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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harvesting vs. Planting

I think that sometimes we pay token deference to the Law of the Harvest. We find a concise statement of the Law of the Harvest in Galatians 6:7-9:
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
If we have any understanding at all of the Law of the Harvest, why can we suppose that we can reap the benefits of the Family Tree in the form of "green icons" without sowing additional names through the work of research? Is family history somehow exempt from the Law of the Harvest? I think not. Apparently, there are those that somehow believe that the names in the Family Tree just grew there spontaneously and that all that is necessary to find the names of those who have been taught and accepted the Gospel in the Spirit World, is to click around and harvest these "free" names.

Let me set the record straight. None of the valid names in the Family Tree got there by magic. They are the results of hours, days, months, and years of hard work on the part of those who have dedicated a significant part of their lives to discovering the hidden records of their ancestors and recording their findings in a way that the names could be incorporated in the vast collection of names called the Family Tree. If you click on a green icon that is not there as a result of your own labor, you are benefiting from the harvest of others' labors.

As long as we are told and believe that the Family Tree is somehow an inexhaustible source of names to take to the temples, without spending the hard work necessary to find and record those names, we will be at risk from the negative consequences of the Law of the Harvest. We only benefit from the harvest by doing the work.

Family history or genealogy, whatever you wish to call it, is a complex and challenging pursuit. Is there some problem with letting those who wish to do the work know the qualifications for the work? Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants states:
1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. 
2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. 
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; 
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; 
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. 
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. 
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.
Are we missing the "laying up in store" part of the Family Tree?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Can an app find a name for you to take to the temple?

The App Gallery has links to approximately twenty-two programs that rely on the accuracy of the data in your portion of the Family Tree to provide you with either temple opportunities or information about your relatives and ancestors. If these programs work as you might expect, then why is there any need to do your "genealogy" and isn't genealogical research and all that goes with it simply a waste of time?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you are probably well aware that I frequently write about and provide webinars about the need to "clean up" the entries in the Family Tree. But this post is not just a repeat of the previous arguments and illustrations that I have previously used to show that nearly everyone has some errors in their portion of the Family Tree and some of us have major issues that can only be resolved by major surgery by cutting off unsupported and imaginary ancestral lines.

For this post, I decided to take three or more of the programs that purport to provide me with names using my own portion of the Family Tree and see exactly how reliable those leads really are. I am not going to mention the names or any identifying elements of the programs because that would not be fair to them and it would make it seem that I was targeting specific apps or programs. My point is simple: any program of any type that relies on the accuracy of the Family Tree will fall into the same trap.

Here we go.

Program #1 provided me with the following name for temple ordinances.

To start out, I chose to have the app search my ancestors. Little did I know that the program would take a considerable period of time to do this until I got tired and finally ended the search, The program did not find one name and it must have searched a couple of thousand or more names. With no results, I decided to add another program.

Program #2 provided me with the following name for temple ordinances.

I started the search with my second choice and this time I let the program search cousins.

The program found the following person.

Hmm. This person was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1903. The only ordinance needed was a sealing to spouse. The spouse was born in 1907 and just barely became available for ordinances under the 110 Year Rule. I decided to leave this ordinance for the immediate family. Since the dates on the completed ordinances showed that the ordinances had been done recently. I don't think that someone who was "harvesting" green icons would stop to make this evaluation. Also, since the only ordinance available was a sealing to spouse, I suggest that this is an issue with involving younger people in the process. I am getting a lot of ideas about future blog post topics. Of course, by publicizing this opportunity, someone who is unrelated to the family, could come in and try to take advantage of this opportunity.

I decided to use the same program to find another "opportunity." Once again, I was stuck with the program searching for a long period of time. The program finally finished working away and here was one of the names found:

This was once again a sealing to spouse. So anyone finding this "opportunity" could have reserved the name. Hmm. But in looking at the entries, it was obvious that there was a duplicate. Here is a screenshot showing the duplicate spouse.

In effect, this entry opens up a whole series of corrections that need to be made to the Family Tree. Upon resolving the duplicate entry, the "opportunity" disappeared. But if I didn't realize there was a duplicate, I could have reserved the name and duplicated the ordinance work. This is the main issue with the green icon finding programs. They are better at finding problems to be resolved than they are finding actual opportunities.

Program #3 had a brief disclaimer about the accuracy of the searches and was just as slow as the other two programs. When the results finally started coming in, the program found the same name I had already looked at above with the 110 Year Rule issue. After examining more than 1100 relatives, the program found no more ordinances. The danger of going back further is that it increases the possibility that the entries are inaccurate.  See the following video:

Untangling the Mess on the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

At this point, I would like to point out that I have found a significant number of people needing ordinances by cleaning up the entries and doing research, at times, extensive research. The supply of "green icons" is finite.

