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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Coming to a Conclusion with Finding Francis

Will of William Tanner from 1757
For over a hundred years, the descendants of my particular Tanner family have been copying the conclusions about their common ancestors from two books written by a researcher who apparently never visited the original ancestral homes or record repositories in Rhode Island and conducted all of his "research" through letter writing from Minnesota in the 1800s and early 1900s. Fortunately, today, we have the benefit of both microfilm and digital images to provide access to the original records. From time to time lately, I have been writing about my efforts to resolve the contradictions and inaccuracies of these early accounts that have long been accepted almost as scripture to the Tanner descendants. Finally, I have found the crucial documents that answer some of the main issues and questions, but also open up other important questions.

The image above shows the will of William Tanner dated 1757. William mentions his wife Elizabeth and names each of his children except one who is deceased at the time the will was written. The children are William, Palmer, Francis, Hannah, Mary, Deborah, Avis and Henry. The deceased child is Nathan whose will was probated in 1752. However, finding these two wills does not answer the question of the identity of William Tanner. We do know that Nathan's will and his birth record mention his mother Elizabeth. Francis' will mentions his brother Nathan. So Nathan and Francis had a mother named Elizabeth. Francis was born in 1708 and Nathan was born in 1709 or 1710. Nathan's birth record says his father's name was William. So it appears that this William Tanner was married to one wife named Elizabeth from 1708 until he died in 1757.

These recently discovered documents clearly indicate that the William Tanner who married Mary Babcock in Connecticut in 1715 is not the same William Tanner who was the father of Francis and his brother Nathan.

As soon as I have time to do some more research, I will see if I can find more information identifying this William Tanner. It also almost certain that this William Tanner is not the same as the one who signed a quit claim deed in 1680 and whose birth date is presently recorded in the Family Tree as 1657 in England.

It would be very helpful if any of the Tanners read this post to stop putting in random parents for Francis Tanner.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gone Camping

This image is not us. But we are going camping. See you in a while.

Thoughts on the Availability of Records

The recent announcement by regarding the retirement of microfilm shipments has raised some interesting but actually not too surprising issues. See "Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." One of the main issues is the general lack of awareness of the huge number of digital records now available online from as well as thousands, perhaps millions of record-content websites on the internet. Many of the complaints about the retirement of microfilm shipments come from those who are simply unaware of what is happening online.

I have been working on a very challenging research issue involving a long list of microfilm-based records from the Catalog. As part of the research process, I have been making a list of every microfilm that I would like to review. For some time now, I have been ordering microfilm rolls from FamilySearch to be sent to the Brigham Young University Family History Library.  Once I heard that these shipments would end, I began the process of seeing how the cessation of shipments would impact the list of resources I had created. In short, I found that more than 80% of the items I had identified were already available from other sources, mostly online.

Where were these records? Spread over a number of online record-content websites. My conclusion was that I would still be making trips to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library, but that these trips would continue to be less frequent just as has been the case over the past few years. The moral of this story is that many of the most used genealogical resources are readily available online. Yes, there may be a cost associated with accessing these resources, but that is nothing new. Finally, if the resources aren't there today, they will likely be there online tomorrow (or sometime soon).

End note. If your list of needed resources are very specific and of limited general interest, then your specific records may not be digitized immediately. You may still be traveling to obtain the records.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Where are the digital images on

Many people, even those who have never looked at, have expressed concern over the recent announcement about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments from FamilySearch. See
"FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." Before you get all worried about this microfilm issue, I suggest you take a few minutes to review the website and particularly the Historical Record Collections and the Catalog. Hmm. Did you even know that had a Catalog? When was the last time you looked at the Catalog? Links to both the Historical Record Collections and the Catalog are located in the Search tab (visible above highlighted in green).

Here is the deal. FamilySearch has been digitizing millions upon millions of microfilm records for years. Digital images of the microfilm reproduce the entire roll. See the example above. The Historical Record Collections are one example of a way to view the microfilm. If you click on the link to the Search tab, you will see the following:

You can then click on either the Catalog or the Records links. The Historical Records link, takes you to this page:

For an idea of what is available, you can browse all the collections or research by location.

Let's just say there is a lot of stuff here. You can see a current list of the available collections by clicking on the link to "Browse all published collections." 

A collection can contain multiple rolls of microfilm and millions of records. If you click on the heading of the "Last Updated" column, you can see the latest entries in the record collections. 

Records are pouring into the collections by the millions. Any microfilmed records that have been digitized are retired from those that can be shipped. This has been going on for years. Let me repeat, you haven't been able to order microfilms that have been digitized for years. Do you know what has and what has not been digitized? Yes, there is a simple way to tell. All of that information is in the Catalog. You can see the screenshot above that shows the pull-down menu on the Search tab. The fourth item down is the link to the Catalog.

We have four videos, so far, on catalogs that include the Catalog, on the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library YouTube Channel.

FamilySearch is digitizing so many records so quickly that there is a lag time for including all of them in the Historical Record Collections. But all the digitized images are being added to the Catalog. Indexing is also a slower process than digitization and the number of indexed images is also increasing but in the mean time, while waiting for the indexing to be completed, all of the digital images are being loaded online and appear in the Catalog. This includes many more images than are currently available in the Historical Record Collections. So, look in the Catalog for the images.

For example, if I do a search for Mexican Parish Registers in the State of Guanajuato in the catalog I get a list that looks like this:

This list is extensive and includes millions of images from the parishes in Guanajuato. If I click on one of the parishes in the list, I get the following:

Some of these links are the same as those found in the Historical Record Collections. But some are not. If I continue to scroll down the page, I get the following:

The little camera icons indicate links to the specific digitized microfilm rolls. The image at the beginning of this post is an example of what the thumbnail view looks like. Here is another.

When you click on any of the small images, you can see the entire page.

