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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Labels for the FamilySearch Family Tree

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?
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 -- Part One

In this series, I am going to pick a somewhat random person who lived in the 20th Century from the 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 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 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 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 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

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

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 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 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 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,,,, and many other websites. I am the only person who can make changes to some of those online family trees. Both and are collaborative websites based on the wiki model just as is the Family Tree. The 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 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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Remember, the MyHeritage Tree Sync is in Beta

I have been seeing some semi-hysterical comments about the Tree Sync program with This is a subtle reminder that the program is in BETA testing. When the CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet, gave his presentation at RootsTech, he mentioned that they had about 100 BETA testers. In order to use the program, you have to request a code from MyHeritage. This alone should be a clue that there might be problems with the BETA program. So why are there such emotional complaints about the functions of a program that is still officially in development? Who knows?

Some of the most serious complaints are about difficulties with the BETA test and sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree that have now been fixed.  If you aren't able to take the bad with the good in a BETA test, I suggest that you wait for a final release of the program. Personally, I have been using the program for a couple of months now and I am thrilled with the program. You can read what I think in some of my previous posts.

Also, if you do have a real issue with the BETA test, the whole idea is to communicate your concerns back to MyHeritage. Venting in public about the problems is not responsible or logical. By the way, the Tree Sync program will be considered one of the most important steps in the development of online family trees. It basically gives LDS members who now use the Family Tree the ability to use, MyHeritage, a hugely effective program with nearly 9 billion records in a way that will enhance both programs immensely.

The Duplicate Source Issue on the FamilySearch Family Tree

First of all the duplicate source issue is really a bogus issue. The Family Tree allows you to add sources to records supporting any entry made. The real issue is people who make changes and do not add a source for those changes, not people who add more than one copy of a single source. There is absolutely no harm done to the information in the Family Tree when someone adds a "duplicate" source. If you are bothered by the duplicate source, then detach it. But before you do, think about whether it is a duplicate or an alternative source for the information. There is a real difference.

If I attach a reference (source) to the Family Tree saying I got my information from FamilySearch for a 1930 U.S. Census record for a family and someone comes along and adds another reference or citation or source to the same record, so what? Why do you care? But what if I find the same record on or or whatever, is that a duplicate source? Or is it another "source" for the same information. Maybe I want to know I can find the U.S. Census records on more than one website. In that sense, the second reference or citation is not a duplicate and when you remove or detach the duplicate, you are removing valuable information from the Family Tree.

Let's move on from this issue of "duplicate" sources and focus on getting as much information into the Family Tree as we can.

See What are Sources on the FamilySearch Family Tree?

Answering questions about the MyHeritage Tree Sync

I received the following comment from a reader of my recent post about the new Tree Sync feature for LDS users of the Family Tree. I have responsive comments about this on a number of levels. Here is the comment.
What concerns me is that there is no chance to review what changes MyHeritage is going to make to FamilyTree before the synch happens. The synch is apparently automatic and you only get a report of what was changed after the synch is complete. It seems to me it would be much better to require users to individually approve each change to FT before the synch occurs. I have nightmares of MyHeritage making all kinds of changes to FT, many of which users may not have actually intended to make. Then, it's left up to all us FT users to try and fix the mess.
First of all, the Tree Sync feature is not "automatic" in the sense that it "automatically" copies changes from your Tree Sync family tree to the Family Tree. You have to go to the menu and select the function and then let it run for an hour or so to make any changes. But my response to the comment is not quite that simple. The entire idea of having the ability to synchronize information on two different family trees inplies that they will be kept as close to identicle as possible. Right now, I can manually "sync" any of my online family trees by merely comparing the entries and copying and pasting in any changes. That is exactly the problem being addressed by the idea of creating a way to do this without the work of individually transferring changes.

Even before MyHeritage made their announcement, there are at least three different ways to manually, one by one, make synchronization changes from a third party family tree to the Family Tree:, RootsMagic, and Ancestral Quest. In each of these three programs changes are made essentially one item at a time. By the way, this is a really great feature of all three programs. But what we are talking about here with MyHeritage takes this a giant step further. It allows me to have the same information on my portion of the Family Tree and maintain what is close to a mirror copy (without the reverse effect of a real mirror) on MyHeritage. I now have what is essentially a backup of my work on the Family Tree (and everyone else's work too for that matter).

