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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Family History Mission: Expanding our Horizons



No. 37

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.

Quoting J.R.R. Tolkien from the Lord of the Rings,
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
To paraphrase, it is an interesting business going out your door to go on Senior Full-time Mission, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. 

In our case, we have been swept off into a whole catalog of new and different experiences. Most recently, we started to attend the Spanish speaking branch here in Annapolis and we were certainly swept off. Besides Sunday meetings in Spanish, teaching family history class in Spanish, singing hymns in Spanish and speaking in Sacrament meeting, in addition, we have attended a wedding in Spanish and the lively reception that followed and a baptismal service for the newly married husband and wife and all this is only the first week or so of our involvement. Even after speaking Spanish for over 54 years, this was the first Spanish speaking wedding I have ever attended.

Part of our new experiences are those that accompany moving from one city to another for an extended time but many are new and unique. Obviously, we have never both worked in an archive digitizing records, but after almost two months, we are getting used to that activity. But it is decidedly different for both of us to have the same job and the same schedule.

One thing is certain, the traffic is part of the overall experience and easily the greatest (and most dangerous) business. This week saw our first extended driving in downtown Washington, D.C. I am sure driving in D.C. is one of the major challenges in the entire U.S. road system, heightened by the fact that there are almost no right angle intersections in the city. I have driven in every one of the ten most populous cities in America and none of these come close to D.C. which has the densest population in the country and I am sure they are all out driving cars.

As to the weather, I think my daughter put it right when she observed that "It looks like they take every kind of weather and temperature and then randomly assign it to different days or times of day." The weather can start out warm in the morning with sunshine and then rain, followed by snow and by the next morning sun with warm temperatures. This is the first place I have lived in recent memory where the temperature can go up when the sun goes down. Continuing on with my daughter's comment about D.C. weather, "Over a few days this week, we had sun, clouds, wind, rain, sleet, snow and temperatures from 20 to 70 degrees."

We are adjusting to living in an apartment and having two flights of stairs to carry in all our groceries and such. We are also have figured out things like where to shop, buy gas for our car and get the oil changed. Interesting adapting.



The Impact of Billions of Records


Family history is all about records. Many of the members of The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States are descendants of those early members of the Church who crossed the plains back in the 1800s. Even those who are not new members or who have joined the Church since 1900 are surprised to learn that they have "Mormon Pioneer" ancestors. I talked to one such individual this past week at the Maryland State Archives.

There is an inaccurate and very nearsighted common belief among those who ancestors were early members of the Church that all of their "genealogy" was and is done. This was usually accomplished by some very active "genealogist" in the past. There is also another related myth that "someone in my family is doing all the work." This person is usually a sibling, a parent, or some other relative. This near relative may be "providing names to the family members" sometimes hundreds of names.

I am one of those who has an extensive LDS heritage. Of those in my direct ancestral lines, all of my great-grandparents and some of my great-great-grandparents joined the Church during the 1800s and nearly all of them crossed the plains as pioneers. My personal experience with genealogy parallels the experience of many of those who claim that their work has all been done. But, fortunately, I realized very quickly many years ago that the claim to completeness was illusory and false.

What has changed? Why couldn't our relatives "do all the work" years ago?

We are presently helping as full-time Record Preservation missionaries/volunteers at the Maryland State Archives. There are presently four cameras digitizing records and a significant number of volunteers processing the records for digitization. After being here for a while and seeing the number of images produced by the camera operation, I estimate that we will produce between 1.5 and 2.0 million digital record copies during this year. Most of these records have not been touched by anyone since they were created and initially stored away in the county record repositories. None of our ancestors had access to these records. They were not on microfilm. They were not even available unless the researcher went to the individual counties and accessed the records. Now, they are being put online for anyone to access with a computer and an internet connection.

Multiply the number of digital images we are producing by the 303 cameras in operation and you can see that there are millions of records being uploaded every month. There is absolutely no comparison between what we are doing today and can do to find our ancestors and what could be done even five or ten years ago. If we add in the billions of records on the FamilySearch Partner Websites, we have billions of records that were not available to our expert genealogist ancestors.

There is no excuse for not becoming involved in family history and there never was.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Planning for a Mission

Nauvoo Temple Sunstone
No. 36

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.

This particular example of the Nauvoo Temple Sunstone is in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History NMNH in Washington, D.C. Back in 1992, the Museum purchased this original Sunstone for $100,000 from the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams Counties in Illinois. When we recently visited the Museum, seeing the Sunstone in D.C. was like seeing an old friend. We have a day and a half off each week to recuperate from our work schedule and take care of all things we need to do to live in Annapolis. 

For example, we are required to provide our own transportation. That means bringing a car across the country and maintaining it in Annapolis which includes oil changes, tire rotation and etc. We also purchase and fix all our own food. Of course, we did that at home, but here we have to take the time to go to the stores and work out where to do all the things we need to do to survive. We have a very nice apartment and it is centrally located very near the Archives where we work. So we do have only a five minute or so drive to the Archives. 

My previous full-time missionary experience as a young missionary in Argentina was dramatically different than our experience here in Annapolis. We have wonderful opportunities to help the local members with their family history and we have other opportunities to serve and help, but we are not out on the street every day proselyting. We have a very defined position in the Archives and limited interaction with the staff. Fortunately, here in Annapolis, we have other Senior Missionaries. This gives a small, but important, support group.

If you have ever thought about serving as a full-time Senior Missionary, I suggest you think seriously about how you would like to serve. I can only imagine, but I am pretty sure that serving a FamilySearch mission in Annapolis is vastly different than serving a CES Mission in New York City or as a Farmland Reserve Church-Service Missionary. Every month the Church publishes a Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin. In thinking about a mission, you should take a look at the opportunities available. You will likely find something that uses your own special talents as well as sounds like a wonderful opportunity. 

