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

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Impact of the FamilySearch Partner Access on FamilySearch Centers

Another FamilySearch blog post analyzes the impact of the FamilySearch agreements as announced at #RootsTech 2014. Here is what was announced:

As new historical record collections are published under the latest agreements with FamilySearch’s affiliates, they will be available on and for free on,, or to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch offers free public access to and through 4,715 local FamilySearch-owned family history centers worldwide. Additional details regarding expanded records access will be announced sometime in 2014, when they are available.
The question addressed by the post is what impact these agreements will have on the free access through the FamilySearch Center portal at all of the 4700+ Centers around the world. As the post states:
First, what does the announcement mean? The access you have to premium websites through the portal at your family history center will not be changing. All the collections you are accustomed to finding on FamilySearch will still be available. 
When you access,, and, you will begin seeing FamilySearch collections on their websites. Anyone who comes into your family history center will have full access to all of these websites and the many other websites available through the family history center portal.
However, the members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have access to the three websites in their homes. The post explains this access as follows:
Member access will be very much like access for any other person with a paying subscription: through a login and password. To give online systems time to accommodate to increased traffic, not all members will receive access at the same time. There will be a gradual rollout. Some members of your wards and stakes may get their access information before other members. Please assure anyone who is concerned that they do not yet have access to the websites that their access will be granted in a timely manner.
So what impact, if any, will this have on the traffic in the FamilySearch Centers? A lot of people do use those programs while at the FamilySearch Centers, but there are many other programs that will still be available only through the portal. I disagree with the assessment of the post on the FamilySearch blog, that this will affect the Centers adversely and cause a decline. In fact, my guess is that traffic will increase. Very, very few members of the Church are aware of either or A few more are familiar with If the FamilySearch Centers are awake and using their imagination a little, they might realize that there will be an teaching opportunity to get people started with all three programs. I will guess that if I were to teach the three programs after the members get access that my classes would be full every single class period.

This is an opportunity for the Centers to expand their utility to more members of the Church. I hope they realize the opportunity and take advantage of it.

Recent important changes to FamilySearch Family Tree and Photos

Following #RootsTech 2014, there have been a plethora of changes to's Family Tree program. I would dare say that there have been changes almost every day. At some point, I will have to get into the program and see if I can figure out every single change that has occurred but for now, I will just have to be content to be surprised in the middle of classes I am teaching or when I am helping patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. I will start working on a comprehensive review of the changes soon, but for the time being, here are some recent links to FamilySearch posts on the changes.

The big change is adding dates and locations to photos. See Add Date and Location to Photos, Stories and Documents. What the notice fails to mention is that you can also search the photos, documents and stories by date and location. Try searching for your old hometown to see all the photos from that same location (assuming you have an old home town).

There have been some significant changes to the way Temple ordinances are displayed and the way the procedures are set up. If you are reserving names for the Temple, you really need to understand the changes. The two posts that help are "Changes to the LDS Ordinance Tab" and "Temple Opportunity: See What to Add When Ordinance Status is "Needs More Information.""

It also helps to know that Family Tree has a link on the startup page directly to the FamilySearch Blog with articles about all the changes. Here is a screenshot showing the link:

The program will keep evolving rapidly for the time being.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What's New for Stake Indexing Directors

If you know who your Stake Indexing Directors are, you might want to pass this blog post along to them.

This is from a FamilySearch blog of 10 February, 2014:

Have you seen these new resources? You should definitely take a look.
  • Ensign Article: “Indexing Is Vital”: Did you see the indexing article in the DecemberEnsign? Individuals and families are receiving specific and unique blessings by participating in indexing and family history. We invite you to share this article with your priesthood leaders. The stories and experiences shared in this message can definitely help your priesthood leaders understand the great blessings that come from participating in this work.
  • Thanks a Billion”: Do you ever wonder what happens to the records once they are published in At the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference 2013, researchers expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the indexers who make the world’s records searchable. Watch this video to learn how the records you index benefit researchers everywhere. Share this video with the volunteers in your stake to let them know that their work is appreciated and valued.
  • Stake Indexing Director Forum Recording: Hundreds of stake indexing directors attended this forum to receive direction and support in their calling. Watch this recording to learn about the upcoming indexing website and web-based indexing program, and also hear from Elder Dennis C. Brimhall, managing director of the Family History Department.
  • Obituary Webinar Recording: The year of the obituaries has begun! Have you tried indexing these fascinating records? The obituaries are typed and full of interesting stories. Although type-written, this project can be tricky, and you will need to be prepared to answer your stake members’ questions. Watch this webinar to learn all you need to know about the obituaries project.
Here are five more links that will help:
New Look, Same Great Program: You may notice some minor, but visible, changes made to the current FamilySearch indexing program. These changes were made to help volunteers recognize the connection between, with its recently updated look, and the existing indexing program. Specifically, the indexing program now displays:
  • The new FamilySearch logo.
  • Changed fonts in some screens to match the new fonts.
  • Minor changes of color in various places throughout the program.
Your Calling, Your Opportunity: Oft times when we get a new Church calling, we are nervous or wonder how we will accomplish the task that lies ahead. As a stake indexing director, many of you have probably wondered, “How will I do this?”
It is important to remember you are not alone. Help is available from many sources, including those beyond the veil. Indexing is not merely a task that needs to get done, but a work of great worth. Your efforts will be rewarded and you will be blessed for the time you spend furthering the Lord’s work.
 What do I need to know about arbitration?:Have you ever asked yourself, “What is arbitration?” “Why is it important to teach my stake about arbitration?” or “What role do I play in arbitration as a stake indexing director?” Many stake indexing directors around the world are wondering the exact same thing. 
Stake indexing directors need to be constantly concerned about quality. Researchers depend on the quality of published records to find their ancestors, so arbitration and arbitrators deserve careful consideration as you manage your stake indexing program. Most stake indexing directors know that arbitration is an essential step in the indexing process, but do they know that finding and training qualified arbitrators is an important part of their calling? If so, do they know how to find, train, and support qualified arbitrators?

What “Final” Really Means:

Is Arbitration Really Data’s Last Chance? Yes and No.

Some indexers are afraid of arbitrating because they believe, appropriately, that their choices will determine what gets published on Make a mistake and it will be etched in stone forever, right? Well, maybe not.

We all appreciate arbitrators who take their job seriously. But some take it so seriously that the thought of making a mistake that could possibly handicap their fellow genealogists in perpetuity makes them shy away from arbitrating altogether. For such individuals, and at the other extreme, for all those indexers who fairly demand that FamilySearch “stop the presses” every time they find an arbitration error, here are some comforting thoughts.
All indexing values from both indexers and the arbitrator are preserved in the FamilySearch database. At some future date, if needed, all three could be published side-by-side and made searchable.
In the future, when FamilySearch publishes its public family tree, patrons will likely have the ability to make corrections or add alternative information, giving more richness to the collection. 
Also likely, in the future will be the ability for patrons to index individual records that they come across in their research, essentially on-the-fly. These researchers will likely be more familiar with the records than the average indexer and will provide a higher-quality index.
Computers are getting smarter all the time and in some future scenarios it may be possible to “teach” them to read handwriting so accurately that they will surpass the capabilities of both the casual and experienced indexer. This sounds futuristic but may, in reality, be closer than most would guess.