You can magnify, copy, and adjust all the images. Why would you want to go back to microfilm?

Anyway, even if your particular microfilm has yet to be digitized, keep checking. FamilySearch is still working away adding millions of images. But remember, look in the Catalog before calling FamilySearch and complaining about the microfilm disappearing.

An additional note, you should always search in the large online genealogy websites for their digital images. I have been finding a significant number of records that had yet to be digitized by FamilySearch on other websites. Do a Google search for the name of the microfilm and also look on the other major websites for additional records. Sometimes, due to contractual issues, FamilySearch may not have the rights to upload a set of records online while others may have those rights. Keep looking. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rocks in the Genealogical Field

Sometimes it seems to me that there are more rocks than there are fields to work. As I mingle and talk with genealogists, I always find one common theme: an ancestor or family that defies discovery. The tragedy of this situation is the fact that many researchers become obsessed with finding that one person or one family and neglect searching on other lines for ancestors that may be more discoverable. When we reach such an impasse, it is important not to become fixated on the obstacle. It is time to plow another part of the field and ignore the rocks for a while.

Meanwhile, genealogical technology and resources will continue their rapid advance and in a relatively short time, the unresolvable may be resolved.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More than handcarts

A Pioneer Day re-enactment of Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, with covered wagons coming off Big Mountain into Mountain Dell, by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the past few years, most of the references we hear about the Mormon Pioneers have focused on two handcart companies. I am certainly not at all trying to minimize or depreciate the sacrifice of these two unfortunate pioneer companies, but I am afraid that the image of people pulling handcarts has markedly diminished the sacrifices and challenges of the approximately 70,000 people who made the trip between 1847 and 1868. Almost all of my Great-great grandparents and their families crossed the plains during these years.

My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, was one of these pioneers. He did not push a handcart, but he lost his first wife, Louisa Conlee, to the cold and exposure of Winter Quarters in Nebraska Territory on the 29th of September, 1846. The death of his wife left him with eight children from infants to fifteen years of age. Within three months, he remarried my Great-great-grandmother, Julia Ann Shepherd on the Plains in Florence, Nebraska on the 1st of December 1846.

The Tanners were called to help outfit the waves of pioneer refugees coming from the East to the Salt Lake Valley so they stayed out on the Plains for more than a year. They came west in the Willard Richards Company in 1848.  Also in 1848, his six-year-old son, Sidney C. Tanner, was killed when he was run over by a wagon wheel while on the Plains in Iowa. He died on the 26th of July 1848.

Sidney also made two more trips back to the east and then back to the Salt Lake Valley. He traveled with the Amasa M. Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company in 1857 and again conducted the Sidney Tanner Company in 1861. So, he crossed the Plains six times. Perhaps it is time to start showing and talking about the dedication of those who rode in wagons or walked across the country.

One more example, my wife's Great-great-grandfather, Edwin Pettit, walked all the way across the country with the pioneers as an orphan with the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Company at age 13.  Oh, and one more example, My Great-great grandfather, Jens Christensen, died of exposure crossing the Plains outside somewhere in Wyoming or Nebraska in 1866. His daughter, Christine Christensen also died the same year on the Plains.

I can certainly relate to the handcart pioneers and their suffering, but almost all my life I have remembered the ones who came on foot or in wagons. Let's remember them also.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What if you turn out not to be related?

There are several popular "apps" or programs that use information on the Family Tree to establish "relationships.? When my wife and I tried out one of these programs recently, it showed that my wife and I are supposed to be 10th cousins four generation removed. What is a tenth cousin four generations removed? A tenth cousin four generations removed means that my 9th great-grandparents and my wife's 13th great-grandparents are in common. But for me and my wife to actually be related the chain of the relationship shown in the Family Tree would have to be accurate back, at least, nine generations and then forward to the present.

Of course, there is a way to determine if the results of the relationship app are correct. All you need to do is look at the connecting generations in the line of relationship given by the Family Tree to see if it is accurate. This is often easier said than done.

The relationship calculated by the app (which will for the purposes of this post remain unidentified) extends back through my "Stewart" line. Here is a screenshot of part of the Stewart line as it appears in the Family Tree back nine generations:

Duncan Stewart Steward has seven different fathers and seven different mothers. Take your pick. Which one connects me to my wife as a cousin? Really! The program takes the one that makes the relationship work.

This may seem like a rather harmless and trivial example, but the problem is that there are many people out there who believe that the information in the Family Tree is reliable and verified by the Church and/or FamilySearch. As this one example points out, many of these computer-generated pedigrees have severe issues.

What is more serious is that many other programs suggest relationships for the purpose of doing temple work with the same lack of verification of relationship.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gems from the BYU Family History Library

Finding Your Family in the Amazing Online Amsterdam City Archives - John de Jong

One the interesting things about the webinar and video project at the Brigham Young University Family History Library is the reaction of the people who watch the videos and the reaction of the people participating in doing the presentations.

Just recently, John de Jong, from FamilySearch, did a video about his specialty of research in the Netherlands. In talking to one of the people he has been helping with research in that country, he found out that the person was able to watch his video and find a long-sought ancestor. This is exactly the kind of benefit we hoped to achieve by putting up the wide range of topics available on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Thanks to all those who have been watching all these videos.

You may not think of BYU immediately when doing genealogical research, but I suggest you might want to investigate all of the resources available. This next week is the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Please take the time to consider coming to the Conference. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Logged In Home Page from FamilySearch

Logged In Homepage has just posted a new instructional video about the logged in Homepage that appears and is customized when you log in to I know that sounds redundant, but there is no other way to refer to the page. The short video above explains the idea and why you get a different page view every time you log in. This can be confusing to some of us, but it does provide some interesting links.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Assume There Are No Records For Your Family

There is a pervasive background to genealogical research. I constantly hear complaints from researchers that their family's records have been lost or never existed. Sometimes this complaint comes from information about a "burned" county, where the courthouse burned down at one point in time or even several times. After doing years of research, I find that there are some realistic limitations on both the availability and existence of records on a specific individual or family, but I also find that very few of the people who complain about a lack of records have come close to the actual limits.

