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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why do we add sources to our entries in FamilySearch Family Tree?

Many of the people I talk to about adding sources to's Family Tree have apparently forgotten how to write. They seem to have been using computers for such a long time, that their ability to operate without one doing all the work has atrophied. It is time to step back and take a little dose of reality. I realize that the entire concept of attaching a source to an individual's life events is somewhat foreign to many who claim to be family historians, but adding sources is the key to stopping the endless cycle of redoing entire ancestries every generation. If the huge numbers of my own relatives who spent countless hours accumulating names and dates and merely thought to provide adequate documentation for each, perhaps I would not have had to spend most of the last 30 or so years re-verifying everything they recorded.

If my great-grandmother had thought to verify and document her own father's birth place, perhaps while he was still alive, I would not have spent years looking for that same information.

OK, so here goes a rather involved hypothetical situation. We start with Researcher Doe, who is researching his family's history. Mind you, this is all hypothetical and I will be making up the details to suit the points I am going to make. So, listen closely.

Researcher Doe was born in Nephi, Juab, Utah in 1935. (Remember, I am making all this up). He was the second child of Alma Doe and Sarah Roe. His father had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York in the 1920s. He had come west to be near the Church and ended up in Nephi, working in a car repair shop. He met Sarah Roe at a church dance and they got married in the Manti Temple in 1931. Researcher Doe is now in early 80s and is, for the first time, interested in learning about his family.

Researcher Doe goes to his Ward Family History Consultant for some help and is invited to go to the local family history center. R. Doe is moderately familiar with computers because when he was employed as an accountant, he had used one in his work. R. Doe is still healthy and active and wants to get busy finding out about his family. His father died when he was nine years old in a tragic accident, and his mother remarried. He and his step-father were very close and he has always considered him to be his "father."

OK. so now we are ready to do some research. R. Doe, with some help from the staff at the Family History Center, quickly finds his family in the 1940 U.S. Census. His first experiences with and the Family Tree program are a little confusing. He is not sure how to choose between doing research for his biological father or his step-father. He hears two different stories; one that he can follow his step-father's family line if he wishes to do so and on the other hand, he is told that he should pursue researching his biological father. It turns out that his step-father's family came across the Plains as pioneers and it looks like all the information is already in the Family Tree program, so he decides to pursue his biological father's line which stops at his father.

He is not sure what to do with the 1940 U.S. Census record. The friendly folks at the Family History Center (FHC) have told him to buy a flash drive and make copies of the documents he finds and store them on the flash drive. He talks to some of his friends about his research efforts and is told that he must have a program to store his data. He is wondering why this is necessary since he can use the FamilySearch Family Tree. But he now has a copy of the census record on his flash drive and is looking at one of the genealogy programs on the computers at the FHC.

Shortly later, he is introduced to and He has also found his father's World War II Draft Registration record. Now, what is he to do with the documents he just found? Neither document tells him anything he did not already know about his father so he is puzzled as to why the people at the Family History Center want him to add them as sources to his father in FamilySearch Family Tree. He is even more puzzled when he finds the 1930 and 1920 U.S. Census for his father's family.

What would you tell Doe at this point in his research? Why is it so important to add sources? What does it mean to add a source?

This idea of adding sources to entries in our family trees is a very difficult concept. Even if a person has had some exposure to this concept from doing "research reports" in a school setting, it is still not an easy concept to grasp. What is even more difficult to grasp is the concept of building a pedigree entirely from sources. Perhaps it is helpful to think of research as building a house. The sources are the foundation. They support the rest of the structure, i.e. names, dates and places, that go into making the framework. The sources also add the walls and and ultimately all the furnishings of the house.

Many people who do family history think that all that is necessary is to put up the frame. They think that extending their pedigree with names and dates is enough. As they build, they fail to fill in all the details and soon the house is vast framework without any foundation to hold it together. Perhaps you have seen a house that reached the framing stage and was then abandoned. After time, the entire structure needs to be redone. This is the same thing that happens with family history. If we fail to provide all of the background that fills in the history, the next researcher that comes along has to go back through and redo the entire research, basically because there is no confidence that the framework has been done correctly.

It is this process of discovery; finding new details and adding stories and memories of our ancestors that validates and completes the work. If we fail to record the sources, meaning documents, certificates, and other information we find, then that forces the next researcher to go through the same process. We are also missing the enjoyment and fulfillment of building a complete family structure.

In my hypothetical, Doe will soon find that unless he adds sources to his family tree, he will very shortly become lost in the mass of details. He will find that he is going back over the same facts again and again because he cannot keep focused on where he is going because he is constantly re-tracing his research.

