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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

RootsTech 2019 and Family History

Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2019 will likely prove just as interesting and inspiring as it was in 2018. Family Discovery Day has been scheduled for the last day of the general RootsTech 2019 Conference on March 2, 2019. In 2018, the Family Discovery Day was scheduled to begin with the classes starting at 10:00 am and general session at 1:00 pm. The schedule for 2019 has yet to be announced, but it is likely to be similar.

The RootsTech 2019 Conference begins on February 27, 2019. I suggest that you might want to sign up for the entire Conference to include attending the Family Discovery Day activities on Saturday. Either way, you need to start making plans now to attend. The attendance on Saturday is usually very crowded and in past years there have been limits on the number of tickets to the conference they had available.

I am already looking forward to attending this next year's conference. I missed RootsTech 2018 for a good reason that of serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, July 30, 2018

BYU Family History Library Webinar Series
The Brigham Young University Family History Library has a very active video and webinar series that continues to produce a huge number of high-quality family history related videos. You might note, that I am still helping with the webinars and will have one in August about digitizing records here at the Maryland State Archives. Here is a screenshot of the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

As of the date of this post, we now have 378 videos posted on the Channel.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Family History Mission: Family History and Temples

No. 74

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.

Shortly after arriving in the Washington, D.C. North Mission, the Washington, D.C. Temple closed for two years of reconstruction. We had one opportunity to attend the Temple before it closed. The next closest Temple is the new Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Temple. However, we are serving in Annapolis, Maryland and on a good day, the Washington, D.C. Temple was about 45 minutes to an hour away depending on freeway traffic. On a bad day, the trip could take two hours one way. Philadelphia is outside of our mission boundaries but a trip to Philadelphia, again depending on traffic, takes about two and half hours one way. 

The reaction of the membership of the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish Speaking) was to set some target dates for trips to the Philadelphia Temple. First, the Relief Society sisters in the Branch organized a Saturday trip and then the Branch Presidency organized a trip for the entire branch. He asked us to help prepare the members by helping them find their own family names to take to the Temple. As I may have written before, we meet in the Annapolis Stake building and the Stake Family History Center is in our building. We help the members of the Branch find names to take to the Temple almost every Sunday during the Sunday School time period. Our Branch has a very small membership but so far this year their Family History Report shows an almost 100% increase in members submitting names for temple work. Currently, the Branch has 17.7% of the members submitting names for ordinances which is actually higher than many of the wards back in Provo for people who live less than an hour away from four operating temples. 

The members are from Mexico, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, and even the United States. The key factors in the increase in participation are the commitment of the Branch Presidency and Elders Quorum Presidency to support the family history effort. Both the Branch President and Elders Quorum President lead the way by finding their own names to take to the temple. Imagine the increase that could be experienced in a large, active ward with the same type of involvement. 

Percentages are not what is most important. What is important is the fact that members are actively participating in providing the saving ordinances for their ancestral families and deceased relatives. This active participation helps to resolve many of the day-to-day issues with activity in the Branch. As the core of active members continues to grow, there is a greater chance that the new members, as they are baptized, will also stay active. It is a great blessing to see what concerned and dedicated leadership can do even in a small, struggling branch of the Church. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Are You a Victim of the Family Tree?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about being a genealogical victim. If anything, I am seeing more people with a victim mentality than ever before. Quoting from my previous post, here is a list of some of the common reactions suffered by those who see themselves as victims:
  • Ascribing non-existent negative intentions to other people
  • Negative, with a general tendency to focus on bad rather than good aspects of a situation.
  • Self-absorbed: unable or reluctant to consider a situation from the point of view of other people or to "walk a mile in their shoes"
  • Exhibiting learned helplessness: underestimating one's ability or influence in a given situation; feeling powerless
  • Stubborn: tending to reject suggestions or constructive criticism from others who listen and care; unable or reluctant to implement the suggestions of others for one's own benefit
My perception of people with a victim mentality comes from years of representing clients as a trial attorney. Obviously, some of the people I represented really were victims and they had valid legal claims and those were the cases I accepted. For every case I accepted, I talked to many people I declined to represent. Nearly all the people who fell into this rejected category had a victim mentality. I can't help people who refuse to cooperate and help themselves.

Now as I think about the complaints I constantly hear concerning the Family Tree, nearly all of the complainers fall into one or more of the above categories. In fact, these attitudes are pretty common with those who are struggling with genealogical research in general. Interestingly, most of the people who have victim mentalities do not accept that their own attitudes are at the core of the problem they think they are facing. In addition, their reactions to the problems are almost always inappropriate and defeatist.

Again quoting from the previous post, here are two hypothetical examples of victim mentality.
Genealogist A who is 84 years old has been working on researching her family for most of her lifetime. When her family members show interest in her research, she becomes defensive and says that her work isn't done and she would rather they wait until she has everything in an acceptable condition. She is persuaded by one of her younger relatives to take a look at the Family Tree. When she is shown the Family Tree she immediately begins criticizing the content. She states that she is not interested in seeing anything more. Since this is my hypothetical, I could have it end the way I want. In the most common real life situation, when A dies, all of her work is lost because no one wants it and no one appreciates what she has done.  
In another hypothetical, Genealogist B is a meticulous researcher. He is certified by one of the major genealogical certification organizations and has exhaustive support for all his conclusions. As in the first hypothetical, he is persuaded to view the Family Tree and is immediately angry. He cannot believe that anyone would make such obvious errors and he immediately starts correcting everything he considers to be wrongly entered. The next time he goes into to view the Family Tree, he sees that someone has recopied all of the "wrong" data back into "his" Family Tree. Rather than make the corrections again or try and contact the person making the changes, he dismisses the program as "broken" and determines that he will simply ignore it. 
The issue arises in the context of those who feel threatened by changes made to the Family Tree and then get immediately discouraged and stop trying to work with the program. In addition, they immediately begin blaming others, including FamilySearch, for the problems they see.

I do not make these things up. Here is a list of links to articles, some from journals, about victim mentality.

Ask yourself this question. Why are there people, like me, who are very much involved in constantly using the Family Tree for their research and data storage? Why don't we just give up in the face of all the changes being made to the Family Tree?

