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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Helping People with their Family History

No. 86

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

Serving a Senior Mission is not all work and no play. We had a mission-wide activity for all the Senior Missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission where we went sailing on the Bay and then had a crab dinner. It was lovely weather and several of us got to steer the sailboat for a while. Notwithstanding all the places I have been and all the activities I have participated in during my long life, I had never sailed on a large sailboat before and certainly never steered one.

One of the major activities we have had during our stay in Annapolis, Maryland other than digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives, has been to help people find their ancestors and in my case, teach classes, do presentations, and webinars. It has been a blessing to work with the Spanish-speaking members of the Spa Creek Branch and with the support of the Branch President and the Elders Quorum President, we have had quite a few of the members meet with us so we can help them find their ancestors.  Right now, the Washington, D.C. Temple is closed for two years, but the members of our Branch, have been scheduling regular temple excursions to drive 2 hours to Philadelphia to attend the temple.

I have also been working in the local Family History Center two nights a week and helping the patrons, including some of the other Senior Missionaries, to learn how to do the research to find their ancestors. In many ways, this has been a continuation of what we were doing at the Brigham Young University Family History Library before our full-time mission, but it is interesting to have that experience in a whole new area that is far removed from Arizona or Utah.

We are starting to see that our mission will end and the time is flying by. 

Take 15 Minutes for Family History with The Family History Guide

Quoting from a recent blog post from The Family History Guide:
One of the most common reasons people use for not getting involved in family history is, “I don’t have the time.” Yet if you ask busy people if they could spare 15 minutes a day—or every other day—for something very important, chances are they’d say yes. That’s where the “15 Minutes” approach can be helpful. We recently added a “15 Minutes” button on the Home page of The Family History Guide.
The button is shown above in the screenshot from The Family History Guide homepage. The post goes on to explain how this 15 Minute Button works:
  • The Quick Tour button shows a 6-minute video about the features of The Family History Guide.
  • The Get Started button takes you to the Get Started (Quick Start) page, where you can review family history or computer basics, or
  • The 15 Minutes button takes you to a newly revised “More Things to Do” page. This page is geared towards doing family history tasks and activities in short spurts, which may be ideal for young families and others who have busy schedules.
There are many tasks on the Family Tree that can be accomplished in 15 minutes a day. For example, it would take less than 15 minutes to upload a couple of photo to the Memories section and tag the people. It would also take much less than 15 minutes to add one or two Record Hints and check to make sure they apply. Instead of spending hours with social media, perhaps you could spend a few minutes helping your deceased ancestors.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Let's Eliminate Noise in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Noise in the context of transferring information is any type of disruption that interferes with the transmission or interpretation of information from the sender to the receiver. In our case, the Family Tree is the sender and we are the receivers. The "noise" is the disruptive information that is intentionally or negligently present in the Family Tree that disrupts our using the information for the purpose for which it was intended. Do I need to give some examples? How about this for noise:
Granted, not all of those 52 changes to only 10 people were noise, but 21 of those changes were to one person.

By the way, the list of changes goes on and on for Francis Cooke. This is definitely noise. Can FamilySearch do anything to cut down on the noise level in the Family Tree?

Over the past few years, as the Family Tree program has developed, many of the underlying issues with the information inherited from over a hundred years of genealogical submissions to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been "cleaned up." On its own, this process of standardizing entries and correcting errors has eliminated a great deal of the confusion and noise present in the program, but in some limited areas, such as the Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke, the noise level is still deafening. Here is what is happening.

Over the past hundred years or so, people both in and out of the Church have been accumulating their family history mostly in the form of paper records and more recently in the ancient Personal Ancestral File program. These records are like a huge reservoir of "noise." Very few of these records were accurately recorded or supported by source citations because that was not a priority at the time they were created. The dam holding back this huge reservoir of records broke when FamilySearch instigated (introduced) releasing a flood of informational noise. FamilySearch contributed to the flood when it dumped in all the previously submitted records including millions of duplicate records. During the time was in use, the flood increased exponentially. The program actually encouraged adding in more unsupported information and additional duplicates.

When the Family Tree was introduced, the flood of noise was rampaging through the genealogical community augmented by millions of individual family trees on other online genealogical database programs. Slowly, as the years passed, the flood subsided. FamilySearch began to get control over the flow of information into the Family Tree and the users began to provide sources and remove duplicates. Meanwhile, like a lone voice drowned in the flood, I have been writing, teaching, presenting and working away trying to persuade people to get rid of the last vestiges of the flood of noise in the Family Tree. Actually, there are a lot of people out there who are aware of the problem and making tremendous attempts to stem the flood.

How do we stop the flood of noise?

I have an idea. We need to form Family Tree Noise Abatement Groups (aka vigilantes) who can join together in groups, such as the descendants of Francis Cooke and talk to each other about maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree one person at a time. We can agree to look at the target person every day (or frequently) and send messages about maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree to anyone who makes an unsupported change. We have such an informal group targeting others in my family line and this has been successful in almost completely eliminating the noise and changes.

