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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Family History in the Stakes and Wards

I had a question posed to me recently about how to promote family history in the Stakes and Wards. The inquiry suggested that perhaps someone could be called to as a Church Service Missionary to work with the Ward and Stake members. There is a tendency to view the solution to a perceived problem is best addressed by adding programs or revising the existing system. In fact, the solution to most of the world's problems lies in implementing and utilizing existing systems and programs. This is certainly true with regard to family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The most recent guidelines from the Church on family history refer directly to the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts, the manual for family history in the Church. Here is a link to the most recent publication called "The Great Latter-day Work of Temples." This two-sided handout summarizes the Leader's Guide as follows:
Teaching Others 
1. Teach those holding keys their role in leading the work. 
2. Invite priesthood leaders to teach and testify of the doctrine and of their personal experience. 
3. Utilize stake and ward councils to set goals and create plans that lead to an increased number of submitters and families doing this work together, and help wards and stakes progress toward temple self-reliance. 
4. Provide one-on-one assistance to help individuals and families find, take, and teach.
The key here is personal involvement. When Priesthood leaders become personally involved in family history, they can teach and testify with power and help others to also become involved.

The Stake organization is rather simple. Here is the diagram from page 6 of the Leader's Guide.

This says what needs to be done. Remember Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107: 99-100
Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. 
He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Family History Consultants (and others) access to Worldwide Indexing Event

Many registered Family History Consultants received the above message. However, the linked website is on and is open to everyone. Here is the webpage.

The like is here: Host an Indexing Event. This page is on the Stake Indexing Director Website. I tried to forward this information to our Stake Indexing Director but the link in the Stake Directory online was out-of-date by a couple of years. Perhaps there needs to be some effort to update the email lists and stake directory lists?

My experience in trying to contact the Stake Indexing Director caused me to wonder how many stakes have indexing directors and how many of those Stake Indexing Directors know about the resources online?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Host a Stake or Ward Indexing Event

From July 15th to the 17th in 2016, FamilySearch is holding a worldwide Indexing event. The goal is to have 72,000 people index in the 72 hours between those two dates. Family History Consultants and others are being encouraged to host an Indexing event. The webpage is Host an Indexing Event on All of the promotional materials are online and ready to customize for your own event.

Here is a copy of the customizable flyer.

Please pass this along to your Stake and Ward Leaders and encourage them to participate.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

FamilySearch Update for May 2016

From time to time, posts an update on their blog. The month's "What's New on FamilySearch -- May 2016" is rather short. The main point this month is summarized as follows:
We only have a few new features this month because we’re working on significant improvements to FamilySearch. While the improvements are being tested, there may be a few times when the system will not be available. We have scheduled times when few users access the system. We hope you will be as excited about the improvements as we are. You’ll hear more in future editions of What’s New.
This is not news to those of us who use the program almost daily. They have been struggling for some time with keeping the website operational. We hope that this is a symptom of the development needed to detach the program from, but that may be too much to hope.

The rest of the changes are minor fixes. We can now watch Tip Videos full screen. The Tips appear as a little light bulb icon in the lower right of the screens on the website.

The next was a cosmetic fix to the tagging tools for Memories. They added an outline to the tagging tool for more contrast to the items being tagged.

The last change was very much needed by those of us with a large number of Memory documents. The program now goes back to the Memory or document you started from. Before, the program went back to the beginning of all your Memories, forcing you to scroll back through the Memories until you found where you were working. A small change, but a real time saver.

I am still looking forward to the real announcement that we can do all the merging needed to clean up the Family Tree.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mormon Pioneer Records in Utah

What I find interesting is that people come from all over the world to spend time at the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and miss the full Utah research experience. This is particularly true for researchers who are looking for information on their Utah Pioneer ancestors. Of course, I could start by pointing out that just 45 minutes or so south of the Family History Library is the Brigham Young University campus, home to the second largest Family History Library in the world.  But this is really only the beginning of the research opportunities in and around Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah is the home of a number of outstanding colleges and universities. Some of these schools have major research libraries and are located a fairly short driving distance from downtown Salt Lake City. They include two major universities in addition to BYU: Utah Valley University, Orem and The University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

In addition to the universities, Salt Lake City has a major city library on a short distance from the Family History Library. There is also The Church History Library, a major repository for documents and other items about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City is also the home of the Utah State Archives, located only a short distance from the Family History Library.

Right up the hill from the Family History Library is the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, a major history facility for research and photographs.

I strongly suggest doing your due diligence before planning a visit to any location away from your home. With the number of documents being digitized, it is a good idea to do an extensive online search of your research needs and the holdings of these facilities. It is also a good idea to be aware of the hours of operation and any restrictions on copying documents or other items in the collections.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Save Your Stuff App

There are now 123 apps (or programs) listed in the App Gallery. Among the newer items is one called "Save Your Stuff." This website is essentially an offer for a free book called "Save Your Stuff, Collection Care Tips." Written by Scott M. Haskins, a preservation specialist, the book is advertised as follows:
  • Full of videos, photos and fun stories to make learning easy. A $27 value!!
  • Cheap, easy and fun techniques to make immediate progress at no cost.
  • Includes FREE continuing education – you get easy tips and lots of help.
  • Nothing to buy, no credit card.
  • Not a “report” or a pamphlet but a full sized book download for continual reference
  • A valuable gift from your genealogical research and records company to help you save and preserve YOUR history... with no strings attached. YOURS 100% FREE!
Of course, this is really an advertising ploy. But not all advertising ploys are bad. In this case the book is real. It comes in PDF file format and has 215 pages. The book raises a lot of conservation issues and gives some real advice. This is an interesting direction for FamilySearch to take.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blocked from Sealing Adopted Grandchild to Grandparents

I got an interesting error message last night while helping a patron at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. During the wars in Europe, there were many instances of women who had children out-of-wedlock with partners who could not be identified by genealogical research. In the patron's case, the children were "adopted" by the grandparents, the parents of the women. The patron went to request the sealing of these children to their grandparents as is allowed in the rules for sealing children, and was blocked by an error message that said, "Mother to old to have children." Of course, the mother was too old to have children, she was the adoptive grandmother of the children.

