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

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Let God Prevail


Eugène Delacroix (1861) CC BY-SA 3.0,
Jacob wrestling with an angel

The painting above depicts an event described in the Bible in Genesis (32:22–32; also referenced in Hosea 12:4) when Jacob wrestled with an angel and subsequently, received a new name, "Israel." 

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke in the Sunday morning session of the Church's 190th Semi-annual General Conference on October 4, 2020. He began his talk by explaining that he had learned a new meaning of the word "Israel." The most common translation is "contends with God" but President Nelson indicated that Hebrew scholars also translated "Israel" as "Let God Prevail." He then gave some examples of letting God prevail including abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. See "President Russell M. Nelson: Let God Prevail." 

I was impressed by his comments. Most of my early life was spent in a small town in eastern Arizona and in the larger city of Phoenix. After leaving Phoenix for a few years I returned and lived many years in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa. It took me a number of years away from Arizona and living in Argentina and Panama to realize that I grew up in de facto segregated communities. None of the grade schools or the high school I attended had any significant minority students despite the fact that Arizona has a significant minority population. Currently, the non-Hispanic White population is about 54% of the population. 

As I grow older, I have become increasingly aware of the systematic and cultural racism that exists in the United States. Part of my awareness comes from speaking Spanish fluently and subsequently being involved as an attorney in the Hispanic community representing Spanish speaking clients and teaching Spanish as a second language in the local community college system. Living in Panama made me acutely aware of the prejudice harbored against the Black community. 

Now, President Nelson had some very specific things to say about racism. Here is a quote from the above-linked article.

“Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin.

“I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.

“The question for each of us, regardless of race, is the same. Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His? (See Mosiah 15:7).” 

Although his words specifically identified Blacks as the object of racism, his words clearly apply to any discrimination of anyone because of their supposed "race." 

As a genealogist, I have learned that due to current studies in DNA testing, the concept of race can no longer be clearly defined. Here is a statement on the subject from Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

'Race’ cannot be biologically defined due to genetic variation among human individuals and populations. (A) The old concept of the “five races:” African, Asian, European, Native American, and Oceanian. According to this view, variation between the races is large, and thus, the each race is a separate category. Additionally, individual races are thought to have a relatively uniform genetic identity. (B) Actual genetic variation in humans. Human populations do roughly cluster into geographical regions. However, variation between different regions is small, thus blurring the lines between populations. Furthermore, variation within a single region is large, and there is no uniform identity.

I will have more to say on this subject in the future.  

Friday, October 2, 2020

FamilySearch has over 8 billion searchable names in historical records


A news announcement from FamilySearch recently noted the following:

Nonprofit FamilySearch published its 8 billionth free searchable name from its worldwide historic record collections online. The milestone is even more astounding when you think that each name is someone’s ancestor—8 billion family connections just waiting to be discovered. Explore the free databases at

It’s an incredible feat when you realize that just 1 billion seconds ago, it was 1988, or 1 billion minutes ago the Roman Empire was thriving and Christianity was just beginning to spread.

“To digitally preserve and make so many names freely searchable online is impressive, but it’s the personal family connections that matter most,” said David Rencher, FamilySearch’s chief genealogical officer. “With each new record, there’s the possibility to find a missing link in the family tree. And that is soul-satisfying.” And FamilySearch adds over 1 million new records each day.

The last sentence in this short excerpt is important: "And FamilySearch adds over 1 million new records each day." Researching online is always an ongoing process. Because records are added every day, you never know if what you are looking for and could not find has recently been added to the online collections. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

New section for Youth on The Family History Guide

The Family History Guide has added a fabulous new section of family history information and activities for Youth; both for those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those who are not. Here are the new sections:

There are always a number of updates and surprises on The Family History Guide website. Take a few minutes to review the website and see how valuable it can be for you and your family. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

RootsMagic 8 is in Beta Testing

Here is an update on the progress on RootsMagic 8 from an email notice I received:

We've been so busy working on RootsMagic 8 that we've neglected to post any updates on our progress over the last few weeks. While we've been sharing videos and tidbits via email and social media, we realized that we needed to pull these recent updates into one place to better communicate with all of our users.

The Testing Continues 
We have many users who have been using RootsMagic 8, reporting bugs, and giving suggestions. In order to start testing the software, a user first agrees not to disclose to others about their experience or even that they are a tester. So for those that aren't testing, it feels like everything is very quiet in regards to RootsMagic 8 while those that are testing are actually very busy and active. We gradually add more users to our testing pool so as not to overwhelm the process. Many of you have already volunteered to test the software and- if you aren't already doing so- we hope to give you the opportunity soon.

