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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Can you teach what you do not know?

Frequently made comments on the way genealogy or family history is promoted in Wards and Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints involve the fact that those encouraging involvement in various aspects of family history have had little or no experience actually researching their ancestors or submitting names for Temple ordinances. This comes back to the old adage, you can't teach what you do not know. It also reminds me of the injunction to lead by example. How can a leader challenge members to "take a name to the Temple" if they themselves have not done so?

In bringing up this subject, I am certainly not criticizing any particular leader or individual. But I do have to acknowledge that this is a very common topic of conversation, especially when I am talking to someone who has come to a Family History Center to try and comply with the challenge given to them by a leader. 

The issue of the "challenge to take a name to the Temple" is one that is particularly difficult for some who have either spent years looking for people in their family without success or for those who have no idea whatsoever about what is involved in researching family history for that purpose. In my own personal experience with patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I have seen duplication simply for the purpose of fulfilling such a challenge. I have also seen that many times the names for such a challenge activity end up being provided to the members from someone who "has done the research." So the goal of increasing family history activity is short circuited.

There seems to be a common misimpression that Family Tree is a place where you can go and after a short search, find a name to take to the Temple. Part of this impression originated with the now discontinued program that allowed duplicative work without too much difficulty. Fundamentally, the misimpression comes from a lack of understanding of the nature of Family Tree. The most simple explanation about why Family Tree is not a "source" for finding people who need Temple ordinances involves learning about the origin of the content of Family Tree. Essentially, Family Tree is primarily a repository for the names of people whose Temple work has already been done. Especially for those members whose ancestors have been members of the Church for several generations, it is extremely likely that any names found in Family Tree have already had their work completed. 

There are more appropriate challenges. Perhaps, the members could be involved in Indexing or in making access to the website and adding photos, stories or documents. It is apparent that the purpose of such challenges, in many cases, are to increase Temple activity and not particularly to increase genealogical research. It is certainly true that involvement in family history is one way members become motivated to increase or maintain their Temple attendance, but it seems to me that it is inappropriate to challenge people to "find a name to take to the Temple" without providing a detailed way that the challenge can be a success.

If you want to increase involvement in both family history and Temple attendance, may I suggest that a more appropriate way to do this is through following the guidelines in the Family History manuals on It would be a better practice to elicit the help of the seasoned genealogists in teaching and helping those who have the opportunity to find prospective individual ancestors and families that need Temple work, than merely challenging everyone to "take a name to the Temple." Why not invite a group of Ward Family History Consultants to go into the homes in the Ward and find those whose families were not traditionally members and help them, one-on-one, to prepare names for a Temple excursion, perhaps, for new members to do baptisms for their ancestors and have other family members or Ward members assist with the other ordinances if appropriate and desired by the new members. As an alternative, they could reserve the names and then work towards going to the Temple for the first time and then doing the work for the ancestors found.

There are also presently fabulously helpful tools for finding "cousins" who may need to have their Temple work performed. The program and the new Descendancy View in Family Tree both help identify family members who may need further research and therefore are candidates for additional valid Temple work.

If any of my suggestions refer to programs or procedures that do not seem familiar to you, perhaps you need to spend some time learning a little more about family history. There are likely Family History Consultants in your Ward or Stake or other experienced family historians at a local Family History Center who would love to help you learn. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why are Genealogists Concerned with Evidence

One of my sons, Jared, has a blog entitled, By Study and Faith. He does not usually write directly about genealogy, as such, but some of the posts he writes are particularly illuminating on some of the aspects of genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of these issue was raised in a recent blog post on the subject of evidence. The post is entitled, Evidence of Truth.

The first question that comes to my mind is whether or not genealogy is involved in the pursuit of truth in the sense discussed by Jared? If genealogy is involved in the pursuit of truth, what are the implications of that search on the methodology of those involved in researching their ancestral heritage?

Jared addresses two types of evidence: scientific evidence and experiences with the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, that confirm the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I propose a third, historical evidence as used by genealogists to investigate and identify their ancestry. President Thomas S. Monson made the following statement in the June, 2014 edition of the Ensign Magazine. Quoting from that article:
The Lord expects you and me to perform our family history work well. I think the first thing we must do if we are to perform our work well is to have the Spirit of our Heavenly Father with us. When we live as righteously as we know how to live, He will open the way for the fulfillment of the blessings that so earnestly and diligently we seek. 
We are going to make mistakes, but none of us can become an expert in family history work without first being a novice. Therefore, we must plunge into this work, and we must prepare for some uphill climbing. This is not an easy task, but the Lord has placed it upon you, and He has placed it upon me.
I firmly believe that obtaining genealogical evidence requires both the investigative approach of a scientist while at the same time being open to the promptings of the Spirit. As President Monson further stated,
As you pursue family history work, you are going to find yourself running into roadblocks, and you are going to say to yourself, “There is nothing else I can do.” When you come to that point, get down on your knees and ask the Lord to open the way, and He will open the way for you. I testify that this is true.
I also believe that this Spiritual help will not come without substantial effort on our part in seeking after our dead. It is true that many members of the Church feel promptings to seek after their departed relatives. But how many follow those promptings and put forth the effort needed. Again, referring to the message from President Monson,
There are millions upon millions of spirit children of our Heavenly Father who never heard the name of Christ before dying and going into the spirit world. But now they have been taught the gospel and are awaiting the day when you and I will do the research necessary to clear the way so that we can go into the house of the Lord and perform for them the work that they themselves cannot perform.
I certainly believe that genealogy is also a pathway to discover truth. But it is most effectively supported by a strong reliance on the Spirit of the Lord.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Core Training for Family History Callings

There are certain training resources identified by as "core" or additional resources for some family history callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel that these resources, which are generally available on or can be found online are valuable for everyone involved in family history and serving in the Church in a family history related calling. The list includes the following resources:
In addition, the following resources are available and valuable, no matter what the family history calling may be:
There are also "calling specific" resources available for each family history calling. You can go to the Family History Callings page on for more information. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Value of an Oral History

One are of family history that is often overlooked is the need to preserve the memories and experiences of the older members of our families. If you feel that doing your "genealogy" is overwhelming, then think about your oldest relatives and record their oral histories. You can do this by telephone or in person.

The first step is to realize that you probably already have a perfectly adequate recording device. If you have a smartphone, you can use its recording capabilities to record a good quality sound file of your relative's stories and memories. If you want a little better quality, there are a whole spectrum of small, pocket-sized, digital recorders that do an excellent job of recording both speech and music. These digital recorders come from a variety of manufacturers and cost from around $30 to many hundreds of dollars. There is no need to buy an expensive device, the less expensive ones work perfectly well.

