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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Family History Mission: The Long Stretch

No. 67

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

Work this week was interrupted with a visit to a dermatologist and the removal of a relatively large squamous cell cancer from my arm. These types of interruptions in our digitization work don't seem to consider that we are Senior Missionaries. Fortunately, we are living in a major metropolitan area and finding a good doctor is not difficult. Most of the other missionaries serving with us here in Annapolis, Maryland have had their own visits to local doctors.

Physical condition and health is a major concern not only of the missionaries themselves but also from the Missionary Department of the Church. Before our mission, we had a complete physical and filled out a long questionnaire about any medical concerns or issues we had. My interaction with dermatologists has been going on for years and years, so the need for a visit here in Maryland was not much of a surprise. 

Some of the Senior Missionaries serving here in the Washington, D.C. North Mission are older than we are and some are younger, but all have seem to have some medical concern or another simply because of our age. The important thing is that we do not use our age as an excuse not to serve. If we had something that was very limiting, we could always serve while living at home or even from our home as telephone support missionaries. 

I am reminded of 2 Timothy 1:6-7 that says, 
6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
We have been set apart to serve and even though there may be some difficulties, we can still keep serving. As Paul, the Apostle goes on to say in Chapter 2 of 2nd Timothy:
1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
We can do hard things.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Church Hymnbook and Children's Songbook Being Revised

Here is the announcement from an email notice:
Under the direction of the First Presidency, committees have been assembled to recommend revisions to the current hymnbook and children's songbook. When the revisions are complete, there will only be one hymnbook and one children's songbook, offering the same hymns and songs in all languages. The new collections will be created over the next several years to reflect the needs of members around the world. 

Visit to learn more about this effort. You can give feedback about the current music and submit new original hymns, children's songs, and lyrics to be considered for inclusion in the revised collections.
Here is a screenshot of the website:

I remember the last revision and was surprised to see some the hymns that did not "make the cut."  So, if you have any favorites, you should probably give suggestions and if you have any original hymns, by all means, submit them for consideration.

The Family History Guide Continues to Grow
When people get stuck with a researching their family history, I always try to remind them of The Family History Guide. I had a Temple and Family History Consultant ask me for assistance in helping two of the members of her Ward. She needed help with Polish research and research in Korea. Both of these places are not the easiest places to do genealogical research. I showed her the Countries research pages and she was on her way to helping the people get started.

Here is the Poland research page.
And here is the one for Korea.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Six

The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

One of the most valuable recent technological innovations is the incorporation of GPS coordinates into online mapping programs. Further incorporation of the GPS into smartphones makes navigating a big city or finding your way out in the desert much easier than it was in the past. After using the GPS directions linked to a mapping program such as Google Maps for a while, you can become almost dependent on the assistance of audio instructions.

On the other hand, there are no audio directions embedded in the Family Tree. There is really nothing even comparable to a map. The best set of directions to the program is a companion website that is not even acknowledged or linked from the Family Tree at all. That website is The Family History Guide or I could just repeat what is completely organized and explained in The Family History Guide, but that is not the purpose of this post series. The idea here is to directly address as many of the issues with the program as possible. Even those who are fairly advanced in using the Family Tree have issues and problems with the program.

Time to start into the issues. Let's begin at the beginning. Here is a screenshot of one variation of the current start-up screen for

If I scroll down, I will get an invitation to start using the Family Tree program.

This is a major step up for the website. Previously, the startup screen was harder to navigate. But if you register for the website or sign in if you are already registered, you will get a different screen. These screens are personalized and custom created for each user.

You may or may not find these features to be useful. If you click on the link in the top menu bar, you can go directly to the Family Tree. You can go directly to the Family Tree and begin entering your own name and those of your ancestors and other relatives or you can use the Family Booklet to get started, either online or on paper. The link to the Family Booklet is in the Family Tree pull-down menu item.

For many users, this may be a better option for beginning a family tree. What I have found is that many users, even those who have some experience, do not realize that there is an easy and somewhat less complicated way to begin adding information to the Family Tree. What I occasionally find is that the "standard" landscape pedigree view that is basic to genealogy is not easily understood or as obvious as it may seem to those who have grown up looking at pedigree charts. It is important to understand that there are alternatives. There are several different views and many people prefer looking at their part of the Family Tree in a fan chart format.

