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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The FamilySearch Memories App

The Memories App for Android and iOS devices is a convenient way to add images directly to the website in for Memories attached to individuals in the Family Tree.

You can add a photo directly from your camera roll and then tag the photo and attach it to people in the Family Tree. Here is a grave marker I photographed this past weekend uploaded to the Memories App.

I can then tag the image to someone in the Family Tree

The image then appears on the Memories section of their Detail page. Here is Samuel Linton's Memories page.

It looks like I have two photos of the grave marker, so I, since my photo shows more detail and is in the sunlight. If the other contributor wishes to keep their photo, that is fine, but then the other person also has the option of deleting their duplicate photo in favor of one with more detail and better lighting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

When is a Source Not a Source?

I was berated in a comment for my example in a recent post of using a "Family Group Sheet" as a source and attaching it to a family in the Family Tree. The comment states.
I am delighted that this feature has been added to FamilySearch/FT; but I worry that the example given used an unsourced family group sheet. That is a sure fire way to promulgate the spread of past errors. The FGS are a great way to point a possible path to new research, but they don't belong as sources in a public tree.
This comment raises an important issue about "sources." Here is the Family Group Sheet or Record in question.

Unfortunately, the blanket argument above about the propriety of attaching this particular Family Group Sheet would also apply to such sources as U.S. Census Records and many other records commonly uses as "sources" genealogists without much discussion. First of all, this sheet was submitted by the son of the person listed as the Husband, so what is the difference between the information in this sheet and what is supplied, unverified and from an unidentified informant for the U.S. Federal Census records? Here, we know who submitted the information. We also have a lot of information that was added at the time the events occurred. The commentator apparently does not realize that there is primary data on this Family Group Sheet such as baptism and other church related dates. The information supplied here is the functional equivalent of a Bible record or a diary or journal.

One piece of information supplied is crucial to my family line: that is the date of John Morgan's marriage to Mary Ann Linton, my Great-grandmother. It took some very extensive research to acquire a marriage record for this couple for some rather interesting historical reasons involving plural marriage in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Granted, some of the information may not be accurate, but that is the case with all historical records. If the commentator had taken the time to review the record, it would have been evident that the person submitting the record has listed his own birth and marriage information. The commentation might also be unaware that Nicholas Grossbeck Morgan, who is the Family Representative and responsible for the information wrote the following book about his father John Morgan which is widely cited as a "source" by many family members.

Richardson, Arthur M, and Nicholas G Morgan. The Life and Ministry of John Morgan: For a Wise and Glorious Purpose. Place of publication not identified: N.G. Morgan, 1965.

Now it is certain that this particular record is different than some of the other Family Group Records that are in the Family Group Record collection on Many of the records are without sources and unreliable. But if we find information in a Family Group Record shouldn't we list that record as the source of our information? Ultimately, a source is where we obtained the information. As for me, I would like to know where some of the people with entries in the Family Tree got their information, even if they only tell me that they copied it from a Family Group Record.

Lastly, I might point out that some Family Group Records are extensively documented with other sources. The comment looks like to me another example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Do I have an obligation to check the information contained on this record? Yes, I have exactly the same obligation I have with any other record I find. I need to research broadly. I might point out that we have only 26 source listed on the read only record for John Hamilton Morgan. There would be a lot more if the record were not read only and because the record is read only, this Family Group Record was not attached to John Morgan.

Oh dear, I do have one more comment. There is no documentation for the fact that John Morgan had the middle name of Hamilton. One of his sons had the name John Hamilton Morgan, but he is not recorded as using a middle name.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Important updates to the Website and with the Family Tree

Every so often, FamilySearch sends out a blog post summarizing the new developments included in the website and particularly involving the Family Tree program. When the program underwent a major upgrade in June of 2016, that freed up a lot of programming potential to be directed at resolving some of the issues and adding additional features to the website. As you use the Family Tree and other parts of the website, you will likely begin to see more changes. The reality of all popular online websites is that they either evolve or die. There is a strict online rule that applies to the survival of the fittest and evolutionary changes are a way of life for website developers.

This month's blog post is entitled appropriately, "What's New on FamilySearch -- August 2016."

