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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org -- Project Three, Part Two



This is Part Two of a project that started with another post. See "Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org -- Project Three, Part One."

This Project involves finding an end-of-line ancestor of my friend Holly Hansen who was born in the 1700s and died in the 1800s. This is a common time period when many ancestral lines end or become less than accurate. The reason for this discontinuity is simple: genealogically helpful records start to disappear or were never created for research in the 1700s.  Coupled with the paucity of records is the movement of whole populations from Europe to the Americas and the difficulty of finding the place of origin of an immigrant. 

According to the existing data in the Family Tree, Ignatius Gilpin was born in about 1750. To put this date into a historical context, the first major European settlements along the east coast of North American began in the early 1600s. By 1750, the European population of what would become the United States was just over a million people. See "Demographic history of the United States." To put that in context, that is about the population of Dallas, Texas or San Jose, California. According to SurnameDB.com, the Gilpin surname is English and primarily located in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Gilpin is not an unusual name but it is also not too common. 

In order to have a realistic appraisal of the difficulty of the research in any time period, it is important to start with a survey of the frequency of the surname in the area where the ancestral family is assumed to have lived. I started this process in the first post. Here at the Maryland State Archives, we are digitizing probate records. In conjunction with preparing documents for digitization, we are adding metadata to the files created. In doing this, we have compiled a list of over 17,000 names from probate, conservatorship and in indentured servitude. I searched this database for the "Gilpin" surname and did not find any results. 

In addition, I searched the Ancestry.com. Maryland, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1772-1890[ database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999. There were 46 results. None of these Gilpins were also named "Ignatious" or any variations of that name. There was only one person, named Samuel Gilpin, that appears as early as 1750. The name "Ignatious" or "Ignatius" was not that uncommon in the 1700s. I could not find anyone with the name of Ignatious or Ignatius in about 1750 in Maryland, Virginia, or North Carolina. I did find an Ignation Gilpin from Pennsylvania. Here is a screenshot of the reference.

http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/gilpin/1074/
This record is from Revolutionary War cards from the Pennsylvania State Archives. Now, I decided to search by using the name, "Ignation." With this search, I found the Georgia Marriage Record already attached as a source to the Family Tree entry. But I also found a mention in the United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 from Maryland. 

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WY-YGYV?i=90&cc=2068326
So there was an Ignatius Gilpin in Maryland at the time of the Revolutionary War. Here is a copy of a second record also.

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WY-YGKG?i=101&cc=2068326
In the second record, the name is spelled "Galpin." The record is from the "Muster Roll of Lieut. Horatio Clagett Company of the Third Maryland Regiment. Well, this will give us something to think about and research. To begin, I found some references to men who served in the Third Maryland Regiment from Prince George's County and from St. Mary's County. The next step is to focus research on those two counties and see if the Gilpins show up.

This is the kind of research that needs to be done in stages. Each time you come back to the research, you will find things you didn't find before. Many genealogists advocate keeping a "Research Docket" or research journal. I keep a running set of notes about my research, in this case online with this series of posts, but usually in form of a Google Doc for each research project. Some of these are very long documents after a while. But I do make a point of returning to the same records and searches over and over to make sure that I haven't missed something. For example, here, I made the same search on FamilySearch with slightly different information and found the Revolutionary War records.

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

In this particular project, I decided to help a good friend, Holly Hansen, with her ancestors. She provided me with information from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and with that information, I will show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations (good luck :-). Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 20th Century. But the further back in time you go, the harder the task becomes. To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List. 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.

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 FamilySearch.org 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 Part Three of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation, 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.

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. Thanks to Holly for letting me help.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Family History Mission: Apartments, Stores, and Expectations

An unexpected snow storm
No. 49

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.

After more than 50 years of my life spent living in the Salt River Valley of Arizona, it is a novel experience to have weather that changes daily and includes snow, rain, sleet, hail and sometimes sunshine. Provo, Utah, where we lived for three and half years prior to our mission has very predictable weather. Annapolis is not so predictable.

As Senior Missionaries, we left a comfortable home in Provo to live in a smallish apartment. I have been thinking about apartment living and I believe the last apartment we lived in was in Panama City, Panama back in 1970. However, we have adapted rather rapidly to our apartment. It is interesting how few of the things you own you actually "need." We finally got our mail delivery sorted out with the U.S. Post Office. That turned out to be the biggest problem we have encountered so far. We have had a few problems with a clothes dryer, water leaks from an adjacent apartment and other small problems, but the apartment management is on top of repairs and those things and others have been quickly addressed. I don't think I would have fixed some of the things as fast myself.

We do note that renting an apartment in the Washington, D.C. area is extremely expensive. We have seen rent as high as over $4000 a month! We are thankful for what we have.

We are now settling into a routine if that is at all possible. My wife, Ann, has all the coupons and specials at the local grocery stores spotted and we follow our lifelong routine of shopping at different stores to find the bargains from each. Some of the prices here are higher than in Utah but there seem to be sales with good prices. I guess that depends more on what and how you eat than anything else, however.

