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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Family History Mission: Being Involved in Preparation

No. 1

Introductory note

For those of you who either may be new to this blog or unaware of impending changes, a note of explanation is necessary. My wife and I have been called upon a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Washington DC, North Mission. We will be serving as Record Preservation Missionaries in the Maryland State Archives located in Annapolis, Maryland. We have decided to use our existing blog as a report to talk about our mission experiences. I have chosen the above tagline to identify those blog posts particularly directed at her missionary experiences. Of course, I may also post other items as I have done in the past, depending on the time available.

Preparation can be complicated

Over the past two months, it has become abundantly clear that leaving on a full-time mission for a young missionary is rather simple compared to the complexity of serving a full-time mission as a senior couple. This complexity comes from our involvement in a local ward, and extended family and personal and property interests.

One example involves downsizing from a two-car family to a one car family. Since we will be driving across the United States to serve our mission, we felt it necessary to sell one of our cars rather than leave it sitting for a year. Selling the car turned out to be a rather simple process comparatively. What turned out to be the problem was the remaining car. In gathering important family documents and records, we discovered that we did not have a title to the car. When we purchased the car initially, we finance the car through a bank. The bank loan was paid off years ago but, for some reason, we had never received the title and the bank lien had never been removed from the title. This and other issues involving checking accounts and other financial accounts ended up involving multiple visits to our local bank. Once we got the lien issue resolved, we still had to obtain a title. The problem was that the title was in Arizona and we were in Utah. Conveniently, we took a trip to Arizona to be with her family for Thanksgiving and at the same time visited the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles and got a clear title to our now very well used car.

If you take that experience and multiply it by a few dozen other issues that needed to be resolved, you can see that the idea of preparing for a mission can be complicated. However, throughout this entire experiencing, we have both felt that we were doing the right thing and are anticipating the opportunity we have to serve.

Another, rather sad, experience involves one of my wife's close friends. During our entire preparation time, my wife's friend's husband has been in declining health. As it turns out, one of the last things we will do before entering the Missionary Training Center is to help prepare for a funeral.

Fortunately, we have had excellent support and help from the missionary department and from FamilySearch. Another interesting development has been the rather extensive contact we've had with genealogists and other missionaries serving in the Washington DC area. Primarily, because of my blog and other genealogical activities, we have several contacts now in the area of our mission and likely a number of ways to serve.

We began the process of applying for a full-time mission back in July 2017. We received our mission call rather quickly and were somewhat surprised at what seemed like a long period of waiting before we had to leave. As it turns out, the length of time we had to wait was barely sufficient to take care of all of the details involved. Because we were looking at our personal affairs with the idea of leaving on a mission, we ended up with a long list of items that needed to be resolved that really had nothing to do with submission directly.

In many ways, deciding to serve a full-time mission has already blessed our lives. In a very direct way, our decision to serve a mission has become a catalyst for resolving all sorts of background issues and problems that should have been resolved in any event.

We now only have a few days left before entering the Missionary Training Center. Another interesting difference about our mission is that because we live so close to the MTC we will be living at home rather than at the MTC itself. This is commonly the case with missionaries who live within a certain distance of the MTC.

Stay tuned for further developments. Elder James and Sister Ann Tanner

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Steps for Correcting and Adding Entries to the FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the basic steps in learning to use the Family Tree is understanding the nature of the information presented. The information contained in the entries in the present Family Tree is a composite of the contributions of tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of people for over 150 years. Some of that information is inconsistent, inaccurate and duplicated. Most of us would like to ignore the existing information and move on to try and find new names to add to what is already there. But it is inevitable when we ignore the existing problems that we will be either duplicating work that has already been done or adding people to our family lines who are not our relatives.

During a recent successful research session, I decided to write down and explain each of the steps I went through to add an entirely new family to the Family Tree. Because new information may be added to the Family Tree at any time by some other family member, it is a good idea to go through these steps every time you begin your new research whether you are trying to extend a family line or looking for additional descendants of people already in the Family Tree. Here I go.  If you need any help with the steps outlined below, I suggest that you refer to The Family History Guide. I will be suggesting links to the various sections that might be helpful.