If you are wondering what to ask, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of websites with list of interview questions. For a start, see the webpage entitled Steps to an Oral History Interview on

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More than guilt

How many of us feel "guilty" because we do not do our "family history." From my perspective, and in my experience talking to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I find that many, many of the members feel that "doing their family history" is just one more burden or just one more program that they will get around to sometime, maybe when they are older and retired. Right now, children, work, callings in the Church and many other responsibilities have a "much higher" priority.

My wife expressed it by saying that genealogy is just "one more brick in our backpack." You can feel guilt when family history is not part of who you are. The same guilt is felt when you are not attending the Temple, keeping the Word of Wisdom or failing to observe any of the other things that make us who we are as members of the Church. We can always find a way to justify our inactivity if we try hard enough. What is different about family history is that so many so-called "active" Temple-attending members of the Church continue to feel guilty and do nothing about it.

Part of the process of putting family history into a more important position in the Church is recognizing these negative feelings and trying to find ways to overcome them. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I feel the need to do my family history?
  • Do I really have an interest in learning about my family?
  • Do I feel that taking family names to the Temple is important?
  • Have I ever made an effort to learn about my family?
  • Have I spent any time looking at my family on Family Tree?
  • Have I helped with Indexing?

This list of questions could go on and on, but the basic question here is do you feel the need to become involved in family history or do you view it as just another program?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Remember, Research and Record

I was reading a blog post by Irinna Danielson on the FamilySearch Blog entitled, Discovering the Faith of Our Forefathers" and the last paragraph caught my eye. It says,
Recording, researching, and remembering the stories of faith of those who came before help us to better understand who we are. We do stand on the shoulders of giants. Remembering that can help us extend that legacy of faith for generations to come.
I would put those steps into a slightly different order: remembering, researching and recording.

The process of remembering our ancestors involves not only our own efforts to remember stories told to us from our parents and grandparents but also taking the time to talk to older relatives and even the friends of our older relatives for stories about their lives. This may include a formal oral interview or simply taking time to sit down and listen as they talk. The FamilySearch blog post refers to an April 2014 General Conference Talk by Elder William R. Walker of the Quorum of the Seventy. Quoting from the post:
In Elder Walker’s General Conference address he shared how his grandmother was proud that her grandfather had served in the Mormon Battalion, and that she wanted all of her grandchildren to know it. 
“She wanted to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers,” he said. “She wanted her grandchildren to know of their righteous heritage—because she knew it would bless their lives. ” 
He went on to say, “Whether or not you are a descendant of pioneers, the Mormon pioneer heritage of faith and sacrifice is your heritage. It is the noble heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 
Standing on the shoulders of giants. That is what Elder Walker suggested we keep in mind as we reflect on our forefathers.
Irrina makes the following observations:
Capturing memories from family members is the easiest place to start. Those living memories disappear if not recorded, which makes oral histories so important. 
A few years ago, I interviewed my paternal grandmother at length to capture her story. I used the opportunity to ask her questions about when she was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what callings she held during her lifetime and which ones she enjoyed the most. I recorded the conversation, and then transcribed it later to put in a book that I can keep forever. 
During the interview, I learned that she was introduced to the Church as a youth after she met my grandfather at a youth dance. I learned that as a new convert, she served in the presidency of the MIA, and at times felt inadequate to do so. I learned that the example of an older brother who chose to be baptized influenced her decision to do the same, even though they did not have the support of their parents. I learned that she chose to stand in holy places, even when it wasn’t the popular or easy thing to do. I learned that her faith in the gospel was rooted in love. 
I had always known my grandmother to be a faithful member of the Church. Hearing the courage it took for her to accept the gospel when her parents did not approve helped me see a new side of her. The stories behind the ordinances in her life—her baptism, her temple sealing, and the blessings she has received as a result—strengthened my resolve to stand strong as a youth, to choose the right even when it’s hard, and to always treasure the blessings of the temple, particularly the power to seal families forever.
I have had a number of opportunities to record my parents, older members of my family and others about their history. It is too bad that we do not take this opportunity more seriously and spend the time necessary to enlarge our knowledge of our living relatives.

Irinna also talks about one aspect of doing research when she relates the following:
Sometimes it isn’t possible to do an oral history interview with the first convert in your family. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t discover that story through records. I recently started delving into my family history on
I found the records of my maternal grandfather, who I never met in life. Besides the dates that he lived, the information on his Family Tree record that was of interest to me was his date of baptism. Doing the math, I learned that he was converted to the Church as an adult in his fifties. I compared his baptismal information with that of my maternal grandmothers. She was baptized as a child and he was not. Knowing these two things helped me piece together that through the example of a righteous wife, my grandfather joined the church. And, as a result, years after they were married, they were sealed in the New Zealand temple. 
I never got to meet either of them. I never had the opportunity to do their oral histories. But, through the discovering their records, I was able to piece together their story of faith. For me, it reinforced the importance of the example of a righteous woman and the effect that she can have on a husband and her children. As a wife and mother now, that knowledge gives me strength to know that through my example, my family too can follow in faith.
Another aspect of researching the stories is to use them as a basis for exploring your further family history. Not all family stories are accurate as retold. Sometimes the actual facts are more important and fascinating than the oral history. Using the information as a springboard to finding out the documented history of your family can be incentive you need to really get into the substance of the records about your family.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moving your family tree from one program to another

One of the most common issues for computer-based genealogists is moving information from one program to another. You would hope and perhaps expect that this would be a trivial issue. But, as with many things in life, the reality is complex and somewhat arcane. Since I had to explain transferring files in a class just this week, I thought I should get busy with a post.

Let's start with a basic hypothetical situation. You have a paper copy of a family group record (or sheet, as I commonly call them) of an ancestral family. You want to share that information with someone across the country or world. Well, you could do three or four things:

  1. You could send the relative the sheet by regular mail.
  2. You could photocopy the sheet and mail the relative the copy.
  3. You could scan the sheet and send the scanned image the relative.
  4. You could call the relative on the telephone and read the information to them as they copied it down.
  5. You could type the information into an email or hand copy the information into a letter.
  6. etc.
All of these work for a relatively small amount of information. But what if you have hundreds (or thousands) of ancestors in your file? Where does the practicality of making individual copies stop being a good way to transmit all of the information? I suppose that depends on your tolerance for pain. 

Let's move to a slightly different hypothetical situation. Suppose you have a computer and you have entered your ancestors into Personal Ancestral File (PAF) for the last twenty years and now want to share that information with a relative before you die. Remember, this is a hypothetical situation and I control the facts. You could do anyone of the following:
  1. You could copy the file to you floppy disk and send the disk to the relative by mail.
  2. You could copy the file to a flash drive (assuming your old computer has a USB port) and send the file to your relative. You would have to assume your relative had both a USB port and/or a floppy disk drive and a computer with the Personal Ancestral File (PAF) or whatever to read what you sent.
  3. You could print off the entire thousands of pages of the file and send the pile of paper to your relative in a FEDEX or UPS box.
  4. etc.
Do you think there might be an easier way to exchange data between genealogists? The answer to this question is both yes and no. One of the major concerns with this whole process is the concern that all of the information is transferred and further, that the information transferred is in a format that your relative can use effectively. I might also mention, at this point, that some of the same considerations apply to preserving your file information, but that is another post.

