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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why can't I find any undone families in Puzzilla?

Today, my daughter Amy Tanner Thiriot, published a post on the Keepapitchinin Blog about the relatively new program, Some of the comments caught my attention, including one that said, in part:
I wasn’t being methodical, I admit, but in an hour, I didn’t find any descendants who hadn’t had their work done, sometimes more than once. I think I forgot to mention that I come from a family of really serious over achievers. It makes being normal pretty depressing. So I’m blaming all of these multiple ordinances on them. Anyway, the Puzzilla tree didn’t seem to have any unpicked fruit either.
The program is a wonderful tool for pointing to individuals and families where more research needs to be done. Amy's post does a very good job of explaining how the program works. The comment illustrates two common misconceptions about the program.

Misconception No. One: The program will tell you what ordinances have been done and which haven not.

The program's purpose is to show the current status of the research. Of course, you could click on each individual and then use the link from that individual to go to Family Tree to see whether or not the Temple work has been done, but why do that? You can assume that anyone who shows up in Family Tree, with some very rare exceptions, has certainly had all of their Temple work done. If you want to spend your time looking for "green arrows" you will soon find that they do not indicate that the work has not been done, but merely point to places in the Family Tree where either more information is needed or individuals need to merged. So, the idea here is to go back before the first people in any given line joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You go back to the person who joined the Church and then jump back one or two more generations before you start looking for descendants who need research.

Misconception No. Two: The program does not find "unpicked fruit."

The program shows what is not in Family Tree by showing what is already there. It appears that the commentator expected to find people who needed to have Temple work completed. As I said above, the program does not do that. What you look for is end of lines where more research is warranted. Let me illustrate what I mean from the program.

Here is a screenshot showing my family in Family Tree going back eight generations with an arrow showing the part of the tree where I am going to select an ancestor:

You can see from this image that a tremendous amount of information has been developed about almost all of my family lines. I am very much aware, after spending years and years, that everyone shown in this view has had all of their Temple work done. Now, I am going to select an ancestor. In this case I choose Bethiah Ruggles (1706 - 1776). Here is a screenshot of her descendancy chart:

The arrows point to individuals who have no, or very few, descendants shown in Family Tree. If I choose one of these, I immediately locate Bathsheba Morse who is listed as born on 28 Jan 1735 in Walpole, Norfolk, Mass. That's it. That's all the information shown. No death date. No spouse. This is a place where you could start doing research. That is what the program is supposed to do, not provide you with "low hanging fruit."


Now there is a serious problem. Family Tree is presently still attached to the old program. Going this far back in my lines practically guarantees that there are problems with the pedigree. I presently cannot prove that the program has the correct line this far back. If you have the confidence that all the individuals as shown by your yellow line in are correct, then go ahead and start researching. Otherwise, you may just want to wait a little while longer until the program catches up with reality.

No Family History Center in your Ward Building? What do you do?

I have talked to many Ward Family History Consultants who express frustration because there is no place in their particular building for a family history center or even a dedicated classroom. In the United States, many, if not almost all, of the Ward and Stake buildings now have a functional WiFi network for members to use. If your Ward does not have a WiFi network, it is time to talk to your Stake Clerk and find out why. If there is such a system, you can hold a Family History gathering for teaching and support almost anywhere in the building. If you are persistent enough, you can even set up folding chair for laptop use in the Foyer area. If the Ward or Stake leaders are using the excuse that there is no room to host such a gathering, I suggest using any available space such as a corner or part of the Cultural Hall.

One key to holding such a gathering (I hesitate to call it a class because that implies lessons or lectures rather that research assistance) is using laptop computers. With the Ward's WiFi connection, you can have an "instant Family History Center" in almost any available space.

One challenge is the number of users allocated by the local WiFi network. If a lot of people take advantage of the service, it may "max out" the number of connections. In these cases, there are two options, increase the number of "nodes" available or educate the members of the Ward to turn off their electronic devices during the Sunday School Class time. Most people with scriptures or lesson manuals on their tablets or smartphones can download those files and use them even without a connection. If you are given the excuse that the Ward Clerks need the connection during that time, you might point out that they should be attending Sunday School classes and not working in the clerks' office during meetings.

If the Ward leaders feel that people should be "attending the regularly scheduled classes during Sunday School time." Then certainly follow that council. But point out that the Family History class should be part of that schedule and if you use that time to do genealogy and give support, that is the function of the class in any event. If allowing the activity to take place becomes the issue, then why not schedule the activity either before or immediately following the Block, just like a choir practice or other meeting.

The key here is persistence. The core idea is to provide mentoring and support to members of the Ward needing help with their genealogy. Borrowing a theme from the movie "Field of Dreams," if you hold it they will come. If the Family History Consultants make themselves available at a regular time and place during, before or after the meeting schedule, people will start to come and names will be submitted to the Temple for ordinance work.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The case for being online with your genealogy

One of the frequent questions I get from those people who attend my classes is why they should share their genealogical experiences online. I think this short video gives a brief introduction to some of the reasons. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we find ourselves in the position of being the object of both passive and active opposition and even persecution. Having an active online presence, with a genealogy blog or website or some other type of online presence is one way to "push back" in a pleasant and non-offensive way.

In addition, if we as members do not understand the importance of our own beliefs concerning the Temple and Temple work, who will? My blog is aimed at an LDS audience because I see a need for an active voice in the LDS genealogical community. If you simply read this blog as a passive non-participant, you are missing the point. For example, I recently heard that the missionaries in our Ward have gone back to tracting door to door because they need contacts. While at the same time, I know of people in the Ward area who are interested in genealogy and who are not member of the Church and need help. Where I have been able to do so, I have talked and helped these people. Just perhaps, if the Ward Mission Leader and the full-time missionaries thought about Indexing and other genealogically related activities, they just might find a few people who would be interested in hearing about the Church also. How about helping to organize a Ward or Stake genealogical fair? Or a genealogy open house?

Now before there are comments about my own responsibility in this area, understand that I have offered help many times. I cannot force people to become involved in genealogy, I can only teach and offer. In addition, I am in the process of moving out of Arizona.

When we take the opportunity to share our views and our testimonies online about the Church, the Doctrine and particularly about genealogy, we are helping to push back. With a combined effort, we can make a huge difference. Let's not abandon the genealogical field and leave it to those who are not members of the Church. We have important doctrinal reasons for being involved in genealogy and should let people know about it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How should Family History work in the Ward?

The instructions in the handbooks are fairly clear. There is a proposed organization of the family history work in the Ward based around the functions of the Ward Council. Unlike the Ward Mission Leader, the Ward Family History Consultant or in some cases, Consultants, work with and through the High Priest Group Leader. Since the Family History Consultants do not participate in the Ward Council, they rely entirely upon the High Priest Group Leader, with input from the Bishop and the rest of the Ward Council to direct the Family History work in the Ward.