I would suggest that we could use Facebook to create a memorial page for each of these target individuals and use the page to exchange information about the ancestor that needs to be corrected. We could also refer those making changes to the discussion on the page and send them a standard message. Here is an example of one of the standard messages I send to everyone making changes to my ancestor William Tanner.
We certainly appreciate your interest in the Tanner family. However, we notice that your changes were made without reading the existing documentation, sources, and memories. We also notice that your changes were not supported by any contemporary sources. Please take the time to carefully consider all the information that is already available on the Family Tree before making any changes. The Ancestral File is not a source. It is a compilation of user submitted pedigrees.  James Tanner

Extensive research into North Kingstown probate and other files has shown that the the father of Francis Tanner MTC6-SWW and his brothers, Nathan Tanner LFY7-PVT, and Benjamin Tanner M2G7-SMB whose name was William Tanner, had a wife named Elizabeth. He could not have been the William Tanner who was born in 1657. So far, we have counted at least 12 possible William Tanners in Rhode Island at that time and research is continuing to Identify the one who is the father of Francis Tanner MTC6-SWW, Nathan Tanner LFY7-PVT and Benjamin Tanner M2G7-SMB. Please feel free to add a source record supporting any additions you make to the Tanner Family. Also, the records show that a “William Tanner” married Elizabeth Colgrove in 1723, long after both Francis and Nathan were born. Perhaps, you could take the time to the read the extensive documentation and Memories attached to Francis Tanner before making any changes. Please be aware that the Tanner books are highly inaccurate and are not at all supported by the documentary evidence. Please take time to read the sources and the attached Memory documents. 
Doing this would go a long way to eliminating the noise and making things a lot more pleasant on the Family Tree. Who wants to start?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thoughts on Changes and their impact on Family History

A number of major and minor changes have been announced in the last two sessions of the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of these changes will directly or indirectly affect those members who are interested in pursuing family history activities. Teaching genealogy in the Church has a long, although somewhat inconsistent history. The earliest formal attempt to teach members that I can find is this set of lessons first published some time before 1915. Here is a screenshot of the third edition cover.
The Genealogical Society of Utah was established in 1894 and continued to be the main agent of the Church for promoting genealogical research to the present. Currently, it is doing business as FamilySearch. Piecing out this history is quite difficult. The best reference is the following book published back in 1995.

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

There are still copies of this book available on although they are becoming more expensive to acquire. There is a Kindle book edition that is reasonably priced.

Over the years, there have been times when teaching genealogical skills were promoted more by the Church than other times. At times, formal classes for both adults and children were implemented and then abandoned subsequently over the years there is quite a legacy of family history manuals and publications both by individuals sponsored by the Church and by those who published independently. I have acquired quite a library of these old manuals.

That brings us to the most recent practices. For many years, the leaders of the Wards and Stakes of the Church have been encouraged to call "Family History Consultants." During that same time, there has been a succession of supporting materials including manuals, CDs and DVDs. The support usually focused on holding a "Family History Class" during the Sunday School hour of the three-hour block of meetings on Sunday. Dating back to about 1962, the Church has been implementing "Family History Centers" around the world. The first of these was started at Brigham Young University inside the main Harold B. Lee Library on the Brigham Young University Campus. There are now more than 5000 of these Centers around the world. More recently, a few of the Family History Centers and Libraries have been augmented by adding "Family Discovery Centers."

The commitment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to family history and genealogy is based on revealed scriptures. See the following:
As I have written several times previously, during our travels around the United States and Canada and while working at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and the BYU Family History Library, we have found that many, if not most, of the people, called as Family History Consultants or Temple and Family History Consultants are given very little, if any, training and about the same level of support. There are always notable exceptions, by and large even if members of a ward or stake are somewhat involved in family history, they are not aware of the Temple and Family History Consultants. I have very recently observed individuals being presented for sustaining vote as Temple and Family History Consultants when the person doing the sustaining did not even recognize the correct name of the calling. 

What will change from now until the beginning of 2019 when most of the recent changes go into effect? 

From the standpoint of the Temple and Family History Consultants who have relied on contact with the members during Sunday School, that contact will likely be curtailed. In fact, the instructions specifically indicate that Temple and Family History classes or meetings will not occur during the now two-hour block of meetings. Quoting from the enclosure to the First Presidency letter dated October 6, 2018:
Other courses, such as those for strengthening marriage and family, temple preparation, missionary preparation, and family history, will not be held during the second hour. However, at the bishop’s discretion and based on local needs, these courses may be taught at other times for individuals, families, or groups.
Does this change the present policies and instructions to Temple and Family History Consultants? No.

Here is a quote from Learn How to Help Others from the training for Temple and Family History Consultants on
As a temple and family history consultant, you help individuals increase their love of family and build connections to their ancestors and our Heavenly Father through personalized family history experiences.
This is best accomplished by working with someone in their own home or as an alternative in a local Family History Center. We do this by talking to individuals and asking them if we can help them find names from their own families to take to the temples.

What about the Stake and Ward Temple and Family History Consultants? Well, there have also been a few changes in the Elders Quorum since the Elders Quorum was combined with the High Priests Group. The responsibility for Temple and Family History and Missionary Work on the Ward level has changed. The Bishop still has overall responsibility, but the Elders Quorum President and his counselors may be given those responsibilities.

