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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harvesting vs. Planting

I think that sometimes we pay token deference to the Law of the Harvest. We find a concise statement of the Law of the Harvest in Galatians 6:7-9:
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
If we have any understanding at all of the Law of the Harvest, why can we suppose that we can reap the benefits of the Family Tree in the form of "green icons" without sowing additional names through the work of research? Is family history somehow exempt from the Law of the Harvest? I think not. Apparently, there are those that somehow believe that the names in the Family Tree just grew there spontaneously and that all that is necessary to find the names of those who have been taught and accepted the Gospel in the Spirit World, is to click around and harvest these "free" names.

Let me set the record straight. None of the valid names in the Family Tree got there by magic. They are the results of hours, days, months, and years of hard work on the part of those who have dedicated a significant part of their lives to discovering the hidden records of their ancestors and recording their findings in a way that the names could be incorporated in the vast collection of names called the Family Tree. If you click on a green icon that is not there as a result of your own labor, you are benefiting from the harvest of others' labors.

As long as we are told and believe that the Family Tree is somehow an inexhaustible source of names to take to the temples, without spending the hard work necessary to find and record those names, we will be at risk from the negative consequences of the Law of the Harvest. We only benefit from the harvest by doing the work.

Family history or genealogy, whatever you wish to call it, is a complex and challenging pursuit. Is there some problem with letting those who wish to do the work know the qualifications for the work? Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants states:
1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. 
2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. 
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; 
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; 
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. 
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. 
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.
Are we missing the "laying up in store" part of the Family Tree?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Can an app find a name for you to take to the temple?

The App Gallery has links to approximately twenty-two programs that rely on the accuracy of the data in your portion of the Family Tree to provide you with either temple opportunities or information about your relatives and ancestors. If these programs work as you might expect, then why is there any need to do your "genealogy" and isn't genealogical research and all that goes with it simply a waste of time?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you are probably well aware that I frequently write about and provide webinars about the need to "clean up" the entries in the Family Tree. But this post is not just a repeat of the previous arguments and illustrations that I have previously used to show that nearly everyone has some errors in their portion of the Family Tree and some of us have major issues that can only be resolved by major surgery by cutting off unsupported and imaginary ancestral lines.

For this post, I decided to take three or more of the programs that purport to provide me with names using my own portion of the Family Tree and see exactly how reliable those leads really are. I am not going to mention the names or any identifying elements of the programs because that would not be fair to them and it would make it seem that I was targeting specific apps or programs. My point is simple: any program of any type that relies on the accuracy of the Family Tree will fall into the same trap.

Here we go.

Program #1 provided me with the following name for temple ordinances.

To start out, I chose to have the app search my ancestors. Little did I know that the program would take a considerable period of time to do this until I got tired and finally ended the search, The program did not find one name and it must have searched a couple of thousand or more names. With no results, I decided to add another program.

Program #2 provided me with the following name for temple ordinances.

I started the search with my second choice and this time I let the program search cousins.

The program found the following person.

Hmm. This person was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1903. The only ordinance needed was a sealing to spouse. The spouse was born in 1907 and just barely became available for ordinances under the 110 Year Rule. I decided to leave this ordinance for the immediate family. Since the dates on the completed ordinances showed that the ordinances had been done recently. I don't think that someone who was "harvesting" green icons would stop to make this evaluation. Also, since the only ordinance available was a sealing to spouse, I suggest that this is an issue with involving younger people in the process. I am getting a lot of ideas about future blog post topics. Of course, by publicizing this opportunity, someone who is unrelated to the family, could come in and try to take advantage of this opportunity.

I decided to use the same program to find another "opportunity." Once again, I was stuck with the program searching for a long period of time. The program finally finished working away and here was one of the names found:

This was once again a sealing to spouse. So anyone finding this "opportunity" could have reserved the name. Hmm. But in looking at the entries, it was obvious that there was a duplicate. Here is a screenshot showing the duplicate spouse.

