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

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Understanding Merging on the FamilySearch Family Tree


The Family Tree was originally seeded with previously collected individual and family histories from five major collections: the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, and Membership and Temple records from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These records were not directly added to the Family Tree. They were previously used as the basis for the website. By using these databases, the release of the Family Tree automatically had millions of duplicate entries. As an example, the individual shown above is a duplicate entry. Here is the entry that appears in my view of the Family Tree. 

Some time ago, FamilySearch implemented a program routine that eliminated millions of these duplicate records. In addition, users of the website have been working to eliminate a significant number of additional duplicates not detected by the FamilySearch program. Notwithstanding this effort on behalf of both, there are still a significant number of duplicate entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree. 

As a result of this duplication, FamilySearch has implemented sophisticated features to detect and merge duplicates. As you work with the website, you will see notices of duplicate records. What if the duplicates do not appear.

If you recognize that this person is a duplicate, despite the lack of a notice from FamilySearch, you can merge the two individuals using ID numbers. But you can also have the program look for similar people. Beginning with the first person above, I looked for similar people using alternative spellings of the surname. I soon found the following similar individuals. 

The program immediately found the duplicate. So now we have Jacob Abraham DeVries 29CP-HH5 and Jacob Abraham De Friez BM9R-QX1. Another place that a duplicate might show up is when you look for records. The record search will show the person with a record attached that matches your person. There are some limitations and you may have to search with alternative names. Here is an example using some alternative spelling. 

These examples are certainly not all the places duplicates show up that are not detected by FamilySearch. Another common example is when you see children in a family with the same name. It is possible that one child died young and the next child of the same sex was given the same name as the deceased child. This practice was common in many European countries and possible elsewhere around the world. This means that two or more children with the same name must not be assumed to be duplicates but very well may be. 

When you create a new person for the Family Tree, the website will look for a match. 

If you find that there is a duplicate, you can choose to use the existing person and stop trying to create a new person thus avoiding a duplicate. If you create a new person, there will then be an additional duplicate on the website. 

Merging the duplicate is straightforward. When a duplicate is found by FamilySearch, you simply follow the directions and compare the two individuals and then merge them if they turn out to be duplicates. But in the examples I have given, you need to merge the duplicates by ID number. 

You can then proceed to compare and then merge the two people. At this point, you will have already made the decision that the two people are duplicates so the process should be easier than comparing two individuals that a suggested by FamilySearch as duplicates. 

If you continue with the merge process, the issue is whether the two people match and are really duplicates. In all these cases, not all of the information needs to be the same. Variations in names and dates are common but different places need to be examined carefully. Two people can have the same name, the same spouse's name, and some of the children with the same names but when the places are different this raises an issue requiring more research. Here is an example of a situation where all the pertinent information is the same. 

The person who survives should be the one with the most correct information. The process allows you to choose which entries will be preserved in the merging process. 

After a careful review, if you decide to merge the two records, You will be asked to provide a reason for the merge. Here are the stock answers from FamilySearch.

You need to make a choice and finish the merge. The merged record is still in existence but is marked as deleted. As long as no further changes are made, you can unmerge the records by viewing the Change log. If this all seems to be complicated, it is. But once you find a few duplicates and go through the process, you will find it to become fairly routine with some notable exceptions. 

If you need additional help, see The Family History Guide section on Merging in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Saturday, August 28, 2021

New Video about Understanding the Website

Here is the video version of my recent blog post on the same subject. Please take a moment to watch the video and subscribe to my YouTube Channel



Hmm. is an exact copy of the regular website. So why is there a copy of the entire website online for free? The copy is a sandbox or a place where you can practice, learn, make changes and demonstrate adding information without doing permanent damage to the "real" website. You sign into the Beta website in exactly the same way you do for the real website. 

The only danger is that you might forget you are signed into the Beta version and spend some time adding and correcting the information and then lose everything you have done. Also, the website is only periodically (once a year) updated from the real FamilySearch website so the information is almost immediately outdated. You can see the differences between the two websites by putting them side-by-side. 

The real website is on the right and the Beta website is on the left. You can click on the image to see an enlarged version. 

Sometimes, you can find experimental, new features that might be added to the real website incorporated for testing purposes. 

If you are unsure about how a feature on the website works, you can "play around with the feature on the Beta website without worrying about whether or not you are going to ruin the website. You can also use the website to teach without worrying about the persistence of the changes you make. 