Writing software is sometimes more of an art than a science. All of those who use RootsMagic will be happy to see the update.  

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Two Valuable Research Tools on FamilySearch: The Family Tree Map and The FamilySearch Places Tool

There are a number of helpful tools on the website that you may never have used or even seen. The Family Tree Map is one of those relatively obscure tools. You can find it by clicking on the link to the Time Line on the detail page of each person on the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot showing the link.

Once you are viewing the timeline, the map is pretty obvious. 

What is not obvious is what the map can do for you. The reason for this is that this map is not the map for the FamilySearch Places Tool. Where is the FamilySearch Places Tool? The answer is "You can't get there from here." Astoundingly, there are no links from the website to the Places Tool. You get there by entering this link: By the way, there are a number of other such tools and pages that are not linked from the main website. The only link I have found so far is in the site map located at the bottom of the startup page and a few other pages. Here is a screenshot of the bottom of the startup page showing the link to the site map.

Once you are looking at the site map, you might notice an entry named "Places." That is the link. Here is another screenshot of the site map page with an arrow to the Places link. 

Now, read the article linked at the beginning of this post to see how to use the Places Tool. It really is useful. By the way, you might want to click on some of the other links on the site map to see what other surprises await you on the FamilySearch website. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Fixing Family Tree Data Problems

Fixing problems in the Family Tree is one of my most common topics. It is always a good idea to consider alternative points of view. I thought this post by FamilySearch was timely and appropriate. You should take the time to read it and follow the well-taken suggestions. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Online Volunteer Opportunity: Help Improve Place-Names: A good idea with some unforeseen consequences

Crowdsourcing can accomplish some tasks that are overwhelming when viewed on a one-by-one basis. The Family Tree is an excellent example of crowdsourcing. Although there is a downside for those people who excessively focus on the changes without understanding the process of correcting information that is inaccurate the overall achievement is adding a huge amount of information in a universally accessible venue. 

On the other hand, this idea of looking briefly at a geographic location and then changing it to match a preselected "standard" place is rife with the possibility of error and loss of data. Sadly, geographic knowledge is sadly lacking in many countries and cultures of the world. For example, in my experience helping people in the United States with research around the country and in Great Britain, I have found almost no knowledge of the geography of the United States or England down to the county level not even looking down to the city and town level. Choosing a preselected standard place name has always been an extremely controversial topic in the genealogical community. Software programmers love standards. Researchers find constant place name designations that do not fit in a standard mold. 

Here is one example of the variations in the place names for the same location in one family entry in the FamilySearch Family Tree. You might note that Kentucky did not become a state until June 1, 1792. I should also mention that Nicholas County, Kentucky was not created until June 1, 1800. Here is the list.
  • Birth abt 1780 Lincoln, Kentucky, United States
  • Birth 1787 Of,,,Ky
  • Birth abt 1787 of Nicholas Co., Ky.
  • Birth about 1789 Kentucky District, Nicholas, Virginia, United States
  • Birth 1791 Carlisle, Nicholas, Kentucky, United States
  • Birth 1793 Ky
  • Birth 1795 Of,,,Ky
  • Birth 1797 Of,,,Ky
  • Birth 1799 Of,,,Ky
  • Birth abt 1801 of Nicholas Co., Ky.
  • Birth 1802 Nicholas, Kentucky
  • Birth abt 1804 of Nicholas, Ky.
As a matter of fact, most of these place names are incorrect and I would ask you, as a reader of this blog post, can you tell what is wrong with each entry? Even assuming you read my comments on the dates?

Recently, I have had a situation where a Family Tree user absolutely refused to standardize the place names even when they were exactly the same as suggested standards. 

If we move out of the United States, we have so even more complex problems. The place names in Denmark may contain elements of territories, waters, settlements, cultivated areas, streets and roads, houses, farms, and shops, and many other things. Another complication of this naming system is the Danish “Farm Name.” Quoting from Nordic Names:
Farm names were usually added to the given name and the patronym and originally functioned as an address rather than as a surname. 
When name laws were introduced in the 19th and early 20th century and hereditary surnames became mandatory, many people decided to keep their farm name as a surname. 
In Denmark many people who use a secondary patronym chose to take a farm name as a middle name.
Can someone by looking at the following type of entry make any of the temporal or geographic judgments necessary to have a correct, not just standard, place name?

