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

Friday, August 31, 2018

What makes you think your part of the FamilySearch Family Tree is perfect?

I continue to get a steady stream of people who are using or have used the Family Tree and who complain about "changes" to their "family tree." Among those who complain, I see a significant number who aver that they will never ever use the Family Tree for their genealogy.

I guess my initial comment is directed at those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you are a member and you are taking the position that you will not utilize the Family Tree then you are simply saying that you refuse to do ordinance work for your ancestors. I suppose you can take that position, but I might also mention that taking that position has some ultimate consequences you may not like. The reason this is the case is that the Family Tree is the only way you can presently reserve names for Temple ordinances.

But what I think is more astounding is that these same people profess to be "genealogists" or "family historians." If they are concerned about changes to their portion of the Family Tree, I can only think that they must believe that what they have in some other program is perfect and totally accurate. Well, I have been looking at pedigrees for about 36 years now and I have yet to find one (even my own) that is not riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Oh, there are some exceptions. Those who have less than a dozen or so names in their portion of the Family Tree. Most of the complaining about changes applies to people who lived before 1850. If the person is complaining about changes to more recent family members, they are not watching the people or they have yet to add all their documentation.

I am not writing about people who, like me and my family members, who see dozens of changes every week but just go about fixing any of the inaccurate or incorrect information or reversing the changes to the information supported by the attached sources. As I have written just recently, if you are going to participate in Temple work, you need to accept the fact that there is a degree of maintenance and support needed to maintain a cooperative enterprise such as the Family Tree.

Here is a list of appropriate responses to changes in the Family Tree that don't involve abandoning Temple work and having negative thoughts about the Family Tree.

  • Clean up all of the entries in your part of the Family Tree
  • Research and add valid sources to every person
  • Watch everyone in the Family Tree that you can identify and are concerned about
  • Carefully go through and look at each change made every week as you receive notices about changes
  • Make all the corrections as quickly as possible and resolve any real issues that develop
  • Make sure you contact every person who makes a change and politely ask them for sources supporting what they changed
  • Don't rant, yell, throw things or otherwise react to the changes made
  • Accept the fact that some of your relatives don't have a clue
  • Do more research and make sure their changes aren't valid before you react at all
That's a start as to what I would suggest. We find the Family Tree to be a fabulously valuable research and support tool. The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

Yes, I have seen more than my share of irrational, careless, uninformed, ridiculous, wrong, changes to the Family Tree. So what? I have also seen a lot of extremely valuable researched additions. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Why is The Family History Guide a Free Website?
Normally, an extensive website such as The Family History Guide would have a subscription component. But all of the support, organization, and content is completely free. We can only do this because The Family History Guide website is supported by The Family History Guide Association, a non-profit charitable 501 (c) 3 organization. If you were to subscribe to one of the commercial websites online, such as one of the large online family tree/database websites, you would spend perhaps hundreds of dollars a year for your subscription. All of that money would be an out-of-pocket expense. But if you donated an amount to The Family History Guide Association to support The Family History Guide website, you would get a tax deduction for the amount of your contribution.

The only way we can continue to update and expand The Family History Guide website and attend conferences such as the upcoming RootsTech 2019 Conference is to receive donated support.
As genealogists, there are very few ways that we can benefit the entire genealogical community as much as we can through supporting such an extensive educational effort as expressed by The Family History Guide.

Over and over, I have seen the benefit of having a centralized reference and educational website. The whole website is driven by people like me donating their time and effort and money to keep the website operating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Regional Trainers Help with The Family History Guide
You may not be aware of all of the resources of The Family History Guide website. The extent of the information and links to valuable instructional material is almost overwhelming. But fortunately, it the website is highly structured and you can easily find pertinent information or follow the sequenced instruction at your own pace. The idea of the website is to provide a huge organized set of instructions for all levels of participation in family history; beginner to expert.

In addition, The Family History Guide is creating mentors around the world who volunteer to assist others with their family history at all levels or can do a presentation at an event or conference in your area. There are three levels of Regional Trainers.

  • A Volunteer
  • A Training Specialist
  • A Geo Developer and Manager

Details about these levels of training are available on the "What is a Regional Trainer?" page of the website.
You may also be unaware that The Family History Guide provides a structured set of classes and training resources. Let's suppose that you have been called or volunteered to serve as a FamilySearch Family History Consultant. Where would you go for your training materials? What would you use to teach a class or do a presentation? The answer is The Family History Guide. Yes, there are a few materials incorporated in the website a few more on the website, but not nearly enough to provide answers to all of the questions that arise when helping others with their family history. The Family History Guide has a structured approach to all those materials and much, much more.

Now, what if you want to take your expertise to a higher level? What if you want to become a valuable family history person? Then the only place you will find a free, structured, and sequenced way to do this is by working your way through The Family History Guide. Then if you aspire to become really proficient, you can become a Regional Trainer. Being a Family History Consultant and having the knowledge and expertise to actually fulfill your calling can be a challenge. Let The Family History Guide help you to become competent and proficient.

