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

Monday, March 20, 2023

The real limitations of Artificial Intelligence: Incomplete, Inaccurate, Misleading, and Flat Out Wrong

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting a lot of online commentary lately. Some of the pundits are wringing their hands about how many jobs will be lost when AI goes mainstream. See "23+ Artificial Intelligence and Job Loss Statistics [2023]: How Job Automation Impacts the workforce." and many other such articles. It is interesting that all the statistics cited seem to be speculation since the only reference to any kind of study is one statement that says, "Artificial intelligence and job loss statistics,,," without referring to any specific statistical studies. I am not intending to pick on any one article, but this type of response to technological change has been occurring steadily since 1811 in England with the luddite movement objected to mechanized looms and knitting frames. 

A short time ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, “How will Artificial Intelligence affect Genealogy?” where I pointed out several inaccurate statements made by a ChatGPT response about one of my ancestors. I decided to try another response, this time, using a general request to write about doing genealogical research in Portugal. I spent some time recently reviewing genealogical research in Portugal for a Sunday Class from the BYU Family History Library. A recording of the class will shortly be posted on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. 

Here is the description I used to elicit the response below.
“Describe the availability of genealogical records in Portuguese and archives in Portugal with citations to useful websites”

Genealogical records in Portugal are typically held by the Portuguese Civil Registration Offices, the National Archives of Portugal, and the Catholic Church. These records include birth, marriage, and death records, as well as census records, military records, and property records.

The Portuguese Civil Registration Offices hold records from 1911 to the present day. [This is not correct, Portuguese civil registration records go back to 1832 and These records are available to the public, but access is restricted to those who can prove a direct relationship to the individual(s) named in the records. The records can be requested online through the website of the Portuguese Ministry of Justice:

The National Archives of Portugal hold a variety of genealogical records, including parish registers, notarial records, and other documents related to Portuguese history. These records are available to the public and can be accessed in person at the National Archives building in Lisbon or online through their website:

The Catholic Church in Portugal also holds a significant number of genealogical records, including baptismal, marriage, and death records dating back to the 16th century. These records are typically stored at the parish level, and access is often restricted to researchers who can prove a direct relationship to the individual(s) named in the records. The website of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference provides information on how to contact individual parishes to request access to these records:

In addition to these sources, there are also a number of online databases and websites that can be useful for researching Portuguese genealogy. Some of these include:

FamilySearch ( a free online genealogy database that includes a variety of Portuguese records
MyHeritage ( a subscription-based genealogy website that includes a large collection of Portuguese records
Genea Portugal ( a website dedicated to Portuguese genealogy research, with resources and databases for researchers. 
It's important to note that the availability and accessibility of genealogical records in Portugal can vary depending on the region and the specific records being searched. It may be necessary to consult multiple sources and organizations in order to find the information you are looking for.

On its face, this seems to be adequate and helpful. However, I am reminded of a book published about my family line. Here is the citation to this book. 

Tanner, Maurice, and George C Tanner. 1923. Descendants of John Tanner; Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah; [Place of publication not identified.

The conclusions contained in this book about the “original” Tanner immigrant ancestor to Rhode Island are inaccurate, incomplete, unsupported by sources, misleading, and have caused many people to be lead away from doing accurate and complete research. I have to say the same thing about ChatGPT response. 

Here are just a few of the problems presented by the seemingly innocuous ChatGPT response about Portuguese genealogical research. 

1. The best places to find instructions about genealogical records in Portugal are the FamilySearch Research Wike article that begins with Portugal Genealogy and The Family History Guide article on Portugal
2. The ChatGPT article points to both FamilySearch and MyHeritage as sources for researching Portuguese genealogy. The statement is correct but previous statements about the location and availability of both Catholic church records and Civil Registration Records are contradictory and misleading. FamilySearch has huge numbers digitized records of both Civil Registration records and Catholic Church records online for free. In addition, the Portuguese National Archives, correctly identified as Torre do Tombo National Archives, also has accessible parish and civil registration records. The ChatGPT statements about the availability of both the parish registers and civil registrations records are misleading and wrong. In addition, MyHeritage has 14 collections of indexes to Portuguese Church records, but these are mostly indexes and have relatively few copies of the original records. 
3. The link provided to does not exist. Although, is a Portuguese public internet database on family history and genealogy, mainly concerning Royalty and Aristocracy around the world.
4. The link to the Justice Department is for current records and as it the case with most recent government records around the world there are privacy limitations for access to these records. 
5. It ends up that huge numbers of Portuguese Catholic Church records, Civil Registration records, and other records are available on the website. Many of these records are accessible through the FamilySearch catalog and others are accessible in the Images section. 

In short, there are one or two links in the ChatGPT article that are helpful, but the rest of the explanation is either wrong or misleading. Finding and researching Portuguese genealogy records is far easier than portrayed by the ChatGPT article. 

