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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Update on the DescendancyExplorer


The DescendancyExplorer has now been running on my computer for approximately seven hours and as you can see above it has processed through 3501 records of the total of 13,422 records and has still yet to find one available ordinance. However, as I mentioned in my initial post on the subject, the search would take a long time. Unless you have spent as much time working on your portion of the Family Tree, and am certain that you will find more opportunities that are available in my family lines. So matter of fact, by doing some research and working through the merges, we have found hundreds of names of people who are not already in the Family Tree.

Note: I let the program continue to run until well into the evening and finally had to quit without finding any available ordinances. This is likely an affirmation of my efforts and those of my family and finding all of the available ordinances in our particular part of the Family Tree.

DescendencyExplorer, a new look

https://descend.fhtl.byu.edu/#/login
The Family History Technology Lab at Brigham Young University keeps busy turning out new programs related to family history for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, those who do not happen to be members are benefited by the programs also, but most of them have a decided Church-oriented theme and are based on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. The DescendancyExplorer is designed to work specifically with the Family Tree so it is necessary to have your family information in the Family Tree for the program to function. The program is still in the developmental stage and is not yet featured on the Family History Technology Lab's homepage.

The idea of the program is that you sign in to FamilySearch.org and the DescendancyExplorer then does all the work of searching through multiple generations of your family and looks for names of your relatives and ancestors who are ready to take to the temple. Hmm. You say. Isn't this just like a number of other programs that are already available? Well, yes and no. First of all this program does all the work and secondly, it "qualifies" the people it finds. Here is the very simple start page:

Yep, that's it. By the way, when you click on the "Search My Tree" button, you may have to leave the program running for a few hours or overnight before you see any results depending on how complete your previous searches have been. What is different about the program is that it filters out any related people who have no sources attached, who have possible duplicates or who are not completely identified. So the people it finds are "usually" qualified for ordinance work.

I started the program searching while I was writing and it had gathered well over 13,000 records on my portion of the Family Tree without finding even one qualified person. I continued to let the program run and it kept looking. I have had some feedback from others who have used the program and they have found into the hundreds of people needing ordinances.

When the program does find a possible record, it is a good idea to check the "How you are related" link on the person's detail page to see if you are related. I will let the program run until it finishes searching and report back in another post about the results.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Registration is now open for #RootsTech 2018


#RootsTech 2018 will be held on February 28 through March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are a skier, you can always take advantage of the fabulous skiing in the resorts surrounding Salt Lake City. But for most of us, we are well past our skiing years. If you need accommodations for the conference, there are links on the website to local hotels making special offers. You might want to make your reservations early as the available rooms fill up quickly.

The conference will have over 200 breakout sessions.


A highlight of the conference will be the Family Discovery Day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This free, 1-day event will inspire you to discover, celebrate, and cherish your family relationships—past, present, and future. Enjoy devotionals from Latter-day Saint General Authorities, inspirational breakout sessions, and hands-on activities.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Getting Started with Research


There are many aspects of the umbrella term "research." Research can be directed at finding out about things we do not know and have yet to be discovered or research can investigate information about our past. Basically, the word "research" is polysemous, i.e. it has more than one meaning.

From time to time, I have written about this subject on my other blog, Genealogy's Star, but it has been some time since I have written directly about this particular subject here. Since this blog is specifically aimed at treating genealogy and genealogical research from the point of view of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter referred to as "the Church"), I think there are some aspects of genealogical research from an LDS viewpoint that should be considered.

It might be a good idea to remind my readers of my Disclosures and Disclaimers that reside on a tab at the top of the title to this blog.

Now back to the concept of research. Genealogy is a narrow branch of history. As I have noted previously, genealogical research consists primarily of identifying information about people who lived in the past from historical records. This is in contrast to "scientific" research that has as its main objective discovering things about the physical world that are not yet known. Genealogical research assumes that the information being sought was recorded at some time and place and that by following a certain methodology, this historical information can be "discovered." But the doctine of the Church expands on this viewpoint.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88, we are admonished as follows:
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (History of the Church, 6:313). Because of this statement and many others, the Church has become extensively involved in genealogy (family history). So the question that immediately arises, is how is this "seeking after our dead" accomplished? It is evident from the first quote that the process involves both study (I would say research) and by faith. Essentially, we go to the record books of the world and find our ancestors "by study and also by faith." 

In this regard, the statement in the Bible in James 2:20 that states, in part, "that faith without works is dead." So we have to work, i.e. do the research, and exercise our faith. Evidently, the idea of doing genealogical research from this perspective is fundamentally different from what is commonly thought of as research. This idea is expressed by President James E. Faust (1920-2007) of the First Presidency who stated:
The process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging but also exciting and rewarding. We often feel spiritual guidance as we go to the sources that identify them. Because this is a very spiritual work, we can expect help from the other side of the veil. We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 55).
As President Faust stated, this process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging. But as members of the Church, we cannot assume that we can skip the "study" part of the process. We have a duty to learn how to do the research as well as a duty to do the research.

In today's world, the process of doing genealogical research has been rapidly evolving from the traditional methodology. Powerful computers using online digitized records and global search engines such as Google are revolutionizing research in general and despite the resistance from "traditional" genealogists, genealogical research is also being swept up in the changes.

One of the ways I have personally been involved in helping people understand genealogical research as it is done today on computers is to help with The Family History Guide. This website is starting to play a major part in helping to educate and train people how to do genealogical research. Of course, there are many other websites and resources for learning about how to do genealogical research, but right now, this is the most effective way I have found.

thefhguide.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sharing the Family History Report


Many of the records kept by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about their living members contain personal and private information. However, the recently released Family History Activity Report contains no information that is either personal or private. The report is merely a compilation of statistics obtained from the usage of the FamilySearch.org website. However, the information is very useful for planning purposes and for gauging the effectiveness of the family history activities in the wards and stakes. The report is widely available through LDS.org to ward and stake leaders and Temple and Family History Consultants on both a ward and stake level.

