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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Off to RootsTech 2019
Well, as I get older time passes more quickly and here we are at another week for RootsTech 2019. it will be a little bit strange for me to go back after missing a whole year while I was in Annapolis, Maryland digitizing records for FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives. It seems like even though time passes quickly, I have been thinking about and planning for the year's RootsTech Conference for a long time.  I will be just as busy as usual. I will be doing two presentations for the BYU Family History Library on Thursday and Friday, and a presentation for on Friday. You can check at the booths for the schedule of presentations including mine at both the BYU Family History Library booth and the booth. I will also be helping out at the booth for The Family History Guide #217. You may also find me at the Media Hub with the other RootsTech Ambassadors.

The rest of the time, I will either be in meetings or wandering around the exhibit floor renewing acquaintanceships and finding out about the latest changes and technologies. Please stop me or stop by the booths and say hello.

The weather reports for Salt Lake City don't look too good. As I write this post, it is supposed to be snowing here in Provo but it isn't but it is still cold. Be prepared for cold weather and possible rain or snow. There is a very good video series called the "Road to RootsTech Video Series. " I would strongly recommend watching these videos in preparation for the conference especially if you haven't attended before. If you have attended before, particularly last year, you may wish to watch the series to see all the changes that were made because of difficulties experienced last year.

Hope to see you there. Since I will be at RootsTech, I doubt I will get any blog posts written until after the conference.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Thoughts on the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In the October 2918 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson began his talk by stating:
Today I feel compelled to discuss with you a matter of great importance. Some weeks ago, I released a statement regarding a course correction for the name of the Church. I did this because the Lord impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He decreed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Footnotes omitted]
For many years and a member of the online journalistic community in writing this blog, I have tried to adhere to the Church's Style Guide concerning the name of the Church. The Style Guide is directed at journalists for all types of publications, most directly newspapers. I think it is important to know that any organization whether religious or otherwise would like to be correctly identified. Here is the Style Guide as set forth on and here is the URL:

The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838.

  • In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or the "Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged. The "restored Church of Jesus Christ" is also accurate and encouraged.
  • While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation "LDS" or the nickname "Mormon" as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • When referring to Church members, the terms "members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Latter-day Saints" are preferred. We ask that the term "Mormons" not be used.
  • "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as "Mormon Trail."
  • The term "Mormonism" is inaccurate and should not be used. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term "the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" is accurate and preferred.
  • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, it should be stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with polygamous groups.
Please take the time and make the effort to honor this request in all your writings. Since I write in the very public venue of the internet, I think it is necessary for me to be very clear in my personal position with regards to the restored Church of Jesus Christ and to be equally clear in my writing. I honor and sustain President Russell M. Nelson as a prophet, seer, and revelator and as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I actively try to live in harmony with the teachings of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ or not, I would strongly encourage you to adhere to the Church's Style Guide. acquires RootsFinder Inc
It looks like is making a major effort to move into the large online family tree business by acquiring RootsFinder, Inc. Here is a short quote from the email notice I received.
Leading family history website, Findmypast, has acquired RootsFinder Inc. and their critically acclaimed RootsFinder family tree product, including new features to help customers analyze their DNA results.

The acquisition reflects Findmypast’s drive to innovate and enhance their customer experience by providing users with new ways to curate, share and explore their family history discoveries.

The acquisition will serve to help Findmypast and its partners accelerate development towards the new “Findmypast Tree” – a continuing effort that seeks to connect users anywhere in the world and offer them the opportunity to discover their family history by working together. 

Founded in 2014 by Dallan Quass, RootsFinder is a free online family tree builder that provides users with the ability to collect and store data from a variety of online sources, engaging ways to capture and visualize media, family connections as well as powerful tools to analyze DNA results. RootsFinder has established itself as popular resource for genealogists across the world and was selected as a semi-finalist in the 2017 RootsTech Innovator Showdown.
Later on in the announcement, it states that "There are no plans to change the features and services RootsFinder users currently enjoy and RootsFinder will continue to operate as a standalone product for the foreseeable future." That leaves open the possibility of having the RootsFinder resources move into the family trees.  By the way, the homepage has undergone some dramatic changes recently. Here is a screenshot of what mine looks like today.
I use consistently and frequently in my English and British Ilse research. It is an extremely valuable part of the tools that solve difficult research problems. All four of the large online genealogical database programs are valuable tools and more genealogists need to "bite the bullet" and subscribe to all four.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

New Video from The Family History Guide: Detective Discovery Day

Detective Discovery Day

Family History can really be a family activity. Watch this extraordinary video from The Family History Guide to see what a fun family history activity could really be like. Here is the description of the video from The Family History Guide YouTube Channel.
Cousins get together to make new discoveries about their great grandparents using FamilySearch tools and by employing some creative sleuthing techniques. Watch them demonstrate activities, share what they learn, and what these discoveries inspire them to do. You can find step-by-step instructions for using these helpful tools all in one place - The Family History Guide (making family history easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable). Find more activities there also,  and have fun being detectives and making discoveries yourself!
You should subscribe to the channel because we are about to get a lot more videos. You can click on the "Video" menu bar to see all of the wonderful videos already on the channel.