This points out an interesting issue with genealogy programs in general. They are failing to keep up with the complexity of the data. We are in a world-wide community now where information can move across international boundaries in seconds. My wife was recently carrying on a text conversation with one of my daughters while the daughter was in Italy. I routinely get email and posts from around the world and carry on conversations with people in Australia, New Zealand, India, Europe, and Africa.

I read a statement recently that said essentially that our biggest challenge was not technological change, but our own ability to process and adapt to the changes. I have been in the process of restructuring how I gather information and how I use it. I will continue to adapt, maybe fast enough to take advantage of the Information Technology Revolution.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Loss of Life Sketches on Merger?

I got the following comment from one of my daughters as she was cleaning up some entries in the Family Tree. I would suggest that there should be a work-around or at least a warning to prevent this problem. Here is issue the note:
Here is a potentially annoying problem that I discovered this morning.

FamilySearch is currently importing a huge Church Membership database. Although many “new” duplicates are appearing in FamilySearch, this seems to be good news, since it means we are one step closer to having all the various databases available on FamilySearch. Maybe at some point, when all the various bits of information are imported, we will be able to deal with the IOUS records.

This morning, I began to work on merging records to resolve these new duplicates. I started with Charlotte Stapley which had an obituary posted in the life sketch section. Since I had not seen that obituary before, I took special note of the life sketch.

When I began to merge the duplicate record for Charlotte, FamilySearch informed me that "These two people can be merged, but only if the possible duplicate is the surviving individual. These two people can be merged if they are switched." In other words, I had to keep the newly imported Church Membership record, instead of the record with all the memories, sources, etc.

I have seen this message before, and so I chose the “Switch” button, and continued with the merge. Since the old record had more information, I transferred all the information over. All the sources, photos and memories transfer automatically with the merge. I finished up the merge and looked at the merged record.

The life sketch had disappeared! I was pretty sure that I had transferred it, but maybe I had made a mistake. Fortunately the obituary was attached in the “memories” section of Charlotte’s record.

This family had 5 new duplicates, so I went to the record for Charlotte’s husband. Worried that FamilySearch was deleting Life Sketches during a merge, I copied his life sketch into a Word Document and merged his duplicates, making sure that the life sketch was being included in the merged information. When the merge was complete, the life sketch was gone. I posted what I had copied back into the record.

I now know to copy the life sketch before a merge, but I see this programming glitch as a potential problem for those who have spent time writing life sketches that will be lost in the transfer. I am worried that less experienced FamilySearch users will not notice the lost life sketches, especially since the FamilySearch Merge function shows the sketch being transferred. I may not have even noticed the missing life sketch if it had not caught my attention just before I merged the records.

I am undecided as to how important this is. Hopefully people will post the life sketches in “memories” as well as in the life sketch section.
Be advised.

Comments on the Changes in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I recently received the following two comments about the Family Tree.

Comment #1
Sometime during the past month my tree expanded along various branches back to dates unimaginable- one even tho Jesus and beyond. Is there some hacking going on of late?
Comment #2
How do you get people to stay excited and interested in continuing to use the family tree, instead of working on closed family trees on other sites, when every time they open up their branch of the family tree they find information has constantly been changed by well meaning individuals. Unfortunately most of these changes are made without any solid sources, and people just tire of having to constantly make corrections.
 Hmm. I had to think a while before coming back to this perennial question. Of course both comments are about exactly the same issue. Here is what is going on with my portion of the Family Tree. You might want to notice that there is an option on the menu bar for the Family Tree called "Lists." There are two options for the Lists entry: "People I'm Watching" and "Changes to People I'm Watching."

You might have to look closely, but you can see that I am presently watching 110 people. That number keeps going up as I continue to work on the Family Tree. The second tab on this Lists page shows you exactly all the changes made to your "Watched" people. Here is mine:

There are a couple of issues here. First there are sixteen changes listed for today, 23 May 2016. Second, every one of these changes was done by either FamilySearch or LDS Church Membership. In addition, all sixteen changes were done to two people. Now, what is changing? That is first of many issues that you need to think about before venting your frustration and throwing your hands in the air and declaring that you are going to stop using the Family Tree.

In both these cases, all of the changes reflect additions or corrections to the huge mass of original data we have inherited from our ancestors. If you want to blame someone, blame all those who have "worked" on your family lines for the past 150 or so years. The simple explanation is that FamilySearch is still correcting and adding to the data in the Family Tree. So changes like these will continue to occur until the work is all done. There is nothing wrong with the Family Tree and it is not being "hacked." It is merely doing what it is supposed to do. That is, it is changing with corrections and additional data.

You cannot stop the changes. They are part of the system.

What about changes from your relatives? These cannot be stopped either but they can be minimized. Here are the things you need to do.

  1. Watch every person you are working on or are concerned about
  2. Read the list of changes you will get each week from FamilySearch
  3. Address the changes, if you care about them, as soon as you see them
  4. Contact anyone who seems to be making irrational or unexplained changes and ask them what they are doing
  5. In the meantime, if you have documentation and sources, add everything you have to each individual in the program
  6. If you have sources and documentation and have added both to the program, change everything back to reflect the information in the sources
  7. Do this every time someone tries to change the data without putting in a valid source
I can assure you that the number of changes will drop as you do this consistently. If someone continues to make the same change without support, just keep changing it back and adding more sources and information. Eventually, the person will get tired or answer an inquiry.

Remember, you can send messages directly through the program. You do not need to rely on whether or not the person has a visible email address. 