Because the report is relatively new and has only been made available recently, many of the members who because of their callings would have access to the report are not aware of its existence. Temple and Family History Consultants who are designated as such in the Members and Leaders Support (MLS) program should be able to receive copies of the report on LDS.org. If they do not receive a copy, it is usually because they are not correctly identified in the MLS program.

Because of its lack of private or personal information, the report can be shared where appropriate.

The report can be obtained by signing into LDS.org and clicking on your name and then selecting Leaders and Clerks Reports from the pulldown menu.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mesa FamilySearch Library 2017 Family History Conference


The Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library has gone through some rocky times. But it is now up and running with classes and activities.  I have a strong interest in and attachment to the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library because of the many years I spent there volunteering in teaching classes. For many years, the Mesa FamilySearch Library has them holding a Family History Conference. Here is the announcement of the upcoming conference. Both my wife and I have already been invited to teach classes at the upcoming conference in October. We are looking forward to seeing all of our old friends and spending some time in Mesa.
ANNOUNCING THE 2017 Family History Conference sponsored by the Mesa FamilySearch Library on Saturday, October 21, 2017, at the Tempe Institute of Religion on the ASU Campus, 1000 South McAllister Avenue in Tempe, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. 
This year’s conference will feature a keynote address by Lisa McBride of FamilySearch, an Accredited Genealogist, who works with area family history centers and serves on the FamilySearch Wiki Governance Council. 
Our theme is “Bridging Generations” and provides a wide variety of over 50 class choices for all types of learners, from beginners to the most advanced genealogists. Come and learn how to be more effective and efficient when doing your research. Learn to trace your roots with DNA. Learn to find and document your sources. Get specific information on various ways to research in specific states and countries. If you are new to family history, come learn the basics. Some of the most popular classes are repeated in an effort to accommodate everyone. Spend all day or come for a single class or two; you may attend a maximum of five classes. 
Detailed conference information will become available and registration will begin online at www.mesafsl.org on Thursday, September 21, 2017. At the time of registration, registrants will be given the opportunity to purchase lunch from Jason’s Deli. Otherwise, the conference is FREE. Parking is also free and convenient but registrants are reminded that cars are parked in a public facility and are urged to be cautious with their valuables. 
See you in October!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Features from Kindex.org


Kindex.org is a website that lets you gather, index, and share your records in a fully searchable Kindex archive. The basic idea is that you can scan and upload documents to a Kindex archive and then invite family members to aid in transcribing and indexing those records into a searchable database. You can also have a "private" archive that will allow you to invite access to only certain people.

Recent updates to the website include the following:
  • View record progress at a glance
  • Transcribe records back-to-back with “Save & Do Next” button
  • Transcribe tables, forms, and other tabular text with table tools
  • Download archive data as CSV file
A CSV file is a way to collect the data from any table so that it can be conveyed as input to another table-oriented application such as a relational database application. Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet or relational database applications can read CSV files.

Kindex also organizes and digitizes records for all types of organizations, including families, churches, genealogical societies, historical entities, government organizations, educational institutions, and groups with private collections.

This is a very helpful and dynamic website. Here are some of the features:
When you sign up on Kindex, you can:
  • Create your own free, private archive up to 50 records
  • Add your own records or import FamilySearch Memories
  • Access tools to store, transcribe, tag, search, and share, your records
  • Reserve a custom subdomain
  • Invite anyone* to “archive together” (invited users collaborate for free)
There is an annual subscription for archives with more than 50 records.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Innovation at #RootsTech 2018

https://www.rootstech.org/innovation-at-rootstech-2018

RootsTech 2018 will feature a redesigned Innovation Showcase. This will replace the previously promoted Innovator Summit. Here is the announcement:
Innovation Showcase 
Following Steve Rockwood's general keynote address will be the all-new Innovation Showcase. You won't want to miss this exciting event that will feature innovative technologies and products from around the world. Come see who will be named to the list of "Top Family History Innovations of 2018." 
Have a new technology tool or feature that you can't do genealogy without? Nominate it for the Showcase. Or Tweet us your favorite innovation using #RootsTechInnovation.
Here is a chance for you to help promote your favorite genealogy and family history apps and websites. Use the link above to vote for your favorite website or program.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Family History is History with a fairly good measure of geography


Having attended formal school education for about twenty years and after teaching at the college level for about five years, I have a pretty good feeling for the level of historical awareness and knowledge among those who go through our American school system. In many areas of the United States, the teaching of history has succumbed to political correctness to the point where much of our history cannot be taught at all. There are news articles such as one from the New York Post entitled, "Why schools have stopped teaching American History,"  that point out the lack of history education. In our local schools, social studies has replaced history. At least one state has eliminated the high school requirement to teach history at all.  See "Early American History could be a thing of the past." In addition, universities are eliminating or modifying their entry requirements for history related classes.

The lack of historical content in the K-12 curriculum is not a particularly new issue. Here is a quote from the following book:

Steeves, Kathleen Anderson. 1998. Working Together to Strengthen History Teaching in Secondary Schools.
Schools have been directed, often by local or state-mandated curriculums, to "take on" many of the problems faced by the society at large. School curriculum specialists have often included such social issues as race relations, teenage violence, patriotism, civil rights, and the family in history or civics classes. The classes thus become "social problems" courses, leaving serious historical study behind to focus on current events and contemporary issues taken from the evening news or weekly news magazines. Even then, background information that might have included historical knowledge on any of these topics is woefully lacking.
My own experience indicates that very few people in the United States have even a moderate understanding of U.S. and even world history. Even people who are older, likely only had one or at the most two classes in history during their entire school experience. Overall, I find few people who "love" history.

Because family history and/or genealogy are essentially and irrevocably history, how can we expect people to love doing their family history when what we are talking about is a subject that they have been conditioned to avoid and in many cases dislike?