There is new training for the High Priest Group Leader on Essentially, the High Priest Group Leader coordinates the Ward Council's efforts to encourage temple and family history work in the ward. He should also direct the work of the Consultants. OK, so now we have two parts of the Ward Family History effort that rely on the direct involvement of the High Priest Group Leader in the program. It is the responsibility of the High Priest Group Leader to facilitate discussions in Ward Council about the Family History work and he is accountable to the Bishop. It is up to the High Priest Group Leader to work with the Ward Council to develop a plan for implementing family history support activities in the Ward and teach and direct the Ward Family History Consultants.

Key to this whole organization is the direct involvement of the High Priest Group Leader in family history. Here is where I see the program failing to function as I travel around the country and visit various Wards. Even if there is an active Family History Consultant (or even more than one) in the Ward, I have yet to meet a High Priest Group Leader who was personally involved in family history. I am sure they exist, but I have yet to meet one. I have probably been to eight or ten different Wards in the past year or so. In every case, I have asked directly about the status of Family History in the Ward. Most commonly, the answer is that "we are not holding a family history class right now." This tells me that the High Priest Group Leader and the rest of the Ward leaders have not been trained. Family History work in the Ward is far more than simply "holding a class" during Sunday School time. If you watch the instructional videos, you will soon see how different the program is supposed to function from the reality in many Wards.

One of the major challenges from the standpoint of the Ward Family History Consultants is the perception that they need to have a "classroom" or better yet, a computer center, to carry on their work. I have seen one or two Wards that have relied on laptop computers brought into the meetings by the members and set up in any available space. I have heard of Stake Leaders refusing to allow the Family History Consultants any space to function. In short, Family History is place at the absolute bottom of the priorities in the Ward. Family History is facilitated by having a dedicated Family History Center, but that is not essential. The program should be taken to the members in their homes or other convenient locations and not have the members attend another class on the program. Family History work in the Ward is essentially mentoring, not just or only classroom teaching.

The way Family History work is laid out in the handbooks and online is inspired and should lead to a dramatic increase in family history activity in the Wards. I see Wards that are struggling to provide meaningful callings to all of their members when they do not have any family history activity to speak of. Here is a link to a video that illustrates what I am writing about.

Family History work, including Temple work, is not "just one more thing" added onto the High Priest Group Leaders full plate of activities. It is the core of his responsibility. Many of the other problems and challenges, including missionary work, will go more smoothly with a functioning family history program in the Ward. But the key to this happening is a fully functional High Priest Group Leader who captures the vision of the importance of family history and becomes personally involved.

More Updates and Additions from FamilySearch

From time to time the FamilySearch Blog posts additions and updates to the website. These are posted to the Blog site but from time to time, I like to post them here on my blog to keep my readers current. Here is an updated list of the blog posts about changes to the program:
You might also note the following blog post entitled "Tracking Growth in Ward Temple Submitters." As the post states:
The ward quarterly report has always been a tool to help bishops get a more complete picture of critical activities in their wards. This report now has two new pieces of useful information that will be of interest to family history consultants. The two new pieces of information are:
  • Percentage of adults and youth (12 years and older) who have submitted a name to the temple.
  • Percentage of new converts who have submitted a name to the temple.
A submitter is defined as someone 12 years old or older who either prints a Family Ordinance Request (FOR) or sends a name to a temple in the last 12 months. Simply reserving a name in Family Tree is not counted as a temple submission. The submitter rate is calculated by taking the number of submitters 12 years old and older and dividing that number by the total number of ward members 12 years old and older. 
Bishops can share this temple submission information with the ward council and use it to help evaluate how family history efforts are doing in the ward. The high priests group leader can then work closely with family history consultants to use this information to evaluate and plan efforts related to family history.
If you are in a Family History position in your Ward, you just might ask your Bishop and your High Priest Group Leader if they are aware of the new reports.

Webcast on

I recently recorded a Webinar, now recorded and online as a webcast, for the Mesa FamilySearch Library giving an introduction to In discussing the fact that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are beginning to get free access to, and, we decided to feature these programs starting with We feel that few members understand how these programs work and we are anticipating a rather steep support curve.

The link to the webcast is

The Mesa FamilySearch Library website,  is down at the moment due to a power outage on Saturday, 26 April 2014. I am sure the site will be up and running by tomorrow. But, meanwhile, you can access the webcast directly with the above link. You may want to view some of the other very valuable webcasts on the Mesa FamilySearch Library website.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Are you and your children losing your Pioneer Heritage?

Larry Cragun wrote a touching blog post entitled, "Did Someone Steal Your Pioneer Heritage." I am afraid that the people who need to read such a post are probably not the ones reading it. On the other hand, my question is directed to those of you in the Church who have pioneer heritage and don't know about it. You are an active member and worried about serving others, but have failed to transmit your heritage to your children and their children. I meet you every time I go to Church. I even see a few of your serving the Family History related capacities, including dedicated Temple workers.

My question is not one of staying in the Church or keeping the commandments (except the ones about seeking out your dead), it is more aimed at those who know a little about their grandparents but have never spent the time or effort to learn the stories. I met one of these people the other day who was a descendant of Jacob Hamblin but could not tell me how he was related. Now, if you are from Sourthern Utah or anywhere in Arizona and have pioneer ancestors, you should know about Jacob Hamblin.

What is the difference if you leave the Church and your posterity loses their pioneer heritage or if you, simply, by lack of interest or motivation, fail to learn about your ancestors and your posterity never hears the stories? The moral consequences may not be the same, but the effect on their knowledge of their pioneer heritage certainly is the same.

Where can you go to learn about your ancestors and their trials and tribulations as pioneers? May I suggest You may find that someone more charitable than you has posted photos and stories about your own ancestors. You may also want to look at all of the following websites for further information:

That should get you started. One final observation. Part of the issue here is a lack of awareness on the part of the members generally about the Church's vast online resources. If you are reading this post, how about taking the time to make one more person aware of the historical resources available from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If that is asking too much, how about reposting this post on Facebook or Twitter? 

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Heber J. Grant

President Heber Jeddy Grant was born on 22 November 1856 and died on 14 May 1945. He was the last president to die before I was born. He was ordained an apostle on 16 October 1882 and served as Prophet, Seer and Revalator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 23 November 1918 until his death. See Wikipedia.