If you are coming to RootsTech 2019, be sure to stop by our booth and discover The Family History Guide. We are in Booth 217 right inside the entrance to the Exhibit Floor. Here is a map to show you the location of our booth.

Believe me, the map makes sense when you are in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah where the RootsTech 2019 Conference is being held.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Newly Redesigned FamilySearch Digital Library

You might not have noticed, but the Books section of FamilySearch has been completely redesigned.  The new design features highlights of some of the contributors to the digital books on the website. As previously announced on the website, the redesign also includes an entirely new search engine experience.
Here is what the search found when I searched for some of my surnames.

 You can also view the results in a different format:

 When I checked, there were presently 375,720 digitized volumes in the collection. What remains is connecting a search in the digital books to the search in the Historical records collections.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

How Reliable is the Ordinances Ready App? recently implemented a new "app" called Ordinances Ready that works with the Family Tree. If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the app appears in the "Temple" link on your startup page of the website. This app seems to belong to a category of apps or websites we have been calling "ordinance crawlers." See my previous blog post, "Ten Problems With Ordinance Crawlers" posted about a year ago on January 29, 2018. before making any comments about this newest ordinance crawler app from FamilySearch, I think it would be a good idea to review my ten "problems." Here is the list. For a complete discussion refer back to the original article linked above.
1. The ordinance crawler programs all assume that the family links in the Family Tree are accurate which is not the case.  
2. Ordinance crawler programs tie up online resources that could better be used to speed up the website on Sundays and other days.  
3. The ordinance crawler programs are a substitute for research that would add individuals and families to the Family Tree. 
4. Because they present the Family Tree as a place to look for ordinance opportunities, the ordinance crawlers discourage real research. 
5. The number of ordinance opportunities that are "just waiting" for someone to find are decreasing every day. 
6. There is no emotional connection to a person who is only known by a line of unfamiliar relatives. 
7. Ordinance crawlers reinforce the idea that FamilySearch somehow manufactures temple opportunities. 
8. Many of the ordinance crawler apps are commercially created and involve an advanced fee-based level. 
9. Ordinance crawlers are not like training wheels on a bicycle, there is no incentive to learn or do more.  
10. Let's face it family history is a difficult, time-consuming avocation. It is a disservice to our tradition as family historians to reduce the activity to a mindless clicking of buttons. 
Well, we now have a new app and another year of water under the bridge. How many, if any or all, of these problems I perceived back in 2018 are still valid issues? Without going through each of the ten listed items, I would have to say that to some extent, they all still apply. The main reason for concluding that the current Ordinances Ready app falls into the same category as the previously existing websites and apps is contained in problem number one above that all these programs assume the information and family links in the Family Tree.

Now, there are some additional considerations that have arisen over the past year and most recently with the introduction of the newer app. Some of these tend to ameliorate the issues raised previously but those problems do not entirely disappear. One serious new problem I did not previously list comes from professional genealogists who are members of the Church and therefore may have ethical issues with recommending an "app" that they know will produce inaccurate results. This is a real problem. But I am not going to explore this issue here except to mention it.

The real question is how reliable is the Ordinances Ready app in doing more than finding "green icons?" This question brings up a question that underlies all genealogical research. If you work with the Family Tree as intensively as I have you realize that it is becoming more and more accurate but it also still has a tremendous overburden of duplicates and inaccurate entries. Of course, this issue of duplicates and inaccurate entries dates back over a hundred years. Genealogy as a whole has an issue with duplicate work and inaccuracy. Quite frankly, the FamilySearch Family Tree is the first effort that has any traction in addressing these problems directly.

Let me illustrate this problem with this hypothetical situation. Let's say that in the past you obtained a name for Temple ordinances that came from the previously existing extraction program. How accurate was the name you received from the Temple? Did you have any way to determine the accuracy or whether or not the name was a duplicate for ordinances that had already been done? These questions have always existed since the 1800s. Is there now any greater problem in obtaining a name from Ordinances Ready? No. The vast difference is that for those of us who care, we can now take the time, if we do, to determine whether the names represent duplicates or are inaccurate. In fact, FamilySearch has procedures in place to determine a fairly high percentage of the duplicates. Granted as I point out in Problem #1 above, the whole procedure still relies on the accuracy of the Family Tree, but that is always the underlying issue with all genealogical (historical) research and investigations. We can NEVER be absolutely sure that the information we have discovered even with DNA testing and everything else is totally accurate.