If you decide to use ChatGPT or any other artificial intelligence source, I suggest that you become aware of the limitations and possible issues from text generated by anyone artificial or real that misstates facts. Before you jump off into the current trend of artificial intelligence, try using some of your own. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

1931 Census of Canada to Be Released on June 1, 2023


Quoting from an email announcement:

“Library and Archives Canada is very excited to announce that it will be making the eagerly awaited 1931 Census of Canada available to the public in just a few months. Our partnership with Ancestry and FamilySearch will give us the opportunity to provide our users with an improved experience when searching and browsing the 1931 Census. This is directly in line with our goal to provide online, reliable and trusted access to Canada’s documentary heritage.” —Leslie Weir, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

quoting further: 

After the legislated 92 years in the vault, the highly anticipated 1931 Census of Canada will be made available to the public. Collected during the Great Depression and at a time of significant immigration, the census provides a snapshot of the more than 10 million people living in Canada in 1931. On June 1, 2023, Canadians can expect to browse the digitized census images by geographic districts and sub-districts on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website. Following the initial release, LAC will work collaboratively with Ancestry® and FamilySearch International to create an advanced searchable database for Canadians, and those with Canadian heritage who wish to look for their ancestors.

My own research will be impacted by the release of the 1931 Census due to the number of people that I assist who are doing research in Canada.  

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Color Coding Added to MyHeritage Family Trees


From the MyHeritage blog post, "Introducing Color Coding for Family Trees"

Adding color coding to your family tree can make it easier to navigate. At MyHeritage, we previously implemented color coding in Fan view of the family tree, as well as in the Family Tree Timeline. Today, we’re happy to announce the addition of color coding for family trees across the two main views of the tree: Family view and Pedigree view. This addition is both visually appealing and makes it incredibly easy to understand your family tree at a glance.

Here is an explanation about how color coding works from the same blog post. 

Color coding displays each branch of the family tree in a different color by painting all direct ancestors in a given branch in a particular color. Direct ancestors on your paternal grandfather’s side are colored blue, your paternal grandmother’s side is green, your maternal grandfather’s side is red, and your maternal grandmother’s side is yellow. Your descendants, if you have any, appear in purple. As part of this product update, we’ve switched the order of the colors in Fan view and the Family Tree Timeline to follow the same pattern of blue-green-red-yellow, making the use of color coding consistent across the website and aligned with the industry convention.

Once color coding is enabled for Family view or Pedigree view, it’s applied to the family tree you are associated with, in all family sites in your MyHeritage account. Color coding is automatic — there’s no manual work involved to color code the branches of a family tree (but the colors cannot be customized). Color coding is available on the MyHeritage website when you visit it using a desktop browser or a mobile web browser. It will be added to the family tree on the MyHeritage mobile app later on.

When I applied color coding to my family tree, I immediately saw that it marks lines in the tree where that show shared ancestry. Here is an example.

 Where the yellow/orange part of the pedigree shows up in two different family lines that indicates a common ancestor. 

RootsTech 2023 Days #1 and #2: Back to in-person visits with old friends and people from around the world

 It took us a while to recover from being mostly on our feet and talking from three and half days. I am just now catching up from processing all the new information learned during RootsTech 2023. I ended up presenting 10 times and talking to hundreds of people. 

My wife worked at The Family History Guide booth the entire time and on Saturday, neither of us had time to stop or eat until everyone was leaving. 

I would have written more during the conference except that the Wi-Fi did not work and even the hotspot on my phone would not connect. 

I really enjoyed talking with old and new friends and seeing people after such a long time away. I am presenting a class this week on some of the most noteworthy genealogical innovations this week and I will post a link as soon as it is uploaded to Both my wife, Ann and I were featured in the RootsTech Thank You video on the startup page of the website along with several of my friends. 

Remember you have hundreds of videos to watch on the website. Take some time to learn something new. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

RootsTech 2023 Day #1 ; MyHeritage Releases cM Explainer™ to Predict Familial Relationships Between DNA Matches with Greater Accuracy takes a huge step towards to de-mystify genealogical DNA testing and results. Here is content of the announcement made today at RootsTech 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah, March 2, 2023 — MyHeritage, the leading global service for family history and DNA testing, announced today the release of cM Explainer™, an innovative, free new feature that accurately estimates familial relationships between DNA Matches. For every DNA Match, cM Explainer™ offers a detailed prediction of the possible relationships between the two people and the respective probabilities of each relationship, determines their most recent common ancestor, and displays a diagram showing their relationship path. cM Explainer™ is fully integrated into the MyHeritage platform to shed light on any DNA Match found on MyHeritage, and is also available as a standalone tool to benefit consumers who have tested with other DNA services.

MyHeritage is home to one of the world’s most robust and fastest-growing DNA databases, with 6.5 million customers. With outstanding support for 42 languages, MyHeritage has become the leading consumer DNA test in Europe. One key feature of at-home DNA tests like MyHeritage is matching to find relatives based on shared DNA inherited from common ancestors. Matches are characterized by the amount of DNA shared between two individuals, measured using a unit of genetic distance called centimorgans (cM). cM Explainer™ is unique in the way it uses both the centimorgan value as well as the ages of the two individuals (if known) to fine-tune its predictions, making MyHeritage the only major genealogy company to offer relationship prediction at this level of granularity and accuracy.

