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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Family History Mission: Processing Documents for Digitization

No. 22

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

One of the tasks we encounter at the Maryland State Archives is preparing the documents for digitization. These are Court Proceedings, primarily probate, guardianship and other court records, from the early 1800s. Our task is to sort and partially waypoint these documents and open them up so they are flat and can be scanned. The paper is in surprisingly good shape. The real challenge is the handwriting.

 This particular record happens to be an Indenture contract. A young boy, with the permission of his father, is being "indentured" to another person for a period of three years. The document does not say how old the boy was, but he was likely between 12 and 14 years of age but could have been younger. For all practical purposes, the indentured servant was a slave for a term of years.

The handwriting above is typical of the early 1800s. It is not easily readable unless you have become accustomed to reading it. Reading old handwriting is a skill that is obtained by simply working at learning the styles and letterforms combined with a lot of practice. This document is essentially a contract between the boy's father and the potential "owner" of the indentured servant.

Here is another example. This is a more formal court hand used in a probate accounting report.

There are a number of letterforms that are now out of style. Of course, today, except for those involved in formal calligraphy, handwriting is quite dead. You should take note of the signature at the bottom of the document.

Here is another example of a probate accounting. This is lovely enough to frame and put on your wall.

The brown color of the ink results in the fading of the old black ink and its interaction with the paper. The degree to which the ink changes color and fades depends on the particular formulation of the ink and the conditions of storage. These documents are in excellent condition and the digitization process will preserve images of them for far longer than they will remain legible even under ideal storage conditions. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Do your own job, don't expect help from others
Temple and Family History Consultants at the Ward or Stake level have a clear mandate as set forth in Understanding Your Calling on

The primary responsibility of all temple and family history consultants is to give personalized help to leaders and families, enabling them to:
Find the names of deceased ancestors, and gather their families on both sides of the veil.

Take the names to the temple, and provide necessary ordinances for them.

Teach their family members and others to do the same.
Once you have been called, you should start doing your job. See the links and instructions on During the years I have been a Family History Consultant and then a Temple and Family History Consultant, I was mostly ignored by the Ward leaders. But I recognized that I didn't need their help or support to do my calling. I could talk to Ward members personally and offer my help in finding names to take to the Temple. I could help them in their homes, in my home or at a Family History Center or Library. I had all of the tools on including The Family History Guide to help me with my work in the Ward.

Before Church meetings and during times when I am with Ward members, I ask them if they need help in finding their ancestors' names to take to the Temple. Most of them respond negatively at first, but by persisting in friendshipping them and offering to provide support and help, ultimately my efforts always result in lots of opportunities to assist.

Now I am a Full-time FamilySearch missionary. Now, I can help even more people to have a Find-Take-Teach experience. I had several such opportunities while in the Missionary Training Center and now I am starting to have those opportunities with those around me in Maryland.

Quoting again from, "How to Organize:"
Temple and family history consultant: Temple and family history consultants have the primary responsibility to proactively help members have personalized, one-on-one experiences finding their ancestors, performing temple ordinances on behalf of those ancestors, and teaching their family members or friends to do the same. Some temple and family history consultants at the area, stake, or ward level may be assigned to support indexing efforts, serve in the family history center, or train other temple and family history consultants.
Do your own job, don't expect help from others but feel grateful and blessed if you do receive help. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Family History Mission: How do we survive?

No. 21

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

Depending on where full-time Senior Missionaries are assigned, we either get to take our own car and load it up with stuff or if air travel is required, we are limited to whatever we can carry and check through the airport. As I may have already reported, we were "required" to supply our own transportation. For many years, because my wife and I both worked, we had two cars. But by coming on a mission we had to consolidate and we sold one of our cars. We kept our all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback and loaded it up with everything we could cram into the back.

One suggestion from a daughter was to preview putting all the stuff in the car by loading the empty boxes before we actually got to the point of the final loading. This helped immensely in planning and visualizing what we could and could not take. Unlike like many missionaries, we have a pile of computer stuff so that had priority. Otherwise, we had to guess what we might leave and what we could afford to purchase on arrival across the country.

Now, if the missionaries are assigned to live at home and serve, they avoid all this. However, some missionaries who we met were going to places such as New Zealand or Europe and had real challenges. Some discovered airline limitations they were unaware of while in the Missionary Training Center and spent days trying to figure out what to leave and what to take. Since we knew exactly how much room we had in our car and definitely did not want to pull a trailer, we could bring a lot more stuff.

In our case, the wonderful Senior Missionaries at the office of the Washington, D.C. North Mission arranged for an apartment (of course, we had the problem of being notified of the wrong apartment number, but that is now being worked out) and furnished it. They did an excellent job. We had more than expected and almost all the things we needed for the apartment. We did make a trip to the Mission Office to stock up on a few more things.

Some Senior Missionaries have to find their own accommodations. Previously, the cost of apartments varied considerably from mission to mission. But, now, there is a fixed amount paid by the Senior Missionaries that varies from place to place around the world. You can go on and find a list of the current costs for every mission in the Church.

