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

Friday, May 15, 2020

Church Service Missionaries during the COVID-19 Pandemic

For the past few years, my wife and I have been serving as Church Service Family History Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Beginning in March, the Library was closed because of the social distancing requirements imposed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of the date of this post, we are in the ninth week of being sequestered at home. Presently, the University is deciding whether or not to hold classes in the Fall Semester through distance learning (online). This would likely mean that the Library will be closed for the rest of 2020. 

Even if the Library were to open on a limited basis for students or visitors, it is still likely that we will be unable to serve because of our age and possibly immunocompromised. So, it looks like it might be a while before we see the BYU Family History Library again. 

Meanwhile, we are still doing webinars from home. 

BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

Here is my latest webinar.

I hope we can keep doing webinars even though the Library remains closed. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Art in Meetinghouse Foyers and Entryways to Reflect a Deeper Reverence for Jesus Christ

The most significant, for me, part of this whole announcement are two images that were included near the end of the Newsroom announcement. You can see that there is an image of a glass display case with two picture tripods staked in a corner. The next image shows both the glass display case gone and the tripods gone and they are replaced by a photo show Christ teaching. 

At the time of this post, we have spent over eight weeks without meetings in our chapels. This time away from meetings has been described as a time for focus on teaching in the home. It seems to me that it may also be a time to redirect our use of the chapels and the meetings and activities that we have traditionally conducted in those buildings. Glass cases with photos of missionaries or activities may disappear. Meetings that we think are essential may be replaced with further emphasis on teaching in the home. 

How much of our "Wasatch Front" culture really applies to the entire world? Quoting from the announcement:
In the Church’s temples, every furnishing adds to an atmosphere of peace, worship and reverence for Jesus Christ. The same principle applies to the Church’s meetinghouses. It is in chapels that Latter-day Saints partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper — bread and water that symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. This is “the most universally received ordinance in the Church” and “the most sacred hour of the week,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said last year. Everything that surrounds this rite, including the artwork people see as they enter the chapel, should contribute to what the Apostle called “an increasingly sacred acknowledgment of Christ’s majestic atoning gift to all humankind.”
Think about what changes need to be made to have this go into effect. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Piano's Purpose

A Piano's Purpose

This short video was made for Deseret Industries. I go way back with Deseret Industries. You may not have one of these stores in your area but if you do, you will find a treasure trove of bargains. What does this have to with genealogy? Well, I visit the large store here in Provo, Utah from time to time and I always check to see if they have genealogy books. I collect old genealogy manuals, references, and other books and sometimes I find some very good items.

Our society often depreciates things that are old and seem useless, including people. I have reached the age when I have become essentially "invisible." Unless I take the initiative and specifically stop and address people around me, I am categorically ignored.

One of the advantages of helping and teaching genealogy is that I get to have interaction with a lot of people. Maybe as you watch this video you might think about your own older relatives and pay them a visit to find out what they know about your family.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Spiritual Dynamite

This short video is one of the keys to surviving the effect of COVID-19 on our lives and the lives of those around us. Although the video is animated and cute, the message is profound. Here is the explanation of the video from the explanation online.
Invite more spiritual power into your life by combining family history with the blessings of the temple. Elder Dale G. Renlund has promised that those who do will experience protection from temptation and receive personal power to change, repent, learn, become more holy, and help turn the hearts of family members to “heal that which needs healing.”
Although we can't presently (at the time this post was written) attend the temples, we can still do our family history.  

Thursday, April 30, 2020

New Functions Added to FamilySearch Search

Four relatively new features have been added to the Search function. 

1. Search for Multiple Relationships within Historical Records
2. Refine Your Search without Returning to the Original Search Page
3. More Flexible “Find a Collection” Search Experience
4. Automatic Standardizing When Attaching Records

You can read about the details of each of these in the above-linked blog post.  Some of these enhancements are long overdue although you might not even notice the changes unless you are very familiar with the search process on FamilySearch. 

One possible addition not mentioned in the post is a Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker. This is not a FamilySearch app but a separate Chrome extension. Although most of the date ranges for counties and other jurisdictions have been added to the standardization process. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Blessings are still available during COVID-19 pandemic
Just a short thought for today from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Quoting from the above Church News article:
During this season of closed temples, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can focus on “what we learn and the Spirit that we feel in the temple,” said Elder Bednar. 
“Obviously, the Spirit is not available only in the House of the Lord,” he said. “If we are honoring the covenants, then we can have that same Spirit with us always.” 
Without the perspective of the gospel, many challenges, many of the hardships of life, “would be unbearable,” said Elder Bednar. “But because we can recognize the scope of eternity and see beyond the grave, then we can fresh courage take and continue to press forward.” 
The covenants and ordinances administered in the holy temples are a great source of hope because they “focus on the Savior, His mission and what He has made possible for us,” he said. No one would choose to experience the COVID-19 pandemic, “but it is upon us.” 
“With the eternal perspective that the restored gospel provides and the grace that comes from the Savior’s Atonement, we can learn lessons from the adversity of mortality that prepare us for the blessings of eternity,” he said. “We have to pray. We have to seek. We have to ask. We have to have eyes to see and ears to hear. But we can be blessed in remarkable ways to learn lessons that will bless us now and forever.”