When I get examples of how "they" are ruining "my" data on the Family Tree, the complaints are almost always directed at one or two individual instances. These are the "revolving door" ancestors I have been writing about for some time. Instead of focusing on the other entries that are not changing, the victim uses one or two events to justify quitting. They also personalize the changes as if the people making the changes were intentionally persecuting the complainer. Victims do not see that they can be the solution to the problems they encounter. 

We live in a pervasively victimized mentality society today. Let's try to keep that attitude out of our interaction with the Family Tree. Remember, the Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Family History Mission: The Reasons for Digitization

No. 73

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.

Shortly after beginning our mission as Document Preservation Specialists (camera operators), we realized the tremendous need for the work we are doing. The photo above shows the condition of a book we digitized recently. The pages were so brittle that we had to turn the pages with support. The edges of the pages had almost completely disintegrated. This is not a book that had been ignored or neglected, but despite proper storage, the book itself is disintegrating. If you look closely, you can see that the book is dated 1881. 

Each time we see a book or record that looks like this, we realize over and over again the importance of making digital copies of the books. Traditional archivists will immediately point out the need to migrate electronic data as the programs and storage media go out of date and disappear. The answer to this concern is that you can migrate electronic files but without digitization, you cannot migrate paper books. Photocopying is only a stopgap and the durability of photocopies depend on the copying and storage methods used. We are certain that absent our efforts to digitize some of the records we have seen in the Maryland State Archives, the documents would be entirely lost in the future. 

Here are some comments on the deterioration of paper from the Library of Congress's article entitled, "The Deterioration and Preservation of Paper: Some Essential Facts."
Why is 500-year old paper often in better condition than paper from 50 years ago? In other words, what makes some papers deteriorate rapidly and other papers deteriorate slowly?
  • The rate and severity of deterioration result from internal and external factors: most importantly, the composition of the paper and the conditions under which the paper is stored.
  • Paper is made of cellulose -- a repeating chain of glucose molecules -- derived from plant cell walls. One measure of paper quality is how long the cellulose chains, and subsequently the paper fibers, are: long-fibered paper is stronger and more flexible and durable than short-fibered paper.
  • In the presence of moisture, acids from the environment (e.g., air pollution, poor-quality enclosures), or from within the paper (e.g., from the raw materials, manufacturing process, deterioration products), repeatedly cut the glucose chains into shorter lengths. This acid hydrolysis reaction produces more acids, feeding further, continued degradation.
  • Before the mid-19th century, western paper was made from cotton and linen clothing rags and by a process that largely preserved the long fibers of the raw material. While fibers may shorten with age, rag papers tend to remain strong and durable, especially if they have been stored properly in conditions not overly warm or humid.
  • Starting in the mid-19th century, wood replaced rags as the raw material for paper manufacture. Wood is processed into paper by mechanical or chemical pulping, which produces paper with shorter (compared with rag paper) fibers.
  • Mechanical pulping produces paper with the shortest fiber length and does not remove lignin from the wood, which promotes acid hydrolysis. Newspapers are printed on mechnically pulped paper. Chemical pulping removes lignin and does not cut up the cellulose chains as thoroughly as mechanical pulping, yielding a comparatively stronger paper, but which is still not as durable as rag paper.
  • Wood pulp paper from before the 1980s also tends to be acidic from alum-rosin sizing (added to the paper to reduce absorbency and minimize bleeding of inks), which, in the presence of moisture, generates sulfuric acid.
  • Acids also form in paper by the absorption of pollutants -- mainly sulfur and nitrogen oxides. Book leaves that are more brown and brittle along the edges than in the center clearly illustrate this absorption of pollutants from the air.
  • Research by the Library of Congress has demonstrated that cellulose itself generates acids as it ages, including formic, acetic, lactic, and oxalic acids. Measurable quantities of these acids were observed to form under ambient conditions within weeks of the paper's manufacture. Moreover, paper does not readily release these acids due to strong intermolecular bonding. This explains why pH neutral papers become increasingly acidic as they age.
  • Acids form in alkaline paper as well, but can be neutralized by the alkaline reserve.
  • Besides acid hydrolysis, paper is susceptible to photolytic (damage by light) and oxidative degradation.
  • Photodegradation appears to progress more severely and rapidly in poorer quality papers.
  • The role of oxidative degradation appears limited compared with acid hydrolysis, except in the presence of nitrogen oxide pollutants.
Generally speaking, good quality paper stored in good conditions (cooler temperatures; 30-40% relative humidity) are able to last a long time -- even hundreds of years.

Why then do we see paper that looks like this?

Most of what you see here is water damage. If you read the list above from the Library of Congress, you will see comments about the different ways that water or chemicals can increase the acids in the paper. These different factors cause the paper to deteriorate. What about this paper?

This is mold damage. If the humidity is too high like it is all summer here in Maryland, this will be the result. Remember, there was no such thing as air conditioning just a few short years ago. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and I was in my last year of High School before we had air conditioning in our home.

With these examples of the damage that has been and can occur to our valuable records, every day we are grateful for the opportunity to do our small part in the preservation effort undertaken by FamilySearch.

Genealogy and Proof

The concept of "proof" would seem to be central to making advances in genealogical research. In some areas of genealogical research creating a "proof statement" is the goal of "real" genealogical research. One genealogical certification organization, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, has constructed a detailed "Genealogical Proof Standard."

Having spent a great portion of my life involved in the legal profession and representing clients in the U.S. court system, I have been constantly focused on the concept of proof in many different levels. However, in a genealogical context, the idea of "proof" takes on a whole different dimension.

If you read the publications from the Board for Certification of Genealogists, you will see that the definition of proof used is basically a "sound conclusion." There are entire books explaining how to arrive at such a "sound conclusion." Meanwhile, even genealogical writings that are not related to board certification contain an abundance of legal terms such as proof and evidence. If you take classes about genealogical research or read any of the hundreds of books available, you are likely to find references to the "research cycle" overlaid with references to proving your conclusions with a preponderance of the evidence. You may also find references to gradations of evidence, such as primary and secondary evidence.

As I have written previously, focusing on the legal or professional levels of determining sound conclusions or proof can be frustrating and in many cases less than useful. Meanwhile, through technology, we have developed a method to determine if our conclusions are valid or not.