Now, what is new? The biggest news is that you can now link unindexed images to a person in the Family Tree. What does this really mean? Essentially, you are providing the indexing links to your own entries in the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot showing the location of the link to attach an unindexed record.

In order to do this, you need to create a source as shown in the sidebar instructions that come up when you click on the link.

The name of the record is automatically entered into the required field.

You next select a person from the link at the bottom of the sidebar.

To do this, you have to back up some and find the ID number for the person you found in the record. I suggest opening a new tab or window and finding the person named in the record and copying their ID number.

You can add most of the people in the record by checking on their names. In this case, my Great-grandfather is "Read Only" so I cannot add the record to his detail page. After providing a reason for attaching the record you can attach a copy to all the people checked.

In this case the record was successfully attached to 15 people. Here is a screenshot showing the link to the attached record.

I will come back to the other new developments in a subsequent post.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Some Ideas from GetSatisfaction for the FamilySearch Family Tree

If you have an issue or a question about the website, you can send Feedback and sometimes get an answer. The "Feedback" link is on the bottom of each page of the website. You can also send Feedback from the Help Center. Here are some screenshots showing the location of these message centers.

Feedback at the bottom of the webpages.

Get Help in the upper right-hand corner of every webpage on

You can send a message by clicking on the "Send Message" link. Every inquiry is assigned a "case number" and you can follow up by referring to that number. There is also a link to all of your "cases."

As you can see, from time to time, I too have issues with the website. Now, you may not know it, but there is another avenue to voice concerns, ask questions and make suggestions. It is called GetSatisfaction. Here is the link: You can see the screenshot above.

During the next week or so, I will be focusing on issues raised on the GetSatisfaction website.

Friday, August 26, 2016

It's not too early to start thinking about RootsTech 2017

Quoting from the website:
Come to RootsTech and experience the world of family history and technology. RootsTech is the premiere family history event where attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and industry leaders from more than 100 countries and all 50 US states gather to celebrate the discovery, preservation, and sharing of the family—past, present, and future—through technology and innovation.
 OK, so my world revolves more around the next webinar and presentation I have on my schedule than any activity planned for months in advance. But considering my advanced age, time passes rather quickly and it is only a few very short months until the next big go around at RootsTech 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

So far, I have been able to attend every one of the events. One question I am asked is whether or not I will be presenting a class or whatever. Last year, I taught a couple of classes for the vendors but not in the overall schedule. I found that I was so busy talking and meeting, that it was a relief not to have to worry about a major presentation. In any event, if anyone wanted to hear me talk or see me present, there are a number of webinars, with seven more in the month of September, 2016 scheduled for the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel and I will likely be doing more right up to the time of the RootsTech 2017 Conference.

If you are coming any distance to Salt Lake City, you really need to start planning now to attend, including making hotel or other arrangements to stay near the conference. Here in Provo, we have the FrontRunner, a train that runs from Provo to Salt Lake regularly that we can use to avoid the cost of staying Salt Lake or paying for parking. We also have relatives who have been kind enough to allow us to stay.

It is a fabulous experience to see and talk to so many people who are interested in genealogy, especially when you are surrounded by people who could care less about their family history and think you are somewhat strange for your involvement. If you can't come, I will still be blogging away about my activities and impressions of the Conference, like I have in years past. But this last year, I got so busy talking, I didn't do quite as much writing. I think that might happen again this year.

Thanks to all of you out there who said hello. It is great to see all of you even if it is only once a year a huge convention.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moving Photos from Ancestry to FamilySearch Memories

Moving Photos from Ancestry to FamilySearch by James Tanner

Some types of computer techniques are fairly simple. In this case, moving images seems to be a challenging topic for some genealogists. In response to a question posed by one of the missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I produced this short video explaining some of the basics of moving photos from one application to another, in this case from to's Memories. As I note at the beginning of the video, there are some serious Copyright Law issues to be considered when copying any content off of the Internet.