In our case, some of the major challenges of moving for a year included mail service and medical prescriptions. But those things are being slowly worked out. We did arrive with very little food and other necessities and we have spent the first full week of our mission with frequent visits to local food stores and other stores to obtain some of the things we need.

As seniors, we need to eat, sleep and rest. We find the change from a less structured life to one where we go to work every day requires our combined organizational skills. One of the biggest challenges is moving into a very busy, big city with roads that never seem to meet at right angles. Without GPS assistance we probably still be lost.

So far, we are surviving.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Family History Mission: Books, Records and Documents

Balance books of estates after payment to heirs
No. 20

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

FamilySearch Record Preservation Specialists aka missionaries are trained to digitize books, records, and documents of genealogical and historical value. As FamilySearch obtains permission and contracts with individual archives, these volunteers (including me and my wife, Ann) are assigned to do the actual work of digitization. With a specialized digital camera on a custom-made stand, the images are transferred directly to a computer for further processing and ultimately for online access on Here is an example of one of the books we worked on today.

Court records from the Maryland State Archives
 We use black clamps to hold the pages stationary while imaging and black cardboard rectangles to mask those portions of the area around the book that might show in a final online image. The software automatically crops the image of the book and leaves a small margin of black. You can see a final image from the website at the beginning of this post.

We can stand or sit to do the imaging or alternate between standing and sitting. We take frequent breaks to walk around and a longer break for lunch each day.

Of course, in our assignment, the Archive is a pleasant place to work and the Archive employees are very friendly and helpful.

The documents we are working on right now are court documents pertaining to probate and guardianship cases. These files are extraordinarily useful to genealogists because they can list entire families with their relationships. These are the type of documents that have previously only been available to those genealogists searching in person in each of the Maryland counties.

In our second day at the Maryland State Archives, we worked on digitizing hundreds of pages of books like the one shown above on the copy stand.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Family History Mission: Our First Full Day at the Maryland State Archives

No. 19

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

Following an enjoyable Christmas break spent with one of our daughters who lives near Washington, D.C., we got up very early to be at the Maryland State Archives at 7:00 am. By the way, it is very cold and dark here in Maryland at that hour in the Winter. We started out being trained to digitize large books of court records. Here is a sample of the type of books we are scanning:

The project is scheduled to last for quite a few years and so this is only one small increment of the endless stream of documents and books to digitize. We work about 8 hours a day for four days and about five hours on the fifth day. The goal is to work 40 hours a week.

Above, you can see the camera setup. The large lights are LEDs and are really bright. Ann and I have started wearing ball caps to cut down on the glare from the lights. When I mentioned that we were going to be working at the Maryland State Archives to someone I was talking to, the response was "how boring!" From my perspective no worthwhile work is boring. People determine whether or not they get bored. I do not get bored simply with repetition. In fact, I cannot get bored. If I have nothing to do at all, I usually go to sleep. But otherwise, I become absorbed in any activity, especially ones that have a goal.

These Maryland records are full of names of individuals who possibly can be found no other way than by looking at these records. I am not just digitizing a stack of books, I am assisting genealogists and family historians to find their ancestors. I may get physically tired, but I never get bored with working at genealogy. If you think of me sitting in the Family History Library looking at microfilm day after day, you can get some idea of my level of tolerance for repetitious family history activities.

Now, not all Senior full-time missionary activities involve repetitious activities. I have had friends who worked on Church history sites and spent their missions planting trees and flowers. There are many mission opportunities that involve physical labor outside doing construction, farming or other associated tasks. I happen to enjoy working with records.

Our first day went well and we managed to digitize three of the brown leather bound books which are shown above plus start a fourth. We are on our way to being productive. These books are Orphan Court Proceedings. More about the records later.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday Message from The Family History Guide

Happy Holidays from The Family History Guide

A Family History Mission:The Life of a Senior Missionary

Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah
No. 18

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

I would seem to me that more older members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might be willing to go on full-time missions if they understood the opportunities and the conditions of service available to Senior Missionaries. Most of the rules and restrictions that apply to young full-time missionaries are not so restrictive for Senior Missionaries.

While we were in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, we had the opportunity to talk to quite a few other Senior Missionaries and I was impressed with the variety of the callings available. For example, one couple I talked to were called as local Member and Leader Service Missionaries or MLS missionaries. They were asked to serve in their own stake and were going to be living at home. They were likely to be working full-time with part-member and less active families.

Another couple served two successive Humanitarian Missions in the Philipines. They told about some of the extraordinary opportunities they had to serve disadvantaged individuals and families with basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. The stories they told were remarkable and they were now on their third mission, this time as Record Preservation Specialists in the United States.

We met couple after couple who were on their second or third mission and eager to serve and who were on their way around the world.

Because the opportunities to serve are so varied, it is possible to have a mission experience suited to your own abilities and needs. If there are economic or physical challenges that prevent traveling, like the missionary couple above, there are opportunities to serve while living at home.