Sources help build a complete family history, one that enables future researchers to make progress and not just redo what we have done already.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Duplication of Temple Ordinances is a very old problem's Family Tree program is the current major effort to avoid the duplication of Temple ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This duplication of both the ordinances themselves and the research behind such ordinances has been going on since the very beginning of Temple work in this Dispensation. I was reminded of this when a copy of The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, for July 1928 appeared in some old records from my wife's family. Here is a transcription of what appears on pages 137-138.
In the year 1877, when the St. George Temple was opened, and endowments for the dead commenced, the people knew of no adequate method for taking care of the names of their dead. They collected and copied lists of names – men on one sheet and women on another – took them to the Temple for ordinance work, and later recorded these names in the same sequence into Temple Records. This lack of any system of recording, soon threw the temple worker families into confusion. In 1893 in conformity with the teachings of the Profit Joseph Smith, Pres. Wilford Woodruff called attention to the necessity of sealing up families, generation after generation. It then became necessary to arrange the names in family groups, and pedigree form. Except for the immediate families of those who were interested in genealogy, very few pedigrees have been compiled and recorded. 
The majority of the names now being collected for ordinance work in the temples are taken from the Parish or Church Registers of towns or cities in England and America, wherein are recorded the christenings (or baptisms) the marriages and the burials that have been performed in and from those churches. It has been demonstrated that these names, at times, may be worked out into pedigrees. 
Today the building of pedigrees is being stressed to the greatest possible extent. Many families in the Church are tracing their direct ancestors back for eight, ten and fifteen generations. It is largely due to the new methods that have been explained in lessons 85, 86, 90, 93 and 96, given in the January, April and July Magazines of this year, that the people have become enthusiastic over searching out and compiling their own genealogies. 
The complaint is occasionally heard – "Why are there so many changes made in the manner of researching and recording genealogies?" 
This question may best be answered by asking another:  "Why should any method be adhered to, even when established, if there is a better and more satisfactory one to be found." Consider the confusion which would ensue in a great banking house, if that business should be carried forward on the same basis as when it was organized, say perhaps fifty years ago, with one or two clerks. Large banking firms are obliged to have a comprehensive system and to keep abreast of the times, which govern every phase of every department. 
So it is with genealogical records. 50 years ago the number of endowments each year would not amount to the number done in one week in the Salt Lake Temple, and this does not include work done in the other six temples. 
There were 333,000 endowments performed in all the temples during 1927, and it can readily be seen that the early methods or those even of ten years ago, will not prove satisfactory now. 
Not only was this great amount performed in 1927, but the Temple Records Index Bureau prevented the duplication of 33,000 more names. 
Since the "Index Bureau" was opened on 1 January, 1927 up to the present time there have been nearly 45,000 duplications prevented. 
This number would be greatly increased if the name sent to the Temple Records Index Bureau to be checked, and then taken to the temples for ordinance work, were prepared with more care and were more complete. 
Thousands of names have been endowed without sufficient data to identify them. If some of these the same names should be recorded now by other families – with the proper dates and places of birth, parents, etc., and then written on temples sheets and sent to the "Index Bureau" to be censored (or checked), the clerks would have no way of knowing that they were really the names of the same people; therefore, the clerks would have to pass these names, as not having been done. 
There are two reasons for causes which lie at the bottom of all this poor and incomplete work. One is haste and the other is ignorance, and the former is very often responsible for the latter. 
It is perfectly "glorious that we have these "Junior Excursions" and "Ward and Stake Excursions" to the temples, but it is not wise to drive ahead with feverish haste to secure names, names and still more names, without using intelligent care to have these names represent real people who are properly identified. 
People who have neither training nor knowledge of compiling genealogical data, thinking an easy matter to copy names out of books, and arrange them for Temple work. Anyone who would try to "Keep books," run a store, or cook a meal for the threshers, without any previous training, would be considered very foolish, to say the least. A noted genealogist who has recently visited the Utah Genealogical Library receives five dollars an hour for his services. Not everyone who wishes to compile genealogies would need to acquire the learning of an expert like the one referred to above; but a working knowledge of the newest methods should be the aim of each and every one of who does genealogical research for ordinance work in the temples. This is work worthy of the best of our hearts and the best of our lives, and no effort should be spared to make the preparation of these records the finest that in us lies.
It is truly amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Almost everything contained in the 1928 discourse applies even more today than it did in 1928. It would seem that the progress that has been made, if it can be called progress, is nothing more or less than a rehash of the same issues facing the Church in 1928 and even beyond that date back into the past. If anything, some of the new procedures and the lack of any kind of review presently contribute to far more duplication than existed back in 1928.

Perhaps, it is time to impose some degree of review, such as that done with the implementation of the Index Bureau. Perhaps adding records to the Family Tree program should require some kind of source and any changes require a more stringent source requirement. There is probably a way to get past the problems of 1928, but right now, we seem to be mired in those same problems.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Will you miss the boat, train or whatever?

Currently in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is an emphasis on the concept of hastening the work of salvation, both for the living and for the dead. As stated by President Thomas S. Monson,
Wishing will not make it so. The Lord expects our thinking. He expects our action. He expects our labors. He expects our testimonies. He expects our devotion. See Hastening the Work of Salvation
As President Monson further said in his First Presidency Message in the June 2014, Ensign magazine,
The Lord has never, to my knowledge, indicated that His work is confined to mortality. Rather, His work embraces eternity. I believe He is hastening His work in the spirit world. I also believe that the Lord, through His servants there, is preparing many spirits to receive the gospel. Our job is to search out our dead and then go to the temple and perform the sacred ordinances that will bring to those beyond the veil the same opportunities we have.
Recent developments in the larger, world-wide, genealogical community are proving to be even more evidence of the hastening of the work of salvation for the dead. The recent agreement between and is one more step in the advancement of the technology necessary for the hastening. Unfortunately, many, if not most of the members are not participating in this hastening of the work. They are essentially being left on the dock or platform or whatever.