Because two of the programs so far have been inconclusive, I decided to try yet another.

Program #4 didn't work at all.

It is true that these programs can find "opportunities" (when they actually work). But it is also true that the opportunities turn out to be opportunities to do some research and think about the entries rather than being automatically available. More about this in the near future.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Duplicate Ghost Records on the FamilySearch Family Tree

The Family Tree has come a long way since it began with its burden of the database and program. It has now been more than a year since the program was completely cut-off from the older program and we could begin to resolve the issue of millions of duplicate records. Because so many duplicate entries have been resolved, you might get the impression that duplicate entries were no longer a problem in the Family Tree. However, while working on the Family Tree, many of us who are doing intensive research still find significant numbers of duplicates.

When connecting new entries to or when searching for records using the link to, both of these programs will often show duplicate entries that are unable to be detected by a search using the resources of the Family Tree. In other words, there are still a number of "ghost" entries in the Family Tree that are undisclosed. In addition, as research reveals additional facts about a family it is fairly common to find additional duplicate entries of the family members.

One common source for finding these new entries comes when working with a family from England. I often find what appears to be a person who is not married. Some basic research soon produces a spouse. Further research shows that the couple had children. However, upon adding the names of the children, I find that individual ordinances were done for the children and are recorded in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). When I add those children into the family, I often find duplicates. The reason for this is quite simple. Since those children have never been included previously in the family, no one has ever done a search for duplicate entries.

There are also third-party programs that can assist in finding random duplicates. Even though I have been systematically checking for duplicates and merging them when appropriate, there is still a considerable number of duplicates out there waiting to be resolved. Here's a screenshot of the search using Find-A-Record, a useful utility program.

This list of possible duplicates was still produced after more than a year of work by me and my family to systematically attempt to resolve all of the duplicates in our lines. The first entry had an immediately identifiable duplicate. Here is a screenshot showing the duplicate entry from the Family Tree.

By looking at the history of this entry, it is evident that this record came from the nearly inexhaustible source of duplicates existing in the database. Since there has not been as much emphasis lately about the duplicate entries in the Family Tree, perhaps it is time to retrench and get back to the basic issues of the data set used by the Family Tree and remind all of the users that many duplicates still exist.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Parade of BYU Family History Library Videos Continues Unabated

We like to keep busy at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Summer at a university creates its own problems. Most of the students are on summer vacation and the academic schedule is difficult to plan around. I, for one, have also been out and about and I cut back on my usual load of videos but the other contributors more than made up the difference, especially Kathryn Grant and Bob Taylor. Here are the last five videos posted to our BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

Duplicates in Family Tree Part 1: Why They're There and How to Find Them - Kathryn Grant

Duplicates in Family Tree Part 2 How to Resolve Them - Kathryn Grant

Remember to subscribe to our Channel. The number of subscribers helps the videos become more visible on 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The FamilySearch Partner Tracks on The Family History Guide

The Family History Guide has undergone a major expansion. Learning Tracks for each of the three major Partner Programs have been added to the website. These Partner Tracks include,, and When you choose your Learning Track, the instructions in The Family History Guide are then adapted to the chosen website.

The idea here is that by choosing a different track, the Projects change and all the Goals and Choices reflect the chosen website. For example, by choosing the track, I get the following screen:

The red arrows indicate the logos that show you that you are working in the track of the website. If I change to a different track, such as, then the instructions change to reflect that website.

In case you get lost, just click on the link to the Home page and you will get back to the beginning.

This new set of instructions, added to an already valuable website, makes The Family History Guide the "go-to" place to learn about all four of these valuable genealogy websites. The website is in "Beta" release until November 15, 2017, so you can expect the changes and the content to expand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Where Are the Digitized Records on

Where are the Digitized Records on

A suggestion from FamilySearch got me started in making a short video showing where all the digitized microfilm records are going on the website. For some time now, I have been writing about the Catalog and its importance in the online research process. I guess my message is not getting much traction. I still find many people in my classes who do not use the Catalog to assist them and many more who have never even looked at it.

I will be writing more about the Catalog in the near future.

Monday, August 14, 2017

FamilySearch Facebook Post: Family History Centers are Now in the Home

The above graphic appeared on Facebook on August 13, 2017. It refers to a talk entitled, "Roots and Branches" given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in General Conference in April of 2014. Recent technological developments have underscored the fact that the "traditional" model of a FamilySearch Family History Center is undergoing a revolutionary change.

