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

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Family History Mission: Planning for a Mission

Nauvoo Temple Sunstone
No. 36

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

This particular example of the Nauvoo Temple Sunstone is in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History NMNH in Washington, D.C. Back in 1992, the Museum purchased this original Sunstone for $100,000 from the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams Counties in Illinois. When we recently visited the Museum, seeing the Sunstone in D.C. was like seeing an old friend. We have a day and a half off each week to recuperate from our work schedule and take care of all things we need to do to live in Annapolis. 

For example, we are required to provide our own transportation. That means bringing a car across the country and maintaining it in Annapolis which includes oil changes, tire rotation and etc. We also purchase and fix all our own food. Of course, we did that at home, but here we have to take the time to go to the stores and work out where to do all the things we need to do to survive. We have a very nice apartment and it is centrally located very near the Archives where we work. So we do have only a five minute or so drive to the Archives. 

My previous full-time missionary experience as a young missionary in Argentina was dramatically different than our experience here in Annapolis. We have wonderful opportunities to help the local members with their family history and we have other opportunities to serve and help, but we are not out on the street every day proselyting. We have a very defined position in the Archives and limited interaction with the staff. Fortunately, here in Annapolis, we have other Senior Missionaries. This gives a small, but important, support group.

If you have ever thought about serving as a full-time Senior Missionary, I suggest you think seriously about how you would like to serve. I can only imagine, but I am pretty sure that serving a FamilySearch mission in Annapolis is vastly different than serving a CES Mission in New York City or as a Farmland Reserve Church-Service Missionary. Every month the Church publishes a Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin. In thinking about a mission, you should take a look at the opportunities available. You will likely find something that uses your own special talents as well as sounds like a wonderful opportunity. 

Moving to a new city, town or village for a year or more has its difficulties, but so does living at home. For us, the biggest challenge has been getting mail in a timely fashion. This could be solved by having someone at "home" who can forward the mail or sort through it and follow instructions. In planning for a mission (and old age) we have almost all of our periodic bills paid online automatically. This saves us from having the mail situation impact keeping our payments current. 

Before we left, we got referrals for doctors and had our prescriptions transferred to a local pharmacy. This can be done through most of the major pharmacies. We sold one of our cars and have debated whether to stay a one-car family or not when we return. There are a lot of other such considerations that do not apply at all to younger missionaries. 

Since there are both full-time and part-time missionary options that allow the missionaries to serve while staying at home, many of these issues can be avoided. 

For some, financial considerations and leaving family for a period of time are the most important factors. As I have pointed out previously, neither of these issues was much of a challenge for us. We are sorry to leave the children we left behind in Utah, but we have children all over the country and we have already had the opportunity to visit with some of them while here in Annapolis. Ideally, we would love to have all of our children and grandchildren living close by, but that is not our reality. 

In visiting with the other senior missionaries, health and finances are the two major considerations. One way to prepare for a mission is to work at staying healthy and saving for the time when the money might be needed. These are both a lot easier to talk about than actually put into practice. I think every senior missionary couple I have talked to has had one or the other of these issues. The difference is that they "put up with" the problems rather than letting their lives be ruled by those same problems. 

What it seems to come down to is making up your mind to do something productive when you are older and not expected to do anything. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

FamilySearch Mobile Apps and FamilySearch Family Tree Hinting

FamilySearch Mobile Apps

FamilySearch has posted two new videos: FamilySearch Mobile Apps and FamilySearch Hinting. 

These videos are presented by Bryce Roper, FamilySearch, Senior Product Manager and by Andrew Hair, UX Designer Mobile Team, from FamilySearch. This is a close as you can get to getting it straight from the source at FamilySearch. 

Not Everything Works the Way You Think It Does on the FamilySearch Family Tree

No matter how easy or uncomplicated you think something is, there always seems to be someone who doesn't quite get the message. The Family Tree is an amazingly well done and, from my perspective a rather easy program to use. But there are always questions and misunderstandings with even the most obvious features.

