Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, November 27, 2021

An important message from The Family History Guide


For many years now, my wife and I have been working on The Family History Guide website. This free research and educational website is invaluable in learning about genealogical research and a whole lot more. The Family History Guide is funded by a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization. All of the work that has gone into the website is voluntary. We are at a crucial point in the funding for the organization. Here is a letter from one of the founders of the website explaining the situation. 

Greetings and Happy Holidays!

I’m Bob Ives, the Executive Director and co-founder of The Family History Guide Association. I urge you to please take a few moments and read this entire update.  

Our mission is “to greatly increase the number of people actively involved in family history worldwide, and to make everyone's family history journey easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable.” To that end, we have been very busy during the pandemic. Here are a few things of note:

  • The Family History Guide website has had visitors from over 150 countries.

  • The website is used for training in many locations, including over 5,000 family history centers, the BYU Family History Library, Riverton FamilySearch Library, and the FamilySearch Library (Salt Lake), genealogical societies, and public libraries, as well as in many Latter-day Saint wards and stakes.

  • The Family History Guide Association has distributed over 50,000 pass-along cards across the United States and Canada.

  • Our team has delivered training and information to hundreds of people in state and regional genealogical societies, private groups, wards, stakes, etc, in the United States and Canada.

  • We continue to be a proud training partner with Family Search. "The Family History Guide is approved by FamilySearch as a training resource."

  • We have thousands of followers on our social media groups including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, with a special Facebook Page for trainers and consultants.

  • Our free, weekly Blog has thousands of subscribers and features a voice option for the visually impaired.

  • The Family History Guide is now available in over 100 languages using Google Translate on the site.

  • Research training and links are available for over 100 countries.

  • We have added over 500 family history tips in our Tip Of The Day series.

  • We have a number of non-paid, volunteer staff and trainers from around the country who devote many hours to making The Family History Guide better and being our evangelists to spread the word.

  • The Family History Guide continues to be free to all users.

The Family History Guide© Association continues to be fully funded through private donations; there is no advertising on the website. The pandemic has greatly impacted our donor funding, and we need additional funding to continue operations. We are a 501(c)3  charitable non-profit, and your donations are tax-deductible in most cases. Click here to see some of the talented people on our Board of Directors and staff, and click here to see what we do.

There are so many ways to donate.  Here are a few:



We are asking you to please consider donating to help us continue the phenomenal spread of The Family History Guide throughout the world. We need immediate help to meet our many commitments such as RootsTech, The National Genealogical Society, Zoom training sessions, printing, web hosting, mailing, software licenses, and so many other ongoing expenses. All of our staff and Board Members are non-paid volunteers, as are hundreds of other trainers and supporters throughout the world. All donations go directly to our mission.

To find out how you can help with this incredible resource,

Please click here.

If you have questions regarding how you might donate, please do not hesitate to contact me at my private email.

Thank you for your time and support, and may you have a happy and blessed holiday season!

Seasons wishes!

I heartily endorse what Bob has written. Please help if you are able.

How does the Family Tree Work? Digging Into the entire website, Part Eight

One possible title for this post was "How does the Family Tree work or not work?" but I decided on a shorter title. The FamilySearch Family Tree is unique in many ways. It is ultimately a service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a major, international church headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The website was developed and is maintained by FamilySearch, a non-profit corporation owned by the Church. FamilySearch is the trade name of the Genealogical Society of Utah, an organization dating back to 1894. Because of deeply religious beliefs, the Church has spent a huge amount of time and expended significant resources in gathering and preserving historic, genealogically important records. Ultimately, these records are preserved and stored in a huge granite vault built into the side of a canyon in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, Utah. The online records of the FamilySearch website are backed up daily on huge commercial server farms around the country and I suppose around the world. For these reasons alone, the website is unique and in my opinion, an international treasure. The website is also free and can be accessed by anyone interested in discovering their own ancestral heritage. 

The Family Tree (I will continue referring to to this part of the website as just the "Family Tree.) is based on a wiki design. Years ago, the concept of an online wike was controversial. You can read about the history of wikis in detail in this Wikipedia article: History of wikis. One of the hallmarks of a wiki is the preservation of the history of every change to the database. The Family Tree, from the beginning has preserved the history of all the changes to each entry. You can click and see the history from any page. The history of the entries in an integral part of the operation of the Family Tree and one of its most important features. 

