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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Special Family History Training Presentations

As I have been recently pointing out, now has a wealth of training resources for those involved in family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the touching and beautiful presentations were done by President Russell B. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Wendy Nelson at RootsTech 2017.
The above-linked page also contains several other very interesting and inspirational videos.

The entire Family History Leadership Training at RootsTech 2017 is also available on You may wish to pass this link along to any of the leaders that are involved in family history.
There is really no longer any excuse for someone called as a Temple and Family History Consultant to claim that they were not trained in their calling. All of the resources necessary are available either on or

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Four: What is not a source?

In my last post, I started the discussion of what is a source. In this present post, I am going to explore the subject of what is not a source. Here is my first example.

The real issue here is not the validity of the sources. Of course, the Bible is a "source" for certain information. But is it a source for the information contained in the entry supported by the above list? Here is the family that this list of sources is supposed to support.

One question that comes to my mind is whether or not Adam spoke Hebrew? The idea here is not to discuss the validity of the conclusions or the beliefs concerning the named individual but to determine whether or not the sources cited address the validity of the information contained in the entry. Let's look at the first child listed.

This entry contains an exact name and a date and place of birth. Again, the question is, do the sources address the validity of the information shown as a conclusion for the individual entries? Here are the three sources listed for this particular entry:

The first item listed here is the compiled genealogy Strictly speaking, this is likely one of the places where this information was obtained but it does not contribute any validation to the information. Some opinions about sources encourage an entry even if the cited "source" does nothing more than indicate that the entry is unreliable. In the Family Tree, the idea of having sources involves providing information that validates and substantiates the entries concerning the individuals entered.

The second entry is not a source at all because it does not identify either where the information was obtained or provide any validation or substantiation. Here is all that is recorded.

A quick look in for "Biblical encyclopedia" discloses that there are over 10,000 such entries.

The last entry is even more cryptic. Going back to the website, I find that a search for  "Skaggs Documentation" produces results from topics on the Soviet nuclear strategy to rain in Minnesota with a total of about 223 responses. In short, these entries lead me to believe that the person who entered them had no particular support for the entry and that I can safely conclude that absent some extensive research, I am probably safe in concluding that the information is unreliable.

Another excuse for sloppy source entries that is often expressed is that they may lead the researcher to some valid conclusions, i.e. suggest valid information. In this case particularly and in all such cases, the time spent on researching out here in the "fire swamp" of misinformation is almost never worth the effort. In fact, the only valid strategy here would be to start back with the first person in the Family Tree (latest entry in time) and work back systematically. It is inevitable that this tactic will find that this imaginary type of entry occurs far more recently in these individuals' family trees and that we are spared the effort of trying to validate this imaginary entry.

I do not apologize for using this "back to Adam" entry from the Family Tree. As long as this type of entry exists in the Family Tree, we are far from having a book worthy of all acceptation. To summarize: a source entry goes beyond merely providing some imaginary or bogus place to look for similar information. To provide the drivel cited above is an affront to reason at any level whatever the motivation of the contributor.

Previous posts in this series.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Family History Training Presentations

Family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is undergoing a major structural change. The most visible part of the changes that are happening almost daily involve the name change for Family History Consultants to Temple and Family History Consultants. The basic structural change involves creating a clear line for training and support from a Ward Temple and Family History Consultant to a Stake Temple and Family History Consultant and then to the Area Temple and Family History Consultants. Previous to this change, the Stakes did not have a designated organizational slot for family history. In addition, few members of the Church are aware that there are specifically called Area Temple and Family History Consultants for each of the Church's geographic areas.

As part of this expanded organization, there are quite a few additions for training to the website. The three presentations above are only a small part of the expanded training resources now online.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Consultant Planner -- A New Tool for Temple and Family History Consultants

Located under the Get Help drop-down menu on the startup page, the Consultant Planner is a very useful way to begin assisting and teaching others about their family history. All Temple and Family History Consultants should be aware of this new method for allowing consultants to view and help those who need assistance.

In the most recent past, providing assistance to others on the Family Tree involved personal contact directly with the person being helped i.e. sitting side-by-side working on the computer or establishing contact through a helper number. For example, I have an elderly friend who is physically unable to efficiently operate his computer. As a volunteer, and as a Temple and Family History Consultant, previously I would've had to obtain his name, helper number, and date of birth. Then I could work on my computer and view his portion of the Family Tree and make changes if necessary. Any changes made would show as having been done by my friend. Theoretically, he could also follow and observe any changes or actions taken by logging into the Family Tree while I was working. Although working with the Helper Number was possible, it required some explanation and was, in some instances, awkward.