1. Review the existing entries on the Family Tree leading up to the place where you would like to begin your research. 

The step is similar to doing a safety check of an automobile or airplane before traveling. What I am trying to accomplish is verifying that I am actually working on my own family lines and not on someone who is unrelated. Fundamental to this issue is the need to "watch" each of the individuals in your portion of the Family Tree. If you are just beginning, then you need to start with yourself and proceed backward through your parents and grandparents. After this initial survey, you can pick up where you left off previously unless there have been some changes that need to be resolved. See The Family History Guide, Project 1: Family Tree

2. Standardize all dates and places

Standardization may seem to be a bother but it is a necessary housekeeping operation. In fact, the Family Trade now marks nonstandard dates and places with a red caution icon.  See Goals 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.  Here is an example of this particular reference:

3. Review all Sources and add all of the information from the sources to the Vital Information

This might seem to be a simple step but it is essential. With the automatic Record Hints available on the Family Tree that is relatively easy to add a source without making sure that the information in the source agrees with what is shown for the individual's Vital Information. Simply open up each source and check the information to make sure that all of the additions and corrections have been made if appropriate.

4. Delete all Duplicate Birth Names or convert appropriate ones to Alternative Names

Many of the entries, particularly those from previous submissions, have variations in the way that the name of the individual was submitted. These variations show up as a list of different "Birth Names." The actual birth name should be the one shown in the main Vital Information section. Any names listed which are merely orthographic alternatives to the main Vital Information entry should be deleted. If there are actually alternative names, such as nicknames or alternative spellings that are reflected in original records, these can be preserved by changing the entry from a birth name to an alternative name. See Goals 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree. 

5. Resolve any disparities between the information in the sources and the Vital Information

 This would seem to be a redundant step, but it is essential to increasing the accuracy of all of the entries. Sometimes the disparity between the information contained in a source and that recorded for the individual or family raises questions that need to be resolved immediately by research and not ignored. See Goals 8: Learn about sourcing and why it's important.

6. Add all Record Hints

 This question comes up frequently when there are seemingly duplicate record hints. Yes, all of the record hints should be added. If you care to do so after they have been added any duplicates can be detached. However, in order to let the computer program know that the information is correct, you absolutely need to add in all of the Record Hints.

7.  Begin any necessary research to verify existing information and to supply missing information.

This is one of the things that is easy to say but hard to do. Every entry in the Family Tree should have a corresponding source reference. Any information in the Family Tree without a source reference is automatically suspect. There should be no presumption that the information contained in the Family Tree is accurate without supporting sources for further information detailing where the information was obtained. See Project 4: Discover

8. Review added records or sources to make sure they are attached to the correct people and determine if there is any additional information that needs to be added or changed in the Vital Information section.

As you continue to find records, you should go back and make sure that the records are attached to the correct people. This may seem like a repetition of earlier steps and it is. I have to do this several times during the process.

8. Search for additional records on

Now, I have reached the real research step. This begins the process of looking for additional people beyond those that are already in the Family Tree. Remember that there may still be duplicates and those duplicates will have to be resolved.

9. Be sure and check for duplicate records both by searching for duplicates and by looking at the Record Hints and source found by searching.

This may seem like more busy work, but I keep going back through the same processes over and over again. Each time I spend the time to do this I find new names to add to the Family Tree.

There are probably more steps that I am not aware of at a level that I can include them. I seem to do a lot of the work automatically, almost without thinking about what I am doing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Unreserved List

I am discovering that many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are reserving names on their temple lasts in numbers far beyond their ability to actually do the temple work. In the last couple of years, our ability to find and process names for temple ordinances has increased dramatically as a result of the improvements made to the Family Tree. My own list has grown much longer than our family is able to reasonably process. In thinking about the number of entries on my Research List, I came to the conclusion that there are three options:

  • Keep the names on the list until their mandatory removal by after two years
  • Share the names with the temples
  • Unreserve the names and return them to the Family Tree as green temple icons
The reality of keeping the names on the list is that other family members are also generating their own names. So they are otherwise occupied in doing their own work for their own family members. Obviously, different families vary in their involvement in temple work as well as their involvement in doing basic research and producing new names for the Family Tree.