One of the popular complaints about the Family Tree on the support website, (See is the format of the Family Tree. Specifically, the amount of "white space" in the landscape view or the number of details shown for each person. Here is a screenshot of what you might see today for reference.

There are dozens of other options that could be added through icons or links. But in every case, there needs to be a balance between readability and functionality. Just adding functions to a program does not necessarily make the program "better." In some cases, adding more features to a program may end up defeating the original reason for developing the program in the first place. The Family Tree has more information in this landscape view than appears in my own screenshot. The reason is that I have worked over my entries and some of the offerings from FamilySearch are not presently available for this section of my part of the Family Tree. Here is a view with more information in the form of record hints and data warnings.

I am certain that the look of the Family Tree will evolve over time, but I am also hopeful that the screens, such as this one, will not get loaded down with features. There is a balance that must be achieved between the "need" for additional features and the usability of the program. For example, one of the programs with the most features is Adobe Photoshop. The program has hundreds of features and is extremely complex with detailed screens. A person can be considered to be a Photoshop expert if the person knows about 100 of the features. We don't need FamilySearch to keep adding features to the Family Tree unless those features have a general appeal and add real functionality. Of course, Photoshop would not be Photoshop if it was simple and had fewer features. It is aimed at highly motivated and trained professionals. Let's not turn the Family Tree into a professional's program.

Here are the previous posts in this series

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: The Oddities and Unusual

1 July 1776 Probate file from Charles County, Maryland
No. 66

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

Ome of the most interesting parts of digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives is finding old, unusual, or strange records. This past week, I began digitizing a Probate Record beginning the 1760s and found this record that was dated 1 July 1776. While monumental things were going on in some parts of the world, the courts in Charles County, Maryland were chugging away with their usual calendar of court cases. For me, this was interesting because the documents in the National Archives from 1776 are behind glass, but I get to see the documents close up and digitize them. But this also reminds me of the immense value of these document and so we want to be as careful as possible in handling them.

Here is an image of the two-page spread with the entry from 1776.

If you look closely, you can see the cover that is used to protect the books from some types of harm while on the shelves. The cover wraps around the book and is fastened velcro.

Here is a closeup of the earliest record I have digitized so far from 1764.

Here is the entire page.

These Probate Inventory books were very skinny but long.

I am going to do a post about the strange terms and names I find in old probate documents.

Here's an example of the lovely endpaper in some of the books. The older books have beautiful and very readable handwriting for the most part.

I have plenty more to write about, so stay tuned.

Friday, June 15, 2018

FamilySearch to Add Same-Sex Marriages to Family Tree

Headlines in the Deseret News report the following in an article dated June 13, 2018:
SALT LAKE CITY — The world's largest genealogy organization is redesigning so the LDS Church-sponsored database can store and provide records of same-sex families. 
FamilySearch first said in 2015 it would add a feature for same-sex relationships in the future. The major overhaul to the website's system should be ready by 2019, according to a statement on the website updated in April. 
The statement said's goal is to capture accurate genealogy "that represents past, present and future families of the world." 
"To support this goal," the release continued, "same-sex relationships, including same-sex parents and same-sex couples, will be provided in FamilySearch Family Tree. Several systems that surround Family Tree, such as tree and record searching, must be significantly redesigned to support same-sex relationships before Family Tree can release this capability." 
FamilySearch International is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
The leader of a group that seeks equal rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns and their families hailed the changes to FamilySearch.
As pointed out in the statement, this is not really "new" news.  Some of the online family tree programs have designated all marital relationships as "marital partners" for some years now. The Family Tree program already allows entering relationships without requiring a formal marriage date.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Are you aware of the changes in the records on the FamilySearch website?

On the website, if you sign in and then click on your name in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen, you can see the "Settings" link. One of the settings lets you subscribe to a variety of blog posts and newsletters from FamilySearch. I just subscribe to everything so I can sort-of keep up with what is going on. The image above is a weekly newsletter I get telling me about the new historical records on the website. There mostly appears to be a column of numbers and another column of zeros.

What is happening with FamilySearch's online records?

Some time ago, I wrote a series of posts telling about where all the records were located on the website. I also did a popular video for the Brigham Young University Family History Library.

Where are the Digitized Records on - James Tanner

The report that comes out each week from FamilySearch lists the records in the Historical Record Collections section of the website that have been indexed. Very few new images are being added to that section.

