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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Upcoming Adventure in Record Preservation

Some time ago, my wife and I began the process of volunteering to serve as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many people around the world have become accustomed to seeing young missionaries traveling around two-by-two. These younger missionaries are primarily proselyting to find people to join the church. Some senior missionaries also act in this capacity. However, for senior missionaries, there are a variety of other challenging opportunities to serve. In our case, we wished to serve in some capacity associated with our main interest in family history and genealogy. As result, we found an opportunity to serve as Record Preservation missionaries.

Full-time missionary service for senior missionaries, most commonly retired couples, can be for six months, 12 months, 18 months or longer. The variety of callings available is remarkable. You can discover information about available positions on the website. Specifically, we wanted to serve a mission associated with the activities of FamilySearch. Both of us, have been serving as Church Service Missionaries for some time now.

As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 4:3, "Therefore if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…" Most callings in the Church come from the leaders to the members, however, senior missionary callings rely on the members volunteering to serve. Because of this, we sought out a specific calling to assist in the digitization of the world's records.

The process of submitting the information necessary to receive a mission call is simplified by having the entire process online. There are some minimal requirements concerning health and availability. Filling out the online forms and acquiring the necessary information took only a short period of time. Our mission call came much quicker than expected. However, we were given, what appeared to be, a rather long time to prepare to leave. We were called to the Washington DC North Mission, appropriately located in the Washington DC area.  Our specific calling was to serve as Record Preservation Specialists for a period of one year, at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. It is not always the case, that the missionaries are called to the place or area they specify; this is made very clear in the application process.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Record presentation is the fundamental driving force behind all of the online records now available for genealogical research. FamilySearch has hundreds of missionary couples serving around the world participating in this important work.
For more information about FamilySearch and Record Preservation, see the following links.
Many people have asked me if I will write about our mission. Rather than do a separate newsletter to all of our friends, I have decided to incorporate a "report" about our mission in this blog. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sign in will be required for all users on

Note: I do not usually reproduce the same blog post on both of my blogs, but this is an exception because of the far-reaching changes imposed by FamilySearch on their website.

Beginning December 13, 2017, for a number of very good reasons, the highly visited website will begin requiring users to sign in before using the website. The announcement came in a blog post entitled, "FamilySearch Free Sign-in Offers Greater Subscriber Experiences and Benefits." Quoting from the post:
Beginning December 13, 2017, patrons visiting will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer. Since its launch in 1999, FamilySearch has added millions of users, billions of various historical records, and many fun, new features like Family TreeMemoriesmobile appsdigital books, and dynamic help. In order to accommodate continued growth of these and future free services, FamilySearch must assure all its partners that its content is offered in a safe and secure online environment. Patrons creating a free account and signing in fulfills that need.

Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.
The online world is rapidly changing as circumstances mandate a higher level of website security. Requiring all of the users to sign on will not change the user experience but it will help to preserve the integrity of the website.

More than finding the names

Family history is about more than just finding the names of our ancestors. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discovering their ancestral heritage is more than just a hobby or pastime. It is a fundamental part of our religious belief. As Joseph Smith stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128, verses 17 and 18:
17 And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
This is a personal responsibility and apparently, there is no way to transfer this responsibility to another person. Your great aunt or grandmother or whoever may have "done all the work" for your ancestors, which, by the way, would have been and is presently impossible, but if you are a member of the Church, you still have the same exact responsibility today. Fortunately, as Rodney DeGiulio, senior vice president over FamilySearch records recently observed, “The Lord is hastening His work, and the tools and capabilities available are being poured out to us through His Spirit.” How is this work being hastened?

First of all, it is not us doing the hastening. We are merely participants or in most cases nonobservant bystanders to the hastening. It is the Lord who is hastening the work and we can either participate or lose the blessings. It is as simple as that. As Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said back in October 2013 as reported in an Ensign magazine article published in October 2014, entitled, "Missionary, Family History, and Temple Work,"
Enabling the exaltation of the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances. We do not worship in holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family. Planting in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; turning the hearts of the children to their own fathers; and performing family history research and vicarious ordinances in the temple are labors that bless individuals in the spirit world not yet under covenant.
As Elder Bednar further stated in the same article.
Some individuals may wonder how both preaching the gospel and seeking after our dead can be simultaneously the greatest duties and responsibilities God has placed upon His children. My purpose is to suggest that these teachings highlight the unity and oneness of the latter-day work of salvation. Missionary work and family history and temple work are complementary and interrelated aspects of one great work, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).
One of the most evident effects of this hastening is the what Rod DeGulio said about "tools and capabilities." Those tools include a marvelous array of tools including those on two of the Church's websites, and It is interesting that the statistics gathered by the Church show that only a very small minority of the members of the Church are even using these two tools to submit the names of their ancestors to the temples.