The work will continue to accelerate. New opportunities will be developed. The changes to family history are coming with ever increasing speed. Quoting from Elder Allan F. Packer in the October 2014 General Conference:
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 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.”17 
Even with the dramatic increase in member participation, we find that relatively few members of the Church are regularly involved in finding and doing temple ordinances for their family.18 This calls for a change in our priorities. Don’t fight the change, embrace it! Change is part of the great plan of happiness. 
This work needs to be done, not for the benefit of the Church but for our dead and for ourselves. We and our deceased ancestors need the stamps in our spiritual passports.
 We have been given the tools. Let us now start to work.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The RootsMagic - MyHeritage - Ancestry - FamilySearch Family Tree Connection

If you are at all interested in the idea of adding sources to FamilySearch Family Tree, then the exciting developments of the past few days should be at the top of your to-do list. I will be posting more comments on my Genealogy's Star blog as they develop. I will keep trying to post additional information on this blog as they pertain particularly to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Meanwhile, I will also post links to other blogs when I find information that will also be very helpful. You might want to check both this and the Genealogy's Star blog since I likely will not repeat posts on both blogs.

Right now, we owe all these new developments to and for initiating a step that opens the door to a flood of new source information into the Family Tree.

Now, here are two blog posts by Susan Maxwell on her Granite Genealogy blog that you absolutely must read:
MyHeritage and RootsMagic Integration - My Experience

Mind you, this is just the start of what will prove to be amazing developments. I might caution the unwary however, this is heavy into file transfer computer stuff and my bewilder those with less developed computer skills. This is not a simple "point and click" solution.

Why is this an important development?

Since the introduction of's Family Tree, we have seen the importance of adding sources to our entries in the Family Tree. The main reason for adding sources is to begin the process of cleaning up the Family Tree. Adding sources also may become a deterrent factor to those who would make arbitrary changes to the data. Although this is not the case where the contributors are so inexperienced that they ignore notes, sources and everything else in the Family Tree and make blind changes based on name similarity alone. Of course, that is another issues and will have to be resolved through mentoring the Family Tree and by programming safeguards such as requiring a person to have a published email address and requiring a source for any changes.

This new development coming directly from opens a window to a way to more efficiently copy information and sources directly from both's Public Member Family Trees and's Family Tree to the Family Tree. I expect that we will shortly see a lot of blog posts explaining and focusing the ways to best do this. I would also expect to see a lot more developments in this area from the developers and programmers.

For more information about adding sources in all of the different programs, see the following:
Joint Announcement Between MyHeritage network and RootsMagic software by Susan Maxwell

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Impact of the Collaboration between RootsMagic and MyHeritage

For some time now, I have been pointing out that the automated search functions of programs such as, and Family Tree are a revolutionary step in family history research. These programs have the ability to produce accurate source hints, leaving the actual designation of the sources up to the individual user of the programs. I have also been pointing out that unless the desktop database programs negotiate a pathway to these automated sources, they will begin to lose market share as the overall online community realizes the advantages of these programs. I pointed to the fact that The Master Genealogist program had ceased to be available. The answer is that no matter how good the program, the new paradigm includes a pathway to automated searching.

As a clear message of this very obvious situation, and have announced a pathway so that RootsMagic users can utilize the advanced MyHeritage search functions. Here is a quote from the announcement as it appeared on the
TEL AVIV, Israel & SPRINGVILLE, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MyHeritage, the popular family history network, and RootsMagic, Inc., today jointly announced that MyHeritage’s Smart Matching™ and Record Matching technologies have been integrated into RootsMagic’s latest version of its popular genealogy software. This enables RootsMagic users to discover the life stories of their ancestors thanks to highly accurate matching between their family trees and millions of family trees and billions of global historical records available on MyHeritage. 
RootsMagic, first released in 2003, is an award winning genealogy program for documenting and preserving family history. Its latest version 7, released this week, includes among its highlights a new feature named WebHints powered by MyHeritage matching technologies that transforms the program into a powerful research tool. WebHints also include hints from genealogy website FamilySearch for authenticated users. Information sent by RootsMagic to MyHeritage for matching is never collected or shared, and is deleted after matching to ensure the complete privacy of RootsMagic users and their data.
As noted, the RootsMagic program will also include hints from

The impact of these new technologies is just now beginning to be felt. It is evident that as these technologies mature, entry into the documented world of family history will become much less labor intensive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Genealogy Program Should I Use?

When I think of some of the most commonly asked questions I hear from the patrons at the Family History Centers and in discussing genealogy generally, which genealogy programs to use is always one of the most frequent questions. This question is immediately followed by the question of which genealogy program I use. Many years ago, the answer to this question would have been rather simple. For a number of years, when I was using Apple computers, there were very few programs and Personal Ancestral File (PAF) for the Mac was an easy choice. It was almost free and I considered it to be one of the best programs available. Unfortunately the last version of PAF was version 2.31 back in 1994. It only took a couple of years before advances in the Macintosh computer operating system made the program obsolete. The Windows version of the program continued to be available and during that time period, I maintained both a Macintosh system and a Windows-based computer system so I could continue to use the genealogy programs and for other business-related programs.

Over the years, dozens of different genealogy programs were developed for the DOS/Windows computers. As I continued to be involved in genealogy, my program needs became more and more complicated. The normal processes of product differentiation began to affect genealogy programs and feature creep became a reality. Every year or so, the genealogy program developers would release a new version of their programs. Because of my almost total involvement with computers, I was always tempted to try out the new programs. This developed into a constant search for the "ultimate" genealogy program.