The new images are being added to the website but are only available through a listing in the Catalog. The video explains where these are and how to find these new records. The number of records in Catalog is currently over 800 million and rising fairly consistently.

Searching for a name on the website will only search Indexed records. You have to look through the records in the Catalog for the locations where events occurred in your ancestors' lives to find the rest or the records.

This is an excellent reason to become involved in Indexing.

See The Family History Guide ( indexing instructions.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Carefully Using Record Hints

Record hints from FamilySearch on the Family Tree have become one of the beneficial features of the website. From time to time, I get emails directing me to a record hint for a suggested relative. However, we cannot just assume that these Record Hints pertain to our family or are our relatives. We need to carefully examine the links to the person and make sure the hint is to the right person in our own part of the Family Tree.

Here are the screens I get from the above link to see my relationship. I first have to sign in to the website then I get the following screen:

There are really multiple Record Hints and the one featured in my email message is the first one in the line. Here is the relationship to Carlyle Crawley:

This is a short line of links and I can readily determine that yes, I am related to this person. I have personally added the existing sources to each of these individuals. When I view this person, I can see other opportunities to clean up the Family Tree and add sources. 

There are already eight sources listed for this person so I can compare sources and make sure I have the right person. When I click on the link to show the details of the suggested changes and hints, I see the following summary page. 

I can now examine each of the hints and add them if needed. For more information about Record Hints on the Family Tree see The Family History Guide for the Family Search Family Tree. Here is the link to the part about Record Hints:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Family History Mission: Random Impressions

No. 65

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

The image above is so far the oldest record that I have digitized. Since Charles County, Maryland was founded in 1658, there probably aren't a lot of older records from this county. The first English settlers arrived in what is now Maryland in 1634, although, from the looks of some of the books we just received, there might be older documents. 

As we work through digitizing thousands of records every week, we are becoming acutely aware of the details such as the handwriting. The handwriting above is extremely easy to read. But in any year, the individual writing the document could have had terrible handwriting. Also, bad handwriting seems to become more prevalent during the latter half of the 19th Century. 

When we started working over six months ago, we spent a lot of time trying to get the book situated for scanning. 

After setting up hundreds of books, the whole process is streamlined and we can do many books in one day depending on the number of pages in the books. The days pass quickly and it seems we are always starting or finishing another week. 

We have figured out the Annapolis, Maryland only has four main streets. We have been hearing emergency vehicle sirens all day and night and could not figure out why. But with only four major streets, almost all the traffic in the town has to go by our apartment at some time or another. 

We have had several of our children and their families visit since we have been here. Some of our children and their families live near the East Coast and so they have come to Washington, D.C. for their Spring Break or Summer Vacations. We have enjoyed our short times with our family. Last week, one of our daughters and her family from Utah came to visit our Branch meeting. Our daughter played the organ and the members were really happy to have someone who could play the organ, Even it was for only one Sunday. 

We have learned that the forests around our apartment are full of ticks. They are extremely active this year because it has been so wet. May 2018 was the wettest May on record for Maryland since 1989 and the third wettest May on record. It was also the warmest May on record for the rest of the United States. The ticks are very dangerous because of Lyme Disease and so we have kept out of walking into the dense forest areas. We are glad we have good raincoats. The raincoats are easier to use than umbrellas. 

The missionaries who work with us are showing their age. We have some days with doctor visits and time off because of illness. Despite these obstacles, we all seem to keep digitizing records and working as much as possible. 

We enjoy working in the Spanish speaking Spa Creek Branch. The members are really friendly and kind to us. We have seen several new members join the Branch through the efforts of our wonderful Sister Missionaries. We have been helping the members with their genealogy and since the Washington, D.C. Temple is closed, we have had one Branch Temple excursion and have two more planned. They are so excited to take their own family names to the Temple. 

If it sounds like what I am writing is a little bit repetitious, it probably is. We do about the same thing almost every day that we work at the Archives and we have a fixed routine for getting up in the morning. We fix our lunches the night before to save time in the morning. We do our cleaning and clothes washing during the week or on Saturdays. We have a lot of things to keep us busy just trying to survive. 

We have been getting our car washed regularly. We feel better when we can see out of the windows and have a clean car. 

