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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Looking at the real end of the line

Every ancestral line ends. Even if you think you can trace your ancestry "back to Adam," you still have to admit that you need to stop there. Realistically, the end is nigh or a lot closer than Adam. I decided to look at a few of my own family lines as shown on the Family Tree and show the "actual" end of each of these selected lines to illustrate how and why they end where they do end. In each case, I will first show the last individual in that particular surname line and then show the actual end according to the records available. In most cases, this will be fairly easy because once there are no listed sources the line, for all practical purposes, ends.

So, here we go with the first end of line situation.

Someone would have me believe that my Linton line goes back to William de Linton, born in 1385 in an English castle. The Lintons were dirt poor Scotch/Irish tenant farmers who left Northern Ireland in the mid- to early 1800s to come to America. They were not descendants of nobility. The actual end of line is presently the following person:

The reason William Linton born about 1801 is the end of the line is that from this point on there are no source showing his birth or marriage and his parents are unknown despite the fact that there are generations of ancestors going back to the 1300s.

Next example,

Even with two sources this is the imaginary end of the line. The real end of the line has several sources listed, however, there are no sources that show this person's parents. The Family Tree shows a christening in Winwick, Lancashire, England but there are apparently no sources shown substantiating that record or indicating who might be his parents. So, right now, the line ends in 1720, not somewhere back in time.

The next example is one that is not obvious unless you take the time to examine the sources and think about what is and what is not there. Here is the remote, supposedly end of line, ancestor.

It is possible that an English line, such as this one, could go back to the late 1500s. Afterall, there are ten sources. But the actual end of line in this situation is as follows:

The reason for this end of line is that Peter Ellison is shown with two fathers with the same name and two different marriages. I am not saying that some research wouldn't resolve this issue, I am just saying that as the record now shows, there is no way to determine the identity of Peter's father.

I could go on and on. In each of these cases, the sources fail to support a further extension of the family line past the person I identified and being the real end of line person. What do we do with these situations?

First, we do more research and see if the line can realistically be extended past the point at which thee are records of the next generation. Next, we either correct the record in the Family Tree or cut off all of the people past the point at which the Family Tree fails to contain information sufficient to support that extension.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Serving a Family History Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has two main options for volunteers who wish to serve missions: Part-time Church Service Missionaries and Full-time Missionaries. Opportunities are available both to young men and women and for older married couples and individuals. Both my wife and I have been serving as Family History Church Service Missionaries for some time. We are now in the process of switching to full-time missionary service.

If you are interested in genealogy and family history, you will find many opportunities available to serve a family history oriented mission. As explained in the above blog post article, there are missionaries needed in many different areas of the world and for many different positions. Quoting from the article linked above:
The many available missionary opportunities available that center on several key areas and initiatives. Here’s a sampling of how missionaries are helping to advance the cause of family history:
  • Records Preservation–Missionaries preserve historical records from archives, government buildings, and libraries the world over. These records contain evidence that is crucial for learning a family story. This service opportunity is primarily for full-time couples to serve together throughout the world.
  • Records Operation Centers (ROC)–Missionaries process records and prepare them for indexing. There are currently six ROC locations where missionaries can serve, and there will soon be a serve-at-home option.
  • Patron Support from Home–Missionaries provide research and FamilySearch site assistance from their home to patrons over the phone, online, and via email.
According to Arthur Johnson, workforce development manager for FamilySearch, this opportunity is currently a top priority. “There is a need right now for members to serve from home assisting patrons with their FamilySearch questions,” he says.
  • Temple Square–Missionaries provide family history support on Temple Square and work with FamilySearch employees on special projects. They serve in the Family History Library, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Church History Library.
  • FamilySearch Libraries–Missionaries provide research assistance and FamilySearch help to patrons in local areas. There are currently 15 locations available.
  • Wiki–Missionaries writer or manage family history tips and instruction about areas of research on the FamilySearch Wiki.
My wife and I choose to apply for positions as Record Preservation Specialists and, although there are no guarantees concerning a specific calling, consideration is given for interests and qualifications in making assignments. We were subsequently called by the Church as Record Preservation Specialists in the Washington, D.C. North Mission to help digitize records in the Maryland State Archives.

There are, admittedly, a number of concerns that can be raised when considering a full-time mission as a "senior" couple. Since we have both been serving for years as Church Service Missionaries, the transition to full-time service does not seem as much of a challenge as it might otherwise appear. It also helps that we both have extensive backgrounds in computers, records, scanning, digitizing and family history.