Nearly all the complaints I receive about lost records result in a resolution. The underlying causes of the complaints arise from several different sources:

  • The researcher is looking in the wrong place or for records during the wrong time period
  • The researcher does not know where to find the records
  • The researcher cannot find records that are assumed to exist. For example, birth certificates before such documents were required by the state or county
  • The researcher does not know that alternate records exist that have the same or similar information as the "lost" records
  • The researcher is looking for records that were never in existence or looking at a time when the target records were not kept
  • The researcher is looking for the wrong person
  • The records that do exist fail to record the researcher's target person
  • The researcher is relying on an incomplete or inaccurate index
There are probably more reasons also, but any one of the above situations could result in a researcher coming to a conclusion that the records have been lost. 

Is there a cure for this condition? Fortunately, yes. To be a successful researcher, you always have to assume that the records are there and keep looking. Just because you are told that the "records all burned" or that they were destroyed due to a war or some kind of natural disaster, does not mean that the information you are looking for was not preserved. I have recently been looking at "burned" records that were ultimately preserved from a fire that took place back in 1870. New technology can sometimes restore records that were previously damaged beyond use. 

Consultant Planner Bug Resolved?

A short while ago, I wrote about a bug in the Consultant Planner. After speaking with FamilySearch and explaining the "bug," it appears that the problem has been resolved. I was able to add a person to my Consultant Helper List directly from my Stake Directory and using the person's helper number and birthdate. I hope this is the end of the problem.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Busy Times Ahead

The next few weeks, I will be either attending conferences or a workshop away from home or be presenting classes. Mixed in with all that will be a week-long camping trip into the mountains with my family. In short, I am very likely to be away from internet connections for the next four weeks. I will try to post when I can, but I will likely be too busy or unable to post.

I am teaching at the following two conferences and, in addition, attending a FamilySearch Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Stay tuned and if you like, you can review some of the over 1,300 posts I have made on this blog alone. You can also spend some time reviewing some of the 26 videos we have uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel during the past month. 

Global Warming and the FamilySearch Family Tree

It is very likely that you have an opinion about the topic of "global warming" or climate change. The interesting thing about this subject is that it is basically a scientific fact issue. Measuring changes in the average temperature of the earth is a purely physical and technical process. If I have an accurate thermometer or similar device and measure today's temperature in Provo, Utah at the same place for a period of time, I can easily calculate the "average" temperature. In fact, this is regularly done for millions of locations around the world. Here is one such chart of the average temperatures for Provo, Utah from the National Weather Service:

This particular chart illustrates the "mean" temperature, not the average. The "mean" is the number that is exactly in the middle, with half of the readings below that number and half above. If we compile all these measurements from around the world over a long period of time and also work out the historical figures for years before the measurements were being made, we can tell if the temperatures are getting warmer or cooler. So why is there a disagreement over the results of these scientific measurements? Good question. Here is the same type of chart showing the trend of temperatures measured on the land and sea for more than a century for the entire earth:
Here is a quote from about the chart.
Temperatures measured on land and at sea for more than a century show that Earth's globally averaged surface temperature is rising. For the last 45 years, global surface temperature rose at an average rate of about 0.17°C (around 0.3° Fahrenheit) per decade—more than twice as fast as the 0.07°C per decade increase observed for the entire period of recorded observations (1880-2015).
What does this have to do with genealogy and the Family Tree? Well, the answer to this question is rather complicated. The global warming trend is an established scientific fact but despite overwhelming observations, half of the people in the United States still do not believe the facts.  See the "Half of US Are Now Concerned Global Warming Believers."

For a number of years now, the Family Tree has been in existence and functioning. For more than a year, the major defects in the Family Tree have been rectified and the Family Tree now works reasonably well. Just as science uses physical measurements to establish the temperature trends, the Family Tree uses "sources" to establish the "history" of the individuals in the Family Tree. No sources, no information, end of story. However, there is still an overwhelming number of individuals in the Family Tree who show the following:

Whole sections of the Family Tree look like this:

Just as with the overwhelming facts about global warming, users of the Family Tree are faced with notices telling them that there are problems with the data in the Family Tree. Each of those red icons indicates a fatal flaw in the data entered into the Family Tree. Despite these obvious warnings based on the lack of accurate historical data, many potential users of the Family Tree believe that everything in the Family Tree has been verified by the "Church" and is accurate. They either ignore the Family Tree because they believe that their work has been "all done" or mine the Family Tree for green icons based on the same inaccurate belief. You can see one of those green temple icons in the above screenshot. There is no way that anyone can claim a relationship with the people at the level of the green icon given the number of red icons that are evident.

Collectively, we seem to have a wonderful capacity for ignoring both scientifically and historically established information. We believe in our own opinions. We had a commonly quoted statement in the law about disagreements; "I know what I think is true, don't confuse me with the facts."

For the past few months, I have been writing about just such a situation that exists on my Tanner line. I have written a number of posts using the title "Finding Francis." Last night, I found another historical link in the situation where a group of people has been saying, "Don't confuse us with the facts, we know we are right." The Family Tree is a microcosm of the same type of irrational arguments that are being made nationally about global warming.

I am getting tired of having people look at me with a condescending smile and tell me that all their genealogy has been done for a long time and that all I have to do is look at the Family Tree and see that it has all been done. I am also getting tired of people popping names into the Family Tree without bothering to read what is already there and without providing even one source for their activities. That is enough of a rant for today.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Consultant Planner Bug Interferes With Registration

Note: The following post will make little sense if you have not been acting as a Temple and Family History Consultant and helping people with finding names for temple ordinances using the Consultant Planner. If you would like a good introduction to the Consultant Planner, see "The FamilySearch Consultant Planner For: Find, Take, Teach, and Beyond - Kathryn Grant."