The comment starts out with an inaccurate statement, "What concerns me is that there is no chance to review what changes MyHeritage is going to make to FamilyTree before the synch happens." The only changes made are those you yourself make to your own personal family tree. Yes, if I make a stupid mistake on my MyHeritage family tree, I will likely copy that stupid mistake over the FamilySearch Family Tree, but how is this any different than any other mistake I might make while working on the Family Tree? Again, you initiate any synchronization.

I have been working away on my Tree Sync family tree for some time now. Guess what? I am finding errors in the Family Tree that need to be corrected. For example, I find a whole ancestral line in England that has non-specific birthplaces for my ancestors. MyHeritage automatically gave me a pile of Record Matches that gave me the specific parishes where these ancestors were born. Rather than manually copying those changes over to the Family Tree, I simply synchronized my portion of the Family Tree and all the changes were made and sources added to support the changes. Wow.

Let's think for a minute about the random changes being made to the Family Tree by people who don't know enough to add sources for their changes or who are simply making mistakes, stupid or otherwise. What do I do when someone changes my entire family line by adding a different parent or some other major change? I have to manually go back and make all the revisions. Now, I have a backup copy of my portion of the Family Tree that helps to keep those random changes under control. I can still use the manual method of making changes if I want to do so but I have a copy to use that is not out of date that can support my corrections to random changes in the Family Tree.

The second statement in the comment also begs the issue. You are the only one adding anything or correcting anything on your MyHeritage family tree. You made all the changes to your MyHeritage family tree, if there is a mistake, correct your own mistake. MyHeritage isn't going to make any changes to your portion of the Family Tree, you are. If you make a mess, it is your own mess not some other user on MyHeritage.

What the commetator is really trying to say is what if one of your relatives has a mess on their family tree and uses that to make changes to the Family Tree? Hmm. It seems to me that this is already the case. That is the reason I already get a long list of changes to the people I am watching on the Family Tree. What the commentator doesn't realize, apparently, is that all my corrections to the Family Tree will be copied over to the relative's family tree. Hmm. I just corrected my relative's mistakes. His or her family tree on MyHeritage just got a lot more accurate assuming, of course, that I know what I am doing.

The comment also overlooks the fact that the MyHeritage family trees are subject to an extensive error correcting feature with a consistency checker on multiple levels. I have already had that feature correct several errors in my own MyHeritage family tree. I would suggest that the commentator use the Consistency Checker before synchronizing his own family tree efforts.

Now a sense of reality please. The number of people actually working on the Family Tree and making changes is realtively small. Presently, only about 6% of the members of the Church make any real effort to work on the Family Tree and of those only a vanishingly small percentage have an active family tree on MyHeritage. The effect of this is those without a family tree on MyHeritage are losing out on finding more Record Matches that will help them be even more accurate. I suggest that only really serious genealogists will make the effort to use MyHeritage's family tree and synchronize their changes. By the way, there are a huge number of "serious" genealogists who wouldn't dream of putting their family tree on either website or anywhere else for that matter. But that is another topic for another day.

This is a win/win situation. We all benefit from more accurate entries in the Family Tree. If you want to know what is happening, I suggest you watch the presentation by Gilad Jephet, the CEO of on YouTube. See "Perspectives on Combining Genealogy and Genetics"

If you have any questions about the Tree Sync feature or anything else you are worrying about. Please make a comment or contact me directly. You can email me. I am also on Facebook, Google+ and almost everywhere else on the internet.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Claribel and the Mormon Tabernacle Organ

Claribel and the Mormon Tabernacle Organ

This video by The Family History Guide was featured on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir blog in an article entitled, "Meet a Young Descendant of Tabernacle Organ Builder Joseph Ridges."
This video and others were produced for the recent RootsTech 2018 Conference. You can see the rest of the videos on The Family History Guide YouTube Channel

The Harvest is Great: The New MyHeritage Tree Sync with FamilySearch

A short time ago, during RootsTech 2018, announced a BETA test of their new Tree Sync program. See "New FamilySearch Tree Sync (beta) allows FamilySearch users to synchronize their family trees with MyHeritage." You can find a link to ask for a code to get a copy downloaded, but you need to signup for MyHeritage and have an LDS account.

I created a new Tree Sync family tree on and abandoned my old one. All I can say is "Wow." I already have over 6400 Record Matches for my "new" family tree. I have synchronized the family tree with the Family Tree one time now and I am working through adding sources to the family tree as fast as I can click. I am overwhelmed with the variety of the sources. My wife also set up a Tree Sync family tree and is equally absorbed in gathering new information about her family lines.