I recently had a friend pass on this comment after trying to help a patron in a Family History Center. The comment really illustrates two different issues.
Today, I was helping a young woman with her research, and I asked if she looked for information on FamilySearch. She said, "oh yes, I have a tree there with sources."

I said let's look at it. She went into FS and pulled up her person. There was not one source, document or memory attached. When I asked (very nicely) where the source was, she responded -- "oh, it's right here". She pointed to the hints under the Research Help column on the right. Her perspective was that was a place where the sources were kept and that she did not have to do anything further.

We were trying to estimate a marriage date and I noticed that there was only one child listed under the couple. I asked if there were any other children in the family, and she said yes, it was a very large family but she is only interested in her direct line ancestor.
When a program is designed, the programmers are not usually the people who will ultimately use the program. That is one reason why FamilySearch and other developers use Beta tests to let the real users give feedback on the issues with the program. Here we have two excellent examples of program difficulties that are not going to be found by bug reports. The reason is simple. There is nothing wrong with the Family Tree program at all. However, the Family Tree, as well as most of the other parts of the website do make assumptions about a user's competency and awareness of the terminology and usage of parts of the programs. 

People who focus only on one line and fail to "fill in" the rest of the people in their ancestral families are quite common among those who are "interested" in genealogy. If you go back in time, clicking on family lines on the Family Tree, you will quite possibly find family lines that have only one child in each generation. So this part of the quote does make some weird sort-of sense. 

Quite frankly, this is the first time I have ever heard of the issue with Record Hints. I know people who ignore them both negligently and intentionally but thinking they are the same thing as sources is really strange, especially if you manage to open one of the Record Hints and look at what it says. 

It is situations such as these that make my days interesting while helping in Family History Libraries and Centers. Let me know if you agree with the patron. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Family History Mission: Extremely Interesting Discoveries

No. 35

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

Since we are involved every working day with 200 to 300-year-old documents there are a lot of things going on every day that are interesting and surprising. The documents and books become a constant source of entertainment and amazement. For example, we got a series of books that had been sent to the conservation section of the Maryland State Archives. They were infested with mold and had to be irradiated. However, working with the documents requires the use of gloves and a dust mask. Here is a look at one of the books.

This is after the book had been treated for mold. Here is a photo of the workstation.

When you see the condition of some of these records, you begin to understand the importance of what we are doing to digitize and preserve the records and all the information they contain. Here is how the books come to us.

Of course, not all the books are in this condition. Most of what Ann and I have been doing involves books in a lot better condition than these. We make interesting discoveries. Here is a pedigree chart that was found among the records we are digitizing.

Here is a photo of the entire chart. This particular chart was accompanied by a stack of original records from Ireland.

One last photo. Here is a notation about a court document. Can you read the date?

It took me a couple of minutes to figure it out, but now I can read all of the dates from this court and time period without much of a problem.

The things you learn on a mission!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Family History Photo Activity

I got an email inviting me to a new family activity from The email says:
We created a fun, new family activity to remember your ancestors! Strengthen your knowledge of what they looked like in this personalized photo challenge.
By clicking on the blue button, I got the following series of screens:

The series continues for ten people. If I guess the right person, then it gives me a link to that person.

This feature is apparently a promotional campaign and may or may not translate into a permanent feature of the website. Look for this when you sign on to or look for an email.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Home Page Updates for The Family History Guide

By subscribing to The Family History Guide blog, you can keep up-to-date with all the new features and additions to this extremely useful website. The link to the post about "Home Page Updates" is above in the caption to the screenshot. Here is a list of the updates.
  • Menu Help – Just above the banner area is a small open / close link titled “Menu Help”. Click it to get a brief description of the menus at the top of each page in The Family History Guide. This is a gentle reminder that you can find whatever you need on the website by using the drop-down menus; you don’t have to use the tiles or links on the Home Page.
  • Search – Also just above the banner area is the Search link; it has been moved into the header area on each page of the site so you can find it without scrolling. For more details, see our blog post The “Search” is On.
  • Font size and color – We’ve reduced the text size in the banner in order to fit two tiles on the right, and we’ve made the green color consistent on the page.
  • Mission recap – We’ve added a shortened version of our mission statement at the bottom of the banner: “Family history made easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable!”
  • Get Started – see the description below.
  • Quick Tour – This is a link to our Quick Tour video, but it will change when more videos are added (see “Sneak Peek” below).
  • Google Translate bar – This has been moved higher up the page so it’s visible without having to scroll down.
Here is a screenshot of the Home Page as of the date of this post.