In addition to the lack of history education, there are even fewer schools that actively teach geography.

So how does this impact genealogical research? Immensely. Genealogists do not have any greater historical or geographical awareness and background than the average person unless they just happen to be interested in history and geography or taken courses in a college or university. However, their ancestors and more importantly, their ancestors' records are embedded in their particular historical and geographical context. Much of the confusion and inaccuracy evidenced by online family tree programs, particularly the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is the result of an abysmal lack of knowledge of history and geography. All the computer skills in the world are not going to overcome this historical and geographical naiveté. The only way this obstacle to accuracy can be addressed is through consistent education that encompasses more than a superficial veneer of knowledge.

The challenge is that such a level of historical and geographical awareness will have to be achieved without the benefit of any formal educational foundation. If anything, today's students, i.e. those currently attending K-12 schools, have only minimal history and geography requirements for graduation. In Provo, Utah, where I live, to graduate, high school students are required to take a half-credit class in geography and half credit class in world civilization and a one credit class in U.S. history. Most university or college students can graduate, unless they are majoring in history, without taking any additional classes in either history or geography.

Genealogy and family history are history and as long as we pretend that we can "do genealogy" without a knowledge of its historical context, we will be shooting blind.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Does the Doctrine of Uniformitarianism Apply to Genealogy?

World geologic provinces Oceanic crust   0–20 Ma   20–65 Ma   >65 Ma Geologic provinces   Shield   Platform   Orogen   Basin   Large igneous province   Extended crust  USGS - http://earthquake.usgs.gov/data/crust/maps.php
Uniformitarianism, in geology, the doctrine suggesting that Earth's geologic processes acted in the same manner and with essentially the same intensity in the past as they do in the present and that such uniformity is sufficient to account for all geologic change. See https://www.britannica.com/science/uniformitarianism
Unfortunately, I think that many genealogists or family historians believe firmly in the principle of Uniformitarianism as it applies to their ancestral lines. It may seem obvious, but people are not rocks. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of Uniformitarianism is no longer as firmly entrenched in the geological community as it once was. Geologists now accept the fact that many of the earth's changes occurred suddenly and catastrophically. Families are also subject to sudden and catastrophic changes and just as with geological changes, the changes in families may not be obviously recorded.

I was recently helping one of my fellow missionaries at the BYU Family History Library with a problem identifying one of her remote ancestors. This person just seemed to appear suddenly in a marriage record from the early 1800s in Ohio. After a rather extensive search, it appeared that this person had no antecedents. The ancestor had an uncommon name and so it was not a matter of separating her from many people of the same name. The ancestor's name was recorded in marriage records as well as in local histories. She was supposedly born in New York state, but there is no record of a family with that name at the time she was born.

In reality, the situation is not unusual. People do change their names. Children are born out of wedlock and both parents may never be identified. Children are left at churches and other organizations without identification. In early years, children were adopted often without any record of their original parents. The list of these types of occurrences could go on and on. We really have no reason to believe that every person is an identifiable set of parents.

If you look at the map above, it appears rather obvious that the European and African continents both conveniently fit into the map of North and South America. But for many years, the idea of continental drift was actively opposed by the geological community. Likewise today, many genealogists insist on searching for the "missing ancestor" even when it appears that there is no record substantiating the next generation. In some cases, the researcher is so desperate to extend the family line they began adding people simply because they have the same surname.

We even have a name for this situation we call them brick walls. Now, my experience is that most brick walls can be breached by a concerted research effort. However, all family lines eventually end. Perhaps, we should modernize our genealogical thinking to accept the fact that even the historical records we do find may not be absolutely correct. Finding the next person in the ancestral line is certainly a challenge. Of course, there are methodologies available today that can overcome traditional end of line situations. But, eventually, we do reach a point where we need to lay the problem aside for a while and come back to with a fresh perspective. We may also need to accept the unexpected.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What Happened to my Nobility?


Technically, a person of royal descent is a person who has an ancestral tie to a past or present monarch. But as the randomly chosen example from my ancestry in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree above shows, you can probably find a royal line in almost any line that extends back into the 1500s. There is commonly some confusion between the terms "nobility" and "royalty." Nobility is a loose term that refers to a class of people with hereditary titles which have been conferred by the monarch. The titles include dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, barons, baronesses and so forth.

Royals are always considered superior to nobles. Royalty is not something that a person can aspire to. A person has to be born into a royal family. The person shown above, Sir John, Lord High Sheriff Chichester, was part of the nobility and not part of the royalty. So why am I not a member of the English nobility? Well, one reason would be that my family sometime back left England, but the real reason is pretty simple: there is no verified connection between me and this ancestor in the Family Tree.

Sir John's daughter Bridget Chichester is supposed to have married Edmond Prideaux. But unfortunately for any claim I might have to noble ancestry, there are no sources in the Family Tree supporting this marriage. Fortunately, nobility usually married nobility and Edmond Prideaux is pretty well known.


His marriage to Bridget Chichester is well documented. If I keep coming forward in time, I am supposed to be a descendant of Sarah Prideaux, one of their daughters. She supposedly married John Fortescue who is also quite well known whose claim to nobility dates back to a companion of William the Conqueror.  What is next? Well, there are some apparent duplicates in the Family Tree but the next person in my line is supposed to be Simon Fortescue. Somehow, Simon ends up in America with no sources in the Family Tree. Here is the family:


Unfortunately, John Fortescue did not have a son named Simon and especially not one who came to America. Here is a copy of the Fortescue line of descent:


There is no mention of a Simon. In fact, this line actually ends well before this level. With very few exceptions, I usually find that the lineage going back to nobility and royalty has some unsupported links. So much for my claim to nobility.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Big Changes Coming for RootsTech 2018



#RootsTech 2018

Most of this same information has also been posted on my other blog, Genealogy's Star, I sometimes feel that posting some information is important enough to post on both blogs.