In continuing my series on the statements of the Church Presidents on Temple work and baptisms for the dead, I found that President Grant had a number of opportunities to speak and write on the subject. Here are a few excerpts from his talks and writings.
I took out of my pocket a book that I always carried, called a Ready Reference, and I laid it down on the stand in front of me, when I stood up to speak. It was opened at the passages that tell of the vicarious work for the dead, of the announcement that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison, and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I intended to read about the baptism for the dead, and I intended to preach upon the fact that the Savior of the world had not only brought the gospel to every soul upon the earth, but that it reached back to all those who had died without a knowledge of it, or in their sins, that they would have the privilege of hearing it; that, as I understood and had read in the D&C, Jesus came into the world to be crucified for the world and to die for the sins of the world and that he saved all except only those who denied the Son after the Father had revealed him -- those who had lived and those who had died. Conference Report, October 1922, p. 189.
On another occasion he said the following:
This Church is … a marvelous work and a wonder. There is nothing like it in all the world, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God established it, and is the head of it; because Jesus Christ manifested himself to the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, and to others; and because God, in answer to prayer, has given to people all over the wide world where the Gospel has gone, an individual knowledge and testimony regarding the divinity of the work in which we are engaged. 
The mountain of the Lord’s house has been established in the top of the mountains, and people from all nations have flowed unto it [see Isaiah 2:2]. Through the blessings of the Lord upon their labors the desert has been subdued and made to blossom as the rose. Solitary places have been made glad because of them. [See Isaiah 35:1.] Cities have been established, springs of water have broken out which have given life to the thirsty land, music, and the voices of children are heard in the streets where desolation and silence had reigned for ages. 
Temples have been erected in which the work of redemption has been done for an innumerable host of the living and the dead. … Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 11–21
President Grant said,
The Latter-Day Saints believe in baptism for the dead, in salvation for those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel--that all human beings should have the privilege of receiving or rejecting the gospel. Heber J. Grand, April 17, 1892. 
One of the great works in this gospel of salvation, devolving upon us as Saints, is to labor in the temples of God for the salvation of our dead. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, p. 87, October 1913.
These temples, erected by this Saints in the days of their poverty, bear witness to all the world of the inspiration of God to those men and to the truthfulness of the visions of the Kirtland Temple. No men and women would spend their money by the millions of dollars for the erection of temples, and spend their time year after year, laboring for the salvation of their dead, if they did not have the witness of the Holy Spirit that in very deed the promise has been fulfilled that was made to the boy Joseph Smith 96 years ago, that Elijah should come and restore these keys. Heber J Grant, Conference Report page 23, October 1919.
We have the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to us, we have the plan of life and salvation: we have the ordinances of the Gospel not only for the living, but for the dead. We have all that's necessary not only for our own salvation, but that we may be in very deed "Saviors upon Mount Zion,"  and enter into the temples of our God  and save our ancestors who died without a knowledge of the gospel. Heber J Grant, Conference Report, page 28, April 1899.
President Grant offered the dedicatory prayer for the dedication of the Mesa, Arizona Temple. In that prayer, he said,
Bless those, O Father, who have been called to preside and labor in this temple and also in other temples that have been erected to Thy Holy Name. We thank Thee for all of the temples that have been erected in this last dispensation, and we pray Thee choice blessings to be and abide with all those who minister there-in. We pray that the same sweet spirit which is present in all of the temples that have heretofore been erected may abide with all those who shall labor in this holy house.
For the complete dedicatory prayer See Mesa Arizona Temple, Dedicatory Prayer.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Media Tools for Family History

Not all of the instructional materials for family history are on also has a substantial library of helpful videos. You can click here to go to the site or search on for "family history" as part of the Media Library. Here is a screenshot of the resources:

In addition, a valuable set of instructions created by Elder Moon, an instructor and volunteer at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. This set of online lessons includes a "sandbox" or place where you can safely practice the instruction. Here is a screenshot of the links to the various lessons:

At the bottom of the page, there are links to the various sandbox exercises:

Most of the common questions about the program can also be answered using the Reference Guide. It is officially, "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013)." Here is a copy of the cover from a screenshot:

Of course, I have also mentioned that many of the changes to the program are chronicled in the FamilySearch Blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why access to, and findmypast matters

Following the first wave of emails giving access to FamilySearch missionaries, over time, many more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now have free access to three of the largest online genealogy programs. It is unfortunate that so few of those same members will not appreciate the magnitude of this opportunity. Access to the programs will open to the rest of the Church membership during the coming months. My suggestion: do not ignore the email when it comes. There will be questions about the programs and over the next few weeks, I will be posting articles about all three databases and the advantages they give to members in finding their ancestors.

In order to gain access to the programs, you much first have an LDS Account. You respond to the email and register for all three of the programs with that LDS Account. It is very important to get registered and become familiar with to take advantage of the free programs.

Of course, the FamilySearch Centers around the world will continue to provide free access to the programs also. I would expect that the FamilySearch Centers will also be able to provide some support. But members need to know enough about the programs to sign up initially and then know enough to ask the missionaries and volunteers at the Centers. At the same time, those same volunteers may not feel quite up to speed with all three programs. FamilySearch will undoubtedly be offering additional support and training, but there is always a need for additional information.

Each of the three newly available programs adds unique assets that are not readily available in any other fashion. Here is a short review of each of the three indicating how they work and why they are such valuable assets to the members in their genealogical research.
When you sign up for you might be concerned that there seems to be no way to "research" your ancestors. You can search the records for individuals but that does not use the full potential of the program. Unlike the other two programs, depends upon the user having an uploaded or entered family tree online. In other words, you cannot do research on any of your ancestors using, until you have some names in the program in the form of a family tree. If you already have your family information in any of the local genealogical database programs, you can export a GEDCOM file and then upload that file to to begin your family tree. If you do not have a file started or available, you can create a new family tree and start entering information about your family. If you are presently not using a genealogy program, you might consider using MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder program. It is a free download and is a very full-featured and useful program. As you enter information into Family Tree Builder, you can synchronize the information with a Family Tree.

As you add names to a family tree on, the program will automatically begin searching for connections between your family tree and others with the same individuals. You will receive Smart Matches to potential shared ancestors. In addition, the program will also use its Record Matching technology to search millions of records, including many on, for original sources that can be added to your ancestors. As you add sources, you will find that the MyHeritage Record Detective program will also search for additional records that build on the records found by Record Match. In the future, there may be a way that these sources can be added directly to your ancestors in's Family Tree.

