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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What is FamilySearch? Where did it come from?

FamilySearch is a corporate entity entirely owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The name of the corporation is FamilySearch International. However the name "FamilySearch" is also the DBA (doing business as) of the Genealogical Society of Utah. I would guess that you could consider FamilySearch to be the successor in interest to the Genealogical Society of Utah which was established in 1894. The GSU is an incorporated, nonprofit educational institution entirely funded by the Church. Its headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA with local representatives in all parts of the world.

Quoting from the Research Wiki:
In the 1990's, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expanded the Genealogical Society of Utah and it eventually became known as FamilySearch. During the 1990's, Monte J. Brough, a General Authority and Executive Director of the Family History Department and president of the Genealogical Society of Utah, conceived of an Internet genealogy service which he proposed to church leaders. His ideas eventually developed into what today is known as In 1999, the new website,, went live, providing an online medium for making genealogical records easily available to the public anywhere in the world at no cost.
Now quoting from Archives:
FamilySearch has partnered in this effort with more than 10,000 archives and more than 200,000 volunteers worldwide. Together, we create and preserve archival-quality images and indexes and make them freely available to millions of people looking for information about their ancestors. 
FamilySearch works together with records custodians to help them provide timely, economic, secure, and broad access to their records while maintaining access control and identity. The collections of FamilySearch include documents such as civil registration records; church records; and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.
At the core of the activities of FamilySearch is their image acquisition and storage. Back in 1938 the GSU pioneered the use of microfilm and began filming records from archives and other repositories around the world. In 1998, FamilySearch transitioned to using digital imaging technology and began working on equipment that would digitized the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm stored in the Granite Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, the acquisition of records was transitioned to digital copies. Presently, hundreds of image acquisition missionaries are working around the world sending millions of digital images to FamilySearch for incorporation in the Historical Record Collections.

As records were uploaded online, there was a need to develop indexes of the information contained in the images. FamilySearch has sponsored a huge worldwide Indexing effort employing more than 100,000 volunteers. Over a billion records have been indexed so far and many millions more are in progress.

In October of 2013, FamilySearch announce strategic partnerships with three large online database companies,, and These partnerships will greatly expand the use of the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections. is a hugely popular and complex website with a tremendous variety of products supporting the genealogical community worldwide. One part of the website is dedicated to the Research Wiki, a free online genealogical resource with over 77,000 pages of helpful information about where and how to do research.

FamilySearch is also involved in the management and maintenance of the world famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and over 4,600 FamilySearch Centers around the world.

The transition from name gathering to research

One of the most maligned activities in the genealogy community involves the practice of "name gathering." Notwithstanding its undesirable reputation, name gathering is very, very common. It is not unusual at all, especially in the realm of online family trees. The hallmark of the name gatherer is a pedigree back to Charlemagne or even Adam. This fact is usually bragged about with pride as if this were a laudable goal.

Name gathering is commonly defined as the process of finding additions to a pedigree based on little or no evidence other that individuals with the same or very similar names. The practice also involves copying or incorporating entire pedigrees with very little or no documentation or sources. Defined most inclusively, genealogical sources are documents created at or near the time of an event that provide information about an ancestor's involvement. For example, a birth certificate is a document that is usually considered to be a source. Of course, there are a huge number of additional considerations concerning evaluating source documents for consistency, accuracy and pertinence.

In some cases, name gathering becomes an end in itself and the name gatherers spend all their time amassing huge files of a 100,000 individuals or more. That is not to say that conscientious researchers cannot amass a huge file, but any pedigree that is created without reliable and accessible sources is subject to suspicion.

Name gatherers can be insidious, gathering names from relatives, books, and other places in addition to copying online family trees. It is not the process of adding names that is the problem, it is adding them without any substantiation whatsoever. Unfortunately, this practice is not limited to newly minted genealogists, it is very often found in those with a long time habit. One way name gatherers work is to add anyone with the same surname from the same general location as an existing ancestor. They do this under the assumption that anyone with the same surname from a small town or area was likely related.

Very infrequently, a name gatherer realizes the limitations of what they are accomplishing and how misleading their information may be and decides to do some research to see whether or not what they have accumulated is reasonable or not. This change is very difficult for a confirmed name gatherer because it may involve severely pruning their family tree.