Granted, I have been adding sources to the Family Tree for a long time and have just about everything I can imagine but I am still making sure the sources are on my family tree. Here is a screenshot of a few of the categories of sources I am finding on MyHeritage.

I cannot imagine how much time it would take me to look up all these sources one at a time, even if I could ever imagine doing that. I decided to start adding them into the lines I am currently working on as far as that will go. I will continue working. Basically, I had stopped trying to keep up with MyHeritage because I knew that synchronization was likely coming. Now that it is here, I am very pleased with the opportunity to work all these sources and add them to the Family Tree.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Family History Mission: A Plethora of Documents

No. 44

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.

You would think that after doing genealogical research for about 36 years I would have an appreciation for the number of historical documents there are in the world. But being here and working in the Maryland State Archives digitizing records five days a week creates a whole new perspective on the original documents. I am finally beginning to really understand the immense task of searching records to find our ancestors. We physically handle thousands of documents every week. 

As I have mentioned previously, we are mostly involved with probate documents. These are court documents from the Maryland State Orphan's Court records. Here is a very short explanation of the Orphan's Court from the Maryland Court Website.
The Orphans’ Court is Maryland’s probate court and presides over the administration of estates. In simpler terms, the main job of the Orphans’ Court is to supervise the management of estates of people who have died – with or without a Will – while owning property in their sole name. It has authority to direct the conduct of personal representatives, has jurisdiction over the guardianship of the property of minors and in some counties, appoints guardians of minors.
The functions of the Orphan's Court in Maryland are performed by differently organized and named courts in every other state in the United States. The law governing probates, guardianships, and other related cases also varies considerably from state to state. My law background has helped me analyze and explain some of these records to the other missionaries and volunteers and I also realize how difficult researching in these old records can be for a novice.

While we are digitizing the records, we really don't have to worry about their content. Our main concerns are making acceptable images and managing which records we digitize. But in preparing the documents for digitization, we get into the issues of the content of the documents and have a whole set of challenges. The main challenge is reading the handwriting. Some of the Court Clerks back in the early 1800s had the worst possible handwriting. It helps to have a lot of people, including the volunteers, involved because many of the volunteers have been working with the records for years and recognize names and handwriting because of their experience.

The more I work with the documents, the more I realize their value for finding people. These probate and other related documents are fabulous sources for information about individuals and families. We are often fascinated by the Estate Inventories. We find people with estates valued into the millions of dollars in 1800 dollars. We also find probates of estates where the total inventory of possessions consists of bedding and a few dishes. The total value of these estates is just a few dollars.

One important part of the records are the thousands of enslaved people who are recorded. In addition are all the tragic references to small children being indentured from their families. We have one record of an indenture of a 3-month-old baby.

All in all, this a remarkable experience working with all these records. We do have to wash our hands continually and deal with chapped hands and tired and sore fingers. In working with the books, we have to handle thousands of pages and we actually wear the fingerprints off of our fingers. Why don't we wear gloves? Historically, archivists wore gloves. But the most recent findings indicate that the gloves cause more damage than our bare hands. There is a rather detailed and extensive discussion of the "White Gloves" issue in a blog post entitled, "Misperceptions about White Gloves."

I am grateful for all that I am learning and expect I will learn a lot more. 

An outside glimpse of #RootsTech 2018

I have to admit that missing #RootsTech 2018 made me sad. I mostly missed the opportunity to visit with friends and make new friends on the Exhibit Floor. Being on a full-time mission for FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ushered in a new phase in my life. I very much appreciate the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind." Since I wasn't physically present at the Conference, it is like putting your hand in a bucket of water. Once, you take your hand out, you cannot tell you were there. It has been interesting observing the changes to the RootsTech Conferences over the years.

From afar, it seems that the "tech" portion of RootsTech has almost disappeared by being reduced to a panel discussion. It also seems to me that the "genealogy" part of the Conference is also being marginalized. The topics highlighted talked more about the present than the past: DNA, Photos, Tools, Stories, Organizing and Discovery. All of these now seem so far from spending time sitting in front of a stream of old documents and records, searching page by page for information about my ancestors.

My core activities in doing genealogical research involve searching endless record sources for information. Granted, I use the most advanced available technology and spend far less time on some activities than I did in the past, but the real news from RootsTech came from the advances made by's announcements which are hardly mentioned or glossed over by the commentary published online by the "bloggers" at the Conference. Although the Keynote presentations were impressive, there was no mention of anything having to do with the actual work of finding historical records or discovering your ancestors. The developments initiated by MyHeritage will impact what I do more than anything else I have heard so far from the Conference.