There are a lot of helpful videos and other instructions about getting your family into the program. Click on the link for Support at the bottom of the startup page to get a page listing links tot he Help Center, Forums and Video Tutorials.
Many members of the Church will recognize the name of, but few will realize the full potential of the this program or any of the other programs without some help and instruction. is widely used as a database for finding original records and index entries about your ancestors. But the full potential of the program comes from its automated search functions that work with an uploaded or created family tree on the website. The is the origin of the now-famous "shaking leaf." In addition, when you get access to the program through your LDS Account, if you have a family tree on, you can link the individuals in the tree directly to your ancestors in Family Tree.
The third of the huge online database programs that have given members free access is called (no capital letters). Once again, you can upload a copy of your family tree to this program and benefit from the extensive collections of original source documents. In this case, the documents are mainly from the UK and Ireland. I have signed in to with my LDS Account, but presently, the program does not appear to be free. The first source record I requested responded with a demand that I pay $16.63 a month. I will have to see if this gets worked out or if the "free" part of the deal is an illusion.

I am sure I will be writing more on all these subjects.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Free Access to, and begins

Various notifications have gone out from about the impending free access to, and There now seems to be a schedule for FamilySearch to send out email notifications granting access to the three programs. As a Church Service Missionary, I got a notification today. Within a very few minutes, I was able to get complete access to all three websites. From the schedule I have seen, this process will go on for a few months before all the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have access to the programs.

There is no way to speed up the process. Because I had accounts with and, the existing accounts will all of the links and documents were carried over to the new free accounts. I could even use the same login and password to access the accounts. Both entities suggested that a connection between the programs and FamilySearch Family Tree would be possible in the future.

There seem to be a lot of rumors going around and some misinformation. As a long time user of all three programs, I am extremely impressed with the ease of getting access. Of course, I know all about logins and passwords and all that. I expect that there will be a significant number of people who will not be able to follow the directions and will need help logging into the three websites. I predict this because we are still working out problems in getting Church members into

Just be patient, the email will come. I will report about my experience using all three programs once I get a chance to use them with the LDS Access.

Answering specific issues in FamilySearch Family Tree

There are a lot of questions and issues with the information contained in's Family Tree program. Most of the functions of the programs are adequately covered in the Reference Guide. See Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013). In addition, the Blog contains valuable updates of new features added to the program. See FamilySearch Blog. For example, a blog post on 18 April 2014 had the topic of a "New Way to Move a Person to the Main Position on a Fan Chart." In addition, I try to keep up with the changes when they are major and affect the way the program operates.

But most of the issues that come up from day to day that involve the data in the program rather than its operation. How do we resolve those issues? For example, what if two researchers in the same family have different ways of spelling an ancestor's name? Or what if two or more people disagree on dates and places? These types of issues are inevitable given the nature of genealogical research and the state of the historical record. The key here is to contact the people involved in making the changes and request source information substantiating the changes. If the person refuses to respond or does not have an email address, then edit the change and see if the person returns to make the change again. Repeated changes without source information or failure to respond or lack of email address should be reported as abuse. Here is a screen shot showing the link to report abuse:

The most common issue I hear from patrons and missionaries at the Mesa FamilySearch Library involve names that change to people who are completely different than the actual ancestor. In other words, an ancestral name becomes something entirely different and the surname does not match. This may possibly be caused by merging individuals who had been combined with the wrong individual in However, this also might have occurred because someone deleted the correct individual, substituting the wrong one. Be aware that this issue does not mean anyone in Family Tree needs to be deleted. These issues involve relationships and editing issues not deletion.

I suggest a two step solution. First, search for the correctly individual in the program. If the correct individual is not found, then he or she may have been deleted. Carefully examine the Latest Changes and all of the previous changes. You may simply be able to restore the change and take care of the problem. Here is an example of a Change List showing the Restore links:

If this does not work, then search to see if the correct person is in the program. At this point, the issue is that your relative and siblings are not the children of both of the parents showing in the program. You can then continue the editing process by deleting the relationship of each of the correct children from the incorrect parents. Remember, if one of the parents is wrong, then the child is not the child of that relationship and the relationship needs to be deleted. Do not delete the individuals, only the relationship. See the Reference Guide above for specific instructions.

One very good idea is to be sure to write down the identification numbers of each child first, so that if the child disappears, you will be able to find them again. then add the correct parents as parents of the children. Do not delete the "wrong" person as this will cause even more improper relationships.

Almost all the other problems with Family Search involve the same or very similar issues. I constantly hear complaints about "wrong" information in the program. The people making these complaints have almost never made the corrections to the program. Sometimes they are embarrassed at how simple it is to correct inaccurate information.

One type of information that causes consternation involves problems with the way the program does or does not show living people. Although living people can be added to the program, if these people are members of the Church, they are duplicates. Further, the living people can only be seen by those having a direct relationship to them, usually only the person who entered the information. If you find wrong information about living people, including yourself, who are members of the Church, then these errors reflect errors in the Church Membership program and need to be addressed by contacting the Ward Clerk where the living people reside. Obviously, this can only be done by the person involved.

As with most of the problems with technical subjects, the answer usually involves reading the manual.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How do you choose a genealogy program? -- Part Two

It is a fact of life in the larger genealogical community that there are still a huge number of would-be genealogists who have varying amounts of their research in old, unsupported programs such as Personal Ancestral File (PAF). This seems to be more prevalent among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than those who are not members. It is almost inevitable, that even more than 12 years after the last upgrade made to PAF, that I will talk to someone who still has their entire genealogical data file locked up in PAF. Let me try to explain why this is a problem and also why moving to a newer program is desirable.

Because the Church introduced PAF, many members took that as an endorsement that PAF was the "official" program for members of the Church. At the time PAF was introduced back in 1984, the idea of universally connecting individual computers through the Internet was not even a dream. The personal computer industry was in its infancy and connecting anything electronic to telephone lines was extremely rare. Do you remember the first audio-modems where you put the telephone handset in a receiver to relay signals, usually in electronic format? I do. Now that I have established that I am practically ancient, the point is that what we accept today as commonplace with smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and desktop computers, not only did not exist, but could not be imagined at the time PAF was introduced.

Now, think about this for just a few minutes. PAF did not advance with the network and interconnectivity. Changes or updates to the program were discontinued just about the time the Internet really got functioning in about 2002. In fact, I would guess that it may be just about the only program in the entire world that old that is still being used by a significant number of people.

The question is, why do so many people still use the program? I see two major reasons; it was and is free and it performs the basic genealogical functions. In my experience, there is also a third reason and this is that it was being actively supported and taught by Family History Centers around the world and probably still is.

I used both the PC and Mac versions of PAF for many years. I found it to be well written, rock solid and not subject to crashing or freezing up and very useful. However, compared to the programs available today and from today's perspective, it was clunky, slow, poorly designed for data entry and does not support some of the most common functions of the present-day programs. What is even more important, given the current understanding of the needs of genealogy, it had a very limited sourcing and even in its latest versions, a limited support of media. It basically supported and even promoted, a limited, name centered, method of viewing and storing information about families.

