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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Helping to Preserve Family Memories

Here is a quote I recently received from Paul Nauta at FamilySearch quoting Tim Cross.
"More than half the world is not wealthy enough to be connected to the internet. More than half the world is not wealthy enough to be remembered. They pass away, and there is nothing recorded about them, their families, and their ancestors. That’s the challenge—getting out and giving the opportunity to be remembered," Tim Cross, Family Tree Lite Product Manager, FamilySearch International.
Here is another quote from the FamilySearch blog post by Angelyn Hutchinson entitled, "Does Your Family Keep a Memory Scrapbook?"
I heard my father’s voice the other day. 
I cried. 
The last time I heard it was in 2008. It was fall when Dad died. I miss him every day. His voice sat on my shelf for almost nine years, captured on an old VHS tape that was recently discovered. 
In 1990, my father set up his camcorder and videotaped his uncle Herman, the last of my great-grandparents’ seven children. Using old photos, Herman, seated beneath the cottonwood trees in his yard on a summer day, told the story of his parents emigrating in 1901 from Sweden to Cache Valley in northern Utah. He described their lives and struggles and those of other ancestors who were gone but not forgotten to him. The details and stories that I’d never heard unfolded before me nearly three decades later as I watched the video now in my possession, and Herman’s memories became mine.
My wife and I have spent much of our lives gathering, recording and preserving our families' heritage. My wife has been spending a great deal of time recently reviewing and organizing a huge pile of boxes in our basement containing the records of her family. I have been paying one of my granddaughters to put photos and documents onto the Memories program. She is leaving shortly on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and she needed a short-term job before she leaves. Here is a screenshot of some of her efforts up to the time of this post.

She is working through some of the thousands of digitized photos and documents I have ready to be uploaded, titled and tagged.

Interestingly, very few of our close family members are likely aware or even care about our preservation efforts. My wife's family is much more involved than mine. I have almost no contact with my own family members even though I see that many others have added a substantial number of memories to my distant relatives. Sometimes, out preservation efforts seem to go unnoticed and unappreciated. But we are not looking either for notice or appreciation. We want these people to be remembered so that sometime someone will be touched by their stories.

If you or your family have not become involved in preserving family memories, please read about all the opportunities outlined in the Angelyn Hutchinson's post linked here and above.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Temple and Family History Consultants
For administrative purposes, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is divided into large geographic areas directed by an Area Authority Seventy. The Church is then further divided into Stakes and Wards. The newly organized Temple and Family History Consultants follow this administrative pattern. There are Temple and Family History Consultants at the Ward, Stake, and Area level.

From my experience, I would guess that very few members, other than some Bishops and most Stake Presidents, could name their Area Authority Seventy. Even fewer would be aware that there are Area Temple and Family History Consultants. Usually, a married couple are called to jointly served in this calling. The Areas of the Church can consist of a number of Stakes, sometimes as many as twenty or so. The calling of Area Family History Consultants has existed for many years. Some of these Consultants have been serving for as long as fifteen years or longer. While I was serving in the Mesa FamilySearch Library in Mesa, Arizona, I often worked closely with the Area Family History Consultants. As with the other level consultants, Area Family History Consultants became Area Temple and Family History Consultants.

With the reorganization of the Temple and Family History work in the Church, the Stakes are instructed to call their own Temple and Family History Consultants. These Stake consultants are now to be supported and trained by the Area Temple and Family History Consultants under the direction of the Area Authority Seventy. As with any change, so far, few of the Stakes have begun calling Stake level Temple and Family History Consultants.

One of the most common complaints from Ward level Family History Consultants has been a lack of training. Now with the changes, there should be a direct line of support and help from the Stake level to the Wards and from the Area level to the Stakes. Resources for this training are being provided on the website. See the links above.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Finding Francis -- Part Four

My investigations of Francis Tanner and my attempt to determine the identity of his parents are turning out to be a classic genealogical challenge, usually and inappropriately referred to as a "brick wall." I just finished spending over 13 hours reviewing one microfilm and I have a long list of others to review. This is the detail part of doing genealogical research process usually minimized by those promoting the pursuit.

Why am I writing about this situation? There are several reasons. First, I want to illustrate the amount of effort needed for a difficult genealogical challenge. Next, I wanted to illustrate the need for careful evaluation of the sources and the documentation needed to support any conclusions about the individuals involved in the research. I felt that a concrete example of the issues involved in a complex problem would be helpful to those facing a similar situation. Last, I wanted to show the time involved in doing this type of research.

For those just starting to read this series of posts and for the rest of us who can't remember what is going on at all, I will do a short review.

Francis Tanner (b. 1708, d. 1777) is the last ancestor in the John Tanner (b. 1778, d. 1850) line. John Tanner was a prominent early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he has thousands of descendants. Since the late 1800s, there have been some very influential surname books that showed his ancestral Tanner line to end with a "William Tanner" whose birth date and place were unknown. The surname books have been mentioned in early posts in this series. Speculation about William Tanner's wives has usually closely followed the sketchy information in the surname book series. There is presently no documentation yet discovered connecting Francis Tanner to either of this parents. Although, the entries in the Family Tree regularly add parents with no supporting documentation. Here is the latest iteration.

