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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gems from the BYU Family History Library


Finding Your Family in the Amazing Online Amsterdam City Archives - John de Jong

One the interesting things about the webinar and video project at the Brigham Young University Family History Library is the reaction of the people who watch the videos and the reaction of the people participating in doing the presentations.

Just recently, John de Jong, from FamilySearch, did a video about his specialty of research in the Netherlands. In talking to one of the people he has been helping with research in that country, he found out that the person was able to watch his video and find a long-sought ancestor. This is exactly the kind of benefit we hoped to achieve by putting up the wide range of topics available on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Thanks to all those who have been watching all these videos.

You may not think of BYU immediately when doing genealogical research, but I suggest you might want to investigate all of the resources available. This next week is the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Please take the time to consider coming to the Conference. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Logged In Home Page from FamilySearch


Logged In Homepage

FamilySearch.org has just posted a new instructional video about the logged in Homepage that appears and is customized when you log in to FamilySearch.org. I know that sounds redundant, but there is no other way to refer to the page. The short video above explains the idea and why you get a different page view every time you log in. This can be confusing to some of us, but it does provide some interesting links.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Assume There Are No Records For Your Family


There is a pervasive background to genealogical research. I constantly hear complaints from researchers that their family's records have been lost or never existed. Sometimes this complaint comes from information about a "burned" county, where the courthouse burned down at one point in time or even several times. After doing years of research, I find that there are some realistic limitations on both the availability and existence of records on a specific individual or family, but I also find that very few of the people who complain about a lack of records have come close to the actual limits.

Nearly all the complaints I receive about lost records result in a resolution. The underlying causes of the complaints arise from several different sources:

  • The researcher is looking in the wrong place or for records during the wrong time period
  • The researcher does not know where to find the records
  • The researcher cannot find records that are assumed to exist. For example, birth certificates before such documents were required by the state or county
  • The researcher does not know that alternate records exist that have the same or similar information as the "lost" records
  • The researcher is looking for records that were never in existence or looking at a time when the target records were not kept
  • The researcher is looking for the wrong person
  • The records that do exist fail to record the researcher's target person
  • The researcher is relying on an incomplete or inaccurate index
There are probably more reasons also, but any one of the above situations could result in a researcher coming to a conclusion that the records have been lost. 

Is there a cure for this condition? Fortunately, yes. To be a successful researcher, you always have to assume that the records are there and keep looking. Just because you are told that the "records all burned" or that they were destroyed due to a war or some kind of natural disaster, does not mean that the information you are looking for was not preserved. I have recently been looking at "burned" records that were ultimately preserved from a fire that took place back in 1870. New technology can sometimes restore records that were previously damaged beyond use. 

Consultant Planner Bug Resolved?

A short while ago, I wrote about a bug in the FamilySearch.org Consultant Planner. After speaking with FamilySearch and explaining the "bug," it appears that the problem has been resolved. I was able to add a person to my Consultant Helper List directly from my Stake Directory and using the person's helper number and birthdate. I hope this is the end of the problem.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Busy Times Ahead


The next few weeks, I will be either attending conferences or a workshop away from home or be presenting classes. Mixed in with all that will be a week-long camping trip into the mountains with my family. In short, I am very likely to be away from internet connections for the next four weeks. I will try to post when I can, but I will likely be too busy or unable to post.

I am teaching at the following two conferences and, in addition, attending a FamilySearch Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Stay tuned and if you like, you can review some of the over 1,300 posts I have made on this blog alone. You can also spend some time reviewing some of the 26 videos we have uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel during the past month. 

Global Warming and the FamilySearch Family Tree


It is very likely that you have an opinion about the topic of "global warming" or climate change. The interesting thing about this subject is that it is basically a scientific fact issue. Measuring changes in the average temperature of the earth is a purely physical and technical process. If I have an accurate thermometer or similar device and measure today's temperature in Provo, Utah at the same place for a period of time, I can easily calculate the "average" temperature. In fact, this is regularly done for millions of locations around the world. Here is one such chart of the average temperatures for Provo, Utah from the National Weather Service:


This particular chart illustrates the "mean" temperature, not the average. The "mean" is the number that is exactly in the middle, with half of the readings below that number and half above. If we compile all these measurements from around the world over a long period of time and also work out the historical figures for years before the measurements were being made, we can tell if the temperatures are getting warmer or cooler. So why is there a disagreement over the results of these scientific measurements? Good question. Here is the same type of chart showing the trend of temperatures measured on the land and sea for more than a century for the entire earth:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature
Here is a quote from Climate.gov about the chart.
Temperatures measured on land and at sea for more than a century show that Earth's globally averaged surface temperature is rising. For the last 45 years, global surface temperature rose at an average rate of about 0.17°C (around 0.3° Fahrenheit) per decade—more than twice as fast as the 0.07°C per decade increase observed for the entire period of recorded observations (1880-2015).
What does this have to do with genealogy and the FamilySearch.org Family Tree? Well, the answer to this question is rather complicated. The global warming trend is an established scientific fact but despite overwhelming observations, half of the people in the United States still do not believe the facts.  See the Gallup.com "Half of US Are Now Concerned Global Warming Believers."