It is just a good idea to know that the website exists and can be used for almost everything except preserving the information you add to individuals. 

Be careful to remember you are working on the Beta website and don't inadvertently add information or make changes you want to keep.  

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Ancestry adds over 3.5 million free Freedmen's Bureau Records has added a collection of over 3.5 million Freedmen's Bureau records that are free to search. The U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau was established in 1865 to help the nearly four million newly freedmen and women manage their transition from enslavement to citizenship, the Freedmen’s Bureau assisted with land and property, relief programs, medical care, and educational support—among many other important endeavors. What is little known is that the Freedmen's Bureau also contain many records of poor white people. 

Here is a link to an introductory video by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

From a genealogical standpoint, these records have the potential of extending research back into the 1700s for some families. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Understanding User Changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

 Understanding user changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

My plan is to take some of the topics raised by my blog posts and turn them into videos. How many I do depends on my time and energy. They are mostly uncut and unedited commentaries. If you want to see more subscribe to my channel, if not, read the blog posts. I will also be adding videos on other topics. I guess I have more to say than all the videos on the Brigham Young University Family History Library Channel and The Family History Guide Channel and elsewhere on and other places on the internet I probably don't remember or even know about. 

Just remember, if you are ever plagued by insomnia, you have an almost instant cure from listening to my videos. Take care, don't overdo. 

What are the "changes" being made to the Family Tree?


If you are working consistently on maintaining your part of the Family Tree, you probably know that you can "follow" (previously watch) people you are interested in preserving. Because the Family Tree is entirely user driven and by its nature cooperative, any of your relatives could add content, change content, or delete content in any given week. If you click on the star located on an individual ancestor's startup page, you will start receiving a notification email of all the changes made to the people you follow on a weekly basis directly from FamilySearch. The image above is an example of part of the list for one week. 

The changes fall into distinct categories and not all of them a bad or unwanted. However, some of them are merely like weeds in a garden; unwanted and bothersome. You only have to react to those changes that affect the accuracy of the Family Tree entries. Here are some examples of the types of changes you might run into.

1. A change to a revolving door ancestor from either adding incorrect information or correcting the bad information added. Here is a screenshot of one from a current week. 

I have cropped this image so you cannot see the person who made the change. When you receive the list, the information on the list includes a like to the person making the change. You can then send that person a message directly through the FamilySearch website or you can send an email message if the person has made his or her email available. 

Esther Brownell LWQZ-G2B is someone who is in my direct line to Mayflower passengers. She is commonly changed by people who have no idea about the existence of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants research in what are called the Silver Books. In this particular week there were seven changes made to Esther Brownell. In this case, someone tried to add another husband with the same name and the person making the change shown above corrected the entry. There was nothing I needed to do because the person making the final change was known to me to be reliable. The person who corrected the entry merged the duplicate husband. 

You can decide if you want to participate in the constant flow of changes for this type of person or not. If you do, I suggest you take some time to become completely familiar with all the listed sources and any issues that might still be residual in nature. Do not make a change unless you absolutely know what you are doing. Bear in mind that with people in this capacity, there are sources that disagree. 

There were several other weekly changes to other people in this revolving door category. I am not presently working on maintaining any of them. If I am concerned about the changes being made, I keep a complete copy of all the sources and information on and I can then have an almost instant reference point for correcting an inaccurate entry. 

2. People with good intentions tidying up the entries. 

I have to admit that these people are helping in some instances as long as they don't delete any useful information or detach sources. They could better spend their time actually doing research however. 

3. Sources attached. 

This is a good thing except for the sources that aren't really sources such as a citation to another Ancestry family tree. I mostly ignore these unless I am involved in doing research about the family. 

4. Actually adding incorrect information without a supporting source. 

This is really less common than any of the other change issue. Here is an example with the response made. 

This is the response. You can see the details of the change by clicking on the name of the person being changed and then going to see all the changes being made. Here someone added a father to one of my ancestors without adding a substantiating source citation. The newly added father was simply removed by someone who knew what was going on. Again, there was nothing I needed to do because the correction was made by someone else who was watching with the correct response. 

There are probably some variations on these basic types of changes but all of them can be resolved as long as you do your research and separately maintain a list of sources. There is absolutely no reason to look at all changes as bad. Granted, there is a lot of misinformation and sloppy research out there, but overall the Family Tree is becoming more accurate all the time. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Immigration: The First and Last Big Challenge in Genealogical Research


Immigrants on Ellis Island. Photo by William H. Rau. Public domain.