Competent research genealogy is the antithesis of name gathering. A good genealogist would not add a new family member to their pedigree without a substantiating reliable source and even with a source there would be other considerations heretofore unmentioned. I have never been too successful in converting a dedicated name gatherer into a source-centric researcher. Usually, if they realize the futility of what they are doing, they are devastated and abandon genealogy altogether.

Genealogical research involves the research cycle, but also presupposes that names and events are not added to a family without specific documentation or reasoned analysis. Application of the Genealogical Proof Standard usually eradicates the problem.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE: FamilySearch is Corrupting Sourced Entries; Needs to Stop IMMEDIATELY

Note: There have been some updates to this whole story. Please check out Amy's latest comments on the blog post linked below.

This was written by my daughter Amy in her blog TheAncestorFiles. I agree completely. This sort of action invalidates the entire Family Tree. If this continues, the Family Tree program will be essentially useless to real researchers. The problem does not stop with what Amy has pointed out. What I found last night was that I could not enter the corrected information at all. Here is Amy's blog post in its entirety:

As far as we can tell, FamilySearch is employing a battalion of volunteers to go in and corrupt sourced entries on Family Tree.

Named people are migrating data from the old NewFamilySearch by hand. Instead of a carefully and thoroughly sourced entry, these sources now look like this:

Basically, most or all of the sources have been stripped from an entry and replaced with nonsense.

For example, if I had added a census source and created a citation and copied the information out of the census about family members and the pertinent data contained in the census, now it looks something like this:

No data. Just nonsense.

In the case of George Jarvis (LWYL-M7G), his entry had been carefully and thoroughly sourced by myself, noted genealogy lecturer James Tanner, and many devoted members of the Jarvis family including Sharon Simnitt, Danelle Curtis, and family website manager Mark Jarvis.

A few of us have been trying to correct the mess, but there does not seem to be any way to restore the previous contents of the Sources and the entry is so corrupted that it could take months to get it back to where it was before FamilySearch started making corrupting the data.

This is outrageous. It is compromising any reputation FamilySearch had left with the serious genealogical community. It is compromising its integrity. It is compromising the trust I had that my work will be preserved, and if changes were made by other family members, we could negotiate and come to a reasonable conclusion.

This is not a case of what Ron Tanner at FamilySearch calls "my-tree-itis." This is clear cutting of the virgin forest.

Fix this problem immediately, FamilySearch.

End of Amy's post.

If you want to see this for yourself, you can enter George Jarvis' ID number into the program and see the entries. This is not just a minor issue. It is a deal breaker. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Challenge of the FamilySearch Agreements with, and

I had the privilege last night of presenting to a large audience composed of mainly Family History Consultants and Priesthood Leaders from 26 Stakes in the Phoenix area. At the beginning of the presentation, I asked for a show of hands of how many of the over 100 people in attendance had used or knew about The reason for asking this question is evident. is one of the three major online subscription genealogical database programs that are being made available to Church members for free beginning in the summer of 2014. The positive response was slightly more than I expected; there were probably 10 people that raised their hands and knew about the program.

Why is this a challenge? Mainly because the people at this presentation were nominally interested in genealogy and because free access to all three of these programs is a huge benefit to researchers. The challenge lies in educating 15 million members of the Church to the benefits of using these three programs when only a microscopically small number use the already available FamilySearch program. It is also a challenge to support and train those who find out about the "free" access and can't figure out what to do with the programs. Think about it. Do you know how to explain to someone how to make a GEDCOM file from the information in Family Tree? Do you know why this would or would not be a good idea? Do you know how to upload that GEDCOM file, assuming you could make one, to any one of the three online database programs? Do you know how long it takes to explain to someone how to use or or Can you answer questions about why any one of the three programs might not work with your own particular database? Do you know where to go to get help?

The director of the meeting last night had a Beta version of access to all three programs up and running. He said there were a few "minor" problems, but he is an expert online genealogist. If he had any trouble, what is the average "never heard of the programs before" type person going to do? How are the rest of us going to help them? Do you see a challenge here?

Because of my visibility after RootsTech 2013 with the program, I have spent a whole lot of time answering questions and supporting the program. If I were to rank the difficulty of on a scale of 1 to 10 with Adobe Photoshop being 10, the most complicated, I would rate it, at most, 2. It has over 70 million users world-wide. But members of the Church generally will never have heard of the program and will have a huge spread of different levels of computer knowledge and sophistication. Are you ready to handle all this? How much frustration can you take before you check out of the system?