Francis' will (attached as a Memory) names a brother Nathan Tanner. Nathan Tanner's birth record is available and attached to his entry in the Family Tree. The birth record states that his, Nathan's, father's name was William and his mother's name was Elizabeth. The present theory is that since Nathan and Francis were brothers then it is possible that Francis' parents were also William and Elizabeth. The question is whether the William named in the surname books is the same William and the father of the two brothers. One of the wives reported a married to William Tanner is named Mary Babcock. A marriage record from New England has a William Tanner marrying a wife named Mary in 1692. There is reportedly a will of a Job Babcock dated in 1715 which I have not yet found, that names Job's daughter as "Mary Tanner." This would rule out the William Tanner who married Mary Babcock as the father of Francis and William. By the way, all of these documents are attached to the entries in the Family Tree.

My latest research turned up a deed from Mary Babcock to George Hazard dated on the 18th of December 1696. This would seem to rule out the Mary named in the marriage record in 1692 being Mary Babcock or she would not have been able to convey property in her own name.

I have yet to find a connection between anyone named William Tanner with a wife named Elizabeth and Francis Tanner.

Regularly people add another William Tanner to the Family Tree with a wife named Elizabeth without adding any additional documentation. Here is one of our standard responses.
Thank you for your interest in Francis Tanner and the Tanner Family. Please look through Sources, Memories, and “Latest Changes” and read the following before making changes to Francis Tanner’s entry. As of May 2017, several family members are reading through Rhode Island and New York records to identify probate, property, tax, vital, church, and other historical records for the Tanner family. We are adding information to FamilySearch as we find it.

We have removed William Tanner and his supposed wives as parents of Francis Tanner. Around the start of the 20th century, Rev. Elias Tanner and Rev. George C. Tanner wrote books about the family. Over time, their speculations about the origin of the Tanner family were taken as fact and adopted in many genealogies and spread through online family trees, heritage society applications, etc. A close examination of the speculative genealogy shows problems such as one possible mother, Elizabeth Cottrill, supposedly giving birth to Francis when she was a little child. The problem is that although there is very good reason to believe that a man named William Tanner was Francis Tanner’s father, there may have been multiple William Tanners in Rhode Island, and no one has provided documentation *created at the time* showing which one was the correct father, and which of their wives was Francis’s mother. Again, as far as we can tell, no one sharing online or published family trees has provided documentation supporting these speculative relationships.

We now have access to many more records than did family historians of prior generations, so we have begun to build a case for Francis’s parents. We are finding clues in probates, property records, and the records of the Sabbatarian or Seventh Day Baptist Church. We are identifying how Abel Tanner and Nathan Tanner and others are related to Francis, since a document associated with a relative might provide the clue that could reveal the identity of Francis’s parents.

If you would like to help, here are a few of the things you could do.

* Look through the family entries on FamilySearch to see if something is missing if you’ve done research in the original records, and please share a copy.
* Research related or possibly related families (Tosh, Sheldon, Tefft, Tibbitts, Babcock, Colgrove, Cottrill) using the original records of Rhode Island and New York, and add the sources to Family Tree.
* Transcribe Francis Tanner’s fourteen-page will. This would require proficiency in 18th century handwriting. (See a copy of the will in “Memories.”)
* Create detailed maps to show where each family lived during the 17th and 18th centuries based on original property deeds.
* Research the history and records of the Seventh-Day Baptists and other Baptist denominations in Rhode Island and New York.
* Find additional records or original copies of extracted records in archives or government offices.

We appreciate all who have added original records or photographs. FamilySearch gives us a remarkable new ability to collaborate, so this is a good time to try to confirm what has only been speculation for too many generations.
The constant changes in this family will keep occurring as long as people fail to read the documents and sources attached and also fail to do any additional research before adding in a new set of parents.

Monday, May 22, 2017

DNA and the Family Tree

I recently received the results of my DNA test with Interestingly, only recently introduced the Consultant Planner that includes a fan chart showing family origins. Here is my fan chart from

This fan chart is part of the Consultant Planner but to see your own chart, all you have to do is invite yourself and accept the invitation. See the following video for instructions.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

In my case, there is a significant difference between the information in the fan chart and what I received as a result of the DNA test. This creates a quandary. What do I do with the DNA results? How do the results help me with my current research in Rhode Island and England? I will continue to explore these questions in this blog and in Genealogy's Star. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quick Links to all the Temple and Family History Resources Online
If you look closely at the startup page of The Family History Guide, you will see a tab entitled "Misc." The resources in this tab are valuable for a number of reasons, but the most valuable for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the selection designated "LDS."

Here is a screenshot of the LDS page.

This section of The Family History Guide contains links to a huge number of resources for individual members as well as those with family history callings. Near the bottom of that webpage are two choices that link family history articles from the Church publications and family history videos.

Members might remember that The Family History Guide is now the official FamilySearch training partner.

In addition, there is a section under the Training menu item for Consultant training.
This section gives even more resources for helping, teaching and training in family history.

The Family History Guide can be an invaluable resource for expanding and emphasizing family history in your ward or stake.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Seven

I feel like I am just getting started writing about sources in the Family Tree. Here is a definition of a source from the Help Center article entitled appropriately, "Sources in Family Tree."
  • A primary source is a record created at or near the time of an event by someone with personal knowledge of the event. Examples of primary sources include birth certificates, death certificates, census records, newspapers, letters, journals, tax lists, court documents, or church records. Published books can be primary sources if they contain accounts based on personal knowledge of an event.
  • A secondary source is a record created after the time of an event by someone who did not experience the event personally. Most histories are secondary sources.
  • Sources can also come from personal knowledge about a person or from interviews with living relatives or other oral sources. 
  • A citation is a reference that describes the source and how to find it. Citations for oral sources should include who provided the information. Citations are important because they help users know where information came from and how reliable it is. They can also help users find more information.
 OK, this is the "widely accepted" method of categorizing sources; i.e. primary vs. secondary. But there is a serious issue with this simplified and mostly inaccurate method of classification. For example, the definition above uses a "death certificate" as one of the types of records assigned to the category of "primary source." Here is an example of a death certificate. This one is the death certificate of my Great-grandfather I have used many times before.