After filling out our applications to serve as full-time missionaries, we "submitted the applications" once we had our interviews with our Bishop and Stake President. Our call to the Washington, D.C. North Mission came earlier than expected, but we still had a few months until we were supposed to report to the Missionary Training Center, right down the street from where we presently live.

It turns out that having this time to prepare was necessary and valuable. There were a number of arrangements that had to be made. For example, we will be gone for a year and we need to move our mail, especially bills, from paper to online. Moving banking, bill paying, mail and everything else online turns out to be a challenge, especially with banks. I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say, we needed time to prepare even though we didn't think so before we started the process.

For some, leaving family and especially grandchildren might be a challenge. But our children live all over the U.S. and we are used to traveling long distances to see them and they are used to traveling to see us. We might even see some of our children more being on the East Coast than we might by staying in Provo.

We are very happy for the opportunity to serve in the Washington, D.C. area and are looking forward to making new friends and helping as many people as we can find their ancestors along with the opportunity to digitize a lot of valuable records for FamilySearch.

Note: As I have written previously, I have decided to use this Rejoice blog to comment on and report on our mission. I will continue to write as I have time and the opportunity to do so.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mobile Access to the Consultant Planner
The Family Tree app is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can find the app in the App Gallery or in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. This useful app has now been made even more useful by the addition of access to the Consultant Planner. The short explanation linked above has the instructions for finding the Consultant Planner in the App.

Here are links to two instructional videos about the Consultant Planner from the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

The FamilySearch Consultant Planner For: Find, Take, Teach, and Beyond - Kathryn Grant

Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Upcoming Adventure in Record Preservation

Some time ago, my wife and I began the process of volunteering to serve as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many people around the world have become accustomed to seeing young missionaries traveling around two-by-two. These younger missionaries are primarily proselyting to find people to join the church. Some senior missionaries also act in this capacity. However, for senior missionaries, there are a variety of other challenging opportunities to serve. In our case, we wished to serve in some capacity associated with our main interest in family history and genealogy. As result, we found an opportunity to serve as Record Preservation missionaries.

Full-time missionary service for senior missionaries, most commonly retired couples, can be for six months, 12 months, 18 months or longer. The variety of callings available is remarkable. You can discover information about available positions on the website. Specifically, we wanted to serve a mission associated with the activities of FamilySearch. Both of us, have been serving as Church Service Missionaries for some time now.

As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 4:3, "Therefore if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…" Most callings in the Church come from the leaders to the members, however, senior missionary callings rely on the members volunteering to serve. Because of this, we sought out a specific calling to assist in the digitization of the world's records.

The process of submitting the information necessary to receive a mission call is simplified by having the entire process online. There are some minimal requirements concerning health and availability. Filling out the online forms and acquiring the necessary information took only a short period of time. Our mission call came much quicker than expected. However, we were given, what appeared to be, a rather long time to prepare to leave. We were called to the Washington DC North Mission, appropriately located in the Washington DC area.  Our specific calling was to serve as Record Preservation Specialists for a period of one year, at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. It is not always the case, that the missionaries are called to the place or area they specify; this is made very clear in the application process.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Record presentation is the fundamental driving force behind all of the online records now available for genealogical research. FamilySearch has hundreds of missionary couples serving around the world participating in this important work.
For more information about FamilySearch and Record Preservation, see the following links.
Many people have asked me if I will write about our mission. Rather than do a separate newsletter to all of our friends, I have decided to incorporate a "report" about our mission in this blog. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sign in will be required for all users on

Note: I do not usually reproduce the same blog post on both of my blogs, but this is an exception because of the far-reaching changes imposed by FamilySearch on their website.

Beginning December 13, 2017, for a number of very good reasons, the highly visited website will begin requiring users to sign in before using the website. The announcement came in a blog post entitled, "FamilySearch Free Sign-in Offers Greater Subscriber Experiences and Benefits." Quoting from the post:
Beginning December 13, 2017, patrons visiting will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer. Since its launch in 1999, FamilySearch has added millions of users, billions of various historical records, and many fun, new features like Family TreeMemoriesmobile appsdigital books, and dynamic help. In order to accommodate continued growth of these and future free services, FamilySearch must assure all its partners that its content is offered in a safe and secure online environment. Patrons creating a free account and signing in fulfills that need.

Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.
The online world is rapidly changing as circumstances mandate a higher level of website security. Requiring all of the users to sign on will not change the user experience but it will help to preserve the integrity of the website.