It's not too early to begin planning for RootsTech 2018.  This next year, RootsTech 2018 begins on Wednesday. Here is the announcement.
RootsTech to Begin on Wednesday 
We’re thrilled to announce that RootsTech 2018 will officially begin a day earlier than our prior conferences, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Join us for class sessions beginning on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. MST. Classes will also be offered at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. 
Following these class sessions, the General Session will begin at 4:30 p.m., featuring popular speaker Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International.
In the past years, RootsTech has been held on Thursday through Saturday. This change extends the conference for an additional day. There is also a change in the previously titled Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown. Here is that announcement:
Innovation Showcase 
At RootsTech, we believe that the future of family history lies in technology and innovation. The 2018 conference will see the evolution of the Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown, which will become the all-new Innovation Showcase. The Showcase will highlight leading technologies and products within the genealogy industry from around the world. The Showcase will be featured in the session following Rockwood’s general session address. 
“The Showcase will feature the best new technology in the industry that we can find from around the globe,” said Steve Rockwood. “It’s a great opportunity for us to give a number of companies; from small startups to large organizations; the opportunity to present their ideas on stage for a chance to be heralded as one of the ‘Best Family History Innovations in 2018’ as awarded by RootsTech.” 
Beginning in the fall of 2017, RootsTech will launch a worldwide search for the best industry technology and innovation to be showcased on the main stage and to thousands of online viewers. Winners will receive recognition from in-person and virtual attendees, the media, and the genealogical industry. 
Please be advised that the Innovator Summit will no longer be a pass option; instead, the RootsTech pass will now include Wednesday sessions. Innovator Showdown is transitioning to the Innovation Showcase as described above.
It sounds like the previous Innovator Summit with its cash prizes has been discontinued. Another new feature added is the Expo Hall Preview Night. Here is the announcement:
Following Wednesday’s General Session and Innovation Showcase, the Expo Hall will be open from 6-8 p.m. MST. Take advantage of this uninterrupted time on the show floor perusing booths, visiting with exhibitors, and getting your hands on the latest family history technology.
This essentially means that the exhibitors will be up and running a day early. I suggest that with these changes you will need to make some adjustments to your schedule if you are planning to attend.

Another change. Check-in will begin on Tuesday. There is that announcement:
Come early to avoid long lines! Check-in will now open on Tuesday, February 27th at noon. Remember, you should always plan on arriving at least 90 minutes prior to the first event you hope to attend. This time will allow for parking (which is always longer than you think), receiving your badge, and finding a seat 30 minutes before the event/session begins.
You just might want to look at the RootsTech.org website to keep up with all the changes. Here is another change:
Don’t Forget your Badge 
In order to provide more data and information to RootsTech organizers, each classroom will have a scanner that will scan your badge upon entry. The scanner will blink green if your pass type allows entry into the particular class or scan red if your pass does not allow entry into the particular class. As always, seats in each session are first come, first served.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Where do Family History Centers fit in to genealogical research?

Building formerly used by the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library

Some additional water has gone under the bridge since I last wrote about the future of the FamilySearch Family History Centers. 

First a very short history (sorry if this seems repetitious from previous posts):

The Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library traces its origins back to the establishment of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1894 under the auspices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The lineal descendant of the Genealogical Society of Utah is FamilySearch, International dba FamilySearch. The Genealogical Society of Utah registered the name "FamilySearch" beginning in 1999 according to the Utah Division of Corporations Commercial Code. The first Family History Center (FHC) was established as a "Branch Genealogical Library" as part of the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library on the university's campus in May of 1964. There are presently, as of the date of this post, 5,046 Family History Centers around the world. 

Family History Centers vary in size from dedicated buildings to a shared room in an LDS chapel with a few computers. When it was in operation, the Mesa FamilySearch Library, one of fifteen such designated libraries, was housed in the two story building shown in the above photo. The functions of each Family History Center vary depending on the support and involvement of the sponsoring stakes. 

One of the main functions of the Family History Center network was to provide access through a rental system to the huge 2.4 million roll microfilm collection amassed by FamilySearch and its predecessors. Most of the Family History Centers had one or more microfilm viewers and many had a small collection of microfilms available to patrons. Serious genealogical researchers relied on renting microfilm rather than traveling to the main Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The larger Regional or Multi-Stake Family History Libraries had important research collections. The Mesa FamilySearch Library, for example, had thousands of books, microfilms, microfiche, maps, and other resources. With the development of computer technology and the internet, Family History Centers also incorporated a collection of free online programs available only on the Centers' computers, many of which were subject to a subscription for individual users. 

Surprisingly, given the religious motivation of members of the Church, most of the users of some of the Family History Centers were not members of the Church. However, there was a general rule that the Family History Centers were off-limits to proselyting. This rule is also observed in the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Concurrent with the incorporation of the FamilySearch, International in 1999, FamilySearch released an online genealogical program called FamilySearch.org. The website is now one of the top genealogy websites in the world. In the late 1990s, FamilySearch began digitizing its huge collection of microfilm. After the development and release of the FamilySearch.org website, collections of digitized records from the microfilm began to appear online. Over the years, this online collection grew to billions of records. The idea was to transition to digital records rather than renting microfilm rolls. Finally, in August of 2017, the end of microfilm shipments to Family History Centers was announced and it is assumed that the vast worldwide warehouse and distribution network is being dismantled. 

In addition to digitizing microfilm, FamilySearch, along with several partner libraries, has been digitizing paper books. As many of the books are digitized, they are removed from circulation in the libraries. As of the date of this post, there were just over 346,000 books and other publications in digital format on the FamilySearch.org website. 

In addition to digitizing the existing microfilm collection, FamilySearch has converted its microfilm cameras to digital cameras and the images captured are also being added to the online collections by the millions and billions. 

