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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Three -- Initial Considerations


The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

The reality of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that it is the official, approved way to submit names for ordinance work in the Church's Temples. There are some very limited exceptions where members are required to bring family group records to the Temples for live endowments and some sealings, but generally, the work of redeeming the dead is entirely based on what is entered into the Family Tree. As far as those who are members of the Church, this puts the FamilySearch.org website and the Family Tree on a completely different level from those who are outside of the Church's membership. If a person outside of the Church decides, for whatever reason, not to use the Family Tree program, then that is their decision. For members who make the same decision, there are more serious implications and consequences.

That said, there is a basic religiously oriented reason why members should be carefully considering any additions, changes, or other work they do with the Family Tree. Part of the consequences of either becoming involved with the Family Tree or becoming disinvolved through frustration or lack of knowledge is that the members are ignoring the scriptural and prophetic mandates we have to do the Temple ordinance work for our deceased ancestors. Presently, statistics show that only slightly over 6% of the Church membership has submitted a name to a Temple during the past year. So, despite any controversy over the features or operation of the FamilySearch.org website, there is only a very small percentage of the Church members who are even aware that there may possibly be problems with the program. I can only imagine what would happen if the other 94% somehow became interested enough to become involved in the website.

One of the major considerations for developing the Family Tree program is the one-hundred-year-old effort to avoid duplication of effort by those involved in submitting their ancestral family's names to the Temples. The obvious duplication in the Family Tree is that of having multiple copies of individuals in the database. But the unseen duplication is the time spent in performing the ordinances in the Temple for the same person over and over again. When the new.FamilySearch.org program was being used, one of my ancestors, Henry Martin Tanner, had over 800 duplicate combined entries listed in the program. That list of duplicates represented part of the number of times his Temple ordinances had been repeated in whole or in part. This massive waste of time and resources was the prime motivation for a whole series of complicated programs developed by the Church over a time period that has now gone on for more than 120 years with different attempts to minimize this duplication. None of the previous programs worked very well. However, the Family Tree has substantially eliminated much of the more obvious duplication. The resources and time saved more than adequately pay for the time and money put into the program.

Can you fool the program to create a "false" entry that will allow Temple work to be done? Yes, you can. If you are a totally irresponsible person, you could simply make up names which would be the moral equivalent of lying to obtain a Temple recommend and from my perspective adding supposed ancestral names willy-nilly into the program without documentation or even an attempt to verify that the names are not duplicated verges on the same type of fraud. Fortunately, the program has one major defensive mechanism against this kind of fraud: it is a wiki. Give the numbers of people who are submitting information to the program, no committee or appointed group of people could watch the entries as effectively as allowing all of the people who have access to the program to watch their own family lines. For example, I am currently "watching" 291 people in the Family Tree and not surprisingly, when I get a list of changes each week from FamilySearch, the list usually focuses on some of the same small number of people.

Over the past few years of its existence, the Family Tree developers have been put in place some extensive safeguards to prevent duplication and notify users of the inaccuracy of their entries. The program is far from perfect in these attempts at control, but some of the obvious problems with the data are slowly being resolved. As the program has been developed since its introduction, it has become a highly efficient and suprisingly simple way to maintain an increasing flow of names to the Temples. In a matter of a few minutes, I can sit down with a member and add information about his or her family that will allow the person to print ordinance cards and "take the names to the Temple." Using the highly effective Consultant Planner, any Temple and Family History Consultant with some basic training can help many members find legitimately related deceased relatives who need the benefits of Temple ordinances.

Why then is there a constant backblast of criticism and complaint about the Family Tree? That is one of my motivating reasons for writing this series of posts about surviving the Family Tree. My cousin, Ron Tanner of FamilySearch, attributes this, in part, to what he calls "my-tree-itis" or the idea that somehow we "own" our ancestors' and relatives' information. I am not so worried about the people who claim ownership as I am about the people who indiscriminately treat the Family Tree as a place to add their unverified and unsupported, inherited or copied family information without spending the time or effort to verify its reliability and accuracy. I can defend myself against the first group who believe in ownership by simply doing my own research, but I have a difficult time working with the second group. After years of representing clients as an attorney, I had one standard rule about accepting representation: I don't do stupid and I don't do crazy. The problem is that it is often difficult to determine the existence of either condition.