I will do what I can to help. I am still hoping to find a collaborator for making instructional videos when I am in Utah Valley. I will be glad to help anyone with the transition and I will keep posting to both blogs as much as I can of helps as I find out about them and make them available. Good Luck.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why aren't more LDS members involved in Family History? Part One, Defining the Problem

Let's confront this issue directly. As I recently noted in a post, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy was quoted in a Church News articles on 10 February 2014 as saying:
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.” 
Elder Packer spoke in a session primarily for ward and stake priesthood leaders; and family history advisers, consultants and center directors, as a part of Family Discovery Day, a component of RootsTech geared toward Church members. 
In addition to attendees at the Salt Palace Convention Center, the session was viewed live via Internet or will be seen later by Church members in some 600 stakes holding family history fairs. 
“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.
Why aren't more members of the Church involved in family history? From my own observation and experience, I am certain that this question has been asked again and again at all levels of the Church. I have thought a lot about this issue and I would make the following observations that constitute obstacles to wider involvement of the members of the Church in compiling their own family history.

This is the first in a series of posts addressing these fundamental issues of involvement in genealogy and family history.

First, it seems easy to offer solutions for the problem before outlining and analyzing the nature of the problem. Problem solving is a very common issue. For example, there is a website called the Community Tool Box sponsored by the University of Kansas. They have produced a very detailed set of instructions on how to effectuate social change. The Community Tool Box is a service of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. Unfortunately, they, like so many other university sponsored groups, are apparently preoccupied with credit for their work to the point that they limit the use of the material to such a great extent, you really can't figure out what you can and cannot do with their product without violating their copyright claims. They have a prominently displayed statement that their materials are "Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License." But also have a whole page of restrictions on the use. This is not helpful. So I won't try to use their materials in this context, but I suggest anyone interested in solving the problem of member involvement in genealogy might want to review the process of solving such problems.

There are two fundamental concerns. First, what exactly is the problem? Second, Why is the problem occurring? In the context of member involvement in family history, it seems easy to state the problem. But I think the problem has yet to be stated. The fact that members of the Church do not participate more in genealogy and family history is not the problem it is the results of many underlying problems. There are whole categories of problems and no one solution, no matter how emotionally appealing will solve all of those underlying problems. For example, using stories and photos etc. to involve members in family history is seen as a solution to the problem of lack of involvement. But, in fact, stories and photos are only a possible solution to a very small part of the overall problem. Although the participation of members in adding photos and stories is laudable, it does not address the ultimate problem of creating opportunities for members to find family members and provide information about individuals needing Temple work. Why is this the case? Because having people add photos and stories to does not address the underlying problems of doing the research to find additional family members. The activity is just another motivating factor not a solution to all the other problems.

In most Wards throughout the Church and for many years, involving people with family history has been almost exclusively considered to be a "motivational" issue. The instructional materials including the DVDs and manuals have focused on teaching the reasons why we do family history. In this sense, adding photos and stories, the most recent motivational program, is doing the same thing. Is the motivation of members the problem that prevents them from becoming more involved in family history? From my own experience, I would say that in most cases motivation is not the issue. Almost everyone I talk to about family history in the Church quickly acknowledges that they "need to do their family history." Many of these same people go to the Temple regularly and are very much involved in all aspects of the Church's programs except family history. The underlying assumption of having a program such as photos and stories assumes that the members will somehow "catch the Spirit" from this involvement and go on to do family history work. Why then have I yet to see anyone who has uploaded photos or even just seen them online, take the initiative to begin family history research. Why did I become involved in genealogy long before computers and long before the idea of sharing my photos and stories with others was even possible?

As I see it, the problem begins with the position family history occupies in the culture of the Church. The next level of problem is the attitude that family history is "easy" and can be done by everyone. Involved in this attitude is the assumption that once a person is motivated they can "do their family history." To this end there are hundreds of educations helps and references online and in print telling people how to "do their family history." Unfortunately the lack of such material is not the problem. The problem is much deeper than that.