The bottom line: as “final” as arbitration seems, its effect is only permanent for now. This is not an admission that FamilySearch has a lax attitude about quality. We are way too concerned about accuracy to ever stop looking for ways to lead people to a true understanding of their ancestors. After all is said and done, none of this effort matters if people can’t connect with the people who are their actual ancestors.
Personal Arbitration Mentoring: The objective of this mentoring is to ensure that you develop the skills and confidence to begin arbitrating on your own. If you have not already done so, the mentor will ask you to take the Arbitrator Self-Assessment to help identify areas where you may need additional training. During this mentoring, you will also have the chance to arbitrate one or more batches with a mentor. After your mentoring experience, you will be awarded a certificate indicating your preparation as a trained arbitrator.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are historical sealing records evidence of marriages?

My daughter Amy left a new comment on my post entitled, "The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Wilford Woodruff." Here is the comment:
Oh, thanks for linking to that blog post. As I explain in one of the comments, that was quickly written in reply to some internet content that consists of people reading an online article or two and then making unwarranted conclusions and criticisms about things they know little about.

WIlford Woodruff was instrumental in our current temple practices, in Nauvoo, in 1870s St. George, and later in the 1890s when he ended the practices of plural marriage and (priesthood) adoption.

Anyone who's involved in 19th-century Mormon genealogy should understand those practices and how they show up in church databases as sealings of your ancestor to someone outside the family or "extra" marriages to unknown women. Even though the practices have changed, those are important pieces of historical information and should be preserved in church and family records.
I most certainly agree with Amy. It is not unusual, as you investigate your ancestors who were early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to find men who appear to have "extra" wives that were not acknowledged or documented by the traditional genealogy you may have received from an aunt or grandmother. This is a delicate topic and made more difficult by the proliferation of blatantly anti-Mormon literature on the subject. Fortunately, current policy of the Church includes directly confronting those issues. You can see this on the website section on Gospel Topics. The Gospel Topics article addressing part of these issues is entitled, "Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah." Further accurate historical information can be obtained from websites such as

From a genealogical standpoint, anyone with ancestors who were early members of the Church during the time plural marriages were being performed, may have family members who were part of a such a family. In addition, there was another practice that impacts genealogical records but did not involve actual physical marriages between husbands and wives. Unfortunately trying to untangle this practice from the inaccurate haze of anti-Mormon statements, accusations and outright lies is very difficult. In some cases, women who died before they married were sealed to men, sometimes a prominent leader of the Church and also to family members. In addition, occasionally a living woman who was in need of support would also be sealed to a man as a plural wife so that she could be supported. Both of these conditions exist in my own family lines.

Genealogists who encounter these situations have tended to discount them and even refused to enter the information into the genealogical records they created. However, as Amy states above, these are important pieces of historical information and should be preserved in church and family records. I have been asked about these marriages a number of times and usually, the person asking the question is disputing the existence of such a marriage that is only evidenced by a "sealing record." If you find such a reference, there are ways to verify the existence of such a sealing.

Let me caution anyone who starts to investigate this practice from outside of documented, historical records. I cannot emphasize enough the amount of pure garbage in print and on the Internet about this subject. This is especially true now that there have been certain court rulings in Utah on the subject of polygamy. Sorting out the history from those who would attack the Church for their own gain or for other personal reasons is very difficult.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Plan now to attend #RootsTech 2015

 This video will give you some idea of the #RootsTech 2014 experience. It is time now to plan to attend RootsTech 2015. As the website notes:
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is the largest family history conference in the North America. Whether you’re just beginning your family tree, an avid hobbyist, or an experienced researcher, RootsTech is the perfect conference to help you connect with your family—past, present, and future!
In the upcoming year, The Federation of Genealogical Societies(FGS) will hold its 2015 National Conference in conjunction with the popular RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 12-14, 2015. Information concerning the conference will be forthcoming within a few months, I would suggest checking the website for further information.

A Billion Record Indexed on announces the completion of the first 1 billion records being indexed through the indexing program. A worldwide network of volunteers as provided in the workforce to accomplish this milestone. It is important to remember as indexers displayed in the program that they are not only providing information for themselves but for a potential audience of everyone in the world. If you would like to volunteer to join the indexing team go to and click on the Volunteer link in the upper right-hand corner of the startup screen.

Dealing with genealogical antipathy

First off we need a definition of "antipathy." It is defined as a deep-seated feeling of dislike or aversion. During of my very early experiences in doing genealogy, it didn't take me too long to find out that this was a perfect description of my immediate family's attitude towards the entire subject. The attitude was mostly prevalent in my mother's side of the family. But then, I had little contact with my father's family. Over the years I have seen this attitude expressed again and again as I talk to people about genealogy both by members of my family and from others outside of my family.

I am sure that there are a variety of reasons for the negative attitude towards genealogy. As I did more and more research into my family, I began to understand why some of them may have had such a feeling. Sometimes these feeling escalate into actual antagonism.

It is not uncommon for me to hear stories from other researchers, such as the one I heard today, where one or more family members refuses to talk about a certain ancestor or subject and then refuses to give any information at all about the family. Of course, we could speculate all day about the negative experiences that cause this, but the issue from a researchers standpoint is how to deal with the situation. It is not unusual for me to hear stories about a step-parent's destruction of all of the family records upon the death of the spouse. The stories are usually related to me by the adult children who are lamenting the fact that the documents were destroyed.

Thinking about this, I realized that if I were researching a remote ancestor and did not have any living relatives to talk to, I would be in no worse position than I was with a recalcitrant living relative.

Even if family members and other relatives are indifferent or antagonistic against genealogies or family history, it is possible to convince them to give the information needed to those who are interested. In one case, where I had less that positive experiences, the relatives gave me the pile of boxes of records because they did not want to store them any longer. I have found, however, that there are usually more than sufficient alternatives, i.e. positive sources to compensate for the negative ones in my pedigree.

Obviously, one of the first things we tell people who are just beginning their genealogical research experience is to talk to relatives about their family, especially older relatives. It is a particularly jarring experience to find that some of these relatives not only refuse to talk about the family but take steps to prevent the new researcher from doing research. The important thing to understand is the cooperation of the living relatives is nice but not at all essential. There may be some facts that cannot be determined without the cooperation of your living relatives, but no one can prevent you from doing the research if you are determined to do it. Basic rule is that dead people have no privacy.

In some cases, the situation is that even the relatives cannot supply needed information, notwithstanding their willingness to help. Recently, I have talked to several people who are researching parents, grandparents and other close relatives. In many cases, they are not even sure of their close relatives' names. Often, they have no one to ask about the missing information. Rather than view this as a unique or difficult situation, I would suggest that it's not only quite common but a rather ordinary research issue.