The Consultant Planner is one of the recent most useful innovations from FamilySearch. However, this past two weeks, I have run into a serious bug in the program. The idea of the Consultant Planner is that a Temple and Family History Consultant is enabled to directly assist another user of the program by viewing their portion of the Family Tree as a "proxy" helper. This ability has been available for some considerable time in the form of acting as a "Helper." But the new innovative Consultant Planner section of the website was designed to facilitate the process.

The process of becoming a Helper was (and still is) rather cumbersome. Essentially, the Helper obtained the user's (Helpee's?) semi-confidential User Number and login and was able to view a screen that was the same as the user's own view. More recently, had been modified to add the ability to "invite" a user to share their view of the Family Tree. This was a major improvement on the process. I have been using this process since it was introduced at it has facilitated the whole idea of helping people in a vastly improved way. Now to the problem or bug.

The idea of inviting people to allow a Temple and Family History Consultant to help is a good one, but the problem occurs when the person being helped has no computer skills and cannot answer an email. Sending an email invitation to this type of person is a waste of time. They have no idea how to open their own email account and respond.

Recently, FamilySearch added a new feature to the Consultant Planner. They incorporated the Ward and Stake Directories on the LDS Tools app and on Theoretically, you could now look up a member of your Stake or Ward and add them automatically by means of an email invitation. However, we are now back to the problem that the person must be able to respond to an email. In the present situation, I tried using the new entry form to add the person I was trying to help. I used both the User Number and her Date of Birth and expected that she would be added to the "Accepted or Added" list. This did not happen. I tried this several time without success and finally went back to the original method of sending the person an email. In this case, I sat down personally and sent the invitation and then helped the lady find her email account and respond to the request. She was still not added to the Accepted or Added list. However, I did find that I could get access to help her, just as was the case with the original Helper option, but I had to enter all the information every time to access her view of the Family Tree.

At this point, I called FamilySearch for help and spent a considerable time with the online helpers trying different things such as changing browsers etc. None of this worked and several more tries with different orders and options did not put her name on the Accepted or Added list.

Hmm. Apparently, trying to add the person from the Directory put her into a special category that prevented her name from being added into the list.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How Accurate are the Programs that Find Names in the Family Tree? Part One

Disclaimer: I am going to write about some genealogy programs without mentioning the names of the programs. The reason for this is simple. I consider these programs as a category of programs and I do not wish to imply that any one of them is either better or worse than the others. This is not a review of the programs themselves, but of the basic concept that has been used to develop them all.

These programs all search the Family Tree for "temple opportunities." Essentially, they are searching for a specific category of people within the Family Tree; those that have "green temple icons." Assuming that FamilySearch has used some criteria for marking individuals in the Family Tree as available for temple ordinances, it is really a trivial programming issue to search through a database such as the Family Tree for such markers. For example, let's suppose I want to search through the following list of numbers:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10

If I consider the sequence, I can readily determine that there is a missing number in the sequence. But for a computer programmer, the problem would more likely be resolvable by creating a field for numbers and then searching the fields.

Enter your number here _____

In this case, even if the numbers were not sequential, all I would have to do is search for an empty field.

However, unless the computer program was extremely sophisticated, the program would not consider the "reason" for the empty field. In the case of the searches of the Family Tree, the opposite of looking for an empty field is looking for a field that has a specific marker. For example, if I want to know how many males and how many females there are in the database, I can create a required field for marking the sex of the person. It is then rather simple to write a program that counts the number of males and females. The program could also mark how many of the fields were empty and have another simple process, and if/then condition that produces an error message telling the programmer that the field is empty.

OK, so that may not sound trivial but it is. So, if someone tells me that they have written a program that searches a database and tells me if certain information contained in a field is missing, I have to believe that this is a rather simple operation and the results will be trivial. These types of programs are the same as those that notify you when you receive an email message or tell you to answer your cell phone when someone calls. They answer yes/no questions.

Is the fact that an entry in the Family Tree is missing temple ordinance information a simple operation such as the ones I just described? Not at all. In the case of missing temple ordinance information, i.e. a green temple icon, there is a whole hierarchy of considerations such as some of the following:

  • Is the entry in the Family Tree correctly identified?
  • Is the entry a duplicate of some other entry?
  • Is the entry complete enough to allow temple ordinances to be performed?
  • Does the person identified in the Family Tree qualify for temple ordinances?
But ultimately, the whole issue boils down to whether or not the person who is viewing and using the Family Tree is one of the people who can perform the ordinances pursuant to a complex system of qualifying people to do temple ordinances in the first place. 

For example, let's suppose that there is a rule that only people with a certain type of relationship to the individual in the Family Tree can perform the ordinances on that person's behalf. This is actually the case when you get the following type of warning:

So, the rules involved in determining whether or not a person marked with a green temple icon is actually available for ordinance work is more complicated than a simple yes/no program for searching a database. 

But as I pointed out above, one of the main issues with determining whether or not ordinances can be performed is the issue of identification. If I add a random name to the Family Tree, the program will immediately mark that name as available for temple ordinances as long as there are entries in the required fields. For example, if I make up the name of a child in a family that did not exist and provide made-up birth and death information, the program will not detect the fraud. But there will be a green temple icon generated for the bogus entry. It doesn't really matter whether I do this intentionally or unknowingly or even accidentally, the computer program does not detect the misinformation or fraud. So how do we know if the green temple icons are accurate indications for the need for temple work? The simple answer is that we cannot rely on the programs.

