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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Family History Mission: Probate File Examples

Really strange adhesive stamp for Notary or Clerk's seal on a legal document from Virginia
No. 88

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.

As the days pass we are getting close to the end of our one-year Senior Mission. As a result, I am trying to summarize and reflect on the work we have been doing in the Maryland State Archives, here in Annapolis, Maryland. In this post, I am illustrating images from one part of a probate action. I am also commenting on the documents. The overall FamilySearch digitization projects is broken down into segments (also called projects) that reflect the way the records are maintained by the court.

First, the image above is a very strange adhesive stamp that was used as the base for a Notary Stamp or Stamp of the Clerk of the Court embossed impression. I have never seen anything like this before. At one time, the stamps were placed on seals, sometimes red.

Here we go.

During the preparation of the documents for digitization, the volunteers, including the Senior Missionaries, fill out a "target sheet" for each file. A complex or contested probate action can last for years and so these "files" may be only one part of the entire action unless the deceased's probate estate is very small. The target sheets are being entered into spreadsheets and then used to make a limited index of the files. Over time, these indexes will be digitized with the probate files. Previously digitized files will also have indexes. This will take quite a long time to create.

This digitization project had been going on for years before we arrived and will continue for years after we leave.

If you need help understanding a probate action, I suggest my multi-part series on probate on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. See this one for the first in the series:

Probate in the Beginning Part 1

You can search on the term probate on the BYU Family History Channel YouTube Channel to find all the other videos in this series.

The court usually has a cover sheet or envelope for every pleading filed. In the case of the Orphans Court in Maryland, the cover sheet information is usually entered on the back of a pleading or during the time of this example on an envelope. This is the first item digitized.

These particular envelopes are very brittle and disintegrating. They are very difficult to handle and we are always sweeping up the pieces that fall off. Absent their digitization, they would have been a pile of scraps in a few more years. During this time period, some of the information was stamped onto the envelope and the rest filled in by hand. There are thousands upon thousands of these files with this type of envelope.

Here is a pleading cover sheet.

This cover sheet has the name of the law firm and the filing information for the court. The type of filing is an account of sales, that is a report to the court of the property sold by the estate administrator. Typewritten pleadings only began appearing in the late 1800s and were not common until about 1910 to 1915.

This is a copy of the Account of Sales Pleading:

We work on specific projects. This project is for Baltimore City. This particular sale is important because it identifies the real property owned by the deceased. This suggests that additional research could find the deed or deeds to the properties and the names of the sellers and purchasers. It would also suggest researching in a city directory and tax records and well as several other types of records such as census records, school records and so forth.

Here is Page 2 of the document.

The small amount of the sale price indicates the economic level of the deceased.

Here is the certification of the document by a Notary Public. Notaries only came into existence in the last half of the 1800s.

This is the pleading side of an Order NISI. An Order NISI is a conditional order which is to be confirmed unless something is done, which has been required by the court, by a time specified. What this means is that the court is ordering someone to do something by a certain time. Very, very few of the cover side of these particular documents have any of the blank spaces filled in.

Here is the other side of the Order which includes the body of the Order with the information filled in.

Most of these documents are routine and do not have a lot of information for a genealogist.

Here is the Notice of Publication. Before a sale is made, the law requires any action by the estate, such as the sale of real property, to be published or notice given in some fashion.

Again, the cover side of these documents seldom has any writing on them other than the printed form. Here is the side with the writing.

This is a valuable piece of information. The notice was published in a local newspaper. With this information, you can possibly find a death notice or obituary in the same newspaper. Since the newspaper notice is typeset, the name of the deceased is readable when it may not be on the handwritten notices and filings. It also identifies a court date for a hearing and a record of the hearing may also provide more information.

Here is the Final Order of Ratification. Although it is entitled a "final" order it is often not final. Again, this side of the document is seldom filled in.

This is the side of the document with the information about the Order.

Remember, this is only one part of the entire probate action. The FamilySearch digitization project will eventually cover all of the filings but the researcher will have to look in all the different court records to find the complete action. I would suggest that this illustrates the value of indexing because it helps to consolidate fragmented documents such as these. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

During the past few years, I have been reading extensively about DNA testing and particularly about its relationship to genealogy or family history. I have been reading through all of the Gospel Topics recently and read this one about the Book of Mormon and DNA Studies. I found it to be a very helpful summary of the limitations of genetic DNA testing and ascribing or designating a genetic history. Obviously, the subject is more complicated than the short summary but the overall perspective of the article helps to establish a point of reference.