It is also possible, in close family relationships situations that family members could share their both their logins and passwords. I have several friends who are actively working on their spouse's genealogy and use their spouse's login and password to gain access to that spouse's portion of the Family Tree. Of course, this is not a good procedure for people who are unrelated and especially without explicit permission. In reality, if my spouse were not visible in the Family Tree, I could add in my spouse's information (thereby creating a duplicate entry) and then add in information about any living parents or grandparents (also creating duplicate entries) and then I would be able to view all of the information about the deceased people in that family. This is a result of having a unified family tree.

In the past, to help people with their portion of the Family Tree, I have merely requested that they supply me with the ID numbers of their first deceased ancestors and I was able to assist them in their research efforts. Obtaining this information was sometimes complicated. has now provided another way to provide help which involves an easier method of establishing contact. This is the Family History Consultant Planner.

Using this method first involves contacting the person to be helped directly to obtain permission to view and work with their portion of the Family Tree. It is also a good idea to explain in detail why you are asking to help and how you will proceed to help them find names to take to the temple. If permission is obtained, the consultant then clicks the link on the Consultant Planner on to invite the person to be assisted. FamilySearch then sends an email message to the person requesting their permission to allow the consultant access to their portion of the Family Tree.  When the person allows this contact by clicking on the invitation, the consultant is notified that the invitation has been accepted and can proceed to work with their Family Tree portion.

In addition, the Consultant Planner provides background information about the content of the person's ancestry. The Consultant Planner also provides links to resources provided by FamilySearch including record hints, obituaries, featured records, and other links. In the case of my elderly friend, unfortunately, he has no family members who can provide the assistance he needs. So, I am able to act and help him obtain names to take to the temple. In the case of teaching members how the process works, consultants can now expedite the contact necessary to do the preparation for a one-on-one training session. See Principles for Helping Others.

From my perspective, I think it is very important that the consultants have the expertise to properly support those who need help. In the case of preparing for instruction, the consultant should use the access to the Family Tree merely to review and examine those people who are the ancestors of the person being helped. Where direct help is needed, the consultant should be careful to make sure that the help is necessary and that all entries made are properly documented with sources. For more information on the process involved, take the time to read and study the blog post cited above.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Three

What is and what is not a source? I have written about this topic a few times in the past and it seems to come back to haunt me every time I work on the Family Tree (or any other online family tree program for that matter). If you are an academic writer, you are probably thinking of footnotes. Historically, genealogical writers copied their sources into their books, if they mentioned them at all. Here is an example from the following book.

Brown, Cyrus Henry. 1983. Brown genealogy of many of the descendants of Thomas, John, and Eleazer Brown, sons of Thomas and Mary Newhall Brown, of Lynn, Mass., 1628-1915. Boston: Everett Press Co.

The author of the book takes the time to transcribe an entire deed and notes right at the end of the transcription that the original is in the possession of one of the family members.

Where would I go today to find a copy of this deed other than the transcription in the book? Absent some specific location for a copy, the citation is really no help to me at all. I must trust the author's transcription of the deed entirely. If the original has now been lost or destroyed in some way, we are grateful for the transcription, but there is now no way to verify the transcription's accuracy. Is this an important issue?

The citation above mentions the "Stoningtown 2d Book for Deeds (follio #535) this 30th of December 1714..." Is this enough for me to find the original deed?

I can search online for information about Stonington, Connecticut and I find the following in Wikipedia: Stonington, Connecticut.
The town of Stonington is located in New London County, Connecticut, United States, in the state's southeastern corner. It includes the borough of Stonington, the villages of Pawcatuck, Lords Point, and Wequetequock, and the eastern halves of the villages of Mystic and Old Mystic (the other halves being in the town of Groton). The population of the town was 18,545 at the 2010 census.
Now, if I go to the catalog, I can find out if there are any documents preserved from that town. I do find quite a list.

I do find the Land Records, 1664 -1907.

The FamilySearch Catalog does list this particular records set. but when I try to view the records, I get the following notice:

So, for today, my search to verify the accuracy of the transcription is frustrated. This example illustrates the source and citation process. Here is a summary of what happens.

I find some reference in a document or record to an event in my ancestor's life (my example here was an old deed) I record the information in the deed (in this example, there was a complete transcription). I tell where I got the information (what was provided with the Connecticut deed, may or may not turn out to be sufficient to find the original). Some subsequent researcher comes along (me in this example) and tries to verify the information I have obtained from a record or document. What I have recorded may or may not be enough for the subsequent researcher to determine the accuracy of the information I provided from the "original" where I obtained the record.

In my example, let's suppose that I am researching the Brown family and find this reference to the deed. I can simply copy out the transcription and use the book as a "source." Subsequent researchers could then look for the book unless I copied all the information from the book and included where the author indicated he got the information in the first place.

