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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Key to Using FamilySearch Family Tree

For some considerable time, there has been a vast instructional aid to learning's Family Tree program. Unfortunately, very few of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been struggling with learning the new program are aware of this resource. The set of lessons, both video and written, is called the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos. Here is how to find this resource on

The first step is to login. Then click on the Get Help link on the startup page:

There is a pull-down menu.

You will want to click on the link to the Learning Center. Here is a screenshot of the Learning Center. Remember that these webpages may change at any time. The Learning Center contains hundreds of videos on various subjects. You will do well to explore its offerings. Presently, the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos are on this startup page.

Here is the introductory page to the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos:

Here is a quote from the explanation of this collection of instructional materials:
This curriculum is a set of individualized lessons designed to give the user an extensive understanding of Family Tree. Level One has 28 short lessons that are done on your own account and 21 short lessons that are done on a fake or sandbox account. This level is designed for the very beginner. Level Two is an intermediate course with 35 lessons that are done in your own account and 57 lessons that are done in a fake or sandbox account. Level Three is an advanced problem-solving curriculum designed for those who need to understand how to fix the big problems encountered in the tree. Level three has 30 lessons done in a fake or sandbox account. 
Additional Information
Language English
Lesson Owner Leland Moon
Lesson Creation Date 9 July 2013
Presenter Leland Moon
Although this collection has a date in 2013, it is really up-to-date. That was likely the initial date the collection was created. You need to seriously consider taking the written portions of the instruction.

New FamilySearch Indexing Website in Beta

For some time now, the new FamilySearch Indexing program has been released for Beta testing. You can see and use the Beta test at If you are involved in's Indexing, you need to be aware that the program will change very soon. The new website moves the entire Indexing program to the Internet. There will be no need to download a program to your own computer to participate in Indexing. It seems that no matter how many times this is announced, there are still people who are disoriented and surprised when the change comes.

There is already an extensive help center on for Indexing. Here is a screenshot:

You might also want to be aware of the latest version of the Guide. Here is a screenshot of the cover:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time to think about your ancestors

A common excuse for ignoring getting involved in family history is a lack of time. The easy, but not very helpful, answer is that we spend time on those things we value. The truth usually is we spend time on routine, daily responsibilities that we create for ourselves. We manage to be "busy" even if our activities are trivial and non-productive. We fill our "free time" with diversions. An example is monitoring the news. I remember my Grandfather coming home each day from work and sitting in his overstuffed chair and "reading the newspaper." He was a lifetime newspaper man, reporter and editor, and relaxed after a day's work by reading the paper. I am sure he spent more than an hour a day at this one activity. The activity itself was in no way negative. He kept reasonably well informed and had time to relax.

This example, however, illustrates a principle. That principle can be very well illustrated by reference to a well-known hymn:
Improve the shining moments;
Don't let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.
The rest of the lyrics express this important principle; we accomplish what we spend our time doing. Often those things we spend our time on are those that really matter the least. As the scripture states:
But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late... Helaman 13:38
 Quoting from Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 18, pp. 303 to 305):
What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, “We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come? Here we are, bound and fettered, in the association of those who are filthy?” What would they whisper in our ears? Why, if they had the power the very thunders of heaven would be in our ears, if we could but realize the importance of the work we are engaged in. All the angels in heaven are looking at this little handful of people, and stimulating them to the salvation of the human family.
One thing that has happened since Brigham Young made this statement is that we have a lot more excuses for not being involved in searching out our ancestors. I wonder what he would say to us today? Fortunately, we do not have to speculate. We have the words of our current prophets to remind us what we have to do. Here is an example of what I mean from a recent General Conference talk by Elder David A. Bednar:
The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. “They without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40; see also Teachings: Joseph Smith, 475). And “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15). 
For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent “the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.
The words may not be exactly the same as those used by President Young, but the message is the same. Perhaps we need to audit the time we are spending on trivial pursuits and focus some of our valuable time on family history.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Everything you need to know about findmypast's Parish Records is one of the three huge, online, genealogical subscription database programs that are now free to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is an extremely valuable program for anyone whose ancestors came from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand or even the United States. The website regularly adds millions of new records. In addition, has a valuable blog. The latest post is entitled, "Everything you need to know about our Parish Records." As the post explains:
Parish records are those made by the church after a law passed in 1538 in England and Wales that required all baptisms, marriages and burials to be recorded in the parish register. With religion being such an integral part of daily life during this period, they can offer a fascinating window into British life from the Tudor period onwards.
Their website contains a number of helpful suggestions and tips from "Get started with your family history" to "20 Things to Do When You Are Stumped."