At this point in this post, I am going to recommend that anyone who does not understand how the Family Tree works take the time to learn from The Family History Guide instructions on how the website works. If you are at all frustrated, discouraged, or otherwise unhappy with the Family Tree, I suggest you learn more about how it works. Knowledge is power and those who know extensively how the Family Tree does work are the only ones in a real position to question the parts that do not seem to work. Believe me, there is an active group of people who are beyond the term experts in the Family Tree that work on entering data every day of the year and are extremely accurate in pointing out deficiencies and problems with the website and do so on a regular basis directly to FamilySearch. 

Here, I repeat my commonly written statement about the Family Tree. The Family Tree works extremely well. Almost all of the "problems" people have with the Family Tree arise from the data entered not the function of the Family Tree itself. However, I must add that the Family Tree is evolving and changing as it grows and becomes more inclusive. It is a wiki and if the data in the Family Tree is wrong, you can change it. Over time, I have seen the Family Tree become a vast storehouse of valuable, very accurate, family history information. It will outlast the critics. 

Why does it work? Because wikis, by their nature and because they depend on human nature, tend to get more accurate over time. The Family Tree has millions of sources added each year. Despite the undercurrent of dissatisfaction because "people add wrong information" most of the tree is stable. As I have mentioned many times, I follow almost 400 people on the Family Tree and I am notified every week about any changes to any of the people I am following. Granted, I get over 100 changes every week except that nearly all these changes are always to the same half a dozen or so people all of whom are Mayflower passengers or descendants of the passengers. 

The Family Tree works because it is designed to work. Users enter the information as they know it to be and more frequently now with source in the form of a historical genealogical record. You can think of the parts of the Family Tree that don't have supporting sources as wishful thinking or imagination but these parts flourish when someone comes along and starts adding sources. The core part of my own part of the Family Tree hasn't changed in years. When some of the lines get back into the 1700s and 1600s, they begin to have more changes, although some of the lines back that far haven't changed in years also. 

Some of us view correcting and adding to the Family Tree to be the main activity of our personal genealogical research efforts. Of course, I spend a huge amount of time finding, searching, and evaluating historical documents, but sometimes those documents are easily accessed and searched using all the digital files online. I can usually add many sources to families in the 1800s without spending any time in a library or archive. 

When does the Family Tree not work? The answer is when someone thinks that they own their ancestors and forget that we are all related and have the same claim. Those people I talk to about their issues with the Family Tree are usually somehow deluded by the idea that they personally should control the information added and that they personally have all the right answers about their family. In some cases, frustration about the Family Tree comes from not understanding its basic function. Of course, there are also people who just do not have the computer skills or researching skills to understand how the Family Tree works. These people can be helped and educated. 

Now, is there a reason to back up your own work on the Family Tree? Yes, I find it helpful to have a separate copy of the information on the Family Tree and to keep working on one or two other trees so I can have an easy reference when any information is lost or changed. So, even if you don't want to spend your time working on the Family Tree, I suggest that you might want to have your information preserved and this will best be done by having a copy of your work on the Family Tree. Don't think about the Family Tree as something for your own generation. I am already seeing my children and grandchildren working on the Family Tree and they know a lot about computers, wikis, and all the rest. 

Here are the previous posts in what is going to be a very long series. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

RootsTech 2022 Coming Soon


I just uploaded my video for RootsTech 2022, I have been doing more than one video a week for a long time, so adding another one for RootsTech 2022 had to be put in the queue. You realize, of course, that RootsTech 2022 is going to online just as it was last year; 100% virtual and 100% free. I have been wondering how they think we will all go back and pay to go in person but who knows.

Now about RootsTech 2022. Here is what is coming. 
  • Inspiring keynote speakers
  • Unlimited access to over 1,500 sessions
  • Expo Hall with companies from around the world
  • Playlists, chat, and much more
There were well over a million people who came online for the conference in 2021 and I expect a lot more in 2022. By the way, all the sessions from 2021 are still online and free. Some of the videos The Family History Guide put up last year have had thousands of views. You can view the past presentations from the current website. Here is a screenshot of the 2022 website for RootsTech.

Live Text OCR transfers text in photos to word processing


This is an old public domain book from some research I have been doing recently as an example. I took the photo above with my iPhone 13 Pro Max using iOS 15. In the past, this was the end of the process. I would have a photo of the page and then, if I wanted to quote the book, I would have to manually copy out the text. But wait, there is optical character recognition. I should be able to read this text so I don't have to spend some time manually copying the text into my word processor. There are a number of programs to do this but now, I can use my iPhone to read the text and then copy it directly into my iMac's memory and paste it into Microsoft Word. Really, all in one or two steps. 