More than finding the names

Family history is about more than just finding the names of our ancestors. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discovering their ancestral heritage is more than just a hobby or pastime. It is a fundamental part of our religious belief. As Joseph Smith stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128, verses 17 and 18:
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.
This is a personal responsibility and apparently, there is no way to transfer this responsibility to another person. Your great aunt or grandmother or whoever may have "done all the work" for your ancestors, which, by the way, would have been and is presently impossible, but if you are a member of the Church, you still have the same exact responsibility today. Fortunately, as Rodney DeGiulio, senior vice president over FamilySearch records recently observed, “The Lord is hastening His work, and the tools and capabilities available are being poured out to us through His Spirit.” How is this work being hastened?

First of all, it is not us doing the hastening. We are merely participants or in most cases nonobservant bystanders to the hastening. It is the Lord who is hastening the work and we can either participate or lose the blessings. It is as simple as that. As Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said back in October 2013 as reported in an Ensign magazine article published in October 2014, entitled, "Missionary, Family History, and Temple Work,"
Enabling the exaltation of the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances. We do not worship in holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family. Planting in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; turning the hearts of the children to their own fathers; and performing family history research and vicarious ordinances in the temple are labors that bless individuals in the spirit world not yet under covenant.
As Elder Bednar further stated in the same article.
Some individuals may wonder how both preaching the gospel and seeking after our dead can be simultaneously the greatest duties and responsibilities God has placed upon His children. My purpose is to suggest that these teachings highlight the unity and oneness of the latter-day work of salvation. Missionary work and family history and temple work are complementary and interrelated aspects of one great work, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).
One of the most evident effects of this hastening is the what Rod DeGulio said about "tools and capabilities." Those tools include a marvelous array of tools including those on two of the Church's websites, and It is interesting that the statistics gathered by the Church show that only a very small minority of the members of the Church are even using these two tools to submit the names of their ancestors to the temples.

In addition, this hastening has included resource tools such as The Family History Guide, the official FamilySearch traning partner and an official correlation approved resource as linked from Not too surprisingly, very few members of the Church have even become aware of these tools and resources. There are over 100 additional programs listed in the App Gallery.

Until each member of the Church takes the iniative to begin the work of salvation for their own ancestors and relatives, they are not really helping the hastening of the work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Puzzilla Premium: A Dramatic Increase in Utility
It is not uncommon for software developers to promote both a free and paid version of their program. Sometimes, the free version is limited in some way that makes buying the full version of the program an obvious decision. has a free level and a premium or subscription level and the premium level has so many more features that buying the full or premium version of the program is an obvious decision.

When it was introduced, the basic or free version brought genealogists an innovative way of viewing the information contained in the Family Tree. The Premium version of the program extends those features by adding extensive functionality. Through the Brigham Young University Library, we have done a number of videos that demonstrate the features of the Premium version of the program. Here are the some of them.

Getting the Most Out of Puzzilla Premium by Judy Sharp

Puzzilla Premium by James Tanner

10-Descendancy Research in Puzilla - Judy Sharp

Strategies for Finding an Ancestor Through Descendancy Research by Judy Sharp

Monday, November 13, 2017

View BYU Family History Library Videos in LDS Chapels
The BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel has hundreds of useful and instructional videos about genealogy and family history. However, for those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who wish to use the videos while teaching a class or otherwise in an LDS chapel, they will find that the Church blocks YouTube in the chapels. To resolve this problem, the staff of the BYU Family History Library is now converting the videos to a format that can be viewed directly from the BYU website. Here's a screenshot of the website and the link to the expanded media options.
However, please remember that viewing the videos on YouTube and subscribing to the channel helps the library gain some visibility in the mass of videos on YouTube and uploaded to YouTube daily. Please subscribe.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Some Surprises in Descendancy Research

Red Icons? One of the fairly recent additions to the Family Tree is the addition of a considerable number of red warning icons. These icons are now telling users that their entries lack standardized dates and places. Here is an example from the screenshot above.

Why has standardization now become an issue along with children born after the mother has died and other serious errors?

From my perspective, the lack of accurately located places in the Family Tree is one of the biggest challenges to the consistent accuracy of the entire database. One of most errors I encounter is that of children in one family born in various and sundry places that turn out to be from separate families. I certainly realize that standardizing an erroneous location does not resolve the error, but it may help to see that a family in England did not likely have a child born in California. In addition to helping the program locate the places on a map, standardization also helps organize the various jurisdictions in their proper order from the smallest to the largest.

I often depend on standardization as an indicator of the degree of involvement by capable users of the program. If I see a lot of non-standard dates and place names, I assume that no knowledgeable person has yet worked on that particular part of the Family Tree. There are other indicators of lack of involvement such as a long list of "Birth Names," but non-standard entries are a more reliable indicator.

