Thursday, July 31, 2014

T. C. Christensen–“I Am Ready Now” #BYUFHGC

imageIn 1856, two Mormon pioneer handcart companies were caught in a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances that culminated in actual storms leaving two companies of pioneers—nearly 1,000 people—stranded and dying in deep snow on the high plains of Wyoming. They were without food, shelter, or sufficient clothing to survive. Over 200 would die before reaching the safety of Salt Lake City.

The tragedy and their heroic rescue has served as the subject matter for several movies by LDS movie maker, T. C. Christensen, who gave the Wednesday keynote at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Most recently, Christensen wrote, directed, and produced the movie Ephraim’s Rescue. His past accomplishments include the movies 17 Miracles, Testaments, and The Work and the Glory. He has made several films about the Prophet Joseph Smith, including Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. He also made a movie about another Church president, Gordon B. Hinckley: A Giant Among Men.

Christensen told about the pioneers and showed several movie clips. One depicted Elizabeth Bradshaw nearly drowning as she crossed the North Platte River. Christensen had to shoot the scene in the summer, even though it actually occurred in winter, in zero degree weather. It would have been too dangerous to shoot in the winter. Even in 90 degree weather, after several hours the medical staff advised getting the actress out of the water because she was in danger of hypothermia.

“We’re wimps!” he said. “We can’t do in a movie what they actually did.”

He showed a movie clip dramatizing events from the life of Ephraim Hanks. To quote from Ephraim’s own words:

I retired to rest quite early, and while I still lay wide awake in my bed I heard a voice calling me by name, and then saying: “The hand-cart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?” I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary sized man in the room. Without any hesitation I answered “Yes, I will go if I am called.” I then turned around to go to sleep, but had laid only a few minutes when the voice called a second time, repeating almost the same words as on the first occasion. My answer was the same as before. This was repeated a third time.

When I got up the next morning I said to Brother Brown, “The hand-cart people are in trouble, and I have promised to go out and help them;” but I did not tell him of my experience during the night.

I now hastened to Salt Lake City, and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last hand-cart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days; I spoke out at once saying, “I am ready now!” (See Ephraim Hanks, “Ephraim K. Hanks' Narrative,” Pioneer Overland Travel [ : accessed 30 July 2014]; citing Andrew Jenson, “Church Emigration,” Contributor, 14 (Mar. 1893): 202-5.)

Christensen said that Ephraim’s whole life had prepared him for that moment. “Great things can happen when opportunity meets preparation,” Christensen said. Those moments can happen in our own lives. Ephraim did great things, even though he knew he was not a perfect man, just as we are not perfect. Yet he said, “I try.”

In paying tribute to those who suffered so much in the Willie and Martin handcart companies, Christensen asked their descendants, and the descendants of the rescuers, to stand. I think about a fourth to a third of us stood. He said that that happens even far away from Utah, in places like Massachusetts and Honolulu. He said that their faith has seemed to sink deeply into their souls, the souls of their children, and their children’s children. “We still benefit from these people who survived such hard things.”

I thought of my own ancestor, Elizabeth Robinson. It’s true. I still benefit from my knowledge that members of my family have, and still can, survive hard things.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Koelliker Says, Think of Family History More Broadly #BYUFHGC

Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the SeventyWe need to think about family history more broadly than just ancestral research, said Elder Paul E. Koelliker. Elder Koelliker gave the keynote address Tuesday morning to open the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Elder Koelliker is an emeritus member of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has previously served as an assistant executive director in the Church’s Family History Department, which I think made him a board member of FamilySearch International.

Note: Elder Koelliker addressed members of the Church. His remarks, and this article, express the doctrines of the Church and may not be of interest to those who are not members.

Love is the deep driving force in our relationship with others, said Elder Koelliker. He quoted from the Bible: “As I have loved you,…love one another.” Church president, Thomas S. Monson, said: “May we begin now, this very day, to express love to all of God’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances, or total strangers. As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.” Our love for others should include both the living and the dead.

Think of family history in a forward direction. Think about the rising generations. We have been asked to learn the stories that will foster a feeling of love. It is important to write them down and share them with your children. Think beyond the charts and gather the stories for turning the hearts.

