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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

124 Apps in the FamilySearch App Gallery

As we come to the end of another year, there are now 124 apps listed in the App Gallery. In addition, 2017 will likely add many more valuable programs to the selection we have now. This number is not quite accurate however since some of the selections are no longer online or available.

There are some other indications of the numbers of programs, apps or whatever that are available for those interested in expanding their ability to process and utilize the vast amounts of information now online and in other formats. There have been 4308 software reviews of 980 programs on Again, even though some of these programs are still receiving reviews, the programs themselves may not be available.

Finding genealogy programs for your computer, smartphone, or tablet is a little bit of a challenge. You can search in the Apple App Store, for example, on the term "genealogy" and find only about 15 or 16 apps listed. But if you search for "family history" you pick up a different list of apps. Continued searching for apps creates an almost endless task. A general search online will usually bring up a list of websites and articles about the "10 best of whatever" and most of these lists are repetitious. If you search on the Google Play website for genealogy apps, you will get an almost endless list, but few of these "apps" really have anything to do with genealogy or genealogical research. It is also interesting that many of the apps listed in the Google Play Store for Android devices also exist for Apple iOS devices also.

Word-of-mouth is still a good place to get information about new products. During the next few weeks, I will be writing about new developments as we ramp up for RootsTech 2017. I have thought about making a list of currently available apps, but that seems to be an unreachable goal. Right now, the most comprehensive list I am aware of is the one incorporated in

Friday, December 30, 2016

BYU and BYU Idaho Classes in Genealogy

Brigham Young University is one of the only the very few university level institutions in the United States offering a formal degree in genealogy. Both BYU in Provo, Utah and BYU-Idaho located in Rexburg, Idaho offer both resident and independent study classes in genealogy. BYU in Provo offers both free and paid Independent Study classes in genealogy or family history.

I took a long series of paid, home study courses on genealogy from Brigham Young University over a five year period and they were some of the most involved and difficult classes I experienced during my post-secondary years, including my years in graduate school and law school. So don't expect to find some watered down version of a college level course, these are challenging and very educational offerings. These classes require a considerable amount of work.

BYU-Idaho offers a Certificate in Family History Research.

If you are seeking a degree from either university, you will need to fulfill additional course requirements beyond classes in family history, but the certificate course is directed at helping students gain the fundamental research skills and knowledge needed to become a successful family history researcher.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What can expect from family history in the new year/

What can we look forward to in the upcoming year in the area of family history? Genealogy is a very tradition-bound pursuit. But in the past few years, technology has begun to radically affect the basic methodology despite the resistance of the "traditional" genealogists or family historians. One of the areas most affected by technology has been the area of information dissemination and storage. One thing that is certain to be a major factor during the upcoming year is the increasing content of the online databases containing genealogically significant source documents and records.

It is not difficult to foresee the impact that the continued digitalization of records and documents will have on genealogical methodology. The combined number of records available to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from and its partner websites now involves billions upon billions of historical documents. The expansion of this unimaginable online resource will continue to obviate the need for microfilm or paper research. Coupled with a major increase in personal DNA testing by the genealogy companies, the impact on research during the past 200 years or so, will be monumental.

It is also not too difficult to see the impact that's 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and the continued onsite digitization of more records have had on genealogical research. The key here is online availability and all of the larger online database programs, including, are increasing their collections by millions of records monthly. We have already reached a point where the numbers of available, online records has reached "critical mass" for doing research during the past 200 years in the United States, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. Most researchers, except those with ancestors outside of these areas, are able to find basic information about their ancestors using indexed online records. Other countries with similar saturation include Canada, Mexico and some of the other Latin American Countries. During the coming year, we can expect an acceleration of the availability of records from more areas of the world.

Family History Centers around the world are going to start feeling the impact of the general availability of records. As more microfilmed records are digitized and made available online, the need to order microfilm will diminish until it disappears altogether. 2017 is probably going to be the year when the Family History Centers will have to seriously consider the impact of online records on their day-to-day activities. FamilySearch has already begun the construction of a major Family Discovery Center on the first floor of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Salt Lake Family History Library is not only being impacted by the microfilm digitization, but also by the number of books that have been digitized and are already available online. As of the date of this post, the number of digitized books and other related material online on is 324,774 and still increasing at about 1000 additional books a week. Of this, 219,025 books in the Family History Library have been digitized out of a total of about 356,000 books, serials, and other formats. At some point, many of the people who previously traveled to visit the Family History Library, as well as those visiting local Family History Centers, will realize that they can do almost all of their research from their own computers and the visitors to the centers and libraries will decrease unless they begin to provide support beyond simply referring people to source material.

