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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Loads of New Videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

The Brigham Young University Family History Library is making a few waves with its YouTube Channel. During the month of June 2017, we have added 25 new videos on a variety of topics. You can see, if you look closely, that the above screenshot is in the "Video" section of the YouTube Channel. This where you can see all of the videos displayed in either chronological order or by popularity. We now have over 50 videos that have been viewed over a thousand times. You can find the Channel by entering "BYU Family History Library" in the YouTube search field.

The BYU Family History Library has only been offering the live webinars for about a year and we are very pleased with the success of the Channel. We will continue to add about 20 or so videos every month. July will be a busy month for us at the Library because of the Brigham Young University Family History and Genealogy Conference from July 25th through the 28th.
You can still register for the conference and come and enjoy the beautiful (warm) Summer weather here in Provo while you learn from some of the most experienced genealogists in the world.

I will be teaching three classes:
  • July 25: Beginning English Research: An Introduction to the Records
  • July 28: Land and Property Ownership for Genealogists
  • July 28: Making the Most of Probate Files for Genealogical Research

This is my first time teaching at this particular conference.

If you get a chance to visit the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel, be sure to subscribe. Your subscription is free, but it helps the Library to gain traction and visibility on You have to remember we are competing for attention with a lot of dogs and cats.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Yet Another Comment on the FamilySearch Discontinuance of Microfilm Shipments

This image is a screenshot of a list of microfilms in the Catalog. The screenshot does not show the entire list of 20 rolls. This is just one small part of the microfilmed records that I am currently using to do research. Normally, I would start by ordering the first couple of rolls and then work my way through the list. Since the Brigham Young University Family History Library limits my orders to two microfilm rolls at a time, I will have to order the first two, then wait a week or two until those two rolls arrive at the Library and then I can order two more. Even assuming that I could order this entire list through a Family History Center there is still a major problem.

The recent announcement of the discontinuance of microfilm shipments comes with a couple of zingers. There are some explanatory Frequently Asked Questions that go along with the announcement. Here are a couple of responses in the list of questions that concern me when I look at this list of microfilm rolls that I need to search.
What if a microfilm is not available digitally on 
Microfilms may not yet be available digitally on for the following reasons:
  • The microfilm may not be a priority to scan now, because the same content is already available on, a partner or subscription site offered in family history centers, or a free archive site.
  • The microfilm may be scheduled for future scanning because it has been in lower demand.
  • The microfilm may have a contractual, data privacy, or other restriction preventing access. FamilySearch is making every effort to ease restrictions, which is dependent on decisions of record custodians and applicable laws.
Let's assume, which is very likely, that the above list falls into the category of "low priority" films. In addition, there is another explanation of what is going to happen.
Will microfilm continue to be available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City? 
The Family History Library staff continually evaluates the needs of patrons and the balance of services it provides. Microfilm that is currently in the FHL collection that is not yet online will stay. Most other microfilm will stay for the time being, although some may be removed here and there to accommodate space needs. There may be opportunities to add films to the collection from other locations. The library will no longer be able to offer ordering of new films from the vault.
Hmm. I live here in Provo and I can drive or take the train to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, so theoretically, I could go to Salt Lake to view the films in the list. But I note that several of the films are stored in the Granite Mountain Vault. According to the last sentence of this question, those films will not be available even at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. So, I have a deadline. I have to go through this list of films by August 31, 2017 or wait up to three years or forever for the films to be digitized. In short, I will likely lose the opportunity to look at this list of films and many other microfilmed records that are in the same category of obscure.

I guess my research in some areas will simply come to a complete halt. What about the chance that some other company will pick up these obscure German records? Who knows. How about a program where I can pay to have these films digitized? Of course, that does not answer the underlying issue listed in the first question above about the contractual, data privacy and other restrictions that might prevent the digitizing of these films anyway.

I see a huge loss of some of the less used and obscure records.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gatherers in the Kingdom

Gatherers in the Kingdom is a set of presentations for use by Temple and Family History Consultants and Leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to assist others in experiencing the joy of true conversion to family history. Quoting from the FamilySearch blog post cited above:
These presentations help them understand:
  • The doctrine of temple and family history work.
  • Their role in this work.
  • The resources available to support them.
  • The rich blessings promised to those who participate.
 The concepts contained in these presentations are found in a set of training videos on
Each of the videos has an accompanying PDF handout.

As Leaders in the Church and particularly as Temple and Family History Consultants, we need to be aware of, study and use these resources.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Speculations on the Future of Family History Centers and Family History in General

Last night I did a short presentation for some of the missionaries serving at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I overheard a statement made by one of the missionaries about his experiences in doing research using microfilm. He said that he had searched on microfilm records for years and he never found one name to add to his family tree. I was disappointed that I did not get the opportunity to find out more about his research experience. Yesterday's announcement from FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that microfilm distribution will be discontinued will have a direct and lasting effect on the Church's Family History Center operation. See "FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm."

Unlike the missionary who made the comment about never finding any records on microfilm, my own experience has been quite the opposite. I have found hundreds, perhaps thousands of names for my own research and for others on the Church's microfilmed records over the years. The reality of the digitization effort is simply that the existing microfilm images can now be viewed online from any computer connected to the internet. In addition, images obtained directly from digital cameras are being added to the historically accumulated stock of microfilmed records.

For many years, the Family History Centers established by the Church have acted as the intermediary between FamilySearch and the public in providing access to the huge microfilm collection that has been accumulated since 1938. From the standpoint of the average family history researcher, my experience has been that only a vanishingly small percentage of them have ever seen a roll of microfilm or used any kind of microfilm reader to do their research. The main impact of the announcement will be on researchers like myself who have stacks of microfilm ordering slips sitting on their desktops.