Lack of involvement by other users often additionally indicates that there are opportunities to find additional individuals to add to the Family Tree. Other indicators include a lack of sources and incomplete names or names containing extraneous characters such as parentheses. In fact, the bigger the problem, the greater the opportunity.

If you understand the import of the red icons, you will realize that they are really opportunity indicators.

Friday, November 10, 2017

FamilySearch Family Tree App Now Maps Your Ancestors

The Family Tree app now has a mapping program included that maps the location of the events in your ancestors' lives. However, with any app linked to the Family Tree, you need to remember that the information provided is only as accurate as the entries in the Family Tree. This is additional reason for standardizing you entries in the Family Tree.

Allison Ensign has written an expanded description of the features of the mapping function in a blog post on the FamilySearch Blog, entitled, "What's New: Map Your Ancestors." I suggest going to this blog post to get a more detailed explanation of the app's operation.

It seems that FamilySearch incorporates functions that appear in other third-party apps. For example, The Family Nexus is a full featured, free app that has a more detailed and sophisticated mapping function.
I suggest taking a good look at The Family Nexus and the new function on the Family Tree app.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Temples Filling the Earth

I was listening to this song the other day and began thinking about temples filling the earth. Also, at the time this post was written there are two Temple Open Houses going on, one in Cedar City, Utah and the other in Meridian, Idaho. For most of my life, we have lived within a few minutes of one of the temples. But I some of my children live hours away from the nearest temple and a trip to the temple takes more than one day in some cases.

But rather than focusing on travel time, I have been thinking about the impact the Family Tree has had on the participation in temple work by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back in October of 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church, observed the following:
Our people cannot partake of all of the blessings of the gospel unless they can receive their own temple ordinances and then make these ordinances available to those of their kindred dead and others. If this is to happen, temples must be available to them. I feel very strongly about this.
At the time of President Hinckley's talk in 1995, there were 47 working temples in the entire world. Today, there are 157, with 13 under construction and 12 more that have been announced. See Statistics. Now, to keep those temples busy requires either a complex name extraction program such as the one that began many years ago or the members themselves need to do research and bring or send their own family names to the temples. Earlier this year in a Deseret News article entitled, "Harvesting souls through family history, temple work is focus of RootsTech leadership session," Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is quoted as saying:
He recalled that in October 2014, Church leaders prayerfully requested that in the near future, Church members would provide all the names for temple work across the world. “We are pleased to report that in 2016 this request was achieved,” Elder Cook said. “We do not need to rely on extracted names for temple work.”
This achievement has only been possible because of the online tools we have been given and that most importantly include the Family Tree program. Rather than focus on the difficulties and imperfections of the Family Tree, let's focus on the vast benefit this program is and is still becoming in furthering the work of the salvation of our deceased ancestors. Elder Cook went on to be quoted as saying:
“One of our major, if not our principal emphasis this evening, is to have leaders not only teach what needs to be done (the doctrine is relatively simple), but also if we are to be successful, we need to teach the promised blessings that flow as a result of uniting eternal families by doing family history and temple ordinances for those on the other side of the veil,” Elder Cook said.
I wholeheartedly agree.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Family History and Ownership: A Cultural, Philosophical and Religious Issue

Claims of ownership of genealogically important data are a major obstacle to genealogical research. The barriers created by ownership claims extend from individual claims to those made by governments and other archival institutions. Despite the fact that the Terms and Conditions of Use of the Family Tree specifically require users to relinquish any claims of ownership to the data, people using the website still claim personal ownership over the data.

Quoting from the "FamilySearch Rights and Use Information,"
In exchange for your use of this site and/or our storage of any data you submit, you hereby grant us an unrestricted, fully paid-up, royalty-free, worldwide, and perpetual license to use any and all information, content, and other materials (collectively, “Contributed Content”) that you submit or otherwise provide to this site (including, without limitation, genealogical data and discussions and information or data relating to deceased persons) for any and all purposes, in any and all manners.
Essentially, when you submit information or enter information into the website any claims you have to ownership are subservient to the license you have granted to FamilySearch. You will essentially find exactly the same type of provisions on any other major genealogical data website. In this context, using the term "my family tree" or any other similar reference to personally owned data entirely contradicts the provisions of the use of the website.

So why do users persist in viewing the Family Tree as their "personal" database?

The answer is a complex mixture of cultural, religious and philosophical baggage that is inconsistent with the reality of participating in them online, collaborative program. The basic concept that is part of the Western European worldview is that use implies ownership. In other words, by accumulating data about our families and spending the time to do research, we automatically assume a position of ownership over the content we have acquired.