Back to the hypothetical, what if the amount of information you have in your twenty-year-old file is huge? What if it will no longer fit on a floppy disk? Are you out of luck? Maybe. It depends on how persistent and innovative you are and how much time and money you want to spend. File size is a consideration when you consider any of the options I have already mentioned. Some time ago, I estimated the number of pages of paper it would take to print one copy of my family file and it came out about 80,000 pages. I effect, I have exceeded the practical limit for publishing a copy of my data on paper. So, let's take the file sitting on the computer in PAF and see what we can do.

Some years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints developed a program called GEDCOM. Assuming you know how to export a file from your current genealogy program and assuming further that you have such a program, you can export a copy of your file in GEDCOM format and then send this considerably smaller file to your relative who can then import that same GEDCOM file into his or her program and see your data entirely. There are some limitations with this procedure however:
  1. GEDCOM does not include any media items or attached sources, such as photos, documents etc.
  2. GEDCOM may not transmit all of the data of a file that is not in PAF but in another program. GEDCOM has a frustrating way of chopping off stuff from your file if you use it export from a program other than an old PAF program.
OK, so now you are really frustrated. You could send you file electronically or physically on an external storage device to your relative and make sure that the relative had the same program you are using. For example, you could copy your RootsMagic (or whatever program you are using) file to a flash drive with all your photos, documents etc. and send the flash drive (or hard drive) to your relative. That way you and your relative would have the same exact program and data. 

What are the practical realities? Here is a list of some limitations:
  • As mentioned, GEDCOM is an imperfect method of transferring files. It is common that not all the information is transferred.
  • Physically sharing a file where both the sender and the recipient have the same program works very well if all the attached media files are included.
  • You might notice that I have omitted the possibility of sharing the information online with an online family tree. This is a very good option, but may have almost all of the same limitations of transferring files using GEDCOM. 
  • There are many other ways of sharing data and files, but this is enough for now. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Role of Senior Missionaries in Genealogy

On Saturday, 19 July 2014, the LDSChurch News published a rather detailed article entitled "Family History Missions 101." The article appeared in the Deseret News Supplement called Mormon Times that includes a copy of the LDSChurch News publication. Although we did not live in Utah, we subscribed to the LDSChurch News by regular mail for years. More recently, for the last two or so years, the LDSChurch News was included with the larger, regular newspaper format Mormon Times. Lately, both were delivered to our driveway in Mesa every Saturday. Now that we live in Provo, we get the two publications delivered every Saturday, just as was happening in Mesa, Arizona. I understand that for residents of Utah, it was necessary to subscribe to the Deseret News, a regular daily newspaper, in order to receive the LDSChurch News with the Saturday edition. I believe that this was modified to present subscription method.

OK, that said, the LDSChurch News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The article gives detailed information about both the experience of being a Church Service Missionary or a Full-time Missionary involved in the Church's family history work. I have been a Church Service Missionary for the past nine years or so. Until we moved to Provo, this year, I served at the Mesa FamilySearch Library (formerly called the Mesa Regional Family History Center). My service there as a missionary was one of the most satisfying and important experiences of my life. During my time serving at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I had the privilege of teaching classes and helping patrons with their genealogy questions. For some of those years, my wife also choose to serve at the Mesa FamilySearch Library.

The Mesa FamilySearch Library is one of 15 such FamilySearch Libraries, mostly located in the western United States with one in London, England. In Mesa, we had approximately 150 missionaries and volunteers. The Family History Centers and Libraries around the world are open to everyone, giving free access to genealogical materials and the FamilySearch Online Portal to a number of usually paid genealogy subscription websites. We had thousands and thousands of patrons come to the Mesa FamilySearch Center every year. The volunteers and missionaries were some of the kindest and most dedicated people I have ever known. It was a comfortable place to be and like a home-away-from-home.

As the LDSChurch News article points out,
There are three different types of family history missionary experiences to help accommodate a variety of life circumstances. Members can serve a family history mission away from home, close to home or directly from home. “If a missionary wants to serve a full-time mission away from home... for 18 to 24 months, we offer that experience,” said Art Johnson, Recruiting & Workforce Development Manager with the Family History Department. “If they want to serve locally in their community, we have those service experiences available. If they want to serve from home, we offer that, as well.”
Since we lived in Mesa, close to the Library, we were able to live at home and work and participate in family activities while serving. When I began my service, I was still working full-time as a trial attorney in a larger law firm. After I retired from the active practice of law, I was able to devote more time to genealogy and helping at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. The Directors of the Library were always extremely accommodating to my sometimes chaotic schedule of presentations around the country in genealogy conferences. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

When we moved Provo, Utah about a month ago, we immediately began serving at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. This Library is actually part of the BYU Libraries and not a FamilySearch Library like the Mesa facility. But the missionary work and genealogy are just the same. My wife and I are both serving and we have had the same warm welcome and the same wonderful people that we loved and worked with in Mesa.

If you are in a position to volunteer time during the week to work with and learn about genealogy, take the time to read the entire article and also see the information on on Family History Missionary Opportunities. In addition, many of the Libraries and Centers have volunteers helping with valuable service. Even if you do not have time to commit to a mission, you can still volunteer and volunteers do not even have to be members of the Church.

FamilySearch Indexing Volunteers Set Historic Record

Following the International Day of Indexing on the 20th and 21st of July, 2014, FamilySearch announced the results of the effort in a blog post by Emma Young entitled, "FamilySearch Volunteers Set Historic Record." Here are the results:
FamilySearch volunteers are amazing! On July 20th and 21st, FamilySearch indexers and arbitrators from around the world joined together to set an international record for the greatest number of indexing participants in a single day! We hoped to have an unprecedented 50,000 contributors in a 24 hour period. FamilySearch volunteers excelled, surpassing that goal by 16,511! That’s right—66,511 participants in one day! Incredible! We are grateful for the patience and persistence of many volunteers who faced technical difficulties due to an overwhelming response.
The rest of the results were outlined as follows:
  • Indexed: 4,682,746
  • Arbitrated: 941,932
  • Total Records Processed: 5.7 million

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BYU Family History Library Upcoming Classes

The Brigham Young University Family History Library has an extensive schedule of classes. Some of those classes are scheduled for Sunday afternoons and are open to the public. The classes are held of n the 2nd and 4th Sunday each month.