This is not to say that FamilySearch has not been shipping a huge number of microfilm rolls around the world, but that these microfilmed records are used by only a small percentage of the researchers. Estimates are that less than 6% of the members of the Church are actively submitting names for temple ordinances and from my observations, most (nearly all) of those names are coming from the digital record collections online.

Family History Centers will be the first to see the impact of the discontinuance of microfilm shipping. For many Family History Centers, the ordering, receiving, processing, storing and returning of microfilm has been a time-consuming activity. For many of the patrons of the Family History Centers, the transition to online records has been difficult. From my personal observations, some of the Family History Centers have already completely transitioned to online support and their microfilm readers have not been used for some time. Patrons currently have access to five huge online databases:,,,, and The number of records currently available in digitized format from only these five websites is almost unimaginable. Members of the Chuch have free access to all five of these websites from their homes if they wish to use them.

Outside of the United States, Family History Centers are much more important to their patrons because they often provide the only online, computer-based access to the internet for their patrons. The elimination of microfilm with the digitization of the existing records will have the direct effect of making research more convenient and eliminating the time lag caused by the shipment of microfilm.

In the post-microfilm era, Family History Centers will survive if they provide real and substantial assistance to their patrons in the form of classes, specialized research assistance and other forms of support such as personal scanning services. In the United States, I suggest that the small, Stake-centered Family History Centers should be consolidated into larger regional centers. The introduction of Temple and Family History Consultants, where implemented, can move the previous support services in the small, local Family History Centers, into the homes of the members. But there will still be a need for larger centers on the model of Riverton, Utah and Mesa, Arizona.

In short, I would guess that the average member of the Church will not even be aware of the changes, particularly the discontinuance of microfilm.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Microfilm Distribution by FamilySearch to End

If you have been reading my blog posts for a while, you know that I have been speculating about the end of microfilm as a technology. Well, the time has come. has announced the end of microfilm distribution to take effect on September 1, 2017. The last day to order film will be August 31, 2017. I suggest reading the entire announcement here at this link.

From the announcement, it is evident that there will be a "lag time" between the cutoff date and when all the microfilm is digitized. A word to the wise would be to make sure that your local Family History Center will still support microfilm research after September 1, 2017, and also order in the microfilm you might need before the cutoff date.

I should also mention that the extensive microfilm collection at the Brigham Young University Family History Library will still be available, but I must assume that even BYU will not have the ability to order film after the cutoff date. I imagine that the onsite microfilm collection at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah will also be available after September 1, 2017, but that is an unanswered question.

One serious issue concerns the digitization of the remaining microfilm. Some of the microfilmed records were obtained when online digitized records were science fiction and the "owners" of the images may not be cooperative in allowing the images to be freely available. We already encounter a number of "digitized" records that are only available in Family History Centers or even restricted to viewing in Salt Lake at the main Family History Library. I suspect that this will be a much more expanded problem in the future. I know that negotiations for online access to the existing records are an ongoing problem and challenge.

I guess it is time to write about the future of Family History Centers again also.

Correcting Relationships in the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part Four

I started this series by investigating an apparent duplicate entry in the Family Tree. Here are the first posts in this series.

Part One;
Part Two:
Part Three:

Every ancestral line in the Family Tree ends. Sometimes they end when there are no more names such as in this screenshot, and sometimes the names keep going back in time but in reality, the line ended long before the names run out.

It is extremely tempting to run out to the end of a line and begin doing research. This is particularly true when the Family Tree is viewed in the Fan Chart format. The blank spaces are like beacons beckoning us to the unknown. The reality of this situation lies in the origin of the Family Tree. Because it is a unified family tree, the information we have is the accumulation of over a hundred years of research. The blank spaces in my Family Tree are there because the combined efforts of all of the researchers over the past years have failed to find additional people. However, we are blessed today with vastly more resources than those that were available to our ancestors. But the practical effect of trying to fill in the blank spaces is that you may be spending an inordinately large amount of effort for a single person. If you want to do this you are free to do so. My experience shows that the problem of the "blank space" usually lies somewhere closer in time than the missing ancestor.

For example, the screenshot shown above would indicate that we should be looking for Simon Merrit's parents. However, it is readily apparent that we do not have any information concerning Simon Merrit and therefore have no basis for finding his parents.In fact, if we go back to his daughter, we will find that we have no information about her either.

Hmm.  By the way, we are back on the Sanderson line. As I pointed out previously, this series of posts began with a duplicate entry. Here is another screenshot of the duplicate entry:

This Sanderson line includes "our" Sarah Sanderson who was born in South Carolina. The rest of this family comes from Vermont. My conclusion is that our Sarah Sanderson has been wrongly included in this Vermont family. By skipping over these facts and focusing on Simon Merrit, we would be following the wrong line entirely. The only way we can determine whether or not we are following the right line is to carefully examine every link going back in time. Who were Sarah Sanderson's real parents? This is the question that needs to be answered before spending any time doing research on her supposed mother Elinor Merrit.

I am now ready to remove or detach our Sarah Sanderson from this family.

The reason I will care for the change is that our Sarah Sanderson was from South Carolina, not Vermont. This change has no effect on the integrity of the Vermont family but it does remove that particular line from my ancestry. Any effort that I made to research the Merrit family would've helped that family but certainly, would not have helped my own.

Interestingly, the Family Tree simply substitutes a new family line in the place of the one detached.

Now, we have a John Sanderson married to a Sarah Foscue as the parents of Sarah Sanderson. But unfortunately, we are only beginning the process. Are we certain that Sarah Sanderson is Garrard Morgan's wife? Why is this a question? The simple answer to this question is that we have no documentary evidence showing that Garrard Morgan's wife's surname was Sanderson.

We have now come around in a complete circle from where I started. Sarah Sanderson is the end of this particular line. The names of her parents are speculative and appear to have come from North Carolina rather than South Carolina where Sarah was supposedly born. I am not yet ready to detach her parents, but at this point, that is likely to happen.