The most recent development, the discontinuance by FamilySearch of microfilm rentals to Family History Centers, removes one of the staple reasons for visiting and using the resources of the Family History Centers around the world. In reality, here in the United States, many of the smaller Family History Centers had very limited microfilm involvement in any event. Removing microfilm rentals from the Family History Centers will have an impact on the use of some centers by "serious" researchers. This result will be even more marked as the existing FamilySearch microfilm collection is finally completely (as possible) digitized and available for free online.

For the average person, living in a well-developed country, with access to the internet and who has previously done little or no family history research, online and home-based sources are perfectly adequate to find the first four generations or so. But, any attempt to extend a pedigree beyond the first few generations requires resources that are not readily available or even reliable without additional effort.

For example, a child born into my Tanner family lines and who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will automatically have six or seven generations of extensively documented ancestry on the Family Tree. For that child to do any reliable extensions of any of the Tanner family lines would require intense and involved research. However, that may not be the case for the non-Tanner family lines. To support this changing situation, the U.S. Family History Centers will need to move to a support and training mode.

When we had a large yard and many fruit trees, the "low hanging" fruit was the first picked and the first depleted. It usually did not take very long before we had to spend considerably more effort to find ripe fruit using chairs and ladders. The same thing will inevitably happen with those working on the Family Tree. The "low hanging" fruit, i.e. those people who are easily found with readily available resources will soon be found. The only real way that progress will ultimately be made after this first gathering, will be to have people who are prepared and trained in finding and resolving the more difficult research issues.

Let me give an example. Let's suppose I was just starting out doing my own genealogical research today as opposed to 35 or so years ago. I could go onto and I would see thousands of the names of my ancestors on all my family lines. How long would it take me to figure out which of these thousands of entries were correct and which were wrong? Would I even suspect that what was showing in the Family Tree was both incomplete and in many cases inaccurate? True, I would have a huge reservoir of resources, but how would I know where to start and how to find additional opportunities to add to what was already there?

The answer, in part, is the new paradigm of the "Consultant Planner." However, this model also assumes that the "trainers" have been and are trained. For many years after I began doing my own genealogical research, I had to puzzle out the way to proceed on my own. I had no trainers or mentors. I am also guessing that most, perhaps nearly all, of the current involved genealogical researchers went through a similar process. Today, I would have access to The Family History Guide. But how would I know it existed? Last night, I taught a class to approximately 30 Temple and Family History Consultants and from the reaction of those present, very few were aware of any of the resources I talked about during the class.

I agree that much of the genealogical research that has been traditionally done in Family History Centers can now be done in the home. But how will those sitting in their homes know about the resources that are available? How will the Ward and Stake Temple and Family History Consultants know enough to teach them?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Impact of the Microfilm Issue

People continue to express concern over the recent announcement about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments from FamilySearch. See "FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." So, during the past week, I started taking an informal poll of those attending the classes that I taught. I probably asked about 100 people who were interested enough in genealogy to come to a class on the subject. Many of these people were experienced researchers. My question was simple: how many had viewed microfilm during the past six months? I then extended the question to a year or more. What was the response? I am guessing that there were fewer than five people who responded positively to my questions.

The reality of genealogical research today is that almost all of what is passing for "research" is being conducted online using primarily the basic records, such as census records, vital records, and cemetery records. Most of my classes this week, included looking at entries in the Family Tree and analyzing the content. With very few exceptions, the sources supporting the entries looked essentially like this list:

In short, the entries were confined to the three categories I outlined above. None of these entries require even thinking about microfilm. Here, in this example, there are no records at all substantiating the birth, marriage or death of this individual.

In my recent trips to Salt Lake City to visit the Family History Library to use their microfilm collections, I see the same trend. In years past, the microfilm readers were the center of activity in the Library. In recent years, when I have been viewing microfilm, I hardly see anyone else using the machines. The reality is that much of the information that had to be extracted from microfilm in the past is now freely available online in digitized format. Unless the researcher is highly experienced and looking for an extensive variety of records, there is no longer and need to resort to microfilmed records.

Personally, I am still very much involved in microfilmed records. But then again, I clearly realize that I am part of a vanishingly small minority of researchers. As shown by my very limited and informal poll, very few people involved in family history today will even notice the change in the availability of microfilm. Now, before you write and tell me about your own particular need for microfilm, please take the time to search and see if your own needed microfilm has not already been digitized and is available online in one or the other of the large genealogy programs.

Friday, August 11, 2017

New Developments Coming in The Family History Guide

New Developments in the Family History Guide - Bob Taylor

In a rather short video, Developer Bob Taylor of The Family History Guide has outlined the new features that are currently being added to the website. Essentially, the website is being expanded to add different Learning Tracks for the Partner Programs:,, and

If you have been waiting to use these valuable programs because you didn't know where to start, I suggest you take a few minutes to see what is now available on The Family History Guide website.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

If Family History Work is Hastening, What Happened to You?