A few years ago, FamilySearch began the development of what came to be called the Family Discovery Center project. A test center was opened in Salt Lake City in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (formerly the Hotel Utah). Subsequently, several Family Discovery Centers have been opened most notably on the first floor of the Salt Lake Family History Library. These Family Discovery Centers use high tech electronic and programming to give a semi-immersive family history experience. 

In 2010, FamilySearch introduced an enhanced, mostly electronically based FamilySearch Library in Riverton, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. The Riverton FamilySearch Library did not have any books or other resources but relies completely on a bank of computers with large screens. The Riverton Center also has an extensive schedule of classes taught by local genealogists. 

As I have analyzed before, Family History Centers perform a variety of functions. Traditionally, the list looked something like this:
  • Microfilm rental and viewing
  • Microfiche rental and viewing
  • The Family History Center Portal, a selection of online programs such as Ancestry.com that were subject to a paid subscription outside of the Centers.
  • Depending on the size of the Center, either limited or extensive one-on-one research support from knowledgeable volunteers. In the case of the Salt Lake Family History Library, an extensive paid staff of professional genealogists. 
  • A few Centers provided additional electronic device support in the form of scanners and other devices. 
  • Many of the Centers hold regularly scheduled classes for their patrons.
With the discontinuance of microfilm shipments, one of the main activities of the larger Centers will evaporate. It is unlikely that the loss of microfilm will have much of an impact on the very large majority of Centers around the world. In many places, the Family History Center is a major focus of the surrounding community for internet access. 

Some statements have been made by Church leaders that the future Family History Center is in the home. Taken literally, these statements could presage the ultimate end of Family History Centers as we know them now. If we were to use the Riverton Center coupled with a Family Discovery Center as a model, we would have a center for support and learning but without a basic research component. Literally, the research component would be in the home through the digitized collections of records and books. 

Now that there is a definite break with the traditional microfilm/book based research that required the patron to be present in a Center or Library, the survival of the Family History Centers seems to rely on a more purely educational approach to genealogy or family history. There is still a need to provide electronic device support. I suggest that Centers should expand their scanning and printing capabilities as well as transition to regularly scheduled classes and activities. They need to emulate the efforts being made by local libraries to attract patrons. If they do not begin to develop a more aggressive outreach, they will slowly (or quickly) disappear. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gathering in the First Four Generations

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/safely-gathered-generations/
In this blog post, Kathryn Grant has highlighted one of the most obvious issues facing FamilySearch and genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: a significant number of the members of the Church have yet to enter their first four generations into the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. This is not just true outside of the United States, but many wards in the United States have less than half of their members with four generations in the Family Tree.

Involvement in family history would increase dramatically in many areas of entering the first four generations in the Family Tree was emphasized. Presently, local leaders do not have a way of determining who does and who does not have their first four generations on the FamilySearch.org website. Active Temple and Family History Consultants can begin the process by contacting the members of their ward and inquiring about their access to the Family Tree.

In many cases, those without four generations in the Family Tree are either new members or those that are less active. In both cases, participation in family history activities with benefit these individuals. As Kathryn Grant states at the end of her blog post:
Completing their first four generations in Family Tree can be a beautiful, heart-turning experience that helps members feel closer to their ancestors and ensures that all are safely gathered in.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The role of family history in missionary work

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/power-family-history-missionary-work/?cid=email-MC_TFHC_0817CTA1
We have recently been discussing the role of genealogy in missionary work done by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not too long ago, I was talking to the mission president of one of the Church's missions. He unequivocally stated that he did not want his missionaries doing genealogy. I can certainly understand his point of view. Especially, if you think there is an artificial boundary line between missionary work and Temple and family history work. But as Elder David A Bednar, of the  Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is quoted above saying:
The artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and family history work is being erased; this is one great work of salvation.
Kathryn Grant's article, shown above, summarizes some of the ways that full-time missionary activity can incorporate temple and family history work. Personally, I presently live in an isolated microcosm. We have only about six families in our ward that are not members of the church.  I spend my days either writing at home or volunteering at the BYU Family History Library. So my interaction with those who are not members of the Church is quite limited. But most of the members of the Church come in contact with people outside of church every day. Talking about families and family history is a very easy way to begin a gospel conversation.

I do think that drawing an artificial boundary line between temple and family history work and missionary work is a tragedy. Not only for the missionaries who never learn how closely intertwined the two actually are but also for those that they contact and fail to introduce to temple work which of course includes family history. But as long as an artificial wall is created between young full-time missionary service and teaching and inviting people to do genealogy (i.e. a family history) and temple work, we will still be teaching senior missionaries how to do genealogy before they are called on their own full-time missions.

If you read Kathryn's article above, you will see many suggestions where the full-time missionaries work in tandem with the local Temple and family history consultants in the wards. This cannot happen if the wards do not have Temple and family history consultants who are prepared to help and teach investigators and new members. This responsibility now lives with the stake Temple and family history consultants. So, if the stakes do not have Temple and family history consultants who are teaching the ward consultants, then again there will be no support for the full-time missionaries.

I certainly realize that this emphasis on the relationship between full-time missionary activity and temple and family history work may seem innovative and new to many members. But for those of us who have been doing genealogical research for years, we have always seen the relationship.



Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Reality of the Microfilm Issue

https://archive.org/details/MicrofilmShelvesInTheFamilyHistoryLibrary
Microfilm has been a part of my life for many, many years. However, I am not one to grieve over changes in technology. Since the announcement by FamilySearch about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments to the Family History Centers around the world, I have been ordering and viewing more microfilm than I usually do. The very recent announcement of the one week or so extension to the cutoff date did not surprise me much. For the past month, after the announcement, I have been asking those attending my classes and presentations about their use of microfilm. I have found only a very small number of people who have used microfilm in the last year.