In effect, this entry opens up a whole series of corrections that need to be made to the Family Tree. Upon resolving the duplicate entry, the "opportunity" disappeared. But if I didn't realize there was a duplicate, I could have reserved the name and duplicated the ordinance work. This is the main issue with the green icon finding programs. They are better at finding problems to be resolved than they are finding actual opportunities.

Program #3 had a brief disclaimer about the accuracy of the searches and was just as slow as the other two programs. When the results finally started coming in, the program found the same name I had already looked at above with the 110 Year Rule issue. After examining more than 1100 relatives, the program found no more ordinances. The danger of going back further is that it increases the possibility that the entries are inaccurate.  See the following video:

Untangling the Mess on the FamilySearch Family Tree - James Tanner

At this point, I would like to point out that I have found a significant number of people needing ordinances by cleaning up the entries and doing research, at times, extensive research. The supply of "green icons" is finite.

Because two of the programs so far have been inconclusive, I decided to try yet another.

Program #4 didn't work at all.

It is true that these programs can find "opportunities" (when they actually work). But it is also true that the opportunities turn out to be opportunities to do some research and think about the entries rather than being automatically available. More about this in the near future.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Duplicate Ghost Records on the FamilySearch Family Tree

The Family Tree has come a long way since it began with its burden of the database and program. It has now been more than a year since the program was completely cut-off from the older program and we could begin to resolve the issue of millions of duplicate records. Because so many duplicate entries have been resolved, you might get the impression that duplicate entries were no longer a problem in the Family Tree. However, while working on the Family Tree, many of us who are doing intensive research still find significant numbers of duplicates.

When connecting new entries to or when searching for records using the link to, both of these programs will often show duplicate entries that are unable to be detected by a search using the resources of the Family Tree. In other words, there are still a number of "ghost" entries in the Family Tree that are undisclosed. In addition, as research reveals additional facts about a family it is fairly common to find additional duplicate entries of the family members.

One common source for finding these new entries comes when working with a family from England. I often find what appears to be a person who is not married. Some basic research soon produces a spouse. Further research shows that the couple had children. However, upon adding the names of the children, I find that individual ordinances were done for the children and are recorded in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). When I add those children into the family, I often find duplicates. The reason for this is quite simple. Since those children have never been included previously in the family, no one has ever done a search for duplicate entries.

There are also third-party programs that can assist in finding random duplicates. Even though I have been systematically checking for duplicates and merging them when appropriate, there is still a considerable number of duplicates out there waiting to be resolved. Here's a screenshot of the search using Find-A-Record, a useful utility program.

This list of possible duplicates was still produced after more than a year of work by me and my family to systematically attempt to resolve all of the duplicates in our lines. The first entry had an immediately identifiable duplicate. Here is a screenshot showing the duplicate entry from the Family Tree.

By looking at the history of this entry, it is evident that this record came from the nearly inexhaustible source of duplicates existing in the database. Since there has not been as much emphasis lately about the duplicate entries in the Family Tree, perhaps it is time to retrench and get back to the basic issues of the data set used by the Family Tree and remind all of the users that many duplicates still exist.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Parade of BYU Family History Library Videos Continues Unabated

We like to keep busy at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Summer at a university creates its own problems. Most of the students are on summer vacation and the academic schedule is difficult to plan around. I, for one, have also been out and about and I cut back on my usual load of videos but the other contributors more than made up the difference, especially Kathryn Grant and Bob Taylor. Here are the last five videos posted to our BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.

Duplicates in Family Tree Part 1: Why They're There and How to Find Them - Kathryn Grant

Duplicates in Family Tree Part 2 How to Resolve Them - Kathryn Grant

Remember to subscribe to our Channel. The number of subscribers helps the videos become more visible on 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The FamilySearch Partner Tracks on The Family History Guide

The Family History Guide has undergone a major expansion. Learning Tracks for each of the three major Partner Programs have been added to the website. These Partner Tracks include,, and When you choose your Learning Track, the instructions in The Family History Guide are then adapted to the chosen website.

