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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

FamilySearch adds records indexed by computer

The new Historical Record Collection from GenealogyBank Obituaries contains 45,512,634 images of which 34,168,513 have been indexed and according to a blog post, about 23 million of those indexed records were indexed "by computer." Quoting from the post entitled, "What’s New on FamilySearch—October 2016,"
In this collection, 23 million of the 31 million obituaries were indexed by a computer. When you view the indexed data, you will now see a message telling you that it was indexed by a computer.
I spent some time searching around in the collection looking at records from various states and clicking through lists of records viewing each record and could not find an image that said it was indexed by computers. If you do find one, you should be aware of the following statement made by FamilySearch about this particular collection.
If the computer indexing process introduced an error, you can request a correction by clicking Errors, which is located at the bottom left corner of the screen. A specialized team of missionaries will review the change request and make any needed corrections. 
This corrections feature is available for the U.S. GenealogyBank collection only. It is not available for censuses or any other indexed collections on
This statement brings up an ongoing issue with the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections. Some websites, such as, allow the users to add additional search terms when the indexing of the records seems to be deficient. For some time now, I and others have suggested that FamilySearch allow users to add indexing terms or "correct" the exiting indexing. Hopefully, this ability added to this particular collection is an indication that this feature may be available in the future for more collections.

Another option, which FamilySearch may also have considered, is to allow those researching the records in the Catalog to "index" those records on the fly. So, for example, if I find a record, I could add an index of the record at the time I viewed the record. I seem to remember something like this being discussed or proposed at one time in the past.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why I Suggest You Attend RootsTech 2017

Genealogy is overall a rather solitary activity. Most of us spend time sitting in front of a computer or absorbed in historical records. We often find it difficult to discuss what we do with those around us who do not value our interest in ancestral research to the same extent we do. Attend a large genealogy conference, especially RootsTech 2017 can have a vast impact on your perception of the genealogical community. There really are thousands of people who are willing to come to Salt Lake City, Utah in the dead of winter to do something besides ski in the surrounding mountains and who are all related by a common interest in genealogy.

Granted, many of us are older and not as physically active as we once may have been. The venue for RootsTech 2017 is the huge Salt Palace Convention Center. It does take time and money to attend and as I am acutely aware, genealogists are mostly people who put a huge premium on both. I suggest that going to RootsTech 2017 is like visiting a new country for the first time. You don't have the time or the energy to do everything or go to all the classes you may want to experience, but just being there and experiencing the high energy level of the participants will help to rejuvenate your interest and dedication to genealogy and there are always a lot of soft couches and other places to sit and just watch the crowds for a while.

Personally, I find it is a great opportunity to meet and greet. I spend nearly all my time when I am not writing, talking to people and listening to what is going on in the greater genealogical community. I am really very at home in that type of environment; surrounded by people who share my passion for genealogy.

The classes are wonderful and one of the main draws, but I would suggest that much of what is really going on in genealogy is happening on the huge exhibit floor. It may seem busy and crowded at times, but the vendors and other organizations there are staffed by people who are mostly experts in their particular area of interest. This is where I spend most of my time. As a blogger, FamilySearch provides a "Media Center" where we can gather, interview people and rest from time to time. If you have any favorite bloggers, you may find them congregated there.

Personally, I have some long-term friendship type relationships with some of the vendors and RootsTech 2017 will once again give me an opportunity to visit with them and see what is going on in their particular companies or organizations. Obviously, with so much going on, I will always miss something. But, I try hard to see and talk to as many people as possible.

The last few years, I have spent more time with some particular companies. This will likely happen again this coming year. But what I hear and what I see usually keeps me informed for months following the conference.

I am sure that you will find your own best area to focus on. But time is running out. Making arrangements to come to the Conference should begin now. Oh, the food is really good also and you are right in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City and right next to Temple Square and the famous Tabernacle Choir. Salt Lake has a free TRAX light rail system in the downtown area. You are also only a short block or two away from the Family History Library. If you want to take advantage of the Family History Library, I suggest you come early to the Conference or stay late after it is over. During the Conference it is a rather busy place. This year they will be holding the grand opening of the new Family Discovery Center on the first floor of the Family History Library during RootsTech 2017.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tips are the Key to Help with the FamilySearch Family Tree

You might not have noticed but in the lower right-hand corner of each page of the Family Tree program, there is now a light bulb icon that signifies that there is contextual help tips available for that page. Over time, these tips are becoming more and more valuable in explaining and supporting the functions of the Family Tree.

