Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#FGS2014 Conference FamilySearch Media Dinner

David Rencher addresses bloggers at FamilySearch Media Dinner
David Rencher addressed bloggers at the
FamilySearch Media Dinner at FGS 2014.
(Thank you, Marian, for taking the picture for me. I
neglected to ask you if you wanted to be credited.)
Dan "Shrek" Call introduced RootsTech 2015
Dan Call gave us very little of his Shrek imitation.
Mostly he just talked about RootsTech 2015.
The 2014 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies kicked off, for me at least, with the usual FamilySearch media dinner. FamilySearch hosted 30 to 40 bloggers at the Rio Rio restaurant off the river walk in San Antonio, Texas. We ate Mexican food and talked FamilySearch. If I had to pick a theme, I’d say it was that FamilySearch Family Tree is growing and improving. We learned about mobile apps that bring The Tree to your pocket. We learned about tree views and three icons. And we learned about attaching hints (suggested records) to The Tree.

Bloggers wear multiple hats and many of those assembled are also society officers, speakers, and other community influencers. David Rencher, FamilySearch chief genealogical officer, thanked those assembled for all they do. “My hats off to you.” He told us that he monitors the quality of the information in the tree and it is increasing. One indicator he looks at is counting the number of people in the tree with too many parents. While it’s common and correct to have several sets of parents, once you get a dozen or more, you’ve got too many. That indicates a problem with the quality of the information in the tree. Rencher was happy to point out that he is seeing improvement.

Dan Call, fresh from a stint of playing Shrek onstage, next gave us a short plug for RootsTech 2015. (We thought they were teasing about him playing Shrek, but the Internet verifies he did. And the Internet doesn’t lie!) RootsTech (“I thought it was a bionic plant”) 2015 is coming on 12-14 February 2015. The theme is “Celebrating Families Across Generations.”

RootsTech will target eight audiences:

RootsTech 2015 will target eight audiences
(Sorry about the distortion of Call’s slide. I was sitting too close to the bottom right corner of the screen.)

RootsTech 2015 will be even larger than last year. Here’s a comparison of RootsTech 2014 and their goals for RootsTech 2015:

  2014 2015
Paid attendance 5,250 5,500
Family Discovery Day attendance 4,000 5,000
Youth (and families for 2015) attendance 4,000 5,000
Exhibitors 140 170
Viewers of streaming broadcasts 14,000+ 20,000+
Remote family history fairs 850+ 1,000+
Approximate fair attendees 150,000 200,000

Call also casually mentioned that some other conference—which one is it?—was going to be held side-by-side with RootsTech 2015. Wait. Wait. Oh, yes. FGS. Hello, Dan!

Parts of the two conferences will be distinct and parts will be combined. Classes will be separate. The expo hall will be combined. Luncheons will be separate. (You’ll have to use two different registration systems if you want to register for some RootsTech luncheons and some FGS luncheons.) General sessions and evening events will be combined. RootsTech will have computer labs (I know someone who is teaching one). FGS will have Librarians Day. The RootsTech website lists $39 as the price of an FGS add-on pass.

Registration opens 29 August for RootsTech 2015 and a $139 early-bird special price will be available for two weeks. The new website is now live. Check it out!

(I’m running out of time to write, so I’m going to have to wrap up the last three presenters rather quickly.)

Bryce Roper, a FamilySearch Family Tree product manager, told us about the two FamilySearch mobile apps: Family Tree and Memories. “We’ve been behind the wave and we’re trying to get on top of that wave as quick as we can,” he said. The apps and the website are tied together. The information viewed or contributed on one is available on the other. The exception today is that audio recordings captured by the apps is not available online. “Hopefully, before the end of FGS we’ll have it released for the web as well,” Roper said. “It is really, really close.” The web feature will additionally be able to add existing audio files.