In reflecting back on my expectations of what it would be like to be a full-time Senior Missionary, I can truthfully say that the reality is much better than what I expected. We love helping in the Maryland State Archives and working with the other missionaries. We have a little bit of contact with the Sister missionaries assigned to our Spanish-speaking Branch but have hardly seen any other young missionaries. Because we decided to attend and help in the Branch, we have much less contact with the Midshipmen from the Academy because they attend one of the Wards.

I think one of the major traits needed in being a Senior Missionary is the ability to adapt to changes of all kinds. Another is the ability to look for opportunities to serve and help those around you. We have been welcomed into the Branch and asked to help and participate. It is nice to feel that you are needed and wanted. We have around 74 High Priests in our Ward in Provo. Last Sunday, we had a total of four Melchizedek Priesthood holders including me at our meeting.

Of course, I have the advantage of having spoken Spanish most of my life. My wife has found her place in the Branch Primary where almost all the children speak English. As my wife Ann says, we don't seem to have much trouble sleeping at night. Our days are long and full.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mistakes and Inaccuracy: How Accurate is the FamilySearch Family Tree?


This image of a bullseye target is a metaphor for the accuracy of the entries in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. A great many of them are dead-on center, but there are a significant number that wander off the target and of course, you can't see the shots that missed the target altogether. But the fundamental questions about the Family Tree involve its present and ultimate accuracy. In addition, the accuracy of the Family Tree is inseparably connected to the overall limitations on the accuracy of any historical research. This is a serious concern because people contrive family traditions and become emotionally attached to an ancestral legacy no matter how historically accurate it might actually be.

Historical research and writing have traditionally focused on broad-brush accounts of nations with an emphasis on wars and other international conflicts sprinkled here and there with tales of a few notable individuals. In the last hundred years or so, the emphasis has begun to change and begun to focus on less prominent individuals and their place in history. Genealogy, on the other hand, has always been the story of families. It is important to realize, however, that genealogy per se has had a checkered past and it is still struggling to find acceptance as a valid historical pursuit. This lack of acceptance of genealogy as a valid academic pursuit lies squarely on its history of inaccuracy wrapped up in myth and legend.

The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is a recent innovation in the longstanding process of bringing family history out of the mists of myth and legend into a semblance of believability. Only recently, as I have noted many times in previous posts, has there been a concerted movement towards documenting family history and traditions in any meaningful way. My own inherited genealogical information is a prime example of a total disregard for accuracy in many respects with whole books published with only a modicum of acknowledgment of contemporary historical sources. Some of our most treasured family traditions have proved to have only a very tenuous connection to the actual historical records that are available and almost every one of my ancestral lines ultimately moves from believability to fantasy.

It is overly simplistic to blame this lack of accuracy on the "availability of records." Some of the information in my own family line appears to be intentionally inaccurate. This occurs when the "researcher" decided to choose a prominent or wealthy family line over one that was more obscure and decidedly impoverished. This phenomenon is also prominent among those claiming royal or noble European ancestors.

A recent comment to one of my blog posts also points out the reality of "confirmation bias." This is the tendency people have to believe what is repeated or appears to have the endorsement of authority. For example, there is a popular inspirational story about one of my ancestors that has been told and retold so many times that it has assumed the level of an undisputed historical fact. When, in reality, it was a story told by a descendant who never knew or talked to the original participant.

Is there really any hope that the information in the Family Tree can become accurate? The answer to this question is a qualified yes. The reliability of the information in the Family Tree is increasing at a rapid rate for recent generations, say within the last 100 to 150 years. Before that time, the accuracy is in a state of chaos. The main reason for this chaos is the lack of systematic genealogical research into the contemporary documents and records. A good example of this problem is the absolute shambles of the information about the original Mayflower passengers and their history in America. There is almost no controversy about the identity and descendants of the original surviving Mayflower passengers and yet this is one area where activity on the Family Tree has become rampant. Accurate and complete research on each of the passengers is readily available, but changes to individual passengers are in a state of complete disarray. Every week when I receive a report from FamilySearch of the changes to my watched people, my ancestor Francis Cooke, a Mayflower passenger, has dozens of unsupported and totally inaccurate changes. There is no rationally defensible reason why this person's history should have any controversy.

It would be easy to dismiss the Family Tree as a failure if you focus on what remains to be supported by sources and made consistent with historical records. Of course, historical records can disagree and people can disagree over the interpretation of those records, but the instances where this occurs are not as common as those instances when the only available records are clear to the extent they are complete.

There are some things we will never know in this life. Much of the information about our families has been lost or reported inaccurately. We just have to live with this measure of uncertainty. But to the extent that historical sources are carefully reviewed and added to the Family Tree, the accumulated information becomes more and more "accurate" in the sense that it agrees with the available historical records. Cleaning up the Family Tree is not just busy work, it is the basic activity of doing genealogy or family history. We may be surprised or even appalled at the loss of some of our cherished family stories or traditions, but ultimately the Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. We can no more expect that mistakes and inaccurate information will disappear from the Family Tree than we can expect a garden to stay weed free or our houses to stay automatically clean.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Revisiting Virtual Pedigree

https://virtual-pedigree.fhtl.byu.edu/
If you are frustrated with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree interface, there is an alternative. The alternative is called "Virtual Pedigree." It is an interactive Family Tree viewer from the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Lab. Some of the programs developed by the Lab have become "standards" for genealogical researchers using FamilySearch.org such as Relative Finder. Others are not so well known.

