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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update on the newly added features to FamilySearch

About once a month, FamilySearch updates the additions to the website. March, 2016 is no exception but the updates did come on almost the last day of the month (sort of like home teaching). Here is an overview of the new features from the blog post.

Oral Genealogies

FamilySearch describes the newly added oral genealogies as follows:
A new collection of unique and high-quality data is being added to the Genealogies search. Oral genealogies consist of large lineage-linked trees constructed from the memories of tribal, clan, or family leaders in Africa, Tonga, and other locations. Most trees come with attached audio, PDF, and image artifacts documenting the interviewee and the recorded family history from which the tree was generated. These represent the only family history that will likely be obtained from these locations and are believed to be highly accurate.
Updated Person Card

The person card is the popup card you get when you do a Find or search for a person. Here is an example of the updated card that appears when you click on a name for further information. It took me a while to figure out what they were talking about.

First Time Guide

This is a card that explains how to get started. You can order copies or print your own from a supplied PDF file. We have been using these for a while and they are a good orientation to Find, Take, Teach.

You can still print Ordinance Cards at the Temple

Click on the link above for the complete instructions.

FamilySearch Wiki Updated

I will be writing a lot more about this in the near future.

When you change information, how many users will be notified?

I heard this was coming. Here is the explanation from FamilySearch.
Soon, when you edit a person’s information in Family Tree, like birth or occupation, the system will display the number of users who are watching that person. Watching means that users have asked the system to let them know when any changes or additions are made to the person’s information in Family Tree. So when you change the information, that’s how many people will be notified by the system.
This will let you know how many messages you might get if you aren't careful with your changes. Good idea. Long overdue.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Family History Guide has recently announced that the program is now available on the FamilySearch Portal in all of the English-speaking Family History Centers world-wide. It is also available in the Learning Center.

We have been using The Family History Guide for some time now to train all the new missionaries serving in the Brigham Young University Family History Library. If you need help with your family history or if you are responsible for teaching family history, I suggest you take advantage of this wonderful, free program. Take a minute or two to watch the introductory video and then get going and get learning.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Why is the Family Tree public?

From time to time, I get into discussions about the public vs. private issue with online family trees. From my own standpoint, creating a "private" family tree verges on being downright silly. Although taking that position almost immediately elicits a variety of responses, some of which are rather vocal and emotionally laden. For example, I could go online and freely obtain a copy of my own father's birth certificate. However, today, the Arizona State Genealogy website is no longer functioning and all the links to the website are broken. In most states of the United States, there are time limitations on the access to such records. Arizona, for example, limits the availability of birth records to those more than 75 years old and death records to those more than 50 years old.

The explanation for this comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services website which states:
Arizona is a "closed record" state. That means that vital records are not public record. Arizona law restricts the public's access to vital records as follows to protect the confidentiality rights of our citizens. A.A.C. R9-19-403 specifies that only the following may receive a certified copy of a birth certificate:
The eligibility list is as follows;

  • Registrant (self)
  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Grandparent
  • Adult Child
  • Adult Brother or Sister
  • Guardian Having Legal Custody or Control of a Minor Child
  • Foster Parents
  • Attorney Representing the Registrant
  • Attorney Representing the Biological Parent(s) in an Adoption Proceeding
  • Attorney Representing the Adoptive Parent(s) in an Adoption Proceeding
  • Adoption Agencies Representing Adoptive or Biological Parents
  • Persons or Agencies Empowered by Statute or Appointed by a Court to Act on the Registrant's Behalf
  • Genealogical
The Genealogical exemption is explained as follows:

A genealogist is eligible for a certificate that is NOT public record if all of the following criteria are met:
  • The applicant establishes a blood or current marital relationship to the individual whose record they are requesting.
  • Acceptable types of credible documentation to establish relationship: Birth certificate, Death certificate, Marriage certificate.
  • Non-acceptable types of documentation to establish relationship:
  • Pedigrees, Lineage charts, Family trees.
  • The applicant submits a signed application.
  • The applicant provides valid government issued identification or notarized signature on the application.
  • The application submits the appropriate fee(s). 
A genealogist requesting a certificate that IS public record does not need to establish relationship to the individual whose record they are requesting but must submit the following:
  • A signed application
  • The applicant provides valid government issued identification or notarized signature on the application
  • The appropriate fee(s).
The "Registrant" is the person named on the document. Obviously, the registrant is not going to apply for a death certificate.

What motivates the governments to restrict access to vital records for a period of years? The main reason is the word "fee." This is a money making enterprise for governments. Oh, you say, what about privacy? This is perhaps the reason why the formerly free access to these records has now been taken off line?

Privacy is a complex issue and one that is ill-defined by codified law or court decisions. It is very commonly stated that dead people do not have any sort of claim to privacy. But even this is a disputed area. Here is a good summary of the issues of which rights survive death.

Smolensky, Kirsten Rabe. “Rights of the Dead.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, March 9, 2009. See also

Knowingly or unknowingly, genealogists intrude on these legal issues on a regular basis. Now, I can return to the topic raised by the title to this post. Why is the Family Tree public? The simple answer is that only those portions of the family tree dealing with dead people are public and therefore, with some limited exceptions, the entire issue is avoided. Genealogy is inherently a "public" inquiry. No one has exclusive "rights" or ownership of their ancestors. Big or small, we all have a cloud of relatives who share our relationship.