The right-hand side of the certificate is filled in by the attending physician. The information fits the definition of a "primary" source, that is, "a record created at or near the time of an event by someone with personal knowledge of the event." However, some of the remaining information does and some does not fit this definition. The information concerning the date of birth, the age at death, the birthplace, the names of his parents and their birthplace was all supplied by "Mrs. Roy Fuller." The burial information was filled in later and may or may not have been added by someone who had personal knowledge of the event. So is this a primary source or not?

We may or may not know the identity or relationship of Mrs. Roy Fuller to the deceased (who happens to be my aunt and Henry's daughter), but we certainly do not know the individual who signed the certificate at the time it was filed. Classifying this entire document as a "primary source" glosses over the questions that can and should be raised about the reliability of each of the items contained in the document. If we just look at the document, we can see that part of the document was typewritten and part was hand written. So the document was created sometime after the events recorded. We can assume that the doctor wrote the handwritten portion after the creation the typed portion. The doctor was then reporting events in the past, either by memory or from notes. This may be true due to the fact that the portion of the document signed by the doctor is undated.

So, how reliable is this "primary source?" I would suggest that reliability may have nothing to do with when the information was recorded. However, proximity in time to the event does increase the possibility of reliability. For these reasons, I usually do not find that the distinction commonly made between primary and secondary sources to be of much use or significance.

How then do we approach a record such as a death certificate? The answer is simple. All historical conclusions are tentative and are subject to revision as additional historical records are examined. We could use Henry's birthdate from this death certificate by adding it to our own "family tree." But it is entirely possible that a subsequently discovered record could modify our understanding of the actual birth date. In some cases, we may never find another birth record and the date will become accepted because it is the only record we have. This is not the case with Henry Martin Tanner. We have 13 sources listed that address his birthdate.

Now here is a test. Is a U.S. Federal Census Record a primary source? By the way, the real answer is that the question is irrelevant because a census record does not fit the category of either a primary or secondary source. The main reason being that the person who supplied the information is not identified so we have no way to determine the status of the information. In Part Five of this series, I set out a series of questions that we should be asking about the reliability of any record or document we use in our genealogical activities. Rather than classify documents or records into categories, it is a much better practice to go through the process of asking questions.

By the way, using the terms primary and secondary is not the only classification method. All of the other methods of classification have the exact same limitations.

Previous posts in this series

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Helping Others with the FamilySearch Family Tree Just Got Easier

The new Consultant Planner on is available to those who are helping others with their family history. Of course, this includes all of the Temple and Family History Consultants at every level and as you can see, we can also see our own Consultant Planner. Here is a recent, short video about the Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp from the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

This video covers most of the important features and answers many of the questions about the Consultant Planner. I have been using this system since its introduction and I find it to be a tremendous aid in helping and supporting others in their family history. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Instructions for Web Indexing now in The Family History Guide

At least locally, there has been a downturn in Indexing activity. Part of this downturn may reflect the uncertainty surrounding the introduction of a web-based Indexing program from As I posted a short time ago, web indexing has now been introduced.

As a result, The Family History Guide has been quick to add links to the instructions for learning about the web-based program. The Family History Guide is the official FamilySearch training resource. The instructions for the Indexing program begin in Goal 2 of the Indexing Project. Hopefully, with these readily available and structured instructions for using the program participation will begin to increase.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Uploading and downloading from the FamilySearch Family Tree: A very bad idea either way

I had an interesting experience recently. I was asked to help a patron in the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some trouble she was having with a large file. I asked her what she was trying to do and she explained that she was having trouble with her genealogy program on her computer at home. She couldn't work with the file and had been told that it was too large. After further discussion, and repeatedly asking what she was trying to accomplish, she indicated that she wanted to make sure that her file was uploaded to the Family Tree. I asked her about the size of the file. She indicated that there were approximately 33,000 names in the file. She had been told, that perhaps she had exceeded the size of a file allowed by the program she was using. I assured her that this was probably not the cause of our problems.

While this discussion was going on, I noticed that she was using two different computers. For some reason, which was never made clear, she had decided to "download" her portion of the Family Tree to a flash drive. For this purpose, she had started to download indicating that she wanted to download 100 generations with all of the associated information. For this purpose, she was using a different program than the one she had at home.

As a side note, I am purposely avoiding using the names of the programs. I will explain why this is being done later in this post.

Apparently, she thought that she was downloading her portion of the Family Tree or approximately 33,000 names. The program she was using indicated that there were over 350 million names left to be downloaded. In other words, she was actually attempting to download approximately 1/4 of the entire Family Tree.  At this point, I was totally puzzled as to what was going on. If she wanted to make sure that all the names in her personal file were in the Family Tree then I could not see any reason for downloading what was already in the Family Tree. Of course, her flash drive was totally inadequate for attempting to store 350 million names. In addition, the process would probably take several days and could not be completed in the Library because the library would close.

This experience was one of many similar situations have confronted over the years since the Family Tree was made available. Two of the most frequent questions I hear are about how to download information from the Family Tree or about how to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. There are two or possibly more programs that have connections to the Family Tree that would allow you to download portions of the Family Tree. There is also a roundabout way to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. I am purposely avoiding writing about either process in detail.

