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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

10 Ways to Enhance and Improve Your Experience with the FamilySearch Family Tree

There are a number of very specific things you can do to enhance and improve your experience with the Family Tree. After teaching hundreds of classes and answering innumerable questions about the Family Tree, I am boiling down all the answers to all the questions and my comments about the Family Tree into just ten short suggestions. They are "suggestions" because you still have to choose to improve your own experience. Here I go with the list and explanations.

1. Take the time and effort to improve your computer and keyboarding skills. 

Young or old, many people are still typing with two fingers. Others are still at the stage of trying to remember their logins and passwords. If you lack basic computer skills, you will be challenged to use the Family Tree and almost any other computer program.

When I start to help someone and the first issue is remembering their login and password, I can only assume they have little or no experience with the website. This obstacle can come always using the memorized passwords from your computer's operating system or from Google, but you should have a procedure, such as writing down your passwords, to retrieve the password without using a second forgotten password.

If your computer skills are lacking, it may be time for some formal training. There are many online free educational websites that provide instruction for both Apple and PC computers. You can get started with the links from The Family History Guide's free Intro pages Computer Basics.

However, it may be obvious that if you are reading this blog post, you have some basic computer skills and telling you to go to a website to enhance those skills may be entirely unneeded. But, if you know someone with limited or no computer skills you might want to help them find the website I cite below.
2. Take additional time to learn how and why the Family Tree works.

Even assuming you have some basic or even more advanced computer skills, that does not mean you understand how or why the Family Tree works. Many users are frustrated because the Family Tree is an open, collaborative website. This means that anyone can add to, change, correct, or in some limited circumstances, delete information in the Family Tree. Understanding this process and not being challenged or frustrated by the way the Family Tree works is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Those who do understand the Family Tree learn to work through the changes and apply some simple procedures that will minimize unwanted or incorrect changes. Here is a video that will talk about those procedures.

Handling the changes made to the FamilySearch Family Tree?

3. Learn the basics about sources, standardization, and merging

These three topics are the ones that challenge even people with extensive genealogical research backgrounds. Fortunately, there are specific sections in The Family History Guide that teach you how to use these tools with simple, step-by-step instructions. To begin, see The Family History Guide section on the Family Tree and then look at the Project Goals listed at the top of the page.
4. Get to know the people in your first six generations. 

You may not even have six generations of your direct line ancestors and other relatives in your portion of the Family Tree, but get to know all that you do have. What I mean by this is that you know all the surnames of, at least, your direct line ancestors by memory so that you can recognize related family names when you run across information that may be about your family. Keeping track of all the descendants is an entirely different matter but that is why it is important to know the core ancestors. People you meet (in real life, not genealogy) will sometimes ask if you are related to them. There are some online apps, such as the one on the mobile Tree app, Relatives Around Me, that can help to see if you are related, but it is a good idea to have the core ancestors in your own memory to take advantage of these "relationship" experiences.
5. Focus on descendancy rather than searching for 16th and 17th Century holes.

The existence of a hole in your direct line ancestry back in the 16th or 17th Centuries can be overwhelmingly alluring. But generally, those holes or missing ancestors are there because adequate records are missing. Your experience with doing genealogical research will be much more pleasant if you focus on filling in the gaps among the descendants of your first four to six generations of direct line ancestors and all their siblings. These people are your cousins and they are your relatives. If you need help in doing descendancy research, take the time to learn about the resources for doing this type of research. Here is a good place to get started.

Basic Series: Part 3 - Beginning Descendancy Research

6. Start with your primary spoken language research first.

I talk to a lot of people who speak English and who are just beginning their genealogical research experience and too many of them want to begin by starting with research into their German or Scandinavian ancestors when they know nothing about the history of Germany or Scandinavia and do not speak or read any of the necessary languages. Moving into research into a language you do not understand adds an overwhelming challenge to the already difficult task of learning how to do genealogical research. If you first become proficient in researching in your native language, then moving into another language is possible, but not easy. If you do speak two or more languages, all the better. But you still need to begin doing research in one of the languages before you move on to another one. Here is a link to The Family History Guide section on Countries that will get you started in almost all the major countries of the world.
7. Learn to use the FamilySearch Partner programs.

There are quite a few FamilySearch Partner programs or websites in the Solutions Gallery. Here is a link to the Solutions Gallery. The link on the website is located at the bottom of the Home page.
It may seem even more difficult or complicated to add other programs or websites to your use of the Family Tree, but many of these programs resolve some of the frustrations of using the Family Tree rather than add to them.  Foremost, from my perspective, is The Family History Guide. This free website provides a structured, sequenced educational experience about using the FamilySearch Family Tree and about many other subjects.
But don't stop there. Try out several of the websites and see if they help you with some of the challenges of using the Family Tree.

