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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Video from FamilySearch on correcting data has uploaded yet another valuable video its YouTube Channel

Roger Bell - How to correct errors in the data

When a mistake is found in the data, there is now a way to contact the contributor who made the mistake and have them correct it. The messaging feature is safe, doesn't share email addresses, and is the simplest way to communicate errors to other patrons.

If you haven't figured it out, much of the valuable instruction in the world is going to webinars and videos. Most of the online genealogy companies now have their own YouTube channels. Go to and search in YouTube for the name of the company and you will see what I mean. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Changes in "free" programs for the Family History Center Portals

FamilySearch recently announced the following:
Occasionally, FamilySearch finds it necessary to renegotiate subscription contracts. As a result of a recent contract review, ProQuest Historic Map Works will no longer be accessible on the Family History Center portal. We understand that some of you would like other ideas for map resources. You may find access to many free online map databases on the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
In this case, there is a more complex reason for the change. is a large data supplier to libraries around the world. It is a commercial venture. Here is a description of the company's offerings from their website's article entitled, "Who We Are."
ProQuest is a key partner for content holders of all types, preserving and enabling access to their rich and varied information. Those partnerships have built a growing content collection that now encompasses 90,000 authoritative sources, 6 billion digital pages and spans six centuries. It includes the world’s largest collection of dissertations and theses; 20 million pages and three centuries of global, national, regional and specialty newspapers; more than 450,000 ebooks; rich aggregated collections of the world’s most important scholarly journals and periodicals; and unique vaults of digitized historical collections from great libraries and museums, as well as organizations as varied as the Royal Archives, the Associated Press and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
ProQuest is one of many big information companies. The terms and conditions of their offerings change from time to time as do the contents of their collections. The particular product mentioned in this notice from FamilySearch is called the "Historic Map Works™ Library Edition." In this case, the Historic Map Works program is a separate entity. They have their own terms and conditions of use. Here is what Historic Map Works which is part of the Historic Map Works Residential Genealogy tm LLC has to say:
WWW.HISTORICMAPWORKS.COM may only be used for personal use. Any access to WWW.HISTORICMAPWORKS.COM by an organization, a governmental body, an educational institution, for-profit or non-profit institutions, or other non-individual entities is not permitted and is a violation of these terms and conditions. Non-personal access to Historic Map Work's collections is only permitted via Historic Map Works Library Edition TM which is distributed by our partner ProQuest who can be contacted at
All of this and much more is contained in the HISTORICMAPWORKS.COM TERMS OF SERVICELast updated on June 27th 2006.

Of course, I have no idea what precipitated the termination of the subscription maintained by FamilySearch, but it is easy to see that such arrangements will change from time to time as the rates charged change and as the entities re-define their offerings and the way they provide their services. On the Historic Map Works website, you can buy a print of a map or pay for a download. 

From my standpoint, they are selling a lot of public domain content. Many of the maps are available for free from other websites. Before paying for old, out-of-copyright copies of any document, map or whatever, I suggest doing an online search to see if it is already available for free. I am not a fan of companies or institutions that sell watermarked copies of public domain documents as if they "owned" the content. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Working on Merging the Impossible in the FamilySearch Family Tree

As I work on my ancestral lines on the Family Tree, I am finding that the further I go back on my family lines, the more duplicates there are. As I think about it, this is logical because for any given ancestor, the number of potential descendants increases over time. With more descendants there is a potential for multiple copies of the ancestors to be created. What is somewhat discouraging is that as I work at "cleaning up" the data and entries in the Family Tree, more and more duplicates emerge.

The most difficult challenges involve entries that seem to be potential duplicates but contain little or no distinguishing information. Mr. and Mrs. Jones may be a duplicate of your ancestors but without enough information to properly make the match, you have to pass them by as "Not a Match."

One notable thing about spending a lot of my time involved with helping others with their genealogy is the extremely small impact a monumental change such as the upgrade of the website has on most of the people. I am not talking about those who have no interest in genealogy. I mean the volunteers and missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. This observation is not a criticism, I merely observed that very, very few of the people I talked to last night at the library were even interested in the change over enough to look at the program.

Part of the challenge of working through the duplicates and conflicting information on the Family Tree is that relatively few people are actually working on correcting the entries. For example, I am watching 126 people right now. I find that 21 of those on my watch list have been "deleted," probably through merges. But on any given report from FamilySearch on the changes, I have made the vast majority of all the changes.

What happens as I do research into any given family line is that by adding sources and correcting the information displayed in the Family Tree, such as standardizing dates and places, the results produced are more potential duplicates. The piles of things to do just got bigger.

How do we approach this potential task? Well, we can ignore it like most of our relatives or we can start digging in and making the corrections, doing the merges and cleaning up the entries. I suggest methodically working your way back through your ancestral lines, just as you would systematically weed a garden or water your plants. I have been saying for years that I would be working on the Tanner line once the Family Tree program was fixed and now I have started. Of course, the Tanner line contains Parkinsons, Stapleys, Bryants, Shepherds, Stewarts, Rays and huge number of additional lines so it will probably take me a while to get around to all of them.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Update to FamilySearch Family Tree imposes New Data Limits

The problem of duplicate entries in the Family Tree that cannot be merged has not entirely disappeared. The upgrade to the program has imposed some data limits. In the case above, the person has more than 200 sources. Apparently, there is now a limit on the number of sources that can be added. I had not come anywhere close to the 200 source limit but this person was (is?) and IOUS and it seems like there will still be a legacy of limits imposed.

The solution is simple, detach the duplicate or unneeded sources.

FamilySearch up, fixed and running

June 27, 2016 is really an historic day in the operation of the website. Although there are a number of residual issues, the main block to a few of us out here in progressing with entering corrected data into the Family Tree has been removed. We are free at last.