I carefully watched the genealogy software reviews and tried almost every program I could find. When the Internet became generally available, my search for a perfect program began to expand around the world.

It is not my intention to recommend any particular program. This post is directed at the process of selecting a program that suits your particular needs. Your needs may be vastly different than my own and any program I suggest will reflect my own point of view.

Eventually a complicating factor was my need to support a variety of programs. This came about as I began to volunteer regularly in the Mesa Family History Center (now the Mesa FamilySearch Library) about ten years ago. The process became even more complicated when I started to write my Genealogy's Star blog almost eight years ago. I began the process of comparing different programs in order to answer questions and to write about the programs themselves. I decided very early on, not be become a partisan for any particular program. Most of the popular programs had similar features. Those programs that lacked basic functionality failed to interest me at all. I have never been attracted to that class of programs known as "shareware" or "freeware" that usually lacked any significant amount of support and with a few notable exceptions, came and went with the changes in operating systems for the computers.

I also recognized that there were programs that were popular in certain parts of the world that were not particularly marketed in the United States.

One criteria, because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was whether or not the programs seemed suited to maintaining the types of records that are particular to members of the Church. In that regard, my selection of programs used that criteria as one of the make or break issues in program selection. With the release of (NFS), connectivity with that program became a big issue. Members of the Church who want to move on from using PAF, were attracted to programs that could share data with the online NFS program. For me, the absence of an Apple OS X operating system program that would talk to NFS became a big issue.

After the introduction of's Family Tree program, there was a period of time when none of the programs would share data with the new Family Tree program. By the time NFS was made read only, some programs had qualified as Family Tree Certified programs. But at the same time this was happening, there was another major shift in genealogical software. Online family tree programs began to develop most of the characteristics of the desktop-based programs. The issue of providing sources for facts and events in an online family tree became more and more mainstream.

The issue of adding sources to genealogical data files had been developing for a considerable period of time. In my own mind, sourcing my existing data became one, if not the top consideration. At the same time, the genealogy software developers started implementing more and more sophisticated method of citing sources and including the citations in the programs. Ultimately, the idea of adding sources became a prominent feature of the FamilySearch Family Tree.

Most recently, FamilySearch began the process of adding other major online genealogy programs as "partners." This added an entirely new aspect to the questions of the need for a particular genealogy program. Now the consideration of which program to use as a primary program became more and more complicated. In addition, the issue of searching for and adding sources to the individuals and families in a genealogical database became more and more important. The large online genealogy database programs began to automate their searching functions and integrate and attach those sources directly to the individuals in a user's family tree. I could see the advantage of this type of system immediately and my interest was further increased by claims coming from FamilySearch and the other companies that they intended to open a pathway whereby source citations obtained from these automated programs could one day be added to FamilySearch Family Tree directly.

During all this time starting with the introduction of online family trees, there was the background issue of where to store all your information; online or on the desktop or both places. This is where we are today. We have stand alone programs that do not communicate or synchronize with any online genealogical database. We have other programs that share their data with the online programs.

Where do we go from here? The sharing function of the online family tree programs and the FamilySearch Family Tree are presently limited. Meanwhile, I continue to wait for the FamilySearch Family Tree program to become fully functional. See FamilySearch Announces Milestones for Retirement of

The question of which genealogy program I should use is now more complicated than ever. The question is unlikely to be settled in the near future. Meanwhile, I will keep using the desktop programs that best reflect my personal needs. This can only be determined by using the programs with real data. For the time being I am adding sources to my online family trees and waiting for the resolution of the FamilySearch issues.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why attend #RootsTech 2015?

#RootsTech 2015 will be held on February 12-14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. This upcoming conference sponsored by FamilySearch, will also be held in combination with the annual Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in the same venue, the Salt Palace Convention Center. Even if you have just a passing interest in family history, these two combined conferences will have classes and activities that will spark your interest and be worth the time and registration fees charged. In addition, FamilySearch will have a free Family Discovery Day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and anyone else who would like to attend.

Here are some of the descriptions of the reasons for attending the combined conference:

From FGS here are ten reasons to attend their conference:
  1. Network with other society leaders, sharing the latest ideas.
  2. Visit the world’s largest collection of family history materials, just minutes away.
  3. Get tips from the pros for finding those elusive ancestors!
  4. Spend time relaxing and socializing with other genealogists from around the world.
  5. Find the latest family history gadgets and gizmos in the Expo Hall.
  6. Go behind the scenes of family history on TV at the FGS Opening Event.
  7. Explore genealogical societies from across the U.S. at the FGS Society Showcase in the Expo Hall.
  8. CONNECT with new genealogy friends and blaze new research trails.
  9. EXPLORE presentations on a variety of topics in the classrooms and the new tools you learn about each day.
  10. REFRESH your interest in family history, and leave FGS 2015 ready to tackle those challenging research projects!

