Friday, September 27, 2013

Darned Family Dog

Records say the darnedest things

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.”

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Family Dog

In a recent promotional email, pointed out an interesting entry in the 1911 Census of England and Wales: the Little family’s five year old pet, Roger. “Incidentally, we have an Airedale Terrier. I do not know whether particulars are required, but in case you want them here they are!”

Click this image to see an enlargement, courtesy brightsolid online publishing limited.

Roger was dutifully indexed by FindMyPast and then provided to FamilySearch:

Roger the Airedale Terrier on

Roger also shows up as part of the Little family on the website, where his occupation is faithfully listed as, “Watch Dog.”

Roger the Airedale Terrier on

Darned Airedale Terrier.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Temporary, Free Subscription for Schools's Classroom Learning Grant capitalizes on historical documentsIn my coverage of the FGS Conference’s Librarians’ Day I mentioned lesson plans available from to help teachers. It turns out that the lesson plans are not the only thing available from They have a Classroom Learning Grant that provides three months free access to’s institutional subscription.

“We provide lesson plans to help you integrate historical records into the classroom and teach students how to manage research projects, approach critical thinking and gain communication skills for life,” said Kim Harrison, Ancestry Library Team senior account executive.  “The lesson plans all have been author by a K12 teacher,” she said.

Lesson plans include:

  • 1940 Census Lesson
  • The Census and the Constitution
  • The Census and the Depression
  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Immigration over Time
  • Civil War
  • Military Lesson (Civil War)
  • Personal Side of War (American Revolutionary War)
  • War of 1812 – Privateers
  • Mobilization for War (WWI)
  • Battles (WWII)
  • Local History is Your Community History
  • Historical Crime
  • Haunted House
  • Suffrage Movement
  • How Life Influences Art
  • African American Congressmen Lesson
  • Trail of Tears Lesson

Harrison says beginning the application process is simple. “Write to us to request the application/document.” Write to They will give you a little more information and a grant application.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FamilySearch Indexing Stats

The latest FamilySearch Indexing newsletter came out 6 September 2013.

Here’s a quick update on the indexing numbers given in the newsletter:

Total Records

Current Projects

Total Records
Completed in 2013

Contributors in 2013

The newsletter also pointed to a 28 August 2013 article that asks for more volunteers to arbitrate. “Right now, FamilySearch indexing is behind in arbitration by nearly four million images. That represents some 10 million individuals whose names cannot be published.”

I had always assumed that most of the time the A indexer and the B indexer agreed and no arbitration was necessary. According to the article, “In the majority of cases, the two indexers give slightly different answers on one or more parts of a batch, so a third person is needed to review the answers and choose between them.”

To become an arbitrators, read “Becoming an Arbitrator.”

Indexing is outperforming arbitration

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Uploading Images of Sources

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Nowhere does “FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map” talk about uploading documents as sources. For example, a funeral program is a good source, but it isn't online to add to Family Tree. Many people seem to have many sources that aren't available online. When are they going to add the feature to upload them?

Greg LeBaron

Dear Greg,

I think it was in Tim Cross’s BYU session, “Plugging in Photos and Stories to FamilySearch Family Tree,” that someone asked if it was alright to upload images of documents instead of photographs. He answered that it was probably about time that users could start doing so.

In my article on Ron Tanner’s session, “FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map,” I report that “one day you will be able to associate a source with a photograph rather than a URL. Pick an image you have already uploaded, or upload a new one. That photo becomes part of the source.” By “photograph” he meant an image of a document.

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, September 20, 2013

Serendipity in a Rare Bible

Serendipity in a Rare Bible
Image Credit: Ed and Dawna Jones
More than 40 years ago a man walking through an alley came upon an old, antique Bible in a trash can. He readily recognized it as a treasure. It was an 1815 edition compiled by Rev. Joseph Knight. Measuring 12 by 18 inches and weighing nearly 15 pounds, the old and worn book contained beautiful illustrations and etchings illustrating the scriptures. The man rescued the Bible and gave it to the Rev. Carl Whitlock, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach in San Diego. Rev. Whitlock and his wife, Gwen, discovered another treasure hidden in the pages of the Bible, an extensive genealogy of an English Hammond family going back into the 1700s.