This example raises many of the issues involved in the process of doing research. The best research practices involve examining the best possible source for all the information included. I was recently doing some research in Mexican Civil Registration records. I found three separate references for one individual which were all indexes. Because I don't always trust indexes, I spent the time to look for a copy of the original civil registration record. When I finally found the record, I discovered that the three indexes, which had recorded the person a male, were in fact wrong. The original record showed that the person was a female. All three of the indexes had been listed as "sources" and all three were wrong. I find this issue to be a factor in many of the items listed as sources. Careless researchers cite books, indexes and other extracted references as the "source" of the information. Yes, these references do tell me where they got the information, but they also raise issues concerning the information in the oldest or original source.

Sometimes we are forced to rely on transcriptions and indexes. But we should always remember that these documents are not "sources" in the sense that they are conclusive of the information they contain. A source is, therefore, more than merely a listing of where you got the information. A source should also be found that is as close as possible to being an accurate and contemporary record of the event recorded.

Previous posts in this series.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Leaders Guide to Family History Added to Gospel Library

Screenshot of Gospel Library section on Temple and Family History
The Gospel Library is an App on both Android and Apple iOs devices. This includes smartphones and tablets. This week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added the long-awaited Family History Leadership Guide. Here is a screenshot of the Gospel Library web page on
Many members are using the Gospel library to access the scriptures, lesson manuals, Conference talks and other important Church publications. But the Gospel Library also serves the function of providing leaders in the Church with important manuals and handbooks. Many of the handbooks, such as Handbook 2, Administering the Church, are found in the Gospel Library. Stake Presidents and Bishops including Stake and Ward Clerks and other leaders can also access reports and other information they need from the Gospel Library.

This points out the importance of leaders and all members utilizing the Church's websites and online resources. For those members involved in Family History, as I have been pointing out in quite a few posts lately, all of the training materials and descriptions of the duties of Temple and Family History Consultants are now online. Those who fail to take advantage of all of these resources will simply be lost and uninformed about their callings and in some cases about changes in Church procedures.

The benefit of the electronic dissemination of these previous paper-based materials is substantial. Many people around the world have access to smartphones and tablets who would not otherwise have access to paper editions of the documents because of the cost of printing and shipping. The Church also saves a huge amount of money formerly used for that same printing and shipping. How many of us received a paper copy of a class manual and never used it?

The challenge here lies with the leaders. Each leader in the Church will have to be proactive in seeking out and studying the online material. But the fact that all of this reference material is readily available at any time of the day or night is a great boon to the whole Church.

I have spent some time recently working my way through the Gospel Library and was pleasantly surprised at all of the resources available. If we all begin using those resources, especially the Family History resources, and mentioning them in classes and during meetings when appropriate, they will become integrated into the everyday operation of the Church.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Helping Others to Love Genealogy

I would agree with Mike Sandberg, the core purpose of serving in a family history calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help others to love family history. In the recent past, many individuals who were called to be ward "Family History Consultants" felt as though they were left in a boat in the middle of a lake without a paddle. That should not be the case today. As I have been posting about recently, there are now many online resources for newly called Temple and Family History Consultants at all levels. The above blog post is the first of a seven-part series outlining the process of becoming a faithful and diligent family history teacher and leader. I would also suggest watching the following videos from President Russell M. and Sister Wendy Nelson.

It would also help to review this talk from President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency.

Gathering the Family of God by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency

Of course, we all need to increase our skills and FamilySearch now has an official training partner:

Thursday, April 20, 2017 Online Resources for Temple and Family History Consultants

As soon as the changes to the structure and names of the Family History Consultants and Advisers were changed to "Temple and Family History Consultants," the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began to dramatically increase the number of resources on, the official Church website. We have been getting emails regularly notifying us of newly added resources. I have a rather extensive list of web pages left to highlight.

One of the interesting aspects of these current changes is that the implementation is entirely online. Even handouts and the guide books and manuals are being disseminated online rather than through paper copies being sent to the Stakes and Wards. The effect of this change is obvious, those leaders who are aware of the need to check for new information online are becoming well informed of the changes, but those who ignore email and do not look at are simply operating without the guidance of the leaders of the Church. Although it took the Church a while to go online, all of the resources now available are either partially or exclusively available for English-speaking leaders and members online rather than in print format.