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Social Distancing does not have to be isolation for a genealogist

I am amazed at the amount of contact I have had with my family since this "social distancing" has come into importance. First, before going into how my family has thrived during the pandemic, I need to indicate that I am a person who falls squarely into almost every risk category. I am a person over 65 years old. I have had asthma, a chronic lung disease for a long time. I am immunocompromised at the moment, in the process of recovering from a serious operation. I miss some of the other criteria but the idea here is that I am in charge of my own care and disease prevention. I am not listening to anyone tell me whether or not I need to self-distance or whether is possible for me to go to the beach or a sports event. I am smart enough to make those decisions on my own. If someone else wants to ignore history and common good sense, that is their problem. I am not waiting for anyone, even the President of the United States to tell me there is no longer any danger. I can read the statistics and I can see that the number of people infected, compared to the number of people tested is still unacceptably high here in Utah and almost everywhere else in the U.S. If there are no reported cases of COVID-19, I can verify for my own satisfaction whether or not there have been any tests taken.

That said, I am also pretty much in charge of what I determine to do all day (except for the recent surgery) and I can choose to do genealogy and genealogically related activities along with other things that need to be done. I do not need someone reminding me of my duty or whatever. I have been consistently involved in genealogical research for almost 40 years and as long as I can sit up and work, I will keep researching. I am also scanning documents, sorting the scanned files, posting Memories to the website and many other important activities that I now have time to do.

What about my family? Well, granted they are almost as busy as ever but we do get together once a week from all over the United States for a video conference. I also end up talking to my children much more frequently than before the virus hit. For all this, we owe this opportunity to cell phones and the internet.

My point is that we are in charge of what happens to us. Quoting from Invictus by William Ernest Henley:
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

Lastly, I am in no way isolated. I have friends around me and I can talk to almost anyone I please. If you want a classical example of isolation watch this old movie.

The Mailbox

Let's hope that you don't put yourself in this condition. One thing other thing. My older grandchildren have started to read to some of the younger ones over Zoom. Who can you read to?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gathering Israel on both sides of the Veil

In the Sunday morning session of the April General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson made the following observation about the gathering of scattered Israel.
This doctrine of the gathering is one of the important teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord has declared: “I give unto you a sign … that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion.” The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We not only teach this doctrine, but we participate in it. We do so as we help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil. See April, 2020 General Conference talk by President Russell M. Nelson, "The Gathering of Scattered Israel."
The recent emphasis on applying the concept of the "gathering of Israel" to both "sides of the veil," is a deliberate shift from our traditional view that the "gathering" applies to missionary work here on earth. Here is a link to a recent video entitled, "Families Gathering Families on Both Sides of the Veil," If you believe that missionary activity occurs after death in the Spirit World, then you should realize that the ordinances that accompany conversion will need to be performed here on the earth by those of us who are still alive. The temple ordinance work for these people who are ready because of being taught in the Spirit World has to be done, one-by-one, for each of these individuals. In addition, each of these people in the Spirit World needs to be researched and identified. A person converted in the Spirit World who subsequently receives the benefit of vicarious ordinances done here on earth has the same importance and significance as those who accept baptism while living here in the flesh.

If you need to see what to do to get started in this important work, please review The Family History Guide website.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Check Out Your Local Public Library's Website

Many public libraries are closed because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 but that doesn't mean a lot of them are not still in operation. Many of them have extensive online resources. Our local public library here in Provo, Utah has some amazing resources. We also pay a small fee to maintain a library card at the Maricopa County Library in Arizona. With these two public library resources, we have an amazing amount of "free" information.

Across the United States, many libraries provide access to digital books and other publications through Rakuten an international digital reading platform in a network of 45,000 libraries in 78 countries. Rakuten Overdrive is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese multinational corporation. If your public library has an Overdrive account, you can download the desktop or mobile app and check out digital books and movies for up to two weeks depending on your library's regulations. Here is a screenshot of the website when you sign in from a computer.

One reason we pay to keep the Maricopa County Library is that they have over 81 thousand books that are available, as I write this post, to choose from. I haven't seen too many books specifically about genealogy, but there is a lot of history books.

However, the big attraction from the public libraries is their collections of online research resources and how-to videos. I have learned how to use several applications over the past couple of years using video classes from our Provo public library. I have also gotten dozens of audiobooks to listen to while exercising or just doing repetitious activities.

I can't believe in this day and age that anyone can run out of good activities while primarily staying at home.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What to do when the Temples Close
Notwithstanding all the dystopian books and movies,  I could really never imagined a disaster so worldwide that it would close ALL of the temples at once. Plus the fact that at the end of March, it snowed two inches today. We have been practicing "social distancing" for almost two weeks and so we have gone into a work-through the piles-mode. As genealogists and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we mourn the loss of access to the temples and worry about all the "out-of-work" temple workers. But we always have a lot of projects on our list that need doing.