There may be a host of personal justifications for withholding historical data and profit may be one of the most common, but from a realistic historical standpoint, history is history and we should report it as completely and accurately as possible. If we withhold historical facts because of our own current prejudices, we are in reality and in fact trying to re-write history. This is why the Family Tree must be public. If it is to be at all accurate, it must contain an accurate representation of history. Anything less than this is fantasy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Who is talking to the Family Tree?

The question in this post's title came up as a result of a series of classes I taught recently at the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library. One of the participants expressed real concern over the "public" nature of the Family Tree. As far as its publicly available content is concerned, the Family Tree is a unified, wiki-based, program open to all registered users. The only public/private division is between those people who are living and only viewable in each user's private space and those who are dead who are viewable by all. If you need more information about "Private Spaces" on the Family Tree, see the Help Center article, "Understanding Private Spaces."

As I have observed several times before, the fact that any registered user can edit, modify, add data, delete and change any of the entries is undoubtedly the biggest perceived problem with the Family Tree. It also happens to be its greatest attraction and strength. But rather than write about the reasons why it is important to the future of family history that such a unified family tree exists, I am going to address the question in the title. The answer is simple, anyone who manages to convince FamilySearch that they have a reasonable and viable program or app. Right now there are over 100 apps listed in the App Gallery.

Most of these programs have some connection to either read and/or write data to and from the Family Tree. In short, users of the Family Tree should have absolutely no expectation that any information put on the Family Tree or in the memories section of the program will be private. All of the information is very public and the items put in the Memories section of the Family Tree, except those un-tagged or containing only living people, are entirely searchable by a Google search.

I will be following up this post with another entitled, "Why is the FamilySearch Family Tree public?"

Friday, March 25, 2016

More Information About Additional Green Icons in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I did get a number of responses to my post concerning the disconcerting appearance of a number of "green icons" indicated available Temple sealing ordinances for children and others who were "Born In the Covenant (BIC)" or had otherwise had all of their Temple work done. This included my wife's sister who died as an infant.

Essentially, the problem is one of series of issues caused by the continued movement of information from the program into the Family Tree. Apparently, information concerning the ordinance status was, in some cases, user contributed and the official membership records and official Temple records. So, if you or your family members submitted family group records or other genealogical information to FamilySearch or the Church and for any reason, the information was never added to the membership or Temple records, then with this latest development in the Family Tree, the ordinances will show up as needing to be done.

There are apparently three things that you can do if you happen to find any of these "green icons" where you know the ordinance work has been done.

  1. You can send a Feedback Message to FamilySearch from the link at the bottom almost every page of the website and supply them with documentation that the work has already been done and then wait for them to make the change.
  2. You can go ahead and re-do the ordinance.
  3. You can do nothing and just wait and see what happens next. 
I suggest the third option is not really an option, if you do not charge of the situation and resolve the missing ordinances, then someone else will. 

There is also a possibility that the "green icon" you are seeing is qualified by the 110 year rule and you must be the closest living relative as defined by the rule or have permission from a close relative to do the ordinance. 

As a side note, there is a default position that if you do not know whether or not the person was BIC then you should go ahead and do the ordinance. 

I appreciate any corrections or comments.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Massive Sealing Duplication Shows Up on FamilySearch Family Tree

[Please Note: There are quite a few valuable comments to this post. You should take some time to read them.]

Today, 24 March 2016, a massive number of duplicate child to sealing green Temple icons showed up on the Family Tree. These are almost uniformly duplicate ordinance "opportunities" that are for children who died young and were "born in the covenant." This is one of the strangest duplications that have occurred so far with the Family Tree. I suggest that those who recognize that these children do not need duplicate ordinances quickly reserve the ordinance of sealing so the sealings are not done for those who do not legitimately need them.

You might was to pass this along to any interested members.

Nine new videos added to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

Nine new informative videos have been added to the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library YouTube Channel in the last day or so bringing the total number of videos added in the last week alone to 16. The webinar videos may also be viewed on the BYU Family History Library Website. The BYU Family History Library has the support of the entire Harold B. Lee Library on the campus of Brigham Young University. It also has around 130 Church Service missionaries serving to support patrons in their family history research. You might notice that I have produced more than fifty such videos in the past year or so, reaching my goal of doing one video a week.

As you can imagine, producing all those videos takes time and effort and may affect the frequency and length of the content of some of my posts on my blogs. You may wish to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel and watch a few of the informative videos. Think of these as long or short classes in the fundamentals of family history. If you have any suggestions for future subjects, please leave comments. I note that the Channel has just over a thousand subscribers and cumulatively over 50,000 views. Please share any of the videos you view on Facebook and other social media.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

You might want to read the news

From time to time, I think it is a good idea to remind my readers that this particular blog is focused on family history and/or genealogical issues primarily of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My other blog, Genealogy's Star, is more general in nature and my posts are aimed at the larger, world-wide genealogical community which of course, also includes members of the Church.

Today, 23 March 2016, there was an announcement by about their discontinuance of the website and the merger of the resources into the website. Since is one of the partner programs and free access is given to members, this should be of particular interest to members. A move like this always raises questions about the effect the merger might have on the existing partnership and I have already had those questions raised by people I have talked to today. From time to time, you may want to look through the posts on Genealogy's Star to see if there are any issues that might affect you or your own genealogical research.