So why is there a continuing issue today? Now we have the means and some of us that care have the ability to determine if the names provided by the program are reasonably valid or duplicates or whatever. So if you are worried about the validity of the names, take the time to check them and do the research. If not, don't obsess with the issue of duplicates and accuracy. Additionally, if you are not spending time standardizing dates, names and places and cleaning up the Family Tree and doing additional research to correct the entries, you are not in a position to take a position about the accuracy of the Family Tree at all.

If you find yourself in the category of those people who dismiss the Family Tree merely because of the possibility that someone might change what you have entered. Get real. You are part of the problem caused by over a hundred years of isolated individuals who were convinced that everything they wrote down was correct.

Have I changed my mind about ordinance crawlers? No. Of course, all of the problems I listed above do not apply to the Ordinances Ready app, but it is better than extraction and measurably better than blindly searching for green Temple icons.

Mini Classes at RootsTech 2019 from The Family History Guide

The volunteers at The Family History Guide will be super busy bringing you help, support, and classes. We will be available during the first day of RootsTech 2019, Wednesday, February 27th, beginning at 6 PM to 8 PM when the Expo Hall opens. The classes are scheduled only for Thursday Friday and Saturday. Various volunteers have signed up to teach the classes. Both my wife and I will be teaching classes but because of contingencies, we've decided not to specifically list the instructors to allow for more flexibility.

The volunteer staff will also be available both during the classes and in between classes to answer questions and provide direct support for the website. For more information, see the following blog post:
Here is a map of Exhibit Floor with The Family History Guide Booth #217 marked in red.

Here is an expanded view of the area around The Family History Guide Booth #217.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Why Don't You Use the Technology That is Presently Available?

I have definitely passed middle-age and I am well into the elderly category consequently, as a genealogist, I have no trouble associating with older people. To some of my friends, I am definitely young. But to most of the world's population, I am definitely old. As such, I inherit much of the age stereotyping and age discrimination that seems rather rampant in our society.  One of those stereotypes is the assumption that old people are uncomfortable, unfamiliar with, and poorly adapted to technology. The stereotype includes the elderly person asking a teenager for help in programming a DVD player or some other simple object.

Because of my age, I have been able to be involved with technology and computers since the beginning of the computer revolution. But I also recognize the fact that I am far from the average elderly person when it comes to technology. Despite my own background, I am well acquainted with people who feel overwhelmed by the idea of using the Internet to discover digitized records. Just today, I suggested to a fellow genealogist that he search the Internet for probate records. The immediate response was that that would be very difficult to do and he was not at all interested in searching.

Granted, physical limitations are a problem at any age for using technology. What I see as the greatest challenge is the fact that a significant number of people my age never learned how to use a keyboard. Fortunately, I took a typing class in high school that, by the way, turned out to be one of the few things that I got any benefit from in high school. However, despite the stereotype, I find that many people of all ages are challenged by technology and lack the skills necessary to do serious genealogical research using online sources. I see people of all ages who cannot type.

I think that most people are passively aware of and use technology that fits into their lifestyle. So many young people can text rapidly on a smartphone but lack the know-how to get started doing research. If using technical skills for genealogy was only about certain kinds of technical skills such as texting on smartphones, then those who had that skill would have an advantage. But when was the last time you texted genealogy? In any event, we now use voice recognition to send text messages so thumb typing isn't a skill we need anymore.

But all this is simply background skills which you have or don't have irrespective of your age. The real issue is not recognizing the advanced technology that is available and using it for genealogy. Most people I encounter at the Brigham Young University Family History Library are aware of the Family Tree and perhaps The world of genealogical technology does not end with these two websites. The technology pertinent to genealogical research includes flatbed scanners, slide scanners, photo scanners, digital cameras, microfilm scanners, book scanners, and similar machines and all the software to support and operate the machines. There are, of course, several other large online genealogy database programs. I am constantly surprised that more genealogists here in the United States are not aware of or using and In addition, there are probably thousands of other software programs from word processing to photo manipulation programs and spreadsheets that are helpful in preserving photos, writing histories, and other activities.