There is, of course, the need to make the Family Tree a simple and straight-forward way to enter family information that conflicts directly with the larger issue of trying to maintain its integrity and accuracy. One issue I see frequently is the need some researchers seem to have to "protect" their "own" data and its accuracy from the minions of uninformed and ignorant masses on the public, online family trees. Inevitably, the basis for this attitude is a belief that their research is completely accurate and correct and everyone else has inaccurate data. I have had enough of my own research revised and corrected to recognize that my own research is not always completely accurate or correct and it may well be that someone else has more complete or more correct information than I have in my own documentation. This is my point of departure for addressing individual issues with the Family Tree so it must be time to start writing about the issues. Stay tuned.

Here are the previous posts in this series

Part One: http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-survival-guide-to-familysearch-family.html
Part Two: http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-survival-guide-for-familysearch.html

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Survival Guide for the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Two -- The Scope of the Challenge


The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is not the problem, it is the solution. 

Nearly all of the comments both pro and con directed at the FamilySearch.org Family Tree involve the content in one way or another rather than the operation of the program itself. For this reason, to begin a one-sided discussion about the FamilyTree, it is important to realize that the initial information came from a previous database called new.FamilySearch.org that supplied the bulk of the original entries. I have covered this all in previous posts over the years, but a major part of the process of commenting on the huge number of issues represented by the present Family Tree program involves the fact that it is sort of a descendant of the earlier program. The present Family Tree program was originally seeded with the huge pile of records incorporated in the earlier new.FamilySearch.org program. This huge compilation of records had a significant number of duplicate records that was rapidly increasing because of the way that the new.FamilySearch.org program functioned. Most of these duplicate records primarily consisted of whole databases of duplicate records that had been submitted by those who had been submitting names to FamilySearch and its predecessors for over a hundred years. Beginning clear back in the 1890s, none of the methods that were implemented over the years to reduce duplication actually worked; new.FamilySearch.org not only did not reduce the number of duplicate entries, it facilitated their creation.

The crux of what we need to know right now about all this previous history is that hundreds of thousands of duplicate entries inherited from submissions contributed for over more than a hundred years, have been eliminated from the Family Tree but there is likely a huge number left to eliminate. What we also need to know about all this history is that many of the records in the Family Tree are not supported by any source information at all. In my opinion which comes from working consistently and regularly with the Family Tree since it was introduced these two factors outweigh any other major considerations. I consistently see more duplicate entries being added to the Family Tree and I see constant changes that are unsupported by even a modicum of documentary support.

Notwithstanding these serious challenges, the Family Tree is alive and well. Since its inception, I have seen a constant improvement in the accuracy of the entries due to the fact that is a wiki-based program. I also see huge numbers of sources being constantly added to existing entries. According to currently reported statistics, there are nearly 950 million source entries in the Family Tree. As a result of this huge number of source entries, the reliability to the Family Tree has grown and continues to grow at a rapid pace despite its somewhat duplicative and checkered antecedents. The entries in the Family Tree are further supported by about 23.9 million photos and 1.69 million stories. There are about 1.1 billion persons in the Family Tree as of the date of the facts published by FamilySearch for April 2018.

So what is the challenge? As the poet, John Lydgate wrote; "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time." This quote was made famous by President Abraham Lincoln. As it applies to the Family Tree, we will always have those people who are not pleased with some aspect of the program or the data, but right now, the Family Tree is the best program we have to work with. The alternative also exists in the millions of individually maintained family trees on hundreds (if not thousands) of websites.

The challenge that we all face is continuing to build a source-centric Family Tree based on the best possible records that can be found. Fortunately, much of what is now in place in the Family Tree is adequately supported by valid sources and the conclusions are reasonable and defensible. Unfortunately, as the core of validly defensible data in the Family Tree expands, the amount of data that has yet to be entered or that is without any supporting documentation also continues to expand. The comforting aspect of this reality is that what is already entered into the Family Tree is becoming more accurate and thereby more reliable at an increasing pace.

This series will address individual issues confronting the continuing viability of the Family Tree. I do not pretend to have a solution for all of the problems facing the use of this marvelous tool, but I can address as many of the problems as I can see and suggest resolutions where possible. The object of this series is to explore the issues confronting the continued growth and health of the Family Tree and to codify those issues that remain to be resolved. I fully admit that I have neither the experience or the expertise to solve these problems or issues, but I do have the time and inclination to codify them and discuss possible solutions to those issues that are actually impediments to the purpose for which the Family Tree was created and for which it is being maintained.