The intent of the article is to discuss the utility of referring to DNA tests within the context of "proving" or "disproving" the Book of Mormon. However, from the standpoint of genealogy, the same issues raised in considering whether or not DNA testing can apply to the migration of a small group of people from the Middle East to America also apply to establishing a genetic connection with an individual remote ancestor.

Although the article is rather short, it does introduce the reader to some of the fundamental problems with projecting DNA testing back into antiquity. My own current ethnicity estimate from is a good example. According to the current status of the results, I have connections with North and West Europe, South Europe, East Europe, and West Asia. The highest percentage of my ethnicity comes from English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry with a small percentage of Scandinavian included. This is entirely consistent with my own research, but the entire list of connections extends well outside any historical documents I have yet to discover. This anomaly may arise from the simple explanation of the English heritage, including the centuries-long occupation of England by the Roman Empire.

For example, the initial results from my DNA test indicated a significant Ashkenazi Jewish component. But current results show no percentage at all. This is despite the fact that I have research that shows that I do have Jewish ancestry. Which one is right? Several other possible ethnicities also show up in my paper research that are not reflected in the DNA testing.

The best lesson learned from reading about DNA testing as it applies to ethnicity is that we shouldn't get too caught up in drawing any current conclusions. The whole subject of DNA testing is in a state of flux. Right now, it is best to focus on only a few, less than six, generations of ancestry as having any applicable help in determining relationships. Read the article and see what you think.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Church Statement on Local Celebrations, Including Pageants
Beginning when I was a teenager living in Phoenix, Arizona, the annual Mesa Easter Pageant at the Mesa, Arizona Temple has been an institution. The production has changed from a local sparsely attended event to a major dramatic production with a huge stage and a cast of hundreds. Many of the people who are in charge of the Mesa Pageant spend the major part of their time during the entire years preparing for the event.
Attending the Pageant has become an annual, family affair. Apparently, all this is about to change. On 27 October 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an official statement concerning pageants and other large productions. The statement says, in part:
Larger productions, such as pageants, are discouraged. As it relates to existing pageants, conversations with local Church and community leaders are underway to appropriately end, modify or continue these productions.
I certainly recognize the problems addressed by this statement. Although I have enjoyed attending pageants over the years, I have often questioned the efficacy and utility of the productions. Just as I have come to the conclusion that family history must be ultimately taught one-on-one, I have come to see the need for a focus on "gospel learning in homes" as the most efficacious way to affect the lives of others. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Avoiding Family Tree Pedigree Traps

You sign in to and take a look at your part of the huge Family Tree program. Perhaps you are looking at the entries for the first time or maybe not. But as you click back on the entries, you find that some of your family lines go way back in time. Just like the illustration above; clear back into the 1700s. In fact, this line goes clear back to 1624 in Ireland. I can't let you know who this is in order to protect the innocent.

Look at it. All these entries are supported by more than one source. What could you possibly do to add anyone to this family line considering how far back it has been researched? OK, I know there are a few of you out there that have seen the point of this blog post. Why is this an example? Simply put, because all of the dates and places listed above are bogus; completely inaccurate. This is a classic example of a Family Tree Pedigree Trap. How do I know this? I guess my question would be why don't you suspect that there is a problem? Here is where we start. When did Kentucky become a state?

  • Here are a few other questions to answer:
  • When was Simpson, Kentucky founded?
  • When did Breathitt become a county? 
  • Did you know that Simpson and Breathitt were both counties?
  • Where was this person born?
Would it help you to know that every one of this person's listed children were born in Kentucky except the direct line ancestor child who was born in Tennessee? 

Let's suppose that this person was born in 1766 although none of the cited sources actually mention a birth date. How would that change where he was born? Would it help to know that the first permanent settlement in what is now Kentucky was Fort Harrod constructed in 1774? Would it also help to know that this part of the country was claimed by Virginia?

OK. This type of pedigree trap is very common in the Family Tree. You can find one or more of these traps on almost every extended family line. Yes, almost every extended family line. Especially those that go back into the 1700s and 1600s. What happened with the line above? Not much yet. But we are almost certain that the family came through Tennessee and North Carolina rather than Kentucky and Virginia and yes there were two people with almost the same name at the same time: one in Virginia/Kentucky and one in North Carolina/Tennessee. The research to untangle this family line will take a while. 