Quoting from the Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Manual, Lesson 28: Hastening the Work of Salvation, Introduction:
In recent years, Church leaders have emphasized the Lord’s prophecy that He will “hasten [His] work” (D&C 88:73). The work of salvation includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hear more and more about a hastening of the work. This "hastening" process involves developments and processes that affect the entire world. However, we may personally be missing out on the entire process. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency in an April 2014 General Conference address entitled, "Are You Sleeping through the Restoration?" as follows:
When our time in mortality is complete, what experiences will we be able to share about our own contribution to this significant period of our lives and to the furthering of the Lord’s work? Will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?
 The Lord is the one hastening the work. Quoting Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88: 73,
73 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.
It is up to us to choose to be bystanders or participants. Temple and family history work is clearly part of the work that is being hastened. What is the evidence that the work is being hastened? Perhaps I can list a few examples:
  • The number of global smartphone shipments is forecast to increase in 2018 to over 1.5 billion units a year. See Statistica: Global smartphone shipments forecast from 2010 to 2021 (in million units)*
  • has now released three different versions of the Family Tree program with one especially written for people using smartphones and tablets. See Three Ways to Use Family Tree by Ann Tanner
  • Microfilm shipments from are being discontinued as of September 1, 2017.
  • is predicting that all of the available existing microfilm rolls will be digitized by 2020. 
  •, a FamilySearch partner website, announced that their record collections just went over 8 billion records worldwide. 
  •, another FamilySearch partner website, just added 4.3 million U.S. marriage records on its way to adding 100 million marriage records containing 450 million names from 2,800 counties across the U.S.
The list could go on and on. Don't sit on the sidelines and watch the game. Get involved. If you don't know where to start, look at The Family History Guide for help in learning what you can do. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Using the Consultant Planner to Help Others

The Consultant Planner on has become one of the most useful tools we have ever had to assist others with their family history research. We have two excellent videos from the Brigham Young University Library about using the Consultant Planner.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

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

My own experience has been nothing but positive in helping people with their family history using the Consultant Planner.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Seeing Family History as a tool for missionary work, reactivation and Increased spirituality of the members
The quote from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as seen above states:
“The artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and family history work is being erased; this is one great work of salvation.” —Elder David A. Bednar
Paraphrasing what one full-time mission president said to me, we don't want our missionaries doing family history and I am in complete agreement. But as members and particularly as Temple and Family History Consultants we can provide the support and expertise to assist the missionaries by following the suggestions given in this blog post by Kathryn Grant. Quoting one point specifically:
Work closely with the ward mission leader and the full-time missionaries. President Russell M. Nelson said that if he were a missionary today, one of his best friends would be the ward the temple and family history consultant.
  • Let missionaries know you’re available to help investigators and new members with family history.
  • Talk with missionaries about how they can use family history and temple work to share the gospel.
  • Help the missionaries with their own family history, teach them how to use the six principles for helping others, and then help them to teach someone else.
This is not a work that the full-time missionaries can do on their own. They need to follow the direction of their mission president, but we can help when we see investigators and new members coming into our Wards and Branches.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Family History Guide Announces new Learning Paths

On Thursday, August 10, at 6:00 pm MST, The Family History Guide will be announcing a major expansion. The announcement will be in the form of a Brigham Young University Family History Library webinar titled "New Developments in The Family History Guide". In the webinar we will announce a new Beta trial edition that debuts new LEARNING PATHS covering:


The changes will in no way diminish the utility of the existing website's support for learning about the FamilySearch Family Tree. In addition, these new "Learning Paths" will continue to pursue the focus of the mission of The Family History Guide to remove barriers that prevent people from getting started in family history and pursuing their family roots. The Learning Paths will enable those using The Family History Guide to choose the path that most conforms to their primary online program. It will also give those who use more than one of the major programs to learn more about the other options available. 

Please watch the webinar for more details. Click on the following link to sign in as a GUEST for the webinar on August 10, 6:00 pm MST:

Here is the entire webinar schedule. You can click here to go to the online schedule

Can We Use All of the Family History Resources and Tools?

For many people that I help with their genealogical research, the variety of programs and online resources today appear as confused as this photo of tools. There are so many options that choosing the correct tools for their own research tasks has become almost insurmountably bewildering. There are, of course, those researchers who are just beginning to become aware of the resources. Many of them are still under the impression that we start our genealogy by filling out a family group sheet or pedigree. For a lot of reasons, including access to the internet or lack of computer skills, a large number of people are entirely unaware of what is available, but the problem is still there despite their inability to perceive it.