As shown in the screenshot above, there is a specific page of dedicated to the Temple and Family History Consultants and their duties. See The sections are linked by the image icons and include the following:

Over the past few years, as I travel around the country and talk to the previously designated Family History Consultants, one of the most common complaints has been a lack of training. Now, there is no excuse. All of the detailed training needed is readily available to the newly designated Temple and Family History Consultants in the English-speaking world. How long will it take for the Stakes and Wards to use these resources and make the changes and teach the members? That is the question of the day. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Two

In my previous post on this subject, I referred to the following rule.

A source tells other users where you got the information and reminds you also of where you got the information.

Any discussion about sources among genealogists inevitably turns to the topic of "citations." The reason for this is that formal publications such as academic journals and books often require a particular citation format. For example, The American Genealogist which is described as follows:
The American Genealogist is an independent quarterly journal dedicated to the elevation of genealogical scholarship through carefully documented analyses of genealogical problems and through short compiled genealogies.
The American Genealogist was founded back in 1922 by Donald Lines Jacobus who is often referred to as "the father of scholarly genealogy" in the United States. If you were interested in submitting an article to The American Genealogist, you would soon discover the Submissions requirements. Here is a quote about submissions to the journal.
Manuscripts may address any period, region, and demographic group within the United States or the (North) American colonies. Manuscripts may consist of compiled genealogies, problem analyses, corrections to printed genealogies, annotated transcriptions of (short) genealogically significant sources, or other related types. Whatever the format and focus, submissions should consist of original genealogical research that is carefully presented and properly documented with citations to primary (and appropriate secondary) sources. Citation format is not as important (in the submission stage) as clarity and consistency—though TAG generally adheres to the citation styles of The Chicago Manual of Style. [emphasis added]
Here is the citation to the latest version of The Chicago Manual of Style.

The Chicago manual of style. 2014. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Now, this citation is formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style and would likely be acceptable for a citation to an article published in a formal academic journal. Hmm. But there is one problem. The "citation" does not tell me where to find the book. If I want to go back and refer to the book cited, where would I find that book? Now, let's look an example of a citation or source form from

This citation format has the following fields:
  • Source Title (required)
  • Web Page (Link to the Record)
  • Where the Record is Found (Citation)
  • Describe the Record (Notes)
  • Reason to Attach Source
  • Select the Information or Events in this Source
  • Add Source to My Source Box
This format is quite different from the one required by the Chicago Manual of Style. Here, we are given two opportunities to tell the world where we all can go to find a copy of the book or whatever. Here is an example of the same form with the information about a book filled in.

One significant difference between this "citation" and the one required by the Chicago Manual of Style is that I can click on the link to the and see exactly where to find a copy of this book. Here is the link.

Now, as genealogists, very few of us are going to be publishing our conclusions and findings in formal genealogical journals. If you fall into that category, you can go find yourself a copy of the manual of style that is required by that publication. But for the rest of us, I suggest we focus on recording enough information about where we get and got our information to let everyone (including ourselves) know where to go to get a copy of the stuff we are citing.

Here is a bad example from the Family Tree with the name of the contributor blotted out.

Perhaps I should point out that there are a few million Family Trees and this much information simply tells me that the person working on this entry did not have any source records for the information he or she added to the Family Tree. Many of the sources added to the Family Tree are just about this informative. But wait, isn't that true about the required source citations from most academic journals? Yes, unfortunately. They are more interested in form rather than substance. In both cases, I am left with the task of re-verifying or finding the the source of the information. Granted, I might be able to find a book, but I am completely lost in trying to discover which Ancestry Family Tree supplied the information used by the FamilySearch contributor.

Stay tuned for more.

Previous post on this subject:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Temple and Family History Callings: Innovators to Laggards
As with changes in technology, when a new program or change is announced by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the are "early adopters" and then other who tag along later. There is actually a well established analysis of this adoption process that began with Everett M. Rogers' theory called the Diffusion of innovations. From Wikipedia:
Everett M. Rogers (March 6, 1931 – October 21, 2004) was an eminent American communication theorist and sociologist, who originated the diffusion of innovations theory and introduced the term early adopter. He was Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico.
His theory can be graphically represented by the following graph:

The diffusion of innovations according to Rogers. With successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), its market share (yellow) will eventually reach the saturation level. In mathematics, the yellow curve is known as the logistic function. The curve is broken into sections of adopters.

Genealogists or family historians seem to be particularly subject to this distribution. But even those who are not particularly interested in a particular announcement or innovation fall into these categories. Back in February of this year, the First Presidency approved a change to the names of all family history callings in the Church. The change in names was accompanied by a change in the structure of the way that family history is being done in the Church. The change in names was automatically applied by the computer programs of the Church in many instances, but the organizational changes are following this curve almost exactly.