In some cases, you may need to make sure you keep your own copy of the data for these changeable people in case all of your information is deleted. 

I find the changes to be manageable. In some cases, the changes have shown me that my own data is incomplete or inaccurate. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Conclusions on the Accuracy of the FamilySearch Family Tree

Although accuracy does not seem to be priority with the promotional materials accompanying the Family Tree, it is a fundamental aspect of the Family Tree program. Because it has a collaborative wiki-based structure, the Family Tree will, by its nature, continue to become more accurate. This does not mean that those using the Family Tree do not have a personal responsibility to be as accurate as possible, it just means that over time, the Family Tree will become more accurate as the users become more sophisticated and the information becomes more complete.

My analogy is that the Family Tree is like a beautiful garden. But it can only become beautiful and stay that way with a lot of work. Just as we need to be vigilant about weeds in a garden, we also need to be vigilant and root out the weeds in the Family Tree. They will seem to pop up during some seasons in profusion, but if we ignore the Family Tree the weeds or bad data will soon take over. Just as weeding a garden is best done consistently and regularly, the Family Tree will grow and blossom into a beautiful, well organized and corrected Family Tree with hard work and dedication.

My admonition to all who want a lovely Family Tree is to get to work and be as perfect and correct as you can be. Add sources, correct the entries and think about what you are doing. Have faith that your efforts are worthwhile. Start to work and you will soon learn to love the garden (Family Tree) like I do. Take my word for it, it is worth the effort.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Update on Webinar Videos from the BYU Family History Library

In the last week, the following videos have been added to the long list of instructional videos no on the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library Channel on

Using the Google Goldmine for Genealogy by James Tanner

BYU Resources and Initiatives for Family History - Amy Harris

Roots Magic 7 by Judy Sharp

Fold 3 by Joyce Whiting

LDS Census Records by Ann Tanner

The Family History Guide: Part 1 Introduction and Projects 1-3 by Bob Taylor

Can You Afford to Lose all your Genealogy? Backing it Up by James Tanner

Land and Property Ownership for Genealogist by James Tanner

It looks like we are averaging about one a day or more. The number of views has now exceeded 54,000 and the number of subscribers has gone over 1,300. What are you missing? Perhaps it would be a good time to subscribe?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Returning to the accuracy of the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Examining root causes

The Family Tree is unique in its accumulation of genealogical records accumulated over the past 150 years. Long before the Internet and a long time before computers were even a glimmer of a possibility, way back in 1894, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began formally accumulating genealogical records through the Genealogical Society of Utah. Microfiliming of records around the world began many years later in 1938. By the time computers became available to assist in the this vast work, millions of records had already been amassed.

In about 1998, the Church made the decision to start a family history website. About that same time the Church began using the trade name "FamilySearch" to refer to its genealogical activities. Ultimately, the Church's genealogical efforts were consolidated in an organization called FamilySearch, International. The website went online in May, 1999. In 2001, the Church began working on a family tree program called The program was released in a trial or Beta version in November, 2005. At the time the program was introduced, the decision was made to incorporate as much of the previously submitted family history information as possible. Included in the original  database were the following huge collections of family names and families:

  • The Ancestral File
  • The Pedigree Resource File
  • The International Genealogical Index
  • Church Membership Records
  • Temple Records
After struggling with for some time, FamilySearch began developing an alternative to the program called the Family Tree. Eventually, the Family Tree program replaced the program and the earlier program was discontinued. However, the original database with all of the additional records that had been contributed to were used to populate the Family Tree. Nearly all of the various genealogical functions and websites introduced by FamilySearch were finally consolidated into the website, including the Family Tree. 

During all of this time from 1894 and earlier, there was no practical or effective mechanism for verifying the accuracy of any of the records submitted. Duplicate submissions were also a challenge and acknowledged as a reason for concern from the earliest times. From the moment when the original contents of all of the huge databases were combined, it was evident that there was a monumental problem with duplication and accuracy. As the Family Tree developed, it inherited some of the limitations and problems of the program, but it also inherited the accumulated issues of all of the data beginning back in the 1800s. 

For example, I began my own efforts to accumulate family information in about 1982. At the same time, I began my first limited efforts to computerize all of my data. Early on, I contributed a GEDCOM copy of my initial data on two occasions to the Pedigree Resource File. Both of my very tentative, incomplete and inaccurate files were directly incorporated into the program and subsequently into the Family Tree. In short, I was faced and continue to be faced with the difficulty of correcting my own errors and omissions with a very public online family tree.

For whatever reason, rather than directly confronting the issue of the tentative nature of the original data and the inaccuracy of some of the subsequently contributed data, FamilySearch has focused on other issues. However, the nature of the Family Tree is that as a wiki, the program is self-correcting. For those using the program, the self-correcting feature may seem like a defect rather than a benefit, but fundamentally, the Family Tree is ultimately the solution to all of the previous issues of accuracy and duplication of effort. Frustration with the program comes from lack of knowledge of the function of a wiki and is exacerbated by a lack of willingness to cooperate with others in correcting the information. 

In fact, the information in the program is being corrected and duplicates being eliminated at an amazingly fast pace. 

Unfortunately, users of the Family Tree have a tendency to focus on their minute portion of the overall data. They fail to see the huge number of sources being added and the corrections going on each day. All they see is "change" and change is disturbing to most people. When I am confronted with a belligerent, vocal and disturbed critic of the Family Tree, it can take me hours to talk them through how the program works and help them understand why there is a need to be critical of the data and make corrections. As the FamilySearch Product Manager for the Family Tree, Ron Tanner, has said over an over again, the fundamental issue is "mytree-itis," thinking we each own the Family Tree. 