Although there have been scheduling and organizational changes, the basic responsibilities of Temple and Family History Consultants and individual members have not changed. I will still be working to help people find their ancestors individually or when asked, in classes, webinars, seminars, and conferences. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Years ago when we were working in the Mesa, Arizona Temple, a man came in pulling a large rolling briefcase like the kind we used to haul our trial exhibits to court. He opened the briefcase and we could see that it was almost entirely filled with thousands of printed Temple Ordinance Cards. In short, he had reserved and printed thousands of cards. This is what reminded me of what my grandmother used to say about not biting off more than I could chew.

Temple work is not a competition sport. You do not get bonus points for having a huge number of names reserved. The idea is to do the Temple work, not collect the cards. Of course, when I bring up this subject, there is always someone who points out that they are supplying their family or their Ward or even their entire Stake with names. But, the counsel of our leaders is very clear: we are to do our own family names. Yes, we can share them with family members, but that does not relieve family members from helping with the research or participating in family history in ways that they are able.

What is a reasonable number of names that I should have on reserve? Do I need to quit doing research when I have "enough" names? Should I be letting Ward and Stake members help me?

The answer to each of those questions is highly personal. What is a realistic estimate of the number of times you will be able to attend the Temple? In my case, I have a number of grandchildren who are able to go to the Temples near them and do baptisms for the dead. I am glad to be able to share my names with them.

When I find more names of ancestors and relatives than I can reasonably do, I begin unreserving them and letting my larger family do the work. Meanwhile, I keep an "Unreserved" list and if I need a few more names, I can see if anyone has done the work or reserved any of the names I have on my list. I also keep doing research to add more names.

This is an ongoing work, but it is not fair to other family members or to the people waiting in the Spirit World just so you can have a pile of names. Use moderation in all things.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Surviving Dementia: Part One

From what was possibly the first indication of cognitive disability until he died from what was most likely Alzheimer's disease, my father lived almost 16 years. In an article published by The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) entitled, "Survival of people with clinical diagnosis of dementia in primary care: cohort study" the findings of the study were summarized as follows:
The matched comparison group contained 112 645 people aged 60 years and over without dementia, with 432 307 person years of follow-up. This group was younger (mean age 72.2 (SD 8.6) years) and consequently had a longer median follow-up time (3.1 (interquartile range 1.4-5.6) years) than did people with dementia (1.3 (0.5-2.7) years). In the dementia group, 41.6% (n=9372) had died compared with 17.5% (n=19 713) in the non-dementia group. More than a quarter of people with dementia transferred out of the practices (27.5%; n=6195) compared with 10.2% (n=11 490) of people without dementia. 
The median survival of people with a diagnosis of dementia was associated with age at first recorded diagnosis. The median survival for people aged 60-69 years at diagnosis was 6.7 (interquartile range 3.1-10.8) years, falling to 1.9 (0.7-3.6) years in those aged 90 years and over (fig 2⇓). The five year survival ranged from just over 50% in 60-69 year olds to 25% in 80-89 years olds.
In short, the study concludes, that "people with dementia have a lower life expectancy than do people without dementia" and "mortality rates are more than three times higher in people with dementia than in those without dementia in the first year after diagnosis."

When we think of dementia, we think of the terrible loss of productive life experiences, but there is another, just as serious, loss from dementia, that is the suffering and loss of productive life experiences on the part of the family members and others associated with the impaired individuals.

There are many progressive diseases such as cancer that rob individuals of life, but dementia in all its forms robs the affected person of life long before they die physically. In my father's case (and my mother's also) as the disease progressed, it was like watching the person disappear in stages. Finally, all that was left was the shell of a body. During the entire time of their illness, my parents were blessed with extraordinary care. But despite the high level of both medical and personal care, the inexorable progress of the disease resulted in an almost constantly worsening tragedy.

There are different types of dementia. Here is a list of the commonly accepted types. For a short explanation of each type see "What is dementia (neurocognitive disorder)."
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Mixed dementia
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Vascular dementia
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Alzheimer's disease is the most common and affects from 60 to 80 percent of all of the people who have dementia. However, since there is no reliable diagnostic method for determining whether or not a person has Alzheimer's before the person dies, the number of actual cases is just an estimate. Another factor that affects the reported incidence of the disease is the fact that some people can have the brain changes presently associated with Alzheimer's and not exhibit any symptoms. Accurate figures would require a specific autopsy on everyone who died. 

Technically, my father was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's and my mother was diagnosed as having Dementia with Lewy bodies, but neither of these diagnoses was confirmed by an autopsy. 

My father was an attorney who graduated from Harvard University Law School. He practiced law in Arizona for almost 50 years. The earliest account of a problem with my father's cognitive ability was about his getting lost while driving. However, this was not at all that unusual, we had been lost a number times on trips. Having now lived in the East for almost a year, I can certainly related to getting lost while driving even with GPS. I am hoping this is not a symptom of dementia. However, as the disease progressed, we started to see personality changes and mild memory loss. During the entire course of the disease, he never admitted to having a problem and became belligerent if the subject was brought up. 