A good way to do this is by employing a "reader" or "syndication" program such as or other similar programs to consolidate blogs, news, sports and any other type of website you may wish to watch regularly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Can you edit the information in the FamilySearch Family Tree when adding sources?

Lately, has been adding videos to their Channel that address very specific issues with the Family Tree and other questions about family history research. This video features Robert Kehrer discussing one of the specific issues when adding sources to the Family Tree. Apparently, they are working on a way to edit the information in the Family Tree at the time a source is added. If you are familiar with other online database programs, you might be aware that at the time you enter a source, some of the programs allow you to "update" or replace the existing information with the new information from the source. This seems to be good idea, but Robert points out that the existing information may be more accurate and the system of allowing the record to be updated needs to provide the basis for the existing information so the sources can be compared. Of course, this is not a problem if there are no previous sources.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Provo City Center Temple Dedication Challenges Member Involvement in Family History

In speaking at the first session of the dedication of the new Provo City Center Temple in Provo, Utah, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, renewed the challenge expressed by Elder Dale G. Renlund, also a member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. What is the challenge?

Here is a quote from the LDS ChurchNews article entitled, "Elder Renlund at RootsTech 2016 Family Discovery Day: Combine family history with temple blessings" dated 6 February 2016.
Elder Renlund added his own voice as a testimony and broadened the scope of the Apostolic temple challenge and issued a promise: “Brothers and sisters, I promise you protection for you and your family as you take this challenge, to ‘find as many names to take to the temple as ordinances you perform in the temple, and teach others to do the same.’”
At the Provo City Center Temple dedication, Elder Oaks issued the same challenge. The question for each of us to answer is whether we take this challenge seriously and begin to learn what it is that we have to do to accept the challenge.

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Ten

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Introduction
Step One -- Start with yourself
Step Two: Find out what has already been done
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor
Step Six: Use The Family History Guide
Step Seven: Choose a place to record your research
Step Eight: Add Sources to Your Entries in Your Family Tree

Step Nine: Think About What You Have Done and Do the Math

Now I will move on to Step Ten:

Step Ten: Take time to assess your goals

It is inevitable that as you continue to investigate and research your ancestry, you will find that it becomes more and more difficult to find additional information. You may need to stop and evaluate your motivation for continuing your research. Whether you are motivated by a casual curiosity or deeply held religious beliefs your desire to continue will likely determine the outcome of your reflections on the subject.

I have just been involved in a lengthy email conversation with someone about the difficulty of continuing research on a specific ancestral line. I think one of the most frustrating experiences of family history research is butting your head up against the same problem, sometimes for years. My suggestion is that as you evaluate your motivation, you take the time to reassess your goals. If you have a family line that seems to resist progress, perhaps you need to move on to other lines. Usually, this "end-of-line" situation comes about from focusing too closely on the problem and not stepping back and researching a larger community of people. The crucial information about an individual may be in the records of someone who is not even related to the family, but lived in the same area.

There are some definite skills that need to be acquired to do family history or genealogical research. Are you really interested enough in your family history to acquire those skills? That is a question only you can answer. What are you willing to give up to acquire those skills? Do you have other interests that you feel are more important to maintain? I often reflect on how different my own life would be if I was involved in any number of very enjoyable activities such as fishing, boating, golf, sports and other activities that I see people my age involved in. Are you ready to trade some or all of those activities to spend time researching historical records in libraries and elsewhere? This is not an either/or situation, you can spend time doing things you like to do, but researching family history does require a time commitment and that time has to come from somewhere.

Some of us would like to think that genealogical research has universal appeal. If that were really the case, then the world would be structured a lot differently than it is today. I can only say from my own perspective, that I find it challenging, enjoyable and much more satisfying than a lot of other possible activities. You may need to think carefully through how you are going to integrate research into your present life style.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Final Remodel of the Family History Library 1st Floor

They have been working away on the remodeling of the 1st floor of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Here is a video showing the final steps in the process. I have been so busy with webinars and such that I haven't been to the Library for a few weeks and it looks like they haven't installed a Family Discovery Center, it just looks like more computers. Here is another video from a different perspective.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Family History, WiFi and the Church

WiFi connections in the chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have become ubiquitous in some parts of the world. These connections are commonly relied upon by members of the Church in displaying online lesson materials and for other administrative reasons. The Church's Family History associated callings now require a connection to the Internet for training materials as well as access to's resources including the Family Tree program.

Assuming that interest in doing family history increases in the Church, it follows that any increase in family history activity during times when the members are using computers in ward and stake buildings with require access to the Internet. Some buildings have direct Internet connections in a Family History Center with from one to a few computers. Sometimes these computers can also be accessed for use in teaching situations on Sundays. But often, members who are trying to use their computers in Sunday classes or workshops are frustrated by either the speed of the connections or their unavailability.

Some of the connectivity problems are caused by too many people trying to access a limited number of available WiFi connections. This is a problem that can be reduced by urging members to refrain from using their smartphones and tablets except when absolutely necessary. Most of these devices have the ability to access the online scripture programs and other resources by making them available "offline." But on the other hand, in many local ward building situations, there is adequate "bandwidth" and the number of users could be adequate if the local leaders and their tech support personnel take advantage of the number of WiFi connections that are actually available to be used. I have found a number of instances where local support people were simply unaware that the number of users connections available was being limited by the way the their local WiFi routers were configured.

