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

Friday, October 29, 2021

Digging Into the entire website: Part Two


If you happen to have tens of thousands of relatives in the Family Tree, your personal startup screen might look like this one once you sign in. But this screen is customizable and so everyone's screen may look different and if you are just starting out, it may look quite different. In the screenshot above, there is a notice that says: "We’re testing new features that help you share important family moments and connect with others." Keeping up with the changes to the website is a challenge. As I dig into the structure, operation, and functionality of the website, you will probably be amazed at the number of pages that seem to have no links. Many of these abandoned or orphan pages are still online but invisible from any link on the website itself. Some pages have links but not from any part of the website that users would generally visit. So now we launch off into the known and unknown world of the website. 

I thought about conducting this survey from the standpoint of coming into the website for the first time but when I saw that there was already a newly advertised feature, I decided to take a more eclectic view and merely wander around like I would in a large museum seeing what I could highlight and discover. The first thought, just like with a museum, is there a map of the floor plan? Hmm. the answer for the website is yes and no. 

The "map" for any website is really a map and it is called the "Site Map." does have a Site Map. There is a link to the Site Map at the bottom of the startup pages. Note there are two "startup pages;" the one you get when you open the website and the one you get when you are registered after you sign in. 

Here is a screenshot of the bottom of the pages showing the Site Map link. Since we are just beginning our exploration of the website, you will note several other links that suggest our voyage of discovery may take a very long time. 

Here is the Site Map.

Some of the links are to other websites. Over time, there are pages that are no longer linked or pulled from the website so finding a link may be difficult. Here is one example. 

You can look at the URL (link) and see that this webpage is apparently on the website somewhere, but it is not in the Site Map. It is one of the activities listed in the "Activities" menu when you click on the drop down menu item for All Activities. 

Back to the Site Map. I suggest exploring all the links. It is a good way to get an idea of exactly what is available and what may be more difficult to find. Bear in mind, that there are parts of the website that are not listed on the Site Map. Here is another example. 

If you look at this URL, you will see that is it still from but really on a separate website. The link to this website is accessed from the question mark icon at the top right of the pages. 

I would appreciate questions or comments as I work my way slowly through the entire website. 

Here is the previous post in this ongoing series.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Digging into the entire website: Part One

In about 1998 a decision was made by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a website dedicated to family history. Here is a short explanation of the process from Wikipedia: FamilySearch:

In May 1999, the website first opened to the public as FamilySearch. The beta version, released April 1, almost immediately went off-line, overloaded because of high popularity. Only a few days after the official launch, the website had received an estimated 100 million hits. To handle the load, site visitors were only given access to the site for 15 minutes at a time. In November 1999, 240 million names were added, bringing the total number of entries to 640 million.

Of course, today has billions of records and a huge, very popular website. One of the challenges of the website is that it is constantly changing. FamilySearch continues to add and subtract features on a regular basis. I decided to take a close look at every part of the website that I could discover over the next blog posts. Of course, I will give my comments about the functionality, need, usefulness, ease-of-use, and ultimate value to genealogists about each section/feature/web page/whatever of the website. So here it goes. 

 I guess the place to start is the home page or start up page. You can see mine at the beginning of this post above. Now, what can I say? This seems to be the standard page for anyone who has not yet signed in to the website. It does not convey any useful information at all. It may be the vogue to have minimalist web pages but this one does not even identify FamilySearch as an entity except for the logo. I am not aware if anyone see anything different. That may happen in countries that do not speak English. The mobile app version of the start up page is exactly the same (for me). What is the secret? You can scroll down to see more information.

Although I am not sure how I am supposed to know that this screen is really the first in a long number of screens that have more information. Many websites now use this scroll-down type of start-up page but usually, it is obvious from what you see that there is more information available by scrolling down. Here is a screenshot of You can see that there are images at the bottom of the start up page that extend off of the page. This is a visual cue inviting you to scroll down for more information.