It is time to get busy and take advantage of this and other online resources.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Decide now to do your family history

At the recent October, 2014 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy said, in part:
To assist members, the Church has gathered records and provided tools so that much of the work can be done in our own homes or in the ward buildings and the temple. Most obstacles have been removed. What ever your past perception, it is different now! 
However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work. All it requires is a decision and a little effort. It does not require a large block of time. Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield the joy of the work. Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you. They will! The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for “the book."
Elder Packer explains his reference to "the book" earlier in his talk:
From the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “The great day of the Lord is at hand. … Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128:24.
One of the great tragedies that impedes the salvation of the dead, is when the individual hesitation referred to by Elder Packer involves a leader in the Ward or Stake with responsibilities to inspire, train or help the members. The printed version of Elder Packer's Conference talk from gives a footnote citation to the following statement:
There has been a renewed emphasis on family history and temple work from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
The footnote gives us a list of the recent statements from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve:
See Thomas S. Monson, “Hastening the Work,” Ensign or Liahona,June 2014, 4–5; Henry B. Eyring, “The Promise of Hearts Turning,”Ensign or Liahona, July 2014, 4–5; Russell M. Nelson, “It All Starts with Love” (video),; Russell M. Nelson, “Adding ‘Family’ to Family History Work” (video),; Russell M. Nelson, “Generations Linked in Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 91–94; Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign or Liahona,Nov. 2012, 93–95; Quentin L. Cook, “Roots and Branches,” Ensign orLiahona, May 2014, 44–48; David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 24–27; Neil L. Andersen, “A Classroom of Faith, Hope, and Charity” (address to Church Educational System religious educators),; Neil L. Andersen, “Find Our Cousins!” (address at RootsTech Family History Conference, Feb. 8, 2014),
I am disappointed when I observe Ward and Stake Leaders that have apparently not yet gotten the message about the importance of hastening the work of salvation in their respective congregations. It seems to go back to Elder Packer's statement that "there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work."

What's New on

In addition to the changes in the Memories section of the website, there have been a number of other changes over the past month or so. Here is a list of the new features:
  • More Ordinance Information on the Traditional and Descendancy Views
  • Changes to Memories Are Included in the List of Latest Changes
  • Members Can Edit Their Own Name and Birth Information
  • You Can Filter Names in the History List
  • Getting a Free Partner Account for 13-17 Year Olds
  • Single Sign-In for and
  • Learning Center Pages
  • Add a Person: Improved Wording for a Found Match
  • View Image From the Record Details Popup
  • Location Information in Search Map
These changes are explained in detail in a blog post by Steve Anderson entitled, appropriately enough, "What's New -- September, 2014". If you thought that the changes in FamilySearch Family Tree were slowing down, I guess you will still have to wait a while. I'm sorry for not getting this out sooner. I get almost 100 emails a day and sometimes things get pushed down on the list really fast. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Online FamilySearch Training Now Available—October

From a blog post from FamilySearch:
Several new classes have been added to the FamilySearch Learning Center. These new classes include:
  • A class on descendancy research
  • A class on how to separate names that were incorrectly combined in Family Tree
  • Four classes on using Spanish records in Spain, Latin America, and Mexico. These classes are presented in Spanish
I don't think too many people realize the huge number of online classes available in the Learning Center on In fact, in my experience, few people even know that it is sitting there in the Get Help link from the startup page.

Monday, October 20, 2014

FamilySearch Memories Pages Updated has implemented some addition features to the Memories Page primarily dealing with changes to the Photos. The announcement was featured in a blog post by Jeff Hawkins on the FamilySearch Blog, entitled, "Updated Features on the Memories Page." The post explains:
When you attach or detach a memory (photo, story, document, or audio file) for a person in Family Tree, you can add a reason statement to whatever you’ve added. A reason statement helps explain why you are attaching or detaching the item. Sometimes this helps provide a useful historical perspective to the memory being added.
In looking at the program, I see that additional information has been added to the tagging view page. Here is a screenshot with an arrow showing the new information:

The post explains this new function as follows:
When you view a page that shows a photograph and the names of the people in the photo are attached to people in Family Tree, more than just the names of the people are displayed. Now some of the personal information from Family Tree is also displayed for each person in the photo.
The post presents two more changes. The first is the ability to include a "reason statement" when attaching or detaching an item that are tracked in the change log. I find this to be helpful, but what would be more helpful is the ability to edit or remove photos, such as wrong identifications or duplicate photos, from other users. The last change is the addition of a verification screen when you add a link by using the PID (identification number) rather than a name.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Temple Garments

In a dramatic break with tradition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through its official Newsroom, has issued a post about Temple Garments. The post is introduced by the following statement:
From ancient times, men and women have embraced sacred music, different forms of prayer, religious vestments full of symbolism, gestures and rituals to express their innermost feelings of devotion to God. 
The variety of these forms of expression is as wide and diverse as the human family. Yet all have the same ultimate purpose: to connect the believer with the object of their devotion in the most personal way—to draw close to God.
The post concludes with the following statement:
Because of the personal and religious nature of the temple garment, the Church asks all media to report on the subject with respect, treating Latter-day Saint temple garments as they would religious vestments of other faiths. Ridiculing or making light of sacred clothing is highly offensive to Latter-day Saints.
I am sure that, like most members of the Church, I have had some interesting and sometimes embarrassing experiences with this topic. I will close this post with one more quote from the Newsroom article:
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are no outer religious vestments in ordinary worship services. 
However, many faithful Latter-day Saints wear a garment under their clothing that has deep religious significance. Similar in design to ordinary modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as the “temple garment.” 
Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical or “magic underwear.” These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and Church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill. 
Temple garments are worn by adult members of the Church who have made sacred promises of fidelity to God’s commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
To Church members, the modest temple garment, worn under normal clothing, along with the symbolic vestments worn during temple worship, represent the sacred and personal aspect of their relationship with God and their commitment to live good, honorable lives.
I assume if you are interested in this topic you will read the entire article. See the link above.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Plan now to attend RootsTech 2015