Moving to a new city, town or village for a year or more has its difficulties, but so does living at home. For us, the biggest challenge has been getting mail in a timely fashion. This could be solved by having someone at "home" who can forward the mail or sort through it and follow instructions. In planning for a mission (and old age) we have almost all of our periodic bills paid online automatically. This saves us from having the mail situation impact keeping our payments current. 

Before we left, we got referrals for doctors and had our prescriptions transferred to a local pharmacy. This can be done through most of the major pharmacies. We sold one of our cars and have debated whether to stay a one-car family or not when we return. There are a lot of other such considerations that do not apply at all to younger missionaries. 

Since there are both full-time and part-time missionary options that allow the missionaries to serve while staying at home, many of these issues can be avoided. 

For some, financial considerations and leaving family for a period of time are the most important factors. As I have pointed out previously, neither of these issues was much of a challenge for us. We are sorry to leave the children we left behind in Utah, but we have children all over the country and we have already had the opportunity to visit with some of them while here in Annapolis. Ideally, we would love to have all of our children and grandchildren living close by, but that is not our reality. 

In visiting with the other senior missionaries, health and finances are the two major considerations. One way to prepare for a mission is to work at staying healthy and saving for the time when the money might be needed. These are both a lot easier to talk about than actually put into practice. I think every senior missionary couple I have talked to has had one or the other of these issues. The difference is that they "put up with" the problems rather than letting their lives be ruled by those same problems. 

What it seems to come down to is making up your mind to do something productive when you are older and not expected to do anything. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

FamilySearch Mobile Apps and FamilySearch Family Tree Hinting

FamilySearch Mobile Apps

FamilySearch has posted two new videos: FamilySearch Mobile Apps and FamilySearch Hinting. 



These videos are presented by Bryce Roper, FamilySearch, Senior Product Manager and by Andrew Hair, UX Designer Mobile Team, from FamilySearch. This is a close as you can get to getting it straight from the source at FamilySearch. 

Not Everything Works the Way You Think It Does on the FamilySearch Family Tree



No matter how easy or uncomplicated you think something is, there always seems to be someone who doesn't quite get the message. The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is an amazingly well done and, from my perspective a rather easy program to use. But there are always questions and misunderstandings with even the most obvious features.

I recently had a friend pass on this comment after trying to help a patron in a Family History Center. The comment really illustrates two different issues.
Today, I was helping a young woman with her research, and I asked if she looked for information on FamilySearch. She said, "oh yes, I have a tree there with sources."

I said let's look at it. She went into FS and pulled up her person. There was not one source, document or memory attached. When I asked (very nicely) where the source was, she responded -- "oh, it's right here". She pointed to the hints under the Research Help column on the right. Her perspective was that was a place where the sources were kept and that she did not have to do anything further.

We were trying to estimate a marriage date and I noticed that there was only one child listed under the couple. I asked if there were any other children in the family, and she said yes, it was a very large family but she is only interested in her direct line ancestor.
When a program is designed, the programmers are not usually the people who will ultimately use the program. That is one reason why FamilySearch and other developers use Beta tests to let the real users give feedback on the issues with the program. Here we have two excellent examples of program difficulties that are not going to be found by bug reports. The reason is simple. There is nothing wrong with the Family Tree program at all. However, the Family Tree, as well as most of the other parts of the FamilySearch.org website do make assumptions about a user's competency and awareness of the terminology and usage of parts of the programs. 

People who focus only on one line and fail to "fill in" the rest of the people in their ancestral families are quite common among those who are "interested" in genealogy. If you go back in time, clicking on family lines on the Family Tree, you will quite possibly find family lines that have only one child in each generation. So this part of the quote does make some weird sort-of sense. 

Quite frankly, this is the first time I have ever heard of the issue with Record Hints. I know people who ignore them both negligently and intentionally but thinking they are the same thing as sources is really strange, especially if you manage to open one of the Record Hints and look at what it says. 

It is situations such as these that make my days interesting while helping in Family History Libraries and Centers. Let me know if you agree with the patron. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Family History Mission: Extremely Interesting Discoveries



No. 35

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.

Since we are involved every working day with 200 to 300-year-old documents there are a lot of things going on every day that are interesting and surprising. The documents and books become a constant source of entertainment and amazement. For example, we got a series of books that had been sent to the conservation section of the Maryland State Archives. They were infested with mold and had to be irradiated. However, working with the documents requires the use of gloves and a dust mask. Here is a look at one of the books.


This is after the book had been treated for mold. Here is a photo of the workstation.


When you see the condition of some of these records, you begin to understand the importance of what we are doing to digitize and preserve the records and all the information they contain. Here is how the books come to us.


Of course, not all the books are in this condition. Most of what Ann and I have been doing involves books in a lot better condition than these. We make interesting discoveries. Here is a pedigree chart that was found among the records we are digitizing.


Here is a photo of the entire chart. This particular chart was accompanied by a stack of original records from Ireland.































One last photo. Here is a notation about a court document. Can you read the date?


It took me a couple of minutes to figure it out, but now I can read all of the dates from this court and time period without much of a problem.

The things you learn on a mission!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Family History Photo Activity


I got an email inviting me to a new family activity from FamilySearch.org. The email says:
We created a fun, new family activity to remember your ancestors! Strengthen your knowledge of what they looked like in this personalized photo challenge.
By clicking on the blue button, I got the following series of screens:



The series continues for ten people. If I guess the right person, then it gives me a link to that person.

This feature is apparently a promotional campaign and may or may not translate into a permanent feature of the website. Look for this when you sign on to FamilySearch.org or look for an email.