8. Be sure to correct names, merge duplicates, standardize dates and places, and work to complete entries before branching off into research. 

This step might seem a little repetitious but I cannot overemphasize the importance of "cleaning up" your entries before attempting to move on to researching those same entries. The most important thing you can do is to make sure that the places listed in each entry are as accurate and specific as possible. If you have learned how to do this using the previous suggestion, then you need to actually apply what you have learned.

9. Attend a class or genealogy conference and talk to other users of the Family Tree.

Genealogy is a very solitary and personal activity or persuasion. To avoid getting overly frustrated with the Family Tree, you should spend some time in a class or attend a genealogy conference. This gives you some perspective about how others are coping with the difficulties of working with online websites and other challenges. A good conference to consider is the upcoming RootsTech 2020 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 26th to the 29th, 2020.

10. Don't give up.

You have to realize that learning about a complex website such as and all that goes with it can be a real challenge. There are a bundle of skills that go along with learning genealogical research and then putting those skills into the online technological challenges adds yet another level of difficulty. The results are worth the effort. You can succeed. It may take so time and effort but there are substantial rewards. Get busy and start learning.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Challenge of Multiple Online Family Trees: Part One Introduction

When I point out either to classes or individuals the advantages of having record hints from all of the major online genealogy database websites, the one most common response is to object to having multiple copies of their family tree information. This concern is often coupled with a complaint about how the information in the Family Tree is "changing" all the time. Interestingly, the two issues are obviously related. The addition of historical sources to unsourced family trees inevitably leads to changes in the unsourced data. So the real issue is whether or not the advantage of having the automated record hints outweighs any concerns about either changes or the difficulty in "maintaining" multiple family trees on multiple websites. For this particular post, I am going to limit my comments to only four online family tree websites:,,, and All four of these websites have record hint technology coupled with a family tree. Two of those websites, and, provide a pathway for members of The Church Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to synchronize all or part of the data generated by those record hints with the Family Tree.

I intend to go into the details of the synchronization process for both Ancestry and MyHeritage in later posts in this series, but for now, I will simply say that the ability to synchronize the information between family trees is fundamentally the answer to the issue of maintaining and benefiting from multiple family trees. But even absent an efficient way to synchronize data, the record hints are worth the extra work involved in maintaining more than one family tree.

At this point, it is important to point out that many of the same people who question the need for multiple family trees know little or nothing about the resources provided by the four online programs and how those resources in the form of vast collections of records differ from website to website. The collections maintained and added to by each of the four websites are substantially different and each of the websites has its own unique records not available on the other websites. For example, has an integrated, extensive, entirely indexed, and searchable collection of newspapers that is rapidly growing. MyHeritage Record Match discoveries in newspapers are included in the record hints automatically supplied to LDS users of the program. MyHeritage is the only website of the four that presently includes newspaper matches as part of its LDS Account offerings. Both and have separately charged subscription newspaper websites. Likewise, both and have collections that are not available on Granted, that these advantages are only available to members of the Church and those without an LDS Account will have to pay for all of the subscription services.

One of the core issues with multiple family tree websites is the added burden of remembering logins and passwords. This is a universal background burden on all online activities. Of course, you can pay a subscription service to maintain a database of all your passwords, but then you still have to remember the service's login and password and when you change a password you still have to tell the service about the new password. If you are worried about your passwords being hacked, it might occur to you that it would be harder to hack multiple passwords than hack the server for the system that is helping you remember all your passwords.

I believe that the main objections to multiple family tree websites arise out of a lack of basic computer skills. Many people are not comfortable with the multiplicity of the online experience. For example, I taught a class about online ebook sources today that included a number of extremely popular and well-known websites. Very few of the websites were familiar to those attending the class and most were "overwhelmed" at the number of places to look for genealogically significant ebooks online even when the number of websites was really quite a vanishingly small representative of all the possible online sources.

As you can tell from what I have already written, maintaining multiple online family trees can be a challenge, but the benefits are substantial and when taken in the perspective of working with dozens or even hundreds of different programs and websites, not as significant an issue as it might initially appear to be.

