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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More than handcarts

A Pioneer Day re-enactment of Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, with covered wagons coming off Big Mountain into Mountain Dell, by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the past few years, most of the references we hear about the Mormon Pioneers have focused on two handcart companies. I am certainly not at all trying to minimize or depreciate the sacrifice of these two unfortunate pioneer companies, but I am afraid that the image of people pulling handcarts has markedly diminished the sacrifices and challenges of the approximately 70,000 people who made the trip between 1847 and 1868. Almost all of my Great-great grandparents and their families crossed the plains during these years.

My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, was one of these pioneers. He did not push a handcart, but he lost his first wife, Louisa Conlee, to the cold and exposure of Winter Quarters in Nebraska Territory on the 29th of September, 1846. The death of his wife left him with eight children from infants to fifteen years of age. Within three months, he remarried my Great-great-grandmother, Julia Ann Shepherd on the Plains in Florence, Nebraska on the 1st of December 1846.

The Tanners were called to help outfit the waves of pioneer refugees coming from the East to the Salt Lake Valley so they stayed out on the Plains for more than a year. They came west in the Willard Richards Company in 1848.  Also in 1848, his six-year-old son, Sidney C. Tanner, was killed when he was run over by a wagon wheel while on the Plains in Iowa. He died on the 26th of July 1848.

Sidney also made two more trips back to the east and then back to the Salt Lake Valley. He traveled with the Amasa M. Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company in 1857 and again conducted the Sidney Tanner Company in 1861. So, he crossed the Plains six times. Perhaps it is time to start showing and talking about the dedication of those who rode in wagons or walked across the country.

One more example, my wife's Great-great-grandfather, Edwin Pettit, walked all the way across the country with the pioneers as an orphan with the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Company at age 13.  Oh, and one more example, My Great-great grandfather, Jens Christensen, died of exposure crossing the Plains outside somewhere in Wyoming or Nebraska in 1866. His daughter, Christine Christensen also died the same year on the Plains.

I can certainly relate to the handcart pioneers and their suffering, but almost all my life I have remembered the ones who came on foot or in wagons. Let's remember them also.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What if you turn out not to be related?

There are several popular "apps" or programs that use information on the Family Tree to establish "relationships.? When my wife and I tried out one of these programs recently, it showed that my wife and I are supposed to be 10th cousins four generation removed. What is a tenth cousin four generations removed? A tenth cousin four generations removed means that my 9th great-grandparents and my wife's 13th great-grandparents are in common. But for me and my wife to actually be related the chain of the relationship shown in the Family Tree would have to be accurate back, at least, nine generations and then forward to the present.

Of course, there is a way to determine if the results of the relationship app are correct. All you need to do is look at the connecting generations in the line of relationship given by the Family Tree to see if it is accurate. This is often easier said than done.

The relationship calculated by the app (which will for the purposes of this post remain unidentified) extends back through my "Stewart" line. Here is a screenshot of part of the Stewart line as it appears in the Family Tree back nine generations:

Duncan Stewart Steward has seven different fathers and seven different mothers. Take your pick. Which one connects me to my wife as a cousin? Really! The program takes the one that makes the relationship work.

This may seem like a rather harmless and trivial example, but the problem is that there are many people out there who believe that the information in the Family Tree is reliable and verified by the Church and/or FamilySearch. As this one example points out, many of these computer-generated pedigrees have severe issues.

What is more serious is that many other programs suggest relationships for the purpose of doing temple work with the same lack of verification of relationship.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gems from the BYU Family History Library

Finding Your Family in the Amazing Online Amsterdam City Archives - John de Jong

One the interesting things about the webinar and video project at the Brigham Young University Family History Library is the reaction of the people who watch the videos and the reaction of the people participating in doing the presentations.

Just recently, John de Jong, from FamilySearch, did a video about his specialty of research in the Netherlands. In talking to one of the people he has been helping with research in that country, he found out that the person was able to watch his video and find a long-sought ancestor. This is exactly the kind of benefit we hoped to achieve by putting up the wide range of topics available on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Thanks to all those who have been watching all these videos.

You may not think of BYU immediately when doing genealogical research, but I suggest you might want to investigate all of the resources available. This next week is the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Please take the time to consider coming to the Conference. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Logged In Home Page from FamilySearch

Logged In Homepage has just posted a new instructional video about the logged in Homepage that appears and is customized when you log in to I know that sounds redundant, but there is no other way to refer to the page. The short video above explains the idea and why you get a different page view every time you log in. This can be confusing to some of us, but it does provide some interesting links.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Assume There Are No Records For Your Family

There is a pervasive background to genealogical research. I constantly hear complaints from researchers that their family's records have been lost or never existed. Sometimes this complaint comes from information about a "burned" county, where the courthouse burned down at one point in time or even several times. After doing years of research, I find that there are some realistic limitations on both the availability and existence of records on a specific individual or family, but I also find that very few of the people who complain about a lack of records have come close to the actual limits.

Nearly all the complaints I receive about lost records result in a resolution. The underlying causes of the complaints arise from several different sources:

  • The researcher is looking in the wrong place or for records during the wrong time period
  • The researcher does not know where to find the records
  • The researcher cannot find records that are assumed to exist. For example, birth certificates before such documents were required by the state or county
  • The researcher does not know that alternate records exist that have the same or similar information as the "lost" records
  • The researcher is looking for records that were never in existence or looking at a time when the target records were not kept
  • The researcher is looking for the wrong person
  • The records that do exist fail to record the researcher's target person
  • The researcher is relying on an incomplete or inaccurate index
There are probably more reasons also, but any one of the above situations could result in a researcher coming to a conclusion that the records have been lost. 

Is there a cure for this condition? Fortunately, yes. To be a successful researcher, you always have to assume that the records are there and keep looking. Just because you are told that the "records all burned" or that they were destroyed due to a war or some kind of natural disaster, does not mean that the information you are looking for was not preserved. I have recently been looking at "burned" records that were ultimately preserved from a fire that took place back in 1870. New technology can sometimes restore records that were previously damaged beyond use. 

Consultant Planner Bug Resolved?

A short while ago, I wrote about a bug in the Consultant Planner. After speaking with FamilySearch and explaining the "bug," it appears that the problem has been resolved. I was able to add a person to my Consultant Helper List directly from my Stake Directory and using the person's helper number and birthdate. I hope this is the end of the problem.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Busy Times Ahead

The next few weeks, I will be either attending conferences or a workshop away from home or be presenting classes. Mixed in with all that will be a week-long camping trip into the mountains with my family. In short, I am very likely to be away from internet connections for the next four weeks. I will try to post when I can, but I will likely be too busy or unable to post.

I am teaching at the following two conferences and, in addition, attending a FamilySearch Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Stay tuned and if you like, you can review some of the over 1,300 posts I have made on this blog alone. You can also spend some time reviewing some of the 26 videos we have uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel during the past month.