Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Family Tree Manual

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Last Monday I told you that I would inquire about the apparently retired FamilySearch Family Tree manual. Here’s my email exchange with product manager, Ron Tanner:

Dear Ron,

Are there any plans for a new Family Tree manual?

--- The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Not as far as I am aware. The manual is being split into various help articles that can be found through the help system.


Other readers also chimed in.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I believe the FS Powers that Be have decided to put a lot of the FT material into the well-hidden and difficult to use query system that has mostly replaced the Knowledge Document system for which there was no accessible table of contents. The query system results are largely lists of links which, if used, take one away from the main page. This system needs to be broadly revamped to have text right there on the page and arranged in sensible contents outlines instead of more or less randomly accessed by searches.


Dear Ancestry Insider,

I agree with Lucy Whitehead. The manual is very helpful and several of our patrons prefer using the manual compared with spending the time watching a video.

Thanks, Arleen

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Here are the steps to find the FamilySearch Family Tree Reference Guide

1. Sign-in to FamilySearch

2. Click on Get Help > FAQ

3. In the Frequently Asked Questions Box type “user guide” and click on the magnifying glass

4. Ciick on “Family Tree Reference Guide”

The query returns…

The FamilySearch Family Tree Reference guide can be found at:

Additional Information is given for Members (this only appears if the patron signs-in with an LDS Account username and password).

The Reference Guide hasn’t been update since 18 October 2013. The patron is generally better off searching for task specific knowledge articles which are maintained regularly.

Allen Forsyth

My thanks to all who helped.

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dumbfinding Census Enumerator

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

In 2000 the census showed that 12% of Chautauqua County, New York was Swedish. Fortunately, 93.0% of the county spoke English.1 The census enumerator wasn’t so lucky in 1870.2

Swedes Can't Talk and More Swedes Can't Talk

Obviously, the enumerator didn’t understand patronymics. The children of Swedes Can’t Talk should have had surname Swedeson and Swedesdotter. The neighbor’s children would have been Moreswedeson and Moreswedesdotter.

You are dumb if you can’t speak. You’re not dumb or dumb if you can’t speak another’s language. But if the enumerator finds you can’t speak his language, are you dumbfounded?

Darned dumbfinding enumerator.


     1.  Various authors, “Chautauqua County, New York,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (,_New_York&oldid=624976731 : 10 September 2014, 18:21).
     2. 1870 U.S. Census, Chautauqua County, population schedule, Busti, p. 36, dwellings 341-2, families 309-310; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2014), New York > Chautauqua > Busti > Image 36 of 48.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancestry Insider Ketchup: 20 November 2014

Ancestry Insider KetchupLot’s of things to write about. No time to do it. Time to ketchup…

The MyHeritage Library Edition is now available for free at family history centers. See the announcement on the FamilySearch blog.

I love the full color records has started publishing on their website. Look at this example. I see nine different colors of penciling or ink on it. They can give lots of hints about how a record was processed. These are absolutely beautiful., you’re awesome.

A full color gravestone application on

For Veteran’s Day, republished a great infographic from Fold3. The posting said:

With Veteran’s Day approaching, it is a good time to take a look at your tree and identify those who served. Our infographic from Fold3 gives you a handy guide to for possible birth years of veterans and what wars they might have served in.


Last week, told me that they were releasing something new this week for AncestryDNA. Unfortunately, this week’s articles had to go “to press” before they released the information. Next week I’ll have to let you know what they said. Or check the DNA articles on the Blog.

Have you heard yet about the “Global Family Reunion” scheduled for 6 June 2015 in New York City? The founder, A. J. Jacobs, is coming to Salt Lake City as a keynote speaker at RootsTech and FGS 2015 conferences. Jacobs is a best-selling author, Esquire magazine editor, and an intelligent, laugh-out loud speaker. See the RootsTech website for more information.

I don’t generally deviate from my editorial focus of and FamilySearch. But I am drawn to free stuff. To see the latest free databases from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (, visit Included in the usual list are several databases available for free only temporarily:

FamilySearch has been making some significant changes at the Family History Library. Reference desks have been removed. In their place is a comfortable welcome area and space for consultation stations. FamilySearch will give those buzzer/pager thingies to users awaiting consultations. This allows users to continue their research while waiting for help. FamilySearch has also added Discovery Areas containing scanners, recording booths, and children's’ area (where you’re not supposed to leave your children :-).

New welcome area replaces reference desk

For more information, see “Exciting New Changes at the Family History Library” on the FamilySearch blog.

I’m out of time… Stay tuned…

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, FamilySearch

Photograph of candles on a birthday cake
Credit: tiverylucky,
Last week FamilySearch hit an impressive milestone. The 13th of November 2014 was the 120th anniversary of the founding of FamilySearch International, previously known as the Genealogical Society of Utah.

Congratulations, FamilySearch!