I spend a considerable amount of time talking to and teaching individuals about how to find their ancestors. The most common questions are "how do I begin?" and "where do I go from here?" The answers to these questions are highly personal. This past week, I spent hours helping one person understand how to find ancestral records in North Carolina in the 1700s and more time with helping to research a family in England in the 1800s. I have also talked to people about records in the Cameroon in Africa and in Korea.

There is a lot of talk about stories. My question is: "Where do the stories come from?" I also spent some more time this week helping a volunteer at the Maryland State Archives, put her father's World War II experiences into a book that could be published. These stories will shortly become available to her father's family.

I am not sure how attending RootsTech would have helped me or them with these activities.

I think that attending RootsTech is a fabulous experience but from the perspective of spending hours a day digitizing historical records, it seems like what I am doing here in Maryland is more directly involved in providing genealogical opportunities than what I might have done by being at the Conference.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Family History Mission: The Missionaries

No. 43

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 benefits of serving a full-time mission in Annapolis, Maryland is the association we have with the other Senior Missionaries. However, two of the couples we have been serving with are finishing their missions and moving on with their lives. They will be gone in another week and we will be sad at missing their kind help and companionship at the Maryland State Archives. Our group of missionaries tries to meet every Tuesday evening after work at a very good, but small, Mexican restaurant near the Archives for the special half-price tacos. We also live quite close to two of the other couples and have frequent contact.

One thing we have in common is that we are all old. We all have some physical challenges that have crept up on us during the years. But all of us are there at the Archives at close to 7:00 am every day ready to go to work. The flexibility of being Senior Missionaries allows us to take time off for doctors appointments and other necessary activities associated with our physical condition. For me, it is an inspiration to see the dedication of the missionaries despite their physical limitations. Missionary application process includes an extensive physical examination. The application itself requires disclosure of any physical conditions which could limit your ability to perform on a mission. Although, working for approximately nine hours straight be difficult for anyone, the type of work we do is less physically demanding than some other missionary opportunities.

When we are finished working each day we can essentially choose our own activities. However, many of these activities are dictated by the need to survive from day-to-day. We still need to go to stores and buy food. We still need to get our cars repaired and serviced and fueled. In addition, we are encouraged to become involved in the local wards. Our group of missionaries is chosen to split up and attend different wards. My wife and I have chosen to attend the Spanish speaking branch. But during the last few weeks because of our trip to Georgia and because of weather-related issues in Annapolis, Maryland, we have attended meetings in other areas. This has given us an opportunity to help additional people with their family history.

I have chosen to go to the Annapolis Stake Family History Center two or three times a week to help anyone who comes to the Center for help. We've also spent time helping the other missionaries with their family history. We are looking forward to a wider opportunity to work with Spanish speaking members throughout the Mission.

A typical day finds us getting up at 5:30 AM and getting ready to go to work at the Archives. Since we have been in Annapolis, it has been winter and so it is dark. We have also experienced rain, sleet, snow, freezing ice storms, and an occasional nice day. Driving has been a challenge but we are getting used to navigating streets and avoiding being killed. We arrive at the Archives about 7 o'clock and go right to work. Since only one person can operate a camera at a time, we trade-off working on preparing documents and working on the camera. We break for lunch and usually eat together as missionaries. We spent the rest of the afternoon working and leave the Archives around 4 o'clock.

We work one half of the day on Friday and we are off on Saturday. Of course, we attend church on Sunday and any other scheduled meetings. We've enjoyed a number of activities with the stake and ward members. Some of the missionaries provide rides to the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. The Midshipmen are only allowed off the base for short periods of time and they do not have their own transportation. So the missionaries are organized to provide rides for them back and forth to church and other activities.

Of course, I still write and maintain an extensive contact with the genealogical community. Before our mission, I was unsure about how I would balance the missionary work with some of my other activities such as writing. But we were always busy in Provo and we just stay busy here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why does FamilySearch hide all their programs?

With the new "personalized" home page on, all sorts of stuff keeps popping up. In this case, there was a little program that compares a photo of yourself to photos of your ancestors and shows who you look like by facial recognition software. Here is what I look like:

I guess I look like some of these ancestors, at least to the program. It is sort of interesting. But then I started to poke around a little bit and found this page.

Here are the rest of the "programs" on this page.

Hmm. Where is this page? Is there a link to the page or something on the website that tells us it is hiding away?

Here is the link which I copied from the URL.