I am certain that as I keep writing, the main issues confronting the Family Tree will become the focus of most of my analysis. Stay tuned for further developments.

Here is the first post in this series

Part One: http://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-survival-guide-to-familysearch-family.html

A Family History Mission: Preparing documents for digitization

Maryland State Archives
No. 60

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.

I am going to go through the process of prepping (preparing) the documents from the Maryland State Archives for digitization and then show where you can find what is already available. 

We are digitizing documents for FamilySearch and the documents we digitize are subject to an agreement between FamilySearch and the archive. The contracts are specific about which documents are made available to us. The project here at the Maryland State Archives has been going on for five years or so and we expect that it will take another six or seven years to complete. We are digitizing primarily probate documents and those related to probate actions in the Orphans Court of Maryland beginning around 1600.

Certain sets of documents are identified for digitalization. We work through the records county by county. The documents are stored on the shelves in boxes called "clamshells" and physically brought to us to prepare for digitization.  Here are what the boxes look like.


Here is what the boxes look like with documents.


The documents are tightly folded and are essentially the same condition as when they were filed away. Most of these documents have never been touched for as long as 200 years. The first step is to sort the documents into folders. Here are the documents as they are sorted.


 Here are the folders.

 
The documents in the folders have been preliminarily sorted are still tightly folded. The documents are sorted chronologically into small groups of 3 to 6 or more document sets to a folder. We select a folder to work on and then review the documents to make sure they are in chronological order.



We fill out a "target" sheet or cover sheet for each document set. The folded sets of documents may contain a series of related documents. 


The target sheet lists the main names and type of court action associated with the documents. Each packet of folded documents becomes a separate subfolder. We then carefully unfold the documents and record the information. This information is used as waypoints or a preliminary index for the digitized documents by the Archive. Unfortunately, FamilySearch does not use or incorporate this highly useful preliminary index to the records. Here are the documents being unfolded. 


Some of the documents have metal fasteners that need to be removed. 


Here is how I organize working on unfolding the documents. 


The documents are put back in the boxes and then they are ready to move to the camera stations. 


If we find mold on the documents, they have to be sent to be irradiated by the Archive before digitization.

The information on the target sheets is entered into a database that is used by the Archive to keep track of the documents.


The boxes of folders are delivered to the camera stations and are ready to digitize.


Here is a camera station with a document ready to digitize.


The target sheets are also digitized and the information in the database is verified when the image is made.


The original documents are put back in the box and they are filed away by the Archive. We are done with those documents. The images are transferred to a hard drive and shipped to FamilySearch where the images are processed and then incorporated into the FamilySearch.org website. Here is a screenshot of some of the records found in the FamilySearch.org Catalog from Maryland.


Unfortunately, these particular records are only available to be viewed in a Family History Center. But other records are available to everyone online.


Here is what some of the records look like.


If you have any questions, put them in the comments. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Changes in the Family History Resources on LDS.org

https://www.familysearch.org/ask/planner/calling?lang=eng&cid=email-MC_TFHC_051718_Button
The changes to the organization of the Melchizedek Priesthood in the Wards and Stakes has had an impact on the Temple and Family History Consultants at all levels. Consequently, there has been a reorganization of the training materials for Temple and Family History Consultants on LDS.org. In addition, there is a new page on FamilySearch.org dedicated to training Temple and Family History Consultants. Here are some links to the newly added or changed information. Remember, you will need to sign in to FamilySearch.org to see the new information. You will also need to sign in to LDS.org.

Follow all the links and you will a huge number of helpful web pages. 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Survival Guide to the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part One -- The Introduction


Many of the users of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree feel like they are lost in the wilderness. Some are on the verge of giving up hope and others like one commentator to my recent blog have given up entirely. Here is what she had to say.
I quit using Family Search because changes made with no documentation. And when you asked for it no response.
An additional comment agreed and said:
I totally agree. Aunt Susie said is rarely adequate for making any change in any record. Especially with today's available records, I have also found the Watch feature is not very efficient.
Because of the almost constant stream of such negative comments, I have decided to write a detailed and exhaustive analysis of every comment. If you have any concerns or questions about your own experience with the Family Tree, you can add them as comments and I will respond to every issue raised. I will be using every comment I can find in the extensive comments on the GetSatisfaction.com website. There are about 241 pages of comments. There are apparently about 18,384 "customers" that have made comments on the website.