Thanks to all the engineers and those who worked on the Family Tree. Good job. Of course, now we expect some of the other detail problems to be resolved also. It never ends. But this is a wonderful beginning.

The End of

For many years now I have been anticipating the end of This is not an issue like the end of Personal Ancestral File, where the program just keeps going on and on in the background. The end of means that FamilySearch has finally resolved several serious, limiting issues with the Family Tree program that keep me, personally, from working with a high percentage of my ancestral lines. The long awaited day has supposedly arrived. It is now about 5:30 am on June 27th, 2016 and the website is "down for maintenance." It was widely rumored that the scheduled maintenance would result in the separation of the Family Tree program from and the resolution of the long-standing limitations on the Family Tree program.

Now, many (hopefully all) of my readers know that I maintain three blogs. My other, older and more popular blog is Genealogy's Star. On this day, I am going to carry on my observations about the website on Genealogy's Star. So switch over and check out what is going on. I don't want to keep switching back and forth and repeating myself.

Link to Genealogy's Star.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Anticipating the other shoe to drop

Early next morning, June 27, 2016, will be down for a period of time, perhaps as long as 24 hours. Taking down a hugely popular website is not done lightly. I suspect that there will be some noticeable changes. In any event, one way or another, I will be monitoring the event and reporting on any perceived changes. I did receive the following notice from which only heightens my curiosity.

There have been quite a few comments, some showing that the commentators have no idea about what the Family Tree is or why there might be a need for an "upgrade." One thing I do hope is that the speed of the program improves, especially on Sunday afternoons on Utah time.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

BYU Family History Library YouTube Videos keep rolling out

Don't You Believe It! Debunking Genealogical Myths

We will probably take a break from putting up a number of videos over the rest of the summer. We are on an academic schedule at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and the University has a semester break and several holidays coming up. There are a huge number of topics planned beginning in August when everyone here in Utah starts back to school. For information about the Library and other BYU activities, you might want to refer to the Academic Calendar.

Meanwhile, you will have time to catch up with all the videos that have already been uploaded to the YouTube Channel.

While you are checking out the videos, take time to subscribe to the Channel and receive notification of any new videos when we start up production again in August.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Book of Mormon in 60 Seconds

This short video has been up online for about a month and has over 2.5 million views. It is one of dozens of such videos on the YouTube Channel. Perhaps we need to condense the whole subject of family history into a 60 second video? 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Speculation on the Shutdown of on June 27th, 2016

For the past few years, my use of the Family Tree program has been dominated by its domination by the limitations imposed by the program. I began to speculate that the end of the limitations was in sight when I observed certain tell-tale signs in the changes being made to the Family Tree. Now, we are getting a clear message that the end of these burdensome limitations may actually occur on June 27th, 2016 with the final separation of the two programs. Mind you, this is still speculation. FamilySearch, as such, has yet to make an official announcement.

I was encouraged however, by an analysis from the Ancestry Insider talking about the possible separation of the two programs. See "FamilySearch Announces Shutdown, Upgrade." He refers to a GetSatisfaction post called, "Preparing to stop synchronizing between nFS and Family Tree, on Beta."

If this is really the end of the limitations on the merging of duplicates on the Family Tree, then I will certainly have a lot of work to do when it happens. The number of duplicates of some of my own ancestors numbers in the hundreds. I plan to write a series of posts on the process and explain any issues I observe.

If the 27th of June of 2016 does not turn out to be the much anticipated date, then we will keep on working as usual and wait some more.

Suggest Topics for BYU Family History Library Webinar and Presentation Series

For the past few months, we have been steadily increasing the number and variety of webinars and presentations on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. We now have 153 videos. The number of subscribers continues to increase to just under 1,500 and we have had close to 58,000 views. This may seem like small potatoes compared to the usual viral videos on YouTube, but we are growing rapidly and hope to become a major source of genealogical information in the world community.

We would appreciate any suggestions for topics that you would like us to cover in the future. Of course, as continues its metamophisis, we will have some presentations on the changes and new features. Since the BYU Family History Library is an integral part of the University organization, our schedule, particularly during semester changes and increased summer activities is not quite as busy as other times of the year. We are basically on the academic schedule. So, now is a good time to plan for our busy Fall production season. If you have any suggestions, you can leave them as comments to this post and I will be glad to pass them along as future suggestions.

While you are visiting the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel, take a moment to click the subscribe link and receive email notifications of the webinars and presentations. Also remember, the webinars are broadcast live and the schedule is posted on the BYU Family History Library webpage. Look for the link to Free Classes and Webinars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

DPLA and FamilySearch Partner to Expand Access to Digitized Historical Books Online

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and have partnered to expand access to the FamilySearch digitized historical books online. has been digitizing books in conjunction with several other libraries, including the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, for many years. The collections currently stands at 282,444 books as of the date of this post. The DPLA is a free website.

The DPLA has currently 13,290,365 items in its online collections from around the United States. Quoting from its website:
The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used, through its three main elements: 
A portal that delivers students, teachers, scholars, and the public to incredible resources, wherever they may be in America. 
Far more than a search engine, the portal provides innovative ways to search and scan through the united collection of millions of items, including by timeline, map, virtual bookshelf, format, subject, and partner.
A platform that enables new and transformative uses of our digitized cultural heritage. 
With an application programming interface (API) and maximally open data, DPLA can be used by software developers, researchers, and others to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and engaging apps
An advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century. 
For most of American history, the ability to access materials for free through public libraries has been a central part of our culture, producing generations of avid readers and a knowledgeable, engaged citizenry. DPLA works, along with like-minded organizations and individuals, to ensure that this critical, open intellectual landscape remains vibrant and broad in the face of increasingly restrictive digital options. DPLA seeks to multiply openly accessible materials to strengthen the public option that libraries represent in their communities.
I have been following the growth of the DPLA since its inception and I am an active supporter of its goals and objectives. Here is a video about the DPLA.