Other relationship prediction tools typically suggest a range of possible relationships that is too broad to be useful, such as “3rd to 5th cousin”, or list many relationships with the same probability, leaving the user confused. MyHeritage’s cM Explainer™ simplifies the predictions considerably and reduces ambiguity by taking into account the age of each match and assigning a unique probability to every relationship. MyHeritage further reduces confusion by avoiding ambiguous relationship terms used by other tools, such as “first cousin once removed” (sometimes written in excessively technical codes such as “1C1R”), and instead replaces them with clear relationships such as “parent’s first cousin” or “first cousin’s child”, as the case may be. For example, in a DNA Match where there are 1,600 cM of shared DNA between two people who are age 35 and 40, MyHeritage will tell the user simply that the match is most likely a half-sibling with 90.4% probability, whereas a popular alternative tool states a 100% probability for the match to have any of the following possible relationships: grandparent, aunt or uncle, half sibling, niece or nephew, or grandchild, leaving the user baffled. This makes MyHeritage’s cM Explainer™ the most useful tool for relationship prediction of DNA Matches on the market, for novices as well as experienced genetic genealogy professionals.

cM Explainer™ was developed by MyHeritage in collaboration with Larry Jones, developer of the cM Solver technology. MyHeritage exclusively licensed this technology from Jones, and the company’s science team enhanced it further over a period of five months. Among the enhancements are an age algorithm that more accurately pinpoints specific relationships and calculates their probability, and a slick user interface that displays possible relationships and their probabilities. cM Explainer™ includes useful features such as the ability to filter the predictions by full and half relationships, and to display the probable most recent common ancestor(s) (MRCA) of a match, making it a force multiplier for genetic genealogy.

“Millions of customers rely on MyHeritage DNA to discover their family history and find relatives. cM Explainer™ makes it easier by removing much of the guesswork that was previously needed to analyze possible relationships to your DNA Matches,” said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “Together with Larry Jones, we’ve created an industry-leading solution for genetic genealogy that is only available on MyHeritage. cM Explainer™ joins our suite of innovative tools to help users better understand how they’re related to their DNA Matches.”

“Collaborating with MyHeritage on the development of cM Explainer™ has been thrilling,” said Larry Jones, inventor of the cM Solver technology. “I’m excited that millions of people will be able to use this feature to gain deeper insights into their matches. MyHeritage has a great product and a brilliant founder who is an inspiration to everyone around him. Brainstorming ideas with him was among the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in recent years.”

cM Explainer™ is a free feature and is available to anyone with DNA results on MyHeritage. It is also available as a free standalone tool for non-MyHeritage customers on MyHeritage DNA kits are available for purchase at

I am looking forward, as soon as I get home from RootsTech 2023 to investigating this exciting new tool.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Day Before RootsTech: Setting Up The Family History Guide Booth

 We get to RootsTech 2023 the day before it opens to help setup The Family History Guide Booth. The Expo floor is being assembled in all the booths. I spend time saying hello to people I haven't seen since before the pandemic. We have the booth all ready for the opening day is here and their booth is starting to take shape. 

You can see the booth and many others. Unfortunately, because it is open to outside, the temperature in this part of the Salt Palace is near freezing. It will warm up by tomorrow when we open for the first in-person RootsTech in too long. 

This is the main entrance where they are printing the badges. I will try to take a lot of photos. I have already had a nice visit with Daniel Horowitz of, Bruce Buzbee of, and a visit with Tina LaFreniere of, Richard Miller of, and a lot of people from Nice to see everybody. 

Findmypast at RootsTech: new features and expert hints for tracing British and Irish ancestry has several new features to be announced at RootsTech. They also have some expert presenters to highlight the new developments. Here is a list of their representatives at RootsTech.

Jen Baldwin, Research Specialist & North American Content Manager, 

Mary McKee, Head of Content Publishing Ops & Data Protection, 

Philly Malicka, Head of Content Acquisition, Strategy and Advocacy,

Brian Donovan, Strategic Business Initiatives and Licensing,

From an email, here are the highlights of the new features. 

More than one in five Americans have British or Irish ancestry, so whether you’re at
RootsTech to begin your research or dig deeper into your family stories, make sure
to join Findmypast’s expert talks for insider tips on exploring their unrivalled
collection of British and Irish records and Trees. With the new Tree Search, offering
instant access to the UK’s richest tree network and an ever-expanding collection of
over 14 billion digitised records and historical newspaper pages, you’ll find your
British and Irish family stories right at your fingertips. 
New features on the site make it easier than ever to trace your tree back to medieval
ancestors in Britain and Ireland – and maybe even trace long lost cousins across the
pond. With Tree Search, you’ll have access to a network of over 4.5m member trees,
including nearly a third of all trees connecting to US nodes. Instantly discover new
connections through more accurate hints and progress your research quicker than
ever as you add major new branches and flood your tree with the events and stories
of your ancestors’ lives. When you find an ancestor in common, the new user profile
feature allows you to spark up a conversation with those members directly. 
Plus, with Findmypast’s ever-expanding collection of over 14 billion digitised records
and historical newspaper pages, your tree with be enriched with unique details about
your past you won't find anywhere else. The site contains the most comprehensive
collection of British and Irish records, including the largest online collection of both
Irish and Catholic records in the world, so you can explore connections to England,
Northern Ireland, Scotland and beyond. Travel and migration records track life-
changing journeys across oceans, and military records mark the service and
sacrifice of ancestors around the world. With access to over 50 million historical
newspaper pages, you can discover the colourful stories behind the headlines that
connect to each family member on your tree – and perhaps spot your ancestor right
there in black and white. Findmypast is the only site that adds thousands of new records and newspapers every single week, so there’s always a new story to uncover to bring richness and detail to your ancestors’ lives.
Our experts will be offering virtual sessions during the RootsTech event to bring
these features and records to life: 
Tools to connect with Findmypast exclusive data – get to grips with the
tools available on Findmypast to progress your research and dig deeper into
your British and Irish roots with Head of Data Products, Chris Brake,
including searching member trees, newspaper collections, and addresses. 
Introducing the 1921 Census of England and Wales - Mary McKee, Head
of Publishing Operations, will be offering tips to discover your not-so-distant
ancestors from across the UK, Commonwealth, the US and beyond in the
1921 Census of England and Wales – available exclusively online at
Irish Family History is Easy! Seriously – those with Irish roots can get
insights into simple research methods and useful records from Findmypast’s
Irish history expert, Brian Donovan. Recordings of previous talks from
Findmypast experts are also available on the event site, for those wishing to
dig even deeper.