The biggest challenge I can see starting out is imposing some kind of organization on the comments. Likely, I will be highlighting a few issues at a time and adding issues as the posts continue. If you have been reading my posts on both this blog and on Genealogy's Star, you know I have already spent a great deal of effort answering issues and promoting the Family Tree. I have also done some videos for the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel about the Family Tree and the issues raised. This series of posts will cover some of the same issues but in more depth.

Let's get started.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Watching Time Destroy the Records

Messy Book Cover

No. 59

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.

This is the cover to one of the record books from the Maryland State Archives. It is part of the probate records for Harford County, Maryland from the early 1800s. This clerk apparently had a lot of time and not much paper. The inside of this book contains hundreds of probate transactions and records perhaps thousands of the names of the people who lived at that time with other important, genealogically significant information. This particular book came as part of a series of books that took extra care because they were in such poor condition.

From this book cover, you can see that without the efforts of the archivists to save and preserve these court records, much of the information would have been lost. You can also see that without this digitization project, some of the records would soon be lost despite conservation efforts. Here is another example of the condition of some of these books.

Another Messy Book
The challenge of digitizing these books is that turning the pages has to be done very carefully so as to avoid damaging the book further. Here is an example of a book that had water damage that turned into mold damage.

Mold Damage
It is not all bad. Most of the books, even back into the 1700s or early 1800s are in excellent shape. Here is an example of an old book in excellent condition.


When you realize that all this important information has been "locked up" in these books, some for over 200 years, you can begin to understand how important this work is and how much time and effort is involved.

We are glad to serve and have a good time digitizing and prepping the books and records.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Duplicate Photos Flooding FamilySearch Memories


One of the newer features of the FamilySearch.org website is the individualized startup or home page. Some of the things featured are newly posted photos of your (and my) relatives. This newly added photo of my Great-grandmother is a duplicate of a photo that is already on the website. This photo of my ancestor, George Jarvis, outlined in red, has at least eleven copies in the Memories.You can see three of the copies in this screenshot.


You can also see multiple copies of other photos in this same screenshot. Presently, there is no way to edit or remove photos that you, yourself, did not upload to the program. Based on what I see in the Memories photos, very few people check for duplicate images before uploading a photo. Maybe it is time to have a warning or require a check for duplicates warning before uploading anything to the website. Just a thought.

My Mexican Relatives

I got the following surprising notice from FamilySearch.org:

I really did not know I had any relatives in Mexico. This is what I found when I clicked on the link.


The links to individuals is a scrolling set of links so I apparently have a total of 36 "Mexican" relatives. I checked a few and here is my relationship to one of the ones shown above.


As with all these "connection" programs, there is an underlying assumption that the relationships in the Family Tree are correct. Unfortunately, I find that the success average for these connections is quite low. However, it is interesting to know that I have quite a number of possible Mexican relatives. In the case of the relative shown above, there is nothing on his individual entry page showing that he lived in or had any association with Mexico. So before I get all excited about these connections, I would be doing a significant amount of research.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Its All in the Birth Name


This is a common sight in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. It used to be a lot more common, but it is still showing up regularly even after years of cleaning up entries. Ask yourself this question. Was this person actually given all those names at birth? Including a married name? Nice try by the parents for predicting who their daughter would marry. I also like the ones that have the birth name as Mrs. whatever.

Where did these names come from? They are relics of the past. They roughly indicate the number of times this person's name has been submitted to FamilySearch and its predecessors in the past. This long list of "Birth Name" entries graphically illustrates over 100 years of sloppy or incomplete research including typos, deliberate misspellings, and past genealogical standards.

Don't we need to preserve all these variations in the names of our ancestors? No and partially yes. The actual birth name or name found in the earliest record of the person should be what is recorded in the "Vital Information" section. Variations in the name should be recorded as Alternate names or Nicknames. If you click on the Add plus sign shown in the screenshot above, you will have a choice of adding these variations as "Other Information."



If you choose "Alternate Name" you get further choices:


An alternative name should be one that shows up in a specific source document, not just a misspelling or typographical error. Many people changed their names during their lifetime. The rule is that the Vital Information section should reflect the earliest known name. For example, if a person came from Europe and Anglicized their name, the name in the Vital Information section should be the original name from Europe (or other areas of the world) if it is known.