What can you do to minimize the impact of dementia for yourself or for those around you? Unfortunately, if the person suffering from dementia denies the problem, there may be little you can accomplish. But if you have a history of dementia in your family or even if you don't there are quite a few things that you can do that will lessen the impact on you and your family. This series will talk about the ways you can prepare for old age, regardless of the onset of dementia or not but the focus will be on the effects of cognitive disabilities from my own experiences both as an attorney who was actively involved in the issues of old age disability and from our family's experience. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Family History Mission: Interesting and Strange Documents: Part 1

Mouse chewed document
No. 85

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

Thanks to a comment from a reader, I am going to show some of the interesting and somewhat strange documents we have seen during our time digitizing documents at the Maryland State Archives. The first one above is a mouse (or other rodents) chewed document that we ran across recently. Not that I find all these documents, we are currently down one pair of Senior Missionaries, but we have four cameras and a lot of local volunteers preparing and digitizing the documents. Some of these images were made by other missionaries. When we find an interesting, unusual, or strange document, we usually take a photo and many times share the photos with the other Senior Missionaries. 

One of the first challenges in preparing the documents for digitization was reading the handwriting. The Maryland State Archives has requested that we provide a preliminary index of the records and that includes the primary person or people named in the record and the date of the court filing and some information about the type of record. The documents also need to be unfolded. Most of these documents have never been touched since they were filed in the Maryland State Orphans Court going back into the early 1800s. Here is an example of some of the handwriting challenges. Of course, after almost a year, for me, this looks pretty simple to read. 

But here is a challenging document:

Some of the time, we need to confer with the other missionaries or look up possible names online to see if we can make sense of the documents. In this case, the paper is actually blue. 

Here is another type of challenge. The long document. We can't imagine why they did this. 

Because these are court documents, many times they needed an official seal. This practice has mostly disappeared, but in the absence of a metal seal, the clerks of the Court got inventive. Here are some examples of seals. 

This document is also unreadable, shows a pedigree, and comes from somewhere in Europe. 

This is a Notary Seal. We have been doing probate files and before about 1900 there are no notaries the documents were filed under oath and had a certification by the Clerk of the Court. 

There are a lot more interesting documents and I will keep posting them from time to time. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Dementia and Alzheimer's

First a few definitions. Dementia is the umbrella term for any chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning serious enough to interfere with daily life. Historically, it was often referred to as senility or mania and was considered to be a form of insanity. It was also called softening of the brain. Alzheimer's is a particular form of dementia. There are many forms or manifestations of dementia in addition to Alzheimer's. However, Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Because dementia is a progressive disease and worsens over time, measuring the number of people who have the disease is nearly impossible but estimates range as high as 50 million people with about 10 million new cases every year. Here are some facts from the Alzheimer's Association website:
  • Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with dementia
  • Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from heart disease had decreased by 11% while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased by 123%
I have had a very long and very involved experience both personally and professionally with dementia. Both my parents died of dementia-related disease and my wife's mother also died of dementia. I also worked as an attorney investigating and dealing with the issues associated with clients and potential clients with dementia-related problems including people who were the victims of exploitation and adult abuse. I spent about 15 years working directly with people with dementia and to become knowledgeable, I spent a considerable amount of time researching and studying all of the aspects of the diseases that fall into the category of dementia. 

The demographics of genealogists puts us squarely in the category of higher risk for dementia-related issues. I am certain that many of us have an unresolved, background concern that we may be next in succumbing to the disease.

Unfortunately, even though more than 25 years have passed since I first started to become acquainted with dementia, not a lot of progress has been made in curing the disease if it really is a disease that can be cured. Alzheimer's, for example, can only accurately be diagnosed after a person has died. 

One of the earliest signs of dementia is short-term memory loss. I have observed a marked decline in people's ability to operate a computer and I have subsequently seen that decline evolve into the full-blown symptoms of Alzheimer's. Using a computer with a window or graphical user interface requires multiple short-term related activities from remembering passwords to remembering where items are located when covered by open windows. Unfortunately, I also run into dementia-related symptoms when I am helping people work on a family tree due to the requirement that the person be able to remember information as they move through adding or correcting entries. I also suspect dementia-related issues when I see people add or correct the same information over and over again. 

All of these computer and genealogy related issues fall directly into the 10 categories of signs and symptoms listed by the Alzheimer's Association. I just see these symptoms more frequently because I am working with people all the time and helping them with their genealogical activities. 

From my own personal standpoint and because of my long experience with the progression of the disease, I am very sensitive to small changes in cognitive ability. Unfortunately, I can usually detect that person has a problem with dementia within a few minutes of talking to them or helping them with computer-related activities. I never say anything to the person or their family members unless specifically asked to make an evaluation. 

As an attorney, I have further observed that some of the side effects of dementia on family members and their relationships can suffer almost as much damage as the disease itself. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Family History Mission: Down the Stretch

No. 84

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

The temperature began to drop here in Annapolis, Maryland. When we arrived in December 2017, the trees were bare and it was cold and snowy. We have watched the Winter end and the arrival of the new leaves and flowers. We have made it through the heat and high humidity of the Summer and are now seeing the first signs of leaves turning colors. We are used to the traffic and have become experts in using a combination of cars, buses, and trains to get to about anyplace we need to go. We have solved the challenges of stores, doctors, car repair, haircuts, and many others. We have gone through the transitions at the Maryland State Archives of missionaries coming and going. We have walked in the rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, heat, and everything in between.