In any case, I strongly suggest that a careful and critical evaluation be made of the possibility that the names on the Reserved List will be done in a realistically short period of time. There is a point when adding more names to the Reserve List is simple hoarding. For example, my wife and I live only a few blocks from the Provo, Utah Temple. We have been able to do quite a few names over the past year. However, even with our close proximity to the temple, we are not going to be able to finish all the names on our Research List before we moved to the Washington DC area. This is especially true since the Washington DC Temple will be closed for most of the time we are there.

The next option is that I could share the names with the temples. This is a perfectly acceptable solution and should be considered. However, I would suggest an alternative. Unreserving the names will allow other individuals to find validly documented green temple icons. For this reason, I have been primarily unreserving names. I am then keeping a separate document listing all of the names I have unreserved. In going back through the document, I find that many of the names I have unreserved have been found and ordinance cards printed. In some cases, however, the names of nearly been added to someone else's Reserve List. I hope in these cases that the person actually does the work and is not merely hoarding names.

You might consider reserving your names as a possible alternative.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Death in the FamilySearch Family Tree: What Happens?

The Family Tree is essentially a repository for information about dead people. What happens when you add a living person to the Family Tree? What then happens if that person dies?

When you add a living person to the Family Tree, the program puts that newly added living person into your own private "Personal Space" to preserve the privacy of that living person. The program also creates a unique ID number for the person added. The newly added person is also a duplicate if the living person is already in the Family Tree. So, for example, if you add one of your children who is living to the Family Tree and they are already in the Family Tree then your addition is a duplicate of their record with a new ID number.

This process applies to any person added to the tree who is not designated as deceased. For example, if you add a great-grandparent and fail to enter either a death date or the word deceased, then the person is included in your personal "Private Space" automatically.

None of the people marked "Living" are visible to anyone else when they are in your Private Space. Perhaps, one reason for having a personal database outside of the Family Tree is the ability to keep track of living people. There is really no reason to add living people to the Family Tree except to link to older generations through the living ones, but you can do so. You can also add Memories for living people to the family tree. However, if the document and the photo that you add also contains the names or images of dead people and you tag the dead people then all of the people in the document or photo are visible to everyone.

Presently, you cannot add sources or discussions to a living person.

Now, what happens when a person dies? Essentially nothing until you mark a person as the deceased. Once the person is marked as deceased, the entry appears to everyone. If the person is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then a ward clerk could also mark the person deceased. If this action is taken by a court clerk a new entry for the person appears in my Family Tree. Obviously, this is a duplicate of your entry. These duplicate entries will have to be merged. Who does the merging? You do.

What happens if multiple people have entered the same individual as living into their own personal spaces? Then there are multiple copies of the individual. According to FamilySearch, 
Memory items tagged to deceased people are visible to everyone. Untagged memory items or memory items tagged to a living person are not visible to other patrons unless someone shares them using one of our social media tools or by sharing the URL.
Here is an extended explanation of adding Memories to living people: "Adding memories of a living person to Family Tree Issues Addressed."

Once a person is marked deceased, the Memories tagged to that individual then become visible to anyone.

If you need a more detailed explanation of Memories, see The Family History Guide section on Memories.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Focus Your Efforts on the FamilySearch Family Tree

If you look closely at the above screenshot from the Family Tree, you will see that there are 72 Memories and 63 Sources attached to this individual. Sometimes, as is the case with Francis Tanner, a lot of research is necessary and documenting that research is also necessary. In this case, as I have been writing in the recent past, the problem is a frustrating end-of-line situation. In other cases, it is merely a need to fully document a well-recorded individual. I can assure you that every other ancestor leading back to Francis Tanner is just as well documented. As a matter of fact, leading up to and including Francis in the eight generations of my male Tanner line, there are a total of 511 sources attached to this particular Tanner line. There are also 723 Memories. Much of the information now in the Family Tree was not previously available to the Tanner family.

For example, the birth record of John Tanner KWJ1-K2F had never been published or referenced previously to doing the research in the Hopkinton, Rhode Island Town Clerk Records. Substantiating each individual has taken years of intensive research.