From #RootsTech 2015:
  • February 11th, in conjunction with RootsTech, the Innovator Summit is a technology event for programmers and technologists to share, collaborate, and innovate together in the family history industry.
  • On Saturday, February 14, 2015. Family Discovery Day will be a free one-day event for LDS church members, including families, that will help you discover and share your family stories through interactive activities, inspirational messages from church leaders and other popular speakers, and access to an expo hall with hundreds of exhibitors to help and assist. 
  • If you are just getting started in family history, sign up for a Getting Started pass (three days for $39 or one day for $19), offering you more than 30 classes to learn the basics to build your family tree and discover your family history.
  • If you are a Family History Enthusiast or an Experienced Researcher, plan to attend all three days of RootsTech (three-day pass for $159 or one-day pass for $89), with over 200 classes to help you expand your skills, learn about new and emerging technologies, and explore best practices to overcome research brick walls. You can also add access to all the FGS classes (an add-on to the RootsTech three-day pass for $39), and get a full schedule of research-related topics.
One of the highlights of the Conferences will be the combined Expo Hall. The RootsTech 2015 Expo Hall features hundreds of technology and family history exhibitors for you to explore all in one fun, informative place! Stop by the Expo Hall to:
  • Scan a family photo or book
  • Record your story
  • Get one-on-one help
If my experience is similar to past years, as an official RootsTech International Ambassador, I will be spending much of my time at the Media Hub in the Exhibit Hall. You are more than welcome to come by and say hello. 

Plan now to attend. Click here to see a full list of the classes being taught at the #RootsTech 2015 Conference. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yes, there is a way to separate incorrectly merged or combined records

When the program was made READ ONLY, many users of the program were upset because there did not seem to be a method for either correcting wrongfully merged records in Family Tree or using Family Tree to correct records wrongfully combined in Contrary to the common understanding, both situations can be solved using the Family Tree program.

Actually, there are two complete sets of instructions in the Get Help section of Family Tree that explain, in detail, how to unmerge and uncombine records. Before jumping into this type of situation, it is imperative that you take the time to study the procedures carefully so that you can successfully correct the Family Tree record. The types of problems addressed by these procedures are listed in the a Get Help article entitled, "Dividing incorrectly combined records in Family Tree" and in more detail in the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos section of the Learning Center.

From the Get Help - Help Center article, here is a list of the issues addressed:
  • A Family Tree record represents two similar but distinct individuals.
  • The record is about a completely different person who is linked into the family by mistake.
  • The record was incorrectly merged in Family Tree.
  • The record was incorrectly combined in and moved to Family Tree.
  • Ordinances can be adversely affected.
  • Ordinances for the newly created person are buried in the incorrectly combined record.
  • Can FamilySearch find the ordinances and restore them to Family Tree?
  • How do I restore the ordinances to avoid duplication?
Separating incorrectly merged records is explained in a separate article entitled, appropriately enough, "Undoing a merge." The main catch to this process is the warning that if changes have been made to the record since the merge, the Unmerge button will be visible. In this case, you will need to click on the blue name of the deleted person, open their person card and restore the person. I suggest that you really must read the instructions about this issue carefully and follow the instruction equally as carefully.

Undoing a combined record from is a much more complicated procedure. Until you become very familiar with this process, you will need to carefully follow the rather complicated instructions. I strongly recommend working through the lessons in the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos to give yourself the necessary background in working with the Family Tree program so that you can understand what has happened and what will happen with an incorrectly combined record. From the article cited above, here is an explanation of the problem:
Ancestral File was a database that listed the names and vital information of millions of individuals, organized into pedigrees. The information was taken from pedigree charts and family group records submitted to the Family History Department beginning in 1978. When the database for was created, submissions from Ancestral File were sometimes incorrectly combined with each other or with new submissions in to create a single record for two similar but distinct persons. In, users could separate combined records, but the Separate feature seldom corrected all of the errors. In fact, sometimes it caused more errors. Consequently, has become read only. Unfortunately, the incorrectly combined records from are displayed in Family Tree.
The article goes on to explain how to identify badly combined records in Family Tree and gives detailed instructions (the same as those in the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos, that are needed to rectify the problems.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Find and take your own ancestors to the Temple

In a recent FamilySearch Blog post, FamilySearch CEO, Dennis Brimhall, wrote an excellent summary of the need to do our own family research in a post entitled, "Making Your Temple Experience More Sacred When You Find and Take Names to the Temple." He makes reference to a First Presidency Letter, quoting from his post:
On October 8, 2012, the First Presidency letter contained, among other things, this very important clarifying statement, “When members of the Church find the names of their ancestors and take those names to the temple for ordinance work, the temple experience can be greatly enriched.” 
These words contain both instruction and promised blessings. They also provide for us the focus for our efforts in the Family History Department. As we strive to help Church members fulfill their divinely appointed responsibility of enabling the salvation of the dead, one of the keys to success is to enrich the experience of finding the names of ancestors and having their ordinances completed in the temple.
He suggests using a three-step process:
Recent instruction to General Authorities, which in turn will be provided to local leadership, builds on the October 8, 2012, letter from the First Presidency. That instruction is profound in it simplicity and focus: 
  1. Use the FamilySearch website or the booklet My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together to find the names of one or more of your ancestors or their descendants.
  2. Take these names to the temple or share them with others so they can take them to the temple. (When possible, do this as a family.)
  3. Finally, teach your family and others to do the same thing.
The promise is that if we do these three things, we will not only fulfill our divinely appointed responsibility, but we will have enriched joy.
To some family historians, these suggestions might seem over simplistic, but in a presentation at the Mesa FamilySearch Library Conference in Temple, Arizona, Elder Brimhall gave statistics that indicate a very high percentage of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have four generations of their ancestors in the Family Tree program. In fact, a significant percentage do not have their own parents in the program. My guess is that most of these people would have ancestors' names to take to the Temples if they went back to their grandparents.