Ultimately, almost all genealogists and family historians will have to confront identifying the place of origin of an immigrant. In the United States of America, sooner or later going back in time, even those who claim Native American ancestry ultimately were immigrants from some other part of the world. In some cases, research ends with a lack of records long before the immigrant is even identified. What is an immigrant? The best definition is a person who lives in a country they were not born in. The status of the person in the country of arrival may affect the records that are available to identify the immigrant but the genealogical research issues remain essentially the same. 

This is the first and last rule of immigrant research:

All immigrant research begins in country of arrival NOT in the country of departure. 

Here are some frequently asked questions. 

How do I know if my ancestor was the immigrant?

Although there are situations where records run out before you identify the immigrant, in many cases the immigrant is identified by records in the country of arrival. For example, United States Federal Census records for the years 1850 shows the person's country or state of birth. Although this information may or may not be accurate, it is one indication of immigrant status. Some other types of records that may disclose immigrant status include military records, vital records, school records, family Bibles, and many others. 

How do I know if my immigrant ancestors change his or her name when the came to country of arrival?

There is still a persistent myth that the United States government or other governments around the world change the names of immigrants. This is not the case. Changes in the immigrants name can come from mistakes in transcription, decisions made by the immigrant, a desire on the part of the immigrant to appear more like a native, and many other reasons. Sometimes, the immigrant's name was merely translated into the language of the country of arrival. Some name changes are obvious but others take a great deal of research into multiple source documents. 

Do passenger lists help identify the immigrant?

A passenger list may provide the crucial information about an immigrant and identify others who were traveling with the immigrant but don't be confused about the difference between the port of departure and the ultimate place where the immigrant resided in the country of departure. Common ports of departure such as Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany are not usually the place of origin. 

Does the United States of America have immigration records?

The answer to this question is both yes and no depending on the time of arrival. Before 1882, there were no immigration laws in the United States. On August 3, 1882, the forty-seventh United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1882. It is considered by many to be "first general immigration law" due to the fact that it created the guidelines of exclusion through the creation of "a new category of inadmissible aliens." Before that time, a immigrant could essentially walk across the border and take up residence in the United States. 

What if my ancestor was a refugee? 

Presently, in the United States, refugees have a special legal status but many refugees, such as my ancestors who took refuge in Mexico, had no legal status at all. Identifying the country of origin can become complicated when the country no longer exists as a country. This is particularly true in areas of the world such as Europe where national boundaries have changed extensively. 

What do I need to know about the country of departure?

Knowing the name of the country of departure is just the beginning. Remember, many people have the same names. In most cases, accurate identification of the place of departure must identify the town, neighborhood, or even the farm or house where the immigrant lived in the country of origin or departure. 

Where can I go to find out how to do immigrant research?

I always have the same two suggestions for learning about doing immigrant research: The Family History Guide and the Research Wiki. Both of these resources have country by country articles describing the immigration research process with links to other resources. 

When it gets down to the solving the immigrant problem there is no substitute for learning the history, geography, and culture of your ancestor's place of departure or origin. Immigration research can be the ultimate challenge for genealogical researchers. Oh, and don't forget DNA testing, although the ethnicity reports are still developing, you may get some indication of the origin of your ancestors that will help. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Genealogy in the Online World


I am old enough and having been doing genealogical research long enough to be a bridge between traditional, paper-based genealogical research and the online world of today. In my early years of researching my family, I spent days in the Salt Lake City, Family History Library, photocopying handwritten family group records and then transcribing them into my early computers. Slowly, over the years, I learned more about doing genealogical research and I began to research and correct the entries from over 100 years of my relatives research. It took me about 15 years to review the basic core of the family history I inherited and photocopy thousands of pedigree charts and family group records. I still have a huge pile of boxes of all the original records I found, examined, and then digitized. 

About 17 years ago, I began volunteering at first, the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library and now at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. 

So, what are the basic differences between my earlier experiences and those of today. Most dramatically, the information that took me over 15 years to accumulate and digest is now available with a few clicks online on in the Family Tree. If you want to know what I have done and what was done by all of my predecessors, you can view all of the work for free in matter of hours or perhaps days rather than years. I am now working on connecting relatives that, even after fifteen years of work, I didn't know existed. 