If you watch the video, take a moment to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Find All the Stories

The App Gallery on is a very interesting place to find helpful, educational, and sometimes fun apps or programs that are related to family history. Not all the apps are "FamilySearch Certified" and not all the apps may be of interest, but some have proved to me to be indispensable. One of the apps that I recently explored is called "All the Stories." It has a rather simply understood concept. It finds all the stories added to the Memories section. You open the program and then sign in to Once you click to start the searching process, the program takes a few minutes to compile a list of all the stories added to in your ancestry. The program finally produces a linked chart of where the stories are located along with the list. At the beginning of this post is a screenshot of the diagram.

That's it. That's all the program does. But hovering over the spots on the diagram, shows you the number of stories and your relationship to the person with the stories.

If you click on one of the dots, the program gives you a linked list of that person's stories.

Clicking on one of the stories opens a copy of the story directly in the program.

You also have the option of viewing the story directly on This is the kind of an app that has the potential of being added as a future feature directly in the Memories.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Exploring the Limits of the FamilySearch Family Tree

June of 2016 saw nearly all of the inherited problems of the Family Tree disappear. The most obvious issue and the most bothersome, was the limitation on merging obvious duplicates. Since the date of the upgrade to the Family Tree, this limitation has almost completely disappeared. Of course, this does not mean that all the duplicates have been merged, there is still, at the date of this post, a huge number left, but it does mean that the work of cleaning up the Family Tree can now proceed with assiduousness.

Every time I look at any part of the Family Tree, I discover work that needs to be done. The program itself is full-featured but there are some obvious limitations to what can and what cannot be done without resorting to third-party software or giving up entirely.

One of the difficulties is separating out the sourced data from the unsourced data. In some cases, I have found where a source has been added, say with a specific birth date, but that information has not been transferred to the details shown for that particular individual. In other cases, there are many sources listed, but none of them support the birth, marriage or death date of the ancestor. In one case, I found a whole family line, where none of the dates were supported by sources, even though other sources appeared for other events in the their lives. This was particularly true for immigrants, where their time in America was well documented, but there were no sources for the events in their lives that occurred in the country of origin. In these cases, the number of sources can be misleading.

One of the most common issues involves the identification of the places where ancestral events occurred. From what I see in the Family Tree, there is a sad lack of general knowledge about geography, particularly when it comes to making judgments about the inclusion of family members by name. I consistently find that European place names are confused and mis-identified. Abbreviations are endemic as an artifact inherited from the old family group records. There is often no regard for the distance between places, especially when the time period involved makes the distances impossible. For example, I find a family living on the American frontier with a child in the middle of the list of children, born in a different country, when the time it would take the mother to travel to the country would prevent the baby from being born altogether. Specifically, my ancestors who lived in Northern Arizona in the 1880s did not have a random child born in England, adoption possibilities notwithstanding.

Many of the family lines on the Family Tree have the decency to end when the supporting data runs out. But too many of them run on into realms of fantasy, where parents are having children after they die or before they are born.

Here is a good example of the problems that still exist in the Family Tree.

First, and most obviously, there are no supporting sources listed for William Tanner. In the Family Tree as presently shown, he has seven wives, with two sets of obvious duplicates. I have to mention that I have quite a bit of documentation about William Tanner, who was the immigrant to Rhode Island and first shows up in Rhode Island in 1680. In addition, despite repeated requests, I have yet to see any documentation that ties him to any parent in England. The person shown as his father is listed as Francis Tanner born in Rhode Island in 1634 and who died in England in 1719. Whoever entered this information needs to realize that Roger Williams established the Providence Plantation in 1636.

You might also note that Francis Tanner and Elizabeth Symonds his wife, who were married in Rhode Island, had a child, my ancestor William Tanner, who was apparently born in Chipstead, Surrey, England on 10 March 1657 and then another child, John Tanner born in Rhode Island in 1692 when the father, Francis Tanner was 58 years old and 35 years after William Tanner was supposedly born. Elizabeth Symonds has no birth or death information other than a England and Deceased.

I could go on and on, but the point here is that I find the same type of problems with almost every line I examine. The tragedy here is that this Tanner line is extended another five generations in England until 1510. Absent some breakthrough research, the line really ends with William Tanner in 1680 in Rhode Island.