There are already a number of major genealogy conferences scheduled during 2017, including RootsTech 2017 in Salt Lake City on February 8th through the 11th. These larger conferences are being supplemented by many local "Family Discovery Days" held in communities around the world. There has not been as much emphasis on local Family Discoveries Days as there has been in the past and the numbers of these events will probably drop absent an advertising push. With the increased amount of online webinars and the availability of an individualized training website such as The Family History Guide, more people will begin to learn online and that switch will obviate the need for conferences or in-class training.

It would be an oversimplification to conclude that 2017 will be just another year of more of the same for genealogy. The trends that have already been in place for a number of years have started making some fundamental changes to the way genealogists do their work and 2017 will like be a pivital year in the acceleration of those changes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The FamilySearch Year in Review

Here is an interesting infographic from FamilySearch about the year in review. You can click on the image to see more detail. If you are wondering about the statistics, here are some recent numbers:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Organizing Your Family's Use of the FamilySeach Family Tree

The Family Tree is entirely collaborative. Every registered user can add information and individuals, edit existing information and individuals, delete their own entries and add or delete relationships. Over the past few years, I have come to the conclusion, when it comes to the Family Tree, that most genealogists take the attitude that they are in some sort of battle with their own family members. They commonly view any changes as a threat and additions, at best, as a burden and, at worst, as a travesty.

Part of this attitude arises from the belief held by many that whatever they add or change is absolutely true and accurate, while what others add is always false and inaccurate. While it is true that there are a lot of inexperienced and occasionally sloppy contributors, but by and large, most of the contributions and changes are based on some kind of belief as to their appropriateness and accuracy.

When working with the Family Tree, it is imperative that you remember the origin of most of the information. The Family Tree is a conglomeration of over 100 years of individual, unsupervised and unreviewed submissions to FamilySearch and a long line of its predecessor organizations dating back into the 1800s. Many of the potential contributors to the Family Tree are using copies or original family group records that they have inherited from their ancestors or other family members. Many of these contributors are acting under the false assumption that because what they have in their files was used for submitting names to the temples, that somehow these inherited records are accurate per se. It does not occur to the uninitiated contributor that the information in these personally acquired records is not at all accurate or verified.

In addition, FamilySearch has implemented a very useful system of record hints. These hints are, for the most part, very accurate and helpful. But, again, some of the less sophisticated users assume that FamilySearch is infallible because it is the "Church" and add these record hints without reviewing the content even when the information supplied is obviously inappropriate.

There are also a very small number of users who are simply entirely incompetent and continue to make inappropriate and unsupported claims simply because they either will not or cannot act reasonably. There is no real solution to this problem but there are ways to limit the damage done to the Family Tree by their actions.

How do we solve all of these problems at the same time? Is a solution possible at all? Yes, to both questions. To start, we need to break our old habit of isolation and overcome our feelings of ownership. We do not own our family's genealogy. We are merely contributors to a commonly owned pool of information. Our efforts to discover the information, no matter how time-consuming or extensive, do not create any claim that supersedes any other family member's interest in and to the same information.

Once we have begun to accept the fact that the only way we can ultimately progress in our genealogical research is to fully cooperate with all of our extended family members; we are finally in a position to begin to address the seemingly random and insolvable issues confronting us in maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree.

Most of us will initially find that we are still the only member of our family that seems to have any interest in working on the Family Tree. This is an illusion perpetrated by our former isolation. If we examine the list of changes for any one of the individuals in the Family Tree, we will immediately see a ready-made list of possible allies among our family members.

We may be surprised to find out that some of these people are not only interested in the Family Tree and in our jointly held family history, but are very highly competent and perhaps even more experienced than we ourselves are. In my own experience, I have found some professional level genealogists who are actively involved in some of my family lines. Of course, not all these people are willing to join in a cooperative effort, but you will begin to find some that are willing. I am fortunate to have several of my children and their spouses who are very actively involved and interested in working on various issues in the Family Tree. They have been willing to collaborate and work jointly on the issues involved. Additionally, we have begun to pool our Temple Names lists so that younger members of the family can do some of the ordinances. We have created an online, shared spreadsheet to maintain a list of available ordinances for the family. In our case, this is necessary because they live all across the United States.

In addition, the Family Tree provides a way to monitor any changes. If you watch an individual and anyone makes changes to that individual, FamilySearch will send you a list of the changes made every week. I always review these lists carefully. They are also a good source of potential assistance from family members.

It is also a good idea to maintain communication with your family members about any research issues or inaccurately added information. If you have a group of people working on maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree, the workload is much easier to bear. If it is possible, you can progress to the point where specific research assignments can be agreed upon. In this way, our own family lines have been progressing at an increasingly rapid rate and new individuals have even been added to our "brick wall" ancestral lines.