Senior Missionaries do not have the same restrictions as the younger missionaries concerning contacts to their families. For example, with the permission of the Mission President, we were able to spend Christmas with one of our daughters and her family who live outside of our mission boundaries a short distance from Washington, D.C.

As for me and my wife, we are expected to work 40 hours a week, but we can arrange our own schedules and take time for doctor appointments or other needed activities. Our particular work as Record Preservation missionaries is fairly physically demanding, but there are other callings that are less strenuous. We are not generally called to go with or assist the young missionaries in proselyting activities, but we could do so if the need or opportunity arises. We are encouraged to be involved in our mission ward and stake. As FamilySearch missionaries, we are also encouraged to help and assist with teaching and supporting family history.

If you would like to explore the options available, you can see the current openings in the Senior Missionaries Opportunities Bulletin. This publication is sometimes made available in the wards and stakes by posting it on a meeting house bulletin board. Although you can state your preferences as to where you would like to serve, the ultimate decision on assignments always lies with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as directed by the Spirit.

Take time to carefully consider this wonderful opportunity.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Family History Mission: What is FamilySearch

No. 17

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

Even though we are called and set apart full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are also "volunteers" at the Maryland State Archives. We do not wear our black missionary badges or wear Sunday clothes to work at the Archives. First of all, it is dusty and physically demanding work at the Archives. We dress appropriately to do that kind of work. Also, it is inappropriate to mix the Church and the State. Just as the LDS Helping Hand volunteers wear the Yellow T-shirts, we wear what is appropriate for our service. We do wear an identification badge as shown above.

FamilySearch is essentially the Genealogical Society of Utah or GSU, founded back in 1894. The GSU does business as FamilySearch, International, a wholly owned corporation of the Church. Since 1938, FamilySearch and its predecessor organizations have been gathering genealogically important records from around the world. Originally, these records were made available through a rental program where duplicate copies of the microfilmed records were shipped to Family History Centers around the world for use in the centers by patrons. The cost of renting individual rolls of microfilm was subsidized by FamilySearch but was still a significant cost for those who did a lot of research. I used to accumulate a list of microfilm rolls that I wished to use in my research and when I got a long enough list, the cost of renting the microfilm was essentially equivalent to my cost to drive to Salt Lake City, Utah and visit the Family History Library where I could view the microfilm rolls for free. So I would plan a trip to Salt Lake to do research. It helped to have family in the Salt Lake area to visit also. Of course, not everyone could make a trip to Salt Lake just to see microfilm rolls.

As the technology changed, it became possible for FamilySearch to "digitize" the microfilm records and with the advent of the internet, those digitized records could be made available for free to everyone around the world. In some cases, the savings in time and expense to genealogical researchers could be significant.

This brings me to our calling as Record Preservation missionaries. We are FamilySearch missionaries. Our job is to digitize paper records so that the images can be viewed online on the website. If you view what we are doing in its historical context, you can see the value of the free, online digital images compared to the time-consuming and costly microfilm rental system. We are not just working at an archive, we are helping people around the world discover their families and their heritage. We are also helping to provide a valuable link in the process of providing the blessings of temple ordinances to those who are now waiting in the Spirit World.

FamilySearch is the organization that makes these records available. FamilySearch employs computer programmers and designers who create and maintain the online tools to do genealogical research such as the website. Volunteers, mainly missionaries, augment the FamilySearch employees in their work. As missionaries, we work closely with our FamilySearch employee supervisors and support personnel to provide quality images for online publication. FamilySearch also maintains the Family History Centers around the world and maintains the Granite Vault record storage facility. They are also involved in training and maintain online and print publications to help people discover their families.

We are looking forward to our opportunity to serve and help preserve genealogically valuable records.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Is the Mormon Doctrine of Baptism for the Dead a Controversial Topic?
The truth is that many of the doctrines and practices are controversial for the reason that dissidents who have either left the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or who have been excomminicated attack the Church by using lies or half truths to foment controversy. The above article is a good example of the actions of those who have left the Church attempting to create controversy and cast aspersions on the Church. I am not promoting the article, but if you do read it, you will see that the "controversy," if there is one, comes from accusations made by former members.

Basically, the issue raised in the article is that members of the Church, not the Church itself, have requested and performed temple ordinances for individuals who the dissidents classify as "Holocaust victims." As a genealogical researcher, I do not find enough information in the article to either confirm or refute the allegations made by the dissidents. I do note that the article itself quotes a representative of the Jewish community who is apparently not disturbed by the claims made against the Church. Here is the quote from the article.
Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the former national director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, watches the LDS database on behalf of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. He has asked church leaders to regularly remind Mormons about the church policy. 
He defended the LDS Church, saying the number of names found by Radkey "are infinitesimal" in scope, that the church has "an astonishingly good record" and that the process he oversees is working. 
"As somebody who's been involved at this level for many years," Greenebaum said, "I find it sort of extraordinary that someone is still wanting to say that the church is not acting in good faith, because I think it is acting in extraordinarily good faith." 
Greenebaum has been watching the church for more than a dozen years at the request of the late Ernest Michel, an Auschwitz survivor who worked on the 1995 agreement. The LDS Church sends Greenebaum a monthly report on submissions of Holocaust victims and updates him on how each case is resolved.
Interestingly, from the standpoint of someone working on my own family history and helping others by using the Family Tree, I would have some observations on the subject.