I might mention that following the birth of "Francis Tanner" in Rhode Island in 1634, his ancestors as shown in the Family Tree were subsequently born and died in the following locations. I am listing the places as they appear in the Family Tree:

  • William Tanner, b. 1610, England, d. 22 October 1688, Bromley, Kent, England
  • William Tanner, b. 24 February 1573, Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire, England, Deceased
  • William Tanner, b. 1537, Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire, England, d. 1590, Wiltshire, England
  • Matthew Tanner, b. about 1510, Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire, England, d. 1565 Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire, England

I might mention that there are 24 sources listed for the William Tanner b. 1537, 6 sources listed for the William Tanner born in 1573 and 11 sources listed for the William Tanner born in 1610, but no sources listed for the Francis Tanner supposedly born in Rhode Island in 1634 and, of course, no sources tying my ancestor, William Tanner to anyone in England before his arrival in Rhode Island in about 1680.

If you look carefully at your own lines, assuming they extend at all into the past, you will find exactly the same types of problems. When you are looking at the entries in the Family Tree, why not spend a few minutes thinking about what you are looking at. Do the dates and places make sense given the time period in question and the methods of travel available? Do the entries correspond to the historical context, such as births occurring before the places existed? Do the ages of the parents and the sequence of the births make sense? Could all the children be physically born in different counties or even different countries?

In my own line, it appears to me that the person designated as "Francis Tanner" who was supposedly born in Rhode Island before Roger Williams arrived, is not a real person. The person listed as his wife, Elizabeth Symonds, is another issue. A search on shows that during the early 1600s, ten years before and after the birth date listed for her husband, there were about 459 Elizabeth Symonds in England.

Even assuming that the name is correct, which one was the correct one? There were also about 136 people named Francis Tanner and born within two years of 1634. Where is the data connecting these two individuals?

Now, please remember, that I have yet to see anything showing a connection between my ancestor William Tanner and anyone in England. End of story. But remember, if you have any old family lines in your portion of the Family Tree, you probably have exactly the same challenges.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What to Look For in Cleaning Up the FamilySearch Family Tree: Part Three

Some people are overwhelmed with the obvious errors in the Family Tree. They immediately conclude that the Family Tree is either not working or there are so many errors that the job itself of cleaning up the Family Tree is overwhelming. Neither conclusion accurately represents the reality of the Family Tree. Yes, there are a lot of problems, but these problems are really opportunities to correct the Family Tree and thereby add individuals who need Temple ordinances.

I will repeat my first two Rules for cleaning up the Family Tree:

Family Tree Accuracy Rule No. 1:
You and your family are responsible for the accuracy of your portion of the Family Tree.

Family Tree Accuracy Rule No. 2:

No one has or will verify the accuracy of your portion of the Family Tree except you and your family.

Now I will add another rule:

Family Tree Accuracy Rule No. 3:
Accuracy in the Family Tree is like cleaning a house. There are different perceptions of what is already clean and what needs cleaning.

Looking at the screenshot above, you can see some very obvious issues. The red exclamation icons indicate serious errors. Using the house cleaning analogy, they are mold and dirt. But the purple tree icons are also serious indicators of problems. Usually, they indicate either no sources or missing children. These icons are a first line indication that this section of the Family Tree needs some major cleaning. What do we get for cleaning the Family Tree? The answer is almost always additional individuals added that were previously overlooked or lost.

We have a good analogy in the parable of the lost coin from Luke 15:8:
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
Some of those searching in the Family Tree think it is possible to ignore all these obvious warning signs and proceed to "harvest the green icons" without regard to the consequences. What are those consequences? One of the most likely consequences is that the person with the green icon is not your relative at all. Of course, you are probably benefiting someone else, if the person actually exists, but you are certainly not doing your own family history work. 

On the other hand, by doing the Family Tree cleaning, you will almost always find additional family members who have been overlooked in the past.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Read the entire instructions before attempting to use this product

When you are trying to use the Family Tree and the rest of the website do you ever feel like you are lost in the woods? Perhaps you should look around a little on the website and notice that there are some signs offering help to find your way out of the fog.

In fact, there are many different parts of the website that offer support and help. First, what you see on the website is determined to some extent by whether or not you are registered and sign in. The website is "free" and most of the content is visible whether or not you register and sign in, but there are portions of the website that can only be viewed by registered users who sign in. Also, there are some additional parts of the website that are limited to viewing by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My position on this is that since the website is free and sponsored by the Church, there is no reason to expect otherwise.