RootsTech 2015 is coming up fast. All of the member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be aware of the planned Family Discovery Day, described as a fun and informative day for LDS Church members, including families, to discover and share their family stories across generations. Here is a quote from the website describing the activities of this special day:
Families and members of The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints are invited to attend FDD at RT on Saturday, February 14, 2015. This free one day event is a day of inspirational messages, instructional classes, interactive activities, and exciting entertainment to help LDS members to discover and connect with their families across generations. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced family historian, there's something at Family Discovery Day for everyone.
 The activities planned for the day include:
Inspirational Messages
General Authorities and other well-known LDS speakers share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences that will inspire you to:
  • Discovery your family connections
  • Offer ancestors the blessings of the temple
  • Share your experience in family history with friends and family
Interactive Activities
Family Discovery Day includes access to the huge expo hall where hundreds of exhibitors are available to help you with things such as:
  • Recording your personal and family stories
  • Creating a visual family tree to print and share
  • Taking photos with family and friends
  • Calling and recording your conversation with grandma
Family Discovery Day Classes
Choose several classes each hour designed to teach you how to:
  • Find and prepare family names for temple work
  • record, preserve and share family stories
  • Utilize and My Family booklet
  • Share your experience with others and teach them how to get started
Youth Participation
In 2015, we are encouraging members of the Church to attend Family Discovery Day on Saturday, February 14th as families where possible. Everyone is welcome to attend Family Discovery Day at RootsTech and all classes and activities will be geared to all ages and experience levels (ages 8+). Ideally, the youth who experienced the excitement at RootsTech in 2014 will invite their parents and siblings to join in the fun next February. As we make this transition, however, we anticipate there will still be some youth groups who attend together.
There will also be a Special Closing Event featuring the the cast of Studio C from BYUtv and other popular entertainers to be announced soon.

It is probably a good idea to remember that the rest of the RootsTech schedule will be going on at the same time along with the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference (FGS). You may want to look into the schedule of classes for these other events and make a choice of where you want to be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Identify, Document and Cherish our Ancestors

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a General Conference talk in October of 2011
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation ofthe Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A NewHarvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the HolyGhost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.
 It is through this process of identifying and documenting our ancestors that we can fully begin to cherish them. What does it mean to cherish our ancestors?

One attempt at defining the idea of cherishing our family was expressed by Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
Service rendered and received by God’s children comes with an eternal blessing described by the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together” (in Daughters In My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society [2011], 25).
The word cherish is associated with the terms protect, care for, hold dear and keep in one's mind. If these terms apply to the act of cherishing your ancestors, do you cherish them? Have you even thought about them individually as members of your family? It would seem to me that the end product of searching out our ancestors is just as Elder Bednar taught, we begin to have this personal relationship with them and learn to cherish them.

If we merely search through an online database, such as's Family Tree for the sole purpose of "taking a name to the Temple" without even knowing our relationship to the person we find in the Family Tree and in some cases, without even knowing if we are related to the person we find, how can we then ever come to cherish that ancestor or relative?

Even more fundamentally, what if we ignore the first two of Elder Bednar's injunctions? What if we fail to identify and document our ancestors? How then can we claim to move on to the last step of cherishing them?  The people documented in the Family Tree have been identified by others. Many, if not most of them, lack any documentation. I believe we can only cherish what we love and we can only get to know our ancestors through searching them out and documenting (i.e. learning about and recording) their lives.

We have been blest by such marvelous tools to hasten our work in family history. It is a shame to ignore those tools and use them for the purpose of creating a superficial relationship with and lacking the ability to cherish, our ancestors. Quoting from Elder Allan F. Packer in his talk in General Conference in October 2014:
To assist members, the Church has gathered records and provided tools so that much of the work can be done in our own homes or in the ward buildings and the temple. Most obstacles have been removed. Whatever your past perception, it is different now! 
However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work. All it requires is a decision and a little effort. It does not require a large block of time. Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield thejoy of the work. Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you. They will! The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for “the book."
As do many of my fellow genealogists, I stand ready to help all those around me with their family history. Now is the time to get involved and start learning to cherish your ancestors.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Look at Descendancy Research

Both researching ancestors and researching the descendants of ancestors have a long tradition among family historians. I grew up with several books detailing the descendants of prominent ancestors, usually the first in my family line to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, it is predominant among beginning researchers to focus on establishing an ancestral line rather than jumping back in time to begin research on a remote ancestor.

Fortunately, recent developments in software for family research have emphasized examining descendancy lines rather than focusing on extending ancestral pedigrees. Two of the prominent programs in this regard are the recently introduced Descendancy View in and the independent program called Both of these programs prove valuable in establishing a beginning point for descendancy research. But it is important to realize that there are fundamental and inherent differences between investigating backwards in time as opposed to finding the descendants of any person in coming forward in time.

In all cases, when starting with a remote ancestor with the objective of identifying his or her descendants, it is imperative that we are reasonably sure that we have a verifiable relationship with the remote ancestor. Merely picking a name and assuming a relationship is not sufficient. Many members of the Church are confronted with extensive pedigrees in the Family Tree program which are completely unsupported by sources. In these cases, careful examination of the ancestral lines is necessary even when the remote ancestor is commonly accepted as a progenitor.