Here is the pasted text from the image above:

their holdings were "jumped" by outsiders. Wilford has
been entirely vacated, but Heber still has residents.
Where Salt Was Secured
Salt for the early settlements of northern Arizona very
generally was secured from the salt lake of the Zuni, just
east of the New Mexican line, roughly 33 miles from St.
As early as 1865, Sol Barth brought salt on pack
mules from this lake to points as far westward as Prescott.
In the records of a number of the Little Colorado settle-
ments are found references to where the brethren visited
a salt lake and came back with as much as two tons at a
load. This lake is of sacred character to the Zuni, which
at certain times of the year send parties of priests and
warriors to the lake, 45 miles south of the tribal village.
There is elaborate ceremonial before salt is collected. Un-
doubtedly the lake was known to prehistoric peoples, for
salt, probably obtained at this point, has been found in
diff ruins in southern Colorado, 200 miles from the source
of supply. The Zuni even had a special goddess, Mawe,
genius of the sacred salt lake, or "Salt Mother," to whom
offerings were made at the lake. Warren K. Follett, in 1878,
told that the lake lies 300 feet lower than the general sur-
face of the country.
The salt forms within the water, in
layers of from three to four inches thick, and is of remark-
able purity.
The Hopi secured salt from a ledge in the Grand Canyon,
below the mouth of the Little Colorado, about eighty miles
northwest of their villages. At the point of mining, sacrifices
were made before shrines of a goddess of salt and a god of
war. The place has had description by Dr. Geo. Wharton
James, whose knowledge of the gorge is most comprehen-
On the upper Verde and in Tonto Creek Valley are salt
deposits, though very impure. Upper Salt River has a
small deposit of very good sodium chloride, which was mined
mainly for the mills of Globe, in the seventies. The Verde

I do need to format the text but I would have to do that as I typed it in anyway. I do not have to copy out text in a book every again. 

Will it read handwriting? Yes, as long as it is fairly legible. Here is a link to the instructions about how this works: "Hands-on: Here’s how iPhone’s Live Text OCR works in iOS 15." I always have my phone next to my computer but now I will be using it to transfer quotes into my research. Always attribute any quote with a citation, please. 

Imagine that you are doing research in a library and find a book with some information you would like to copy. You take a pile of photos and dread transcribing them. Here you go. A fast way to get the text from every image. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Digging Into the entire website: Digital Images, Indexes, and the Catalog (Part Seven)


As I pointed out in a recent post about, only 20% (their figure) of the images on the website are indexed. What this means is that when you go to the Historical Records Collection and search for a name, you are only searching 20% of the records. So where are the rest of the records? Answering that question takes a lot of digging into the website. 

First, a few comments about indexing. If you look at the index of a book (if there is one), you will probably see a list of terms that are in the book and the pages where those terms may be found. An index is intended to help you find information when that information is mixed up with a lot more information that you don't want to look at that moment. So, in effect, an index is a finding aid. Indexing does not answer your questions, it just helps you find some information that may answer your question (the type of question you are asking doesn't really matter). The people creating the index choose which terms in the document or book to index. The terms they use to search are now referred to as "metadata," a set of data that describes and gives information about other data, When you are "indexing" records from the website, the metadata desired has already been determined. For example, you might be asked to index the first name, middle name, surname or last name, date of birth, place of birth, and so forth. The indexing fields or terms are metadata, they provide you with information about the record, that is, you can use the index to find specific entries that match your search terms. 

Let me illustrate. Let's suppose that you wanted to find a death record for this person in a Danish record. 

Christen Jensen, b. June 1794 in Wollen, Hørby, Hjørring, Denmark. 

You could go to the Historical Record Collections on the FamilySearch Website and do search using these fields:

Note the new search page. Anyway, I have entered the search terms in the search fields (metadata established by the programmers). When I click the Search button, FamilySearch's search engine (the programming that compares your entry for each item of metadata) with the information (text) in the documents. Except there is a problem. The search engine can't read the text. The text has to be indexed (metadata terms need to be identified) and the index can then be used by search engine to find what you are looking for. Here is the results of this search using the FamilySearch index for these records. 

Hmm. I got an entire page of Christen Jensens. If I keep scrolling down, I will find hundreds of Cristen Jensens. If I focus on the place I entered, Wollen, Horby, Hjørring, Denmark, I do not see any of records in the first 100 that match my search terms. I don't suppose this ever happens to you but it happens to me all the time. He is actually Christen Jensen LH1L-TXV in the FamilySearch Family Tree and he is the first person in the list. He also has 54 sources attached. Why did I get so many false positives? (Results that closely match my search terms but are not the right person). Well, I did find the right person, I just didn't immediately recognize him as the right person. What seemed like a straight forward search has turned into a mess. Well, here is one thought. Someone wrote the name of the place as Wollen, Horby, Hjørring, Denmark but now we move to a different level: cataloging. The place "Wollen" which if it exists is probably a house, really should be written as Hørby, Dronninglund, Hjørring, Denmark, This is the way the place is described in catalogs of place names. That is assuming we have the right place and name in the first place. 