Time to quit for this post. I will continue these ideas in subsequent posts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why all the talk about, and

I am reasonably sure that the vast majority of the members of the Church are totally unaware of the changes that are coming to the online genealogy world. Here is the latest word from a blog post dated 28 March 2014 by Lynne C. VanWagenen entitled "Update: LDS Member Access to Partner Family History Websites."
This February at RootsTech, FamilySearch announced that Church members would receive free access to, and Currently, we are testing this process internally so that we can ensure a smooth and simple experience for you in creating these free accounts. 
In the next few months, we will begin a limited rollout. Once this limited rollout begins, selected patrons will receive an individual email invitation that lets them create accounts with each partner. Family history consultants and family history center directors and staff will be among the first to receive these invitations. 
If the limited rollout goes well, we anticipate that all members of the Church will receive this free access in late summer or early fall. 
Family history centers will continue to provide free access to commercial family history websites to the general public. Currently, and findmypast offer free access to all patrons of these centers. MyHeritage will also offer free access to their site sometime in late 2014. We recommend that all users of these websites, both members and general public, visit their local family center to learn more about the unique benefits of each partners’ offerings. 
Partnerships between FamilySearch and, findmypast and MyHeritage, and other companies in the future, will provide new opportunities for people to discover their ancestors and preserve and share those memories for generations to come. By working collaboratively with these companies, FamilySearch enables individuals around the globe to have access to billions of more records and make more conclusions to their family trees than they would otherwise have been able to do.
Here are two more links to recent statements explaining more about this situation.

I am assuming that there will be an overwhelming need for support in getting members onto the programs and teaching them how to use them. I am certainly willing to help as much as I can. I am still looking for a collaborator in the Utah Valley area who would like to make genealogy videos. Any takers?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Subscribe to the FamilySearch Quarterly International Newsletter

 FamilySearch has initiated a quarterly newsletter translated into 10 languages to over 2 million users of the website. You should have already received notice of the first issue of the newsletter if you are registered on and have selected to receive information and communication directly from FamilySearch.

To manage your communications from FamilySearch, you need to go to the your "Settings" selection. Here is a screenshot showing the location of the Settings link:

Once you click on the Settings link, you will see a list of options at the bottom of the page entitled Notifications. The selections that you can choose include the following:
  • Email weekly updates to ancestors I'm watching
  • LDS Family History Consultant and Leader Newsletter
  • FamilySearch General Newsletter
  • Family Tree Announcements
  • Indexing Newsletter
You can indicate by checkbox which of the options you would like to receive. Obviously, you must have a current email address in order for any of this to work.

Nationwide Marketing Campaign Targets U.S. LDS Church Members

Some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may soon be the recipients of a nationwide marketing campaign sponsored by The campaign is aimed at motivating LDS church members to login to for the purpose of using the new "Memories" feature and viewing or uploading family photos.

Quoting from the blog post by David Green entitled "Inside Scoop: The Story Behind the New FamilySearch Marketing Campaign,"
The ground-breaking FamilySearch campaign includes:
  • 330,000 direct-mail pieces sent to select members of the Church in the U.S. 
  • Television ads that will air in some regions of the U.S. 
  • Over one million emails sent to members who have either a or an account 
  • Online banner ads presented to those who are searching for LDS-related terms on various search engines
Quoting Shipley Munson, Dir. of Marketing, 
"In the past, we have relied on traditional channels to get the word out about family history. However, with digital marketing tools we are able to test different messages to see if we can motivate members to come to the site for the first time, or come back. If someone hasn’t been to in a while they’ll find wonderful new features and tools that will be new, fresh, and exciting.”
I find it interesting that the campaign will target four different groups of members. The groups are listed as follows:
Further quoting from Shipley Munson,
“We are very excited to test messaging to members in each category to see how effective we are at getting current users more involved, or getting those who are not fully engaged in family history to come give it a try,” Munson said. “Our main goal is to turn hearts so we can achieve our goal of helping members fulfill their divinely appointed responsibility to find their families and qualify them for temple work. So, we hope this helps our leaders and those with a family history calling to encourage members to engage on”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 Keys to Involving Youth in Family History

Lately the Church News has been running articles on involving the youth in family history activities. The latest article is by Sonja Carlson published 22 March 2014 entitled, "Letting the youth lead." The Church News article explains how the Lehi Utah South Stake was able to index over 3 million names in one year.

After thinking about the subject and reading many helpful articles, I reflected on my own extensive experience working with the youth. One of my first callings after I got married was as a Ward Explorer Advisor. Back then, we had all of the boys from 14 through 18 or so. It was a challenging and very memorable opportunity. I was not much older than some of the older young men and we had many very good times together. My next major involvement did not come until much later. After serving in a variety of Stake positions, I was called as a Teacher's Quorum Advisor. For the next thirty years I was either in an Aaronic Priesthood calling or in the Bishopric over the Teacher's Quorum. I certainly do not consider myself to be an expert in involving youth in activities but I certainly have seen my share of both successful and unsuccessful activities.