When working backward along family lines we are used to investigating documents in a progression showing parentage. Reversing the process and discovering children involves a more expansive examination of documents with which most family historians may have little or no familiarity. One factor in doing this type of research is the fact that you will inevitably encounter people who are living if you are successful in your research. You may find that the living people object to their inclusion in your genealogy and even object to your whole project of creating a descending pedigree.

Many Church members today are becoming involved in descendancy research with the objective of finding additional family members eligible for Temple ordinances. It is important to realize that the same considerations concerning careful research and verification of sources applies to investigating a family's descendants, as applying to ascendancy research. I have been hearing recently a number of comments concerning individuals who have used the descendancy features of both and to arbitrarily choose an ancestor and merely click on descendancy links until a possible candidate is identified. No thought is given to the actual relationships and certainly no thought is given to whether or not the information is well-founded.

Before attempting to find the descendants of any particular individual it is very important to establish a clear ancestral relationship with the individual selected. It is also equally as important to identify and document the descendants before making the assumption that there is a "cousin" relationship.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

BYU Family History Library Class on FamilySearch Family Tree

This is another in the series of classes being presented at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. This particular presentation talks about the history of the Family Tree and discusses where the program is presently in its development. If you have a question about the changes going on in the program, this would be a helpful source for additional information.

LDS Based Sources for Family History

Most newly involved family historians in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints become quickly aware of the some of the resources contained in the vast website and a few even make it over to the resources on But the list of Church sponsored family history resources is much longer than this one website. There are many, many more affiliated websites that contain valuable information. I thought I would spend some time and make a partial list of these resources. Here is the list. Bear in mind that it is not intended to be exhaustive and there are more resources hiding out there on the Internet. Further, exploring any one of these websites may take hours or even days.

Individual Family History Libraries or FamilySearch Libraries have very extensive and useful websites. Here are a few of the larger ones:

Brigham Young University has a remarkably large number of valuable family history resources scattered around in their huge website. Here are a few of the more accessible resources:

There are two other FamilySearch websites not usually visited by researchers but with valuable information:

The Church History Library also has a lot of valuable digitized documents and resources as does the website.

There are many other resources in the University libraries in Utah and elsewhere that you should investigate. Try searching for LDS history genealogy and see the results. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What can the youth contribute to genealogy?

Devon Lee, in her blog, A Patient Genealogist, posed some interesting questions in her post entitled, "Redefine Family History Goals for Youth." She raises the question in the context of what her daughter could accomplish in the context of her own previous extensive research. Here is a quote summarizing the issues:
Question: Do I stop my research so that my children can find names that I would find over the course of the next years? What if I stop doing my research to help them find what I would have found but we wind up not finding what I would have found because we waited too long?
Of course, this issue is entirely confined to that segment of the youthful genealogists whose parents, to some extent, have been involved in genealogical research. But it also applies to youth who find that other members of their family have also done extensive research. In my own situation, several of my daughters have become involved in genealogical research, the difference being that my daughters are all married and have their own families. One of my granddaughters had the experience of exploring her own pedigree in's Family Tree program during a youth activity and was able to trace the lines all the way "back to Adam." Although, she and her friends were impressed by all these names, the concept that the online Family Tree went all the way back to Adam was very likely a discouragement that any further work could be done.

Devon includes several suggested alternatives to involving the youth directly in genealogical research in these situations where extensive research has already been done. In my own case, all of my daughters who are involved are capable researchers in their own right and all have college degrees and extensive research backgrounds. They are able to work on complex research issues which have defied solution over the years. This would not be the case with a much younger, inexperienced researcher.

 The question asked by Devon also raises the fundamental issues that keeps returning about how to bridge the gap between creating an interest in family history and acquiring the skills necessary to do formal historical research. Obviously, if any member of the family, including the youth, were to be in the position of being one of the very first people in the family to become involved in family history, the first few generations of research could be accomplished much easier. For anyone living today in an industrialized country with access to the Internet, researching the first two or three generations of a family is not likely to pose a challenge except in situations where special circumstances exist such as adoptions, multiple marriages, and disruption of the family by wars or other similar circumstances.

One challenge that is seldom discussed about involving the youth and genealogy is that it is not unusual for a teenage person to have two or even three generations of their family still living. In those situations, rather than emphasize research into deceased relatives, how about involving the youth in gathering current family history in the form of oral interviews and other similar projects?

It is always puzzled me as to how the youth are to become involved in genealogical research in families where individuals missing from the pedigree have defied the efforts of generations of investigators? They are supposed to be able to do this simply because they have "superior computer skills?" A simple illustration of this challenge can be illustrated by simply imagining a situation where online research is no longer able to supply information which is still locked up in various repositories around the world. Are the youth supposed to take the initiative to travel to distant libraries and archives to do research? How do they do this without the involvement of their parents?

Although in my own experience my interest in genealogy arose at a time when I was already married and working as an attorney, I have friends who began their interest as teenagers in many instances assisting other family members in doing research. But any contributions they made to the existing family research came only after years of experience and maturing ability to do the research. This is especially true in situations where the ancestry very quickly evolves into an investigation in a foreign language.