The idea here is that family history is a cumulative effort that may take many years. The Family Tree is a wonderful tool to accumulate and collaborate all of this information. What is most important is that the Family Tree allows for an ongoing correction process. A lot of errors and misinformation has accumulated over the years and the Family Tree allows us to come much closer to a family-wide consensus concerning crucial identifications and information.

Another important factor is that the information that is found continues to be incorporated into the summaries under Vital Information. I am frequently finding dates and places recorded in the Vital Information section that do not match the records that have been added as sources. When you do find a pertinent record, take the time to accurately record the information in the summary.

One frustrating problem is that people are still making changes without adding a substantiating source. This is even more frustrating when the change contradicts the sources and Memories already available. Reproducing traditional information that is not now supported by sources does not help the overall effort to correct and substantiate the entries in the Family Tree.

I am finding quite a number of people who are focusing their attention on a pedigree or family tree in another program. There are a variety of reasons for doing this. Most commonly, they express a concern about "changes" being made to the Family Tree. However, as I have pointed out, these "changes" are, in many cases, resulting in the correction of the accumulation of false traditionally held information. By failing to focus on the Family Tree, these false traditions are merely being perpetuated. The Family Tree is essentially a "clearing house" for information about the world's families.

Surprisingly, this unsupported and false traditional information seems to come most commonly from This is surprising since supplies a wealth of record hints that are apparently being ignored by its users.  For example, I now have 24 Ancestry supplied sources for my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner. However, in looking at some of the other family trees in Ancestry that share information about this particular ancestor, I find none with all of these sources and some family trees with as few as 4 sources. I can only assume that these people are not focusing on Sidney to any extent and are potential contributors of inaccurate information. The is especially true since Sidney has 66 sources in the Family Tree.

Of course, the raw number of sources is not the only persuasive factor in correcting information. It is not uncommon to find inappropriately attached sources that have not been properly evaluated. But that is another problem for another day.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What do you need to know to come to #RootsTech 2018?

Even though I will not be physically present at RootsTech 2018, I am still very much interested in what is going on. I have been to all the previous years of the Conference. When I started coming, we were living in Mesa, Arizona and now we live in Provo, Utah. So I am acquainted with traveling to the Conference and staying hotels and also traveling back and forth to my home each day of the Conference. I do have a lot of suggestions about Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Conference because of my previous experience.

First of all the weather. Salt Lake City, Utah is just over 4000 feet above sea level and parts of the City are much higher. The City is also located between two high mountain ranges and is well known as a skiing destination. This means there is a really good chance of snow, but certainly very cold weather conditions. However, once you get to the Salt Palace Convention Center where the Conference is held, you will be inside all day. So think about having layers of clothing and some way to carry a coat or whatever.

Also, remember that you will be walking long distances. Even if you arrive with a car or by train or other transportation, you will have to walk. Salt Lake City's blocks. Each block in downtown Salt Lake is 1/8th of a mile. The Salt Palace is almost two blocks long. Think about it. Also, if someone says it is only two blocks to a restaurant, think again.

If you are driving in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, you might be aware that there is a major traffic issue. Traffic on the freeways moves at over 80 miles per hour down to a dead stop. It is very important to check an online traffic indicator to see conditions before you get stuck on the freeway. Also, people in Utah generally disregard traffic lights. We have seen as many as five cars at a time run a clearly red light at one intersection. Do not pull out when the light turns green until you are sure that traffic has stopped.

There is a light rail system from the airport to downtown. If you decided to take the train, be aware that they can be delayed. We have been left standing in blowing snow for almost an hour until a TRAX light rail train appeared. It also fairly common for people or cars to get smashed by trains and TRAX. This ties up traffic and the trains for indefinite periods of time. The downtown TRAX light rail is free in the downtown area. We have used the TRAX and train system to travel to downtown Salt Lake from Provo many times. It is convenient and avoids having to find parking.

Parking in downtown Salt Lake is not particularly expensive. There are a number of lots around the Salt Palace. But some of them are limited to a specific time and parking tickets are expensive. Watch carefully.

Over the years, I have spent more of my time on the exhibit floor rather than attending or teaching classes. You may want to make sure you spend enough time with the exhibitors. That is where all the new programs and such are taking place.