The Virtual Pedigree is a described as follows:
Virtual Pedigree allows you to navigate your family tree with a new and revolutionary fluid interface. Simply click (or touch!) and drag, and begin exploring ancestors and their descendants! It gives you hints and help as you explore your tree, and now includes LDS Ordinance information. Take it for a spin!
Since it is entirely graphically oriented, it is impossible to describe exactly how it works. You just need to try it and see for yourself.  By the way, you either love it or find it difficult to use. This depends on how familiar you are with using a mouse or touchpad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org -- Project Three, Part One



My friend Holly Hansen asked me to take some time and help find some information about her ancestor, Ignatious Gilpin, b. about 1750 in Maryland and d. 7 July 1818 in Putnam, Georgia, United States. Quoting from the Maryland State Archive website:
In 1654, Maryland's General Assembly passed An Act Concerning a Register of Births Marriages & Burialls, requiring inhabitants of the province to bring notice of all births to the clerk of their county court. The clerk would then record the birth date, the child's name, the father's name, and sometimes the mother's name in a register. Arranged chronologically, the registers were self-indexed to make searching for a particular name easier. Only a few of these old registers are extant today.
Holly thought that perhaps her ancestor was a Catholic because of his name, but I have found that Biblical names are fairly common in old Maryland Records. Since my wife and I have been serving as FamilySearch Record Preservation Missionaries/Volunteers, we have see a lot of names. In Maryland, the Court recorded birth records began in 1865. The responsibility for recording the earlier records was changed in 1695. Here is another quote from the Maryland State Archives website:
In 1695, the General Assembly passed a law which transferred responsibility for registering births to the clerk of the Church of England (Anglican) vestry for each parish. 
For a short time, the clerks of the county courts continued to register births concurrently with the clerks of the vestry. By the early 1700s, the registration of all births, regardless of a person's denomination, was the sole responsibility of the Anglican (now Protestant Episcopal) Church. Because of this law, church records are the main source of birth records from the colonial period through the late nineteenth century. Although the Church of England was the government sanctioned church in Maryland during the colonial period, churches of other denominations (such as Catholic, Quaker, Prebysterian, Methodist, and Lutheran) existed as well. Like the Anglican churches, these churches recorded births or baptisms occurring among their members. The 1695 law lost its effect in 1776 when Maryland enacted its first constitution. Most churches, however, continued the practice of registering births through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. 
The Maryland State Archives holds church records for many churches in Maryland. Please see Special Collections for a list of church records available at the Archives. Another resource is Edna A. Kanely's book Directory of Church Records in Maryland published by Family Line Publications. This book lists Maryland churches, the records that exist for them, and the institutions that hold the records. It is important to note that the records for some churches have been lost or destroyed over time. Also, not every Marylander was associated with a church, and therefore births and baptisms in non-church-going families may never have been recorded.
Only certain counties' records are available. It looks like from the Maryland State Archives website that I will have spend more time in the Archives, but doing research rather than digitizing documents. There are, however, a huge number of digitized records from Maryland alread on FamilySearch.org and other websites. I will start with a search in the Maryland, Births and Christenings Index, 1662-1911 on Ancestry.com. This index contains more than 200,000 birth, baptism, and christening records. I only find seven (yes 7) records with the Gilpin surname.


I found an Ancestry.com Message Board about Ignatious Gilpin.

https://www.ancestry.com/boards/surnames.gilpin/280.1.1/mb.ashx
In looking at the records in the FamilyTree, it looks like there are some inconsistencies. First, if Ignatious Gilpin married Charlotte Vinson, he was 40 years old when the marriage took place. But the second marriage supposedly took place in 1800 when the first wife was still living. If Gilpin was a Catholic, he probably did not get a divorce. Are there two different individuals?

Ancestry.com has an Ignatius Gilpin in the U.S. Census Recontstructed Records, 1660-1820.


Since this would have been the first U.S. Census, the record would only show the head of household. The record is interesting since it says the following:

https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2234&h=37295&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=uRe706&_phstart=successSource

We sometimes run across ancestors who led interesting lives. This record comes from the following:
Source Citation
Document: Telamon Cuyler Collection, Manuscript #1170 [Hargrett Library, University of Georgia]; Call Number: Box 42, Folder 2; Page Number: 1; Family Number: 1 
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. Census Reconstructed Records, 1660-1820 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Here is another record from the same database:

https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2234&h=28329&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=uRe707&_phstart=successSource



And there is a third record:

https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2234&h=111491&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=uRe708&_phstart=successSource
Incidently, all three of the marriage sources attached to Ignatious or Ignatius Gilpin on the Family Tree are from Columbia County, not Richmond County, although they are next to each other. The link in the fourth source to "Ignatius Gilpin in the Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992" is broken. The link takes me to someone named William Fuller. But there is a will record in that collection. Here are the three links, but note that they are in Putnam County in 1818. 

https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=USProbateGA&gss=sfs28_ms_db&new=1&rank=1&msT=1&gsln=Gilpin&gsln_x=0&MSAV=1&uidh=p87
What is missing so far is the will. 