Unless your pedigree is relatively short, you may have one or perhaps several of these traps waiting for you to unravel. You begin by checking the accuracy of every location cited in the Family Tree. Oh, that means you might have to do some extensive work. Yes, it does. How do I know my pedigree is correct on the Family Tree? Actually, I know that many of the lines are not correct and should be pruned off. But that takes time and we have been working at it now for almost 37 years. 

I guess at this point you have to answer one question for yourself. Do you care if your part of the Family Tree is correct or not? If you don't care, I can't help you. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Discovery Fan Chart Options on FamilySearch Family Tree

The options for viewing the fan chart previously on the Consultant Planner have been moved to be available for all users of the Family Tree. In addition to the already available Family Lines view, You can also view the fan chart by Birth Country, Sources, Stories, and Photos. You might also note that you can now extend the chart out to 7 generations.

Here is an example of the Birth Country View:

Granted, my ancestral lines are not very surprising or exciting, but yours may be entirely different. You should also realize that the countries won't be correct if the entries in the Family Tree are wrong. This applies to all of the varies options.

Here is the same chart showing Sources:

The one person on my chart who has no sources does not really exist. Since no one has any sources to support his identity, he is really a figment of someone's imagination. But you might be surprised at how many people claim relationship to me through this unsupported line.

Here is another example. This one is the Stories selection:

It doesn't look like we are doing quite as well with stories as we are with other information in the Family Tree.

The last example is for Photos:

You can cut me some slack here. Photography wasn't developed until around 1838 and I did start these examples with my Great-grandfather who was born in 1852. Here is what the chart looks like with seven generations from one of my grandfathers.

Bear in mind that this chart starts with my Grandfather and so this is actually nine generations from me. I would have four of these charts.

Time to get involved with the Family Tree again and take a look at your charts.

National Harbor

The name "National Harbor" in Maryland outside the beltway in Washington, D.C. gives the impression that this place has some historical significance with boats or shipping. In reality, it is a recent and somewhat controversial commercial development. Here is an explanation of the development from Wikipedia:
The land developed for National Harbor was previously Salubria Plantation, built in 1827 by Dr. John H. Bayne. The plantation house burned down in 1981 and was offered for sale along with the surrounding land. The land was sold in 1984 and in 1994 was rezoned for mixed-use development. In the fall of 1997, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers approved new developer permits, granted for the PortAmerica project in 1988. 
This development has caused considerable controversy due to its environmental impacts. The Sierra Club voiced strong objections in 1999 saying that construction of National Harbor would "prevent forever the completion of the Potomac Heritage Trail". The site was linked to hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage being discharged into the Potomac River in 2008. In 2006, Peterson Companies withdrew plans to build a Target department store where the remaining plantation building, the slave quarters, still stand.
The two most prominent structures are the Capital Wheel, a large Ferris wheel, and the MGM Resort Casino both of which are visible from the beltway. For us, the main attraction was the collection of statuary along the main street.

I usually put photos in WalkingArizona but sometimes I insert them into my other blog posts.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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

Why am I writing about dementia in a genealogy-oriented blog? Perhaps you need to look around you at the next genealogy conference you attend. The demographics of those involved in genealogy is just about the same as those at the highest risk for dementia.

If you have a family history of dementia, like I do, then the subject is of interest. In addition, because I deal with people interested in genealogy, I have an ample opportunity to see people who are in some stage of dementia and can usually tell if they are impaired. See Still Waiting for the Golden Years: Dementia and Alzheimer's for an explanation of my involvement.

Is dementia one of those conditions where if you have it, you don't know you have it? The answer is yes to some degree. Since there are no obvious physical symptoms of dementia, you can progress through a number of stages without realizing that you are developing the disease. However, as I have already written in previous posts, dementia may or may not be a disease.

What are the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's?

According to the Alzheimer's Association,  Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, progresses slowly through three stages. Other organizations have divided the progression into seven stages. Symptoms vary considerably from individual to individual. The changes to the brain that the medical community believes are related to Alzheimer's begin years before any symptoms can be detected.

