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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part Three

I have often referred to the Research Wiki as the most valuable genealogical resource on the Internet and I am still of the opinion that it still. The upgraded format resolves many of limitations and issues I had with the previous version.

The Research Wiki is organized in a way that is completely analogous to the way genealogically important records are created and preserved around the world. Records are created in response to events in a person's life, such as birth, marriage and death. There are an almost endless number of different kinds of records that can be created. The records are most commonly created either by someone who was present at the time of the event or had some kind of duty to record the event. Those responsible for making these records create layers of jurisdictions that correspond to geographic locations of the various events in a person's life. These jurisdictions pile up like pancakes.

At the top of the pile are records created at the national level such as military, census and tax records. The next level down is the state or province. At this level in the United States, we find birth, death and other similar records. Moving down in the jurisdictional stack in the United States, we find counties with the records that are usually created and maintained in the county, such as marriage and land and property records. Proceeding downward, we get to municipalities, including cities, towns, villages and other similar divisions. At this level we have records of school districts, churches, voting districts and other such organizations. The bottom layer consists of personal records; journals, diaries, letters, Bible records and other such items. In order to do effective research, it is necessary to search for records at every one of these levels and all other possible records.

The Research Wiki is organized in the same way as records are created and maintained. For almost every topic, there is a corresponding layer of information for each layer of jurisdiction. Here are some screenshots showing these layers of information in the Research Wiki. I will start this example with a reference to Land and Property Records.

Here is a screenshot of the United States level of the Research Wiki with an arrow to the link to Land and Property Records.

By clicking on this link, you can see the general reference to Land and Property Records in the entire United States. You can start with any other country and find references to records organized like this in layers. Here is the article for United States Land and Property Records.

At the bottom of this page (out of the screenshot) there is a list of all the states. If I choose one of the states where my ancestors lived, such as Arizona, I can see more information that is specific to Arizona.

Now, the Arizona page has a further list of all the counties in the state. Here is a screenshot of the list.

Now, if I go further, I could click on Apache County and see even more resources for Land and Property Records depending on the status of the information contributed to the Research Wiki.

You can see that searching for information in the Research Wiki involves learning about the available records in different layers of the organization and digging down into the references to find even more records. You can also search the Research Wiki by topic, but it is more effective to research by jurisdiction and start at the bottom or top.

Stay tuned for next installment of this series. Here is a link to the previous post.

Friday, April 29, 2016 Submission Agreement and the Upload Guidelines

The FamilySearch Blog for What's New on FamilySearch--April 2016 has the following notice:
The first time you upload memories using the Gallery, you will be asked to accept the FamilySearch Content Submission Agreement. To indicate that you will comply with the agreement, you must check the box. To read the Content Submission Agreement and the Upload Guidelines pages, click the links. If you do not accept, you will not be able to upload memories.
This type of agreement is very common for large, online websites and most of us click through these notices without a thought.  But there are some provisions of the Content Submission Agreement and Upload Guidelines that might be surprising to the average user of the program. The FamilySearch notices (i.e. agreements) are probably ones you will want to read.

These notices and agreements are in small print at the very bottom of each page of the website and are clickable from the words, "Rights and Use Information." Here are some highlights of the provisions, but certainly not all of them. I have bolded some of the things you might want to consider.
By using this site, you agree to all of the terms and conditions set forth herein (“Agreement”). If you disagree with any of the terms or conditions, do not use this site. We reserve the right to change this Agreement at any time, so please check for changes to this Agreement each time you use this site. Your continued use of the site following the posting of changes to this Agreement means that you accept those changes.
Well, how many of us do just that? Here is another provision to think about.
All content found on this site (including visuals, text, icons, displays, databases, media, and general information) is owned by us or licensed to us. You may view, download, and print content from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use, or for your use as a volunteer indexer in connection with the FamilySearch Indexing Program pursuant to the FamilySearch Indexing Program Terms and Conditions or the FamilySearch Indexing Software License Agreement. In addition to the foregoing, unless otherwise indicated, content may be viewed, downloaded, or reproduced by media personnel for use in traditional public news media. You may not post content from this site on another website or on a computer network without our permission. You may not transmit or distribute content from this site to other sites. You may not use this site or information found at this site (including the names and addresses of those who have submitted information) to sell or promote products or services, to solicit clients, or for any other commercial purpose.
Hmm. FamilySearch owns all the photos on the site or did you give them a license? As a matter of fact you did when you put the photos on their website.
In exchange for your use of this site and/or our storage of any data you submit, you hereby grant us an unrestricted, fully paid-up, royalty-free, worldwide, and perpetual license to use any and all information, content, and other materials (collectively, “Contributed Content”) that you submit or otherwise provide to this site (including, without limitation, genealogical data and discussions and information or data relating to deceased persons) for any and all purposes, in any and all manners, and in any and all forms of media that we, in our sole discretion, deem appropriate for the furtherance of our mission to promote family history and genealogical research. As part of this license, you give us permission to copy, publicly display, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise distribute your Contributed Content throughout the world, by any means we deem appropriate (electronic or otherwise, including the Internet). You also understand and agree that as part of this license, we have the right to create derivative works from your Contributed Content by combining all or a portion of it with that of other contributors or by otherwise modifying your Contributed Content.
These provisions are not new, they have been on the website since it was introduced. The terms of this agreement don't really matter to me, but I am mindful of what I put online and especially what I put on You should be also.