For a number of years now, the FamilySearch.org Family Tree has been in existence and functioning. For more than a year, the major defects in the Family Tree have been rectified and the Family Tree now works reasonably well. Just as science uses physical measurements to establish the temperature trends, the Family Tree uses "sources" to establish the "history" of the individuals in the Family Tree. No sources, no information, end of story. However, there is still an overwhelming number of individuals in the Family Tree who show the following:


Whole sections of the Family Tree look like this:


Just as with the overwhelming facts about global warming, users of the Family Tree are faced with notices telling them that there are problems with the data in the Family Tree. Each of those red icons indicates a fatal flaw in the data entered into the Family Tree. Despite these obvious warnings based on the lack of accurate historical data, many potential users of the Family Tree believe that everything in the Family Tree has been verified by the "Church" and is accurate. They either ignore the Family Tree because they believe that their work has been "all done" or mine the Family Tree for green icons based on the same inaccurate belief. You can see one of those green temple icons in the above screenshot. There is no way that anyone can claim a relationship with the people at the level of the green icon given the number of red icons that are evident.

Collectively, we seem to have a wonderful capacity for ignoring both scientifically and historically established information. We believe in our own opinions. We had a commonly quoted statement in the law about disagreements; "I know what I think is true, don't confuse me with the facts."

For the past few months, I have been writing about just such a situation that exists on my Tanner line. I have written a number of posts using the title "Finding Francis." Last night, I found another historical link in the situation where a group of people has been saying, "Don't confuse us with the facts, we know we are right." The Family Tree is a microcosm of the same type of irrational arguments that are being made nationally about global warming.

I am getting tired of having people look at me with a condescending smile and tell me that all their genealogy has been done for a long time and that all I have to do is look at the Family Tree and see that it has all been done. I am also getting tired of people popping names into the Family Tree without bothering to read what is already there and without providing even one source for their activities. That is enough of a rant for today.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Consultant Planner Bug Interferes With Registration


Note: The following post will make little sense if you have not been acting as a Temple and Family History Consultant and helping people with finding names for temple ordinances using the Consultant Planner. If you would like a good introduction to the Consultant Planner, see "The FamilySearch Consultant Planner For: Find, Take, Teach, and Beyond - Kathryn Grant."

The Consultant Planner is one of the recent most useful innovations from FamilySearch. However, this past two weeks, I have run into a serious bug in the program. The idea of the Consultant Planner is that a Temple and Family History Consultant is enabled to directly assist another user of the program by viewing their portion of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree as a "proxy" helper. This ability has been available for some considerable time in the form of acting as a "Helper." But the new innovative Consultant Planner section of the FamilySearch.org website was designed to facilitate the process.

The process of becoming a Helper was (and still is) rather cumbersome. Essentially, the Helper obtained the user's (Helpee's?) semi-confidential User Number and login and was able to view a screen that was the same as the user's own view. More recently, FamilySearch.org had been modified to add the ability to "invite" a user to share their view of the Family Tree. This was a major improvement on the process. I have been using this process since it was introduced at it has facilitated the whole idea of helping people in a vastly improved way. Now to the problem or bug.

The idea of inviting people to allow a Temple and Family History Consultant to help is a good one, but the problem occurs when the person being helped has no computer skills and cannot answer an email. Sending an email invitation to this type of person is a waste of time. They have no idea how to open their own email account and respond.

Recently, FamilySearch added a new feature to the Consultant Planner. They incorporated the Ward and Stake Directories on the LDS Tools app and on LDS.org. Theoretically, you could now look up a member of your Stake or Ward and add them automatically by means of an email invitation. However, we are now back to the problem that the person must be able to respond to an email. In the present situation, I tried using the new entry form to add the person I was trying to help. I used both the User Number and her Date of Birth and expected that she would be added to the "Accepted or Added" list. This did not happen. I tried this several time without success and finally went back to the original method of sending the person an email. In this case, I sat down personally and sent the invitation and then helped the lady find her email account and respond to the request. She was still not added to the Accepted or Added list. However, I did find that I could get access to help her, just as was the case with the original Helper option, but I had to enter all the information every time to access her view of the Family Tree.

At this point, I called FamilySearch for help and spent a considerable time with the online helpers trying different things such as changing browsers etc. None of this worked and several more tries with different orders and options did not put her name on the Accepted or Added list.

Hmm. Apparently, trying to add the person from the Directory put her into a special category that prevented her name from being added into the list.