In addition, some parts of a building may be so far removed from the original WiFi router or source that access is intermittent or lost. This problem can be solved by adding a WiFi Repeater, a small box that amplifies the WiFi signal from the router. These can be located in a closet or some other protected place in the building limited by the availability of an electrical connection. It may take some time, with a smartphone of other WiFi receiving device to determine the best location for one or more repeaters.

If poor reception or lack of WiFi connections exist in your building, you might want to investigate this issue with the Stake or Ward technology people. In one of the buildings where we attended our meetings, it took a number of requests and a number of months to finally get the problem resolved. It turned out that the additional connections has always been available, but the settings in the WiFi router were not enabled to take advantage of the existing additional access.

Recently, the Church, FamilySearch and other related organizations have been adding a significant amount of training material to the online program. However, because of pre-conceived attitudes towards the program, reception for movies is blocked in almost all buildings operated by the Church. The October, 2015 opening session of General Conference was even broadcast on It is true that many of the videos available on are inappropriate for viewing at all, much less in a chapel on Sunday, but the videos are a reflection of the entire spectrum of content available online. It is a significant issue that the videos that are being made available online by the Church and its organizations are not available in the chapels on Sunday because of the blocking issue. It is true that some of the videos may be available on, but there are others that are only available on This is a policy that needs to be reviewed. If content is unavailable because of a issue, then perhaps there should be a Church video website where instructional materials can be uploaded by those creating these types of media instruction.

For example, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is conducting a series of online webinars. Those webinar recordings could be archived and made available on There may be some other restrictions but the number of family history related videos on is growing daily and it would be useful to have access to these videos for class and individual instruction in the buildings of the Church.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Videos from the BYU Family History Library

If you have ever wondered what I do in my spare time, all you need to do is take a look at the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library YouTube Channel. I had a goal to upload one video a week to the Channel and I think I am running about even. There are two new videos just uploaded.

Proven Ways to Find Your Immigrant Ancestors - James Tanner


Stories from the Past: Finding Kerlin's Well - James Tanner

If you hurry, you might be the first person to view this second new video online. We have a full schedule of online webinars coming up for the rest of the month of March, 2016 and even more for April, 2016. Check out the schedule on the BYU Family History Library webpage by clicking in upper right-hand corner of the screen. I am trying to put the BYU Family History Library on the map and I think I have found it. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Nine

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Introduction
Step One -- Start with yourself
Step Two: Find out what has already been done
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor
Step Six: Use The Family History Guide
Step Seven: Choose a place to record your research
Step Eight: Add Sources to Your Entries in Your Family Tree

Now I will move on to Step Nine:

Step Nine: Think About What You Have Done and Do the Math

Every time you enter any information into the Family Tree, any other family tree or even your own notes, think about what you are writing. Look to see if the information makes sense and that the places and dates are consistent with reality. Here are a few error notices from the Family Tree that illustrate the issue.

The injunction to "do the math" means to look at whether or not the dates you are entering or have entered make sense. Can children be born before their parents? Not likely. But we can easily find examples of that issue in the Family Tree. Why are all the errors in the Family Tree? The answer to that question is a little bit complex. Basically, Family Tree contains unverified information supplied by tens of thousands of people for over 100 years. As a result, the information in the Family Tree is not necessarily accurate. In beginning your own family history, it is very important to be as accurate as possible. Make sure you enter all your dates and places and that those dates and places are supported by valid sources.

The Merging Issue in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I was recently asked to teach two classes on "Merging" as it applies to the Family Tree. It so happens that the merging issue is the most visible of the issues still facing as a consequence of the inheritance from the old program. Whether or not you have seen the following notice recently depends entirely on the vagaries of your own family history.

As long as this notice appears we are still waiting for the Family Tree program to be completely and finally separated from the limitations imposed by I have mentioned this before, but here is the current explanation from the Family Tree Project Manager, Ron Tanner.

Meanwhile, there are thousands and thousands of duplicates that can be merged. Here is a list of some of the resources that help explain the process and the limitations of the process in more detail.

Merging Duplicate Records: Article Viewer — Help Center -- Family Tree -- search on merging

Duplicates in Family Tree |” 2016. Learning Center Merging Duplicates in Family Tree Family Tree Basics - Merging Duplicates Ron Tanner -- Merging Duplicate Records in FamilySearch Merging Names on Family Tree

Family Tree Quick Start Guide

Riverton FamilySearch Library

This is a long time issue with the Family Tree and there are those of us that will celebrate the day when the issue is finally resolved.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Can DNA Testing Help Your Family History?