Before I write about technology, let me propose a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose I am preparing to go to court for a trial. In preparation for the trial, I have gathered as much evidence as I can find. This evidence consists of documents, actual physical objects, testimony from witnesses and my legal arguments in favor of admitting the accumulated evidence during the course of the trial. My actions will be governed by the Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure in force in the court where the trial is being held. All of this preparation is based on years of study in law school and further years of legal practice. When it is time for the trial, I go to court with my client and all the evidence and present my case to the judge or jury. Hmm. However, all the time I am preparing for trial and during the trial, there is another major factor. The opposing party is represented by another attorney who is just as prepared and trying to prove me wrong. The opposing attorney will present his or her client's evidence and make his or her's own arguments. Ultimately, the judge or the jury will decide my case. I may win or I may lose.

When we are seeking historical information about our ancestors are we trying to prove our case? Who is our client? Who is the judge? Who determines whether I am right or wrong? How can I prove anything in the context of historical genealogical research? When I ask questions like these, I am trying to show the difference between an adversarial proceeding in court and conclusions derived from historical research. There are no genealogical courts or judges. The underlying reason for constructing a "proof statement" in genealogical research is to convince yourself you are right. However, in a professional genealogical context, a proof statement may be used to support publication in a professional genealogical journal or to satisfy a paying client.

In my years of experience in the courts, I have been forced to provide the judge or jury with reasonable and well-supported arguments based on my personal conclusions. If I am successful, I have proved my case. Some attorneys claim they have never lost a case. I suggest that such a statement cannot be true unless the attorney has withdrawn from every case where an unfavorable decision was possible.

Likewise, even well reasoned and supported "proof statements" made about some ancestral relationship can be questioned and may ultimately be shown to be inaccurately determined. So how does this happen? When was the last time you read a well documented, professionally prepared, genealogical journal article? Have you ever taken the time to read all the footnotes and look up all the source citations? When you did this, did you come to a conclusion that was different than the author's conclusions?

Now, let me switch over to the present state of genealogical technology. Let's suppose that I decided to enter my genealogical data into an online family tree program such as the Family Tree. Depending on whether or not I support my entries with sources, documents, and photos will determine whether or not others agree with my conclusions. Should I be surprised that others might have different information and disagree? Let's further suppose that I think I am right. Isn't this merely a conclusion I have come to based on whatever level of genealogical research I have done?

The Family Tree is a forum where we can publish our genealogical conclusions and have them challenged by anyone who might be interested. It is an open forum with an unlimited ability to provide peer review. What about the "crazies" and the "ignorant?" So what? How many crazy people and ignorant people do you think I dealt with as a trial attorney? Including some judges and some juries? The important factor about having a venue such as the Family Tree is that it isn't a narrowly focused set of conclusions wrapped up in a journal article, although the same conclusions can be used in making entries in the Family Tree. By putting your information out there in the Family Tree, you are employing the ultimate forum for discussion and conclusions.

Will you get frustrated? Of course. That is the nature of publishing your conclusions no matter what the venue. What about all those people putting wrong conclusions in the Family Tree? Again, so what? If you want genealogy to be adversarial and conclusory, then put your information in the ultimate venue for review: the Family Tree.

Hmm. One more comment. If you are trying to make a living from genealogical research, then you still need to play the game by the professional rules. But if you are interested more in finding your ancestors as accurately as possible, then the best place to do this is in the free-for-all Family Tree.

One last note. In Arizona, where I practiced law, if you represented clients before the Registrar of Contractors, you immediately found out that they did not abide by the Rules of Procedure used by the courts. They had their own rules. It was always amusing to me to see how upset the opposing attorneys, who did not know about this change in the rules, could become when I did not "play by their preconceived rules based on the Rules of Procedure." I see the same reaction to the Family Tree from those who think they can prove genealogical conclusions.The concept of "proof" would seem to be central to making advances in genealogical research. In some areas of genealogical research creating a "proof statement" is the goal of "real" genealogical research. One genealogical certification organization, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, has constructed a detailed "Genealogical Proof Standard."

Having spent a great portion of my life involved in the legal profession and representing clients in the U.S. court system, I have been constantly focused on the concept of proof in many different levels.

If you read the publications from the Board for Certification of Genealogists, you will see that the definition of proof used is basically a "sound conclusion." All of these terms when used with genealogy are extremely vague and subject to personal interpretation.

However, in a religious context, the idea of "proof" takes on a whole different dimension. Obviously, much of my interest in genealogical research is religiously motivated.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Remembering RootsTech
Compared to the photo above, the first RootsTech Conference, held in 2011, was a quiet affair. The official attendance was around 3000 people. I was invited to attend as an official "Blogger." There were about a dozen of us. I have been an official blogger or Ambassador and every RootsTech Conference since the beginning. As a side note, from the current list of "Ambassadors", it looks like there a still a few of us scheduled for the 2019 Conference.

Back in those early conferences, the emphasis was more on "tech" than the more recent conferences. During the first few conferences, I spent much of time going to classes and writing. One of the high points of all the conferences was the introduction of the Family Tree program. For me, another interesting experience was my substitute presentation as a "Keynote" speaker for At RootsTech 2017, I spent most of my time presenting for The Family History Guide, where I serve as the Chairman of The Family History Guide Association. I missed physically attending RootsTech 2018 because of our serving as Full-time Senior Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Washington, D.C. North Mission. We are Records Preservation Specialists digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. I am looking forward to being back, in person, to the RootsTech 2019 Conference.

Except for a few minutes to eat or rest, I am usually busy every minute I am at the conferences. In the last few conferences, it seems like I lose my voice about half-way through the conference but get it back after I keep talking.

This next year's RootsTech 2019 Conference will be better than ever. It will be held from February 27th to March 2nd at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. I will probably be attending the BYU Family History Technology Workshop the day before and then traveling from Provo, Utah up to Salt Lake City for the Conference.

I hope I will be seeing some of my readers there at the Conference. I am not hard to find.

Monday, July 23, 2018

More than Handcarts

Illustration in History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century of Mormon handcart pioneers. A depiction of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints en-route to Salt Lake City.
The terrible tragedy of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies in crossing the Plains to Salt Lake City has become iconic but it is hardly representative of the pioneer experience. As I have written previously, all of my 16 great-great-grandparents and one of my great-great-great grandparents were pioneers. Not all of them crossed the Plains, some came to Utah from Australia by way of the West Coast but none of them came by handcart. My wife's ancestor, Edwin Pettit, walked the entire way with bare feet. See Madsen, Susan Arrington. 2008. I walked to Zion: true stories of young pioneers on the Mormon Trail. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.