In all this, the Family Tree has proved to be a marvelous tool for supporting this high level of cooperation. We can literally work with family members who are living across the country in real-time and see each other's changes and additions as they are made, assuming we remember to reload our pages periodically. This real-time collaboration has opened up new collaborative opportunities and made the entire process a pleasure and a blessing.

We can use Google+ Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, texting, email and the telephone to talk and maintain continuity in our research efforts.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The DNA testing adventure begins

I am beginning my adventure with DNA testing. You might want to pop over to Genealogy's Star and read about the process. I will be posting the results etc. on that blog due to the nature of the process. Here is the link to the first post.

Changing Your Viewpoint with Virtual Pedigree

The Virtual Pedigree is a product of the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Lab.

There is always something really interesting going on in the BYU Family History Technology Lab and they will be talking about all the new developments at the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Workshop on February 7, 2017 at the BYU Conference Center.

BYU Family History Technology Lab has developed some very popular family history programs and apps. The Virtual Pedigree is a way to dynamically expand your view of the Family Tree and allows you to intuitively navigate your tree without ever loading a new page. It is difficult to describe how the Virtual Pedigree works without actually seeing in in operation. I suggest that you simply log in with your FamilySearch ID and password and try it out. You will either immediately like what you see or need a little more explanation. The key here is that you can expand and move around on the Family Tree by clicking and dragging with your mouse or trackpad. It helps to have a large screen to work with.

At any time, you can click on a name in the Family Tree and see an expanded view of the person.

One very awkward bug in the program is that members of a person's immediate family are listed as "spouses." In the example above, John Bryant was not married to his son John Briant. This bug seems to be pervasive and all you have to do is realize that what is meant is "Members of the Person's Immediate Family" instead of "Spouses." This type of bug highlights the fact that this is a product of a lab and the program is under constant development. This bug also shows up when you view the "Source Box" view of the program.

All of these people obviously did not have the number of husbands and wives shown. When you set a person as a root person, you can see all of that person's descendants.

All in all, except for the bug, it is a very interesting way to explore the Family Tree.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Why your genealogy can never be all done

One of the very common excuses I hear for a lack of interest in genealogy comes from those who claim that their genealogy is "all done." Many years ago, I was told the same thing by my own family members whose own family history efforts consisted solely of submitting copies of a four generation pedigree chart to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I continually hear this same refrain from those I talk to, especially here in Utah.

If we look back in the history of genealogical research in the Church, we can find a really good basis for these claims of the members of the Church having completed their genealogical responsibilities. Back in 1978, after many years of the centralization of extracting names for the temples from historical records, the Church announced that the extraction program would be done on a Stake basis and Church members were told that they were no longer required to submit family group sheets or to provide names for temple ordinances for ancestors beyond four generations. See the following:

Allen, James B, Jessie L Embry, and Kahlile B Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995, Page 273.

The concerns that motivated this policy involved the difficulty of doing genealogical research and the overriding concern about duplication. The simple fact was that the technology of the time did not provide a way for members to coordinate their research efforts. Subsequently, just as I did in the early 1980s, most researchers had to "start from scratch" and redo all of the previous research before any new information was found. In addition, at the time, there was no way to widely disseminate access to the records. Within two years, the policy was essentially reversed and members were once again encouraged to seek out their kindred dead.

But the damage was already done. What little momentum there was in the Church towards individual research was essentially lost. How did I break out of this paradigm? I was involved in submitting a five generation pedigree pursuant to a later Church program and did the work over again myself, only to discover that the "work" was far from done. That sparked an interest in doing the research on my family that has continued to the present day.

Over the intervening years, there has really been almost no local support for serious, accurate and time-consuming genealogical research. Technology has begun the process of eliminating the two most serious restraints on doing research: lack of access to records and avoidance of duplication of effort. But we are still facing the effects of the one-time position that the members' responsibility for providing names to the temples was "completed" with a four-generation family pedigree chart and the accompanying family group sheets or records.

With the advent of the Family Tree program, the impression that the "work is all done" has been reemphasized. When some members view the entries in the Family Tree, they see generations of information that all seems to reinforce their traditional belief that the work has been "all done."

In addition, other major challenges have surfaced with the technological advances being made. One of the most serious is the tremendous amount of information that is now available. Beginning genealogical research can truly be overwhelming simply due to the amount of information available and the complexity of the programs and their interface with the internet and the rest of the technology. Simplification efforts have been mostly aimed at ignoring the real complexity of the issues and presenting genealogy as simple and fun rather than approaching the issues directly.

But now, I would like to look at the basic concept that one person's genealogy, given the current emphasis on descendency research, can every be "done." The entire concept of a "completed" genealogy is based on an invalid and incorrect assumption that has assumed the proportions of a commonly accepted myth. That assumption is that there is somehow a finite pool of people to whom we are related. The key concept here in exploding this myth is the idea of extending our relationships to our "cousins." So, who is my cousin?