Back to the question of where Ignatius Gilpin was born. A search on Ancestry.com for Gilpins born in about 1750 plus or minus 10 years shows that there are only 1,106 results. From this, it appears that the name is relatively uncommon. I see from the results of the search that the Gilpin surname is scattered over the entire Eastern seaboard of the colonies. Interestingly, none of the records showing a Gilpin surname come from Georgia. there are 238 records for Gilpins that were either born in or lived in Maryland. Right now, without more research, his birthplace would be nothing more than a guess. 

I am going to continue this Project because of the connection to Maryland. Time to do some research in the Archives. 

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

In this particular project, I decided to help a good friend, Holly Hansen, with her ancestors. She provided me with information from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and and with that information, I will show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations (good luck :-). Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 20th Century. But the further back in time you go, the harder the task becomes. To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List. 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.

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 FamilySearch.org 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 Part Three of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation, 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.

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. Thanks to Holly for letting me help.

A Family History Mission: Snow, Spanish, and Family History Centers


No. 48

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.

On the first day of Spring, our work at the Maryland State Archives was interrupted by a strong snowstorm. It turned into a Code Red day for all the government offices, including the Archives, in the state plus almost all the schools. I guess we can't help but contrast this with Utah where the world would practically have to end before they would have a snow day. We spent an unusually leisurely day in our apartment. Of course, I took the opportunity to write more than would be usual for the middle of the week.

I missed my weekly visits to the Annapolis Family History Center in our Stake Center. I am rediscovering what I already knew about Family History Centers: if you want to help people then you have to invite them to come and meet you at the Family History Center. You can't just wait for people to walk in and ask for help.

We have been working with the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) for a few weeks now. We have started helping one or two people during the Sunday School time. We can use the Family History Center to help the Branch members get registered on FamilySearch.org and start to enter their ancestors to the Family Tree. The challenge, in some cases, is that we also need to teach them about computers and the internet. Some of the members can barely read. We hope to make a small difference in the Branch while we are here.

We live about 10 minutes away from the Stake Center which makes helping in Branch much easier. The Branch President also asked if we could teach some English classes. I taught ESL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) for a few years in Mesa and I really enjoyed teaching the classes so I was happy to help. I decided it would be helpful in more than one way to teach the classes in the Family History Center got permission from the Director. I thought it would be a good way to teach English, computers, and family history all at the same time. We'll see if anyone comes to our classes.

We have a family history conference coming up on May 5th. It is sponsored by the Washington, D.C. Family History Center. Ann and I will both be teaching some classes.

http://wdcfhc.org/Conference/index.php



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Family History Mission: Antique Paper Fasteners


No. 47

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.

One of the major tasks here at the Maryland State Archives is preparing documents for digitization. The documents come folded up in bundles that haven't been opened for up to two hundred years or more. They need to be carefully unfolded and flattened as much as possible. Some of the documents have a variety of paper fastener devices. We have been collecting a few of the type of fasteners dating back well over a hundred years.

If we go back far enough, the only fasteners used were pins. The old pins are handmade and very sharp. You can see a few examples of the types of fasteners in the photo above. You can click on the photo for a closer view.

We are supposed to remove all the metal fasteners because they often get corroded and ruin the paper. The papers we are handling, for the most part, are not "valuable" except for the information they contain. Over time, many of the documents were are now processing would be lost to mold, water damage or simple chemical disintegration.  Without this intervention, the valuable information in the documents would be lost forever. 

How Stable is the FamilySearch Family Tree?


First, here are a few statistics as of the date of this blog post.

There are a total of 4.35 million total Family Tree contributors. They have uploaded 22.61 million photos and 1.62 million stories to the Memories section. There are 910 million sources attached to the entries and 1.2 billion records in the Family Tree. As as a side note, there are 9.63 million registered users on the FamilySearch.org website. 

If you have the perspective of the number of users vs. the number of complaints about the Family Tree program, you might just begin to understand that for most users the Family Tree works very well. The main venue for "complaints" and suggestions is the GetSatisfaction.com website section dedicated to FamilySearch.org. Here is a screenshot of part of the page dedicated to the most popular topics of discussion about the Family Tree:


The most popular topic had its last reply over 4 years ago. Almost all the discussions have less than 25 participants. Many of these topics have gone for years without any additional comments or replies. Now, if you think about it, with that many people involved in one unified, collaborative program it is amazing that there are really so few real issues. Yes, there have been a few serious issues involving the data, but the data is mostly the main issue, not the program.

There is still a long way to go before all the old entries will be corrected and updated with sources and standardized entries. But, the work that has already been done is immensely useful and provides an almost endless supply of work that can be done.

So who is complaining? My experience is that there are two main detractor groups; those who are working on remote ancestors who lived before 1700 and those who are upset with the changes per se and are fixated on the "bad" changes. Both of these groups are not likely to ever be satisfied with the program. What we have found is that the changes are manageable. We also find that as sources and Memories are added, the entries become more stable. But by and large, the entries we have worked on are stable and have few changes.