Recognize that counsel given by Church leaders will increase your temple experience. Elder Koelliker said he had a concern today. At RootsTech Elder Allan Packer put it in a positive manner, but Elder Koelliker was shocked. Said Elder Packer:

I am happy to report we are making progress. In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17% over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members. While normally a 17% improvement is thought of as impressive it also says that there are over 97% of members who are not regularly submitting names for temple ordinances.

In the kindest of ways, Elder Packer is inviting us to repent, said Elder Koelliker. What will it take to move a majority of the members of the Church to bring our names to the temple? At the heart of our desire to change is our love for our family.

Families are an essential organization on Earth and in heaven. In 1995, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This proclamation defines the position of the Church regarding marriage and family. Elder Koelliker quoted former Church president, Gordon B. Hinckley:

God is the designer of the family. He intended that the greatest of happiness, the most satisfying aspects of life, the deepest joys should come in our associations together and our concerns one for another as fathers and mothers and children. (“What God Hath Joined Together,” Ensign, May 1991, 74.)

Elder Koelliker quoted from Chapter 1 of the Members Guide to Temple and Family History (which he recommended we study):

Temple and family history work unites families. Husbands and wives, parents and children can be sealed through sacred temple ordinances. The goal of this process is that “the whole chain of God’s family shall be welded together into one chain, and they shall all become the family of God and His Christ” (Joseph F. Smith, Millennial Star, Oct. 4, 1906, 629).

This image is a mockup of what Elder Koelliker's book might have looked likeElder Koelliker told a couple of stories about his extended family. One was a story of serendipity that I told here in my column back in February 2012. (See “Serendipitous Doppelgänger.”) He provided a little more detail than I related. The story began in 1973 in Salt Lake City. He received a phone call from a Paul Koelliker from Switzerland who said he would like to meet him. Elder Koelliker picked up his father and the three went to lunch. Paul of Switzerland gave him a list of names and some dates and then returned to Switzerland. The list went into a drawer, along with an intent to get back to it. In 1996 Elder Koelliker went to pick up his son from a mission. In Glarus, Switzerland they were disappointed that their hotel had lost their reservation. The hotel owner felt bad and helped them find another hotel. The owner of the second hotel said he knew another fellow in Glarus named Paul Koelliker. The next thing he knew, the owner was on the phone. The man on the other end asked if he was from Salt Lake City. It was the same Paul who had met Elder Koelliker years before. They agreed to meet the next morning. It just so happened that he was the director of archives for the canton of Glarus. He showed a book with the names of Elder Koelliker’s ancestors. However, Elder Koelliker was not allowed to photocopy them, so for the next seven hours he and members of his family wrote as fast as they could, capturing 350 names of his ancestors. He figured there were probably 1,800 more.

The sequel to this story of serendipity came in 2004. Elder Koelliker’s son (whose name I didn’t jot down) was on his way to Spain when he stopped in Glarus to visit the other Paul Koelliker. During the visit he learned that there were two copies of the Koelliker book. The younger Koelliker asked if he could have one of them, but Paul declined. The younger Koelliker’s wife went into negotiation mode. “You have two copies. My sons have no copies.” She was successful. That copy is now available in the Family History Library where many can benefit from its treasures.

Telling and retelling the stories of our families bears fruit in generation after generation. What written testimony and experiences have you written down for your posterity? Write down your stories under the inspiration of the Spirit and let the Holy Ghost teach generations to come.

Image Source: The book image is a mockup I created of what Elder Koelliker’s book might have looked like. I combined two images. The text is from J. P. Zwicky, Genealogie der Familien Kölliger (Thalwil-Zürich: Familiengeschichtlicher Verlag, 1933), 7; images, FamilySearch Family History Books ( : accessed 29 July 2014). The page image is from Utah Semi-Centennial Commission, “The Book of the Pioneers,” 2 vols. (bound certificates, 1897, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Salt Lake City, Utah), 1: end paper verso; images, Utah Department of Administrative Services, Division of Archives & Records Service ( : accessed 29 July 2014).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Our Tree and Your Tree on FamilySearch

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Sir (or Ma'am?  I've never been able to figure out if you're male or female),

I had heard that we shouldn't upload our trees to because anyone can go in and change the info we've entered. Do you know if this is true or not? If it's true, this new feature isn't very applicable to those of us who are just keeping our trees on and our own software because we don't want others messing with our information. But if it's not true, this would be an excellent reason to upload our trees to FamilySearch, and I would start promoting it to my students.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Katherine Willson (Ann Arbor, MI)

Dear Katherine,

Gosh, where to start. First, yes I am male or female.