In some recent posts, I began the process of analyzing the accuracy of the Family Tree using my own very small portion of the entire tree. Actually, so far, I have found that the information is well based and accurate, as well as complete, back five generations from myself. I might add a side comment, in all my reading about DNA testing, I read over and over how DNA testing is only very accurate to 5 or at most 6 generations. So, having five accurate and complete generations, with mostly correct entries in the 7th generation is an accomplishment especially when we are talking about a lineage that stretches back into the 18th Century and earlier. My efforts to point out the reliability of the Family Tree are directed at demonstrating that this sort of evaluation needs to be done on every line to correct long-standing errors. 

Now, if you feel frustrated with the Family Tree, then get over it. You need to recognize that you are collaborating in a great work and that it is neither easy nor simple. As President Harry Truman said, and as I have previously quoted, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." 

This is really a series, as such, it is more of a theme. Stay tuned for more comments. 

World Wide Indexing Event Scheduled for July 15-17


From a post by,
Each year, FamilySearch sponsors an event of global proportions to raise awareness and introduce new people to the joy and blessings that come from indexing genealogical and historical records. 
This year’s worldwide indexing event will be held on July 15–17. The goal this year is for 72,000 people worldwide to come together and index at least one batch during those 72 hours. 
As you know, indexing makes new family discoveries possible for millions of people searching for their ancestors. Since FamilySearch indexing began in 2006, this unprecedented crowdsourcing effort has produced more than one billion searchable records. 
Your ward and stake has been involved in indexing over the years. We invite you to encourage your others to index during the event. They can index in their own homes during the 72 hours, or you may decide to hold an event during which people can index together. Your efforts will bless the lives of those you serve and will fuel family discoveries for generations to come. 
To learn more about hosting or promoting an indexing event and to find ready-to-use resources such as posters, images, and fliers, visit the Host an Indexing Event page on
 One of the unsung benefits of becoming involved in Indexing is that the participants gain valuable perspective and skills regarding the need to use records to establish their ancestry. I am sure that some of the new Indexers have their very first experience in reading difficult handwriting and deciphering names and other information when they begin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Do I really have to do genealogical research?

My wife, Ann, was recently helping a patron at the Brigham Young University Family History Library who requested some help with finding an ancestor in England. The patron was searching for a marriage record for a couple born in the 18th Century. In looking at the entries about this family in the Family Tree, Ann immediately noted that they had a large number of children listed, all of whom were born in different English counties. She mentioned to the patron that it was very unlikely that all of these children would have been born in different counties or even different parishes in the 1700s. Ann also noted that there were no records showing that the parents had lived in the same county.

Unfortunately these observations were entirely unappreciated by the patron. After several attempts to locate the family. Ann showed the patron the Catalog, with which the patron was entirely unfamiliar. After locating the parish where the parents were supposed to live, my wife began to show her the list of microfilms that were available to help find the English couple and sort out the issue of their children. The patron took some time before she understood what Ann was saying and my wife was getting frustrated with her responses. Apparently the patron was entirely unfamiliar with the concept of microfilm and when Ann explained how it was used and showed her some of the parish records, the patron expressed surprise that she might have to actually read these "old" records. When Ann went on to explain that she had to search the records line by line and page by page, the patron responded that she wasn't going to do that and the attempt to help ended abruptly.

Actually this type of interchange is rather common. Current advertising and public statements about searching out our ancestors have definitely dwelt on the "easy" and "fast" aspects of the current technology and entirely left out the need to do some work in the process. I was recently having a conversation with a newly called, very young (teenage) Ward Family History Consultant. When I began to show him the Family Tree and asked him to sign in so we could look at his family lines, he simply refused. He said he was not at all interested in looking at his family or any one's family. I went on to try to explain the need to at least look at the Family Tree, but to no avail.

The immediate response to these types of situations would likely be something to the effect that we should accentuate the positive and perhaps these people just need a little more help to understand how simple and interesting all of this family history stuff really is. After all, today, no one really needs to be a genealogist to do family history and people like my wife and myself are out of touch with reality. In fact I have been directly told that I would not be allowed to help or participate in "family history" because I was way too technical for proposed class members. I have even been asked not to attend a family history class held during Sunday School.

Yesterday I spent an hour or so showing a friend how to examine her portion of the Family Tree on Once again, we were dealing with ancestors in England. As is relatively common we examined a family where the wife and husband were recorded with several children. The places listed for the wife's birth and death did not correspond to the husband's entries or any of the children. In fact, the places listed for the wife did not exist. They were conglomerations of several different counties and parishes and made no sense. This was an entry that had been accepted by my friend's family for many years without question. All I did was to critically look at the places listed and do a search for the places using Google Search. The search immediately showed that the places listed for the wife, who also had a very common name, were nonexistent. Fortunately my friend understood the problem, but was still upset.

So the question is with all the indexing and instantly available records online, do we still have to do some basic research and look at "old" records? Can't we just take a DNA test and identify all of our ancestors?

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not yet have their four generation family information in the Family Tree at all. Assuming that these people speak English and have records in the United States or some of the countries in Europe, their records may be found online. But most of world's non-English speaking population is not so easily supported by the existing online, indexed records. In addition, the limitations of the digitized records on the four large online genealogy programs are even readily apparent with research into 18th Century records even in a country such as England.

Why is there this disconnect between the reality of genealogical research and the constant online advertising flow from the big four? For example, my current research is in England in the 1700s and not one of the big four genealogy websites has any records that can help me, other than microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, some of which is only viewable if I physically go to the Library. I cannot even order it in to the BYU Family History Library in Provo.

