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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Family History Mission: Learning Our Assignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Features Added to the Consultant Planner

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

Show Birth Years

Here is the next view:

Show Memories

The fourth and last new view:

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Family History Mission: Changes from the Past

Large wall plaque in the Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah
No. 7

I could not help but reflect back on my experiences years ago in the Language Training Mission held in the old Knight-Mangum Hall on the Brigham Young University Campus and compare my original experiences with those we experienced in the Missionary Training Center or MTC this past week.
Here is a quote from a Deseret News article entitled, "The development of the Language Training Mission (LTM)."
Previously serving as a women’s dormitory, the Knight-Mangum Hall on the southeast edge of BYU’s campus became the central office for what became known as the Language Training Mission on June 16, 1963. All missionaries learning a foreign language were sent to the LTM, with similar facilities eventually established at Ricks College (for Dutch and Scandinavian languages) and at the Church College of Hawaii (for Polynesian and Asian languages). Through August 1976, the Knight-Mangum Hall served as a place for missionaries to live, eat, learn and worship.
Recently, Knight-Mangum Hall was demolished to make way for the new Brigham Young University Engineering Building.

My mission experience as a young man began with a trip to the Salt Lake Mission home on North Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. We were there for one week before being transported to the LTM in Provo. You can get an idea of our life there from an article entitled, "A Day in the LIfe of a Language Training Missionary," published in the New Era in March of 1971. Our experience in the LTM was vastly different than the one experienced today in the MTC. In fact, in talking to senior missionaries this past week who have served missions previously in the past few years, they also said that today's program is vastly different than it was just a few short years ago.

When I started at the old LTM in 1964, they were only teaching a few languages. Today, the MTC teaches 55 different languages. But the main differences come from the emphasis and the training offered to the new missionaries. The current MTC experience is centered on teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Preach My Gospel publication. Our instruction during the week was a mixture of practical lessons including using electronic devices and the apps available to testimony building activities in actually presenting lessons to others.

The experiences I had at the LTM were intensive and life-changing, but I can tell from our short first week at the MTC, that today's missionaries are vastly more prepared to serve than we ever were.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Inactive Ordinance Reservations Being Released

Today, 9 December 2017, the following announcement appeared on my startup page of
The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun unreserving user temple reservations that have been inactive for more than two years. If you have reservations that you haven’t been able to complete, now is a good time to share them with family members via email, or with the temple. 
Unreserving inactive temple reservations has become a priority due to the large number of ordinances that currently fit that two-year window, and is in line with instruction from the First Presidency to ensure that temple work for ancestors is completed in a timely manner. The process of unreserving ordinances that have extended beyond two years is being repeated periodically on an ongoing basis.
The issue behind this action is the simple fact that some people are hoarding temple ordinance reservations. The limit for maintaining a long list of reserved ordinances is two years. The reserved ordinances will not "go away" they will just become "unreserved" and return to the Family Tree as "Green Temple Icons." This will give other family members the opportunity to do the temple work.

Some users reserve far more ordinances than they could ever do even if they attended the temple every day it was open, all day long. Realistically, there is a physical limit to the number of reservations that could be accomplished by a single individual.

The announcement gives some options for those who wish to avoid having the reservations unreserved:
What you can do
If you have a large reserved list, there are different things you can do to help ensure that the work for these ancestors is completed in a timely manner. Here are some ideas to help you get started. 
  • Review your temple list: Your temple reservation list is located under the temple tab, which appears in the top navigation once you log in. You can also follow this link. We’ve added the ability to sort the ordinances by reservation date. Check to see which ordinances you will be able to do yourself, and which might be good candidates for sharing.
  • Share with family members via email: We have added the capability to share temple ordinances with family members and friends through email. This is a convenient, “cardless,” way to share the blessings of the temple with the living, and the dead. Click here to learn how this works, or read about someone’s experience with this feature on the FamilySearch Blog.
  • Share with the temple: If you don’t have family members that are able to perform temple ordinances, you can also share the ordinances with the temple. This is a great way to ensure that ordinances are performed expeditiously, as there are members all over the world who regularly attend the temple and need proxy names.
  • Un-reserve/re-reserve: If an ordinance has been on your list for two years, and, for personal or research reasons, it needs to stay there, you can unreserve the ordinance and then re-reserve it to restart the clock.
  • Do nothing: A final option is to just do nothing. The ordinances on your list that exceed the two years will automatically be unreserved and other family members will be able to snap them up.
I have not been waiting for the automatic un-reserving to occur, I have been creating my own unreserved list. See "My Unreserved List."