So what do you do with all the duplicate names? You delete them. When you click on the duplicate Birth Name you get the following:

There are options to Edit, Delete or Close.

In some cases, like the one shown above, you see a random name inserted. In this case, there is a birth name of Mrs. Robert Lockwood. There is an entry showing Mary Butler with a second husband named Robert Lockwood but there are no sources showing the children or the second spouse. If a strange or random name shows up, you need to carefully review the Merge History to see if there is a merger of an unrelated person.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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

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

Here is this Project's selection.

If you have read any of the previous Project posts, you will know that this example is consistent with what I have been finding regularly on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. This can almost be reduced to a formula or recipe for fixing the entries. Here we see non-standard entries. In addition, even though this particular entry indicates that there are 11 sources, the family only indicates that there was only one child. This is entirely possible for a variety of reasons including the fact that the mother died in childbirth. The marriage date is interesting because it seems that both the husband and the wife were in their thirties when they got married.


What do I find when I look at the sources?


All of the links to Ancestry.com sources have been added through the Ancetry.com Institutional or Library version so I cannot sign in or view them without going to a Family History Center or library. However, there is a FamilySearch extracted IGI christening record for a James Watson. The problem I see at this point is that the marriage records show a marriage in Westminster, Middlesex and the christening record for the daughter is from Chatham, Kent. Here is the map distance between these two places.


We have to remember that these records are supposed to apply to someone born in the 1700s.

There do not seem to be any duplicates at this point, but I need to do some research about this family. Unfortunately, I immediately find seven or more men named James Watson with marriage records in the same time period in exactly the same parish. This means that I need to start with the daughter, supposedly named Mary Ann Watson. By the way, she is my 5th Great-grandmother.


Clean up time again. But we do jump to having 15 sources attached. There is some inconsistency in the sources with one from Leicester that doesn't seem to belong, but the rest are consistent that this family lived in Chatham, Kent, England. So now, I suspect that we have the wrong James Watson and Ann for the parents of Mary Ann Watson.

Hmm. In a search for "James Watson" in Chatham, Kent, I find 212 results. As I narrow down the search on Findmypast.com by guessing a birth date, I find that there is a James Watson in Medway, Kent who got married in 1747 to one of four women, two of which are named Ann. Not much help at this point. Additional research indicates that there are a large number of men named James Watson and finding one who could have been born in Kent does not produce any possible candidates.

In this case, the solution is to focus on Mary Ann Watson. This Project will have to go into the "long-term" pile of things to do. It is important not to get hung up on researching one person or family that turns into a mess. It is best to spend some time and come back to the research after a while with a fresh look.

Part of doing research is knowing when to stop for a while.

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

In this project, I started out by picking a somewhat random person from my ancestors or my ancestors' descendants who probably lived into the 20th Century from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and to hopefully show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations. In this particular case, I found a cousin who lived in the latter half of the 1800s. Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 19th Century by much harder the further you go back in the past.  To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List, unless, as in the case with this family, I am related to those I find. I will simply leave the "green icons" on the Family Tree for that person's descendants to find and use for themselves. Please refrain from doing the temple work for people to whom you are not related.

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

Why am I doing this? For the past 15 years or so, I have been helping hundreds (thousands?) of people find their ancestors. I simply intend to document the process in detail with real examples so that you can see exactly how I find family lines. I simply want to show where those "green icons" come from. Since the 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 Project Five 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.


BYU Family History Library Webinar Series Marches On


While I have been away from the Brigham Young University Family History Library, the volunteers and missionaries at the Library have been presenting and uploading a whole series of valuable videos to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. As of the date of this post, the Channel has 6,624 subscribers and 361 videos over 430,000 views. Here are a few of the latest videos.


An Overview of The FH Guide by Wayne Washer


Using Twile.com by Rayanne Melick


Learning to Love Family History...Research! by Kathryn Grant


English Research Finding Ancestors Using FreeReg Parish Registers - Kathryn Grant

I will likely do a series of webinars on my experiences digitizing documents when I get back to Provo. We'll have to see what happens. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

50th Anniversary of the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy



Elder Bradley D. Foster, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the opening speaker at the upcoming Brigham Young University Conference on Family History and Genealogy to be held from July 31st to August 3rd at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, Utah.