There is literally not enough time in any one person's lifetime to even begin to look at all the genealogical resources there are in the world even for one ancestral line. So what can we do about this situation? Is there a solution with more sophisticated programs or processes? I think the answer to this problem lies in aggregating the experience and efforts of a lot of people simultaneously.

Interesting, there is a solution. We can all pool our efforts. That way, if through my research, I find some information that is pertinent and answers questions about one of my ancestors, then all of my relatives with the same ancestor do not have to do the same research or use the same tools. They can look for other information. To a large measure, genealogists in every generation repeat the work done by their predecessors. In my own experience, I have spent the larger part of my life simply discovering what some of my relatives have already done.

So where do I go to get a solution to this problem? My answer is the Family Tree. Because of my focus on the Family Tree, I am not re-doing all of the research done by my relatives. I am actually making progress.

Now, what about those researchers out there who, for whatever reason, are not aware of or do not want to use the Family Tree? The answer is that they will not be aware of what anyone else has done and will likely repeat some or all of the research. The content in the Family Tree is not perfect and we all need to understand how the program works, but it is saving us from repeating a lot of work that would have been repeated.

No, we cannot use all of the resources and tools for doing genealogical research. But we can combine our efforts into one central clearing house, the Family Tree, so we don't end up repeating what has already been done.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Dangers of Spoofing and Phishing

Lately, I have been noticing a consistent rise in both spoofing and phishing. Spoofing is when someone impersonates another, usually a known entity, to obtain personal and private information. Spoofing is often used in tandem with phishing since both attempt to use a "trustworthy" entity as a way to fool a computer user with the intent to harm the user.

I get several phishing comments to my blogs every week. They usually try to get me to post the comment so someone will click on the embedded link. In some cases, these phishing comments are merely trying to puff up the number of hits to their website, but in some cases, clicking on the link may connect your computer to a website that will immediately download malware.

Both phishing and Spoofing are often hard to detect. The most common and most dangerous practice is an email that appears to be from your bank or other trusted entity. In some cases, clicking on the email can immediately compromise your computer. But in most cases, the bad content comes in the form of an attachment. In both cases, the bad actor is trying to get you to divulge personal information.

The first level of defense to these harmful activities is to avoid opening (clicking on) email from an unsolicited or unknown entity. In addition, if you do get an email that seems to be from your credit card company, bank, the IRS, or some other financial or governmental agency, never open an attachment. Simply, delete the message and then, if you are still worried about the content, call your credit card company, bank or the agency and see if they really did send you an email requesting information. You will almost always find out that banks and the government agencies will not solicit private, personal information by means of email messages. By the way, never use the phone number in the email to call the entity. If you do not have the phone number already available, look up the number for the branch or location where you send your bill payments or do your deposits.

Look carefully at all correspondence asking you to click on a link or open an attachment. Check to see if the URL (address) of the website matches the company mentioned in the email. As you review the email, watch for misspelled words, poor grammar or inappropriate references. One venue for phishing is You may get a "friend" request from someone you are already connected with. You may also get friend requests from people you do not know and it appears that you are their first friend. I routinely ignore these requests. I do not even decline or refuse them because I do not want the person to know I am real.

You can "hover" over any link to make sure that the link stated in the correspondence and the connecting link are the same. If they are not, simply delete the email. In some extreme cases, I have called my friend on the telephone to ask them if they have sent me a duplicate friend request.

The best defense is to be vigilant and think before you click.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Link to Partner Programs in the App Gallery for LDS Access

One of the recent frustrations about the website for LDS users was the link to registering for the free Partner Websites. Recently, FamilySearch added a new link to the website registration from the App Gallery. A link to the App Gallery is located at the bottom of the startup page. The section is called "LDS Access" and has links to the Partner programs.

Here is a screenshot of the LDS Access Section:

I am not sure what the criteria is for inclusion since there are two "new" entries in this collection of links. If you click on the links you will get a page lettering you get started with the apps. In the case of the subscription apps, the links take you to a registration page. This is not a way to access the programs if you have already subscribed. If you have already subscribed, you should go directly to the program from your browser and sign in.

It looks like it is time to come back to the App Gallery and take a look at some of the "new" apps listed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thoughts on Record Availability and Camping

I am writing this post from a library in Sandpoint, Idaho. We have been spending the week camping in Montana and Idaho, mostly in State Parks. What is interesting is that much of the time we have been "out in the wilderness," with a few exceptions, we have had adequate internet reception. We stopped in Sandpoint to launder some clothes and I took the opportunity to sit in the local library.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Just about everything. I could do some serious research from some of the campgrounds we have stayed in during our trip. Far from being cut off from the world of genealogy, even on a camping trip in Northern Idaho, just a few miles from the Canadian border, I could, if I choose to do so, keep working on my own genealogical research or that of the many people I am attempting to assist.