For more information, see “120 Years of Pioneering Genealogy” on the FamilySearch blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FamilySearch Announces Retirement of

Photograph of a street sign pointing to either work or retirement
Credit: Stuart Miles,
Last week FamilySearch announced that starting 1 February 2015 FamilySearch would cut access to (NFS). Instead, users will have to access the information through FamilySearch Family Tree. This is a step toward the eventual retirement of FamilySearch thinks that may occur in early 2016. (My experience is that software always takes longer than anticipated.) At that time, FamilySearch will break the link between NFS and Family Tree.

Users are looking forward to that day because Family Tree suffers from some limitations imposed on it by the link to NFS:

Reaction to the announcement has been mixed. One commenter, Christy Satfield, said “Goodbye nFS. You served us well! Many thanks to your creators!”

Another commenter, Alan Tennuchi, said “What a blow this is as NFS is FAR easier to read than the FS site. Even though you cannot add or change anything on the NFS site, I prefer to search it to find information.”

Users expressed a second reason to keep access to NFS. It gives a window into incorrectly combined records. Since NFS doesn’t have a Change Log like Family Tree, users depend on a special page in NFS, the combined records screen, to see what the two records looked like before they were combined. This allows users to manually recreate the two records in Family Tree with the correct information for both their own ancestor as well as the other historical person.

A third reason to use NFS is to identify the sources for a particular fact. If that source was an extracted record from a high quality source, then the film and batch numbers could be used to identify it.

I’ve had a fourth reason why I’ve used access to NFS. It is the only way to see the vital records stored in the membership records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Regarding the first concern, my experience is that FamilySearch (and respond well to specific, well articulated, detailed descriptions of how an old and a new system differ and why the old system is better.

FamilySearch employees and other users responded to the second concern. We have to remember that NFS was built largely on second-hand information from the Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index (IGI), and Pedigree Resource File. A user, Heather McPhie, said that “instead of going to the combined records screen of NFS, why don't we go to the original sources of NFS…As genealogists, we are always taught to go to the original source.” Ron Tanner, FamilySearch product manager for NFS and Family Tree, echoed the suggestion. “Research your ancestor, then you know what the data should be. Then put that data into that person [in Family Tree].”

According to Ron Tanner, FamilySearch will address the third concern by migrating IGI sources to Family Tree. FamilySearch has already migrated user attached sources.

I found an answer to my own concern. In FamilySearch’s “Dealing With Duplicate Records of People in Family Tree, A FamilySearch White Paper,” dated 21 June 2012, and (as of this writing) available at, FamilySearch says:

If someone changes a record after it is combined, the system stores the change on one of the involved records. The system can [arbitrarily] choose any of the records: the combined record or any of the records inside of it. There is no way to specify where the system should store the change.

Consequently, if a record is combined, and then someone changes it, the system chooses one of
the records and stores the changed information on it.

So while I thought I was looking at pristine membership records in NFS, the information may have been inadvertently changed. I shouldn’t have been using NFS for this reason in the first place. (The same is true for any of the records shown on the combined records screen. If you use NFS to fix incorrectly combined records, you are basing your corrections on information that may no longer reflect the source.)

While users made various rebuttals, I think FamilySearch can address the concerns.

RootsTech, FGS, NGS Program Announcements

I’m a big proponent of genealogical education through attendance at conferences. That’s why I’ve accepted the invitation to be an ambassador for both RootsTech and the FGS annual conferences. And while I strive to keep this blog non-commercial, for RootsTech I am required to give away a free registration ($239 value) as part of a promotional contest. Oh, darn. As you know, I’m into free, big time. If you have ideas for the contest, let me know.

Alex Boye and One Voice Children's Choir are collaborating for the RootsTech/FGS Thursday evening socialRootsTech and FGS have announced the entertainment for the 12 February 2015 evening social event. Alex Boye is teaming up with One Voice Children’s Choir, the stars of his popular “Let It Go” YouTube cover.

Meanwhile, the National Genealogical Society has announced the program for its 2015 conference. The sixteen-page registration brochure is downloadable as a PDF file. The online version of the St. Charles NGS Family History Conference program is also available on the conference website at Registration opens on 1 December 2014.

I know you’re sick of “Let it Go,” but check out Boye’s “Africanized” version. It mixes the song with African rhythms, voices, and instruments. Other examples of Boye collaborations of Africanized numbers include Coldplay’s “Paradise” with the Piano Guys, Pharrell William’s “Happy,” also with the One Voice Children’s Choir. Another example of Boye’s Africanized covers is Lorde’s “Royals.

The One Voice Children’s Choir received national exposure over the summer as quarter-finalists on the NBC hit show, America’s Got Talent. The choir has received numerous awards, including the John Lennon International Music Award, presented by Yoko Ono and George Martin, producer of The Beatles.

For more information or to register for one of these conferences, visit the FGS Conference website, the RootsTech website, or the NGS conference website.

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech ambassador  The Ancestry Insider is an official FGS Conferrence Ambassador