Now, if you have a relative that is a "loose cannon," just watch all the entries and keep changing things back the way they are supposed to be. Patience is a virtue.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Labels for the FamilySearch Family Tree

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/dont-label-mebut-label-ancestors/


Quoting from the above blog post,
Navigating such a large tree to connect with your ancestors can be tricky. We recently added a new feature called “Labels” that will, as it continues to develop, provide a new way to place your ancestors in better context. 
You’ve used labels on other sites and in apps to easily organize and view similar types of things. You can now add labels to your ancestor’s listing in Family Tree to honor their accomplishments, signify their involvement in a group, or memorialize their profession.
Here is where the label function shows up on my Grandfather's page.


In looking at the options, I was able to add the following label


When I click on the label, I get a link to the website listing those who served in the military.


It would be nice to have a feature that would let us browse different categories. There is apparently some lag time in connecting the websites. Perhaps they are all being reviewed.


LDS Classes from RootsTech 2018 Online



I have started to watch the RootsTech 2018 Family Discovery Day classes online and really enjoyed what I have seen so far. These are excellent Sunday or Family Home Evening opportunities, especially for those of us who are older and without children at home. I enjoyed seeing the presentation for Temple and Family History Consultants. It is interesting how what is being presented is very similar to the presentations we have been giving at the BYU Family History Library for the past couple of years. Maybe someone is actually watching what we have been teaching?

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/2018-family-history-leadership-session/
From the attendance at the Leadership session, it looks like I might have been able to attend had I been in Utah at the time.

Take some time to check out the videos, they are well worth watching.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org -- Project One


In this series, I am going to pick a somewhat random person who lived in the 20th Century from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and 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 20th Century. However, I am not able to use any of my own family lines because my direct lines all end back, at least, six generations. To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List. 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.

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. This past week, I helped one of the missionaries serving at the Maryland State Archives extend her family line by three generations. It took about two hours of research to do this. I simply want to show where those "green icons" come from. Since the FamilySearch.org 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 Part One 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.

So, here I go. First, I will look around for a possible research project. After looking around for a short time, I found Frank Seldon Warren, K8P8-1B5 (b. 1876, d. 1951) who was married to my cousin Amelia Ventom DeFriez, KWVR-QCP. He has no parents in the Family Tree and a quick check showed no initial indication of duplicates. Of course, as I do a little more research, duplicate entries might show up. It will be interesting to see if he connects to anyone already in the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot of his entry.


Here are the sources already in the Family Tree.


The initial review shows that there are U.S. Census records for 1920, 1930, and 1940. The idea is to look at what is missing. If he was born in 1876, he should appear in the 1880, 1900, and 1910 censuses also. Let's see what I can find. I will first check on FamilySearch because it is the first website on the list and it is easy to attach the information from any records I find.

I find a California Death Index record that might be the same person. The death dates match, but the birth date is different.


For the time being, I will assume this is the same person since the birthdate is the same day and month but off by two years. I will attach the record and change the birthdate. I see that the record has his mother's maiden name. I will likely come back to this. Oh, I was looking for census records. But I never let that stop me from looking at anything else that turns up. Back to the search with the new information. By the way, the FindAGrave.com record also has a birthdate, but according to the Death record, the date is wrong. FindAGrave is not a primary source so I defer to the official death record.

The earliest listed Census record from 1920 shows him married to Millie Warren. I see from the record for his wife that here nickname was Millie. I take a side trip and clean up the entry for his wife to reflect her correct birth name and put Millie in as a nickname. I also delete the duplicate "Birth" names in her entry. Hmm. I seem to get easily sidetracked. I do find him as a possible lodger in Nevada in the 1910 Census in Caliente, Lincoln, Nevada and this agrees with the place where he was living in the other Census records, so I feel that this is probably the right person and add the record. Another quick look shows that Caliente never had more than about 5000 people and was founded in 1901. So the possibility of there being another Frank S Warren in the town seems slim.


All of the census records agree that he was born in California and his age matches the 10-year census interval. There is a legacy source that has his birth year probably wrong and a place. I don't put much confidence in these sources but they do help from time to time. There are a lot of Frank Warrens on FamilySearch, so it is time to change tactics. Remember the Death record had his mother's maiden name. So now, I will put that into a FamilySearch search. I find his World War I draft registration card. That gives us the name of his wife and shows that they were living in Caliente, Nevada.


The Draft Card also has his birthdate. Hmm. He says he was born in 1876. Looks like the Death record was wrong. So, I change it back. Then again, he could have lied about his age, but at 43 he was not in much danger of being drafted or at 45 either. Interestingly, the next draft card is also a Warren. This is not unusual for relatives to be listed at the same time for the draft. The name on the next card is William D. Warren and he lists his nearest relative as Mrs. Maggie L. Warren in Ursine, Eagle Valley, Nevada. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Ursine, Nevada.
Ursine is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Lincoln County, Nevada, United States. It is located in the foothills of the White Rock Mountains on Eagle Valley about two miles downstream from the Eagle Valley Reservoir and Spring Valley State Park. The population was 91 at the 2010 census.
Well, now, in 1918 William was living in Ursine in Lincoln County. The county seat is Pioche, Nevada. Let's see who is in the 1920 U.S. Census for Ursine, Nevada. I will search in FamilySearch for Warrens in Ursine or Lincoln, County. Not too helpful. I will switch over to Ancestry.com and do the same search. I find Frank's Social Security Application and it has 1877 as his birth date. I am beginning to believe that he himself didn't know how old he was.