There are many levels of support and help for the website and all of its parts. In the upper, right-hand corner of the screen there is the Help Menu.

Each of these links goes to a different type of help and support. But the basic, question answering help is in the Help Center. When I am asked a question, I usually sit down with the person asking and show them the answer in the Help Center.

There is another set of help links on the Family Tree program. They are referred to as "Tips" and appear as a link in the lower, right-hand corner of the screen.

The Tips menu is contextual and changes to accommodate the particular pages or sections being viewed.

Now, if you want to learn the website and Family Tree in depth there are two very good sources. First, there is an extensive, audio supported section in the Learning Center called Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos by Leland Moon. Next there is an entire website called The Family History Guide that takes you through the entire process of family history research and the website.

There is really no excuse for not "reading the instructions" before getting lost and befuddled with the Family Tree and the entire website.

One final note, before you get frustrated, remember that the live support for the website and the Family Tree is provided by volunteers. Cut them some slack.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Can DNA really help you find your relatives and ancestors?

The answer to the question posed in the title to this post depends almost completely on your own understanding of the results of a DNA test and your expectations. In talking to people recently who have taken a DNA test, I find their experiences and their reactions to the results of the test are heavily affected by the degree of their involvement in genealogical research and their prior knowledge of their family.

At one end of the spectrum are those who have done almost no genealogical research and know virtually nothing about their ancestors or their immediate family and at the other end are those who are seeking to answer a specific genealogical puzzle. Since some of those who take a DNA test have no online family tree, they can do little more than look at the general report and wonder about the conclusions. Those who were already doing genealogical research and used the DNA test to address a specific problem benefitted from the test. Those who took a DNA test out of curiosity are not inclined to pursue it any further. Obtaining some positive results from the test also depended on how many of their immediate family members had also taken a DNA test and shared the results or how many of those family members shared a common online family tree program.

However, I have seen extremely positive results for people who have done their "paper" genealogy and have specific research issues to resolve. The results range from finding a birth mother to clarifying a previously unknown relationship involving a child born out-of-wedlock. In one case, a family had to revise their entire assumed history due to the combination of both extensive research and DNA tests on family members.

There is a commonly held belief that taking a DNA test can be a prime motivator for doing family history or genealogical research. Although I have talked to a number of people who have taken DNA tests, I have not seen any increase in their interest in doing genealogical research.

To summarize, here are some of the factors I believe to me most important in obtaining positive results from a DNA test other than to satisfy a curiosity about your "family origins."
1. Extensive research preparation in formulating a specific question that can be answered by a DNA test. 
2. Identifying specific relatives whose DNA will address the question being presented. 
3.  Making the results of the DNA known to potential relatives through posting on an online family tree.
4.  Adequately evaluating and sharing the results to allow input from relatives. 
5. Accepting the results as they are determined.  
In case of finding a completely unknown relative, the DNA results were published to an online family tree program and the potential relative contacted the originator of the website.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Video Series on the Four FamilySearch Partner Websites has three major, online genealogy website partners:, and In addition, has partnerships with and

When you are registered with an LDS Account as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, individuals in the Family Tree can be directly searched in all four of the very large genealogy websites. Here is a screenshot showing the links.

During the past week or so, I have been recording four separate webinars with some basic information about each of the four websites. So far, the first two have been uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel and the other two will be shortly.

Making the Most of MyHeritage com by James Tanner

Making the Most of by James Tanner

The other two videos have already been recorded and will be uploaded shortly. We are planning another extensive round of webinars and videos from the Brigham Young University Family History Library in September when school starts again for the Fall Semester. 

You can subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel by clicking on the subscribe link on the Channel's webpage.

There is an issue that YouTube is blocked in most of the LDS chapels, but you can show a video by connecting to the Internet directly with a hotspot and avoid using the local WiFi connection. 

We are encouraged with the response to the videos so far and we are certainly open to suggestions for future topics. 