What is the summary of all this? We need to carefully examine each and every ancestral link in the Family Tree. If those links are not supported by carefully examined documents and records, then the lines are tentative or wrong. The Family Tree is in need of severe pruning if it is ever to provide good fruit.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ownership and Peace in the FamilySearch Family Tree

During the past few weeks and months, I have been repeatedly subjected to comments coming from other users of the Family Tree that ranged from abusive to threatening. Likewise, I have had some of my online friends express their own frustrations with abusive and threatening comments. Is the Family Tree really supposed to be a battlefield? Are we supposed to expect that as we go about editing the information that we will be subjected to all kinds of vituperative attacks?

Personally, I lived with extreme conflict nearly every day of my professional life as a trial attorney. I am used to being attacked if that is possible. But most people do not have the emotional background to understand and cope with abuse and anger, especially in from an entirely unexpected venue like the Family Tree. For many years now, Ron Tanner, the Product Manager for the Family Tree and an employee of FamilySearch, has been talking about the phenomena of "my treeism." At the core of the problems we are facing with outrageous claims and comments is the idea of ownership.

The Family Tree is not "owned" by anyone. It is a jointly maintained, unified project. The concept of ownership which is rampant and ongoing, if allowed to expand and fester, will ultimately destroy the integrity of the Family Tree and lead to chaos.

Quoting from President Thomas S. Monson in a First Presidency Message dated February 2017:
To those of us who profess to be disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ, He gave this far-reaching instruction: 
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 
If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with compassion and respect, showing our love in day-to-day interactions. Love offers a kind word, a patient response, a selfless act, an understanding ear, a forgiving heart. In all our associations, these and other such acts help make evident the love in our hearts.
This injunction comes directly from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself. See John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This injunction applies not only to those who act but to those who are acted upon. Let's start thinking in terms of kindness and love rather than rancor and vituperation. When we see a change in the Family Tree, let's act with consideration of the feelings of others and not feel threatened and offended. At the same time, we can act in kindness and still make the corrections necessary to improve the quality of the content of the Family Tree. I don't think that inaccuracy is countenanced by kindness. I think it is unkind to allow others to impose their unsupported and incorrect ideas on those who cannot or are unwilling to stand up to bullies and those who cannot understand the purpose of the Family Tree.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dealing With the Playground Bully on the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part Three: The Heart of the Problem

This ongoing series is directed at a comment received by one of my online friends. For convenience, I have been repeating a copy of the comment.
So you are not related to my line in anyway? By the way are you working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Family Search? If not cease and desist! from working on my pedigrees. 
This is my problem with Family Search. That anyone who wants to can go in and delete or change anything that they choose to with out consent of the submitter. 
That file was submitted due to the change from family trees. it was easier than typing it in all over again as there are more than 13000 names on it.
to say that this is not a source is ludicrous. 
Please do not touch my line again. Go mess up someone else's pedigree. Am I angry? yes! You are not helping you are confusing and causing chaos and unnecessary work for those of us who have worked for over 40 years!
 Here is the link to the first posts.

In this particular series, I am going to ignore the issue of the user changes made to the Family Tree. If you are having a problem with the idea that someone else, even someone you consider to be stupid, can make changes to "your" portion of the Family Tree, then I suggest going back and reading some of the dozens of posts I have written on this subject. For example, "10 Important Things to Know About the FamilySearch Family Tree."

I am going to make a comment about the reference made by the Playground Bully (PB) above concerning the size of his/her GEDCOM file. First of all, the PB's reference to making the GEDCOM file available by adding it as a source is totally illusionary. No one but the PB has any access to that file. That is the main reason that the reference made as a "source" in the Family Tree is inappropriate. If the PB really wanted to use a GEDCOM file as a source then the file would have to be online and available for someone to view should they wish to do so. By the way, provides a way to share GEDCOM files through the Genealogies link located in the Search tab. Here is a screenshot of the bottom of the Genealogies page showing how you can begin the process.
For this additional reason, attaching or attempting to attach a GEDCOM file as a source to the Family Tree is inappropriate.

What about the size of the supposed GEDCOM file? Absolutely irrelevant. The size of the file and the number of names is meaningless. Some researchers can spend their entire lives doing research and find only a few hundred or fewer names about their family. Others, like me, could copy down hundreds of thousands of names in a matter of a few minutes. What is significant here is the attitude of the PB that somehow he/she now "owns" all those names and that anyone else should keep their hands off. My own experience leads me to believe that nearly all these old GEDCOM files are duplicated by what is already in the Family Tree. Forty years ago, the PB did not have access to all the information available today and it is likely that the work he/she did for the last forty years could be duplicated today in a matter of a few weeks or months if not much more quickly. What is more, all those names are probably duplicated on the Family Tree.

In addition, how am I or anyone else supposed to know what part of the Family Tree this PB owns?

The last comment made by the PB is the crucial one. Unfortunately for the PB, this comment was directed at a very capable and experienced researcher who could simply let this ire blow by and ignore it. But let's suppose this rancor had been directed at a novice. This could be a reason for someone to quit doing genealogy altogether. How sad that a beginner should be subjected to this kind of abuse. My online friends and I have a system to air these issues. We can vent our feelings and get over our indignation. But those without this support system are caught and may simply decide to quit doing genealogy at all.

When I was first starting out to practice law in Phoenix, Arizona. I submitted a pleading in a case that I thought followed the rules set down by the Court. Almost immediately, I got a phone call from another attorney who verbally threatened me and accused me of malpractice because I had submitted this pleading. I was very upset and I worried about this situation for a few days. Shortly after that first phone call, in the same week, I got another call about another case and interestingly, the attorney calling me used almost the same words and tactics used by the first caller. It suddenly clicked in my mind. I was being confronted by a bully and what is more two bullies that knew they were wrong but thought they could intimidate me. In the middle of the second call, I told the other attorney to drop dead and hung up.