For years now, my wife and I have independently proceeded with our "own family" research under the assumption that we were not related. However, recent detailed research has now shown that I am related in different ways to both of my wife's parents and we share more than one common ancestor. Following today's definitions, we are now considered cousins. Over time, I am certain that we will find additional family connections. Why is this possible? Very simply, the who process comes about as a result of the integrated nature of the Family Tree. Since both of our families are now integrated into the Family Tree, we can see our common relationships.

The effect of this technological change is that the number of my potential relatives expands exponentially with each generation back in time. It is certainly true that a person could have a very limited knowledge of his or her ancestral lines due to limiting circumstances such as adoption or abandonment, but through broad DNA testing, it is now even possible to breach those barriers to research.

Look at the image at the beginning of this post. It shows an expanding circle from a drop of water. Genealogical research is like that expanding circle. Each person added to a family line increases the potential for addition relationships and even more connections. Of course, there is an underlying issue of accuracy, but assuming reliable research is done, the number of possible connections to cousins continues to expand with each additional generation both going backward and forward in time. There is presently no practical end to the additional research that can be done even with an emphasis on the known family lines available to many users of the Family Tree. The larger the circle of relatives, the more there are outside the circle.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What are you going to do when all the green temple icons disappear?

Originally, these green temple icons were green arrows. When they were first introduced back in the days of or NFS, the green arrows were intended to indicate that LDS temple ordinances were available. Unfortunately, at that time, there were an unimaginably large number of duplicate entries in the database and the huge number of "green arrows," for the most part, merely indicated that there were duplicates. In most cases, the reason why the program picked up opportunities was due to the fact that one of the instances of an individual's record would be incomplete and show that ordinances were available even when they had really been done, sometimes many times. Also, the NFS program did not find or adequately combine records. Using the "green arrows" to indicate the need for ordinances resulted in massive duplication of effort. Some of my own ancestors had over 800 duplicates.

Fortunately, the NFS program was replaced by the Family Tree. However, for a number of years, the program shared the NFS database and the artificial limit that program imposed on the Family Tree resulted in the same issue: duplicates could not be merged and the new "green temple icons" were still indicating duplicate ordinance opportunities. The database problems between the two programs were finally resolved on June 27, 2016.

With the restructuring of the program in June of 2016, FamilySearch was able to overcome the limitations of the NFS program and we, as users, could finally merge the duplicates. That was the good news. Since that date, some of us have been merging literally thousands of duplicates. However, there seems to be an almost inexhaustible supply left to merge. In addition, FamilySearch implemented a process that would not let the temple ordinances be done if the program detected the existence of a duplicate entry. The bad news was that the detection program only worked if the duplicate was obvious.

The reality of the Family Tree is that there are still a huge number of duplicate entries. But that is only part of the challenge. The real challenge is that there is still a focused effort on the part of those who seem to be unfamiliar with this history and the way that the Family Tree program operates to promote finding "green temple icons" as a primary activity in becoming involved with the program and with "family history."

The basic issue with the Family Tree is two-fold. First, there is the residual problem of the duplicate entries. Second, there is the more challenging problem of the accuracy of the family links present in the Family Tree. So even if a "valid green temple icon" appears in one of your family lines, there is no way, short of doing extensive research, to determine whether or not that person is even related to you.

There are those who advocate finding and using the green temple icons on the assumption that any involvement with "family history" is a positive experience for the users, especially for new users, and therefore the duplication is an acceptable by-product and will ultimately result in an increased interest in submitting new names to the temples. But at the same time, we have some wonderful examples, primarily introduced by Mike Sandberg at RootsTech 2016, of how the work should proceed. See "Begin at the Beginning: Helping Others to Love Family History."

There are some of us who spend a tremendous amount of time working with the data in the Family Tree. We know how to find new people to add to the existing Family Tree database that are not duplicates or who are not imaginary ancestors who happen to have names that are similar to those in the Family Tree. But what about the green temple icons?

There are very few people who are adding authentically new names to the Family Tree that are leaving the temple work undone. Our family, for example, is organized online to share all the names found with the teenagers and others in the family who are visiting the temples regularly. The ordinances come from our research. When we find more than we can use, we are releasing those names to the temples. We are NOT leaving a trail of green temple icons. In addition, we are systematically incorporating all of the green temple icons we do find or merging and doing research until they disappear.

The results are that the green temple icons are becoming more and more scarce. When do those who are new to the Family Tree see these opportunities? When they add in their own relatives. When we sit down with someone who has not had a family in the Church for years, we can see their conversion to the process as we help them enter their family members into the Family Tree and reserve the newly added ancestors' ordinances. But simply showing a long-time member a green temple icon, seldom has the same effect. I have several people that I have walked through the process of finding names to take to the temple, following every step outlined by Mike Sandberg, and these members have never even bothered to do the work for the people when they have a green icon in front of them.