Now, I am pretty sure that not many of you out there would see that as an opportunity. But for someone like me who has dozens of emails a day and a constant stream of questions, being connected is easier that coming back to a huge number of emails and a lot of other things undone. By the way, there are those who think I should either stop writing or stop putting up notices about going camping.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Coming to a Conclusion with Finding Francis

Will of William Tanner from 1757
For over a hundred years, the descendants of my particular Tanner family have been copying the conclusions about their common ancestors from two books written by a researcher who apparently never visited the original ancestral homes or record repositories in Rhode Island and conducted all of his "research" through letter writing from Minnesota in the 1800s and early 1900s. Fortunately, today, we have the benefit of both microfilm and digital images to provide access to the original records. From time to time lately, I have been writing about my efforts to resolve the contradictions and inaccuracies of these early accounts that have long been accepted almost as scripture to the Tanner descendants. Finally, I have found the crucial documents that answer some of the main issues and questions, but also open up other important questions.

The image above shows the will of William Tanner dated 1757. William mentions his wife Elizabeth and names each of his children except one who is deceased at the time the will was written. The children are William, Palmer, Francis, Hannah, Mary, Deborah, Avis and Henry. The deceased child is Nathan whose will was probated in 1752. However, finding these two wills does not answer the question of the identity of William Tanner. We do know that Nathan's will and his birth record mention his mother Elizabeth. Francis' will mentions his brother Nathan. So Nathan and Francis had a mother named Elizabeth. Francis was born in 1708 and Nathan was born in 1709 or 1710. Nathan's birth record says his father's name was William. So it appears that this William Tanner was married to one wife named Elizabeth from 1708 until he died in 1757.

These recently discovered documents clearly indicate that the William Tanner who married Mary Babcock in Connecticut in 1715 is not the same William Tanner who was the father of Francis and his brother Nathan.

As soon as I have time to do some more research, I will see if I can find more information identifying this William Tanner. It also almost certain that this William Tanner is not the same as the one who signed a quit claim deed in 1680 and whose birth date is presently recorded in the Family Tree as 1657 in England.

It would be very helpful if any of the Tanners read this post to stop putting in random parents for Francis Tanner.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gone Camping

This image is not us. But we are going camping. See you in a while.

Thoughts on the Availability of Records

The recent announcement by regarding the retirement of microfilm shipments has raised some interesting but actually not too surprising issues. See "Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." One of the main issues is the general lack of awareness of the huge number of digital records now available online from as well as thousands, perhaps millions of record-content websites on the internet. Many of the complaints about the retirement of microfilm shipments come from those who are simply unaware of what is happening online.

I have been working on a very challenging research issue involving a long list of microfilm-based records from the Catalog. As part of the research process, I have been making a list of every microfilm that I would like to review. For some time now, I have been ordering microfilm rolls from FamilySearch to be sent to the Brigham Young University Family History Library.  Once I heard that these shipments would end, I began the process of seeing how the cessation of shipments would impact the list of resources I had created. In short, I found that more than 80% of the items I had identified were already available from other sources, mostly online.

Where were these records? Spread over a number of online record-content websites. My conclusion was that I would still be making trips to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library, but that these trips would continue to be less frequent just as has been the case over the past few years. The moral of this story is that many of the most used genealogical resources are readily available online. Yes, there may be a cost associated with accessing these resources, but that is nothing new. Finally, if the resources aren't there today, they will likely be there online tomorrow (or sometime soon).

End note. If your list of needed resources are very specific and of limited general interest, then your specific records may not be digitized immediately. You may still be traveling to obtain the records.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Where are the digital images on

Many people, even those who have never looked at, have expressed concern over the recent announcement about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments from FamilySearch. See
"FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." Before you get all worried about this microfilm issue, I suggest you take a few minutes to review the website and particularly the Historical Record Collections and the Catalog. Hmm. Did you even know that had a Catalog? When was the last time you looked at the Catalog? Links to both the Historical Record Collections and the Catalog are located in the Search tab (visible above highlighted in green).

Here is the deal. FamilySearch has been digitizing millions upon millions of microfilm records for years. Digital images of the microfilm reproduce the entire roll. See the example above. The Historical Record Collections are one example of a way to view the microfilm. If you click on the link to the Search tab, you will see the following:

You can then click on either the Catalog or the Records links. The Historical Records link, takes you to this page:

For an idea of what is available, you can browse all the collections or research by location.