Is it my screen size or whatever that keeps me from seeing that the startup page on the FamilySearch website is scrollable? I can see a bit of the next screen on my iPhone so maybe others see some visual cue as to the scrollable portion?

Now what?

I log in. Anyone using the website will soon learn that most of the features of the website are available only if you register for a free account. That is hard for me to show with an image because I am already signed into the website with an option that keeps me signed in for two weeks. 

This brings me to one of the most common issues with the website: signing in. I have spent the last few days trying to help one of my associates sign into and also, the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the initiation of the login requirements for both websites, members of the Church have been able to use the same login and password for both programs. That convenience has now ended and I am spending a significant amount of time helping people straighten out their passwords and logins. See the following announcement: "FamilySearch Accounts Now Separate from Church Accounts." See also: "FamilySearch and Church Account Split."

Here is a quote the "FamilySearch and Church Account Split" article.

FamilySearch is growing rapidly. Growth has made it necessary to separate and accounts. As of September 13, 2021, FamilySearch accounts and accounts on (“Church Accounts”) are no longer linked. The change does not change how most users sign in to FamilySearch.

In the previous system used to manage accounts, any account created on created a matching account on Similarly, any account created on created a matching FamilySearch account. The dual linked accounts existed for all users. Now, FamilySearch accounts are created and managed only on and Church Accounts are created and managed only on

The change does not impact how you use However, separating accounts allows to accommodate future growth, simplify access, improve security and privacy, and conserve Church resources.

This has always been a background issue with FamilySearch and almost all other websites. Logins and passwords are a mystery to many neophyte computer users but can be an issue with anyone using a computer. This is true for me because I have hundreds of specific logins and passwords to manage. (Please do not comment about the fact that there are programs available to manage my passwords. I know this. You might also remember that it takes a login and password to use these programs. I resort to a list rather than use another online program.)

Well, I got to the startup page. That was a good start. Only a few hundred or thousand pages to go. 

Oh, do I have any suggestions for FamilySearch? Yes, redesign your startup page and show a path to more information like the mobile edition. 

Publication online of the 1921 Census of England and Wales


Quoting from an email announcement from

Findmypast and The National Archives have announced that the 1921 Census of England & Wales will be published online on 6 January 2022.  

From that day forward, everyone will be able to search and explore the census online, only at Findmypast. For the first time, the details of 38 million people captured in over 18 million colour images will be made available to all, enabling the public to access the previously unseen archival material from the comfort of their home. 

The 1921 Census offers more detail than all previous England and Wales censuses. Individuals were asked not only about their occupations but also their place of work, employer, and were given ‘Divorced’ as an option for marital status.  

Visitors to Findmypast will not only have the ability to discover what life was like in England and Wales a century ago by discovering where, how and with whom their ancestors were living, but will also be able to search by address to uncover the history of their local area or home and the stories of former occupants. is one of the largest and most available sources for genealogical records covering for a large part all of the former British Empire countries. I have found the website indispensable for doing research in England, Scotland, and Wales primarily. The addition of the 1921 census is important in many ways that may not be readily apparent. Here is an explanation from the same email about the importance of the upcoming release. 

For more than two and a half years and counting, a team of hundreds of Findmypast conservators, technicians and transcribers have undertaken the invaluable task of conserving, transcribing and digitising the 1921 census in association with The National Archives and with the help and support of the Office for National Statistics. 

It is the largest project ever completed by The National Archives and Findmypast, consisting of more than 30,000 bound volumes of original documents stored on 1.6 linear kilometres of shelving.   

Every page of the fragile physical documents had to be handled by a trained conservation technician who was responsible for a variety of delicate tasks including removing any objects that could damage the paper, correcting folds covering the text, teasing apart pages that had become stuck together, restoring tears and checking for and repairing other damage. 

Once every page was examined, cleaned and repaired if required, Findmypast’s scanning team created an image of every page as well as any attachments and the front and back covers of each volume. Each image was then quality checked before being stored on a secure server.  