Even with all this, the Archives and the rest of living in Annapolis can still throw some challenges our way. This week the lights in our apartment complex went out after there was a loud bang. I guess I should be used to power outages, but I was surprised that we had one here in Maryland. I thought this was a developed part of the country. Anyway, the lights were back on in a couple of hours and we were back in civilization.

We said goodbye to one of the missionary couples and are looking forward to their replacements arriving within the next few days. We get some interesting questions from the missionaries who are trying to find out about what to expect. Apparently, some of the things they tell them and of course, told us, in the Missionary Training Center are not appropriate to Maryland, but we are interested to know why some of the missionaries would have those strange issues to deal with.

To review a little, we have four pairs of missionaries operating cameras at the Maryland State Archives. We also had one pair of missionaries assigned to doing preparation work, i.e. working with documents like those in the photo above. The missionaries that just left to go home were in charge of the preparation work so we have been making adjustments to reorganize our workflow so the preparation area gets the attention required by the Archives and necessary for doing the work.

We work about eight hours a day, five days a week and we are usually too tired to move by the time Friday rolls around. We have Saturdays to plan activities and have taken advantage of the museums and other attractions in the Washington, D.C. area. We have focused on helping members find their ancestors so they have names to take to the temples and this has been a highlight of our mission. We decided to attend the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) and that has been a major part of our missionary experience. We really enjoy working with the members. I do feel sorry for the Senior Missionaries who do not take the time to become involved in doing their own family history and also do not take time to help the members.

Outside of the missionaries assigned to the Maryland State Archives, we have almost no contact with any of the other Senior Missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission. We have had a couple of Mission Senior Activities, but that about sums up our contact. We have also had little contact with the young missionaries. We have been asked to do missionary apartment inspections and that will continue about monthly. The only young missionaries we see at all regularly are those assigned to the Branch we attend on Sunday.

We have to do all the things we would normally have to do to live. That is the bottom line of being a Senior Missionary. As you can tell from this post and all the preceding ones, we will not be coming back with a pile of photos of people smiling and waiting for baptism or smiling with investigators. Our experience has been challenging and interesting. We have had some amazing experiences. We will be leaving our mission right before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Evaluating the Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

I have been working with the most recent changes made to the Family Tree now for some time and I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate the changes in terms of my previous experience.

The most obvious change is to the position and content of the menu bars on the Detail pages. There are now four different menu bars in addition to a side menu.
This is in addition to the menus in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
OK, I am very familiar with the Family Tree program. I use it almost daily. Despite the recent changes, some of the most confusing issues of all these menus have been preserved. For example, there is a "Tree" menu item and a "View Tree" menu item. Despite the very similar names, they have completely different functions. The "Tree" menu item returns the user to the main Family Tree view and the "View Tree" item focuses the Family Tree on the principal individual who is selected in the Detail view.

In addition, the items in the menu bars #1 and #2 above, are a mixture of drop-down menus with several individual selections and links. Some of the link menus are duplicated in the drop-down menus. For example, there is a "Find" option in the Menu #1 Family Tree menu that is a duplicate of the Find link in Menu #2. The "Person" and "Lists" options are also duplicated between the two menus.

Redundancy in a program is not necessarily undesirable, but it can be confusing. I do not really use some of the options because even though they are more prominently featured, I simply have no use for those specific features. By the way, if you really want to see what is happening with your portion of the Family Tree, look at the Lists items and choose "Changes to people I'm watching." Here is my example.

Those 481 changes are only for September 2018.

One change that makes my workflow more difficult is the fact that viewing Sources and Details are now on different pages, so I have to either have two windows open at the same time or switch back and forth to see the existing data.

The Time Line and its included map feature is a significant help. But I do not use it very often because it reflects work that has already been added to the program and I use maps to do research for records that are not yet added to the people in the Family Tree.

The rework of the details about each person is a neutral change. For me, it is not either more convenient or more difficult to use. I do like changes to the edit options.

Having all the sources for the entry readily available may possibly act as a deterrent to those who are trying to make changes without a supporting source. I am still getting used to the changes to the Standardization menu. I think it makes standardizing an entry easier but I am still not sure how it is supposed to work.

I will probably have a few more comments as time passes and I keep working on the Family Tree. Overall, it is a very useful and well-organized program. I like most of the changes and can live with the rest.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Living with Old People

Quoting the U.S. Census Bureau's article, "Sixty-five plus in the United States:"
America's elderly population is now growing at a moderate pace. But not too far into the future, the growth will become rapid. So rapid, in fact, that by the middle of the next century, it might be completely inaccurate to think of ourselves as a Nation of the young: there could be more persons who are elderly (65 or over) than young (14 or younger)!
According to the Census Bureau's "middle series" projections, the elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. By that year, as many as 1 in 5 Americans could be elderly. Most of this growth should occur between 2010 and 2030, when the "baby boom" generation enters their elderly years. During that period, the number of elderly will grow by an average of 2.8 percent annually. 
I do not think of myself as "elderly." But to most people under the age of 30 or so, I am positively ancient. I passed the Census Bureau's definition of elderly a very long time ago. However, one indication of my age is that many of people I have known for years are dying off and the pace of die-off seems to be increasing. When we return to Utah, we will be living in a state where the number of people in the Census category, i.e. over 65, is under 12%. In some states, like Florida, the percentage is over 14%.