Start here:

Monday, August 27, 2018

FamilySearch Family Tree Dark Matter Duplicates

How many duplicate entries are there in the Family Tree? I doubt that FamilySearch even knows the number. But I am convinced that there are many more than they or most anyone else suspects are there. Where are these duplicates? Well, first of all just like Dark Matter in the Universe, they are almost undetectable. You will not find these duplicates by checking the "Possible Duplicates" on the webpage for any of your ancestors.

Here is an example of undetected duplicates. If I look for Possible Duplicates for Thomas Hamilton LCJP-JQ2 this is what will show up as a result.

Hmm. Does this really mean that there are no duplicates? No. There are actually a considerable number of duplicates. How is this possible? Because this person's information is vague and incomplete so the search used for duplicates does not find all the variations. How do I know this? Because here are the results of a quick search on FamilySearch using the link on the Search Records part of his Detail page. Here are the results of the search.

There are 142 possible people on this search and some of them are likely to be the same person as my Thomas Hamilton or Hambleton. By the way, if I redo the search using the name "Hambleton" I get the same list of results. The real interesting thing about this entry is not the plethora of Family Tree Dark Matter Duplicates, but the fact that this person has no sources and there is no real connection yet showing that he is even related to me.

If you look at the screenshot above, you will see the icons that look like the beginning of a pedigree chart. These icons indicate that the records with the icons have been attached as a source to another person. Here is one of the others that happens to have some sources and is not in my family line.

Without doing a lot of research, there is no way to know which of all these sources to Thomas Hamilton or Hambleton are the same as my own entry. However, I commonly find this type of duplicate in my English research. Once I start doing the research, I will get more records and when I add some information, I immediately get more duplicate entries. I can spend an entire day on one family doing little more than merging duplicate entries.

So, if you think you are safe when the search shows that there are no duplicates, you might want to do a little more research and see if any of the records you find are attached to Dark Matter Duplicates.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

President Wilford Woodruff's Journals Now Online
A recent news article on the Church News website announced the availability of more than 7,000 pages of the journals of President Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Journals are available on the Church History Library website. Genealogists should be aware that the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library and the Salt Lake City, Utah Church History Library are two different buildings and organizations. They have complementary collections of historical documents and records. I have found valuable genealogical information in both collections.

That said, I decided to take a look at the Journals. Unfortunately, the articles about the online publication did not contain any links to the actual journals. After searching the catalog on the Church History Library website, I found some copies of the journals linked to digital copies on However, I could not find the journals. I finally found another news article with a link.

Here is the page with the list of journals and a link to the catalog page.

I could not find this page using the catalog.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Managing Your Part of the FamilySearch Family Tree

Is your part of the Family Tree looking a little neglected and sad? Here is a checklist for working with the Family Tree. The items listed aren't in any kind of order but I have given them numbers for easy reference. They are all things that need to be done to have a happy, healthy Family Tree. For each of these suggested activities, When appropriate, I have provided a link to The Family History Guide for instructions about performing the required maintenance.

Why do we need to manage or maintain our part of the Family Tree? The answer is not simple. The Family Tree is essentially a cooperative and in a sense, a "public place" to share all of the information we know about our families with others who are part of our family or may be interested. All such virtual public places, just like real public places out in the real world, need to be constantly cleaned up and maintained. Maintaining the Family Tree is directly analogous to maintaining a garden or keeping our house neat and clean. 

Here we go. Here are my first examples of some entries that need to be cleaned up and then maintained.

#1 The name needs to be cleaned up. The addition of a second surname in parenthesis will not make the Family Tree Searches possible or easy. If there is an alternate spelling of a given name or surname in the records those variations should be added to the other information section of the Details page as Alternative Names. 

Here is the link to The Family History Guide to make this edit. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.


The places and dates need to be standardized. Present and future functions of the Family Tree will depend on having accurate, standardized entries. The double date for Old Style/New Style will not standardize, you need to read the instructions about entering a non-standard entry. The existing place name for the Christening is actually two different places and cannot be resolved without research. My research indicates that the Butterton place is likely correct but I have yet to find a source to support either the place or date. There are no sources attached. By the way, he could not be born in Massachusetts Colony and Christened in England

This task has the same link to The Family History Guide. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.


I routinely delete all of these extra birth names. They are artifacts of all the previous submissions for this person over the years. They serve no purpose unless they are actually alternative or nicknames in which case they should be changed to reflect records with the alternative names. They are all duplicates of the name that should be the main entry in the Detail section. 

This task also has the same link to The Family History Guide. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.

When these three steps are finished, the entry will look like this with the caveat that there are still no sources attached to verify this information. It actually turns out that finding information about this person may be a real and extensive challenge. If this happens, you may want to work on this person or leave it for someone else. But cleaning up the entries is helpful to future researchers. 