What do we do about data that is still wrapped up in PAF files? There are still quite a few commercially available and brand new programs that will read PAF files directly and salvage all of the information contained in those files. This usually requires that the information be in the last version of PAF or PAF Version 5.2, but the current programs such as RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree and Ancestral Quest, will read the files directly with no need to convert the data to a GEDCOM file. Any one of the three programs, in fact all of the programs listed as FamilySearch Certified for Tree Share and LDS Support will read PAF files directly.

What will the new programs not do with old PAF files? They will not convert source information in notes into any form of current source information. Many old PAF users realized that the source capabilities of the program were sadly lacking and so they put their source information in notes. The good news is that the information is preserved in notes in the newer programs. The bad news is that it is still in the notes and there is no way to get the sources into the source fields in the new programs. All of the sources locked up in notes have to be re-entered into the source fields of any of the programs.

Therefore, if you or someone you know is still a PAF user and is thinking about moving to a newer program, you might want to look at one or more of the FamilySearch Certified Programs for the possibility of reading all of the old PAF file information. One other detail that is important to understand. Family Tree incorporates data from Church membership records and nearly all of the Church Temple records. I have found that people who have old PAF files usually do not realize that most, if not all, of the information they gathered years ago is now readily and freely available online in Family Tree. If you are in that situation or know someone that is, I suggest sitting down and comparing the data online in Family Tree with the old PAF file and you will see, most of the information is likely already online.

What I see is that many people do not want to upgrade to a newer program at all if they think that they will have to re-enter all of their information into the computer. This is almost never the case, but even if it were to be needed, that is really no reason not to upgrade to a newer program. Another objection I get constantly is the fact that it might cost something to pay for upgrades to the newer program. Yes, that is true. Every so often, these new programs are upgraded and sometimes the upgrade have an additional cost. This is a fact of life. There seems to be an attitude among genealogists that everything about genealogy should be free. I could speculate where this attitude arose, but that is the subject for other posts. I do understand the annoyance at having to pay for upgrades, but as long as technology and innovation continue, upgrades will be a fact of life.

If you or someone you know is still using PAF, please help them to see the need to move on. There may be some real challenges especially if their files are locked up on 3.5 floppy disks or are in some really old format but even then the files can be converted by some of the current programs if the files can be physically transferred to some other media than floppy disks.

There are still a number of issues to discuss about choosing a genealogy program and so this series will probably continue for a while.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How do you choose a genealogy program? -- Part One

If I wanted to do so, I could probably sell you on almost any one of the dozens of existing genealogical database programs out there on the market. They all have good features and lots of enthusiastic users. Frequently, I get asked the question about which program I would recommend. I tell the inquirers that I have a lot of the programs and would recommend them all. The key here is that purchasing a genealogy database and then using it to keep your genealogical information is very personal. I suggest that people download the free copies of the programs available and use them for a while to see which one they like the most.

Because of my technical background, learning a new program is usually a very trivial activity for me. But I am certainly aware that for many people it is a major issue. Moving from one program to another can be a daunting prospect. I also realize that there are a lot of people still using Personal Ancestral File (PAF) who have yet to move on to a current program. I have heard many different reasons for staying with PAF, but none of those reasons are at all convincing. You may like your 1958 Chevy, but you simply cannot convince me to give up the conveniences of my newer cars. Let's face it, you are using the older program out of inertia. You could sit there for an hour and tell me all the reasons you are satisfied with PAF, but none of those reasons would make any sense given the state of genealogy today. You have to realize that PAF was developed and was last updated when the online genealogy community was in its infancy.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the field of useful programs has expanded dramatically with the agreements between and, and Two of these other companies have proprietary programs. produces Family Tree Maker and has Family Tree Builder. These programs are in addition to the FamilySearch Certified Programs listed on their website.

One factor in choosing a program is which of the online family tree programs you are going to primarily use? With the free availability of and to members of the Church, this becomes a real question to answer. There is also the announced intention by FamilySearch and the other companies to make it possible to move users' tree data from the other programs to FamilySearch Family Tree. But this is only one consideration.

Since Family Tree is presently the only way to submit names to the Temples for ordinance work, ultimately, any information developed by members that they wish to incorporate in Family Tree must be entered into that program before the work can be done. The key question here is how many names and how much information will you need to add to Family Tree. The Certified Programs on the FamilySearch list change from time to time. If you have a lot of names (hundreds) it might be best to stick with one of the Certified Programs but if you only have a few names from time to time, you should understand that it really doesn't matter which of the programs you choose.

Before going too much further, I guess I will list the current completely certified programs and the other programs from the partnership companies, not in any particular order. This list of Certified Programs comes from the Product Page as of the date of this post. You might want to check the page before purchasing a program for any possible additions. I am listing only those programs that are completely Tree Share Certified and also have LDS Support. I am also now adding in the other two programs from and

Ancestral Quest $29.95 there is also a free version of the program called Ancestral Quest Basics
Celebrating My Family Tree, $56.00 a program offered by the Celebrating Family History website
Family Tree Heritage, $39.99
Legacy Family Tree, $29.95 the Standard edition is free
RootsMagic, $29.95 also a free version called RootsMagic Essentials

All of these programs are Windows only. There are presently no programs full Tree Share and LDS Support Certified for the Mac OS X operating system.

Family Tree Maker, $29.99 for Windows and Mac. (
Family Tree Builder, Free (

To take advantage of all of the features of these programs you will need a full subscription to or until that access is free to members.

Now, this is an important point. There are many other very good and perfectly adequate programs out there for both Windows and Macintosh OS X operating systems. I suggest you evaluate how you intend to use the program and whether you have a need to link directly to Family Tree because of the quantity of work you are doing in entering names for Temple work. I might also suggest that if you still have questions, you ask them as comments to this post and also read the next post in this series where I will discuss how each of the programs might be used and also talk about programs I have not yet included on the list. Meanwhile, if you would like to get some reviews of all of the possible programs, you might want to look at

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Living and the Dead in Genealogy

Apparently, there is some confusion over the post that I wrote recently concerning a question involving a descendancy book starting with great-grandparents. Let me be a clear as I can be without referring to the question or subsequent comments.

The main thrust of the issue is whether or not it is appropriate to include information about living people in a family history book or otherwise.

Point No. One: Family Tree encourages users to upload their own photos and stories to the program. However, if the people are living, those photos and stories as well as the general genealogical information about the person are only visible to the person who submits the information. It is my understanding that this information would only become visible to other users upon the death the person submitting the information to the program or the death of the person about whom the information is submitted. This limitation applies to any information added to the program. As far as I am aware, this is the only guidance given by FamilySearch or the Church on this subject.