In addition, this hastening has included resource tools such as The Family History Guide, the official FamilySearch traning partner and an official correlation approved resource as linked from Not too surprisingly, very few members of the Church have even become aware of these tools and resources. There are over 100 additional programs listed in the App Gallery.

Until each member of the Church takes the iniative to begin the work of salvation for their own ancestors and relatives, they are not really helping the hastening of the work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Puzzilla Premium: A Dramatic Increase in Utility
It is not uncommon for software developers to promote both a free and paid version of their program. Sometimes, the free version is limited in some way that makes buying the full version of the program an obvious decision. has a free level and a premium or subscription level and the premium level has so many more features that buying the full or premium version of the program is an obvious decision.

When it was introduced, the basic or free version brought genealogists an innovative way of viewing the information contained in the Family Tree. The Premium version of the program extends those features by adding extensive functionality. Through the Brigham Young University Library, we have done a number of videos that demonstrate the features of the Premium version of the program. Here are the some of them.

Getting the Most Out of Puzzilla Premium by Judy Sharp

Puzzilla Premium by James Tanner

10-Descendancy Research in Puzilla - Judy Sharp

Strategies for Finding an Ancestor Through Descendancy Research by Judy Sharp

Monday, November 13, 2017

View BYU Family History Library Videos in LDS Chapels
The BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel has hundreds of useful and instructional videos about genealogy and family history. However, for those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who wish to use the videos while teaching a class or otherwise in an LDS chapel, they will find that the Church blocks YouTube in the chapels. To resolve this problem, the staff of the BYU Family History Library is now converting the videos to a format that can be viewed directly from the BYU website. Here's a screenshot of the website and the link to the expanded media options.
However, please remember that viewing the videos on YouTube and subscribing to the channel helps the library gain some visibility in the mass of videos on YouTube and uploaded to YouTube daily. Please subscribe.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Some Surprises in Descendancy Research

Red Icons? One of the fairly recent additions to the Family Tree is the addition of a considerable number of red warning icons. These icons are now telling users that their entries lack standardized dates and places. Here is an example from the screenshot above.

Why has standardization now become an issue along with children born after the mother has died and other serious errors?

From my perspective, the lack of accurately located places in the Family Tree is one of the biggest challenges to the consistent accuracy of the entire database. One of most errors I encounter is that of children in one family born in various and sundry places that turn out to be from separate families. I certainly realize that standardizing an erroneous location does not resolve the error, but it may help to see that a family in England did not likely have a child born in California. In addition to helping the program locate the places on a map, standardization also helps organize the various jurisdictions in their proper order from the smallest to the largest.

I often depend on standardization as an indicator of the degree of involvement by capable users of the program. If I see a lot of non-standard dates and place names, I assume that no knowledgeable person has yet worked on that particular part of the Family Tree. There are other indicators of lack of involvement such as a long list of "Birth Names," but non-standard entries are a more reliable indicator.

Lack of involvement by other users often additionally indicates that there are opportunities to find additional individuals to add to the Family Tree. Other indicators include a lack of sources and incomplete names or names containing extraneous characters such as parentheses. In fact, the bigger the problem, the greater the opportunity.

If you understand the import of the red icons, you will realize that they are really opportunity indicators.

Friday, November 10, 2017

FamilySearch Family Tree App Now Maps Your Ancestors

The Family Tree app now has a mapping program included that maps the location of the events in your ancestors' lives. However, with any app linked to the Family Tree, you need to remember that the information provided is only as accurate as the entries in the Family Tree. This is additional reason for standardizing you entries in the Family Tree.

Allison Ensign has written an expanded description of the features of the mapping function in a blog post on the FamilySearch Blog, entitled, "What's New: Map Your Ancestors." I suggest going to this blog post to get a more detailed explanation of the app's operation.

It seems that FamilySearch incorporates functions that appear in other third-party apps. For example, The Family Nexus is a full featured, free app that has a more detailed and sophisticated mapping function.
I suggest taking a good look at The Family Nexus and the new function on the Family Tree app.