On the other hand, my experience in the genealogical community is not so much lack of understanding but outright indifference and some cases, active opposition. Sometimes that opposition has forced me to evaluate whether my active involvement in the community is necessary and that I should simply focus all my efforts on my own research. After all, I am really too much for beginners.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Phase One -- Determining the Accuracy of the FamilySearch Family Tree

We would expect the accuracy of Family Tree to be directly related to time. That is, as we move back in time, there are fewer records and the conclusions derived from those records should become more and more suspect. Of course there are situations where very close relatives, even parents and siblings are not fully known. All families have instances of unacknowledged or unknown parentage. Without redoing all of the research contained on that portion of my own family as represented in the Family Tree, I cannot be absolutely certain that any of the information is correct. There is always a certain degree of uncertainty, but I can determine, using my own criteria, the degree to which I feel confident in the conclusions and I can probably rate those conclusions on a scale from one to ten.

What is the motivation for this analysis? If you are just now the first person in your family adding family members to the Family Tree, the whole issue probably makes no sense. But if you are in the position of inheriting a huge amount of information already in the Family Tree, then you need to go through a similar process. By doing this analysis I hope to establish just where research needs to be done and how reliable the existing data on my family really is. The emphasis here is to improve the content of the Family Tree and legitimately extend the family lines. I will begin my formal analysis once I get back far enough in time.

The time range is from the most recent death date back to the earliest birth date.

2nd and 3rd Generations (Time Range 2008 to 1892)

So lets get going. My first two surnames are Tanner and Morgan. I have literally thousands of documents about my parents and back to my Grandparents. There are likely some details that could be added but I continue to add more documents all the time to the Family Tree. I would give both of my parents and my four Grandparents a confidence rating of 10. I knew both my Morgan grandparents but both my Tanner grandparents died before I was born.

4th Generation (Time Range 1968 to 1842)

The next generation is my fourth. This depends on whether or not you count yourself as the first generation. Counting myself as the first generation, my Great-grandparents are the fourth. The surnames are as follows

Tanner, Parkinson, Overson, Jarvis, Morgan, Linton, Christensen, Thomas

As far as the basic information about all eight of these ancestors, I am confident that they are well documented. Two of these, Mary Ann Linton Morgan and Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson did an extensive amount of genealogy. I only remember my Grandmother Overson. The rest of this generation's grandparents either died when I was very young or before I was born.

I would give all of the ancestors at this level a confidence rating of 10 except my Great-grandfather Marinus Christensen. He is reported to be adopted but the question of his birth has never been adequately resolved, so I would give him an 8.

5th Generation (Time Range 1934 to 1806)

You notice that the number doubles every generation. Here are the 5th Generation surnames:

Tanner, Shepherd, Parkinson, Bryant, Ovesen (Overson and Oveson), Christensen, DeFriez/Jarvis, Jarvis, Morgan, Hamilton, Linton, Sutton, Christensen, Johannesen, Thomas, Springthorpe.

Here we go. I am missing any birth information about Thomas Parkinson (b. 1830, d. 1906). He was born in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England, but so far I have not found any birth information. He is very well documented in the United States but he also lived in Australia and England. He has been located in Australia and in the 1841 England Census. So far this is where I am focusing some of my research efforts right now. All of the individuals at this level are well documented, but as with Thomas Parkinson, the information about their parents is not at all well established. I have the least amount of information about Eliza Ann Hamilton (b. 1815, d. 1901). Here would be the ratings on each line at this level.

Tanner 10
Shepherd 7
Parkinson 6
Bryant 9
Oveson 10
Christensen 10
Defriez/Jarvis 10
Jarvis 10
Morgan 4
Hamilton 3
Linton 9
Sutton 10
Christensen 10
Johannesen 8
Thomas 8
Springthorpe 10

By making this evaluation and ranking, you can really begin to see that extensions of some of these lines would be highly speculative. A lot more research needs to be done on some of these individuals. I will return to this issue in a subsequent post.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How accurate are my family lines on the FamilySearch Family Tree?

I decided I would do an "audit" of the entries on the Family Tree. I would go back on each family line and estimate the accuracy of each generation from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely well sourced and complete to 1 being pure fantasy. I was interested to see how many generations were believable on each of the lines. Of course, we are talking about powers of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.) so the number of people involved in this study will get complicated.

In addition to having a lot of relatives in the Family Tree because of my Utah and Arizona pioneer ancestry, I have been actively adding my own family lines to what became the Family Tree for over 33 years. In addition, we had several very active genealogists in the family that contributed a lot of the information that went into the Family Tree.

I am guessing that as I do this "study" I will find some interesting insights into the reliability of the Family Tree. But we shall see. I plan to report my progress since I am guessing the given my schedule of presentations I need to prepare, that it will take me some time to complete.

Stay tuned.

New FamilySearch Video on how to use un-indexed records

Most of us who have been involved in genealogical research for years see the advantage of indexed records, but also recognize that most of the worlds records are not indexed to our satisfaction and that we need to basically research records one page at a time, sometimes even when they have been indexed. recently released a new video from Robert Kehrer entitled "How to use un-indexed records." He points out two ways to use the unindexed images. Mostly, all of the ways involve searching line-by-line and page-by-page like most of us old-timers have been doing for decades.

Do you need your own, separate genealogy program?

The question in the title to this post is the number one most asked question I hear. The real answer to this question keeps evolving over time. Computer programs change over time and some disappear. Online websites change almost from day to day. So what was true and which program was the "best" have been changing regularly. Here are some of my responses to the question.

Before outlining the issues I need to point out that from my perspective as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I will sooner or later put all of my genealogical research on the Family Tree for reasons that involve my personal beliefs.

1. If you are using an old version of a program or a discontinued program such as Personal Ancestral File, you are asking for trouble and data loss. It may not happen, but using an old computer program is not like driving an old car. It could break down anytime and anywhere. The adage about wear it out and use it up does not apply to computers. The principle here is called "Data Migration." This means that you keep updating your files so they work with newer computers and newer programs. For example, I just updated by Apple OS X system to El Capitan Version 10.11.4 as soon as it became available. The longer you wait to upgrade, the more painful the experience may be for your existing programs and data files.