There is a definite trend today to promote DNA testing as a way to help your family history. A recent post on the blog was entitled, "How DNA Testing Can Help Your Family History." The article focused on a presentation by Jim Brewster, Group Project Liaison at FamilyTree DNA at RootsTech 2016. There were 15 classes at RootsTech 2016 on DNA and I suppose they were all well attended. The name of the presentation by Jim Brewster was "Understanding DNA Testing for Genealogy." Here is the description of the class:
DNA testing has become a popular tool for genealogists over the last few years, and almost every conference has at least one speaker on the topic. Yet for many people, even the basic classes are so difficult to understand they don't even know what questions to ask. Industry pioneer Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA has years of experience explaining genetic genealogy to people who have no scientific background. In this class, he'll explain in simple terms why testing is important, what the different tests do, who should test, and how to get the best out of your results. If you don't know a thing about DNA or DNA testing, this is the class for you.
Car dealers sell cars. Insurance companies sell insurance and DNA companies sell DNA testing. I cannot comment on the presentation because I did not attend it. But the fact that FamilySearch has focused on the subject and made the following statement, it is something I think should be discussed more frequently and in more depth. Here is the quote from the post:
All three types of DNA test results can help your family history efforts by confirming things you already know as well as connecting you with others. Many people are able to break through the all too common brick walls with the help of a second- or third-cousin whom they have never met. 
DNA testing is available from FamilyTree DNA and several other companies. If you’ve already had your DNA tested, consider uploading your results to additional DNA databases to learn even more and to find additional cousins. One such DNA database that is relatively new, yet growing rapidly is — is both the name of the project and its URL web address. accepts DNA file uploads from FamilyTree DNA, and 23andme. The consent agreement is both short and simple enough to understand in a few minutes. 90% of users have one or more cousin matches — and this will grow as more people upload their autosomal DNA test results.
In addition, is now running a weekly reality TV show entitled, Relative Race, that is focused on a group of people "discovering" their relatives across the country as found and sponsored by  The TV show plays on revealing "shocking" discoveries.

My comments are on the shocking part of DNA testing. Do you really want to be shocked? Well, the truth is DNA testing may not tell you anything you didn't already know about your ancestry or it may tell you something you really did not want to know. I was recently in a conversation with a friend who explained how DNA testing has helped his wife, who was adopted, to find her birth mother. On the other hand, I have also heard stories about friends who have found out that they weren't related to the person they thought was their biological father. I currently have one "family history mystery" in my line that could probably be solved with DNA testing. But as shown by my friends comments about his wife's experience in finding her birth mother, DNA testing by itself does not answer any of these questions. If anything, DNA testing without additional genealogical research only raises more questions.

One argument in favor of DNA testing goes like this: It won't hurt anyone to get a DNA test and it might get that person interested in family history. My response is if you want a DNA test go for it. Get the most complete test you can afford, but be aware that there are some consequences. What is not usually mentioned in the genealogy related discussions about DNA testing is that there have been and continue to be serious and controversial issues involving legal issues, forensics, social work and medicine.

DNA testing is used to determine paternity in disputed cases. It is also used in law enforcement investigations and as scientific evidence in court cases. In quoting from one short legal article on the subject entitled, "Learn About the Pros and Cons of DNA Testing." is says:
Familial relations often present complex affairs that cannot be solved with genetic testing. DNA paternity determinations may uncover lies told to children or relatives long ago and thus disrupt an otherwise harmonious family.
The other factors to consider concern improper use of the data and privacy issues. You may or may not want to know the identity of some of your "cousins." Before you jump into the DNA testing pool, you might want to consider the consequences. Here are a few articles to give you some insight into both the pros and cons of DNA testing. You may want to listen to someone or some organization that is not selling the product.

“DTC Genetics: Pros and Cons.” Genetics Generation. Accessed March 14, 2016.
“LocalOrg: Consumer DNA Tests - 5 Pros & Cons.” LocalOrg. Accessed March 14, 2016.
“Seeking Your Genetic Information: Pros and Cons.” Accessed March 14, 2016. I"C
“The FDA and Personalized Genetic Testing « Science-Based Medicine.” Accessed March 14, 2016.
“The FDA and Personalized Genetic Testing « Science-Based Medicine.” Accessed March 14, 2016.
“The Pros and Cons of Genetic Data: Debating Personal DNA Testing - The New York Times.” Accessed March 14, 2016.
“The Pros and Cons of Genetic Data: Debating Personal DNA Testing - The New York Times.” Accessed March 14, 2016.
“What Are the Drawbacks of Genetic Testing?” Accessed March 14, 2016.
“What Are the Drawbacks of Genetic Testing?” Accessed March 14, 2016.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Eight

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

Step One: Start with yourself.
Step Two: Find out what has already been done.
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor
Step Six: Use The Family History Guide
Step Seven: Choose a place to record your research

Now I will move on to Step Eight:

Step Eight: Add Sources to Your Entries in Your Family Tree

A source is a description of the place where you obtained the information you add to a family tree. If you fail to provide a source for your information, the next person who comes along and views what you have entered, will very likely have to do all your research over again to verify that your conclusions were correct. From my own position, I am forced to doubt any information that does not give a source for that information. Initially, much of the information in the Family Tree lacked source citations. More recently, millions of sources are being added to the Family Tree every month. For example, if you have a Bible in your possession that lists family members and their birth, marriage and death dates, that Bible is your source. Because the Family Tree also allows the users to add Memories which include copies of documents, you should also add in any copies of documents. This would include making a copy of the pages from your family Bible or other record. Although you can link to a copy of a document from another website, it is a good idea to provide digital copies of any documents you have in your personal possession.

There are entire books written about the "proper" way to cite your sources (the source is the place where the information was found and the citation is the way the source is recorded). Unless you are planning to publish your research in a genealogical publication, the format of the citation is not a crucial issue. What is the issue is whether or not you have adequately described how someone would be able to find your source and verify your information.

The Family Tree gives you a generic form for entering your own source information. However, when you add a source to the Family Tree from another programs such as, then the source is the document you found with the information about your family, but where you got that information is (or whatever other website).