We have made quite a few trips to downtown Washington, D. C. and have about exhausted ourselves and our list of museums we want to visit. It was nice earlier in the year when there weren't so many people. This last week when our children and grandchildren were visiting, the museums were so full of people you could hardly hear anything for the noise and looking at some of the exhibits was impossible. We have found some places that are not so popular and so maybe we will concentrate on the less popular attractions and leave the other museums until all the children go back to school. The day I wrote this post, we spent a day shopping for food, washing clothes, and generally catching up on sleep. 

We are happy we came on a mission and are glad to see all the documents that are being digitized. We look forward to the next few months of work. 

A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Five -- A Firm Foundation

The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

We have been reading recently about the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. It will be partially closed for the next six years or so while the building can be renovated beginning in 2018. Here is what the Smithsonian website had to say about the renovation:
The assessment revealed that “the exterior cladding of the building—the marble façade—was warping and cracking, compromising the integrity” of the whole structure.

Christopher Browne, deputy director of the museum, notes ruefully that many of the decisions made back in the 1970s vis-à-vis its design suggest an inclination toward “value engineering.” And when affordability is prized over longevity, issues down the road are inevitable.
This is essentially what happened with the Family Tree. The components of the database came from years of piecemeal submissions without a proper foundation. I have referenced this book before, but it is still the only authoritative explanation of the ultimate origin of what we now have in Family Tree.

Allen, James B, Jessie L Embry, and Kahlile B Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.

Rather than go back over the history in this post, I would refer you to a series I wrote some years ago entitled, "The FamilySearch Family Tree -- A Review and Retrospective." Fast-forwarding to today, we find the Family Tree in the midst of its renovation project. Parts of the Family Tree have been completed other parts are still in their original state of disrepair and yet other parts are new construction in a variety of conditions. If you examine the entries in the Family Tree it is easy to tell which are the old construction, the renovated construction, and the new untried and might-be-good construction.

Here is an example of "old construction;" the kind where the walls are falling down.

This particular entry indicates, on its face, that it is "old" and probably unreliable. Here is a list of the indications of age and unreliability:

  • The name of the individual contains an alternative spelling inserted in parentheses. This is a holdover from paper family group records and the alternative spelling should be moved to the "Other Information" section. The fact that this entry still looks this way in 2018 indicates that no one from this family has yet taken the time to standardize the entries. 
  • The entry for the birth information is a little more complicated. We have a birth date, but no christening date. Since birth dates are not generally available in England in the 1600s it is likely that this is either an estimated date or simply a guess. Although it is not visible in this screenshot, this entire entry is supported by only one source which does not give a birth date for William Hamilton or Hambleton. The one source is attributed to FamilySearch and originates from an IGI Record (International Genealogical Index). 
  • The burial date is also not standardized, but there is also no supporting citation to a record showing this date is accurate. But we can assume that the person is deceased. 
There is also a "Legacy NFS ( source. Here is a screenshot of this source. 

This information could all be correct. The person may have been properly identified and all that is needed is a little light housekeeping to standardize the dates and place names rather than renovation, but there is no real way, at this point, to make that decision. 

The real question here is whether or not this structural damage goes deeper and would require more research than simply cleaning up the entry. There are two Record Hints that give additional information but how do I know I am even working with the correct ancestor? Anytime you jump back in time in your pedigree and do not validate all of the preceding entries, you are running the risk of working on the wrong ancestral line, i.e. not your line at all. 

Using the useful "View My Relationship" option, I can see how I am related to this person; if I am. 

This is supposed to be a direct line ancestor.  But are all the steps or links in this relationship chart reliable? Let's see if there is a need to start doing work closer to the present time in a more recent generation. I usually determine whether or not I can rely on the links by starting with the first well documented and verified ancestor and working my way back towards the target ancestor to see if there are supported links. 

In this particular line, the link between Eliza Ann Hamilton, b. 1815, d. 1901, and her parents who are listed in the program is not substantiated by any record presently shown in the Family Tree as a source. There are some documents in the Memories section that show the parents of James Hamilton, but there is presently no support for the conclusion that John Hamilton is the son of Thomas Hamilton (Hambleton) of Massachusetts. There are also no sources connect Thomas to anyone in England. The connection to someone named William Hamilton is entirely speculative. We have nothing connecting either Thomas to William or William to Thomas other than a similar name. 

