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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Family History Mission: Immersed in Technology

A camera capture setup for digititizing records for
No. 10

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

The second week of our Missionary Training Center or MTC experience was spent learning how to apply the standards for digitizing used by To understand what we will be doing when we serve at the Maryland State Archives, it is necessary to understand about the steps involved in putting a document online on the website. 

First of all, you need to understand where the digitized documents will ultimately end up how that benefits everyone who is searching for ancestral connections. 

Here is a copy of a digitized document from the Catalog and as found in the Historical Record Collections. 

When indexed, this record will be available to anyone who searches for an ancestor or relative on the website. The unindexed records are also available but they are essentially copies of the original microfilm, i.e. digitized records that must be searched one by one in many cases. For beginning genealogists, this is a challenge, but for those of us who have been searching microfilm for years, it is still a great step forward because we can search anytime from home in most cases. Anyway, this is a topic for another post. 

Of course, there is quite a bit to learn to understand how to find these records on the website, but if there were no digitized records available, then the only place this document could be found would likely be in the originating entities' collections or perhaps on microfilm somewhere. In this case, this U.S. Census Record would be in the files of the National Archives. There is quite a process that these records have to go through before they appear in the Catalog or Historical Record Collections.

First, the FamilySearch acquisition team has to identify potentially valuable records around the world and make contact with the record repositories. Then, rights to digitize the original records must be acquired by FamilySearch through negotiation by its representatives (employees) with the various record repositories around the world.  After a formal contract is negotiated, missionaries or contractors can be assigned to digitize the records.This part of the process, negotiating the contracts, can be very complicated and time-consuming. You would think that all the repositories would like to have FamilySearch come in and digitize their records for free, but politics and other considerations often make the process either impossible or difficult. 

OK, so once the records are identified and the contracts are in place, teams of Record Preservation contractors or missionaries are assigned to digitize the records. 

Some of those who digitize records for FamilySearch are professional contractors who do this for a living. One interesting group of contractors in some parts of the world are the participants in the Perpetual Education Fund. The Perpetual Education Fund is a program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which loans money to needy students around the world who then can go to school and learn a trade or profession and then repay the money to the fund. The fund is supported by donations from members of the Church. Some of those who obtain loans can work at digitizing records to help pay for their loans. The rest of those helping to digitize the records are hopefully an increasing number of senior missionaries, like me and my wife. However, lately, the number of senior missionaries has been decreasing because of economic and family issues. More about that later.

As I am learning, the digitization process is complicated. In the Missionary Training Center, during our second week, we were given a thick binder of information about the equipment, the software and the process of digitizing the records. I am sure I will have a lot to say about this process as we get to Annapolis and get to work. But you can see a photo of the camera setup above on this post.

Once the records are digitized by the Record Preservation Specialists (us), they are sent on military grade hard drives to Salt Lake City to be processed into the system. The files on the hard disks are audited by a team of auditors and any images not up to the standards of FamilySearch are required to be retaken. For us, this will be like being back in school with a test every week as to how we did in digitizing the records. As I wrote above, I will likely have a lot to say about this process once we actually get going. 

If the digital copies are acceptable, then they go through another process to be put online and made available on the website. If you monitor the number of images going online every week, you will see that millions of images are moving onto the website every week. 

Well, we are on our way to Annapolis. It will take us about four or maybe five days of driving. We are not trying to drive 12 hours a day so it will take longer than it used to when I was younger and driving across the country. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Family History Mission: Transition to Annapolis, Maryland

Early evening view of the MTC
No. 9

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

We are nearly at the end of our Missionary Training Center or MTC experience. This will be a short post. We have one day of training from FamilySearch in Salt Lake City and then we began our long drive across the country. During the past week, our second week in the MTC, we have had classes on the process of digitizing historical records using digital cameras. The instruction is pretty technical and is a challenge for those without a background in computers and photography.