In fact, the youth reflect the greater challenges faced by anyone beginning an interest in investigating their own family history. The skills and techniques that need to be acquired are the same.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not Just a Name

Current in the jargon of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the use of the word "name" to refer to ancestors as in "take a name to the Temple" or "find a name to take to the Temple." From my point of view this use of the word "name" is very unfortunate. We don't just take a name to the Temple, we act as proxies for our ancestors in performing sacred ordinances. Even more unfortunately, this idea of "finding a name" has been extended to the practice of mining names from the Family Tree program without spending either the time or effort to verify that the name found represents a real person or a person whose Temple work has already been completed previously. This practice has been extended by leaders who challenge members of their particular units to take a name to the Temple without considering or providing a way to legitimately discover their ancestors and even specifically challenging them to use Family Tree as a "source" for those names. 

At the same time some of those same leaders fault "genealogists" for merely being interested in finding "names and dates" rather than being interested in the stories about their ancestors and emphasize how "easy" it is to go to the Family Tree program and find a name. They treat the Family Tree program as if it is a magical way to manufacture qualified ancestors. As I have been teaching the missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library these past two months, I have referred to this practice many times and always immediately elicited confirming responses from the class members. This pattern of disregarding the identity or reality of the ancestor in exchange for accomplishing the task of "finding a name" is endemic.

Quoting from a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in General Conference in October 2011:
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. … For it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. … Hence, God said, ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet’” (Teachings: Joseph Smith,475). 
Joseph further explained: 
“But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21]. 
“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead … ; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 472–73). 
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present. 
The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. “They without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40; see alsoTeachings: Joseph Smith, 475). And “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15). 
For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent “the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.
I would submit that "finding a name to take to the Temple" from merely searching from those names identified by Family Tree does not even approach this process of identifying, documenting and cherishing our ancestors as explained by Elder Bednar. How do you cherish a name of a person you do not know and have spent only a few seconds harvesting from a program. I am certain that in many, many instances, the people involved in this process can not even articulate their relationship to the person so found.

This name gathering process is also almost always a guarantee that the Temple work done for people whose "names" are taken to the Temple after a brief search is duplicated for reasons inherent in the program such as the failure to search for duplicates. There are those who consider duplicating ordinances to be entirely excusable, however.

 The dichotomy between people who spend their lives researching, identifying and documenting their ancestors (genealogists so called) and the trivial act of "taking a name to the Temple" needs to stop. They are people, not names. Family Tree is a repository for recording the Temple work already done and for accumulating documentary evidence about our ancestors. It is not the place to merely find the records of ancestors whose Temple ordinances have not been completed, but it is a valuable tool in assisting us in that process and becoming more valuable all the time. The work of the salvation our our kindred dead requires work. Why has this belief arisen that the Family Tree program (and its predecessor is somehow an endless reservoir of names to take to the Temples without doing the work required?

A Very Short History of FamilySearch

Genealogy and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been closely associated for more than 150 years. Elder Orson Pratt is acknowledged as the first member of the Church to compile and publish a family history. Elder Pratt began his investigations while on a mission for the Church in 1853. He also founded the Jared Pratt Family Association in 1881, one of the oldest family history organizations in the nation. [Some of the facts in this post come from the book, 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. Herein cited as "Hearts, page..."]

Apostle Franklin D. Richards served as Church Historian from 1889 until 1899 and is credited with donating his private genealogical book collection to the Church as the basis for the beginnings of the Church genealogical library. At the time, there was much discussion about the organization of a genealogical society and on 1 November 1894, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve approved the articles of incorporation of the Genealogical Society of Utah. [See Hearts, page 45.] Within days of its formal organization, the books donated by Elder Richards and others were moved to the Church Historian's Office and became, what we have today, as the Family History Library.[See Hearts, page 47] From 1910 to 1940 the Society published the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine. Many of the copies of this publication are now digitized and freely available in the online Google Books app. For example, see Volume 1, No. 1, January, 1910.

In Volume 1, the President of the Society, Anthon H. Lund, wrote the following at page 23:
Our experience has been that the great majority of those who attempt to search records and compile them from original sources, the genealogy of their forbears, make a failure of the undertakings because they are uninformed in many details of the work and lack the power to gain access to the files and documents containing the information. We desire to help them by placing before them in published form items that will assist them and also as far as circumstances will permit, the complete records. 
Given the huge collections of records now on, these words show the effect that very early determination to assist genealogy in all its forms.

In 1938, the Genealogical Society of Utah began the amazingly vast effort to preserve records through a world-wide microfilming project which resulted in the accumulation of over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. According to Wikipedia,
In 1975, the GSU became the Genealogical Department of the LDS Church, which later became the Family History Department. At that time, its head officer was renamed President from Executive Director, starting during Theodore M. Burton's term. However, the title "President of the Genealogical Society of Utah" and other GSU titles were still used and bestowed upon department officers. 
In 2000, the LDS Church consolidated its Family History and Historical departments into the Family and Church History Department, and Richard E. Turley, Jr.became managing director of the new department and president of the GSU. This broke with tradition, since the President of the GSU was no longer the department's executive director or a general authority of the LDS Church. See Wikipedia: Genealogical Society of Utah. 
At some point around 1998, the Genealogical Society of Utah began using the trade name of "FamilySearch." A website was planned also beginning in 1998. Quoting again from Wikipedia:
In 1998 the FamilySearch/GSU began digital imaging of records and in about August 1998 the decision was made by LDS Church leaders to build a genealogical website. In May 1999 the website first opened to the public. It almost immediately went off-line, overloaded because of extreme popularity. In October 1999 they surpassed 1.5 billion hits. Then in November 1999, 240 million names were added, bringing the total number of entries to 640 million.
 At about this time, the Genealogical Society of Utah began another, separate, corporation called FamilySearch, International. Here is a description of the corporation from the FamilySearch Research Wiki:
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
FamilySearch has currently evolved into a corporation employing around a thousand people both paid and volunteers. It maintains a huge complex website known as that fulfills the desire of Anthon H. Lund in providing complete copies of original documents for researchers all over the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Are we willing to do the work of salvation?