If I go to a store and buy something, according to the dominant cultural view in the United States, I automatically assume a belief that I now "own" whatever I purchased. The idea of collective ownership is inconsistent with this belief. Now let me posit a hypothetical situation. Let's assume that if I go to a library and find a book containing information about my ancestor. If I copy that information, do I now "own" that information?

Before answering that question, I need to make a few comments about the concept of copyright. Relatively recently, our law in the United States has begun to recognize rights to what is called "intellectual property." In certain very complex situations, individuals can claim ownership rights to original works. The definition of these terms is subject to specific provisions of our Federal statutory law. If you as a family historian or genealogist think you have some intellectual property rights concerning your work as a genealogist or family historian, as I have written many times, you should become intimately familiar with the provisions of the United States copyright law. You should further assiduously abide by those provisions.

However, if you are simply adding information to your online family tree by gathering information from publicly available sources, so far, no court in the United States, to my knowledge, has ever held that that information is in any way proprietary.

You do not own your ancestors.

From time to time over the years, I have researched US case law for any cases pertaining to genealogy and genealogical information. Fortunately, my research has failed to find any pertinent law cases on the subject of claims of ownership to pedigree information. Some genealogists have heard of the term "work product" and assumed that their genealogical research is somehow protected by the law. Work product is a very narrow term that applies to the information gathered by an attorney in the preparation of a lawsuit. It certainly does not extend to genealogical research.

Those genealogists for family historians who enter their information into the Family Tree soon learn that the Family Tree is mandatorily collaborative. In other words, when you put your data into the Family Tree you retain only a very tenuous control over that data. Since the data is subject to the FamilySearch license, what happens to the data is really no longer part of your own personal concerns. However, in the practical reality of the situation, by putting your data into the Family Tree you are really using one of the safest and most secure places where that information could possibly be stored. The data will outlive all of us.

Under the rather narrow provisions of the United States copyright law, if you create an "original" work, you may, by complying with the copyright law obtain some rights of ownership to the work. Otherwise, forget about ownership.

By the way, and direct answer to the question posed above about copying information from a book, you may, in fact, be violating someone else's claim to a copyright.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Finding More Hidden Duplicates in the FamilySearch Family Tree

This screenshot illustrates one of the ways to discover duplicates in the Family Tree. This entry came up in the merge from the husband. Consequently, this is what appears:

Notice that the dates for the marriage are the same. It is evident that "?" and Adelia C. (Delia) SHEPHERD are the same person. We know these are different people because their ID numbers are different. So now we have to merge the two duplicate wives (even though one is not identified.) But first, I have a significant amount of work to do with the wife's entry.

At this point, neither the husband nor the wife show any available duplicates. Now, I need to do a preliminary "clean up" the entries. This involves, at least, the following steps:

  • Standardize all dates and places
  • Remove extraneous entries from names such as the name in parentheses.
  • Correct or remove extra "Birth Name" entries and replace with alternate names if appropriate
  • Check all the sources and make sure the detail information about the person reflects the information in the entries. 
  • Do additional research for more sources to find additional children etc.
It is now almost inevitable that I will find more duplicate entries. Now, for example, I am researching the husband, Clinton Stafford, and find a duplicate entry in when I try to connect the two people using my LDS Account. 

The entry may or may not be a duplicate, but it is important to find out. Copy the ID number and look for a duplicate using the ID number. 

After adding several more sources and merging more duplicates, the obvious and less obvious tasks have been completed. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Family Discovery Day at #RootsTech 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2018, will find thousands of people interested in discovering their families at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah for the annual Family Discovery Day hosted by FamilySearch. The event is held in conjunction with #RootsTech 2018, the largest event of its kind in the world.

This free event includes inspiring messages from the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other activities. Here is a screenshot highlighting some of the activities.

I will be absent from this coming year's events because my wife and I will be serving as full-time missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission as Record Preservations Specialists. We are told that we will be serving at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Preserving Freedom of Expression and Protecting Conscience

Genealogists live in a world saturated with information. In my experience, this huge mass of information is one of the greatest challenges to becoming personally involved in genealogical or family history research. In a speech given on October 28, 2017, at the Inter-American Press Association General Assembly, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the importance of preserving freedom of expression and protecting conscience.

