving your names as a possible alternative.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Death in the FamilySearch Family Tree: What Happens?

The Family Tree is essentially a repository for information about dead people. What happens when you add a living person to the Family Tree? What then happens if that person dies?

When you add a living person to the Family Tree, the program puts that newly added living person into your own private "Personal Space" to preserve the privacy of that living person. The program also creates a unique ID number for the person added. The newly added person is also a duplicate if the living person is already in the Family Tree. So, for example, if you add one of your children who is living to the Family Tree and they are already in the Family Tree then your addition is a duplicate of their record with a new ID number.

This process applies to any person added to the tree who is not designated as deceased. For example, if you add a great-grandparent and fail to enter either a death date or the word deceased, then the person is included in your personal "Private Space" automatically.

None of the people marked "Living" are visible to anyone else when they are in your Private Space. Perhaps, one reason for having a personal database outside of the Family Tree is the ability to keep track of living people. There is really no reason to add living people to the Family Tree except to link to older generations through the living ones, but you can do so. You can also add Memories for living people to the family tree. However, if the document and the photo that you add also contains the names or images of dead people and you tag the dead people then all of the people in the document or photo are visible to everyone.

Presently, you cannot add sources or discussions to a living person.

Now, what happens when a person dies? Essentially nothing until you mark a person as the deceased. Once the person is marked as deceased, the entry appears to everyone. If the person is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then a ward clerk could also mark the person deceased. If this action is taken by a court clerk a new entry for the person appears in my Family Tree. Obviously, this is a duplicate of your entry. These duplicate entries will have to be merged. Who does the merging? You do.

What happens if multiple people have entered the same individual as living into their own personal spaces? Then there are multiple copies of the individual. According to FamilySearch, 
Memory items tagged to deceased people are visible to everyone. Untagged memory items or memory items tagged to a living person are not visible to other patrons unless someone shares them using one of our social media tools or by sharing the URL.
Here is an extended explanation of adding Memories to living people: "Adding memories of a living person to Family Tree Issues Addressed."

Once a person is marked deceased, the Memories tagged to that individual then become visible to anyone.

If you need a more detailed explanation of Memories, see The Family History Guide section on Memories.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Focus Your Efforts on the FamilySearch Family Tree

If you look closely at the above screenshot from the Family Tree, you will see that there are 72 Memories and 63 Sources attached to this individual. Sometimes, as is the case with Francis Tanner, a lot of research is necessary and documenting that research is also necessary. In this case, as I have been writing in the recent past, the problem is a frustrating end-of-line situation. In other cases, it is merely a need to fully document a well-recorded individual. I can assure you that every other ancestor leading back to Francis Tanner is just as well documented. As a matter of fact, leading up to and including Francis in the eight generations of my male Tanner line, there are a total of 511 sources attached to this particular Tanner line. There are also 723 Memories. Much of the information now in the Family Tree was not previously available to the Tanner family.

For example, the birth record of John Tanner KWJ1-K2F had never been published or referenced previously to doing the research in the Hopkinton, Rhode Island Town Clerk Records. Substantiating each individual has taken years of intensive research.

The idea here is that family history is a cumulative effort that may take many years. The Family Tree is a wonderful tool to accumulate and collaborate all of this information. What is most important is that the Family Tree allows for an ongoing correction process. A lot of errors and misinformation has accumulated over the years and the Family Tree allows us to come much closer to a family-wide consensus concerning crucial identifications and information.

Another important factor is that the information that is found continues to be incorporated into the summaries under Vital Information. I am frequently finding dates and places recorded in the Vital Information section that do not match the records that have been added as sources. When you do find a pertinent record, take the time to accurately record the information in the summary.

One frustrating problem is that people are still making changes without adding a substantiating source. This is even more frustrating when the change contradicts the sources and Memories already available. Reproducing traditional information that is not now supported by sources does not help the overall effort to correct and substantiate the entries in the Family Tree.