Most of the time, I automatically clean up entries as I see them in the Family Tree even if I am not going to do any more research. With this entry, there is a lot more work that needs to be done. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Family History Mission: The Video Version

A Family History Mission: Digitizing Records for Family Search by James Tanner

No. 77

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 is not often that I get to turn my blog posts into a video. But thanks to the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I have a video about what we are doing here in Annapolis, Maryland at the Maryland State Archives. Did you know that for a short time, Annapolis was the capital of the United States? This video probably isn't like anything you have ever seen about a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before. If you end up with any questions, post them to my blog as comments or you can send me an email or post to my Facebook page or whatever. 

Translated Videos on The Family History Guide
Do you need to help someone with their family history in a language you cannot speak? This happens to me occasionally. The Family History Guide has a selection of basic training videos in the following languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish
  • Chinese
  • Korean

In addition, the website can use Google Translate to translate the page into more than 60 additional languages. Look at the image above and you will see the Google Translate link on the right side of the image.

As I return to Utah in a few months, my wife and I will once again be taking a more active part in helping, teaching, and promoting The Family History Guide. Here is a brief explanation of the website and organization from The Family History Guide Association website:
About The Family History Guide 
The Family History Guide is a free website that represents a best-in-class learning environment for family history. Its scope is broad, but its focus is narrow enough to help you achieve your goals, step by step. Whether you're brand new to family history or a seasoned researcher—or somewhere in between—The Family History Guide can be your difference maker. 
Mission Statement: "Our mission is to greatly increase the number of people actively involved in family history worldwide, and to make everyone's family history journey easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thoughts on Retirement

I don't ever plan on retiring. When I left my law practice, I was busier than ever with volunteering at the BYU Family History Library, helping to run several businesses, teaching classes, attending genealogy conferences, and writing books and webinars. Oh, also, taking a lot of photographs all over the country and into other countries. I think the dominant view of retirement is corrosive and counterproductive. The idea of a "life of leisure" is a copout from being a relevant member of society.

We lived most of our lives in Mesa, Arizona, one of the major "retirement" areas of the United States. What are the components of the so-called "active lifestyle" that is supposed to represent retirement? If you look at the ads for "retirement communities" you see the following:
  • Vibrant resort 55+ community
  • Award-winning golf
  • Easy access to retailers and entertainment
  • Affordable luxury
  • Luxurious club
  • Live the good life
  • Active adults
None of that has even the slightest interest to me. I can't image what I would do if all I had to look forward to in life was another round of golf. Now, one of my requirements for a place live does involve access to Costco or Sam's Club, but I don't think that is what they mean by retailers. 

What are the advantages to where I live in Provo, Utah?
  • A gathering center for my family
  • Google Fiber high-speed internet
  • Next to hiking trails up a canyon 
  • Snow in the Winter
  • Access to the second largest genealogy library in the world
  • Access to a major university library
  • Access to a major university
  • Short drives to some of the most fabulous scenery in the world
  • A good mass transit system
This list could go on and on. 

Over the years, I have had a lot of my friends retire from their jobs. In many cases, they have become listless, bored, and in some extreme cases, died after only a few years of retirement. Of course, we never know when we will die, but we don't have to sit around and wait for it to happen. 

I don't know if anyone has done a study, but I am guessing that genealogists live longer than the average. We always have one more project or one more family to research. 

If you are at odds about what to do with your retirement and still have some measure of health and mobility, I suggest getting involved in your community. Start by checking out this website: I think you will find that there are lots of opportunities, not just to stay busy, but to make a difference in your life and the lives of others. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Family History Mission: An Insiders' Tour of the Library of Congress

No. 77

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.

During the past few months working at digitizing records from FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives, we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. This is especially true of those in the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish) of the Annapolis, Maryland Stake. One of the members we got to know turned out to work at the Library of Congress and he graciously invited my wife and me to a personally conducted tour. We jumped at the opportunity and traveled downtown to the Library.

We arrived just before 8:30 am when the Library opens to researchers. Both of us have Library of Congress Readers Cards and we had already done some limited research in the Genealogy section. We spent about an hour and a half walking through all parts of the Library including those pertaining to receiving and processing the book orders from researchers.

We learned that the supports for the bookshelves in the shelving areas of the Library are actually part of the structure of the Library. We heard about several movies that had scenes filmed in Library and a lot of information about the past and future changes to Library. One highlight of the tour was getting a look at the Congressional Reading Room.

Many of the areas we visited did not allow photography. One important thing we learned was that not all the books and other publications in the Library are yet in the online digital catalog. They still maintain the huge 3x5 card catalog for reference. We asked about the digitization being done and found out that many of the books are going on the Internet Archive or directly. This probably explains, in part, why the Internet Archive's digital book collection has been skyrocketing to over 17 million books and publications over the last couple of years. I will be writing more about the Library of Congress and the books that now on in the near future.

This turned out to be a great opportunity. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Invisible Man

I am certifiably old. In fact, I was born during World War II and I am not even classified as a Baby Boomer. I have also been old for long enough to acquire some considerable experience at being old. I am also old enough that young women open doors for me and occasionally, people offer me their seat on buses and trains.

