Friday, April 29, 2011

One Step Backwards, Wait, Wait, Wait, Wait, One Step Back

The search form had spaces for both birth and death eventsWith the release this week of search filters, FamilySearch can breath a sigh of relief. Search filters allow users to cut the number of search results by dynamically adding search criteria.

Prior to December 2010, users could keep search results to manageable numbers by specifying birth and death events in the search form. (See the screen image to the right.) When replaced, a new, simplified search form restricted searching to a single event. This increased the number of results, often to unworkably large numbers.

“RecordSearch pilot validated the search model of doing an initial search with…a single event and then filtering the results by secondary events and parameters,” said Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager. Unfortunately, while filtering was not ready for release in December, there was some advantage in immediately adopting the single-event search forms according to Kehrer.

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Kehrer in a statement at the time. “There will be a short interim period between releases where searching on multiple events will be [unavailable], but we've decided to move forward with the new forms now because…this represents the shortest development path to the target search experience. To those who need to restrict results based on multiple events or relationships, we understand your need, please be patient over the next weeks as we put in place the tools you require.”

“Filters are now our highest feature priority and we intend to deliver this key function after the holidays,” he said.

The holidays came and went. Weeks turned into months. Short stretched into very long.

“I feel it was a poor decision,” a user told Kehrer last December, “to activate a partially developed search page…and decrease the functionality of the site.”

In his defense, I’ve met with Robert many times and can assure you he is top notch. I expect one day he will be stolen away by an obscene offer no sane person can pass up. He’s that good.

Which raises some questions I’d like to ask him—maybe when things are not so hectic. How did a four week project balloon into 20? How helpful did it turn out to be, the December elimination of multi-event search? If he knew then what he knows now, would he do it differently?

In any case, now that filters are available I’m sure he’s breathing much easier.


For more information about search filters, consult this article on the FamilySearch Blog: “Take a Sneak Peak at New Search Filters in”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Copy Machines at Family History Library

An alert reader made me aware of these blog articles by David Dowell of the San Luis Obispo Cuesta Emeritus College program.

Part 1

The Family History library is replacing copy machines with Ricoh Afico M CP4501 copiers and is switching to a new copy card system. For more information, see David Dowell, “FHL Implements New Copy System: Part 1,” Dr D Digs Up Ancestors ( : dated 25 April 2011).

Part 2

“Today [26 April 2011] the big change…was inaugurated.” For more information, see “FHL Implements New Copy System: Part 2.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cite the Source You See

Cite the Source You See
Image: frenta. Used with permission.

Citations have two purposes: locate the source and indicate its strength. This series of articles explains what we must do to accomplish these purposes for genealogical sources.


Cite the Source You See

It is a neat experience to travel to an ancestor’s home and feel a strong sense of belonging. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, few hobby genealogists can invest as much time and travel into our hobby as we would like. Few of us can view the original records of our ancestors. We must instead rely on copies.

It is deceitful to cite sources we have not seen or used.1 This principle extends to copies that we as genealogists use.

Image copies may not be as clear as the originals. Indexed, abstracted, and transcribed copies may contain errors.2 Our citations must indicate the copies that we used. To do otherwise would be unethical and unwise.3

Series Summary

So far in this series of articles we have spoken of these purposes and principles for genealogical citations:


     1.  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, ed. Helen F. M. Leary, (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2000), 29.

     2.  Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 28-31.

     3.  Mills, Evidence Explained, 52.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Mailbox: Addressing Conflicts of Interest

Dear Readers,

I’d like to think that at least some of you have noticed that I haven’t published much of late. Things have been hectic. Family events. Medication adjustments. Presentations. Work. I apologize for the inconsistency.

Now I have a couple of items of rather boring business to conduct regarding conflicts of interest. Feel free to skip the remainder of this article.

First, I must give notification that I have received an assignment at FamilySearch to spend a few hours a week working for the marketing division. The assignment doesn’t affect this column; it remains my independent voice. Long time readers know that my shift in employment from to FamilySearch has resulted in a shift in column inches from the former to the latter. This is the unfortunate reality of working for only one of the two. My editori\al policy continues to model the old adage: I can call my baby ugly, but will disagree if you do. I fully intend on calling out FamilySearch and’s stupidity while simultaneously offering insight into why some of the things you think are stupid might not be.

Second, I’ve received a task at work regarding citations. I’d planned my newly begun series on citation principles at a time when I had no employment responsibilities regarding citations. Now I had to stop and think through potential conflicts of interest.

I’ve decided the series doesn’t conflict with, but advances, my work assignment. To eliminate any potential conflict regarding intellectual property, should FamilySearch wish to assert ownership of the articles, I will comply.

Stay tuned!

-- The Insider

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Nice Ride in the Mountain

A color fan chart makes a nice ride in the mountain for a new genealogist “You don’t interest others in horse riding by showing them how unpleasant it is to clean out the stables,” said Tim Cross. “You take them on a nice ride in the mountains.” Cross is a product manager at FamilySearch—and a horse enthusiast.

At the Riverton FamilySearch Library April Saturday seminar Cross challenged attendees to get everyone involved in genealogy by giving them a nice ride in the mountains. Don’t start by telling them about taking five years to find one of your ancestors.

Cross said he uses the question, “Would you or someone you know be interested in learning more about your family?” Then he sits down with them and helps them create a colored fan chart pedigree. He has found it often sparks additional interest.