The basic problems with both uploading and downloading files involve duplicate entries, inaccurate entries and the time involved. Some of the information in the Family Tree is verified and correct. On the other hand, some of the information is entirely fictitious and/or incorrect. Because of this fact, there is no way you can rely on the accuracy of information downloaded from the Family Tree unless you do so one entry at a time.

Those people who assume that the information contained in their own personal file is free of duplicates and absolutely correct are fooling themselves. In addition, a personal file of any size will likely contain a considerable number of duplicates of people already in the Family Tree. Even if you believe that no one in your family has ever had contact with the Family Tree previously, you cannot be sure that some of your family records are not already in the Family Tree unless you check every name. Time after time people who have had no connection at all with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found that some of the relatives are already in the Family Tree.

What about the person with thousands of names that wishes to share them with the Family Tree? The best way to do this is to purchase one of the programs that connect directly with the Family Tree. I mentioned earlier in this post that I was avoiding using the names of the programs. The reason for this is because the issues of either uploading or downloading information from the Family Tree are really program independent. None of the methods of either uploading or downloading information avoid the problem and the challenge of examining each and every entry individually. The Family Tree was built this way intentionally. Can you imagine the mess that would be created if people could easily upload GEDCOM files? We already have a mess in the Family Tree and don't need any help adding to the mess.

So bite the bullet. The restrictions on uploading and downloading files are there for very good reasons. Get busy comparing your own file with the information in the Family Tree. You can find some good programs that will help you avoid retyping all the entries, but the process will still involve examining each entry. You may find your own file is inaccurate, or you may need to correct the entries in the Family Tree, but this is how the process works.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Investigating FamilySearch Family Tree Lite

If you find yourself trying to use the Family Tree on some tablets or smartphones, you might get overwhelmed with navigating an interface that is not suited to a small screen. In addition, there may be features that you do not need. You may also face the situation where your internet connection is slow or almost non-existent. In these situations, you will likely appreciate the new Family Tree Lite edition.

The blog post shown in the screenshot above describes the program in more detail. The link to the new program is the following:

It may take a few minutes and some clicking to get used to the program. To move backward in time through generations involves clicking on a person and then looking at that person's family. You may find yourself lost and have to return to the beginning by clicking on the "Me" menu option. Here is a screenshot of the program as it appears on my iPhone 7.

Right now, it appears that the only way to access the program is through a browser directly on the internet. I see no reference to a FamilySearch app or shortcut. However, if you have an iPhone, here are the instructions for adding a website, such as this one, to your home screen.
Here's how to add a website shortcuts on the iPhone/iPad Homescreen:
  • Open Safari.
  • Type in the web address.
  • After the website loads, tap on the share icon at the bottom.
  • In the share sheet, tap on Add to Home Screen.
That short process added an icon-link directly to the program. I am sure there is a similar process on Android devices.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Five in One Week -- The BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

We continue to be very busy at the BYU Family History Library on the beautiful springtime campus of Bigham Young University. We keep posting new videos to our BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.  There are five new videos posted in the last week. We have many more in the planning stage and look forward to the opportunity to share more topics with our vast audience of viewers. 

The webinars are scheduled while the rest of the shorter instructional videos depend on the presenters to organize and record their presentations for uploading as they are used to teach the missionaries or for other purposes.

We encourage all of you out there to share and view the videos and subscribe. 

What Every Family Tree User Should Know about Name Finding Apps - Kathryn Grant

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Family History Training Presentations
There are a wealth of resources for family history callings and support on These are three PowerPoint presentations ready to be used to teach members, Temple and Family History Consultants and Leaders and Councils. Each of these can be downloaded to your own computer and used to teach the appropriate group. 

Each of the presentations is about 15 minutes long without any discussion time and comes with a prepared script that can be used by the presenter. You may need to check out the setup because the presentations have embedded videos. You will need a device to show the presentations that will support both Microsoft PowerPoint videos and sound if you use the inserted video segments. 

They could be shown on a monitor or projected onto a larger screen. Since I do presentations practically every week and sometimes many times during a week, I am prepared with my own projector and computer. I also take an assortment of "dongles" or connectors that can connect my computer to HDMI and VGA cables depending on what might be available from the devices that are available where the presentation is to be presented. 

Screens often become a challenge. I have shown my presentations on walls or whiteboards when a screen was not available. If there is a small group, you can show the presentation right on your computer or iPad or tablet. 

I had to import the presentations into Keynote on my iPad to view them and see the included video presentations. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Suggested Checklist Before Adding to Existing Entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Lately, a number of people have been adding family members to my direct line entries in the Family Tree without adding any supporting sources and without bothering to read or review any of the existing sources, comments, life sketches, or Memories. This is nothing I can't handle. In fact, my daughter and I have developed several "standard" responses stored in a Google Docs file that we can copy and paste into the comments sections when we remove the unsupported and in almost all cases, totally inaccurate additions.

But the experience of constantly reviewing the entries is bothersome and annoying. If you are interested in the details, you can read my previous posts on "Finding Francis." Consequently, I decided to outline a suggested checklist of steps everyone should take before adding information to an existing entry in the Family Tree. You may think this is presumptuous of me to even think that someone might have to do anything before adding what they "know" to be absolutely correct information, but my personal experience compels me to attempt the project. 

Here we go.

Step No. 1
Starting with yourself, become familiar with your own family lines. Read the entries. Look at the sources. Review any Memories attached to the individuals.