Here, on the Family Tree, we should be more polite and kind than I was with those deserving attorneys. But there does come a time when we need to stand up to the bullies and maintain our principles. FamilySearch, on the other hand, needs to provide some protection for the novice. Many of us have been discussing the possibility of a system of arbitration. But lacking such a system, I can only suggest that when confronted with this kind of problem, you remember to turn the other cheek but not back down. If we back down to the bullies, the Family Tree will become ruled by those same bullies and the quality and accuracy of the Family Tree will suffer. Let's continue to maintain the integrity fo the Family Tree. The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dealing With the Playground Bully on the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part Two: Making Sure You are Correct

This series is directed at a comment received by one of my online friends. For convenience, I will repeat a copy of the comment.
So you are not related to my line in anyway? By the way are you working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Family Search? If not cease and desist! from working on my pedigrees. 
This is my problem with Family Search. That anyone who wants to can go in and delete or change anything that they choose to with out consent of the submitter. 
That file was submitted due to the change from family trees. it was easier than typing it in all over again as there are more than 13000 names on it.
to say that this is not a source is ludicrous. 
Please do not touch my line again. Go mess up someone else's pedigree. Am I angry? yes! You are not helping you are confusing and causing chaos and unnecessary work for those of us who have worked for over 40 years!
 Here is the link to the first post.

The reason why I wrote an explanation of GEDCOM files in the first post was that in approaching this kind of response, it is very important to be sure that your own position with regard to the change or addition is "correct" as far as it is possible for you to determine. The real problem with this response is the attitude and language used by the Playground Bully or PB. But before you get involved in prolonging this dispute, you should make sure you are standing on higher ground than the bully. For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that the PB added the source in dispute back and remade the change or addition to the information in the Family Tree.

If you do some minimal searching in the Help Center for information about sources in the Family Tree, you will see that attaching a link to a random website is not a proper source addition. In fact, the main Help Center article entitled, "Creating a source in Family Tree" indicates the following:
FamilySearch reviews URLs that you add for sources to make sure they contain content that is appropriate for inclusion in Family Tree.
  • If you enter a website that is already approved for use in Family Tree, you can save the source and proceed as normal.
  • If you enter a website that is not approved by FamilySearch, the system prompts you to submit the URL for review. When the URL is approved, you receive email notification. You then need to come back into Family Tree and re-create the source. This typically happens when you link to a personal blog, a photo-sharing site, Google documents, or another site that does not monitor content.
  • If you enter a website that has already been determined to be inappropriate, you cannot save the source.
Interestingly, PB makes an assumption in his/her statement implying that FamilySearch could be the one making the edit. In fact, FamilySearch's involvement is minimal, but it seems possible that the PB has had a previous run-in with inappropriate additions to the Family Tree based on the question being asked. As I pointed out previously, the PB likely has very superficial knowledge about GEDCOM files as evidenced by the reference to a URL link that goes to a random website.

In this case, my friend was the one detaching the source. The first short paragraph of PB's tirade contains two indications that this person has little knowledge about the way the Family Tree program works. First of all, your relatives are very likely to be the only people editing your portion of the Family Tree. The second statement containing the words "my pedigree" fall into the ownership issue. You do not own your ancestors. You have no more or less right to make changes or additions to the Family Tree than anyone else working on the program. The Family Tree is unified and completely participatory. It would not really matter whether or not my friend was or was not related to the PB. Everyone has equal access to the dead people in the entire Family Tree program. There is really nothing stopping me or anyone else from correcting or changing "your entries." It is certainly good manners and appropriate to make changes to your own relatives in the Family Tree, but there is nothing limiting me or anyone else from making those corrections or changes even if we are not "related."

Since we are all on even ground in making changes to the Family Tree, the response by PB here is even more inappropriate and is the main reason I refer to him/her as a bully. But even given this unified equality, FamilySearch can still make its own decisions about the appropriateness of the content of the Family Tree. Here, for this reason, alone, the source link should have been detached. It is not a good idea to have random links from the Family Tree to unrelated websites.

Should I be required to obtain your permission before making changes to your submissions to the Family Tree? The answer seems obvious. The Family Tree is designed to eliminate the need for this type of permission. In designing the Family Tree, FamilySearch specifically rejected a "closed" system of editing where permission would be required to modify any additions or corrections to the data in the program. The strength of the program is that it is an open playing field and anyone can participate. If you want to maintain your own private family tree you're more than welcome to use any of the many other programs that are available for hosting family trees.

Some contributors to the Family Tree take the position that it is "polite" to contact a contributor before making any corrections or changes. On the other hand, I feel that the system of "watching" those ancestors you are concerned with obviates the need to have permission before making changes. A permission process would severely impede the progress of correcting the huge amount of previously submitted data incorporated in the Family Tree. In addition, many of the entries do not provide information concerning the original contributor. Further, how long should we be required to wait for a response?

In discussing PB's comment with some very competent genealogists, the discussion revolved around the appropriateness of detaching sources per se. Further discussion involved the issue of whether or not it was better to leave all the sources listed whether or not they were appropriate and whether or not they added information to the Family Tree. You may have a different opinion but I feel that the fact that an inappropriate source exists may influence less sophisticated researchers into believing that there is some basis for the accuracy of the information. For example, if I put in an arbitrary date and then add a source that is entirely unrelated to the date, it may be that some researchers would be deterred from correcting the information simply by the fact that a "source" existed. For this reason, I feel that totally inappropriate sources should be detached. You may have a different opinion.