From my own personal observations as I travel around and visit different Wards and Stakes, I am seeing that, as yet, only the "Innovators" have begun using Stake and Ward Temple and Family History Consultants as outlined in the online instructions and resources. Here are three more links from that talk about this newly organized program. The links are in the captions to these screenshots. If you are someone who is part of this family history organization, you may wish to send a copy of these links to everyone who may be interested in these new programs.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

100 Questions Answered by The Family History Guide

100 Questions … and Answers
Quoting from The Family History Guide Newsletter:
I've told this story in quite a few presentations and Family History Fairs. People have often asked me, "How did The Family History Guide get started?" My answer is this: "I was volunteering at the Sandy Granite (Utah) Family History Center in 2014 and noticed that many of the guests coming in would ask the same questions. So I put together a short Q&A document with answers to the questions and links to where they could find more information online. That soon expanded into a list of videos as well, and soon I was looking at developing a full-fledged learning system for family history, with Projects, Goals, Choices, Steps … and you know the rest." 
I was thinking about that original Q&A list recently and decided to expand it and update it with a version that points to answers in The Family History Guide. Now the document contains 100 questions that people are likely to ask at a family history center, or anywhere else, about doing basic genealogy. 
Using the 100 Questions Document 
The 100 Questions … and Answers document can be downloaded from this page: It's also available in the Training > Tools page of The Family History Guide. 
You can use these questions to test your overall knowledge of family history, and if you're a consultant, it's a great way to see how well you can use The Family History Guide to point people to the answers. (One of my mantras is, "You don't need to know all the answers; just point people to them.") Also, you can add your own questions to the doc. 
The document is in Word format so you can resort the table. The first column is by category (Adoption, Memories, Navigation, etc.), and the second column is by Project. So if you want to order the questions by Project instead of by category, you can sort the table of questions by the Project column (Table > Layout > Sort in Microsoft Word). Links are provided in the Projects column that point to the Projects and Goals (with occasional Choices) for the answers in The Family History Guide.
I hope you enjoy using these 100 Questions from The Family History Guide. Be sure you subscribe to their newsletter to get notice of other wonderful additions to the free, online program.

To subscribe to The Family History Guide Explorer newsletter, send a message to

Temple and Family History Presentations
During the past few months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has added a significant number of training and informational articles, videos and resources for the newly designated Temple and Family History Consultants at all levels. During the new few posts, I will be highlighting several of these resources. Please take the time to review those that apply to your calling or your leadership responsibilities. Here are a screenshot and a link to three PowerPoint presentations that are directed at training leaders, consultants, and members.

Happy Easter

Take the time to learn about Easter Week. See

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Revolving Door Ancestors on the FamilySearch Family Tree

What is a revolving door ancestor? If you have one, you know exactly what I going to write about. If you don't have one, just be thankful. As we all should now know, the Family Tree is a unified, collaborative program. This means that every person who is registered to use the Family Tree can make changes, edit or add information to any of the entries (i.e. people in the Family Tree). Because the Family Tree is unified, if I wished to do so, I can see any and every dead person in the Family Tree. However, because my view of the Family Tree is somewhat limited by the visual interface, most people focus on their own direct line ancestors and their descendants. As you go back in time, the number of your ancestors theoretically increases exponentially. I write theoretically because there is a principle called "pedigree collapse" that accounts for the times when your relatives married their own cousins and the number of ancestors varies because of these related spouses share some of the same ancestors. Every generation back in your family lines also generates a proportionately larger number of potential descendants.

Now, let's assume that we have an individual in the Family Tree that had a huge posterity. There are likely hundreds perhaps thousands of people living today who are descendants of this same person, i.e. cousins. Some of those related people may decide to add their "genealogy" to the Family Tree. When they all get back to the key ancestor, they may all have a different opinion about this remote person. The Family Tree allows them all to put their opinions online; right or wrong, supported by sources or totally imagined. Eventually, they will all begin working on this same ancestor. My ancestor John Tanner KWJ1-K2F is one of these people. He has tens of thousands of descendants and most are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this case, there are a number of books about John Tanner and his posterity. Unfortunately, those same books speculated about his ancestry. Some of the speculation is now accepted as the "TRUTH" in capital letters even though there are no source records supporting most of the conclusions made concerning his ancestors.

This scenario sets the stage for a revolving door ancestor.

