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

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.