2. Members of the Church presently have free access to four large, online database programs, each of which support an online family tree option. These are,, and Any one of these programs would provide a perfectly adequate place to store your family history information. The Family Tree is often criticized because it is subject to change. This criticism is short-sighted and ignores the basic nature of the program, but those concerned about changes could use any one of the other three programs that provide for personally maintained family trees.

3. There are any number of very good local, genealogical database programs. If you want a list go to the for a long list of programs of all types and on all platforms. Those who advocate having your own personal program have a variety of reasons that include maintaining private information, information about living people and other related issues. Most of the reasons for maintaining a personal program as opposed to using the Family Tree are equally applicable to the online programs. So this concern revolves around the confidence that the user has in putting their information online as opposed to their confidence in their own computers and programs.

4. I see the issue as one involving time constraints. I will not live forever and I have more research than time. I cannot afford the time it would take to duplicate my work between the Family Tree and any other program. Personally, I am moving all of my information to the Family Tree.

5. The ability to move information between the various genealogy programs is presently very limited. There are a handful of programs that connect to's Family Tree, but there are only very limited ways to move information to and fro between any of the other programs. This fact is the largest limiting factor in working with multiple program whether online or on one computer.

6. Some people are constrained by personal fears concerning ID theft and loss of privacy and will not put any of their genealogy online. I have written at length about this issue in the past and my opinion of this issue has not changed at all. I believe that the privacy and ID theft concerns arise from an ignorance of the amount of information available about anyone in the Unites States and a media created fear driven primarily by those who exaggerate the risks involved to promote their own interests. Putting information about dead people online does not involve either concern any more than writing a biography or history book.

I maintain more than one separate copies of my ancestral information. I keep only one copy, the Family Tree, completely up-to-date. I update the other programs from sources as they are discovered. I then transfer as much information as I have time to spend into the Family Tree.

I fully recognize that there are those who will take different positions based on their own experience and goals.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Family History Guide Webinar Posted

The Brigham Young University Family History Library has just posted "The Family History Guide: Part 1 Introduction and Projects 1-3 by Bob Taylor."

Here is a quote from the Friends of The Family History Guide newsletter about the webinar.
Last Wednesday was a new milestone for us. We broadcast our first ever webinar. The webinar was sponsored by the BYU Family History Library and was the first in an upcoming series on the Guide. The webinars may be viewed either on the BYU FHL website or on

The second in the series will be broadcast at 6:00pm MST June 8, on the BYU FHL website. It will be available the next day on as will all of our webinars. These webinars provide an additional level of training and support to all our users throughout the world.
They note the following also.
In addition for those of you in Utah and nearby we will be doing a full three hours at the Riverton Family History Library in Riverton, Utah, on June 18. Below is the link to the schedule. The Saturday program is listed under June 18. We are doing the keynote address and two sessions. One on an orientation to The FH Guide and the other aimed at teaching/training with TFHG.
We are in the process of preparing the BYU Family History Library webinar schedule for June so you can look forward to another round of stimulating and interesting genealogy webinars.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Preserving your entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I guess my British heritage is coming out. To quote Sir Winston Churchhill, in part,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender...
One of the most discussed topics about the Family Tree is the basic function of a wiki-based program to change. Anyone who is registered can add, correct, modify or delete information from a wiki and hence those types of changes appear regularly in the FamilySearch.or Family Tree. Is this really a problem? I guess the answer is yes and no. Obviously, some changes are good and beneficial. Adding sources and correcting inaccurate information is good. Making changes that deletes correct information or adding inaccurate information is bad.

It is certain that we will get into situations where there is a disagreement over what should or what should not be included in the Family Tree. Recently, FamilySearch added a note on any change made informing the person making the change of the number of people watching. All of these people will be notified of any changes. Here is an example of such a notice.

If you are making changes to the Family Tree, you might expect to be contacted by one or more of these people. This is especially true if you give no reasons for you changes and add unsourced information. You may run into people who know a lot more about the person you are trying to change than you do. But key to this feature is that those who do know about the person and want to maintain the integrity of the Family Tree should be watching there ancestors and relatives.

Central to this issue is the ability to return improperly deleted information to the Family Tree. There is a currently a debate about the need to maintain a separate program with "your" version of the information. This may or may not be beneficial depending on the accuracy of your own research. We all have a tendency to believe we are right and everyone else is wrong, but in genealogical research, all conclusions are tentative based on the availability of historical documents. Some of our most cherished conclusions may be exactly wrong and shown to be so when additional documents are discovered. We need to be open to addition research and different conclusions.

But what about changes that are simply unfounded and incorrect? Yes, they are a bother. But the idea behind having a wiki-based program is that the most correct information will win out in the end. But it will only do so if we are willing to "join in the battle" as it were. Here are a few suggested rules for maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree:

  1. Don't remove information unless you know it is inaccurate or does not apply to the person to whom it is attached and always provide a source for any newly added information
  2. Be consistent in explaining why you are making a change, if a change is appropriate
  3. Do not "clean up" the entries unless it is necessary for clarification or to standardize dates and places or to correct spelling, capitalization or other such issues
  4. If you make a large number of changes to a person in the Family Tree, be sure the changes are all needed and necessary
  5. Be aware that if someone is watching a person in the Family Tree that you may hear from them about any changes you make
There are probably a few more such rules that would be helpful, but the point is that some of us take the Family Tree seriously and will work to maintain its integrity. I you suddenly decide to make changes and have never made any such changes before, you might want to be doubly cautious. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Invitations and Blessings of Family History

There are whole sections of the website dedicated to family history. I am certain from the reaction I get from members of the Church when I talk about the resources on the website that very few people, even those involved directly in family history, are aware of those resources. The above page is just one example of the wonderful resources available.

There are two ways to access this information in this resources. The first is to click on the Serve and Teach link in the Menu Bar on the home page and select All Callings.