When you click on the icon, you get a screen that changes depending on the part of the Family Tree you are viewing. Here is the Tip panel for this view of the Family Tree.

I recently noted that the Help Center had changed from the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, but the link here to the Help Center, seems to take me back to the older format and more helpful edition of the Help Center.

If I go to an individual's detail page, the content of the Tips at the bottom of the page changes. Here is an example.

In this case, the additional Tree help comes up with the following:

Essentially, FamilySearch has taken the little used Help Center  and turned it into a contextual help system that now supports the user depending on what is being observed in the program. This is a very good example of the need for users of the program to keep abreast of the changes and investigate any observed change. In just a very short time, the Tips links have evolved into a very useful system of support. Let's all start clicking and demonstrating the Tips link.

Thursday, October 27, 2016 Help is no Help

After about a week of looking at the newly changed Help Center, we are even more frustrated with the format. Let's suppose that I want to find out how to edit an entry in the Family Tree. What am I supposed to do with the blank space shown above with the cryptic question, what do you want to learn about?

Here is what happens when I type in "edit an entry in family tree:"

Now what am I supposed to do? So I reword my inquiry to "how do I edit an entry in the family tree?"

I get the same exact results. Now what? I decide to be more general and see what happens. I enter "Family Tree."

Hmm. No what again? Look, I am somewhat experienced in searching for stuff online. I know all about key words and other methods of searching. What I want to do is find out about editing one of my entries in the Family Tree. How do I go about doing that now? The previous Help Center had an icon for the Family Tree and some frequently asked questions. I could put in a word such as "editing" and get several articles on editing in the Family Tree. But now, I am stuck with responses that are not even in the general category of editing in the Family Tree.

At this point my wife pointed out that there are "Tips" on the pages in the Family Tree. So I go to the Family Tree and bring up an entry.

One of the "Tips" says "Edit Information" When I click on this entry, I get the following explanation about editing with a link to more information about the Family Tree.

So it looks like I am supposed to go to the Tips. Why doesn't the Help Center tell me to go to the Tips?

The old Help Center was always a little opaque but not obtuse. Now my suggestion is use the Tips function and forget the Help Center for now. I will keep checking to see if it improves.

I realize that I am usually slightly more diplomatic in my approach to the Family Tree. But I am at a loss as to how to put a positive twist on this particular new development.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Tidal Wave of Data

Few of those who do research on the website yet realize that many of the available digitized records only appear in the Catalog rather than in the Historical Record Collections. Over a billion records have been added to the catalog entries and are waiting to be processed into the Historical Record Collections.  In addition, to assist in navigating all of these digitized microfilm records, FamilySearch has added this film strip or block view. The visual.advantage of this view is obvious to anyone who has spent untold hours scrolling through microfilm images one by one. In this view you can clearly see where on section of the original microfilm, often indicated by an item number, begins and another ends. This view also speeds up the process of scrolling through to find an individual record.

Presently, until all of the added digital records are processed into the Historical Record Collections and only a smaller number have been indexed, it is a good idea to search for specific record collections in the Catalog rather than relying completely on the name search for the Historical Record Collections.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Way Beyond

It has been a really long time since I dug into the internet and looked for FamilySearch related websites that are online in addition to Almost all of us associate FamilySearch with the hugely popular main website, but it is always interesting to see what else might be out there, including the little known and less used nooks and crannies of its online presence as well as its very popular social media sites. I have not included any of the websites maintained by Family History Centers or FamilySearch Centers worldwide because there are almost 5000 of them. I must also admit that I learned a lot about FamilySearch that I was not aware of in compiling this list.

I also did not include websites that merely had articles or other content about FamilySearch or parts of the website with more obvious links.

Here is what likely will always be a partial listing.