I guess I will start thinking about being old when I decide to slow down and take life easy. Hmm. That is not likely to happen. So, when will I be old? One thing I can tell is that all the intense activities of my youth are culminating in a bundle of physical consequences that translate into pain. I have to guess at which of the injuries is presently causing pain; falling off of cliffs, avalanche, car accidents major and minor, skiing accidents, or just all around falls. At least I don't have any basketball or football injuries, just rock climbing, spelunking, water and snow skiing, and years of hiking on rough trails. When I fall, it is usually pretty spectacular.

Both of my parents died from dementia-related diseases so there is always a possibility that I will start having those kinds of problems. Basically, one of the major issues with getting older is that you start associating with old people. Old people are a lot easier to get along with than young people. At least they can relate to your challenges and viewpoint. But, as I have mentioned before, becoming old in the United States is essentially becoming invisible. I can literally have people walk into me because I am so invisible.

One thing I do not have to worry about is looking for a job. I have more than three strikes against me. Not just my age, but also my former occupation as an attorney and my advanced degrees. I don't think I could even qualify as a Walmart greeter. Plus smiling at people all day would probably drive me over the edge.

One of the major benefits of old age is that you have a better idea of what you like and what you don't like. In my case, another benefit is that I have been so many places and done so many things that I don't feel compelled to travel or make up for lost time. So, I will just keep writing and teaching as long as they will read and listen. That makes up for the age, by the way.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

#RootsTech 2019 is Coming Up Fast
RootsTech 2019 is coming up fast. Registration is now open and there is both Early Bird pricing and special pricing for Temple and Family History Consultants. For special pricing for Family History Callings see RootsTech 2019 Discounts for Family History Callings. The Conference begins on Wednesday, February 27 and runs through Saturday, March 2, 2019. In addition, here is the information about the annual Family Discovery Day:
As part of RootsTech, the Family History Department also hosts Family Discovery Day, a 1-day event to inspire you to discover, celebrate, and cherish family relationships. Family Discovery Day features inspiring devotionals from General Authorities, as well as breakout sessions taught by popular speakers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family Discovery Day begins on March 2, 2019, and will be streamed live on the home page.
For more information about the Conference see RootsTech 2019.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Family History Mission: Comings and Goings

No. 83

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

The reality of serving a full-time mission whether you are a Senior Missionary or a young missionary is that missionaries arrive and leave at different times. In attending the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) we have seen quite a few changes in just the few months we have been here in Annapolis, Maryland. From the standpoint of the permanent members, missionaries are kind of like the weather, coming and going with the seasons. As Senior Missionaries, we get a longer view but we still come and go.

We have enjoyed working with six different pairs of Senior Missionaries while we have been working at the Maryland State Archives and we are about to have another change this coming week. It is amazing how dedicated and persistent these older couples have been. Each individual has had challenges but despite personal losses of family members, illnesses, aches, and pains, they keep working day after day.

One thing I can say for sure, the experience of being here is nothing at all like I worried about or expected. Because of my involvement in genealogy, being here in Annapolis has been more of a continuation of my previous involvement than a complete change. We have spent a great deal of our time helping the local members and other missionaries and even people outside of the mission across the world with finding their ancestors for Temple work. We have also managed to have some involvement with the local genealogical societies. I still have a number of webinars and classes to teach before we leave to return home to Provo, Utah.

Surprisingly, time does pass and we are no thinking about the process of returning home to the mountains, which, by the way, seem to be burning up right now. The process of moving across the country does not get any easier from an apartment than it does from your home. We are still fighting with the U.S. Post Office. In fact, we got a junk mail letter sent to the apartment we never lived in that was addressed to my mother who has been dead for ten years. Figure that out.

If you have ever thought about going on a full-time Senior Mission, take the thought seriously. It is a marvelous opportunity. I can assure you that your family will survive your leaving them and you will have some wonderful, but perhaps difficult, experiences.

During my time here, I have been in contact with some friends from Mesa, Arizona who are serving a Temple Mission in Mexico. They have been having a dramatically different time than we have had. Our work here is more routine since we work eight hours a day, five days a week. They have a more "people-oriented" mission while ours is directed at our work of digitizing documents.

On our free days, mainly Saturdays, we have had a lot of opportunities to explore the Washington, D.C. museums and other attractions. For genealogists, we got to visit the National Archives and have in-depth visits to the Library of Congress. We have learned how to drive and ride the Metro here in Maryland and D.C. and had a lot of very interesting experiences. We have had several visits from our children and their families and many other great experiences.

All in all, it has been worth the time and the effort. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Improved Ordinance Finding App on
Automated finding and document searching aids are a boon to genealogists who are actively searching for opportunities to take family names to the temples. But these suggested connections still rely on the accuracy of the information already in the Family Tree. This recent announcement by FamilySearch indicates that they are getting the message about the need to improve the accuracy of these automated suggestions. I strongly suggest reading the entire blog post linked above so that you can understand what is available. 

If you have a huge number of ancestors on the Family Tree like I do, you may wish to spend some time verifying the information for any of the suggested opportunities. Here is an example of one of my suggested opportunities recently.

Here is the reality of that entry.