As Elder Brimhall admonishes, we can make significant progress if we just follow the counsel of the First Presidency.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Can you manually merge IOUS records in FamilySearch Family Tree?

I ran across an interesting statement in a Help Center article on The article is entitled, "Understanding records of Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS)." The article says, in part:
The FamilySearch Family Tree program was created with the ability to merge IOUS records. However, at the present time, Family Tree is still synchronizing with nFS and must abide by the constraints that have been placed in nFS. When nFS is permanently shut down, and Family Tree no longer synchronizes with nFS, then all records will be allowed to be merged in Family Tree. In the meantime, though, some merges in Family Tree will fail if the merge would cause nFS records to exceed the size constraints. While waiting for Family Tree to cease synchronizing with nFS, some patrons may want to attempt to manually merge these IOUS records.
The last statement about manually merging these records caught my eye. I have attempted to do this quite a few times without success. Is there a way to merge these IOUSs in the present program?

There is another Help Center article entitled, "Merging duplicate records in Family Tree."  The article starts with a Note of caution:
Note: Merging is a complex process. You must decide if two entries are for the same person. If the same person, you decide the information to keep. Please take the time necessary to carefully review each possible duplicate.

To prevent incorrect merges, Family Tree has a Not a Match feature. Choose Not a Match to indicate that the two entries are not matches. You can enter a reason to explain how you know. If you indicate that two entries are not a match, the system no longer suggests them as possible matches. This helps prevent incorrect merges from occurring. (Emphasis in original).
There is a further article entitled, "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree."  Here is the explanation about the IOUS records:
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.
If the records cannot be merged for other reasons 
Click the Feedback button at the bottom of the screen, and request that a system administrator merge the records for you. In your message, include:
  • Your full name.
  • Your birth date.
  • Your helper number.
  • The records you want to be merged.
  • The ID number, name, birth date, and birthplace found on the records to be merged. If the records have more than one version of this information, you can include just one. If the record does not contain all this information, provide as much information as you can.
  • A reason or a source that verifies that the records should be merged.
It appears that the mention in the first article about a way to manually merge the IOUS records is not correct. There is a now-dated FamilySearch "White Paper" on this issue entitled, "Dealing with Duplicate Records of People in Family Tree, A FamilySearch White Paper, 21 June 1012." This paper concludes with the statement:
In, duplicates are combined. It is very easy to combine records about different people. There is no way to prevent the wrong records from being combined. Once a wrong combine happens, it is very difficult to fix the problem. 
Family Tree will provide a better solution for duplicate records. It: 
  • Solves the IOUS issue because it does not try to keep all of the duplicate records that are stored within a combined record.
  • Lets users correct both inappropriate merges and provides features that allow:  
  • Undo merges if no changes were made after the merge.
  • Easily correct and re‐create the records when records are changed after a merge.
  • Prevent the merging of wrong records with a new “not a match” feature.
Presently, we will just have to wait until finally is completely, and not just mostly, dead to resolve the IOUS issue.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Solving the Looping Problem and similar issues in FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the most challenging problems encountered in the Family Tree program is the seemingly endless loop of ancestors. The problem can manifest itself in, at least, the following circumstances:
  • A child shows as its own grandparent.
  • A son shows as his own grandfather.
  • A daughter shows as her own grandmother.
  • The pedigree loops for one or more generations.
  • A child shows as his or her own parent.
Sometimes these loops are not obvious, especially when the parent or grandparent and child really do have the same name. There is a series of steps that can resolve these issues, but they must be followed in the exact order or the results will be unsatisfactory and may cause even more problems. 

The source for solving this particular type of problem and many other similar problems is the Help Center. Interestingly, you can access the Help Center from the Get Help menu from the startup page, but the Help Center option disappears if you try to access it from other pages on the website. Here is a screenshot of the location of the Get Help menu:

The pull-down menu looks like this when you access it from the startup page:

The items visible in the Help Center will vary depending on whether or not you are registered with an LDS Account. You will have to return to the startup or home page to see the link to the Help Center. The items relating to the Temple will not appear. Here is a screenshot of the Help Center page:

You could choose any one of the subsections as indicated by the icons, but there is also a search area and the "Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions" near the bottom of the page. You can then search for "loop family tree" and find the following list of help articles:
Some of these obviously deal with other unrelated looping problems, but the solution is the first article found. Here is a screenshot of that article explaining, in detail, how to solve the looping problem:

The screenshot does not show the entire article. I would guess that more than half of the questions I answer regularly about Family Tree and other issues can be readily solved by reference to the Help Center. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Six Family History Ideas for Family Home Evening

On's Family History Topics, there is a valuable resource for holding family history themed Family Home Evenings. Here is a screenshot showing the webpage:

The introduction to the activities is as follows:
In an article in the March 2013 New York Times entitled “The Stories That Bind Us,” author Bruce Feiler shared psychologists’ findings that the more children knew about their family history, the better they were able to handle stressful situations. The reasons were that the children realized they were a part of something bigger than themselves, they understood their family overcame many ups and downs, and they believed they could overcome difficulties too. 
These family home evening ideas will help your family learn more about your extended family and start building bonds with parents, grandparents, and ancestors.
All of the suggested activities are excellent opportunities to interact with both younger and older children. It also does not take much imagination to come up with a number of other, more individual family related, activities that will help to turn the hearts of your children to their fathers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Indexing FAQ Live Broadcast now online