I am finding quite a number of people who are focusing their attention on a pedigree or family tree in another program. There are a variety of reasons for doing this. Most commonly, they express a concern about "changes" being made to the Family Tree. However, as I have pointed out, these "changes" are, in many cases, resulting in the correction of the accumulation of false traditionally held information. By failing to focus on the Family Tree, these false traditions are merely being perpetuated. The Family Tree is essentially a "clearing house" for information about the world's families.

Surprisingly, this unsupported and false traditional information seems to come most commonly from This is surprising since supplies a wealth of record hints that are apparently being ignored by its users.  For example, I now have 24 Ancestry supplied sources for my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner. However, in looking at some of the other family trees in Ancestry that share information about this particular ancestor, I find none with all of these sources and some family trees with as few as 4 sources. I can only assume that these people are not focusing on Sidney to any extent and are potential contributors of inaccurate information. The is especially true since Sidney has 66 sources in the Family Tree.

Of course, the raw number of sources is not the only persuasive factor in correcting information. It is not uncommon to find inappropriately attached sources that have not been properly evaluated. But that is another problem for another day.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What do you need to know to come to #RootsTech 2018?

Even though I will not be physically present at RootsTech 2018, I am still very much interested in what is going on. I have been to all the previous years of the Conference. When I started coming, we were living in Mesa, Arizona and now we live in Provo, Utah. So I am acquainted with traveling to the Conference and staying hotels and also traveling back and forth to my home each day of the Conference. I do have a lot of suggestions about Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Conference because of my previous experience.

First of all the weather. Salt Lake City, Utah is just over 4000 feet above sea level and parts of the City are much higher. The City is also located between two high mountain ranges and is well known as a skiing destination. This means there is a really good chance of snow, but certainly very cold weather conditions. However, once you get to the Salt Palace Convention Center where the Conference is held, you will be inside all day. So think about having layers of clothing and some way to carry a coat or whatever.

Also, remember that you will be walking long distances. Even if you arrive with a car or by train or other transportation, you will have to walk. Salt Lake City's blocks. Each block in downtown Salt Lake is 1/8th of a mile. The Salt Palace is almost two blocks long. Think about it. Also, if someone says it is only two blocks to a restaurant, think again.

If you are driving in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, you might be aware that there is a major traffic issue. Traffic on the freeways moves at over 80 miles per hour down to a dead stop. It is very important to check an online traffic indicator to see conditions before you get stuck on the freeway. Also, people in Utah generally disregard traffic lights. We have seen as many as five cars at a time run a clearly red light at one intersection. Do not pull out when the light turns green until you are sure that traffic has stopped.

There is a light rail system from the airport to downtown. If you decided to take the train, be aware that they can be delayed. We have been left standing in blowing snow for almost an hour until a TRAX light rail train appeared. It also fairly common for people or cars to get smashed by trains and TRAX. This ties up traffic and the trains for indefinite periods of time. The downtown TRAX light rail is free in the downtown area. We have used the TRAX and train system to travel to downtown Salt Lake from Provo many times. It is convenient and avoids having to find parking.

Parking in downtown Salt Lake is not particularly expensive. There are a number of lots around the Salt Palace. But some of them are limited to a specific time and parking tickets are expensive. Watch carefully.

Over the years, I have spent more of my time on the exhibit floor rather than attending or teaching classes. You may want to make sure you spend enough time with the exhibitors. That is where all the new programs and such are taking place.

There is a lot to see and do in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. If you have time, you might want to plan a day or more at the Family History Library. It is just a block away from the Salt Palace (long block). It is crowded during the Conference but it is worth the effort. The Salt Palace is across the street from a large shopping mall with dozens of restaurants within walking distance.

You will miss a wonderful experience if you don't visit Temple Square and the surrounding museums and libraries. If you are a genealogist and a skiier, then an extended vacation is almost mandatory. There is transportation to the ski resorts, but be prepared for the high prices.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Family History Mission: Where do all the online records come from?

As my wife and I prepare to serve a full-time mission in the Washington, D.C. North Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Record Preservation Missionaries, my thoughts turn to the vast work of preserving the world's records. We have been told that we will be serving in the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. To document and share our mission experience, I will be posting updates about our mission on this blog for all to read. I have just decided to use the general title of "A Family History Mission" as the tagline for this series that will hopefully be written during our service in Maryland.