A catalog is different than an index. A catalog is an attempt to organize the information, usually individual records, books, or whatever, into manageable categories. Each of those categories are then subdivided into smaller categories. Categories work well with geographic names. For example, here is set of categories from the Catalog. 

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Barão de Melgaço

You might notice that the catalog entry is the reverse of the standard way to record place names. That is because the catalog starts out with the largest inclusive category first and then continues to subdivide the entry into smaller categories. This method allows a cataloging system to catalog a single item but also makes it difficult to understand as you try to guess the categories. 

You have probably heard of a cataloging system called the Dewey Decimal System. This organizes libraries across the United States. There are several large cataloging systems including the Library of Congress (the most difficult to understand) and some popular in Europe. 

The opposite of a catalog system is a character-by-character (individual letters and symbols) search. This is the most common way computers search. When you enter a string of characters, such as a name, a program called a search engine begins comparing the string to any similar string in the target search area. The whole process is really much more complicated but is partially what does when it searches indexed documents. It uses the index and a basis for the string search. This is also partially the reason why you get thousands of responses to a simple name search.

Now back to the 20% issue. What percentage of all the rest of the unindexed records on the website are cataloged? It wasn't very long ago that the answer would be all of them, but some time ago, FamilySearch started adding digital records online that were not cataloged or indexed. Where are these records? They are in the "Images" section of the website.  You go to the search tab at the top of the screen and click on the second item, "Images." You then enter a country and continue clicking. I will have a lot more to say about images in the next installments of this series. 

By the way, as I think about it, I could easily write a book about genealogical searching on computers, except who reads books?

Here are the previous posts in what is going to be a very long series. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

New Temple Reservation Policy for FamilySearch


Note: This post only applies to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are genealogists with names reserved for temple ordinances. For an explanation of temple ordinances see Temples

One of the long standing issues with the ordinance reservation process was that there was no limit to the number of reserved names any one individual could accumulate. In some cases, for some people, the number of reserved names gave them bragging rights. For some time now, there have been two programs that help to minimize the need for having a large number of people locked up in your reserved list. The first is Ordinances Ready. This program gives members of the Church the opportunity to find names for specific ordinances on demand at the time of a temple visit. The second important program involves changes to the way ordinances shared with the temple are available. Any name shared with the temple by you can be unshared as long as the ordinances have not been given to a temple for completion. In effect, your "reserved list" is obsolete. 

Now we come to the announcement that the "New Temple Reservation Policy Helps Youth and Individuals Enjoy More Temple Blessings." Here is a quote of the substance of this announcement. 

Starting on November 17, 2021, temple reservation lists with family names will have a new maximum of 300 reservations. If your temple reservation list has more than 300 reservations when the maximum is put in place, the reservations will remain on your list until they are completed or shared or until they reach their ordinary expiration date. The purpose of this new policy is to encourage more participation among all living relatives that share the same family lines, especially youth and new converts.

Here is a link to a more complete explanation of how this works, "Update for Temple Ordinance Reservation Lists—New 300 Count." Here is also an article answering questions about the change, "Answers to Questions | Personal Temple Reservation Lists, New Limit." 

From my own experience, I have been suggesting that a limit be imposed for many years now. There is a physical limit to how many ordinances one individual or one family can do and with the ability to share names with other family members and also retrieve those shared, the limit is reasonable. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

MyHeritage expands into Heritage Travel by partnership with Expedia


A partnership with Expedia and a Heritage Travel Hub will add some interesting and exciting features to Here is the new Heritage Travel Hub

MyHeritage's Heritage Travel Hub

MyHeritage explains that the site contains rich content that bridges family history research with planning a memorable, heritage-oriented trip. MyHeritage goes on to say,
Visitors to the site will learn about researching family history, peruse true stories about heritage trips and family reunions, and find suggestions for historical sites, cultural landmarks, and culinary experiences that they can add to their itinerary when visiting their ancestral homelands.

MyHeritage is also offering a contest for a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip. You can see more details on the Hub.  

Here is a video about the adventure of finding out about your ancestral heritage and the opportunity to see the places where your ancestors and located.