But wait, the issue is even more complex that a simple addition of wrong information into the family tree. The Family Tree is lineage linked. This means that the Family Tree has information that should be reflecting my ancestry. But what happens if one of the lineal entries is inaccurate? Then all the information following the incorrect entry is also inaccurate. So for example, if my great-grandfather is incorrectly identified in the Family Tree then the person shown as my great-great-grandfather is also wrong, even if the connection between the two is correct. One mistaken identity entry negates the accuracy of all of the entries dependent on that entry. 

One inaccurate or false entry in a pedigree line negates the accuracy of all of the dependent entries. I could repeat that over and over again in fifty different ways and it would still be an expression of the basic assumption of the Family Tree. So, when the Family Tree has a green temple icon, in effect, it is a statement that all the entries in the Family Tree connecting you to this ancestor or relative are "correct." The problem, of course, is that in many cases, this information is not correct. Over a hundred years of accumulated errors as well as accurate information is contained in the Family Tree. 

What is the effect of the unreliability of the Family Tree? Some of the results are trivial and some are serious issues. Here are a few of what happens when we unknowingly rely on the accuracy of the Family Tree:
  • Ordinances are duplicated
  • Ordinances are performed for people to whom we are not related
  • Ordinances are performed for people who did not exist
As I have pointed out many times previously, in any system such as the Family Tree, the designers or developers, as engineers and computer technicians work within a system that allows for a degree of error or inaccuracy usually referred to as the margin of error defined as an amount (usually small) that is allowed for in case of miscalculation or change of circumstances. Since it is a given that the Family Tree has errors, the fact that some of the green temple icons indicate the classes of people who are shown in the short list above, falls within this "acceptable" margin of error. 

In the case of the Family Tree, the programming has become more and more sophisticated over time. Many of the duplications, errors and issues with relationship have been addressed by the programmers. Compared to just a few years ago, the Family Tree is markedly more accurate than it was at the time the transfer was made from to the Family Tree. But have we come far enough to rely on simple search programs to provide us with "temple opportunities?"

Now we come to the issue of the programs that search the Family Tree for green temple icons. But I will have to defer further writing until another blog post. 

Stay tuned. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ultimate FamilySearch Family Tree Dilemma

The most difficult decisions we face often involve a two or more apparently equally good or beneficial options. During the past few months, my immediate family members which include my wife and my children and their spouses have been discussing a complex problem we face with the Family Tree. Coincidentally, one of my regular commentators left an extremely well-written summary of the same problem. Here is the comment which is attached to the post entitled, "Are we still stuck on Green Icons?"
Your comments here go along, somewhat, with a bit of a quandary I find myself in. I have recently completed the project of going through my wife’s ancestors in Family Tree, all Norwegian and Swedish, back eight generations on all lines cleaning up names and places and attaching all the historical sources in Family Search and in the Norwegian and Swedish Digital Archives. This has included the ancestors, all their additional spouses, all their children, and all their children’s spouses. This has taken about four years. We have been working on her family far longer than that, of course, and I have gotten really good in Norwegian research.

In this process, we have added sufficient names to her temple reservation list to keep us and our adult children busy even though we have never taken anything other than family names to the temple since shortly after we got married years ago. We have no need to add any more to her reservation list. 
Also in this process, I have seen where the descendants of these ancestors continue on, which records have been covered by extraction projects, and which have not. 
I feel it would not be an exaggeration and not too immodest to say that that because of all this work, I could pick almost any one of her ancestors, start descendancy research, and have several hundred individual with good, complete, well sourced Family Tree records with green icons with a few months of work. 
So my quandary is, what do I do? 
Start researching just because I find it a fascinating, stimulating, enjoyable intellectual exercise akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle (I won’t say fun, having read your blogs about that particular term) and rob the descendants of these cousins of my wife of the opportunity to find their ancestors through real research? 
Or do I find other things to do in Family Tree and let the descendants of these people do the research themselves someday, if ever? 
When I have completed large blocks of families and have added dozens of green icons to the tree, does my wife submit them all to the temple to be sure the work is done, thereby depriving their descendants of the opportunity to “find” them and do the temple work themselves? Since they would all share a common ancestor with my wife, my wife is authorized to do that. 
Or do I just leave all the green icons to reinforce for anyone stumbling along these lines that Family Tree is full of green icons just waiting to be found? 
Any thoughts?
My first thought is that there is only an extremely small percentage of those involved in working on the Family Tree that face this issue at all.  But ultimately, it is the most serious issue that we have encountered so far in working on the Family Tree. I also realize that because of its specialized nature, this problem is not something that can even be imagined by some researchers. We also realize that serious researchers are currently being almost totally ignored by family history promotional efforts.

I am guessing, but I believe that a very small percentage of those working on the Family Tree are producing the vast majority of the substantiated and sourced names being submitted to the temples.

As genealogical researchers, rather than mere green icon searchers, we can see an almost unlimited opportunity to generate "names to take to the temples." We are also well aware of the time and distance limitations as well as other commitments that prevent us from spending all our time attending the temples. In fact, if we spent all our time attending the temples, we would not be spending all our time doing genealogical research. So there is a trade off and we need to remember moderation in all things.

However, the issue raised in the comment and the discussion we are having is not an illusory problem. It is real.

When the Family Tree was finally approaching being fixed and workable, our family began to do serious research into all of our family lines. Within a short time, we were generating more names than it was practical for us to do as a family and we began sharing names with anyone interested enough to attend the temple. But that has its limitations. Our friends and family members all have their own sources of names from their own families.

Let me emphasize one very important point. We are not "name gatherers. " We do not fall into that category of people who simply copy names out of books and records indiscriminately adding anyone with the same surname or even anyone in an entire census record. I am fully aware that such abuses of the program exist. These people are usually easy to detect because they have thousands of names in their temple file. We provide detailed source citations and where appropriate, explanations for everything we do. I further believe that these "name gatherers" produce a significant percentage of the names currently being submitted to the temples, but that is another issue altogether.