First of all, the article clearly records the fact that the accuser examined the Family Tree to find the information she alleges. The Family Tree is freely available to both members and non-members. But in order for a person to see the temple ordinances, the user would have to have access with an LDS account available only to members. In other words, the accuser gained access either through the cooperation of a member, who she does not name, or through misrepresentation by using some member's ID number. In addition, as an attorney, I would be suspicious of an accusation that did not include some evidence that the people submitting the names were, in fact, members of the Church. If she gained access to the temple ordinance information as a non-member, then it would have been possible for someone to fraudulently use the program to make the Church look bad.

By the way, millions of entries are added to the Family Tree every year and the fact that the accuser could only find 20 names in a five year period shows the effectiveness of the Church's efforts to comply with the requests from the Jewish community.

Recently, all users of the website are going to be required to register for a free account. This action alone will markedly increase the security and accountability of the entire website.

As a genealogist and as a member of the Church, I take these types of attacks personally because I constantly teach about the need to follow the rules set forth in submitting names for temple ordinances. Please read and follow the guidelines for submitting names.

A Family History Mission: Our Introduction to the Maryland State Archives

Maryland State Archives 2017
No. 16

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

We spent parts of two days at the Maryland State Archives getting a tour and an overview of the work we will be doing to digitize the records. There are two main divisions in the work being done: preparation of the documents for digitizing and the operation of the digital cameras to capture the images of the documents. While I was listening to the explanation of the workflow and the procedures involved, I was reminded of my first classes in Civil Procedure (court procedures) in law school. There is a set way to do everything from the opening of the file boxes containing the documents to sending the digitized images off to FamilySearch.

We have to learn both the procedures and the physical process of making the digital images so that the document images are in focus and readable. We had a little bit of an introduction while in the Missionary Training Center but seeing the actual documents and the setup with the cameras in the Archives is a completely different experience. Analogous to my first legal experiences, learning about Civil Procedure in law school was nothing like my early contacts with the court system. The MTC experience gave us a bit of the language and terminology but did not give the entire hands-on experience. 

The Archives building is impressive and very functional. From the size of the parking lot for visitors, it does not seem to be used by onsite researchers all that much. Of course, it is right before the Christmas holiday when this post is being written and once we get past the holidays perhaps the situation will change. 

We were told that there were three missionary couples at the Archives. As we found out, with us, there are six couples. There are four cameras in operation. Two of the couples will end their missions in the next few months so there may or may not be replacements. From what we have seen of the complexity of the operation, three months of overlap is barely sufficient. We are expected to work 40 hours a week, so this is a full-time job. We begin work at 7:00 am and work through, with a break for lunch, until 4:30 in the afternoon. Right now, of course, the sun is setting about 4:30 so we will be coming and going in the dark for a while. 

We will be digitizing court record books and probate files. The books and records seem to be from the early 1800s and are in pretty good physical condition. We understand that some of the records are not in such good shape and the workers wear dust masks because of the mold and dust. 

The Archive building is located right between the Naval Academy Football Stadium and the Academy Baseball Stadium. I don't think there are two parallel roads in the entire city. Few of the intersections we have seen so far are anything near right angles. From the perspective of years in Mesa, Arizona, the streets are narrow and there are no setbacks to most of the buildings in the older sections of the city. 

We have been too busy trying to get organized with our apartment and with the mail etc. to do any sightseeing. We are familiar with D.C. and the surrounding area. One thing that surprised me was the high hills (mountains?) in western Maryland. I did not realize so much of the state was forest land and high hills. The highest mountain in Maryland is known as Backbone Mountain at 3360 feet. Since our home in Provo is just under 5000 feet above sea level, we would consider that "mountain" to be a hill. Mount Timpanogos, which we can see from our front room, is 11,749 feet high. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Family History Mission: Some Observations So Far

No. 15

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

So far, our mission has been an extraordinary experience. Whenever we are faced with change and uncertainty, we can become apprehensive and concerned. But so far, everything, even the difficult parts of our mission has been positive and uplifting. If you have read any number of my blog posts, you know that I tend to comment about nearly everything. Here are a few comments so far in no particular order and not about any particular topics.

In past trips across the United States around Christmas time, we have seen thousands of homes with Christmas lights. This time, we saw almost no Christmas decorations or lights on individual houses. The absence of lights became noteworthy.

The Missionary Training Center is one of the most remarkable places and one of best experiences we have had for a long time. The organization of the whole MTC experience was incredible. The spiritual content of the training and instruction was almost overwhelming. Everything about the experience was fascinating. We loved the experience and were glad to have come on a mission so far just because of our experience in the MTC.