Presently, in the popularly available media, almost every video and most of the images of Mormon pioneers show them walking with handcarts. As a genealogist and a historian, I am somewhat disturbed by this narrow focus on only one aspect of the pioneer experience. Estimates are that there were about 70,000 people who immigrated to Utah and who are classified as pioneers. Technically, a pioneer is someone who traveled to Utah between 1847 and the completion of the Intercontinental Railroad in 1869, although some use 1868 as the cutoff date. Of those 70,000 pioneers, only 10 companies of about 3,000 people came by handcarts and only two of these companies ran into the difficulties usually associated with handcarts. By the way, according to the Church History website, "The Trek" it took an average of 75 days to cross the country by handcart and 95 days by wagon.

Tragedy on the trail was not limited to handcart companies. My Great-great-great-grandfather, John Tanner, was a pioneer to Missouri and seriously injured when hit in the head by one of the mobbers who drove them into Missouri. He later crossed the Plains and died in Cottonwood, Utah. My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, lost his wife, Louisa, and a newly born infant son in Winter Quarters. After his loss and because he had small children, Sidney married my Great-great-great-grandmother, Julia Ann Shepherd while preparing to go west. Julia carried in her arms her newly born daughter Julia Ann Tanner all the way to Utah. On July 27, 1848, Sidney's six-year-old namesake, Sidney Tanner, Jr., was killed by being run over by a wagon while he was driving the team and fell backwards under the wagon.

Sidney's pioneering days were not over when he reached Utah. He and his family were called to settle in San Bernardino, California. After establishing a farm and a becoming settled, they were then called to return to Utah because of the Utah War. They settled in Beaver, Utah. However, my family's pioneering days were not over, my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, was called by Brigham Young to pioneer the settlement of the Little Colorado Colony in Arizona. They settled in what is now called Joseph City, Arizona. The Tanner's pioneering activities extended over three generations and several moves.

Nearly everyone who as a pioneer heritage can tell similar stories. But being a pioneer is not limited to those who crossed the Plains before the railroad. Everyone who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is either a "pioneer" or descended from one. We all have stories about our own conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or have an ancestor who was converted. Many of these more modern pioneers have stories of courage and sacrifice that matches anything suffered by the pioneers who crossed the Plains.

Handcarts are a convenient iconic representation of pioneers, but perhaps we are doing a disservice to our children and grandchildren by giving them the impression that "real" pioneers walked across the country pulling handcarts. One of my ancestors, my Great-great-great-grandfather George Jarvis, was converted in England and came to America and spent about four years in Boston, Massachusetts before he made enough money to take his family to Utah in 1860. When he arrived in Utah and got settled, he and his family were called to settle in St. George and help build the Temple. They spent years of poverty and privation in St. George before they were finally settled and able to support themselves. One tragedy that occurred was that their son, seven-year-old Thomas William Jarvis was killed by lightning while sitting on the steps of the St. George Tabernacle.

Pioneers had and still have a difficult life. But I think it is unfair to repeatedly refer to one group of pioneers as the "epitome of suffering" while neglecting to include the larger picture of those who suffered and incurred losses in different ways. It is convenient, in a way, to show handcart pioneers struggling through the snow, but perhaps those who died else on the Plains like my Great-great-great-grandfather, Jens Christensen, who died in 1866 in Nebraska while crossing the Plains or even those who lived and died in places like St. George and Joseph City should also be remembered for their own sacrifices. When I hear or sing the hymn "They, the Builders of the Nation," I am thinking about the wind in Joseph City and the heat of the desert in St. George and a hundred other places where my ancestors lived and raised families.

We should never forget the tremendous sacrifice of the Willie and Martin Companies, but likewise, we should try to expand our memories to include all those others who through the years braved rejection, persecution, and scorn for accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and joining His Church.

I am reminded of the words of the hymn:

They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of ev'ry day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!

All pioneers in the Church should be blessed and honored. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Plethora of Pioneers

For me, pioneers were not something out of a history book, I lived with and knew people who had traveled by wagon to settle in Arizona. My Great-grandmother was born in 1878 and she traveled by wagon to Arizona as a child when the pioneers in Snowflake, Arizona were still living in houses dug out of the sides of hills. For us, the 24th of July was not just a day off for Utah workers, it was a week-long celebration with a rodeo, a parade, cookouts called a "Camporama," races, patriotic speeches, dances, and parties. My pioneer ancestors did not have to be discovered, they were my reality. Every year, there was a huge presentation with short plays and at the end, a diorama with everyone singing Come, Come, Ye Saints.

Today, for most people in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of Utah where the day is a state holiday and some parts of Arizona, the 24th of July is just another day. As a genealogist and family historian, I can look at my pedigree chart and see that every one of my ancestral lines has pioneers. Some of my ancestors did not cross the Plains in wagons but arrived in Utah by way of boats and overland travel from Australia. But all of them, all 16 great-great-grandparents traveled by wagons to settle parts of Utah or Arizona.

The definition of a "pioneer" in the Church has now expanded to include all those who sacrificed their lives and property to join the Church whether or not they ever traveled to Utah or even came to the United States. By the way, when we talk about the Utah pioneers, we need to remember that the first pioneers to Utah beginning in 1847 were traveling to Mexico to get out of the United States.

FamilySearch has published a whole series of blog posts on ways to discover your own pioneer ancestors. It saddens me when I talk to someone who obviously has pioneer ancestors in whatever part of the world and who cannot relate the stories of how they joined the Church and the difficulties and challenges they went through. My Great-great-great-grandfather, Jens Christensen and one of his daughters, died while crossing the Plains. His name and the names of other of my relatives who died crossing the Plains are memorialized in a monument in Nauvoo, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River.

People ask me how I got started in genealogy. If I really think about it, I have to come to the conclusion that I was born into the whole idea and pursuit of family history and genealogy. I may have started my actual research only 36 years ago, but I was destined to become involved because the pioneers gave me no other choice.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Family History Mission: Conferences, Webinars, Presentations, and Posts

Maryland State Archives
No. 72

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.