If you are not familiar with The Family History Guide, be sure to click on the Get Started link and take a quick tour. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Family History Mission: Why Am I Here?

No. 34

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

Why do older members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leave home and family for up to three years to serve missions all over the world? Since I presently have an opportunity to work with a number of senior missionary couples and have talked to hundreds over the years, I have asked the same question. Interestingly, some of the senior missionaries, even ones I am working with right now, are on their second or even third mission. What motivates these people? What is more personal, why was I motivated to come on a mission?

It would be too easy to say that they are motivated by their testimonies of Jesus Christ, the reality of the restored Gospel and latter-day prophets on the earth. This is too easy a way to explain the choice to serve a full-time mission because many older members have strong testimonies but do not serve full-time missions. There must be something else going on here and there is.

Life becomes almost unbelievably complicated as we grow older. There is this falsely advertised view of old age as the "Golden Years." They are mostly years filled with worries about medical, financial and family issues. Almost every one of the senior missionaries I have talked to has had or is still having serious medical challenges. The missionaries serving here in Maryland are no exception. Of course, there is a threshold where medical conditions prevent serving some kinds of full-time missions but fortunately, the senior mission system is highly adaptable and some can serve while living in their own homes where medical and other support is already in place. Visits to doctors and even hospitals by senior missionaries are not uncommon. However, our schedules are flexible enough to accommodate most of these challenges. What is different about those who serve full-time missions is their ability to put physical limitations in perspective.

There is a financial hurdle to overcome. But this is also less of an issue than might be imagined. The main part of the financial issues are ongoing obligations that prevent service. All of the senior missionaries have planned their lives to avoid excessive debt and have either the support of family or their own resources to pay for a mission. The decision to "put their houses in order" was made years or even decades before they choose to serve. I am guessing that this is the one most important deciding factor after physical health that prevents some from serving.

What does it cost to serve a full-time mission? To some extent that depends on the place and type of mission served. One of the missionary couples serving here with us sold their home to go on a mission. They presently have no home to go back to and are deciding where in the country they want to live after their mission is finished. Some missions are much less expensive than others. The key here is that senior missionaries have much more control over where and how they serve than the young missionaries. Of the six couples serving here in Annapolis, all but one couple asked to serve with FamilySearch.

We chose to serve a FamilySearch mission because we have been so totally involved with family history and were already serving as Family History Church Service Missionaries. We see the value of digitizing records and understand how that service fits into the overall effort of Temple work and the salvation of the dead. Personally, I have been closely involved with FamilySearch for years and I simply appreciate the opportunity to be involved in this aspect of genealogy. It is interesting that we have dozens of volunteers helping in the digitization effort in the Maryland State Archives, almost all of which are local genealogy society members or genealogists and not members of the Church. They see a need to help where the local members do not even know the opportunity exists and would not help if they did.

One of the issues, perhaps the one most talked about, is the "leaving" our families issue. In my own situation, my children and grandchildren live all over the United States. I am just as likely to see some of them when the come through or to Washington, D.C. as I would by living in any other place. But if, as grandparents, you are actively involved in the day to day care of family members either parents, children or grandchildren, you may need to think in terms of serving our of your home. This is a difficult decision to make. However, as Senior Missionaries, there is some latitude in attending important family occasions, even outside of your mission boundaries.

When we get right down to the motivation for serving a mission, it turns out to be highly personal. I do think more older members would consider a full-time mission if they knew more about the opportunities and the commitments involved. We are very happy to help in the Archives for a year and then we will probably find some other way to serve.

Take some time to seriously think about it and look on for the missionary service opportunities. If you do not think you can serve a full-time mission, seriously consider a part-time Church Service mission.