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

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Family History Mission: Comings and Goings

No. 83

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 reality of serving a full-time mission whether you are a Senior Missionary or a young missionary is that missionaries arrive and leave at different times. In attending the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) we have seen quite a few changes in just the few months we have been here in Annapolis, Maryland. From the standpoint of the permanent members, missionaries are kind of like the weather, coming and going with the seasons. As Senior Missionaries, we get a longer view but we still come and go.

We have enjoyed working with six different pairs of Senior Missionaries while we have been working at the Maryland State Archives and we are about to have another change this coming week. It is amazing how dedicated and persistent these older couples have been. Each individual has had challenges but despite personal losses of family members, illnesses, aches, and pains, they keep working day after day.

One thing I can say for sure, the experience of being here is nothing at all like I worried about or expected. Because of my involvement in genealogy, being here in Annapolis has been more of a continuation of my previous involvement than a complete change. We have spent a great deal of our time helping the local members and other missionaries and even people outside of the mission across the world with finding their ancestors for Temple work. We have also managed to have some involvement with the local genealogical societies. I still have a number of webinars and classes to teach before we leave to return home to Provo, Utah.

Surprisingly, time does pass and we are no thinking about the process of returning home to the mountains, which, by the way, seem to be burning up right now. The process of moving across the country does not get any easier from an apartment than it does from your home. We are still fighting with the U.S. Post Office. In fact, we got a junk mail letter sent to the apartment we never lived in that was addressed to my mother who has been dead for ten years. Figure that out.

If you have ever thought about going on a full-time Senior Mission, take the thought seriously. It is a marvelous opportunity. I can assure you that your family will survive your leaving them and you will have some wonderful, but perhaps difficult, experiences.

During my time here, I have been in contact with some friends from Mesa, Arizona who are serving a Temple Mission in Mexico. They have been having a dramatically different time than we have had. Our work here is more routine since we work eight hours a day, five days a week. They have a more "people-oriented" mission while ours is directed at our work of digitizing documents.

On our free days, mainly Saturdays, we have had a lot of opportunities to explore the Washington, D.C. museums and other attractions. For genealogists, we got to visit the National Archives and have in-depth visits to the Library of Congress. We have learned how to drive and ride the Metro here in Maryland and D.C. and had a lot of very interesting experiences. We have had several visits from our children and their families and many other great experiences.

All in all, it has been worth the time and the effort. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Improved Ordinance Finding App on
Automated finding and document searching aids are a boon to genealogists who are actively searching for opportunities to take family names to the temples. But these suggested connections still rely on the accuracy of the information already in the Family Tree. This recent announcement by FamilySearch indicates that they are getting the message about the need to improve the accuracy of these automated suggestions. I strongly suggest reading the entire blog post linked above so that you can understand what is available. 

If you have a huge number of ancestors on the Family Tree like I do, you may wish to spend some time verifying the information for any of the suggested opportunities. Here is an example of one of my suggested opportunities recently.

Here is the reality of that entry.

You can see that there is a lot more to the story than just showing a pretty icon. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Still waiting for the Golden Years: Computers and Technology

There are certain rites of passage to getting old. One of the first thresholds is signing up for an AARP membership. When you do, you start getting their monthly magazine. I am sure you are in the category of those people who throw away the magazine as soon as it comes in. However, as a long-time compulsive reader, I got through every issue. What catches my attention are the ads aimed at the lowest common denominator of profiled old people. By the way, almost all the people used in the ads are not old by anyone's standard. I know old when I see it.

Anyway, back to the AARP Magazine. There is always a full-page ad for a "Senior Computer." The taglines are that these touchscreen computers are "easy to use and simple" and that they are "foolproof." They come with a bunch of generic or at least unidentified software already installed. They also come with a large print manual.

Who are they selling these computers to? The children, not the parents. Let's suppose that this is really an easy-to-use computer even though the words "easy" and "computer" cannot accurately be used in the same sentence. Who is going to connect this easy-to-use computer to the internet? If the senior person needs this type of device, how do they log into any of the online social networking programs? They are ostensibly set up to "access the web." What about all the logins and passwords needed to gain access to websites? What if they sell this computer to this user? This is an excerpt from a review of one of the easy to use senior computers.
First, let's be honest about computers in general. Unless you are a techno-geek who loves cyber-problem solving, they are ALL unreliable piles of junk. I have owned several types of computers over the years and I have NEVER had one that performed to a satisfactory standard of user-friendly ease. All of them are persnickety gadgets that freeze, crash and do strange and unexplainable things at a moment's notice. At this time, I own a slick, top-of-the-line Mac and I find myself on the phone to Apple tech support almost daily because of the problems that continually arise.
This person doesn't need a computer, he or she needs a cat or dog and a manual typewriter. I have had problems with my computers if I go back many years. I am now using an iMac and I haven't had it ever freeze or crash. Some of the programs I use have done "strange and unexplainable things" including freezing and crashing, but that is part of the wonderful world of computers and to be expected. I don't remember ever calling Apple tech support in my life except when I was operating an authorized Apple dealership.