The Whitlocks made the determination to find and give the Bible to a descendent of the Hammond family. Through the decades they searched unsuccessfully among friends, acquaintances, and members of their congregations. Finally Gwen decided to donate it to the San Diego FamilySearch Center.

She called the center and talked to family history missionary, Elder Ed Jones. She asked if the center would accept an old family Bible. He said no, the library didn’t accept donations and had no space for it. Fortunately, his wife, Dawna, overheard the conversation. She grabbed the phone from out of his hands and told Whitlock, “Yes, absolutely, please bring it in.”

The following day Whitlock brought in the Bible. Dawna examined the Bible and found it to be one of her husband’s direct ancestral lines. Then they cried.\

“It’s been such a wonderful, spiritual story of how God put it for him to find, to bring to me, for me to hold it for them,” Whitlock said. “Then for God to impress me to take it the day the Joneses were there is a miracle of huge proportions.”

That is what we call, serendipity in genealogy.

For a better telling of the story, see Trent Toone’s article, “Rare Bible Rescued from Trash Provides Missing Family History,” Deseret News, online edition ( : published 22 July 2013, accessed 10 August 2013).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

FGS 2015 Conference Merges with RootsTech

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced during their 2013 annual conference that they had combined their 2015 conference with RootsTech. When I first heard this, I cringed.

Many markets are dominated by one or two big brands. Think Jell-O. (Who’s number two?) Think Kleenix. (Who’s number two?) Think Band-Aids. Think Xerox. Think Microsoft Office. Think FedEx and UPS. (Who’s number three?) Think Coke and Pepsi. (How big is the third cola?) Think iPhone and Android. Think Windows PC and Apple. Think Campbell’s Soup and Progresso. Think Crest and Colgate.

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some markets have three or more stable brands. But it is very common for numbers three and above to struggle and come and go.

That brings me back to national genealogical conferences. For a long time, there has been two: the annual conferences of FGS and NGS (the National Genealogical Society). When FamilySearch jumpstarted RootsTech into the marketplace in 2011, I worried they had just spelled the doom of one of the first two.

When DearMYRTLE editorialized that FGS and NGS should combine their conferences, I agreed with her reasoning. And I worried. (See “NGS and FGS: Rethink your policies in light of RootsTech.”)

Now FGS has announced it is combining (technically, co-locating) its 2015 conference with RootsTech. Again, I worry.

Here’s the announcement I received from RootsTech about the 2015 FGS conference:

FGS and RootsTech Events To Be Held In Tandem

February 12-14, 2015 in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY – RootsTech announced today that The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) will hold its 2015 National Conference in conjunction with the popular RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 12-14, 2015. RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, has quickly become the largest family history conference in North America. The unique culture of the RootsTech conference attracts growing throngs of attendees from around the world both in-person and online seeking to discover and share family connections, stories, and history.

FGS represents the over 500,000 members of hundreds of genealogical societies and presents an annual national conference program that helps strengthen and link the genealogical community. Conducting both conferences at the same time in the same facility gives interested attendees the option to conveniently benefit from both conference programs for a nominal additional cost.

The Salt Palace Convention Center will be the common venue, and both FamilySearch and FGS will produce a unique event addressing the educational needs of the family history, technology and genealogical society communities. Attendees will see familiar elements of both events including dynamic keynote presentations, hands-on workshops, a Society Showcase and free Expo Hall.

"The FGS conference attracts genealogy society leaders that serve the needs of genealogy patrons worldwide, and RootsTech caters to a very different audience of all ages seeking to discover, preserve, and share their family stories and history," said Dan Martinez, RootsTech Director of Marketing. "Holding the two annual conferences in the same venue will create a rich learning environment and increase benefits to all attendees."

Registration details for both events will be available in August 2014.

FGS President D. Joshua Taylor states, "FamilySearch has been a valued partner and sponsor for FGS during its past conferences. It only makes sense for both organizations to work together and produce what will be the most talked about genealogy event of 2015." Taylor added that such an event brings the best of RootsTech and FGS conferences together under one roof and will offer genealogists and family historians a wide array of activities and educational opportunities.

About RootsTech
RootsTech is a unique global family history event where people of all ages learn to discover and share their family stories and connections through technology. The first annual conference was held in 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by FamilySearch and sponsored by leading genealogical organizations, the conference includes hands-on demonstrations and forums to provide a highly interactive environment and accelerate learning. Content is geared all skill levels and ages, including a Family Discover Day for youth ages 12-18.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Layoffs Hit FamilySearch Staff

This is old news, but you may not have heard before. I came across it on my way to the FGS conference and this is the first chance I’ve had to tell you.

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote on 13 August 2013 that, “The LDS Church has laid off 13 computer-tech staffers in its Family History Department.” The Family History Department of the Church is known externally as FamilySearch. The layoffs had occurred the previous week.

The article was pretty short. The only other information given about the FamilySearch layoffs was a quote from a Church spokesperson.

“Though this number is relatively small, we are mindful of the individuals and families affected by these changes,” said Ruth Todd. “These employees will each receive a generous severance package to assist them as they seek new employment.”

You can read the complete article on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Strange New World at #FGS2013

You may recall my discovery of a strange new world on the cover of the FGS Conference brochure. (See “The Ancestry Insider is an #FGS2013 Ambassador.”) When I visited the Allen County Public Library while at the conference, I found the source of the picture. Sure enough, it is a strange new world.

The Ancestry Insider discovers a strange new world

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Checking Out FamilySearch Books

Dear Readers,

I recently came across this message to FamilySearch.

Title: Reservation List for Books
From: J
Date: 11 September 2013

This book has been unavailable for over 24 hours. A reservation list would be helpful in these situations:

Title: Mayflower families through five generations : descendants of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620, Vol. 6
Author: Kellogg, Lucy Mary, 1899-1973 ; General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Plymouth, Massachusetts)
Description: Compiled family history.
Language: English;English;English
Provenance: Owning Institution:Logan Family History Center, FamilySearch International;

This question regards the FamilySearch book collection. If my understanding is correct, books that must be checked out can only be checked out in Family History Centers.

Books that must be checked out are shown in the search results with the crossed out circle icon:

The crossed out circle icon in book search results

The message returned by clicking on the book while somewhere else isn’t clear about the need to be at a family history center.

The insufficient rights message from FamilySearch Books

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, September 13, 2013

Serendipity in a Graveyard

Betty Martin was researching Samuel T. Foresman, Civil War veteran, husband, and father of three. Trying to find Samuel’s death date, Betty tracked him from Illinois to Michigan to Washington Territory. This is her story, in her own words:

“Through incidents too complicated to relate, I eventually discovered both Samuel and his father buried in the old Dungeness Cemetery in Sequim, Clallam County, Washington Territory. “But—there was no death date recorded on Samuel’s gravestone!”

Grave marker of S. C. Foresman
Photo credit: Betty L. Martin, Newberg, Oregon, [e-mail address withheld for privacy,] to, digital image of S. C. Foresman marker attached to e-mail, 29 July 2009, “The Ancestry Insider Serendipity”; privately held by the author.

“Still determined, I contacted the Clallam County Genealogical society via email and I persuaded one of the staff to photograph Samuel’s gravestone for me, perhaps to reveal some unnoticed detail… Unbeknownst to anyone else, the staff member went to the cemetery to take the picture.”

One day it occurred to Martin that newspapers might contain the information she needed. She sent off an email to the staff member with this thought. The staff member wouldn’t read the email until later. You see, that was the day she went to the cemetery.

“As she was taking the photograph of the gravestone, another woman whom she’d never before met, ‘just happened’ to come to the cemetery that morning also and approached her.  She brought copies of some old newspaper articles and gave them to the staff member, saying they did not contain any information useful to her on her own ancestral lines.

“The staff member took the papers, and while perusing them, discovered this at the bottom:

Death notice of Samuel T. Foresman
Image credit: Collage by the author from Weekly Argus (Port Townsend, Washington Territory), 22 May 1875, pp. 1, 3; digital images, ( : accessed 19 August 2013).

DEATHS.  FORESMAN.—At Dungeness, on the 14th inst. [instante mense—this month], Samuel T. Foresman, aged 33 years.  Deceased was a native of Michigan.  He leaves a wife and three children.

“That was him!”

Think about it. What are the chances of

  • the staff member going to the cemetery that day (unannounced), and
  • at the same time Martin having the thought that newspapers might contain the answer she sought, and
  • another lady showing up at the cemetery at the same time, and
  • the other lady bringing with her useless newspaper clippings, and
  • the lady approaching and starting a conversation with a complete stranger, and
  • the lady offering up what to her was trash, and
  • that piece of trash having the sought for information!

That, ladies and gentlemen, we call serendipity in genealogy. 

Sources: Betty L. Martin, Newberg, Oregon, [e-mail address withheld for privacy,] to, e-mail, 9 August 2008, “Serendipity Experience”; privately held by the author. Martin to, e-mail,  22 August 2013, “The Ancestry Insider Serendipity”; privately held by the author.

Thank you, Betty, for sharing!

If you have a story you’d like to share, send it to

Thursday, September 12, 2013

FamilySearch Image Count Inflation

An anonymous tipster (not a FamilySearch employee) pulled me aside at a recent conference to tell me that inflates its claims for numbers of images published.

He pointed out the “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” as representative. This collection has 23,849,118 draft registration cards, according to ( claims a slightly higher count, 24,034,495, but that’s a topic for another investigation.) Each card has a single, associated image. Yet claims its collection contains 48,854,755 images, more than double the actual count.

The tipster alleges that when the collection was first published, the image count was 25,007,403 images, a reasonable amount given the number of cards plus extra images, including the NARA pamphlet at the beginning of each microfilm roll. At that time there was no index. As the number of indexed records grew, the image count did also, always by about the same as the additional records.

I checked with FamilySearch and was told that there is a known bug with the image counts displayed on collection pages. The current system makes it too expensive to fix, but later upgrades will make fixing this bug possible.

I decided to watch for myself to see if this was actually happening. I chose an unfinished collection, “Germany, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Census 1867.” It had 104,985 records and 274,707 images.

The record collection had 104,985 records
The record collection had 274,707 images

On 22 August 2013 FamilySearch updated the collection. As predicted, the number of images went up (to 298,241). Weirdly, the number of records went down (to 68,233).

The number of records fell to 68,233
The number of images went up to 298,241

I don’t know what happened to the number of records. But until the image count bug is fixed, be aware that if you plan to browse the entire “Germany, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Census 1867” collection, you’ll only need to view 274,707 images, not 298,241.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WDYTYA Research Takes More Than an Hour

Who Do You Think You Are“One comment I hear about the show [Who Do You Think You Are], is that they make it look too easy and that it must have taken a lot of research,” said Matt Deighton, spokesperson for

ProGenealogists, the Official Research Firm, is taking steps to alleviate that, said Deighton. “After each episode a more in-depth look at the research is given.”

To see the additional commentary, visit

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Information on Agreement and FamilySearch sign agreementIn a blog post Friday (6 September 2013), FamilySearch addressed some concerns raised by the recently announced agreement. (For the original announcement, see “ Announces Extensive Partnership with FamilySearch.”)

FamilySearch addressed concerns that records might no longer be free.

“FamilySearch will continue to make our records available to the public for free,” said FamilySearch. “It remains our commitment to make as many genealogical records and resources available at no cost.”

My chief concern was the impact on the FamilySearch indexing volunteers.

I can guess their biggest concern: “Would make money as a result of my hard work?” FamilySearch said, “Records that are indexed by FamilySearch volunteers will continue to be available at no cost to visitors of In addition to this, many of these records will also become available through partner sites such as” I can’t tell from this response if the records would be available on for free, but they seem certain to be available.

I hope there are record swaps.

“Hundreds of millions of records have already been shared and are available on and,” said the initial announcement. I like swaps. For indexers, it’s a two for one deal. A FamilySearch indexer indexes one record and gets free access to two.

FamilySearch hinted that the deal is international in scope.

“This partnership will result in making significant global historical records available,” said FamilySearch. In the initial  announcement,’s Tim Sullivan said the two will “share international sets of records more collaboratively.” (I’m glad they’re sharing collaboratively. Non-collaborative sharing is so… so… non-collaborative.) “A significant part of our vision for family history is helping provide a rich, engaging experience on a global scale,” said Sullivan.

I think FamilySearch said there will be collaboration in acquiring new records.

“Both organizations expect to add to the already digitized records shared across the two websites in addition to new record projects to be completed over the next five years,” said the initial announcement.

FamilySearch hinted there might be agreements coming with other organizations.

“Building strategic partnerships is and will continue to be an important part of our vision, and we look forward to additional exciting announcements in the future,” said FamilySearch. “We look forward to more exciting developments as we continue to work with leading organizations in the genealogy community.” FamilySearch said that records indexed by FamilySearch will “become available through partner sites such as”

“We look forward to more exciting developments as we continue to work with leading organizations in the genealogy community. The future of family history is truly exciting.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

RootsTech Early-Early Bird Special Expires Monday

RootsTech will be 6-8 February 2014FamilySearch is offering several different early bird discounts to different groups. The first discounted price, available to the general public, is $139. That price is good only until Monday (9 September 2013).

The second early bird discount, also available to the general public, is $159. This price is good until 6 January 2014. After that, the price goes up to $239.

Another special discount, offered last Friday to past attendees, is $139 until 9 September 2013. (Come to think about it, maybe there aren’t as many early bird options as I thought.)

There is another special discount, $99, offered to family history consultants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church owns FamilySearch, which in turn sponsors RootsTech, so I suppose the deeper discount is to be expected. The email offer, with the discount code, was sent to registered consultants. If you are not registered, you should be. To register,

  1. Go to
  2. Click on resources.
  3. Under the Callings header, click on All Callings.
  4. Scroll down and click on Family History callings.
  5. Scroll down and click on Register Here.
  6. Sign in.
  7. Change the Calling setting to Family History Consultant.
  8. Make certain there is a check mark in the receive e-mails setting.

I suppose it may be too late this time around to receive the email offer. I recommend asking another consultant in your ward for the discount code, or asking your local family history center director.

Someone’s going to ask about family history consultants in family history centers who are not members of the Church, so I might as well answer now. I don’t know. Maybe one of you can help me out. Did any of you receive the email offer? My recollection is that last year community volunteers in family history centers were allowed to use the discount. I’d say, ask your family history center director or send an inquiry to

I’ve also been asked by FamilySearch employees if there is an employee discount. I haven’t seen one. It would be nice to know if there will be one and how much it will be. That’s unfortunate if you are taking time off and attending on your own nickel. Luncheon tickets are another consideration. If you wait for an employee discount to be announced, luncheons may already be sold out.

I’ve also seen nothing about official bloggers. Last year official bloggers were given a special deal. If you hope to be an official blogger, it would have been nice to know before the $139 discount expired. It would have been good for RootsTech as well. They could have received more exposure prior to the expiration.

To help you make your decision, check the list of presentations. Also, check the prices for other registration options.

I, myself, am fortunate this year to be a presenter, so I haven’t had to worry. I hope to see you there!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Plugging in Photos and Stories to FamilySearch Family Tree

At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Tim Cross of FamilySearch presented a session titled “Plugging in Photos and Stories to FamilySearch Family Tree.” Cross has worked as a Product Manager for FamilySearch for 9 years. Prior to working for FamilySearch, he worked in the computer industry for Price Waterhouse, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Novell. He is currently responsible for FamilySearch Photos and Stories.

Doing photos and stories at FamilySearch has always been his passion, said Cross. That passion started about a year into his nine years at FamilySearch.

Why has it taken so long to get FamilySearch to support photos? FamilySearch has been concerned about maintaining a high standard of appropriateness. Photos are not immediately available when uploaded. They are screened about seven times by two different groups for different purposes. Photos are checked for pornography, modesty, vulgarity, violence, mutilation, illegal stuff, and swimsuits. When they started getting neck to ankle historic swimsuits, they started accepting some. Screening takes between two to five minutes, then uploaded images are visible to the public. The screening is contracted out to a third party and the results are spot-checked by missionaries. If you upload a photograph and it is rejected when you think it is OK, contact support and have them recheck the photograph.

When you come to and you are not logged in, scroll down a little to see several sample photos. These are changed about twice a week. As I wrote this, they had a bicycle theme:

Scroll down the page when not logged in to see several recently uploaded photos

Cross said he loves horses and he highlighted them so often, coworkers were complaining. The photos differ according to your language, reflecting different cultures.

He loves to look through new uploads and create photo albums of interesting ones.

On one occasion he came across the Photo and Story page of little Grace Elizabeth Warnack. They tell the touching story of a family that lost a dear child before her birth. Cross said there is great power in knowing that these photographs and stories will be preserved forever.

She Was Not HappyOn another occasion he came across a photo of the Henson Cole Whitlock family. The mother in the photograph is obviously miffed. The caption gives the explanation. “Martha dressed the kids and told Hence to watch them while she got ready for [the] photo. He let them get wet in the creek and so they had on no shoes and socks. She was not happy.”

One of the core goals of the Photos and Stories section of was that the photos and stories be visible to the general public without the need to register or sign in. When trying to engage a new person in family history, these are barriers that often drive someone away before they become engaged in their family history.

For that reason, the Photos and Stories section of can have People pages that are separate and distinct from Family Tree Person pages. While Family Tree Person pages require registration and login, Photos and Stories pages are visible to anyone and everyone. These are easily shared via email or popular social media sites.

There is a basic, four-step process for utilizing the photos section on

1. Digitize your photos.

Use JPEG or PNG and a file size less than 5 megabytes. FamilySearch is considering adding other types and increasing the file size to 10 or 15 megabytes. The length of stories is limited to about the equivalent of a 100 page book.

2. Upload the photos.

Photos have an expiration date, so to speak. It might be a fire. It might be a flood. FamilySearch will preserve forever photographs you upload. You can upload 50 photographs at a time and have a maximum of 5,000 photographs.

Click on Photos at the top of the page, then click on My Photos, and then the plus sign labeled Upload. That opens up another plus sign. Drag and drop the photographs onto the plus sign, or click the plus sign for a regular Open File dialog box.

Click here, here, here, and here to upload photos

Remember that is a family-oriented site, every photo is reviewed, and every photo is public. Avoid duplicating photos. While FamilySearch check’s for exact duplicates, it can only detect file copies, not separate scans of the same photograph.

3. Tag people in the photographs.

Tagging the people in a photo is simply identifying them. Tagging also has an expiration date. Those who can identify the people in a photograph age and pass away.

After uploading, click on the first photograph to go to the Photo page. Click on the center of each face in the photograph. Resize and drag the circle to frame the face. Then type in the person’s name. The name you use doesn’t matter. It can be anything you want—just use it consistently. If this is the first photograph of this person, type in the name and click Add New Person.


Tag people on the Photo Page

Once you’ve tagged one, click on the right arrow at the side of the screen to go to the next uploaded photo. Start typing in the name and select the name from the dropdown. Because the additional photos are tagged from the dropdown, the system knows them as the same tagged person.

4. Connect tagged people to persons in Family Tree.

Click on Photos and then People. Filter people by “People Not Linked to Family Tree.” Then click a photograph. 

Filter people to show those not linked to Family Tree

Click Link to Family Tree. Search for and select the person in Family Tree. Be sure to adjust the name to the full first and last (maiden) name as it probably appears in the tree.

To upload photos in bulk or for multiple people, use the method above. To upload a photo from Family Tree, go to the person in the tree, click Photos, and Add Photo. Upload the photo, make certain it is selected and click the Attach Photos button. When you upload in this way, FamilySearch does the tagging for you.

Photos > People

A relationship chart shows your relationship to the photograph subjectThe People page shows people you uploaded and people closely related to you that others have uploaded. Click Photos > People. You might find photos that you didn’t know about. People contributed by others are marked with a gold ribbon. Click on the ribbon to see a relationship map showing your relation to the person. Click on the face to see the Photos and Stories page with all the photographs for that person. From this page you can also click the link “View My Relationship.”

Photos > Albums

Photographs can be organized into albums. Click Photos > Albums. Click on Create an Album, enter a name and an optional description. Putting a photograph into an album doesn’t make a copy of it. You can create an album around any theme. Cross created the “Bills Family Photos” album for his Bills ancestors. Cross likes to create albums of interesting photographs. (I poked around and found “Relatives of the Pope Line.” It is interesting because it is in Russian.)

Add photos to an album using a variety of methods. One is to click Add Photos and then select photos from the ones you’ve uploaded. Another is to go to Photos > Find. Find searches all photos and stories on the site, not just those you contributed. Click on a photo of interest. On the photo page, click on Albums > Add to albums. The contributor will be notified that you have added the photo to an album. Photos can be in multiple albums. The same is true for stories. You can share albums via email or social media.

Photos > My Photos

In addition to tagging photo subjects, the photo page can be used for several other purposes. To see a Photo page, click on Photos, My Photos, and then the photo of interest. (Cross said the photo page would soon be changing, so it may operate differently by the time you read this.)

On the photo page, click Stories to associate a story with a photo.

Click on People and then a person’s name to see a popdown list of choices. If you click on Family Tree or Person Page, you will be asked to login before seeing the person in Family Tree. If you click on Photos and Stories, you will see all the photos and stories you contributed about this person. (If you are viewing a photo contributed by another individual, then you will see all the photos and stories the other individual contributed.)

Click on Comments to add a comment. The photo contributor will receive an email alerting them to the new comment.

Click on Details for a couple of other functions: View Original file, Delete This Photo, and see contributor information. Click on the contributor’s name for contact information.

Help is available for learning and using the Photos and Stories feature. At the top of the page click on Get Help, then click Product Support. From this page there are three sources of help. At the bottom of the page are the Product Support FAQs. Click on Photos and Stories to see commonly asked questions and answers. At the middle of the page, type in a question and press Enter. At the top of the page, browse for help by clicking on Photos and Stories. From there you can print a handout and watch a quick start video.

Changes are released about twice a week. New features will be described in the FamilySearch blog or user newsletters.

Cross took a number of questions, before, during, and after his presentation.

Asked about uploading photographs of living people, Cross said, “I’ve done it.” You can tag them. You can share them. You can put them into albums. You just can’t hook them to the tree.

Asked about uploading images of documents, Cross said, “We’re probably at a point where you can start uploading them.”

Asked if there is a way to fix a tag or delete a photograph, Cross asked if the photos and their tags should be treated like a source document contributed for preservation or a shared resource [like information in Family Tree, subject to community correction]. He explained that we probably don’t want to allow photo deletion (other than by the contributor). “We assume if you upload the photo, you know who to tag.” Others can add tags.

In closing Cross hearkened back to the story of the parents who lost their little one, Grace Elizabeth Warnack. The FamilySearch Photos and Stories feature guarantees that she will never be forgotten.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 Announces Extensive Partnership with FamilySearch

I just received the following press release from



Groundbreaking Agreement to Deliver Valuable Historical Content Over the Next Five Years

PROVO, Utah, September 5, 2013 – and FamilySearch International (online at, the two largest providers of family history resources, announced today an agreement that is expected to make approximately 1 billion global historical records available online and more easily accessible to the public for the first time. With this long-term strategic agreement, the two services will work together with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.

The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide. expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.

“This agreement sets a path for the future for and FamilySearch to increasingly share international sets of records more collaboratively,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of “A significant part of our vision for family history is helping provide a rich, engaging experience on a global scale. We are excited about the opportunities it will bring to help benefit the family history community and look forward to collaborating with FamilySearch to identify other opportunities to help people discover and share their family history.”

The organizations will also be looking at other ways to share content across the two organizations. Both organizations expect to add to the already digitized records shared across the two websites in addition to new record projects to be completed over the next five years.

"We are excited to work with on a vision we both share," said Dennis Brimhall, President of FamilySearch. "Expanding online access to historical records through this type of collaboration can help millions more people discover and share their family's history."

This marks a groundbreaking agreement between the two services. But the two organizations aren’t strangers to working with each other; hundreds of millions of records have already been shared and are available on and The companies also announced in early 2013 an additional project where they plan to publish 140 million U.S. Wills & Probate images and indexes over the next three years—creating a national database of wills and other probate documents spanning 1800-1930 online for the very first time.

About is the world's largest online family history resource with approximately 2.7 million paying subscribers across all its websites.  More than 11 billion records have been added to the sites and users have created more than 50 million family trees containing more than 5 billion profiles.  In addition to its flagship site, the company operates several Ancestry international websites along with a suite of online family history brands, including, and, all designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,800 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements relate to future events and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause the Company's actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as "appears," "may," "designed," "expect," "intend," "focus," "seek," "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "should," "continue" or "work" or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements are based on information available to the Company as of the date of this press release. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include our ability to acquire and digitize new content, to provide desired content and product features to new and current subscribers and to otherwise satisfy customer expectations regarding the content of the collection, now and in the future. Information concerning additional factors that could cause events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements is contained under the caption “Risk Factors” in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended June 30, 2013, and in discussions in other of our Securities and Exchange Commission filings. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date and we assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements.