As the Family History Libraries and other repositories shut down, we immediately went into working in the backlog mode. The first things on the agenda were the piles of documents and other papers that had accumulated over the years. In the last two weeks, we have disposed of a huge pile of old, non-history, paper. Most of which had to be examined page-by-page. The next step was to begin sorting and digitizing those documents and records that needed to be preserved (a very small percentage of the paper we threw away). We also continued cataloging the documents and putting the appropriate ones up on the Memories section of the website.

If there is any advantage to having been cloistered in our home, it is that these jobs and finally getting some attention.

If you are an active genealogist doing research, you probably have enough to keep you busy. Rest up some and then get to work and you will soon find that you have plenty to do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

There is Beauty All Around

During our self-imposed social distancing, one of my daughters and her family came for a surprise outside visit and spent a couple of hours putting a giant chalk-drawn family tree on our driveway. In case you can't tell, that is my wife and me at the bottom of the tree. The branches of the tree show the members of each of our children's families. The white object in the middle is the Mesa, Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a symbol of our eternal family although we actually got married in the Salt Lake City, Utah Temple. Here is what the mountains looked like when they finished the drawing.

There is truly beauty all around when there is love at home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

FamilySearch Map of England & Wales Jurisdictions 1851
If you are doing research in England, this is one of the most valuable resources on the website. It is the England & Wales Jurisdictions 1851 map. Unfortunately, it is also hard to find since there are no apparent links to the map on the website. The only link I can find is in the Site Map at the bottom of the Home Page. Here is a screenshot of the Site Map page with the map link in the red oval.
There is also a link in the Research Wiki with a page of explanations about the map.
The Map also seems to disappear once and a while and then reappear likely due to the users demanding it.

Here is a short explanation of the Map from the Research Wiki,
England Jurisdictions, 1851 is a powerful Internet based Geographic Information System (GIS) showing parish maps of the 40 counties in England. This mapping system simplifies research by consolidating data from many finding aids into a single searchable repository that can be accessed through the mere click of a mouse in a parish boundary. The program can be accessed at: This is a research tool provided by FamilySearch using Google Maps to visually display maps and information. For tips on using the website, look beneath the two blue buttons on the left side of the home page and click the "Find out here" link.
The information provided by the links on the Map is extensive. There is a rather extensive explanation of all the features available from a link on the Map page.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Search by Images on FamilySearch

The website recently added an "Images" search selection to the Search menu (shown above). This new feature is called the Historical Images Tool. The reason for adding this tool is somewhat complicated. Here is an excerpt from the FamilySearch blog post entitled, "Explore Historical Images Tool Unlocks Data in Digital Records," introducing the feature.
Explore Historical Images marks the beginning of a new and different search experience. With this tool, images produced from FamilySearch’s 300+ digital cameras worldwide is made almost instantly available. 
Explore Historical Images helps you navigate to images of historical records that could contain information about your ancestors. Although you aren’t able to search for your ancestor by name directly, you are able to narrow your search by place, date, and other information that was captured when the image was taken.
The reality of the website is that, according to the blog post, in 2018, FamilySearch added over 432 million new record images to its online collections. From the January 2020 Facts, there are 1.73 billion digital images published only in the Catalog. This means that these images are not indexed and cannot be searched in the Historical Record Collections. In fact, there are more images listed only in the Catalog than there are in the Historical Record Collections. Of course, these numbers change constantly but the percentage of records in the catalog will continue to grow at a faster rate than the number in the Historical Record Collections.

Step-by-step instructions about the Historical Images Tool are contained in the above-linked blog post. Notwithstanding the new tool, the bottom line is that the researcher (you) will still have the task of searching through the records one-by-one unless the original records happen to contain some sort of index. The main idea of the new tool is to make users aware of the treasure trove of information that is still locked up in the online images, just one step away from the original paper records or microfilm images.

I still suggest that you may wish to use the main Catalog search that has been available for a long time. You will want to try both for the information you are researching. As an interesting side note, it appears that the probate records my wife and I scanned back in 2018 in the Maryland State Archives are now in the catalog and available for searching.

Monday, March 2, 2020

MyHeritage's New Fan View for Family Trees
If you are one of those fortunate family historians who have discovered the advantages of using the website, you will be pleased to find out that it now offers a fan chart view of your family tree. You can read all the details of this new feature in a blog post entitled, "Introducing Fan View for Family Trees." Your experience with the fan view may be limited to the mostly static charts available from other websites but you will be surprised at all the features included in this one. This fan chart is fully editable. You can add and edit the entries and even add additional generations of ancestors. Here is a selection of a fan view chart from my own family tree.

I am not usually a fan of the fan view but this implementation of the view will probably change my mind. For example here is a ten generation chart for my Grandfather.