“We’re very excited that RootsTech is back in full force this year so that more people
can progress their family history research,” says Tamsin Todd, CEO at Findmypast.
“Every family story is unique, and at Findmypast our huge range of British and Irish
records allow members to delve into their ancestors’ lives in more detail than ever
before. And, with a free trial, you can try out the helpful features on the site and
discover the friendly community of family history enthusiasts that make Findmypast
so special before you commit.”

Find more information about Findmypast at RootsTech here:

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

RootsTech 2023 Keynote Speakers


RootsTech 2023 Keynote Speakers from an email:

Jordin Sparks

The multi-platinum recording artist, actress, and American Idol Season 6 winner will share her personal story and speak about how music has shaped her life from a young age. Sparks has multiple Billboard hit singles, and her music videos have received over 90 million views on YouTube. She has also starred in several Broadway and film productions. Jordin Sparks will be featured opening day of RootsTech 2023, Thursday, March 2.

Sean Astin

The globally recognized actor and Academy Award-nominated director is perhaps best known for his character Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and starring roles in The Goonies, Rudy, Forever Strong, and more.  Astin has been building his fan base throughout his 40-year career and includes 160 credits. His character roles have emphasized heart, hope, determination, and loyalty. He will be sharing his heart at RootsTech 2023 on Saturday, March 4, as he shares his unique life experiences and the choices, challenges, and fulfillment that come with uniting families and people. 

Me Ra Koh

Today a famed photographer, Me Ra Koh grew from humble beginnings. Her inspiring story emerged from physical and emotional challenges, personal tragedy, homelessness, and even a period in a psychiatric hospital to a successful life as a wife, mother, and acclaimed photographer. She has mastered the talent of using the camera to capture the story of resilience within people. Watch Me Ra Koh in person or online at RootsTech 2023 on Friday, March 3.

Steve Rockwood

The CEO of FamilySearch, Steve Rockwood will kick off RootsTech 2023 on March 2, and introduce its theme of “Uniting.”  There is power in unified relationships of all types, and Rockwood will address how uniting families past, present, and future can do just that.

RootsTech 2023 Virtual Exclusive Keynotes

As a global event, RootsTech 2023 will feature keynotes from around the world.  They will not be on the main stage in Salt Lake City, Utah, but will be broadcasted online at beginning March 3, 2023.
His Highness Sheikh Salem bin Sultan bin Saqr Al-Qasimi

His Highness the Sheikh is from the United Arab Emirates. He is a leader in promoting understanding, openness, and harmony among people of all cultures. He has also been a major contributor to achieving sustainability and food security in the UAE and was awarded the Medal of Excellence for being an important figure in sustainable investment. 

Tuti Furlan

An amazing psychologist from Guatemala, Furlan specializes in positive psychology and the science of happiness. 

Mona Magno-Veluz 

Magno-Veluz is a native of the Philippines where she serves as the National President of the Autism Society of the Philippines. She has designed and engineered initiatives that empower individuals on the autism spectrum and those who care for them.
Global Emcees
For the first time ever, RootsTech 2023 will offer localized main stage sessions. Fifteen emcees from all over the world, speaking in their native language, will direct online attendees through the 3 days of events on the main stage. 

Announcing RootsMagic 9

 Quoting from a recent email:

We are thrilled to announce the official release of RootsMagic 9, the latest version of the award-winning genealogy software, which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history easy and enjoyable. With the release comes an update to the free “RootsMagic Essentials” product and a limited-time discount offer for both new and existing users.

RootsMagic 9 includes exciting new features that will help you to discover more about your family history.

  • With our innovative new “Associations” feature, you can track more than just family relationships. This powerful tool lets you record friends, associates, neighbors, enslavements, and more, giving you a more complete picture of your ancestors and their connections.
  • Enhanced color coding with multiple color code sets and color labeling makes it easier to identify different branches of your family tree and see relationships at a glance.
  • With the ability to save and reuse search criteria and task filters, you can quickly access frequently used searches and save time on your research.
  • RootsMagic 9 also includes powerful new database tools, which can help you to identify and correct errors in your family tree data. This can lead to a more accurate family tree and more informed research.
  • The RootsMagic 9 note editor has been completely rewritten to be more responsive and now includes spell-checking.
  • For Windows users, RootsMagic 9 is now available in 32-bit and 64-bit formats.
  • And RootsMagic 9 includes dozens of new features designed to make working with your data faster, easier, and more enjoyable. 
  • Click here to learn more.  