Here is some additional quotes from the explanation of the agreement between and the DPLA:
In concert with the American Library Association national conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and FamilySearch International, the largest genealogy organization in the world, have signed an agreement that will expand access to’s growing free digital historical book collection to DPLA’s broad audience of users including genealogists, researchers, family historians, students, and more. 
Family history/genealogy continues to be a popular and growing hobby. And FamilySearch is a leader in the use of technology to digitally preserve the world’s historic records and books of genealogical relevance for easy search and access online. With this new partnership, DPLA will incorporate metadata from’s online digital book collection that will make more than 200,000 family history books discoverable through DPLA’s search portal later this year. From DPLA, users will be able to access the free, fully viewable digital books on

The digitized historical book collection at includes genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. Tens of thousands of new publications are added yearly.
I suspect that few genealogists are aware of the digital books on the website and I further suspect that even fewer of them are aware of the Digital Public Library of America.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Brian Edwards - How to move forward in your FamilySearch research

Brian Edwards - How to move forward in your FamilySearch research has implemented a series of Research Tips that appear linked on every page of the website. Brian Edwards of FamilySearch, explains how to use these tips effectively to advance your research efforts.

FamilySearch Website Down June 27th, 2016

The following notice began appearing on the website recently.

The notice reads as follows:
The FamilySearch website will be undergoing a technical upgrade Monday, June 27th starting at 12:00 am MDT (6:00 am UTC) and may be down for up to 24 hours as we test the system.
One of the common issues with the website is that it slows down or stops working during periods of high usage. In fact, use of the website far exceeds the capacity it was initially designed to handle. I have heard from several different sources that the scheduled maintenance addresses the issue of expanding the capacity and increasing the speed of access to the website. This will be a welcome change. As noted, the outage may last for 24 hours or more. So those of us who are glued to the website every day, will just have to take a short one-day vacation and work on other things for a while.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Check your place names for accuracy on the FamilySearch Family Tree

Salt Lake 1885-1896
While doing some research into Danish ancestors on the Family Tree, I was once again reminded of the importance of closely checking the accuracy of the place names. The standard method of representing place names in a genealogical context is to list them from the smallest jurisdiction to the largest. For example:

(house or farm), (village, town or city), (county or district), (state, district or province), (country)

In addition, as I have pointed out recently, the places need to correspond to their identity at the time the event occurred.

There is some controversy over such designations as "English Colonial Possessions" and other such designation. Another issue arises in designation such as "Arizona Territory" rather than just "Arizona." The idea is to convey not only the geographical location but also the place where records maintained at the time of the event may have been archived. In looking closely at the Family Tree, I find that it is extremely common to default to the name of the place as it is today, rather than take the time to determine the time related designation. So I have a huge number of ancestors who are identified as born in the "United States" before 1776 or the correct date of March 4, 1789.

This degree of accuracy may seem trivial or even inappropriate to some researchers. But when we look at the mish-mash of place names in some areas of Europe, it becomes apparent that the researchers' designation of places is one of the major impediments to understanding where to begin research. For example, my experience in the Family Tree has shown me that Scandinavian places are mislabeled over 80% of the time and so-called German place names are almost 100% inaccurate if the time the event occurred is considered. Ask yourself this simple question. When did the country of origin of my ancestors begin to be called by its present political name?

If your ancestor was born in Germany in the 1850s what country did he or she live in?

A beautiful 1855 first edition example of Colton's map of northern Germany. Covers the 19th century German provinces of Hanover, Holstein, and Mecklenberg Schwerin. Divided and color coded according to regional divisions. An inset in the lower left quadrant details Hamburg. Another in the lower right quadrant focuses on Bremen.. Throughout, Colton identifies various cities, towns, forts, rivers and assortment of additional topographical details. Surrounded by Colton's typical spiral motif border. Dated and copyrighted to J. H. Colton, 1855. Published from Colton's 172 William Street Office in New York City. Issued as page no. 12 in volume 2 of the first edition of George Washington Colton's 1855 Atlas of the World .
Would you have a different opinion were you to realize that this map was published in the United States and not in Europe? Would it help to know that the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) dates from 1871. Here is a quote from the Wikipedia: German Empire:
The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent territories, with most being ruled by royal families. This included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, six duchies (five after 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Although the Kingdom of Prussia contained most of the Empire's population and territory, it played a lesser role. As Dwyer (2005) points out, Prussia's "political and cultural influence had diminished considerably" by the 1890s.[10]
Where would you find the records of your ancestor if all that was recorded of his or her origin was "Germany?"

Going back to Scandinavia for example, in Denmark the jurisdictional subdivisions are usually recorded as follows:

(hus eller gård), (kvarter), (by eller storby), (sogn), (herred), (ampter), Danmark

It might also help to know that the "herred" or hundred was an administrative division which was geographically part of a larger region; it was formerly used in England, Wales, some parts of the United States, Denmark, Southern Schleswig, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Norway. It is still used in other places, includingSouth Australia. See Wikipedia: Hundred (county division). This distinction might also help you to understand English place names when they speak of the "hundred" as a division between the parishes and the counties. 

Failure to understand these historical subdivisions causes most (but not all) of the confusion about identifying individuals with the same or similar names. You would probably benefit from researching and understanding the political, ecclesiastical and other subdivisions in your ancestors' countries before recording them incorrectly in the Family Tree.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What will the FamilySearch Family Tree look like when it is fixed?