This is one of the more entertaining efforts to answer questions about the Indexing program I have seen. The introduction of the video stated:

Join indexing team members as they answer some of the most frequently asked questions. Questions like “So where do I really index this woman’s maiden name?” or “Do my requests for arbitration review really get reviewed?” or “When can I index on my tablet?” Watch live and ask your own questions.  We may just choose to answer them on air!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Needs more information error in FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the most common error messages in's Family Tree program is the "Needs More Information" error. It seems that most of these errors arise from the practice of putting explanatory words into the "name" spaces in the program. For reference, here is a quote from the Help Center article entitled, "Information Required for Ordinances to Be Performed." It might be necessary to sign in with an LDS Account to see some of these help items.
For individual ordinances, you must have the following information: 
Complete names are preferred. Partial names are acceptable if that is all you can find. Use the maiden name for females. 
The gender must be either male or female. 
The system requires that the individual record be marked as deceased. 
A country for birth, christening, marriage, death, or burial 
A standardized place for birth, christening, marriage, death, or burial is required. The standardized place must contain at least the name of the country. 
Enough information for the FamilySearch website to uniquely identify the person 
This may include the following information:
  • Dates and places of events, such as birth, christening, marriage, death, and burial.
  • Names and relationships of family members, such as parents, siblings, spouse, children, and grandparents.
Here is a list of the names and symbols that will prevent the names from being cleared for ordinances. Although the Family Tree program is rather "liberal" in allowing names to be qualified. These issues must and should be resolved before trying to qualify the names.
(Sorted alphabetically)
(  )
자녀 없음
지명하지 않다

ananhernom inconnu
anoninfantnot known
anon.informationnot named
bodymadresem filhos
bornmãesem nome
brothermalesin hijos
mansin nomb
marriedsin nombre
still born
miss or mrs
mort ne
niece, nephew
nicht bekannt
nicht benannt
girlno issue
no name

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Solving Relationship Issues in FamilySearch Family Tree

It is not uncommon in working with;s Family Tree program to find all sorts of issues with family relationships. One of the most frequent issues is whether or not any particular list of children in a family are all the children of both of the listed parents. The simple rule used in Family Tree is that if the children shown are not the children of both of the listed parents, then the relationship should be deleted. In other words, each child must be the child of the two parents shown. This rule applies to situations where one of the parents is listed a "Unknown" also. So, for example, if the father's name is known and the mother's name is not known, but the there is another entry showing the correct mother, any child listed with the "Unknown" mother should have that relationship deleted and the child added to the entry with the correct "Known" mother.

This somewhat simple rule can become very complicated when either or both parents have multiple marriages or relationships. At this point, it is important for the researcher to understand how people can be related. There is a basic tutorial consisting of a series of lessons in the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos that can be very helpful. This series of lessons starting in Level One and continuing in both Level Two and Level Three can help you to understand and advance your knowledge of the program. You should always work your way through all of the preceding lessons. This series begins in Level One with learning to use the "Sandbox." The Sandbox is a practice or dummy example of the Family Tree program that can be used without making changes to the actual program. Learning to use the Sandbox will enable you not only to learn the more involved parts of the entire program, but can also be used to teach others about the program without the danger that data in the "live" version of Family Tree will be lost.

Here is a screenshot of the Level One Sandbox Instruction location:

Watching the videos is no substitute for working through the exercises and practicing editing using the Sandbox version of the program. By jumping ahead in the program, you may get lost and fail to learn vital information needed to understand later principles introduced.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Explaining the 110 Year Rule

Note: The links in this post may only work for those who have an LDS Access account to

The 110 Year Rule for doing Temple ordinances for deceased ancestors is stated as follows:
To do ordinances for a deceased person who was born in the last 110 years, the following requirements must be met.
  1. The person must have been deceased for at least one year.
  1. You must either be one of the closest living relatives, or you must obtain permission from one of the closest living relatives. If you are not a spouse, child, parent, or sibling of the deceased, please obtain permission from one of the closest living relatives before doing the ordinances. The closest living relatives are an undivorced spouse (the spouse to whom the individual was married when he or she died), an adult child, a parent, or a brother or sister.
Verbal approval is acceptable. Family members should work together to determine when the ordinances will be done and who will do them.
Another statement on the subject in contained in the Member's Guide to Temple and Family History Work (2012) pp. 29-36. Here is an excerpt:
Before you perform ordinances for a deceased person born within the last 110 years, obtain permission from the closest living relative. Relatives may not want the ordinances performed or may want to perform the ordinances themselves. The closest living relatives are, in this order: a spouse, then children, then parents, then siblings.
One very serious complaint I frequently hear from family historians is the fact that their near relatives, fathers, mothers, grandparents etc., have their Temple ordinances done by people who they do not know and in some cases, cannot identify. Some people have had their own deceased children's ordinances done by non-family members. This can be an extremely traumatic occurrence for those who are just beginning to have an interest in family history. They go on the FamilySearch Family Tree program for the first time to try an do the ordinances for a parent, sibling or child and find that the ordinance were already done, sometimes within days of the date of the person's death. Violation of this rule is not just an inconvenience. It is a serious issue with the families who suffer the consequences of other's violation of the 110 Year Rule.

