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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Record Preservation: An Underlying Theme in the Book of Mormon

By Prosfilaes - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24986381
Note: As I tried to post the following to Facebook, I got this error message:

It says:
Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abuse.
I suggest you read the following post and decide for yourself why someone would consider this particular post as abusive. My blog has been banned from posting on Facebook without any supporting reason or response to multiple requests from me. I suggest you may wish to reevaluate your relationship with Facebook and think about what they are allowing to be published and wonder at what they are preventing from being published. What if someone decided your posts were abusive? Would you want to know what you said that caused this reaction? You might want to look into the issue of "fake news." Here is a place to start: "How Facebook Continues to Spread Fake News." One of the tragedies that I see as I review Facebook from time to time is the fact that many of my friends pass along obviously fake or misleading "Memes" and stories. You may want to think seriously about your involvement with Facebook. 

One of the most prominent incidents in the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon is the story of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel, and Sam returning to Jerusalem to obtain the "the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass." (1 Nephi 3:3) These records were important because of the following reasons:
19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these arecords, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers; 
20 And also that we may apreserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy bprophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time. (1 Nephi 3:19-20)
The importance of preserving these records was explained again by King Benjamin in Mosiah 1: 3-5:
3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. 
4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. 
5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
It is important to understand that if the Brass Plates had not been preserved, likely, we would not have the record preserved today in the Book of Mormon. Can we really tell the value of the records we inherit from our ancestors including those records of their lives made by governments, churches, and other record-keeping entities? Can we excuse our own disregard for those same records?

In our own day, we have received the following commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants 127: 9:
9 And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts. 
Perhaps it is time to take our own personal inventory of the records we have from our ancestors either directly or indirectly and begin or continue the process of moving those records to safe storage on the FamilySearch.org website Memories section.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Follow this blog by email


You can see from the previous post that this entire blog has been inexplicably banned from Facebook. If you would still like to get notices about new posts, you can subscribe to receive an email notification of new posts. There is a link on the right-hand side of the blog. I will not do anything with your email address except send you notifications of new posts. I will also post and let you know if I ever get back to be able to post this blog on Facebook. I may also start a new blog and see if that works to get back on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

This Blog has been Banned by Facebook


Apparently, all it takes to get banned from Facebook is to write an inoffensive genealogy blog oriented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Not only is this blog banned from posting, but you also can't even put the URL into a comment or post. Here is the notice.


The Community Standards include authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity. See https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/. Contrary to these standards, I was not warned and further, I have no idea what there is about my blog posts that violates any one of the standards.

I am somewhat honored to be classified in the same category as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and other great banned authors but at least when they ban Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn I can guess the reason.  I guess I could speculate that FamilySearch got tired of me posting about RootsTech or whatever, but having the blog banned puts me into an interesting group of writers considering the content I frequently see on Facebook. I realize that someone who did not care for genealogy or the Church could have complained and started this process but I would hope that someone at Facebook would at least review the decision to ban me without notice and yes, I have responded several times that I find nothing in my blog posts that even closely approaches offensive.

I guess I can join the ranks of my ancestors who were persecuted, mobbed, and forced to leave the United States under threat of death for their beliefs. Although I can hardly take Facebook that seriously. By the way, so far, I can keep posting on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and my blogs are still being posted right here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Don't Forget the Unindexed Records on the FamilySearch website


As of November 2019, there were 1.73 billion digital images published only in the FamilySearch.org Catalog. This compares to 1.4 billion images published in the searchable FamilySearch Historical Records Collections. As you can see from these numbers, there are many records in the FamilySearch Catalog that are waiting to be indexed. Just because a record is not indexed, it does not mean that the record is not searchable. True, indexing makes the records more readily available but unindexed records have been searched by genealogical researchers for years.

Any genealogical search on the FamilySearch.org website is not complete without searching the Catalog for more pertinent records and then using the images available through the catalog entries to continue your search, sometimes record by record. Sometimes we get so used to having all the records indexed and searchable we forget the traditional way of searching each record for information still works for all the unindexed records.

The image above is the FamilySearch.org Catalog page for Guanajuato, Mexico Catholic Church Records. Here is how I got to this list.