Now to some more obscure websites.
I am sure there are more, but that is all I could find today. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kalani Sitake, Hank Smith, and Vai Sikahema Speaking at RootsTech Family Discovery Day

We are getting regular announcements now about the keynote speakers for RootsTech 2017 and the Family Discovery Day on Saturday. The lineup for this next year's event for Saturday, February 11, 2017 is as follows:RootsTech is thrilled to announce BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake, popular LDS speaker and BYU professor Hank Smith, and former NFL football player and television news anchor Vai Sikahema as featured speakers at the popular RootsTech Family Discovery Day event happening Saturday, February 11, 2017. More speakers and guests will be announced soon.

Some of the other featured events are also outlined. In addition to hearing inspiring messages from Kalani Sitake, Hank Smith, and Vai Sikahema, you will:
  • Hear inspiring messages from General Authorities and other Church leaders to be announced in November.
  • Experience the interactive expo hall, where families and friends can create a visual family tree, scan photos, and more.
  • Be entertained at the RootsTech closing event with comedic entertainer Jason Hewlett, BYU men’s a cappella chorus, Vocal Point, and a cappella women’s chorus, Noteworthy.
  • Attend a selection of classes designed to teach you how to find family names, prepare them for temple blessings, and teach others how to get started on building connections with their own families.
As I have been since the event first started, I will be a featured RootsTech 2017 Ambassador. We used to be called bloggers but I guess they decided to expand the category and call us something less techy. 

RootsTech Family Discovery Day is a FREE one-day event for families and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but registration is required. There’s something for everyone at Family Discovery Day. Attendees are invited to come and hear inspiring messages, engage in interactive activities for all ages, and discover the latest technology, products and services in the family history industry by touring the expansive expo hall.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The FamilySearch Site Map

Clear down at the bottom of each page of the website, there is a Site Map link. Usually, a site map to a website contains a list of all of the pages available on the website by category and this page looks like that type of page. Essentially, this page seems to be a listing of the menu items available from dropdown menus scattered around the website.

Since I have been complaining about the Help Center recently, I decided to see what happened when I looked for some of the things I have writing about. Behold, when I clicked on the Site Map link to the Help Center, I was taken back to the previous layout instead of the new one.

This makes me think maybe the new Help Center I wrote about previously was or is a Beta test and will go away perhaps.

The task I was interested in completing was finding the Partner website registration page that I wrote about in my last post. Here is a screenshot of the page again, for reference.

Unfortunately, there is no reference to this page on the Site Map. But since it did get me back to the old Help Center (at least for the time being), I was able to get to this page.

Over the past two or three years, I have spent a major part of the time I spend supporting patrons at the Mesa and BYU libraries helping them get onto and use the partner programs. So this example of trying to find the signup page is not trivial. How can I explain to someone who needs help anyway how to get to these pages?

But it is nice to know that some of the pages are available in a Site Map.

Friday, October 21, 2016

How do I get to the FamilySearch Partner Website Registration?

I finally found this very nice page about signing up for the current Partner Program but I have no idea how I got here. I recently wrote about the redesign of the Help Center. Previously, there was a icon link to the "Partners" and then another "Our Partners" link to get to a link to sign in to each of the available Partner websites. Now, there is no visible link to the Partner Programs to be found and the Get Help menu is not helpful and there is no link in the Help Center.

I tried to recreate my steps in finding the link to sign up for the Partner programs. Here is what I got when I type in "Partners" in the newly redesigned Help Center:

One of the options was an article on RootsTech 2013!!!

There is a link to an article that says "FamilySearch partner websites." That link takes me to another article shown here:

There is another link to the page shown above at the beginning of this post. Well, do I really have to remember all those steps?

Is there a shorter way to get to the Partner signup page?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Redesign of FamilySearch Help Center?

Every so often makes a major change to their website without notice or explanation. Sometimes the explanations come after the fact. Sometimes the changes are simply tests and disappear after a while. Very recently, I went to the Get Help link in the upper right-hand corner of the webpage and to my surprise, I got this pull-down menu shown above. When I clicked on the "Visit Help Center," the familiar Help Center screen had disappeared and all that was left was a blank field that said Search. Apparently, FamilySearch got over influenced by Google all of a sudden and went to a minimalist approach to Help.