Technology will continue to change. I use voice recognition software frequently to increase my productivity. I also use a variety of devices including my iPhone for taking notes at libraries that allow photographs. Of course, we use online conferencing programs to communicate and to record webinars. As time passes and the generations change there will be fewer people who are totally unaware of technology's advantages.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

An Interesting Anomaly in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Note: You may wish to read all of the comments and replies to this blog post. The problem outlined here may be an indication of serious problems with the entries and the way that the search engine identifies the individual.

My friend, Holly Hansen, alerted me to this problem with the Family Tree. The above record was found as the result of a search in the Historical Record Collections. The person found is identified as Charles Denham LVL8-N4H. However, when you go to look at this person's Detail page, you get the following:

Now we find Charles Donnom LVL8-N4H which is, by the way, the correct spelling for the surname. Now if we go back and do a search for Charles Donnom with the same search parameters, we get the following:

It is interesting to note that there are, at least, two duplicates for this person. There are two more duplicate records for Charles Donnom.


It seems like this person's entries have enough problems without also showing the wrong surname in a search. Holly will be working all this out shortly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction

Stake Presidencies, Bishoprics, Elders Quorum Presidencies, Relief Society Presidencies, High Councilors responsible for temple and family history, Ward Temple and Family History Leaders, and Temple and Family History Consultants are all invited to watch the Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction on Thursday, February 28, 2019, 7:00–8:00 p.m. MST. Speakers will be Elders David A. Bednar, Gary E. Stevenson, and Dale G. Renlund.

Maybe some of the questions we have about the role of Temple and Family History Consultants will be answered. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Announcing the Upcoming MyHeritage LIVE 2019 Conference
I am excited to announce's LIVE 2019 conference to be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 6 through September 8, 2019. What is even more exciting for me is that I will be participating as a featured speaker at the conference.
Here are two more of the speakers who did not fit in my first screenshot.

Earlybird registration is already open for a special rate of €150. That works out to about $178 US at the current exchange rate which of course can change daily. Click here for registration information. Accommodations are available at the Hilton Amsterdam.

I will obviously have a lot more information about this wonderful conference once more details are available.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Still Waiting for those Golden Years: Privacy and Old Age

We received our newly minted Medicare cards early because we were living in Maryland while digitizing records for FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives. Maryland residents were some of the earliest to be sent the new cards. The idea was to replace the old cards that used a variation of the recipient's Social Security number for a new card with a new number. Along with the new card, we got also got an admonition cautioning us against losing our new card and also containing the following statement:
Starting in April 2018, Medicare will mail new Medicare cards to all people with Medicare, to help protect you from identity fraud. Fraudsters are always looking for ways to get your Social Security Number so we’re removing Social Security Numbers from all Medicare cards to make them safer. 
Your new card will have a new Medicare Number that’s unique to you. The new card will help protect your identity and keep your personal information more secure. Your Medicare coverage and benefits stay the same.
Wait a minute. Isn't the new Medicare Card a government-issued document just like my Social Security Card? Don't I have to present this card for copying by doctors, pharmacies, and every other type of healthcare provider I will be seeing? When I had a prescription transferred from Maryland back to Utah, didn't my "new number" get moved in the pharmacy in Utah? How private is that? By the way, almost every doctor I have dealt with has asked me for my Social Security Number before providing any services.

As old folks, we are constantly being warned about keeping our Social Security Number, our credit card account numbers, and now our Medicare Card number private? First, all of these numbers are blatantly public in nature. We use the cards and the cards' numbers to buy goods and services, obtain employment, obtain medical treatment, purchase items on credit, and in hundreds of other ways. For example, when I went to my first doctor's appointment after I got my new Medicare Card, the provider immediately asked for my new card and took a photocopy of the card. Unless I want to stop going to doctors and other health providers, stop buying online or anywhere else with a credit card, I am going to keep using the cards and essentially disclosing the card to someone who could easily copy the number without my permission, for the purpose they were intended to have.

Technologically speaking, it is entirely possible to design a system that does not rely on a physical card for its functioning as has already been done with electronic payment methods such as PayPal and Apple Pay but then the system would be vulnerable to hacking. Every time I use a physical card, the person receiving the card could conceivably copy the number and use my personal information for a purpose other than intended: think giving your credit card to a server in a restaurant. How does having any of the "unique numbers" protect me from identity theft? The answer is that they have nothing at all to do with protecting anything about your identity or privacy. The cards facilitate transactions. If these cards were truly protecting you from identity theft, they would have to be used anonymously but the opposite is actually true, you use them to identify yourself in complex business transactions such as buying things and obtaining medical services.

I don't really want to go back through the bugaboo that is identity theft. Identity theft is just a fancy new name for fraud. Impersonation (another name for Identity Theft) has been around since people started buying and selling physical items and services. If someone steals your physical credit card is that Identity Theft or Fraud? Essentially, it is the same thing. There are 24 separate sections in the Utah State Criminal Code under the general heading of Fraud which include six different violations for the improper use of credit cards. See Title 76 Utah Criminal Code, Chapter 6, Part 5.