Links to the future webinar schedule and links to the entire video library on on the BYU Family History Library webpage

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Heart of the FamilySearch Family Tree

What is the heart of the Family Tree program? For all our talk about compiling histories and making memories, the real heart of the Family Tree is the Spirit of Elijah, President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of this back in General Conference in October of 1994, when the idea of a Family Tree program was just a dream. In part, he said as follows:

Elijah and Keys of Priesthood Authority 
In 1844, Joseph Smith asked, “What is this office and work of Elijah?” The Prophet promptly answered his own question: “It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. … 
“This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven. … This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah.”27 
Some among us still have neither perceived the Spirit of Elijah nor its power. Yet, we are bound by this warning: 
“These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over. … For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation … they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”28 
Joseph Smith’s responsibility was to “lay the foundation”29 for this great work. Important details were to be revealed later. At April conference 1894, President Wilford Woodruff announced this revelation: “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. … This is the will of the Lord to his people.”30
We now have the tools to do exactly what is outlined in President Nelson's inspiring talk. Aren't we now under an even greater obligation to move forward?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can You Actually Find Someone New to Add to the FamilySearch Family Tree? -- Part One

The traditional idea about doing your family history or genealogy was to discover your "ancestors." In many cases this inquiry was limited to one or two family lines, primarily the surname line. The goal was to extend your ancestry back in time as far as possible. One of very common questions I am asked when I mention my "interest" in genealogy is "How far back have you been able to go?" I am somewhat aggravated by the question, but the real question should be, "How accurately have you been able to establish your relationships?"

Approaching the Family Tree for the first time can be daunting, either because of the amount of information or the lack thereof. If you think of genealogical research as creating a circle of relationships rather than a line, you may be able to grasp the concept that as you add people to your pedigree on the Family Tree, the number of possible relatives increases. Doing research increases the circle as as that occurs, there are always a greater number of people outside the circle.

If you still want to think linearly, you will immediately realize that your "direct line" ancestors can increase geometrically: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. But one of the most common mistakes made when starting to do "research" is to run out to the first missing person in the Family Tree and decide to do the "research" for that person. This trend is unfortunately reinforced by looking at a pedigree using the "fan chart view." For example, here is a fan chart of my family starting with my Tanner grandfather.

If you were just starting out to "do your genealogy" you would immediately assume that "all the work has been done." The chart is complete. But what if I change my starting person to my maternal grandmother?

Wow, look, I can see that there is "work that needs to be done." Where do I go with this new bit of information? The answer is nowhere. The missing spots on this chart represent people we have been searching for, for many, many years. Starting with the empty spaces on a fan chart is a recipe for failure. Come back to these empty spaces when you gain a lot more experience and a much greater perspective. Then where do I go to start?

Even if you open the Family Tree for the first time and find it filled with names, YOU ALWAYS START WITH YOURSELF. The key to progressing in family history is accuracy and methodical, systematic research. The process may not seem important or even interesting, but it will be productive. We have found that by systematically correcting, editing and adding sources to the existing people in the Family Tree, you will ALWAYS find additional people.

Working on the Family Tree means working both back in time and then forward with the descendants of all those in your family lines, i.e. all of your cousins.

One very common mistake and one that very unfortunately is promoted as a starting point, is to "jump back" to a starting point by selecting someone you do not know and with whom you have no established relationship. Just because someone appears in the Family Tree it does not mean you are related to that person. You need to have a degree of confidence that the relationships showing in the Family Tree are accurate. You do this by adding specific sources or looking at the sources that have been already added. I spent thirty years of my life getting to know my family tree, you can spend a few hours doing the same thing.

If you need help, just ask. If the person you ask starts talking about all the genealogy they have done and how you need to learn Danish or Spanish or whatever, go ask someone else. If you really want to get started, go to The Family History Guide or and work your way through the Projects.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Family History Guide Introduces Sections for DNA and Children

Children and DNA do seem to go together don't they? As is the case with the rest of the website, both of these sections are structured and sequenced so you can use those parts that apply to you or your family. Here is a screenshot of the Children section.

You need to take some time to explore all the options.

Here is a screenshot of the DNA page.

Each of the Goals is supported by several choices of activities with articles, links and videos to support the topics.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Can you spin stories into golden genealogy?