Now, I devote my full time to genealogically related activities. This has gone on now for a few years and I plan to keep going until I become disabled or die. During the past few years, I have thought a lot about involving the youth in family history activities. I think the way to involve the youth can be summarized in 5 Key Steps. There are undoubtedly more ways to get started with a successful program but here are my opinions.

Key No. 1 Involvement of the Stake and Ward Adult Leaders.
In every successful youth activity I have participated in from Super-activities to Youth Trek experiences, the success of the youth project depended almost entirely on the enthusiasm and support given to the youth by their adult leaders. Starting with the Stake Presidency and High Council and on to the individual Ward Youth Leaders, every level of the Church organization needs to be supportive of the youth's participation in a family history activity. If the Stake and Ward leaders are not willing to get in and participate in the Indexing activity or at least understand what is involved, the project cannot succeed. I am reminded of the time I was working in the Baptistery at the Mesa, Arizona Temple. One Stake always had a huge attendance of their youth for scheduled baptisms. The reason was obvious, the Stake President was always there with the youth of the Stake. He actively helped with baptisms and confirmations and knew all of the youth by name. If the Stake or Ward wants to have a successful Indexing program, the leaders, especially the youth leaders, need to be involved.

Key No. 2 Training, Training, Training
As a Scout leader, I had periodic training in the form of Roundtables and mandatory online training. We received almost constant contact from the Stake and Ward about the status of each of the youth in our quorums. We had Stake Little Philmont activities and many, many other training opportunities. Now, how much time has been spent in training the Ward and Stake leaders about family history in your Stake or Ward? Indexing is just as much of a challenge as Boy Scouts, but for some reason, a 40 minute instructional period is deemed sufficient to get the youth motivated. In my own Ward, that is exactly what has happened. We had one brief activity and now the subject has been dropped. Quoting from the article in the Church News linked above, "They all agreed that regular meetings and gospel discussions with their stake high councilor, Ross Boothe, were beneficial to their callings." The article goes on to state, "Along with all the youth in their stake, they have also done family history training for stake high priests groups and high council, the stake presidency and Relief Societies, President Lefler said."

Key No. 3 Persistence
Youth activities come and go in cycles. Most Wards I am familiar with have a Stake Youth Conference or Trek activity every other year or even every three years. In most Stakes, the Trek leaders are called two or more years in advance and meet regularly to plan and execute the activity. The whole activity usually takes place in one week. Indexing is entirely different in some respects and family history research certainly is. If our Ward spent half the time on Indexing training and activities that they spend on the every-other-year Young Men Encampment activity, we would probably be doing millions of Indexing names. The difference here is that there are men who enjoy the Encampment, but do not enjoy the idea of Indexing.

Key No. 4 Understanding that family history is Temple work
As Elder Richard G. Scott said, "Temple and family history work is one work divided into two parts. They are connected together like the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost." There is usually a significant effort, with socials and other activities, that accompany the Ward and Stake efforts to get members to go to the Temple. There is often not an equal effort to involve Ward members in searching out those very ancestors that would benefit from their Temple activity. Quoting President Henry B. Eyring, in the article, "Hearts Bound Together," Ensign, May 2005:
“Many of your deceased ancestors will have received a testimony that the message of the missionaries is true. When you received that testimony you could ask the missionaries for baptism. But those who are in the spirit world cannot. The ordinances you so cherish are offered only in this world. Someone in this world must go to a holy temple and accept the covenants on behalf of the person in the spirit world. That is why we are under obligation to find the names of our ancestors and ensure that they are offered by us what they cannot receive there without our help. …

“Remember that the names which will be so difficult to find are of real people to whom you owe your existence in this world and whom you will meet again in the spirit world. When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope. Perhaps after centuries, they rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them and to offer them freedom. In your reunion, you will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment. Their hearts are bound to you. Their hope is in your hands. You will have more than your own strength as you choose to labor on to find them.”
Again, quoting from the Church News article above citing one of the youth's experiences,
“It’s put me in a position where I can view different aspects of the gospel in a different perspective,” Jacob said. “For example, when we were with Brother Boothe we had this discussion about the Atonement and how it applied to family history work and we talked about how family history work is more of a vehicle for us and our ancestors [to receive] the Atonement — it really put a new spin on things that I’ve only seen [with] one-way tunnel vision, where as with family history work I’m kind of seeing it from all angles and how it applies to me and how I can apply it to my ancestors.”
 Key No. 5 Fasting and Prayer
Quoting further from the article above;
Nathan, Brother Boothe and Jacob struggled to discover ways to get the youth more involved and attempted to organize multiple events that kept falling through.