Every piece of information you add to the Family Tree should have a source citation. If you find that some of your ancestors do not have source citations, it is good idea to add in all the Record Hints and also add any other documentation you can find to support the names, dates and places.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Seven

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

Step One: Start with yourself.
Step Two: Find out what has already been done.
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor
Step Six: Use The Family History Guide

Now I will move on to Step Seven:

Step Seven: Choose a place to record your research

Historically, genealogists had far fewer choices concerning how they were going to record their family history research: essentially, they could use pre-printed genealogy forms or make up their own forms on paper. Those are still options today but without computers, genealogy programs and the online genealogical resources it is very likely that you will become very frustrated. In many cases, once records have been digitized and made available online, they are no longer available in paper or microfilm format. This process is inexorably moving documents that might have been on paper or microfilm to online digital copies that may only be accessed by researchers with a bevy of computer skills.

So, as you start compiling your family history, you will soon realize that it is entirely possible that you might have a relative or relatives "out there" on the Internet who have already done a considerable amount of work on researching your family lines. Family History may have once been a solitary persuasion, but today, it is charged with with an online world full of researchers at all levels putting their findings in millions of family trees. As you start, you may be overwhelmed to realize how much of the research for your family history has already been done by others. This fact is a major consideration in making a decision as to where to store your family history research efforts.

As I mentioned, you may decided to maintain paper copies. The limitations of doing so today are far too numerous to mention in one blog post. However, the net effect of maintaining paper files is that you are cutting yourself off from the sharing and collaboration of the online family history community and running a serious risk of losing all your work when you die. You will also be ignoring the valuable research assistance offered by the semi-automated research hints built into the major online genealogical database programs. The research hints made by each of the four large online genealogy programs can immeasurably shorten the task of getting started with your family history.

You essentially have two computer-based options for storing your family history: online family trees and local genealogical database programs. As a beginner, it is probably a better idea to start online where you have a better chance of seeing what other members of your family have already done. There are good arguments on both sides of the issue of whether or not you also need to have your own, dedicated, local genealogy program. My current suggestion is to work online until you see the need to synchronize your data with a desktop program. If you decide to do this there are several programs that will automate the synchronization task depending on the program and the online family tree you happen to be using. The Family Tree is free, unified and provides good research hints. It is a good place to begin. If you would like to see what other users think about the various local and online genealogy programs, you should begin by reading some of the users' reviews on the website.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Joy of Family History Work -- Hold a Family Webinar

The February 2016 Ensign magazine has an important article about family history by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entitled, "The Joy of Family History Work." There are several memorable quotes from this article, but I was most impressed with the following quote from President Boyd K. Packer, former President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,
No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the family history research that supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness. 
“Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people.
Elder Cook counsels members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to hold family tree gatherings. He says.
Family commitments and expectations should be at the top of our list of priorities. They will protect our divine destiny. For families to get started on their family history work, I challenge them to hold what I call a “Family Tree Gathering.” This should be a recurring effort. Everyone could bring to these gatherings existing family histories, stories, and photos, including cherished possessions of grandparents and parents. The My Family booklet could be utilized to help record family information, stories, and photos that could then be uploaded to Family Tree on
However, this cannot be only a one-time effort. It requires a lifetime of diligence. For those who are looking for more fruitful ways to observe the Sabbath day as a family, the hastening of this sacred work is fertile ground.
Our own family is spread across the country and a physical gathering is a rare event. I suggest that these "Family Tree Gatherings" can be accomplished by virtually holding a meeting online. I regularly participate in world-wide webinar broadcasts and talk with people directly over the Internet. This form of communication is popular with many and can be easily extended to encompass an entire family. For years we have been talking about and holding "family reunions." This turns out to be a difficult and somewhat expensive event and subsequently are not held often or even regularly. The cost of one medium sized family reunion would more than pay for an entire year's worth of a subscription to a popular online webinar site and the relatives could meet once a month or even more frequently.

One of the most commonly used and simplest to operate webinar programs is An annual subscription to the program that allows up to 50 participants is around $30 a month paid annually. $360 would not even cover the food, gas and accommodations of 50 people one time and with a virtual webinar, you and your relatives could meet several times a month if needed.

It is true that many of those who are presently involved in family history are not technologically advanced. But there are those who are and they need to be using the technology to advance family interests. Meetings would take planning and preparation, but any valuable family activity can require the same type of coordination. Let's start thinking about ways to make this work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ron Tanner on Sharing Living Family Trees

It may seem like I am talking a lot recently about videos and webinars, but that seems to be the direction I am going. We continue to add videos to the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library YouTube Channel and we have a number of webinars planned for the next two months. In addition, this is a video from FamilySearch that addresses a question I hear frequently about sharing family data on the Family Tree.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Navigating Your Way Out of the Fire Swamp of the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part One

In my last post, I pointed out that some parts of the Family Tree were analogous to a "fire swamp," that is full of unexpected and difficult challenges. My reference to a "fire swamp" comes from the book and film,

Goldman, William. 1998. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure : The “Good Parts” Version Abridged. New York: Ballantine Pub. Group.
Reiner, Rob, William Goldman, Andrew Scheinman, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, et al. 2001. The princess bride.

OK, since I am starting out with such sterling academic credentials as to my qualifications for advising everyone how to navigate out of the fire swamp, you should pay particular attention to my suggestions. No, really, The Princess Bride is probably about the level of the issues apparent in the Family Tree.

I have also been known to refer to parts of the Family Tree as launching off into fantasy land, but I have pretty much settled on the fire swamp lately. As a result, I decided to set down some specific steps for cleaning up your family lines and pruning off the really bad limbs and branches of what is on the Family Tree.