At this point, we need to realize that despite the fact that this line has been passed down through generations of family members, there is no substantiation at all for the extension of the line into England. As a matter of fact, the Family Tree entries show that William Hamilton (Hambleton). died in England and that his supposed son was born in Massachusetts. Hmm. How did that happen? 

In short, before you start clicking around in the Family Tree, spend some time looking carefully at the entries. You may find yourself doing some research that you did not expect to be doing. 

Here are the previous posts in this series

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Family History Mission: Digitizing Old and Fragile Books

No. 64

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

We do have to handle fragile, very old documents and there is always the danger that they are damaged in the process. But what is the alternative? Despite professional conservation methods and careful handling, even if left alone, almost all of the documents would continue to disintegrate due to irreversible chemical changes. There are literally millions of such documents and we take our time and are careful, but the importance of preserving the information that remains outweighs the potential damage that might occur from handling. 

Most of the original court documents we are digitizing are open to public use in the archives. So by digitizing the documents we are helping to reduce the ongoing use and thereby possible consequential damage to the books, by making them available online.

Here is are some examples of how we go about digitizing the books.

The books are delivered to us on an "as needed" basis. The Archive employees bring us a few days' supply of books and reshelve the books once they are digitized.

Just as you cannot judge a book by its cover, almost all of the really old books have been rebound. In the photo above, the books that have the off-white covers are rebound from the originals. However,  even when the book has a newer looking binding, the inside pages could be falling apart.

Many of the books are stored offsite from the main building of the Maryland State Archives. These books have a Tyvek protection sheet with Velcro fasteners.

Our first step when we start a new book is to evaluate the condition and handling. We put the book on our digitization table and look at it.

These books can weigh as much as 25 or more pounds and are not easy to move and position. But we have learned how to handle them.

We record the information on the FamilySearch program that will help FamilySearch and the Archives process the book for online viewing. This is either called way-pointing or adding metadata depending on the context of the information that is recorded. You could think of this also as a way of beginning the indexing the book. 

One of the challenges of the whole operation is to make sure the information can be found once the process of digitizing the book is completed. We usually make a digital image of the cover of the book to preserve any information the cover may contain. It is also a good way to show we digitized the entire book. 

To continue showing that we have captured the entire book, we also digitize the inside cover pages of both the front and back. 

Once we have finished with these preliminary images, we set up the book for digitization. The idea here is to have a uniform black border around each of the images. Here is an image from the Catalog from Maryland showing how the images all have a black border. 

One of the challenges of digitizing books is that they are not flat. So, we have to try and keep them as flat as possible to get good images. Here is what we do to keep the books flat and to provide an even black border.

The clamps we use were specially designed by one of the Senior Missionaries who is currently working at the Maryland State Archives. Here is another book set up with clamps, masking sheets and foam pads for leveling the book. 

We evaluate the images as we go along to make sure we have not accidentally taken an image that includes our hand or has other problems. The digital images are then downloaded to a hard drive and sent each week to FamilySearch in Salt Lake City, Utah for further processing. Each week we report our time and the number of images and other information to FamilySearch. We image about 1200 pages per day on the average. Some days we image over 2000 images. The number of images depends on the condition of the books and whether or not we have any technical difficulties or are waiting for books or many other possible problems. 

As we have worked from day to day, we have improved on the way we do the imaging so that there is a smooth workflow and we can maximize our time at the Archives. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Four -- Are You Always Right?

The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

Genealogists would probably not recognize that they had a borderline personality disorder in thinking that they were always right, but they often act like everything in their family tree is correct and everyone else is wrong. Many of the users of the Family Tree have "inherited" their genealogy from a long line of ancestors and relatives. In my case, there were one or two active genealogists and the rest comes from surname books written about the descendants of a selected number of my ancestors. With only a few exceptions, these books are devoid of references to any original source records.

One of my original major motivations for becoming involved in genealogy/family history was finding out through some superficial research that much of what had been represented to me as "completed" and accurate was neither complete nor accurate. Because the Family Tree incorporates much of that early genealogy, there are some huge gaps and a lot of inaccurate entries. No one should assume that the information that was used to create the Family Tree originally was either accurate or complete.