There is a lot to see and do in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. If you have time, you might want to plan a day or more at the Family History Library. It is just a block away from the Salt Palace (long block). It is crowded during the Conference but it is worth the effort. The Salt Palace is across the street from a large shopping mall with dozens of restaurants within walking distance.

You will miss a wonderful experience if you don't visit Temple Square and the surrounding museums and libraries. If you are a genealogist and a skiier, then an extended vacation is almost mandatory. There is transportation to the ski resorts, but be prepared for the high prices.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Family History Mission: Where do all the online records come from?

As my wife and I prepare to serve a full-time mission in the Washington, D.C. North Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Record Preservation Missionaries, my thoughts turn to the vast work of preserving the world's records. We have been told that we will be serving in the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. To document and share our mission experience, I will be posting updates about our mission on this blog for all to read. I have just decided to use the general title of "A Family History Mission" as the tagline for this series that will hopefully be written during our service in Maryland.

It is obvious that some cultures and countries place little or no emphasis or interest on preserving valuable family history records. Even where efforts are made to preserve important records, the ravages of time often destroy records despite those efforts. This tragic loss of records around the world is the concern of those who are interested, for a variety of reasons, in the preservation of all of the genealogically valuable records of the world.

Since the 1800s the Church has been involved in record preservation. This effort took a giant leap forward in 1938 with the advent of using microfilm to preserve images of the existing records. This extensive microfilming work produced approximately 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. To preserve this accumulated collection of microfilm and other records, the Church built a huge storage tunnel in the side of a mountain located near Salt Lake City, Utah known as the Granite Vault. More recently, with the technological change from microfilm to digital images, this collection of microfilmed records is still in the process of being digitized. In addition, the preservation efforts continue as missionary-volunteers are sent around the world to digitize millions more genealogically valuable records.

As much as is possible, these accumulated digitized records are being made available online, for free, on the website. Our interest in preserving additional records is the primary motivation for going on a year-long mission. Through our efforts, additional records will become available online to assist individuals and families to find their ancestral heritage. In addition, many more people will have the privilege of taking their deceased ancestors' names to the temples to provide those ancestors with the opportunity to accept sacred ordinances.

Since my wife and I will be serving in the Maryland State Archives, here is an example of the type of previously digitized records from Maryland on the website that we may be helping to digitize:

"Maryland Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Cecil > J > Johnson, Robert P (1885-32) > image 1 of 4; county courts, Maryland.
The Catalog on has listings for all of the currently digitized records. As new records are added, they will be listed in the Catalog.

The process of providing digitized genealogically valuable records online in fairly complex. It begins with identifying and evaluating collections of records around the world that may be available. Representatives of FamilySearch negotiate contracts with the record repositories to provide both the equipment and the labor to digitize the records for free. Rights to publish the records online on the website are also negotiated where possible. In some cases, the repositories place some restrictions on the dissemination of the records such as requiring the records be viewed only in Family History Centers or at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. But millions upon millions of records are made available.

Arrangements are made to have a missionary couple or missionary couples with the FamilySearch cameras and software available to do the work of taking digital photos of the paper records. The digital images are then sent to FamilySearch for further processing and uploading to This is a rather simplified version of a much more complex process, but escentually, the records are made available for free on the website.

This is an important work and will continue for the forseable future. We are glad to play a very small part in this great work.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Web Indexing Opens a New World of Opportunities
Many of us have long anticipated web indexing as a way to expand the opportunity to become more readily involved in indexing. Desktop software is machine specific. This means that if I am using an Apple Macintosh computer, I need to have an Apple compatible program. The same thing applies to every other operating system. Online programs are usable on any operating system that connects to the internet using a browser program such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox.

My experience is that web indexing is easier and far more convenient than the older desktop-based program. I can also do web indexing on a tablet with a keyboard. I understand that participation in indexing is down since the introduction of the web indexing program. Hopefully, those "old timers" who have been doing indexing for a long time will adapt to the online web-based program. I have found it quite easy to learn and efficient for entering the data.

Because of my many other activities, I am not likely to become a major contributor to the indexing effort, but during the next year, I hope to help supply a lot more digitized records for the indexing effort.