This might seem to be a simple step but there are far too many people who jump into the Family Tree back where the lines end in blanks and start there to do some "research" to fill in the blanks. Those blanks in the Family Tree signify where researchers have been unable to find the next generation for over 100 years. In addition, just because there are generations and generations of people in a particular line does not mean any of those entries are correct or actually related to you or your family. In reviewing part of the Family Tree for a patron at a local Family History Center last night, I quickly determined that the people listed just two or three generations back were unsupported by adequate sources and lacked any credibility. However, I had neither the time nor the inclination to correct the entries since the corrections would involve some serious research over a long period of time. Unfortunately, I was limited to advising the patron that there was "some work that needed to be done to verify the entries."

One corollary to this step is that when there are no supporting sources for the information in the Family Tree, the information has to be assumed to be incorrect, incomplete or imaginary. The crucial information in this corollary must show a connection between the two generations.

While you are reading, looking and reviewing, you should also be thinking and asking questions. Look for the consistency and patterns of the dates and places. Make sure the entries you are considering are not duplicates.

This leads us to the next step.

Step No. 2
Once you have read, reviewed and looked at all the existing information, determine if you can find any additional sources, memories or other supporting information about the individual and his or her family.

If you don't understand what has already been done, then don't start adding in "your" information. You need to make an assessment of the status of the existing research about each individual you are considering. Remember, I am writing here about "existing" entries, not new information that you may have about your family. What is in the Family Tree is the accumulation of over 150 years of research and when there are extensive lists of sources, Memories, and notes, this means that the research that has already been done is worth considering. What it does not mean is that the research is correct. The conclusions of the past are not binding on the present. We have at our disposal an almost infinitely greater amount of information than was previously available.

Step No. 3
Do your own research.

Before diving into an established entry and starting to add information or making changes, do your own research. Verify the sources listed. Look at the original documents attached. Make sure that the entries are supported by valid conclusions. Be ready to defend your own conclusions with validly supplied documentation. There is always the possibility that you may disagree with the conclusions made that produce the existing entries. Check to see how many people are watching the entry you are considering changing. Be aware that all of those people may have done a lot of research about your family and may have good reasons for watching the entries.

Step No. 4
Once you have gone through all of the preceding steps, make your addition, change or correction including adding all of your supporting documentation and sources.

Don't be surprised if the people who are watching those entries respond in some way. They may have more information than you have already reviewed or not. If you add information or make corrections without explaining what you are doing or without supplying any additional documentation or sources, you can expect that your changes will be reversed sooner or later.

If you are used to working in the Family Tree, you might recognize that all of these steps can take just a few minutes or many days, weeks, months or years of research. Some information merely missing from the Family Tree and is now readily available. I do not usually expect any responses at all to adding new, previously unknown and unrecorded information to the Family Tree when I add the source for the information. But when I am working on existing, especially traditional, family lines, I always expect to be challenged when my research shows a change in the lines that varies from the "accepted" dogma.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a complicated and very difficult to untangle mystery. That is one of the real joys of being involved in family history.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dealing with disinterest in genealogy revisited

Back in 2013, I wrote a very short blog post entitled, "Dealing with disinterest in genealogy." Now about four years later, it is time to return to this topic. I am writing about the personal experiences of many genealogists who find themselves surrounded by people who couldn't care less about discovering their kindred dead. Most of the writing on this subject is aimed at getting all of these apathetic people interested and I find very little attention paid to the genealogical researcher that has to maintain an active interest despite any support from family or friends. In some cases, the disinterest becomes active opposition.

Back in 2013, I was suggesting ways to get the rest of the world converted to doing their own family history. I haven't given up on trying to convert the world to doing family history, but now I am just as interested in what it takes for a researcher to keep going in the face of this apathy, rejection, and, in some cases, opposition. This sense of isolation may come despite being an active part of an active ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is easy for active members to find support for being involved in family history or genealogy from the scriptures as well as from numerous conference talks and even from church publications and websites. After all, the Church spends a great deal of time and money on temples and sponsors the world's largest family history organization, FamilySearch, as well has almost 5000 Family History Centers worldwide. From all this, you would think that your involvement in family history might be lauded or at least recognized.

Let me give you an example. One of my friends was recently released from serving as a Family History Church Service Missionary for more than fifteen years. At the same time, another member of her ward who was serving in a humanitarian capacity as a Church Service Missionary was also released. There was no mention made of my friend's family history service and I expect that few members of the ward even knew she had been serving for so many years. The second missionary, released at about the same time, was recognized in Sacrament Meeting and given a certificate of service. This is not an isolated occurrence. Church Service missionaries have a very low profile in their own wards and stakes. Even though I have been serving as a Church Service Missionary for years, I have been asked by my stake leaders if I would like to serve a Church Service Mission, while I was still already serving.

What can we do when we feel this isolation?

The first thing I would suggest is that you become involved in the greater genealogical community. Find your local genealogical society and join and attend their meetings and even give them your support. You will find a lot of people, who are not members of the LDS Church, who are absorbed in genealogical research. You may even find them ready to help you with your own research. As I have traveled around the U.S. and Canada presenting at genealogy conferences, I am constantly amazed at how wonderful and pleasant these society members are to me and anyone interested. I have had some very nice visits with genealogists of every possible background. This shared interest often opens doors to friendship.

Next, I would suggest that you volunteer to help in a local Family History Center or Library. You don't need to be a Church Service Missionary to volunteer and you will soon make a lot of friends with those coming to the Center. If you happen to volunteer in a Center that seems to be as deceased as your ancestors, then spend some time promoting the center and building it up. Constantly invite people you meet and know to come to the Center for help in finding their own ancestors. If you don't have a Family History Center nearby, try becoming involved with your local library or historical society. There are always opportunities.