I am going to take an opportunity to speculate on the form and condition of the Family Tree once the limitations and other problems associated with the issues caused by are resolved and disappear. My comments in this post are pure speculation, but I suspect that even those who are working on the problem are not quite sure what will happen so I probably have a lot of company in this respect.

First off, we are dealing with a database that contains detailed information about millions upon millions of people that is growing at a fantastic rate. Information is being added by tens of thousands of users every day. The information in the database already ranges from extremely accurate to fantasy. Some of the information refers to individuals who either did not exist or are associated with the wrong family. The information is sitting in a program that is designed to be become more and more accurate over time. The program itself will also accommodate all of the information that can possibly be added. It is theoretically infinitely expandable. The Family Tree is not the problem, it is the solution.

So what is the problem?

The main functional problem is that the "seed" data or data added from existing records contained and contains a substantial number of duplicate entries that in many cases contain conflicting information. Because the data was originally loaded into a program called, there are currently still some limitations imposed by that program on the Family Tree. For years now, the engineers at FamilySearch have been working at eliminating those limitations by bypassing the program. Once any connection to or limitations imposed on the Family Tree are resolved, the Family Tree program will function as it is supposed to function without the limitations.

What are the limitations?

The original programs had no way of ridding itself of "duplicate" entries. All of the information about any individual whether original or duplicate, was simply added to that individual. That aspect of the program produced bloated data files for individuals who are allegorically called Individuals of Unusual Size or IOUSs. But there was a less obvious and secondary problem: because of the limitations, the Family Tree program could not identify all of the duplicate entries. No one, not even FamilySearch, really had any idea how many duplicate entries existed.

What will happen when the programming necessary to eliminate the limitations imposed by is completed?

Well, the simple answer is nothing obvious or readily apparent to the user. To those who have family lines that have IOUS-type ancestors, they will immediately begin seeing many more duplicates than were discoverable previously. This is already happening. For those who ancestors did not have "legacy" submissions and extensive membership records, there will be almost no changes. Remember, this is speculation on my part and not authorized or sanctioned by anyone.

How many duplicates will there be?

In some cases, the potential number of duplicate entries for one individual may number in the thousands. Remember, in many cases one duplicate individual represents an entire duplicate pedigree. Each historical "submission" of a family group record or other copy of a family created an addition duplicate.

What will be the core result of "fixing" the program?

The present limitations on the Family Tree make it practically impossible for some ancestral lines to be corrected. Once that limitation is removed, there will be a time period when certain family lines seems to go chaotic. Where there are so many duplicates that resolving the entries will seem endless. This is not the case, all of the duplicates can and will be eventually resolved. Some families may also find themselves with major adjustments to their "traditional" family histories. Many relationships that have been ignored or glossed over because of family prejudices or social conventions will be revealed and some people will not be happy. There will be an upsurge in DNA testing as some cherished family traditions start to fall.

What will the Family Tree look like"

It will look exactly the same as it does now with whatever programming embellishments are added from time to time.

How long will this restructuring process take?

One result of this process will be the elimination of many inaccurately attached ancestral lines from the program. Some users may see whole segments of their "ancestral lines" disappear from the Family Tree as incorrect family members and relationships are eliminated. The vast majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not see anything different at all. They do not now know enough about their family lines to detect any changes and that situation will not change. The "restructuring" will continue for years as additional records become available and as research is done by the tiny minority of members who do research continue to do what they do so well.

How will we know when the program is fixed?

We won't. It will simply begin to function properly and appropriately. My best guess is we are nearly to the point of complete functionality. I am seeing a lot more duplicates than ever before. I am seeing a lot more data than has been visible before. I expect that process will just continue to happen.

What problems will not be solved by the final separation of

The accuracy of the entries is entirely independent of the issue. The inaccurate, inappropriate and unsupported entries in the program will remain. In fact, there will be more of them.

What are the ultimate solutions?
  • Careful, well supported attention to the details of every individual entry. 
  • Expanded cooperation between users.
  • Attention to the reality of historical research.
In short, let those who know how to do the research and have the skills do their work. Let new users be taught how to enter information accurately and completely. Don't ignore the problems or pretend that they do not exist and will go away without a lot of effort and even more work. Stop pretending that there are no problems and let those who will do the work continue to do what they do so well. It is my opinion that there are many out here in the trenches who can and will do the work of cleaning up the Family Tree once they are given the tools and opportunity to do so.

Stop viewing the Family Tree as a "source" of names for ordinance work and start viewing it as it really is, a huge storage container for well-researched and well supported family history. It is and will be a record of what has been done, not a place to go to get additional names for Temple work. Most of us who are contributing new information about family members to the program are reserving those individual's names immediately or releasing them to the Temples. There is no big orchard of names accumulating in the Family Tree to be readily harvested by naive and inexperienced users. There are some individuals who have been overlooked, but the number of readily available ordinances will begin crashing as the duplicates are finally eliminated. In fact, the number of easily done "green icons" has already almost completely disappeared. 

Remember, this is pure speculation on my part. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pay Attention to Place Names in the FamilySearch Family Tree

As I help patrons at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and friends and others who ask for help, I am constantly reviewing the entries they have in the Family Tree. One of the things that I note most frequently is a lack of attention to the details of place names. Unfortunately, I do not have to go too far in my own portion of the Family Tree to find the same issues as examples.

Here is a sample of the place listings for one family I have yet to work on.
  • Udimore, Sussex, Eng
  • , Udimore, Sussex, England, United Kingdom
  • Udimore Suss., ENGLAND
  • Udimore,Sussex,England
  • Udimore,, Sussex, Eng
One of the members of this family is reported to have been christened and married in Rolvenden, Kent, England. The time frame with these entries is from the late 1600s to the early to mid-1700s. If I continue forward in time, I find that his son's family has the following place names:
  • Udimore, Sussex, Eng
  • Udimore, Suss., Eng.
  • Sedlescombe, Sussex, England
  • Battle, Sussex, England
  • of Sedlescombe, Suss., Eng.
  • , Sedlescombe, Sussex, England, United Kingdom
  • Rolvenden, Kent, England
From this point on to the present, the family is found entirely in Rolvenden, Kent, England or in places closely associated with Rolvenden.