Before you start searching in the Catalog, you should understand that the entire Catalog is organized primarily by the place events that occurred in your ancestors' lives. So, I need to know that these particular ancestors (not mine but those of a friend) were from Guanajuato and more specifically, I need to know exactly the location of an event in the life of at least one of these people down to the parish or town. If I know a verifiable location, I can begin to look for pertinent records. In this case, my friend has a marriage certificate showing that his grandparents were married in Huanimaro, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Using that information, I begin by looking in the catalog for the location. The location is cataloged in reverse order.


When I do the search, I can see the records that are available for that location, if there are any available. If there are no records, then I need to go to the maps to see if the records might be in another nearby place. Here is the list of records for that location. FamilySearch has the Parish Registers from 1843 to 1973.


Now I can begin my search of the records.


I can see a large collection of records or I can also search individual types of records for different years. If I choose to search all the records using the red notice, I will be trying to match a name and a place for the entire state of Guanajuato. But here's the catch. If I go to the Historical Record Collection and look at the entry for Mexico, Guanajuato, Catholic Church Records, 1519-1984, I will see that there are 1,481,850 records and that number was last updated in 2017. This is the number of indexed images because the number of records listed in the Historical Record Collections list are only those records that are indexed.


However, if I return to the Catalog and look at the entry for the same set of records, I will find out that there are 4,584,983 images. There are a lot more images than there are indexed records. A complete search would have to include all these extra records. We find those records on the list of records at the bottom of the Catalog page organized by location and then chronologically.


The camera icons on the right-hand side of the page indicate that there are images available. The magnifying glasses indicate that some of the records have been indexed. There are other ways of finding these same records, but it is always a good idea to check the total number of records in the catalog against the number indexed in the Historical Record Collections before relying completely on the indexed records. Here is a video that illustrates this issue.


Where are the Digitized Records on FamilySearch.org










Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The FamilySearch Year in Review 2019



Infographics seem to pop up online at the end of every year. This one is from FamilySearch.org. When we look at these numbers we need to remember that FamilySearch is a nonprofit, charitable institution sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nearly all of these increased numbers come directly or indirectly from volunteers. Granted, FamilySearch has a sizable paid staff, but indexing, book scanning, and image capture are largely volunteer efforts. Here is some more detail about the numbers and the accomplishments all of which came from an email sent to me. But you can also view all of the following information in the FamilySearch Blog entitled, "FamilySearch 2019 Year in Review."

  • In 2019, FamilySearch added 123.6 million indexed records and over 850 million new images of historical records.
  • In addition to more searchable records and images, FamilySearch provided updates and new features to improve the indexing and record searching experience, including a new similar historical records tool that helps you find additional records that may belong to a person you find in a document. So when you find a family member in a record on FamilySearch.org, FamilySearch can now suggest other records that may include information about the same person.
  • FamilySearch introduced an update that allows users to make corrections to names in an index. You can correct names that were indexed incorrectly or that were incorrect on the record itself. Learn more here.
  • Using the new Thank a Volunteer feature, you can express appreciation for the thousands of volunteers who make indexed, searchable records possible on FamilySearch.org!

Here is another infographic with some additional information about the users and conferences from the same email. 

And here is some additional information about the same subject.
  • This year saw another successful RootsTech in Salt Lake City, which a total of 15,156 genealogy enthusiasts and experts attended.
  • For the first year ever, a RootsTech conference took place in London, bringing in 9,727 total attendees. There were more than 81,000 online views of the London and Salt Lake City RootsTech conferences combined.
  • Mexico also had its own genealogy conference sponsored by FamilySearch, the Expo GenealogĂ­a, which successfully brought discovery experiences to hundreds of attendees.
  • Along with the many discoveries that FamilySearch users have made on the site, FamilySearch created an online discovery experience center, which you can check out here.
FamilySearch has not yet run out of infographics. Here is another one.


And here are the detailed facts that go along with this one.
  • During 2019, 3.5 million FamilySearch.org users added nearly 47 million people to the FamilySearch Family Tree.
  • FamilySearch also introduced several new features to the Family Tree this year. For example, you can now see how you are related to other users of FamilySearch.org. All you have to do is opt-in, and you can see how you and another person (if he or she has also opted-in) are related.
  • In a recent update, FamilySearch provided the ability to document all family relationships, including same-sex relationships. Learn more here.
Don't get impatient, there are three more infographics with even more information. Here we go with the next one.