One of the best parts of coming on a mission has been the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. We have found helpful, kind people both among the Church members and other missionaries as well as from people who we have met along the way. Some people have gone out of their way to be helpful to us as strangers whom they had never seen before. We have been the recipients of many acts of kindness. One example, since we had a mixup in our apartment address, we have had to worry about mail. My wife saw the mailman delivering mail to the apartments and told him about our plight. He kindly remembered the problem and delivered some of the mislabeled mail that had already arrived to our new correct mailbox.

We are adjusting to the intense traffic experience. We have lived and driven in Panama City, Panama and other places such as Utah Valley with terrible traffic issues, but Washington, D.C., and Annapolis raise the experience to monumental proportions. The traffic here is not just bad, it is incredibly bad. In addition, parking is also a nightmare in some areas.

Our apartment turns out to be very nice and certainly adequate for our needs for a year. I miss the wonderful view of the forest out my window in Provo, but I am overall happy to be here.

We were told many times about how beautiful it is in Annapolis, Maryland. Getting here in winter and with the traffic has yet to impress me much.

We love the Maryland State Archives. The people are friendly and the missionaries are wonderful. We had a taste of what the work consisted of in our short visit so far and we are impressed with the ability of the missionaries but a little overwhelmed with the complexity of the entire digital preservation process. Our training at the MTC gave us an overview and some familiarity with the procedures, but to see it from start to finish impresses us with how difficult our learning process will be.

We can now relate to those retired people who are downsizing their housing. When we moved from Mesa to Provo, we actually ended up with a slightly larger house. However, our house in Mesa had far more storage room. But moving to this much smaller apartment is much more of a challenge. However, the apartment is very nice and will work fine.

We haven't had much contact yet with the younger missionaries, but seeing a whole mission's worth of missionaries all at the same time was impressive. They look a lot more mature and older than I remember from my own young missionary experience. They certainly are much better prepared than we were back years ago.

We are trying to resolve all of our present challenges caused by the wrong apartment number etc. and will be ready to go to work the day after Christmas.

The United States is really large and driving across almost the entire country in just a few days is an exhausting experience for us old folks. However, many of the Senior Missionaries appear to be a lot older and have much greater challenges than we do. We are grateful for their wonderful service.

It looks like I am using the word "wonderful" a lot. I will have to think of some more imaginative adjectives. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Family History Mission: Traffic, Traffic and more Traffic

No. 14

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

We almost made it to Annapolis but stopped about two hours away because it was getting too late after driving all day. We found out that the Washington, D.C. North Mission was having an all day, all Districts meeting at a Stake Center. We got to the meeting a little late due to traffic but had a wonderful time attending a missionary meeting and then with a very good lunch. We also got to be part of a photo of all the missionaries in the Mission. We then drove across town to our new-to-us apartment.

We were quickly involved in the reality of trying to drive anywhere in and around D.C. The traffic is intense: sort of like Utah Valley on steroids. The photo above is not one of mine, it is a stock photo, but it does show pretty much what we saw driving on the Washington Beltway. Traffic will be a part of our lives for the next year.

We arrived at our apartment, or so we thought, and could not get the key to work. There was nothing wrong with the key, we had been given the wrong apartment number. We finally got that figured out and got moved into the correct apartment, but then we realized how many different address changes we had made using the wrong apartment number. We started into getting the internet set up, changing all the changes in addresses we had made over the past week or so and started unpacking. By the next morning, we had internet (or I wouldn't be writing) and food and started to get the addresses changed again.

Annapolis is supposed to be a lovely place, but so far I haven't seen anything since I have my eyes glued to the road and all the traffic. I am sure that we will have a good time here despite the traffic. We have been contacted by the FamilySearch missionaries in the Maryland State Archives and will be meeting with them soon. 

Search FamilySearch Records at Home posted a more detailed account of the location of all of the records right after my last post about the Catalog. They must be seeing the same issues I am seeing with people not knowing about all the records. I suggest that you read and teach what is in this blog post. 

Here is the link:

However, what is missing from the explanation is the fact that there are millions of digitized records that have been added to the Catalog that are not available in the Historical Record Collections and cannot be searched except by locating them in the Catalog and searching them just as you would a roll of microfilm. However, such searches have been somewhat expedited by the fact that the records are filtered using a method of "waypoints." For example, the digitized records are organized by location and year. 

I will continue to write about this issue in subsequent blog posts. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Over 600 Million Digitized Images Only in FamilySearch Catalog

You might not be aware that there are over 600 million digitized record images that are only available for viewing from the Catalog. These images are not included in the commonly searched Historical Record Collections. I have written about this before, but this past week, I have already found people in a Family History Center that did not know that there were digitized records that were viewable only from searching in the Catalog.

The images in the catalog correspond to microfilm rolls that have been digitized and added online but not yet processed into the Historical Record Collections. There are several Brigham Young University Family History Library Videos about searching in the Catalog and they won't go out of date unless there are major changes in the Catalog. Here is one of them.