Here is this next Sunday's class schedule:

Sunday, July 27, 2014


3:00 P.M. German Research: Bring Us YOUR Research Problems
Eleanor Wollenzien
NOTE: This class time is 1:00 - 4:00
Kim Hasara Smith

3:00 - 4:00 P.M.
Tour: Treasures of the BYU Family History Library: Dini Hansma
The Work is Not all Done!: Cathy Anderegg

4:30 P.M.
RootsMagic (Basics): John Hendrix
To Add or Not to Add, That is the Question: Cathy Anderegg
Tools for Correcting Relationships in Family Tree: Marily Thomsen
2238 James Tanner

6:00 P.M.
Family History Workshop - For Families: Jill Woodbury
A Survey of Midwest States Records: Ginny Ackerson
FamilySearch Record Hints: Merlin Kitchen
Duplicates in Family Tree: Why They're There, How to Find Them, and How to Resolve Them: Kathryn Grant
Are there Germans in Your Past? Getting Started with German Research: Laurie Werner Castillo

Missionary Assistance Available 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
2nd & 4th Sundays of the Month
*Classes subject to change, update or cancellation

Genealogy and the 24th of July

In Utah, the 24th of July is a state holiday. Elsewhere, depending on the number of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their awareness of their pioneer heritage, the 24th of July is just another hot summer day or a holiday. As I was growing up, the 24th of July was the biggest holiday of the year. We had pancake breakfasts, parades, dramatic events, rodeos, dances, parties, reunions and the huge pioneer Camporama circle where we would all go out into the desert and cook our dinner over a fire. Let's just say that the 24th was a big deal.

OK, if you still don't get it by this time, you need to bone up on your Church history. The 24th of July is the traditional date the Brigham Young Party of pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley. Well, we all know that some pioneers got their earlier and a hundreds of thousands got there later, but the day we celebrate is the 24th of July.

Actually, the 24th of July was a genealogical bonanza. It was a time when I got to meet all those relatives I didn't know. Since most of my ancestors lived in the same small Mormon community at one time or another, going back for the 24th Celebration was like a course in family history. I must admit that I was too young to fully appreciate the opportunity but I did get a sense of the involvement of my family in settling western part of the United States. Much of what I know and how I feel about the pioneers originated in those 24th of July Celebrations.

Now, we can't pass up this 24th without thinking about the pioneers. has sent out an very interesting email inviting some of us to look up our pioneer ancestors. Pioneers are defined as those who crossed the plains before the advent of the railroad. The specific definition of a Utah Pioneer is one who came to the Valley, was born here, or one who died on the way before May 10, 1869. Here is a screenshot of the invitation:

The information gathered is based on the entries in the Family Tree program. The link to the Web page is here. Here is an example of results showing my own "pioneer ancestors."\

Perhaps, from this list, you can begin to understand my interest and obsession with genealogy. Remember you can click on any image to enlarge it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Importance of Properly Recording Genealogy

Record keeping is an essential activity in the process of preserving our family history. In working with an online family tree such as's Family Tree, it is easy to become frustrated with the inaccurate records inherited from our ancestors. I was talking to a missionary at the Family History Library at Brigham Young University last night and she was spending most of her time merely correcting the existing records. In this regard, I found the following.

Quoting from a commentary on D&C 128:2–4 entitled, "What Happens If Ordinances Are Not Properly Recorded?" on,
Elder Rudger Clawson explained the sacred obligation of keeping accurate temple records: “In the early days of the Church, some baptisms for the dead that were not properly witnessed and recorded, were rejected of the Lord, and the work had to be done over again. We know that great care and attention is given to this matter today in our Temples, and that efficient help must be secured to do this. … Truly it is a great and marvelous work, and not the least important thing about it is that these ordinances are all carefully recorded in the books and are filed away in the archives of the Temple, to be brought forth in due time. From these records the people who have gone to that house will be judged. Nothing that is done in that Temple will be accepted of the Lord, except it is properly witnessed and recorded.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, pp. 43–44.)
 Genealogical records should not be approached in a casual and negligent manner. Especially those records pertaining to Temple work are, as Elder Clawson states, a sacred obligation. Aren't we, in effect, violating that obligation when we fail to record the information accurately? Even more, aren't we ignoring the fundamental importance of the work when we needlessly duplicate the ordinances?

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
One of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity is that as we get more and more temples scattered across the earth there is duplication of effort in proxy work. People in various nations simultaneously work on the same family lines and come up with the same names. They do not know that those in other areas are doing the same thing. We, therefore, have been engaged for some time in a very difficult undertaking. To avoid such duplication, the solution lies in complex computer technology (“Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, pp. 5–6).
The Users Guide to the now discontinued, New FamilySearch website dated December, 2012 urges users as follows:
Occasionally you may find that someone else has already performed or reserved ordinances that you would like to perform. Please honor the work being done by others. Do not add duplicate records into the system just so you can perform the ordinances. Duplication of ordinances, however well meaning, should be avoided.
As I have noted in previous posts, this is not a new problem, in 1934, President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
Temple work should not be done in a haphazard or disorderly way. Those who labor for the dead should endeavor to prepare their records in an orderly and systematic manner. Let each family do the work for their own kindred, and if they do work for others, it must be at the instance and with the consent of the living relatives who are immediately concerned. No person has a right to select names for other than their own family and go to the temple to perform the work for them. This cannot be tolerated, for it would lead to confusion and duplication of work. When names are copied in an improper way and incomplete records are sent to the temples. but one thing will be the result--confusion. The compilers of records should try to find the information so that records can be made in family groups with all the necessary data for correct identification. When names are taken out of books without any accompanying information that will identify them or show relationship to parents and other members of the family, little, if any, good can follow. If work in the temples is done with records that are incomplete and inaccurate it will more than likely have to be done over again. In this way the records are burdened with unnecessary matter which cannot be properly arranged.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol.2 pgs. 207-209, 1955)
Lack of careful entry of the information into FamilySearch Family Tree can raise the risk of duplication. Back on 12 November 2013, I wrote on this same subject in a blog post entitled, "The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- Will FamilySearch Family Tree help?" With all of the changes to the Family Tree program since that time, I can safely say that the features of the program are now very much involved in reducing and attempting to eliminate duplication. In using the program today, now eight months after my initial post, you will have to consciously avoid the warnings not duplicate ordinances in order to enter duplicates into the program.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Joseph Fielding Smith

President Joseph Fielding Smith was born in 1876 and became the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 23 January 1970, at the age of 93. Although he was not President of the Church for a very long time, he wrote and spoke prolifically. He was known as a great scriptorian and scholar. Here are some of his teachings on the subject of genealogy, family history, Temple work and baptism for the dead.

From Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:332:
The Lord has placed the baptismal font in our temples below the foundation, or the surface of the earth. This is symbolical, since the dead are in their graves, and we are working for the dead when we are baptized for them. Moreover, baptism is also symbolical of death and the resurrection, in fact, is virtually a resurrection from the life of sin, or from spiritual death, to the life of spiritual life. (See D. & C. 29:41–45.) Therefore when the dead have had this ordinance performed in their behalf they are considered to have been brought back into the presence of God, just as this doctrine is applied to the living.
From Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:323–27:
The symbolism of baptism applies also to the living. When we are baptized, it is as though we are buried and resurrected with Christ. Our old, sinful natures die and we become a new person (see Romans 6:1–7). Baptism also symbolizes the physical process of being born, so that when we emerge from the waters, it is as though we have been born a second time (see John 3:5; Moses 6:59–60). For further discussion of the symbolism of baptism.
Again from Doctrines of Salvation,2:121–22:
If Elijah had not come, we are led to believe that all the work of past ages would have been of little avail, for the Lord said the whole earth, under such conditions, would be utterly wasted at his coming. Therefore his mission was of vast importance to the world. It is not the question of baptism for the dead alone, but also the sealing of parents and children to parents, so that there should be a ‘whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories,’ from the beginning down to the end of time.  
If this sealing power were not on the earth, then confusion would reign and disorder would take the place of order in that day when the Lord shall come, and, of course, this could not be, for all things are governed and controlled by perfect law in the kingdom of God. 
Why would the earth be wasted? Simply because if there is not a welding link between the fathers and the children—which is the work for the dead—then we will all stand rejected; the whole work of God will fail and be utterly wasted. Such a condition, of course, shall not be.
Quoted in The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Volumes 12-13, Idaho Falls Genealogical Convention, April, 1922.
My brethren and sisters, keep in mind this thing; that as was expressed yesterday, we without our dead cannot receive the fulness of salvation. We must understand that those who have died without a knowledge of the Gospel are just as much entitled to receive the privileges of salvation as are we who are living now when the Gospel is restored. And the Lord has arranged it so that they shall not be overlooked, but that every soul shall have the opportunity of salvation. And in order that the family chain shall not be broken it becomes necessary for us to perform labors for our dead, and ward workers must keep these things constantly in mind and give them to the people in their visits among them. 
Joseph Fielding Smith, "The Keys of the Priesthood Restored," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1936, 100-101.
I think sometimes we look at this work for the salvation of the dead rather narrowly. It is a wrong conception to think of the people for whom we are doing work in the temple of the Lord as being dead. We should think of them as living: and the living proxy but represents them in receiving the blessings which they should have received and would have received in this life had they been living in a gospel dispensation. Therefore every dead person for whom work is done in the temple is considered to be living at the time the ordinance is given.
Quoted in Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994 (1995), 184.
It doesn't matter whether your computer is able to compile all the family group sheets for everyone that every lived on the earth, it remains the responsibility of each individual to know his kindred dead... Even if the work is done, then it is still each person's responsibility to study and become acquainted with his ancestors.
 See Sealing Power and Salvation, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year (January 12, 1971) 2-3. Italics removed.
The doctrine of salvation for the dead is one of the most glorious principles ever revealed to man. It is the way in which the gospel shall be offered to all men. It establishes the fact that God is no respecter of persons [see Acts 10:34] that every soul is precious in His sight; and that all men will, in fact and in reality, be judged according to their works.
Now, I thank the Lord that He has restored His everlasting gospel to us in this day. I thank Him for the sealing power returned to earth by the Prophet Elijah, I thank Him for the eternal family unit, for the privilege we have of being sealed ourselves in his holy temples, and for then making available these sealing blessings to be given to our ancestors who died without a knowledge of the gospel.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Today's Worldwide Indexing Event

Quoting from the Church News for 10 July 2014,
Beginning July 20, 2014, at 6:00 p.m. (mountain daylight time), volunteers worldwide are encouraged to participate in the Family Search indexing challenge by submitting at least one batch of records within the following 24 hours.
Continuing the quote:
Our stated goal is 50,000 volunteers participating in a single day, though we think the potential exists to surpass that mark by a considerable amount,” said Mike Judson, indexing workforce manager for FamilySearch. “All it takes to be counted in the record is to submit one batch. With hundreds of thousands of past indexing volunteers and thousands more joining weekly, breaking the record won’t take much if people will commit to spend the 30 minutes or so required to finish and submit a batch.
The event begins at 00:00 coordinated universal time (UTC) on July 21, which is 6:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (MDT or Utah time) on Sunday, July 20. It ends 24 hours later, at 23:59 UTC (or 5:59 p.m. MDT) on Monday, July 21. Local start times and status updates can be found on the FamilySearch Facebook event page.
Here is a screenshot of the Worldwide Indexing Event Facebook page:

To see an introduction to Indexing see the video at

Saturday, July 19, 2014

FamilySearch Consultant Webinar Series hosts an ongoing Family History Consultant Webinar series. Many of the past presentations are available online and future webinar are announced regularly. Here is a screenshot of the page announcing the series;

The webinars are presented by experienced representatives of FamilySearch and will continue into the future. You do not have to be registered or even sign in to to view past webinars. If you click on the image above, you can see the current topics available.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Update on Mobile Apps for FamilySearch: Tree and Memories

There are some surprises in the new FamilySearch apps, Tree and Memories, for both iOS and Android. I was able to find both apps in the Apple App Store, but I was only able to find the Tree app in Google Play's Apps, so far. The big news in addition to the introduction of the apps themselves, is the addition of sound recordings to both apps. The Apps will allow sound recordings of up to 15 minutes in length. However, although the recordings are preserved, they are not yet available, as of the date of this post, on's Memories program.

So far, the Details for individuals in's Family Tree are not yet editable by using the apps, but I assume that will be forthcoming.

If you are aware of the restrictions on photos and documents uploaded to Family Tree's Memories, you will realize that every item uploaded is actually reviewed by a live person at FamilySearch. It will be unlikely that this will be the case with the recordings, so if there is a recording that is not acceptable because of content (not just because you disagree with the genealogy or whatever), you can use the "Report Abuse" link to report the unacceptable content. The change to user edited content from the FamilySearch review only applies to audio files.

When you try to view sources using the Tree app, you might find that opening the source refers you to the Web location referenced. There does not seem to be a way to see the same information recorded in the sources on the Details pages of the individuals. The Tree app does allow you to upload photos, stories and audio files directly to the online Family Tree, but there is no mention of documents.

There is a link to view your "History List" of people you have viewed and visited since you reset the list.

As you get into the apps, you will likely find other features I have not yet discovered. I might also note that the Get Help menu in has changed. There are a number of help topics if you search in the Help Center for the Tree app or the Memories app. It appears that many of the functions of the apps require a live connection to the Internet or the option of downloading six generations of your ancestry on Family Tree.