In the October 2014 Ensign, Elder David A. Bednar wrote the following in an article entitled "Missionary, Family History, and Temple Work":
Some individuals may wonder how both preaching the gospel and seeking after our dead can be simultaneously the greatest duties and responsibilities God has placed upon His children. My purpose is to suggest that these teachings highlightthe unity and oneness of the latter-day work of salvation. Missionary work and family history and temple work are complementary and interrelated aspects of one great work, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).
I suggest you read and re-read what Elder Bednar has to say. For years I invited both our Ward Mission Leaders and the Full-time Missionaries assigned to our Ward to utilize the family history resources of our Ward in their missionary efforts without success, even though the Mesa FamilySearch Library (Mesa Family History Center at the time) was only a short distance away from our Ward and right across the street from the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors Center. During that same time, the Mesa FamilySearch Library was hosting thousands of people who were not members of the Church, many of whom I was talking to and working with each day I served as a Missionary.

I extended the same invitation to our High Priests Group Leader and the Ward in general. Here is what Elder Bednar has to say on that subject:
While the Lord seeks to gather all things together in one in Christ, we may often segment and specialize in ways that limit our understanding and vision. When carried to an extreme, priority is given to managing programs and enhancing statistics over inviting individuals to enter into covenants and receive ordinances worthily. Such an approach constrains the purification, the joy, the continuing conversion, and the spiritual power and protection that come from “yielding [our]hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35). Simply performing and dutifully checking off all of the things on our lengthy gospel “to do” list does not necessarily enable us to receive His image in our countenance or bring about the mighty change of heart (see Alma 5:14).
Elder Bednar further explains how this can be accomplished through the role of the Book of Mormon in changing hearts and the Spirit of Elijah in turning hearts. His article contains links to six individual videos that support the concepts he is teaching us. He says further:
The time has come for us to capitalize more effectively on the potent combination of the mighty change of heart, made possible primarily by the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon, and the turning of hearts to the fathers, accomplished through the spirit of Elijah. A yearning for connection to our past can prepare anindividual to receive the virtue of the word of God and fortify his or her faith. A heart turning to the fathers uniquely helps an individual withstand the influence of the adversary and strengthen conversion.
In part, he summarizes his points as follows:
Preaching the gospel and seeking after our dead are complementary parts of one great work—a labor of love intended to change, turn, and purify the hearts of honest seekers of truth. The artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and family history work is being erased; this is one great work of salvation. 
Can we begin to understand the role of temple and family history work in helping an investigator or a less-active member obtain a deeper understanding of the plan of salvation? Do we recognize that one of the greatest influences on convert retention is the spirit of Elijah? Can we more fully appreciate the importance of heart-turning moments occasioned by the sharing of family stories as a means of finding people to teach by both members and missionaries? Can we help those we serve access more often the powers of godliness by participating worthily in ordinances such as the sacrament and baptisms and confirmations for the dead?
The lessons taught here by Elder Bednar are specifically explained in the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Tune the Hearts.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What about weak links in the family history leadership chain in the Ward or Stake?

I received a comment to a recent blog post that pointed out that there were problems in the Ward when there was a weak links in the chain of leadership for family history. The chain of leadership as outlined in the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts involves the following Ward and Stake leaders:

  • Stake President
  • High Councilor assigned to Temple and Family History Work
  • Bishop
  • High Priests Group Leader
  • Ward Family History Consultant
On the Area level, the Presidency of the Seventy or Area Presidency oversee temple and family 

history work and Area Family History Advisers work closely with the Area Seventies and coordinating councils. 

But what if those who fulfill these callings are not interested in family history and do not follow the guidance of the Leader's Guide. The key to solving this situation is contained in the Leader's Guide. As the Leader's Guide states on page 3:
Priesthood leaders provide doctrinal and administrative direction to temple and family history work. Their direction is essential to lead members to the temple through family history efforts.  They teach members and encourage them to attend the temple and participate in family history work.
 Each of the leaders have specific responsibilities. These responsibilities include:

  • State presidents hold the keys for this work and therefore preside over and correct Temple and family history efforts in the stake.
  • Bishops hold the keys for this work and therefore direct Temple and family history efforts in the ward.
  • High priest group leaders have the primary responsibility to coordinate the ward council's efforts to encourage and enable temple and family history work in the ward.
 But as the Leader's Guide states family history consultants help ward leaders learn about family history so they can share it with those they serve. So, with kindness and patience the Ward family history consultants should reach out to the leaders by:
  • Helping them work on their own family history so they can perform temple ordinances for their deceased relatives.
  • Demonstrating how family history can help them in their callings to minister to those they serve.
See that Leaders Guide page 20. So the key to addressing a perceived weak link is for the family history consultants to do their job as diligently as possible. If the family history consultants feel inadequate, they can seek training online from the extensive resources on

An Invitation to All -- Classes at the BYU Family History Library

As shown on the Brigham Young University Family History Library Facebook page, I will be teaching a full load of 16 classes this week. All of these will be on the same subject. I will be teaching the missionaries and anyone else who wants to attend about's Family Tree. So come ready to ask questions. If you have any good comments, they may end up here in the blog to be answered.