Catalogs: The Key to Using and - James Tanner

The digitized microfilm rolls in the Catalog are indicated by small camera icons next to the film description. Here is a screenshot of a Mexican microfilm entry showing the camera icon:

If you are looking for records on the website, it is necessary to begin your searches by using the Catalog so that you are sure you are finding all the digitized images. 

There is some confusion over the issue of digitized images vs. those that are both indexed and digitized. Indexing allows the users to search for records using the indexed fields in the records. Indexing on FamilySearch is a labor-intensive operation relying primarily on volunteers. Only a small percentage of the total number of digitized records have been indexed. When you do a search in the Historical Record Collections, you are only searching this small percentage of all the records that are available in either the Historical Record Collections or those only available in the Catalog. The Catalog is the only place on the website that lists all of the available records: those that have been digitized, those that are still in microfilm format and all of the other resources such as the digitized books. Again, when you are searching for a name on you are only searching the indexed records. 

The numbers of records indexed and digitized on the website change almost daily. There are always more records both indexed and unindexed. Keep looking and keep repeating your searches. 

A Family History Mission: Arriving in Annapolis, Maryland

Maryland State Capitol
No. 13

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

After five days of traveling, we are finally arriving in Washington D.C. It turned out that we were just in time to attend a Missionary Multi-District Meeting. The last day of driving saw us cross the rest of Indiana, then across Ohio and into a part of West Virginia and on to Maryland where we spent the night before we begin driving the rest of the way into Washington, D.C.

We got a late start on our next-to-the-last day of driving but still drove about eight hours. We have done marathon twelve and fourteen-hour drives in the past, but that was usually when we did not have to drive the next day. If you are driving day after day, it is a good idea to pace yourself. We also do not enjoy driving at night. Years ago, I could leave home after work on Friday and drive all night to get to Utah, but those days are past.

We stopped about two hours away from Washington, D.C. on the last night of the trip because we could see that there was a lot of traffic around the city and thought it would be better to approach the city in daylight. We are experienced enough with D.C. traffic to realize that the beltway is really one long parking lot.

We need to get settled into our new-to-us apartment and run a few errands. Stay tuned for our first introduction to life in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Family History Mission: Traveling to the Mission Field Across the Plains

An old road grader in Illinois
No. 12

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

It is very interesting to me that our trip to our mission field in 2017 takes us along almost the same route traveled by the early Mormon Pioneers starting back in 1847. The longest time the pioneers took to cross the Plains from Winter Quarters, which is now in Nebraska, to the Salt Lake Valley was three months and a week. As the years passed, subsequent pioneer immigrants had the benefit of the westward expansion of the railroad. The pioneer era ended with the completion of the railroad to Utah in 1868. Hence, pioneers are those who crossed the Plains between 1847 and 1868. The completion the transcontinental railroad link took place in Utah on May 10, 1869.

Our trip across the United States, much further than the distance to cross the Plains, will take about five days. We drove up Provo Canyon, east of where we live and then traveled north to Interstate 80. Most of this road roughly follows the Mormon Trail. We drove into Wyoming and then across to Nebraska. Fortunately, we had good weather all the way. One observation is that there is almost no snow and this could be a real problem. The only snow we saw was off the side of the road in the mountains and there was not much of that.

Once the freeway gets to Nebraska, the road is almost perfectly straight. We drove on Interstate 80 all the way to Davenport, Iowa where we dropped south on Interstate 74 and crossed the Mississippi into Illinois.

Many of my own ancestors and their families crossed the Plains. Some of them many times when they traveled back to help others or to carry freight. The Mormon Travel Overland Travel website has a database of those who have been documented to cross the Plains during the pioneer years. If you might have pioneer ancestors, you can search for their names and find out the pioneer companies they were in when they traveled west. There may also be other documentation. My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, crossed the Plains a total of five times in three different companies.

This has a special significance to me since I am now "crossing the Plains" to serve a full-time mission just as many of my ancestors before me have done.

The photo above was taken at a rest stop in Illinois. It doesn't have anything to do with pioneers, but my Tanner ancestors were also road builders and probably used a road grader like this one at some point in the work. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Family History Mission: A Family History Opportunity

The Christmas Tree in the foyer of the Missionary Training Center
No. 11

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

We continued our trip across the United States and stopped off in Sidney, Nebraska on Saturday night. We got up and attended the Sidney Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday morning. Even though we were concerned about keeping this marathon drive going, we decided to stay for the entire block of meetings. It turned out that the Ward had a Family History Center and both Ann and I were able to sit one-on-one and help two people with their genealogical research. Ann was able to use her knowledge of Swedish research to help a lady whose mother came from Sweden and I helped someone who had a brick wall issue. Using the Consultant Planner, I will also be able to continue helping him with his family long distance. Interestingly, we had previously decided to stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming but we got there so early, we changed our mind and drove further to Sidney. All this happened so that we could help two people with their family research.