The 1920 U.S. Federal Census record we already had, shows him married to Millie or Amelia in Caliente, Lincoln, Nevada. So now we have another clue. A Waren family living in Ursine about 40 miles away. We still need to find Frank in an earlier census record.

Now we have a very interesting situation shown by the 1880 U.S. Federal Census Record for Spring Valley, Nevada where I find William Warren as a two year old. His father is listed as George B. Warren and his siblings are born in Utah and his was born in Arizona, which is also shown on his WW I Draft Registration Card.

The next entry is for a James Edwards married to Ellen and they have a son named Frank S. Edwards who is the right age to be Frank S. Warren and the record shows he was born in California. Could they be the same person with a changed last name? Spring Valley is part of what is now Las Vegas which was settled by pioneers from Utah. They apparently move to a rance near Ursine in subsequent census records. OK, now this is getting really strange. Here, I start checking on the two families. George B. Warren is married to Mary Ann Newman. Remember, the Death record for Frank? His mother is listed with name Newman. Here is the 1880 Census Record for reference.


Their neighbors, James Edwards and Ellen shows that Ellen was born in England. Mary Ann Newman Warren's entry in the Family Tree shows her born in England with a sister named Ellen who is shown as deceased with no death information. Hmm. Was Ellen Edwards the sister of Mary A Warren who lived in the sam area in Nevada? Did Frank S. Edwards become Frank S. Warren? Seems more and more possible. What do I need to know to make this assumption into a good conclusion?

Ellen Maria Newman's record shows that she immigrated to Utah and she is shown in the Utah Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database. Looks like these people all match up and I have found the missing husband for Ellen. There are a lot of Ellen Maria Newmans in England, by the way.

I searched for James and Ellen Edwards and so far the only place I found them was in this 1880 U.S. Federal Census record. I did find a J. Edwards in Nevada in the 1875 Nevada Census. In all the census records for Frank S. Warren, he lists his parents as being born in the United States. Here is my guess at this point. Franks parents died and he was "adopted" by his aunt Mary Ann Newman Warren. He did not know his parents well enough to remember them. What we have is the California Death Record for Frank with his mother's maiden name of Newman.

In order to take this matter further, I would need to have access to records on FamilySearch.org that have yet to be digitized and these records are only available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The records that might unravel this dilemma are the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well, with a random choice, this turned out to be a major research issue. Stay tuned as I take on another ramdom choice in the Family Tree.

With all the fabulous online tools now available, there is really no reason to ignore the benefit of doing the research. Be sure to add all the information you find in the records into the entries in the Family Tree. We do have one problem to resolve, it any of this is correct, then the mother's birthdate is wrong or something else is wrong. You will have to wait and see how this all works. If you can't resist jumping in and correcting everything, be my guest, I'm not related to these people except through the marriage of one cousin.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org -- Project Two

This isn't really a series, as such, it is really a number of unconnected posts about conducting research on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and is more of a project than a series. I decided to put my comments about the process at the end of each post for reference. 

Here is Project Two:

I am selecting this post's project from my family lines where I find that much of the "clean up" work has not been done. This is usually a good indication that there is little online activity and therefore a lot of opportunities to find people who are not presently in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. 

As I did previously, I am selecting a person who lived all or part of his or her life in the 20th Century and who does not have any ancestors (parents etc.) in the Family Tree.



This is Arthur Tomlinson who has no parent, birthplace, or any other information other than a marriage date and place. 



The first thing I do is figure out where these people were living. Here is the information from Wikipedia
Willesden (/ˈwɪlzdən/) is an area in north-west London which forms part of the London Borough of Brent. It is situated 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Charing Cross. It was historically a parish in the county of Middlesex that was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Willesden in 1933 and has formed part of Greater London since 1965.[1] Dollis Hill is also sometimes referred to as being part of Willesden.
I can use FamilySearch.org to find a copy of the marriage information which, unfortunately, is not attached as a source.


This record corrects the entries and adds a middle initial for his wife. Kate Faulkner is my cousin. Because I had the marriage record, I could find another English marriage record on Ancestry.com, this one showing Arthur's father and his wife's complete name. 


This record also has a complete marriage date and place. Now, we are on our way, once we add all the new information. 




Now I look for more information based on the newly added information. I am going to guess that his birthplace is in Brent or London. Searching on FamilySearch is a strikeout. I will try Ancestry.com. The challenges are that the British Census records only are available up to 1911 and that George and Arthur are very common British names and so is the name Tomlinson.

This is the challenge of trying to find people who lived in the 20th Century. We will see the 1921 British Census in 2022. I tried the 1939 Register without success. So, this is another example of reaching the end of the records. Searching the General Register Office for a death record requires information about the date of death. Here are some other places I searched the England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991 on FamilySearch without success. Then I found a Death record for Kate Phyllis Tomlinson on the England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007.