The Family Tree app is available for Apple and Android and allows you to

  • Connect with ancestors
  • Discover life details
  • Share family stories
  • Explore relationships
  • Add memories in context (in other words, to the associated persons)

The Memories app is available for Apple and allows you to

  • Capture and preserve user specific content
  • Specify who a memory is about
  • Share family stories
  • Add memories (photos, audio, and stories) in bulk
  • Attach memories in any order

The roadmap for Family Tree includes the ability to add persons to The Tree, and edit or change facts about them.

Mark Gowans, FamilySearch Family Tree designer

Mark Gowans mentioned that the three tree icons that we see in the descendancy view will soon be in the traditional pedigree and portrait pedigree views:

Additional icons will soon show up on the traditional pedigree view of Family Tree

The three icons are:

Gowans mentioned three Family Tree icons: record hints, research suggestions, and data problems

High contrast versions of the tree views will be available for those with visual challenges:

The pedigree view will have a high-contrast version

(It’s time to put both this article and this author to bed, so let me wrap up quickly.)

Gowan and the final presenter, FamilySearch product manager for Search, Robert Kehrer, both addressed hints. Hints are suggestions that FamilySearch gives concerning historical records that might apply to people in Family Tree. FamilySearch considers all the facts about a person in the tree and all of his “one hop” relatives: spouse, parents, and children. (I don’t recall if siblings were included.) It compares all these facts to persons in records to decide if there is a match. Kehrer believes that their hinting system is more than 98% accurate. He thinks that further improvement is possible; he believes they can increase the number of hints made without decreasing the accuracy. (That is to say, he can decrease the number of false negatives without increasing the number of false positives.)

Kehrer demonstrated how to take a hint and attach all the people mentioned in a record to all the corresponding people in the tree. The demonstration was followed by an awesome set of questions from attendees about user behavior and whether or not the idea of a single, shared tree will work. In the end, the group decided…

Gosh, look at the time… I’ve got to go to bed!

Stay tuned for more FGS reports from sunny San Antonio!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Retirement of MyCanvas is Cancelled

Alexander's is acquiring’s MyCanvas website was scheduled to go away on 30 September 2014. Events have changed and that will no longer happen. The company that did the actual printing of MyCanvas books and charts is acquiring the service and website.

Back on 4 June 2014 announced that several of its websites and services were being retired on 5 September 2014 so they could focus on their central offerings. (See “ Announces Retirement of Several Websites.”) The retirement date was extended to 30 September 2014 after a denial of service attack prevented users from accessing those sites for several days. (See “ Attacked by Zombies,” “ Attacked by Zombies, Part 2,” and “ Delays Retirement.”)

Let me take an aside and address a common point of misunderstanding with that announcement. is retiring its Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests. It is not retiring its current, popular offering: autosomal DNA testing. As an aside to my aside, that test is on sale for $79 until 27 August. For that price, I bought three! For more information, visit But I digress…

Eric Shoup, executive vice-president of products at announced last week that Alexander’s, a printing and marketing company, would be the new owner of MyCanvas. I remember when Alexander’s was nothing more than a local photocopy shop. It’s headquartered not far from It has been quite successful and grown into a modest sized custom print house of 60 employees. This acquisition will give them a ready-made website extending their offering to individuals worldwide.

“It’s our hope that this agreement will not change the experience for MyCanvas customers. In fact, Alexander’s plans to make some exciting improvements we think you’ll love,” said Shoup. “The transition of MyCanvas will take about six months. But in the meantime, all MyCanvas projects will remain accessible on until it moves over to Alexander’s next year. We will continue to communicate details as the transition moves forward.”

See the complete text of Shoup’s statement on the blog.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Plan Your Schedule for the #FGS2014 Conference

The Ancestry Insider is an ambassador for the FGS 2014 annual conferenceIt’s official! I’m now an ambassador for this week’s 2014 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. You can find me on a list of the ambassadors along with rather awesome fellow bloggers.

If you’ve pre-registered for the conference, now’s the time to download the syllabus from the conference website. This will enhance both your preparation and attendance at the conference.