Stay tuned for additional posts on this subject.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Experiencing the Digital Divide

The digital divide is the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet and those who do not. A recent Pew Research Center study found that about 10% of Americans do not use the internet. However, the percentage for people over the age of 65 was at 27%. Many, if not most, of the people who are interested in genealogy, fall into that age group and sadly, the percentages ring true. Here is a quote from the article entitled, "10% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?"
For instance, seniors are much more likely than younger adults to say they never go online. Although the share of non-internet users ages 65 and older has decreased by 7 percentage points since 2018, 27% still do not use the internet, compared with fewer than 10% of adults under the age of 65. Household income and education are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline. Roughly three-in-ten adults with less than a high school education (29%) do not use the internet in 2019, compared with 35% in 2018. But that share falls as the level of educational attainment increases. Adults from households earning less than $30,000 a year are far more likely than the most affluent adults to not use the internet (18% vs. 2%).
As is indicated, these numbers vary not only by age but also by the economic level of the populace.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are continually reminded of their duty to seek out their ancestors and take the names of their ancestors to the temples. The group who spends the most time involved in temple work is exactly the same group of people who are the most challenged by technology.

Back in 1975, the first personal computer was introduced, the MITS Altair 8800. See "Personal Computer History: 1975-1984." Also, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak introduced their Apple1 computer in 1976. If you are 65 years old today, you were already 21 years old back in 1975 and probably through with your formal education and unless you already had an interest in or contact with computers and you were more than likely not interested in the new developments. I was an exception to this because of my early contact with the University of Utah mainframe computer during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first Macintosh computer was introduced by Apple in 1984 and by that time today's over 65 group was already into their 30s and the likelihood of taking an interest in the new technology had decreased even more.

Just think about typing. Fortunately, unlike many of those in my age group, I learned to type in high school but before that one typing class, I had almost no contact with typewriters or typing. I see the effects of this lack of early instruction almost every time I sit down with an older person and try to help them with their computer and genealogy skills. We assume that children today are taught "keyboarding" skills and in many cases that is a true assumption, but there are still many schools that do not have universal requirements that children learn to type. But a lack of typing skills is a real obstacle to learning the computer skills necessary to take advantage of the technological advances in genealogical research.

Another important fact about genealogy and timeline of the development of personal computers is the fact that women are overwhelmingly more involved in genealogy than are men and it was even less likely that women would become involved with the new computer technology more than 44 years ago than they are today. There are notable exceptions but unfortunately, there were few men back then who viewed computers as an area of interest for women. Again, I was an exception to this rule and made sure that my five daughters were not just computer literate but could use computers professionally.

Interest in technology and the skills to use it effectively does not imply an interest in genealogy. Most of the current promotional efforts by the large genealogy companies assume that the target audience is technologically savvy if not advanced. You only need to look at ads for genealogical DNA testing to see this assumed interest and expertise. Another example of this assumption is the FamilySearch emphasis on technologically advanced Discovery Centers. This emphasis is interesting to me when I reflect on the fact that I spend a considerable amount of my time helping older people with their logins and passwords.

If you add up the obstacles presented to the older population, it is obvious why there is a digital divide preventing many older people from becoming more involved in genealogical research.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Are we really cousins?

One of the new popular apps from FamilySearch is Relatives Around Me app available on the FamilySearch Tree app for mobile devices. It works when there are other people using the app in the same limited area. The app is both interesting and entertaining.  But am I really related to all those people who show up on the app? The other day at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, one of the patrons wanted to know if we were related and yes, we were. In fact, quite closely and easily verified. But what about remote relationships such as the one illustrated above?

The basic premise of the app is that the relationships shown in the Family Tree are accurate. Sorry, but this is not always the case. If I look closely at the pedigree shown above that I got by clicking on View-My-Relationship, I find that one of the links has only one source and was born in a place that is relatively distant from the place where his father is listed as living. I would assume that these people were not related. Additionally, I find additional sources listed for the person known as Robert Yates and he was born in Oswaldtwistle, Blackburn, and none of the other listed children or his parents were born in Blackburn.

This pedigree is basically an invitation to do some research. Its value showing an accurate relationship is minimal and very likely inaccurate. Before you start embracing your newly discovered relatives, I would do a little bit of basic research to see if the links are logical, consistent, and supported by the sources cited. Of course, if there are no sources and the relationship is faulty, then ignore the connection.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How Ordinances Ready has changed my way of doing research

In the past, there have been a number of programs designed to search through the Family Tree for "temple opportunities." The generic term for these programs is "ordinance crawlers." Most of these programs simply looked for individuals with green temple icons. Some of them were and are a bit more sophisticated and provided additional information about the entries in your portion of the Family Tree that included incomplete temple work. Over the past few years, I have used many of these programs and some of them are extremely valuable in assisting in genealogical research. About a year ago, FamilySearch introduced its own program, Ordinances Ready, that searches on multiple levels to find your own temple opportunities.

The initial reactions of genealogists to the program were very mixed. I wrote about how the program was changing the FamilySearch Family Tree in a blog post entitled, "A New Paradigm for the FamilySearch Family Tree." Moving from third-party apps to an integrated one initiated a significant change in the process of "finding a name to take to the temple." From my own observations and from the accounts of others, in many Wards and Stakes, there has been a significant increase in both temple activity and by members taking family names to the temples although the actual increase is not generally available.