PB's comment above does not fall into this category. It is not only inappropriate, it also violates the basic premise of adding sources to the Family Tree, that is, giving further researchers the opportunity to review the original documents upon which the correction or deletion is based. What if I simply added a standard response as a source that I believed the information to be correct without supplying any documentation as to the source or origin of the information I added? In essence, this is exactly what PB is doing. He/she is claiming to be right without providing any basis for the conclusion.

 It may be possible, that PB thought that he/she was circumventing the process of uploading a GEDCOM file by simply adding it as a source. I am frequently faced with the question about adding an entire GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. In almost every single case, it is inappropriate due to the fact that the content of the GEDCOM file is duplicated in the Family Tree.

The most important and crucial issue raised by PB's comment is the fact that such comments discourage participation in the Family Tree. I will continue this discussion in my next post in this series. I would certainly invite any comments to this or any other post in the series. I feel it is important to discuss this type of issue in order to prevent people from being discouraged about participating in the Family Tree.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dealing With the Playground Bully on the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part One: I begin the process

One of my online friends shared a response received as a result of detaching an unsuitable source from a relative on the Family Tree. The response raises a number of fundamental issues about the way the Family Tree operates and the way those who are contributing their family history to the Family Tree should interact. But before I get into an analysis of the operation of the Family Tree and the conduct of its contributors, here is the message my friend received:
So you are not related to my line in anyway? By the way are you working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Family Search? If not cease and desist! from working on my pedigrees. 
This is my problem with Family Search. That anyone who wants to can go in and delete or change anything that they choose to with out consent of the submitter. 
That file was submitted due to the change from family trees. it was easier than typing it in all over again as there are more than 13000 names on it.
to say that this is not a source is ludicrous. 
Please do not touch my line again. Go mess up someone else's pedigree. Am I angry? yes! You are not helping you are confusing and causing chaos and unnecessary work for those of us who have worked for over 40 years!
From my viewpoint, this comment raises a whole litany of issues. Of course, I am forced to guess at exactly what happened here. I suppose that PB (playground bully) made some change to an entry in the Family Tree and tried to attach a complete GEDCOM file as a "source" supporting, in PB's mind, the validity of the changed or newly added data. I further suppose that my friend did not think that the addition or change was either accurate or appropriate and detached the source. I would further assume that my friend made the same evaluation of attaching a GEDCOM file as a source that I would have made and that is that a GEDCOM file is not appropriately cited as a source for information in the Family Tree.

Now, assuming that my suppositions are correct, the first issue that needs to be resolved is whether or not a GEDCOM file is a "source" as the term is used in the Family Tree program? But before we get to that issue, we need to make sure we understand the issue of a GEDCOM file. What is a GEDCOM file? It is probably not necessary to note that PB has no idea about a GEDCOM file for the simple reason that PB referred to what was attached a source consisting of a file called "" which is an actual website for the GED Testing Service LLC website for testing for General Educational Development, i.e. testing for a high school degree. A GEDCOM file is a computer text file and the acronym stands for a Genealogical Data Communications file. If as PB asserts, this particular GEDCOM file has about 13,000 entries (I am always suspicious of exact numbers when it comes to the size of a file), then it is a rather long document. Because a GEDCOM file is a "text" file, it can be viewed with any word processing program and can be imported into dozens of popular genealogical database programs. But as a raw GEDCOM text file, it is pretty much useless.

Let's suppose that somewhere in this long text file (GEDCOM) the information supporting the change or addition made by PB exists. How am I supposed to find it? The source referring to a particular GEDCOM file does not give me a way to either locate the file or examine it in any way. I must assume that the GEDCOM file is located on PB's computer or on some storage media, i.e. a floppy disk. Using this as a source is similar to citing an "Ancestry family tree" as a source except that there is a possibility that I could find and examine the Ancestry file.

But the information contained in a personal family tree is not a "source;" it is a user created artifact. So what does Family Search (and most of the users) accept as the definition of a "source" in the context of the Family Tree? Here is a further question. Are the users of the Family Tree supposed to know anything at all about GEDCOM files or anything else for that matter before editing, changing or removing information from the Family Tree? Hmm. There is, of course, no test for participating in the Family Tree, so why do I care whether or not this person (PB) knew what he or she was talking about?

A more basic question here is whether or not the children playing on the playground are subject to any rules at all? Can the "bully" define the rules of the playground? From a practical standpoint, the real bully on a real playground can impose his or her rules for a while, but what I am suggesting is that the Family Tree is not a playground where bullies get to define the rules.

So do the rules that do exist for the Family Tree allow someone to do what the PB did in this instance?

Moving to that question, let's start with the FamilySearch Help Center article entitled, "Creating a source in Family Tree." The lead sentence in that article gives us some guidance about what is and what is not a source on the Family Tree. Here is the quote:
When you create a source, you can enter important information about that source. This information helps you and others understand what the source is, where to find it, and how to understand its reliability. A source can either link to an online record, display a document from Memories, or be a citation that tells you where to find a copy of the record.
There are several criteria here that apply directly to the issues raised by PB's comment. But I will need to address these further issues in a new post. Stay tuned for further installments.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Correcting Relationships in the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part Three

I started this series by investigating an apparent duplicate entry in the Family Tree. Here are the first posts in this series.

Part One;
Part Two:

I could choose just about any of my lines in the Family Tree for examples where relationships need to be corrected. In this case, I chose to examine the Sanderson line for the simple reason that the relationship problems were fundamental research issues and not just a simple adding in of a wrong person to a family. The Family Tree provides more than adequate tools for resolving these issues but that does not mean that the process is either simple or that the problems caused by wrong relationships are easy to resolve.

This morning we were greeted by the fact that someone had added in three "new" children to my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner's family. A few minutes of examination showed that all three children were duplicates of Henry's grandchildren in the Rogers family. The person who added the three children probably "heard" that these new entries were "Tanners" but didn't bother to examine any of the dozens of existing sources about the family or provide any sources supporting the changes made. I liken these minor changes to weeds in a garden. You may get frustrated with the weeds, but they keep coming back no matter how much weeding you do.