Based on voluminous research that is ongoing, this ancestral line ends with Francis Tanner, John Tanner's grandfather. There are, as of the date of this post, no records or documents indicating who Francis Tanner' parents are. There are some assumptions that indicate that his parents were a "William Tanner" married to a wife named "Elizabeth." That is where we are now, but that does not stop his descendants to add a stream of parents without adding any additional source information. So far here is part of the list of the 29 sources we have so far identified for Francis Tanner

The revolving door nature of this situation lies in the fact that so many people feel compelled to add parents without substantiation. Those unsubstantiated parents go in the door and around and right out again. So far there are three of us actively seeking sources records about Francis Tanner and as we get closer to solving the mystery of his parents, we try to maintain the end of line situation so that there will be a possibility of someone else helping with actual research. If we were to give up and allow any parents to be added then we would be conceding that those were Francis Tanner's parents even if what we have already discovered indicates otherwise. It would be nice if someone would do some serious research and show a document solving this dilemma but so far that has not happened.

What are the basic strategies here?

1. Watch the ancestors in question.
2. Read the emails from FamilySearch about changes and react to the inappropriate changes in a polite and non-confrontational manner while at the same time inviting serious research into the original record sources.
3. Keep adding our own research as it is discovered. Just recently, I found the complete text of Francis Tanner's will and probate in Rhode Island listing a brother named "Nathan." We have a Nathan whose parents are listed as William and Elizabeth but we need to tie all these people together with some other documents.
4. Keep researching all of the listed family members.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part One

According to statements made from time to time by representatives of, there are millions of sources being added to the Family Tree program. Many of those sources come from Record Hints, the sources suggested by the record hinting program on the website, but many are being added through the efforts of those using the program. These added sources are invaluable in evaluating the accuracy and applicability of the information and entries in the Family Tree.

Despite the constant addition of "sources," many entries are still being added without any supporting source citations. What is more serious is that entries in the Family Tree are being erroneously changed even when there is a long list of substantiating sources contradicting the changes. The most common issues involve adding unsubstantiated children to existing families. This often shows up as a change to the parents for an existing entry or as a new set of parents when none have been documented. Here are some specific rules or concepts that need to be considered both before and after an entry is made in the Family Tree.

1. All entries in the Family Tree, including all events, need to be substantiated by a properly evaluated record and accompanied by a source citation. 

The Family Tree gives users great latitude in adding source citations and has a very inclusive format for those citations. The issue here involves leaving a record of where the information added to the Family Tree may be found. For example, here is a family entered into the Family Tree that has no source citations:

In the descendency view, the missing source citations are indicated by the Purple Icons. This icon will disappear when a source is added or tagged to this individual. In this particular case, Amey (or Amy) Tanner has a source in the Memories section that has not been added as her own source.

Adding a source to this person involves simply attaching this source to this person. This brings up another important point, information in existing sources needs to be used to change and update the information in the Family Tree and added to each person mentioned or affected by the source. I often find that a source has been added but the old, inaccurate entries in the details have not been changed.

In my case, I add my sources automatically to my Source Box and so all I have to do is open the person's page and then add the source from the Source Box.

If you do not understand how to do this or need help with the Source Box, I suggest looking at the following:

Adding Sources to the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

See also:

5 - Adding Sources in FamilySearch Tree - Judy Sharp

There is also some specific information in the following Help Center articles:
2. A source tells other users where you got the information and reminds you also of where you got the information.

Unfortunately, there is some confusion between the terms "source" and "citation." When you find information about your ancestor it is extremely important to record exactly where the information was obtained. This could be a book or an online database or a letter or simply a statement made by a relative, but it every case the origin of the information needs to be recorded. In the Family Tree, this information is called a source. On the other hand, the format of the source entry is referred to as a "citation." In the greater genealogical community, there is a substantial amount of discussion about the format of citations. There is no specific citation format prescribed by the Family Tree. However, all the pertinent information that would help you or someone else to find where the information came from should be included. By doing this, someone else who wished to create a more formal citation can use your information to verify the source and create whatever formatted citation they wished to use.

3. When it is a source, not a source?

The most obvious answer to this question is when the information provided as a source does not contain the specific information needed to support the entry. This particular distinction seems to be a major stumbling block for substantiating the information in the Family Tree. For example, if a user were to add a child to the family and then listed a document as a source that did not pertain to that particular family, despite the addition of the source the information is still not correct.

A more difficult situation is one where the added document itself is incorrect. For example, let's suppose that an old surname book contained inaccurate information concerning the ancestry of one of the people included in the book. Simply adding the information from the book and adding the book as a source does not substantiate the validity of the information added. Likewise, a entry based on the book is still not a substantiating source. If the correct information is discovered and added to the individual's entry references to the inaccurate book reference should be detached.

Some may look at this as a "battle of the sources" and in effect, it may well be. This is an opportunity for those contributing information to collaborate and discuss any differences that may arise. In some cases, these situations can expand due to the fact that the incorrect information has been previously widely disseminated. There may be a transitional time while the accuracy of these traditionally accepted sources becomes known as unreliable. The unresolved question is whether or not the books containing these now known to be inaccurate claims should be retained as "sources."