Now’s the time to put together your initial plan of sessions to attend and the syllabus can be instrumental. There are several ways to create your schedule.

One approach is to use the scheduling features of the FGS Conference website. This approach works only if you pre-registered. Login and select “Plan Your Sessions.” (The button is underneath your registration.) Go through each day and each class period, selecting the desired class for each period. When ready, print your itinerary and, from the syllabus, print the handouts for each class.

Another approach is to use the FGS Smartphone App. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the “My Schedule” feature to work, but maybe it will work for you. Even still, the app gives a convenient place to see which sessions are available each class period. The app also includes maps, exhibitor directory, and speaker bios. It’s a lot like the conference guide you’ll receive at check-in, but it doesn’t weigh anything. It is available for both iOS phones and for Android phones.

A third approach is to go old school. This works for anyone, whether or not you pre-registered. View the schedule online at Add the classes you wish to attend to whatever calendar application you normally use.

When you are unsure among class alternatives, the syllabus comes in very handy. Compare the handouts among the classes. As I’ve said before, (see “#NGS2014GEN Planning Your Time at a Conference”):

Handouts show different levels of preparation, organization, educational skills, presentation skills, and presenter qualifications. I can usually decide among sessions based on the handouts.

  • Sometimes a handout communicates a topic so well, I opt for another session!
  • Sometimes a handout makes it clear what the skill level of the presentation will be and I can tell if I will be learning new material.
  • Sometimes a handout contains a small outline filling less than the allotted four pages. I assume the presenter didn’t have the discipline to prepare his handout until just before the deadline. I usually skip these sessions.
  • Sometimes a handout consists of a four-page bibliography. It reflects the presenter’s extensive library of the best texts collected over an entire career. I can understand how this is valuable for some people. I personally don’t derive a great amount of value from it. I’ll never buy or read that amount of material for a single subject. Give me a list of the sources used for the session, but highlight a handful of the most valuable. A strictly bibliographic handout makes it difficult to judge the value of a session. The presenter is probably an expert, but it is impossible to judge their skills as an educator.
  • Sometimes a session lacks a handout, demonstrating the presenter’s lack of respect for attendees. I avoid these sessions when I can. Unfortunately, since the Ancestry Insider’s editorial focus is and FamilySearch, I should attend their sessions. presenters and FamilySearch product managers are among the worst offenders, for which I’m sorely ashamed. Their marketing departments pay big bucks to sponsor conferences, which gives them maybe a single page in the syllabus. Yet they regularly pass up the opportunity to get a four-page handout in the hands of self-selected interested users? Unbelievable.

To download the syllabus, visit, click on Registration, and sign in with your Username and Password. Click on “Download your syllabus” in the red rectangle at the top of your screen.

See you in San Antonio!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don Anderson and FamilySearch Partners #BYUFHGC

Don Anderson is a senior vice president at FamilySearch for patron and partner services. He gave two presentations at the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. It’s pretty cool to have someone of his standing presenting one regular session, let alone two. Both were about partners. “Partners are a key part of our strategy at FamilySearch,” he said.

Anderson showed parts from the partnering infographic released by FamilySearch back in February.

Collaboration is needed to acquire all the records that need to be preserved.
FamilySearch has preserved 5.3 billion records and need to preserve 60 billion more.

Collaboration is needed to index all the records that have been acquired.
Without collaboration it will take 200 to 300 years to index the 5.3 billion FamilySearch records

Jay Verkler, former FamilySearch president once told a story about meeting an elderly lady who reached up, grabbed his lapels, pulled him closer and said, “You’ve got to go faster. At the rate you’re going, I’m going to meet my ancestors before I find them.”

FamilySearch will publish about 1 billion records this year. About 800 million of those are being done with our partners, Anderson said. That number is likely to increase. Our relationships with our partners are getting deeper and more robust, he said.