In its earliest stages, some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's are common to those who have other cognitive disabilities and even common among people may not have dementia at all. For example, you may have difficulty remembering people's names but that may be some issue you have had for a long time and by itself may not indicate Alzheimer's. It is a cumulation of the symptoms that should be a concern.

Being aware of the early symptoms of Alzheimer's and other dementia-related conditions may allow the person time to live as long as possible and plan for changes in the future. There is presently no cure for dementia, including Alzheimer's.

Quoting from the Alzheimer's Association website, here are some of the early stages of Alzheimer's"

  • Problems coming up with the right word or name
  • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
  • Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings.
  • Forgetting material that one has just read
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
From my own experience, I would add personality changes that include paranoia and ungrounded fear. I would also add that the person may become defensive if confronted with the possibility of impairment. Those around the individual suffering from the early stages may also be in denial about the degree of impairment. I also think the memory test, sometimes referred to as a mini-mental, can be misleading. Some people with no impairment cannot respond accurately or correctly to these ad hoc tests. In addition, there are a variety of other diseases that can cause the same symptoms. 

These symptoms blend over with and overlap with the symptoms of the moderate stage. Again from the Alzheimer's Association website:

  • Forgetfulness of events or about one's own personal history
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Being unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is
  • The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
  • An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding
The symptoms in the "moderate" stage can be life-threatening if, for example, the person locks him or herself out of the house in the winter or drives off and fails to return home. This is also the stage when personality changes begin to be pronounced. However, it is not a good idea to focus on any one symptom. I have been known to be unaware of the date or even the day of the week for most of my adult life. 

The last stages of Alzheimer's are obvious. This is why experiencing a close relative with Alzheimer's is similar to seeing the person die twice. Quoting from the Alzheimer's Association:
At this stage, individuals may:
  • Need round-the-clock assistance with daily activities and personal care
  • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings
  • Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
  • Have increasing difficulty communicating
  • Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia
Why is this important to genealogists? Again, many of us find ourselves in the age group most susceptible to the disease. Many of us have years of detailed work on our family history and have gathered substantial numbers of original documents, journals, Bibles, and other important items. What happens to all this when you become impaired? Could you make reasonable decisions about the disposition of your genealogical data? Think about it now, when you can still think about it. 

I am going to write about the strategies that we can take to preserve and protect our genealogical investments. 

See the previous posts:

Part One:

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

No. 87

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.

Almost everything that could happen to an old document, has happened. The above image is one of the more spectacular examples. Here are a few more examples of some of the old document we have run into while serving as Senior Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives.

Here is an example of a document that is close to being lost.

When we see documents such as this one, we a grateful for the opportunity to help preserve these valuable records before they disappear. Here is another document from a famous person. In this case, Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, and a famous actor during the mid-1800s.

When we find documents such as this, we involve the staff of the Archives because they are interested in knowing about these documents since they do not know that they have them. You might notice the Document Stamp in the left-hand corner. This is the way the government collected the filing fee for this probate filing in the court.

Here are some other examples. This one shows some beautiful handwriting. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged copy.

We process the documents as they come from the Archives by putting them in folders for sorting. We then need to unfold the documents so they can be digitized. This box shows the sorted documents before they are unfolded. These are the most difficult to handle because they are literally crumbling apart.

Most of the documents are routine court matters, but every so often we find some that stand out and are interesting. Here is the probate record for Frederick Douglass.

Some of the documents are so large they take special handling to digitize them in parts.

We often find documents that are very difficult to read but we get used to reading all kinds of documents and I can read this one without too much difficulty.

We have to remove all the metal fasteners from the paper because they corrode over time and ruin the documents. 

We have removed thousands of fasteners. Here is where we work on the documents.

This is another example of a hard to read document. It is also difficult to get photos of the documents because the Archives has so many different lighting sources and they all cast shadows.

This is where we spend our days digitizing.

We have only one more month left on our mission. If there is anything you want to ask or know about that I haven't covered, get busy and send me an email or comment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Helping People with their Family History

No. 86

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

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

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

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

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

Take 15 Minutes for Family History with The Family History Guide

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Let's Eliminate Noise in the FamilySearch Family Tree

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

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

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

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

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

How do we stop the flood of noise?

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

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

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thoughts on Changes and their impact on Family History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

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

Mouse chewed document
No. 85

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

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

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

But here is a challenging document:

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

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

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

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

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

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