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

Monday, September 25, 2017

USA vs. United States: Standardization?

When I was in high school, back before the war, there was a lot of discussion about converting from the "English System" of measurements to the metric system. My contemporaries and I thought that the metric system was harder to understand than the "foot, pound" units we were accustomed to. By the way, the United States is now the only industrialized country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement. Most of the children now in school are taught to use the metric system. My introduction came when I lived outside of the United States for many years.

Now, what does this have to do with genealogy? Presently and for some time now, has implemented a system of "Standardization" for the dates and places in the Family Tree. More recently, FamilySearch started to mark the "non-standard" dates and places with red error icons.

As a result, my portion of the Family Tree program is now well decorated with red icons. However, how standard is the FamilySearch standard? You don't have to look very far to discover that it is not a standard outside of the website. Here is an example from from the same family.

First of all, accepts the entry of "Harrison County" and also "standardizes" its entries to "USA" instead of "United States." Granted, both entries in both programs are "messed up" and likely inaccurate. This example happens to come from a part of my own pedigree that has yet been researched fully and corrected. It is not too hard to find these examples because there are perhaps thousands of them (millions?).

In another example, rather than take sides in this "standardization" issue, programs such as RootsMagic provide a way to standardize on either "United States" or "USA" depending on personal preference. One effect of this issue is that every time I migrate a date or time from to, the date and place are automatically marked as non-standard. All my entries in my family tree on are "standardized" to "USA."

What about accepts both USA and United States and also accept "Co." for the county. By the way, I realize that Kentucky is misspelled. Actually, the entry in the Family Tree on for Thomas Hamilton is more than messed up. For example, look at the birthplace and the christening place.

It would seem to me that a missing standardized birthplace is pretty trivial when the birthplace is listed in Massachusetts and the Christening is shown as occurring in "Butterton Par.Ch, Hulme End, Staffs." However, FamilySearch does not mark christening dates and places as non-standard, even when they are probably impossible, such as being born in America and being christened in England. It could have happened by not likely in the 1700s. Of course, the example above of a birthdate in 1720 in "Kentuckey" is also impossible because Kentucky did not exist as a state until 1792 and the first settlement in what is now called Kentucky took place in 1774 at Fort Harrod, one year before Boonesboro.

It seems to me that "standardization" should go a little deeper than merely satisfying some engineering issues with search engines.

Comment: Will I now try to fix the mess with the Hamiltons in the Family Tree? Probably not for a while because I don't think that this line is even correct and I may just have to cut off the line and leave it out there for someone else to deal with.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Records Preservation Mission Call

My wife and I have recently been called to serve as full-time missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as record preservation specialists. We will serve for one year. We enter the Mission Training Center (MTC) on December 4, 2017.

As many of our friends and acquaintances know, we have both been serving as part-time Church Service missionaries for many years, first at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and then, most recently, at the Brigham Young University Family History Library on the campus. But since this mission is a full-time calling, we will have to spend whatever time is necessary to fulfill our callings and likely I will have to take an extended vacation from regular blogging.

Since we have been doing genealogical research for our own families and for those of many others, we feel this is an opportunity to contribute directly to the information available to genealogists and family historians around the world. Here is another link that explains what we will likely be doing.

FamilySearch Records Preservation Missionaries

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sharing Record Hints and Sources: Part One: An Overview

The reality of today's family history research for those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that involves partner programs with,, and, all of which, including FamilySearch, provide a constant stream of record hints. Many of these record hints translate directly into sources supporting events in the lives of our ancestors.

If you have a lot of ancestors and relatives in the United States going back generations, you will probably have hundreds of record hints from all four programs. Of course, this depends on whether or not you have a family tree in each of the four programs. Conceptually, having four different copies of your pedigree, i.e. family tree, in four different programs can seem to be overwhelming. The FamilySearch Family Tree creates another conceptual problem by being a shared family tree program where registered users can make changes to any of the entries. I have written about the subject many times recently and done YouTube videos for the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

So there are several questions that come about because of this situation such as the following:
  • Do I keep all my information in one or all of the four partner programs?
  • If I choose to have four copies of my family tree, how do I keep the copies synchronized?
  • If I am concerned about changes made to the Family Tree, do I maintain a separate, personal family tree on another program?
  • Should I use an online program, such as or one of the other partner programs or a separate desktop based program?
  • How do I handle suggested record hints that are duplicates of existing record hints?
  • Do I have all the record hints from all the programs to the Family Tree?
  • How do I know whether or not a suggested record is actually valid?
  • What if I find two record hints for the same person but they disagree?
  • How do I handle an excessive number of record hints?
  • What if I am getting conflicting opinions from different people concerning record hints, sources, and multiple family trees?
  • Isn't adding record hints to people whose temple ordinances have already been done, really just busy work?
  • How do I move sources from one of the online programs to another?
  • Should I add sources from two different programs that are essentially the same source?
  • If I spend my time adding record hints to existing people how will I ever have enough time to do research to add people to my family tree?
  • What do I do with record hints to other user's family trees?
  • How do I tell if a record hint actually refers to my ancestor?
  • How many sources are enough?
  • Should I subscribe to all four partner programs?
There are probably quite a few more questions similar to these that I have heard recently. You might notice that this is part one with series. What I intend to do is answer each of those questions. It might take a few blog posts to do so. So cheer up, I'll keep writing as fast as I can. If you can think of any other questions you would like to have added to the list, you can make comments to this post.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Update on the DescendancyExplorer

The DescendancyExplorer has now been running on my computer for approximately seven hours and as you can see above it has processed through 3501 records of the total of 13,422 records and has still yet to find one available ordinance. However, as I mentioned in my initial post on the subject, the search would take a long time. Unless you have spent as much time working on your portion of the Family Tree, and am certain that you will find more opportunities that are available in my family lines. So matter of fact, by doing some research and working through the merges, we have found hundreds of names of people who are not already in the Family Tree.