This past week we were asked by FamilySearch to help with a conference in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. We traveled up to Pennsylvania and stopped off to have a nice dinner with my daughter and her family who live outside of Philadelphia and the continued on to the conference. It was the 91st Conference of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans' Court Association of Pennsylvania

The purpose of our attending the conference was to help the representative of FamilySearch meet and offer to help the individual counties of Pennsylvania preserve their records and share them with FamilySearch. It was a busy conference and we met dozens of Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans' Court. It was very successful in making a lot of attendees aware of what FamilySearch can offer in the way of records preservation. The FamilySearch representative made a lot of contacts. We spent two busy days and then drove back to Annapolis in time to work on digitizing records on Thursday and Friday. 

For us, a major part of our full-time mission has involved doing the same things we have been doing for years, that is, teaching, presenting and attending conferences. So far, I have done a few presentations on genealogical research and a couple of webinars. I recently did one for the Brigham Young University Family History Library and have more planned for each upcoming month. Here is one I did this last month.

Technology and Genealogy: A Perfect Match

I have also been spending every Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at the Annapolis, Maryland Family History Center helping patrons and doing a lot of genealogical research. Every Sunday, under the direction of the Branch President of the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) we are also helping the branch members with finding their own ancestral names to take to the Temple. They recently had a successful excursion to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Temple to do ordinance work. The Washington, D.C. Temple is closed for two years for renovation. We spend the Sunday School time in the Family History Center and assist the members in signing on to FamilySearch and as a result, they have seen an almost 100% increase in activity. That is really an accomplishment for such a small Branch. This increase has come about from the direct involvement of the Branch President and the Elders Quorum President in encouraging the members to meet with us.

In addition, we have been helping the other missionaries serving with us with their own family history and several other people we have met while here in Annapolis. I also carry on my usual round of posts on my blogs and helping people remotely using the Consultant Planner. I just finished helping the wife of one of our friends from Provo find some ancestral names.

A full-time Senior Mission can be a wonderful opportunity to serve and use your own talents to assist the members and others in your area with opportunities to learn and grow in their testimonies and activity. We will continue to have opportunities to help both members and those outside of the Church during the rest of our mission. As I mentioned, I have more webinars coming for the BYU Family History Library. See the schedule on the Library's webpage. I will also be presenting at the Washington, D.C. Family History Center in August. We joined the Anne Arundel County Genealogical Society and I will be presenting a conference on October 27th. I will also be presenting for the Family History Expos Virtual Conference in October. I will also do additional webinars for the BYU Family History Library. That is what is planned so far.

As we are able, we are still involved in helping The Family History Guide. We do plan on helping more actively when we return to Provo however.

Meanwhile, we work all day every weekday that the Maryland State Archives are open digitizing records for FamilySearch and the Archives.

Please consider taking advantage of your opportunity to serve a full-time or part-time mission as a Senior. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Real Issues with the FamilySearch Family Tree Continued

Yes, I am back to the post I just wrote about "Is there really a fundamental issue with the Family Tree?" One of my regular commentators and a few others have made comments that greatly expand on the issues raised in the original post. Because the original post and the subsequent comments raise such important issues dealing with the Family Tree, I decided to continue writing about these topics.

Because the comments are so extensive, I will simply highlight quotes from the comments and then respond with my own commentary.

Comment Quote "I have detached a completely empty source, and re-attached a number of US census entries"

This quote goes to one of the most basic but contentious of the Family Tree; the ability of any user to make changes, additions, corrections, and etc. to any of the entries in the Family Tree. This is the real distinguishing feature of a wiki-based program. As I have written several times in the past, historically, genealogists have been mostly solitary, individual researchers. They are not used to operating in a public forum or collaborative environment. They also have a tendency to believe that their own conclusions are "perfectly accurate" and disbelieve that anyone else is competent to understand what they are doing. So the "changes" made to the Family Tree are upsetting and threatening to their worldview of how genealogy should operate.

Here, an "outsider" is able to make changes to an entry merely because he or she wishes to do so. This is easily the most persistently made complaint that I have had to contend with throughout the existence of the Family Tree. This brings us to the next comment.

Comment Quote: Much of the trouble people have stems from a lack of historical background, a lack of understanding of parts of Family Tree, a tendency to assume the worst of other people, and refusing to ask, “Why?”

OK, this is a multi-part quote. Some of these comments may apply to some people. There is a general lack of awareness of the historical background of the people in the Family Tree. There is also a general lack of knowledge about the Family Tree and specifically about how and why it works so well. I also see a significant number of people who assume the worst about those making changes. I find the opposite. Most of the people who I deal with on the Family Tree are simply trying to help. They are either apologetic or embarrassed when I explain what they have done. I don't find much collaboration or cooperation outside of my own family, but that is mainly a function of the size of the Family Tree and the small number of people who actually work at cleaning up the entries. 

Comment Quote: Family Tree [originates] from multiple different databases created from multiple different computer programs from multiple different decades for multiple different reasons with the goal of not losing any information it was inevitable that a certain amount of static would accumulate through the multiple conversions of the data.

I guess static is a better term than garbage, but the effect is the same. Before getting upset about the information in the Family Tree it is a good idea to analyze where it came from. Was it user submitted? And even if it was user submitted, did the user simply copy some handed down copy of an accumulated family history? If you realize that the Family Tree is the composite of over 100 years of accumulated genealogy, you can begin to see that even as people make "corrections" what they think is "correct" can come from unverified information they inherited from family members. There is still a huge amount of this type of information in the Family Tree and even more, sitting on family group records and other programs waiting to be used to "correct" the accurate information in the Family Tree. 

It is extremely easy to determine if the information either already in the Family Tree or that has been added is accurate or verifiable. If there is no source given for the information, it has to be assumed to be unverified and very possibly inaccurate. 

Comment Quote: Considering history, would one rather have no sources transferred, trust an automatic, illiterate computer routine to discard certain sources, or have all the sources transferred and need cull them oneself? I think the third was the only viable option and I’m glad FamilySearch programmers choose that.

I very much agree with this comment. 

Comment Quote: Hmm, this pertains to a lot of comments about using the term Jr.