In this regard, it is extremely important to read any comments made about a source and to look carefully at each source and evaluate the information contained for accuracy and applicability.

Stay tuned for further installments.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

About Microfilm and FamilySearch

[Note: The history of genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been adequately reported. Much of the information about this history is scattered in various publications and mentioned in Wikipedia articles. The only complete attempt at a history is the following book which is now outdated.

Allen, James B, Jessie L Embry, and Kahlile B Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.

The remaining and more recent information is difficult to discover.]

One of the constant realities of doing genealogical research has been my involvement with microfilm and its cousin, microfiche. Its use in genealogical document preservation began in 1938 when the Genealogical Society of Utah, which now does business as FamilySearch International the official organization for the genealogy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began its microfilm project. However as this quote from the University of California at Los Angeles indicates, microfilm goes back many years before its use as a genealogical resource for record preservation.
Although treated as a novelty until the 1920's, microforms originated much earlier. John Benjamin Dancer, an English scientist, known as the "Father of Microphotography," began to experiment with and manufacture microproduced novelty texts as early as 1839. In 1853 he successfully sold microphotographs as slides to be viewed with a microscope. Utilizing Dancer's techniques, a French optician, Rene Dagron, was granted the first patent for microfilm in 1859. He also began the first commercial microfilming enterprise, manufacturing and selling microphotographic trinkets. Dagron, in the fall and winter of 1870-71, during the Franco-Prussian War, demonstrated a practical use for microforms when carrier pigeons were used to transport microfilmed messages across German lines to the besieged city of Paris.
The first commercial use of microfilm was patented in 1925. See Wikipedia: Microform.
In the 1920s microfilm began to be used in a commercial setting. New York City banker George McCarthy was issued a patent in 1925 for his "Checkograph" machine, designed to make micrographic copies of cancelled checks for permanent storage by financial institutions. In 1928, the Eastman Kodak Company bought McCarthy's invention and began marketing check microfilming devices under its "Recordak" division.
Meanwhile, the Genealogical Society of Utah was being transformed. Quoting from Wikipedia: Genealogical Society of Utah:
In 1975, the GSU became the Genealogical Department of the LDS Church, which later became the Family History Department. At that time, its head officer was renamed President from Executive Director, starting during Theodore M. Burton's term.[4] However, the title "President of the Genealogical Society of Utah" and other GSU titles were still used and bestowed upon department officers. 
In 2000, the LDS Church consolidated its Family History and Historical departments into the Family and Church History Department, and Richard E. Turley, Jr. became managing director of the new department and president of the GSU. This broke with tradition,[citation needed] since the President of the GSU was no longer the department's executive director or a general authority of the LDS Church. Later this decision was reversed and the Family History Department was separated from the Church History Department, becoming its own department.[5]
In about 1999, the GSU began using the trade name of FamilySearch and on 2 March 1999, FamilySearch International was registered as a corporation in Utah. The Genealogical Society of Utah is shown as the former business name of FamilySearch on the Utah State Corporation Commission records. See What is the Genealogical Society of Utah?
Beginning back in 1894, the Church began gathering genealogical records to assist the members and eventually everyone in researching their family history. That small collection grew through the years into the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, now the largest library in the world dedicated solely to genealogy. As the collections in the Library grew, branch libraries were created as is explained in this quote from Wikipedia: Family History Centers (LDS Church):
The first Family History Center (FHC), then called a branch genealogical library, was organized in the Harold B. Lee Library on Brigham Young University Campus in May, 1964. Plans to organize family history centers in Mesa, Arizona, Logan, Utah, Cardston, Alberta, and Oakland, California, each adjacent to a temple in one of those cities, had been announced at the 1963 October General Conference
The Family History Centers were put under the overall direction of Archibald F. Bennett. By December, 1964, there were 29 FHCs, and by 1968, there were 75. In 1987, these institutions were renamed "Family History Centers."
These original Family History Centers have evolved over the years and there are now almost 5000 Family History Centers worldwide. Concerning the BYU Family History Library, it is now The BYU Family History Library is part of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. It was formerly known as the Utah Valley Regional Family History Center. It is now semi-independent of the LDS FHC system.

Over the years since 1938, the worldwide microfilming efforts of FamilySearch (and its predecessors) accumulated about 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and with the establishment of Family History Libraries and Centers, the Church began renting microfilm for use by individuals around the world. Meanwhile, in 1999, the website was introduced online. See "How technology revolutionized family history work in recent decades."