In the Utah Criminal Code, Identity Theft is contained in Title 76 Utah Criminal Code, Chapter 6 Offenses against property, Part 11 Identity Fraud Act, Section 1102 Identity fraud crime. Identity fraud crime identifies "personal identifying information" as follows:
(a) name;
(b) birth date;
(c) address;
(d) telephone number;
(e) drivers license number;
(f) Social Security number;
(g) place of employment;
(h) employee identification numbers or other personal identification numbers;
(i) mother's maiden name;
(j) electronic identification numbers;
(k) electronic signatures under Title 46, Chapter 4, Uniform Electronic Transactions Act;
(l) any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person's financial resources or medical information, except for numbers or information that can be prosecuted as financial transaction card offenses under Sections 76-6-506 through 76-6-506.6; or
(m) a photograph or any other realistic likeness.

Well, now there is one more card to list. Hint from past blog posts: try and find specific statistics for the number of instances of Identity Theft or Identity Fraud in Utah or any other state.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Is Genealogy a Necessary Activity?

I recently had a long conversation with a friend about finding names for temple ordinances on the Family Tree. The conversation centered around the relatively new Ordinances Ready app. My friend had been talking to one of her friends who was a genealogical researcher. The friend of my friend had abandoned research and was focusing on submitting a thousand names a month to the temples using the Ordinances Ready app and other similar programs. My friend's concerns were that many of the names being submitted were likely duplicates.

In an age of self-driving cars and automated record hints from and other websites, there is a serious issue as to whether or not genealogical research skills are still necessary. This particular post uses the premises explored in my recent Genealogy's Star blog post entitled, "Will Computer Programs Replace Genealogists?" My conclusion is that genealogists will shortly find themselves in the same position as people who manufactured wagon wheels back in the 1890s. Granted, today there are still people manufacturing wagon wheels but the need for those people is so marginal as to be almost nonexistent. Genealogy may soon become a "folk craft" practiced by those people who insist on doing things manually.

I often say that the Family Tree is the solution rather than the problem. The reason it is the solution is that it creates an environment where each individual who has ever lived on the earth has a unique position. The implications of this are so far-reaching that most of the users of the Family Tree miss the point of the program. Presently, of course, the technology has yet to progress to the point where the Family Tree can automate the process of adding verified sources and correcting information that is already in the Family Tree. But that technology is steadily developing.

Recent promotions by FamilySearch have focused upon the concept of "finding a name" to take to the temple. The Ordinances Ready app obviates the need for this process. My current experience with the Ordinances Ready app Indicates that the accuracy is much higher than previously experienced with the ordinance crawler type programs. I am also certain that the accuracy of the program will increase over time. Presently, individuals can find a relative's name using the app.

If genealogists complain about the accuracy of the program there is a Catch 22 problem. If you claim that the information in the family tree is "inaccurate" then as a genealogist you are admitting that you have either not corrected the information or that you don't actually know whether it is correct or not. Of course, a careful "genealogist" would research the names before submission and verify the accuracy and the relationship. But users always have the option of refusing to accept the suggested individuals. I can simply cancel the proffered individuals. In essence, the program is providing "real genealogists" with an error detecting system. In other words, if the suggested names from the Ordinances Ready app show relationship and you do not think that it is a valid relationship then you then have the obligation or perhaps option to "do the research" and correct the entries. If you choose not to make the corrections how can you claim that people shouldn't use the programs? This question goes to an issue that I commonly encounter from genealogists that they do not want to "waste their time" correcting the Family Tree.

Will this is put genealogists out of business? Ultimately yes, as I explained in my other post cited above, I've come to the conclusion that eventually the concept of doing "genealogical research" will collapse.

Years ago, when missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were called to travel to other countries from the United States, they walked or rode in wagons. Today they ride buses, trains, and airplanes. Technology will undoubtedly affect many of the entrenched traditions that we have in the Church today. Some genealogists are like those who would advocate that missionaries should walk because that is the way it was done originally. Whether we embrace the new technology or reject it depends on our personal choices.

There is one major flaw in the idea of using ordinance crawling programs to find temple names. This activity does not produce new names that have not been previously added to the Family Tree. Presently, those of us who are actively doing research and adding names to the Family Tree (genealogists) are the primary source for this additional information. However, Record Hints and other similar technologies are accelerating the process of doing research. Eventually, those same technologies may completely replace the need for research. It is my own personal observation that many diligent researchers fail to use the technology that is already available.