We have not yet come to a consensus conclusion about the issue raised by the comment. We are not sure that generating green icons is a solution. We are not sure that turning more and more names over to the temples will help turn the hearts of the children to their fathers. We see little distinction between doing an unrelated "family submitted" name and the name extraction program. We could make a more informed decision if we knew exactly how many names were needed by the temples to remain in operation and whether or not the supply currently meets or exceeds the demand.

We also realize that by doing extensive research into our family lines we are "in a sense" depriving other family members of the same experience. But we also are realistic and realize that so far, almost none of our more distant family members are doing similar research.

My reaction, for a very long time, has been to do research for other people of my choosing with whom I am not particularly related. This activity, which I have been doing for years, has been recently codified as the "Find, Take, Teach" program. I spend most of my time helping others. If I need a few more names for family members to use to take to the temple, I do some more research on my own family lines and generate a few more names. By spreading out my research efforts, more people benefit from taking family names to the temples and every once and awhile, someone becomes interested in doing their own research.

So, I guess my answer to my commentator and to everyone is when you have enough of your own names, start helping and teaching those around you.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Famous Last Words: I Plan on Doing My Family History When I Retire!

In the United States and I am guessing elsewhere in the world, we have a culture of "retirement." The idea seems to be that after spending a lifetime of work, we are somehow entitled to some rest and relaxation in our old age. In Phoenix, Arizona, where I spent most of my life, retirement is a big business and the entire city is surrounded by "retirement communities." The idea is to play golf, shuffleboard or pickle ball and while away their time until they die in "luxury." Although, I do have a difficult time adjusting my concept of "luxury" to the extensive mobile home parks where most of the retirees are living. But no matter how you look at it, retirement is a big business in the United States. 

One interesting part of the retirement concept did include the fact that a rather small number of these retirees were actively engaged in genealogical research and as a result, over the years, I managed to make friends with a few of the "Winter Visitors" that came to Mesa every year. 

If you have been around me at all, you can probably guess that I am entirely and completely opposed to the idea of "retirement." As President Gordon B. Hickley is quoted as saying about President Ezra Taft Benson, "He came to know...that without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." Here is the entire quote.
That family life is but an extension of the family life into which Ezra Taft Benson was born and in which he was nurtured and grew. As has been noted, he was a farm boy, literally and truly, an overall-clad, sunburned boy who at a very early age came to know the law of the harvest: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). He came to know in those lean days that without hard work, nothing grows but weeds. There must be labor, incessant and constant, if there is to be a harvest. And so there was plowing in the fall and plowing in the spring—the sweaty work of walking in a furrow all day long behind a team of strong horses. In those days a hand plow was used, and it was necessary to hold constantly the handles that twisted and shook as the sharp plow point cut the earth and neatly rolled it over. After a day of that, a boy was exhausted and slept well. But morning came very soon.
As genealogists and family historians, we are living the law of the harvest. I agree with President Hinkley, that "there must be labor, incessant and constant if there is to be a harvest.

There are three very common excuses for failing to become involved in family history work as follows:
  • I don't have time right now and I will spend more time doing my family history when I retire.
  • All my family history has been done and I don't have anything to do.
  • I am simply not interested in doing my family history right now. 
It is my observation that retirement does not produce an interest in family history. Yes, a few of us do view retirement from our occupation or work as an opportunity to spend more time researching our family history, but most (nearly all) find out that family history has a lower priority than many (most) other activities. The reality is that unless you have an active interest and involvement in reading, research, computers, and history, you will probably not be spending much of your "retirement" time doing genealogical research. Doing genealogical research is too much like "work" for most people and they have the idea that they have done their "work" and now they are "retired."

In a sense by trying to get people who are retired to be involved in a highly intensive intellectual challenge such as genealogy is like swimming upstream against a river of cultural promptings that are telling people to slow down and enjoy life in their "golden years." One of the realities of those "retirement" years for most of those around me is that they are old and the pain and difficulty of simply living every day is a major disincentive to activity at the level required to do family history research. What I see when I go to the family history centers and libraries is a bunch of old people who, despite physical infirmities, are driven by the Spirit to do the incessant and constant labor of finding their families.

Maybe we need to find out who is actually doing family history and why they do it before we try to sell family history as a general or popular pursuit.

Are we making progress with our family history?
The world population today is estimated to be about 7.5 billion people. According to FamilySearch we currently have about 1.14 billion records in the Family Tree. Although these large numbers are impressive, they mostly show that we are lagging behind the growth of the world's population in adding names to the Family Tree. According to current statistics, about 31 million people have died in the world so far this year. See On the other hand, the world population has grown by over 44 million people. As the graph above illustrates, the growth rate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is only slightly higher than the overall growth rate of the world's population.

If we are looking at performing ordinances for all of our deceased ancestors, we are essentially falling behind every day of every year. A few years ago, I wrote about the fact that the percentage of members who were actively submitting names to the temples was hovering around the 3.8% level. The good news is that the percentage has been increasing and is now over 5%. But if we think about the number of people in the world and the distance we have to go before we make a dent in the number of people who have lived in just the past 200 years or so, we still have a monumental task.

I often feel the pressure of all these people who are waiting for their temple ordinances to be completed in the spirit world. That in itself is sufficient motivation for me to keep working.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Are we still stuck on Green Icons?

It has been awhile since I wrote about the ubiquitous "green temple icons." I used to write about this subject more frequently when the icons were "green arrows" but that time has passed. The historical challenge here was the fact that most of the green arrows were the result of duplicates in the program and the duplicate issue in the Family Tree has been brought under control although not eliminated. Advances in the programming of the Family Tree have made the "green temple icons" more reliable as an indication that ordinance work for the person needs to be done. But there is a secondary result that is far less positive. Emphasis on finding the "green temple icons" has begun to completely supersede any actual research work being done in the Family Tree.