Now, this may not seem like an important issue, but the places need to be put in the context of the time period. In addition, it might also be helpful to note that these families were classed as agricultural workers and that the family intermarried with families of other agricultural workers in Kent. Because of social and physical limitations, it is very unlikely that events in the lives of your ancestors living before the mid-1800s would have been able to travel to different counties or even different parishes for the events to occur. There are exceptions, but the general rule is that before 1850 most people's birth, marriage and death occurred within a six mile radius.

Here is a screenshot of a Google Map showing the distance between Udimore and Rolvenden.

This is certainly a possible situation even for the the 1600s. Here is what it looks like when you

Still not too impossible, but starting to look a little spread out for the average distances between life events. But the issue here is not so much the locations themselves, it is the way they have been recorded.

The extra commas and the abbreviations are an inheritance from the time when we had to cram place names into a certain space on a paper family group record or into a character limited field in the old Personal Ancestral File program. Many older genealogists see nothing at all wrong with these entries. The problem is that the computer considers commas and spaces as significant in some cases. In addition, the abbreviations can be confusing, not only to the computer program but also to other users.

In addition, the United Kingdom began in 1707 with the political union of England and Scotland. References to the United Kingdom before that date are inaccurate and inappropriate. The rule is that the places are recorded as they existed at the time the event reported occurred.

There is also the issue of standardized dates and places on the Family Tree. Using a standardized place helps clarify the information and helps the Find and hints features of the Family Tree. The list of standardized places is growing constantly, but it does not yet reflect all the historical places possible, so in these cases, the actual place at the time should be selected. There is a process for accepting an alternative "standard." See the Help Center article entitled, "Entering standardized dates and places."

Here is the standardized places for all of the entries above.
  • Udimore, Sussex, England
  • Sedlescombe, Sussex, England
  • Battle, Sussex, England
  • Rolvenden, Kent, England
If any of the dates associated with these places were during the existence of the United Kingdom, it would also be appropriate to add that designation.

Correcting and standardizing entries in the Family Tree is not a trivial or make-work activity, it is a valuable way to make the data more accurate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An example of the new duplicates appearing in the FamilySearch Family Tree

The entry I started with in the Family Tree showed Sarah Bryant, (b. 1762, d. 1831) to a "Mr. Lee" with no further identifying information. Neither entry had any attached sources. I began looking for further information on Sarah Bryant and found her in English Births and Christenings, 1538-1975.

I added this as a source and continued looking. Neither of the entries for Sarah or Mr. Lee showed any possible duplicates.

I continued to search and noted the note added by a user that Sarah "Married a Mr. Lee."  I repeated the searches in and Then I modified the entry and removed the title, "Mr." I remembered that the program suggests that entering Mr. or Mrs. is inappropriate.

I did the search again on for Sarah Briant or Bryant and after adding the spouse's name as "Lee" found the following entry.

I checked to see how far Cranbrook, Kent was from Rolvenden, Kent and found it about 6 miles away. Certainly within a reasonable distance for the time period involved. I double checked the entry to see how many possible Bryants there were born in Rolvenden, Kent and concluded that the reference to "Lee" was to "Leigh" which would be an alternative spelling.

As soon as I changed the entry to Robert Leigh, I got a duplicate entry from FamilySearch.

Remember, before doing this research and entering the information, these duplicates were not found. The duplicate entry added three children and duplicate for Sarah.

Now, I had some more work to do. I checked for duplicates and now, there were two duplicates for Sarah, one of which was from Lancashire and not a match.

I merged the duplicate entry.

I continued adding source hints that now appeared.

There were two children with the name Mary. One showed a death date, the other did not. It was not unusual when a child died in infancy, that the next child of the same gender was given the same name. Therefore this may or may not be a duplicate especially with different birth dates. However, the first two children turned out to be born in Lancashire and were not a part of this family.

This whole process is pointing out that there are not just "single" duplicate entries in the Family Tree, but also, as I have been saying for years, duplicate pedigrees. You can assume once you start to do research on an existing line that you will find duplicates up and down the line, perhaps in profusion.

The conclusion is that all entries in the Family Tree without enough information may, in fact, be latent duplicates of entries already present. 

The Family History Guide Videos Parts 1 and 2 now online

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

The Family History Guide: Part 2 - Projects 4-7 & Extras - Bob Taylor

Two more valuable additions have been made to the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. These two videos cover the extremely valuable website, The Family History Guide. This free website provides a detailed structured and sequenced method of teaching family history and particularly the use of the website. These two presentations will be supplemented in the future with additional webinar presentations. 

You may wish to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel to receive notifications of future presentations. You can also find a schedule of the upcoming webinars on the Brigham Young University Family History Library webpage. You might also want to check out the BYU Family History Library Facebook page

Dealing With the Deluge of Duplicates in the FamilySearch Family Tree

In the last few weeks, many users of the Family Tree have seen a dramatic increase in the number of duplicate entries found by the program. In some instances while working with some research on a particular family, I have been faced with as many as a hundred or more duplicates that must be merged before I can adequately proceed with research. These duplicate entries are not immediately apparent. They only appear as you do research and add information from records found from  Here is a screenshot of part of the list of changes I made to one family in England recently that developed as a result of the numerous duplicates that appeared.