These are the choices offered by the new app that is supposed to standardize the place. Here is a quote about the Caddo Tribe and the Kiowa Agency from the FamilySearch Research Wiki article "Kiowa Indian Agency (Oklahoma)."
The Kiowa Agency [also called: Anadarko Agency, the Kiowa and Comanche Agency, and the Kiowas, Apache, and Comanche Agency] was established in 1864. The tribes assigned to it -- Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche -- had been previously assigned to the Upper Arkansas Agency, and before 1855, to the Upper Platte Agency. Even after the establishment of the Kiowa Agency, it was closely associated with the Upper Platte Agency. The Kiowa Agency also has some responsibility for some Caddo Indians during the Civil War and for some Comanche Indians living in Texas.

There was no fixed location for the Kiowa Agency during its early years. It was supposed to have its headquarters at Fort Larned, Kansas, but due to the nomadic life of the tribes assigned to it, the agent spent most of his time moving about. By the Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek in 1867, the three tribes agreed to settle in an area south of the Washita River in Indian Territory. An agency headquarters was located on Cache Creek near Fort Sill.

From May 1869 to July 1870, the Wichita Agency was consolidated with the Kiowa Agency, but in 1870, the Wichita Agency again became independent. The two were again consolidated on 1 September 1878 and the combined agency became the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency
This discussion continues in the next article, "Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Indian Agency (Oklahoma)."
The Kiowa Agency and the Wichita Agency were consolidated 1 September 1878 and became the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency. It was still commonly called simply the Kiowa Agency and some of the records are filed under that name. The Agency headquarters for this agency was located at Anadarko, Oklahoma and became the forerunner to the Anadarko Agency
So, where was this person born? Where are the records located is there are any? If a user chooses any one of the standardized places, they are wrong.  

This new app will create a massive clean up problem for those standardized entries that lose valuable information. 

The common approach to place names views them in a hierarchal order from smallest to largest or most restrictive to most inclusive in the form of “town/township, city, county, state, country.” This simplistic view can readily be shown to be inadequate when you begin to record places in a country such as Denmark. In order to uniquely identify people with the same or very similar names, it is important to understand the origin and development of the Danish place names which take a two-part form. 

Quoting from the University of Copenhagen, Names in Denmark, from the Department of Nordic Research, here is a list of common place name types:

Names in -inge
Names in -um
Names in -løse
Names in -lev
Names in -sted
Names in -by
Names in -toft(e)
Names in -torp
Names in -bøl(le)
Names in -rød
Names in -tved
Imperative names
Abstract names
Names that look old

To see more information, here is a further quote from the section on “The publication of place-names in Demark.

There is no complete list or database containing all the Danish place-names but the series Danmarks Stednavne, Danske sø- og ånavne and Sydslesvigs Stednavne each cover a large proportion of the country with a thoroughly researched and interpreted corpus of names. The handbook Danske stednavne provides a brief explanation of over 7,000 place-names – first and foremost settlement names – in Denmark.

The place names in Denmark may contain elements of territories, waters, settlements, cultivated areas, streets and roads, houses, farms, and shops, and many other things. Another complication of this naming system is the Danish “Farm Name.” Quoting from Nordic Names:

Farm names were usually added to the given name and the patronym and originally functioned as an address rather than as a surname.
When name laws were introduced in the 19th and early 20th century and hereditary surnames became mandatory, many people decided to keep their farm name as a surname.
In Denmark many people who use a secondary patronym chose to take a farm name as a middle name.

The point of these examples is that naming places is more than designating a series of blank places to fill in with names. 

I cannot begin to imagine what will happen to Danish place names with this new program. Here is just one example of a suggested standard for a Danish place.

Which of the three suggested places would you choose? What if the information in the non-standard place name is simply wrong? I can go on for pages and pages, but I will leave my further comments for another day.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Updates on FamilySearch to Temple Ordinance Reservations

There have been a number of significant revisions to the Family Tree, Temple Ordinance Reservation system. These updates are summarized in a blog post entitled, "Updates to Temple Ordinance Reservations." The list of the featured revisions is as follows:
  • Update: June 11, 2020—Help Others on Temple Pages
  • Update: June 11, 2020—Request Shared Names Using the Family Tree or Ordinances Ready
  • Update: June 11, 2020—Simplified Temple Reservation Lists
  • Update: June 11, 2020—Fewer Temple Icon Colors
  • Update: July 29, 2019—Ordinances Ready: A Convenient Way to Find Ordinance Reservations
  • Update: July 29, 2019—Expiration of Ordinance Reservations
  • Update: July 29, 2019—Date Required to Reserve Temple Ordinances
  • Update: July 29, 2019—Easier Ways to Print Ordinance Reservation Cards
All of these are linked and explained by this one blog post. At the time of this post, the temples of the Church are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic so it had been a while since the June 11th announcements and changes. Sorry to be late in bringing this to your attention. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Juneteenth Live with Thom Reed