Here is a screenshot of the new listings in the Get Help link:

I suggest clicking on the Help Center link and then searching for "Tree app" and "Memories app." Here is a screenshot of the results of the search for Tree app:

You can click to enlarge the image. As I get time to get into the Help Center topics, I will provide more information about specific features of the apps.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Move information between your FamilySearch and Ancestry trees now available

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been invited to sign up for a free account now have the ability to move information directly between their account and's Family Tree. Here is a screen shot showing the new feature;

The note at the bottom of the page indicates that "The ability to compare and transfer relationship and sources information is coming." In this particular case, the comparison pointed out a long-standing issue. On the FamilySearch Family Tree side (the left side in the screenshot) there is a date listed for a "Christening." Christening is not an ordinance performed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So this is an invitation to me to correct my ancestor's record on Family Tree.

I personally am looking forward to begin the process of moving sources from to Family Tree.

In order to make these comparisons, it is necessary to have an Family Tree. Presently, you can move a family at a time from Family Tree to to start the process of doing research for sources on

Free FamilySearch Family Tree and Memories Apps released

FamilySearch has released two new apps for iOS and Android devices. They are available in the app store from the devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices. I wrote a brief overview of the apps on Genealogy's Star. The apps are called FamilySearch - Tree and FamilySearch - Memories. There is another app available also called Turn Hearts.

Here is a screenshot from my iPad of the Tree app:

This seems to be the only view supported so far, but this is a brand new app and will likely change in the near future. The app appears to be only a viewer because I could not edit any of the entries.

The Memories program is also a viewer, but you can add photos directly to the online FamilySearch Family Tree from your device's camera or from the images stored on your device. Here is a screenshot, again, from my iPad:

Here is a screen shot of the Turn Hearts app also:

I am sure I will have more about these apps later.

Recent Updates and Additions to FamilySearch

Every so often, FamilySearch publishes a summary of the updates to the website, usually those changes made to Family Tree. It is very helpful to have these summaries because otherwise there is no place that the information is conveniently displayed. The guidebook to Family Tree has not been updated since 18 October 2013 and many changes have been made to the program since that time. 

This month's updates are summarized by Steve Anderson in a blog post entitled, "What’s New: Recent Updates and Additions to the FamilySearch Website—July 2014." Here is the list of links to the announcements of the most recent changes:
I will continue to write about each of the updates individually, but I hope to also provide a link to the summary's as they are published so there is a double-check on the changes. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Genealogical Paradox

How can genealogy be fun and easy, when at the same time, it is one of the most difficult and challenging areas of research? How can genealogy be simple and complex at the same time? During the past week or so, I have been receiving questions about some of the most challenging genealogical problems imaginable. During that same time period, I have seen several blog posts claiming that new developments are making family history easier than ever, as if it were ever easy. Why is genealogy being portrayed as fun and easy?

I have written about this general subject before and gotten a number of comments about how fun genealogy can be. I have come to the conclusion that both "fun" and "easy" are so vague as to be almost useless. I took a huge number of my grandchildren to a local exploration-type museum. I think some of them considered this visit to be fun. I would not have characterized my activities there as fun. It was interesting, but I am afraid that since most of the activities were aimed at children about 8 years old or younger, I felt somewhat left out of the fun. Of course, I wasn't there because of the attraction, I was there because of the grandchildren.

I guess my basic question is why does genealogy have to be both fun and easy? Are we really trying to make family history or genealogy into the equivalent of a local amusement activity with activities that attract a lot of young children running and screaming at the top of their voices? Some of the museum activities were supposed to be "educational," But with all the noise and confusion, I suspect that any educational content was lost. When I am doing genealogical research, I need huge blocks of time with almost no distractions. I need to be able to think and feel the spirit of what I am looking for. It seems to me that this is the antithesis of fun and easy. I have said it before, I would not keep doing genealogy if it were not one of the most challenging activities I have ever found, including law and graduate studies.

Are we really accomplishing what we want to accomplish by selling genealogy and family history as fun and easy? Is there really some level where people can participate without an expenditure of time and a great deal of effort? I think I would rather like to use the words "gratifying," "fulfilling," "soul-expanding," "fascinating," and other similar terms. These terms may not attract the 8-year-old level of fun and easy, but they do convey a better idea of the motivations we have for becoming involved in doing, what can be tedious and time-consuming, research.

I don't think there is a real paradox in family history and genealogy. I think there is only an apparent one generated by those who most obviously do not spend much of their time doing family history research. I think adding to the ranks of the genealogists is more like recruiting graduate students for a position at a university than attracting a bunch of children to a local amusement activity. Producing valid genealogical research requires a number of highly developed skills and some innate talent. Overall, it requires a valid interest in the subject matter.

Over the past few years, I have seen a slow increase in interest in family history among my own, now fully grown, children. Over time, I see them begin research activities on their own and start making visits to family history centers and libraries. Each of them has the potential of making a huge contribution to our family history. Their motivation comes through a spiritual realization of the importance of the history of our family and based, in part, on strong religious beliefs. They are all very busy with family and work, but they now spend time occupied with regular family history activities. I might also mention that they are entirely unaware of the fun and easy promotions going on about involving younger people with genealogy.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to attract highly educated and capable people to genealogy and family history. Perhaps we should begin emphasizing the more motivational aspects of our work rather than competing with amusement parks and superficial educational activities.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Genealogically Related Resources on

It is evident that most of the resources for genealogists in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are found on But it is important to realize that many other resources are available directly on To use some of these resources, it is necessary to sign in to the program using your LDS Account. The startup page of has changed recently and will likely continue to change, but the basic functions of the website will remain pretty much the same. Over time, it is likely that additional features and functions will be added, so it is a good idea to become familiar with the website and visit it regularly.

The most significant resources on the website are those related to the doctrinal and scriptural basis for genealogy in the Church. There is a full online copy of each of the volumes of the scriptures with many references and online study aids. The website also has complete copies of the Conference talks, First Presidency Messages, Visiting Teaching Messages, Lesson manuals and many, many more written, audio and video resources.

Currently, prominently displayed on the startup page, there is a link to the Youth Temple Challenge. Clicking on that link takes you to one of the many family history related pages on the website. Here is a screenshot showing the Youth Temple Challenge page:

The links to the many other family history related pages are listed on the left-hand side of the page. These resources are also available by clicking on the Resources link on the startup page. Here is a list of the links to the family history recources:
As you work your way through this extensive list, you will begin to see the depth of the support provided by the Church for family history. Please take the time to explore these resources and realize the importance of the great work of redeeming our dead. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finding Research Opportunities in FamilySearch Family Tree

The new Descendancy view in's Family Tree opens up a world of possibilities to those who believe that "all their genealogy has been done." FamilySearch has produced a short video explaining how this view works to aid you in finding opportunities to discover cousins whose Temple work may not have been done. Here is a link to the video:

It is important to note that when an opportunity is located in the descendancy view, you should first check for duplicate entries and then verify the information contained in There is no guarantee that the information is correct or that the ordinance work has not already been done, but by using the Descendancy View, you can certainly find family members who open up the those possibilities if you are willing to spend some time verifying the information presented.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Will We Keep Pace?