Let's just say there is a lot of stuff here. You can see a current list of the available collections by clicking on the link to "Browse all published collections." 

A collection can contain multiple rolls of microfilm and millions of records. If you click on the heading of the "Last Updated" column, you can see the latest entries in the record collections. 

Records are pouring into the collections by the millions. Any microfilmed records that have been digitized are retired from those that can be shipped. This has been going on for years. Let me repeat, you haven't been able to order microfilms that have been digitized for years. Do you know what has and what has not been digitized? Yes, there is a simple way to tell. All of that information is in the Catalog. You can see the screenshot above that shows the pull-down menu on the Search tab. The fourth item down is the link to the Catalog.

We have four videos, so far, on catalogs that include the Catalog, on the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library YouTube Channel.

FamilySearch is digitizing so many records so quickly that there is a lag time for including all of them in the Historical Record Collections. But all the digitized images are being added to the Catalog. Indexing is also a slower process than digitization and the number of indexed images is also increasing but in the mean time, while waiting for the indexing to be completed, all of the digital images are being loaded online and appear in the Catalog. This includes many more images than are currently available in the Historical Record Collections. So, look in the Catalog for the images.

For example, if I do a search for Mexican Parish Registers in the State of Guanajuato in the catalog I get a list that looks like this:

This list is extensive and includes millions of images from the parishes in Guanajuato. If I click on one of the parishes in the list, I get the following:

Some of these links are the same as those found in the Historical Record Collections. But some are not. If I continue to scroll down the page, I get the following:

The little camera icons indicate links to the specific digitized microfilm rolls. The image at the beginning of this post is an example of what the thumbnail view looks like. Here is another.

When you click on any of the small images, you can see the entire page.

You can magnify, copy, and adjust all the images. Why would you want to go back to microfilm?

Anyway, even if your particular microfilm has yet to be digitized, keep checking. FamilySearch is still working away adding millions of images. But remember, look in the Catalog before calling FamilySearch and complaining about the microfilm disappearing.

An additional note, you should always search in the large online genealogy websites for their digital images. I have been finding a significant number of records that had yet to be digitized by FamilySearch on other websites. Do a Google search for the name of the microfilm and also look on the other major websites for additional records. Sometimes, due to contractual issues, FamilySearch may not have the rights to upload a set of records online while others may have those rights. Keep looking. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rocks in the Genealogical Field

Sometimes it seems to me that there are more rocks than there are fields to work. As I mingle and talk with genealogists, I always find one common theme: an ancestor or family that defies discovery. The tragedy of this situation is the fact that many researchers become obsessed with finding that one person or one family and neglect searching on other lines for ancestors that may be more discoverable. When we reach such an impasse, it is important not to become fixated on the obstacle. It is time to plow another part of the field and ignore the rocks for a while.

Meanwhile, genealogical technology and resources will continue their rapid advance and in a relatively short time, the unresolvable may be resolved.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More than handcarts

A Pioneer Day re-enactment of Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, with covered wagons coming off Big Mountain into Mountain Dell, by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the past few years, most of the references we hear about the Mormon Pioneers have focused on two handcart companies. I am certainly not at all trying to minimize or depreciate the sacrifice of these two unfortunate pioneer companies, but I am afraid that the image of people pulling handcarts has markedly diminished the sacrifices and challenges of the approximately 70,000 people who made the trip between 1847 and 1868. Almost all of my Great-great grandparents and their families crossed the plains during these years.

My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, was one of these pioneers. He did not push a handcart, but he lost his first wife, Louisa Conlee, to the cold and exposure of Winter Quarters in Nebraska Territory on the 29th of September, 1846. The death of his wife left him with eight children from infants to fifteen years of age. Within three months, he remarried my Great-great-grandmother, Julia Ann Shepherd on the Plains in Florence, Nebraska on the 1st of December 1846.

The Tanners were called to help outfit the waves of pioneer refugees coming from the East to the Salt Lake Valley so they stayed out on the Plains for more than a year. They came west in the Willard Richards Company in 1848.  Also in 1848, his six-year-old son, Sidney C. Tanner, was killed when he was run over by a wagon wheel while on the Plains in Iowa. He died on the 26th of July 1848.

Sidney also made two more trips back to the east and then back to the Salt Lake Valley. He traveled with the Amasa M. Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company in 1857 and again conducted the Sidney Tanner Company in 1861. So, he crossed the Plains six times. Perhaps it is time to start showing and talking about the dedication of those who rode in wagons or walked across the country.