Public Domain, This is photo of a reenactment. 
Genealogy is a paradox. At one end of the spectrum it is all about emotions, stories, inspiring ancestors and finding yourself. At other end it is all about research, accuracy, evaluating historical documents and drawing tightly reasoned conclusions. The paradox is that they are both the same thing, separately meshed in one continuum. It is the blind men and the elephant all over again with the elephant representing genealogy. Some of the genealogists are holding onto the tail and some a promoting the trunk, but they are all really talking about the same thing.

Ask yourself this question: where do the stories about our ancestors come from?

The most popular story about one of my remote ancestors was written down for the first time by his grandson who only saw his grandfather when he was a child. He wrote it down only after the story had been told through two generations. The codification of the story was passed down to me both orally and in the form of books and magazine articles containing versions of the story written by the grandson. It is a good story. It is an inspiring story. It is a living story. But how does it become family history or genealogy? If someone had not collected and preserved the story, there wouldn't be a story to tell. The people who wrote the books were an academics and scholars but the story was still written down, codified if you will, as passed on by the grandson. There are no other known original accounts of the story.

How would you know the stories without a teller? The reality is that the genealogists are the tellers, the preservationists, the archivists and the librarians of our joint heritage. It is true that some genealogists were inspired to become genealogists by the stories of their ancestors. But it takes more than a good story to motivate someone to do genealogical research.

When I was much younger, I worked on a National Science Foundation grant at the University of Utah for a professor named Wick Miller. During his long professional life, he recorded the stories of the Shoshoni language from one of the very last native speakers of the language. The storyteller was Maude Moon. My job, in part, was to translate the stories from hours of audio tapes. As noted by Wikipedia, his extensive unpublished field notes on Shoshoni are now being used for a language revitalization program. Absent Wick's work, these stories and the language used to tell the stories, would have been lost forever.

Here is another example from Utah Valley. Quoting again from Wikipedia,
Kate B. Carter (July 30, 1891 – September 8, 1976) was an editor, historian and long-time president ofDaughters of Utah Pioneers. Carter was born Catherine Vigdis Bearnson in Spanish Fork, Utah, in 1891. Her father, Finnbogi Bearnson, was from Iceland and her mother, Mary Jenson Bearnson, was from Denmark. Kate married Austin Carter in 1914. They had three children. 
Carter was a charter member of the Spanish Fork Daughters of Utah Pioneers before she moved to Salt Lake and became a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers there. 
In 1930, Carter was asked to prepare lessons for DUP meetings. This assignment began a four-decade-long career as a compiler and author of pioneer histories. Her writings were published in the twenty-volume collection, Our Pioneer Heritage, the twelve-volume collection Heart Throbs of the West, and six volumes of Treasures of Pioneer History.
It is my guess that if you have a "traditional" pioneer story about "your" ancestors, it was likely collected and codified by Kate Carter. Here are the citations to a very few of her books.

Carter, Kate B, and Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Heart Throbs of the West. Salt Lake City: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1939.
———. Treasures of Pioneer History. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1952.
Carter, Kate B, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and Lesson Committee. Our Pioneer Heritage. Salt Lake City, Utah: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
Carter, Kate B, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and State Central Company. The Handcart Pioneers. Utah? Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Central Co., 1956.

If you want to get some idea of the extent of Kate Carter's influence on the pioneer history of Utah, you should take a second to look at her list of publications on Wikipedia.

The Memories section of the website is a marvelous forum for transmitting the stories of our ancestors. But we don't get the stories and the stories don't get preserved by denying or ignoring the existence of the genealogical elephant. Without the efforts of dedicated genealogists, historians, writers, anthropologists, both professional and amatuer, many of these stories would have been long lost.

If you really think that all genealogists think about is names and dates, you are one of the elephant's blind men. Why do I care? Because I spent half of my life gathering the stories, journals, diaries and documents about my family, only to be told that I am no longer needed. Let me ask the question again:

Where do the stories about our ancestors come from?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Watch what you type online - A cautionary note

Public Domain
There are a certain class of website promoters who prey upon those of us who make typographical errors. You may have noticed that if you mistype or misspell the name of a website when you are typing in an address, you might be taken to another, completely unrelated website. For example, if you are typing in "" and type anything else at all, you will go to a completely different and in some cases highly objectionable website. This is not just a happenstance situation. These websites actively register URLs that are a close copy of popular websites in order to trap the unwary. Just make sure you do not click further on that bogus website or you and your computer may be in real danger. This is actually a form of phishing or the activity of attempting to obtain online information without the permission of the owner of that information. Usually, this type of fraud has been directed at obtaining financial information, but in this case the information desired is usually merely the ID of a computer that can then be used to send unsolicited information.