In a recent article in the Church News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was quoted as stating the following:
The leaders of the Church, he noted, “have given timely emphasis to the importance of hastening the work of salvation. But I wonder sometimes if we, as servants of the Lord, believe that we primarily and solely must hasten this supernal work.” Faithful and diligent members play a vital role in helping God’s kingdom roll forth across the world, Elder Bednar explained. “But, the Lord hastens His work; we do not. First and foremost, we always should remember that this work is the Lord’s work, and He does the hastening.” 
Elder Bednar identified two “profound implications” that “grow out of the truth that the Lord directs and moves His work forward:” 
• Will we keep pace? 
• Will we learn and teach the Savior’s way? 
Elder Bednar suggested that members ask themselves if they as individuals and as a Church will choose to keep pace with the Lord’s hastening. “Or will we insist on doing things the way they have always been done, or the ways we are accustomed to or comfortable with?” 
Again, he said, each member can choose to learn, repent, change, and teach more effectively in the Savior’s way. “Or will we be so entangled in the traditions and patterns of the past that we will be unable to keep up with the pace of the Lord’s hastening?”
I think this counsel applies directly to not only the missionary work of the Church but also the work of redeeming the dead through our efforts in family history. Too many of the people I come in contact with in the Church make excuses about not being involved in family history because of the rapid pace of the change in the way that the work is done. Others complain about the need to learn new skills, particularly those pertaining to computers and the Internet, in order to do the work. I even talk to researchers who refuse to use computers at all.

In this regard, let me point out some important facts:

  • In order to process ancestral names for Temple ordinances, it is necessary to enter the names into the Family Tree program with only a very few exceptions.
  • FamilySearch, the wholly owned and operated family history entity of the Church has placed billions of family records across almost two thousand collections to enable members around the world to find their ancestors.
  • FamilySearch has entered into beneficial agreements providing free access to all the members of the Church to, and All of the members are being invited over the next few months to be part of this fabulous program.
  • FamilySearch helps maintain over 4,745 FamilySearch Centers around the world.
  • FamilySearch has phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • FamilySearch has introduced new features to the Family Tree program that makes it possible to find cousins who have not received the benefits of Temple work.

The list could go on and on. Are we as genealogists and family historians going to find ourselves in the category of those who are "so entangled in the traditions and patterns of the past that we will be unable to keep up with the pace of the Lord’s hastening?”

The Basics of Researching LDS Records

Many of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have joined the Church during their own life time or are first or second generation members, will be doing primary genealogical research for their ancestors almost immediately, but for some of those whose ancestors joined the Church many generations ago, there is a completely different challenge in getting started with finding ancestral family members who need their ordinance work completed. From my own experience, at first it appears that "all the work has been done." This is usually not the case, but finding the records and moving beyond research that my have been done in the past is not as easy as looking for 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation ancestors.

One very common fallacy about this work that has been done is that Family Tree is a "source" for finding names to take to the Temple. I often hear of Wards or Stakes challenging their members, either youth or adults, to find a name within a specific time period as a challenge. This can be a simple as adding the names of parents or grandparents for recent converts, but for descendants of longtime members, this sort of challenge is unrealistic and can be very frustrating. The information in Family Tree comes mainly from 5 large historic databases; The Ancestral File, The Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, Church Membership Records and Temple Records. None of these databases are particularly good for finding ancestors whose Temple work remains undone. Both the present Family Tree program and its predecessor, have indicators for potential Temple ordinance availability in the form of green arrows. In the Family Tree program there is also a ordinance alert called Temple "Opportunities."

For those who have joined the Church recently or whose ancestors were not members, the job of adding names that have not had the ordinances done previously is rather straight forward. It involves adding names to the Family Tree program from personal family records or, in many cases, those that are relatively easily obtained through research. For people with families that go back generations in the Church, the job of finding available names is more complex. It is not impossible that individuals, even in very researched family trees, may have been missed for Temple ordinances, but it has been now many years since the introduction of and Family Tree and members have been "mining" these programs for Temple ordinances for that period of time.

Nevertheless, there is a persistent belief that Family Tree is a source for even more names for Temple ordinances. In many cases, rather than follow the warnings and search for duplicates, the users have simply redone the ordinances. To some extent, that problem has been addressed in Family Tree. But it is still incumbent on the members to check carefully to see if the ordinance work has already been done. This is especially true for any ancestor who was already a member of the Church or their descendants.

For more specific information about research ancestors who were members of the Church, see the following links:

These articles and the video should get you started. Remember, it is very likely that anyone you find in Family Tree has already had all of their ordinances done, whether or not they are shown in the program. There are exceptions but you need to proceed with caution. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

FamilySearch opens access to Ancestry, MyHeritage and findmypast to all members

The general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began receiving invitations to join, and using their Account. I do not know how far this invitation is going out around the world, but it will be sent to all the members eventually. The invitations are being sent by email. The notice states as follows:
We’re excited to announce that Latter-day Saint users of can now receive personal access to, findmypast, and MyHeritage at no cost! 
Access to these commercial family history websites, used in tandem with enhanced FamilySearch tools, will open new doors of discovery, elevate your ability to provide temple blessings to ancestors, and increase the joy that comes from connecting generations. 
Starting today, you can sign up for personal accounts with all three sites and use the features of each in searching for ancestors. In the future, you will be able to connect data between your FamilySearch Family Tree and the online trees of each of these websites. In addition, you will be able to submit names for temple ordinances starting with each of these websites. More information concerning online tree integration and temple submissions will be available by the end of 2014.
I am afraid, as has already happened, that many members will either ignore the invitation or throw it in the trash. I am also sure that using some or all of these programs will be a new experience for a huge number of members since all three of these websites are available to the general public only as subscription sites. Here are a few suggestions from the experiences we have had already with signing people into the programs;

  • Do not ignore the emails. They are personal to the recipient and cannot be forwarded to other family members or friends. If you try to do this, the links will not work.
  • We have not gotten any instructions about how to replace the email invitation if it is lost, although I have received two such invitations so far.
  • Go ahead and sign up for all three of the programs, even if you do not think you will use them right now. You may be surprised at how helpful all three can be in the future.
  • I know that many of the Family History Centers will be gearing up to teach classes on all three of these programs. Meanwhile each of the programs have help centers and a great deal of support. See my post entitled, "Online help for, and"
  • If you already have a subscription to one or more of these websites, I suggest following the instructions very carefully. You will see that there is a provision for an existing account. This includes even a trial account or inactive account. If you have or have had an account, you can convert that account to the free LDS account based subscription.

You should seriously consider putting your family tree on all three programs. You will find that they work best when you have a family tree uploaded or entered into each program.