The problems with the Sanderson family are much more complicated and fundamental than simply pulling out a Family Tree weed. The origin of the problems lies many years in the past with generalized and entirely unsupported speculations included in printed family surname books about my Morgan family relatives and their ancestors. The contents of those books have been repeated so many times that they are now codified and have obtained the status of scripture. But the plain truth is that they are fabrications and fiction. This departure from reality occurs with the traditional family line with Garrard Morgan (usually designated as Roman Numeral II) and a marriage to someone named Sarah Sanderson.

The Sanderson line on the Family Tree goes back 22 additional generations to about 1100 A.D. Unfortunately, there are no known sources showing the name of this particular Garrard Morgan's wife. I suggest that every one of these "extended" lines on the Family Tree need to be carefully examined and I suspect that at some point each of these lines will have to be "pruned" off of the Family Tree.

By the way, this "pruning" activity does not have to "prove" that all the entries attached are "wrong," all that really has to happen is to discover whether or not the one crucial connection is correct. Looking at the Sanderson line above, if Sarah Sanderson is not the wife of Garrard Morgan then the extended "Sanderson line" disappears from my part of the Family Tree. The line still exists and can show up attached to some other person, but in that case, the line has to be reevaluated and it may be pruned off again and again.

In this case, Garrard Morgan and Sarah Sanderson were supposed to have a son named "John Sanderson Morgan." Unfortunately, there is currently no documentation shown that the son's middle name was "Sanderson." There are several entries that his name was "John S. Morgan" but the connection to the Sandersons is not documented. This is the type of analysis that must be done over and over again to correct the entries and ultimately the relationships shown in the Family Tree.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Family Reunion Time

The next few days, we will be having our family reunion here in Utah. We have family members coming from all over the United States. I will be much involved and it will take a lot of my time. Don't be surprised to find that I have little time to write. I will be back in a few days writing as usual.

The Fate of the Green Icons: A FamilySearch Family Tree Challenge

Back on December 22, 2016, I wrote a blog post entitled, "What are you going to do when all the green temple icons disappear?" Just recently, I tried out a new program from the BYU Family History Technology Lab called Descendancy Explorer. The idea of the program is to search your extended Family Tree for "cousins" that need temple ordinances, i.e. green temple icons.

Admittedly, I am not a good test case for this type of process but the program searched over 6000 of my relatives and was only able to find 11 possible opportunities and as I further pointed out, these "opportunities" very likely involved complex research issues and likely were not related to me at all.

When I do research, I do find names to take to the temple. Perhaps, my function is to find those names and then leave the green icons to be "discovered" by others? But this is not the idea of the Find, Take and Teach system that is currently being implemented. From my perspective, clicking through a bunch of names of people you do not know about and do not know if they are related is no different that taking a random name to the Temple. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the people who find these green icons are not especially motivated to do any more work.

In this screenshot, the dark blue temple icons represent ordinances that have been "reserved" but not printed. I have heard that there are people who have reserved tens (hundreds) of thousands of names, far more than it would ever be possible for one person or even a large family to complete. What incentive do I have to "share" my green temple icons with others when I see all these names being hoarded by others? For example, when I click on one of those dark blue icons and then continue to click, I find that the reserved name dates back to 2014. We are not talking here about precocious teenagers, we are talking about dedicated hoarders. 

The tragedy of this situation is that I can focus on the blue icons and use them as a guide to where I need to do some research. Frequently, with more research, the reserved ordinances evaporate and are replaced by valid ones that do not represent either fictitious people or duplicates. What is the solution?

One solution is the need to impose rather strict limitations on the number of reserved ordinances from any one person. In this, I mean 100 or less. If they want to do more or can, then the names should be shared with the temples. There are people who have done everything they can to find additional family names without success. These people can help by going to the temples and helping those of us with a surplus. But if the hoarders simply pile up thousands of names we have to wait until the passage of two years and then what is to keep the hoarders from simply going in and reserving them all again. 

For some of us, the Family Tree represents an unlimited supply of names to take to the temples. For others, the well is dry. Let's start developing programs that incentivize real research and at the same time promote sharing names with others. Let's do something to prevent the names from being gobbled up by the hoarders. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Descendancy Explorer: What's New From BYU

The Brigham Young University Family History Technology Lab has released yet another program. This new program is called the Descendancy Explorer. Yes, this is another program for searching the Family Tree for available ordinances. I learned about the program from word-of-mouth rather than from any formal announcement. I decided to give the program a try.

As you might guess, my portion of the Family Tree is pretty well worked over. I let the program run for a quite a while and it stopped expanding the number of records at 9,754. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the program, but as with all such programs, they rely completely on the accuracy of the information in the Family Tree. I absolutely know that there are some errors in almost every single user's portion of the Family Tree, so that assumption can lead to inaccurate returns from this and every other such program.

Working through over 9.000 individuals seems to take a while, so I just let the program run. After waiting for about half and hour or so, I had 11 suggested names. The first name on the list is in this screenshot:

By viewing the relationship, I was taken to the Relative Finder program.

So, I went to the Family Tree and looked up the individual.

Hmm. Red icon showing "Birth after Mother's Child-Bearing Years." Doesn't look like an opportunity to click on a green icon, it looks more like an opportunity to do some research and attach some Record Hints. But who is this person? I can View My Relationship by clicking on the link right here on this page.

Pretty straight forward. I am related assuming all the people in the chain of relationship are correct. Let's look around a little and see, especially given the red icon problem. Here is part of the relationship.