However, the Family Tree has now been in existence for a number of years and since its inception sources have been added and much of the information that was inaccurate or incomplete has been corrected and completed. A current user of the Family Tree may find that many of the entries have substantial support from cited sources. Now we come to the problem. Many of the users of the Family Tree ignore both the sources and the documents attached as Memories. There should be a warning message that says, "Do not add any information or make any changes before examining all of the sources and all of the Memories." This simple expedient would probably save a lot of the grief and pain caused by unsupported changes.

Even though it is highly unlikely that any one person's compilation of their family history is completely accurate, it is very likely that over time the combined efforts of a lot of different people will devolve into a very accurate family tree.

Here is an example from one the comments to my blog posts of the issues involved in this basic aspect of the Family Tree.
A couple of weeks ago I helped someone in our family history center who was pretty new to family history. The other consultant who was there started off by telling her that she needed to get a private tree on Ancestry to protect her information from all the people who were going to mess up her tree on Family Search. At least two of the other consultants seem to always start by showing patrons how to set up a tree on Ancestry for the same reason. I fully support this practice, but I don't know that it's the best idea to start by telling people that someone's going to mess up all their work on Family Search. I think it's more motivating to start by helping them have heart-turning experiences such as reserving temple names or finding interesting records about their ancestors.
Now, this comment brings up a number of different issues, but the main one is a distrust of the Family Tree's accuracy and the need to "protect" our own, impliedly accurate, information. Let's face it. Someone who is just starting out doing genealogical research is extremely unlikely to have accurate information about their ancestors past their own parents and many have inaccurate information about their parents. So whose accuracy are they trying to preserve? Rather than assuming that what we already know is accurate, we should be more concerned with supporting any conclusions we might make by finding and attaching supporting documents.

This comment also addresses a fear that what is put into the Family Tree will somehow be "lost" due to "changes" made by others. This particular viewpoint is endemic to a certain type of Family Tree user. It is an irrational fear of loss of data when they are not even sure what they have in their own files is correct.

This brings up another major issue; the person who has a massive amount of data, usually at least partially inherited, that goes all the way "back to Adam." I have talked to people who have tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of "names" in their files and they are absolutely convinced that every connection is correct. This group of people also include people who are involved in what is known as a "private extraction" program where they are entering everyone into their family tree program who has the same surname or everyone in a certain geographic area. I once talked to a person who worked in a Family History Center who regularly told younger patrons that they could enter anyone in an Engish county with their same surname into their family tree because they were all related. I will eventually get to the issue of the private extraction efforts, but my point here is that there are other insidious genealogical practices out there that are the root cause of many of the problems we see today especially when these people try to dump all of their "work" into the Family Tree.

I am going to use a hypothetical situation to illustrate what I think of these problems. Let's suppose that I am going to plant a garden. I look at a few photos of gardens and decide I want to plant some vegetables such as peas, corn, carrots, etc. So I go buy some seeds from the nearest hardware store and throw them out on the ground in my backyard and expect them to grow. Oh, I find out I need to water my garden (I am assuming I live in Mesa or Provo). So I water my seeds. Will I get a garden? Yes, because I am watering it, I will get a garden of weeds. In Mesa, I would get a lot of Bermuda grass. What did I do wrong? Isn't gardening fun and enjoyable? Isn't it a popular "hobby?"

If you have ever grown a productive garden, what do you think is missing from this example? The part where we learn about how to grow a garden? The part where you pull weeds etc? The part about work?

Now, do you suppose that you can have a beautiful family tree without spending the time to prepare, work and weed? If you watch a garden grow, you are aware that there are changes every day. Do we stop gardening because there are changes? I guess some people stop gardening because they hate pulling weeds. But if you really want to garden, you pull weeds. If you really want to do your genealogy on the Family Tree, you need to prepare and learn about what you are trying to do and learn to correct other's errors. Start with The Family History Guide or and learn about the process. Then don't get bothered by the changes and the corrections. They are the "weeds" that need to be pulled. But as you pull the weeds then you can see the beauty of the garden or Family Tree.

If you are growing a garden and there start to be weeds do you run off and plant a substitute garden so you can know what your garden is going to look like and preserve it? Not likely. I suggest the same attitude towards the Family Tree. By the way, there are backup and redundancies built into the Family Tree that makes correcting most of the issues simple and nearly automatic. Maybe you need to learn something before you give up the idea through listening to the naysayers of the genealogical community.