Depending on the time frame, the term Junior, abbreviated Jr., does not imply a relationship between the parties. It was commonly used to distinguish between two people with the same name living in the same community based solely on age. It is not appropriate to add this as a suffix or title or whatever unless you a record showing that the person was given the name Junior at birth or used it during his lifetime. By the way, adding Roman numerals such as I, II, III etc. is also a really bad idea. Again, unless this found in a source record about the person while they were alive, it is not part of a name and should be avoided. 

Comment Quote: Nothing done since complete implementation of the Change Log is lost. Every bit of information the person ever had and everything ever done to the person is there. Admittedly, it is not always the easiest document to wade through but the information is there.

Again, I completely agree. You should not be worried about losing information. But, it is a really good idea to have your own separate program if you have a tendency to worry about such things. 

OK, I will probably come back to this again, when I have more time to address the rest of the comments. 

Remember: The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is there really a fundamental issue with the Family Tree?

Note: Please take time to read the extensive comments to this post. I am also writing another post to answer the issues raised in the comments.

Here is a long comment I recently received by email.
At one point I hoped to clean up my pedigree in FamilySearch and retain all useful information--even potentially useful information. 
For instance, in merging duplicates, I would copy to the preferred record all worthwhile and unique information from the less-preferred record--including details, sources, notes, discussions, memories, relationships, and ordinances--so that no valid (or even potentially valid) information would be lost.

But crowd-editing has prevailed and I am really too late at this point to save the information. I fear that MUCH VALUABLE information has already been lost through merges, deletes, detaches, and other editing. And this by people who have very little understanding about what they are doing.

There are many who just want a name to take to the temple, including young people. They often do not check for duplicates and may take the name of a duplicate person for whom there is very little information, when the ordinances have already been completed and there is much more information for the same person, but under another FS ID.
While the addition or attaching of pictures and stories gets some degree of scrutiny before becoming part of FamilySearch, there is no scrutiny that I know of for merging, deleting, and detaching. While a providing a "reason" for a change is suggested, I often see that no meaningful reason has been given. 
And I don't know how one might recover the information lost through such merges, deletes, and detaches. 
Is there any way that the bar might be raised for and scrutiny applied to actions resulting in loss of information (or loss of the attachment of information to a person), and thus minimize loss and damage by the inexperienced and uninformed?
In one case that seems especially bad ( LLC9-JYG), I believe that a person was morphed completely into another person through a long series of uninformed removals of information, one piece at a time, with frequent uninformed replacements by other quite different information. These changes include baptism, christening, father relationship, mother relationship, residences, and sources for vital events..
Is there really some fundamental issue with the way the Family Tree works that is losing "MUCH VALUABLE information?" Can a person on the Family Tree "morph" into another person?

Let's see if I can answer these questions and the rest of the questions from this comment. Here is a screenshot of the person mentioned by ID number in the comment.

James Mellor, Jr. LLC9-JYG is apparently the son of James Mellor, Sr. KWJW-2HG. To become familiar with these entries, I through the sources listed for both and the entire Change list for both. From the comment above, it would seem that I should have found that the information concerning James Jr. to be substantially inaccurate. However, almost all the sources about this individual who was born in England are from his time in the United States. It also appears that both James Jr. and his father designated James Sr. (These designations do not seem to appear in the records and have been added by the contributors) came to America as a family. However, the sources attached to James Sr. with a few exceptions, also pertain to his time in the United States. My first question is where are the sources about this family from England? By the way, I find this to be a common issue with early immigrants. Sources easily obtainable from US sources are attached but little information is provided about their origins in Europe.

Despite the designations, is James Jr. the son of James Sr? The main, and seemingly only record attached is an 1851 English and Wales Census record leading us to believe that these to people are related. I am sure that other documentary evidence such as a cited diary and biographies etc. may add further support for the relationship, but it is interesting that all of the other English records are missing. There is a copy of the 1841 English census attached to James Sr. but that was taken before James Jr.'s birth.

Now, I can see the origin of the comments cited above. There is some dispute over the parents and place of birth of James Jr. When doing research in England, it is very important to specifically identify a location associated with an event in a person's life. It may seem surprising, but James Mellor (with spelling variations) is not a particularly uncommon name. However, there seems to be no particular issue with the identity of James Sr. here in the United States. Also, both the 1841 and 1851 English and Wales Census records attached as sources agree on James Jr. being part of the family. What is missing is a birth record for James Jr. But he might not have been baptized in the Church of England and there may be no baptismal/christening record. Other missing records include the English Mission records although the immigration records, including the Church records, confirm the identity of the family.

I note that there are 4 people watching these individuals. This means that there is a substantial interest in maintaining the accuracy of the records and maintain scrutiny. It is the nature of the Family Tree that there will be additions, changes, and the need for corrections. The Family Tree was specifically designed to allow user changes and contributions. I see these two individuals in transition. They both need substantial additional research especially in England, but I fail to see that anything in the Changes made to them is out of the ordinary of what I encounter repeatedly and correct repeatedly. The best way to proceed is to enlist the help of all of those who are watching this record and find others in the family who are willing to watch and help maintain the entries.

I suggest that it would be appropriate to provide more specific information about the family in England and then respond in a positive way to those who try to make changes with non-existent, contradictory, or inaccurate information. That is the purpose for watching the entries. In my experience, the number of changes declines dramatically over time except for very prominent people.

If any pertinent information has been lost through merges or otherwise, it is always a good idea to maintain a separate program containing all of the pertinent information that can then be restored to the individuals if lost through changes or merges. There are several programs that work well and synchronize entries with the Family Tree. See RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, and for examples. Failing to back up vital information always runs the risk of loss.

It is also a good idea to attach copies of specifically important records in the Memories section. These cannot be deleted or modified by anyone except the person who uploaded the information.

In summary, there is nothing dramatically wrong with the Family Tree program that needs to be fixed. Issues with the data or information in the program can be corrected, modified, or replaced if lost. Defending the integrity of the data in the Family Tree is the responsibility of those who enter and maintain the entries. There are already several major program innovations, such as watching the entries, that assist the users in maintaining the integrity of the entries.

There will always be those who negligently or ignorantly enter inaccurate information, but the Family Tree program provides a way to safeguard the information without creating another "supervisory" level of people who do not really know anything about your particular family members, ancestors or relatives.