Partnering is bringing progress in emerging markets like Brazil and Mexico. In Italy we are working with partners to help people discover their families, Anderson said. The more partners that get involved, the easier it is for us all to find our ancestors. We lower the cost of the commercial firms to enter new markets, he said. Take Italy as an example. FamilySearch has a very large filming project in Italy right now. At the current pace, it will take 100 years to index all the acquired records. Partner relationship may bring that down to five or six years. The situation is similar with Mexico and Brazil.

“We at FamilySearch don’t care where you find your ancestor,” Anderson said. “The important thing is that you find them.” He said that as much as he likes the FamilySearch collaborative tree, he knows not everyone likes it. The goal is that you put your information wherever you want and then find what you need.

Only 1 billion of the 28 billion who have lived since 1500 A.D.  are in FamilySearch Family TreeOnly 1 billion of the 28 billion who have lived since 1500 A.D.  are in FamilySearch Family Tree

Anderson showed his tree on He said it was a serious testimonial for’s hinting capabilities. There was a shaky leaf on just about everyone on his pedigree. Through FamilySearch’s partnerships with, MyHeritage, and FIndMyPast, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have easy access to all their different tree systems. “I suspect that most of you will find one of the trees on one of the sites and use it, while also utilizing in some way all the sites,” he said.

FamilySearch has made partnerships in markets adjacent to family history. Two examples are StoryPress and Reel Genie. FamilySearch is a bit of a hub and information can flow in or flow out.

FamilySearch has made partnerships with developers. To see a list of certified apps available through these development partners, visit

FamilySearch has partnered with record managers like “RootsMagic, Legacy, and I shouldn’t have mentioned any names, as I will forget some,” he said. About 30% of the contributions added to FamilySearch Family Tree come through these programs.

I’ll report on Anderson’s Friday presentation soon. With the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) quickly approaching, further coverage of the BYU conference may get pushed off several weeks.

Speaking of the FGS conference, it’s not too late to decide to attend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ron Tanner Announces Private Spaces at #BYUFHGC

Ron Tanner, FamilySearch product manager, presented the session “Family Tree Primer for Consultants” at the BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference. He addressed common issues faced by family history consultants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dealing with living individuals in a member’s pedigree has been an issue for consultants. Incorrect information could not be corrected except by having the member’s ward clerk fix the membership record and then waiting for the membership record to synchronize to New FamilySearch and then to Family Tree. Tanner announced that that day, 1 August 2014, FamilySearch was instituting new handling of living persons in FamilySearch Family Tree. He told us we were the first to know. Living individuals in New FamilySearch were being copied to Family Tree where they could be changed directly. The process of copying living persons will take the entire month to complete.

While Tanner was short on details of the ramifications, I was able to locate more information elsewhere. In the FamilySearch Help Center an article explains that “All living people and their relationships are stored in a private space.”

FamilySearch Family Tree private space person banner
Each user of Family Tree has a private space. Private spaces help manage data privacy and confidentiality for each user. … Each owner of a copy [of a living Family Tree person] can modify it independently from others. Deceased persons should each be represented only one time in Family Tree and have a common PID. But a living person can be represented in multiple private spaces as a different Family Tree person, and that person will have a different Person Identifier number (PID) in each private space. Searching Family Tree using a living person's name will not find him or her. Searching by the PID will not find him or her in any other [private space] besides [your own]. Living people cannot be sourced.
Family Tree does not [automatically change living people to deceased], even after they are older than 110 years. Users will need to mark their copy of the individuals as deceased and then search for any possible duplicates.

Tanner provided even more information in a reply in FamilySearch’s feedback system:

With the advent of private spaces the rules change such that [the Church’s] membership [department] does not have control of the living member in the tree. You no longer have to go to the ward clerk in order to change your living. Of course, changing member living in Family Tree will not update membership records. One must still go to the clerk to update membership records.

When a ward clerk records that a person is deceased, then a "membership" copy of the person will be placed in the public portions of the tree.…When a person makes their local living copy dead, this record as well becomes public and should show possible duplicate with the membership version. The person who made their local living copy dead should merge these two records together.