The most obvious difference between then and now is the overwhelming amount of information we have online compared to what I could reasonably access in those earlier days. But the real differences are not so easily observed. The genealogy research process always seems to begin by determining what you (and everyone else) already know about your family. This is commonly called a "survey." My fifteen plus years of visits to the Family History Library basically got me to the beginning of my real research, that is, looking for information from historical records. We are all still in the mode of finding out what others have done. Unfortunately, the piles of individual family group records and pedigrees has been replaced by millions of online family trees. The issue is duplication of of our collective efforts. When I was working with paper records, I found a significant number of duplicate paper forms. 

If I were starting today to research my family, I would spend some time looking at some of the large online genealogy database websites. Rather than spending my time and money driving from my home in Mesa, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah, I could spend a few dollars on subscriptions that would quickly give me a huge number of ancestors to work with. Granted, the processes of evaluation and checking for sources remains the same but the time and money involved are significantly less. This is especially true if you begin your search by using the Family Tree. 

How is the process different than it used to be? Except for some brief research notes, everything I research is essentially online and everything I produce as a result of the research is online. Do I still have to use paper? Yes, when the records and documents I need are on paper. But the times when I have to visit a library, archive, or other repository are almost disappearing. Now before you start to tell me how you found your ancestor in an old courthouse in Mississippi or in a parish in England, I agree there are still a lot of records locked up in local, hard to access, repositories. An occasional visit to a remote repository is sometimes mandatory to find some specific information, but I am finding that those times are becoming less frequent. 

I am still surrounded by people with huge, heavy, three-ring binders of pages in plastic protectors but I find fewer and fewer of them have any information on those protected pages that is not readily available online. 

If your view of genealogical research is limited to searching on or, you probably do not realize what I am writing about. One example is the Internet Archive or This one website has well over 32 million digitized books and publications, completely searchable, and completely free. When was the last time you looked for some information is this huge database? This is only one of tens of thousands of such repositories. When you get in your car or climb onto an airplane to fly to some remote repository, how do you know what you are looking for is not already somewhere online? 

So, the main change from my perspective is that I would not have spent 15+ years doing a survey. I could have spent that same time learning more about doing genealogical research and actually adding some information to the massive amount of work that had been done on my own family. 

By the way, if you have a subscription to and look at your Smart Matches, you may be surprised at how many other people are working on your own family lines. 

Today, I can do more research in a day than I could do in a month just a few short years ago. Think about it. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Considering the future of FamilySearch Family History Centers in conjunction with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) has a huge network of 5397 Family History Libraries and Family History Centers around the world as of the date of this post. These libraries and centers range in size and content from the Salt Lake City, Family History Library, a world-renowned collection of books, films, images, and documents, to much smaller centers that may have a few computers and some other limited resources. The number of these libraries and centers reflect the degree of importance the Church and its members place on doing vicarious ordinances for the members' ancestors. See "Vicarious Work." Although many people around the world are interested in and participate in genealogical research, the members of the Church have a unique religious reason for being involved. 

Back in 2017, I wrote a blog post entitled, "Three Years at the BYU Family History Library: A Retrospective." In that post, I wrote the following about my experiences in the Brigham Young University Family History Library

What I do see is the most of the patrons of the library, including the other missionaries serving in the Library, fail to use the Library's resources. Books go untouched. Microfilm and microfiche are only rarely accessed. I almost never see patrons or those serving in the Library using the fabulous collection of reference books prominently displayed in the Library. In fact, it is just exactly like my years ago experience at the University of Utah Library during the times the students were on breaks between classes. From the full-time students' perspective, the Library is a place to study for their classes and socialize. From the perspective of the non-student patrons, the Library is a place to come and use electronic devices. It is very much like going to a world class restaurant to eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwich from a brown bag.

Why is this the case?

  • After thinking about this phenomena for about 60 years, I have come to the following conclusions.
  • Very few people know how to use a library's collections.
  • The internet is giving everyone the idea that it is the only source of information available to the world.
  • Even those are comfortable in libraries lack the research skills to fully utilize their contents.
  • Most people do not see study and research as positive leisure activities. 
  • Libraries, in general, do a poor job of promoting their research collections and university libraries are among those who do the least to promote their facilities.
  • Public libraries are facing serious challenges in funding and support.

Most of the Family History Centers are locally operated. Except for a few of the larger FamilySearch Family History Libraries, the Center operate out of rooms in the local Church chapels. All of these facilities are free and accessible by the general public. 