Huge On-demand Library of Classes on

With over 1500 classes on 185 topics in 30 languages, the RootsTech Archive that stretches back to 2019, is a treasure house of genealogical information. This year, 2023, there will be 180 new in-person classes and over 300 new online classes. I have heard that about 30 of these classes will be broadcast live and recorded. This will allow the online audience to participate in some of the in-person classes online and join in the excitement of the in-person experience.

Here is my live class and I have six videos to enlarge the information in my class.

Friday, February 24, 2023

How does an indentured servant, redemptioner, or enslaved ancestor affect your research?


Although data on immigration for the colonial period are scattered and incomplete several scholars have estimated that between half and three quarters of European immigrants arriving in the colonies came as indentured or redemptioner servants. See Rosenblum, Joshua. n.d. “Indentured Servitude in the Colonial U.S.” Accessed February 23, 2023. 

An indentured servant is defined as a person who signs and is bound by indentures to work for another for a specified time especially in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance. Redemptioners are more specifically defined as follows: 
Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to American Colonies (most often Pennsylvania) by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage. British indentured servants generally did not arrive as redemptioners after the early colonial period due to certain protections afforded them by law. Redemptioners were at a disadvantage because they negotiated their indentures upon arrival after a long and difficult voyage with no prospect to return to their homelands. See

As part of the number of indentured servants, approximately 60,000 of them were criminals who were transported to the colonies. Here is a quote about the numbers which vary according to the source. 

Not many people know that between 1718 and 1775 over 52,000 convicts were transported from the British Isles to America, mainly to Maryland and Virginia, to be sold as slaves to the highest bidder. It is reckoned that transported convicts made up a quarter of the British immigrants to colonial America in the 18th century.

Before the Transportation Act of 1718, criminals either escaped with just a whipping or a branding. They were then released back onto the streets to commit more crimes. Or they were hanged. Because the jails were not intended for long-term incarceration, there was nothing in between.

After the passing of the Act, transportation became the main punishment at the courts’ disposal. From May 1718 to the outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775, over 70 per cent of those who were found guilty at the Old Bailey were sentenced to be transported, compared with less than one per cent in the period from 1700 to March 1718. See

 You need to add to that number that current estimates are that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years. See,a%20span%20of%20400%20years. In addition, about 59,000 free African Americans lived in the United States in the census of 1790 or about 19 percent of the total population.

All these figures about the percentages and numbers of these early populations are subject to opinion, methodology, and verification. But all things considered, there is a huge proportion of the United States population that has ancestors in these three categories. 

If you think about these numbers for just few minutes, you will understand that if you have ancestors that appear in the American colonies before or about the time of independence from England and you are stuck trying to find how or when they arrived in America, you are very likely to have one or even all three of these categories of ancestors. This is why a remarkably high percentage of the ancestral lines in the United States really end in or before the 1700s. Record keeping and identification of the people in these three categories is often inaccurate or incomplete. 

If you find a family line in the Family Tree that goes back to colonial times, you need to carefully document each parent/child relationship because a huge number of these lines come from one or more of these three categories and there are unlikely to be any records showing an actual extension of the family line back to Europe. Of course, tracking an enslaved family back to its origins is one of the ultimate challenges of genealogy.  

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sean Astin, Renowned Actor, to Keynote RootsTech 2023


Here is a quote from the announcement about the new Keynote speaker:

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, February 21, 2023—Sean Astin, perhaps best known for his character “Samwise Gamgee” in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, will be the featured RootsTech 2023 keynote speaker on Saturday, March 4 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The globally recognized actor and Academy Award-nominated director will take to the main stage to inspire attendees, the worldwide audience and fans, through his personal message of the power of family and unity, whatever that may look like for each of us. Watch RootsTech 2023 in person or online, March 2–4. Learn more at

Sean Astin’s acting career, beginning at age 10, has spanned four decades and includes over 160 credits. Throughout this time, Astin has come to touch all generations through his roles on the big screen. Astin’s mentionable roles include The Lord of the Rings, The Goonies, Rudy, Forever Strong, and more. 

Jen Allen, director of events at FamilySearch, says, “Sean Astin unites generations. My mother is just as excited as my teenagers to see him at RootsTech 2023.” Astin was born into a world of talent, coming from two parents who are both well-known actors themselves, Patty Duke and John Astin.

Astin succeeded at building his fan base early on through roles that emphasize his good heart, hope, determination, and loyalty. In fact, his personal motto is “people will root for anyone who shows them their heart.” Astin will be doing just that at RootsTech 2023 as he shares his heart with millions of viewers around the world and shares his unique life experiences and the choices, challenges, and fulfillment that come with uniting families and people. 

"Sean has a rich history in the film industry, and as we've seen his characters come to life on screen, we look forward to getting to know the man behind all the characters we have come to love,” said RootsTech creative manager, Jonathan Wing.

Astin’s keynote address will take place at the RootsTech General Session on Saturday, March 4, 2023, 11:00 AM MST. Register now at to get your in-person pass. Can’t attend in-person? Register to watch Sean Astin live at

Registration for RootsTech 2023 is still open you can register by clicking here: Registration 

I hope to see you there. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

How will Artificial Intelligence affect Genealogy?