Step One: Start with the most recent (in time) individuals with verifiable sources and consistently edited information. 

Let me illustrate what I mean by an individual with verifiable sources and consistently edited information. Here is a screenshot of my Grandfather Harold Morgan (b. 1892, d. 1963)

The dates and places are all standardized. There is a warning icon about a "duplicate child" but that issue is unresolvable because of the error message, "Cannot be Merged at This Time." Until the Family Tree is completely fixed, that message and many others will continue to appear. Here is a screenshot of a contrasting entry from further back on this same family line where it is apparent that no one has been correcting or editing the information.

In this example, the birth place is recorded as Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1718 which is entirely possible. But the Christening Date is recorded as 15 March 1719/20 in "Butterton Par.Ch, Hulme End, Staffs." Did his mother really have a baby in Massachusetts and then cross the Atlantic and have the baby christened in England and then return to the "United States" where he could die? If we drop down a little further in this entry, we can see additional problems.

We have definitely stepped off into the fire swamp. Of course there are no sources listed for any of this information. This conflicting, inaccurate and very confusing information comes from 150 years of submissions to FamilySearch and its predecessors without any process of correction or verification other than a search for duplicate entries. Submissions were allowed as long as the entries conformed to a standard format. No attempt was made to determine if the information was accurate. Even if the information was obviously incomplete, the entries were still accepted. This is not a reflection on the people involved in the process, but more a reflection on the lack of an adequate system to verify the records. Guess what? That system now exists. It is time to correct and repair the damage of the past century or so of submissions. Let's not stick our heads in the sand and pretend that this situation does not exist.

The lack of any correction to the places is a red flag that nothing has yet been done to verify this information. It is basically entirely unreliable. Unfortunately, there are a significant number of people who think the Family Tree has been verified and is "true" in all aspects. They then rely on this kind of entry to find names to take to the Temples. This is the functional equivalent of making up the names.

By the way, this line goes out one more generation. Here is the screenshot.

Apparently, this person's father was "of Harrison Co., Kentucky" and was supposedly born in 1690. This is about 102 years before Kentucky became a state on 1 June 1792 and about 103 years before Harrison County, Kentucky was formed from portions of Bourbon and Scott Counties. I do not have to search for more than a few seconds to find example after example of this type of error.

Here is the real problem. Using the Family Tree Descendancy View, I can see the following descendants of the most remote ancestor, William Hambleton. Notice the availability of names for Temple Ordinances.

I am certain that someone will find these green icons and run out an do the work without verifying that any of the people are actually related or real. Does anyone out there care that this situation exists and that until the corrections are made the situation will continue to exist?

Step Two: Follow the Family Line and find the last person with verifiable data.

This is the next step. I would begin with my Grandfather and work back on this line. Here it goes.

This line goes back through John Hamilton Morgan to his mother Eliza Ann Hamilton. The sources begin to disappear with Eliza Ann Hamilton. Here is the extension:

Here is the next extension showing the Thomas Hamilton (Hambleton) I used as an example above. Where does this line really end? It ends at the first unreliable entry.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Stepping off into the Fire Swamp of the Data in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I give credit to The Princess Bride (Goldman, William. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure : the "Good Parts" Version Abridged. New York: Ballantine Pub. Group, 1998.) for the allusion to the Fire Swamp. But that is exactly how I feel when I step off into the unreal world of the higher reaches of the Family Tree. Here is a glimpse of the tangled mess I find on just one of my lines.

The red warning icons refer to the fact that there are children who are born before the father was 12 years old. Possible, but not probable. It is also a fact that this family was amazingly unimaginative in naming their children. Here is a descendancy view of Jacob Morgan.

The purple icons show that there are no sources attached. It is interesting that except for the people here supposedly born in West Virginia, they are all born in Virginia and mostly in Shepherdstown and in Berkeley County. It might help to know that West Virginia did not become a state until 20 June 1863 and Berkeley County was not founded until 1772. Jacob Morgan has three wives, Jacqueline Smith, Mrs. Jane Morgan and Unknown. The marriage to Jacqueline Smith occurred when he was 2 years old and when his wife, Jacqueline was 13 years old. Her last baby was born when she was 113 years old. Yes, I have some amazing ancestors. Oh, I almost forgot, Shepherdstown was chartered in 1762, after all of these children were born with the exception of the one born at age 113.

Perhaps you can begin to see why I have a hard time taking much of what is in the Family Tree too seriously. The only thing we can do with this mess is to trace the line forward in time until we get to people who might possibly be verifiable and re-do this who genealogy.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Six

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

Step One: Start with yourself.
Step Two: Find out what has already been done.
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor

Now I will move on to Step Six:

Step Six: Use The Family History Guide

The Family History Guide is a comprehensive, structured, sequenced guide to learning how to do your family history. It also provides an excellent introduction to the website. I could have simply repeated this particular step and used it as steps one through ten, but then I wouldn't have needed all ten steps. We use The Family History Guide to teach and orient our newly called missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and recommend it to many of our patrons.

I did a video about The Family History Guide about five months ago for The Family History Guide Website has been substantially upgraded since then and the resources extended to activities for children. Take some time to view the videos and learn about family history in self-paced structured way.