One more example, my wife's Great-great-grandfather, Edwin Pettit, walked all the way across the country with the pioneers as an orphan with the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Company at age 13.  Oh, and one more example, My Great-great grandfather, Jens Christensen, died of exposure crossing the Plains outside somewhere in Wyoming or Nebraska in 1866. His daughter, Christine Christensen also died the same year on the Plains.

I can certainly relate to the handcart pioneers and their suffering, but almost all my life I have remembered the ones who came on foot or in wagons. Let's remember them also.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What if you turn out not to be related?

There are several popular "apps" or programs that use information on the Family Tree to establish "relationships.? When my wife and I tried out one of these programs recently, it showed that my wife and I are supposed to be 10th cousins four generation removed. What is a tenth cousin four generations removed? A tenth cousin four generations removed means that my 9th great-grandparents and my wife's 13th great-grandparents are in common. But for me and my wife to actually be related the chain of the relationship shown in the Family Tree would have to be accurate back, at least, nine generations and then forward to the present.

Of course, there is a way to determine if the results of the relationship app are correct. All you need to do is look at the connecting generations in the line of relationship given by the Family Tree to see if it is accurate. This is often easier said than done.

The relationship calculated by the app (which will for the purposes of this post remain unidentified) extends back through my "Stewart" line. Here is a screenshot of part of the Stewart line as it appears in the Family Tree back nine generations:

Duncan Stewart Steward has seven different fathers and seven different mothers. Take your pick. Which one connects me to my wife as a cousin? Really! The program takes the one that makes the relationship work.

This may seem like a rather harmless and trivial example, but the problem is that there are many people out there who believe that the information in the Family Tree is reliable and verified by the Church and/or FamilySearch. As this one example points out, many of these computer-generated pedigrees have severe issues.

What is more serious is that many other programs suggest relationships for the purpose of doing temple work with the same lack of verification of relationship.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gems from the BYU Family History Library

Finding Your Family in the Amazing Online Amsterdam City Archives - John de Jong

One the interesting things about the webinar and video project at the Brigham Young University Family History Library is the reaction of the people who watch the videos and the reaction of the people participating in doing the presentations.

Just recently, John de Jong, from FamilySearch, did a video about his specialty of research in the Netherlands. In talking to one of the people he has been helping with research in that country, he found out that the person was able to watch his video and find a long-sought ancestor. This is exactly the kind of benefit we hoped to achieve by putting up the wide range of topics available on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Thanks to all those who have been watching all these videos.

You may not think of BYU immediately when doing genealogical research, but I suggest you might want to investigate all of the resources available. This next week is the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Please take the time to consider coming to the Conference. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Logged In Home Page from FamilySearch

Logged In Homepage has just posted a new instructional video about the logged in Homepage that appears and is customized when you log in to I know that sounds redundant, but there is no other way to refer to the page. The short video above explains the idea and why you get a different page view every time you log in. This can be confusing to some of us, but it does provide some interesting links.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Assume There Are No Records For Your Family

There is a pervasive background to genealogical research. I constantly hear complaints from researchers that their family's records have been lost or never existed. Sometimes this complaint comes from information about a "burned" county, where the courthouse burned down at one point in time or even several times. After doing years of research, I find that there are some realistic limitations on both the availability and existence of records on a specific individual or family, but I also find that very few of the people who complain about a lack of records have come close to the actual limits.

Nearly all the complaints I receive about lost records result in a resolution. The underlying causes of the complaints arise from several different sources:

  • The researcher is looking in the wrong place or for records during the wrong time period
  • The researcher does not know where to find the records
  • The researcher cannot find records that are assumed to exist. For example, birth certificates before such documents were required by the state or county
  • The researcher does not know that alternate records exist that have the same or similar information as the "lost" records
  • The researcher is looking for records that were never in existence or looking at a time when the target records were not kept
  • The researcher is looking for the wrong person
  • The records that do exist fail to record the researcher's target person
  • The researcher is relying on an incomplete or inaccurate index
There are probably more reasons also, but any one of the above situations could result in a researcher coming to a conclusion that the records have been lost. 

Is there a cure for this condition? Fortunately, yes. To be a successful researcher, you always have to assume that the records are there and keep looking. Just because you are told that the "records all burned" or that they were destroyed due to a war or some kind of natural disaster, does not mean that the information you are looking for was not preserved. I have recently been looking at "burned" records that were ultimately preserved from a fire that took place back in 1870. New technology can sometimes restore records that were previously damaged beyond use. 

Consultant Planner Bug Resolved?

A short while ago, I wrote about a bug in the Consultant Planner. After speaking with FamilySearch and explaining the "bug," it appears that the problem has been resolved. I was able to add a person to my Consultant Helper List directly from my Stake Directory and using the person's helper number and birthdate. I hope this is the end of the problem.