Ordering and managing the rental and use of microfilm is still one of the major activities of Family History Centers around the world. However, that role is about to disappear. For some time now, FamilySearch has been involved in a project to digitize the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in the Granite Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. When that project is completed, all of the microfilms will be digitized and available for free online.

There has been a lot of speculation when this will happen, but all we can really say is that billions of images from this vast microfilm collection have already been put online on the website and this process is continuing. Recent estimates from FamilySearch representatives indicate that this process may be completed withing the next one and a half to two years.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New FamilySearch Office in Lehi, Utah

Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah is the home of a new office for FamilySearch. There is also a new Stake Building going in right next door. The office is about a block away from the Lehi FrontRunner Train stop and on the west side of the tracks. It is only a short train ride from downtown Salt Lake City, Utah and the main FamilySearch offices.

Millions of U.S. Catholic Church Records on

I am still finding that usage of the Partner Programs is just barely gaining traction among the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This seems surprising to me since the members receive free access to these subscription-based websites. Among the most useful of these websites is Many members of the Church have English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish ancestry and has the largest collection of records from these countries online.

Currently, has begun digitizing Catholic Church records from the United States and from its early origin as British colonies.

 As this graphic shows, there are now millions of records online and completely searchable for Catholics that lived in America. Previously, these records have been entirely unavailable online. In addition, it is important to understand that after Germans, Irish immigrants constitute the largest number of immigrants to America.

I'm certain that during the upcoming week or so I will once again find someone who has English ancestry and has yet to register or take advantage of access to To register for the partner programs go to the following link:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Grandma never lied...

Until quite recently, access to genealogical records was severely limited, absent a visit to a large genealogical library such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Much of what was accomplished in the way of research consisted of letter writing to relatives or writing for information and making requests to record repositories. When I first started doing my own research about 35 years ago, the only access I had to the U.S. Census was in Salt Lake City on microfilm. So any research I did took place during those once-a-year visits to the Family History Library. So there is a whole generation of would-be genealogists that are relying completely on genealogical research done before the advent of online records and family trees.

The plain reality is and was that genealogical researchers in the 1800s and for most of the 1900s relied on family connections and letter writing for nearly all of their information. Those in Salt Lake City could take advantage of the limited collection of records in the Family History Library, but until the advent of the large microfilm collections and the ability of local libraries to obtain microfilm from Salt Lake City, there were very few resources available to those who lived outside of Salt Lake City. It is the case that some families with the economic means were able to employ researchers, but even these researchers were limited by the availability of records.

One important fact is that those researchers in the 1800s were acquainted with people who were born in the 1700s and got some information first hand. But even this "first hand" information was spotty and subject to errors. During this period of time and continuing into the present, diligent researchers felt a need to publish their findings in book format usually referred to generically as "surname books." Over the years, tens of thousands of these books have accumulated. Many are very limited printings with only a few copies. Some have passed into the online world through digitization and are readily available online. For example, the website has a Books section that contains thousands of these books.

Some of these surname books are genealogical treasures and contain extensive documentation. However, documentation in the vast majority of the books is spotty or nonexistent. It is not wise to dismiss these books as useless because they were often compiled, as I already pointed out, by people who were personally acquainted with those featured in the books. Unfortunately, some of these books have taken on the trappings of "scripture." The stories have been told and retold so many times that they as passed on as "true" irrespective of the documentary evidence that has since been discovered.

Why do I have this apparently negative opinion of the traditional genealogical research? The main reason is that I am the recipient of multiple lines of people who did "genealogy" their entire lives. As I have mentioned in past posts, I also have access to multiple surname books on several of my family lines. Over the years, I have spent innumerable hours evaluating and correcting the information contained in these books. Some of the research was first rate but lacked any substantiating documentation. Some of the errors and false traditions have become so embedded in my greater family, that they may never be entirely corrected.

If you have a "genealogist" in your family line or lines, you need to carefully evaluate your inherited genealogical data. If the traditional information comes with source citations, check those references to verify their accuracy. If the information is in the form of stories or pedigrees and family group records with no sources, be sure and find sources that either support or refute the information contained in the books. But be careful not to take the position that the information you received from a genealogist ancestor may be entirely wrong.

Many members of my immediate family are actively involved in genealogical research. Using the tools available today, we have broken through many of the "brick wall" situations that existed for the past one hundred years or so. However, much of the genealogy as presently reflected in the Family Tree is a mess, to use an understatement. It will likely take many more years to untangle all of the inaccurate and incorrect information. But as I often say, the Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. We are slowly making progress and are adding a huge amount of documentation. Do not be discouraged. It is worth the effort and has the benefit of providing an almost endless supply of the names of ancestors and relatives that need temple work.

The summary and the key: add only information to the Family Tree that is supported by valid and well evaluated sources.