Now being old not necessarily all bad. One thing that I have noticed however is that when I am in a mixed age group, I am almost universally ignored to the point of being invisible to younger people. For example, at church in my Ward back in Provo, when I walk down the hallways between meetings, I may as well be invisible to anyone who is under the age of 40. Really. If I happen to catch an eye or say hello, it is almost like they are suddenly being addressed by a chair or the wall. The only exceptions are those people that I am officially assigned to say hello to, such as the families I used to home teach.

There are those who would say, as I was told over and again as a youth if you want friends you have to be a friend. I am sure that is true, but it is also true that before you can be a friend, the potential friend has to acknowledge your existence. I am not a shy person. If I were shy and old, it would be an even more difficult situation.

Being ignored is not all bad. But being consistently ignored as a consequence of age is a real problem. I mostly feel sorry for the other old people around me who I know are really lonely and would appreciate a smile or a hello. I can say hello to all of them, but it is not a substitute for being noticed by younger people also.

Another consequence of being old is that the leaders of the Ward do not know what to do with you. They are so anxious to make sure everyone has a "calling" in the Ward, that they often put older people into the last in/ first out category. I have solved that problem by being a Church Service or Full-time Missionary for many years. In the middle of serving almost constantly as a missionary, my wife and I also served at the Mesa, Arizona Temple for five and half years. If we keep volunteering for church service related callings, then we solve the leaders' dilemma of what to do with us old folks.

As I continue to get older I understand why they call these the "Golden Years." This is because it takes a lot of gold to get through the expense of being old.

For some time now, I have been writing almost exclusively about being a genealogist. I finally realized that the other topic I have extensive experience in is being old. So, you can expect more commentary on that subject in the future.

More Thoughts on Correcting the Church's Name

I received the following comment to my previous post about the announcement made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning the use of the name of the Church.
I read the original article that was published and I noticed that in subsequent citations you can refer to it as “THE Church” (emphasis mine). For Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, the LDS church is certainly not THE church. I think that you will find that those outside of the church will not change their nomenclature much.
The response to this comment is two-fold. The Style Guide from the official Church Newsroom states  in part the following:
The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838
In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." 
When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or the "Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged. The "restored Church of Jesus Christ" is also accurate and encouraged.
The official name of the Church starts with the word "The" capitalized. The name of the Church is exactly as it is stated. Subsequent references to the Church can use the shortened versions of the name. 

On August 16, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson released a statement concerning avoiding the use of nicknames, Abbreviations, and incorrect names referring to the Church and its members. On August 20, 2018, President Nelson is quoted as follows in an article in the Church News entitled, "President Nelson in Montreal: We’re Correcting—Not Changing—the Church’s Name."
President Russell M. Nelson’s call to identify the Church by its full, formal name—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—doesn’t constitute a name change but rather corrects misnomers that have persisted since the Church’s early history. The effort follows the Savior’s own scriptural directive and allows member and nonmember alike to acknowledge His role. 
“The name of the Church is not negotiable, because the Lord has told us what His Church shall be called,” said President Nelson. “So, we’re not changing names. We’re correcting a name—that’s important to note.” 
On August 16, President Nelson released a statement asking for a stop to the use of nicknames, abbreviations, and incorrect names—such as Mormon and LDS—that have overtaken and overshadowed the Church’s appropriate name.
In further response to the comment above, I would quote the Eleventh Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. 
However, I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is THE Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today.  

Monday, August 20, 2018

Thoughts on the Name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

During the entire time I have been writing my blogs, I have always tried to follow the guidelines outlined in the Style Guide - The Name of the Church located on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Recently, due to an official statement from the Church, the guidelines have changed, but the changes do not affect my personal usage at all. However, there are still a number of questions, particularly concerning existing organizations and websites.

Getting the name to be consistently used is a complicated and lengthy process especially in this instance when the usage of the terms is ingrained in both the culture and history of the Church. The use of the term "Mormon" is particularly well established in a variety of contexts from its use as the title of The Book of Mormon, and in association with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

During the past years, the term "political correctness" has come into wider usage. According to an article in the Washington Times entitled, "A little history of 'politically correct' '" the term was coined in the late 1920s by the Soviets and their ideological allies around the world "to describe why the views of certain of the party faithful needed correction to the party line." See The Washington Times, Sunday, November 15, 2015. In the United States, the term has come to be applied to attempts to change word usage when referring to certain groups or organizations. The irony of the adoption of some of these terms is that the adopted "politically correct" terminology does not always reflect the way the people in the group or organization refer to themselves. For example, here is a quote from an article in The New York Times back in 1993 entitled, "Navajos Weigh Return to Old Name: Dine." The article observes the following:
The Navajo Nation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States, is considering a proposal to go back to its original name, Dine, which means "the people." 
Opponents say a change would cost taxpayers the expense of changing legal documents, stationery, flags, the tribal seal and maps and express concern about the confusion a name would cause after 300 years of using "Navajo." 
Those who support the name change say Navajo was a name outsiders gave the tribe. 
"There is pride in Navajo Nation, but this is a subject that is in our hearts, our spirit," said Duane Beyal, assistant to Peterson Zah, the Navajo Tribal President. "Whether we use the name outsiders gave us or the name the Great Spirit gave us."
Does that sound familiar? Personally, I have never liked the use of the name "Mormon" to refer to myself or to other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I have been correcting people's use of the term for years. By the way, the Diné are still the Navajo Nation.