I also found a probable death date for Arthur Tomlinson.


It is possible that there might be some additional information in a newspaper search. Once again, future research will have to wait until I can be in the BYU Family History Library or the Salt Lake City, Family History Library. My guess is that someone who is directly related to these people can use what I have found to talk to relatives. 

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

In this project, I am going to pick a somewhat random person from my ancestors' descendants who lived in the 20th Century from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and 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 20th Century. However, I am not able to use any of my own family lines because my direct lines all end back, at least, six generations. To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List. 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.

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 FamilySearch.org 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 Part One of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation, 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.

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.



A Family History Mission: The Challenges of Digitization


No. 46

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.

The document shown above is actually from Rhode Island and not one of the documents we are digitizing here in Annapolis at the Maryland State Archives. After spending a couple of months digitizing and preparing documents day after day, I find that my perception of what I am seeing online has changed considerably so I decided to show some of the digital images and discuss what you are actually looking at when you see the images on FamilySearch.org.

Let's look at the document above. First of all, it is a photograph of two pages in a book. The image also has an "attachment." That is the piece of paper covering up part of the text of the book. Properly, there would have to be another photo of the same page showing the part covered by the attachment. The book is laying on a camera stand and the camera is situated directly over the pages to be photographed. Here is a photo of one of our camera stands.


In this photo, you can see three clamps used to hold the book level. If you go back to the photo at the beginning, you can see a clamp that is just barely visible in the lower left-hand corner of the book page. The idea here is that the pages of the book have to be kept flat and perpendicular to the camera so that the images are in focus at a high resolution. Every time we start taking photos, we have to calibrate the camera. This means we test the focus, white balance, and resolution or lines per inch before taking any photos. We do this to assure that the images are clear and uniform. We have two large lights on either side of the camera stand that need to "warm up" every day for fifteen minutes so that the light is uniform.

Here is a photo of the lights with a "whiteboard."



By taking a photo using the whiteboard, the camera is calibrated to white with the available lighting. This allows the camera to "see" the book being photographed in the existing light and take the best possible photos. It is essentially a way to measure the intensity or temperature of the light. However, since all these photos are in grayscale, it is really a way to set the amount of light entering the camera lens, i.e. the aperture or f-stop.  But since this camera is a fixed installation, the aperture remains the same but the speed of the sensor chip can be modified. The easiest way to understand what is happening is to say that the camera adjusts to the light.

However, the grayscale, or relationship between light and dark areas also needs to calibrated. For this, we use a standard Kodak grayscale strip. The camera reads the strip and makes the adjustments to get the best contrast for the photos.



If we are taking pictures of single page documents, then the distance from the document to the camera never changes. But if we are taking pictures of a book, then every time we turn a page the distance from the lens to the page changes slightly and the level of the pages also changes. As we work through a book, we have to constantly be changing the level of the two sides of the book to keep the plane of the pages level and perpendicular to the camera. We get better at this with practice. We use a series of wedges and blocks to level the books. We also use foam cushions.



Well, that's enough for today.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Family History Mission: Some Random Observations


No. 45

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.

Time is passing rapidly here in Annapolis, Maryland. We are working on our fourth month on a mission, but who is counting? I thought it might be a good time to review some of my random observations. Here they are:

Driving in Washington, D.C. is like the Polar Bear swim at Scout camp. It is terrible to consider and even worse to experience. We quickly realized how much easier it was to take the train into the city. We also discovered the buses. There is a really convenient bus called the DC Circulator that has a loop route around the Museums and attractions in the Mall area near the Capital Building. It is only a dollar and half price for Seniors with the convenient Senior Smart Trip Card.

Traffic on the freeways when there is room and not completely stopped, travels between 75 and 80 mph even though the speed limit is 65. Since that is also the case in the Phoenix area, we are not overly impressed. However, the speed limits in Phoenix are much higher. In Utah, the speed limit on the Interstate outside of the cities raises to 80 mph.

We are getting used to living in an apartment. The last time we lived in an apartment was when we lived in Panama while I was in the Army almost 50 years ago. Our biggest challenges are one small bathroom and two flights of stairs when we have store purchases.

We love working with the other missionaries. Two couples are finishing their mission this week and going home. But we know there is at least one more couple on the way. We like the cooperative nature of the experience and the collaboration on digitizing problems and procedures. The Archive employees are also very helpful and dedicated.

We are attending the Spa Creek (Spanish) branch and that is another adjustment. It is a very small branch with a Sacrament Meeting attendance of only around fifty people including all of the children. Of course, all the meetings are in Spanish and it is a challenge understanding all of the accents from different Spanish-speaking countries. We are warmly received and have had some very nice experiences.

I have been going to the Annapolis Stake Family History Center every Tuesday and Thursday evening. I have been having quite a bit of success helping others and finding my own records. I am starting to talk to people and meeting them at the FHC for help. That works out very well. We might also have access to the FHC during Sunday School so we can help the Branch members find their ancestors.