The constant references to finding the green temple icons have given many people the impression that or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is somehow replenishing the supply of green temple icons. There are two opposing poles of response to this situation. At one end of the spectrum, we have people who do not connect working on the Family Tree with any activity other than gathering green temple icons. At the other end of the spectrum, we have people with many green temple icons who are not motivated to even look for a "name to take to the temple." What is missing is an emphasis on the actual work of finding deceased ancestors and relatives.

Here are examples of both ends of the spectrum.

This first example shows a family with no children where the green temple icons have now been reserved. The dark blue icons represent reserved ordinances. But the spouse in this descendency view has a light blue icon representing record hints and a purple icon that represents a hint that the couple may have had children. This indicates that some research will possibly provide additional temple opportunities. But what I am finding is that very few of these opportunities are translated into research that produces more information for the Family Tree. The number of these light blue record hint icons is so large, in my case, that there is no practical way for me to investigate all of them. But whoever reserved the names for the temple should be following up with the research suggested by the light blue icon. What is missing from the promotion of investigating the Family Tree for green temple icons is the emphasis on doing the research necessary to fully utilize the record hints and other information that is undoubtedly available.

I hesitate to give a screenshot of a cluster of green temple icons because I do not think that anyone other than the family members should be out there picking them up. But it is not unusual for me to be helping someone with their research, either using the Consultant Planner or merely helping with a research problem and find several green temple icons. I also find that when I come back to help the person sometime later, that the green temple icons are still there and no one in the family has done any further work on the family. But what is also possible is the following without identifying the source:

Here is an open invitation to do some fairly basic research with the almost immediate reward of finding a number of names to take to the temple. But in promoting the Family Tree, there is almost no emphasis on actually doing the research necessary to resolve these gold icons. By the way, the yellow or gold temple icons mean that some research is necessary to establish whether or not temple ordinances are needed.

What is needed is a more balanced approach to promoting the Family Tree. Yes, there are a number of immediately available green temple icons, but these icons do not come automatically from; they are the result of many years of research. In addition, there are opportunities to do research that will produce many more such green temple icons with a modicum of work.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dealing with Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

The fundamental issue facing users of the Family Tree is the concept of shared access. I hear more complaints about "people changing the data on my Family Tree" than all of the other complaints combined. Any day that I interact with patrons in the Brigham Young University Family History Library or any day I talk to someone about doing their family history, the conversation will almost inevitably come back to changes in the entries to the Family Tree.

We might think that this a new problem. If we do, we are wrong. Back in 1978 in the October General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder J. Thomas Fyans gave a talk entitled, "Ours Is a Shared Ancestry." This was long before we had the internet or FamilySearch or any of the vast online resources we enjoy today. Unfortunately, most of the members of the Church today do not have any experience whatsoever with the Extraction Program or the Four Generation submission program. In 1978 there were approximately 4.1 million members of the Church. Today that number is at over 15.8 million. People born in 1978 are almost 40 years old today. I have been working on my family history since about 1982 and so back in 1978,  I was totally unaware of what Elder Fyans was talking about.

Today, most of Elder Fyans' talk has proved to be prophetic. Here is the beginning quote (I became aware of this talk because of an article in the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group publication, Taggology. The article is "A Short History of Source in Family History" by Donald Enstrom.):
When I think of my father, I call him my father; but my two brothers and two sisters would remind me that he isn’t just my father, he is our father. 
In thinking of my grandfather, if I were to claim him as mine alone, not only my brothers and sisters would remind me that grandfather is our grandfather, but my first cousins would join in the chorus to say, “He is our grandfather, as well.” If I were to mention my great-grandfather as mine, second cousins would add their voices and remind me that great-grandfather is ours. 
It is apparent, then, that ours is a shared ancestry. We shouldn’t think back and say “mine, mine, mine”; we should say “ours, ours, ours.” The farther back we reach, the greater the chorus swells.
The issue being addressed by Elder Fyans was the problem of duplication of temple ordinances. He goes on to explain:
It has become apparent that genealogical research efforts are being duplicated. To determine the extent to which such duplication exists, I took my genealogical records to a professional research institute. They compared my records with their name pool and determined that they already had ninety-five percent of my records in their file. That means that only five percent of my records are unique to me. Thirty-four other clients shared my ancestry. I was rather amazed with this and wondered if such a high rate of duplication existed among the general population. At my request the institute took a sampling of clients from all parts of the United States, members of the Church and nonmembers. These names were compared with records in their name pool, and it was determined that eighty percent were duplicates. Only twenty percent were unique. 
I found through a study made by another institution that I have at least 348 first, second, and third cousins, all of whom could be searching for the same pair of second great-grandparents. 
From this you can see that duplication is tremendous in genealogical research...
If you read all of Elder Fyans talk, you can begin to appreciate how far the Church has come in the last 40 years or so. The Family Tree is the current culmination of the Church's efforts to avoid duplication. When we take the attitude that change in the Family Tree is "wrong" or a bother, we are merely perpetuating the problem of duplication. We have finally been put in a position where we must individually confront the reality of having a vast network of relatives, all of whom have the same rights and duties that we have to enter information into the Family Tree. If you are bothered by others making changes to the Family Tree, get over it. The Family Tree is what we have today to address the issue of duplication.

One final quote by Elder Fyans.
Using the technological blessings of today does not depersonalize; it modernizes the quest for our roots. 
From the perspective of our Father in Heaven, what must we accomplish? 
We must make available all the exalting blessings of the gospel to all of his children who have ever lived, if they choose to accept them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finding Francis -- More than one William Tanner

William is a very common English name. Tanner is a very common English, Swiss and German surname. Making an assumption that you have found an ancestor based on finding someone with the same name is the most common mistake made in genealogical research. This situation is commonly referred to as the "same name = same person" mistake. My own Tanner surname ancestors and relatives have been making that mistake for over a hundred years.