But the introduction of the Ordinances Ready app has had a more far-reaching change on the way I do research in the Family Tree. I wrote about this change in a post entitled, "Using the Ordinances Ready App to Find Research Opportunities." Now, after a year or so of taking advantage of this new venue for finding people who need ordinance work, I thought it was time to discuss an update.

The person highlighted in my early post was George Orr GMZP-9Q4. The Ordinances Ready app showed that his baptism and confirmation were available. A recent check shows that someone performed both for him shortly after my post was put online. But what about the other obviously available ordinances for others that were closely related to George Orr? He was the husband of one of my cousins, therefore, my opportunities to perform ordinances his family as opposed to those who are more directly related to me are limited. Also, he was supposedly born in 1784 and the place of his birth was listed only as Pennsylvania, United States which also placed some practical limitations on additional research opportunities. He also has no sources attached.

At this juncture, I need to point out that George Orr's name had already been submitted to the temple by someone else. Ordinances Ready had found him in the Temple List. This means that without the Ordinances Ready app, I would not have had the opportunity to perform his baptism and confirmation. Those ordinances would simply have gone into the queue and waited for his name to come up among all the others waiting for their ordinances to be done. As a matter of fact, there are still two of his ordinances left to be done. But absent being found by Ordinances Ready, it may be a long time before those remaining ordinances, shared with the Temple in November of 2018 are done. Shared male endowments are apparently taking a very long time to be completed.

How many other ordinances are there waiting to be performed for George Orr and his family? How many for his wife's family? The Family Tree gives us a simple way to see what those opportunities look like. First, I need to view George's own family tree segment.

No one has yet found his parents.

Absent his marriage to my relative, he would have been absent from the Family Tree or a "floater," a person with no attachment to anyone in the Family Tree. There are a number of people in the Family Tree in his descendancy line from one of his children but very little work has been done on these descendants.

FamilySearch has found a large number of Record Hints for this family. Choosing one of these descendants randomly, I find Hiram Hyte Dewees with no spouse and no children in the Family Tree but with some Record Hints. One Record Hint is a census record that shows him and his wife and seven children. Due to the 110 Year Rule, I cannot do the ordinances for this family without permission but I might add them to the Family Tree but since they were all born within the last 110 years, I do not know if they are living and even if I add them, I would be the only person who could see them. So, I elect to add the wife but not the children at this time and wait to see if someone else who is more closely related finds them with the sources I have already added. On the other hand, if I do add them, even if I have to mark them as living, I could do some research and see if they are deceased. But, of course, the 110 Year Rule would still prevent me from doing the ordinances.

Hmm. By adding one child's name, James C. Dewees, I find that he has a Death Record. Even though I cannot do the ordinances, he will still appear in the Family Tree with a green temple icon and someone who is related can now find him and do the ordinances.

If I bang away at some of my missing ancestors in the 17th and 18th Centuries, I can spend literally years before I find anyone to add to the Family Tree. By using the Ordinance Ready app as a research tool, I can find a family with dozens, perhaps hundreds of opportunities.

Now, what do I do with all these names? Obviously, I cannot do all the ordinances myself. So, I share them with the temples. All of them. If my family members need names to take to the temples, they can use the Ordinances Ready app to find these shared names. I can do what I do and that is finding new people for the Family Tree.

Think how many more ordinances are waiting from just this one family.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Welcome to the FamilySearch Community has an extensive community of support for the website's users. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of special interest groups. Essentially, you can get the support and interaction of the groups without the open, lack of privacy of Facebook or other social networking websites. The Community section of the website is located in the drop-down Help menu.
You can also ask questions in a number of different categories.
You can also have connections with special interests that match your own background and experience.

All in all, the Community section of the website is another of the hidden gems.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Both Sides of the Veil

During talks and presentations of the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it has become common recently to speak of doing missionary work "on both sides of the veil." This is extraordinarily well highlighted by a presentation given by President Russell M. Nelson. I am personally surrounded by people, both in and out of the Church who have little or no interest in participating in the redemption of the dead. I often feel a deep sadness because of the attitude of those around me towards this great work. Here is a short video of the presentation.

President Nelson' Grandfather's Visit from the other side of the Veil and Family History Work

The tools have been provided for us to become a part of this great work "on both sides of the veil." If you have not yet become involved, I suggest that you begin today and start by making use of the Ordinances Ready app on both iOS and Android devices as well as available in the Family Tree program for desktop computers and tablets.

Begin today!