Next, the rumor you’ve heard that you shouldn’t upload your tree to is pretty much false. I’m hedging a little bit. Let me go through the steps and you’ll see why.

Save a copy of your tree in GEDCOM format. You’ll upload this copy to FamilySearch, Go to You’ll need to register (it’s free) before uploading your tree. Click on “Join For Free” near the top-right corner of the page and complete the registration. Click or hover over Search on the menu bar, then select Genealogies. On this page you can upload your GEDCOM tree or search the GEDCOM trees of others. This collection of trees is called the Pedigree Resource File. Your GEDCOM tree is your tree and no one can change it but you (by uploading a new GEDCOM over the top of it). Scroll down to the bottom and click on the button “Submit Tree.” Click on Add GEDCOM. Select your GEDCOM file, give it a title, and enter a description that might be helpful to others.

After it has finished uploading it will show up in your tree list at

Pedigree Resource File list of your uploaded GEDCOM files

From the list you can Compare your tree to FamilySearch Family Tree, you can download a copy of your GEDCOM file, or you can delete it. As opposed to your tree, where you just uploaded, FamilySearch Family Tree is our tree. It is all of us building the family tree of all mankind. If you wish to be a part of this ambitious project, you can start by comparing your tree to Family Tree. Your tree remains unchanged in this process. To start, click Compare. tells you they will do the compare and send you an email.

You will get an email when the PRF compare is finished

When FamilySearch completes the comparison, the Compare button changes to View.

Pedigree Resource File list of your uploaded GEDCOM files, with View button

Click on View and shows the results of the comparison.

Pedigree Resource File results of GEDCOM comparison to FamilySearch Family Tree

The people in your tree fall into four categories. “Potential Matches” might already be in Family Tree, but FamilySearch computers defer to you, a human being, to decide. “Add to Family Tree” are not in Family Tree, at least as far as the FamilySearch computers can tell. “Already in Family Tree” are in Family Tree already (duh). and “Invalid and Living” can not be added to Family Tree for whatever reason, including the potential of being alive. Click Review Results.

You may add those not already in Family Tree and view those considered invalid or living. For potential matches, you may specify if the person from your tree (on the left) is the same person as the potential match from Family Tree (on the right).

PRF GEDCOM potential matches to FamilySearch Family Tree

For those already in Family Tree, you have the option of copying facts from your tree (on the left) to Family Tree (on the right).

PRF GEDCOM person already in FamilySearch Family Tree

This can get rather tedious, as new people must be added to Family Tree one at a time and new facts about old people must be added one at a time. FamilySearch says this is by design. In the early days of New FamilySearch it was slammed with boatloads of duplicate people that gummed up the gears something fierce.

I won’t go into it here, but another, perhaps easier, way to contribute to Family Tree is to use a tree manager that supports direct synchronization with your tree on your home computer.

Let sum up. You should upload your tree to FamilySearch Pedigree Resource File. No one can change Pedigree Resource File trees but the contributor. You can also contribute to Family Tree. Anyone can change anything in Family Tree. Discussing the pros and cons of that model is beyond the scope of this article (which has already grown too long).

Thanks for your letter,
---The Ancestry Insider

Thursday, July 24, 2014

FamilySearch Releases Mormon Migration Record Collection

FamilySearch adds collection linked to the Mormon Migration website of BYUJust in time for Utah Pioneer Day (24 July), FamilySearch has released the “Mormon Migration Database, 1840-1932.” This collection contains basic information obtained from the Brigham Young University (BYU) Mormon Migration website. It contains links to the BYU website for additional information, such as ships’ rosters, ship photos, passenger journals, autobiographies, and letters. The collection contains information about international converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who crossed the oceans to gather in America from 1840 to 1932. Think of the Mormon Migration website as the successor to the FamilySearch Mormon Immigration Index CD, both of which were compiled by Dr. Fred E. Woods of BYU (and other contributors).