Stay tuned, I am just getting started on this series.

Here are the previous posts in this series

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Family History Mission: Half Way Point

No. 63

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

Yes, we are at the half-way point in our mission. We have a lot of great experiences and done a lot of work. We have had a great association with the other missionaries working at the Maryland State Archives and have started hearing from those who will replace us later this year. In many ways, I am glad we came. Our experience so far has been appreciably different than any of my preconceptions or imaginations. Since we are now halfway through, I decided to return to some of the distinctions between our mission experience and the young missionaries or even Senior Missionaries who are serving in other capacities. 

First of all, we have the time and the opportunity to live our very senior lives. We have a car to maintain, an apartment to live in and maintain, we have to feed ourselves and maintain all of our usual very active daily lives. Being on a FamilySearch mission, we follow the direction of both the Mission President and our FamilySearch Supervisors. However, because we are digitizing records at a major archive, our contact with the other full-time missionaries, both old and young, is severely limited. We work 8+ hours five days a week; essentially a full-time job. What we do is work and we are tired at the end of the day. We have found that returning to full-time work leaves us with little energy on some days to do much else. So far we have been blessed and able to keep working. 

We can volunteer and help as we see the need to do so, but we are not necessarily obligated to work more than the time we spend at the Archives. In addition, because we are serving in a state-run government facility, we do not wear our missionary name tags. We have FamilySearch Volunteer name tags that identify us as volunteers at the Archives. We are not supposed to proselyte or discuss religion with the employees of the Archives unless they initiate the questions or comments. We are very aware that we are guests in the Archives and try to avoid causing any possible bad feelings on the part of the Archives' employees. In addition, because we work with old records, we get quite dirty and we are also asked to not wear the tradition "missionary" attire. We can wear clothes that are appropriate for the work we are doing. These guidelines may be different for other missionaries depending on their assignments. Most Senior Missionaries wear name tags and dress according to missionary standards. 

In addition to our work in the Archives, we are involved in the local Spanish Speaking Branch where we attend on Sunday. As part of our activity in the Branch, we have volunteered to teach English classes and help individuals with their family history. We have also taught at a local family history center conference and I am scheduled to teach at some additional family history conferences and participate in some webinars during the coming months. 

We can take off work for doctor's appointments, illnesses, and other essential activities. If family members visit, we can take some time to visit with them and of course, we can talk to our families as often as is needed. While we are working digitizing records, our Senior Missionary guidelines allow us to listen to music or books with earphones. Some missionaries do this and some do not. 

On Saturdays, which is our only day off, we can visit museums and take part in other educational or cultural activities. But it is also our primary day for shopping and other essential activities. We work hard. The Archives are also closed on state and federal holidays so those are also days when we can be involved in other activities. 

In short, we can work hard but we can also participate in many of the activities we had as senior couples at home. Time is passing quickly and we will be back serving in our Ward or as we have for years past, serving as Church Service Missionaries doing family history support activities. 

Serving a full-time mission as a Senior Couple may not be possible for everyone, but there are so many different ways to serve that a missionary experience, either full or part-time, should be the goal of all the members of the Church. There is a new website, part of, that is aimed at Senior Missionaries. See

Friday, June 1, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on -- Project Eleven

This post is another in the unending series of Projects I am doing to research different people in the Family Tree. See the comment at the end of this post for a further explanation of the Projects.

Here is this Project's selection:

This is another individual who falls well outside of those I was previously selecting for my first few projects. Richard Wallis is one of my direct line ancestors. Here is how I am related to him.

Normally, I would question the accuracy of all these generations of ancestors unless I took the time to verify that there were sources that supported each generation. In this case, I went through each generation and even back into the early 1700s, Richard Wallis still had sixteen valid supporting sources including his christening record. What interests me is that very little, if any of his children have been researched. Except for the direct line, none of the others have death dates or spouses or any other identifying information. Almost all of the children listed have only one source and one child has two sources. This is an open field for research.

In this instance and other similar families from the Family Tree, I begin systematically to examine each of the children. For this example, I will start with the first one listed.

The only source is an extracted International Genealogical Index (IGI).