Not that the Help Center was all that helpful as it was, but this is stupefying. It made me forget what I had started looking for in the first place. I finally remembered and put in a search. But now, I not only had to guess what I wanted to search for, I also had to try and guess what FamilySearch called it. Here is what I got.

Before, I had a Family Tree icon and when I searched for "standards" I got the standards for entering information in the Family Tree. Now I get "zoning" and setting up printers? What? I also get lessons on the Genealogical Proof Standard. Now I am flummoxed.

I also noted a new link on the right side of the page.

This was rather than the usual Feedback link. I decided to let them know what I thought. I was instructed to click on the part of the page I wanted to improve. Since I was the entire page, I wasn't sure what to do, but clicked around until I got something that looked like this:

I gave some specific feedback in a box that looked like this.

Now, I wasn't sure what some of the questions asked. For example, did the question about recommending refer to the problem or the entire website? Of course I recommend the website but I am not happy with the Help Center now and never have been.  I am supposed to rate the content of the training, but I haven't received any training and in fact, I haven't received any training about what I am supposed to put in the feedback box.

Hmm, well I guess we live with this. Fortunately, very few people I talk to and help ever used or even noticed the Get Help menu, so I probably won't have too many questions on how to help with the help menu.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons or TEAMS

Quoting from the website,
Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons, or TEAMS, is a collaborative scholarly effort to make the voluminous archival record of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ecclesiastical worship more accessible to academic researchers, pastors, and the general public. This digital archive houses dozens of sermons transcribed from the papers of Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Congregational ministers who preached up and down the Atlantic coast of North America.
Genealogists are sometimes so focused on finding their ancestors that they take little time to understand them and learn about their history. This collection of sermons might help some of us to fill in the gaps in our understanding of our ancestors as well as identify some of them who were preachers.

I am constantly amazed at the amount and variety of information that is constantly flowing into the internet. I continue to make new discoveries almost daily and finding a website like this is always really interesting. By the way, the website could use some design work, blue on blue is really hard to read.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Further Look a Standardization of Places and Dates in the FamilySearch Family Tree

My recent post on entering places and dates into the Family Tree generated a significant amount of interest. It was clear to me that more needed to be said about this subject, however I do recommend the comments made to the previous post. See "Standard dates and places in the FamilySearch Family Tree."

First off, there are some detailed instructions on the process in the Help Center. See "Entering standardized dates and places" and "Recommending an addition or correction to standardized places."

There used to be a FamilySearch tool called the "Standard Finder" but it has been replaced with the Place Research Tool. Here is a screenshot.

Unfortunately, this helpful tool is tucked away somewhere in the website and there are no obvious links to it neither does it appear when you are editing a place name when you actually need it. It doesn't appear in the Get Help menu and it is not on any link that I can find in the website. It does appear in the App Gallery, which is also hidden away at the bottom of each page in the website.

I went into about an hour's worth of detail explaining how to enter information into the Family Tree in my video on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. Here is a link to the video.

A Guide for Entering Information in the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

I have put standardization of places and dates into my list of topics to be covered in future videos, so I will cover all the points and issues raised in the blog posts and comments.

Now, there is also a very long and complete explanation of the process in a article by Gordon Collett entitled, "Date and Place Name Entry in Family Tree and How To Standardize Them."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rejoice blog is three years old

October is the third anniversary of this Rejoice and be exceeding glad... blog. Since its inception I have written 1113 posts and, according to Google, during those three years, I have had over 320,000 page views. Genealogy is a small niche audience on the internet and writing to audience of genealogists who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is and even smaller niche audience.

If you write a blog, you are constantly reminded of the number of page views every day and cumulatively every week, month and since the begining of your blog. But I also understand that many of my readers read my blog on other venues not counted by Google. If you have read this blog for any time, you also know that I write a genealogy blog to a more general audience called Genealogy's Star. If I ever have to hesitate in coming up with topics to write about, all I have to do is go teach a genealogy class or talk to patrons in the Brigham Young University Family History Library. But always have a reason to get up and get going every day and that keeps me going the rest of the day also.

The greatest benefit of writing a blog like this is the hundreds of people I get to meet and communicate with around the world. Genealogists as group are the nicest people I know and I would keep writing for that reason alone. But as you problably have guessed, I am not about to run out of topics.