From time to time, some members of the larger, world-wide genealogical community become embroiled in issues of freedom to access information, particularly government and other records that are restricted in some way from public access. Genealogists' concern with access to certain types of records is merely a small part of a larger concern about freedom of expression and information. Elder Christofferson quoted from The Declaration of Chapultepec and the quote has implications, not just for freedom of the press, but for the availability of records and information in a larger context. Here is the quote from Elder Christofferson's speech:
The Declaration of Chapultepec, adopted in 1994 and reaffirmed by freedom-friendly, national leaders across the Americas, reminds us of the crucial role of media. Its preamble states, “Wherever the media can function unhindered and determine their own direction and manner of serving the public, there is a blossoming of the ability to seek information, to disseminate it without restraints, to question it without fear and to promote the free exchange of ideas and opinions. But wherever freedom of the press is curtailed, for whatever reasons, the other freedoms vanish.”[2] Such declarations provide a common framework by which we can construct fair and open societies.
Governments around the world that impose restraints on access to historical records are generally repressive in other ways. Unfortunately, there are state and local governments right here in the United States that are also repressive and attempt to limit public access to the very records needed by genealogical researchers.

Many of those who are members of the Church are motivated to seek after their ancestors and relatives because of fundamental religious beliefs concerning the afterlife. Those who are most involved with family history or genealogy are generally those most concerned about the availability of historical records, but this concern should extend well beyond just those doing research.

I suggest that a general awareness of the need for access to information should be a goal for everyone.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Identify, Search, Find, Review, Evaluate, Incorporate, Source, and Share

The basic tasks of the genealogist have not changed. Initially, we need to identify our research objectives. We must then search for and find the records containing information about our ancestors. When we find new information, we must review the newly found information and evaluate it for consistency, accuracy, and applicability. Subsequently, we need to incorporate the information into our records by providing complete and helpful citations to where the information was obtained. Then make sure to share the information with other family members. The sharing part is simple assuming the entries are included with source citations in the Family Tree. All the technological advances in the world are not going to change our need to perform these basic tasks. Surprisingly, some of these tasks become more difficult rather than easier with advancing technology.

Some approaches presented about the Family Tree emphasize superficial examination of its contents thereby assuming that somehow the work of genealogical research can be avoided or even eliminated. What is even more alarming is the fact that as a result of this superficial approach to the Family Tree, some users believe that the content of the Family Tree has been evaluated and verified by FamilySearch or whomever. For example, I was recently contacted through the BYU Family History Library by someone asking about a supposed ancestor from the early 1500s. The inquiry did not include any information about the inquirer's connection to this remote ancestor but made the assumption of a relationship.

As a result of my examination of the ancestor, I determined rather quickly that the ancestor in question had no sources attached but had gone through about 118 user changes; some of which were quite recent. The changes included adding and removing family members, adjusting dates of birth and death and other changes all without providing even one reference to where the information was coming from. This kind of activity moves beyond the issue of assuming the information in the Family Tree is correct. Unfortunately, this kind of meaningless activity is quite common among the individuals in the Family Tree dating back into this dim past.

I have difficulty imagining why the people who are making changes to this person are so intent on wasting their time with unsourced and therefore, unsupported, information. From the entries, you would think that there was some sort of controversy over the information about this ancient individual, but a rather simple search using Google shows a very consistent number of websites that have extensive information about this same person including a Wikipedia article that contains references to the original sources beginning in 1630. In a few seconds, I found the original book online on the website.

I am writing about this person using rather vague references for the reason that these observations really apply to a very large number of the individuals and families listed in the Family Tree that appear without any substantiating sources.

It is apparent that the people who are concerned about these rather obscure and ancient entries in the Family Tree have no concept of the basic steps necessary to obtain valid information.

Personally, I have way too much to research before I get back to any of these late Medieval era folks.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Getting the Water to the End of the Row

Since I mainly grew up in Arizona, irrigation was always part of my life. At some point, I began being responsible for irrigating our property. One of the objectives of using flood irrigation was to make sure that all of the property got irritated, i.e. the water got to the end of every row. Across the United States, row irrigation is no longer as popular as it once was. If you fly over the country, you will see that circular, overhead irrigation systems are more common. But getting the water to the end of the row is still a good analogy for finishing the job.

Here is an example of failure to get the water to the end of the row.

One reason I failed to get the water to the end of the row was that the irrigation ditches had weak banks. Before reaching the last place to be irritated the water would all run out of the break in the ditch bank. In the case above, the reference to Mrs. Mary Unknown is an analogous break in the bank.

Rather than recognize this as an end of line situation, the researchers have ignored this weak link and carried on with an unwarranted assumption. Not surprisingly, there are no sources in the Family Tree to support this assumption.

Unfortunately, the situation is quite common. Sooner or later, a close examination of every single pedigree will either show this kind of unsupported information or an end of the line.