Meanwhile, those dedicated genealogists who are diligently doing research and adding names to the Family Tree need to realize that many of their functions are being replaced by technological advances. As with any technological displacement, there are those who will reject the changes out of hand. To quote Yoda, "You must unlearn what you have learned." Quoting another statement from Yoda, "Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What is Happening to the Books in the Salt Lake Family History Library? Part One

During the last year, while I was in Annapolis, Maryland digitizing documents at the Maryland State Archives, I had a number of conversations with people doing research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The comments centered around books. Specifically, missing books from the library and that were not available online.  I have had several such conversations since returning to Provo.

Few people are aware that the website has a fairly large collection of digitized books specifically on the topic of family history. Recently, the books section of the website has had posted the following notice:

In case you can't read what it says on the image, it reads, " FamilySearch is upgrading its digital library application. Look for a new interface and enhanced features coming January 2019!" Well, this post is being written in February and there is no change to the website. The current number of digitized books in the book section is 372,472. However, we do get this cryptic message frequently when I try to open a book that I need or am interested in:

The book that I click on in this example is as follows:

Mabee, Erin M. 1995. Clear Creek Cemetery inscriptions, Camp Verde, Arizona. [Glendale, Arizona]: [E.M. Mabee].

Since that book was written in 1995 there may be a question as to whether or not the book is subject to a copyright claim. Normally, it would be subject to copyright protection automatically under the current copyright law in the United States.

Here is the issue. What has been happening at the Family History Library is that once the books are digitized they are removed from shelves and are unavailable. I have been repeatedly told that the books are actually cut so that they can be to digitized easily. Essentially, the book is now unavailable both online and from physical access in the library. Patrons are being told that the books are in a warehouse and unavailable except by special request.

According to That particular book is available as follows:

Ironically, the book would have been available at the Mesa Arizona FamilySearch Library which is unfortunately no longer in existence.

There is also a serious legal issue as to whether or not a book of cemetery transcriptions could be subject to a claim of copyright. I suppose it would depend upon whether or not there was any additional information in the book such as photographs or commentary. However, the cemetery inscriptions would not be subject to a copyright claim by someone who transcribed them. If there was any possible copyright claim it would be by the person who made or created the cemetery inscription on the headstone. Yes, headstone inscriptions can be subject to copyright claims. But that is another issue.

 But there is a much larger issue. The real issue is why the Family History Library is not a library? It is true that the Family History Library is a "noncirculating" library. This means that unlike a public library the books cannot be checked out and removed from the library. But once the book is digitized it becomes a different entity. From working with the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library, I am aware that before we digitized the books in the library which eventually ended up in the digital collection on, we had to obtain permission to digitize the book and put it online from the owner of the copyright. When I gave a book to the Mesa library for digitization I was asked to sign a paper saying that I own the copyright and that they had permission to put the book online. For this reason alone, there should not be an issue with copyright restrictions.

Let's assume that FamilySearch failed to get permission either to digitize the book or to put it online and make it freely available. Why then is it digitize the book or put it online in the first place? Why put it in the catalog and say that it is available online and then put up a notice that says that it is unavailable because of copyright restrictions? If the book was digitized without permission and then put into storage and is no longer available in a paper version that seems like a serious mistake.

Now let's further suppose that permission was granted but there is still some other issue. Nearly all of the books I read now are digitized and online. Additionally, nearly all of the books that I read online are subject to copyright claims. Why then can I read the book online? Hmm. In this case, we need to go to Section 108: Copyright Exceptions for Libraries and Archives of Title 17, section 108 of the U.S. Code.  This section allows libraries and archives to use copyrighted material in specific ways without permission from the copyright holder. Here are some of the provisions of that section:
Section 108 permits libraries and archives to:
  • Make one copy of an item held by a library for interlibrary loan;
  • Make up to three copies of a damaged, deteriorated, lost, or stolen work for the purpose of replacement. This only applies if a replacement copy is not available at a fair price;
  • Make up to three copies of an unpublished work held by the library for the purpose of preservation.  If the copy is digital, it cannot be circulated outside the library;
  • Reproduce, distribute, display, or perform a published  work that is in its last 20 years of copyright for the purposes of preservation, research, or scholarship if the work is not available at a fair price or subject to commercial exploitation;
  • Make one copy of an entire work for a user or library who requests it if the work isn't available at a fair price.
Some of these restrictions require the library to determine the copyright status of a particular book or work. That is the big issue with the library. Clearly, the book I indicated above could be circulated in the library without any question as to its standing with regards to copyright claims.  But I'm guessing, that the book that I cited above was donated to the library by the author. At that time, permission should have been requested to digitize and distribute the book online regardless of any copyright claims.