There is also a Content Submission Agreement. This says a lot of the same things as I have cited above, but here is one very interesting provision.
You agree to provide true, accurate and complete information. If we determine, in our sole and absolute discretion, that any information you provide is false or misleading, we have the right, but not the obligation, to take any remedial or preventative action we deem appropriate, including restricting access and/or deleting or editing any of your Contributed Content.
I guess I could use this as a reason for deleting information from the Family Tree. Here is also a link to the Rules for images and stories uploaded to FamilySearch Memories. You'll have to look at this yourself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part Two

The Research Wiki is an almost inexhaustible source of information about where and how to find genealogical resources around the world. This is not to say that every country and every subdivision of every country is yet completely represented, but the basics are there and the details are more than most need or can comprehend. Despite any claims as to how "easy" it is to find your ancestors, it is really a very challenging and therefore satisfying pursuit. Here are some important introductory points about the Research Wiki:

  • The Research Wiki is not a place to go to search for your ancestors. It is the place to go to find out how and where to search for your ancestors.
  • Because it is a wiki, the Research Wiki is user created and maintained. This means that there are constant changes and updates.
  • The Research Wiki is not now and will never be complete. It will always be a work in progress. 
  • The current form and underlying program of the Research Wiki is nearly identical to the program used by and
  • Editing the Research Wiki is now possible with any browser on any computer or mobile device operating system. 
  • All of the instructions for using, editing, correcting, programming and any other activity with the Research Wiki are in the contents of the Research Wiki itself. 
Each page or article in the Research Wiki has multiple layers. There is the main page and then there are standard support pages represented by the tabs at the top of each page. Here is a screenshot of the Arizona, United States Genealogy page;

The arrows show the tabs that bring up the supporting pages, the Talk page, the Edit page and the View History page.  Here is a screenshot of the Talk page:

The Talk (or Discussion) page is the place where you can express your opinion about the content, layout or whatever of the main page. This is the Arizona, United States Genealogy Talk page and it contains any discussion about that particular page. There really isn't much here because there are very few issues with the Arizona pages.

The Research Wiki is a moderated wiki. This means that there are people watching all of the changes and the content. In the background, there are volunteers, either associated with FamilySearch or not, that watch all of the changes to all of the pages. This is possible because of the structure of the wiki. The maintenance workers keep track of the wiki and make sure that the content conforms to the terms and conditions set down by the Research Wiki's sponsoring institutions, both FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not to say that the Research Wiki is restricted from doing its primary job, but it does mean that certain types of information, as set forth on the FamilySearch Wiki: Policies page are enforced.

One of the first questions that often arises in the context of a wiki is how accurate is it? The answer is not as simple as it might seem to be. Since anyone who is registered can add, delete, edit, modify or correct any information entered into the Research Wiki (or most other wiki such as the Family Tree), then the information is as accurate as the latest corrected update. One of the most common problems, for example, is maintaining all of the thousands of links to other websites. As the Internet changes, the Research Wiki must also adapt to those changes. Most recently, the Research Wiki was updated with newer software. This upgrade changed a lot of the format and operation of the Research Wiki. This made some of the links and features to not work properly. Over time these will all be fixed by the work of the volunteers who are scrambling around on the Research Wiki looking for problems and fixing them.

If you find something on the Research Wiki that you want to correct or know something you want to add, then you do not have to ask anyone's permission, you can just sign in and make the change or add the new content. If you want to get started in contributing to the Research Wiki, then see the following page:

Any explanation about the inner workings of the Research Wiki could get rather complicated, but most of the editing and contributing can be done without learning a great deal about those inner workings. 