One Family Tree for the Human Family: We are all related

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream: not only plan, but also believe." Anatole France.

The operation of the Family Tree is a paradigm shift for many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This fact was emphasized again to me when I taught a group of older members of the Church about finding relatives and ancestors who qualify for Temple ordinances. Because of the comments made by the class members it was fully evident that many of the class members did not understand the unified nature of the Family Tree and in fact resisted the entire concept.

The Family Tree is designed and intended to be a single, unified family tree for all mankind. That is to say that every person who ever lived or will live on the earth has a unique place or node on the Family Tree. Everyone. The Family Tree is a complete representation of the entire human family and could potentially connect every person to his or her relatives no matter how far extended. This universal aspect of the Family Tree is only limited by the availability of records and the time it will take to connect every family that has lived on the earth.

Obviously, there are limitations imposed by the availability of records but it is always premature to take the position that your genealogy can wait until the Millennium. The reaction of some of the class members included the time-worn refrain that all that could be done to extend and work with their family lines had already been accomplished. The answer to this rather simplistic refrain is merely a simple reference to geometric progressions and the number of descendants that even one couple can have given a few generations. It is strange that we can believe that the whole earth was populated from one couple but cannot understand that our ancestors had children and grandchildren who got married and had more children and grandchildren.

What was more remarkable from the class was that to the majority of the participants the information merely rolled off their backs like water off of a duck and it was immediately back to business as usual. I have concluded that the only real way to help people change their hearts and attitude about family history is to work with them one at a time, using their own family as the basis for the teaching. Classroom instruction may open a door but it inefficient in changing hearts.

Perhaps the idea of the expandability of the Family Tree is better illustrated by a thought experiment. Let's suppose I add a person to the Family Tree. Does this mean that somehow my ability to add another person to the Family Tree is somehow limited? Not at all. Each time I add a person to the Family Tree, the tree expands and actually creates additional nodes and possible branches. It is true that the theoretical descendants of any reproductive process would eventually fill the entire earth, but practicality does not really limit the Family Tree. There is always one more node and one more place to add another person. The end product is a unified, family tree available to the entire planet and theoretically beyond.

Another important implication of the Family Tree is the universal oneness of the human family. We are all ultimately related. This quote from John Donne's Meditation XVII gets to the heart of how the Family Tree works to relate all mankind.
No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Guide for Entering Information in the FamilySearch Family Tree

A Guide for Entering Information in the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

I have to find a balance between producing new presentations for Brigham Young University Family History Library webinars and writing. These presentations are gobbling up a huge amount of time. Not that I am complaining at all. I think it is just a transition from one media format to another.

This particular video is high in data density. But as I review the last few videos we have uploaded, I see a lot of really high density topics. Compared to the usual YouTube offerings, our viewing numbers are not spectacular, but considering the small number of genealogists who are into the online community, we are gratified with the response we have had so far. Thanks for watching our videos and you can expect a lot more in the future. Remember to subscribe to our YouTube Channel. BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Earlybird Registration for RootsTech 2017 Ends Soon!

Earlybird pricing for 2017 is scheduled to end on the 19th of October, 2017. The Conference is scheduled for February 8th through the 11th, 2017 in the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Click here for a pass comparison.

There may still be a few hotel rooms left right downtown but it is getting late to find anything available. Fortunately, Salt Lake City has a lot of hotels so accommodations are probably available even if you have to search some distance away from the Salt Palace. Since we moved to Utah, we have taken the FrontRunner train from Provo and also stayed with relatives who live in Salt Lake City.

Weather in Salt Lake City in February is highly unpredictable. It could be cold and sunny or cold and snowy. Remember, Salt Lake City is high in the mountains and plan accordingly.

The Salt Palace is just south of the Family History Library and just a little southwest of Temple Square. It also right across the street from the huge City Creek Shopping Area with lots of restaurants and stores. The Trax light rail transit system in on South Temple, just north of the Salt Palace.