We have been concerned about the weather, but so far the roads have been dry and there have been only a few drops of rain or snow. We drove as far as Lincoln, Nebraska and decided to stop for another night.

Those who are interested in family history need to be proactive in helping others.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Family History Mission: Immersed in Technology

A camera capture setup for digititizing records for
No. 10

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

The second week of our Missionary Training Center or MTC experience was spent learning how to apply the standards for digitizing used by To understand what we will be doing when we serve at the Maryland State Archives, it is necessary to understand about the steps involved in putting a document online on the website. 

First of all, you need to understand where the digitized documents will ultimately end up how that benefits everyone who is searching for ancestral connections. 

Here is a copy of a digitized document from the Catalog and as found in the Historical Record Collections. 

When indexed, this record will be available to anyone who searches for an ancestor or relative on the website. The unindexed records are also available but they are essentially copies of the original microfilm, i.e. digitized records that must be searched one by one in many cases. For beginning genealogists, this is a challenge, but for those of us who have been searching microfilm for years, it is still a great step forward because we can search anytime from home in most cases. Anyway, this is a topic for another post. 

Of course, there is quite a bit to learn to understand how to find these records on the website, but if there were no digitized records available, then the only place this document could be found would likely be in the originating entities' collections or perhaps on microfilm somewhere. In this case, this U.S. Census Record would be in the files of the National Archives. There is quite a process that these records have to go through before they appear in the Catalog or Historical Record Collections.

First, the FamilySearch acquisition team has to identify potentially valuable records around the world and make contact with the record repositories. Then, rights to digitize the original records must be acquired by FamilySearch through negotiation by its representatives (employees) with the various record repositories around the world.  After a formal contract is negotiated, missionaries or contractors can be assigned to digitize the records.This part of the process, negotiating the contracts, can be very complicated and time-consuming. You would think that all the repositories would like to have FamilySearch come in and digitize their records for free, but politics and other considerations often make the process either impossible or difficult. 

OK, so once the records are identified and the contracts are in place, teams of Record Preservation contractors or missionaries are assigned to digitize the records. 

Some of those who digitize records for FamilySearch are professional contractors who do this for a living. One interesting group of contractors in some parts of the world are the participants in the Perpetual Education Fund. The Perpetual Education Fund is a program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which loans money to needy students around the world who then can go to school and learn a trade or profession and then repay the money to the fund. The fund is supported by donations from members of the Church. Some of those who obtain loans can work at digitizing records to help pay for their loans. The rest of those helping to digitize the records are hopefully an increasing number of senior missionaries, like me and my wife. However, lately, the number of senior missionaries has been decreasing because of economic and family issues. More about that later.

As I am learning, the digitization process is complicated. In the Missionary Training Center, during our second week, we were given a thick binder of information about the equipment, the software and the process of digitizing the records. I am sure I will have a lot to say about this process as we get to Annapolis and get to work. But you can see a photo of the camera setup above on this post.

Once the records are digitized by the Record Preservation Specialists (us), they are sent on military grade hard drives to Salt Lake City to be processed into the system. The files on the hard disks are audited by a team of auditors and any images not up to the standards of FamilySearch are required to be retaken. For us, this will be like being back in school with a test every week as to how we did in digitizing the records. As I wrote above, I will likely have a lot to say about this process once we actually get going. 

If the digital copies are acceptable, then they go through another process to be put online and made available on the website. If you monitor the number of images going online every week, you will see that millions of images are moving onto the website every week. 

Well, we are on our way to Annapolis. It will take us about four or maybe five days of driving. We are not trying to drive 12 hours a day so it will take longer than it used to when I was younger and driving across the country. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Family History Mission: Transition to Annapolis, Maryland

Early evening view of the MTC
No. 9

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

We are nearly at the end of our Missionary Training Center or MTC experience. This will be a short post. We have one day of training from FamilySearch in Salt Lake City and then we began our long drive across the country. During the past week, our second week in the MTC, we have had classes on the process of digitizing historical records using digital cameras. The instruction is pretty technical and is a challenge for those without a background in computers and photography.

The training at the MTC is marvelous and very pertinent to what we will be doing in the "mission field." I will try to give a few more updates as we drive across the country.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Premature Post

Sorry about the premature post. I meant to save the title on the last post for updating and clicked post instead.

Here is the link to the updated post about the new features on

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Training Resources on

Sorry about the premature post. :-(

The Consultant Planner contains a link to some exciting new training resources. First, you have to go to the Consultant Planner under the Get Help menu in the upper right-hand corner of

When you look at the Consultant Planner, you will see a new notice:

Click on the link. You will then see the following page:

Then, click on the Resources tab for more options:

Try out all the new links and resources. If you click on the "Basics" link, for example, you will see the following links:

Guess what? the Family History link and the Computer Basic Link each link to The Family History Guide.