During the pandemic, almost all of these facilities have been closed and at the time of this post, only a few of them are open and operating. 

Genealogical research is directly dependent on access to historical records. Over the past twenty years or so, billions of genealogically valuable historical records have been made available online. Some of these, such as those on, are free to the everyone. Other websites with records are behind a paywall or are otherwise restricted. One of the main attractions of the Family History Centers and Libraries has been their access to a number of subscription websites for free through the FamilySearch Partner Program. Some of these websites, such as, also have library editions of their programs that are available to patrons of public and some private libraries in the United States and possibly elsewhere. 

Another major function of the world-wide Family History Centers is to provide local, free, access to the internet and genealogy records to places in the world where access is expensive or non-existent. Obviously, some of the countries of the world will not let Family History Centers be established or operate. The pandemic, by closing all the Family History Centers, has demonstrated that genealogical research can go on without access to Family History Centers. Some leaders of the Church has expressed the opinion that the future family history center is in the home. 

Now, Family History Centers, for the most part, have very limited collections of actual records and documents. Their access to these documents is largely through the FamilySearch Portal and other websites that can be accessed on the internet. Some of the websites listed on the FamilySearch Portal are otherwise available for free online to anyone who has internet access. Beginning on 2 June 2021 until August, the FamilySearch Portal was unavailable and inoperable. One effect of the closure of the Family History Centers and the Portal being down was that some of the records hosted on the FamilySearch website were restricted and not available. These records, for a variety of reasons, were restricted to viewing only in a FamilySearch Family History Center or Library. 

Now, what would happen if more of the records became available without the need for a Family History Center Portal connection? Why would we need to go to a Family History Center? The fact is that only a relatively small percentage of all the records online are somehow only available through a Family History Center. Granted some of the records that are restricted are ONLY available through the links at a Family History Center. 

From a realistic perspective, many records around the world are difficult to access and only available from particular entities such as the billions of records only available from the United States National Archives. Family History Centers have been sorely missed by many genealogical researchers around the world. They do provide a valuable service. They need to be giving the support and priority they merit. Closing a Family History Center or a Library should be carefully considered and only done for overriding purposes. Although many records can be access from home, we will need Family History Centers and Libraries for a long time into the future. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Family Tree Basics Series: Registration and Settings


The object of this series is to work through all the basic features of the Family Tree and explain all the skills necessary to add information with sources, clean-up and standardize existing entries, and learn about all the Family Tree's features. 

The free website has four major components, The main component is a wiki-based, collaborative, family tree where every user can add and change existing information. The accuracy and consistency of the Family Tree depend entirely upon the historic sources that support entries and the care taken by its users. The second component is a vast collection of genealogically valuable digitized documents, records, and books from around the world. The third component is a valuable set of support features including maps, connections to other genealogy websites, timelines, and other tools that enhance genealogical research efforts. The fourth component is an indexing program that trains and supports volunteer efforts to index the existing digitized records. 

Some of the basic functions of the website are available without registration, but you will soon see a notice requiring registration when you attempt to use some of the features. 

The first steps in using this valuable website are to register and select the settings you wish to use. You may come back to the settings menu and make changes at any time, but a certain amount of information is necessary to actively use the website. To begin either sign in or create an account. 

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you will need your membership number. You can obtain your membership number from the Tools app or from a member of your Bishopric or your Ward Clerk. The number also appears on your Temple Recommend. 

You will need to add either a mobile phone number or an email address, or both in order to have your login and/or password restored should these be forgotten. FamilySearch will not use your information for any purpose outside of your use of the website. When you enter your login and password, be sure and write them down and keep them in a secure place so you can refer to them if you forget. 

You can change or edit your user name or password at any time. Follow the instruction in the Setting menu if you lose either your username or password. 

When you enter your name, you will need to enter all of the following information:

  • Your Full Name
  • Your Username 
  • Your Contact Name
  • Your Display Name

Your Full Name can be either public or private. Your User Name is always private. Your Contact Name is always public. Your Contact Name is is linked to your contributions to the FamilySearch Family Tree and enable people to send you messages. Your Display Name is the name displayed on your FamilySearch home page.

Privacy issues in the United States and elsewhere are complicated and largely misunderstood by many people. Just remember that the FamilySearch Family Tree is a public document and you may or may not want to operate in this highly public place without thinking about your own online security. On the other hand, genealogy is basically involved in personal relationships and you may wish to encourage potential relatives to contact you. You also need to recognize the fact that dead people do not have claims to privacy. Your ancestral information is neither private nor owned by you. 