Once you get a fan chart, you can send it to local experts who can further engage your new genealogist. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can send the chart to the newbie's ward family history consultants. When logged in, a member can see the e-mail addresses of their consultants on

Cross uses a FamilySearch affiliate, such as Tree Seek or Family ChArtist, to create a free chart in PDF format. For those whose families have been members of the Church for several generations, these programs can create charts showing existing research and highlighting areas of opportunity.

“It’s like giving them a nice ride in the mountains.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

FamilySearch Plans for Attaching Sources

Source links will attach sources to the FamilySearch Tree
Image: renjith krishnan

Users will soon be able to link sources to their ancestors in the new FamilySearch Tree (“Family Tree”), according to Tim Cross, a product manager at FamilySearch. Cross showed mock-ups of the new feature to attendees at the Riverton FamilySearch Library’s April Saturday seminar.

Cross said that even though they will be called sources, they might be understood better as source links. Source links will allow you to create links in Family Tree to sources found on or other websites such as The URL is optional so the system will replace the tree’s existing source system.

The create source window is much simplified. The plan calls for a “Create Source” window with four fields: title, web page, description (citation), and notes. Historical record collections on will include an “Add to Source Box” link that makes it simple to link sources in historical record collections to information in Family Tree. The system will fill in all the fields for you. Cross suggested that he’d like other websites to provide the same option.

Sources can be reused, attached to several ancestors as desired. Further source management and source templates may be added later. Desktop programs will be able to exchange sources with Family Tree. One day it will be possible to upload images.

Not all intended functionality will be included in the initial release, said Cross. The initial release has been scheduled and rescheduled several times, starting with last February, then May, and now August.

“Look for it this fall…,” said Cross, “or January…”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Citations Have Two Purposes

I hear a lot of misunderstanding regarding citations, so I feel compelled to address the subject with a series of articles. What are the basic principles governing citations?


Principle #1 – Citations Have Two Purposes

We provide citations to our sources for two major reasons, although we generally vocalize just one:

        1.  To locate our sources

There is another very important, yet often overlooked reason for citing sources:

        2.  To communicate the strength of our sources

“Source citations have two purposes,” says Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained. She writes that a citation should deal with “[second reason:] a source’s quality and content, not just [first reason:] identity and whereabouts.” 1

Turabian says that citing facts allows readers to “[second reason:] judge their reliability, even [first reason:] check them if they wish.” 2

Legal Citations

An article in The Florida Bar Journal states that

Citation forms provide the minimum amount of information necessary to [first reason:] lead the reader to the source and [second reason:] to convey other key information concerning the source, including the character and degree of support the authority provides and the nature and date of the authority.3

Scientific Citations

Sometimes just a name and date communicate strengthIn some fields as little as a name and a publication date, the so-called author-date style, can communicate the strength of a source. Full citations at the end of an article give the location of the source and a full indication of quality.

Numbered superscripts are replaced with an inline reference to an author's surname and the cited article's publication date. For well known experts, this communicates source strength without the interruption of sending readers to the end notes.

This style works well when:

  • Research results must be published to be official.
  • Leaders in a field are known by their reputations.
  • Recent sources provide the most up-to-date information.
  • Journals are peer reviewed.


In conclusion, a good citation does more than locate the source; it provides a quick, visual indication of its quality.

Next time I will talk about what a citation must include to satisfy both purposes for genealogical citations.


     1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, PDF image (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 43; emphases in the original.

     2. Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations : Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 133.

     3. Susan W. Fox and Wendy S. Loquasto, “Citation Form: Keeping Up with the Times,” The Florida Bar Journal 81, no. 1 (2007): 23; online archive, The Florida Bar ( : accessed 4 April 2011).

     Image: Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen, “Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122, no. 4 (November 2007): 1358; author’s online copy ( ment.pdf : accessed 10 August 2010); author-date callouts added by Robert Raymond in “Citing Online Records in new FamilySearch,” PowerPoint slide presentation, 2010, used with permission.

Friday, April 1, 2011 Sullivan and FamilySearch Verkler are Related

Tim Sullivan appears on the Valley Girl Show
Reaction to the news?
Sullivan seen with young
Hollywood starlet (above).
Verkler photographed celebrating
in Las Vegas (below).

Jay Verkler in Aloha Shirt in Las Vegas
Tim Sullivan, CEO, and Jay Verkler, FamilySearch CEO are relatives. So says the research team for “Who Do You Think You Are,” the hit television show.

“We weren't researching either of these men,” said Natalie Cottrill, “when we came across this startling discovery.” Cottrill is Chief Researcher at ProGenealogists, the official research arm of

“We were as surprised as anyone,” said Paul Nauta, FamilySearch spokesperson. Nauta said that FamilySearch had verified the claim and found that, indeed, the two are related. While the news came as somewhat of a shock, Verkler and Sullivan took the news in stride.

“We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that FamilySearch and are not competitors,” said Verkler at a joint press briefing. “Despite the fact that we are both, highly intelligent, well educated, highly driven, successful businessmen, there are no competitive feelings between us.”

“Even though you can't get a job at a real, profit-making, company, I have the utmost respect for you,” Sullivan said to Verkler.

“You’re one to talk, you Mickey Mouse alumni,” retorted Verkler. “I'm sorry my sister ever met your brother!”

“I thought that guy looked familiar,” Sullivan said of seeing Verkler at the wedding last April Fools Day.