It is important to realize that there are a broad spectrum of cultures and nationalities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we need to be open to both learn about those in the Church and respect their history and culture. Here is a link to President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church's recent statement on social media condemning racism and pleading for peace.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Future of Family History Centers and Libraries in the Years of the Pandemic

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, with a satirical macaronic poem (‘Vos Creditis, als eine Fabel, / quod scribitur vom Doctor Schnabel’) in octosyllabic rhyming couplets. See

As the number of daily new cases of the COVID-19 virus around the world continue to increase rapidly as of the date of this post, logical questions arise about the future. Family History Centers and Libraries have been closed because of the pandemic since the middle of March, now about 3 months ago. 

As I have noted many times, my wife and I have been serving at the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library for the past six years (including a year spent in Maryland, United States at the Maryland State Archives digitizing records for but continued to participate in webinars and other presentations). This is the longest period in my life for the last sixteen plus years that I have not been serving regularly in a Family History Center or Library. 

My experience with serving at the Mesa FamilySearch Library came to an interesting conclusion when I moved to Provo, Utah, and began serving at the BYU Family History Library. Shortly after we left Mesa, Arizona, the Mesa FamilySearch Library was closed for "temporary remodeling and repairs." Unfortunately, the building housing the Library was never used again. There were many Church Service Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving at the Library at the time it closed. See "What is happening with the Mesa FamilySearch Library?" and "The Plight of the Mesa FamilySearch Library" and other previous posts including the final one: "The End of an Era: Mesa FamilySearch Library is Closing Completely."

Shortly after we arrived in Provo, Utah, we witnessed a similar situation when the Orem FamilySearch Center/Family History Training Center was closed and many Church Service Missionaries were released within a very short time. I am still hearing stories about the closure of the Training Center, now closed for almost five years. 

The situation that occurred with the Mesa FamilySearch Library has become a prime example of the problems associated with the closing of a busy and well-attended family history facility. From the time of the Library's closure in the late Fall of 2014 until its final closure in 2018, the Church Service Missionaries continued to serve where and when the could. The missionaries moved the function of the Library to an older (original) building after a long wait for information about when and if the Library would reopen. Finally, the issue was resolved when it was announced that the Mesa, Arizona Temple would be closed for renovation and both the older and newer Family History Library buildings would eventually be torn down. It was also announced that a new Family History Discovery Center and Family History Center would be included in the Temple's Visitor Center. With the pandemic, the Mesa, Arizona Temple's reopening, and the opening of the Visitor's Center are likely dependent on the progress of the pandemic. 

Now we come to the closing and future possible reopening of the BYU Family History Library. There are some major differences between the BYU facility and the one in Mesa but there are a lot of similarities. Both Libraries were busy, well-attended, and staffed with many Church Service Missionaries. All of the missionaries in Mesa were put into a state of indecision about the future of their service. Likewise, the BYU missionaries are now in a similar situation. Most of us are well into the age considered to be at an increased risk for the virus. Even if limited use of the BYU Family History Library were allowed, we would not be able to return to serve at the Library because of our susceptibility. 

No firm announcements about the opening of the Family History Library have been yet released but I have heard that even if the Library is opened, use of the Library would be limited to students and university staff and educators. We may be excluded from the Library for as long as a year or even more. 

Now this problem is not confined to the BYU Family History Library, the same problem exists with the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library, and all of the other Libraries and Centers around the world. 

We need to get on with our presently very limited lives. We should not be put in the same position as were the missionaries in Mesa; waiting for word of whether or not they could go back to serve and ultimately told that they were essentially out of work. Many of us have struggled with how we should respond to this situation. However, we are not alone. This is the situation with Church Service Missionaries of all kinds waiting to serve around the world. But there are also Family History Center Directors and volunteers who are not missionaries and who are also in the same circumstances. How many of us will wait and wait and then ultimately find out that our Centers have been closed permanently or that the Libraries no longer need senior missionaries to serve?

There has been a continued background of discussion about how many of the existing centers are still needed and used. There have been other discussions about centers being closed and consolidated into a more central location such as was done with the Riverton Family History Library in Utah. This pause in the service of so many missionaries would be a good time to make those decisions and let the missionaries, Center Directors, and volunteers know that they will not be needed. 