Point No. Two:
I have previously expressed my personal opinion that compiling a surname or decendancy book about a family where most of the people are living for general publication was not a real good idea. There are certain to be privacy issues. I did not say and certainly did not want to imply that gathering such information on a family basis is not desirable or that people should not write their own personal histories or maintain journals. I think that publishing a book containing information about living people for general publication falls into almost the same category as adding information to online family trees about living relatives where the programs only identify the person as "Living." I am sorry if anyone cannot see the difference in what I am saying. I regret if anyone understood this to mean that I did not think preserving such history was important.

Point No. Three:
As I have expressed many time previously in my Genealogy's Star blog, I think that identity theft is misunderstood and extremely overstated by the media and because of this, by most people in the community at large. I think it is very sad that people are afraid to include names in the genealogy or let their names be used by others for genealogical purposes out of a fear of identity theft. I have yet to hear of even one documented case where genealogical information was used for identity theft and person using such information was convicted of a crime under either state or federal law. If you know of such a case, I would be very glad to review here or in my other blog. As a side note, I think it is lamentable and highly inadvisable that banks and other institutions use genealogically based security questions such as asking for your mother's maiden name.

Point No. Four:
As members of the Church we have a primary obligation to seek out our ancestors. Yes, we also have a obligation to compile and keep our own family histories, and your opinion may differ from my own as to where our primary effort should be directed. I keep a journal. I encourage others to preserve the oral and written histories of their family members. I become involved in family organizations and reunions where they are available. I see no problem in compiling a family directory for family use only. But with all this, I think our primary responsibility still lies in seeking out our ancestors.

Point No. Five:
I am entirely unaware of any policy statement whatsoever from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that addresses the issue of identity theft as it relates to genealogy. The only statement I am aware of was posted on LDSTech in post entitled Identity Theft (Family Safety).

I am sorry if any one was personally offended by my previous post, but I believe that the criticism was misdirected through a failure to carefully read what I did and did not say.

Disclosures and Disclaimers

There are several things that need to be disclosed and disclaimed when I write a blog post.

I am employed by Family History Expos to participate in the Expos held around the country. I am paid for expenses and some time. Also, from time to time, I have been paid or employed by other entities for presentations and writing.

I practiced law as an attorney in Arizona for over 39 years. However, I am now fully retired. Anything I write in the blog is not intended as legal advice on any current case or controversy. I do not represent Family History Expos or any individual employed by them in any legal capacity. I presently have very few clients left and will not undertake to represent any more clients in the future.

Any mention I make of products, services, websites or any other entity is fully my personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of any other entity, however I may be teaming up with some providers of genealogical services to make special offers to my readers for which I may be compensated. From time to time I have been provided with free products to review, however the reviews are my own opinions and not those of the product supplier.

I am not currently associated with FamilySearch or any of its subdivisions or entities other than in a purely voluntary basis. I am a Church Service Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently serving at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. This may change as I move to Provo, Utah. I volunteer to help patrons and teach classes on a weekly basis. I am an active volunteer for FamilySearch as a member of the Wiki Support Team and I am Moderator for Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. I also volunteer for FamilySearch in a variety of other capacities.

I am currently writing and publishing books and other publications for profit. Those publications I write are published both on paper and electronically. From time to time, I may promote my own personal writings on this blog. I am also a professional photographer and links to my photography blogs are on this site.

I also drive a Prius but I do not work for Toyota in any capacity. I also had an old Chevy Truck, since sold, and I refuse to work for General Motors. But I certainly appreciate anyone who does.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Joseph F. Smith

President Joseph F. Smith became Prophet, Seer and Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1901, thus ushering in the 20th Century for the Church. He was President of the Church for the site dedication of the Cardston Alberta Temple on 27 July 1913, the first outside of the United States, but died before its dedication on 26 - 29 August, 1923 by President Heber J. Grant. He also dedicated the site for the Laie Hawaii Temple 1 June 1915 but died before its dedication on 27 - 30 November 1919 also by President Heber J. Grant. The Laie Hawaii Temple was the 5th Temple built and the first outside of the Continental area of the United States. The Cardston Alberta Temple was the sixth temple built. 

President Joseph F. Smith received the important revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 138. Speaking of the mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, President Smith wrote:
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengersclothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the cremission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
 President Smith left many other great and marvelous teachings about the importance of the redemption of the dead and the vicarious work for the dead in the Temples. The following quotes are taken from

Smith, Joseph Fielding. Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1959.
This is the work that we have to perform. God has shown us the way and given us the means by which we may consummate and fill our mission upon this earth and perfect our destiny; for we are destined and foreordained to become like God, and unless we do become like him we will never be permitted to dwell with him. When we become like him you will find that we will be presented before him in the form in which we were created, male and female. The woman will not go there alone, and the man will not go there alone, and claim exaltation. They may attain a degree of salvation alone, but when they are exalted they will be exalted according to the law of the celestial kingdom. They cannot be exalted in any other way, neither the living nor the dead. It is well for us to learn something about why we build temples, and why we administer in them for the dead as well as for the living. We do this that we may become like unto him, and dwell with him eternally; that we may become sons of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Tabernacle Sermon, June 12, 1898.
President Smith explained that we must do the work for all of those who have departed this life and that the efficacy of the ordinances depends on the acceptance of those living in the Spirit World. If they do not accept the Gospel, they will have not benefit from the ordinances performed. 
In relation to the deliverance of spirits from their prison house, of course, we believe that can only be done after the gospel has been preached to them in the spirit, and they have accepted the same, and the work necessary to their redemption by the living be done for them. That this work may be hastened so that all who believe, in the spirit world, may receive the benefit of deliverance, it is revealed that the great work of the Millennium shall be the work in the temples for the redemption of the dead; and then we hope to enjoy the benefits of revelation through the Urim and Thummim, or by such means as the Lord may reveal concerning those for whom the work shall be done, so that we may not work by chance, or by faith alone, without knowledge, but with the actual knowledge revealed unto us. It stands to reason that, while the gospel may be preached unto all, the good and the bad, or rather to those who would repent and to those who would not repent in the spirit world, the same as it is here, redemption will only come to those who repent and obey. There is, no doubt, great leniency given to people who are anxious to do the work for their dead, and in some instances, very unworthy people may have the work done for them; it does not follow, however, that they will receive any benefit therefrom, and the correct thing is to do the work only for those of whom we have the testimony that they will receive it. However, we are disposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the dead, as it is better to do the work for many who are unworthy than to neglect one who is worthy. Now, we know in part and see in part, but steadfastly look forward to the time when that which is perfect will come. We are left largely to our own agency here, to exercise our own intelligence and to receive all the light that is revealed so far as we are capable of receiving it, and only those who seek the light, and desire it, are likely to find it. Improvement Era, Vol. 5, December, 1901, pp. 145-147.
About the importance of the work for the salvation of the dead, President Smith wrote:
Administering ordinances that God has revealed are essential to the salvation of the living and their preparation for greater exaltation and glory here and hereafter, and also for the redemption of the dead. What can you think of greater than this? To my mind, there isn't anything so great and so glorious in this world as to labor for the salvation of the living and for the redemption of the dead. We read of the Savior going to preach the gospel to the spirits in prison, when his body lay in the tomb. That was a part of the great mission he had to perform. He was sent not only to preach the gospel to those dwelling in mortality, but he was foreordained and anointed of God to open the doors of the prison house to those in bondage and to proclaim his gospel to them. Young Woman's Journal,Vol. 23, 1911, pp. 128-132.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sharing Blog Content