The link takes you to a page with resources for all of the callings in the church. Look for the icon for Family History.

This will take you to resources for each of the family history callings in the Church.

An additional section of resources is accessed by clicking on the Scriptures and Study link on the home page menu bar and then clicking on the Gospel Topics link.

When you arrive at the Gospel Topics section, click on the letter" F" and you will go to the list of topics.

The Family History link will take you to another extensive section of resources for Family History, including the one I refer to in the title of this post.

The General Conference Training Section has a link to the Helping Members Participate in Temple and Family History Service Handout I featured in a previous post. 

I wonder how many leaders in the Church have taken advantage of these resources? Or even know that they are on

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Young Adults May Yet Save the Day in Family History

We have been having some really interesting and positive family history experiences with the young adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Provo area. I realize that there has been a movement for the past year of so to try and interest the youth in genealogy. Presently, we have about twelve of our grandchildren who are teenagers or close to being teenagers. All of them live lives full of school, homework, friends, piano and dance lessons, and other activities that manage to make their lives very busy. With few exceptions, I see most teens in this area in same category. They are already programmed to the limit. They have, for the most part, only very limited computer skills other than using mobile devices. They also have very limited research skills.

Now, I would contrast that state of affairs with the single members who are older and more mature. Men and women who have not married or who are divorced or widowed make up a significant portion of Church membership. See Handbook 2: Administering the Church. The Church divides these members into three distinct categories: those 18 to 31, those 31 to 45 and those who are older that 45. In the Provo area, there are many Young Single Adult Wards, made up entirely of students and others in the 18 to 31 year old range. There are also several older Single Adult Wards with the mid-range of ages. Our own Ward seems to fall, by default, into the older range.

Now, these younger and older single adult wards have been coming in large groups to the Brigham Young University Family History Library for training constantly during the time my wife and I have been serving there. We have had some extraordinary experiences with these wards. The members of the wards are focused, more mature, are willing to sacrifice some of their busy lives for family history and have the research skills and the ability to focus on the details of family history that make our experiences with them priceless and inspiring. Subsequently, some of these wards have among the highest percentages of participation in family history in our entire area.

One obvious advantage of these older groups here in Provo is that many of them are students at the two large universities in Utah Valley: Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.

Last night, we had an exceptionally inspiring class with more than thirty YSAs (Young Single Adults). This is not the same kind of experience we have when we teach classes of teenagers. Usually, in a teenage class we are spending the entire time trying to get them all logged in. There are one or two exceptions, but many of the teens spend the entire time trying to avoid focusing on the project of finding their ancestors. This seems to change when they have some older life experiences that allows them to have the perspective of the importance of the work. It also helps that many of the YSA and older groups have Temple recommends and go to the Temple regularly. They see the need for the research that needs to be done.

We are very happy to help all ages in discovering their family history, but we certainly have been having a lot more success lately with slightly older groups. Isn't there a message here somewhere?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Helping Members Participate in Temple and Family History Service

Buried down in the website is an insightful and very useful two-sided handout for family history. Here is a screen shot of the front side.

Here is the link to this document:

Rather than reproducing what this handout says, I would suggest that you click on the link and read it yourself. My personal experience is that when this outline is followed there is a significant increase in the Ward and Stake Temple activity and more people submit more names to the Temples.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Webinars and Webinars and Webinars

Since I am spending a considerable amount of my time preparing for and presenting webinars, I will be forced by time constraints to highlight the ones I have done recently in lieu of writing additional blog posts. The webinars primarily fall into two categories with an occasional one or two outside of these two. I am doing regular webinars for the Brigham Young University Family History Library and additional regular webinars for

Here are the latest two from the Library.

Using Online Maps to Locate Cemeteries by James Tanner

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The FamilySearch Catalog, WorldCat and ArchiveGrid -- Part Four and ArchiveGrid

For the past few years, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has been integrating its Catalog with the vast online catalog maintained by Here is a description of this global service from their website.
About OCLC

OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC's WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.
Genealogists should focus on the catalog with over 2 billion catalog entries and on its associated website

There are direct connections between the free Catalog and these extensive free online resources.

The connection with these two resources expands a researcher's ability to find copies of valuable records and documents. Any entry in the catalog can also be link-searched to its entry in the catalog and thereby giving the researcher a better idea of the items availability. For example, if I find the following item in the Catalog, I can link it to

Here is the entry in the catalog.

Showing five locations, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, where the item can be found. I can see that it is in the Brigham Young University Library and using, I have a link to the BYU Library. Where I can find the same book.

In fact, because I am in the BYU Library, if I needed this item, I could walk over to the Reference Shelves, right where I commonly work and pick the item off the shelf.

Now, even if you do not have the opportunity to be living near to one of the libraries that has the book, you can likely order the book through Interlibrary loan for a small fee. is another almost completely ignored source for genealogists. Here is a description of this website.
ArchiveGrid includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.
Here are the results of a search on the topic of the Black Hawk War.

These items are collections. Each of the entries gives the number of items in the collection and the size in linear feet. If you click on any of the items, you get a description of the location of the collection.

You can then plan a visit to the Archive and search through the collection.

A big part of being a successful researcher is knowing and understanding the use of these resources.

Here are the previous posts on this subject.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The FamilySearch Catalog, WorldCat and ArchiveGrid -- Part Three

Expanding your use of the Catalog

So far I have suggested that the Catalog can be used for locating items while in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and for discovering other locations where those same items can be found if the user is not able to visit the Family History Library.  I have also suggested that the Catalog is a "finding aid" to locating the same items in other libraries or in finding digital copies of the items we need on the Internet. Don't forget that microfilm can be ordered from and sent to a local Family History Center. In addition, you might try ordering unavailable items found in the catalog through Interlibrary Loan at your local library.