The class is being taught in conjunction with each shift at the Library, so that is why there are some many iterations of the class on the same subject. This gives as many of the missionaries who want to attend the class the opportunity to do so. Here is the class schedule:

The classes will be taught at the BYU HBLL, room 2242.
Mon. Oct. 6th: 9AM, 1PM, 5PM
Tues. Oct. 7th: *9AM, *1PM, 5PM
Wed. Oct. 8th: 9AM, 1PM, 5PM
Thurs. Oct. 9th: 9AM, 1PM, 5PM
Fri. Oct. 10th: 9AM, 1PM
Sat. Oct. 11th: 10AM, 2PM
*These will be taught in room 2212.

Feel free to come to any of the classes. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Upload your Audio Files to FamilySearch Memories

I received the following email post entitled "Audio File Upload Feature Now Available on Family Tree." Quoting from the post:
FamilySearch is pleased to announce the new audio files upload feature as part of the Memories tab options in Family Tree. Patrons can now add audio files to FamilySearch, and attach them to their ancestors for others to discover and enjoy. 
This new audio feature is supported either via a browser in the Memories tab or Family Tree portions of the FamilySearch site, or via a browser on mobile devices. Title, Description, Upload, Tag, Attach, Details, Albums, Report Abuse, etc., all work the same for Audio files as it does for other Memory types (Photos, Documents, and Stories).
The rest of the post deals with the technical details of uploading an audio file and the devices supported. It looks like there are two formats supported: M4a and MP3. The maximum files size is 15 megabytes (MB). A standard MP3 audio file runs about 100 MB an hour so 15 MB would be roughly 10 minutes, not much time for a story or whatever. We had a patron come into the Family History Library yesterday with a question about transferring an audio file from a cassette tape. This would be a good topic for a blog post. or two or three.

I have been transferring vinyl records to audio files, tapes to audio files and other media for many years. It can be a challenge. I am presently doing a series of oral interviews and with a rather inexpensive digital recorder this is a lot simpler process than it used to be. What happens when you record a story and it goes over the file size limit? There is software that will allow you to cut the file into smaller pieces but it is quite technical. Cutting down the file size of a photo is rather simple, but cutting the file size of an audio file can be a little involved.

The FamilySearch post above notes that there are serious browser issues:
Firefox will not play m4a files on any operating system, except for Windows (Windows will play m4a files on a Firefox browser). Firefox will NOT play m4a files on Mac, iOS, or Android platforms. 
To see a complete list of Browser/OS combinations, click on the following link to see the browser/OS integration test results.
In adding different types of media to the Memories program things are getting technologically interesting.

Friday, October 3, 2014

More about merging duplicates in FamilySearch Family Tree

I got the following comment from a reader:
In reference to merging duplicates. Sometimes it says that a record can’t be merge and looks like someone has identified it “not a match”, when it clearly is. No matter what direction you come from, you can’t merge it.

Other times it’s been identified as “not a match”, when it clearly is, but it give you the option to merge it anyway after asking “are you sure?”

Please tell us the mechanics behind this and what to do in this situation, if anything. I noticed this you said more to come on the merging topic, so maybe this could be included (if you understand my explanation!)...
This particular question address several different, related issues. In a recent post, I mentioned the Help Center topic entitled, "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree."  Note that you may need to be signed in with an LDS Account to see the entire topic article. The first consideration from the question above is addressed in another Help Center topic entitled, "Removing a record from the Not a Match list." The instructions are as follows:
  • Open the Details page of the person whose Not a Match list you want to see.
  • To get to the Details page in Family Tree, click the person's name. The summary card appears.
  • On the person's summary card, click PERSON. The person’s Details page appears.
  • At the right, under Tools, click Possible Duplicates. A list of possible duplicates appears.
  • Click the Not a Match tab. The records that have been identified as not matching this person are listed.
  • If you want to move a person back to the list of possible duplicates, or if you want to compare and merge the records, follow these steps:
  1. Click the person’s May Be a Match link.
  2. Enter a reason why you think this record may be a match.
  3. Click May Be a Match. The person moves to the list of Possible Duplicates.
  • Click the Possible Duplicates tab.
  • Click the person’s Review Merge button. The merge screen appears. The rest of the process works the same as merging duplicate records. You can review the record and either merge it or indicate it is not a match.
I think if you go through the process of removing the Not a Matches then the merge might work. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

More Changes to FamilySearch Family Tree

Two new changes to's Family Tree were recently implemented. One announcement was entitled "More Ordinance Information on the Traditional and Descendancy Views" and the other was entitled, "Changes to Memories Are Now Included in the List of Latest Changes."

The changes to the traditional and descendancy views adds more information about the status of the ordinances. Here is a screenshot of the new dialogue box:

The blog post states:
You can now see more information about temple ordinances on the traditional pedigree and descendancy view.
When you click a temple icon for “Needs More Information,” “In Progress,” or “Ordinances Complete,” you will see a display of the ordinances. If you click the Expand link, you will see more details, including ordinance dates (if the dates are available).
The additional changes to the program add Memories to the Latest Changes list. This is what the post says:
In the past, only changes to an individual’s details page were those changes shown in the Latest Changes list. Now, when you attach, detach, and modify a photograph, a story or a document in the memories pages, those actions are tracked in Latest Changes.
I suppose we can expect changes almost constantly for the foreseeable future.