Here is the origin of the term "artificial intelligence"

John McCarthy is one of the "founding fathers" of artificial intelligence, together with Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon. McCarthy, Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester and Claude E. Shannon coined the term "artificial intelligence" in a proposal that they wrote for the famous Dartmouth conference in Summer 1956. This conference started AI as a field. (Minsky later joined McCarthy at MIT in 1959.)

I would have been in elementary school in 1956 but I was an avid reader of science fiction and probably learned about artificial intelligence about the time it became a popular term. But the book I Robot by Isaac Asimov was already published in 1950 and I am sure I read that book about the same time it was still newly published. In addition to my interest in science fiction, I have also read extensively about the history of computers. I knew enough to know that the early AI app, Eliza (see, flunked the Touring Test (see if you are interested).

What has this to do with genealogy? Well, many people have been involved in FamilySearch's Indexing project. If you go to and click on the Indexing link and then ask for a project, you will get the following screen. 

Yes, there are no projects to do in English. In fact, you can search in all the languages and there are no projects found. The only thing left are reviews using the app on your phone. Why is this? AI indexing using handwriting recognition is indexing the records. Now, the job for human intervention has moved to reviewing the AI Indexing. 

Yet the development of current AI projects, such as those currently being implemented by Google and Microsoft, demonstrate an even more expansive. Here is a question I put to ChatGPT:
Tell me about Henry Martin Tanner born in 1852 in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California and died on 21 March 1935 in Gilbert, Maricopa, Arizona, United States. What did he do for a living, tell me about his family, were any of his children famous. 

Relatively, there is a huge amount of information about Henry, much of it in digital form online, including a complete biography. So, what did ChatGPT have to write about him? Here is what I got from ChatGPT:

Henry Martin Tanner (1852-1935) was an American artist known for his paintings and prints of landscapes, figures, and biblical scenes. He was born in San Bernardino, California, to parents who were former slaves, and was the eldest of thirteen children.

Tanner's family moved to Philadelphia in the late 1850s, where he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He later studied in France, where he lived for most of his life and where his work was greatly influenced by the Barbizon School of landscape painters.

Tanner's work often reflected his Christian faith, and he is perhaps best known for his religious paintings, such as "The Raising of Lazarus" and "The Annunciation." His work was also notable for its realism and its use of light and shadow.

Tanner was married to Jessie Macauley Olsson, a Swedish-American opera singer, and they had one child together, a son named Jesse O. Tanner. Jesse was not famous, but he did follow in his father's artistic footsteps, becoming a photographer and graphic designer.

In addition to his artistic work, Tanner was also involved in various civil rights organizations and was an advocate for social justice. He was the first African American artist to gain international acclaim, and he paved the way for other Black artists to gain recognition and success in the art world. Tanner died in 1935 in Arizona at the age of 82.

Hmm. It seems like I never knew my great-grandfather was famous and could paint. This is the dumb kind of mistake you would shake your head at. In genealogy this is called the same name same person mistake. What I got was a tolerable biography of Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was born in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and died in 1937 in Paris, France. See Except it got birth and death places wrong. 

I don't know about you, but I am not quite ready to start relying too heavily on AI to solve any of my genealogical problems. It seems AI does make a good indexer but it isn't even close to making a bare minimum genealogist.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Find New Cousins Using Free Relatives at RootsTech 2023 Tool

Here is another announcement from
 SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (17 February 2023)—Ever wondered if you have cousins, you didn’t know about? Now, thanks to the free Relatives at RootsTech 2023 discovery experience by FamilySearch, you can find and connect with your living relatives worldwide. The fun tool is available today through March 31 through the FamilySearch Tree app, as part of the annual in-person and virtual RootsTech 2023 event (March 2–4) that attracted over 3 million participants worldwide in 2022. To connect with your global cousins through the Relatives at RootsTech 2023 experience, download the FamilySearch Tree app, or go to

 The highly anticipated Relatives at RootsTech annual experience went global in 2021 as the first worldwide virtual RootsTech conference was held, drawing more than 1 million visitors from 240 different countries and territories. In 2022, over 3 million participated. With the in-person event returning in 2023, now all attendees, both virtual and in person, can join Relatives at RootsTech 2023 to find living relatives using the free FamilySearch Family Tree mobile app or online at

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Famed Portrait Photographer Me Ra Koh to Keynote RootsTech 2023

Here is another announcement from FamilySearch of a Keynote Speaker at the RootsTech 2023 Live conference. The keynotes will also be broadcast to those who sign up for online access. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, 16 February 2023—Celebrated photographer Me Ra (pronounced Mee-Rah ) Koh, is a living portrait of resilience. She will share her inspiring story as a keynote speaker at RootsTech 2023, Friday, March 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center and online at   

Koh rose from humble beginnings, including physical and emotional challenges, to become a famed photographer featured on Oprah, Live with Kelly & Ryan, and other popular television shows, sought after photography expert, best-selling author, Disney Channel host, and one of the first two women photographers to be Sony-sponsored. Her family portraiture work has been featured in galleries in London, New York, and Los Angeles, and published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Martha Stewart, Parenting, and Women’s World.