Stay tuned for next installment of this series. Here is a link to the previous post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Exploring the New Look of the FamilySearch Research Wiki -- Part One

The more things change, it seems the more they stay the same. The Research Wiki recently had a face lift. The program went from narrow limited screens to wider, more easily navigated ones. If you haven't visited the Research Wiki in a while, you might not even notice the change unless you read the notice in red on each page. The most noticeable change is the redesign of the menu items that used to appear in an outlined sidebar box. All the features and options remain pretty much the same, everything has just moved around a bit.

 The Research Wiki has now grown to over 83,000 articles and has been viewed over 310 million times. To refresh your memory or to introduce you to the wiki, it is important to point out that the Research Wiki is dedicated solely to the topic of genealogy and family history research. In addition to the more than 83,000 family history oriented articles there are tens of thousands of additional pages providing instruction on the operation of the wiki.

The Research Wiki is an entirely collaborative resource. Any registered user can add to, modify, correct or format any of the articles or pages. Due to the current upgrade, some pages and articles may not appear or function as expected. Previously, the Research Wiki had a link to each individuals "user" page where information about the individual users could be posted. The pages are still in the wiki but the link seems to have disappeared. Accordingly, I decided to set out on a voyage of exploration of the new, updated Research Wiki.

The top of the page has been completely redesigned. The former menu items have changed. The current items include the following:

  • Page
  • Talk
  • Read
  • View source
  • View history
 If you sign into the Research Wiki the menu bar changes.

The additional items that appear include the following:
  • Edit
  • Edit source
  • View history
You are only able to edit the Research Wiki if you are a registered user of the website.

A continuation of the menubar adds the ability to watch each page and also provides a search field. The watch link is confusing because it is a "Star" so you might believe that you were rating the page but in fact you are marking the page so that you will be notified every time there is a change made to that page. If you accidentally watch a page you can unwatch the page by clicking on the star. The page and read links work together and simply provide the normal view of the Research Wiki.

The Talk Page is really an open forum where users can post comments about the content or the formatting of each page in the Research Wiki. The small logo that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the pages refers to the program which is the basis for the construction of the updated wiki. Previously, the program had implemented part of the open source wiki program features but the new upgrade is more closely aligned with the standard format. For individuals who are familiar with other programs such as, the transformation of the Research Wiki will seem easier to manage. For those of the users who are not familiar with either, the change probably won't make any difference at all.

Here is a screenshot of one of the articles on the state of Arizona.

Editing articles and pages is measurably easier with the conversion to the format. The difference between making an edit and editing a source really depends on the degree of sophistication of user. Source editing requires the user to have a degree of familiarity with the standard wiki formatting commands and a few HTML commands. The Research Wiki pages contain all of the information and instruction necessary to completely operate and edit the program. 

In the jargon of the Research Wiki, an "article" refers to a content page containing information about family history related topics. All of the other pages in the Research Wiki are referred to as "pages" and containing either help related information or explanations of the structure and operation of the wiki.

Depending on the user's preference, the Research Wiki can be viewed either as a static reference resource or as an interactive, collaborative workplace.

This is Part One of a series. Stay tuned for further installments. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

FamilySearch -- Communicating with Videos

For some time now, has been posting explanatory videos on with information that is timely and addresses issues with the Family Tree. These are usually rather short videos and are very specific in their topics. Here is the latest offering:

Ron Tanner has been one of the most visible presenters recently, but there are also recent comments from Brian Edwards and Rober Kehrer.

Brian Edwards - Using the History List to start your research from your previous stopping point

Robert Kehrer - Difficulties editing information when attaching records in FamilySearch

Even if you don't subscribe to the FamilySearch Channel, you should check back periodically to see what new offerings have appeared. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Newly Uploaded Leader Resources for Family History has a wealth of resources for every service opportunity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just recently, a new section was added providing "Leader Resources for Family History." I haven't seen any "official" mention of the newly added section; my wife found it mentioned in an Area Family History Adviser's newsletter. In fact, I worked my way through the "Serve and Teach" pull-down menu on the home page and then went to the link for Family History, which is not mentioned in the drop-down menu, but there is no link to the new page. There is a link to the General Conference Training in the "F" section of Gospel Topics and then you can get to the page. But it is buried right now.

The new page is more accessible if you know the link. Here is the link.