And here is the explanation.
  • An incredible 518,563 FamilySearch.org users added to their memories on the website.
  • Users uploaded 8,751,822 photos and stories this year, for a total of 40,373,365 photos and stories in the Memories feature.
Next:


  • In 2019, we had 318,000 indexing volunteers, who served for a total of 10.9 million volunteer indexing hours.
  • One million customer support cases were resolved by staff and volunteers.
  • An additional 66 FamilySearch family history centers were opened, making a total of 5,190 centers worldwide. In addition, the Family History Library expanded its hours of operation to include Sunday hours and later hours on Mondays.
  • Volunteers and missionaries contributed a total of 15.4 million service hours in 2019.
This is the last one:



In addition to the above, here are some other interesting facts.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which FamilySearch is a fully-owned nonprofit subsidiary, donated $2 million to the International African American Museum (IAAM) Center for Family History. The donation will help support the creation of the center there.
  • At the annual meeting of the American Society of Genealogists, held on November 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah, David Rencher, the chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch and director of the Family History Library, received a certificate of appreciation for extraordinary contributions to the discipline of genealogy
  • The FamilySearch Research Wiki, a treasure-trove of genealogical expertise, advice, and insights for family history enthusiasts, published its 90,000th article.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Research Basics -- Part Two


Research is the process of posing a series of questions and then searching for the answers. In the first post in this series, I introduced an example from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree that has some obvious errors. Here is the example again.


The obvious error involves the fact that the birthdate for Cynthia Shepherd is eight years after the reported death date for her mother. In addition, all three children in the Samuel Shepherd/Sarah Cooke family were apparently born after their mother died. This could be a simple mistake or it might be more serious than that and all or some of the children are attached to the wrong parents. I would first look to see if there are any sources attached to this family to rule out the possibility that there was a simple mistranscription of the information in the source documents.

There are no sources recorded for Cynthia Shepherd but the recorded brother Jonathan Shepherd has 14 listed sources and the other brother, David Shepherd, has 15 sources listed. The father has five sources and the mother, Sarah Cooke, has 9 sources listed. Why then is there an issue with the dates? This part of the research is usually called reviewing or verifying what you already know. I will refer to the documents and records by those designations but they are recorded as "sources" in the Family Tree. It is common to refer to the document or record as a source but always remember that the source is merely the reference or citation to the original place the information was found in the form of a record or document.

Starting with Samuel (or Samuell) Shepherd, the listed father, I find a birth record summarized as follows:


There is a second record showing his birth in Connecticut. There are two more records showing a marriage between Samuel Shepherd and Sarah Cook (or Cooke) also in Connecticut. The final record or source is an anomaly. It is a record showing the birth of a child named John Shepherd in 1766 in England.


The First Rule of Genealogy is as follows: When the baby was born, the mother was there. So did Sarah Cooke Shepherd travel to Devon, England in 1766 to have a baby? By asking this question, I am illustrating the beginning of the process of doing research. Part of that process involves doubting everything that has been previously recorded. Are we seriously going to try and figure out how one of the children was born in England when all the other records indicate the family lived in Connecticut?

Next, I need to look at the records recorded as sources for Sarah Cooke. At this point, I also note that the marriage date for Samuel and Sarah is also after the recorded death date for Sarah. I now begin to suspect that if these dates are correct then we have the wrong parents and probably some wrongly added children in this family. I would normally stop looking at this particular family and move forward in time to find the first of my ancestors in this particular line that does not have these particular problems and can be firmly established. If the parents or children in this family are not correct, then the extension of this line back into the past is not supported by the sources. As it stands, this is the end of this particular line. In this particular family, the verified ancestor is the son named David Shepherd who was born and died in Vermont. Here is the David Shepherd family.


The real question here is whether or not David Shepherd has any documents supporting his birth and the names of his parents. In examining the 15 listed sources it is evident that the dates listed for him are wrong. His estate was probated beginning in 1821 so his death date is not correctly recorded and there are no other documents that show his death date. What is clear is that he was an American Revolutionary War Veteran. According to the documents, his recorded birth year is 1750 and his death year is 1821. This makes it possible that Sarah Cooke was, at least, the mother of David Shepherd, but there are no documents or records showing David Shepherd's parents. David Shepherd is the end of this particular line. Any entries past this point are speculative and unsupported by documents or records.