By starting with my Grandfather, this is effectively a 12 generation chart for working with my Tanner family lines.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Off to RootsTech 2020
Well, the big days have finally arrived. This is the week for RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. My wife and I plan to be there all week and will be teaching at The Family History Guide booth. I will also be teaching at the booth and the BYU Family History Library booth. You can also see me at the Media Hub with the other Ambassadors. I may not have time to write as much as usual.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Unfinished Attachments brings new discoveries to the FamilySearch Family Tree

You may or may not have noticed a new feature on the Family Tree: Unfinished Attachments. These new links tell users when there is more information in the source than has been attached to people in the Family Tree. If I click on one of the links, I will see one or more entries showing people who are listed in the document on the left side showing the record but not yet attached to anyone list of people in the Family Tree on the right side of the screen. Here is an example.

In this case, the first person listed in white indicating he is not attached, Henry M Tanner, is mentioned twice and is already attached above so this name can be ignored. The second name does not belong to the family but could be a relative and you might now have a research opportunity. In this particular case, the second name, J Golden Kimball, is not a relative and likewise could be ignored, but if you want to make sure all of the people are included you could find this person in the Family Tree and attach this record.

What this example does show is that there is sometimes a lot more information in the records than we initially extract and periodically reviewing the records could give you a whole new line of research.

For more complete instructions, see the FamilySearch Blog post, "New FamilySearch Feature “Unfinished Attachments” Brings New Discoveries to Your Tree."

I am finding a lot of skipped and omitted information because of this new feature.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saints Volume 2 Now Available
The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been the subject of controversy. There have always been those who either deride the Church and its leaders or actively oppose and persecute its members. Just this week, there was a local incident here in Utah Valley. See "LDS missionary assaulted in Payson, police investigating attack as racially motivated." For most of our history, due to persecution, the Church as closely guarded all of the early historical documents that have been preserved and made them available to only a very few individuals. This cloistering of documents ended in the late 1960s with the beginnings of The Joseph Smith Papers project. Here is a brief summary from the project website.
Joseph Smith (1805–1844) was the founding prophet and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers Project is an effort to gather together all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of those documents with both textual and contextual annotation. All such documents will be published electronically on this website, and a large number of the documents will also be published in print. The print and electronic publications constitute an essential resource for scholars and students of the life and work of Joseph Smith, early Latter-day Saint history, and nineteenth-century American religion. For the first time, all of Joseph Smith’s known surviving papers, which include many of the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be easily accessible in one place. 
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is not a “documentary history” project comprising all important documents relating to Joseph Smith. Instead, it is a “papers” project that will publish, according to accepted documentary editing standards, documents created by Joseph Smith or by staff whose work he directed, including journals, revelations and translations, contemporary reports of discourses, minutes, business and legal records, editorials, and notices. The project also includes papers received and “owned” by his office, such as incoming correspondence.
So far, 28 volumes of documents have been printed and the entire publication is far from finished. The entire set of books is available for free access online. The online digital images of the books have copies of the original documents as well as careful transcriptions of the texts and extensive annotations. I am certain that this is one of the most exhaustive collections of original documentary sources that any church has ever published and made available to the public perhaps with the exception of the proposed Vatican Digital Library. Publication of all these documents is one of the best if not the best way to counter the constant and consistent persecution of the Church.

With the publication of this huge collection, the decision was made to also publish a "new" history of the Church. That history is called "Saints" and Volume 1 of the series was published and is available to the public both in print format and in digital format. With the publication of Volume 2, the in-depth fully annotated history continues. Here are links to both volumes. Member of the Church can access the volumes with the Gospel Library App. The volumes are also available in an audio version.

Volume One
Volume Two

Friday, February 14, 2020

A Tour of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

Road to RootsTech 2020 Episode 9: Tour the Family History Library

I am making my last preparations for RootsTech 2020. I have several presentations coming on the Main Exhibit Floor for MyHeritage, The Family History Guide, and The Brigham Young University Family History Library. It looks like our visit to RootsTech 2020 will be busy as usual. You can also catch up with me at the Media Hub with the other RootsTech Ambassadors. In between, I will probably be wandering around and meeting new people and renewing old acquaintanceships and friendships. If you see me walking around, be sure and stop me to talk. 

The world-famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is just a hop, skip, and jump (1 long city block) away from the Salt Palace where RootsTech is being held. You can see a map of the downtown area here

The weather is looking normal for the end of February with possible rain and some cold night temperatures. Despite forecasts, you can always expect snow. 

The Monday before RootsTech 2020, February 24, 2020, is the BYU Family History Technology Workshop at the Hinkley Alumni Center on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. This year the Workshop is free with registration. The Workshop is from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm. I will be presenting along with an amazing line up of genealogy tech presenters. This will be the 19th year of the Workshop. Here is a short summary of the Workshop from the website.
The 2020 Family History Technology Workshop will bring together developers, researchers, technology professionals, and users to discuss current and emerging family history technologies. The workshop will feature developer sessions, lightning talks, technical presentations and demos to showcase technologies that will impact the future of Family History and Genealogical Research.