Francis M. Finney was supposedly born when his mother was 53 years old. Not impossible, but not probable. He was also born more than ten years after his next older sibling. Also a problem. In addition, the parents were married seven years before the first child was born. Also not impossible. But the next child was born twelve years later. This family has some problems. So what do I do? Can I simply reserve the ordinance and take the name to the temple?

Actually, there are no sources showing that this "Francis M. Finney" is even related. The source attached shows him as born in Indiana and has his mother "Mary Barber," my relative married to an Irish immigrant. All this is based on one 1880 Census record.

So was my Mary Barber married to this Michael Finney? Probably not. There are no sources supporting the marriage at all. This seems to me to be a "same name = same person" mistake. In fact, there are no sources yet supporting the fact that Mary Barber is the daughter of Thankful Tefft Tanner.

We have a problem here. Do I simply do the ordinance based on what is in the Family Tree or do I have a duty to do more research? What would the average unsophisticated person without thirty-five years of genealogical research experience do?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Relatives Around Me

Relatives Around Me is a new addition to the Family Tree App for iOS and Android devices.

You can find the Family Tree App in the App Gallery.

Relatives Around Me allows you to see if you are related to people who are physically nearby and using the same app. We tried it and found out that I am an 11th cousin twice removed to my wife. Of course, as with all these Family Tree dependent apps, any relationship shown depends on the accuracy of the data in the Family Tree. But this app should be able to settle any discussions about relationships among those who are reasonably closely related such as at a family reunion.

It is not a separate app, it is part of the Family Tree app.

Use the FamilySearch Family Tree Three Ways Guest Blogger, Kathryn Grant, who is also a regular contributor to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel, wrote an article entitled, "Three Ways to Use FamilySearch Family Tree." The three ways are:

Kathryn explains how users can benefit from each of the three different versions of the program. I suggest you may wish to read the article for guidance about how FamilySearch views the different versions. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

LDS Genealogical Resources at Brigham Young University -- Part Three

From the Research Wiki:
1907-1983 Annual Genealogical Report-Form E and Form 42FP 
The Church began using these forms in 1907 and kept them concurrently with the membership records. These forms do not list each member in the ward or branch. They only include entries about people who were blessed, baptized, ordained to priesthood offices, sent or returned from missions, married, divorced, or died during the year. Form E was used by stakes. Form 42FP was used in the mission field. Form 42FP included yearly sections for members who emigrated to Zion and full-time missionaries who worked in the area during the year from 1911 to 1962. You must search the Annual Genealogical Reports year by year because they are not indexed. Some researchers prefer these annual reports because they were compiled within a year of each event listed.
Today, very few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are aware that detailed historical records of the early members of the Church have been kept over the years. Many of these valuable records are available in microfilm format at the BYU Family History Library.

Researching at the BYU Family History Libary gives researchers access to all the resources of the vast Harold B. Lee Library and these resources include a significant collection of LDS related records.

If you do a quick search in the Library catalog for LDS records, you can see that there are over 7,000 entries.

Here are a few other specialized collections at the Library of general LDS interest.

There are many similar publications and collections in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library section called Mormonism, Utah, and the West

Here are some addition Special Collections items:

To start your search, use the general Library Catalog and put in the names and surnames of your ancestors. Then start searching for places and general geographic areas. You will continue to find interesting and helpful documents. 

Please see the previous posts in this series.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Correcting Relationships in the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part Two

I started this series by investigating an apparent duplicate entry in the Family Tree. Here is the first post in this series.

As I mentioned in the first post, I am using some specific (and very complicated) examples from the Family Tree to illustrate some general principles. I will be augmenting the discussion of the problem with periodic "Research Notes" about the basic concepts used in solving the issues raised by the content of the Family Tree.

There is an extensive comment attached to the first post that explores the issues of the addition of International Genealogical Index (IGI) records to entries in the Family Tree. The Commentator, Gordon Collett, has explained some of the difficulties in dealing with this type of entry. I strongly suggest reviewing his entire sequence of comments on this subject. I will come back to the issue of the IGI sources that have been added to the Family Tree. I have also written about this issue in the past.

Now, that said, we are back to the issue of John Sanderson.

The particular mess addressed by this series of posts does not directly involve an incorrect IGI merge between two of the wrong people The question here involves relationships that are not accurately depicted. I started with the apparent duplicate for Sarah Sanderson. So I am going to backtrack to start the investigation at the point where I know the information is correct. Here is the entry for Sarah Sanderson. By the way, since everyone can view any dead person in the Family Tree, if you are interested, you can take a look at the entries yourself.

Sarah Sanderson LCCT-XQ4 is shown as the wife of Garrad Morgan LW1B-V31. The Morgans here involve a sequence of three "Garrard Morgans" that have been arbitrarily designated as Garrard Morgan I, II, and III. My daughter has been doing some intensive research on the Morgan line and has added the sources that have been found so far, which, by the way, do not include any sources showing that this Garrad Morgan married Sarah Sanderson. Even though the traditional information added to the Family Tree shows a specific marriage date, there is not yet one source showing where that information was found.

So, any question involving Sarah Sanderson revolves around the issue of substantiating whether or not she is correctly recorded as the wife of Garrard Morgan LW1B-V31.

RESEARCH NOTE: Any time there is a question about the origin of an individual, a competent researcher is forced to backtrack, i.e. come forward in time, until there is an adequate substantiated basis for the relationships displayed in the Family Tree (or any other family tree). In this case, doing further research to resolve the apparent duplication of Sarah Sanderson cannot really be resolved until there is some support for the assumption that she was the wife of Garrard Morgan (previously designated II) The only reference to a source refers to the following book:

Richardson, Arthur M, and Nicholas G Morgan. The Life and Ministry of John Morgan: For a Wise and Glorious Purpose. Place of publication not identified: N.G. Morgan, 1965.