The weather here is very different from both the Salt River Valley and the Wasatch Front. The temperature seems to go up and down sort of randomly and there is a lot more rain than we are used to. We are watching some of the flowering plants start to grow and so we think that Winter might end sometime and we will see what the town looks like with leaves on the trees.

Before we came to Annapolis, we kept hearing about how beautiful the city was and that it was quite an attraction. It does have some nice old buildings but the streets are extremely narrow, there is almost no parking anywhere near the old downtown area near the dock, and the rest of the town looks pretty much like the rest of the United States with malls, fast food restaurants, and other businesses. We have found the stores we need for shopping and our apartment is very centrally located.

The apartment doesn't have assigned parking unless you want to pay for a covered space. If you come back late in the evening, we have to park almost a block away from our apartment.

We enjoy working at digitizing the records. The records are an endless source of interesting names and other information. We really appreciate the local volunteers who come to help prepare the records and even help with the digitizing.

I would still strongly recommend a Senior Missionary experience. We have a great time. We would have to grow old and live our lives anyway, so we might as well be doing something useful and enjoyable.

All the missionaries get to work right around 7:00 am despite traffic and weather. This shows me that they are all enjoying their experience here in the Maryland State Archives.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What are good and bad changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree?

According to my Watch List on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, I am watching 289 people. That means that if any changes are made to those people FamilySearch will send me a weekly list of the changes. As you can see from this last week's notice, I had 210 changes to 28 people. By the way, most of those changes are to the same people every week. I review all of the changes every week. I look at the type of change made and who made the changes. For example, the change shown above was made by my daughter. Since the change involved adding a document and was made by a person I know to be competent, I don't have to do anything at all about the change. This is a "constructive" change.

It is the nature of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree to change. Interestingly, almost all of the complaints I listen to about the Family Tree deal with some kind of change. Those complaints started within a day or two of the first introduction of the program years ago and I just received a long list of complaints from my blog readers about some new changes to the Family Tree. The complaints haven't changed since the first day I began to hear them. I have written dozens of blog posts on the subject of change in the Family Tree on both this blog and on Genealogy's Star. Some time ago, when I started writing this blog, I transferred all my topics dealing with FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to this blog. There is some spillover but this blog deals with issues that are raised mainly for members of the Church and about the Church.

The FamilySearch Family Tree has a lot of users who are not members of the Church. Since the Family Tree is immensely useful for everyone, regardless of their membership status, there are issues that extend well beyond the main focus of this blog. Change to cooperative online family trees such as the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is one of those issues.

Most of the online family trees are "owned" by one individual. For example, I have family trees on Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, MyHeritage.com, Geni.com, WikiTree.org and many other websites. I am the only person who can make changes to some of those online family trees. Both Geni.com and WikiTree.org are collaborative websites based on the wiki model just as is the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. The FamilySearch.org website is somewhat unique in its association with the Church and its open collaborative nature. Because of this association, there are a substantial number of users of the Family Tree that do not have a significant amount of experience with other online family tree programs. There are also many of these people who also have little or no online computer experience beyond social networking and other popular online venues. In addition, the number of people who are interested in genealogy and familiar with genealogical research and who also are on the Family Tree is vanishingly small.

Since the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is open to the world and because change is part of the nature of the program, there are going to be a lot of changes made that are not constructive. My attitude towards this is so what? It comes with having a program where the benefits far outweigh the annoyance of having changes made to the information available in the program.

The underlying concept of the Family Tree is to collaboratively allow incremental changes to any of the information (data) to thereby increase both the amount and accuracy of that information. Initially, the Family Tree was seeded with a huge amount of information that had accumulated for over 100 years. The core of this information was accurate, but much of it was duplicative or inaccurate. The challenge was to provide a venue where this accumulated information could be corrected and the duplicate information removed. The Family Tree does all that admirably. As more sources are added to the Family Tree it becomes more accurate and therefore more useful. However, the number of changes will not necessarily decrease over time because more information will always become available and more people will be added to the Family Tree.

Good changes add to the cumulative information in the Family Tree and good changes also correct inaccurate or incomplete information. Good changes also provide sources that explain where the changed or added information originated, i.e. a source in Memories or a citation to an outside source. Bad changes are those that remove correct information and substitute incorrect information. Bad sources also include information that is added without a source. By the way, personal knowledge is a source, but most of the time it cannot be validated. But if you don't know where the information came from, it is probably inaccurate. Many bad sources are added to the Family Tree by people who fail to read the information and sources already attached to a person. If a person in the Family Tree has multiple sources, why would you assume that the information already in the Family Tree is inaccurate simply because your unsupported records differ from what is already there?

For example, my ancestor John Tanner KWJ1-K2F has 231 Memories and 96 sources. Notwithstanding this massive amount of information, people still add wives and children and then those relationships are deleted. These kinds of "bad" changes give the whole Family Tree a bad reputation.

The bad changes to the Family Tree are like weeds in a garden. No matter how many times you pull weeds, there are always more. But you don't stop gardening simply because you have to pull weeds.

If there is a real dispute about the identity of an ancestor or whether or not a child belongs in a certain family, then these issues should be resolved through collaboration. Think about it.