You can see that there is a lot more to the story than just showing a pretty icon. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Still waiting for the Golden Years: Computers and Technology

There are certain rites of passage to getting old. One of the first thresholds is signing up for an AARP membership. When you do, you start getting their monthly magazine. I am sure you are in the category of those people who throw away the magazine as soon as it comes in. However, as a long-time compulsive reader, I got through every issue. What catches my attention are the ads aimed at the lowest common denominator of profiled old people. By the way, almost all the people used in the ads are not old by anyone's standard. I know old when I see it.

Anyway, back to the AARP Magazine. There is always a full-page ad for a "Senior Computer." The taglines are that these touchscreen computers are "easy to use and simple" and that they are "foolproof." They come with a bunch of generic or at least unidentified software already installed. They also come with a large print manual.

Who are they selling these computers to? The children, not the parents. Let's suppose that this is really an easy-to-use computer even though the words "easy" and "computer" cannot accurately be used in the same sentence. Who is going to connect this easy-to-use computer to the internet? If the senior person needs this type of device, how do they log into any of the online social networking programs? They are ostensibly set up to "access the web." What about all the logins and passwords needed to gain access to websites? What if they sell this computer to this user? This is an excerpt from a review of one of the easy to use senior computers.
First, let's be honest about computers in general. Unless you are a techno-geek who loves cyber-problem solving, they are ALL unreliable piles of junk. I have owned several types of computers over the years and I have NEVER had one that performed to a satisfactory standard of user-friendly ease. All of them are persnickety gadgets that freeze, crash and do strange and unexplainable things at a moment's notice. At this time, I own a slick, top-of-the-line Mac and I find myself on the phone to Apple tech support almost daily because of the problems that continually arise.
This person doesn't need a computer, he or she needs a cat or dog and a manual typewriter. I have had problems with my computers if I go back many years. I am now using an iMac and I haven't had it ever freeze or crash. Some of the programs I use have done "strange and unexplainable things" including freezing and crashing, but that is part of the wonderful world of computers and to be expected. I don't remember ever calling Apple tech support in my life except when I was operating an authorized Apple dealership.

Hmm. The ads make no mention of printing or scanning or any other peripheral device. Most of these require a driver loaded into the operating system. Oh, oh, the operating system is not identified either. What about upgrades? The world outside of these easy-to-use computers is changing every day.

Basically, this whole subject brings up the issue of the "digital divide" or the virtual division that exists between those who do not have web access for some reason (including poverty, lack of electricity, or some other condition besides old age) and those who do. In my opinion, the real solution is a smartphone or a tablet. If a person wants to write, edit photos, work on family history, or do hundreds of other tasks, no simplified push-icon computer is going to do these things. But I have had good experience transitioning older people who want to read email, see social networking, and etc. to using a tablet or a smartphone. With voice recognition gaining traction, you can now talk to your smartphone and send messages, make appointments, and do lots more.

By the way, the world is expected to buy over 1.4 billion smartphones in 2018. Most of the people I am dealing with right now do not own a computer but all their work on a smartphone.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dia de Muertos

The Dia de Muertos will begin on October 31st and continue to November 2nd in 2018. Here is an explanation of the holiday from Wikipedia: Day of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reflections on Duplicate Entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

The new format on the Family Tree automatically shows the number of possible duplicates waiting to be resolved. Some or all of these may not actually be duplicates but it is always necessary to start by checking this link. Here is what you might see on a detail page.

Notice the date and the lack of information. There is really no way to tell if you have or do not have duplicates for a person with so little information and so far in the past. An entry like this needs to have more research. But in this case, if the only information available turns out to be the identity of her husband, additional entries showing this person married to Henrie Betts, would indicate duplicates. Here is a screenshot of the results of searching for this person on

If you want to focus the search, you can copy and past the location of the person and add a spouse's name or parents' names. That will reduce the number of hits or results. In this case, interestingly, adding the additional information resulted in no results at all.

You would think that the program could at least find the person being used for the search, especially when there appear to be 11 duplicates. Is there a reason for this apparent contradiction? Yes, but it is very complicated. In this case, the only record that mentions this person is a birth record for William Betts. The reason for the lack of results most likely comes from the limitations of the indexing process. Her name is spelled "Joane" and "Joan" and there are no dates or places associated with this person.

If you want to understand how to find all the duplicates and resolve those ancestors who have interpolated information, you need to begin researching forward in time, that is, starting with people who are well documented and move systematically back in time. Let's look at the duplicates listed for this person.

Can we automatically assume that all these records showing Joane or Jane or Joan are the same person just because they are all married to someone named Henrie Bates or Betts or Betes? If we look at any one of these suggested duplicates, we will see that there is a problem in making that assumption.

Other than the single name, there is really nothing to show us that these two people are the same. Further down in the comparison, we can see that this duplicate actually includes more duplicate entries.

If I were to continue merging the list of "11 duplicates," I would soon see that there were likely many, many more hidden away in the vast cloud of people on the Family Tree.