It is obvious that some cultures and countries place little or no emphasis or interest on preserving valuable family history records. Even where efforts are made to preserve important records, the ravages of time often destroy records despite those efforts. This tragic loss of records around the world is the concern of those who are interested, for a variety of reasons, in the preservation of all of the genealogically valuable records of the world.

Since the 1800s the Church has been involved in record preservation. This effort took a giant leap forward in 1938 with the advent of using microfilm to preserve images of the existing records. This extensive microfilming work produced approximately 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. To preserve this accumulated collection of microfilm and other records, the Church built a huge storage tunnel in the side of a mountain located near Salt Lake City, Utah known as the Granite Vault. More recently, with the technological change from microfilm to digital images, this collection of microfilmed records is still in the process of being digitized. In addition, the preservation efforts continue as missionary-volunteers are sent around the world to digitize millions more genealogically valuable records.

As much as is possible, these accumulated digitized records are being made available online, for free, on the website. Our interest in preserving additional records is the primary motivation for going on a year-long mission. Through our efforts, additional records will become available online to assist individuals and families to find their ancestral heritage. In addition, many more people will have the privilege of taking their deceased ancestors' names to the temples to provide those ancestors with the opportunity to accept sacred ordinances.

Since my wife and I will be serving in the Maryland State Archives, here is an example of the type of previously digitized records from Maryland on the website that we may be helping to digitize:

"Maryland Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Cecil > J > Johnson, Robert P (1885-32) > image 1 of 4; county courts, Maryland.
The Catalog on has listings for all of the currently digitized records. As new records are added, they will be listed in the Catalog.

The process of providing digitized genealogically valuable records online in fairly complex. It begins with identifying and evaluating collections of records around the world that may be available. Representatives of FamilySearch negotiate contracts with the record repositories to provide both the equipment and the labor to digitize the records for free. Rights to publish the records online on the website are also negotiated where possible. In some cases, the repositories place some restrictions on the dissemination of the records such as requiring the records be viewed only in Family History Centers or at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. But millions upon millions of records are made available.

Arrangements are made to have a missionary couple or missionary couples with the FamilySearch cameras and software available to do the work of taking digital photos of the paper records. The digital images are then sent to FamilySearch for further processing and uploading to This is a rather simplified version of a much more complex process, but escentually, the records are made available for free on the website.

This is an important work and will continue for the forseable future. We are glad to play a very small part in this great work.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Web Indexing Opens a New World of Opportunities
Many of us have long anticipated web indexing as a way to expand the opportunity to become more readily involved in indexing. Desktop software is machine specific. This means that if I am using an Apple Macintosh computer, I need to have an Apple compatible program. The same thing applies to every other operating system. Online programs are usable on any operating system that connects to the internet using a browser program such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox.

My experience is that web indexing is easier and far more convenient than the older desktop-based program. I can also do web indexing on a tablet with a keyboard. I understand that participation in indexing is down since the introduction of the web indexing program. Hopefully, those "old timers" who have been doing indexing for a long time will adapt to the online web-based program. I have found it quite easy to learn and efficient for entering the data.

Because of my many other activities, I am not likely to become a major contributor to the indexing effort, but during the next year, I hope to help supply a lot more digitized records for the indexing effort.

I suggest clicking on the link above and reading the FamilySearch blog post about web indexing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Family History Guide: Update on the Online Tracker

The Family History Guide has a detailed Online Tracker that provides a way for users to track their own progress using the website or for instructors to monitor the progress of their students.

Here is a summary of the new features from The Family History Guide Blog.
The free Online Tracker for The Family History Guide has been up and running for about 7 months, and it now has over 1,100 registered users. (It’s the only part of The Family History Guide that requires a username and password; the rest of the site does not.) With the Online Tracker, or “OLT” as we sometimes call it, you can keep track of your notes and progress in The Family History Guide in a secure online database.
Today we updated the OLT in a number of ways to help your user experience be even better. Here’s a list of the new enhancements, going from top to bottom of the screen:
  • Menu updates. Now the OLT has the same double-menu system as was recently introduced to the rest of the site.
  • Green bar update. The green menu bar now lets you go back to the Home page of the OLT or change your account settings.
  • Learning paths. There are now Project sections for FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast.
  • Country Research. Regions and countries are now represented in the OLT. The North America region is finished, and other regions will be added in the next few weeks.
  • Footer updates. The OLT now uses the same new footer as the rest of the site.
Here’s a look at the new Learning Paths and Country Research sections. Active links in the OLT are green. And “coming soon” really does mean coming soon!