Both my wife and I have talked about alternatives. In our case, we have plenty of our own family history work to do but it is a shame that people with extensive family history and genealogy experience, some of who have spent years learning, helping, teaching, and serving will be lost to the greater genealogical community. 

What if we just wait around to see what happens? Not a good idea. When you are as old as we are, there are not a lot of realistic years in the future to plan. If we are going to do something we need to do it now. 

To anyone who can make a decision in this matter, take a lesson from Mesa and Orem and BYU and let us get on with our lives. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Arm In Arm | President Russell M. Nelson and Reverend Amos C. Brown

In light of recent events, Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared the following message on his social media accounts:

We join with many throughout this nation and around the world who are deeply saddened at recent evidences of racism and a blatant disregard for human life. We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin.

We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.

The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!

During the Savior’s earthly mission, He constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, judged, overlooked, abused, and discounted. As His followers, can we do anything less? The answer is no! We believe in freedom, kindness, and fairness for all of God’s children!

Let us be clear. We are brothers and sisters, each of us the child of a loving Father in Heaven. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, invites all to come unto Him—“black and white, bond and free, male and female,” (2 Nephi 26:33). It behooves each of us to do whatever we can in our spheres of influence to preserve the dignity and respect every son and daughter of God deserves.

Any nation can only be as great as its people. That requires citizens to cultivate a moral compass that helps them distinguish between right and wrong.

Illegal acts such as looting, defacing, or destroying public or private property cannot be tolerated. Never has one wrong been corrected by a second wrong. Evil has never been resolved by more evil.

We need to foster our faith in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed, or cause.

And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.

I plead with us to work together for peace, for mutual respect, and for an outpouring of love for all of God’s children.
Because I have lived through the years of the Civil Rights Movement and because I have lived in both South and Central America, I have strong feelings about the need to repent of any prejudice against any group of God's children especially prejudice toward another race. I would hope those of you who have such feelings pay heed to this message. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

GenealogyBank Added as New FamilySearch Partner

FamilySearch sent out an invitation to me announcing that as a FamilySearch LDS member, I now have a free account. Quoting from the website:
GenealogyBank is a leading online genealogical resource from NewsBank, inc. Featuring a wealth of exclusive material-including modern obituaries and historical newspapers, books, pamphlets, military records, government documents and more-GenealogyBank helps you discover fascinating information about your family history.

GenealogyBank's 13,000+ historical newspapers include letters, speeches, opinion pieces, advertisements, hometown news, photographs, illustrations and more. These unique primary documents go beyond names and dates, providing first-hand accounts that simply aren't available from census or vital records alone. With GenealogyBank, you'll get a glimpse into the triumphs, troubles and everyday experiences of your American ancestors.
Look for an invitation in your email. I can't yet find GenealogyBank listed as a FamilySearch partner. Maybe I am the only one invited? You can try this link: Get Account Access

President Nelson Shares Social Post about Racism and Calls for Respect for Human Dignity

In this time of social unrest, pandemic, economic depression, and natural disasters, it is a good idea to remember kindness, civility, obedience to God's commandments, and other basic principles of a Christ-like life that may not determine our circumstances but will certainly determine how we react to those circumstances. Whether or not you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, take a moment to read what President Nelson has to say and reflect on how you might improve the area immdiately around you. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

MyHeritage Releases Exclusive New Record Collection from Germany has uploaded over 2.4 million images completely indexed in their new North Rhine Westphalia Death Index 1870–1940. Quoting from an email announcement:
The collection includes 2,450,551 records along with beautiful scanned images of the original documents. The images have been fully indexed by MyHeritage for the first time, making the information more accessible and readily searchable than ever before. These records are available only on MyHeritage, and are an invaluable resource for anyone researching their German roots.

Civil death registration records in Germany, called Personenstandsregister, were kept by the German Civil Registrar. They cover 98% of the population and have been mandatory in all German states since 1876. They may include the first and last names of the individual, the date and place of birth and death, age at death, residence, name of spouse, and even the names of the individual’s parents.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany with over 17.5 million inhabitants. During the period covered by the records in the collection, the region comprised 3 provinces: Westphalia, North Rhine, and the German Free State of Lippe. They were unified by the British after World War II.

Millions more records will be indexed and added to this collection in the future, in a series of planned updates.

This collection is a true treasure trove for those with German heritage. I hope you and your readers find it valuable. 
You can search the collection now and read more about the North Rhine-Westphalia Death Index 1870–1940 on the blog

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.