You just might want to examine your pedigree closely for weak spots that may indicate that all of your further extensions along that line are unwarranted, unsupported, and pure fantasy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bermuda Grass, Family History and the FamilySearch Family Tree

When I was very young, I was given the task of pulling some Bermuda grass out of a flower bed while I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. It was summer and the ground was stone hard. Bermuda grass is an interesting plant. Here is a description from Wikipedia: Cynodon dactylon.
Cynodon dactylon, also known as Vilfa stellata dūrvā grass, Dhoob, Bermuda grass, dubo, dog's tooth grass, Bahama grass, devil's grass, couch grass, Indian doab, arugampul, grama, wiregrass and scutch grass, is a grass that originated in the Middle East. Although it is not native to Bermuda, it is an abundant invasive species there. It is presumed to have arrived in North America from Bermuda, resulting in its common name. In Bermuda it has been known as crab grass.
Additionally, as noted in the Wikipedia article,
It has a deep root system; in drought situations with penetrable soil, the root system can grow to over 2 metres (6.6 ft) deep, though most of the root mass is less than 60 centimetres (24 in) under the surface. The grass creeps along the ground and roots wherever a node touches the ground, forming a dense mat. C. dactylon reproduces through seeds, runners, and rhizomes. Growth begins at temperatures above 15 °C (59 °F) with optimum growth between 24 and 37 °C (75 and 99 °F); in winter, the grass becomes dormant and turns brown. Growth is promoted by full sun and retarded by full shade, e.g., close to tree trunks.
Once Bermuda grass gets established it is almost impossible to eradicate. What does this have to do with family history and genealogy? Well, we have inherited a weed patch called the Family Tree and we are trying to turn it into a beautiful garden.  When I was faced with digging up Bermuda I did not know or realize that trying to dig it up in very hard ground was nearly impossible, even for an adult. Now, I am faced with the online equivalent of Bermuda grass, i.e. over 100 years of unverified and unsourced family history in the form of a family tree. The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer (Quote Investigator).

Actually, pulling out Bermuda grass is simple compared to cleaning up the Family Tree. With weeds, there is a beginning and an end. Hmm. Did I just write that? There is no end to either Bermuda grass or cleaning up the Family Tree. But pulling out the Bermuda grass is still easier and far more simple than cleaning up the Family Tree. The problem is that many users think the Bermuda grass IS the Family Tree. They can't see the weeds (inaccuracies, duplicates) at all.

In most of Southern Arizona, Bermuda grass is actually cultivated as a lawn grass. It only becomes a weed when it gets into places where it is not wanted. Unfortunately, here the analogy breaks down. The entire Family Tree is a place where we do not want the weeds (like Bermuda grass) to grow. Let's think of the Family Tree as our flower garden. No weeds.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Analyzing Record Matches: Beware of False Positives

When using the Family Tree, Record Hints have become ubiquitous. But along with the increased availability of Record Hints, there is a concomitant increase in the number of "false positives" or suggested records that appear to apply to the individual but are really inapplicable.

If I click on the first person in the list above, I see the following:

I can further see the complete list of Record Hints by clicking on the Show Details link at the bottom of the Research Help block.

 Here is the complete list of Record Hints for this person.

Before accepting and attaching a Record Hint it is extremely important to think about it and evaluate both the information already available and the new information being offered. This individual is identified as "Jens Christian Christensen (b. around 1818, d. 20 December 1829) in Denmark. There is a Record Hint as follows for a Jens Christian Jensen:

The information suggested fails to correspond to any of the available information, which, by the way, contains a number of possible duplicates. In addition, the suggested record apparently applies to a person who has a daughter who married in Michigan in 1889. A quick check of the children listed for Jens Christian Christensen shows that none of them have a place of death. The key individual in the Record Hint is the daughter, Mary Jensen Christiansen supposedly born in 1854 in Denmark. This entry could be confusing because of the Danish use of patronymics. But what is more confusing is the name of the person in the Record Hint, Mary Jensen Christiansen. Neither of her surnames seem to apply and none of the birth dates of the children or gender of the children listed are even close.

But what is even more important than the fact that this Record Hint seems to be inapplicable is the fact that the entire entry as it exists in the Family Tree is a mess beginning with three listed spouses that are apparently duplicates.