The listing of the IGI as a "source" refers to the fact that this record was extracted by volunteers during the Extraction Program. All of the records for the children in this family were extracted from the same parish and so all of the sources listed for the children look just like the one shown above for John Wallace or Wallis. The key here is no image available. If we want to see what is around the original image, we will have to look elsewhere. However, Ash by Wrotham is a very small place.

Of course, I standardize the dates and places and then start an initial search. The search on just leads me in a circle. I search on and find an issue. There is a copy of a record showing the marriage of his father, Richard Wallis and Ann Fullman in Ash cum Ridley, Wrotham. At this point, we get into a haze of people named John and Richard Wallis or Wallace. Is there a difference between Ash by Wrotham and Ash cum Ridley?

With that question about the locations, we get into another complex issue of whether or not we have the right family or just people with the same names. The explanation comes from the Research Wiki. Here it is.
ASH, or Ash-next-Ridley, a parish in Dartford district, Kent; 6 miles S of Northfleet r. station, and 7 SSE of Dartford. It includes the hamlets of Hodsol-Street and West-York and part of Culverstone-Green; and it has a post office under Sevenoaks. There is a Baptist chapel and a national school.[1]

Ash-cum- Ridley is a civil parish in the Sevenoaks district of Kent which includes Ash, New Ash Green, Hodsoll Street and Ridley. Ash-cum-Ridley Wikipedia

Ash ( near Ridley) St Peter and St Paul is an Ancient Parish which included Hodsoll Street,Westfield West York and part of Culverstone Green within its boundary.
So, there is an apparent, but not real, conflict. Some of the confusion comes from other places in England called Ridley and Ash. Ash cum Ridley is about five miles from Wrotham.

So, can we find any more information about the children? Here is the Christening Record for John Wallace for 14 September 1730.

"England, Kent, Bishop's Transcripts, 1560-1911," images, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Kent > Ash > Baptisms, Marriages, Burials 1718-1812 > image 15 of 45; Kent Archives Office, Maidstone.
These records are not indexed but have digital images on and so I searched through page by page and look for a subsequent marriage record. The above record shows the marriage of Richard Wallis and Ann Fullman on 13 February 1730. It also shows that Richard was from Kemsing, which is only about four miles away from Wratham. I decided to go back and look for more records for Richard Wallis or Wallace.

Do I need to go look for the records for Kemsing. There is already a christening record attached for Richard in Wratham. I have now run out of access to records for Richard Wallis or Wallace.on because further records are restricted and would have to wait until I visit a Family History Center next week. I searched on and had record hints that gave me a copy of his will.

As you can see, the more you look, sometimes, the more you find. We now have Richard Wallace or Wallis' parents, his wife and children documented. Of course, we could always look for more documentation. I may find that some of the children have married. I already have a possible marriage for John Wallace.

Now, if I go back one generation to Richard and Jane Wallace or Wallis, I might find even more information.

Explanation of how this project began and why I am pursuing it (updated).

In this project, I started out by picking a somewhat random person from my ancestors or my ancestors' descendants who may have lived into the 20th Century from the Family Tree and to hopefully show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations. Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 19th Century by much harder the further you go back in the past. As I continued to examine individuals in the Family Tree my objectives have changed. I decided to include anyone who, from the lack of information in the Family Tree, needed research.

To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List unless I am related to those I find. For those I find to whom I am not related, I will simply leave the "green icons" on the Family Tree for that person's descendants to find and use for themselves. Please refrain from doing the temple work for people to whom you are not related.

Now, after I got going doing the research, I got a couple of requests to research some people further back in time. These turned out to be old, established "end-of-line" situations. Since my original idea was to demonstrate finding people, I started with easier challenges. But in any event,  I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since some of the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation independent of the time frame, there is no guarantee that I will be any more successful than the average user of the Family Tree in finding additional family members. In any event, I hope that my efforts as recorded will help either the family members or others to find more information about their ancestral families and relatives.

Why am I doing this? For the past 15 years or so, I have been helping hundreds (thousands?) of people find their ancestors. I simply intend to document the process in detail with real examples so that you can see exactly how I find family lines. I simply want to show where those "green icons" come from. Since the Family Tree is entirely cooperative, I will simply assume that when I find a family that needs some research that I am helping that family. By the way, this is Project Eleven of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

There is another reason why I am doing this. Because I constantly offer to help people find their ancestors and I get relatively few that take advantage of that offer. I need to spend some of my excess energy.