If I use program and do a search for all the people in England with the surname of Tanner in the late 1600s and early 1700s (1700 plus or minus) I get the following:

Here's how many of those were also William Tanners:

Here is the mess that is in the Family Tree with William Tanner:

As I have pointed out previously, there is also another complete duplicate of him in the Family Tree with even more information.

What is happening here? I have long suspected that the "traditional" interpretation of a limited amount of research had led to the combining more than one William Tanner into the same person. For years now, I have been searching for sufficient information to separate out the different William Tanners that lived in Rhode Island at the same time. I have now found four or possibly five different men named William Tanner who lived about the same time in the tiny colony of Rhode Island.

There are two main challenges: separating out the Williams who lived at the same time both into different families and into generations. From my research, the most plausible explanation for the problems reported by the Family Tree could be explained by adding in another generation of William Tanners. However, that explanation also relies on the unsupported assumption that there was only one immigrant to America named William Tanner in Rhode Island at the time.

In a future post, I will be outlining how I have now separated out the two main William Tanner families. Unfortunately, there is no way to know which of these was, if either, was the same as the "traditional" William Tanner. This clarification of the history of the Tanner family affects literally thousands of descendants of the John Tanner who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in the 1830s. As I have written previously, the lack of interest and involvement of any members the Tanner family in the basic research needed to solve these intractable genealogical challenges has always amazed me. The careless and inaccurate involvement of those who continue to add unsupported information to the duplicate entries for William Tanner already in the Family Tree also does not contribute to a solution of the problems.

Monday, July 10, 2017

FamilySearch Center Dedicated in St. George, Utah

For some time now, I have been hearing about the new FamilySearch Center in St. George, Utah. The Center includes a Family Discovery Center similar to the ones opened in the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah and in Layton, Utah. See the Church News article, "FamilySearch Center Dedicated in St. George, Utah."

My wife and I had the experience of trying out the Family Discovery Center installed in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a very engaging experience. I can only assume that the Family Discovery Center in St. George will also be a success and major addition to the area.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Additional Contact Methods Added to the Consultant Planner

The Consultant Planner has shown up on the Get Help menu replacing the "Help Others" link. Another addition is the ability to add someone from your Ward or Stake Directory. However, in going through that process, the program does not seem to add that person to your Consultant List but merely lets the Consultant work directly on the Ward or Stake member's portion of the Family Tree. Apparently, you have to add the connection data each time to help. I have yet to figure out how I am supposed to see the member's Consultant Planner.

Perhaps the person still needs to accept help by clicking on an email. This, of course, fails to address the problem I am running into with people who do not know how to access their email or who do not have an email address. Yes, there are still people out there who do not have regular access to email.

Here is a screen shot of the form you fill out to gain access the Ward or Stake member's portion of the Family Tree. This is not much better, in fact, more difficult, that the now abandoned method of working with a member through their Helper Number.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

When performance is measured, performance improves

In the October 1970 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson, then a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the following:
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" (see Thomas S. Monson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).
For the past few years, family history activity in the Church has been measured and reported by "Key Indicator" reports to the Stake Presidents. Beginning very recently, the reports have been changed and are now called "Family History Reports." Distribution of the reports has expanded considerably and the reports are now available to many of the Stake and Ward leaders and Temple and Family History Consultants. The colorful reports contain valuable information about the progress of family history in each of the Wards and Stakes of the Church.

If a leader or Temple and Family History Consultant is authorized to receive the reports, they will be available on when the member signs into the website. The reports are located in a drop-down menu available from clicking on the member's name by clicking on the link to Leader and Clerk Resources.

Stake Leaders and Consultants will see the stake reports and Ward Leaders and Consultants will see the Ward reports.

These reports should become a valuable tool for the Temple and Family History Consultants in the Church. In some Stakes, the percentages of participation vary widely between individual Wards. Likewise, individual Stakes also vary widely in their members' participation in family history activities. Overall, I have noted a general decline in indexing activity in talking to members of various Wards and Stakes who have the reports. I am also finding that many Wards and Stakes are either unaware of the reports or ignoring them. If you are a Temple and Family History Consultant and registered as such on the Church's Membership and Leaders Services (MLS) website, you should have access to your Ward or Stake's report. Check with your Ward or Stake Clerk to make sure you are registered properly. There is a FamilySearch Help Center document that specifically gives instructions on properly specifying family history callings. The article is entitled, "Specifying family history callings in Leader and Clerk Resources (LCR)." Please provide your clerks with these instructions if there appears to be a problem in accessing the reports.

Friday, July 7, 2017

World Peace and Family History

I ran across this interesting quote:
This is the great mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. War is one of the evils they must forsake: peace is one of the blessings they must cleave to. For they are to link together the hearts of the ancestors and their descendants. They are to turn the hearts of the Jews to their Prophets, and this is essentially a work of peace. It is temple work, and men of blood cannot build or administer in temples.
It comes from the following book.

Smith, Joseph, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Doctrine and Covenants, Containing Revelations given to Joseph Smith, Jr., the Prophet. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1951. Page 621.

Here is a continuing quote from the same page.
Unless the people of God are faithful to their trust as the heralds of peace, the whole Earth will be smitten with a curse--even the curse of war--"and all flesh be consumed before me." Such condition would not permit of work for the dead in the temples of God.
These quotes come from the commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 98. Even though I have read and reread the Doctrine and Covenants many times, Section 98 did not catch my attention as pertaining to temple work. Here is the quote from that Section:
15 For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. 
16 Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children; 
17 And again, the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets, and the prophets unto the Jews; lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me.
This Section talks about our relationship to the laws of the land and is usually referred to in conjunction with the justification of the constitutional law. But here is another explanation of the close relationship between seeking out our kindred dead and the idea that this is the antithesis of war.

I would extend this principle to the idea that involvement in temple and family history work is the basis for peace, not only in the world but in our individual families.