Poking around some more, I found this page.

The more you poke the more you find. What else is out there?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Please find the babies!

Every so often, I address a topic that I think is so important to genealogy that I post it on both my blogs. This is one of those topics.

The reverberations of the recently announced study conducted by staff and others will continue to affect the way we do genealogical research for a long time. Here is the citation to the article.

Kaplanis, Joanna, Assaf Gordon, Tal Shor, Omer Weissbrod, Dan Geiger, Mary Wahl, Michael Gershovits, et al. “Quantitative Analysis of Population-Scale Family Trees with Millions of Relatives.” Science, March 1, 2018, eaam9309.

One of the most shocking findings of the study involves the number of babies missed in doing research. My son Jared Tanner, a neuropsychology professor at the University of Florida, has been reading the publication and we have been writing back and forth about some of the startling conclusions that can be drawn from the data supplied with the article. Here is a comment he recently sent to me about the babies missing from our genealogical research. 
For every 100 people born in the U.S. in 1900, there should be (on average) 10 who died before age 1. Of those 10, based on this article, we expect only 6-7 are listed in a family tree. The other 3-4 are missing.

If there are higher infant mortality rates (e.g., in 1800 [there are not great records]), there are more missing babies but at the same rate (50%). So if infant mortality was 20%, there would be 20 deaths for every 100 babies born. 6-8 of them would not be listed in a family tree.

Infant mortality rates could be much higher or a little lower in any given location and race/ethnicity. In the U.S. black babies died at higher rates than white, on average. So there are more unknown black than white babies.

At a minimum, family trees on average are missing 3% of infants born around the year 1900. That percent is higher (up to 10% or even more) for other times and locations.

My interpretation of the statistics could be wrong but, as you said, there are many missing babies. Someone is watching over these fallen sparrows.
Here is an earlier statement Jared made:
One interesting finding is the predicted mortality for infants dying < age 1 is 50% lower than expected. This means the number of included names of infants who died before age 1 is about 50% lower than it should be. If we use a conservative estimate of 10% of children dying before age 1 (in the U.S. in 1900;, for every 7 included names of children dying before age 1, there are at least 3 missing. It's likely quite a bit higher (1700 and 1800 mortality rates were likely higher). There are a lot of missing babies in the family trees.
For me, this is a very emotional issue having just gotten back from taking care of a newborn grandbaby. But also because of my effort to digitize the Mesa, Arizona Cemetery Records. This collection, now on, has records of hundreds of babies who died in the early years of the settlement of Mesa, Arizona. While I was digitizing the records, I had to avoid reading them because I got too sad and could not work. If you want to see the images of the records, here is the link and citation.

"Arizona, Maricopa, Mesa City Cemetery Records, 1885-1960." Database with images. FamilySearch. 27 January 2017. Mesa City Cemetery.

This study, sponsored by will eventually have a tremendous impact on how and possibly why we continue to do genealogical research. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Family History Mission: Back to Work

No. 42

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.

We had a wonderful time helping our son and daughter-in-law with their new baby. Fortunately, despite a rocky beginning, by the end of the week, both the mother and the new baby were doing fine. Now it is back to work.

Everything we do is reviewed by FamilySearch. Every week we fill out a series of reports that go to Salt Lake and to our FamilySearch Supervisor. Because we have six missionary couples at the Maryland State Archives and only four cameras, the other missionaries were able to keep our camera going while we were gone. The idea is to keep the cameras going as much of the time as possible. The limitations are not just physical but also involve the complex process of preparing the records.

The records are stored in the Archives and at other locations around the state of Maryland. While we work, one of us operates the camera while the other helps to keep the document flow going. The books are pulled from storage and provided to us by the Archives staff. But we need to keep track of the books and make sure they are accurately recorded and the right books that have been identified by the Archives and FamilySearch as eligible for digitization. We are just now, after more than two months, learning how all this works.

In addition to maintaining the workflow by keeping documents prepared, we need to be very careful to do the work correctly. As I mentioned, FamilySearch audits our work as it is received in Salt Lake City. If there are any problems, we get an order by email to redo the work or fix the problem. Of course, this disrupts the workflow and we have to solve the problem and then get back on track digitizing new records. There is enough variation and there are enough problems to be solved with every book to make life interesting at the Archives.