If a person desiring to do the ordinances asks the family member for permission and is denied, it is not excusable to "shop around" and try and find another family member who is willing to give permission. This is true even if the family members are not members of the Church. Just because the closest family members are not members of the Church does not relax or excuse the Rule. Here is a quote from the Brigham Young University, Religious Education course, Religion 261, Lesson 6:
  • You may perform temple ordinances for deceased persons one year or more after the date of death without regard to the person’s worthiness or cause of death if you have permission from the closest living relative.
  • 110 Year Rule: if a person was born within the last 110 years, you must receive permission to do the ordinances. You must receive permission from (in this order) a spouse, adult children, parents, and siblings. You cannot circumvent a family member if they have withheld permission. If none of these relatives are living, you still must wait until the individual was born more than 110 years ago in order to do their ordinances.
  • Do not perform ordinances for people to whom you are not related (famous people, holocaust victims, and names from unauthorized extraction programs)
This Rule is fair to all concerned. It gives those who are seeking to do Temple ordinances for their immediate family members a chance and the opportunity to do those ordinances themselves.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Search Strategies in FamilySearch Historical Records

There are a few simple rules for increasing your effectiveness in searching's Historical Record Collections. These rules are not the same as those you might use to search on Google or in a catalog, but they do work well for searching in online genealogical databases. This particular set of rules is found in the Learning Center of the Get Help link on the startup page. Here is a screenshot showing the Get Help link:

Select the Learning Center from the pull-down menu. Once at the Learning Center, look for the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos as shown in this screenshot:

Next, click on the View this Lesson link:

The Search Strategies are in the Level One (beginning) lessons:

Here is an arrow showing the Search Strategies lesson material. Be sure and notice the rest of the lessons on searching.

There are supporting videos for some of the lessons, but the core materials are contained in the written lesson materials.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apostles to Instruct at #RootsTech 2015 Free Family Discovery Day

The ChurchNews ran an article entitled, "Apostles to Instruct at RootsTech 2015 Free Family Discovery Day." The article stated, in part:
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, Young Women general presidentBonnie L. Oscarson, and other Church leaders will speak and participate during the 2015 RootsTech Family Discovery Day in February. 
Family Discovery Day at the RootsTech family history conference is a free, one-day event for Latter-day Saint families and members (age 8 and up). Events are specially designed to inspire the entire family to find and discover family names, prepare those names for temple ordinances, and teach family members and friends how to get started with family history. 
Family Discovery Day is Saturday, February 14, 2015, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is hosted by the Church and FamilySearch. The cost is free but individuals and families must register online to participate.
 Additionally, there will also be several other prominent participants:
Special guests include Olympic medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace, who drew world attention at the Sochi Winter Olympics by jumping into the stands and celebrating with her family after her achievement in the skeleton event. “My family means absolutely everything to me,” Pikus-Pace said of her involvement with Family Discovery Day. “I’m so grateful to my ancestors for paving the way for me to be where I am today. Coming together like this, to celebrate families, is a wonderful opportunity for each one of us.” 
Popular speaker and blogger Al Fox Carraway, author of In the Head of Al, will also be part of the day. Family Discovery Day will conclude with an entertaining closing event featuring the cast of BYUtv’s Studio C and another special guest performer to be announced soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holding a RootsTech Family Discovery Day for Your Stake

Sponsored by FamilySearch, #RootsTech 2015 will be another major landmark in the development of family history in the United States and beyond. This next year, 2015, from February 11th to the 14th, the four day conference will be expanded beyond past years with the inclusion of the concurrent Federation of Genealogical Society Conference (FGS). Events and Keynote Speakers already announced include famous singers and entertainers such as Donny OsmondAlex Boye and A.J. Jacobs, author, journalist, human guinea pig and cousin. There will also be dozens of speakers on a variety of motivating and informational subjects relating to both technology and family history.

Even if you cannot attend #RootsTech 2015 because of time or distance, you can encourage your Stake to hold a local Family Discovery Day. As described by FamilySearch in a recent blog post:
If you are looking for a new and fun way to help members of your stake find family names for their tree, prepare those names for the temple, and be enabled to teach others how to do the same, consider hosting a RootsTech Family Discovery Day (formerly called Family History Fair) in your stake in 2015. 
The family history department will supply you with great content from the RootsTech 2015 conference, access to customizable posters and flyers, as well as other great resources you can use to make planning your event easy. As the event organizer you will have many tools at your fingertips to excite the members of your stake and community about finding their family connections and strengthening those bonds. 
Learn more about hosting a Family Discovery Day at and sign your stake up today!
All of the instructions, handouts, and publicity materials are being supplied by FamilySearch. During this year, more than a thousand such events were held around the world. Don't be left out of this marvelous opportunity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Printing Charts from FamilySearch Family Tree

There are five views of the families in's Family Tree. One common question is how to print the information in the different views. In the screen shot above, from the Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos, This particular lesson on Printing Charts is located in the Level One Family Tree Curriculum. Here is a screen shot of the Curriculum page with an arrow showing this particular lesson:

There is a supporting video for this lesson, but you should work through the written lesson materials to get all of the available instruction. The Lesson on Printing Charts takes four pages for the complete instruction and exercise. To get the full advantage of the instruction, you need to work through the exercises or you will miss much of the instruction on this and other topics.

The instructions also tell you how to print charts without the LDS Temple information showing.