How is Family History Organized on a Ward Level?

When  we approach the subject of family history and Temple work, we should always remember Doctrine and Covenants 128:15:
For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, [for] they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
Family history work in the Ward starts with the Bishop. As it states on page 12 of the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts,
The bishop directs the work of salvation in the ward, which includes temple and family history work. Bishops can use temple and family history work as a way to strengthen members and their families. Bishops consider ways to use family history to help with missionary work, convert retention, member activation, and teaching the gospel. Bishops should read through the entire “Ward Leadership” section for examples of ways to use family history in these efforts. 
The bishop and his counselors set an example by teaching ward members the doctrine of temple and family history work and testifying of the blessings that come by participating in this work. The bishopric ensures that the high priests group leader acts as the coordinator of the ward council’s temple and family history work. 
If you study these paragraphs carefully, you will see that the key to activity in the Ward is a bishop and his counselors who are leading by example. It is also the bishop's responsibility to ensure "that the high priests group leader acts as the coordinator of the ward council’s temple and family history work." This seems like an additional burden to the bishops at first glance, but in fact, making family history a priority increases the activity of the members in missionary work, convert retention and member activation. If the bishop ignores this sacred duty, he is not fully assisting the members in the work of perfecting the saints.

It is true that the Bishops are burdened with many responsibilities in the Ward, but it is also true that focusing on the basics, such as family history and temple work address more of those responsibilities than addressing each responsibility separately. If the Bishop effectively utilizes the Ward Council, including having a functioning High Priest Group Leader, the Bishop will soon realize the importance of the following quotation from page 13 of the Leader's Guide:

Temple and family history work is not only about redeeming the dead. This work is actually an integral part of one great work— the work of salvation (see Ephesians 1:10). As ward councils focus on the work of salvation, they should consider how temple and family history work can be a resource in accomplishing the many aspects of the work of salvation.
 All aspects of the Ward activity level at all ages will be enhanced by involvement of the Ward in temple and family history work.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why can't I merge duplicates on FamilySearch Family Tree?

The title to this post is one of the questions asked most frequently about the challenges of working with the Family Tree. Unfortunately, the answer to the question is complex. There are presently six basic reasons for the inability of the program either to merge obvious duplicates or to fail to find duplicates at all. During the past year, FamilySearch has implemented numerous safeguards in an attempt to cut down on the number of duplicate ordinances and it would seem that one way to achieve this goal would be to implement an effective way to eliminate duplicate entries in the Family Tree. Despite this avowed goal, it seems that months and now years pass with little or no progress in this regard. 

There are some serious issues that must be resolved before the merge function of the Family Tree program will work properly. It is now almost a year since any update to "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013)" was made. Despite that lapse of time, the explanation for the inability to merge duplicates still applies. Quoting from page 146 of the Guide:
Records That Cannot Be Merged 
Some records in Family Tree cannot be merged. You cannot merge records in the following situations:
  • The gender on one record is male, and the other is female.
  • One record indicates the person is alive; the other is deceased.
  • Both records come from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • One of the records came from, where it has been combined with too many other records.
  • The duplicate record has already been deleted due to another merge.
  • One of the records has restrictions that would prevent it from being changed. 
If Family Tree has already identified possible duplicates that cannot be merged, they appear beneath the list of possible duplicates.
All of these six reasons still exist, even after a year since they were last updated. There are some few changes however that effect the seriousness of the items on the list. However, this issue is addressed in the Help Center, available from the "Get Help" link on every page of the Family Tree. The entry in the Help Center is entitled "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree." 

The first of the issues above concerning conflicting gender information has the longest and most involved explanation. You can see the answer in the Family Tree Product support article entitled "Correcting gender information in Family Tree." 

The next issue combining a living with a deceased individual has the following explanation:
One record is a living individual (records of individuals born within the last 110 years that do not have death information). If you were allowed to merge these records, then the individual's record would be treated as if he or she were living. Only users who are directly related to the individual would then be able to see the record. This might prevent you or the original contributor from seeing it. 
If the individual is deceased, update the living record so it shows as deceased. Then you should be able to merge the two deceased records.
The issue of the membership records is addressed separately by the Help Center explanation reference above and requires contact through the Feedback link on the bottom of the page. You will need to be signed in with an LDS Account to see these member oriented explanations.

The issue of the origin of the records from is ongoing. The present explanation is as follows:
One of the records for the individual is too large
  • These records are often referred to as IOUS, meaning "Information of Unusual Size."
  • Presently, other records cannot be merged with an IOUS record nor can IOUS records be unmerged.
  • This is a known issue, and there is no estimated time for a fix.
 Note, this is a change from the original definition of an IOUS which always has been "an individual of unusual size."

The remaining two issues are also still a problem and there are links to the more complete explanations. Again, you may need to be logged in with an LDS Account to see some of these additional explanations.

There is also a note as follows:
NOTE: When merging by ID, the ID numbers MUST use capital letters and include the dash between the numbers. For this process, see point 4 in Merging Duplicate Records in Family Tree (53952).
More on this issue in another post.