Here are some links to some of the videos I have made for the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel on this subject.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What is the Relationship Between Mormons and Genealogy?
First of all, the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term "Mormon" is a nickname that came from the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. So correctly, the title of this post should be "What is the Relationship Between Members of The Church of Jesus Christ and Genealogy?"

The answer to that question is that members of the Church have fundamental beliefs that our Heavenly Father has given us a plan whereby our family can be together forever. We believe that this  Plan of Salvation was taught by our Savior Jesus Christ while he was on this earth and through his prophets both anciently and in our own day. We believe that life continues after we depart this world to live in a place called the Spirit World. We also believe that through the ordinance performed in our sacred Temples, during this life, families can be sealed together and live as families in heaven. We also believe that by identifying our ancestors and their descendants (our cousins) we can provide the blessings available in the Temples by acting for and on behalf of our ancestors and other relatives as proxies in the Temples. However, we also believe that in order for those ordinances to take effect, the ancestor or relative has to voluntarily accept those ordinances and become converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some links that explain more about these beliefs.

Essentially, we use family history (genealogy) records to help us identify our ancestors and other relatives in order to provide them with the opportunity to receive the blessings available in our sacred Temples. This is a personal responsibility of each member of the Church. 

Now, on a practical level, not all of the members of the Church are involved directly in family history and even among those who are interested, there are considerable differences between the members in their level of interest and involvement. As with all things in the Church, the members can choose to be actively involved or not. There are those in the Church who develop a very high level of interest in genealogy and become competent genealogists. 

Becuase of our basic beliefs, the Church has been involved in actively promoting genealogy and family history since the 1800s. Further, as a result of these beliefs, the Church has maintained a worldwide effort to find and preserve valuable genealogical records. Presently, the Church genealogical organization is called FamilySearch. The records that have been accumulating since the 1800s are now made available on a website called The website,, is free and open to everyone whether they are members of the Church or not. Some members of the Church are so interested in the whole genealogical process that they are willing, at their own expense, to serve as full-time volunteer representatives of FamilySearch. This is what my wife and I do presently. We are serving as Record Preservation Specialists (camera operators) in the Maryland State Archives digitizing records that will become available to both the Archives and FamilySearch. 

The idea of doing family history from the aspect of a religious motivation might seem strange but when you understand the reasons and beliefs of those who are so involved, you understand and realize that this interest is simply a natural outgrowth of those fundamental beliefs. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lost in a Family History Center?

Most Family History Centers are so small that there is little chance of actually getting physically lost in one of them. But there is a real problem with being lost in the sense of having an active and viable Family History Center with real patrons and a supportive and actively involved staff. I have a friend who was the Director of a local Family History Center, who told me that he went to the Center every day for a year and did not have even one patron come in. He was truly lost in a Family History Center.

What defines a Family History Center? Simply put, a Family History Center is a place that has an internet connection to the Family History Center Portal. Facilities with computers and other equipment may have family history activities and even a staff but technically they are not Family History Centers. The current Family History Centers are listed in the Help menu on under the "Contact Us" drop-down menu choice.

Family History Centers are recognized as such by FamilySearch, a corporation owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the facility and staff, including the director, are the responsibility of the local sponsoring Church unit or units. One Stake can sponsor a Family History Center or even sponsor more than one Center in the same Stake. It is also possible that two or more Stakes can combine resources and sponsor a multi-stake center. Over the years these multi-stake centers have undergone several name changes. The current name for large centers is a FamilySearch Library. Even more recently, FamilySearch Libraries are evolving into centers that sponsor a Family Discovery Center with the electronic equipment or software equipment to support such a designation. The prototype Family Discovery Center is now located on the first floor of the Salt Lake City main Family History Library.

The key here is the support and involvement of the local Stake leadership. The Family History Centers either thrive or die depending on this interest and support. If the directors are promoting the Center then it can survive with benign neglect for some time, but eventually, the operation of the Center suffers due to lack of staff and equipment maintenance.

Ultimately, the Director or Directors and the staff determine the amount of activity in the Center. If they have adequate support from the Stake leaders, they need to be proactive in making the Family History Center a place to come and do research and get help. One key component of a viable Center is training and classes for both the staff and the patrons. All of the successful Family History Centers are also open both during the day and in the evenings. Sundays, the Centers should be available for use by the resident Wards. There are a lot of variations as to staffing, equipment, and the actual facilities, but innovation is profitable in producing interest.

Don't feel lost in the desert. There are plenty of good examples online of successful, vibrant, and growing Family History Centers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Family History Mission: Challenges and Blessings

Hall of Records, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland
No. 71

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.

Working in the Maryland State Archives as Record Preservation Missionaries for FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its challenges, concerns and a great measure of blessings. We are now well into our mission, but it is interesting to reflect on the time we have been here in Annapolis, Maryland. 

As I have written in the past, our missionary experience is quite different than what we expected. Previously, I had only been aware of the proselyting side of missionary work mostly done by the full-time young Elder and Sister Missionaries. In our specific calling, we have limited contact with the younger missionaries. But as an exception to the rule, this past Saturday we helped the full-time Sister missionaries take an investigator to the Washington, D.C. Temple Visitors Center. It was interesting to see the progress of the two-year renovation of the Temple from the Visitors Center. 

If you look closely, you can see some construction on the third spire from the left. For a few hours we got to talk to an investigator and work with the Sister missionaries in the Visitors Center and those serving in the Spa Creek Branch of the Annapolis, Stake where we serve. One of our two Sister missionaries is finishing her mission this week and the other is being transferred. We are getting two Elders to replace them in the Branch.

Another blessing in our lives in the opportunity to work with the Spa Creek Branch of the Annapolis Stake (Spanish). My wife, Ann, has found her place in the Primary where the children all speak English. We have also been able to help the Branch member find family names to take to the Temple. They have just had a Branch Temple excursion and have another planned for the Fall. We have seen the members' temple and family history activity increase.

We have the normal challenges of age. We all bring our physical condition with us and have some of the same problems as we would have had even if we had stayed at home. None of the missionaries serving here with us have had to leave, but we have had a few trips to see doctors.