The original entry was a single individual with very little information and no discoverable duplicate entries. As I added information and each time I corrected the entry, as many as five or more duplicate entries would appear. The screenshot shows less than half of the list of changes that had to be made because of the duplicates that appeared each time information was added. Many of the merges produced even more occurrences of duplicates that had to be merged. I estimate that I had to resolve more than a hundred duplicates to clean up this one family.

I can speculate about what is happening. It appears from consulting with others who are experiencing the same issues, that FamilySearch has added a significant number of additional individuals to the database. Perhaps this comes about as a result of opening up more links to the original data in moving away from the program? In one case, a duplicate record appeared that could only have been added by the user many years ago.

There are some important issues here. One is that an entry that appears to be without any duplicates, could have many duplicates if some additional research is done and information added. So, for example you find a relative where the entry shows Temple work needed but there is very limited information available. If you do some very basic research, such as adding a birthplace or date or adding a spouse, the Family Tree program will immediately begin finding duplicates that were previously not discoverable. As more information is added, duplicates will continue to appear.

In one case, we assumed that this phenomena was caused by having huge IOUS or multiply submitted entries. However, I have seen instances where duplicates start appearing in lines where there has been very little research and a very limited number of submissions.

What is the solution? Keep carefully merging entries until the duplicates run out. There is apparently no other solution. It is significant that these duplicates have now begun to appear. They have been in the program all along but not found when searching. Now they are being found. This must mean we are closer to separating and the end of the ultimate problems with the data may be in sight.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reflections on Duplicates and Merging in the FamilySearch Family Tree

As I have been working on specific family lines in the Family Tree recently, I have discovered some interesting issues that accompany the plethora of duplicate entries inherited from the combining of over a hundred years' research by a multitude of researchers.

One very interesting phenomena involves the appearances of duplicates as information is added to the entries through research and attached as sources. For example, I began searching for the wife of a relative that was shown a unmarried and who was born and died in England. My relative has a very common name: John Briant (also spelled Bryant). I checked to see if there were any duplicates for him in the Family Tree and none were found. I decided to see if he ever married and began doing research. Almost immediately, I found a marriage record that identified his wife's name as "Susan."

I did some additional research and found more records. It seems that adding a wife's name (or spouse's name) assists the search engine in finding additional information. I then found a marriage record that identified the wife's father, thereby providing her with a surname. I continued to do research and now found even more records. What was interesting is that I also began to find duplicate records in the system. Every time I added more researched information about the family, I found additional duplicates. At any point from when I first identified the wife's name. I could have printed ordinance cards. But I decided to add additional information on the hope that there were some children in the newly identified family.

But as I continued to add information and sources, I got even more duplicates. There seems to be a direct correlation between adding source information and detecting more duplicates in the Family Tree. So, it would also appear, that researchers who stop short of discovering additional source information about the people they identify run the real risk of duplicating ordinances. When I first identified the wife, I found no duplicates. It was only as I added specific information from several sources that the duplicates appeared. I am guessing that this is why I found several duplicate entries for this same couple with almost no information, just the bare names and dates with incomplete places. Apparently, the program does not find duplicates without a certain level of information about the individuals.

I realized that I had been seeing this phenomena before without realizing exactly what was happening. I suggest that the number of duplicate entries in the program will continue to increase if the contributors fail to add sources to the information they supply and then add the information from the sources to the entries and keep searching multiple times for duplicates entries.

Friday, June 10, 2016

More important than the difficulty

I have written recently about some of the challenges in working with all of the inherited data in the Family Tree. However, I should not fail to mention the benefits. After spending many hours untangling the duplicate entries and working through the unsupported additions to families, I was able to find more than a few new people to add to the Family Tree and then, in the evening, go to the Temple and again take a family name. All of the effort and overcoming problems is worth it. There is a reason why I would go through all of the frustration and spend the time to work out the difficult relationships and in the end, we can have the satisfaction of progressing a little further in our family history.

The most interesting part of this whole experience is the fact that the tools provided by FamilySearch are now sufficient to resolve some of these most difficult problems. Quoting from the website:
Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness enables family relationships to continue throughout eternity. Through family history work, we can learn more about our ancestors, identify and prepare the names of those who need gospel ordinances, and perform ordinance work for them in holy temples. The Church provides many resources to help us learn about our family history and participate in temple work for the dead.
This is most certainly true. I only feel badly that more members of the Church cannot understand the huge opportunity we have to finally overcome some of these challenges.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Overcoming the Fire Swamp of the Family Tree

With my last post, I was working my way out of the "fire swamp" of the Family Tree. After several long hours of work, I was finally able to see some light and get that particular family under control. This process took somewhere close to between fifty and a hundred meges. Here is what that section of the Family Tree looked like when I started:

Here is what the same family line looks like now that I spent hours merging and cleaning up the entries.

Also, very interestingly, this particular family no longer connects to my own family lines. My Bryant line has Jane Bryant (b. 1789, d. 1874) married to Thomas Shoobridge (b. 1784, d. 1863) but there are no known parents for Thomas.

Now, it was time to see if there is some connection for the Thomas Shoobridge or whether I have more merges to do. I did find that his mother's name was Anne.