But they consistently refer to themselves as "The Diné."

In short, this new emphasis will not change anything that I am not already doing and practicing. In fact, I welcome the emphasis and will promote it as much as I am able. Also, the change has nothing to do with the concept of "political correctness," I believe all classes and groups of people should be able to denominate themselves in the way they think is appropriate. But likewise, no one outside of the group should be able to use terms and words that are hurtful or inappropriate while referring to the group or organization. Personally, I do not classify people based on any physical, social or economic criteria and I expect people to treat me the same way.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Changes Made to the Family Tree: The Good and the Bad

I had the opportunity to teach a class this week at the Washington, D.C. Family History Center to the Eastern European Focus Group. It was a very pleasant class. However, every time I bring up the subject of the Family Tree, someone, and in this case several people, expressed concerns about the accuracy of the Family Tree and the changes made to the information they contributed. I fully realize that I have written about this subject many times and even recently, but here I go again. By the way, the operative word in the image above from the Family Tree website is the work "shared."

First of all, not all "changes" to the Family Tree are bad. 

About three years ago, I did a video entitled, "Family Tree-Why it works and why it doesn't" Since then, I have written about the subject and made additional videos. In my opinion, during the past few years, overall, the Family Tree has made considerable progress both with the accuracy of the information and with issues of stability, i.e. changes. However, as more people get involved with the Family Tree, there is always a "battlefront" of change going on at different places as people try to reconcile their own records and inherited research with what is currently in the Family Tree.

From listening to concerns and complaints, I find that most of those who are upset relate issues with near relatives such as parents or grandparents. There is also a very vocal minority of users who are upset about remote ancestors who usually lived hundreds of years ago. Almost uniformly, those who are upset about "changes" to their near relatives have little or no idea that they can fix or correct the changes. It is also important to realize that some users of the Family Tree who have no genealogically active relatives see almost no changes to their entries until they get back into the "change zone."

What is the "Change Zone?" This is the part of the Family Tree where there is a general lack of consensus about the names, dates, places, and relationships represented in the Family Tree. This fluctuating zone of the Family Tree is the home of the "Revolving Door Ancestors." Those are people who have so many descendants in the Family Tree that it seems like their entries are being constantly rewritten.

We have a tendency to identify changes as either good or bad. But changes are just changes. Some of the changes made to the Family Tree make the information more accurate. Some changes do not reflect sources or reason and move the Family Tree towards chaos and anarchy.  Overall, the changes are good because people are involved and many are learning that their extended family creates an atmosphere of diversity. As I have written previously, genealogists are conditioned to expect stability in their own conclusions. They are not used to being challenged. The Family Tree provides a venue for diversity and confrontation with differing conclusions.

How do we know the difference between good changes and bad changes?

There is a really simple solution to this quandary. Look to the sources attached to the individuals involved in the changes. Are the changes supported by sources? If not, then the changes are likely to be ad hoc and more than likely wrong. But you are not qualified to draw that conclusion until and unless you provide a source or sources to support your own view of the information. In other words. unless you are willing to do the research, you are in no position to complain about the changes.

Here is an example of a supported response to a change in the Family Tree.

This is from a recent email notification from the FamilySearch of changes being made to people I am watching in the Family Tree. To understand what happened here and why the change was corrected, here are some of the responses made to the person who made the changes.

You might note that there is a request to "Provide sources, please."

So here we have the crux of the problem of distinguishing between good and bad changes. Good changes are accompanied by source citations and perhaps an explanation. Bad changes almost uniformly are made without explanation or sources. By the way, to see what is going on with any individual in the Family Tree, you should expand the recent changes section and look at all the changes.

An example of bad changes.

This type of random change without even a basis in speculation is destructive and if allowed to continue would rapidly degrade the information in the Family Tree. How is this problem addressed? By watching the entries you put into the Family Tree. I have used the analogy of a garden previously. But it always bears repeating. If we don't constantly weed a garden, we will not have any good results from our efforts. The Family Tree is a living and growing tree. It needs constant care and weeding of bad information is one of the main factors in keeping the Family Tree a viable and useful tool for genealogy.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

BYU Family History Library Webinars and Videos Now Directly Available
The Brigham Young University Family History Library has redesigned their Webinar page, but more importantly, they have added most of the videos to the viewer that allows the videos to be viewed from the website. The issue is that the WiFi used in chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints blocks Because the BYU Family History Library videos are on, they cannot usually be viewed in a chapel building or Family History Center using the available WiFi. But now, you and everyone else can view the videos directly from the BYU Family History Libray website. If you click on the name of a video in the very long list of videos available, then you get an option to view the video from the BYU website.