There is another valuable tool for Family History called "The Great Latter-day Work of Temples." Here is one interesting quote.
Hastening the Work on Both Sides of the Veil 
WHY THIS TOPIC MATTERS: Individuals and families receive blessings of protection. Greater conversion and retention will occur among converts, youth, young adults, and members. 
PURPOSE: When leaders and members find their ancestors, take their names to the temple, and teach others to do the same, the salvation of the living and the dead is enabled.
I will be highlighting excerpts from these new resources in the future.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Unhappy Family Tree user

I have been having quite a few challenges with the Family Tree lately concerning access and linking with partner programs and it now appears from this reader's comment that the problems extend quite a bit further to some of the other products and features. Here is the unedited comment:

The FamilySearch feature with the English Parish maps is down, and has been down for at least 24 hours now. 
This is linked from the or the direct address is
 I do a lot of English research, so I constantly use this feature to find where a specific parish is in England. If my relatives are from Dudley, Worcestershire, and I type “Dudley” into the search box, the maps page brings up Dudley parish, with a note on when the parish records for that parish were kept, and which registration district the records should be in. I can also see the surrounding parishes of Halesowen, Rowley Regis, Tipton, Oldbury, etc. This maps feature is invaluable. For instance, If I find a potential marriage record, I can type that parish name into the search, and the map will show me how far that parish is from the one where my ancestor lives. I can see how realistic it is for that to be the correct marriage. Never heard of Handsworth? It’s two parishes over from Dudley.
This maps feature went down sometime in the last week or so, and apparently no one at FamilySearch noticed. 
Right now, when I type in any location for a search, I just get an error stating “Error 500: Could not connect to database.” When I contacted FamilySearch, the agent was unable to find any reports of this problem. Not sure if they’ll care if they ever get my report. I can’t possibly be the only person who uses this wonderful feature, since I’ve heard about it in classes, and seen posts about it on your blog. I’m not holding my breath for them to fix this connection to their database, but I can always hope.
The information contained in this English Parish maps feature is available elsewhere online, but is not easy to find. And google maps doesn’t help much with parish boundaries.
English research just got a lot more difficult, if they don’t get the back up! It was already programmed and working. Just re-connect the database, please, and leave it alone!
Grr.That’s my rant for the day. Actually, I might have another one, since FamilySearch is no longer recognizing pre-1752 Julian Calendar dates as such. Ugh. Never mind about Rant #2.
I wish I had an answer for this user, but I was able to verify the inaccessibility of the English maps. Perhaps we are in a time of transition with the Family Tree. I can only hope that these problems are good news and that we are getting closer to a complete separation from

Thoughts on the Program Dilemma

Which program should I use as my primary genealogical database? That seems to be the most re-occurring issue for the past few years. I must say that my response to that question has changed considerably over the years as the programs, computers and the Internet have changed and evolved. The question is usually phrased to me as to which program I use as my primary database. I used to avoid taking sides and answered by saying that I used all of them. That is no longer true.

The crucial issue with genealogy programs in light of the huge increase in online data is connectivity. The main challenge today is to keep up with newly added online records and other resources. For example, in the past few days, has added millions upon millions of new records or newly indexed records. recently upped their online collection of fully indexed digital books to 450,000 and applied their Super Search capability to finding content applicable to our ancestors in our family tree on has added some invaluable Irish records and continues to add millions of records to the British Newspaper Collection. also continues to update and add content to its vast collections.

Each of these online programs has a well-developed family tree. Of course, because of my background, I am partial to the Family Tree and I am focusing on putting as much of my information as I can in that program, but I find the others immensely useful and I am delighted to benefit from their huge resources.

Because of the huge growth in online resources, my work flow has changed considerably. In total, right now, I have literally thousands of records hints waiting to be processed on all four of the large online database programs. I often find crucially useful information by using the record hints. I view the incomplete and sporadic connectivity between these online programs and the other desktop programs to be the greatest obstacle to efficient research. There is currently no "one way" to move information efficiently between programs. So to a great extent, I now judge the value of the programs by the ease of entering sources and other data.

I must say that some of the programs with the best user interface have cut themselves off from consideration because of their lack of connectivity. If I have to make multiple copies of every single piece of information added to the program, I will simply move on to a more efficient system. Most of the programs still require multiple steps to add a source or media item and I simply do not have time to bother with that process. Secondarily, if my ultimate goals require moving all of my information into the Family Tree, then the ease of moving information in that direction also becomes a major consideration.

There are certainly a large number of very good genealogy programs out there on the market. Apparently, some of them see no reason to become involved in the wealth of online records because they have made no accommodation for adding records from online sources. For example, some of my entries on the Family Tree have dozens of source citations. Do I really want to re-enter all that information into a desktop program one entry and field by field at a time? Not really.