This highly anticipated launch is likely to be the last significant census release for England and Wales in many people’s lifetime. Taken once a decade, the census remains secret for 100 years before being opened to the public. However, as the 1931 Census was destroyed in a fire at the Office for Works in 1942, and the 1941 Census was never captured owing to the outbreak of the Second World War, the 1921 Census will fill a huge gap for historians.   

 See this link to the census web page:

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The 10 most common mistakes in online family trees


The number one all time most common mistake observed in online family trees arises from copying some other person's family tree information especially if the information comes from paper family group sheets or an old GEDCOM file. The fact that you inherited information from a relative, even a grandmother or aunt, does not mean that the information is reliable or accurate. 

This brings us immediately to the second most common mistake, entering information without a supporting source citation to a reasonably accurate historical source. Without a cited source for the information, there is no way another person viewing the information can determine if it is correct even if it is correct or you know in your heart that it is correct. 

The third most common mistake is closely related to the first two. It is called the "same name = the same person" syndrome. Before you decide to add a person to your family tree, make sure that the information you are adding is consistent with all the existing information. If all the children in a family are born in Arizona in the 1880s and onward, it is highly unlikely that one of the children would have been born in England even if the parents' names agree and the dates somewhat match. 

The fourth mistake involves ignoring the first rule of genealogy: When the baby was born, the mother was there. Identifying exact locations is the key to understanding and finding historical records and the further key to maintaining consistent historical genealogical family trees. You need to be cognizant of the modes of travel and intervening mountains, oceans, and other obstacles at the time of the events when you think that children born or christened in different locations. 

Number five involves extending a pedigree to a famous person, celebrity, or royalty without doing any research. If you are enamored by the fact that an app on your phone tells you that you are related to George Washington or King George III then you might want to start doing some research. This is especially true because George Washington had no direct descendants and if you are a direct descendant of King George III you probably drive a Rolls Royce sedan and live in a palace somewhere in Europe. The apps are entertaining but in a recent gathering where I ended up being related to several people at least some of them were not really related because I was not related to the common ancestor found by the program. 

Number six is more obscure. It involves merging two people who are not the same person. If I merge two people who are not the same person, the results will likely be inaccurate. In the worst case, the resultant person ends up with the wrong parents, wrong spouse, or wrongly added children. Merging is a serious task and should be handled with great care. 

Now we are up to number seven. The general rule about places is that the places are designated as they were at the time of the event being recorded. Some people seem to assume that it is OK to record the places as they are today assuming, wrongly, that finding the records will be easier. In fact, without an accurately designated place finding the records may be almost impossible. All genealogical records are generally organized by place and date. So if the place was Mexico in 1830 and is now Arizona in 2021, this does not mean that we can find the records in Arizona. The records will be in Mexico. 

Getting close to the end of the list with number eight. Picking the prominent or famous person when there are multiple names the same. Let's suppose, such as is the case with my own family line, that you trace your ancestry back in the 1800s to a place where there are several people with the name John Morgan. You could then conclude that you were related to the rich Morgans who owned the banks or even J. P. Morgan. What makes you think that your desire to have a famous ancestor is more important than doing real research and discovering if it is possible to determine which of the John Morgans you are actually related to. Yes, you might be a relative to the rich one, but you probably are not, or someone would have already made the connection in your family long ago. 

This is mistake number nine. It does not really show up as such in the family trees, but it is a mistake that makes much of the research questionable. It involves focusing or fixating on one particular date, event, or person to the exclusion of doing other valuable research. All family lines end. Moving back one more generation from an old end of line can be satisfying but it is usually only accomplished by spending an inordinate amount of time on one person, one date, or one supposedly created document. I suggest spending some time but not fixating. Learn to move on to other more reasonable tasks.