A Family History Mission: Learning Our Assignment

The Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center at Night
No. 8

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

Today was the first day of our second week in the Provo, Utah Mission Training Center or MTC, right next to the Brigham Young University campus. We have driven past the MTC nearly every day and sometimes many times a day for the past three and half years and it is an interesting experience to be in the MTC. Quite a change. The first week of our mission experience was based on learning about missionary work from the Preach My Gospel manual.

This week is focused on training to use the digital cameras during our assignment to work at the Maryland State Archives. Quoting from the website:
The State Archives serves as the central depository for government records of permanent value. Its holdings date from Maryland's founding in 1634, and include colonial and state executive, legislative, and judicial records; county probate, land, and court records; church records; business records; state publications and reports; and special collections of private papers, maps, photographs, and newspapers.
We will be serving as FamilySearch Record Preservation Specialists. Interestingly, we do not wear normal "missionary" clothes or have the black missionary badges because it is a government facility. We will be attending a local Ward and are already making plans to help in the Family History Centers in the area. Will be living in an apartment in Annapolis.

The process of digitizing records is fairly complicated. From negotiating contracts with the record repositories to the actual digitation process there are several steps. Even after the records are digitized it takes several steps to prepare the records for publication online. The end product still needs to be indexed. But this whole process is revolutionizing genealogical research.

Without volunteers, there would be far fewer free online records available to the genealogical community. In addition, many of these records have not been generally available without the time and expense of actually visiting the archive. This is a win-win situation everyone benefits from our effort.

By the way, the digitization process turns out to fairly complicated and involves a lot of steps. The cameras are mounted on large stands and need to be calibrated and focused before every digitization session. I am familiar with the process since I participated in the original development of the software when I volunteered to assist FamilySearch in digitizing the Mesa City Cemetery Records that are now on

New Features Added to the Consultant Planner

Show birth countries
The Consultant Planner has some new interesting and informative features. The views of the fan chart have been expanded to include:
  • Show Birth Countries
  • Show Birth Years
  • Show Memories
  • Show Sources
Here are screenshots of the new views. You can access the new views from the pull-down menu. 

Show Birth Years

Here is the next view:

Show Memories

The fourth and last new view:

Show Source
Each of these views allows both the individual and those helping to quickly see the "status" of the person's entries on the Family Tree. The more color, the more it is likely that people have been working on the entries. If they are thinking of adding another fan chart, I would suggest one showing whether or not there are any red problem icons. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Family History on the LDS Media App
The LDS Media App is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can download the app to your smartphone or tablet or iPad from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store for free. The LDS Media App page on (see above) has links to Guides for both versions of the app. Quoting from the webpage:
Wherever you teach, the LDS Media Library app gives you complete and searchable access to the Church media library. Complement Sunday lessons, Family Home Evenings, or missionary discussions with easy-to-find videos, images, and music content.
The resources on the LDS Media App can also be downloaded for use without an internet connection. Items are downloaded automatically so they can be used for lessons and other presentations. One very important point is that the videos of conference talks or other videos can be trimmed down to play only the portion you want to present. Cable adapters can also connect your device directly to a monitor, TV or projector for use in a class.

You will be surprised at what you might find for use in family history classes or for talks about family history. A search for media will result in dozens of images and videos.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Family History Mission: Changes from the Past

Large wall plaque in the Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah
No. 7

I could not help but reflect back on my experiences years ago in the Language Training Mission held in the old Knight-Mangum Hall on the Brigham Young University Campus and compare my original experiences with those we experienced in the Missionary Training Center or MTC this past week.
Here is a quote from a Deseret News article entitled, "The development of the Language Training Mission (LTM)."
Previously serving as a women’s dormitory, the Knight-Mangum Hall on the southeast edge of BYU’s campus became the central office for what became known as the Language Training Mission on June 16, 1963. All missionaries learning a foreign language were sent to the LTM, with similar facilities eventually established at Ricks College (for Dutch and Scandinavian languages) and at the Church College of Hawaii (for Polynesian and Asian languages). Through August 1976, the Knight-Mangum Hall served as a place for missionaries to live, eat, learn and worship.
Recently, Knight-Mangum Hall was demolished to make way for the new Brigham Young University Engineering Building.

My mission experience as a young man began with a trip to the Salt Lake Mission home on North Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. We were there for one week before being transported to the LTM in Provo. You can get an idea of our life there from an article entitled, "A Day in the LIfe of a Language Training Missionary," published in the New Era in March of 1971. Our experience in the LTM was vastly different than the one experienced today in the MTC. In fact, in talking to senior missionaries this past week who have served missions previously in the past few years, they also said that today's program is vastly different than it was just a few short years ago.

When I started at the old LTM in 1964, they were only teaching a few languages. Today, the MTC teaches 55 different languages. But the main differences come from the emphasis and the training offered to the new missionaries. The current MTC experience is centered on teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Preach My Gospel publication. Our instruction during the week was a mixture of practical lessons including using electronic devices and the apps available to testimony building activities in actually presenting lessons to others.

The experiences I had at the LTM were intensive and life-changing, but I can tell from our short first week at the MTC, that today's missionaries are vastly more prepared to serve than we ever were.