At the same time, I recognize that there are still people out there who have everything on paper. Essentially, they are running the risk that all of the information they already have and all of the "new" information they find has already been found and processed by others. I am drawn to the Family Tree because, at least, I can see what all my relatives have done and what they think. As an example of my own personal problem, I have over 100,000 Smart Matches on That means that has found about that many people I am related to. There only way I can work with numbers that large is to have unified family tree such as the Family Tree, where I can see what everyone thinks about all of my ancestors and relatives. Don't get me wrong, the information provided by is immensely valuable but I need a way to manage the huge amounts of information available.

If I were starting out as a newly minted genealogist today, I would subscribe to all four large online database companies programs and put begin my family tree on each of them. I would then let them find all the sources for me and add people to each of my family trees. I would then consolidate all of the people and sources to one family tree. If I got to the point where I was actively doing research, I would evaluate what I needed and choose one program to be my primary one.

From my perspective I think the issue of "changes" to the Family Tree is trivial and transitory. But I do recognize the need for some way to anchor my information and hence, I am adding all the sources I can accumulate as I make additional discoveries. That is my bottom line.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Comments on FamilySearch's Success Disaster

Can success be a disaster? In my own experience, it certainly can be. From the perspective of, success means that we sometimes suffer from a slow and unresponsive Family Tree program, especially on Sundays when we need the program the most. Perhaps you have wondered whether or not FamilySearch is aware of the problem. Uncharacteristically, FamilySearch posted an article entitled, "FamilySearch Working to Avoid 'Success Disaster.'

If you use the Family Tree regularly, you do not have to be told that FamilySearch is laboring under a huge burden of trying to keep up with the growth of the program and the amount of data being added every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The post outlines a few of the statistics that indicate the scope of the problem.
Over the past two years, FamilySearch has experienced faster-than-anticipated growth due to the phenomenal success of our marketing, genealogical-record acquisitions, partner development, and product-software improvements. In 2015, 1.6 million members visited FamilySearch Family Tree, and nearly 430,000 submitted names for temple work—approximately 27 percent growth over 2014. This growth pattern has continued into 2016. Since 2015, we have seen Family Tree database transactions increase from less than 200 million to more than 630 million a day on Sundays. Records are also being viewed and attached at ever-increasing rates. The number of names being added to the tree each week has nearly doubled when compared to a year ago.
My guess is that the FamilySearch engineers don't use the program that much and so they don't have a feel for what some of use do with the program. I use the program multiple times a day and my guess is that I see problems with the program about at the rate of two or three a week. One of the areas where the problems occur most frequently is in connecting to the Partner Programs such as I assume that the Partner Programs are also experiencing their own growth problems.

Another issue I see from my own experience is that some users are not just adding their ancestors and relatives to the Family Tree but are extracting records and adding unrelated people wholesale. I have absolute confirmation that this is happening. I am aware, for example, of a very small group of people who have added over 27,000 names in the past year. I am not sure which of the people in the group are doing the extraction, but the number of names added is way beyond anyones ability to do research and adequately document entries. In one case, a patron at the Library I was helping noted that the youth in his area were being told that they could add anyone in an English County with their same surname because they were related to all those people. I would be glad to do this if it is being allowed, since, for example, I have approximately 190,000 "Parkinson Relatives" in Lancashire County, England, i.e. people with the same surname and that is just one surname. I suggest that activities such as these are artificially adding a lot of unconnected and unrelated people to the Family Tree.

You can also add a lot of "names" by going to the end of every line and adding in a "Mr. Surname" and a "Mrs. Surname" with the location and dates estimated from the last entry. If you do not think this is happening, then you do not look at the data much.

Of course I am not disparaging the huge increases in names being added to the Family Tree. In fact if you think about it, if only 1.6 million members visited the Family Tree, then that is only about 10% of Church's population and they probably can imaging what happens if that percentage were to grow to anything like a reasonable percentage of the entire population of the Church.

We certainly appreciate the wonderful Family Tree program, let's just say that those of us out here using the program are not surprised at their Success Disaster.