She is also a sought-after motivational speaker whose inspiring story weaves in and out of personal tragedy, homelessness, and a period in a psychiatric hospital to a successful life as a wife of 25 years, a mother of two young adults, and the co-owner with her husband Brian Tausend of the renowned FIORIA portrait studio in Frisco, Texas, whose sole purpose, she says, is to celebrate people’s resilience.

“Through her work on television, online, and in person, Me Ra has inspired millions of viewers around the world,” said Jonathan Wing, RootsTech creative manager. “We cannot wait for her to inspire our RootsTech audience!”

Me Ra’s message is sure to bring laughter, empowerment, and courage to those who hear her speak. To learn more about this amazing woman, visit

 You can still register to attend in person, although the price may go up soon. The online registration is free. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Genealogy in 2023: Are you up to speed?


I have always been an avid reader of science fiction. As the years pass, I realize that I am now living in the future as envisioned by many of the books I read beginning sixty years ago. Guess what? The present that was the future in the 1950s and 1960s is essentially not at all like the one in the books. I could go on and on about those things some authors predicted and failed and the others that guessed the changes that happened, but one thing missing from all books and movies is the impact of digitization of genealogical records. The closest guess comes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The internet is the closest thing we have today that matched the capabilities of the Hitchhiker's Guide.

Now, what do we do with all this information? I still see genealogists carrying around a huge burden of paper and writing down everything with paper and pencil. This means that they are going to do everything at least twice or that some relative will end up redoing all the research and work. I have to admit that I have more electronic tools for gathering information than I have time to use. I also have to admit that I sometimes write a note on a pile of scratch paper I have next to my keyboard, but that is because I have a better chance of remembering the note it is staring me in the face than when it is sitting on a list on my computer. 

The reality of genealogical research today is that both Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Handwriting Recognition have reached the level that millions of genealogically valuable documents are being indexed and, in some cases, transcribed every day. For example, added 2.5 billion historical records in 2023. See MyHeritage now has 18.9 billion records. 

Here is a statement from FamilySearch about the records added in 2022. See 

FamilySearch added nearly 2 billion searchable names and images in 2022 from ancestral homelands worldwide for a total of 16.3 billion free historical records and images! Significant expansions in 2022 included records for Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland), the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, areas in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, and more.

FamilySearch also added 19,264 digital books to its Books collection. Ancestry now has over 30 billion records. See

Of course, all three companies count their records differently but assuming you wanted to look at just these three companies' records, If you looked at one record every second it would take you about 2,132 years to look at all the records and that is only three companies.

As genealogists, we really can't ignore the numbers. This means that the old paper way of doing genealogy has to evolve into the digital version. Can we keep up? To do genealogy today, you need some serious computer skills. Fortunately, technology does not stand still. We now have the possibility through Artificial Intelligence that we can use the AI tools to look for us with increased accuracy. 

Perhaps you should be concerned about being left behind. But I do have one suggestion, the genealogists who are becoming interested in actually doing genealogical research today will definitely need superior computer skills. Maybe instead of just helping our children to become interested in family history, we should also be helping them develop the computer skills necessary to survive in the future.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Elder Gerrit W. Gong Will Keynote RootsTech 2023 Family Discovery Day


Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the keynote speaker for the traditional Family Discovery Day on the last day, March 4th, for RootsTech 2023. Here is a link to information about Family Discovery Day.

Quoting from the announcement:

Family Discovery Day 2023 will be held during the RootsTech conference on March 4, 2023, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a free, fun, in-person event offering activities and experiences that will help you and your family unite as you discover more about your family history.

If you are unable to attend in-person, the keynote address by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Susan Gong, will be broadcasted virtually at at 1:30 p.m. MDT.

No registration is required for Family Discovery Day in-person or online. Those interested in getting RootsTech updates can register online. You can also join other RootsTech in-person events by signing up for the full conference with 2023 pricing.

Early bird registration for the full RootsTech 2023 Conference will end soon. For information about registration for the entire conference see the following:

I will be speaking, helping, and interacting with everything at the conference. I hope to see you there. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 in-person event at the FamilySearch Library during RootsTech 2023

Come learn about the status, success and future of FamilySearch GEDCOM

Don’t miss this anniversary in-person event about FamilySearch GEDCOM at the FamilySearch Library,
March 3, 12:30 PM Main Floor Computer Lab.  Lots of news and announcements !
RootsTech 2023 registration not required for attendance. Space is limited
Send your attendance commitment to now !


Thursday, February 2, 2023

African American Great Migration Classes at RootsTech 2023

You are invited to attend my live class at RootsTech 2023 at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 2, at 9:30 am. "Understanding and Researching the Records of the Great Northward Migration 1915-1970" The class will be held in Room 155 B. 

I also have six supplementary classes online. "Understanding and Researching the Records of the Great Northward Migration 1915-1970 - Series." These will be available when the conference begins.

You can register for the Live conference for $98 and the online, virtual conference is free. See the following;

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Genealogists circle the law without understanding it


Legal records of all kinds are often listed as genealogically valuable but without a significant effort to learn the language used by legal practitioners, such as lawyers, judges, and court personnel: genealogists find it difficult to use these valuable legal resources. 