You’ll recall that FamilySearch recently provided a gateway to the “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868” database of the Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See my article, “FamilySearch and Utah Pioneers.”) You may know this database by its old name, the Melvin L. Bashore “Crossing the Plains Index.” This database lists the names of all known immigrants travelling overland (overland as opposed to what?) to the Utah Territory for the years 1847 to 1868. FamilySearch is only providing a gateway to this resource, rather than an integrated record collection like the Mormon Migration collection.

A search of the Mormon Migration BYU website for “Elizabeth Robinson” found 17 passengers. The BYU site also performs a keyword search of personal accounts. It found seven, but because these are OCR indexes, none of them were actual matches. It found 19 voyages associated with the 17 passengers and 7 accounts. You can also search the BYU site by date or ship name.

The same search on gave 39 passengers. Because I didn’t do an exact search, included matches for nicknames Eliza, Lizzie, Elisa, and Betsy; abbreviations Eliz. and E.; missing given name; and surname Robertson. Results were sorted with exact matches at the top. Unfortunately, FamilySearch has not consistently included basic information from the BYU site. For example, the result for Elizabeth Robinson—the “pistol filer”—did not include port of origin (Liverpool), port of arrival (New York), or voyage date (8 Sep 1840 - 12 Oct 1840). Without voyage date, FamilySearch was not able to estimate birth year (1835). Without this basic information, it makes it difficult to pick a desired immigrant from among the results. An advantage of searching on the FamilySearch website is that names are fielded, so there are no false matches. A major advantage is that results can be linked to FamilySearch Family Tree.

I’ve hoped for a long time that FamilySearch would provide this collection, so I’m happy to see it. Hopefully, they can rework it to include the information from the BYU site that they have left out.

Pedigree Charts in Wikipedia

A coworker, Fran Jensen, pointed out to me that some biographical articles in Wikipedia include a pedigree chart showing the person’s ancestry. For an example, check out the pedigree of Francis Scott Key:

Wikipedia pedigree of Francis Scott Key

Click the Show button beneath the box labeled “Ancestors of Francis Scott Key” to show the pedigree.

Thanks, Fran.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FamilySearch Releases Two Mobile Apps

FamilySearch has released two mobile apps: “FamilySearch – Tree” and “FamilySearch – Memories.”

FamilySearch – Tree is a mobile tree viewer for FamilySearch Family Tree. It is available for both Apple iOS 7+ and Android 2.3+ devices. You can view the tree no matter where you’re at. You can download several generations of your pedigree for offline viewing. (I want to say six generations, but I don’t remember for certain.) You can add photos, stories, and audio recordings. The app does not allow changing information in the tree, but FamilySearch says that ability is in the works.

Pedigree view of the FamilySearch - Tree app  Person view of the FamilySearch - Tree app

FamilySearch – Memories is available only for Apple iOS 7+. You can add photos, stories, and audio recordings. Sounds a lot like the FamilySearch – Tree app, doesn’t it? It appears that the Memories app works like the Memories section of and the Tree app works like the Family Tree section. (Go figure.) The Memories app allows tagging people in photos, just like that section of the website.

My Photos view of the FamilySearch - Memories app  Photo view of the FamilySearch - Memories app

You can contribute a photo by taking one with the phone camera or from photos already on the camera. Photos are supposed to be “appropriate… relevant… heart-turning (a scriptural reference)…[and] noncommercial. Every photo is screened before it is published. When you contribute a photo (or photo of a document), anyone can view it. Photos can be .jpg, .tif, .gif, and .png up to 15 MB in size. Tiff support is new. I knew they were working on it, but I hadn’t heard they had released it.

You can record audio up to 15 minutes in length. I’m not certain where they are stored. I don’t see them on the web version of Family Tree. Am I missing it, somewhere? It must not be available yet.

Both apps are free and require a free FamilySearch account.