The book contains no sources for the assertion that Garrard Morgan married Sarah Sanderson or that Sarah Sanderson was from South Carolina. See page 3 of the above book. Later, in the same book, we have the statement on page 588 as follows:
Garrard Morgan II migrated to Nicholas County near Carlisle, Kentucky; met and married a young lady, Sarah Sanderson, who was a sister or daughter of John Sanderson. This family took up land in that county in 1801 on Licking Creek. There were many Sandersons, Morgans and Woodsons in Goochland and Cumberland Counties, Virginia and Sarah was one of the Sandersons of that county.
Now, you might have noticed, but probably not, that page 5 of the book says Sarah Sanderson came from South Carolina and that page 588 of the same book says she was from Virginia. In the Family Tree, the Sanderson family (except Sarah) is from North Carolina.

RESEARCH NOTE: You can't build a bridge from the middle of the river. You need to make sure you are researching the right person and the right line before you spend your time "correcting" the entries in the Family Tree or any family tree. In this case, there is absolutely no support for the conclusion that Sarah Sanderson is a daughter of a couple who were born and married in North Carolina. 

So how is this problem solved? Essentially, we start the research on finding a source or sources showing that Garrard Morgan married someone named Sarah Sanderson and then we do more research to determine who she was. This illustration shows how a supposed conflict or duplicate in one entry can lead to an examination of an entire pedigree line. Basically, we have documentation showing the Morgans in Goochland County, Virginia (which also included Kentucky as a county until Kentucky became a state in 1792) and so any documentation will likely be found in Virginia not North or South Carolina.

Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

LDS Genealogical Resources at Brigham Young University -- Part Two

It is not generally understood that the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints include many different categories and have a broad reach; well beyond the membership of the Church. Many of the records fall outside of the categories normally attributed to "church records" for genealogical research. Often, the records are dismissed as "user contributed" and per se unreliable. In taking this position, genealogical researchers are overlooking a huge, accessible collection of records that are usually overlooked.

Some of these records have been digitized and are now available on the website such as the vast online resource known as the following:

Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969." Images. FamilySearch. : 16 May 2017. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compiler, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

But other collections are available only on microfilm. The Brigham Young University Family History Library (BYU) has a huge collection of LDS records, some of which are unique. The earliest Church records are referred to as the "Nauvoo Records." Compilations of these records have been done by the former Brigham Young University professor, Susan Easton Black in collaboration with her husband Harvey Bischoff Black and others. Here is a list of the publications, all of which are available at the BYU Harold B. Lee Library including the Family History Library. 

Black, Susan Easton. Inscriptions Found on Tombstones and Monuments in Early Latter-Day Saint Burial Grounds: Nauvoo, Illinois (Joseph Smith Homestead, Pioneer Saints Cemetery on Parley Street); Mt. Pisgah, Iowa; West Bank of the Niobrara River, Nebraska; Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Place of publication not identified: publisher not identified.

Black, Susan Easton, Harvey Bischoff Black, Brigham Young University, and Center for Family History and Genealogy. Annotated Record of Baptisms for the Dead, 1840-1845: Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. Provo, Utah: Center for Family History and Genealogy, Brigham Young University, 2002.

Black, Susan Easton, Harvey Bischoff Black, and Brandon Plewe. Property Transactions in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois and Surrounding Communities (1839-1859). Wilmington, Del.: World Vital Records, Inc., 2006.

Black, Susan Easton, and George D Durrant. Alphabetical Compilation of Deaths and Burials, Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-1846, 2015.

———. Latter-Day Saints in Hancock County, Illinois (excluding Nauvoo) and in Lee County, Iowa (1839-1846), 2015.

———. Methodist Church Records Nauvoo, Illinois: Transcription Microfilm #G43984 1311783. S.l.: s.n., 2015.

———. Nauvoo United Lutheran Church Records, Nauvoo, Illinois. S.l.: S.E. Black & G.D. Durrant, 2016.

Many of the early historical records of the central part of the United States are intertwined with Mormon history. As the members of the Church researched their ancestors, documents, letters, manuscripts, and journals were donated to the BYU L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library. 

The BYU Family History Library has an extensive collection of microfilm that includes many of the early Church records, including some that have yet to be digitized. The earliest records were included in a collection called the Temple Index Bureau (TIB) Endowment Index: 1842 - 1969. These records have restricted circulation. However, beginning in 1969 the Church began to create the Computer File Index (CFI). In 1981, it was renamed the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and contains records from 1969 to about 2008. The IGI is particularly useful for researching English parish records. The IGI has now been put online on 

There are a number of Family Group Records Collections. Some of them, as I mentioned above, are available online, but most are still only available on microfilm. The BYU Family History Library has a huge collection of these microfilmed records that include the Family Group Records. Here is a summary of each of the collections at the Library.
  • From 1914 to 1960, the Church collected LDS Church Census Records, the microfilm of these valuable records are scattered in the BYU microfilm cabinets. Individual film numbers can be determined by searching in the Catalog. 
  • From 1924 through 1962 microfilmed copies of the Family Group Records submitted to the Utah Genealogical Society called the Patron's Section were microfilmed in 1950. These films are available at the BYU Family History Library. 
  • In 1962, the Patron's Section was re-microfilmed and records from 1950 to 1962 were added.
  • The members of the Church were asked to submit their 3rd and 4th Generation Family Group Records and Pedigrees to the Church beginning in 1962 and continuing through 1979. The years in the collection include 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972 - 1974, 1974- 1975, 1976-1976, and 1978.
  • Patron submitted genealogies on paper were contributed between July 1979 and 1996, these are arranged by submission and sheet number. 
  • The Pedigree Resource File (also partially on is an actively growing collection of member and public submitted genealogies that began in 1999. 
The L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library (located downstairs from the BYU Family History Library) has some major collections. Stay tuned for additional posts.