Of course, there are situations involving abandonment, adoption, and other similar situations that require special research skills and may be extremely difficult to resolve. But, the missing relative issue usually requires nothing more than ordinary genealogical research skills in almost all cases involving close relatives. In cases where there is actual antagonism, the researcher may be forced to do the research entirely without the knowledge or contact with any of the living relatives. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we frequently hear of this situation where people suffer persecution and alienation from their immediate families upon becoming members of the Church. Because of a lack of understanding of the beliefs of the members of the Church, relatives will refuse not only to communicate with the member of the Church but will adamantly refuse to supply any genealogical information.

In all of these cases, the solution to the problem lies in careful research and documentation. One obstacle is the lack of readily available information about living people due to the questions of privacy. However, most of the publicly available records are rather easily obtainable. Of course, once the researcher moves back a generation or two, the research situation is no different than that involving any other ancestral investigation. There are any number of introductory genealogical resources available both online and in print. I strongly suggest that those who are contemplating beginning their research take the time to learn some of the basics of research and particularly genealogical research before launching off into an investigation for which they are unprepared. The consequence of lack of education and preparation, is almost always frustration.

It may not be possible to resolve the emotional conflict created by near family members' refusal to acquiesce to genealogical research but that should not prevent the researcher from proceeding.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Need an Eagle Project? Engaging the youth in family history through cemetery photos

If you or anyone you know is really serious about engaging the youth in a worthwhile genealogy related activity, I suggest that they take a walk with their children or grandchildren to the local cemetery and let them become involved in's project to digitize and add GPS coordinates to the world's cemeteries. One thing has done all along is offer a special plaque to those conducting a service project, such as a Boy Scout Eagle Project, involved in digitizing the gravemarkers in a cemetery. Here is a screenshot of the Service Project Page:

One of my grandsons completed his Eagle Scout requirements by involving his Ward in a project to digitize the local City of Mesa Cemetery. We helped a very little, but his immediate family completed the images of the entire cemetery and transcribed the gravemarkers. This is really good way to give younger people hands-on experience in doing family history and assisting others in the process.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Can you really trace your genealogy back to Adam?

This perennial question came up today during one of my classes. It seems like nothing we can say or do as genealogists will counter totally unreasonable beliefs. In addition, the idea that someone's genealogy can be traced back to Adam or some other such historical person, has done more than any other thing to discredit genealogy as a valid and serious pursuit than any other issue.

First, let me say that the issue is not with the Biblical genealogy per se, it is with the idea that anyone can trace a validly documented genealogy back to the time when connecting with the Biblical account is even possible. The rule here is fairly simple and can be stated as follows:

The moment you start copying your pedigree from some source and stop verifying the individual entries, you are moving from the realm of genealogy into fiction and fable. The point here is that there are very, very few verifiable genealogical pedigrees that extend back earlier than about 1500 AD. I usually use the date of 1550 AD as the earliest practical date verifying any genealogical records and even that is stretching the idea of proof quite a bit. There are a very few places, such as Spain, where some earlier records exist. Here is a definitive statement from
Various genealogies have been compiled for royal and noble lines. Some of these connect with the Bible genealogies which continue back to Adam and Eve. 
Although it may be reassuring to some to think they have connected their lines back to the earliest times, such compiled genealogies contain many errors. None of these genealogies have been proven. Some pedigrees include the names of various gods from which the earliest ancestors of their peoples supposedly descend and which come from early folk tales or mythology. It is practically impossible to separate the fact from the fiction. At this time it is not possible to document a lineage back to Adam. 
For a further discussion about this question see the following article: 
Gunderson, Robert C. "I've heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam." Ensign (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church) Feb 1984, p.31. (FHL book 289.305 C473e.)
 One of the questions that comes up frequently is what to do with one of these extended fabricated pedigrees when they appear in's Family Tree program?

I would most certainly suggest that the researcher go back tot he earliest verifiable individual in that particular line and delete the unproven relationship with that person's parents. This will cure the problem until someone attaches the pedigree again. If you feel like you need to include a line back to Adam, I guess there is nothing I can say that will change your mind, but please do not claim that you are doing your genealogy when you do claim a line back to Adam.

Ways to Prepare Your Children for the Temple

Here are some helpful suggestions from a Church News article entitled "Three Ways You Can Prepare Your Children for the Temple" by Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Sister Jean A. Stevens, and Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, The Primary General Presidency. As the call out on the article states:
“We know that helping children to love and enter the temple is worth every effort and sacrifice. It holds the key to one of our greatest hopes and joys—a family that is forever.” —Primary general presidency
If you have children or grandchildren take time to give them an appreciation for the Temple and emphasize its importance.

An Amazing Temple Infographic

A truly amazing Temple Infographic. You have to see the original to understand what it is.

Click HERE to go to the original website.

Plus, the website has the artist's 3D models of many of the temples. Here is the new Gilbert Temple for an example:

This is a truly memorable website.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014, The Year of the Obituary for FamilySearch Indexing

From a recent announcement by FamilySearch:
FamilySearch has declared 2014 the “Year of the Obituary” and is working with partners and the larger genealogy community to collect and digitize millions of obituaries from the United States, with other countries soon to follow. The goal for this year is to index 100 million names from these historical documents, including the name of the deceased, relatives, and all other individuals found in each document.
This massive collection of obituaries will add a fabulous new dimension to online family history research. Obituaries are a “treasure trove” of valuable genealogical information. Each is a unique story of a person’s life. Many obituaries include a photo of the person along with the names of generations of family members.
This new program was introduced by FamilySearch CEO in his keynote address at #RootsTech 2014. Here is a quote from the Press Release:
Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, announced this new initiative in his keynote speech yesterday as he welcomed record-breaking crowds to the 2014 RootsTech family history conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Brimhall and special guest pirate mascot “Captain Jack Starling” utilized a well-known pirate theme of “dead men tell no tales” and added, “but their obituaries do!” drawing attention to the fact that obituaries tell the stories of people’s lives long after they are deceased. Carrying the theme further, attendees at the conference were invited to volunteer and help unlock the “treasure trove” of precious family information contained in obituaries, which is currently “locked away” in static electronic images and newspapers.

“Estimates claim over 500 million obituaries exist in the U.S. alone,” said Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO. “The average obituary can contain the names of about ten family members of the deceased—parents, spouse, children, and other relatives. Making them easily searchable online can be an enormous future source for creating our family histories. The number of people who will benefit is incalculable. It could very well be the single largest preservation and access project of its kind, and will no doubt be one of the most used online collections worldwide as it grows.”
I am wondering how they are going to find the millions of obituaries. Most of the US digitized newspapers have not segregated the obituaries out from the rest of the digitized newspaper.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Quick Start to Photos and Stories to FamilySearch Family Tree

There is a quick, four minute video on that will help get you started adding your own photos and stories about your ancestors. Here is a screenshot showing the video's page in the Learning Center:

The page also has links to the recent #RootsTech 2014 videos and other resources. Here is a direct link to the video:

Why LDS Members will get free access to, and

Before I get too much involved in this particular post, I need to make one of my standard disclaimers. The opinions in this particular post are entirely my own and may not reflect reality in any sense of the word. But my opinions are based on actual facts and my own observations over the past few weeks and months.

Late last year when the rumors of an agreement between and, and began to circulate, speculation among those in the genealogical community who were interested and realized the advantages, centered around the issues of if and when such an agreement were implemented why would they want to do this? The "they" refers of course, to the other three genealogical database programs other than

Now months later, the agreement has been clarified somewhat and it is evidently a fact that at some point in the future registered members of with an LDS account will get free access to the other three online large databases. Apparently, the details of how this will be accomplished have yet to be released or even perhaps worked out. But essentially, a member with an LDS account will be able to sign on for full use of the other three databases using an LDS account login and password.

The real unanswered question is why would the other three large companies do this?

The reason given by FamilySearch for this access is that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have paid for the accumulation of records in the Historical Record Collections and therefore a quid pro quo would require some sort of advantage to the members of the Church. Still, with over 15 million members why would any one of these three large entities want to give all those people "free" access to what are otherwise subscription-based programs?

The key to answering this question, in my opinion, it's quite simple. According to recent statements only about 2.7% of the entire Church population are actively submitting names for Temple work. If this is the case, from my own experience I would guess that only a very small percentage of that number are actively involved in online research. So the actual exposure to additional new members of their online databases by the three large companies is vanishingly small. Reality is that only a microscopically small percentage of the members of the Church are even aware of the existence of this agreement presently and that is unlikely to change in the future.

One digression. I wonder if the percentage of LDS Church members involved with genealogy is greater than that of the general population? Interesting question.

If you want to test whether or not my opinion is valid and you are a member of the Church and are reading this blog post, the next time you are in a Church meeting and have the opportunity simply ask the group how many of the people in the meeting have ever used or know about the website called I ask this question regularly among groups of genealogical interest of people in the United States and find very few are acquainted with the site. Of course, among genealogist you would get a vastly different response, especially in the United States, in asking about You might also get a much higher percentage of awareness of in the UK. But among the general population of the members of the Church awareness of either of these programs is low and use of these programs is very, very low. I am certain that you would get the same reaction if you ask the average congregation in the Church about also.

Will this lack of awareness be overcome by the "free" access to these three online genealogy programs? I doubt that making the programs free will have much impact at all. The programs have already been free in over 4600 FamilySearch Centers around the world. The issue is interest in genealogy, not paid access to a few programs.

Summarizing, the reason why these three large online databases would give free access to the entire membership of the Church is because the impact on their business will be minimal compared to the advantages of adding records to their offerings online.

Now, if you are presently a user of any one of the three programs you will greatly benefit from the agreement by the increased access to's vast collections.

Will the situation concerning the average member's involvement in genealogy change dramatically in the short term? That is the big question. Answering that question and trying to make that involvement increase are also some of the basic reasons why I am writing these blogs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What kinds of information do I include in FamilySearch Family Tree?

I could answer the question in the title of this post very simply; I would add any and all information I have about every single ancestor. Family history is not about any particular quantity of data, it is about adequately and as completely as possible documenting the lives of our ancestors. I guess the question arises in my mind as a result of an experience I had recently that would seem to be totally unrelated.

After returning from #RootsTech 2014, I received an email from a blog reader who was complaining about a problem she was having with She was receiving an excessive number of SmartMatches from an entry on her family tree. Without going into any details, the root of the problem was the way the information was being entered into her family tree. Apparently, she had entered the information as "Mrs. John Jones" using the title "Mrs." as part of the name. The issue was quickly resolved through an extraordinary effort by But the problem raised by the inclusion of extraneous information in a name field applies to all online family trees including's Family Tree.

One example that has been around since the early days of Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is the issue of putting LDS blessing information into a data entry for "christening." it seems obvious, that there are many important differences between an LDS blessing and what is meant by a "christening." However, because the field exists, users commonly used that field to enter LDS blessing information without any further qualification. Usually, this was not a problem but in some instances there would be a question as to whether or not the individual ancestor was christened in another church before joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In short, there is a real question about not only what information should be included in Family Tree but also how that information should be entered.

The real issue here is data integrity. I would maintain that entering a name using the format of "Mrs. John Jones" is very destructive of the overall goal of the project to provide unified family tree. In the past, entering a name in that format was used by members of the Church to do that Temple work without going to the effort of identifying the wife. In some cases, especially at the end of lines, another generation of Temple work was done by identifying the parents of an ancestor as "Mr. Jones" and "Mrs. Jones." Often, this was done mechanically without any evidence whatsoever as to the identity of the parents of the last person in a line. I'm certain that I could go into Family Tree and find many, many similar entries.

I'm sure that the argument exists that these people need to have their Temple worked done and so what is the harm? In reality, this is one of the worst examples of researchers who are concerned merely with the names and dates of their ancestors and have no further interest at all in establishing anything concerning their lives. The interesting thing is that the Family Tree program will readily allow people to enter this minimal type of information and qualify the names for Temple work. Accomplish this all the user has to do is to put in the made-up name, and approximate birthday and enter the death date as "deceased." This of course does not avoid the moral dilemma of the individual submitting such information that the information is correct.

These examples do not even begin to address the real issue of what kinds of information need to be included in the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot of a portion of the pedigree presently showing for one of my remote Tanner ancestors:

 The problem is that the individual marked with the arrow as number one is actually the end of the line and has been for some period of time. I might note, that a distant relative may have discovered actual documentary evidence extending the line into England, but for many years none of the family members have been able to find anyone past the original English immigrant, William Tanner. Now, it may well be that there was a "William Tanner" born in Rhode Island and 1687 with the father named William Tanner born in Great Coggerhall, England in 1660, but there has never been any documentation showing that fact. So all of the information in the large rectangle is entirely fictitious.Here is another screenshot showing the detail of the supposed Henry Tibbets ancestor:

This shows that he was born in Dover Neck, Strafford, New Hampshire in 1635. This is interesting and rather complicated. Let's just say that the historical figure of Henry Tibbets is well-documented as being born in England and living his entire life in New Hampshire. He was never married to anyone named Sarah Stanton. In fact the entries for Henry Tibbets include the following from another screenshot from Family Tree.

In addition, the entries for marriages for Henry Tibbets' father go on for an additional eight marriages. of course, There absolutely no sources attached to support any of this.

Unfortunately, this example which mostly illustrates the accretion of errors over 150 years is neither unique nor uncommon. In fact, it is only through watching certain key ancestors that additional information of this type is prevented from being added to even more recent ancestors.

The types of information that should be added to Family Tree does not include speculation and fiction.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Where does Family History fit into your Ward?

The practical reality of average busy Ward activities is that family history ranks about at the bottom of priorities. If the percentage of people submitting names to the Temples and becoming involved in seeking out their ancestors is to increase, there is going to have to be a major adjustment in the way family history (aka the now forbidden term "genealogy") is integrated into the cultural and social life of a Ward.

We had the good fortune to have seven lovely children. The first five were girls and then we welcomed our two boys. Until the oldest of the two boys turned eight, we did not know that we had been missing one of the major social activities of the Ward: Cub Scout Pack Meeting. As we got older and our children grew, we learned about other parts of the "Ward Family" that we had never experienced, such as every level of the Primary organization. As the girls grew older, we learned about Young Women in Excellence and the entire Young Women's program. We also ultimately learned about the Young Men's program. Each of these eras in our lives opened up new experiences and we learned that those who did not have young children or teenagers were essentially socially excluded from these activities.

As out children matured, we had challenges in Elders' Quorum and Relief Society. My Elder's Quorum activity was cut short quite early when I served in Stake callings for about 12 or so years. My wife had the opportunity of serving in the Relief Society for many years during much of the same time period.

After many years, all of our children were grown and ultimately married and now have their own children. We have now learned to live in a completely different social organization within the Ward; the old people who sit on the back row. Then came callings to serve as Service Missionaries and Temple workers. In all this time, we have yet to find any portion of the social organization of the Church that revolves around family history. Now that we are old, we are both essentially invisible. We do not fit in to any of the "social organization" activities of the Ward. All of our activities such as serving at the Temple or Mesa FamilySearch Library are essentially outside of the Ward organization. I surmise that very few of the members of the Ward recognize that we have callings in the Church.

Now, I am not saying this to complain. I like what I am doing very much. But the reality of a lack of social organization built around a common shared experience of family history is missing entirely from almost all Wards and Stakes. If you are a Family History Consultant, you do not even have any regular meetings to attend and many of the members of the Ward avoid you out of fear that you might speak to them about doing their family history.

What can we do to foster a social support mechanism for family history? One factor preventing this from happening is that in most Wards, family history is treated as just another Sunday School class and an optional one at that. Family history is not viewed as an activity to be promoted week after week. Unlike Home Teaching or other regularly promoted activities, family history reports, discussions and topics do not play a major part in the week-to-week Ward activities. I have sat through many reports on youth and Elders' basketball games, but have yet to hear a regular report on Indexing or other family history activities in any of the Wards I visit.

Members are often reminded of their duty to be involved in a number of activities. Referring to my mention of Home Teaching above, I am fairly certain that I have had admonitions to "do my Home Teaching" in the vast majority of all the Priesthood meetings I have attended for my entire life. I am equally sure that any mention of family history related activities is extremely rare. In saying this, I separate out admonitions to attend the Temple regularly. Unfortunately, regular Temple attendance does not equate to active participation in family history. I do believe there is a direct correlation between this lack of emphasis on family history and the fact that it is considered to be a "program" rather than a fundamental religious responsibility that limits the number of active participants in any given Ward.

A first step, in establishing family history as a basic activity would be to provide adequate space and support for the existing Family History Consultants in the Ward. Another step, would be to require that the Family History Consultants hold a family history related activity every week. This would establish family history as a valid and supported organization within the Ward. Some of the buildings housing the Wards throughout the Church, like physical facilities such as a room with computers. In these cases, the Family History Consultants could organize individuals who were willing to bring their laptop computers to church each week. A room could then be designated for family history during Sunday School.

A major step in integrating family history into the Ward activities would be to include the Family History Consultants as the Bishop deems necessary, in the Ward Council. Presently, the High Priest Group Leader has the sole responsibility for coordinating with the Family History Consultants. No matter how enthusiastic the Family History Consultants are about doing their job without support from the High Priest Group Leader, the Family History Consultants are entirely isolated from the rest of the Ward.

It is my belief, that if some of these very, seemingly superficial, changes were made there would be an opportunity for family history to establish itself within the social network of the individual Wards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Wilford Woodruff

President Wilford Woodruff's name is inseparably connected with genealogy and family history through the revelations he received concerning work for the dead while he was at the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My daughter wrote a post for The Keepapitchinin Blog back on 22 October 2013 entitled "Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff's Vision of the Founding Fathers" in which she summarizes the story and responds to some of the criticisms of the story. President Woodruff had a pivotal influence on the direction Temple work took in the Church. 

This is a longer quote from President Woodruff as he spoke in the Salt Lake City Tebernacle on 16 September 1877:
We have labored in the St. George Temple since January, and we have done all we could there; and the Lord has stirred up our minds, and many things have been revealed to us concerning the dead. President Young has said to us, and it is verily so, if the dead could they would speak in language loud as ten thousand thunders, calling upon the servants of God to rise up and build Temples, magnify their calling and redeem their dead. This doubtless sounds strange to those present who believe not the faith and doctrine of the Latter-day Saints; but when we get to the spirit-world we will find out that all that God has revealed is true. We will find, too, that everything there is reality, and that God has a body, parts and passions, and the erroneous ideas that exist now with regard to him will have passed away. 1 feel to say little else to the Latter-day Saints wherever and whenever I have the opportunity of speaking to them, than to call upon them to build these Temples now under way, to hurry them up to completion. The dead will be after you, they will seek after you as they have after us in St. George. They called upon us, knowing that we held the keys and power to redeem them.

I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, "You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing lias ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God." These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.

I have felt to rejoice exceedingly in this work of redeeming the dead. I do not wonder at President Young saying he felt moved upon to call upon the Latter-day Saints to hurry up the building of these Temples. He felt the importance of the work; but now he has gone, it rests with us to continue it, and God will bless our labors and we will have joy therein. This is a preparation necessary for the second advent of the Savior; and when we shall have built the Temples now contemplated. we will then begin to see the necessity of building others, for in proportion to the diligence of our labors in this direction, will we comprehend the extent of the work to be done, and the present is only a beginning. When the Savior comes, a thousand years will be devoted to this work of redemption; and Temples will appear all over this land of Joseph, —North and South America—and also in Europe and elsewhere; and all the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth who received not the Gospel in the flesh, must be officiated for in the Temples of God, before the Savior can present the kingdom to the Father, saying, "It is finished.''

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What is Indexing's Priority?

In a recent blog post, the CEO of FamilySearch, Dennis Brimhall wrote a post entitled, "Where Does Indexing Fit?" He points out that:

Indexing can’t be separated from the rest of family history any more than you can pick up one end of a stick and not the other. They are inseparably connected to one another in a continuous cycle of family history opportunities, which turns our hearts to our ancestors and leads to the ordinances of the temple.
 He goes on to quote Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
To truly understand this principle, it is instructive to listen to the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles spoken during the worldwide leadership broadcast in 2011:

“There's one work,” he explained. “Missionary work is proclaiming the gospel to people who are not yet under covenant. Redeeming the dead is providing ordinances and covenants. Perfecting the saints is the work of inviting people to honor ordinances and covenants. The same work in different spheres, but it's all one work.”
I would note that a significant number of the Historical Record Collections are "image only" and that of the 33 collections uploaded in the past week, 21 of the collections were "Browse Only" meaning they have only images and no indexes. In addition, many of the others are only partially indexed. Without indexes, the records are "invisible" to a name search. Each of the "Browse Only" record collections have to be examined page-by-page. In oder to make all of these records available to be searched, the indexes are absolutely necessary.

Of course, the indexes are not the end of any search. It is always a much better method of searching for ancestors to spend the time necessary to examine the original records when they are available. I recommend reading and sharing the article by Dennis Brimhall.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Preserve your Photos and Family Memories

Another very touching video from FamilySearch. This is a good introductory video to a lesson or presentation. Enjoy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

What does it mean to be FamilySearch Certified?

A FamilySearch Certified Program is one where the programmers have made an agreement with FamilySearch allowing them to access data on the website in some fashion. The information concerning which programs are certified is contained on the FamilySearch Products Page. Except for periodic announcements there is really no other place to go to obtain the information concerning which products are and which products are not currently FamilySearch Certified. The various levels of certification are as follows:

Tree Shareor Tree Share (full tree read and write)—Certified to read and write Family Tree data to match, compare, and modify records. Also includes required certification for sources, discussions, change history, and interaction with community members.
Tree Accessor Tree Access (tree read only)—Certified to read Family Tree data to analyze, display, or print family history reports and charts.
Sourcesor Sources (Tree Access or Tree Share required)—Certified to read Family Tree data allowing user to match and reference online “sources’ such as records, photos, documents, and media that provide evidence of events and relationships.
Discussionsor Discussions (Tree Access or Tree Share required)—Certified to read, write, and comment on discussion threads for individual records in Family Tree.
Change Historyor Change History (Tree Access or Tree Share required)—Certified to read and list changes made by contributors to the Family Tree, sources, and discussions.
LDS Supportor LDS Support (Tree Access or Tree Share required)—Certified that specific data and features for ‘LDS members only’ can only be accessed when the user is appropriately logged in to FamilySearch. Tree Access Certification is necessary for reading ordinance information. Tree Share Certification is necessary for requesting, changing, sharing, and printing Family Ordinance Requests (FORs).

Unless you have been using a FamilySearch Certified program, most of the distinctions between the various categories of programs may not mean a whole lot. Once you get into using the programs the distinctions become rather clear. If you refer to the page linked above, you will find the current list of Certified Products but bear in mind that the list changes as new programs are added or older programs are removed. You should also bear in mind that listing the programs on the product page does not constitute any kind of endorsement that the program will either function as you expect it to or even do what is claimed. I am not usually inclined to do program reviews for a variety of reasons but I can say that there are some programs which I think are invaluable and others which I hope not particularly interested in. Before purchasing a program you should always carefully review not only the claims made by the developers, but also product reviews if any of them are available from actual users of the program. This suggestion does not only apply to FamilySearch Certified Programs but to any software program that you purchase for your own use.

Changing your FamilySearch Public Account to an LDS Member Account

In a recent blog post Steve Anderson of gave some basic instructions about how to go about changing a FamilySearch Public account to an LDS Member Account. It should be noted that the way FamilySearch designates these accounts has changed from time to time.It appears that the current name for people who obtain an account who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are referred to as having an "LDS Member Account" and those who are not members of the Church now have what is called an "FamilySearch Public Account."
The article is entitled "Change a FamilySearch Public Account to an LDS Member Account." The post sets forth a number of reasons why this might be needed:
  • I registered for a FamilySearch account when I was not a member of the Church and have since been baptized.
  • I registered for a FamilySearch account without my membership number.
  • How can I update my FamilySearch account to add my membership number?
  • Can I change my FamilySearch public account to an LDS account?
  • When trying to log in to the new FamilySearch, I am getting the error: “Your account is not ready.”
  • I have been registered and using new FamilySearch fine, but now when I attempt to sign in, I get the message new FamilySearch is not available in your area.
Users typically do not have a LDS member account if:
  • During the registration process, they indicated that they were not a member of the LDS Church.
  • When creating a LDS member account, they indicate that they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint but did not provide their membership number. This is often the case when they don’t have their membership number with them at the time they create their account and they don’t want to wait until they have that information to create an account.
The article goes on to explain how the process works in changing an account from a FamilySearch Public Account to an LDS Member Account. Please see the article for the full explanation.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The End of the Green Arrow Harvest -- real research in genealogy begins

One of the hallmarks of the program was the ability of users to generate Temple ordinances by "looking for green arrows." From the very inception of the program it was possible to mine the program for green arrows, even though nearly all of the individuals marked with green arrows had already had their ordinances performed. In fact, there was often no practical way in the program to tell whether or not an individual indicated by a green arrow was legitimately a candidate for Temple work or merely a duplicate with all of the ordinances previously done.

Many of the people who were using the program got the impression that was a "rich source" of potential candidates for Temple ordinances. Fortunately, has been made read-only. Unfortunately, many of the people who have the impression that they could mine green arrows from the program have carried over that attitude to the Family Tree program. The basic premise underlying this attitude is that somehow there are vast numbers of people in the Family Tree program who are waiting to have their ordinances done. This attitude is based on an absolutely false premise.

Let's examine for a moment the origin of the names presently in FamilySearch Family Tree. was originally seeded with data from five different sources; the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, the Pedigree Resource File, Church membership records and Church Temple records. Unfortunately, combining all of these sources of information resulted in a monumental problem of duplicate information. Additionally, the program did not allow the users to change any of the information in the file and errors and duplicate information proliferated. Whenever a change was made to the file, the older, sometimes incorrect, information was preserved along with the correction. Some of the individuals in the file ended up with hundreds of duplicates. These duplicates came, not only from the original database, but also from additional records added by the users of the program. The unfortunate results was that any particular individual in the program could have a copy showing completed Temple ordinances while at the same time having several copies where the ordinances were missing. So, anyone wanting to do additional Temple ordinances only had to go to the program, click back through their family tree, and "harvest" the individuals with incomplete ordinances indicated by green arrows. Another fatal flaw of the program was that searching for duplicates did not solve the problem. All the user had to do to duplicate that Temple work was to indicate that the matches that were found or not the same person. Many people also had (and have) the impression that the Temple work had to be redone even if there were small spelling errors or even capitalization errors in the names found of the program.

I could go on and on describing the abuses that were facilitated by But now we will move forward to the present program, Family Tree. Guess what? The new program also has green arrows. Fortunately, in nearly every instance, the green arrows in the present programs only indicate a lack of information rather than an automatic availability of Temple ordinances.

If you go back to my statements above concerning the composition of the original files that were dumped into, you will see why there are no or very few candidates for Temple ordinances in the data. Each of the components of the original program came from submissions where the Temple work was already performed or unnecessary. Unless the individuals using the program actually did additional genealogical research and entered the names into the program for the first time somehow avoiding duplication, there was no basis for a reasonable belief that the work was not being duplicated.

During the past few years I have constantly heard about challenges made by Church leaders urging the members of their Ward or Stake to have a name or names to take to the Temple within a certain time period. In some instances, the time specified has been as short as a week. The myth that there is somehow a huge reservoir of names available in and now in family search Family Tree is so persistent that both the leaders and the members believe it implicitly. For members of the Church who are diligently seeking their ancestral lines, these sorts of challenges are highly frustrating and very discouraging. For the rest of the members, who never done any genealogical research at all, the challenges are virtually impossible.

When I first began using, I found literally hundreds of green arrows. In every single case, I already knew that the Temple work and been done because I had reviewed my files extensively and done the work during the previous 15 or 20 years. Today, the duplication in Family Tree still exists to some extent. Fortunately, the program is structured to avoid most of the egregious problems experienced with But the impression that somehow the members can simply harvest green arrows persists.

The harvest is over. In the previous program it was extremely easy to generate names to take to the Temple simply by making slight changes to the names of individuals and resubmitting them for Temple work. In FamilySearch Family Tree there are still ways for dishonest people to create duplicate names to take to the Temple. I am not going to tell you how to do that. Suffice it to say, but the problem, although greatly reduced, is still with us.

In a recent article and another statements made during the recent RootsTech conference, it has been noted that only a small percentage of the current membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have entered their four generation pedigrees into Family Tree. There is an assumption that if the members entered their four generation pedigrees, it would generate a significant amount of Temple work. This may or may not be the case. Presently, many of the missing entries in Family Tree are simply missing because the members have not connected themselves to existing family lines. During a recent activity where I personally sat down with the majority of the members of my Ward and reviewed with them their personal information in Family Tree, I found a very small percentage who were actually missing there four generations after we connected them to existing people in the Family Tree.

It is certainly true, that we need to come up with new ways to involve the members of the Church in researching and seeking after their dead. But any such efforts should not involved massive duplication of Temple work facilitated by the program. Let's stop looking for green arrows and start verifying and sourcing the information and using the tools that we have available such as that will help us find where the work actually needs to be done.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Think you have all your genealogy done? Try is prominently featured on the startup page of Here is a screenshot of the page:

The program will become much better known for its fantastic designs that it produces from the data in Family Tree.

Quite simply, if you think that all of your genealogy has been "done" by some relative or another, you are sadly mistaken and, will prove you wrong in just few easy steps. I need to point out some conditions that apply to this program before you even get started:

  • only works with's Family Tree program. You must be a registered user of Family Tree to have the program work.
  • You need to understand what the program is and is not showing you. What you are being shown is data that comes from Family Tree. If the Family Tree is inaccurate, the results in will also be inaccurate. 
  • If your family tree information the Family Tree programs appears to be "complete" you need to go back one or two or more generations. The program works best if you go back a least one generation past the first ancestors to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
If you follow these guidelines, you will quickly see how powerful this program is for addressing the issue of thinking all the work "has been done" on all my lines. 

Just in case you think I do not know what I am talking about. Here is a pedigree chart showing my Family Tree file for 9 generations. The oldest ancestors on this chart were born in the early 1600s. 

If you had the actual program, you could see I have some potential work on some few lines even from this chart. In case you are wondering the first dead end is six generations back in the 1700s in Wales. 

Please take time to watch the instructional videos. The videos are located under the "How To" menu at the top of the screen. 

I will conclude by saying this, if you are working on taking names to the Temple and you aren't using, you aren't doing your genealogy to the fullest extent your could be.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What can we do to help Church members find their ancestors?

An article published in the Deseret News for 10 February 2014 entitled, "Help all Church members find their ancestors" by R. Scott Lloyd, warrants some comments.

As Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Chairman of the Board of Directors of FamilySearch, points out and quoted from the article:
Past approaches in the Church have resulted in less than 3 percent of members submitting names of ancestors for temple ordinance work, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy said Feb. 8 at a session of the RootsTech family history conference in Salt Lake City. 
To reach the other 97 percent, we need to change how we think, how we teach, and what we teach,” he said. “The 97 percent need to be a priority for priesthood leaders and they are a priority for the [Family History] Department.
This challenge is one of the primary reasons I have started this particular genealogy blog aimed at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I whole-heartedly agree with Elder Packer, we need to change how we think, how we teach, and what we teach.  The structure for implementing a change is already present in the handbooks of the Church. What is primarily lacking is support from the leaders at the very local level. Genealogy or Family History is not a priority in many Wards and Stakes. Very little or no training is offered to newly called High Councilors, Bishops, High Priests Group Leaders, and Ward Family History Consultants.

As Elder Packer further noted:
These numbers are a cry for change,” Elder Packer said regarding the statistics he cited, though he did say he was happy to report progress. “In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17% over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members,” he said.

But he supported the call for improvement by noting that in the United States, 25 percent of Church members do not have four generations of ancestors in the “FamilyTree” section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Internationally, 70 percent of members don’t have both parents in FamilyTree, 90 percent don’t have their grandparents in it, and 95 percent don’t have their great-grandparents included.
I have experienced the conditions and attitudes that contribute to this lack of overall progress personally and directly. I have repeatedly been refused by leaders to teach or speak about Family History or even mention it in meetings. In traveling around the United States and visiting many Wards as well as while serving in the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I have been told the same story over and over by Family History Consultants how they are frustrated at the lack of support, lack of training and lack of opportunity to do their jobs.

Elder Packer addressed these issues in his suggestions to Priesthood leaders:
He gave seven “proven tips” learned from a survey of bishops. The survey indicated that where wards were applying five of the following seven factors, the rate of temple activity was double that of the average ward. The tips are to make the “To Turn the Heart” guidebook a core of the ward plan; to call youth as family history consultants; to have three or more family history consultants in the ward; to have youth take family names on temple trips; to have consultants help members at least monthly; to have consultants meet with priesthood leaders at least monthly; and to have consultants help new converts at least monthly.
I have repeatedly expressed my willingness to Stake and Ward leaders to train both the Family History Consultants and Ward and Stake Indexing leaders and have never been asked to teach except at 5th Sunday meetings in my own Ward. Only by opening a room during Sunday School or at other times and voluntarily teaching, often even without the leaders of the Ward realizing what is going on, have we been able to help members submit hundreds of names for Temple work. Family History Consultants and those who know both how to use computers and how to research their ancestors, need to be asked to teach others on a one-to-one basis and then given the opportunity and facilities to do so. Leaders need to realize that the work for the dead is not "just another Ward or Stake program."

Just during the past two weeks, I attended a Ward where a Family History Class was held in a class during Sunday School. The members of the class brought their own computers and set up tables during the class to work on their family history. The problem was that there was no one there in the class with the training to help those who came. Only a few of the class members even knew that RootsTech 2014 was going on just a few miles to the north of their building. None of them had watched any sessions of the Conference. The Family History Consultant was trying hard but had almost no support in her calling. This is sadly typical of what I find around the United States.

As Elder Packer states, we need to change.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Free Access to et al. -- The Official Statement

The details of the agreements, as far as they affect members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made between and, and have been openly explained, as far as they go, in a blog post from FamilySearch. I will be making some additional comments about this situation in the very near future. I suggest that if you read this, you send this post to as many of the leaders and members, especially directors of FamilySearch Centers you know or can to make this known.

Here is what has been said so far:

On February 4, 2014, FamilySearch distributed an infographic that illustrates our commitment to working collaboratively with select commercial family history companies and the family history community at large to put the world’s historical records online in one generation. This is a noble task that cannot be accomplished without the help of industry leaders such as,, findmypast, Fold3 and MyHeritage. We are excited for what these long-term agreements will mean to millions of people worldwide who are looking to discover their ancestors and share their family memories.

Access to commercial family history websites in addition to has been available for many years at more than 4,700 FamilySearch-owned family history center libraries and centers worldwide. and findmypast will continue to offer free access to all patrons of these centers. MyHeritage will also offer free access to their site sometime in late 2014. FamilySearch is pleased that these companies allow patrons access to unprecedented records collections and research tools at no cost.

In addition to free access for all patrons at FamilySearch-owned family history centers and libraries, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will also receive free access to,, and Starting in mid-2014, members will begin receiving individual invitations by email to create free personal accounts on any and all of these sites. Those who have existing paid subscriptions with any of these companies will be given the option to convert their accounts to a free version when they receive their email invitation. Additional communications concerning broader access to these sites for all LDS members will be made as needed.

By working collaboratively, we hope to empower people globally to share their family memories and save them for future generations. We are happy to continue to further our relationship with these key industry players and provide access to more records and innovative technologies for the genealogical community at large.
I should note that and are owned by  The details of how this all works will undoubtedly be forthcoming. Please do not call or contact FamilySearch or any of the other entities about the details. They will not answer questions at this time. Wait until the information is released in due time. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stephanie Nielson: Everyone Has A Story #RootsTech 2014

We have been following Stephanie Nielson for some time, ever since her accident. She lives in my daughter's Stake and my wife has been reading her blog. She has a tremendous story to tell of faith and courage. This is an interview that was done at RootsTech 2014. I will be posting other videos in the days that come.

Friday, February 7, 2014

#RootsTech 2014 -- This is one of the best videos from RootsTech

This is one of the nicest and most touching videos from the RootsTech 2014 Conference. It was shown before both Keynote sessions on Thursday and Friday. I love this video.

#RootsTech -- How will the FamilySearch Agreements work for Members?

The main issue being discussed at RootsTech 2014 is the set of agreements between and the other three large online genealogy companies:, and Presently, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no different status in becoming members or users of the other three large databases, that is, they must pay like anyone else. Of course, is free to everyone. Part of the consideration by all four entities has been the availability of records around the world. The Church began microfilming records back in 1938 and some of those microfilmed records are now irreplaceable. The records in the Church's archives also cover many countries of the world that are not presently represented by online records.

The Church's interest, through FamilySearch, a wholly owned subsidiary, is to make as many records available as possible to the people of the world, regardless of their membership in the Church. Unfortunately, many people, even those involved in genealogy, are not aware of the tremendous number of records available through Another related issue is the fact that most of the existing records already digitized and of those waiting digitization are yet to indexed.

The agreements with the three other large online companies helps to solve some of these problems. The agreement with for instance, provides that will help with monetary support of the ongoing Indexing Program enabling the records to indexed faster. At the same time each of three other companies will receive access to all of the existing records. However, through individual agreements, future records or access to some of the existing records will be limited by the agreements so that each of the entities may have unique access to some records. On the other hand, because the members of the Church have jointly paid for all these records, they will be given free access to each of the three other companies' records through their LDS account.

That's what is going on in a nutshell as far as I understand it today. There is no announced timetable for all this to happen and I expect the programmers are still scrambling to write the programs that will allow all this to happen. There is no need to try and contact any of the companies, especially FamilySearch, because they are not going to know when the agreements are ready to go public until they are ready. So don't call or contact them about these agreements.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

#RootsTech 2014 -- The #InnovatorSummit and member access to et al.

Today is the first day of RootsTech 2014. Most of my reporting will be on my Genealogy's Star blog. But I will try to make a few comments here on this blog about things that may impact members of the Church directly.

I have asked repeated about the rumored ability of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have access to, and Don Anderson, Senior Vice President of Patron Services for FamilySearch, formally announced that members will have free full subscriptions to all three of these databases. But the timing for this is not yet announced. The access is expected to happen "later this year." Do not call FamilySearch and ask. They will announce the date when this is possible and when it happens.

Don explained that members would be able to use, and MyHeritage in their research with access to the FamilySearch Family Tree. He mentioned "collaborative family trees."

I am sure there will be a lot more said and written about this subject before it becomes completely explained and a date is set for the transition. I repeat, do not call FamilySearch about this subject. They will not tell you anything more than I have already said.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#RootsTech -- The Impact on Family History in the LDS Church

What will be the impact of the comparatively large RootsTech 2014 Conference on the role of family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? First, as a side note, let me explain something about why I use the full name of the Church in my blog posts. The Church's Newsroom which is the official resource for news media, opinion leaders and the public, has a style guide for writing about the Church. The suggested rules are as follows:
  • In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
  • Please avoid the use of "Mormon Church," "LDS Church" or the "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged.
  • When referring to Church members, the term "Latter-day Saints" is preferred, though "Mormons" is acceptable.
  • "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as "Mormon pioneers."
  • The term "Mormonism" is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms "Mormons," "Mormon fundamentalist," "Mormon dissidents," etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: "The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death."
OK, now with that said, the question is about the impact of the series of RootsTech Conferences on family history in the Church. First, the average member has had little or no contact with the previous conferences. With more than 14 million members, having a few thousand attend any one conference ind Salt Lake City is not a shared experience. By comparison, the Church's Semi-annual General Conference is held in the Conference Center, just north of Temple Square. The building seats abut 20,000 people and is almost completely filled for each of the five regular General Conference sessions. The General Conference is broadcast all over the world. Notwithstanding this huge coverage, there are still many members of the Church who miss most or all of the Conference sessions due to work or lack of interest.

Now, RootsTech 2014 is aimed at the general Church population but reaches only a very small percentage of the entire Church population; those who are actively involved in family history or genealogy. Efforts to broaden the impact through involvement of celebrities from outside of the genealogical community and other publicity efforts have been effective in the Salt Lake metropolitan area to raise awareness of the Conference but generally, through out the Church, very, very few members have yet to hear about the existence of the Conference. This will likely change beginning with the broadcasts and re-broadcasts of 44 of the class sessions in over 600 Stakes worldwide. But we will have to wait to see if this is really the case.

I think that RootsTech is a fabulous opportunity for all those who attend. Up until now, the genealogical community both inside and outside the Church has been marginalized. Efforts by the large genealogy companies, such as all of the ads by, have had an amazing impact on the awareness of people generally about genealogy. RootsTech will certainly add to the general perception that genealogy is an accepted pursuit for more than just old, retired people. But when I attended a Ward in Provo, Utah this past Sunday and went to a family history class, few of the participants had heard anything at all about RootsTech and in fact the announcement that was made to the class was incorrect and I had to correct what was said.

It is almost always the case that from small things there can be large changes. RootsTech is like a seed being planted that can, with the proper nurture, turn into a large tree. But that will take time and there are a lot of people whose attitude towards family history will have to take a dramatic change.

I applaud the efforts of the entire RootsTech team and especially those from FamilySearch who have provided this tremendous opportunity to learn and interact with genealogists and other interested, from all over the world.