Monday, February 10, 2020

An Early RootsTech Experience and the Results

DCam Camera setup in the Maryland State Archives
This is a story about one of my earliest experiences with the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The story includes a lot of other experiences, some good and some not so good, but also involves a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other related experiences. Here I go with the story.

Back in 2010 when we lived in Mesa, Arizona, one of my lovely granddaughters was killed in a tragic car-bicycle accident. In preparation for her burial, I went with her parents to the Mesa City Cemetery office to purchase a cemetery plot. While we were there, I noticed a display cabinet with some old cemetery record books. Of course, I was interested and asked the lady in the cemetery office if the records had been digitized. She immediately said that this was her concern; those records and many others had not been digitized or preserved in any way and she was afraid they would be lost. Further conversation with her revealed that there were thousands of cemetery records that went back to the 1800s stored in the small office on the cemetery grounds. I told her that I would contact FamilySearch to see if they would be interested in the records.

I contacted my friends at FamilySearch and was told to talk to a programmer because the programmer was working on a special project that might help. Time passed and we were on our way to the first RootsTech Conference in 2011. I was hoping that I would have time while in Salt Lake to try and contact the programmer. As one of the early Official Bloggers at RootsTech,  I was invited to a tour of the Exhibit floor before the opening of the conference. We started the tour of the floor and the first person we met was the programmer I was told to find. There are no coincidences in genealogy. I left the tour and the programmer and I talked about his project; the development of the DCam program for digitizing records. He said they were trying to see if they could digitize smaller collections using a less expensive digital camera or a flatbed scanner. I volunteered to try to digitize the Mesa City Cemetery records and help them with the project using a scanner and a laptop te be supplied by FamilySearch.

I went back to Mesa and spent considerable time working between FamilySearch and the City of Mesa to obtain permission to digitize the records. I kept getting the run around from the City. At the time, I was an attorney and partner in a larger law firm in Mesa and finally, after months of trying, I complained to one of my partners about the situation. He immediately got on the phone and called the mayor who was his friend and asked why the city was not allowing me to digitize the old cemetery records where my partner's own family was buried. We immediately got permission to proceed.

I worked back and forth for months with the programmers at FamilySearch debugging the DCam program and sending them test scans. Finally, we worked out most of the bugs and started scanning the documents. We ended up with this file: on the website.

The file has 13,110 images and contains records from 1885-1960. It also has probably the only color records on the FamilySearch website. The collection includes permits for graves, tax roll, block book, sexton ledgers, burial and funeral records. The entire project took more than two and a half years but started with a meeting at RootsTech 2011. The DCam program is now used by missionaries around the world to digitize records. In 2018, my wife and I served a one-year Church Service Mission for FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints digitizing records in the Maryland State Archives where I was able to provide further feedback on the DCam scanning program.

In review, I have attended or will attend in 2020,  9 of 10 RootsTech conferences in person. While on our mission, I attended the 2018 conference remotely. The RootsTech conferences have turned out to be life-changing for me. Many of the people I have met and become involved with have turned out to be good friends and I am still reaping the benefits of attending all those years of conferences.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The RootsTech 2020 Experience: A Video Tour of the Salt Palace

Road to RootsTech Episode 10: Tour the Salt Palace

FamilySearch has been producing a series of YouTube videos about the "Road to RootsTech." You can find the entire series on the FamilySearch YouTube Channel. See the videos at this link: This series is especially useful if you have not attended RootsTech previously. The Salt Palace venue for this year's conference is the same as it has been since the beginning, but you are likely to see some significant changes starting with extensive construction activity on the site. See "Salt Lake City’s new 26-story convention hotel to begin construction soon." Construction on the new hotel started on January 10th, 2020. You should also be aware of the extensive renovation project going on with the Salt Lake City, Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just north of the Salt Palace. You can expect other construction projects downtown to make some access routes more difficult than usual.

This short video might give you some idea of the size of the Salt Palace. It is certainly not as large as some other huge convention centers in the larger cities of the United States, but it is spread out and requires a significant amount of walking. It is also important to imagine those large spaces filled with thousands of people.

Even if you are a repeat attendee at the RootsTech Conference, I suggest watching the video particularly for the explanation of where and how to pick up your bag and lanyard even if you opted to have your registration mailed to you.

Weather can always be a factor in Salt Lake City so you need to be prepared for the possibility of wet, cold, and icy conditions. It is best to have layers of clothing to change when moving from cold to warm and back to cold.

The Family History Guide booth has been planned and we will be there to teach, answer questions, and simply visit. Look for us on the Exhibit Floor.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

New Look for The Family History Guide
Over time, websites tend to be sort of like closets with more things until they are full. The Family History Guide recently went through an early "Spring Cleaning" with an all-new look. Many of the existing links on the homepage were consolidated and the website was reorganized to be more efficient and easier to understand. What has not changed is the vast amount of content supporting a step-by-step learning environment that opens up the world of family history and genealogy to everyone from those just beginning to those who have years of experience.