All of you name settings can be edited by returning to the settings menu and clicking on the "Edit" links. 

You can enter personal information as you register which can also be changed by you at any time. Personal information includes the following:

  • Sex
  • Birthdate
  • Phone Number
  • Mailing Address
  • Location (country)
You can make any or all of this personal information public or private. 

Again, you can also edit any or all of this information at any time by clicking on the "Edit" link. 

Your password is not included in any of the information visible to you or anyone else but there are ways to recover your password. 

Remember, you will need your login and password to view most of the website. Please take the time to record both in a safe place that you can easily find. There are a number of websites online that store encoded passwords. You might was to investigate using one of these services. I use my own encoded method of storing logins and passwords. 

If you forget or lose your password or login, you can recover one or both using either your mobile phone number or you email address. Of course, you need to have access to either your mobile phone or email account when you are trying to recover your password. While working at the Family History Libraries over the years, we have spent many hours helping people recover their passwords. Hence, the suggestion to record passwords in way that they can be retrieved while you are in a library or Family History Center. 

If you keep all of your contact information private, your relatives will not be able to easily contact you although the website has an internal messaging system that will send you a message on the website from any other user who wishes to contact you. 

You can set the startup person for your portion of the FamilySearch Family Tree. This feature is useful if you are working on a specific family line and want to have the website show your target ancestor when you open the website. 

Users who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or who do not register as a member will not see references to the Church's temples or temple ordinances. If a Church member wishes to use information from the Family Tree for those who may not want to see the temple information, they can uncheck the option to Show Temple Information. 

Children from 8 years of age to 13 years of age will need parental permission to have an account on the FamilySearch,org website. 

Anyone 13 years old or older can register for a FamilySearch account without parental permission. Children ages 8–12 years old can register for a FamilySearch account with parental permission. This account can be created on either or Children who already have an account for a website or mobile app of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can sign in to using the username and password of that account. For more information about helping a young person sign in to the website, see the Help Center document "How do I create a free account for a child?" by clicking on the question mark icon.

You can click on the Notifications tab and turn on or off receiving notifications from FamilySearch. Nothing you do on the program will be used by the Church to try to contact you directly unless you authorize contact. 

If you turn off receiving text messages through FamilySearch, you essentially cut-off all contact with your family through the program. Because the FamilySearch Family Tree is a cooperative website, you are essentially opting out of the main use of the website. If you edit or change information in the Family Tree you may have your edits or changes reversed and you will not receive any communication from other users explaining why your information is being removed or changed. 

The remaining switches on the Notifications menu tell FamilySearch whether or not to send you information in the form of emails about developments with the website. I you hate email and don't read your email, you may wish to turn all these off. However, if you want to know what is happening with the website including updates and changes, you may wish to subscribe to all the categories of announcements. 

Here is a list of the various notifications available. 

  • FamilySearch Information - Receive emails that contain tips, inspiration, news, and Rootstech Information.
  • Discoveries about My Ancestors - Receive personalized emails about your ancestors.
  • Messages from Other Users - Receive email when another user messages you through FamilySearch.
  • Receive and Offer Help - Allow me to receive an invitation from a helper, or send an invitation to help others.
Also, if you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can receive notifications about Shared Temple Ordinances and allow others to share temple opportunities with you. You can also specify the message language. 

Your Helper Number can be used by someone helping you with your family history so that the helper can see your part of the Family Tree. This is a random number and you can change it at any time by clicking the Edit link.

If you check the box next to Relationship Viewing, you are allowing other users to see their relationships to you, your contact name, your portrait in the Family Tree, if available, and any shared ancestors. Both you and the other user must have Relationship Viewing enabled to see how you are related.

In subsequent posts, I will be covering as many of the features of the website as I can and hopefully, the website will not change too much before I finish so that I don't have to start all over again. I am also planning on updating the existing videos on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel

By the way, if you do find changes or mistakes in my explanations, please let me know.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

What does it cost to be an active genealogist?