There is apparently only one Anne married to a Shoebridge in Rolvenden, Kent, England or any of the very small places around that town. But Richard and Anne Shoebridge (Richard had two wives, both with the name Ann or Anne) did not have a child named Thomas in 1784. But more research shows that this Thomas's mother was Anne Shoobridge and he was "base born" or illegitimate. \

So, my Thomas Shoobridge was not part of the fire swamp at all and we don't know his father's name. That seems to be the end of the story.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Stepping Off into the Family Tree Fire Swamp

My reference to the "Fire Swamp" obviously comes from The Princess Bride and I have used this analogy in previous posts. This conversation from the movie provides the backdrop for my comments on my recent experiences with the Family Tree.
[after Westley rescues her from the lightning quicksand] 
Buttercup: We'll never succeed. We may as well die here. 
Westley: No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There's a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too. 
Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.'s? 
Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.
[Immediately, an R.O.U.S. attacks him]
I do not think that there is any coincidence in the fact that multiple copies of individuals in the Family Tree are called Individuals of Unusual Size or IOUSs. Here is a screenshot of my present fire swamp situation:

I was examining one of the Family Tree branches that go well beyond my original research. I am reasonably sure I have never seen this surname in any of my own research before. I got to this section by following back into my supposed ancestors. Here is a more graphic example of the problems with this one family:

This is all in addition to the fact that there are multiple duplicates in layers. After making several merges, I noticed that the number of potential merges had increased rather than decreased.

Now, I tend to look at this mess more as an opportunity than a problem. It is evident that very little effort has gone into the research of this family when there are people designated as "Childrens Shoebridge."

This whole problem became evident when I went out my Bryant family line and started to look at some of the children (cousins). The first indication was a Jane Bryant (b. 1788, d. 1874) married to Thomas Shoobridge (b. 1784, d. 1863). He shows up as an only child in the list above with a mother named "Anne." The above list shows up as a result of looking at the descendancy of his father (maybe) Richard Shoebridge (b. 1737, d. 1820).

The Thomas Shoofridge (b. 1784, d. 1863) has a duplicate entry.

After merging these duplicate records, there were three more possible duplicates for his wife.

One of these was not a match, so I looked at the other two and merged them leaving the wife, Jane Bryant, with a birth date after her christening date. The merge also left her with duplicate children. At this point the duplicates just kept multiplying and spreading further and further.

The rule here is to start at the first place in the Family Tree where there is no controversy and work your way backward to the person of interest. What I did see is that despite the fact that this person could have been an IOUS, the mergers continued to world and made good progress in straightening out this problem. The key here is patience and knowing the rules of the fire swamp.

Searching for your Relatives?

In our highly mobile society, I have found that many genealogists are really interested in discovering their living relatives. Motivation for this can come through a desire to find out information about family lines, but it may also arise as a result of a need to belong to a family. As a result of this general interest in living relatives, there are two apps in the App Gallery that are aimed at the processs of discovering living relatives.

The first of these is called "Are we related?" and is an Android app. Since I do not have any Android devices, I could not test the program. So I will have to leave that up to you to comment on. As usual, I suggest a visit to the website but this app does not yet have any reviews. Perhaps you can add one? has been around for a while and has developed quite a following. Developed by the Family History Technology Lab at Brigham Young University, it is an easy to use, free, collaborative program that shows relationships using the Family Tree.

Relative Finder also has yet to garner any reviews in

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The status of genealogy in LDS culture

The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128: 17-18 states:
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.
The extension of these basic concepts has culminated in the building of over 150 Temples worldwide and the development of an extensive international genealogical support systems consisting of over 4,900 Family History Centers and other related libraries and archives. It is apparent that a significant portion of the resources of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints goes into promoting and supporting the "work for the dead" as it is often referred to. Quoting from the Mormon Newsroom topic on "Genealogy:"
Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestors or family history, is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. People of all faiths and nationalities enjoy discovering where they come from. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, learning about one’s family history is more than just a casual endeavor. Latter-day Saints believe families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died. 
Latter-day Saints believe that the eternal joining of families is possible through sacred sealing ceremonies that take place in temples. These temple rites may also be performed by proxy for those who have died. Consequently, for Mormons, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead. In Latter-day Saint belief, the dead have the choice to accept or reject the services performed for them. 
Since 1894, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has dedicated time and resources to collecting and sharing records of genealogical importance. Due to cooperation from government archives, churches, and libraries, the Church has created the largest collection of family records in the world, with information on more than 3 billion deceased people. This effort was originally facilitated through the Genealogical Society of Utah and now through FamilySearch, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Church. 
FamilySearch provides access to information from 100 countries, including birth, marriage, and death records, censuses, probates and wills, land records, and more. These records are made available to the public free of charge through the website, the world-renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and through a network of 4,600 local family history centers in 126 countries.
As noted, the Church has been collecting and sharing genealogical records since 1894. Now, you would expect that a significant percentage of the Church membership would be either directly or indirectly involved in genealogical research into their families. The actual numbers of active participants are very low. Why, given the obvious importance of the work, does this condition exist?

This is one of the most serious issues I have thought about and researched for some time and I have isolated some of the main factors. Here is my list, not in any particular order, of some of the factors that I see that influence this disparity.

The members of the Church around the world reflect the societies in which they live. The statement above about genealogy being "one of the most popular hobbies in the world" is commonly quoted but unsupported. Interest in families is almost universal, but genealogy is a specific activity that involves research into ancestral lines and involvement in this type of research is highly specialized and challenging. Using the term "hobby" when talking about genealogy is inappropriate. It is true that people have different levels of interest but genealogical research increases in complexity and difficulty exponentially as the researcher goes back in time. There are really very few people with the interest and the skills to do intensive genealogical research. 

With regard to the status of their family history, members of the Church fall into three general categories: those who have little or no information about their ancestral families, those who have some general information and those who have extensively researched compiled genealogies, usually inherited from ancestors who were intensely involved in genealogical research. Considering the entire membership of the Church, most of the members fall within the first two categories. 

Even though the number of members who have extensive genealogies is declining as a percentage of the overall membership, these members are concentrated in the historically predominantly LDS geographic areas such as Utah, Arizona and other western states in the United States and they still have a prominent position in the activity and leadership of the Church. With respect to these "legacy" members of the Church, the "easy" part of their genealogy has been done. Most of the work left is undone because of the scarcity of records or the difficulty of doing the research. 