According to my friends who have been working in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, there are thousands of books missing and/or unavailable. For example, they are complaining that there are links in the FamilySearch Wiki that go to books that are unavailable.

The reason why this is part one of a series is that I have not yet had the opportunity to physically visit the library in Salt Lake City. When I do, I will see if there is any further information that I can obtain about the status of the books.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Google's Shutdown of Google+
Google has announced that Google+ will shut down in April 2019. However, I am presently not able to easily post my blogs or anything else to the website. If you have been following my blogs on Google+, I suggest that you now follow or at least like my Facebook page for Genealogy's Star where I will be posting links to all of my various blog posts. Also, see @Genealogysstar.
If you have some kind of aversion to Facebook, then you could subscribe with FeedBurner or by email. There are links to subscribe located in the information on the right-hand sidebar of my posts.

You can follow my blog, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad..., by following my Facebook page or by email with the link in the sidebar. My third blog, WalkingArizona,  also has a link to follow the blog in the sidebar.

How accurate is the FamilySearch Family Tree?

The Family Tree is still somewhat mired in controversy. The main issue is the accuracy of the content. I have written about this issue many times for the simple reason that the issue does not go away. Since I talk to people frequently about their own content in the Family Tree, the issue of changes made by other people comes up continually. I can find absolutely blatant errors in the Family Tree in a matter of seconds. I can do this with any one's portion of the Family Tree. The task of correcting all of this inaccurate information is monumental.

The issues with the Family Tree vary from trivial such as the standardization of dates to the ridiculous such as children born before their parents. Here is an example that took me less than a minute to find.

 in this case, Mary Hobbs is shown as born in 1691 and her mother is born in 1697. Unfortunately, a problem such as this cannot simply be resolved by changing dates especially when there are no sources and no substantiation for either date. From these entries, I can also easily see that the dates and places have not been standardized which is an instant indication that no one has done any recent research on this particular family. It is this kind of entry that gives the impression that the information in the Family Tree is inaccurate and not trustworthy. The real issue with the example above is that Mary Hobbs may not be a child in this family at all. Correcting this one error can easily take hours of research and in the end may not be able to be resolved at all.

The problem here is that users of the Family Tree see these errors and immediately assume that the Family Tree is unreliable. However, the unreliability of the Family Tree is not a problem with the program it is a problem with the data which has been entered by the users. As I have pointed out previously in many posts, the Family Tree reflects the accumulation of genealogical data over a period of 100 years or more. Much of this information was inaccurate, to begin with.

In my nearly constant examination of different parts of the Family Tree, while helping people with their own particular challenges, I generally find that the first few generations are reliably represented. Frequently, the entries need standardization but otherwise, the information is essentially accurate. When I say accurate, I mean that the information is substantiated by sources. Every once in a while, I do run across someone whose information in the first few generations is a disaster. But where I see that work has actually been done, the entries are usually reliable.

The Family Tree is still a work in progress. There will never be a time when it is not a work in progress. If we judge the reliability of the entire family tree on the basis of the fact that there are errors and inconsistencies in some of the data then we are losing sight of the real purpose of the entire program. None of us individually are perfect and we cannot expect the work done in the Family Tree to be perfect. The simple fact is that given that the information in the Family Tree has inaccuracies indicates that the information needs to be changed. Those users who constantly tell me that they wish that they could "freeze" the information in the Family Tree are basing their concept on an expectation of perfection. They believe their own work is perfect and that everyone else is wrong. Believe me, this is not the case. I am constantly finding and correcting my own mistakes. This is especially true with the work that I submitted to the predecessors of FamilySearch many years ago.

So far, our family, largely consisting of me and some of my children, have verified and sourced nearly all of the individuals back six generations. The only changes we see to this information from other users consists primarily of adding additional sources and memories. I am certain that there are other families doing exactly the same thing and as these islands of accuracy merge most of the information during the past 200 years will be as accurate as it could possibly be.

I will probably keep writing about this subject as long as I am able to do so. The tragedy of this whole process is that so few people are participating in correcting the information in the Family Tree and that so many people have the attitude that the Family Tree is unreliable and therefore not worth considering. I still think my weeds in the garden analogy is the most appropriate one. The Family Tree is like a large garden of genealogy. Just like in a real garden, weeds tend to grow. Every garden needs constant weeding. We are the tenders of the garden of the Family Tree. We need to keep the weeds out of the part that's already planted and growing and also reclaim the wild country on the outside edges of the garden.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Family History Guide at RootsTech 2019

Quoting from a February 4, 2019 post by Bob Taylor of The Family History Guide:
It’s hard to believe that RootsTech 2019 is less than three weeks away! The Family History Guide will be busier than ever, with a presentation session on Thursday, Feb. 28 and two sessions on Saturday, Mar. 2 (Discovery Day at Roots Tech).
The post also has the schedule of The Family History Guide 20-minute mini-classes during RootsTech. Also, at The Family History Guide booth on the Exhibit floor, we will be having a steady schedule of presentations about the website. We will also have a number of volunteers available to answer questions. My wife, Ann, will be spending most of her time at the booth and I will be there answering questions and teaching as my other commitments permit.