If you like what you read here in the Rejoice, and be exceeding glad... blog, you might consider sharing the content with others, maybe those who are not likely to read blogs. I have found that there are a considerable number of genealogists and others who are interested in family history that have no idea that blogs about genealogy even exist. Part of the process of helping and teaching others about genealogy is helping them to understand the vast number of online resources available to teach and for research in original sources. But all of that goes unknown by the vast majority of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some ways you can share the content is to repost the blog link on Facebook and other social networking sites.

In addition, if you have any suggestions for topics or would like to write a post yourself, I am more than willing to consider topics and to further consider blog posts. Be sure and give yourself credit for writing and if i can, I will publish your post here on this blog with your own name and any other contact information you would like to share. I will share your posts with you as a "guest blogger." So, get busy. If you have been thinking about a topic, send it to my at my email address below:
Hope to hear from some of you soon. Oh, just in case, you need to know that anything you publish online is automatically copyrighted under the law in the United States. But the nature of the Internet is that good content gets copied, sometimes without permission. You have to be willing to take that risk to publish online. One more thing, if I think your suggested post needs editing, I will probably offer to edit it with your permission before it is published. Don't be surprised.

Bridging the Chasm of Genealogy -- Getting Started with Research

In a blog post of 22 April 2013 entitled "The Chasm" and in previous posts, TheAncesryInsider made the following comment,
In genealogy there is a chasm. On one side of the chasm, genealogy is easy. On the other side, genealogy is hard.

On one side of the chasm are the ancestors and relatives we know personally. We know them as people. We grew up with them or with our parents talking about them. On the other side are ancestors and relatives that we know only through records.
 The idea here is that when we begin to have an interest in our family's history, we rely on the source material that we have readily available. There is a marvelous description of the process of beginning your journey into your family's history in an Ensign article by President Boyd K. Packer entitled, "Your Family History: Getting Started" from August, 2003. Quoting part of that article,
It is a matter of getting started. You may come to know the principle that Nephi knew when he said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Ne. 4:6).

If you don’t know where to start, start with yourself. If you don’t know what records to get, and how to get them, start with what you have.

There are two very simple instructions for those who are waiting for a place to begin. Here’s what you might do:

Get a cardboard box. Any kind of a box will do. Put it someplace where it is in the way, perhaps on the couch or on the counter in the kitchen—anywhere where it cannot go unnoticed. Then, over a period of a few weeks, collect and put into the box every record of your life, such as your birth certificate, your certificate of blessing, your certificate of baptism, your certificate of ordination, and your certificate of graduation. Collect diplomas, all of the photographs, honors, or awards, a diary if you have kept one, everything that you can find pertaining toyour life; anything that is written, or registered, or recorded that testifies that you are alive and what you have done.
As genealogists, we refer to this as gathering the "low hanging fruit." This is the information we already possess, even if that information is just a few names on a Bible entry or what we can remember from our childhood. The real issue here is getting started. But then, as the AncestryInsider points out, there is a point at which you have to move from learning about people you know personally, to learning about your family from the records they left behind. The fact that you personally are not aware that these records exist does not mean that they do not exist. It is very important to understand the lesson taught by President Packer in his Ensign article, as he said in that article,
Things began to emerge once we got to work. We still are not, by any means, experts in family history research. We are, however, dedicated to our family. And it is my testimony that if we start where we are—each of us with ourselves, with such records as we have—and begin putting those in order, things will fall into place as they should.
Now, this will not happen without a considerable and consistent effort on our part. Fortunately today, there are a huge number of places to go to get help with finding additional information about your family. It may take a trip to Italy, as related by President Packer, but the information is there waiting for us to begin. When you reach the edge of the chasm, start building the bridge. Here are a few bridge building steps:

Step One: Reach out to a wider ring of family members.
Try to find the oldest members of your immediate family. Even if these people are distant cousins, they may have valuable memories about your own family that will help you in your search. Look for photos, books about your family and stories that might help you understand more about your family origins.

Step Two: Seek help from a local FamilySearch Center
There are over 4600 FamilySearch Centers (also called Family History Centers) around the world. Even if the one near you is only open a few hours a week, there are still going to be people associated with that FamilySearch Center who have learned something about researching families in your area. You can find a FamilySearch Center by visiting and clicking on the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of the startup page, then clicking on the Visit Us link. This will take you to a search page where you can find the nearest FamilySearch Center on a map.

Step Three: Do not become discouraged
You will find that there are a huge number of classes, instructions, videos, webinars and other instructional helps online and available around the world if you just look. Take time to learn about how to find your family. Do not assume that it will be easy or fun. It may turn out to be hard work, but you will be successful. As President Packer has said,
Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work of Church members has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. They understand that they are tying their family together, their living family here with those who have gone before.

Family history work in one sense would justify itself even if one were not successful in clearing names for temple work. The process of searching, the means of going after those names, would be worth all the effort you could invest. The reason: You cannot find names without knowing that they represent people. You begin to find out things about people. When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names or the number of names going through the temple. Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers—we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them.

In doing so we store up treasures in heaven.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What do we need to do to clean up FamilySearch Family Tree

For over 150 years members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been submitting names to the Temple to do ordinance work for their ancestors. As a result of this work, pedigrees and family histories have been compiled by the members. About the time that the Temple work in Utah was being done in more than one Temple, there began to be a concern about the duplication of both the work and the effort that went into researching ancestral lines. It was noted, even in the late 1800s that the same work was being done by family members in Logan, Utah as was being done in St. George. See Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995 for a more complete explanation of these early concerns.

Because of this concern, there has been a steady stream of innovations and programs in an attempt to diminish the number of duplications. As soon as I can unpack all my books from moving, I will be able to review those historical efforts to resolve the duplication issue. For the purpose of this post, it is enough to know that there have been a series of programs aimed at a solution.