The link says "View video here." The video then plays directly from the website. We hope this expands the usefulness of our videos.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: A Webinar
No. 76

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.

On Friday, August 17, 2018, I will be presenting a Webinar entitled, "A Family History Mission: Digitizing Records for FamilySearch." You can attend the webinar for free by clicking on the above link. But if you happen to miss the webinar, within a few days, you will be able to access the recording on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.
If you would rather read about our mission rather than watch a video, I will be continuing to post here on my blog.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back to the 60s: Freedom of Speech and Student Organizations

Note: This is my own opinion and I am not acting in the capacity of representing any other individuals or organizations.

Banning student organizations at universities is not a new phenomenon. As a person who was raised in the 1960s, I am well aware of the controversy and even violence that is part of our American history of student organizations. While a member of the ROTC during the Vietnam War demonstrations, I have seen first hand what happens when a university administration gets involved in policing first amendment rights. The issues being expressed in the 60s were fundamental and serious. My own involvement, however, ended abruptly when I left the country for a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina.

Now, more than 50 years later, I am amazed that university administrations are still trying to police first amendment rights and deny access to those with whom they disagree. A recent new article yanked me back into this controversy of my youth. Here is the headline from a recent news article found in the Deseret News for August 10, 2018.
The issues today are not about a war being fought in the Far East, but about a vague issue of "discrimination" which now seems to be more important to school officials than First Amendment rights. The University of Iowa deregistered 40 student groups, including the Latter-day Saint Student Association of which I used to be a member, for failing to comply with campus policy. About a fourth of the organizations were faith-based.

This action was arguably taken as a result of a lawsuit filed earlier this year in which the United State District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled against the University of Iowas on exactly the same issue raised by the present action. The case is Business Leaders in Christ, an unincorporated association vs. The University of Iowa, et al. My link is to the entire 31-page court decision. Essentially, back on the 23rd of January, 2018 the Court ruled that this organization could not be banned from the campus for the same reason that all of the 40 student groups were more recently banned. One key issue in the Court's ruling was selective enforcement. So the University of Iowa apparently decided to ban all of the student groups they felt did not follow their policy and try to get around the Court's ruling. This is right back into the 60s.

Here is the University's policy:
[I]n no aspect of the [the University’s] programs shall there be differences in treatment of persons because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual, and that equal opportunity and access to facilities shall be available to all. See
The simple question here is upon what criteria can any organization be formed? In other words, no organization could be allowed that had any requirements based on "any other classification" that would exclude anyone. 

Additionally, anyone can apply and be accepted by the University of Iowa for admission despite low academic standing, criminal background, etc? If I take a test in a class while attending the University aren't I entitled to pass? Isn't the professor discriminating against me just because I can't answer his or her test?

What about the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble? Where does that go? Perhaps you have forgotten that we have a First Amendment. Here it is in case you have forgotten:
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Here is an article from the Library of Congress entitled "Right to Peaceful Assembly: United States." Are the faculty and staff of universities now agents of the United States of America and empowered to interpret and enforce their own version of the laws of the United States?

This is not an issue that is going to go away. There is a way to actively discourage discrimination without, at the same time, denying people their right of free speech and assembly. Although I think it is sad that organizations such as Iowa State University think that they have to assume governmental powers and selectively enforce their version of constitutional law. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

FamilySearch Changes Almost All Wrongly Changed

As many of us are aware, if we "Watch" individuals in the Family Tree, we will receive an email notification from FamilySearch once a week showing us all the changes that have been made. This week I was notified of 14 people changed with 97 changes. Nearly all those changes had to be corrected or reversed. Here is one example that I have been following and writing about for some time.

The changes involved adding parents with this result.

Francis Cooke has 52 Memories and 57 Sources. The last sources were added in 2017. One of the first sources listed is the following:

This is from The Mayflower descendant: a quarterly magazine of Pilgrim genealogy and history, by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants for 1899, Volume 3. The first line of this article states:
Francis Cook's ancestry and his home before he joined the Pilgrims are unknown. 
The latest statement in Wikipedia: Francis Cooke states:
His ancestry is unknown and there are no records of the time found regarding his birth.
If this person who added parents to the Family Tree had read anything at all about his "ancestor," he would know that there are no known parents. 

The vast majority of the inaccurate changes to the Family Tree come from this type of negligence and lack of involvement. Additionally, the same people with some of the same changes show up every week, week after week. For example, here is another change made from this week.

John Tanner KWJ1-K2F has 236 Memories and 93 sources in the Family Tree. If someone is a descendant of John Tanner, they usually know about their relationship. In fact, we met a couple of young people yesterday and they recognized us as missionaries and one of them said that he was a descendant of John Tanner. By the way, he barely knew the name. But here, time after time, without adding any more sources, people add a "Pardon Tanner" as a son of John Tanner and his wife Lydia Stewart Tanner. Here is the statement my daughter Amy Tanner Thiriot wrote to the person who added the child.
Reason This Relationship Was Deleted 
There is no reliable or trustworthy source documenting that John Tanner (KWJ1-K2F) and Lydia Stewart Tanner (LC3X-WJ5) had a son named Pardon. 
RonT provided a copy of the family bible in John Tanner's Memories section. The family bible lists Lydia's children as: William, Mathilda, Willard, Sidney, John Joshua, Romela, Nathan, Edward, Edwin, Maria Loisa, Martan Henery, and Albert. (All spellings from the record.) Lists of the family from the 19th and early 20th centuries do not mention a child named Pardon, and sources within the family state that John and Lydia had twelve children. 
John Tanner had a brother named Pardon Tanner (L6G9-6S3), born 1791. William Tefft Tanner (LZY8-STR) and Lydia Foster (LHRF-CWS) had a child named Pardon Tanner (MBPD-GH5), born 1820, died 1824. Elizabeth Tanner and Newman Perkins had a child Pardon Perkins (K236-P41), born 1824. 
William and Lydia Tanner's son is probably the Pardon mistakenly placed into the John and Lydia Tanner family. 
I don't know who first speculated that John and Lydia had a son named Pardon. A Pardon Tanner was sealed as a child to John Tanner and Lydia Stewart on September 2, 1975 in the Logan Utah LDS Temple. I have never seen a valid reason for anyone doing that. No one has ever provided documentation. The family temple work done in the late 1800s does not include Pardon. 
Until someone can provide an actual reliable document from the nineteenth century (burial or church record) showing his existence that proves that he is the son of John and Lydia and not of Joshua and Thankful or William and Lydia or Elizabeth and Newman, please do not add him to the family.
We will not give up correcting the entries. But I will probably not find time to look at every single entry that changes every week. I do review the changes and appreciate the help of my daughters in keeping the changes under control.

There needs to be a general change in the attitude of those with ancestors who are already well documented in the Family Tree. We need to realize that a lot of effort has gone into research many family lines since the Family Tree has been in existence. Before we add anything to an existing ancestor in the Family Tree, we need to:
If you think you can outlast the Tanners, you are mistaken.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Adding Multiple Pictures to FamilySearch Memories

I haven't written much about the Memories section of the website for a while. But I add new documents and photos on a regular basis. The blog post above reminded me that I have a lot of photos left to upload, title and tag. In mentioning adding multiple photos, I was wondering if FamilySearch had added some new features, the answer was that the "new" features have been incorporated for some time. Here is a screenshot of the page where you can add photos.

What you may not have noticed is that you can add photos or images of documents directly from Instagram, Facebook, and Google Photos. To add multiple files, just select the files on your computer and drag and drop them into the upload screen. There is now a "Choose Files" option that may make this process easier. The types of file formats supported has increased over the years. But the file size remains at 15 MB. That is usually enough for about any scan or photo. There are several ways to reduce the memory size of a file, but to some extent, the method depends on the file type. Do a Google search for "reduce a --- file size" and put in the file type to get several options. I use the quality slider in the Mac OS Preview program but there are perhaps dozens of other options. I also use Adobe Lightroom, but that is an expensive option.

One of my goals for the not-to-distant future is to continue uploading and tagging the photos I already have on my computer. But since I have tens of thousands of photos that is sort of a lifetime goal.

Since we have been here in Annapolis, Maryland working on digitizing records for FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives, I have worked with a lot of people who do not have any Memories in the Family Tree Memories section. We have had a few successes in getting some people started, but most of our time is spent getting people on to the program in the first place and getting a login and password.

If you want some good instructions about adding Memories, see The Family History Guide. Here is a link to the section on adding Memories.

The link goes to FamilySearch, Project 2: Memories.

Friday, August 10, 2018

New Collections Updates from FamilySearch Changing Directions

I recently pointed out that the weekly updates about additions of new records to the website have been segregated with the new images going into the Catalog and the newly indexed images going into the Historical Record Collections. It appeared that they were trying to make sure that all the records in the Historical Record Collections were indexed. However, recent notices, such as the one above for the week of August 6, 2018, send a mixed message. There is a large collection of Italian records that are images only and have apparently been added to the Historical Record Collections.

The conclusion right now is that if you want to find a record on, you need to search for records BOTH in the Historical Record Collections and in the Catalog. For a brief explanation, see the following:

Where are the Digitized Records on

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on -- Project Thirteen

England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970 for William Tarbutt
I have been working on this family for a while and I found an interesting record in the England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970 on Here is the record.

You might have to click on the image to see the detail, but essentially, the record lists the first seven children with their birth dates and shows that they were all christened on the same day. Finding this record cleared up the fact that the same christening date kept coming up for different members of the family. Once I got documents explaining that I had the right family and that the children were correct, I decided to take a look at each of the children.