Here is the schedule from the RootsTech Schedule page:
The Family History Guide: Accelerating Your Learning and Research  
In this session you’ll learn how to do the following things to accelerate your family history learning and research:
  • Use The Family History Guide website to learn family history skills faster and easier.
  • Discover research tips that can help you fill out your family tree, even when you are facing brick walls.
  • Learn techniques for interviewing family members, scanning and preserving memories, using Google apps to collaborate with others, etc.
  • Use the Online Tracker, a powerful database for recording and tracking your learning progress.
The Family History Guide is an approved training partner for FamilySearch and has website visitors from over 150 countries. Discover the difference it can make in your family history journey. 
Thursday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m.
Ballroom B
Session Number: RT1119
Saturday, Mar. 2 at 3 p.m.
Room:155 B
Session Number: RT1119 
Discover, Gather, and Connect Your Family Together 
Angelle Anderson, Marketing Director, The Family History Guide Association
Scott Anderson, Public Relations Director, The Family History Guide Association
Merrill White, FamilySearch Area Manager and Product Manager for the FamilySearch Discovery Center Initiative. 
From the kitchen to social media to the temple, all ages can be engaged. This session will share several ideas that will help members of the Church engage their families to discover, gather and strengthen their families through family history. 
Saturday, Mar. 2 at 8 a.m.
Ballroom A
Session Number: PH6249

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hidden Duplicate Records on the FamilySearch Family Tree

The issue of duplicate individual records on the Family Tree is far from over. However, significant progress has been made by those programming the website to detect and advise users of the existence of some of the duplicates. Despite this progress and the notifications now available on the website, there are a huge number of "hidden" duplicates that can only be detected while using the research functions and through finding additional duplicates while merging those duplicates that have already been found.

For example, if I use the search link to FamilySearch to search for records for the same individual above, I find four records:

You can tell if a person has a duplicate by looking at the ID numbers. But first, you have to determine if you think some or all of these suggested records apply to your person. In this case, all four records seem to apply to this Thomas Chattell from the exact same place, Orton Waterville, Huntingdonshire, England. The whole process is fairly complicated because, in this case, there are presently only three sources attached to this person and the Family Tree shows that he had two wives and a total of 12 children. There are also four record hints. However, if you look above at the first screenshot, you can see that there are two suggested duplicates. Their ID numbers are 9KJW-CH7 and L7MH-GTD. The person in the entry has the ID number of 96XZ-JQM. So, if all three of these people are the same, then there are two duplicate found by FamilySearch. When we go back to the four suggested records found, we see that three of the four are already attached to people who are now potential duplicates if we determine that the records found apply to the primary person presently in our part of the Family Tree. The ID numbers of the three people with potentially applicable records are 94M1-VNS and two individuals with the ID number the same as the primary person: 96XZ-JQM. So now we have another potential duplicate not yet found by the FamilySearch program.

If this seems complicated, it is. To discover the hidden duplicates, you need to click on the pedigree icon that shows that the record is already attached to a person in the FamilyTree. If the record should be attached to the primary person then there is a duplicate.

But that is not all. If I decide that the record should have been attached to my person, then I will usually find that the whole family has been duplicated. In this case, it appears that one wife is duplicated and one child. But as you continue adding sources, merging duplicates, and verifying the records, you may get into a "Merging Storm" where you find dozens of duplicates. I have spent an entire day with one family as duplicate after duplicate was merged and a new set of duplicates discovered.

If you need help with the basic merging process, I suggest working through the Merging section on The Family History Guide. See Project 1, Family Tree, Goal 11: Merging Duplicate Records.

By the way, before I would spend any time on this particular individual, I would move come closer to the present and make sure that the same problems did not exist with earlier generations. In this case, I am also suspicious that there might really be two generations combined in the same individual because of the age of the husband when he supposedly died.

To summarize, I would first go back a few generations to verify whether or not this person was really related to me and then work my way back in time until I got back to this person and then I would add in all the applicable sources, do the merges, and then keep working until I ran out of sources or merges. Then I would be ready to do some more research.