The results of what we are doing right now, almost every day, is that "green temple icons" are very rapidly becoming an endangered species. There is no real mechanism in place to replace the green temple icons as they disappear. In fact, we are not going to allow them to stay any longer than it takes us to find the few that are left.

So how about changing the thrust of the promotional efforts directed at green temple icons? How about promoting the program that is already online and available that is an effective way to use the Family Tree and which I have linked above?

We are adding hundreds and in time, thousands, of new names to the Family Tree. But we are not adding green temple icons. That is the reality.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looking at Some of the Really Common Errors in the FamilySearch Family Tree

With the advent of the red Data Problem icons in the Family Tree, the fact that the data in the Family Tree needs work has become abundantly obvious. The notice above is a clear indication that the dates of the events in the Family Tree are wrong but, what is more likely, the notices indicate that the people are wrongly connected. Of course, the problem could be a simple typographical error in entering a date, but usually, as I have found, there are more serious data issues.

Even though some of these serious data issues are prominently displayed and marked by red icons, that does not mean that the rest of the data in the Family Tree is at all accurate. There are still a huge number of duplicate entries. Every time I begin the process of researching a family and adding even one or two dates after finding sources for records, the results almost uniformly results in finding duplicate records. Merging those duplicate usually, adds more information to the individuals in the family and results in additional duplicates.

But just because you don't see any red icons does not mean that your portion of the Family Tree is error free. Since my immediate family has been intensively working on our portion of the Family Tree for a couple of years now, I am having a little bit of difficulty finding really bad examples to illustrate some of my posts. But, digging in a little will almost certainly disclose more egregious problems to be solved.

In my experience, the most challenging problems involve actual genealogical research issues. These are situations where there is a valid dispute as to the interpretation of the available records. Sometimes, records that could resolve these issues are yet to be found and there are understandable differences in opinion. Most of these situations deal with people who lived in the early 1700s or earlier. Some of these problems may not ever be satisfactorily resolved. But there are enough of the easily resolved problems to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

It is time to give some examples. Here is an example of a really common error.

Here, there are no red icons to give us immediate notice of the problem, but from my perspective, just looking at these entries without doing a speck of research raising immediate issues. Of course, my first step is to check the locations and the dates. All three of these individuals are recorded as born in West Darby, Lancashire, England. Here is the card for Thomas Glover, who is the supposed "end-of-the-line" in this example. To start to see the scope of the problem, I can simply click on the link to expand these entries one more generation.

At this point, I am ignoring the long list of red icons which, by the way, indicate that the children were born when the mother was supposedly 69 years old. What I see as the major problem is that there is an immediate duplicate issue. Margaret Bleasdale has been entered, at least, twice. both as the wife of John Glover born in 1714 and as the wife of William Glover born in 1739. If I collapse down the tree a little you can see the issue much easier.

You may have to click on some of these images to see them clearly. This is not a situation of a duplicate entry so a search for duplicates will not find this issue. This is a situation of where the error is not as easily determined. It looks like from this view that John Glover had two wives. But it is also apparent that William Glover born in 1739 is listed as a child with each of the two mothers.

But the real problem comes when we expand William Glover born in 1739 and discover that he apparently married his own mother.

In this case, why don't I just jump in and make all the corrections? The answer is quite simple, I don't believe any of this is correct. You might recall that I mention that Thomas Glover born in 1689 came from Lancashire. When I go back to the pedigree, I see the following:

Margaret Bleasdale is entered as the daughter of Edmund Bleasdale and "Mrs. Edmund Bleasdale" and was born when her mother was 6 years old and her father was two years old. She is also 27 years older than here husband William Glover.

A quick search for the Glover surname in's millions of records shows that in their records for the United Kingdom, there are over 550,000 records for the Glover surname. There are over 62,000 records for Glovers in Lancashire.

What is more interesting is that there are over 19,000 records for Bleasdales in Lancashire and there are 859 records for Bleasdales named Margaret. There are no records showing the marriage of a "Margaret Bleasdale" to a Glover of any name. So what is the problem here?

Now, back to the Family Tree. Margaret Bleasdale is shown to have 27 sources. Let's have a look at these sources. Perhaps there is something I missed that easily resolves all these issues.

The list of supposed birth names illustrates exactly what is going on here with these entries.

This long list of "Birth Name" entries indicates the number of combined entries for this person from family group sheets previously submitted for this person. The fact that none of these have been removed or resolved indicates that no one has done any work on this person since the Family Tree has been in existence. By the way, I find this to be all too common. There are almost a vanishingly small number of people who are actively correcting the information in the Family Tree using a calculator and doing some adequate research.

What about the sources? Here is part of the list in a screenshot.