For as long as I have been involved in the greater genealogy community, I have heard complaints about the cost of subscribing to the large online genealogy websites. Interestingly, several of the websites have free versions such as Ancestry's Library Edition and MyHeritage's Library Edition. FamilySearch, with its billions of records is completely free. Many other genealogically valuable websites are also free such as and the Digital Public Library of America. Most of the larger libraries and archives in the world have collections of historical records. Some libraries have extensive and valuable book collections such as the collections at the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library and the Provo, Utah Brigham Young University Family History Library

Granted, there are people who live in poverty. In 2020, Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, affected between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world's population. It is certainly true, that someone who is suffering from severe poverty will have a significantly harder time simply living than those who have more resources. But I hear these complaints about the cost of genealogy from people who live in the United States and are apparently not homeless because they communicate with me online. 

I have written a number of blog posts over the past years about this subject, but the real issue is not the cost of these online programs but the places where those in more prosperous areas choose to spend their money. Here in Utah, for example, there are hundreds of thousands of all-terrain vehicles or ATVs. These vehicles which are used primarily for recreation cost between $2000 and $20,000 or more just for the purchase price. Those who own them usually have a large truck and trailer to transport the ATV which can add up to $100,000 dollars to the cost of operating such a vehicle. So how does that compare to the cost of a full annual subscription to four of the largest genealogy programs?

The All Access subscription to is about $420 a year in 2021. is about $300 a year for their complete package.'s complete package is $179. 

How much does the average online streaming website such as Netflix cost? Pricing depends on the number of channels included but the average American household spends about $47 a month on these services or $564 a year. See "The Average U.S. Household Spends $47/Month on Streaming Services."

You get what you pay for. 

By the way, the average American spends $232 per month eating meals prepared outside the home. Given that there’s 18.2 meals eaten outside the home in an average month by the average American, the average meal outside the home costs a person $12.75. See "Don't Eat Out as Often (188/365)."

What about free access to these programs in FamilySearch Family History Centers and Libraries across the world? Well, during the pandemic, access to Family History Centers has been extremely limited however they will begin opening if and when the pandemic declines. 

As it is with any optional paid-for activity, each person has to make a choice as to the things they spend their money on. Those of us who are actively involved in genealogical research see the value of the online websites and pay for those we need and use. But there is one thing that is certain, you are not really aware of the resources available unless you are actively using all of the major online genealogy database programs. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Exploring my DNA matches on the MyHeritage website


With over 12,800 of my own DNA matches, I am overwhelmed with the possibilities for my genealogical research. However, a significant number of these matches are with people who do not have a connecting family tree on the MyHeritage website making it very difficult or nearly impossible to identify the ancestral connection despite the extensive analytical tools available. It is unfortunate that so many people have treated the availability of DNA testing and nothing more than a brief curiosity. It is also a tragedy that so many people have not take advantage of the sophisticated DNA tools on the website.

On the MyHeritage website, the first tool you encounter is the DNA Matches. Here is a screenshot of my own matches. 

I can identify both of the close matches, but many of the extended family matches have no family trees and I can only guess as to our relationship. However, even when the potential relative has a very limited family tree, MyHeritage can offer a solution to the relationship with its Theory of Family Relativity™, Here is part of the theory for a supposed 1st cousin twice removed - 3rd cousin once removed.

Of course, I could try to contact some or all of these potential relatives, but I have extensive documentation back to my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner and I have no real reason to contact them. However, if I did not have all that information, the information provided by this match could open up an entirely new family line. This illustrates the interdependence between doing the "paper" research and supplementing that research with DNA testing. If we focus on the person who does not have an extensive family tree on the MyHeritage website, that person has an opportunity to begin an extensive family tree without too much effort. For example, one of the relatives shown by this Theory of Family Relativity™ is Nettie Mae Theobald who appears in over 10,000 MyHeritage family trees. 

In this case, DNA testing supplements and confirms my documented relationship to this person. However, if I did not have the existing documentation, this match would be helpful in adding a substantial amount of information to my own family tree. 

Taking a DNA test, such as the one from MyHeritage, can provide some surprises. If extended family matches begin showing surname connections that do not appear at all in your own research, you may have discovered an unknown relationship. In some cases, those tested with even find unknown parental relationships. One of my friends is presently facing the issue of whether or not to connect with a birth family found by both paper and DNA research. 

One thing that is intriguing is the Ethnicity Estimate. 