I will certainly be writing more on this subject. For now, if you have any questions, feel free to address them to me in the comments to this, or any other post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Selecting a Specific Family for the Primary Position when Opening Famiily Tree

A new feature added to the Family Tree program is the ability to select the person you would like to see when you first open the program. Most of the existing desktop genealogical database programs have always had this feature, but it is a new innovation to FamilySearch Family Tree. The process of selecting the starting person is quite simple and involves entering the start-up person into your preferences file.

The complete process is explained in detail in a blog post by Jeff Hawkins entitled, "Selecting an Ancestor to Appear in the Main Position When You Sign In."

FamilySearch continues to add functionality to the Family Tree program and it has become very full-featured. However, the basic issues with the merge function and the attachment to the program have yet to be resolved.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Where are all those FamilySearch Blog Posts?

In the not-too-distant past, FamilySearch issued only intermittent blog posts. They would go a few weeks without putting out any information and then, in a burst, launch a huge number of posts all at once. That has changed. FamilySearch posts new information almost daily. In the last week, which is typical, they have posted more than one blog post a day. I do not automatically reproduce every single blog post. I usually pick those that have my personal interest or which I think have more than daily significance. So, to see the whole picture, you might want to subscribe for yourself.

In addition, when I choose a post to discuss, unless it is a specific announcement, I usually comment on the content. But where are all of those blog posts? Online, they are all posted to Here is how you find them. First, go to the startup page and scroll to the very bottom. Here is a screen shot showing where the link to the blogs is located:

Don't worry about the pictures. Most of the content on the FamilySearch startup page is user driven. So the photos and links that occur are customized for your personal use. Clicking on this link brings up the FamilySearch Blog. Here is a screenshot of today's listings:

What you might not realize is that you are looking at only a small part of what has been posted by FamilySearch. Look at the right-hand side of the page and you will see a list of Categories. You might not realize that each of these "Categories" is a completely different set of blog posts. If you subscribe to the FamilySearch blog, you may or may not be getting all of these blog posts, depending on what you have told FamilySearch in your settings on and on

Here is a screenshot with the list highlighted:

Each of those categories has a completely different list of blog posts which do not necessarily show up in the main list each day. Here is an example of one of the categories, the Family History Library:

You could go through and subscribe to each category or you could sign up with FamilySearch and receive email notifications of every category. Just be aware that you will likely receive more than one post every day, sometimes four or five or more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Saving and Printing a Portrait Pedigree

As announced by on 7 July 2014 in a blog post by Jeff Hawkins, Family Tree now has the function of printing a portrait pedigree. See Saving and Printing a Portrait Peidgree. Here is a full-page example of a portrait pedigree of my Great-grandfather:

This is a nice addition to a reunion program or to be included in a book or other publication. You can print the portrait pedigree either from a Portrait view or from the Details page for any individual. It is also a good incentive to find the photos missing from your ancestors.

Online help for, and

A fellow blogger, John D. Reid, of the Canada' Anglo-Celtic Connections blog, pointed out a link to another blog entitled, "An Introduction to Findmypast's search tools." This got me thinking that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will shortly all have access to not only,, but also both and I figured it would be a good idea to provide some links to support and help pages for each of these programs.
This is likely the least known of the three programs, depending on your prior genealogical experience and also depending on where you live. If you are from the United Kingdom, it is likely that you have heard of the program, even if you are not familiar with it. It is U.K. based and has million upon millions of records relating to the U.K. and more records all the time from the U.S.

Once you sign in to the program and try to begin using it, you may well need some assistance in understanding how it works. I would suggestion beginning with the step-by-step getting started guide. It may seem elemental to some, but it important to follow through each step so you can see how the program works. You will find that some of the suggested records are not included in your LDS Account access to the program. You may also wish to utilize over 75 videos on the findmypast channel. These tutorials and videos should give you a basic idea how the program operates.
In order to get started with you will need to begin a family tree. Yes, this is in addition to your family tree on If you have a program that synchronizes with Family Tree, such as Rootsmagic, Ancestral Quest or Legacy Family Tree, you can create a GEDCOM file and upload that file to Once you have a family tree on the program and log in with your LDS Account, you should start receiving Smart Matches to other family trees with the same individuals and Record Matches to sources from the millions of records has online.

Links to MyHeritage's video tutorials and other resources are located at the bottom of the startup (home) page. There is a long list of video tutorials and articles from the Help Center. Just as has a series of videos, also has a sizable online library of videos. It also has its own YouTube channel. 
Although most experienced genealogists in the United States have had some experience with, there is always a lot to learn about the website and its resources. Fortunately, has an equally impressive number of online helps. With an LDS Account access to the program will include access to the Learning Center. In addition, has a free download of over 33 Reference Guides. In addition to the impressive resources on the website, has a channel with over 590 videos.

Please do not forget to ask for help from your local Family History Consultants. If they cannot help, you might want to let them know about all the help centers and videos available. You can also get help in a FamilySearch center around the world.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Creating Green Arrows for Others to Use

Over the past few years, I have written a number of times about mining the "green arrows" from the program and now, from the Family Tree program. My concerns have centered on the fact that most of the so-called green arrows indicate duplicate entries where one entry has the Temple Ordinance work complete and a second (or more) entry shows those same completed ordinances as available. In this situation initially lead to a multiplicity of additional duplicate ordinances.

In, the green arrows were defined as a marker where Temple Ordinances were available. In Family Tree, there is a difference. The same type of markers usually lead to a request to search for duplicates.

Now, Family Tree has released their Descendancy View with the same invitation of what is essentially "green arrows." But there is a substantial difference. Here is a screenshot showing the Family Tree equivalent of a "green arrow."

The difference is in what happens when you click on the "green arrow." Here is a screenshot of the results of clicking"

However, if you disregard all of the warnings and explanations of warnings, you could add the person to your Temple list. But in this particular case, there are this number of possible duplicates:

All of them, with one exception, seem to be the same person. So, there is a way to avoid all these possible duplicates and do the Ordinance work over yet another time, but the warnings and education are there, if the user wants to heed them.

One very important detail about this entire inquiry is that every one of the individuals in the Descendancy View above have a marker that indicates that they need sources. In effect, there is no assurance that any of this information is correct. By the way, after doing one or two of the possible merges, the record shows that all of the Temple work has been done. But the "green arrow" remains and could still be used to reserve the Temple Ordinance. But if you refresh the screen and go back to that same person, the "green arrow" has disappeared. Here is a screenshot showing the arrow is now gone:

I would suggest a couple of things need to be done.

First, I would suggest that anyone working on Family Tree focus on doing as many valid merges as possible. That will help to reduce the number of possible duplicate Temple Ordinances.

Second, I would suggest that if you are looking for valid genealogy to do, that you add to and correct the Family Tree file. Add records and allow people to "glean" them from the Family Tree field. That will give those who do not yet know how to find additional records the experience of participating in Temple Work.