FamilySearch website changes to affect Ancestral Quest

The popular Ancestral Quest genealogy program will be affected by changes to the programming of the website. Here is the announcement from Ancestral Quest:
FamilySearch API: FamilySearch is scheduled to retire the web address currently used by AQ to communicate with FS on 12/5/2017. This build uses the new address. Once FamilySearch retires the old API address, all older versions and builds of AQ will no longer be able to sync with FS or retrieve FS Hints. Users must use this build or a subsequent build to continue to sync with FS or retrieve hints from FS.
An API is a potential link to the data and/or functions of a website that can be used by outside third-party programmers.  Changes made to the API can prevent a third-party developer from accessing the program, hence the difficulties anticipated.

Elder and Sister Oaks to Speak at Family Discovery Day

#RootsTech, the world’s largest family history conference, is coming up quickly on February 28–March 3, 2018, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The last day of the Conference, March 3rd, is designated as Family Discovery Day. In the upcoming Family Discovery Day session, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, will be sharing family history insight and experience. Admission to the Family Discovery Day is free, but entrance to the rest of the Conference has a paid admission fee. 

If you decide to attend the entire Conference, you will experience inspiring keynote speakers, including Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, award-winning photographer and storyteller Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, a gigantic expo hall, informative sessions, and entertaining events, RootsTech has something for everyone. Passes start at just $69. Registration is required for both the free Family Discovery Day and the full RootsTech experience. Visit to register.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Looking at the real end of the line

Every ancestral line ends. Even if you think you can trace your ancestry "back to Adam," you still have to admit that you need to stop there. Realistically, the end is nigh or a lot closer than Adam. I decided to look at a few of my own family lines as shown on the Family Tree and show the "actual" end of each of these selected lines to illustrate how and why they end where they do end. In each case, I will first show the last individual in that particular surname line and then show the actual end according to the records available. In most cases, this will be fairly easy because once there are no listed sources the line, for all practical purposes, ends.

So, here we go with the first end of line situation.

Someone would have me believe that my Linton line goes back to William de Linton, born in 1385 in an English castle. The Lintons were dirt poor Scotch/Irish tenant farmers who left Northern Ireland in the mid- to early 1800s to come to America. They were not descendants of nobility. The actual end of line is presently the following person:

The reason William Linton born about 1801 is the end of the line is that from this point on there are no source showing his birth or marriage and his parents are unknown despite the fact that there are generations of ancestors going back to the 1300s.

Next example,

Even with two sources this is the imaginary end of the line. The real end of the line has several sources listed, however, there are no sources that show this person's parents. The Family Tree shows a christening in Winwick, Lancashire, England but there are apparently no sources shown substantiating that record or indicating who might be his parents. So, right now, the line ends in 1720, not somewhere back in time.

The next example is one that is not obvious unless you take the time to examine the sources and think about what is and what is not there. Here is the remote, supposedly end of line, ancestor.

It is possible that an English line, such as this one, could go back to the late 1500s. Afterall, there are ten sources. But the actual end of line in this situation is as follows:

The reason for this end of line is that Peter Ellison is shown with two fathers with the same name and two different marriages. I am not saying that some research wouldn't resolve this issue, I am just saying that as the record now shows, there is no way to determine the identity of Peter's father.

I could go on and on. In each of these cases, the sources fail to support a further extension of the family line past the person I identified and being the real end of line person. What do we do with these situations?

First, we do more research and see if the line can realistically be extended past the point at which thee are records of the next generation. Next, we either correct the record in the Family Tree or cut off all of the people past the point at which the Family Tree fails to contain information sufficient to support that extension.