You are invited to visit our booth at RootsTech 2020. We will have our staff of volunteers and Management Committee members there to help demo the website, teach mini-classes, and answer any questions. Here is a link to our mini-class schedule at RootsTech.

Friday, January 31, 2020

New Unified Handbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Quoting from the above news article:
A new administrative handbook for all Church leaders and members will replace Handbook 1 and Handbook 2, the First Presidency announced Thursday.  
The new handbook — titled “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” — will be available to the public in English on and the Gospel Library app on Feb. 19, 2020. Translation into 51 languages has begun.
This is a major change in the policies and procedures of the past of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For most of my adult life, the General Handbook of Instruction was available only to certain leaders of the Church such as members of Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies. Access to the book was very restricted. However, in 2010 the General Handbook was split into two volumes: Handbook 1 and Handbook 2. Subsequently, Handbook 2 became generally available and ultimately digitally available to all members of the Church. Although these books had reference to the canon of scripture of the Church (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) the handbooks contain policies and procedures that have changed significantly, in some cases, over the years.

The new unified handbook will be "public" as stated above and available only electronically.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Divergent Views on Managing Your FamilySearch Temple List

For some time now in presentations, Ron Tanner of FamilySearch has been talking about the huge numbers of names reserved on specific individual's Temple Reservation Lists. Subsequently, there has been a fair amount of discussion among some genealogists who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the way people manage their reservation lists. 

At one end of the spectrum of users are the people who amass huge numbers of names on their reservation list and at the other end are the people that don't know the reservation lists exist. I am not writing about those who hoard huge numbers of names. I am writing about those people who have substantial numbers of names but are sharing them with relatives and trying to keep enough names to share. I am also writing about those people who are actively adding names to the Family Tree.

It has now been about a year and a half since the introduction of the Ordinances Ready app (program). The introduction of this program marks the beginning of an entirely new way to manage names. Essentially, the Ordinances Ready app enables all of the qualified, registered users of the Family Tree to obtain names from their own part of the Family Tree if there are any available and any names that they have shared with the temples. In the event that there are none, the app finds name from the general list of names shared with the temples. The key to keeping this app working is that people share their names with the temples. After reflecting on this for the past year, I have evolved the following methodology. This is my own personal way of approaching the issues raised by the Ordinances Ready app and not the opinion of anyone else or any entity such as the Church or FamilySearch.

The following was written by me in response to a question posed by one of my friends about using the Ordinances Ready app. It is basically an outline of the method I have developed to address the fact that I can find many more names than I can possibly personally take to the temples. Also, my children are now researching and supplying their own names or obtaining them from their siblings so I am not being called upon to share my names with them.
My opinion about Ordinances Ready is substantially different than some of those expressed. I think it is a wonderful solution for a variety of problems we have been facing since the introduction of To begin, my basic question is this: Once a name is shared with the Temple by you or someone in your family, do you have an opportunity to review and correct the information about the shared individual? Do you search your part of the Family Tree for people who have been shared to target them for review or correction? My point is that the Ordinances Ready app is primarily directed at names already shared. Do we, as individuals working with the Family Tree, have a way to unshare a name shared by someone else? The Ordinances Ready app does exactly that. Do we now have some sort of duty to review and correct the shared names?
My main involvement with the Family Tree is researching and correcting the existing entries and verifying the information already in the Family Tree. This activity results in finding quite a few new names to add to the Family Tree. When I verify the information, I share all the names I find with the Temples. I do not keep any of the names I find on a "reserved" list. I use Ordinances Ready to obtain a name to take to the Temple and it pulls the names from my shared list. From my perspective, emphasizing the "problems" with using Ordinances Ready and telling people that it doesn't work only ends up defeating the purpose of the program and may discourage some 11 year old who is going to the Temple for the first time. As I understand it, the main purpose for Ordinances Ready is to help work on the backlog of names waiting to be processed and increasing Temple attendance. I see that happening in my Ward.  A side benefit is that many people who would otherwise be making incorrect changes no longer feel compelled to "work on the Family Tree." I am motivated to keep working by the huge number of my own shared names that are now being done.  
Reducing duplicates and correcting the entries in the Family Tree is a laudable goal. Ordinances Ready doesn't really have anything to do with that goal. Ordinances Ready does not encourage or discourage making incorrect changes. The app has nothing to do with whether or not the inherited information is right or wrong. It is a neutral method of facilitating temple activity. I see private extraction programs, failure to review readily available and attached sources, reliance on GEDCOM and PAF files for authority, simple carelessness, lack of knowledge about genealogy, and many other issues as being more important than worrying about the accuracy fo the names that people share with the temples. Obtaining a shared name from Ordinances Ready that happens to be a duplicate or wrong information is not a problem. The problems come from the information that is shared and Ordinances Ready has nothing to do with the process of adding incorrect or duplicative information. We should just do what we do well, continue correcting as much of the Family Tree as we can and helping people understand how to do the work themselves. Meanwhile, Ordinances Ready is the best tool I have ever seen for finding new places to work on the Family Tree. 
So whether or not you use the Ordinances Ready program, my opinion is that you should be encouraging others to use the program. If they do, you will have little motivation to keep a substantial list of names in your reserved list. If you share the names with the temples, your relatives will be able to gain access to those names through the Ordinances Ready app.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Record Preservation: An Underlying Theme in the Book of Mormon