In the FamilySearch Family Tree, Deleting is a last resort

I have had a few comments recently about deleting individuals in the Family Tree. Deleting individuals is a serious issue on the Family Tree and not to be done except in very limited situations. We do not delete duplicate individuals, we MERGE them. However, we do "detach" inappropriate sources and delete relationships that are also inappropriate. These actions do not result in losing the existing data. The Help Center notes the following about deleting people.
Only the patron who creates a record for a person in Family Tree can delete the record. If another patron makes changes to the record of the person, the creator of the record cannot delete it. If another user makes changes and you attempt to delete the person, you see Delete Person Unavailable in Family Tree (362110).
The Help Center article entitled, "Deleting a person from Family Tree" also states:
  • If you delete a person, you also delete the relationships to other individuals in Family Tree.
  • If you delete a person by mistake, you can restore that person. See Restoring a deleted person in Family Tree (57078).
  • It is also important to note that patrons cannot merge records of living individuals. They must delete a duplicate living record.
  • You cannot add to, change, or modify a deleted record.
If you create a duplicate record for a deceased person by mistake, merge the two records rather than delete the person. See Merging duplicate records in Family Tree (53952).
 The articles entitled, "Delete Person Unavailable in Family Tree (362110)" suggest these alternatives:
Instead of deleting a person, consider the following alternatives.
  • Edit incorrect data.
  • Merge duplicate records
  • Delete relationships.
If this person never existed, contact FamilySearch Support to have the data removed."
I think this is a rather clear and simple solution.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Discover Your Relatives in Obituaries is making a huge effort to add obituaries to its already massive collection of digital records. When I accept this invitation to view the obituary list, this is what I found when I clicked on the above link that appeared on my startup page:

I'm not exactly sure how to get to this page if you still are using the standard view of the startup page other than using a link on the still Beta version of the startup page.

The obituaries should be searchable in the Historical Record Collections, but the question is how would you know to search for one? I have yet to see any of these obituaries show up as Record Hints. This is a very valuable feature for just the reason that I would not be likely to go out and search for all these people's sources without this kind of suggestion.

The Historical Record Collections contains the following list of obituary collections:

In my experience, most of the online obituaries up until now, have only gone back a few years. It is extremely helpful to have obituaries that are from older newspapers especially when they are indexed.

Monday, April 18, 2016

When will merging be completely possible on the FamilySearch Family Tree?

The last time I checked the calendar, it was April, 2016. introduced the Family Tree program at RootsTech 2012, now more than four years ago. From its sort of rocky beginnings, the Family Tree has grown into a huge and valuable resource. But it is a resource with a basic flaw. As shown by the notice above, there are still a huge number of duplicate entries that cannot be duplicated. As shown by this explanation from the Family Tree Product Manager, this inability to merge some duplicate records is a symptom of a deeper issue: the conversion of the data from the older, program to accommodate the expanded functions of the Family Tree.

Let's suppose that you encounter a duplicate such as the one above marked with the "Can't Be Merged At This Time" notice. What are you supposed to do? The answer is essentially nothing. There is nothing you can do. This is an especially interesting problem when you find the following notice and then can't merge the people found.

To discover a more complete explanation of the merging process and its limitations, you can view "Merging duplicate records in Family Tree." This and other interesting instructions are found in the Help Center located on a pull-down menu from the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of every screen. There is, at least, one other extensive explanations of the problem: "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree." In this article, there are five reasons given for a failure to merge two records:
Ultimately, the solution is to contact FamilySearch with the issue and let them deal with the situation and usually resolve it. But what about this issue of duplicates?

In fact, there are more than 200 duplicates for Nathaniel Potter and I also get the following for the same person, in addition to the the 99 results shown.

Now, what can I do with this tangle? Nothing. There are others of my ancestors that are equally as tangled more recent than Nathaniel Potter on my ancestral lines. 

This merging issue is really merely a symptom of a much more complex issue that has captured FamilySearch's attention for the past four years. Progress has been made, but the final resolution of the issues is still an elusive goal. 

In my case, I can concentrate on those portions of the Family Tree that do not have these particular problems. But, ultimately, in many cases, I am stopped by the Cannot Merge At This Time wall. Like many of you, I am still waiting (rather impatiently) for the solution. I will certainly write about the solution when it appears. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Key to Advancing Family History Participation in the Wards and Stakes

Involvement in family history is highly personal. The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128:17-18 says:
17 And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says,last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. (emphasis added)
However, support for the individual's search for his or her kindred dead is supported by the huge and ever expanding resources of the greater genealogical community. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through its wholly owned subsidiary, FamilySearch, International, provides access to over 4,600 Family History Centers worldwide. In addition, the Church has provided an ever increasing number of online resources through FamilySearch and its partner programs, that make finding your kindred dead more possible than it has ever been.