The training at the MTC is marvelous and very pertinent to what we will be doing in the "mission field." I will try to give a few more updates as we drive across the country.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Premature Post

Sorry about the premature post. I meant to save the title on the last post for updating and clicked post instead.

Here is the link to the updated post about the new features on

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Training Resources on

Sorry about the premature post. :-(

The Consultant Planner contains a link to some exciting new training resources. First, you have to go to the Consultant Planner under the Get Help menu in the upper right-hand corner of

When you look at the Consultant Planner, you will see a new notice:

Click on the link. You will then see the following page:

Then, click on the Resources tab for more options:

Try out all the new links and resources. If you click on the "Basics" link, for example, you will see the following links:

Guess what? the Family History link and the Computer Basic Link each link to The Family History Guide.

A Family History Mission: Learning Our Assignment

The Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center at Night
No. 8

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

Today was the first day of our second week in the Provo, Utah Mission Training Center or MTC, right next to the Brigham Young University campus. We have driven past the MTC nearly every day and sometimes many times a day for the past three and half years and it is an interesting experience to be in the MTC. Quite a change. The first week of our mission experience was based on learning about missionary work from the Preach My Gospel manual.

This week is focused on training to use the digital cameras during our assignment to work at the Maryland State Archives. Quoting from the website:
The State Archives serves as the central depository for government records of permanent value. Its holdings date from Maryland's founding in 1634, and include colonial and state executive, legislative, and judicial records; county probate, land, and court records; church records; business records; state publications and reports; and special collections of private papers, maps, photographs, and newspapers.
We will be serving as FamilySearch Record Preservation Specialists. Interestingly, we do not wear normal "missionary" clothes or have the black missionary badges because it is a government facility. We will be attending a local Ward and are already making plans to help in the Family History Centers in the area. Will be living in an apartment in Annapolis.

The process of digitizing records is fairly complicated. From negotiating contracts with the record repositories to the actual digitation process there are several steps. Even after the records are digitized it takes several steps to prepare the records for publication online. The end product still needs to be indexed. But this whole process is revolutionizing genealogical research.

Without volunteers, there would be far fewer free online records available to the genealogical community. In addition, many of these records have not been generally available without the time and expense of actually visiting the archive. This is a win-win situation everyone benefits from our effort.

By the way, the digitization process turns out to fairly complicated and involves a lot of steps. The cameras are mounted on large stands and need to be calibrated and focused before every digitization session. I am familiar with the process since I participated in the original development of the software when I volunteered to assist FamilySearch in digitizing the Mesa City Cemetery Records that are now on

New Features Added to the Consultant Planner

Show birth countries
The Consultant Planner has some new interesting and informative features. The views of the fan chart have been expanded to include:
  • Show Birth Countries
  • Show Birth Years
  • Show Memories
  • Show Sources
Here are screenshots of the new views. You can access the new views from the pull-down menu. 

Show Birth Years

Here is the next view:

Show Memories

The fourth and last new view:

Show Source
Each of these views allows both the individual and those helping to quickly see the "status" of the person's entries on the Family Tree. The more color, the more it is likely that people have been working on the entries. If they are thinking of adding another fan chart, I would suggest one showing whether or not there are any red problem icons. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Family History on the LDS Media App
The LDS Media App is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can download the app to your smartphone or tablet or iPad from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store for free. The LDS Media App page on (see above) has links to Guides for both versions of the app. Quoting from the webpage:
Wherever you teach, the LDS Media Library app gives you complete and searchable access to the Church media library. Complement Sunday lessons, Family Home Evenings, or missionary discussions with easy-to-find videos, images, and music content.
The resources on the LDS Media App can also be downloaded for use without an internet connection. Items are downloaded automatically so they can be used for lessons and other presentations. One very important point is that the videos of conference talks or other videos can be trimmed down to play only the portion you want to present. Cable adapters can also connect your device directly to a monitor, TV or projector for use in a class.

You will be surprised at what you might find for use in family history classes or for talks about family history. A search for media will result in dozens of images and videos.