One very enjoyable part of the whole process is one that we are fortunate to have. Many Record Preservation missionaries work as a couple with no others to help them do their job. Here we are blessed with other missionaries who are just as or more dedicated than we are. This creates a little unspoken competition. If we leave and someone else is still working away, there is a twinge of the competitive spirit goading us to work harder or longer. But fortunately for all of us, the Archive workers are paid employees and they will finally kick us all out. We do find that we show up when the weather is bad and all the employees have been sent home or given the opportunity to stay home. This probably comes from those of us from the West who are still waiting to see some real weather.

I can say that there were many days when I was working as an attorney that I had to overcome a serious dread of going to work. So far, I am enjoying the work at the Archives even when it becomes physically demanding. I do not dread going to work, if fact, I am trying to figure out how to do more of this work at the end of our one year mission.

Please Add Information from Sources to the FamilySearch Family Tree!

We love sources that substantiate the entries in the Family Tree. But the job of adding sources is not completed until the information in the source is incorporated to correct or add to the entries in the Vital Information section. I am working through a new (to me) family line and I am finding the someone has done an admirable job of adding sources for the entries but has failed to copy the information in those source records and add it to the Vital Information section. In this particular line, it appears that lot of work has been done. The people are all in Utah and apparently active Church members. But the entries lack standardization, locations for events, and usable name entries. This leaves the entries for someone to come along and "clean up."

You might wonder about cleaning up the entries. Why is this advisable or even necessary? Hasn't all the ordinance work been done for these families? As my father used to say, quoting his father, "any job worth doing is worth doing right." This same attitude can be used to ignore all sorts of necessary human activities such as why weed the garden, the weeds will just grow back or why sweep the floor, it will just get dirty again? Quoting another grandparent, my grandmother used to say, "poor folks have poor ways."

I think I can find a scriptural basis for the need to be careful and complete in entering information into the Family Tree. Here is one good quote from the 132nd Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
In context, this scripture refers to participating in temple ordinances with the proper authority. But I think the idea of order extends much further. “… Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in His holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:22, 24; italics added.) Let's take the time to put our Family Tree house in order and clean up those entries that are incomplete or not standardized.

The Clarence Dixon Taylor Missionary Endowment,

Once and a while some information comes along that needs to be disseminated a little more than usual. I got the following from one of my dear friends in Provo. I believe the notice is self-explanatory. I would suggest that they are looking for real, substantiated genealogical data and not just hoped-for connections.  The ID numbers are in the Family Tree.


            Henry Aldous Dixon was born in Grahamstown, Albany, Cape Province, South Africa, on March 14, 1835, just about 183 years ago. He died May 4, 1884, in Provo, Utah, at the age of 49. His years were few, his achievements many, honored to this day by his numerous descendants.
            In 1865 he married Sarah DeGrey (KWNN-8KX). This couple had eight sons and one daughter, Maria Louise (KWC8-Z7V) who was born January 5, 1872.
            Maria Louise Dixon was wooed and wed by Arthur Nicholls Taylor (KWC8-Z7X) in 1894, and over the years they had six sons and two daughters. Among the descendants of Maria and Arthur, there are General Authorities, Mission Presidents, Stake Presidents, Temple Presidents, Patriarchs, Bishops, and countless full-time missionaries.
            Clarence Dixon Taylor (“Uncle Bud”) is the sixth child (KWC8-BJW). In the early 1930’s he served a mission in the Union of South Africa, birthplace of his grandfather, Henry Aldous. Clarence was a prolific writer and family genealogist. He never married. Uncle Bud was greatly beloved by his 30 nieces and nephews. He was frugal and at the end of a long life, was able to establish a Missionary Endowment Fund at Deseret Trust in memory of his mother and father.
            The Trust is established to provide a remarkable benefit to young elders and sisters, couples, and senior sisters who are called to serve full-time missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if they can demonstrate that they are descendants of Henry Aldous Dixon. This fund will cover up to half of the cost of each missionary’s monthly expense.
            The Trust was established in 2005, and in the intervening thirteen years, has provided assistance to over 100 missionaries and couples, all of whom have proven their descent. One remarkable aspect is the surprising profusion of previously unknown surnames. Herein lies a great mystery and challenge.

            The three trustees of the Clarence Dixon Taylor Missionary Endowment, all nephews, have done their best to spread the news of this “golden” opportunity throughout the family, through occasional newspaper ads, but principally by word of mouth. This has been somewhat successful, but we are convinced that there may be hundreds of qualified potential beneficiaries” out there” that we cannot find or identify, who would love to know of this opportunity if only they can be found. Please help us.

The contact information is as follows:
Contact Henry Dixon Taylor, Jr.