I suggest clicking on the link above and reading the FamilySearch blog post about web indexing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Family History Guide: Update on the Online Tracker

The Family History Guide has a detailed Online Tracker that provides a way for users to track their own progress using the website or for instructors to monitor the progress of their students.

Here is a summary of the new features from The Family History Guide Blog.
The free Online Tracker for The Family History Guide has been up and running for about 7 months, and it now has over 1,100 registered users. (It’s the only part of The Family History Guide that requires a username and password; the rest of the site does not.) With the Online Tracker, or “OLT” as we sometimes call it, you can keep track of your notes and progress in The Family History Guide in a secure online database.
Today we updated the OLT in a number of ways to help your user experience be even better. Here’s a list of the new enhancements, going from top to bottom of the screen:
  • Menu updates. Now the OLT has the same double-menu system as was recently introduced to the rest of the site.
  • Green bar update. The green menu bar now lets you go back to the Home page of the OLT or change your account settings.
  • Learning paths. There are now Project sections for FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast.
  • Country Research. Regions and countries are now represented in the OLT. The North America region is finished, and other regions will be added in the next few weeks.
  • Footer updates. The OLT now uses the same new footer as the rest of the site.
Here’s a look at the new Learning Paths and Country Research sections. Active links in the OLT are green. And “coming soon” really does mean coming soon!

FamilySearch website changes to affect Ancestral Quest

The popular Ancestral Quest genealogy program will be affected by changes to the programming of the website. Here is the announcement from Ancestral Quest:
FamilySearch API: FamilySearch is scheduled to retire the web address currently used by AQ to communicate with FS on 12/5/2017. This build uses the new address. Once FamilySearch retires the old API address, all older versions and builds of AQ will no longer be able to sync with FS or retrieve FS Hints. Users must use this build or a subsequent build to continue to sync with FS or retrieve hints from FS.
An API is a potential link to the data and/or functions of a website that can be used by outside third-party programmers.  Changes made to the API can prevent a third-party developer from accessing the program, hence the difficulties anticipated.

Elder and Sister Oaks to Speak at Family Discovery Day

#RootsTech, the world’s largest family history conference, is coming up quickly on February 28–March 3, 2018, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The last day of the Conference, March 3rd, is designated as Family Discovery Day. In the upcoming Family Discovery Day session, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, will be sharing family history insight and experience. Admission to the Family Discovery Day is free, but entrance to the rest of the Conference has a paid admission fee. 

If you decide to attend the entire Conference, you will experience inspiring keynote speakers, including Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, award-winning photographer and storyteller Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, a gigantic expo hall, informative sessions, and entertaining events, RootsTech has something for everyone. Passes start at just $69. Registration is required for both the free Family Discovery Day and the full RootsTech experience. Visit to register.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Looking at the real end of the line

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

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

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

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

Next example,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

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

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

FamilySearch Consultant Planner by Judy Sharp

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Upcoming Adventure in Record Preservation

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

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

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

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

We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sign in will be required for all users on

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

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

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

More than finding the names

Family history is about more than just finding the names of our ancestors. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discovering their ancestral heritage is more than just a hobby or pastime. It is a fundamental part of our religious belief. As Joseph Smith stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128, verses 17 and 18:
17 And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
This is a personal responsibility and apparently, there is no way to transfer this responsibility to another person. Your great aunt or grandmother or whoever may have "done all the work" for your ancestors, which, by the way, would have been and is presently impossible, but if you are a member of the Church, you still have the same exact responsibility today. Fortunately, as Rodney DeGiulio, senior vice president over FamilySearch records recently observed, “The Lord is hastening His work, and the tools and capabilities available are being poured out to us through His Spirit.” How is this work being hastened?

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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

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

Getting the Most Out of Puzzilla Premium by Judy Sharp

Puzzilla Premium by James Tanner

10-Descendancy Research in Puzilla - Judy Sharp

Strategies for Finding an Ancestor Through Descendancy Research by Judy Sharp

Monday, November 13, 2017

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Some Surprises in Descendancy Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

FamilySearch Family Tree App Now Maps Your Ancestors

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

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

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Temples Filling the Earth

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

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You do not own your ancestors.

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

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

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

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