“We were driven to our knees ... we prayed and fasted for weeks to know what the Lord would have us do,” Nathan said. “We then, with the guidance of the Lord, came up with the idea of a 21-day challenge to help motivate the youth to participate in this holy work. The significance of 21 days is that’s how long it takes to make or break a habit. The 21-day challenge was a complete success. Our youth indexed over 50,000 names in those three weeks with 25,005 of them coming from an indexing marathon held on the last day of the challenge.”
When was the last time the youth in your Ward or Stake fasted and prayed about family history and specifically about Indexing? Think about it.

For more information about getting started with Indexing see Indexing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

FamilySearch Indexing: How it Works

This is a brief explanation of how Indexing works. It is a good introduction for Stake and Ward Indexing Specialists.

Green Arrows in Family Tree are not really green

In many countries throughout the world, green means go. Unfortunately, adopted a marking for its Family Tree program that uses a Green Arrow. This "Green Arrow" does not mean what it seems to mean. Here is a screenshot showing a "Green Arrow."

The connotation here is that the Green Arrow means go ahead. In this case, as a carryover from the now Read Only, program, the Green Arrow was used to indicate that LDS Temple Ordinances were available to be performed. However, in many, many cases the ordinances had already been performed previously and clicking on the arrow resulted in duplicative ordinance work.

Now, in the present Family Tree program, the Green Arrows appear once more. But this time, the meaning of the arrows has changed. Now they indicate questions to be resolved not just ordinances that need to be performed. This is explained in detail in a recent blog post from FamilySearch entitled "Follow the Green Arrow...With Caution." Quoting from that post,

A common mistake that many people make is assuming that a green arrow means that the person’s name ready to take to the temple. I have heard people tell me, “But the system printed out an ordinance sheet for me to take to the temple so it must be OK!” That is not true! Using the green arrow without carefully and thoroughly reviewing the record first often results in unnecessary duplication. President Hinckley stated that one of the two primary goals of the FamilySearch program is to reduce unnecessary duplication. As a family history consultant, it is our job to help church members reduce the amount of ordinance duplication that is taking place.
 In the case above in the screenshot of the Family Tree showing my Grandfather, the arrow definitely does not show any ordinances available. In fact, the arrow does not point to anyone who had not already done their own Temple work during their own lifetime.

As the post from FamilySearch indicates:
Before submitting a name for temple work, you should first do the following:
  • Check to make sure that the information on the person’s record is as complete as reasonably possible, correct and reasonably documented with accurate reliable source(s). This ensures that ordinance work is being done for the correct person.
  • Click the Possible Duplicates link to see if this person has a duplicate record somewhere in the system. In many cases, the temple work on a duplicate record may have already been submitted and complete.
This is extremely important. If you are tempted to go through the Family Tree and harvest a few Green Arrows, remember where these names came from. Most likely, they came from other Church members who already did the Temple work.

Introduction to FamilySearch Photos and Stories

If you haven't checked out the Photos and Stories program on, here is a very short video introduction you might want to share.

The Learning Center

You might not have noticed but has hundreds of online instructional videos in a variety of languages. The catalog of presentations is located under the Get Help menu. Here is a screenshot of the location of the link:

Once you click on the link you get a drop-down menu with the following options including the Learning Center Video Courses:

In a recent FamilySearch Blog post, Steve Anderson noted the following newer videos that had been uploaded:

RootsTech 2014 Video Presentations Now Available Online

Steve Anderson of FamilySearch posted the following links to online presentations from #RootsTech 2014 in a blog post. Here are the links.

Innovator Summit Keynote Speaker (Business and Developer track)
Thursday Speakers
Friday Speakers
Saturday Speakers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One way to get youth involved in genealogy -- Really! and are sponsoring a huge international effort to gather photos and information about gravemarkers. If you want my opinion (which you will get if you keep reading) this activity, along with participating in's Indexing program, are the two best ways to get the youth actively and productively involved. 

If you cannot see the utility of having online, searchable databases with indexed entries and including photos of gravemarkers (headstones, tombstones etc.) then you are probably not reading this blog post. 