Friday, October 14, 2016

All Pedigrees End

Why You Can't Trace Your Lineage Back to Adam - James Tanner

Some time ago, we posted this video on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. This was actually the first video in our ongoing series of webinars and instructional videos that now numbers 188 and will soon pass 200. It has been extremely interesting to see the impact these videos have had on my own involvement with the BYU Family History Library and on those who have watched the videos. Obviously, our video collection goes back over 2 years, but the webinar series is still quite new. The Family History Library had already begun uploading short instructional videos to the YouTube Channel before I arrived in Provo and almost all of those early videos are still relevant and online. 

The topic of this particular video about tracing your ancestry "back to Adam" has repeatedly come up in conversations with the missionaries and patrons at the library. I have a standing challenge to everyone that given ten or fifteen minutes with your particular pedigree, I can show you where there are serious problems and/or the pedigree effectively ends. I have been taken up on this challenge a couple of times in the last two weeks. 

Here is an example of what I am talking about from the Family Tree. 

In this particular case, the red warning icons from FamilySearch clearly indicate the point at which this particular line effectively ends. Although the names in the line seem to extend the pedigree beyond the entry for "Garrand Morgan" there are, in fact, no supporting documents that carry the line any further back. The person shown as the father, as I have pointed out previously in other posts, labeled as "John Morgan (Doctor) is supposed to have been born in 1734 in Shepherdstown, Berkeley, Virginia, long before either the town or the county were in existence. The land where Shepherdstown now stands was only acquired by its namesake, Thomas Shepherd, in 1734 but the town was not established and granted a charter until 1762. By the way, at that time the town was named Mecklenburg. Notwithstanding these historical events, the next person in the pedigree, Jacob Morgan is also reported to have been born in Shepherdstown in 1723 and he apparently, at least from what is recorded in the Family Tree, had his son John Morgan when he was 11 years old. 

I bring this up again because of the repeated claims by some that they have traced their lineage "back to Adam." Whereas, I find only a very few people who have documented even one line back even six or seven generations and most pedigrees effectively end in no more than 10 to 12 generations even with careful documentation. When I say this, I always have someone try to show me a longer pedigree and it is entirely possible that some do exist, but even with the unified Family Tree, combining the efforts of hundreds of genealogists over a long period of time, such documented genealogies are extremely rare. 

The point here is not to discourage those who have done carefully documented work extending their pedigrees into the dim past, but to indicate that even with careful documentation, those pedigrees do not extend back into prehistory. Even those people who are indignant and insist that they have carefully documented their extensive pedigrees, have to admit that at some point they began to rely on unsubstantiated, published genealogies. 

We all have a lot of work to be done on more of our lines than we will ever be able to document. Let's start focusing on correcting the existing, much more recent, genealogy on the Family Tree and leave the issue of extending lines back into the Middle Ages to those with the research tools to do that work. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Four New Videos Added to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

Our Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel just keep rolling along adding new videos almost every week. We would encourage you to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel to receive postings of any updated videos. It has been extremely interesting to produce these videos over the past year or so. We have started to have a number of comments about them from patrons at the Library. We are always happy to receive suggestions for future videos, although we are already working on the schedule for November.

Here are four of the newest ones added:

FamilySearch: Obscure Elements Revealed by Ann Tanner

Google Searches at Warp Speed and Accuracy - James Tanner

Yes, Ann Tanner is my wife and she is also an accomplished genealogist.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Standard dates and places in the FamilySearch Family Tree

NOTE: This is another post where you need to read the comments. There is some really good information in addition to what I wrote originally.

This entry in the Family Tree looks fine to most users of the program. However, in an attempt to establish some uniformity in dates and place names and to increase the accuracy of record hints and searches, there has been for some time a system of standardized dates and place names. If I edit this particular entry, I will see the suggested standardized place name.

In some cases, even though the date looks identical to the suggested standard, the date hasn't been "standardized" and a warning will come up in the program to that effect. However, in viewing this entry, there are some other considerations.

The rule to follow with regards to place names is that the place needs to be recorded as it was at the time the event occurred. Here Utah became a state in 1896, so the designation "Utah" is inaccurate. Even though the suggested standard agrees, there are really more choices.

The "correct" choice is as follows:

To substitute the "correct" place name, you click your cursor to the right of the text to be changed and hit the spacebar. The choices above will appear and you can then select the most appropriate choice. 