If you inadvertently go to an unwanted website, it might be a good idea to check you account settings on Google. Go to your Google account and go through your Account and Privacy settings. In some cases, if you inadvertently clicked on something in an undesirable website, you may wish to delete all of your cookies. Cookies are small programs that are embedded in the memory of your computer, linking you to websites. In most cases, these are helpful, but in some cases they can be pernicious. You might need to ask for some assistance in deleting your cookies or you may already have a setting on your computer preventing cookies from being installed. The downside of refusing any cookies is that you will need to remember all of your passwords and log in to every website every time. There are security programs that can help you manage your passwords however.

This is like building a fort in the old days. You need to be prepared for attacks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

To merge or not to merge -- Is that a question?

Hubble Astronomer Creates Spectacular Galaxy Collision Visualization for the National Air and Space Museum by *Credit:* F. Summers (Space Telescope Science Institute [ ]), C. Mihos (Case Western Reserve University), L. Hernquist (Harvard University)
My apologies to Shakespeare, but we now have a relatively open field for merging duplicates in the Family Tree and this is creating a lot of work for some of us and lot of work and questions from others. Using the program, I have almost eliminated all the duplicated in my first six generations. I have started back eight or nine generations but it is getting harder and harder to find an example to use for a blog post. Here is a screenshot of the search on six generations from my Grandfather:

From here, you can click on the person's ID number and go directly to the person in the Family Tree. Here is the first person on the list:

At this point, you need to click on the "Possible Duplicates" link.

Now, look carefully at the entries. Both of these John Bryants were born in England. My ancestor was born in New South Wales, Australia. Neither of these is a duplicate. Now, it is possible that they were entered under the impression that my John Bryant was born in England, but there is no way to conclude that they are the same person, especially with the entry that has the wife listed as Mrs. John Bryant. So in this case, I will indicate that both of these proffered duplicates are "Not a Match."

To finish the process, I go back to and mark the link as "Fixed."

In just a few minutes you can work your way through several potential duplicates, but as you can see from this example, the possible duplicates may not be duplicates at all.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Coping with the changes in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I received my weekly update from FamilySearch concerning the changes made to my Watched relatives on the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot of the first part of the list. In this week's notice, I had 297 changes made to the people I am watching. If this seems like a lot, I thought it might be a good idea to come back to this subject and explain more about the need to Watch your portion of the Family Tree and how you might react to the changes you see happening. 

One of the keys to maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree is to "Watch" any of your ancestors or other family members you are working on or are interested in supporting.

When you are watching your family on the Family Tree, FamilySearch automatically sends you a weekly updated email message telling you about any changes made to the people you are watching, just as I noted at the beginning of this post.

If I want to see a list of the people I am watching, I can look at the list under the "List" tab on the Family Tree window.

Here is a screenshot of part of my "People I am Watching" list.

As I review the list of changes, I am looking for things that look unusual or out of place. Many of the changes are routine "cleaning up the Family Tree" type changes that I made myself or were made by my immediate family members. In some cases, there are changes made by FamilySearch that turn out to be a mystery, but after looking at the entries, I don't see any problems. In each case, when I am notified of a change, I can click on the notice and go directly to the Family Tree to see the change in context. I can then accept what has happened or I can reverse the change or investigate further. This usually takes only a few minutes, but since I am adding to my watched list and also becoming more active in making edits and adding sources, there are some changes that require more attention.

This is basic way that the Family Tree functions. If you are in the middle of a family that is actively working on the Family Tree, you may see a large number of changes. But this is good and not bad. The changes show you that people are interested in working on the Family Tree. Even if you feel that their changes are inappropriate, the Family Tree gives you a way to communicate directly with the other family members and discuss the reasons for making the changes and come to a consensus.

The growing number of changes I see is an indication that the Family Tree is alive and well.