Here is one "don't." Don't talk to people about your own genealogical research unless you are trading stories with another genealogist. Talk to people about their own families, not yours.

Get online with your genealogy. Start a family history oriented blog and promote it. Start a Facebook page about your family and research. Tweet about genealogy. You can find a lot of people with the same interest in genealogy online.

There are a lot of ways to get involved with genealogy on a social basis. You may have to look outside your family, ward and even your stake, but there are always opportunities to get involved with people.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Six -- What do we do with junk sources?

If you have ever gone into a store with a young child or two or more in tow, you probably said something like this: "Do not touch anything!" You may have even said the same thing several times during your navigation of the store. I suppose that all of us have latent memories of being told not to touch things in our childhood. If you have had the opportunity to go to a museum or other similar establishment lately, you might have seen an area of the facility dedicated to touching objects, such as bones or rocks or whatever. These exhibits are a reaction to the commonly imposed injunction not to touch anything.

Interestingly, those latent memories come back to haunt us in our adulthood.

As genealogists, we navigate through the online world with this childhood baggage completely intact. Now, we have a huge online collection of data called the Family Tree that is like the special exhibits in the more modern museums. We are encouraged to touch, change, edit, update, and delete information. This is a very scary prospect and goes against everything we have been taught since childhood. But like it or not, the Family Tree is full of junk.

Let me define "junk." Junk is "old or discarded articles that are considered useless or of little value." However, we also remind ourselves of the danger of discarding junk with the statement, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." In our society, we also have a class of people who have an extreme psychological fear of discarding anything that we call "hoarders."

As genealogists, we need to resist the temptation to keep everything. But at the same time, we need to discard only those items that have no value. Hmm. How do we determine the value of genealogical items? Good question.

The interesting thing about the Family Tree is that it is entirely public. There are no basements or attics to hide away the junk. All of the entries on the Family Tree concerning the deceased are entirely visible to everyone. In effect, we can jointly determine what is and what is not junk. Obviously, there will be disagreements. In those cases, we should err on side of preservation. But in most cases, the junk in the Family Tree is merely baggage left over from a hundred years or more of accumulation. Perhaps we can think of the process more as a pruning rather than a dumping of the data.

So what is junk in the context of the Family Tree? Of course, I am just expressing my opinion, but I will be very conservative in that opinion. Because of the topic of this post series, I am concentrating on sources. Here are a few examples.

First of all, this "source" is no longer available online. Here is what Ancestry has to say about this source:
OneWorldTree can give you hints about your family history but not necessarily facts. There are a number of sources consolidated in OneWorldTree and it's impossible to know if there were errors in member-submitted family trees. Also, occasionally the computer algorithms in OneWorldTree incorrectly linked people with similar names.
The link to the OneWorldTree on the page, "OneWorldTreeish" no longer works. Do we keep this as a source? Doesn't it give us all the information about where the user obtained his or her information? Doesn't it let us all know where the information came from and provide us with a hint? The key here is that this "source" is no longer available. In this case, there are also historic sources that are cited to support the death and birth dates. Junk or not?

Let's look at another example.

Doesn't this entry fall into the same category as the first example? Do we keep it or not? Are Public Member Trees from sources? This question raises an issue of our definition of a source. Do we really want links to other user contributed family trees as the support for the information in the Family Tree? I am inclined to think that we do not want this type of source.

Here is another example to think about.

This is not a source by any stretch of the imagination, even though the contributor is identified. The main reason for this conclusion is that the entry does not identify the document or record used to support the birth information. It might help to see who this "source" supported:

Neither this source or the previous one citing to the OneWorldTree give us any idea where the birth and death information were obtained. In addition, the birth information for this individual was likely calculated from the death record. However, no citation to a death record is provided. Putting these "sources" into the Family Tree gives an illusion of accuracy and dependability without any substance. This particular line continues on for many generations without any good or bad source citations. As I have noted previously, anyone can use the ID numbers or names of these individuals to see the entries in the Family Tree.

One last entry for consideration. This one concerns the following family:

Here are the sources listed. I have blurred out the contributors for obvious reasons. Any questions about whether or not this is junk?

I wouldn't mind examining the Church record of Adam's birth, but unfortunately, the source citation is not complete enough for me to find the record.

Previous posts in this series

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Finding Francis -- Part Three

One of the basic facts of life in genealogical research is that all ancestral lines end. The point at which they end is sometimes not very evident to those doing the research. The Family Tree is a good example (or bad example) of the fact that many traditional family lines extend far beyond any accurate historical supporting documentation.

My daughter, Amy Thiriot, has posted a very helpful explanation about how one family with a prominent ancestor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is confronting the issue of unsupported traditional extensions to a family line. You can see the post and the link above. The most productive response is to dig in and do some long overdue basic research in the historical documents. The unproductive response is to rely on the family tradition and add in unsupported and obviously inaccurate information.

By my own choice, I am in the middle of one of these situations. If more of the users of the Family Tree were carefully documenting their ancestry, this type of situation would be more common and many of these "traditional" and copied ancestral lines would disappear. As Amy explains in detail in her post, the inaccurate Tanner ancestral line is well entrenched. I determined that Francis Tanner's (b. 1708, d. 1777) parents had never been accurately determined. In order to spur interest and to emphasize the point, I detached Francis from his traditionally entered parents. All of this has been explained in detail in the posts cited below.

The effect has been that someone adds the traditional parents without adding any supporting documentation about once or twice a week. This happens despite the extensive documentation and analysis we have entered and continue to enter as we focus on the research. My research consists of a page by page examination of the historical microfilmed records. When and if I run out of microfilm and still haven't identified Francis' parents, I will be planning a trip to Rhode Island to continue the research onsite.

I have a standing challenge to anyone with an extensive ancestral pedigree in the Family Tree that I can find extensive and obvious errors by examining your portion of the Family Tree within a few minutes. The only lines where this does not happen are those that have been researched quite recently.

From time to time, I will keep posting an update to this situation and the conclusion if there ever is one to report.

This is an ongoing series but all the posts do not have the same names. Previous posts in this series.

Monday, May 8, 2017

FamilySearch Labs disappears

For many years, FamilySearch has maintained a website called FamilySearch Labs ( Some of the innovative features of the main website have been tested on this little known and less used website. As of today and perhaps for some time now, the Labs website has disappeared. If I enter the URL, the former address goes directly to The one most useful feature of the Labs website was and is the map of England and Wales Jurisdictions 1851. This feature is still online at but there is no evident direct link from to this "Maps" website.

There are several pages (or websites) contained within or associated with that are essentially isolated links. Sometimes knowledge of these isolated pages or websites is passed around the genealogical community, but some of them do not even appear on the Site Map.

By the way, did you know that the website had a sitemap?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Get Started with Web Indexing

Note: Those who are presently using the desktop version of the program do not need to worry. The online version may replace the desktop version, but you will still be able to do your indexing from your desktop computer. 

Web Indexing is now a reality. For the time being, both the downloadable version and the new web version of the Indexing program are available. One of the main advantages is that the program has now gone mobile. You can use your internet browser on your tablet or laptop. However, the program is not yet optimized for smartphones.

To get started, you will need a free account. You can see from the screenshot above that the Indexing program is in the main menu and Web Indexing is one of the main choices in the program. The FamilySearch Blog had a recent post about "How To Get Started With Indexing Online." Here are the steps they suggest:
  1. Take a Quick Tour. Give indexing a try with a quick tour.
  2. Review the Simple Guidelines. Take a minute to get familiar with a few important guidelines every indexer should know.
  3. Choose a Favorite Project. With over 100 indexing projects worldwide, you’re sure to find one that interests you.
  4. Find More Hints. Have questions about indexing in general? We’ve got answers. Check out these valuable resources.
  5. Get Answers. Have more questions about web indexing? Here are answers to frequently asked questions.
Now that the program is mobile, I may have some unused time that I can use to squeeze in some indexing.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Five -- Evaluating Sources

How do we determine whether or not a particular genealogical source is accurate or not? This is a challenging issue and involves the process of asking a series of questions about the reliability and believability of the source. Here are a few examples of the type of questions I would ask about a document or record that I was considering using:
  • Who provided the information contained in the document or record?
  • Did that person participate in or experience the event or events recorded in the document or record?
  • What is the time lapse between the event and the drafting of the record or document?
  • Did the person who observed the recorded events actually create the record or document?
  • Was the person drafting the record or document in a position to know or judge the accuracy of the information supplied?
  • How consistent and believable are the records or documents within the existing time, place, and circumstances?
This is, of course, not a complete list but merely some of the types of questions that should be asked about any historical record or document. 

Over the past years, genealogists have tried to pigeon hole records or documents by borrowing both legal and scientific jargon. I have written about these attempts on many occasions to argue that using both legal and scientific terminology is detrimental to genealogical research. Trying to apply concepts of evidence and proof to genealogical research is nonproductive. Likewise, all of the elaborate schemes where records and documents are categorized as "primary," "secondary" etc. are inapplicable to the type of evaluation applied to historical documents. Lawyers and scientists tend to see everything in terms of their particular disciplines. But borrowing the terms from law and science simply adds a degree of complexity that is unneeded and, at times, misleading.

In the process of doing historical (including genealogical) research, the historian or genealogist forms an opinion concerning what happened in the past as a series of conclusions. At all times, those conclusions are based on the accuracy of the records or documents relied upon in forming the researcher's conclusions. As is the case with all forms of historical research and particularly with genealogical research, all the conclusions reached are subject to reevaluation and modification when additional historical records are discovered. Let me illustrate this process by using a series of examples of research using some actual entries in the Family Tree. May I remind all my readers, than any time I give an example from the Family Tree, you or any other registered user of the Family Tree can use the ID numbers of the people to go look at the examples directly in the Family Tree.

Let's suppose you are investigating your ancestor and you reach the end of the line. You might be tempted to enter an entry such as this one:

This particular entry is one of a long series of "ancestors" added to the Family Tree ultimately going back to 1150 A.D. Someone has concluded that one of my own remote ancestors is part of this line of descent. There are no sources or memories and so we have no idea where this information came from, but apparently, some book or record contained this list of people and someone assumed that my Morgan line, which arguably originated in Wales, was partially descended from this person. If I come forward in time, I finally come to the following:

This is the last person in that line that shows a source. The source is listed as "England, Select Cheshire Bishop's Transcripts, 1598-1900" and was supposedly obtained from However, there is no link to the actual record. Now, we cannot follow the thought process of the person who made this entry without some link to some source. I am forced to redo all of the research back to end of this line to verify the information.

So, let's move forward in time on this line and see if I can find out why they think my Welsh family is related to these people from England. Coming forward I come to this entry.

In this case, there is a source with specific information. Here is the "source."

This is the only source. I do not have any information supporting the conclusion of a birth date or death date. Once again, if I want to believe this information, I will have to redo all of the research. So I will continue moving forward in time until I find some substantial support for the conclusions recorded by this series of researchers. Of course, I skip over the people listed who have no supporting sources because I will still need to redo all that research. Here is the first person with more than one source.

Hmm. Eight sources listed. Maybe we are getting somewhere. But there is a problem. This person is listed as born in Cheshire, England but his wife is listed as born in Cambridge and all the children as listed as born in Staffordshire. So the next generation is born in the Staffordshire. There are no sources cited showing how the family moved from Cheshire to Staffordshire about 50 miles away.

So far, all of the sources listed and all of the many generations of people added are apparently based on matching names. The sources linking the generations are missing. All of this research will have to be redone. Johannis Malbon's daughter, Elizabeth Malbon, is supposed to have married William Hamilton (Hambleton).

There are no sources documenting that this extensive line is actually related to any of my own ancestors even though many people have added this information to one of my own lines. In using this example, I simply clicked back to some remote ancestor on my own family lines as shown in the Family Tree. I could have taken a shortcut and started with my own name and followed the line back, but I wanted to illustrate the fact that none of these links for all these generations have any sources substantiating the conclusions. Let's continue coming forward in time to William Hamilton. If I am going to accept the validity of these conclusions, I will be forced to redo all of the research so far.

There are no sources cited for William Hamilton's birth or death. His son, Thomas Hamilton, my supposed ancestor, is listed as born in Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1718. All of the other listed children were born in Staffordshire, England and the father, William, dies in England. How did the son get born in Massachusetts?

Apparently, from this record, his parents came to America to have a baby and then went back to England to have the baby christened and then sent the child across the ocean by himself to America again because he died in the United States. Unfortunately, none of this extensive traveling has been documented with even one source.

We still haven't gotten to one of this line of ancestors in the Family Tree that has been substantiated by any sources. Yes, these researchers had an opinion but without sources cited to support their opinion, I would have to reject the entire line and redo all of the research. Wait. I still haven't connected this family line to anyone in my own fully sourced and supported conclusions. Thomas Hamilton has a son named John. According to the tree details John's father Thomas was born in Massachusetts, was christened in England and marries in Kentucky in 1749, before the first settlers arrived with Daniel Boone in 1767. In fact, "Mrs. Thomas Hambleton" was supposedly born in Kentucky around 1722, long before any Europeans lived there. Was she an Indian? If so, none of her genes got to me since my DNA test does not show any Native American connections.

Well, we have about 800 years of ancestors consisting of about 20 generations that are totally unsubstantiated.  What happened to evaluating the records?

Do I really have any connection to this extensive ancestral line? The only source listed for John Hamilton is a Sons of the American Revolution Membership Application. By the way, despite his parents' supposed move to Kentucky, John was supposed to be born in Augusta, Virginia in 1755, still, before anyone had settled in Kentucky.

We finally get down to the part of the line that may be related to me, but that is the topic of another post on another day.

Would this line be recorded in the Family Tree if the researchers had recorded their sources and properly evaluated the information? I suspect not.

Previous posts in this series

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Key is Being Proactive

It is pretty hard to catch any fish if your boat is on dry land. For many years, genealogy has been one of the least proactive pursuits imaginable. Many of us have spent years of our lives diligently working away on our personal family tree with almost no interest shown by our families, friends or anyone else for that matter. This isolated situation was and is common among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In some cases, not only is active support missing, but there is passive or even active opposition from surrounding Church members and leaders.

I can remember several classes I had that talked about genealogy over the years. In each case, the instructor hauled in a huge pile of "Books of Remembrance" containing hundreds of Family Group Records and spent the class time recounting how they had found a distant relative in some library or another. I was not motivated.

For the past few months beginning near the end of 2016, there has been an increased emphasis from the General Authorities of the Church on active participation in family history. The most visible change has been renaming Family History Consultants and Advisers as "Temple and Family History Consultants." The name change is much more than just a token acknowledgment of the connection between family history (genealogy) and work in the Temples. Quoting from,
The primary responsibility of all temple and family history consultants is to give personalized help to leaders and families, enabling them to: 
Find the names of deceased ancestors, and gather their families on both sides of the veil.
Take the names to the temple, and provide necessary ordinances for them. 
Teach their family members and others to do the same.
There are several keywords that are being used over and over in the resources being added to, they include the following:
  • Proactive
  • Mentoring
  • Personalized 
  • Help
The concept here is that Temple and Family History Consultants are to be proactive in personalized mentoring and helping both their own family members but also the leaders and members of their wards and stakes. I am certain that my own family history experience would have been vastly different had I ever encountered a mentor or even someone willing to help and answer questions. I would likely have made far fewer mistakes and spent less time in non-productive research and activities. 

If you are called as a Temple and Family History Consultant, you can now be "trained" by the huge number of resources on During the past few weeks, I have been highlighting these resources in this blog, but all you really have to do is start clicking around and following the links. You do not have to wait for someone to teach you what to do. But if you are a Stake or Area Temple and Family History Consultant, you have the direct responsibility to seek out and support, teach and mentor the Ward Temple and Family History Consultants. There are also abundant support and resource materials on for your callings. 

What do we do if the leaders of the wards and stakes ignore us? Keep doing our jobs. Seek the Spirit and pray constantly for help and support and the way will be opened to you to help other individually and in groups.