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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Limitations on FamilySearch Family Tree Ordinance Crawler Applications


Programs that find green icons or temple opportunities in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree have become very popular recently. In the FamilySearch.org App Gallery, there are 47 apps listed under the category of "Tree Analyzing." Many of these utility programs are the "favorite" programs for those who have only a casual involvement in family history. From what I see around me, whole Wards and even some Stakes, base their efforts at promoting family history on using one or another of these programs.

These Tree Analyzing programs are called "Ordinance Crawlers" by the programmers who support and maintain the Family Tree. In a recent newsletter dated September 29, 2017, aimed at developers of programs that use the Family Tree, i.e. the developers of the ordinance crawler programs, FamilySearch noted that certification and approval of additional such programs would be discontinued until further notice. This action is being taken because of the high load that these third-party ordinance crawler programs are placing on the internet resources available to FamilySearch.

From my own standpoint, the value of these ordinance crawler programs is marginal in advancing the integrity, value, and growth of the Family Tree. First of all, they all depend to a greater or lesser degree of the accuracy of the data already in the Family Tree. Some of these programs are better than others in determining the validity of opportunities found. In many cases, the "opportunities" turn out to be more accurately an indication that serious research is needed in a particular family. The Family Tree program is constantly becoming more sophisticated in analyzing the validity of the entries. Red warning icons that indicate serious errors in the data are increasingly common. Finding the overlooked or undone temple ordinances in the program is becoming more and more difficult.

When the Family Tree was first released and for several years after its introduction as a replacement for the new.FamilySearch.org program, green ordinance availability icons were abundant. However, in many cases, their abundance was an illusion caused by the Family Tree program's inability to accurately determine the existence of duplicate individuals. Beginning in June of 2017, that limitation in the Family Tree was eliminated to a great degree and millions of duplicates were merged. This affected the number of apparent ordinance opportunities because many of those duplicates showed opportunities when completed ordinance work was recorded on two or more duplicate individual records in the Family Tree. For example, one copy of an individual may have some of the required ordinances and another copy might have other completed ordinances. When the two copies were merged, all of the ordinances showed as completed.

The issue of duplicate entries in the Family Tree still exists and to some extent, as information is added to the entries in the Family Tree, additional duplicates can still be found in great numbers. By adding information to the entries from research into the available records, more and more duplicates become evident. I have written about these "Ghost Records" on the Family Tree over the past few months. In one sense, the ordinance crawlers reduce the number of green icons by finding those that are available, but in another, real sense, they also increase the number of duplicate ordinances performed and effectively hide the multiple duplicate entries that exist when research adds information to the existing entries.

From the standpoint of FamilySearch, the "duplicate issue" has been solved. The Family Tree now detects most of the obvious duplicates. But the duplicates that appear only after research has added new information to existing individuals is still hidden and very extensive despite assurances from FamilySearch to the contrary. I have very recently spent hours working through the duplicates for one family that only appeared when I added information obtained from research and I am certain that I will have the same experience many times in the future.

Now, back to ordinance crawlers. These programs give an appearance of the fact that names for temple ordinance are already identified and waiting to be found in the existing entries in the Family Tree. A very few Family Tree users take advantage of these programs to do serious research. But in my own experience, I have found them to be less useful than simply spotting research opportunities and beginning research.

If the emphasis on working with the Family Tree was changed from "mining" to research, perhaps the problem of the overuse of the FamilySearch resources would be solved. Relying on these types of programs, not a solution to validating and improving the Family Tree.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Standardization: A Controversial Issue


My recent blog post entitled, "USA vs. United States: Standardization?" resulted in some more than ordinary long and involved comments. I am not going to reproduce the lengthy comments in this post, but I do recommend that you read what the commentators have to say. Reading the comments might help to understand the issues I am about to discuss here.

First of all, anyone can impose their own standard in the context of their own activities. Most of us have played a game where the participants agreed on certain rules in advance of the game. We have also been confronted with the statement, "This is my game so you must play by my rules." In this regard, the critics of "standardization" are missing the point. Standards are not generally imposed for the benefit of the users, it is imposed to benefit the supplier, manufacturer or whatever. Granted, some standards do benefit users, such as safety standards in automobiles and electronics, but most are merely ways to facilitate commerce.

Genealogy is not immune to standards. Many of us, who submitted paper family group records to the predecessors of FamilySearch realize that those family group records had to be submitted through Ward and Stake reviewers before they could be submitted. The rules for abbreviations of both places and dates were rather complex. Those particular rules were imposed by the limitations of the physical spaces on the forms. Today's standards from FamilySearch are aimed at improving consistency and communication in a worldwide forum.

Because I speak two languages fluently and for a number of other reasons, I am personally very aware of differences in language standards. For example, because I learned most of my Spanish language in South America and Central America, I have no difficulty in understanding people from those countries. However, I do have substantial difficulty in understanding people from parts of Mexico. In addition, because of my university training in Spanish, I am accustomed to certain standards. The difficulty in understanding people from parts of Mexico is similar to the difficulty I have an understanding some British English accents and those from the southern states of the United States. Broadcast companies usually recognize this problem and have adopted "standardized English." It just so happens that most of the broadcasters in the United States standardize on the English spoken in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now, if we apply my experiences with spoken language into the rules that are used in by FamilySearch.org in the Family Tree, we can see the underlying issues involved in imposing any degree of standardization. You may call some rule a standard, but it only becomes one when a whole lot of people or organizations or companies accept it as a standard.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Answering the Questions from Sharing Record Hints and Sources: Part Three



At the start of the series, I listed a number of questions that are commonly posed by patrons as I volunteer at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and elsewhere. I am afraid I wandered pretty far from the subject of record hints and sources but ultimately, as all my topics are ultimately related, it might fit together. It might also be helpful to know that the answers to the questions are my own personal opinions.