Here are a few other topics Tanner covered:

You can find resources for training others about Family Tree at

Tanner said that about 60,000 to 80,000 people still use New FamilySearch each week.

Some users of Family Tree are new. They make mistakes, just like we did when we were new. We need to help them and encourage them.

Discussions among users is not happening soon enough. This may be because notification of changes only occurs once a week. By then, the best moment for discussion is gone. “I’m trying to change that,” he said. “I think you need to be informed sooner, maybe immediately.” Another impediment to discussions is the inability to email others making changes who haven’t made their email public. When consultants help people register, he said they should help the user set their email public. Click Settings > Contact > email > Public. Tanner said he recently got permission to implement a private message system that would allow the exchange of messages with other users even without an email address. [I picture it being similar to the capability that has had for close to a decade.]

Helping users recover passwords and usernames is straightforward. Go to Sign In and after “Forgot your…” click on “user name” or “password.” For a member of the general public, recovery is via email. For those with an LDS account, recovery uses the account recovery system. Recovery can be via mobile phone, email, or membership record number (MRN). If recovering via email, some people may not be aware that most email systems can be accessed via the Internet. Just google the domain name (the part of the email after the @ at-sign). Once you have recovered your password, write it down and put it in your wallet.

Members of the Church who can’t see temple ordinance information need to enter their membership record number. Have them login and click on their username. Select Settings from the dropdown menu. Scroll down and select Yes for the “Are you a member…?” question. Enter the membership record number. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

To fix wrong relationships, it helps to understand how Family Tree works with relationships. All relationships in Family Tree are of two types: spousal and parent-child. A spousal relationship consists of two people and relationship events such as marriage date and place. A parent-child relationship consists of a child, at least one parent, and relationship types for each parent, such as biological, adopted, etc. Family Tree does not require a spousal relationship between the parents of a child. To correct a relationship, you must leave the person page and go to the relationship page. Go to the Family Members section of the person page and click on either Edit Couple or Edit Parents. The relationship page allows for sources and notes about the relationship.

Tanner explained how to fix your pedigree when half of it suddenly disappears. The reason this occurs is because a glitch occurred when membership records were copied to New FamilySearch and then to Family Tree. To fix the problem, follow these steps (which I’ve copied pretty closely from the syllabus). Go to the relationships on the detail view of the child missing the parent or parents. Review the relationship section to see if the child is showing no parents, a single-parent (mother or father) or two sets of parents (one with both parents and the other with just one of the parents).

If there are no parents listed then,

  1. Add the correct father by clicking Add Father and select the correct father (search or
  2. Click on Edit Parents next to the living child under the newly added father.
  3. In the parent-child relationship click to add a Mother and select the correct mother.

If there is only a single parent in the relationship then,

  1. Click on Edit Parents next to the living child under this relationship
  2. In the parent-child relationship click to add the missing parent and select the correct

If there are two sets of parents, one with both parents and one with only one of the parents

  1. Verify the child is listed under each parent set. If not then call support.
  2. Look at the single parent relationship and open the children tab to see the living child.
  3. Click on Edit Parents next to the living child under the single parent to go to the
    parent-child relationship.
  4. Delete the relationship.

Changing gender is not allowed at this time because New FamilySearch doesn’t allow it and Family Tree is being synchronized with New FamilySearch. Once that connection has been broken, then it will be possible.

The Helper feature is being misused. Its purpose is not to help someone. The purpose is to help those without a computer. Don’t use it to help someone who has forgotten their username or password. It is better to get their account working. To help another person, you need to know their helper number. It defaults to the last five digits of their membership record number. When information is added via the helper feature, Family Tree tracks the name of both the submitter (the helper) and the contributor (the one being helped). Only the contributor name is displayed in the change log.

Here my notes drizzle out. Do you get the feeling I have attention problems? Hopefully he didn’t save anything really important for the very end.