Note: I let the program continue to run until well into the evening and finally had to quit without finding any available ordinances. This is likely an affirmation of my efforts and those of my family and finding all of the available ordinances in our particular part of the Family Tree.

DescendencyExplorer, a new look
The Family History Technology Lab at Brigham Young University keeps busy turning out new programs related to family history for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, those who do not happen to be members are benefited by the programs also, but most of them have a decided Church-oriented theme and are based on the Family Tree. The DescendancyExplorer is designed to work specifically with the Family Tree so it is necessary to have your family information in the Family Tree for the program to function. The program is still in the developmental stage and is not yet featured on the Family History Technology Lab's homepage.

The idea of the program is that you sign in to and the DescendancyExplorer then does all the work of searching through multiple generations of your family and looks for names of your relatives and ancestors who are ready to take to the temple. Hmm. You say. Isn't this just like a number of other programs that are already available? Well, yes and no. First of all this program does all the work and secondly, it "qualifies" the people it finds. Here is the very simple start page:

Yep, that's it. By the way, when you click on the "Search My Tree" button, you may have to leave the program running for a few hours or overnight before you see any results depending on how complete your previous searches have been. What is different about the program is that it filters out any related people who have no sources attached, who have possible duplicates or who are not completely identified. So the people it finds are "usually" qualified for ordinance work.

I started the program searching while I was writing and it had gathered well over 13,000 records on my portion of the Family Tree without finding even one qualified person. I continued to let the program run and it kept looking. I have had some feedback from others who have used the program and they have found into the hundreds of people needing ordinances.

When the program does find a possible record, it is a good idea to check the "How you are related" link on the person's detail page to see if you are related. I will let the program run until it finishes searching and report back in another post about the results.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Registration is now open for #RootsTech 2018

#RootsTech 2018 will be held on February 28 through March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are a skier, you can always take advantage of the fabulous skiing in the resorts surrounding Salt Lake City. But for most of us, we are well past our skiing years. If you need accommodations for the conference, there are links on the website to local hotels making special offers. You might want to make your reservations early as the available rooms fill up quickly.

The conference will have over 200 breakout sessions.

A highlight of the conference will be the Family Discovery Day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This free, 1-day event will inspire you to discover, celebrate, and cherish your family relationships—past, present, and future. Enjoy devotionals from Latter-day Saint General Authorities, inspirational breakout sessions, and hands-on activities.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Getting Started with Research

There are many aspects of the umbrella term "research." Research can be directed at finding out about things we do not know and have yet to be discovered or research can investigate information about our past. Basically, the word "research" is polysemous, i.e. it has more than one meaning.

From time to time, I have written about this subject on my other blog, Genealogy's Star, but it has been some time since I have written directly about this particular subject here. Since this blog is specifically aimed at treating genealogy and genealogical research from the point of view of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter referred to as "the Church"), I think there are some aspects of genealogical research from an LDS viewpoint that should be considered.

It might be a good idea to remind my readers of my Disclosures and Disclaimers that reside on a tab at the top of the title to this blog.

Now back to the concept of research. Genealogy is a narrow branch of history. As I have noted previously, genealogical research consists primarily of identifying information about people who lived in the past from historical records. This is in contrast to "scientific" research that has as its main objective discovering things about the physical world that are not yet known. Genealogical research assumes that the information being sought was recorded at some time and place and that by following a certain methodology, this historical information can be "discovered." But the doctine of the Church expands on this viewpoint.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88, we are admonished as follows:
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (History of the Church, 6:313). Because of this statement and many others, the Church has become extensively involved in genealogy (family history). So the question that immediately arises, is how is this "seeking after our dead" accomplished? It is evident from the first quote that the process involves both study (I would say research) and by faith. Essentially, we go to the record books of the world and find our ancestors "by study and also by faith." 

In this regard, the statement in the Bible in James 2:20 that states, in part, "that faith without works is dead." So we have to work, i.e. do the research, and exercise our faith. Evidently, the idea of doing genealogical research from this perspective is fundamentally different from what is commonly thought of as research. This idea is expressed by President James E. Faust (1920-2007) of the First Presidency who stated:
The process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging but also exciting and rewarding. We often feel spiritual guidance as we go to the sources that identify them. Because this is a very spiritual work, we can expect help from the other side of the veil. We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 55).
As President Faust stated, this process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging. But as members of the Church, we cannot assume that we can skip the "study" part of the process. We have a duty to learn how to do the research as well as a duty to do the research.

In today's world, the process of doing genealogical research has been rapidly evolving from the traditional methodology. Powerful computers using online digitized records and global search engines such as Google are revolutionizing research in general and despite the resistance from "traditional" genealogists, genealogical research is also being swept up in the changes.

One of the ways I have personally been involved in helping people understand genealogical research as it is done today on computers is to help with The Family History Guide. This website is starting to play a major part in helping to educate and train people how to do genealogical research. Of course, there are many other websites and resources for learning about how to do genealogical research, but right now, this is the most effective way I have found.