What is the problem? Apparently, no one has looked at these sources. I won't go through every one of them to spare you the agony of seeing what is listed here.  But here are a couple of entries to give you an idea of what I found.

Is her name Margaret Brank or Margaret Branhall, and is she really Margaret Bleasdale? If Margaret Bleasdale was married in 1760 she was already 48 years old. Here is another copy of another source.

Which William Glover is married to Margaret Bramhall and is this the same person as Margaret Bleasdale? Not likely. Here is the Family Tree entry for our William Glover.

That's enough of a mess for one day. What is going on here? How do I resolve this mess short of simply starting over again? The answer is that I cannot solve this mess by working from the top down. I must come forward in my line to the place where the Glovers come into the pedigree and start by validating each and every link from that point back in time. As I do that, the issues will be resolved as I show that the entries are inaccurate and muddled.

This example does point out a really important fact about the Family Tree. The program works. The date is the problem. I could clean up this entire mess and probably will when I get back to it. Right now, I am mired down with more recent messes.

Don't get discouraged. There are a few of us out here who are cleaning up the really bad parts of the Family Tree. But before you jump in and start using these lines to generate names to go to the temple, you might want to take some time to do what I just showed above and look to see if any of what you are looking at make any sense.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Genealogy Programs highlighted at the #RootsTech 2017 Innovator Summit

40 innovative family history programs were submitted to the Innovator Summit competition at RootsTech 2017. Recently 10 Semi-finalists were selected to go forward to the Innovator Showdown at the Conference. Some of the programs that have become "standard" for usage by family historians and genealogists around the world have been featured previously in this challenging competition.

From looking at the list of Semi-finalists, I can say that the competition gets more intense and difficult every year. Some of the programs have entered in previous years and the developers have had time to significantly improve their programs over the past year. Some are newcomers and all of them represent some of the best efforts possible to help improve the offerings of genealogically related programs. Since I served as a judge in the competition a few years ago, the programs have become much more focused and more fully developed. FamilySearch is to be commended for hosting and sponsoring this type of competition. We all benefit from the results.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Temple and Family History Resources on Gospel Library App

The Gospel Library App of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been substantially upgraded. It now includes resources for a huge variety of topics including Temple and Family History. Above is a screenshot of part of the main menu page of the App. Here is a screenshot of the page where you can link to download the app.

The Temple and Family History section of the Gospel Library App has sections such as the following:

  • 2015 Family Discovery Day
  • Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple
  • Endowed from on High, Temple Preparation Seminar
  • Getting Started
  • Member Experiences 
  • Work of Salvation
  • Youth
  • Family History Callings
  • Priesthood Leadership
  • Indexing
  • Missionary Work
  • Serve Others
  • Beginning Research
  • Church Service Missionaries
You can see that there are a lot of topics to explore. Many of the links go to videos and other instructional materials. You can download the app for both iOS and Android operating systems. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Is DNA Testing a Solution or a Problem?

DNA testing is as hot a topic as it is possible to have in the genealogical community. published an article entitled, "Do You Have Your Great-Great-Great-Grandfather's Nose?." The post had the conclusion,
While there will always be more to learn and discover in the world of DNA testing, you should have what you need now to get started putting your DNA to work for you.
In short, if you read a one or two-page post on DNA, you are supposed to know everything you need to order a DNA test and get started in solving some of your genealogical mysteries. We can all wish that life and DNA were that simple. Those touting DNA testing as a solution, have yet to accurately define the problem. They are also ignoring the actual and very possible undesirable side-effects of learning more about your ancestors than you may have really wanted to know.

Two of the large online genealogy database companies, and, are actively promoting their own version of the DNA test and selling the testing kits to the public. After considerable research and thought, I ordered a test kit and I am still waiting for it to show up. But meanwhile, there is still a lot more to think about.

To start off, the question asked by the title to the blog post set forth above cannot possibly be answered by a DNA test. In fact, without some extensive preparation in the form of careful genealogical research and only by testing specifically selected descendants of a third great grandfather, could you even find a DNA connection back that far in your pedigree. Such a test would not give you any insight at all into how your particular physical characteristics matched someone who may have even lived before the invention of photography. It is this kind of published nonsense that not only creates entirely unreal expectations about DNA testing, but also obscures the real family problems that might be discovered.

DNA testing only produces valid and substantiated information through systematic research and testing of multiple descendants of the same target population. The larger the test group, the more accurate the information. So, for example, let's suppose you want to identify your bloodline father. You could take a DNA test but that test alone would not give you any information that would be useful for identifying your father. Obviously, if you had a good guess as to the identity of your father and could get that person to take his own DNA test, you might find a match. Another less positive by possible solution would be to post your DNA results on one of the large online database programs and hope for a match. If another of your close relatives who were related to your father also happened to take the DNA test, you could find a match and might be able to infer your father's identity.