Here is the saved entry:

If you do not find a "correct" entry among the choices shown and you know your entry is correct, then click outside of the box on the screen somewhere and your entry will be preserved. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Strange reaction to the FamilySearch Partner Programs

The Partner Programs have been available for free to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for some considerable time now. But despite the availability of these fabulously valuable research programs, there is still a huge lack of interest in even signing up for the programs.

As a very recent example, last night, I was helping a patron at the Brigham Young University Family History Library who had come in for help in finding his English ancestors. He turned out to be an experience researcher with some very specific needs for English parish records. In the course of beginning to help him, I began to refer to as the place to begin his research. He had not even signed up to use the program. This would not be surprising from a member who was not interested in genealogy and had not even registered for or used the program as I commonly find, but it is surprising that so many of the people doing their own research and even using the Family Tree, that I deal with on a regular basis, have yet to signup for even one of the Partner Programs.

Just in the past few days, I taught a class at the BYU Family History Library about There were about twenty people in the class and only two of them had used the program when I asked the question about who was using the program.

When people start to use the programs, they become very enthusiastic about the additional research opportunities. I hear positive feedback about all the Partner Programs. But the addition of has highlighted the issue of the overall acceptance or even awareness of what the programs are and what they can do. Even among those who are doing their own genealogy on a regular basis, I have yet to find anyone familiar with the latest addition.

I do think that the existence of the partner programs could be more prominently available on the program than they presently are; tucked away in the Get Help menu. I also think the list of programs might be better presented to help explain what each programs can do for the researcher. But despite the fact that each of these programs promotes their own program extensively, my perspective is that the average user seems oblivious to the opportunities presented.

I am doing what I can to teach and promote all of the programs. So far, some of my most popular videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel deal with the partner programs and I routinely use the programs for classes and when helping people individually. But I can only do so much to promote the programs.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Watching the FamilySearch Family Tree

Each of the individual detail pages in the Family Tree have a provision for watching the entries.

When you "Watch" a person by clicking on the star, the button turns to "Unwatch." As a consequence, FamilySearch will then send you a weekly notification of any changes made by any user to the details page of the watched individuals. Here is a screenshot of part of my current list of changes:

I carefully review this list every week. In most cases, I am aware of the people working on the entries and can merely skim over the changes. But in some cases, I need to click on the links to the individuals in the Family Tree and see what has changed to make sure that the changes are correctly made and supported by adequate documentation.

If I have some question about the changes, I can then either make my own corrections or changes or attempt to contact the person making the changes. My response is determined by the nature of the change. Many of the changes are made by people I know and so I do not need to do anything about what they have done. For example, my daughters are involved in making coordinated edits to some of our ancestors and we talk frequently about the changes. In some cases, such as the ones shown in this screenshot, the changes are questionable.

In this case, the John Tanner family is extensively documented. There are no "unknown" children to add to the family unless someone has extensive documentation otherwise. So, I immediately checked to see what had happened.

Apparently someone added a child and then deleted the child after realizing that the addition was not correct. Here is the detail page of the change.

Here is what the Relationship page showed for this change.

The addition of the child was removed when the person realized that the wrong parents had been selected.

If the child had not been removed, then I would have removed the child and noted the reason that the child did not belong in that family. FamilySearch suggests that we can contact the individual to discuss the issue. I think that is appropriate if there is a question as to the validity of the change. In my case, in this notice I had 221 changes. In each case, I have to make a careful decision about what to do, including contacting the person about the entry. The Tanner family is in a state of flux right now because the duplicate issue has only recently been resolved. We are still getting some really interesting issues such as this supposed photo of William Francis Tanner who apparently lived from 1657 to 1740 about a hundred years or so before photography was invented.

This particular depiction of William Tanner is most certainly inaccurate and unsupported, but I am not quite ready to start into the correction process. I have done extensive research on this family and it is on my list as one of my next projects. But right now I am mostly monitoring the situation and hoping that someone comes up with some real documentation.

Family Tree also provides a list of all the people you are watching. Here is a screenshot of part of my list.

I am currently watching 214 people but this number will very likely increase as I continue to do work on correcting and documenting the entries. The Watch list is a very useful tool for maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree but it does involve some work.