Despite these fabulous resources, the level of individual family history activity in the Church remains vanishingly low. Why is that? Of course, those of us who are more completely involved in family history on a daily basis have our opinions. But the real reason is that the support program, as outlined in detail in The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts, is not even partially implemented in many Stakes and Wards around the Church.

Great steps have been taken recently to implement the outlined organization but I still see Wards and Stakes who have made no significant effort to even call High Councilors to supervise the work or provide training to High Priests Group Leaders. There are notable exceptions and in every case where the organization and principles outlined in the Guide are followed, participation in family history activities increases. So, the answer or key to participation is rather simple: follow the Guidebook.

Even if the average member of the Church was motivated to "do their family history," how would they begin without support on the local level from trained and capable Ward Family History Consultants and actively involved High Priests Group Leaders? Too many times, these local individuals are called without being trained. I constantly hear of Ward Family History Consultants who are called only to be ignored by Ward leaders or even in some cases, actively opposed. If we are to turn our hearts to our fathers, we need to begin by following the Guidebook.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Worldwide LDS Temple

A recent post on LDS Media Talk contains a link to an interactive Google Maps Interactive Map of all of the current Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One side advantage is the ability to see where the most members of the Church are located around the world. Another interesting observation is that if you drive north (or south) along Interstate 15 in Utah from Nevada or Idaho, you will pass 13 Temples with another (Cedar City) under construction. There are also two more in Idaho.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Examine your portion of the FamilySearch Family Tree with Find-A-Record

I have been getting more and more use out of the FamilySearch Certified utility program,, What I particularly like is the ability to turn off and on specific issues with the Family Tree. The general subjects are listed in the colored boxes shown in the screenshot above. They are:

  • Sources
  • Person
  • Relationships
  • Problems
  • Cleanup
  • Ordinances
My own experience is that if you leave the default setting with all the boxes checked you will likely be overwhelmed at the number and variety of issues that need to be addressed. I have been unchecking all of the boxes and then going into the subcategories listed below each box to work on a specific detail of the Family Tree. For example, if I open the Problems list, I get the following options:

If I want to see only the Possible Duplicate Persons, then I uncheck all of the other boxes in all of the other categories and subcategories and then the program will find a list of all the duplicates in my portion of the Family Tree going back by generation. Here is the list I get when I make a check just in this one box.

This ability to focus on one type of issue or problem is very valuable. I have been using the program to provide examples for teaching classes about merging. If you really want a quick way to look at specific issues, this is a good program to use. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Responding Appropriately to Changes in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Among those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) who are actively working with the Family Tree, there is a steady undercurrent of residual frustration with "changes" being made to "their" entries or "their" ancestors. The basis for this frustration lies in harboring the concept that they "own" certain parts of the vast, unified Family Tree program. The frustration is further bolstered by the concept that "their" information is "correct" and any changes have to be "incorrect." What is the reality in this perceived situation?

Yes, the Family Tree is changing and evolving. The truth is that the Family Tree is a wiki-based, unified, collaborative project and that change is a fundamental and integral part of its function and operation. Basically, change is good, static is bad. Family Historians or genealogists have long worked in a very personal bubble of their own making. In addition, much of what many LDS family historians have in their files today has been inherited from previous generations of researchers. There is an underlying and unwarranted assumption that the inherited data is accurate per se. This view is contrary to the reality in many instances. My own inherited genealogical information has had to be constantly corrected. Names, dates and places recorded for over 100 years have proved to be inaccurate when examined in the context of currently available and reliable sources.

For the first time in the history of the Church, we are collectively confronted with almost all of our entire accumulation of family history information in one place at one time and the results of this accumulation can be and is disturbing to those who have assumed a placid and predictable inheritance from their ancestors' collective genealogical research. I am not going to take the time here in this post to illustrate the myriad instances of wrong information presently in the Family Tree, but in the event that you doubt my premise, I am perfectly willing to sit down with anyone and examine their portion of the Family Tree and point out the inconsistency and errors. I have been doing this now since the concept of a unified family tree was introduced in and have yet to find a portion of the family tree that does not have serious problems with dates, names or places.

So, our entire approach to the Family Tree should be one of skepticism with a desire to correct and document all of the information currently showing. But what about all those "incompetent and careless" relatives out there who are constantly adding "wrong" information to the Family Tree and what about FamilySearch that also seems to be adding additional "wrong" information? The answer is rather simple: We are still very much in the middle of compiling all the data. The Family Tree only becomes "stable" when the interested family members begin to cooperate and fully document all of the entries. In my own portion of the Family Tree, I find that there are very, very few of my relatives who have made any contributions at all. Now that the Family Tree advises us as to how many people are watching any individual we want to change, I will get a better idea of how much actual involvement exists. It would be nice if we had a way to see a list of who these people are, however.