This overburden of "completed" genealogy creates a conflict in the minds of the members with respect to "doing their family history." This conflict arises because of the doctrinal admonitions and the reality of actually making progress where the activity has moved well beyond adding the "first four generations" to a family tree. 

Many of these legacy members of the Church are the descendants of immigrants from Europe or other countries around the world. For some, access to the records of their ancestors is either extremely limited or involves skills regarding reading languages other than English. These challenges can be overwhelming and prevent even the beginnings of interest in doing the research necessary.

Because of the specialized nature of research beyond a the very basic, first four generations, level, information and promotional materials for many years have been directed at "beginners." This focus is also very appropriate given that the overall numbers of the Church membership indicate that there are more such beginners than legacy members. However, the continued emphasis on beginning research and the ease of doing so has created unrealistic expectations on the part of those members who have the overburden of "completed" ancestral lines. 

There is, in fact, a huge opportunity for those who have the skills and interest to do family history research. In the past year or so, the programs, data and methods of advancing genealogical research have changed dramatically and opportunities are available for legacy members to do substantial additional research. However, the cultural burden imposed by the past history and perception that the work is complete as far as is possible, has discouraged all but the most dedicated researchers. Hence, there is almost no leadership support for the currently outlined activities aimed at increasing membership activity among the legacy members and this, by association, extends to those who could do some basic, four generation, work also. 

We are at the threshold of having a significant advance in the our ability to push back ancestral research into the past. But we are still struggling with the cultural overburden of our historical involvement. It may take a metaphorical "40 years in the wilderness" for this to happen however. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

What documents need to be added to the FamilySearch Memories?

From time to time the issue arises as to what should and what should not be added to the Memories section of the website. There is an initial issue as to the distinction between "photos" and "documents." Photos contain people and places. Documents have words and information beyond what is depicted. The difference is a matter of opinion to some extent. If an image is added as a photo, it can easily be moved to become a document by simply checking the box provided in the Details section of the program. Here is a screenshot showing a photo with an arrow showing the Details section link and another arrow indicating the check box.

This option will only appear if you are the person who contributed the photo. 

This still leaves a question as to what should be added as documents. There are a significant number of people who feel that copies of U.S. Census Records should be added as well as copies of any other source documents that are discovered. The supporting argument for this position is that the document may not be available in the future and it is a good idea to add the document to the Memories section so a copy is always available. I guess my counter argument is that those who add these documents almost never provide the full citation to where the copy came from. I guess the question is really moot, since we do not (yet) have the ability to edit any of the Memories provided by others except to add tags and other such additional information.

I do suggest that those adding any type of memory check to see if what they are adding is a duplicate however.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Earliest LDS Church Records

Many of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have ancestors who came through Utah after joining the Church elsewhere. Although the Church population as a whole has shifted from the United States to countries outside of the United States, (See Facts and Statistics from the Newsroom). Additionally, by the way, again according to the Newsroom, there are 4,918 Family History Centers Worldwide.

From time to time, I am asked questions that must be resolved from early Church records. Many of these records are available on microfilm, a few are published in books and some are available only in restricted collections at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The main repository for early Church records is the The Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2015, I wrote a brief post on Researching Early LDS Records, but I thought it a good idea to update and expand on that post. I have found that several of my own ancestors are mentioned in the historical records of the Church.

Although, in the past, many of the earliest records of the Church were inaccessible, there has been a concerted effort for many years now to make them more available. Many of the Church's documents, journals, administrative records, revelations and translations, histories, legal, business and financial records are now online and freely available on The Joseph Smith Papers website. Many other digitized documents are available on The Church History Library website.

The place to start your research is the Church History Catalog.

For example, a search on my surname, "Tanner," showed 2,075 results. Subsequent searches on specific ancestors showed books, manuscripts and collections of papers.

Other places to search include the Catalog and the Research Wiki. Some of the notable records include the Early Church Information File, LDS Membership Records, and LDS Patriarchal Blessings.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Digital Scorecard

How many records, book, periodicals, and other items have actually been digitized? How many of those digitized items are genealogically relevant? Is there really an answer to either or both of these questions?

The real answer to these questions is very complex and elusive at the same time. But what is more and more evident is that much of what is out there in the world's historical records is being gobbled up by the digital juggernaut. Even if you spent nearly every waking hour of every day, it would now be impossible to even begin to understand the amount of information online and available at the click of a virtual button.

As regularly as the frequency in a cesium atom, I get comments from genealogical researchers about how they have searched and searched and now have no more records to search. My answer is always the same, you cannot begin to imagine how many records there are and how many more there are that you can search.

In all of this, we depend heavily on a few very limiting factors, our time to search, our skill and ability to search, our resources for traveling and searching, our persistence, our imagination and our background in the area we are searching. All these factors and many more influence whether or not we can continue to find records when we seem to be at a dead end. Even for those with extraordinary online search skills, finding pertinent digital records among the billions online is a daunting task. In finding those records we are at the mercy of the quality of the individual search engines used by each website.

Granted, in today's world, we may come to the end of the availability of digital records in any very small geographic area or subject. We still may be out looking at paper records, but the parameters of our digital world are expanding at an ever increasing rate.

Let's look at some of the numbers as of the date of this post.  First the large online family history websites and their lists of records.

  • -- billions of records in 2101 collections and 282,516 books and periodicals 
  • -- 6,937,037,375 historical records including 447,870 books and publications
  • -- billions of records in 32,611 collections
  • -- over two billion records
Next, here are some of the numbers from the more general online digital collections. 
If you really want to explore some more online collections, see the following websites.
Let's just say we are never through looking and there is more every day. Just one example, in watching, it appears that this one website is adding about 100,000,000 or so records every month or less. 

Don't get overwhelmed and don't give up.