But the other side of the issue of finding your father is discovering that the person you knew as your "father" is not related to you. In some cases, this negative result may be unwanted and very disturbing information. Taking a DNA test can result in unexpected findings. I have mentioned in previous writings about some of these unexpected findings. But what is even more common is that the DNA test results are inconclusive due to the lack of a sufficient testing base.

There are other even more serious ramifications of DNA testing on a mass scale and that is its effect on our perceptions of "race" or national origin. This is a potentially dangerous and explosive issue. Do we really want to provide a "scientific" basis for discrimination?

I will be interested in receiving my DNA testing kit (if it ever comes) and reporting on the process and the results.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The PAF Solution

Over the years, I have often written about the problems associated with the somewhat irrational tendency of some genealogists to cling to the Personal Ancestral File or PAF program long after, now after more than 14 years since upgrade support for the program ceased. During all those years, there have always been readily available and fully supported alternatives. One of those is the Ancestral Quest program from Incline Software. Even today, if you have an old PAF file, you can import that file directly into Ancestral Quest and, if you choose to do so, maintain its integrity as a PAF database. In other words, you can run the program using Ancestral Quest as a PAF program file. There is even a free version of the Ancestral Quest program called Ancestral Quest Basics.

Ancestral Quest has recently been upgraded to Version 15 and several major features have been added including the ability to upload and download Memories from's Memories program.

I am continually surprised at the reticence of some genealogists to recognize that all their PAF-based data may end up being lost either through hardware issues or through operating system incompatibility. All of this in the face of the availability of a complete solution for the cost of a program that continues to be sold for $29.95 and with an upgrade cost of only $19.95. In addition, the program is available on both Mac and Windows operating systems.

I was talking to a patron just this past week at the Brigham Young University Family History Library who was telling me in no uncertain terms about the advantages of using Personal Ancestral File and why he will never change programs. At the same time as I was listening to this explanation, we were standing in a major, world-class library with a huge collection of highly sophisticated electronic equipment only a few feet away none of which would be of use at all to the PAF program. In fact, PAF did not even support attaching photos to individuals at all and image files would be too unimaginably large to fit on the floppy disk storage that was current at the time the program was abandoned.

If you do not want to maintain your PAF file as a PAF file, you can import that same information, in the form of a GEDCOM file into many other of the current programs available. If you do, you will not likely be able to go backward without losing a significant amount of the new data and features allowed by the newer programs. But this new version of Ancestral Quest just points out that we are constantly moving further and further away from the now archaic world of PAF.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Watch Live the #RootsTech 2017 Family Discovery Day

Here is the announcement from FamilySearch about watching the Family Discovery Day activities live on the internet.
Watch Family Discovery Day Liveby FamilySearch 
Are you and your family interested in learning how to begin discovering your family roots? Join us February 11, 2017 at RootsTech Family Discovery Day, a free event where individuals and families of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are inspired to discover and celebrate their family connections - past, present, and future - through inspiring messages, interactive activities, one-on-one help, and more. 
Can’t attend in-person? No worries. Family Discovery Day will be streamed live. 
Watch Family Discovery Day Live 
The Family Discovery Day livestream will begin with the Family Discovery Day General Session featuring inspiring messages from President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson. President and Sister Nelson will share their insight into the significance of family and give viewers a more intimate perspective into their family life as parents of 10 children, grandparents of 57 grandchildren, and great-grandparents of 89 great-grandchildren and counting. 
Other Family Discovery Day sessions that will be streamed live will include inspiring messages and stories from former NFL player and current television personality, Vai Sikahema, BYU head football coach, Kalani Sitake, and BYU professor of religion, and popular speaker, Hank Smith. 
Here’s How to Watch 
The Family Discovery Day General Session with Present and Sister Nelson will begin at 1:00 pm (MST) on February 11, 2017, and will be streamed live on the homepage of and through Mormon Channel’s YouTube channel, streaming platforms, and mobile apps. 
Other sessions will be streamed live through Mormon Channel and the Family History topics page on The schedule with session information and times will be available soon. 
The RootsTech Family Discovery Day livestream will be available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. 
Want to watch messages from Family Discovery Day 2016? Click here to watch Elder Dale G. Renlund, and family, Sheri Dew, Taysom Hill and more. For more information about RootsTech Family Discovery Day, visit

Special FamilySearch Ambassadors with help find names to take to the temples at RootsTech 2017

RootsTech 2017 will have specially trained FamilySearch Ambassadors who provide one-on-one help to those attending the Conference. Here is the entire explanation of the process:
Having trouble finding family names to take to the temple? Believe that all of your family history work is “done”? Don’t pass up this opportunity to receive one-on-one help from a FamilySearch certified ambassador.
Here’s how it works:

Share your goals with us by signing up for personalized help.