By Prosfilaes - Own work, CC0,
Note: As I tried to post the following to Facebook, I got this error message:

It says:
Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abuse.
I suggest you read the following post and decide for yourself why someone would consider this particular post as abusive. My blog has been banned from posting on Facebook without any supporting reason or response to multiple requests from me. I suggest you may wish to reevaluate your relationship with Facebook and think about what they are allowing to be published and wonder at what they are preventing from being published. What if someone decided your posts were abusive? Would you want to know what you said that caused this reaction? You might want to look into the issue of "fake news." Here is a place to start: "How Facebook Continues to Spread Fake News." One of the tragedies that I see as I review Facebook from time to time is the fact that many of my friends pass along obviously fake or misleading "Memes" and stories. You may want to think seriously about your involvement with Facebook. 

One of the most prominent incidents in the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon is the story of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel, and Sam returning to Jerusalem to obtain the "the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass." (1 Nephi 3:3) These records were important because of the following reasons:
19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these arecords, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers; 
20 And also that we may apreserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy bprophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time. (1 Nephi 3:19-20)
The importance of preserving these records was explained again by King Benjamin in Mosiah 1: 3-5:
3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. 
4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. 
5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
It is important to understand that if the Brass Plates had not been preserved, likely, we would not have the record preserved today in the Book of Mormon. Can we really tell the value of the records we inherit from our ancestors including those records of their lives made by governments, churches, and other record-keeping entities? Can we excuse our own disregard for those same records?

In our own day, we have received the following commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants 127: 9:
9 And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts. 
Perhaps it is time to take our own personal inventory of the records we have from our ancestors either directly or indirectly and begin or continue the process of moving those records to safe storage on the website Memories section.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Follow this blog by email

You can see from the previous post that this entire blog has been inexplicably banned from Facebook. If you would still like to get notices about new posts, you can subscribe to receive an email notification of new posts. There is a link on the right-hand side of the blog. I will not do anything with your email address except send you notifications of new posts. I will also post and let you know if I ever get back to be able to post this blog on Facebook. I may also start a new blog and see if that works to get back on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

This Blog has been Banned by Facebook

Apparently, all it takes to get banned from Facebook is to write an inoffensive genealogy blog oriented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Not only is this blog banned from posting, but you also can't even put the URL into a comment or post. Here is the notice.

The Community Standards include authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity. See Contrary to these standards, I was not warned and further, I have no idea what there is about my blog posts that violates any one of the standards.

I am somewhat honored to be classified in the same category as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and other great banned authors but at least when they ban Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn I can guess the reason.  I guess I could speculate that FamilySearch got tired of me posting about RootsTech or whatever, but having the blog banned puts me into an interesting group of writers considering the content I frequently see on Facebook. I realize that someone who did not care for genealogy or the Church could have complained and started this process but I would hope that someone at Facebook would at least review the decision to ban me without notice and yes, I have responded several times that I find nothing in my blog posts that even closely approaches offensive.

I guess I can join the ranks of my ancestors who were persecuted, mobbed, and forced to leave the United States under threat of death for their beliefs. Although I can hardly take Facebook that seriously. By the way, so far, I can keep posting on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and my blogs are still being posted right here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Don't Forget the Unindexed Records on the FamilySearch website

As of November 2019, there were 1.73 billion digital images published only in the Catalog. This compares to 1.4 billion images published in the searchable FamilySearch Historical Records Collections. As you can see from these numbers, there are many records in the FamilySearch Catalog that are waiting to be indexed. Just because a record is not indexed, it does not mean that the record is not searchable. True, indexing makes the records more readily available but unindexed records have been searched by genealogical researchers for years.

Any genealogical search on the website is not complete without searching the Catalog for more pertinent records and then using the images available through the catalog entries to continue your search, sometimes record by record. Sometimes we get so used to having all the records indexed and searchable we forget the traditional way of searching each record for information still works for all the unindexed records.

The image above is the Catalog page for Guanajuato, Mexico Catholic Church Records. Here is how I got to this list.

Before you start searching in the Catalog, you should understand that the entire Catalog is organized primarily by the place events that occurred in your ancestors' lives. So, I need to know that these particular ancestors (not mine but those of a friend) were from Guanajuato and more specifically, I need to know exactly the location of an event in the life of at least one of these people down to the parish or town. If I know a verifiable location, I can begin to look for pertinent records. In this case, my friend has a marriage certificate showing that his grandparents were married in Huanimaro, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Using that information, I begin by looking in the catalog for the location. The location is cataloged in reverse order.