One very persistent challenge is driving the Washington, D.C. area. The average speed on the freeways when there is a moderate traffic flow is about 80 miles per hour. Every so often we have freeway racers go by weaving in and out of the traffic at well over 100 miles an hour. I have estimated some of the racers at over 120 mph. This is extremely scary.

As I have written recently, we worked our way through the last of the court books and have started doing flat paper, i.e. documents submitted to the court. We are not even going to make a dent in all the documents that need to be done. We are finding that digitizing the documents is more physically demanding than the books. All four of the cameras at the Archives are now working on the same type of documents.

The weather here in Annapolis changes frequently. After living in Mesa, Arizona for so many years where the weather is always sunny and warmer unless there is an infrequent storm, we find the weather to be interesting. Some days are cool and nice, some are warm and humid. The 4th of July was very hot and humid even until late at night. I like the variability of the weather.

We are really blessed with the Senior Missionaries and Volunteers who work with us at the Archives. We can't imagine how hard this job would be if you were out there alone as a couple. We have enjoyed have frequent Mexican dinners together and a few other activities. However, mostly we all do things on our own.

Overall, we are extremely blessed to be here. We love our Branch. We love the people we work with and we love the area. We are glad we came on a full-time mission.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Promoting a Local Family History Center
I have visited and learned about dozens (hundreds?) of small and large Family History Centers over the years all across the United States and into Canada. Recently, there is a lot of talk and interest in the future of the smaller centers. With the demise of a major Family History Center such as the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library, I have received a new wave of comments and questions about the viability of Family History Centers.

One thing about a Family History Center, either large or small, they only thrive with a constant stream of promotion. The Centers where the director and staff simply show up to open the door and wait for patrons is the clear path to being completely ignored. I can easily give examples of Centers that are bucking the trend by focusing on a consistent and broad range of outreach promotion and varied activities. The page above is a good example of a Center that is pushing back and refuses to be ignored and unused.

Of course, promotion is not the only ingredient in establishing a viable and active Family History Center, but it is the key to keeping the operation going. Here is another example of an active, vibrant Family History Center.
These Centers obtain a high level of visibility and attendance by promoting a constant stream of activities and classes by means of websites and newsletters. While some Centers seem to struggle to have enough staff, others, with consistent promotion and innovative activities overflow with people every time they are open.

Here is another example.

Who is going to promote your Family History Center if you do not? I suggest that you start by looking around online at all the websites and newsletters available from other successful Family History Centers and get to work in working with your local Center.

By the way, it also helps to have Temple and Family History Consultants that realize that working with Ward and Branch members in the local Family History Center is a very effective way to keep busy and happy.

Since I have been here in Annapolis, Maryland, I have had terrific support from the Spa Creek Branch Presidency.  They are working with the members of the Branch so that my wife and I have people to work with every Sunday during the Sunday School time. This is in contrast to Wards where the leaders ignore this golden opportunity and put family history at the bottom of their list of things to do and think about. Even if you do not have a permanent facility, I have worked with Wards that had the members bring computers every week and used the time for help and instruction.

There is no reason to have an inactive Family History Center other than lack of commitment and interest on the part of the directors and staff.

I will have a lot more to say about this subject.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Save African Heritage: Support FamilySearch's Oral History Program

Save African Heritage: Support FamilySearch's Oral History Program

I have had several contacts over the years with people involved in preserving oral histories in Africa and elsewhere. I have also done a lot of oral histories, some of which have been preserved in the Brigham Young University Special Collections Library. I am an active supporter of oral histories and plan to do more when I get back to Provo, Utah.

Here are some in-depth articles about the FamilySearch oral history projects.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Many New Videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel
The Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel continues to grow with the addition of new videos. There are 17 new videos uploaded in the last month. If you haven't taken advantage of this free resource for learning about different aspects of family history and genealogical research you are missing out on a great opportunity.

I did one webinar this month and plan to do one a month until I get back to Provo. Meanwhile, the wonderful contributors there in Provo and the surrounding area have been keeping busy with new offerings on a regular basis. Here is a partial screenshot of some of the new videos.

If you have any suggestions for new videos you can leave me a comment. You can also see links to the videos on the BYU Family History Library Website.

A Family History Mission: From Books to Paper

No. 70

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.

It took us an entire day to convert our camera station over from digitizing books to digitizing flat paper. Most of the day was spent working out the automation of the program that runs the controls for making the images. We use an external device that is programmed for several different functions and by moving to digitizing flat paper, we have a different series of tasks to perform and so we need to change the programming of the switches. For example, we need to have the digitization program we use automatically crop the area of the photo so the image has a black border. Here is an example of a digital image that has been automatically cropped. 

Maryland, Anne Arundel County, probate
Accounts of sale, T2552/C27-1, EV, v. 1, 17 Feb 1777-27 Jan 1779
Since this is a book, the right side of the image shows the center of the book and a part of the adjoining left-hand page. The software will automatically allow the user to take a photo of the two-page spread and the automatically split the images on the middle of the page with a definable overlap. The main difficulty in digitizing books is that they do not lay flat unless they have very few pages or the binding is entirely broken. If you look closely at the images, you can usually see some of the other pages of the book along the edge of the page away from the binding. 

After only one full day of digitizing paper, we realized that we had to relearn a lot of the commands and procedures that had become automatic to us when we were doing books. Surprisingly, the work also turned out to be considerably more tiring than doing books for some reason. Fortunately, we have the other experienced Senior Missionaries there to help get us out of our mistakes as we go along. We have to constantly keep monitoring our progress to make sure we have overlooked one step. If we do miss a step, we have to figure out how to go back and make the correction. 

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often talk about Temple work and Missionary Work and other kinds of work. What we learn from these experiences is that the key component of service of any kind is work. Real work. Hard work. Time-consuming work. Tiring work. I see a great divide in Church and in the world in general between those who are willing to work and those who try to avoid working. It is real work to get up five days a week at 6:00 am and get ready to go to work. It is also hard work to sit or stand all day and prepare or digitize documents. 

I think it is a tragedy that so many in our society look forward to "retirement." What would I do if I did not work? I cannot imagine spending time playing some pointless game or whatever. 

One thing happens when we work. We learn to love our work and the people who work with us. This may not always happen when we work in the world's pursuits, but it is inevitable when we work for the Church and serve our Savior in some way.