So here we are at the point where further research is needed to establish the names of David Shepherd's parents.

There is another interesting issue. How could David Shepherd be born in Vermont if the listed parents were both born and, at least, the listed father died in New York? To go any further with the assumption that Samuel and Sarah are the right parents, I would have to find some record showing, at least, that they lived in Vermont at some point in their lives that corresponded with the 1750 birth date for David Shepherd.

I now have a valid research question: who were the parents of David Shepherd. Why do I leave this record as it is in the Family Tree? Why don't I make the corrections to reflect the documents and records? In this case, I do not have the records to show that the information is wrong and I need to do some more research in Vermont records. I may come to the point where I make the changes. My most recent discoveries were the abstracted probate records that likely established his death year.

As a side note, if you are familiar with how the FamilySearch.org Family Tree works, you will see from these examples that there are valid reasons for changing the information that has been entered into the entries in the Family Tree. You may also be able to see that some of the lines in the Family Tree extend beyond the information in the supporting documents and should really end and not continue on for additional generations.

I am not through with talking about research. This series will go on for quite a while. As a final comment, for now, I did detach the record showing a child born in England.

You can see the first post in this series here:

Part One: https://rejoiceandbeexceedingglad.blogspot.com/2019/12/research-basics-part-one.html

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Research Basics: Part One


It is time to get back to research basics. I suspect that the only formal training, if any, that most people have regarding research is some sort of "research project" in grade school or high school. The idea of these projects is to produce a research paper or a "project" such as one for a science fair or other presentation. I realize that my formal educational experience took place back in the dark ages but I have lots of grandchildren who are going through various stages of schooling and in some cases, I can see what they are doing and learning.

There is no question that the students who make it to upper-division and advanced degrees in colleges and universities may get a measurable dose of research experience depending on their major but the key here is the type of research training they receive. There are some major divisions in the types of research. These divisions include scientific research, legal research, historical research and possibly some others. In each division, there are distinct methodologies and there is a significant measure of confusion between the different methodologies. A methodology is a system of processes or procedures used in a particular area of study or activity. As I continue with this series of posts, I will focus on some of the differences between the different divisions in research but one example will help to explain one level of differences. For example, legal research focuses on a limited set of court decisions unknown to the researcher but possibly well-known to the legal community while scientific research focuses on areas of knowledge that are generally unknown to the scientific community at large. To extend this example, legal research and historical research (which includes genealogical research) are very similar with the exception that legal research focuses on a much narrower area of investigation.

I have a lot of opportunities to help people with their historical/genealogical research and I can readily observe their level of understanding and competence. But before getting into any more personal observations, I think it would be a good idea to examine the basic concepts of doing "research."

General definitions of research include a number of similar concepts. I will start with this school definition from a short article from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts entitled, "What is Research?"
Research is a process of systematic inquiry that entails collection of data; documentation of critical information; and analysis and interpretation of that data/information, in accordance with suitable methodologies set by specific professional fields and academic disciplines. 
Research is conducted to evaluate the validity of a hypothesis or an interpretive framework; to assemble a body of substantive knowledge and findings for sharing them in appropriate manners; and to generate questions for further inquiries.
This is a pretty good starting point. First of all, research is a process and it is systematic. As research applies to history and particularly family history the process focuses on historical records and documentation. When I use the term "historical" I also mean documents that are presently being created. Once the document or record is created it automatically becomes "historical" so the results of a currently obtained DNA test are certainly included in this definition. 

Here is a short beginning case study to show how I begin to do some historical research from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I will be using the Family Tree for a lot of examples because it is a neverending source for research opportunities. 


Cynthia Shepherd is one of the my great-aunts. If you were to examine this record, even superficially, you would soon see that her birthdate is estimated to be eight years after her mother's death date. 


This one problematic fact mandates some research. The objective of the research could be put in the form of a question: is the birthdate of Cynthia Shepherd correct? However, there are several other questions that arise from the information in these families. How we answer those questions is the process we call research. 

Stay tuned for the next installments.