Apparently, people like me who are involved in doing research that entails little-used records are rare. The most important part of the press release of August 30, 2017 is the statement that all of the microfilm rented by patrons in the past five years have now been digitized by FamilySearch – over 1.5 million microfilms or about 1.5 billion images. The next statement is also equally as important: the remaining microfilms are being digitally scanned at a rate of 1000 films per day and are projected to be complete by 2020. If you think about these statements, you will realize that FamilySearch waited to make its announcement until the impact would be minimal.

For me personally, it will probably mean that I will take a few more trips to Salt Lake City, Utah to the Family History Library. But those trips were inevitable anyway because of the need to look at "restricted" records.

What I am also finding is that few people, even those who should know better, know how to access all of the digitized images. For that reason, I made two videos which are now posted on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube channel. Here are the links to those videos:


No more microfilm rentals? Where do I go to see the digital copies? - James Tanner


Where are the Digitized Records on FamilySearch.org - James Tanner

These two videos summarize the present situation regarding the availability of microfilm and the images that are being digitized and uploaded to the FamilySearch.org website. Now to the question of those who are researching areas that they believe will never be digitized. My experience so far is that many of the microfilms that they believe will never be digitized have already been digitized. But for those films that are relatively obscure and have not been ordered in the past five years, FamilySearch has announced that after film ordering ends, if customers need access to a particular film yet to be digitized, they can express interest to have it added to the priority digitization list by contacting FamilySearch support. Here are the contact links:

FamilySearch Support (Toll Free: 1-866-406-1830).

As far as I'm concerned, but pretty much answers any questions that I have.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Notice from FamilySearch on Microfilm Availability

The following is a press release from FamilySearch. I will be making my own observations and comments in my next post.
Salt Lake City, Utah (30 August 2017), Thursday, September 7, 2017, marks the closing of an 80-year era of historic records access to usher in a new, digital model. FamilySearch is discontinuing its microfilm circulation services in concert with its commitment to make billions of the world’s historic records readily accessible digitally online. (See FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm). As its remaining microfilms are digitized, FamilySearch has provided additional information to users of its historic microfilm program. Find and share this news announcement easily online in the FamilySearch Newsroom.

FamilySearch, a global leader in historic records preservation and access, began microfilming historic records in 1938. Advancements in technology have enabled it to be more efficient, making an unbelievable tide of digital images of historic records accessible much quicker online and to a far greater customer base. 
FamilySearch released a list of helpful facts and tips to help patrons better navigate the transition from microfilm to digital. 
QUICK FACTS AND TIPS 
  • Patrons can still order microfilms online until Thursday, September 7, 2017.
  • After film ordering ends, if customers need access to a particular film yet to be digitized, they can express interest to have it added to the priority digitization list by contacting FamilySearch Support (Toll Free: 1-866-406-1830).
  • All of the microfilm rented by patrons in the past 5 years have now been digitized by FamilySearch—over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images).
  • The remaining microfilms are being digitally scanned at a rate of 1,000 films per day and are projected to be complete by 2020.
  • New digital images are available as they are scanned in the FamilySearch.org Catalog.
  • Films currently on loan in family history centers and affiliate libraries are automatically granted extended loan status.
  • Affiliate libraries now have access to nearly all of the restricted image collections as family history centers.
  • Visitors to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will still be able to order needed microfilms to use during their research visits.
HOW TO FIND DIGITAL IMAGES ON FAMILYSEARCH
  • Digital image collections can be accessed today in 3 places on FamilySearch.org, all under Search.
  • Catalog. Includes a description of all the microfilms and digital images in the FamilySearch collection. This is where all of FamilySearch's digitized microfilm and new digital images from its global camera operations are being published. A camera icon appears in the Catalog adjacent to a microfilm listing when it is available digitally.
  • Records includes collections that have been indexed by name or published with additional waypoints to help browse the unindexed images.
  • Books include digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries, including many books that were previously copied to microfilm.
For additional help, see Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org, or watch this how-to video “Where are the digitized records on FamilySearch?” 
“FamilySearch is committed to meeting customers’ needs as much as possible during this transition to digital access,” said Diane Loosle, FamilySearch’s Director of Patron Services. “We really appreciate the wonderful feedback we have received since the initial announcement. It is helping us better facilitate customer experiences during this next phase.” 
Loosle said FamilySearch's over 5,000 family history centers will continue to provide access to relevant technology, premium subscription services, and digital records, including restricted content not available at home. Centers have the option to return microfilm that is available online or otherwise not needed. As more images are published online, centers may reevaluate whether to retain microfilm holdings. 
See Frequently Asked Questions: Digital Access Replacing Microfilms for more information.

More about duplicate ghosts in the FamilySearch Family Tree


I've been waiting for some time to discover another set of "duplicate ghosts" in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Some of us have been finding these long lists of duplicates regularly. At the same time, representatives of FamilySearch are making comments about how the duplicate issue has been "resolved." The screenshot above shows an individual married to one of my distant cousins. There was the original entry from the Family Tree.


This project started with a routine correction of the entry for Mary Tanner by standardizing the entries of dates and places. That action started a cascade of changes resulting in obvious duplicates. Here is a screenshot of the 32 steps I have taken up to this point.



One of the interesting results was this second entry showing a number of children.

Bear in mind, that when I had reached this point the entry showed only one duplicate for John Briggs. I had already done only one merge. Before doing any more work, I decided to check for another duplicate. The screenshot at the beginning of this post was the result of that search. I did one more merge and when I returned to do a search for more duplicates I got the following list:



 The number of duplicates had increased from 5 to 8. This is what I mean by cascading duplicates. To trigger this kind of response in the Family Tree all you have to do is add a source and look for duplicates or make any other change and start looking for duplicates. Each time that you merge an individual, more duplicates appear. I have had this situation continue while I worked for four hours straight merging duplicates. At this point, a search for duplicates for Mary Tanner shows the following:


In short, there are currently 12 duplicate entries that need to be merged. However, as I proceed to do the mergers it is inevitable that more duplicates will appear especially for the children in this family. Past experience indicates that I may end up with dozens of mergers for this one family. None of these entries of duplicate individuals is shown initially when the user searches for duplicates. These are not hypothetical duplicates, they are real. Here's a screenshot showing the first merger screen:


I recently mentioned a post that I found 106 potential duplicates of one of my direct line ancestors. From my perspective, the duplicate issue is far from resolved. In fact, when I did the first merge listed above, I got the following additional duplicates for each of the children. This raised the number of duplicates needing to be merged to 20 after I had already done three merges.