The idea here is that by choosing a different track, the Projects change and all the Goals and Choices reflect the chosen website. For example, by choosing the track, I get the following screen:

The red arrows indicate the logos that show you that you are working in the track of the website. If I change to a different track, such as, then the instructions change to reflect that website.

In case you get lost, just click on the link to the Home page and you will get back to the beginning.

This new set of instructions, added to an already valuable website, makes The Family History Guide the "go-to" place to learn about all four of these valuable genealogy websites. The website is in "Beta" release until November 15, 2017, so you can expect the changes and the content to expand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Where Are the Digitized Records on

Where are the Digitized Records on

A suggestion from FamilySearch got me started in making a short video showing where all the digitized microfilm records are going on the website. For some time now, I have been writing about the Catalog and its importance in the online research process. I guess my message is not getting much traction. I still find many people in my classes who do not use the Catalog to assist them and many more who have never even looked at it.

I will be writing more about the Catalog in the near future.

Monday, August 14, 2017

FamilySearch Facebook Post: Family History Centers are Now in the Home

The above graphic appeared on Facebook on August 13, 2017. It refers to a talk entitled, "Roots and Branches" given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in General Conference in April of 2014. Recent technological developments have underscored the fact that the "traditional" model of a FamilySearch Family History Center is undergoing a revolutionary change.

The most recent development, the discontinuance by FamilySearch of microfilm rentals to Family History Centers, removes one of the staple reasons for visiting and using the resources of the Family History Centers around the world. In reality, here in the United States, many of the smaller Family History Centers had very limited microfilm involvement in any event. Removing microfilm rentals from the Family History Centers will have an impact on the use of some centers by "serious" researchers. This result will be even more marked as the existing FamilySearch microfilm collection is finally completely (as possible) digitized and available for free online.

For the average person, living in a well-developed country, with access to the internet and who has previously done little or no family history research, online and home-based sources are perfectly adequate to find the first four generations or so. But, any attempt to extend a pedigree beyond the first few generations requires resources that are not readily available or even reliable without additional effort.

For example, a child born into my Tanner family lines and who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will automatically have six or seven generations of extensively documented ancestry on the Family Tree. For that child to do any reliable extensions of any of the Tanner family lines would require intense and involved research. However, that may not be the case for the non-Tanner family lines. To support this changing situation, the U.S. Family History Centers will need to move to a support and training mode.

When we had a large yard and many fruit trees, the "low hanging" fruit was the first picked and the first depleted. It usually did not take very long before we had to spend considerably more effort to find ripe fruit using chairs and ladders. The same thing will inevitably happen with those working on the Family Tree. The "low hanging" fruit, i.e. those people who are easily found with readily available resources will soon be found. The only real way that progress will ultimately be made after this first gathering, will be to have people who are prepared and trained in finding and resolving the more difficult research issues.

Let me give an example. Let's suppose I was just starting out doing my own genealogical research today as opposed to 35 or so years ago. I could go onto and I would see thousands of the names of my ancestors on all my family lines. How long would it take me to figure out which of these thousands of entries were correct and which were wrong? Would I even suspect that what was showing in the Family Tree was both incomplete and in many cases inaccurate? True, I would have a huge reservoir of resources, but how would I know where to start and how to find additional opportunities to add to what was already there?

The answer, in part, is the new paradigm of the "Consultant Planner." However, this model also assumes that the "trainers" have been and are trained. For many years after I began doing my own genealogical research, I had to puzzle out the way to proceed on my own. I had no trainers or mentors. I am also guessing that most, perhaps nearly all, of the current involved genealogical researchers went through a similar process. Today, I would have access to The Family History Guide. But how would I know it existed? Last night, I taught a class to approximately 30 Temple and Family History Consultants and from the reaction of those present, very few were aware of any of the resources I talked about during the class.

I agree that much of the genealogical research that has been traditionally done in Family History Centers can now be done in the home. But how will those sitting in their homes know about the resources that are available? How will the Ward and Stake Temple and Family History Consultants know enough to teach them?