Here are the links to the places to go to get started:

Here is a description of the project from Gilad Japhet, CEO of By the way, has over 70 million users world wide. 

Cemeteries are among the most valuable resources for family history research. Headstones (gravestones) contain a wealth of information about the deceased, such as dates of birth and death, names of relatives, and surprises such as photographs and emotional epitaphs.

There are hundreds of thousands of cemeteries worldwide, but most of them have never been documented, and the headstone information is not available online. Time is chipping away at the headstones and many become unreadable over the years :-(

Together with our partner, BillionGraves, we have recently launched a global initiative to photograph and transcribe all of the world's cemeteries, and make the data available for free!

This week we kickstarted this initiative by taking the employees of MyHeritage to "practice what we preach" and digitize an entire cemetery ourselves. We photographed more than 50,000 gravestones in a few hours in the largest project of this kind ever done in Israel. Read about our amazing experience and look at many photos documenting our project on our blog. Leading genealogy bloggers agree that this is a wonderful, worthy mission – read the posts of Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver and James Tanner about it.
Here is an explanation about how the program works.
  1. BillionGraves is a very easy to use iPhone and Android app. First, click here to sign up to BillionGraves for free in its special MyHeritage welcome page.
  2. Download the BillionGraves mobile app from that page.
  3. Visit a cemetery near you, and take photos of the headstones using the app. GPS information on each grave is automatically captured. 
  4. Use the BillionGraves website to help enter the names and information that appear in the headstone photos that you took or other users have taken. All information is made available for free on the BillionGraves website and on MyHeritage SuperSearch. MyHeritage Record Matching technology will match the headstones automatically to your tree and all trees on MyHeritage, for free.
This is also an excellent Eagle Project for Boy Scouts and an excellent service project for large youth groups. If you are planing your next Youth Conference, why not include a cemetery photo opportunity?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Can you see beyond the leaf?

At the annual History Symposium of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a keynote address in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on 7 March 2014. As quoted in the Church News by R. Scott Lloyd, President Uchtdorf drew from a quote from novelist Michael Crichton and said,
“If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

“History teaches us not only about the leaves of existence,” President Uchtdorf commented. “It also teaches about the twigs, branches, trunks and roots of life. And these lessons are important.”

He said the gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses all truth “but it specializes in the knowledge that will be of greatest worth to us in this life and throughout the eternities to come.”

God warns His children repeatedly not to place their trust in the world’s wisdom, observed President Uchtdorf, “yet we have an almost irresistible desire to assume that the leaf of information we have in our possession is a representation of all there is to know.”
President Uchtdorf's words although directed at history and human experience in general, has direct application to the genealogical research. There are those whose knowledge of history and context of their supposed ancestral lines is dismal at best and entirely missing in many cases. This lack of knowledge usually manifests itself in an attitude that "my tree is correct and all others are wrong."

From time to time in classes and presentations, I have tested this by asking the class members some simple historical questions, such as the time period of major wars. Frequently the response shows only the barest awareness of major conflicts including the U.S. Civil War and World War I. I am not writing about the trivial difference between "family history" and "genealogy," I mean the specific knowledge of the political, social and cultural context of our ancestors' lives. This can be best illustrated by a list.

Let's suppose your ancestors came from "Germany" in about 1800? Where did they actually come from? Do you realize that there was no country called Germany in that time period? If you go to the website you will see a map showing the boundaries of the countries in Europe in 1800. There is also a list of all the countries in existence. Here is that list:

Abkhazia (D)Great-Britain-Ireland-Hanover (S)Moks (D)Savur (D)
Adyghe (D)Guria (D)Moldavia (D)Saxe-Gotha (S)
Ain Mahdi (S)Göksun (D)Montenegro (D)Saxe-Weimar (S)
Algiers (S)Habsburg (S)Mzab (S)Saxony (S)
Amadya (D)Hakkari (D)Mühlhausen (S)Schwabisches Hall (S)
Anah (D)Hamburg (S)Naples (S)Schweinfurt (S)
Andorra (S)Hanover-United Kingdom (S)Nassau (S)Schwerin (S)
Anhalt-Köthen (S)Hazro-Tercil (D)Nemenchas (P)Sigmaringen (S)
Athos (D)Hazzo (D)Norway (D)Small States (S)
Augsburg (S)Hechingen (S)Nuremberg (S)Spain (S)
Baden (D)Helvetic Republic (D)Oldenburg (S)Strelitz (S)
Baghdad (D)Hesse-Darmstadt (S)Ossetians (P)Suli (D)
Batavian Republic (D)Hesse-Kassel (S)Ottoman Empire (S)Svaneti (S)
Bavaria (D)Hildburghausen (S)Ouargla (S)Sweden (S)
Bernburg (S)Hosap (D)Oulaid Nail (P)Tomarza (D)
Biberach (S)Imereti (D)Oulaid Sidi Sheikh (D)Touggourt (S)
Bitlis (D)Iskenderiye (D)Palu (D)Tripoli (S)
Bled-es-Siba (D)Kabarda (D)Papal States (D)Tunis (S)
Bremen (S)Kabylia (S)Parma (S)Tuscany (D)
Brunswick (S)Karachays (P)Passau (S)Ulm (S)
Buchhorn (S)Kaufbeuren (S)Persia (S)Walachia (D)
Cisalpine Republic (D)Kempten (S)Pertakrek (D)Waldeck (S)
Cizre (D)Lebanon (D)Pertek (D)Wetzlar (S)
Coburg (S)Liechtenstein (S)Portugal (S)Wittgenstein (S)
Denmark (S)Lindau (S)Prussia (S)Württemberg (D)
Dortmund (S)Lippe (S)Ragusa (D)Yannina (D)
Eğil (D)Lucca (D)Regensburg (S)Yerevan (D)
Fez-Morocco (S)Lübeck (S)Reutlingen (S)Zakynthos (S)
France (S)Lübeck (S)Rothenburg (S)Zerbst (S)
Frankfurt (S)Malta (D)Rottweil (S)Zeytun (D)
Fürstenberg (S)Mani (D)Russia (S)Ziban (P)
Genoa (D)Meiafarakin (D)Sagman (D)Çabakcur (D)
Genç (D)Meiningen (S)Salzburg (S)Çatak (D)
Georgia (D)Memmingen (S)San Marino (S)Çermik (D)
Ghadamès (D)Mingrelia (D)Sardinia (S)Überlingen (S)
Goslar (S)Mirdita (D)Savsat (D)

Now, which of these countries did your ancestors really come from? What many would-be genealogists fail to understand is that their "leaf" is not the whole tree. The tree consists of a very complicated history. Failing to understand that history almost guarantees that you will not be able to find your family or will end up selecting the wrong people.

Here is another example. On's Family Tree if I go back a few generations in my family lines, I find some of the following people with their dates:

William Tanner, b. 1687 Rhode Island, d. 1757 Rhode Island
his father is shown as
William Tanner, b. 1660 England, d. 1757 Rhode Island
his father is shown as
Nathan Tanner, b. 1639 Glamorgan, Wales, d. 1719 Rhode Island

William Tanner's (b. 1687 Rhode Island, d. 1757 Rhode Island) 
mother is shown as
Hannah Mary Tibbets, b. 1664 Rhode Island, d. 1687 Rhode Island
her father is shown as
Henry Tibbets, b. 1635 Dover Neck, Strafford, New Hampshire, d. 1713 Rhode Island

It goes on and on. Notice that the first two generations of William Tanners died the same year and the father lived to be 97 years old. His father lived to be 80 years old. But what was going on in New England at that time? 

There is little or no historical dispute as to the identity of the early settlers of Rhode Island. See Wikipedia: List of early settlers of Rhode Island. There are no Tanners in the list of early settlers. Disregarding the age issue, how did these three generations of Tanners end up in Rhode Island to die? What about the Tibbets? Here is a statement about Henry Tibbets:
Henry Tibbets, who was born in London, England in 1596 was the first Tibbets in Dover, New Hampshire. He emigrated to this country in 1635 in the ship JAMES with two sons , Jeremy age 4 and Samuel age 2. Their mother’s name is believed to have been Elizabeth Austin. It is unknown if this Elizabeth Austin is related to the other Austin’s in our family. In the clearance papers, he was called shoemaker. He died on June 27, 1676 in Dover Neck, Strafford, New Hampshire.
See RootsWeb. Who is Hannah Mary Tibbets? When did the Tanners come to Rhode Island and who is buried in the Tanner Cemetery? I have written about this in detail. See Finding William

As you can see from the names, the dates and the places, there is almost no awareness of the historical context. The confusion comes from viewing your leaf as the whole tree.