In my experience, each succeeding merge will create additional merges for some time until this particular block of duplicates is exhausted or I am exhausted whichever comes first. The mere existence of these cascading merges indicates that there is a substantial reservoir of duplicate entries still waiting in the Family Tree.

I decided to do all of the merges before finishing in publishing this article. I kept track of the number of merges necessary, but after about two hours of merging records, correcting entries, standardizing dates and places, and adding in Record Hints, I did approximately 54 merges.

 When you encounter such a situation, you need to be careful to reload the pages constantly and recheck every time for more duplicates. In many cases, the duplicates are not found by the FamilySearch Possible Duplicates. You need to search by ID number and the duplicates are obvious. I am certain that it would take someone with less experience doing merges much longer to get through this morass.  I'm also certain that FamilySearch is vastly underestimating the number of duplicate entries left in the Family Tree. Here is what the family look like after all of the merges:


There were record sources for each of the children. There really were two daughters named Mary Briggs. After writing the above about the number of merges, I added a surname to the first entry for a child named Hannah and found one more duplicate.  The total number of duplicates turned out to be 55.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The FamilySearch Family Tree is the Gateway to Temple Work


I have received several interesting comments to my recent blog posts about the subject of changes made to the data in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I might point out that this blog is clearly labeled as being written from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter "the Church"). I certainly do not wish to do or say anything that would limit those who read this blog to those who are members of the Church. But I also do not wish to equivocate concerning the importance of temple work to those who are members of the Church and literally to everyone who is presently living or has lived on this earth. My position concerning the importance of temple work should be clear from what I have written on this blog.

Some of the comments made about the FamilySearch.org Family Tree are taking the position that "serious" genealogists should not be involved in the Family Tree for the simple reason that "their data" would be compromised by changes made by less experienced or less sophisticated users of the Family Tree. May I remind those members of the Church to take this position that they are essentially abandoning the "Gateway" to temple ordinances which is presently established by the Church. Your attitude towards the Family Tree influences those around you to depreciate the need to become involved in this important work. You're essentially saying, that taking the time to make corrections and maintain the integrity of the Family Tree is not worth the effort. I want to be perfectly clear. I believe that all of my effort with the Family Tree is worth the time it takes to perform the temple ordinances for our kindred dead.

You can use any program you wish to use to do your own personal research. But ultimately, if you wish to participate in the salvation of the dead you will need to become involved in the Family Tree or whatever program becomes available from the Church to advance the vast work of family history. Putting up with a few changes or even many changes in the Family Tree is worth the effort.

Please remember Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants at verse 15 which states"
15 And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
I would further quote from a talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency who stated in a talk in April Conference of 2009 entitled "We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down:"
The tendency to focus on the insignificant at the expense of the profound happens not only to pilots but to everyone. We are all at risk. The driver who focuses on the road has a far greater chance of arriving at his destination accident free than the driver who focuses on sending text messages on his phone. 
We know what matters most in life—the Light of Christ teaches this to everyone. We as faithful Latter-day Saints have the Holy Ghost as a “constant companion” to teach us the things of eternal value. I imagine that any priesthood holder listening to my voice today, if asked to prepare a talk on the subject “what matters most,” could and would do an excellent job. Our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience.
We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most. The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is one of those things that matter most.

Let me reiterate clearly. My experience with the Family Tree is that by making an effort to make the changes and corrections, watch the entries, contact the people who make changes and ultimately add sources with citations random changes are virtually eliminated. I certainly think that it is important to use the Family Tree and I will continue to advocate in favor of using the Family Tree.  The potential of the Family Tree is to dramatically decrease duplicated research and ultimately to decrease the loss of genealogical data that constantly occurs when "serious" genealogists die. Do we want to encourage duplication of effort and encourage loss of genealogical data?

Important Discussion about the FamilySearch Family Tree


I have been thinking about and writing about the FamilySearch online family trees for about 10 years now, ever since new.FamilySearch.org was introduced. I would guess that I have heard and discussed almost every positive and negative comment that could possibly have been made about the FamilySearch products. I have spent days discussing aspects of both the old new.FamilySearch.org program and the most recent FamilySearch.org Family Tree program with representatives of FamilySearch, with patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, at the BYU Family History Library, both online and in person and in locations across the United States and into Canada. As I have recently pointed out in previous posts, the main issue revolves around the collaborative, unified nature of the Family Tree.

Genealogists as a group are extremely possessive and have the tendency to think in terms of "my data" and "my family tree." Changing this attitude requires an entire paradigm shift. One of my recent blog posts, entitled "User Changes to the FamilySearch Family tree: A Touchy Subject," is an example of the types of responses and discussions that I have had over the years. After spending 39 years as a trial attorney, I have no illusions about my ability to change anyone's mind on any given subject, particularly when they are certain that they are correct. Decisions made by judges and juries after lengthy trials where days of evidence have been presented by both sides do not usually change the litigants' minds.

The FamilySearch.org Family Tree addresses some of the most basic issues confronting genealogists today. It is an evolving product based on a fundamentally sound idea. As I've said in the past and as I will continue to maintain; the Family Tree is the solution, not the problem.

I recently posted another rather long comment to the blog post link above. There are several issues and that comment that need to be addressed. I am not going to reproduce the entire comment because it is available attached to the blog post. I am selecting specific portions of the comment as I did with the earlier blog post.

1. Adding pop-up warnings to the Family Tree will assist the users in making "correct" decisions about entering inaccurate data or making unwarranted changes.