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Family History Mission: Our First Week in the MTC

The Provo, Utah MTC showing one of the new high-rise classroom buildings. 
No. 6

My wife and I have finished the first of our two weeks in the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center or MTC. It would be an understatement to say that the week passed quickly. Since we live close to the MTC, we stayed at home all week rather than staying at the MTC, but we were there all day, Monday through Friday, and in the evenings on Monday and Tuesday. Overall, we felt that the MTC experience was wonderful and rewarding. We met some wonderful people and had an exceptionally good time.

Quoting from the website:
The roots of the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) go back to the earliest years of this dispensation. Starting in 1832, the School of the Prophets was organized so elders could 'teach one another' the gospel and other subjects and 'be prepared in all things' in their missionary callings (D&C 88:77–80, 118). 
Since that time, the Church has trained missionaries in several different locations, including
  • The Brigham Young Academy (1894)
  • The Ricks Academy (early 1900s)
  • The Latter-Day Saint University (1902)
  • The Salt Lake Mission Home (1924)
  • The Missionary Language Institute (1961)
  • The Language Training Mission (1962; located in Utah, Idaho, and Hawaii)
  • And finally, the Provo Missionary Training Center, which began serving missionaries in 1978.
The MTC’s campus has 19 buildings on a 39-acre site, with a capacity of housing and training 3,700 missionaries. Over 600,000 missionaries from nearly every country in the world have come to the MTC for training. The MTC trains missionaries for all of the Church’s missions and gives instruction in 55 languages.
On my earlier mission to Argentina in 1964, I was sent to the Language Training Mission or LTM at Brigham Young University. I was in the LTM for about twelve weeks to learn Spanish and wait for an entry visa into Argentina. Today's missionaries stay variable time periods for language training, but not 12 weeks.

Our days passed quickly and we had a wonderful time. Highlights of our time at the MTC were the young BYU instructors and the opportunity to associate with and talk to missionaries going to all parts of the world. We had classes primarily focused on our Savior Jesus Christ based on the contents of the Preach My Gospel handbook for missionaries. Although we did not see the visits by General Authorities that were the rule when I entered the Mission Home in Salt Lake City back in 1964, we had wonderful classes and testimonies. Some of the practical experiences we had turned out to be extraordinary opportunities to meet and talk to special people.

The food at the MTC was generally good and it was an experience to see hundreds of young adults consume mountains of food. We ate only lunch at the MTC and ate dinner at home in the evenings. The facilities are spotlessly clean and modern and the entire physical facility is beautifully maintained and accommodating. 

We have really enjoyed our total experience so far. 

Explore the LDS link on The Family History Guide
In the upper right-hand corner of the startup page for The Family History Guide, you will find a link to all of the resources for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Goals for LDS users include the following:
LDS Goals: 1: FamilySearch Icons and Policies 2: Temple Opportunities 3: Descendancy Lines 4: Other Resources 5: Printing Temple Names 6: Reserved Ordinances 7: Inspiration 8: Find, Take, and Teach 9: FHE Activities 10: O-Apps Gallery
In addition, there is a section on the Consultant Planner:

As The Family History Guide continues to evolve and become more valuable, it has become the go-to place for both individual and group training for genealogy around the world.