Here we are at number ten. This is more of a matter of careful and systematic work rather than making a single mistake. You need to make sure that all your places are completely identified, all the dates are correctly entered, that what you have in your online family tree agrees with the sources you have attached or cited, and that you observe moderately good grammar and capitalization. All caps went out with typewriters and paper family group sheets. Enter the names as they appear in the earliest record not what the person wanted to be called during his or her life. Don't add nicknames into the name fields. Keep out all types of typographic characters such as parenthesis and quote marks. Clean up your entries. 

I hope this helps. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

About writing blog posts


I just passed another milestone in my blog posting. Genealogy's Star blog now has 6016 posts. With all the other blogs, including Walking Arizona, I have 12,807 blog posts online. There are actually a few more on long abandoned blogs. I figure that about every 1000 or so blog posts, I will take some time to talk about blogging, genealogy, and the known and unknown universe. 

When I was young, writing was painful. I have never been able to write for long by hand. I am certain that writing was never on my list of things I wanted to do in my life. I think the catalyst that started me writing was the determination in about 1976 to begin writing a journal every week. I have continued my journal writing up to the present and I am sure that my posterity (whatever) will never read the thousands of pages I have written. In addition, I have done an estimated 200 or so webinars and other videos that are all online.

There are two overriding factors in writing: persistence and passion. You have to really like and care about what you write. You also need the discipline to keep writing even when you don't feel like writing. I have read about and watched movies about people with "writer's block." Whatever that is, I have never had it. I do get too tired to do much of anything, but the minute I sit down to write I usually have a few minutes of thinking and then I begin writing.  I am pretty sure that if I was writing solely for the reason that I wanted to make money, I would have quit long ago. Not that it wouldn't be nice to make a few bucks, but I can think of a lot of other ways to make money that don't involve sitting in front of a computer day after day. 

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, being sequestered inside did not affect me much at all. I did miss some social interaction, particularly working at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, attending church meetings in person, and being able to travel, but since almost all of my activities had been focused on writing in front of a computer all day and into the night, there wasn't much of a change. 

I have repeatedly said that if genealogy was not complicated and challenging, I would have lost interest long ago. It is even more challenging when you do genealogy in multiple languages. I am always happy to talk to or connect with online with people who share my passion for history and genealogy. It is also hard work. I am appalled when people trivialize genealogy with descriptions that it is fun or easy. The word "fun" is like the word "free." There is no real definition for both words. They are used to describe things that are even life threatening and very expensive. This brings up another word used in conjunction with genealogy and that is "hobby." Collecting things can be a hobby. Making things can be a hobby. Gardening can be a hobby. But genealogy is not a hobby although there are plenty of people who think that you can do genealogy in small increments. Small increments work for the first two or three generations, but usually by the time you find out that the next date, name, or place will take some research you either get serious about genealogy or you give up. I am fully aware that people can become passionate about their hobbies, but hobbies are generally for relaxation or leisure time not intense study trying to decipher old handwriting.  Oh, and remember, genealogy now requires a fairly high degree of computer and internet sophistication.

Now what is the purpose for doing genealogy? There are all kinds of studies that show how finding out about your ancestors can provide you with a sense of place and worth. Of course, that depends, in large part, whether your ancestors' lives were the kinds of lives that provide a sense of place and worth. Because I am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it would appear that being interested in family history would come with my membership. Unfortunately, only a very few members of the Church are really involved in family history. My own motivation is very complicated. I guess I am fascinated by the process of solving puzzles and working through the unknown to find people and their families. 

Fortunately, my ancestors were mostly pioneers so I have a lot of stories about survival and perseverance in the face of tragedy.  With my immediate family, we also figure out all the genetic issues we have inherited. Our progress in finding more information about our huge family is always a current topic. 

At the core of what I do is the satisfaction that comes from helping people overcome their own challenges in finding their families. I do know that in our society, ignorance about our ancestral roots causes many people to assume that they are "white" whatever that means when in fact they are the descendants of many different cultures. My current DNA tests show matches to people in almost all parts of the world and hundreds of countries. For example, hundreds of my Jewish relatives died in the Shoah (incorrectly called the Holocaust). Finding this information through genealogical research changes both your world view and your sense of who you are. My own ancestors were driven out of their homes by mobs and forced out of the United States. These parts of my heritage would not be know by me if I had not done the genealogical research over many years. 