Hmm. The ads make no mention of printing or scanning or any other peripheral device. Most of these require a driver loaded into the operating system. Oh, oh, the operating system is not identified either. What about upgrades? The world outside of these easy-to-use computers is changing every day.

Basically, this whole subject brings up the issue of the "digital divide" or the virtual division that exists between those who do not have web access for some reason (including poverty, lack of electricity, or some other condition besides old age) and those who do. In my opinion, the real solution is a smartphone or a tablet. If a person wants to write, edit photos, work on family history, or do hundreds of other tasks, no simplified push-icon computer is going to do these things. But I have had good experience transitioning older people who want to read email, see social networking, and etc. to using a tablet or a smartphone. With voice recognition gaining traction, you can now talk to your smartphone and send messages, make appointments, and do lots more.

By the way, the world is expected to buy over 1.4 billion smartphones in 2018. Most of the people I am dealing with right now do not own a computer but all their work on a smartphone.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dia de Muertos

The Dia de Muertos will begin on October 31st and continue to November 2nd in 2018. Here is an explanation of the holiday from Wikipedia: Day of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reflections on Duplicate Entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

The new format on the Family Tree automatically shows the number of possible duplicates waiting to be resolved. Some or all of these may not actually be duplicates but it is always necessary to start by checking this link. Here is what you might see on a detail page.

Notice the date and the lack of information. There is really no way to tell if you have or do not have duplicates for a person with so little information and so far in the past. An entry like this needs to have more research. But in this case, if the only information available turns out to be the identity of her husband, additional entries showing this person married to Henrie Betts, would indicate duplicates. Here is a screenshot of the results of searching for this person on

If you want to focus the search, you can copy and past the location of the person and add a spouse's name or parents' names. That will reduce the number of hits or results. In this case, interestingly, adding the additional information resulted in no results at all.

You would think that the program could at least find the person being used for the search, especially when there appear to be 11 duplicates. Is there a reason for this apparent contradiction? Yes, but it is very complicated. In this case, the only record that mentions this person is a birth record for William Betts. The reason for the lack of results most likely comes from the limitations of the indexing process. Her name is spelled "Joane" and "Joan" and there are no dates or places associated with this person.

If you want to understand how to find all the duplicates and resolve those ancestors who have interpolated information, you need to begin researching forward in time, that is, starting with people who are well documented and move systematically back in time. Let's look at the duplicates listed for this person.

Can we automatically assume that all these records showing Joane or Jane or Joan are the same person just because they are all married to someone named Henrie Bates or Betts or Betes? If we look at any one of these suggested duplicates, we will see that there is a problem in making that assumption.

Other than the single name, there is really nothing to show us that these two people are the same. Further down in the comparison, we can see that this duplicate actually includes more duplicate entries.

If I were to continue merging the list of "11 duplicates," I would soon see that there were likely many, many more hidden away in the vast cloud of people on the Family Tree.

There is no real way to avoid this issue. Almost every family line in the Family Tree will eventually get to the place where there is a cloud small or large of duplicate entries like these. There are always exceptions, people who have a limited number of entries, will likely not have encountered the duplicates. Additionally, there are many places in the world that are not yet well represented by the Family Tree. Those of us who have been working on our genealogy for years and come primarily from Western Europe or the British Isles will almost inevitably fall into this morass.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Family History Mission: No Hurricane -- A sunny Day

No. 82

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.

All of our hurricane preparation was in vain. The hurricane turned south and will miss us. Although we will eventually get some of the rain, I suppose. We did have some excitement today at the Maryland State Archives. We had a fire alarm go off and everyone had to go outside and stand around for a while. It was not a drill and a lot of policemen and firemen showed up to check out the building. There is some construction going on and I speculated that the vibrations from the construction may have set off the alarms.

Otherwise, we had another day digitizing records. All of the records we digitize are reviewed both by use before we send them off to FamilySearch and after they are received by FamilySearch. Occasionally, we get a notice to "Rework" some images that do not come up to the standards set by FamilySearch. Since we are digitizing thousands of records a week, I suppose that it is inevitable that a few might have some problems. But we have had very few reworks.

When we left the Archives today, it was warm and sunny but rain is expected the next two days. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

An Abundance of Gospel Resources
With the publication of the new four-volume book Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days,  there has been an explosion of new historical and doctrinal writings available primarily through the Gospel Library app on iOS and Android devices. I started to read Volume 1 of the Saints book and in the last few days, I saw that the entire book was now available in the Gospel Library. All of these materials are in the Church History section of the Gospel Library app as well as on
Here is another part of the huge number of in-depth writings available in another section called "Church History Topics."
The amount of information is almost overwhelming. Many of these topics directly address issues raised by detractors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Take some time to start learning. When you search for the apps in the App Store for Apple or the Google Play store, you need to search for the specific title of the app.