When I suggest that the Catalog can be a finding aid, I am thinking on several levels of usage. If you search the catalog beginning with a place, you will likely get a long list of categories of records. These are "cataloged" items. This means that a human cataloger has looked at the items listed and characterized their content in semi-arbitrary categories. Here is an example from the entry for Utah.

As you look at this list, you may begin to make judgments as to the applicability of the categories to your ancestor or ancestors. Exactly the opposite should occur. Unless and until you have looked at each category and determined whether or not your ancestor lived within the time period covered and geographic area covered by the items in the list, you should assume that every category is a potential source of records about your ancestor. For example, if I expand the category for Bible records, we see the following:

If your ancestor was born in the 1800s or could possibly have been or lived in Utah, you probably need to at least look at and study each of these three records. You cannot dismiss a record based on your evaluation that the record may not apply to your ancestor. The presumption has to be that the record may always apply.

Now, we focus on each of the categories. You can see that there are a huge variety of types of records that you can search for in the Catalog. In this case, you need to do some additional searching in each category on the Internet in general and specifically in the and ArchiveGrid websites. Here is an example of searching in the ArchiveGrid website for "Utah Genealogy."

There are over 7,000 items and it is very likely that there are items that you have not examined and/or do not know about.

Going back to the Catalog, you should extend you examination of categories of records and the individual records listed down through each included jurisdiction, from the United States, to the places within the United States, to each state where your family lived, to the counties and cities where available.

As I have mentioned previously, if you find an item of interest, be sure and run a Google search on the name or title of the item to see if there are additional items of interest out there in some other archive or library or digitized on the Web.

Since I am working in the Brigham Young University Family History Library now, I have learned to make sure the BYU Library does not already have a microfilm before ordering a copy from Salt Lake. You might want to check the pull-down list on any microfilm or do a search in you local library or Family History Center to see if they also have a copy of any given film.

Here are the previous posts on this subject.

The Issue of Accuracy in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Accuracy and consistency seem to be basic virtues, but both have become major issues with regard to online family trees and particularly in discussions of the Family Tree. The collaborative and unified nature of the Family Tree immerses the users in situation where differences are magnified and some level of disagreement is inevitable.

Apparently, many users of the Family Tree become upset when the entries by others do not measure up to their particular level of understanding how things ought to be done. They apparently take offense where none is intended and where there is no real issue other than the time it takes to correct or update an entry. I suggest that they spend their time correcting the entries and less time fussing about the apparent failings of the Family Tree.

Some of the observed inconsistencies and "errors" come from the fact that the Family Tree is an accumulation of over a hundred years of contributions, most of which have not been verified. None of these entries should be accepted on their face without verification. Traditionally assumed relationships are suspect and any unverified entry i.e. without a source, is tentative until sources are provided. Replacing and unverified or unsourced entry with another unverified or unsourced record is just plain silly and serves no purpose in advancing the accuracy of the Family Tree. It is also important to realize that the process of adding all of the information into the Family Tree is not complete. As of the date of this post, the connection still exists with the program and that limitation is still limiting the accuracy and completeness of the program.

The reality of the Family Tree is the any user can add, correct, update, and in some limited cases, delete information from the Family Tree. When you see information in the Family Tree that you feel is incorrect, inappropriate or incomplete, you are the one who should be making the corrections with proper citations to sources that support your corrections.

There are different layers of issues that can arise with any of the entries in the Family Tree. Here are some examples of the type of problems that exist. In every case, I suggest that it is appropriate to "correct" the information only if you have sources or general rules of the format of the Family Tree to support your changes.

Example #1

One very obvious indication of the multiple submissions that are evident in the Family Tree is the common occurrence of one or more (even a long list) of "Birth Name" entries. The birth name should be shown in the Vital Information section as the primary name of the individual. This should be the form of the name found in the earliest record about that individual. If there are different forms of the name in different records, then they can be shown, with proper citation to a source, as "Alternate Names." The existence of these "Birth Name" entries indicates that there have been multiple submissions of this individual and that there may well be duplicates and even unresolvable duplicates. When I see a long list of "Birth Name" entries, I know that whoever has been working on this line, does not yet understand the significance of these entries and has not taken the time to delete those that are not alternative names.

There has been some small controversy over deleting these names with some claiming that deleting these entries affects Temple ordinance information available for the individual. These are two different issues although they are related. As I indicated, the existence of multiple "Birth Names" is a positive indicator that duplicates of the individual exist whether or not the program can presently find those duplicates. The ordinance issue relates to the possibility of duplicates and that issue will not be totally resolved until the transition from is completed.

Example #2

This particular person has no sources attached. The entry here shows the birth places as "Carlisle,Nchls,Ky." This is an indication that nothing has been done with this entry. The format of the place name indicates that the information came directly from an old Family Group Record when the place fields were limited and abbreviations were encouraged. No one has either corrected the place name or provided any substantiation for the information as it appears in the Family Tree. The entry is inherently unreliable. The format was acceptable when it was submitted years ago, but the lack of editing or contributing on the Family Tree indicates that this particular person and perhaps the whole family, have been neglected so far. The entry may very well be inaccurate and incorrect. There is research needed.

Example #3

This is another example of the inherited issues from years of submissions. There are no sources listed in these entries and the confusion about the wife and use of the "Mrs." designation indicate inherited entries that have yet to be examined.

Example #4

This is a very common error. The marriage and birth dates do not agree. It is very likely that this is either the wrong person or that the dates have recorded incorrectly. In this case, there are some sources attached but the marriage record shows a marriage in Stafford County, England but neither record gives a birth date for the mother, Ann Hambleton. Another issue with needing more research.

I could go on and on with examples, but the point is that these entries are unreliable and incorrect. Adding more unreliable and incorrect data to these lines is not helpful. But rather than stress or worry about incorrect data, we should be spending our time correcting all that we can and doing extensive research.