The most recent effort attempting to solve the problem is the Family Tree program. But the reality of the situation is that the Family Tree program has inherited the pre-existing duplications in addition to all of the differences in the submissions since the beginning of the work. In some cases, the number of duplicate pedigrees (not just individuals) is huge, into the hundreds and even thousands. Much of the work of combining individuals has been accomplished in But the flaws in that program enabled additional duplication and did not provide a way to eliminate the remaining errors and duplicates.

Presently, a complete solution to the problem of duplicates is unavailable and will continue to be unavailable until the program is discontinued entirely. There is no publicly announced timetable for this to happen. Notwithstanding this limitation, there is still a huge amount of work that can be done to resolve the existing issues with the program. These issues fall into the following categories:

  • Duplicate entries that cannot yet be resolved for a variety of reasons
  • Duplicate entries that can be resolved
  • Duplicate information for individuals that is unnecessary that can be deleted 
  • Families containing the wrong relationships for children and couples that can be deleted and resolved
  • Sources can be added to document and correct entries
  • Source entries from can be corrected or deleted if inappropriate
  • Dates and places can be standardized where appropriate only when the standardized date or place agree with the place and date as it was at the time of the event
  • Notes can be corrected and fragments or inappropriate notes deleted
  • Names, including capitalization can be corrected
  • Titles included in names can be moved to the other information category
  • Life sketches can be added for all family members
  • Photos, stories and documents can be added for all individuals

This is just a few of the tasks that can be done. Most of these can be accomplished for many individuals even though the duplicate entries are still unresolved. If you suspect that there may be an unresolved duplicate, move on to another ancestor. You may be adding information that will be redundant after the program is fixed and duplicates can be resolved.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Sources are Important for the FamilySearch Family Tree

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who get started in researching their ancestors, immediately confront the question of where to start and what to do about the information that is already in Family Tree. One of the not-so-obvious issues with the information is a lack of supporting sources. Even a member who starts out with almost no information in Family Tree and enters his or her own information, will still have the question of where the information was obtained.

It may seem somewhat unnecessary, after entering your own birthdate and birth place to provide a source. Of course, you know your own birthday and aren't you the source? Well, not really. It is not entirely unknown that when people start trying to add sources to their family history that they are surprised at the details that come out of the research. I have know quite a few people over the years, who have discovered that their own birthday was not recorded or remembered accurately. Some, have found that they were adopted and never told by their adoptive parents. If this were the only reason for adding sources to every event in Family Tree, then it would be a good reason. But the issue is much more important than that.

You always have to remember that you are going to be someone's ancestor. Even if you have no children of your own, you will appear on someone's pedigree chart. FamilySearch Family Tree provides a common venue for documenting the entire human family. Notwithstanding some of its present issues, it is currently the best and only way we can all cooperate in building a record of our genealogy "worthy of all acceptation." See Doctrine and Covenants 128: 22-24. Part of this process is the need to adequately add sources for every event recorded in Family Tree.

What is a source?
At the most simple level, a source is a record, written or oral, that provides evidence of an event in the life of a person in the Family Tree. If you were born in the last 100 years in the United States, you likely have a formal birth certificate. If not, you may have had to obtain an alternate record of your birth from a church record or some other type of proof of your birth. These records constitute a "source" for evidence concerning your birth. Likewise, there is a need for source records for marriages, deaths and all of the other events in a person's life.

Why is a source necessary?
Sources function at many different levels. Not only does a source provide information about a specific event, that same source may also provide information about other events and evidence that can be used to extend family lines. These uses may not seem important if a member finds a lot of information already entered into the Family Tree program, but the idea of "acceptation" implies accuracy. To have an accurate record, it is necessary to have some level of verification. That verification can only come through providing original sources. This not an optional activity. We need to start with ourselves and our immediate family members and provided documentation for every event recorded. That is not just a goal, but the very purpose of the program.

What can I use for a source?
When we talk about source records, we usually mean some sort of document recording the events in question. For example, I mentioned a birth certificate. Another type of source may be a family letter or a Bible entry. The number of types of sources is immense. There are a lot of places to begin your search. Of course, the first place to start is with the records you have of your own family. These records should be scanned and included as source documents in Family Tree. One very good place to start learning about how to find and record sources is right there in It is the FamilySearch Research Wiki. See Begin your genealogy quest.

This is not a difficult process to understand, but it does take a great deal of effort to be accurate and consistent in recording sources in your family history on Family Tree. The important thing is to get started. Every record and document included in the program helps to create an acceptable family history.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FamilySearch: M-boxes and Landing Pages

A very recent Blog post by Jeff Hawkins is entitled "M-boxes and Landing Pages." Hmm. I had to look up the meaning of the term "M-boxes" because I could guess what was meant but wanted to make sure I was on the right track. From Wikipedia here is the definition:
mbox is a generic term for a family of related file formats used for holding collections of electronic mail messages, first implemented for Sixth Edition Unix. All messages in an mbox mailbox are concatenated and stored as plain text in a single file.
That doesn't seem to be exactly what FamilySearch is talking about here. So, I searched a little further. Looking a little further, I found yet another definition on the Managing eCommerce website:
Omniture™ (now Adobe™) uses this term to describe a part of a web page that can be controlled by a host of its online business optimization tools such as Test & Target and its offspring Omniture Recommendations. An mbox is marked by: 
1. surrounding any piece of HTML code (including an empty string) between an opening DIV tag with the class of “mboxDefault” and its closing counterpart, 
2. and immediately following it with a call to Omniture’s proprietary “mbox.js” javascript function called “mboxCreate” with the first argument being the name of the mbox, later used in determining which mbox to fill with what content.
I assume that unless you are a programmer, most of what is in this definition would need even more extensive definitions. Essentially, as I understand it, an mbox (without a hyphen) is a part of a web page that changes depending on the user and also depending on what the website wants to "sell" or optimize at any particular time. What this means to a user of is that the boxes on the startup page are going to appear or disappear randomly depending on the seasons, time of day or whatever criteria FamilySearch wants to implement that day. Google, Amazon and others use the same type of function (but not the same function) to customize advertising.

Of course, this creates a whole new issue in trying to teach people about Now we have to make sure when we show our startup page that we explain that what they see may be entirely different. In fact, the page could change for the same user from minute to minute. Here is a screenshot of a portion of my present startup page showing the "mboxes" and remember your experience may vary:

The areas inside the red box as indicated by the arrows are the mboxes. So not only do we have a slide show in the main box, but changeable boxes below the slide show.

Now, to me, this is normal and not at all confusing. What I have found, however, is that many, especially older users are confused because the page may appear differently every time the go there. Oh, well, more to support, I guess.

Now, the second part of the blog post talks about the landing page. That is nothing more or less than a special page linked to each of the mboxes. Usually, you will have to click past the landing page to get to any portion of the website. Got all that? There will be a test.