How do you communicate the weight of all those people on the decisions you make in your life? How do you live without knowing your own background and heritage? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

How Many Genealogically Significant Records have been digitized?


Of course, there are claims about billions of records online, but how many are there really? Nobody really knows and even if we knew, the number would be meaningless. What is evident is that the number goes up by millions, perhaps billions of records every year. I get many announcements about new record additions to the larger genealogy websites but even though these numbers are impressive they are only a small percentage of all the digitization projects going around the world. Just before I retired from practicing law in Arizona, the Maricopa County Court system serving the largest county by population in the state, converted entirely to digital pleadings. This meant that every document filed with the court from that time forward had to be electronically filed. Unless you work as part of the court system somewhere in the world, you cannot imagine how many digital pages are being generated by that decision over time fueled by over 4.5 million people (the population of Maricopa County as of the date of this post).  Hmm. Court documents. Isn't this one of the record collections that are listed as genealogical resources?

I just completed some real estate transactions and except for some documents that required notarization, everything I did was online, digitized and electronically filed and stored. Hmm. Last time I checked, land and property records were also listed as genealogical resources. Oh, by the way, the notarized documents were digitized and are online. If I look at the county recorders' websites online in Arizona, I find that the digitized records contain really old deeds. Here is copy of the first deed recorded in Apache County, Arizona on February 14, 1880.

Maybe we need to start thinking about records that aren't categorized as genealogical records and that don't end up on a big genealogy website? 

I live in Utah but I have a library card for a library in Arizona. Yes, I have to pay a fee every year to renew my card but then I get access to the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. I look through thousands of digital books for reference or reading. All of this is online. has a digital book collection with 523,848 books. When was the last time you checked to see if any of your ancestors are in any of those books?

You can begin to see the reality. There are more records both online and still on paper that anyone could completely search during the average lifetime. When you add the number of records to the exponential growth of your pedigree lines as you go back in time, you can begin to see we all need a different methodology for addressing genealogical research. 

Let me give the ultimate example. If I am looking for genealogical information, I will usually end up looking in the Internet Archive or There are presently 33,024,881 digitized books on the Internet Archive website; all of them completely free to view with a significantly large number of them free of copyright restrictions and downloadable in a variety of formats. The website also has videos, audio recordings, and images. It is also the archive of the internet with over 616 billion internet pages preserved.

To put it bluntly, genealogical research should not be confined to searching what someone has labeled a genealogical record. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

MyHeritage adds 463 Million Historical Records from France


The recent acquisition of the French website, (See MyHeritage to Acquire Filae) has apparently resulted in adding millions of French records to their website. The new records consist of the following from an emailed announcement. 

  • France, Church Baptisms and Civil Births with 154.4 million records.
  • France, Church Marriages and Civil Marriages with 125.3 million records.
  • France, Church Burials and Civil Deaths with 149.1 million records.
  • 1872 France Census, taken in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and consisting of 16.4 million records from 67 French departments.
  • 1906 France Census, consisting of 17.6 million records from 63 departments in France. Paris is not included in the 1872 and 1906 collections, as census taking in Paris only began in 1926. 

The total of the records added is 463 million records, this brings the total number of records on the website to 76 collections with 516,214,971 records.

These additional records help to consolidate as the leading genealogical database program for European records. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Talking to Latin America


Since RootsTech in February 2021, I have been volunteering for Virtual Genealogy Consultations. I schedule the consultations during two two-hour blocks during my week. The consultations last twenty minutes each and there is a break of ten minutes between consultations so I can schedule eight individual consultations each week. If I cannot be available the scheduling program allows me to block out those times. During the initial experience at RootsTech, I was scheduled for four hours every day from Monday until Saturday. I can say that this was an intense experience. Almost all of these consultations are in Spanish. 