Select a day and time to meet with a FamilySearch ambassador.

Prior to your scheduled meeting, your ambassador will research your family tree.

On your selected day and time, your ambassador will personally walk you through a step-by-step plan resulting in family names you can take to the temple.
Please note that this experience is intended only for those who have previously been unsuccessful in finding family names for temple opportunities.
You can sign up today, by clicking here.

By the way, I have been offering to do this for anyone who would like my help for a number of years now and have successfully helped dozens (hundreds) of people find new ancestors and relatives with the opportunity to do temple ordinances. It can be a very time-consuming activity. I also have a fair amount of resistance because few people want to spend the time to learn how. If you want to see a summary of the process, I suggest viewing this video:

Begin at the Beginning: Helping Others to Love Family History

Are you lost on the FamilySearch Family Tree? Relationship Links help

Most genealogists have only a vague understanding of their complex system of family relationships. On the Family Tree, navigating through the complexity of descendants and multiple spouses and children from more than one marriage or union can be befuddling. Most of the time when I am showing someone how to find new people, the person watching me click through the family stops me and wants to know how they are related to the people where I have landed.

The newly instituted "View My Relationship" links help, but only if you know how to interpret the diagram. I think an illustration is in order. I recently went through a series of posts entitled, "How to Actually Find New Names to Take to the Temple." The last person in that series was named James Turner from Rolvenden, Kent, England. So how was I related to this individual? Hmm. Maybe a better question is whether I was related to him or not. I can see this relationship by entering his ID number in the Find by ID menu and going to his detail page.

Now, if I look at the links under his name, I will see the new link to "View My Relationship." By clicking on this link, I can see the following relationship chart.

It turns out that my relationship to him is rather straightforward. He is the husband of my 1st Cousin, Anne Bryant who is four generations removed. But what is even more important than the number of removed generations, is that I now have a really clear map of how to get to this person by clicking through the pedigree chart representation on the Family Tree. I no longer have to sit there are try to remember how I clicked back to get to this person.

More importantly, this chart gives me a graphic representation of those people that I need to verify before I can really claim any relationship at all. Here is a chart that shows what happens when there is no real relationship, even when people are present in the Family Tree. I can't get the whole chart into this screenshot, but here is the top part of the chart. I am off the chart down a few more generations down from the last person at the bottom left.

Hmm. There is a problem here. The chart doesn't show the red warning exclamation icons. But if I look at the dates on the pedigree I can start to see some problems.

Elizabeth Williams, at the top of the Relationship Chart, would have been twelve years old when she mothered Richard Morgan. But more importantly, as the warning message points out, Edward Morgan would have been a six-year-old father. Perhaps, these new Relationship charts could add the existing warning icons? But it is still important to look at the dates and go back to the pedigree charts to see the status of these people before assuming a relationship. So, the Relationship Chart may show how I might be related, but it doesn't imply that the links connecting me to this person are correctly entered into the Family Tree.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Let's Avoid "Headshots" in the FamilySearch Memories

The Memories program is a fantastic way to share photos, documents, stories and audio files, but there are some practices that have begun to appear that destroy the very artifacts the users are trying to preserve. One of these practices is that of making a "headshot" out of a photo. Older photographic practices rarely focused on just the head of the person in the photograph. But today, with commonly available photo-editing programs such as Photoshop and many others, people can manipulate the old photos to "improve" them for whatever reason.

The selection of photos above illustrates the problem of making a headshot out of a larger photo. In this example, the original photo and the headshot photo are both available. But this is not always the case. Here are the two photos. The first one is the headshot.

Here is the original photo that was cropped to make the headshot.

It almost goes without saying that the photo showing George and Ann Jarvis in the second photo has considerably more information and historical context than the cropped headshot. I suppose that there could be an argument made that the cropped image is somehow useful, but from an historical context, the loss of all the information in the original photo including the relationship between the husband and wife shown is lamentable and unnecessary.

Here is another example from the Memories section of Amelia Jarvis. This is the original photo.

And this is the cropped headshot.

If you look closely at the second, cropped photo, you will see that the cropping was done by cutting the original photo and putting it in a circular frame. This is a common "scrapbooking" practice and essentially destroys the original photo. I found many of these cut headshots in older "Books of Remembrance" pasted onto pedigree charts. One of the important things about the large photo, the dress worn by Amelia, is lost in the headshot. Examining the style of the dress is one important way to date the photo. By cutting out the dress, the photo becomes less valuable and harder to date. The second, headshot, photo is also of considerably lower quality than the original.

If all that you have is a headshot, by all means, include it in the person's memories section. But if you have a complete, uncropped photo do not crop it to show just the person's head. If you must do this, be sure to always include the more complete photo.