Before you begin adding any Record Hints it is important to clean up the entries and verify the information from the already existing information in the Family Tree. For example, here, Jens Christian Christensen is not a Christiansen. He is shown as born in Kvissel, Aasted, Hjorring, Denmark, christened in Aasted, married in Taars, Hjorring, Denmark and buried in Blære, Ålborg, Denmark. Here is a copy of a Google map showing those four places:

The children in the family either have their birthplace missing or listed in Taars, Ugilt or Hormested all in Hjorring. By the way, it would be helpful if all of the place names were listed using the Danish alphabet. Those three places are all relatively close together.

It is evident that a significant amount of research needs to be done on this particular family before we can consider that one of the daughters left Denmark and got married in Michigan.

Record Hints are just that, "Hints" and should not be considered to apply unless they are consistent with the existing information. However, you should also consider the state of the existing information, if, as is the case here, it is in a shambles, you are certainly not ready to add further record hints.

Some insight is necessary here. Danish research is complicated by the issue of patronymics or the practice of naming children after their father's given name. I grabbed this example randomly based on a suggested Record Hint from FamilySearch as shown above. I have not worked on this part of my family line recently at all and cannot determine how accurate the information is without doing extensive research on other individuals, it appears to me that there are possible duplicates for this Jens Christian Christensen person. I have an overwhelming number of similar issues that are more pressing. At the moment, I do not believe that this person is even related to me and the Record Hints and there is no way to determine if any of the suggested Record Hints apply to my own family.

Results of the World Wide Indexing Event
The recent World Wide Indexing Event generated a significant response. Because I travel around from time to time, I do get to see different wards and stakes in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in different geographic areas. In this case, I had the opportunity to view different areas hear announcements about the Event and the wards' and stakes' participation in the Event or lack thereof. Some stakes and wards were fully participating while others seemed to be oblivious. Some wards and stake simply ignore any and all announcements coming from or about FamilySearch. 

The number of records indexed in 2016 was 10,447,887 as compared to the decrease in the number shown above for 2017. There was also a major decrease in the number of people participating. Overall numbers of people participating in Indexing are also down worldwide. 

I am sure that there is not just one reason for this decrease but the implementation of online Indexing is probably a contributing factor. To support the switch from a downloadable, local program to an online program is going to require a major education effort directed at the majority of those who are presently doing indexing. At least from my viewpoint on a local level, that education and awareness effort is almost entirely missing. Without a major increase in the ecclesiastical support for family history on the local level, these numbers will continue to decline. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Revealing the Hidden Duplicates in the FamilySearch Family Tree

There are a huge number of "hidden" duplicates in the Family Tree. These duplicates are not discoverable by the Family Tree "Possible Duplicates." You need to be aware that these duplicates exist because they are not obvious.

The individual shown above has three Record Hints. This is his current family as it appears his detail page:

Here is what I see when I click on the "Possible Duplicates" link.

The key here is the phrase, "No results found." This, unfortunately, does not mean that there are no duplicates. Some of the time you can rely on this statement, but if there are any outstanding record hints or any records at all available on the website, then the statement is not necessarily accurate.

So now, look at the first screenshot above. It shows three Record Hints available. This is a screenshot of the first hint listed.

When I click on the Review Attachments link at the bottom of the page, the following screen appears:

Normally, you would think that this Record Hint or source was already attached to the individual and ignore it. But you need to click on the little Detach icon.

This screen shows that the record is attached to Israel Jones with the ID #MFQC-CYK. Guess what? This is the same person but it is a duplicate entry. Now, I copy the ID number because I need to use it to look for a duplicate using this ID number. Before doing anything else with the source, I go back to the Possible Duplicate screen. You do not want to do anything like detaching the source because then you will lose the duplicate.

Now I click on Merge by ID and enter the copied number into the search field.

Here is a screenshot of the Duplicate screen.

You then proceed with the merge just as you would if the program had found one. You will note that you will find that almost every other family member now has duplicates. Like this:

You can now copy the new duplicate's ID numbers and go through the process again and again and again. Each time, you may find more record hints and more duplicates. I have written about this several times, but it always amazes me how many duplicate keep showing up.

But wait, you aren't through. You need to process all of the Research Hints and look for more records, especially those that show they are attached to the person already. One bonus of this problem is that I keep adding family members and sources. But without knowing the connection between Records and duplicates, you might stop long before you were through. It doesn't seem to matter if you review and add all the sources from the Record Hints and then merge all the duplicates or do them one at a time.

In this particular case, I spent most of a day adding records, adding individuals, doing the research on the new individuals and then merging all the newly discovered duplicates. Here is what the family looked like when I finished. I lost count of the merges, but I think there were over twenty. Another hint, reload or refresh your pages frequently to show the new people, records, and merges.

There are five new children for the family tree. Too bad I'm not related to these people except one of the daughters.