Here is another short video where I explain why the Guide is so important.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Video Updates on Ancestry and MyHeritage now on YouTube

The BYU Family History Library has post two more of its webinar broadcast recordings to its BYU Family History Library Channel. The first is a long overdue update on the partner website,, the second is an update on The ongoing schedule of live, online webinars from the Brigham Young University Family History Library continues with a busy schedule of two or three webinars a week in March and April. You can see the schedule on the BYU Family History Library Webinar schedule page where there is also a listing of the past webinars with an additional link to the archive. You can subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel or you have us send you an email notice by filling in the form on the Webinar page. I now have to balance my time between producing presentations, teaching classes and writing, so you may see a few days where I skip a post.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Five

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

Step One: Start with yourself.
Step Two: Find out what has already been done.
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself

Now I will move on to Step Five:

Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor

Pursuing your family history can be a very solitary activity. Frequently, members of your immediate family are either disinterested in your project or may even express opposition. Over the years, I have heard hundreds of stories of the antipathy of family members towards genealogical research or family history. Even if family members are neutral or even cooperative with your investigations, you still need some expert help. Fortunately, there are organizations of genealogists throughout the world that provide support and education about genealogy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) through its FamilySearch organization maintains a network of over 4,600 Family History Centers across the world. These centers are staffed by volunteers who have your same interest in family history and can help you with your questions and point you to resources for further education.

There are also a huge number of local, state and national genealogical societies. Sometime members of the Church think that genealogy is a purely "Mormon" advocation and they are very surprised to learn that members of the Church are only a small minority of those who are interested in family history around the world. On making visits to local family history societies in the past, I have found that the members of the Church are not at all aware of the local genealogical activity in their own communities.

At any given time in the United States, there are probably a number of conferences and workshops being held somewhere in the country about family history and genealogy. You might want to search for news from your local or statewide genealogy societies about upcoming conferences.

In addition to conferences, there are various online series of formal classes available. One very complete series is offered through the Brigham Young University Independent Study Department.If you have the means, a visit to the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah or the nearby Brigham Young University Family History Library can be a valuable experience. Thee are other major family history oriented libraries scattered across the country and around the world. You might also check with your local library for special interest groups or clubs.

The key here is to seek help from those who have already faced some of the same issues you are facing as you get started with your family history. I have found that genealogists, as a whole, are responsive and very helpful when help is needed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Four

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

Step One: Start with yourself.
Step Two: Find out what has already been done.
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal

Now I will move on to Step Four:

Step Four: Start educating yourself

Almost of all of us have been raised in an environment of "formal" education where we have been spoon fed only what has been accepted as appropriate and politically correct at the time to teach. Learning to read, write and do arithmetic has morphed into a complex system of teaching to a series of tests where most of the students have a negative attitude towards self-motivated learning. Learning is now "Work" with a capital "W." In this atmosphere learning is equated with "job preparation and security." Learning for life is aimed at the time when you are fired from your present job and need additional skills to acquire another job. People who wish to know about "unproductive" subjects like art and literature are seen as somehow wasting their productive capacity.

This is not necessarily a new phenomena, nor is it confined to any one country. Here is a quote from a blog entitled, and an article entitled, "Beyond the Comfort Zone: 6 Ways to Build Independent Thinking."
The shift toward applying more executive function (EF) within learning and assessment will cause some discomfort in teachers and students. The transition will not eliminate the need for memorization, as automatic use of foundational knowledge is the toolkit for the executive functions. Memorization, however, will not be adequate as meaningful learning becomes more about applying, communicating and supporting what one knows.
 The six steps mentioned in the article include

  • Supporting opinions
  • Prioritizing
  • Evaluation of Motive or Intent
  • Organizing Time, Thought and Actions
  • Cognitive Flexibility and Supporting Opinions
  • Interpreting Source Bias or Accuracy

What happened to going to the library and reading a lot of books and then learning how to do something really well? I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. Not to long ago, I was talking with one of my grand-daughters about her classes in Jr. High School. I asked her about whether or not she was learning any history. She produced her "Social Studies" book and I went through the book. The first part of the book dealt with the injustices suffered by Native Americans at the hands of the cruel European invaders of their sovereign territory. The rest of the book dealt with the Civil Rights Movement. That was American History as taught to Jr. High School students in Utah. Is it no wonder that when I teach a class on military history, the attendees are surprised to learn about the American Civil War?

Family History or genealogy or whatever you want to call it is the history of your family. Researching your family history today requires several complex skills and a considerable amount of knowledge, that are involved in an ability to use computers, use research skills, use a detailed knowledge of history, use library and archive skills,  reading handwritten documents, and many other similar activities. Did you learn these things in school? Do you have a negative attitude about doing research or searching in libraries? Have you read a history book lately?

When I talk about educating yourself, I am not just talking about learning how to use I am suggesting that you need to overcome your formal education and start learning the things that will help you do genealogical research. This is what I mean when I start talking about the basic steps needed to do genealogical research.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

FamilySearch adds to its online YouTube Channel

I find that few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are aware of the fact that the Church as well as have extensive Channels. Here is one of the most recent additions to the Channel entitled, "Opening New Tabs in FamilySearch -- Robert Kehrer."

Here is a list of the Church related channels. You might want to subscribe to some of them and receive notices from Google about new uploads.

Here is another example from Ron Tanner entitled, "Ron Tanner - Merging Duplicate Records in FamilySearch."

If you really want to get a scope of what the Church has in the way of online videos, look at the following screenshot: