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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Family History Mission: Down the Stretch

No. 84

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Evaluating the Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

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

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

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

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

Those 481 changes are only for September 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Living with Old People

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Family History Mission: Comings and Goings

No. 83

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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

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

Here is the reality of that entry.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Still waiting for the Golden Years: Computers and Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dia de Muertos

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reflections on Duplicate Entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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

No. 82

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Family History Mission: Hurricane Preparedness

No. 81

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Family History Mission: The week of the Hurricane

No. 80

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

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

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

Dramatic Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right sidebar has some new choices.

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

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

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

Friday, September 7, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Consolation in Music

I recently heard Stevie Nicks singing "Rhiannon" and it started me thinking about my life of music. When you get old, I suppose you are supposed to think all the contemporary music is trash but in my case after a lifetime of singing, musical instruments, and choirs, I know the current popular music is trash. Today singers mistake noise for music. 

My musical tastes range from Handel's Messiah to American and African folk music. One of the few real benefits of age is that you could some perspective of what is and what is not "good" when it comes to music. Good is Paul Desmond's "Take Five" as played by Dave Brubeck. Good is also Slim Dusty singing "Waltzing Matilda." Very good is Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and how about The Seekers singing "I am Australian?" 

I associate songs with specific places and experiences in my life. When I hear the song, I see the place and remember what I was doing and what I was thinking and saying. I have thousands of memories associated with songs. Part of my life was a contest between the Beach Boys and the Beatles. I bought the White Album as soon as I found a copy in the University of Utah Bookstore. I associate the Beach Boys with the many days I spent water skiing on Saguaro Lake and elsewhere in Arizona. I can remember driving down Hayden Road and listening to John Denver sing "Country Roads." I believe I said that Country Roads would probably still be played in a hundred years. Well, I have lived most of that hundred years and it still gets some significant playing time. 

I love to listen to Doc Watson and was very sad when he died. My high school fight song was "That will be the day" by Buddy Holly and I really did find out about the plane crash from a newspaper on my doorstep. My career as a professional musician was very short, but I did have a lot of fun singing. I often listen to Crosby, Stills, and Nash sing "Your Children" and you should remember that Jerry Garcia played the pedal steel guitar on the most famous version of the song. Speaking of Jerry Garcia, I wear Jerry Garcia ties. I talk about the Grateful Dead when I teach classes on genealogy. 

My one overriding favorite is Johann Sebastian Bach. If you have read this book

Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1979. Godel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid. Vintage Books: New York.

then you can begin to understand my long-standing interest in Bach and all his music. Which, of course, brings me to the Goldberg Variations as played by Glenn Gould from 1955. Here is another fantastic performance by Glenn Gould of the J.S. Bach-Partita No.4 D major-part 2 of 2.

While I was in high school the school cafeteria had a loud music system that played every day during lunch. The only problem was that they only played two songs both by Johnny Cash, "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line." The amazing thing is that I still like both songs. 

I can't stop writing without mentioning Pete Seeger. His best and almost last performance is "Forever Young" One benefit of having lived so long is that I can relive all the good times with music from the Internet. I do have to mention Ralph McTell  singing "Streets Of London"

I think I will close with another Stevie Nicks favorite that applies to my elderly position in life: Landslide

Oh wait, how can I forget Paul Simon's Graceland. Did I forget to mention Bob Dylan? I could go on all day but then I would be talking to myself, which is another benefit of old age. You can call me Al if you like. This is becoming my theme song: Earl Scruggs and Lester Flat singing, "Who Will Sing for Me?"

New 4-Volume History of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days

I have started reading and rereading the first installments of the new four-volume history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint called, "Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days." Quoting from an article written By Elder Steven E. Snow, General Authority Seventy and Church Historian and Recorder:
Saints was prepared in response to the Lord’s commandment to “keep the church record and history continually” (D&C 47:3). Unlike past histories of the Church, it is a narrative history written in an engaging style that will be accessible to both youth and adults. 
Saints, however, is not historical fiction. It is a true story based on the records of people from the past. Every detail and every line of dialogue is supported by historical sources. Notes at the end of each chapter refer to the records and additional sources. Those who want to read the actual records, better understand related topics, and discover even more stories will find links in the back of the books and online at
I started reading the chapters published in the Ensign Magazine and liked both the content and the style. The narrative style includes details that have previously been omitted from the "official" histories of the Church. Some of the details were things that I had not read about previously even after reading quite a few books on the subject that have been published over the years. I suppose some people will be upset because they didn't know the details previously, but I am happy to learn about what happened. The entire book is extensively annotated with footnotes supporting almost every statement made.

I recognize that historical research often reflects the opinions, prejudices, and culture of the times. We have moved into a more open time when most of the original source documents are becoming freely available through digital copies. Genealogists should take a lesson from the way the research has proceeded when they rely on "traditional" family stories and relationships built on conjecture.

The books are being made available through the Ensign magazine, on the LDS Tools app on mobile devices, as well as on See

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Family History Mission: Mission Calls Go Digital
No. 79

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.

You can imagine that the full-time missionaries had a lot to discuss concerning the news that eventually all mission calls in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be made by email. When we received our full-time mission call, we had quite of few of the family members present electronically since our family is all over the country. I don't see changing the paper notice to an electronic one as much of a change. We have had nothing but trouble getting our paper-based mail here in Annapolis.

I mentioned that when we arrived, we had been told the wrong apartment number and had given that wrong number to the U.S. Postal Service. Well, here we are more than nine months into our mission and now we are still getting regular mail delivered to the wrong apartment. Apparently, the post office sold the mailing list off and we are getting both junk mail and some mail from companies that we thought had the right mailing address. We have changed almost all of our bills to direct deposit, so the damage from getting mail sent to the wrong address has been minimized except that there have been some notable exceptions where the wrong address caused us some losses.

We have visited the post office here locally and submitted at least four or five written corrections but nothing seems to make a difference.

One of the first comments about the change in the method of mission calls from the missionaries was that the change would save a lot of money. In additions, since the young missionaries are sometimes away from home, sending them an email that can be printed lets them "open" their own document. Since I do almost everything having to do with writing online now, I think it is a good idea.

It is a challenge not to be repetitious about working in the Maryland State Archives. Our big discussion right now has to do with reallocating the responsibility for the document preparation area. At least two of the missionaries need to be there to supervise the volunteers, organize the documents for preparation and take care of answering questions about the documents. We will still have five couple serving through the end of November. One of our five couples is leaving at the end of September but another couple will arrive shortly after they leave. We leave to return to Provo at the end of November at the same time as one other couple. But so far, we have only heard of one couple coming as a replacement.

All of this may sound like fussing, but it is quite complicated to maintain a steady flow of documents for the four cameras. The work of preparing the documents and then operating the cameras to digitize the documents takes a lot of concentration and hard work and we meet every week as a group to discuss what needs to happen that week. We also all have family and health issues to discuss and time passes quickly.

We are wondering when the weather starts to cool off here in Annapolis. We are still getting days that are hot and humid. We are going to be interested to see what they do with the leaves from all the trees. We are getting into a steady routine and I am sure will be surprised at how quickly time will have past by.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Issues with Books and Research at the Family History Library?

If you are a casual or one-time user of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah you probably have not seen or appreciated the changes that have occurred over the past few years. The first dramatic change occurred when the Library drastically reduced its staff of professional, full-time specialized consultants. Most of these genealogical professionals had worked at the Library for years and were well-known in their research areas. In order to have knowledgeable and "expert" consultation at the Library with the few consultants left, the Library instituted a central hub with the patrons being notified of the availability of a consultant by a "beeper" like in a restaurant. My own experience has been that getting answers to simple questions about the availability or physical location of something in the Catalog has been made more difficult. Some of the missionary helpers are knowledgeable, but most know little more than the basics about the Family Tree.

Some of the most noticeable changes are being caused by the ongoing digitization projects. These changes reflect the technological, social, and cultural changes that are associated with computerization. For example, over the past few years, physical areas within the Library have converted to computer stations. This transformation has recently culminated in the reconstruction of the first floor as a Family Discovery Center.

Due to the ongoing digitization of the books in the Library, many of the digitized books have been removed from the shelves. However, this has caused a problem for some of the researchers. For example, I was searching for a book I knew had been digitized and got this message:

I thought the Family History Library was a library. Most libraries today have a way to "checkout" books even when the book is subject to a copyright claim. Websites such as the and have a physical copy of the book and can then check the book out to users. There are a lot of legal hurdles, but with an existing online collection, it should be possible to set up a way to check out the books. 

I am also hearing a persistent "rumor" that the Family History Library has about 40,000 books that have "disappeared" from the shelves and cannot be accessed in the catalog. Researchers have said that inquiries about the books remain unanswered. This and other changes have become important issues to some of the experienced, professional genealogists who have been using the Library for years. There seems to be a definite move away from supporting the experienced researchers. My own experience seems to indicate a decrease in the level of support needed for serious research as opposed to using the Portal programs and

This whole issue goes back to the question of the future of libraries in a digital world. But specifically with the Family History Library, it has to do with whether or not it will remain a destination for serious genealogical research in the future. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

More thoughts on Managing Your Part of the FamilySearch Family Tree

My first post on managing your part of the Family Tree focused on standardizing the entries and tidying up the long lists of "Birth Names." You can see the first post here:

In this post, I am moving beyond strict housekeeping and looking at the content and reasonableness of the entries.

The entry above shows a person named "Elizabeth L. Milton" who has a speculated birthdate and an indeterminate death date. Granted, there is some housekeeping that needs to be done with this entry. The brackets that appear around the assumed birthdate are a holdover from the paper family group sheet days. Removing them does not change the undetermined birth year, but it would be better to use the term "about 1751" rather than just leave the date without supporting records.

There are only three sources showing for Elizabeth:

  • The Douglas Register
  • Eliz. Milton in an entry for Gerard Morgan, "Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917"
  • The Life and Ministry of John Morgan
Here is the issue in managing the entries. It is important to examine all of the sources cited to see if they actually apply to this particular ancestor. The first source listed does not have a link to any specific information. The reference is to an entry showing a marriage date of October 1772. So, I uploaded a copy of the document with the reference. 

Although this does not substantiate the date of birth, it does establish her name and a marriage date. 

The third source listed is a book. Unfortunately, there are very few sources mentioned for those portions of the book that write about the ancestry of John Morgan, b. 1842, d. 1894. This particular book falls into the category of a general biased history of a prominent person. For example, my Great-grandmother married John Morgan and is only mentioned once in a short paragraph of the book. The book is certainly a source for John Morgan, but it is not helpful for Elizabeth Milton. 

At this point, it is time to start doing some serious research. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Pew Research on Religious Typology

The Religious Typology: The highly religious, nonreligious and in between

A very interesting and revealing study by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life has taken the initiative to redefine the way religious adherence is usually portrayed. Instead of classifying people by the name of the sect they say they belong to, they defined seven new typologies and then crafted questions to determine the relative makeup of each type. The chart above is from the study.

The study is quite long and very detailed. Here is the link to the entire study. The Religious Typology, A new way to categorize Americans by religion. One interesting finding is the frequency of New Age beliefs, even among the "Sunday Stalwarts." The questions did not identify the participants' church affiliation per se. This survey looked solely to cluster analysis to determine affinity. You might find the results disturbing, especially when you realize how many people reject all religious beliefs.

I do find it interesting how many people, even those categorized as Sunday Stalwarts believed in some New Age beliefs. I guess that is why I recently saw so many crystals on sale in a Smithsonian gallery.

You might enjoy reading the entire article.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Teaching Family History in a Non-English Evironment

I received the following very interesting and thought-provoking comment in response to a recent blog post.
Thanks for sharing your mission experiences. Since you are working in a Spanish branch, I wanted to ask you about training resources. I was recently called as a stake temple and family history consultant. We have a very active Spanish ward in our stake with the largest membership of any ward in the stake with very little family history participation. They have 2 consultants that are called, but the consultant do not have computers at home and are struggling to learn to use FamilySearch. I normally direct people to the Family History Guide since it's the best training resource available. I can translate the Family History Guide into Spanish, but most of the articles and videos it links to, as well as the images, are all still in English. I worry that this will be confusing as one of these consultants speaks very little English and does not know not much about the computer at all either, so I worry that if part of the information is in English and part in Spanish that she will get confused.
Are there are other resources out there specifically in Spanish that I could be using? Or have you found that the Family History Guide works okay? Or maybe I just sit down with these consultants enough times along with the people they are helping until they learn it better? Just not sure what the best thing to do is, would appreciate some input. They do have a computer lab in the building that they meet in so they do have computer they can use easily and I do speak Spanish, so that helps. 
There are a number of important issues raised by this rather extensive comment. I will attempt to answer each of the issues/questions raised.

Family History Training resources in a non-English language

The commentator is correct. The Family History Guide can be translated into the Google languages, but the links to videos and other resources are almost all in English. The Family History Guide is merely limited by resources, i.e. it is a free website and supported donations to a non-profit, tax-deductible organization, The Family History Guide Association. We have discussed translation, especially into Spanish, but progress will depend on the level of donations. Here is an example of how the problem is being addressed by The Family History Guide.
A. Sign in to FamilySearch and move around the Family Tree screen.
Note : If you do not have a free FamilySearch Account, read this article for instructions. (For a translation, click one of these links:   DE (German)   FR (French)   IT (Italian)   PT (Portuguese)   JA Japanese) For more help with your FamilySearch account, refer to Goal 13: Account.
You can change your basic Family Tree to any one of the languages. Of course, that does not help with the languages in the videos etc.  Unfortunately, Spanish is not one of the languages supported by FamilySearch for that particular link.

Unfortunately, unless the websites are also translated, you would have to rely on Google Translate, which doesn't work with videos.

Issues with computer skills plus issues with language skills

My experience is that many Spanish speaking units in the Church have extremely low family history participation. However, that is mainly due to lack of leader support and bi-lingual Temple and Family History Consultants. We do not try to teach the Spanish speakers family history, we simply try to help them research and work with the FamilySearch program. As they acquire computer skills and some language, they can begin to do research in the abundant Latin American records. However, most of them can fill in two or more generations merely by talking to their relatives. The key is identifying the parish where their family lived. FamilySearch is rapidly filling in many Latin American recordsets. We get excellent cooperation and results from one-on-one assistance and directly helping those with no reading and computer skills by using the Consultant Planner. Again, the key is the cooperation of the Branch or Ward leaders.

Teaching Spanish research skills

I started learning by reading every word of this book.

Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984.

You can usually get a used copy on Amazon. I can see some used copies available on Amazon as I am writing this post. Of course, the book is in English, but all the examples are to Spanish language records and there are lots of helps with vocabulary in Spanish. Get the book and you have a complete course in Spanish language genealogy.

I took a BYU class from George Ryskamp and that was also a huge help.

Using the computer lab

Basically, what you need is a space that the Ward or Branch leaders will allow you to use to help people during the Sunday School time. You can make due with laptops and WiFi. But if you have a computer lab, all the better. The best case is access to a Family History Center. One unit in Provo actually left the chapel and went to a nearby Family History Center during Sunday School time. You can ask one or at most two people to come and get on to FamilySearch and begin putting their names in with help. Typing skills are nice but not absolutely essential. Yes, I sit there and type in their names and then research the names in the records. I let them click on the link to send the names to their Temple list even if they can't read or type. They are thrilled to take the names to the Temple.

The key seems to be the cooperation and support of the Ward or Branch leaders. Without their active support (or in some cases with their active opposition) it is almost impossible to have a unified effort. But we just keep helping people individually in their homes, at Family History Centers, anyplace and anytime we can find time to help them. With support, you will have a wonderful time working with them one by one.

I would like to be there when those who actively oppose family history meet their relatives in the life hereafter.

This works with languages where we have access to records online. You do need someone who knows the language to help those who are monolingual, however.

A Family History Mission: Nine Month Overview

No. 78

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

I seldom include people in my photos because of privacy concerns. But this one is me and I don't really have much privacy left to be concerned about, so here is a photo of the Washington, D.C. Metro and our "private" car on the train. 

Nine months of our twelve-month mission have now passed. We are seeing some more of the Senior Missionaries who work with us at the Maryland State Archives start to leave and hearing about new missionaries coming to help us digitize records. We have had an interesting time here in Annapolis, Maryland. You can guess from my posts that we are not having the usual "missionary" experience. I can not post baptismal photos or happy groups of young missionaries smiling at the camera. Five days a week our schedule is almost the same. 

Some of these observations will be a bit repetitious, but here are some of the salient issues and experiences of the past nine months. 

We do not generally look like missionaries. We work in a very dirty environment with old records that create a significant amount of dust, mold, and pieces of disintegrating paper. This has been very hard for some of the missionaries. Since I grew up through the Scouting program, I am not much bothered by dirt but that does not make it any easier to keep our work areas and ourselves clean. We were encouraged to wear washable clothes. That turned out to be one correct assessment of what we are called upon to do. 

Our work is physically difficult and sometimes exhausting. We are called upon to lift heavy books and boxes. We stand or sit for long periods of time. We use muscles we haven't used for a long time or ever. I sometimes get back to the apartment and simply have to go to sleep for a while. Turning pages in a book or moving paper would seem to be easy unless you do it for eight hours.

We see so many interesting and sometimes funny things on the documents we process. Personally, I have come to value the work even more than I did before I began processing all the documents first hand. The amount of genealogical information in these records is enormous. Since some of the records are literally falling apart, this work is vital for the preservation of this information. Some of the Senior Missionaries have no previous experience in family history or genealogy. Some have taken this opportunity to learn all that they can and spend considerable time both learning and researching and others have simply ignored the subject altogether. Whether to use the missionary time to learn or do research is left entirely up to the individual. I just kept doing what I have been doing for the past 36 years and did my own family history research and helped others as I was able to do so. 

I have an increased perspective of doing research in both the Library of Congress and the National Archives. We have had the opportunity to help lots of people find names to take to the Temples. We have enjoyed helping and working in the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish). We have had a wonderful time with the members and seen their struggles to maintain a small Spanish speaking branch. We have seen what the leaders of the Branch can do to promote family history. Simply by encouraging the members to work on their family history and providing a venue during Sunday School in the building's Family History Center, participation by the members has skyrocketed. 

We have adapted to living in Annapolis, Maryland. We have figured out how to park on the narrow, crowded streets. We have learned how to negotiate the freeways and ride the Metro and busses. We still think driving here is a major life-threatening challenge, but we have survived so far. We fully understand why Washington, D.C. is listed as one of the worst places in the US to drive. In fact, Forbes lists it as the worst. Our own former hometowns of Mesa and Scottsdale rank in the top ten best places to drive.

Annapolis, Maryland is a very interesting town. We are surprised at how small it is. It has about a third the population of Provo, Utah. We appreciate the beautiful old buildings and houses. But old means almost inaccessible and difficult to negotiate. We are still learning and hope we don't get lost on our way out of town to return to Provo.

We love working with the other Senior Missionaries. They have all sacrificed a considerable part of their lives to come and do hard work at the Archives and the one couple assigned to the Naval Academy. They are fantastic in their dedication. We have enjoyed dinners together and even a barbeque. We have almost no contact with the other missionaries, either senior or young except the pair of young missionaries assigned to the Branch where we attend our Sunday meetings.

I am grateful for the opportunities we have had to help with conferences and presentations. We had one opportunity to go to a conference for FamilySearch and we enjoyed that. Everything we do with genealogy and FamilySearch seems to involve a lot of work.

We have enjoyed being near to Washington, D.C. and having the opportunity to visit so many of the museums and memorials. We are fortunate that both of us can still walk fairly long distances and have the health to do so. We have walked many miles in a single day. For example, yesterday we went to the Library of Congress National Book Festival and ended up walking about three and a half miles.

I will keep writing about our experiences until we return to Provo.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Too Busy to Wait

I realize that I am getting older because I have children who are old and grandchildren who are graduating from Brigham Young University. I guess the main indication of age is the cumulative effects of years of being in everything from multiple car accidents to an avalanche. Downhill skiing and rock climbing contributed their share of the injuries as did falling down stairs and crashing into the ground on multiple other occasions. 

I chose to do all those things and feel like I deserve the consequences. What I think is interesting is that despite all that I still feel like I should be out looking for a job or starting a new business. I keep a list of "To Do" items and it is growing longer every day. 

One of the most enduring images I have of old age is from a short video produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in 1977 called "The Mailbox." Granted, I am still not quite as old as 83-year-old Lethe who is depicted in the movie, but I am sure I am not waiting at my mailbox for some contact with my family. Times have changed and I am electronically connected to everyone. I can talk to any one of my children and their family members in a few seconds. But reality is that I am busy, they are busy and I don't have time to walk out to a mailbox or sit around feeling sorry for myself. What if they remade the movie with Lethe on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+? What if Lethe was now volunteering for a local charity or participating in the senior activities at the local recreation center. In Provo, we have a wonderful Rec Center that has multiple activities for Seniors every day. We have been to one or two, but mostly we use the advanced exercise equipment and walk on the track.

There comes a time for all of us old or young when our life's journey comes to an end. But meanwhile, there isn't time enough to do even a small percentage of the things I need to do and want to do. I have been thinking about a trip to the Himalayas or Antartica, but those probably won't happen, what will happen, as long as I can move and think, is that I will keep writing, talking, doing genealogical research and helping people find their families. Oh, I failed to mention currently spending over 40 hours a week digitizing probate records at the Maryland State Archives. As the hymn says,

 I have work enough to do,
Ere the sun goes down,
For myself and kindred too,
Ere the sun goes down:
Ev'ry idle whisper stilling
With a purpose firm and willing,
All my daily tasks fulfilling,
Ere the sun goes down.