One of the comments made about attending law school in the United States is that you go to school for three years to learn how to make a noise like a lawyer. Part of this statement is generally true. One of my early experiences after being admitted to law school revolved around the fact that I started to work as a reference librarian in the law school library three months before classes started. During the first few days as the semester began, I worked at the reference desk and had a clear view of the stack of reference books that included the law dictionaries. As each hour's class ended, there was a stampede of students into the library to grab the dictionaries to try and understand what the law professors had just said in class. I had a good laugh. I grew up in a home where my father was an attorney and I ended up in a Boy Scout sponsored legal Explorer Post. With additional trips to court with my father, I thought I knew more than most of the students.

The idea that I knew something more than anyone around me soon evaporated in the overload of unfamiliar legal terms. I learned to live with one important book: Black's Law Dictionary. Here is a link to an online version of that extremely valuable book.

Reading a legal document, at first, is exactly like trying to read something in a language you do not speak such a German to an English speaker. Learning all the vocabulary can be overwhelming. But in addition to the vocabulary itself, there are concepts that are utterly foreign to those who do not speak the language. Now we fast forward almost 40 years and guess what? I still have a copy of Black's Law Dictionary sitting on my desk or behind my desk within arm's reach. 

Now, what about the genealogist who has no legal training? What can they do to acquire the language and the concepts that allow them to understand historical legal documents that may also be handwritten and even more difficult to decipher? They can do what those first-year law students did. Run, not walk, to the law dictionaries and start learning this, to them, foreign language. 

Today, besides the specific legal language websites, we have Google. I can now take a legal term such as "assumpsit" and type "define assumpsit" and almost instantly get an answer, which is, by the way, as follows:

Assumpsit, or more fully, action in assumpsit, was a form of action at common law used to enforce what are now called obligations arising in tort and contract; and in some common law jurisdictions, unjust enrichment. 

Of course, this definition will lead you to define some of the other terms also, such as "common law, tort, contract, and unjust enrichment." Do you have to become an attorney to understand the language? Only if you want to represent people in court. Genealogists need to learn the terms used in historical, genealogically valuable documents which include legal documents. If you do not understand what is written in a will, for example, don't guess at what it says. Either take the time to learn or ask for help from someone who can help. 

Genealogy is not simple. It is not easy. It is not something everyone can do in five minutes. Keep learning and don't give up. It is worth the effort. 

Remember the BYU Virtual Help Desk is available to help. See

Friday, January 27, 2023

One Free Pass to RootsTech 2023

 I can give away one complimentary IN-PERSON RootsTech 2023 3-day pass ($98 value) to RootsTech 2023 at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah March 2nd through the 4th. If you send me an email at genealogyarizona at, I will pick a winner out a hat from any emails I might receive. All entries must be received before 12:00 pm on January 31, 2023 to qualify as an entry. Thanks for coming to RootsTech 2023 if you win and be sure an look me up. Also, please do not enter if you are not coming IN PERSON to RootsTech this year. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

RootsTech Announces Jordin Sparks as a Keynote Speaker

 RootsTech 2023 announced its first Keynote Speaker; Jordin Sparks. See

This year's conference will be held from March 2nd to the 4th at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah and online. You can register by going to the RootsTech 2023 website at

We have had some considerable discussion about what we can expect with the live, in-person part of the conference after a two year hiatus. The discussion centers mostly about how many people will attend in person when the conference will also be broadcast. Most of the live classes will not be broadcast and in addition, those who attend online will not be participating in the Exhibit Hall and will likely miss the unique offers that are usually made at the conference. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing a few people I have missed seeing for the past two years or so. I will be teaching a live class and will also have six online videos. I will also be presenting at the MyHeritage booth all three days of the conference. In addition, I will be in attendance at the GEDCOM events and probably a few other activities that have yet to be announced or determined. You can also look for me at The Family History Guide booth and the Ambassador area in the Exhibit Hall. I think this is the first RootsTech conference where I will be a speaker, an exhibitor, and an ambassador. 

Hope to see you there. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Family History Centers all become FamilySearch Centers and more


By Beneathtimp - Own work, CC0,

Years ago, when we lived in Mesa, Arizona, I worked at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Yes, the library was "branded" as a FamilySearch Library. It no longer exists. It was closed down completely when reconstruction started on the Mesa, Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There have been discussions and rumors for a long time that Family History Centers would become FamilySearch Centers. Well, the official announcement of the change finally came in a letter and email dated January 10, 2023. Quoting from the letter announcement:

To better align the identity of family history centers with, the Church’s free online family history resource, all centers are being renamed “FamilySearch Centers.” The Church’s Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, will be renamed the “FamilySearch Library.”

If you look closely at the photo above from the WikiMedia Commons dated 2 May 2020, you will see that FamilySearch is prominently displayed on the front of the building so changing the name shouldn't be much of a surprise. What will take a lot of time is converting all the over 5000 local family history centers to FamilySearch Centers.

Additional information online from the FamilySearch Newsroom states the following:

In addition to FamilySearch centers, there are over 1,700 FamilySearch affiliate libraries (public libraries, museums, universities, and archives) that have privileges to limited-access FamilySearch databases. There will be no name change for a FamilySearch affiliate library.

This makes sense since they are called "FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries" already. For most of us, the change has been known and a long time coming.