In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary celebration, there will be a new exhibit called, "The Evolution of Family History" that will be displayed during the conference. Here is an outline of the classes to be held taken from the website.
The 50th annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy will offer more than 100 classes, including a free track on Friday for Family History Consultants, allowing participants to gain new skills and helpful information. Class topics include:
  • FamilySearch
  • Writing Your Family History
  • Online Genealogy and Technology
  • DNA Research
  • Organizing, Preserving, and Sharing Photos
  • ICAPGen ®
  • US Research
  • Methodology, Records, and Resources
  • International Research
  • Scandinavian Research
I enjoyed presenting at the conference last year and will be sorry to miss it this year while we are in Annapolis, Maryland working at digitizing records in the Maryland State Archives.

Click here for Registration information

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Plans Announced for Mesa FamilySearch Library: Finally!

https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/major-renovation-mesa-arizona-temple

A news article on MormonNewsroom.org announced the plans for the renovation of the Mesa, Arizona Temple and the addition of a combined Visitor Center and Family Discovery Center. Here is a quote from the article entitles, "Major Renovation Planned for Mesa Arizona Temple."
As part of the renovation, the visitors’ center will be demolished, and a new center will be rebuilt across the street on the southwest corner of Lesueur and Main Street. It will be home to various interactive exhibits and events, historical information about the temple, and family history research and teaching facilities.
No other details are apparently available at this time. The place where the new building will be built is presently a mostly vacant lot.

This ends years of speculation and questions about the fate of the very popular and busy Mesa FamilySearch Library which is presently operating out of the old building located at 464 E. 1st Avenue, Mesa Arizona.

As I learn more, I will be passing along any updates.

A Family History Mission: Getting Down to Work


No. 58

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

The idea of working on a FamilySearch mission as Record Preservation Specialists is to prepare and digitize documents for the vast collection of digitized records on the FamilySearch.org website. This turns out to be both challenging and complex. Every book we digitize is different and we have to analyze how each book needs to be positioned and handled. Some of the books are old and fragile. Some are relatively new but heavy and difficult to move and set up. 

There is a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased." We can certainly see this happening as we work on digitizing books. In the beginning, we could digitize a few hundred pages a day and think we were working hard. Now, we have been passing 2000 pages a day and still, think we can do more. 

For example, here is a pile of books we got this week. 


They looked exceptionally bad with mold and tattered pages. The mold had supposedly been killed by irridation, but Ann wore a mask anyway. What looked like a real challenge turned out to be routine and we did the entire pile in one day. 

Here is one of the large books. These run about 400 to 500 pages and weigh about 15 to 20 pounds. 


They are actually quite easy to digitize once they get set up. For every book, there are some forms to fill out and information to report to FamilySearch. We also have to calibrate the camera for every book. 

While one of us is digitizing books, the other one is helping prepare the individual documents for digitization. 

One interesting sidelight of digitizing and preparing the records is that we can see how the handwriting and books change over the years. For example, this book has handwriting until 1919 and then suddenly, they switched to a typewriter in 1919. We can see how the technology is changing. 


Older handwriting was beautiful and with some exceptions, very readable. As we see the changes into the late 1800s, the handwriting becomes worse and worse. Here is a sample of different handwriting.


Think about having to search through or index all those names. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

151 Apps in the FamilySearch App Gallery


The number of apps listed in the FamilySearch.org App Gallery continues to climb. Is that good news or bad news? One problem is that some of the apps listed are no longer online or in business. For example:


StoryPress.com has been out of business and offline for more than a year but it is still listed as a FamilySearch App.


So what is the status of the apps listed on the FamilySearch.org App Gallery? Some of these apps are official partners with FamilySearch, some are shown as having a charge when they are free such as Family Tree Builder for Windows which is listed as costing $29.99 but is actually free.



Here is what you see when you click on the icon link.



It seems that FamilySearch has not reviewed the status of the apps for some time now. How long has it been since they worked through the apps on the website? Well, here is the ad for Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage.com showing that the last update was on January 15, 2015. 




I just checked my copy of Family Tree Builder and it is Version 7.2. Hmm. Here is another icon that is inaccurate. 


Virtual Pedigree is a completely free program and strangely, the cost shown on the icon is in Pounds. Here is the Virtual Pedigree website:




I can assure the website is free. 

Well, what is the point? I recall that I wrote about this a couple of years ago and there has been no response from FamilySearch. If the App Gallery is worth having on the website, it is worth keeping up to date. Otherwise, why mislead users with inaccurate information. Just a suggestion.