There is no real way to avoid this issue. Almost every family line in the Family Tree will eventually get to the place where there is a cloud small or large of duplicate entries like these. There are always exceptions, people who have a limited number of entries, will likely not have encountered the duplicates. Additionally, there are many places in the world that are not yet well represented by the Family Tree. Those of us who have been working on our genealogy for years and come primarily from Western Europe or the British Isles will almost inevitably fall into this morass.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Family History Mission: No Hurricane -- A sunny Day

No. 82

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

All of our hurricane preparation was in vain. The hurricane turned south and will miss us. Although we will eventually get some of the rain, I suppose. We did have some excitement today at the Maryland State Archives. We had a fire alarm go off and everyone had to go outside and stand around for a while. It was not a drill and a lot of policemen and firemen showed up to check out the building. There is some construction going on and I speculated that the vibrations from the construction may have set off the alarms.

Otherwise, we had another day digitizing records. All of the records we digitize are reviewed both by use before we send them off to FamilySearch and after they are received by FamilySearch. Occasionally, we get a notice to "Rework" some images that do not come up to the standards set by FamilySearch. Since we are digitizing thousands of records a week, I suppose that it is inevitable that a few might have some problems. But we have had very few reworks.

When we left the Archives today, it was warm and sunny but rain is expected the next two days. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

An Abundance of Gospel Resources
With the publication of the new four-volume book Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days,  there has been an explosion of new historical and doctrinal writings available primarily through the Gospel Library app on iOS and Android devices. I started to read Volume 1 of the Saints book and in the last few days, I saw that the entire book was now available in the Gospel Library. All of these materials are in the Church History section of the Gospel Library app as well as on
Here is another part of the huge number of in-depth writings available in another section called "Church History Topics."
The amount of information is almost overwhelming. Many of these topics directly address issues raised by detractors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Take some time to start learning. When you search for the apps in the App Store for Apple or the Google Play store, you need to search for the specific title of the app. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Family History Mission: Hurricane Preparedness

No. 81

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

We are usually prepared with a supply of food. If we were home in Provo, we would have our "year's supply" plus a gas grill to cook on and a whole lot of other important items. But here in an apartment in Annapolis we have limited space and need to consider that what we have left we either give away or throw away or try to pack into our car. We did buy some water and some bananas. Actually, we bought a few more things but some were things we would have purchased anyway.

Do we think the hurricane will hit us here in Annapolis? From the maps today, Monday, with a hurricane coming on Wednesday, it looks like we get the edge of it and a lot of rain. Sam's Club was not being mobbed by purchasers and they had a huge stock of water and were hauling in more. No empty shelves here.

Our apartment is right next to the Spa Creek but we are on the second floor and not too concerned that any water will get to us. The main issue is all the trees. If the wind blows the trees will come down and the power might be off for a while. If it comes to Thursday and I am not posting, you can guess that the power is off.

If the power does go off, we would not be able to work at the Archives. With no computers and our phones on limited charges, we would have to watch what we use to keep the phone going as long as possible. We can always charge the phones in the car, however. We are definitely in one of the areas that are high risk.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Family History Mission: The week of the Hurricane

No. 80

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

I guess our excitement this week is the fact that we are potentially in the track of a hurricane. This will be our first hurricane. Hmm. We didn't usually have them in Mesa, but occasionally got the rain from remnants that came north from Mexico. We will keep you posted with some photos if there is anything to post.

My assessment is that we have had so much rain here in Maryland that a hurricane will only seem like another day of rain. Of course, that will depend on the wind. It has been raining for two days now and will keep raining indefinitely according to the weather reports. Just in case you are wondering what we look like, here is a photo taken yesterday at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Dramatic Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

This post is taking me some time to write. I have been working on researching names in the Family Tree and now I have to spend some time thinking about the program rather than research.

If you have worked on your portion of the Family Tree in the past few days, you have seen the almost complete makeover of the Individual Detail Pages. Visually, the pages look similar but when you start to work with them, you begin to see a whole list of both small and large changes to the arrangement and operation of the web pages.

The most obvious change is that the various sections are now shown as menu items across the top of the page rather than having each section listed vertically down from the top to the bottom of the page. There is a new section for a Timeline and one called Collaborate that contains the previous Notes and Discussions. The effect of this rearrangement is that when you go to look at your Sources, for example, you have to check back to another page to see the detail information about your ancestor because now the information is on two different pages. I am not quite sure yet how to handle this especially with my long-standing difficulty in remembering dates for more than a millisecond.

Some of the changes are not quite so obvious. The Edit option has been moved over next to the entries and the number of sources for each entry is also prominently available. This makes the idea of sources more prominent and also associates that with the idea of editing the information. The Edit option is now visible for each of the different entries in the "Vitals" Section.

Changing the menu from two layers down to one is an improvement. There is still some confusion about the Tree link that takes you to the main view of the Family Tree and the "View Tree" link that shows you the particular person you are viewing in the center of the Family Tree.

The Timeline is a nice addition and you can also add a map function.

The right sidebar has some new choices.

The Tools menu adds a Merge By Id option and a "Delete Person Unavailable." I am guessing that means that the person cannot be deleted.

The main difficulty I see is the fact that you cannot view both sources and record on the Family Tree at the same time.

I am getting some feedback about the new interface, but as usual, mostly from those who are unhappy with the changes. I am so used to programs changing after more than 40+ years of working with computers that I don't see the changes as a problem. Some seem to think that FamilySearch should have announced that a change was taking place, but I have been watching and have been well aware of the changes for some time. Websites like The Family History Guide will be affected but I am advised that The Family History Guide has the changes well in hand.