For example, my maternal grandfather has a huge posterity, mostly still in the Church. However, as I review the changes to his entries, I find that the only changes have been made by myself or my wife. I do note however, that there are four people (I assume including me) who are watching him. As I go back in time on my family line, you would expect to see more changes and more "watching." My Tanner Great-grandfather has 9 watchers and several contributors. But my Overson Great-Grandfather has only 3 watchers and only two or three others who have contributed any information recently.

When you go back even further, my Third-Great-Grandfather, John Tanner, who has tens of thousands of descendants, has 59 watchers. It is evident that if changes are going to be made to this person, that there are a lot of people who are going to be notified and are interested in maintaining the integrity of the entries. I might also mention that John Tanner has 164 Memories and 63 Sources. What is interesting is that his father, Joshua Tanner, has only 10 memories and 18 sources. He also only has 9 watchers. There are, however, quite a number of different people who have made changes to his entries. The changes that have been made to Joshua Tanner have been appropriate and apparently accurate.

What these examples illustrate is that the Family Tree continues to evolve and change. Information is being added at a tremendous rate. The entries that are being watched and edited are becoming more stable and accurate. In the case of John Tanner, the first in the line to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the changes and number of watchers indicates the amount of interest in this type of ancestor. If I go back two more generations to his grandfather, Francis Tanner, I find that there are only 3 watchers, 5 Memories and 11 sources. Almost all the current changes to Francis Tanner have been made by FamilySearch. As long as this is the case, this is an indication that information is still being added to the Family Tree and that we can expect additional changes.

There is a pattern here. As the descendant families get involved in the Family Tree, the structure and information become more stable and more reliable. Despite a few radical and unwarranted changes, the watchers are able to maintain a reasonable degree of stability. If you go back too many generations, things get really interesting. For example, Francis Cooke, a Mayflower passenger, has only 7 watchers out of this tens of thousands of descendants but there have been a lot of changes by a larger number of people. He presently has six different wives in the program and only five sources and 8 Memories. This indicates that a lot of changes will occur to this person as soon as the entire program stabilizes and all of the information has been transferred from There is still a total mess in the descendancy family lines from Francis Cooke.

All in all, the Family Tree is now fairly stable. It still needs a lot of attention on some lines, but all of this is quite manageable assuming the situation is resolved and the number of watchers and contributors increases.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Watching the Watchers on the FamilySearch Family Tree

We knew it was coming! If you now try to edit anything in the Family Tree you are told how many people are watching the person you are editing. Here is a screenshot of the new warning:

Do you think this might be a deterrent to making weird or inaccurate changes? I do. The idea here is to get as many responsible people as possible to watch any one subject to arbitrary or unwarranted changes. Get busy. Organize your families, relatives and even friends. Watch everyone you think needs watching. Let those who would make unreasonable changes that there are those of us out here who will see exactly what they are doing and take action. Good move FamilySearch!!!

Watch Your Ancestors on the FamilySearch Family Tree

Every individual on the Family Tree can be watched by anyone who is interested. It is a good idea to watch anyone in the Family Tree you are "working on" or anyone who might be changed by other family members. Watching is a two-way street. You might be watching for the changes made by others and they might be watching your own changes. FamilySearch has indicated that they may add a notice telling anyone making a change, how many people are watching the individual being changed.

The image above shows part of my own Watch List. In addition, you can switch the list to show all of the changes made and then you can filter out all of your own changes.

Using the watch function is a powerful tool in maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree. It may seem bothersome to "fix" inappropriate changes, but the only way that users of the Family Tree will be helped in making appropriate changes is to respond to changes quickly and appropriately.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Always new videos on the BYU YouTube Channel

FamilySearch professional, Gordon Clarke presents a useful look into the App Gallery. Also recently, another of my own videos entitled, "You do not own your ancestors" was also uploaded.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Break Travel Time

Spring weather brings on the urge to travel and we have the tendency to go places where there are no practical Internet connections. So for the next week or so, we will be frequently off line.

You might want to take this time to review a few of my 4305 previous posts on Genealogy's Star. You could also review some of the over 2924 photos I have online on You can also read a few of the 926 posts on my blog. It might take you more than a week just to browse through most of those posts.

Don't worry, I will return with a lot of new photos and more to say about genealogy, the world and whatever.