Here are the next questions:

If I am concerned about changes made to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, do I maintain a separate, personal family tree on another program?

Online family tree programs infrequently provide personal backup copies of your data. The websites are obviously backed up to their own servers. This is especially true of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. But in the case of the Family Tree, if anyone changes the data in your portion of the Family Tree, then, the backup preserves the changes. However, many users are concerned about reversing the changes that are made to reflect their own personal data. Hence, the apparent necessity for a separate copy of a personal genealogical database.

The FamilySearch.org Family Tree already provides a detailed list of every change made to the data in the program. There is a link on every person or detail page showing every change back to the time when the data was first entered. In almost all cases, by showing the list of all the changes and clicking on the "Reference" link you can see exactly what was done in reverse any changes made.

This screenshot shows the first and most recent entry in the All Changes list and the arrows indicate the Reference and Show Relationship links. Essentially, all of the information needed to reverse this change is available right here in the program. However, if you only infrequently view the program you may not know whether or not the change is valid or invalid. Having your own program with your own version of the data does not necessarily mean that the information you have is correct and that the information added or changed on the Family Tree is incorrect. Your information may be incorrect. The information changed or added may be incorrect. Both your information and the information added or changed may be incorrect. The problem of a change may not be easily rectified by simply referring to your own inaccurate information. Whether or not you have your own separate copy on another program may simply mean you need to go out and do some research. From my perspective, in almost all cases, referring back to some previous copy of the data on a separate program is not needed or necessary.

By the way, very few people actually believe my explanation. I think the real issues involve the time and effort of maintaining a separate database apart from the Family Tree. The underlying issue of the changes in the Family Tree involves working with your relatives to develop a consensus concerning the content of the record. In other words, because of the unified nature of the Family Tree, you are essentially forced to collaborate with anyone else out there in the universe who is concerned about your particular entries. In some cases, this may be almost no one but in other cases, such as my own, there are likely thousands of people who are potentially in a position to make changes. It is an overly simplistic view of life and the Family Tree to assume that you do not have to deal with all of these relatives. Retreating back to your own personal and in many cases, unverified database on a separate program is a panacea, not the solution.

All that said, if you want to have your own personal database on any program either online or on your desktop that is your own personal decision to make. But I do strongly suggest that you reconsider imposing your own limited view of the reliability of your own database before imposing your opinions and that of your own traditions when new data is entered into the Family Tree.

Should I use an online program, such as Ancestry.com or one of the other partner programs or a separate desktop based program?

 Rather than the complicated explanation of the first question above, the answer to this question is extremely simple. The answer is: it depends. If you're comfortable working online is an online program if you're more comfortable working on a desktop program, use a desktop program. That's the answer. If you have a question about which program to use I would suggest, as I always do, referring to GenSoftReview.com for up-to-date review information on genealogical programs.

Here art the links to the original post with all of the questions listed and the subsequent posts with my answers.

http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2017/09/answering-questions-from-sharing-record.html
http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2017/09/sharing-record-hints-and-sources-part.html

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Technology and Genealogy

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/technology-family-history-spiritual-work/?cid=email-MC_TFHC_0917_CTA1
Considering the number of people I talk to who complain about technology, Kathryn Grant's article "Even with Technology, Family History is "a Spiritual Work" is timely and right on the spot. This article brings to my mind a quote from 2 Nephi 25:23:
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
This particular scripture is usually applied to missionary work for the living, but I would expand it to apply to the missionary work we call family history or genealogy for that dead. My point is that we must "labor diligently" in whatever endeavor we undertake that involves our own personal salvation or that of others. Read the article and think about your own personal attitude towards technology.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Answering the Questions from Sharing Record Hints and Sources: Part Two


I recently posed a series of questions in a blog post entitled, " Sharing Record Hints and Sources." Some of the questions involved complex issues regarding the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I was little bit surprised that I did not get any more comments or questions after posting such a long list. But if you've ever attended one of my classes, you will probably remember that I asked for questions at the beginning of each class. Not surprisingly, I get very very very few questions and the questions that I do get fall into narrow categories. So, because I get so few questions in my classes and as result of posting my blog, I decided to make up my own list of questions. So here we go.

Do I keep all my information in one or all of the four partner programs?

This particular question comes up quite frequently. You will recall, that FamilySearch.org has a number of "Partner Programs" that are either linked or associated with the Family Tree. Each of the three other Partner Programs also host individual family trees. One of the most important benefits of each of the four programs, including FamilySearch.org, is the fact that they provide automated record hints. These record hints are invaluable in doing research in the last 200 years or so of our history. The only way to get a benefit from all of these record hints is to have your family tree in each of the four programs.

However, the question that I posed asks whether or not we keep all of our information in all of the programs. Because presently there is no practical way to adequately share information between all of the four programs, unless you have a very small pedigree, maintaining all four programs would be an insurmountable problem. I do suggest putting a copy of your basic, verified family tree in each of the programs. This way you can take advantage of the record hints. I further suggest that you focus on your own personal research goals and not be driven by the huge number of record hints you are likely to receive. If you focus on your own research goals, you will probably be assisted by looking at those portions of your family tree on each of the four programs for record hints. That way, you can maintain those portions of your existing family information on all four programs without the overwhelming need to update those sections of your family tree that you are not presently working on.

If I choose to have four copies of my family tree, how do I keep the copies synchronized?

This is another fairly common question. Unfortunately, the answer is neither simple nor easy. Of course, you can manually update each of the four websites. However, this is a monumental waste of time. There are a number of options however each of the options involve some manual copying, editing or even correcting. Answering this issue also usually involves anticipating the next question in this series of questions. If you follow my suggestion in answer to the previous question, then the changes you need to make for "synchronization" should be quite limited.

To get started, I suggest that you choose one program, either one of the four websites or another desktop program, as your main information repository. This particular program should contain all of your information, sources, photos, memories, etc. Anticipating other questions which will be addressed in the future, it is my suggestion that you transfer all of your information to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree at some point, possibly sooner than later. I will expand on this particular statement in response to future questions.

From a practical standpoint, in addition to manual updates, some of the programs do share information. Presently, FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com can be linked by those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who have an LDS account. Information can be shared between the two websites individual by individual. Some of us view our Ancestry.com family tree as a "backup" to the information we maintain in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. There is also a way to bring sources from MyHeritage.com into the Family Tree. Recently, RootsMagic has expanded their program to synchronize between a RootsMagic database and a family tree on Ancestry.com. Additionally, both the RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest programs link to each of the four Partner Programs to show outstanding record hints in each program. Unfortunately, most of these methods of sharing information are still uncomfortably complicated.

It looks like in some cases, I will only be able to answer one or two questions at a time. Stay tuned.

Here is a link to the original post with all of the questions listed.

http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2017/09/sharing-record-hints-and-sources-part.html

Monday, September 25, 2017

USA vs. United States: Standardization?


When I was in high school, back before the war, there was a lot of discussion about converting from the "English System" of measurements to the metric system. My contemporaries and I thought that the metric system was harder to understand than the "foot, pound" units we were accustomed to. By the way, the United States is now the only industrialized country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement. Most of the children now in school are taught to use the metric system. My introduction came when I lived outside of the United States for many years.

Now, what does this have to do with genealogy? Presently and for some time now, FamilySearch.org has implemented a system of "Standardization" for the dates and places in the Family Tree. More recently, FamilySearch started to mark the "non-standard" dates and places with red error icons.


As a result, my portion of the Family Tree program is now well decorated with red icons. However, how standard is the FamilySearch standard? You don't have to look very far to discover that it is not a standard outside of the FamilySearch.org website. Here is an example from Ancestry.com from the same family.


First of all, Ancestry.com accepts the entry of "Harrison County" and also "standardizes" its entries to "USA" instead of "United States." Granted, both entries in both programs are "messed up" and likely inaccurate. This example happens to come from a part of my own pedigree that has yet been researched fully and corrected. It is not too hard to find these examples because there are perhaps thousands of them (millions?).

In another example, rather than take sides in this "standardization" issue, programs such as RootsMagic provide a way to standardize on either "United States" or "USA" depending on personal preference. One effect of this issue is that every time I migrate a date or time from Ancestry.com to FamilySearch.org, the date and place are automatically marked as non-standard. All my entries in my family tree on Ancestry.com are "standardized" to "USA."

What about MyHeritage.com?

MyHeritage.com accepts both USA and United States and also accept "Co." for the county. By the way, I realize that Kentucky is misspelled. Actually, the entry in the Family Tree on FamilySearch.org for Thomas Hamilton is more than messed up. For example, look at the birthplace and the christening place.


It would seem to me that a missing standardized birthplace is pretty trivial when the birthplace is listed in Massachusetts and the Christening is shown as occurring in "Butterton Par.Ch, Hulme End, Staffs." However, FamilySearch does not mark christening dates and places as non-standard, even when they are probably impossible, such as being born in America and being christened in England. It could have happened by not likely in the 1700s. Of course, the example above of a birthdate in 1720 in "Kentuckey" is also impossible because Kentucky did not exist as a state until 1792 and the first settlement in what is now called Kentucky took place in 1774 at Fort Harrod, one year before Boonesboro.

It seems to me that "standardization" should go a little deeper than merely satisfying some engineering issues with search engines.

Comment: Will I now try to fix the mess with the Hamiltons in the Family Tree? Probably not for a while because I don't think that this line is even correct and I may just have to cut off the line and leave it out there for someone else to deal with.





Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Records Preservation Mission Call


My wife and I have recently been called to serve as full-time missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as record preservation specialists. We will serve for one year. We enter the Mission Training Center (MTC) on December 4, 2017.

As many of our friends and acquaintances know, we have both been serving as part-time Church Service missionaries for many years, first at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and then, most recently, at the Brigham Young University Family History Library on the campus. But since this mission is a full-time calling, we will have to spend whatever time is necessary to fulfill our callings and likely I will have to take an extended vacation from regular blogging.

Since we have been doing genealogical research for our own families and for those of many others, we feel this is an opportunity to contribute directly to the information available to genealogists and family historians around the world. Here is another link that explains what we will likely be doing.

FamilySearch Records Preservation Missionaries

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sharing Record Hints and Sources: Part One: An Overview


The reality of today's family history research for those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that FamilySearch.org involves partner programs with Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com, all of which, including FamilySearch, provide a constant stream of record hints. Many of these record hints translate directly into sources supporting events in the lives of our ancestors.

If you have a lot of ancestors and relatives in the United States going back generations, you will probably have hundreds of record hints from all four programs. Of course, this depends on whether or not you have a family tree in each of the four programs. Conceptually, having four different copies of your pedigree, i.e. family tree, in four different programs can seem to be overwhelming. The FamilySearch Family Tree creates another conceptual problem by being a shared family tree program where registered users can make changes to any of the entries. I have written about the subject many times recently and done YouTube videos for the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

So there are several questions that come about because of this situation such as the following:
  • Do I keep all my information in one or all of the four partner programs?
  • If I choose to have four copies of my family tree, how do I keep the copies synchronized?
  • If I am concerned about changes made to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, do I maintain a separate, personal family tree on another program?
  • Should I use an online program, such as Ancestry.com or one of the other partner programs or a separate desktop based program?
  • How do I handle suggested record hints that are duplicates of existing record hints?
  • Do I have all the record hints from all the programs to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree?
  • How do I know whether or not a suggested record is actually valid?
  • What if I find two record hints for the same person but they disagree?
  • How do I handle an excessive number of record hints?
  • What if I am getting conflicting opinions from different people concerning record hints, sources, and multiple family trees?
  • Isn't adding record hints to people whose temple ordinances have already been done, really just busy work?
  • How do I move sources from one of the online programs to another?
  • Should I add sources from two different programs that are essentially the same source?
  • If I spend my time adding record hints to existing people how will I ever have enough time to do research to add people to my family tree?
  • What do I do with record hints to other user's family trees?
  • How do I tell if a record hint actually refers to my ancestor?
  • How many sources are enough?
  • Should I subscribe to all four partner programs?
There are probably quite a few more questions similar to these that I have heard recently. You might notice that this is part one with series. What I intend to do is answer each of those questions. It might take a few blog posts to do so. So cheer up, I'll keep writing as fast as I can. If you can think of any other questions you would like to have added to the list, you can make comments to this post.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Update on the DescendancyExplorer


The DescendancyExplorer has now been running on my computer for approximately seven hours and as you can see above it has processed through 3501 records of the total of 13,422 records and has still yet to find one available ordinance. However, as I mentioned in my initial post on the subject, the search would take a long time. Unless you have spent as much time working on your portion of the Family Tree, and am certain that you will find more opportunities that are available in my family lines. So matter of fact, by doing some research and working through the merges, we have found hundreds of names of people who are not already in the Family Tree.

Note: I let the program continue to run until well into the evening and finally had to quit without finding any available ordinances. This is likely an affirmation of my efforts and those of my family and finding all of the available ordinances in our particular part of the Family Tree.

DescendencyExplorer, a new look

https://descend.fhtl.byu.edu/#/login
The Family History Technology Lab at Brigham Young University keeps busy turning out new programs related to family history for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, those who do not happen to be members are benefited by the programs also, but most of them have a decided Church-oriented theme and are based on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. The DescendancyExplorer is designed to work specifically with the Family Tree so it is necessary to have your family information in the Family Tree for the program to function. The program is still in the developmental stage and is not yet featured on the Family History Technology Lab's homepage.

The idea of the program is that you sign in to FamilySearch.org and the DescendancyExplorer then does all the work of searching through multiple generations of your family and looks for names of your relatives and ancestors who are ready to take to the temple. Hmm. You say. Isn't this just like a number of other programs that are already available? Well, yes and no. First of all this program does all the work and secondly, it "qualifies" the people it finds. Here is the very simple start page:

Yep, that's it. By the way, when you click on the "Search My Tree" button, you may have to leave the program running for a few hours or overnight before you see any results depending on how complete your previous searches have been. What is different about the program is that it filters out any related people who have no sources attached, who have possible duplicates or who are not completely identified. So the people it finds are "usually" qualified for ordinance work.

I started the program searching while I was writing and it had gathered well over 13,000 records on my portion of the Family Tree without finding even one qualified person. I continued to let the program run and it kept looking. I have had some feedback from others who have used the program and they have found into the hundreds of people needing ordinances.

When the program does find a possible record, it is a good idea to check the "How you are related" link on the person's detail page to see if you are related. I will let the program run until it finishes searching and report back in another post about the results.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Registration is now open for #RootsTech 2018


#RootsTech 2018 will be held on February 28 through March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are a skier, you can always take advantage of the fabulous skiing in the resorts surrounding Salt Lake City. But for most of us, we are well past our skiing years. If you need accommodations for the conference, there are links on the website to local hotels making special offers. You might want to make your reservations early as the available rooms fill up quickly.

The conference will have over 200 breakout sessions.


A highlight of the conference will be the Family Discovery Day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This free, 1-day event will inspire you to discover, celebrate, and cherish your family relationships—past, present, and future. Enjoy devotionals from Latter-day Saint General Authorities, inspirational breakout sessions, and hands-on activities.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Getting Started with Research


There are many aspects of the umbrella term "research." Research can be directed at finding out about things we do not know and have yet to be discovered or research can investigate information about our past. Basically, the word "research" is polysemous, i.e. it has more than one meaning.

From time to time, I have written about this subject on my other blog, Genealogy's Star, but it has been some time since I have written directly about this particular subject here. Since this blog is specifically aimed at treating genealogy and genealogical research from the point of view of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter referred to as "the Church"), I think there are some aspects of genealogical research from an LDS viewpoint that should be considered.

It might be a good idea to remind my readers of my Disclosures and Disclaimers that reside on a tab at the top of the title to this blog.

Now back to the concept of research. Genealogy is a narrow branch of history. As I have noted previously, genealogical research consists primarily of identifying information about people who lived in the past from historical records. This is in contrast to "scientific" research that has as its main objective discovering things about the physical world that are not yet known. Genealogical research assumes that the information being sought was recorded at some time and place and that by following a certain methodology, this historical information can be "discovered." But the doctine of the Church expands on this viewpoint.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88, we are admonished as follows:
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (History of the Church, 6:313). Because of this statement and many others, the Church has become extensively involved in genealogy (family history). So the question that immediately arises, is how is this "seeking after our dead" accomplished? It is evident from the first quote that the process involves both study (I would say research) and by faith. Essentially, we go to the record books of the world and find our ancestors "by study and also by faith." 

In this regard, the statement in the Bible in James 2:20 that states, in part, "that faith without works is dead." So we have to work, i.e. do the research, and exercise our faith. Evidently, the idea of doing genealogical research from this perspective is fundamentally different from what is commonly thought of as research. This idea is expressed by President James E. Faust (1920-2007) of the First Presidency who stated:
The process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging but also exciting and rewarding. We often feel spiritual guidance as we go to the sources that identify them. Because this is a very spiritual work, we can expect help from the other side of the veil. We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 55).
As President Faust stated, this process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging. But as members of the Church, we cannot assume that we can skip the "study" part of the process. We have a duty to learn how to do the research as well as a duty to do the research.

In today's world, the process of doing genealogical research has been rapidly evolving from the traditional methodology. Powerful computers using online digitized records and global search engines such as Google are revolutionizing research in general and despite the resistance from "traditional" genealogists, genealogical research is also being swept up in the changes.

One of the ways I have personally been involved in helping people understand genealogical research as it is done today on computers is to help with The Family History Guide. This website is starting to play a major part in helping to educate and train people how to do genealogical research. Of course, there are many other websites and resources for learning about how to do genealogical research, but right now, this is the most effective way I have found.

thefhguide.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sharing the Family History Report


Many of the records kept by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about their living members contain personal and private information. However, the recently released Family History Activity Report contains no information that is either personal or private. The report is merely a compilation of statistics obtained from the usage of the FamilySearch.org website. However, the information is very useful for planning purposes and for gauging the effectiveness of the family history activities in the wards and stakes. The report is widely available through LDS.org to ward and stake leaders and Temple and Family History Consultants on both a ward and stake level.

Because the report is relatively new and has only been made available recently, many of the members who because of their callings would have access to the report are not aware of its existence. Temple and Family History Consultants who are designated as such in the Members and Leaders Support (MLS) program should be able to receive copies of the report on LDS.org. If they do not receive a copy, it is usually because they are not correctly identified in the MLS program.

Because of its lack of private or personal information, the report can be shared where appropriate.

The report can be obtained by signing into LDS.org and clicking on your name and then selecting Leaders and Clerks Reports from the pulldown menu.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mesa FamilySearch Library 2017 Family History Conference


The Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library has gone through some rocky times. But it is now up and running with classes and activities.  I have a strong interest in and attachment to the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library because of the many years I spent there volunteering in teaching classes. For many years, the Mesa FamilySearch Library has them holding a Family History Conference. Here is the announcement of the upcoming conference. Both my wife and I have already been invited to teach classes at the upcoming conference in October. We are looking forward to seeing all of our old friends and spending some time in Mesa.
ANNOUNCING THE 2017 Family History Conference sponsored by the Mesa FamilySearch Library on Saturday, October 21, 2017, at the Tempe Institute of Religion on the ASU Campus, 1000 South McAllister Avenue in Tempe, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. 
This year’s conference will feature a keynote address by Lisa McBride of FamilySearch, an Accredited Genealogist, who works with area family history centers and serves on the FamilySearch Wiki Governance Council. 
Our theme is “Bridging Generations” and provides a wide variety of over 50 class choices for all types of learners, from beginners to the most advanced genealogists. Come and learn how to be more effective and efficient when doing your research. Learn to trace your roots with DNA. Learn to find and document your sources. Get specific information on various ways to research in specific states and countries. If you are new to family history, come learn the basics. Some of the most popular classes are repeated in an effort to accommodate everyone. Spend all day or come for a single class or two; you may attend a maximum of five classes. 
Detailed conference information will become available and registration will begin online at www.mesafsl.org on Thursday, September 21, 2017. At the time of registration, registrants will be given the opportunity to purchase lunch from Jason’s Deli. Otherwise, the conference is FREE. Parking is also free and convenient but registrants are reminded that cars are parked in a public facility and are urged to be cautious with their valuables. 
See you in October!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Features from Kindex.org


Kindex.org is a website that lets you gather, index, and share your records in a fully searchable Kindex archive. The basic idea is that you can scan and upload documents to a Kindex archive and then invite family members to aid in transcribing and indexing those records into a searchable database. You can also have a "private" archive that will allow you to invite access to only certain people.

Recent updates to the website include the following:
  • View record progress at a glance
  • Transcribe records back-to-back with “Save & Do Next” button
  • Transcribe tables, forms, and other tabular text with table tools
  • Download archive data as CSV file
A CSV file is a way to collect the data from any table so that it can be conveyed as input to another table-oriented application such as a relational database application. Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet or relational database applications can read CSV files.

Kindex also organizes and digitizes records for all types of organizations, including families, churches, genealogical societies, historical entities, government organizations, educational institutions, and groups with private collections.

This is a very helpful and dynamic website. Here are some of the features:
When you sign up on Kindex, you can:
  • Create your own free, private archive up to 50 records
  • Add your own records or import FamilySearch Memories
  • Access tools to store, transcribe, tag, search, and share, your records
  • Reserve a custom subdomain
  • Invite anyone* to “archive together” (invited users collaborate for free)
There is an annual subscription for archives with more than 50 records.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Innovation at #RootsTech 2018

https://www.rootstech.org/innovation-at-rootstech-2018

RootsTech 2018 will feature a redesigned Innovation Showcase. This will replace the previously promoted Innovator Summit. Here is the announcement:
Innovation Showcase 
Following Steve Rockwood's general keynote address will be the all-new Innovation Showcase. You won't want to miss this exciting event that will feature innovative technologies and products from around the world. Come see who will be named to the list of "Top Family History Innovations of 2018." 
Have a new technology tool or feature that you can't do genealogy without? Nominate it for the Showcase. Or Tweet us your favorite innovation using #RootsTechInnovation.
Here is a chance for you to help promote your favorite genealogy and family history apps and websites. Use the link above to vote for your favorite website or program.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Family History is History with a fairly good measure of geography


Having attended formal school education for about twenty years and after teaching at the college level for about five years, I have a pretty good feeling for the level of historical awareness and knowledge among those who go through our American school system. In many areas of the United States, the teaching of history has succumbed to political correctness to the point where much of our history cannot be taught at all. There are news articles such as one from the New York Post entitled, "Why schools have stopped teaching American History,"  that point out the lack of history education. In our local schools, social studies has replaced history. At least one state has eliminated the high school requirement to teach history at all.  See "Early American History could be a thing of the past." In addition, universities are eliminating or modifying their entry requirements for history related classes.

The lack of historical content in the K-12 curriculum is not a particularly new issue. Here is a quote from the following book:

Steeves, Kathleen Anderson. 1998. Working Together to Strengthen History Teaching in Secondary Schools.
Schools have been directed, often by local or state-mandated curriculums, to "take on" many of the problems faced by the society at large. School curriculum specialists have often included such social issues as race relations, teenage violence, patriotism, civil rights, and the family in history or civics classes. The classes thus become "social problems" courses, leaving serious historical study behind to focus on current events and contemporary issues taken from the evening news or weekly news magazines. Even then, background information that might have included historical knowledge on any of these topics is woefully lacking.
My own experience indicates that very few people in the United States have even a moderate understanding of U.S. and even world history. Even people who are older, likely only had one or at the most two classes in history during their entire school experience. Overall, I find few people who "love" history.

Because family history and/or genealogy are essentially and irrevocably history, how can we expect people to love doing their family history when what we are talking about is a subject that they have been conditioned to avoid and in many cases dislike?

In addition to the lack of history education, there are even fewer schools that actively teach geography.

So how does this impact genealogical research? Immensely. Genealogists do not have any greater historical or geographical awareness and background than the average person unless they just happen to be interested in history and geography or taken courses in a college or university. However, their ancestors and more importantly, their ancestors' records are embedded in their particular historical and geographical context. Much of the confusion and inaccuracy evidenced by online family tree programs, particularly the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is the result of an abysmal lack of knowledge of history and geography. All the computer skills in the world are not going to overcome this historical and geographical naiveté. The only way this obstacle to accuracy can be addressed is through consistent education that encompasses more than a superficial veneer of knowledge.

The challenge is that such a level of historical and geographical awareness will have to be achieved without the benefit of any formal educational foundation. If anything, today's students, i.e. those currently attending K-12 schools, have only minimal history and geography requirements for graduation. In Provo, Utah, where I live, to graduate, high school students are required to take a half-credit class in geography and half credit class in world civilization and a one credit class in U.S. history. Most university or college students can graduate, unless they are majoring in history, without taking any additional classes in either history or geography.

Genealogy and family history are history and as long as we pretend that we can "do genealogy" without a knowledge of its historical context, we will be shooting blind.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Does the Doctrine of Uniformitarianism Apply to Genealogy?

World geologic provinces Oceanic crust   0–20 Ma   20–65 Ma   >65 Ma Geologic provinces   Shield   Platform   Orogen   Basin   Large igneous province   Extended crust  USGS - http://earthquake.usgs.gov/data/crust/maps.php
Uniformitarianism, in geology, the doctrine suggesting that Earth's geologic processes acted in the same manner and with essentially the same intensity in the past as they do in the present and that such uniformity is sufficient to account for all geologic change. See https://www.britannica.com/science/uniformitarianism
Unfortunately, I think that many genealogists or family historians believe firmly in the principle of Uniformitarianism as it applies to their ancestral lines. It may seem obvious, but people are not rocks. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of Uniformitarianism is no longer as firmly entrenched in the geological community as it once was. Geologists now accept the fact that many of the earth's changes occurred suddenly and catastrophically. Families are also subject to sudden and catastrophic changes and just as with geological changes, the changes in families may not be obviously recorded.

I was recently helping one of my fellow missionaries at the BYU Family History Library with a problem identifying one of her remote ancestors. This person just seemed to appear suddenly in a marriage record from the early 1800s in Ohio. After a rather extensive search, it appeared that this person had no antecedents. The ancestor had an uncommon name and so it was not a matter of separating her from many people of the same name. The ancestor's name was recorded in marriage records as well as in local histories. She was supposedly born in New York state, but there is no record of a family with that name at the time she was born.

In reality, the situation is not unusual. People do change their names. Children are born out of wedlock and both parents may never be identified. Children are left at churches and other organizations without identification. In early years, children were adopted often without any record of their original parents. The list of these types of occurrences could go on and on. We really have no reason to believe that every person is an identifiable set of parents.

If you look at the map above, it appears rather obvious that the European and African continents both conveniently fit into the map of North and South America. But for many years, the idea of continental drift was actively opposed by the geological community. Likewise today, many genealogists insist on searching for the "missing ancestor" even when it appears that there is no record substantiating the next generation. In some cases, the researcher is so desperate to extend the family line they began adding people simply because they have the same surname.

We even have a name for this situation we call them brick walls. Now, my experience is that most brick walls can be breached by a concerted research effort. However, all family lines eventually end. Perhaps, we should modernize our genealogical thinking to accept the fact that even the historical records we do find may not be absolutely correct. Finding the next person in the ancestral line is certainly a challenge. Of course, there are methodologies available today that can overcome traditional end of line situations. But, eventually, we do reach a point where we need to lay the problem aside for a while and come back to with a fresh perspective. We may also need to accept the unexpected.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What Happened to my Nobility?


Technically, a person of royal descent is a person who has an ancestral tie to a past or present monarch. But as the randomly chosen example from my ancestry in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree above shows, you can probably find a royal line in almost any line that extends back into the 1500s. There is commonly some confusion between the terms "nobility" and "royalty." Nobility is a loose term that refers to a class of people with hereditary titles which have been conferred by the monarch. The titles include dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, barons, baronesses and so forth.

Royals are always considered superior to nobles. Royalty is not something that a person can aspire to. A person has to be born into a royal family. The person shown above, Sir John, Lord High Sheriff Chichester, was part of the nobility and not part of the royalty. So why am I not a member of the English nobility? Well, one reason would be that my family sometime back left England, but the real reason is pretty simple: there is no verified connection between me and this ancestor in the Family Tree.

Sir John's daughter Bridget Chichester is supposed to have married Edmond Prideaux. But unfortunately for any claim I might have to noble ancestry, there are no sources in the Family Tree supporting this marriage. Fortunately, nobility usually married nobility and Edmond Prideaux is pretty well known.


His marriage to Bridget Chichester is well documented. If I keep coming forward in time, I am supposed to be a descendant of Sarah Prideaux, one of their daughters. She supposedly married John Fortescue who is also quite well known whose claim to nobility dates back to a companion of William the Conqueror.  What is next? Well, there are some apparent duplicates in the Family Tree but the next person in my line is supposed to be Simon Fortescue. Somehow, Simon ends up in America with no sources in the Family Tree. Here is the family:


Unfortunately, John Fortescue did not have a son named Simon and especially not one who came to America. Here is a copy of the Fortescue line of descent:


There is no mention of a Simon. In fact, this line actually ends well before this level. With very few exceptions, I usually find that the lineage going back to nobility and royalty has some unsupported links. So much for my claim to nobility.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Big Changes Coming for RootsTech 2018



#RootsTech 2018

Most of this same information has also been posted on my other blog, Genealogy's Star, I sometimes feel that posting some information is important enough to post on both blogs.

It's not too early to begin planning for RootsTech 2018.  This next year, RootsTech 2018 begins on Wednesday. Here is the announcement.
RootsTech to Begin on Wednesday 
We’re thrilled to announce that RootsTech 2018 will officially begin a day earlier than our prior conferences, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Join us for class sessions beginning on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. MST. Classes will also be offered at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. 
Following these class sessions, the General Session will begin at 4:30 p.m., featuring popular speaker Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International.
In the past years, RootsTech has been held on Thursday through Saturday. This change extends the conference for an additional day. There is also a change in the previously titled Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown. Here is that announcement:
Innovation Showcase 
At RootsTech, we believe that the future of family history lies in technology and innovation. The 2018 conference will see the evolution of the Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown, which will become the all-new Innovation Showcase. The Showcase will highlight leading technologies and products within the genealogy industry from around the world. The Showcase will be featured in the session following Rockwood’s general session address. 
“The Showcase will feature the best new technology in the industry that we can find from around the globe,” said Steve Rockwood. “It’s a great opportunity for us to give a number of companies; from small startups to large organizations; the opportunity to present their ideas on stage for a chance to be heralded as one of the ‘Best Family History Innovations in 2018’ as awarded by RootsTech.” 
Beginning in the fall of 2017, RootsTech will launch a worldwide search for the best industry technology and innovation to be showcased on the main stage and to thousands of online viewers. Winners will receive recognition from in-person and virtual attendees, the media, and the genealogical industry. 
Please be advised that the Innovator Summit will no longer be a pass option; instead, the RootsTech pass will now include Wednesday sessions. Innovator Showdown is transitioning to the Innovation Showcase as described above.
It sounds like the previous Innovator Summit with its cash prizes has been discontinued. Another new feature added is the Expo Hall Preview Night. Here is the announcement:
Following Wednesday’s General Session and Innovation Showcase, the Expo Hall will be open from 6-8 p.m. MST. Take advantage of this uninterrupted time on the show floor perusing booths, visiting with exhibitors, and getting your hands on the latest family history technology.
This essentially means that the exhibitors will be up and running a day early. I suggest that with these changes you will need to make some adjustments to your schedule if you are planning to attend.

Another change. Check-in will begin on Tuesday. There is that announcement:
Come early to avoid long lines! Check-in will now open on Tuesday, February 27th at noon. Remember, you should always plan on arriving at least 90 minutes prior to the first event you hope to attend. This time will allow for parking (which is always longer than you think), receiving your badge, and finding a seat 30 minutes before the event/session begins.
You just might want to look at the RootsTech.org website to keep up with all the changes. Here is another change:
Don’t Forget your Badge 
In order to provide more data and information to RootsTech organizers, each classroom will have a scanner that will scan your badge upon entry. The scanner will blink green if your pass type allows entry into the particular class or scan red if your pass does not allow entry into the particular class. As always, seats in each session are first come, first served.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Where do Family History Centers fit in to genealogical research?

Building formerly used by the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library

Some additional water has gone under the bridge since I last wrote about the future of the FamilySearch Family History Centers. 

First a very short history (sorry if this seems repetitious from previous posts):

The Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library traces its origins back to the establishment of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1894 under the auspices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The lineal descendant of the Genealogical Society of Utah is FamilySearch, International dba FamilySearch. The Genealogical Society of Utah registered the name "FamilySearch" beginning in 1999 according to the Utah Division of Corporations Commercial Code. The first Family History Center (FHC) was established as a "Branch Genealogical Library" as part of the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library on the university's campus in May of 1964. There are presently, as of the date of this post, 5,046 Family History Centers around the world. 

Family History Centers vary in size from dedicated buildings to a shared room in an LDS chapel with a few computers. When it was in operation, the Mesa FamilySearch Library, one of fifteen such designated libraries, was housed in the two story building shown in the above photo. The functions of each Family History Center vary depending on the support and involvement of the sponsoring stakes. 

One of the main functions of the Family History Center network was to provide access through a rental system to the huge 2.4 million roll microfilm collection amassed by FamilySearch and its predecessors. Most of the Family History Centers had one or more microfilm viewers and many had a small collection of microfilms available to patrons. Serious genealogical researchers relied on renting microfilm rather than traveling to the main Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The larger Regional or Multi-Stake Family History Libraries had important research collections. The Mesa FamilySearch Library, for example, had thousands of books, microfilms, microfiche, maps, and other resources. With the development of computer technology and the internet, Family History Centers also incorporated a collection of free online programs available only on the Centers' computers, many of which were subject to a subscription for individual users. 

Surprisingly, given the religious motivation of members of the Church, most of the users of some of the Family History Centers were not members of the Church. However, there was a general rule that the Family History Centers were off-limits to proselyting. This rule is also observed in the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Concurrent with the incorporation of the FamilySearch, International in 1999, FamilySearch released an online genealogical program called FamilySearch.org. The website is now one of the top genealogy websites in the world. In the late 1990s, FamilySearch began digitizing its huge collection of microfilm. After the development and release of the FamilySearch.org website, collections of digitized records from the microfilm began to appear online. Over the years, this online collection grew to billions of records. The idea was to transition to digital records rather than renting microfilm rolls. Finally, in August of 2017, the end of microfilm shipments to Family History Centers was announced and it is assumed that the vast worldwide warehouse and distribution network is being dismantled. 

In addition to digitizing microfilm, FamilySearch, along with several partner libraries, has been digitizing paper books. As many of the books are digitized, they are removed from circulation in the libraries. As of the date of this post, there were just over 346,000 books and other publications in digital format on the FamilySearch.org website. 

In addition to digitizing the existing microfilm collection, FamilySearch has converted its microfilm cameras to digital cameras and the images captured are also being added to the online collections by the millions and billions. 

A few years ago, FamilySearch began the development of what came to be called the Family Discovery Center project. A test center was opened in Salt Lake City in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (formerly the Hotel Utah). Subsequently, several Family Discovery Centers have been opened most notably on the first floor of the Salt Lake Family History Library. These Family Discovery Centers use high tech electronic and programming to give a semi-immersive family history experience. 

In 2010, FamilySearch introduced an enhanced, mostly electronically based FamilySearch Library in Riverton, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. The Riverton FamilySearch Library did not have any books or other resources but relies completely on a bank of computers with large screens. The Riverton Center also has an extensive schedule of classes taught by local genealogists. 

As I have analyzed before, Family History Centers perform a variety of functions. Traditionally, the list looked something like this:
  • Microfilm rental and viewing
  • Microfiche rental and viewing
  • The Family History Center Portal, a selection of online programs such as Ancestry.com that were subject to a paid subscription outside of the Centers.
  • Depending on the size of the Center, either limited or extensive one-on-one research support from knowledgeable volunteers. In the case of the Salt Lake Family History Library, an extensive paid staff of professional genealogists. 
  • A few Centers provided additional electronic device support in the form of scanners and other devices. 
  • Many of the Centers hold regularly scheduled classes for their patrons.
With the discontinuance of microfilm shipments, one of the main activities of the larger Centers will evaporate. It is unlikely that the loss of microfilm will have much of an impact on the very large majority of Centers around the world. In many places, the Family History Center is a major focus of the surrounding community for internet access. 

Some statements have been made by Church leaders that the future Family History Center is in the home. Taken literally, these statements could presage the ultimate end of Family History Centers as we know them now. If we were to use the Riverton Center coupled with a Family Discovery Center as a model, we would have a center for support and learning but without a basic research component. Literally, the research component would be in the home through the digitized collections of records and books. 

Now that there is a definite break with the traditional microfilm/book based research that required the patron to be present in a Center or Library, the survival of the Family History Centers seems to rely on a more purely educational approach to genealogy or family history. There is still a need to provide electronic device support. I suggest that Centers should expand their scanning and printing capabilities as well as transition to regularly scheduled classes and activities. They need to emulate the efforts being made by local libraries to attract patrons. If they do not begin to develop a more aggressive outreach, they will slowly (or quickly) disappear. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gathering in the First Four Generations

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/safely-gathered-generations/
In this blog post, Kathryn Grant has highlighted one of the most obvious issues facing FamilySearch and genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: a significant number of the members of the Church have yet to enter their first four generations into the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. This is not just true outside of the United States, but many wards in the United States have less than half of their members with four generations in the Family Tree.

Involvement in family history would increase dramatically in many areas of entering the first four generations in the Family Tree was emphasized. Presently, local leaders do not have a way of determining who does and who does not have their first four generations on the FamilySearch.org website. Active Temple and Family History Consultants can begin the process by contacting the members of their ward and inquiring about their access to the Family Tree.

In many cases, those without four generations in the Family Tree are either new members or those that are less active. In both cases, participation in family history activities with benefit these individuals. As Kathryn Grant states at the end of her blog post:
Completing their first four generations in Family Tree can be a beautiful, heart-turning experience that helps members feel closer to their ancestors and ensures that all are safely gathered in.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The role of family history in missionary work

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/power-family-history-missionary-work/?cid=email-MC_TFHC_0817CTA1
We have recently been discussing the role of genealogy in missionary work done by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not too long ago, I was talking to the mission president of one of the Church's missions. He unequivocally stated that he did not want his missionaries doing genealogy. I can certainly understand his point of view. Especially, if you think there is an artificial boundary line between missionary work and Temple and family history work. But as Elder David A Bednar, of the  Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is quoted above saying:
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.
Kathryn Grant's article, shown above, summarizes some of the ways that full-time missionary activity can incorporate temple and family history work. Personally, I presently live in an isolated microcosm. We have only about six families in our ward that are not members of the church.  I spend my days either writing at home or volunteering at the BYU Family History Library. So my interaction with those who are not members of the Church is quite limited. But most of the members of the Church come in contact with people outside of church every day. Talking about families and family history is a very easy way to begin a gospel conversation.

I do think that drawing an artificial boundary line between temple and family history work and missionary work is a tragedy. Not only for the missionaries who never learn how closely intertwined the two actually are but also for those that they contact and fail to introduce to temple work which of course includes family history. But as long as an artificial wall is created between young full-time missionary service and teaching and inviting people to do genealogy (i.e. a family history) and temple work, we will still be teaching senior missionaries how to do genealogy before they are called on their own full-time missions.

If you read Kathryn's article above, you will see many suggestions where the full-time missionaries work in tandem with the local Temple and family history consultants in the wards. This cannot happen if the wards do not have Temple and family history consultants who are prepared to help and teach investigators and new members. This responsibility now lives with the stake Temple and family history consultants. So, if the stakes do not have Temple and family history consultants who are teaching the ward consultants, then again there will be no support for the full-time missionaries.

I certainly realize that this emphasis on the relationship between full-time missionary activity and temple and family history work may seem innovative and new to many members. But for those of us who have been doing genealogical research for years, we have always seen the relationship.