When I do the search, I can see the records that are available for that location, if there are any available. If there are no records, then I need to go to the maps to see if the records might be in another nearby place. Here is the list of records for that location. FamilySearch has the Parish Registers from 1843 to 1973.

Now I can begin my search of the records.

I can see a large collection of records or I can also search individual types of records for different years. If I choose to search all the records using the red notice, I will be trying to match a name and a place for the entire state of Guanajuato. But here's the catch. If I go to the Historical Record Collection and look at the entry for Mexico, Guanajuato, Catholic Church Records, 1519-1984, I will see that there are 1,481,850 records and that number was last updated in 2017. This is the number of indexed images because the number of records listed in the Historical Record Collections list are only those records that are indexed.

However, if I return to the Catalog and look at the entry for the same set of records, I will find out that there are 4,584,983 images. There are a lot more images than there are indexed records. A complete search would have to include all these extra records. We find those records on the list of records at the bottom of the Catalog page organized by location and then chronologically.

The camera icons on the right-hand side of the page indicate that there are images available. The magnifying glasses indicate that some of the records have been indexed. There are other ways of finding these same records, but it is always a good idea to check the total number of records in the catalog against the number indexed in the Historical Record Collections before relying completely on the indexed records. Here is a video that illustrates this issue.

Where are the Digitized Records on

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The FamilySearch Year in Review 2019

Infographics seem to pop up online at the end of every year. This one is from When we look at these numbers we need to remember that FamilySearch is a nonprofit, charitable institution sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nearly all of these increased numbers come directly or indirectly from volunteers. Granted, FamilySearch has a sizable paid staff, but indexing, book scanning, and image capture are largely volunteer efforts. Here is some more detail about the numbers and the accomplishments all of which came from an email sent to me. But you can also view all of the following information in the FamilySearch Blog entitled, "FamilySearch 2019 Year in Review."

  • In 2019, FamilySearch added 123.6 million indexed records and over 850 million new images of historical records.
  • In addition to more searchable records and images, FamilySearch provided updates and new features to improve the indexing and record searching experience, including a new similar historical records tool that helps you find additional records that may belong to a person you find in a document. So when you find a family member in a record on, FamilySearch can now suggest other records that may include information about the same person.
  • FamilySearch introduced an update that allows users to make corrections to names in an index. You can correct names that were indexed incorrectly or that were incorrect on the record itself. Learn more here.
  • Using the new Thank a Volunteer feature, you can express appreciation for the thousands of volunteers who make indexed, searchable records possible on!

Here is another infographic with some additional information about the users and conferences from the same email. 

And here is some additional information about the same subject.
  • This year saw another successful RootsTech in Salt Lake City, which a total of 15,156 genealogy enthusiasts and experts attended.
  • For the first year ever, a RootsTech conference took place in London, bringing in 9,727 total attendees. There were more than 81,000 online views of the London and Salt Lake City RootsTech conferences combined.
  • Mexico also had its own genealogy conference sponsored by FamilySearch, the Expo GenealogĂ­a, which successfully brought discovery experiences to hundreds of attendees.
  • Along with the many discoveries that FamilySearch users have made on the site, FamilySearch created an online discovery experience center, which you can check out here.
FamilySearch has not yet run out of infographics. Here is another one.

And here are the detailed facts that go along with this one.
  • During 2019, 3.5 million users added nearly 47 million people to the FamilySearch Family Tree.
  • FamilySearch also introduced several new features to the Family Tree this year. For example, you can now see how you are related to other users of All you have to do is opt-in, and you can see how you and another person (if he or she has also opted-in) are related.
  • In a recent update, FamilySearch provided the ability to document all family relationships, including same-sex relationships. Learn more here.
Don't get impatient, there are three more infographics with even more information. Here we go with the next one.

And here is the explanation.
  • An incredible 518,563 users added to their memories on the website.
  • Users uploaded 8,751,822 photos and stories this year, for a total of 40,373,365 photos and stories in the Memories feature.

  • In 2019, we had 318,000 indexing volunteers, who served for a total of 10.9 million volunteer indexing hours.
  • One million customer support cases were resolved by staff and volunteers.
  • An additional 66 FamilySearch family history centers were opened, making a total of 5,190 centers worldwide. In addition, the Family History Library expanded its hours of operation to include Sunday hours and later hours on Mondays.
  • Volunteers and missionaries contributed a total of 15.4 million service hours in 2019.
This is the last one:

In addition to the above, here are some other interesting facts.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which FamilySearch is a fully-owned nonprofit subsidiary, donated $2 million to the International African American Museum (IAAM) Center for Family History. The donation will help support the creation of the center there.
  • At the annual meeting of the American Society of Genealogists, held on November 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah, David Rencher, the chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch and director of the Family History Library, received a certificate of appreciation for extraordinary contributions to the discipline of genealogy
  • The FamilySearch Research Wiki, a treasure-trove of genealogical expertise, advice, and insights for family history enthusiasts, published its 90,000th article.