 From a programming standpoint, pop-ups are a detraction from the overall purpose of a program. It is true that they may possibly assist novice users but they become bothersome to those who use the program regularly. If there was a way to turn off the pop-ups then everyone would turn them all off. The Family Tree is open to all levels of genealogical expertise. Believe me, this frustrates the novice users as much as it does the experts. Novice users are overwhelmed with the "requirements" imposed by those with more expertise. Those who assume themselves to be experts are frustrated and annoyed by having to share the space with the unwashed masses. It is the self-appointed experts who are certain that everything they put in the Family Tree is absolutely correct that need to be educated as much or more than the novices.

The Family Tree is a universal tree. It is available to users around the world who find themselves in many different circumstances with differing levels of access to the Internet, to computers, to genealogical resources, and genealogical literacy. The Family Tree is designed to accommodate those who are entering the first few generations of a pedigree as well as those who are working back into the 1500s. Making the product more complicated does not solve these problems. Educating both ends of the user spectrum is the answer. Those who have been doing genealogical research for years probably need more orientation and education about the nature of the Family Tree than to the novices.

2. The problem of a separate family tree program is very complex.

Computer programs come and go. I have spent untold hours helping people retrieve information from their outdated Personal Ancestral File (PAF)  program files. Likewise, many other individual desktop genealogy programs have disappeared over the years. The data accumulated in those programs has in many cases been lost. In many cases, the developers of these programs have not provided a way for the users to preserve their data. It is also extremely common for dedicated genealogists to spend years accumulating piles of paper records about their families only to have those records discarded by their heirs upon their death. I could spend many blog posts writing about the programs that have been lost and the paper collections that have also been lost.

The issue of whether or not to maintain a separate program from the Family Tree simply because of the possibility of changes in the data of the Family Tree seems to me to be focusing on the wrong issue. I have never told anyone not to have their own program. But I am always mindful of the inevitable issue of how the information is going to be preserved when the genealogist dies. How are you going to preserve your data? That is the real question. One of my friends, an accomplished genealogist, died recently. None of her family members were at all interested in preserving her vast collection of records. It has only been through the dedication of a close, genealogical friend that some of that information is being preserved.

The comment is made about the Family Tree that "years of research can be wiped out by a single person with a few clicks." This statement is wrong. No information can be deleted. It can be changed but all of the changes are preserved in the change log and can be restored. This is always one of the arguments for maintaining a separate program. If you want to spend the time, there are many options for maintaining separate databases, but remember that what is not preserved in the Family Tree will likely be lost.  On the other hand, there is no way to restore paper documents that are thrown in a dumpster or information locked up in an outmoded, abandoned genealogy program.

Maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree is not nearly as difficult as the critics try to maintain.

3. The Family Tree is the accumulation of over 100 years of genealogical contributions.

The simple statement addresses the issue of the need to "clean up" the data. Genealogists, like everyone else, are convinced that they are absolutely correct and the rest of the world is absolutely wrong. The collaborative nature of the Family Tree allows all of us to work together in correcting these years of submissions. If you are maintaining an entirely separate program without consulting the information in the Family Tree you are laboring under an illusion of progress. For example, one ancestor that I am currently working on in my Tanner line has the incorrect parents and literally thousands of online family trees and I assume privately held programs also. All of these people accept the traditional Tanner genealogies written over 100 years ago that are simply wrong. How can all of this inaccurate information be corrected? The simple answer is it cannot. But there is a place where I can put the correct information and begin the process of educating the Tanner family members. It is the Family Tree. Will my information be changed by all those people who believe that their own version is correct? Absolutely and I will change it back. Is there somewhere else I can go to publicize the correct information? How would anyone know what I had discovered if I maintained it in my own private, personal, desktop genealogy program?

Genealogists have previously never been faced with the prospect that their work would be subject to review by someone else. In many cases, whole families have relied on the accuracy of one "expert" genealogist in the family. Sadly, much of the information passed down has not been accurately recorded. Further, family members have the tendency to defend the accuracy of the inherited data despite additional research that shows that the information is inaccurate and incorrect. This is particularly true for those who have "pioneer" ancestors. Many of these people are devastated when they find out that the information they have relied upon for years is simply wrong.

Likewise, many researchers take the attitude that their research is correct in all aspects. I have done enough of my own research to realize that my own conclusions have not always been correct. The Family Tree is difficult because it highlights our limitations and errors.

4. Training for FamilySearch users?

The conflict here is whether or not there should be some threshold requirement of competency before allowing people to enter information into the Family Tree. The real consideration is whether an individual living in an undeveloped country who wishes to preserve their family heritage should be required to learn how to read and write before entering information into the Family Tree. I certainly am an advocate of training for all of the users of the Family Tree. My wife and I are both very much involved in The Family History Guide website. Have you considered how well the Family Tree works for someone who is entering in their first four generations?

5. You have thousands of ancestors. How can you logistically make sure they are all correct all of the time?

You can't. That is why you can't have your own family tree on your own program and assume that everything is correct. That is also the reason why the Family Tree works. Because "your" ancestors are the ancestors of thousands of other people all of whom can assist in making sure that the information is correct. If you think only of your data and your efforts, that idea excludes the possibility that other relatives may make positive contributions. You're setting yourself up as being the only person who does anything correctly. Rather than criticize the system how about enlisting the help of your relatives in correcting and maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree?

6. Who do you think will make more efforts to preserve their data than FamilySearch?

We are back full circle. Over the years as I have watched programs come and go, the only constant in the genealogical community since 1894 has been FamilySearch and its predecessors.

Of course, this is an ongoing discussion. It will probably continue until all of us have passed from this earth to our eternal reward. You are certainly welcome to make any additional comments you wish to make on the subject and you can expect me to respond when appropriate.

By all means, keep "your" data anywhere you wish, but think about what happens when you die. What will happen to all your work?