As the weeks have past by, I have seen a pattern emerging. Most of those people researching their ancestors in Argentina and other countries are searching for their ancestral roots. They are trying to identify their first immigrant ancestor. Almost all these immigrants came either from Italy or Spain during migrations that were instigated by wars or other disruptions. These facts simplify my responses. Most of the researchers do not know where exactly their ancestors came from in either Italy or Spain and those that do cannot either find or access the records they need to do further research. Sometimes, the amount of time and effort these people have expended in searching is remarkable. 

Another observation is that almost uniformly they have superior computer skills although many of them are using a smartphone rather than a computer. They are challenged by the closure of the FamilySearch Family History Centers due to the pandemic because some of them depend on the centers for computer access and many others are prevented from doing their research by the restrictions imposed by FamilySearch on the records. These restrictions are at the core of the problems these willing researchers face in trying to connect their ancestral lines. Presently, almost all the records on the website for the entire countries of Italy, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay and many other countries are restricted to viewing in the closed down Family History Centers. I have never received an adequate answer as to why so many of these records are restricted. 

Fundamentally, the researchers face the loss of contact with relatives and the subsequent loss of any personal family records that show the origin of the first immigrants. The records kept in Argentina and other countries are insufficient to identify the exact origin and usually all the records state is that the person came from Italy. The common issue with researching immigrant ancestors leads us to suggest that research start in the country of arrival not the country of origin. But with these researchers, extensive research into the available records in their own countries does not help the process. 

Subsequently, I usually end up suggesting to the researchers that they try DNA testing with a copy such as that has an extensive database of people in Europe. The hope here is that the researchers will connect with potential family members in Italy or Spain. 

Many times, these short twenty minute consultations are not long enough to fully develop a research plan for the patrons. This often ends up with me continuing contact by email or through the Brigham Young University Family History Library Virtual Family History Help Portal

Being online and having a virtually unlimited pool of researchers who need assistance has transformed my contact with individual researchers. Rather than sit in the library and wait for patrons, I can now reach out and talk to many more people individually every week. After spending the last nearly 40 years doing my own genealogical research and working in both the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library and the Brigham Young University Family History Library for the past nearly 18 years, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to people one-on-one, instead of spending so much time writing, doing webinars, and teaching classes. Not that I am going to stop doing what I have over the past years, but I am going to balance the time I spend in each. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Wayback Machine's First Crawl 1996 -- The Internet Archive's+First+Crawl+1996.mp4

Quoting from the Internet Archive article, "The Wayback Machine's First Crawl 1996," 

In October of 1996, engineers at the the San Francisco-based Internet Archive launched their first web crawlers, taking snapshots of web pages. At the time, the World Wide Web was only 2.5 terabytes in size. In 1996, it was still impossible to predict how large the World Wide Web might become.

Even in those early days of the Web, broken links (404 errors) were a growing problem, and it was clear that most Web pages were short-lived. Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat invented a system for archiving Web pages before they vanished. The tools for this project were not terribly sophisticated; they were essentially PC applications built to capture entire websites by following the links from the main page.

Most of the genealogy community is probably not aware of the Internet Archive ( or the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine--which first launched as a public search engine of web pages in 2001--has preserved some 588 billion web pages by working with 800+ partners around the world. These webpages are searchable with some limitations on the Internet Archive. 

I find this website to be essential for doing research in many places in the world. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Long awaited RootsMagic Version 8 released


Yes, folks, you can now upgrade or purchase Version 8 of RootsMagic. It is on sale for a while and is very reasonably priced. I upgraded by copy of Version 7 and loaded in my files from where they were stored on my computer. Here is a screenshot of the new version with my file. 

It will probably take you a little bit of time to get oriented with the new update unless you have been beta testing the preceding versions all along. Check it out.