None of my previous research gives me any information about possible connections to Italian or Baltic connections and West Asian connections are also a complete mystery. My connections in the United States are obviously supported by my own research as are those in the British Isles and Scandinavia. The only research that I have found outside of the British Isles and Scandinavia is in the Netherlands where I have a Jewish family that eventually moved to London, England in the 1700s. It is true that anomalies are usually more interesting than finding all of your own research confirmed by the DNA testing.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Findmypast adds 10.7 million Scottish Records

From the announcement, 

  • Explore your Scottish heritage with millions of new records, comprehensively transcribed and fully searchable online for the first time
  • Published on Findmypast thanks to the work of hundreds of passionate volunteers at local family history societies across Scotland
  • New records span 450 years of Scottish history and cover every parish in the country
  • Contains the vital details of Scots from all walks of life, including some of Scotland's most influential sons and daughters, from fathers of nations to inventors and innovators, forgotten figures and much more

Leading UK family history website, Findmypast, has today announced the publication of a vast new online collection of “Old Parish Registers” in collaboration with local archives and organizations across Scotland.  

Dating back to 1561 and spanning 450 years of Scottish history, the new collection contains more than 10.7 million historical documents chronicling baptisms, marriages, burials and more. This vast new online resource will allow family historians across the globe to uncover rare details of their ancestor’s lives and the stories behind major life events.  

When combined with Findmypast’s existing collection of Scottish records and historical newspapers, today’s release firmly establishes Findmypast as the home of the largest collection of Scottish family history records available anywhere online, enabling users to explore their Scottish family tree in greater depth and detail than ever before.  

This groundbreaking new resource is the result of Findmypast’s close collaboration with local family history societies, archives and volunteers from across the country. It brings together a wide variety of important historical records, many of which were previously inaccessible to public and are now fully searchable in new ways for the first time.  

This will be a welcome addition to a website I frequently use. 

Monday, August 2, 2021 merges with

In an email announcement received 2 August 2021, the French genealogical database company,, is merging with the Israeli-based company, Quoting from the announcement, translated from the original French:

It is in this history that a new chapter of our fantastic entrepreneurial and human epic is being written today with the officialization of the first step of a merger with MyHeritage, one of the world leaders in genealogy in line. Renowned around the world, MyHeritage was founded in 2003 by genealogist Gilad Japhet, who still runs it today. Since 2008, I have spoken regularly with Gilad during his visits to France and I have been able to appreciate the relationship of trust and mutual respect that has been established between us. These discussions were an opportunity to realize how much our two companies share similar backgrounds, the same passion for simplicity and accessibility, as well as the same values ​​of constant innovation in the service of their members, of investment in historical content. original and respectful of employees and users. It is therefore very natural that we decided to come together in order to allow MyHeritage and Filae to join forces and work together.

We are therefore very excited to share this good news with you since the financial and technological support of a world leader such as MyHeritage will allow Filae's services and data to be developed more quickly and efficiently. This union will also make the exclusive collections of Filae more accessible to all descendants of French people wherever they are in the world thanks to the leadership position acquired by MyHeritage in many countries.

The Filae company will remain French and I will continue to manage it. Still based in Paris, the entire Filae team will continue, in complete autonomy, to offer services and data to its users. This merger will not result in any changes to the functionalities of each of the two services. Filae users, rest assured of the importance that the MyHeritage and Filae teams place on the protection of your data. As such, I am happy to let you know that MyHeritage is strongly committed to its users regarding the confidentiality and protection of their data. This makes it unique among the major players in online genealogy. In particular, its privacy policy states unequivocally: "MyHeritage has never sold or licensed personal data (such as customer names, email addresses, residential addresses and family trees) and never will. in the future."

This is an interesting development and points out the economy of scale that exists in large online database companies. Although some of the larger genealogy database companies might be viewed as competitors by those outside the genealogical community, those of us who have been online and watched the development of the companies appreciate their differences and try to use all of their resources. From my standpoint, thinking that these companies are competing with one another is like thinking that The National Archives in Kew, Richmond, England competes with the United States National Archives in Washington, D.C. Granted, some of these companies are "for profit" enterprises but that fact enables them to continue to expand their holdings and improve their database activities. Genealogists who complain about the "cost" of using these online businesses ignore the fact that millions of people spend far more money than the subscription costs of these companies for pastimes such as golf and attending other sporting events. For example, season tickets to the U.S. football games at our local university stadium can cost upwards of $900 U.S. a year for about 10 games. Get real. Genealogy is one of the least expensive endeavors you can be involved in. Of course, like anything, if you want to spend a lot of money, you can, primarily by traveling to your ancestral homes.