I am not going to go back through all of the steps I took in researching the family, but I did find enough to start working on documenting the individual family members. One of the criteria I use to determine if further research is indicated is the lack of a death date and no information about a marriage.

For example, here is the first child listed.

There is also no record of a marriage in addition to the lack of a death date. How do we know if this person lived long enough to get married or not? We don't. So, there is a need for more research. Currently, she has only one source in the Family Tree.

An interesting thing about doing searches in the Family Tree is that there are connections for three of the other Partner programs. However, although the program will search using some of the information in the Detail section of the individual it will not automatically add additional information such as a spouse or parents. You have to add in a place also. So even though you get results from a search, you will get more accurate results by adding in additional information and yes, you have to add in the additional information every time you do a search. After adding in the christening place and the names of her parents, I got a long list of Mary/Maria Tarbut (with alternative spellings) with different marriage dates and places.

Now, it is time to do a search on the website. I need to know how many Mary Tarbuts there were in Cranbrook, Kent, England. There is only one result: the same England & Wales Non-Conformist Birth and Baptisms with the 1814 christening date. By looking at some variations, I find a Mary Tarbut who dies in 1848. The problem with these records is that without the names of a spouse or parents, you cannot tell if the female person who dies has her maiden name or a married name.

For the time being, I decide to move on to Harriott Tarbut. Notice the variation in the spelling of Harriott.

I got a technical difficulties error message from FamilySearch, so I switched to  I struck out there also. finds only the same christening record. I decide to move on. The reason is that I am making my initial review of the children. I am not spending time with the harder cases, I am trying to find more information about the family. The additional information could unlock the lack of records for the rest of the family members.

Next in line is John Tarbut. There are several John Tarbutts already in the Family Tree including his father, so I need to be specific about the dates and places.

FamilySearch is still on the fritz, so I rely on the other websites. Now, I am into the maze of people with the same or very similar names. I don't find anything useful in Ancestry, but I do find a marriage record in that looks helpful.

A quick check on the location shows that Maidstone is about 13 miles from Cranbrook.

Here is a breakthrough. I can now do searches using John Tarbut married to Elizabeth Tilby and see if I can find a Census record that tells me this John Tarbut was born in Cranbrook. That information is in the English Census records. I can temporarily add a spouse into the Family Tree and do some searches. Hmmm. I do find the family, finally. How do I know that this is the family? Well, I did forget to write about some of the information I already know about this family. They are Basket Makers. Here is his brother William and his family with John, his brother living with them at age 61 in the 1861 England and Wales Census. The birthplaces match, the names match, the ages, and dates match. There is only one problem, I already have William Tarbutt married to Sarah Monk Smith in three different census records with no children. I find another marriage record showing that this William Tarbutt married Eliza Griffiths in 1850 and his father's name is John Tarbutt. Both of these men are Basket Makers and both were born in Cranbrook. One of them is not the William born in 1810.

So far, we haven't been able to resolve the records. So more research is necessary. What I did find is that William Tarbutt as a basketmaker is very likely a Romi (Romany).

Further note: After some consultation with one of my daughters who has been working on these families in England, we concluded that there are two William Tarbutts (Tarbut). One born in 1810 and one born in about 1815. Both are from Cranbrook and both are basketmakers. In fact, all of them are basketmakers. They are also non-conformists and that is a stronger indication that they were Romi or Gypseys. I started to find them on Romany or Romi websites.

Explanation of how this project began and why I am pursuing it (updated).

In this project, I started out by picking a somewhat random person from my ancestors or my ancestors' descendants who may have lived into the 20th Century from the Family Tree and to hopefully show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations. Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 19th Century by much harder the further you go back in the past. As I continued to examine individuals in the Family Tree my objectives have changed. I decided to include anyone who, from the lack of information in the Family Tree, needed research.

To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List unless I am related to those I find. For those I find to whom I am not related, I will simply leave the "green icons" on the Family Tree for that person's descendants to find and use for themselves. Please refrain from doing the temple work for people to whom you are not related.

Now, after I got going doing the research, I got a couple of requests to research some people further back in time. These turned out to be old, established "end-of-line" situations. Since my original idea was to demonstrate finding people, I started with easier challenges. But in any event,  I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since some of the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation independent of the time frame, there is no guarantee that I will be any more successful than the average user of the Family Tree in finding additional family members. In any event, I hope that my efforts as recorded will help either the family members or others to find more information about their ancestral families and relatives.

Why am I doing this? For the past 15 years or so, I have been helping hundreds (thousands?) of people find their ancestors. I simply intend to document the process in detail with real examples so that you can see exactly how I find family lines. I simply want to show where those "green icons" come from. Since the Family Tree is entirely cooperative, I will simply assume that when I find a family that needs some research that I am helping that family. By the way, this is Project Eleven of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

There is another reason why I am doing this. Because I constantly offer to help people find their ancestors and I get relatively few that take advantage of that offer. I need to spend some of my excess energy.