Merging People in FamilySearch’s Family Tree

Merge signConflicts prevented me from attending two sessions at the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy that looked like they would be very good. After the fact, I heard that they were. I have been able to obtain slides for these two presentations, so I would like to report to you what I can glean. Be careful, I run the risk of misinterpretation. Also, because the presentations were about the quickly changing website, things may have changed since the conference.

Ben Baker presented a session titled, “Merging People in FamilySearch’s Family Tree.” Baker has been a senior software engineer at FamilySearch for the past three and a half years. He currently leads the team of engineers responsible for the merge-related features in Family Tree. He also has worked with digital image processing of historical documents at FamilySearch.

Many duplicates of real persons exist in FamilySearch Family Tree. There are several reasons why. Because Family Tree was copied from new FamilySearch (NFS) it suffers from the same duplicates as NFS. NFS—and in turn Family Tree—contains persons added from Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, extracted records (from the International Genealogical Index), GEDCOM uploads, user additions, and other sources.

To resolve duplicates, Family Tree allows merging of duplicate persons. Merging is different from Combine in NFS. NFS Combine preserves all information from both original persons. Users can choose at any time which alternate values to view. Merging person A into person B deletes person A, while at the same time allowing the user to choose which of alternate information to save. Alternative information that is not chosen is deleted.

Merge is different from Delete. Deleting a person deletes all the person’s relationships and orphans any LDS temple ordinance information. Merge preserves a link from the deleted person to the surviving merged person; delete does not. Deleting is recommended only when you’re sure that the person is fictitious. Often, deleting just a relationship or merging is a better alternative to deleting.

The Process

To merge two persons, click on Possible Duplicates in the Tools box of a Person Page. Review the possible duplicates. If you’re pretty sure that a person listed is not a duplicate, click on Not a Match and enter a reason why you believe the two do not match.

Sometimes a person is flagged, “Can’t Be Merged at This Time.” According to Baker’s syllabus, this can be caused by

  • “The resulting record in would have more than 250 combined records. This is sometimes called an Individual of Unusual Size (IOUS). There isn’t anything that can be done to merge these persons until synchronization with new.familysearch is turned off.
  • The genders of the persons do not match, including Unknown with Male or Female. Gender can be changed if no LDS temple ordinances have been done.
  • Both of the persons have LDS church membership records.
  • One of the persons is living and the other is not.”

Baker’s slides contain several more:

  • “Forwarded person (Usually just merged)
  • Locked relationship
  • Other order only – Must preserve membership
  • Merging would cause loop
  • Locked person
  • Non-Unique IDs
  • Parent and child”

Baker gave an insider, techie way to determine why two persons can’t be merged. Take the two person IDs. Type the following URL into your browser, substituting the two person IDs.{personId1}/merge/{personId2}/constraint

If a person might be a match, click on Review Merge.

Information from the two persons will be displayed in two columns. Before the person on the right is deleted, you may merge information from them into the person on the left. Carefully review each fact (birthdate, birth place, and so on). To use the value on the right instead of that on the left, click Add or Replace. Click Reject (or don’t click at all) to use the value on the left.

Review the complete set of values, enter a reason for the merge, and click Finish Merge.

To see the list of the persons marked Not a Match, click on Possible Duplicates and then on the Not A Match tab.

There are two flavors for undoing an incorrect merge.

The first flavor completely restores both persons as they were before the merge. Click Show All in the Latest Changes box on the right hand side of the person page of the merged person. click the Unmerge button. this option is available only if no changes have been made to the merged person.

The second flavor restores only the deleted person. Click Show All in the Latest Changes box. Click the deleted person’s name. Click Restore Person.

Baker gives some best practices and recommendations, which I’ll let you read yourselves in his syllabus and slides. (See the links below.)

Sometimes inconsistent information in Family Tree is the result of an improper combine operation in NFS. I found an example recently. It was one of those times where the given name of a dead son was given to the next son. Someone combined the two, producing a person who died as a child, but still got married and had children. Separating records is no longer supported in NFS. NFS instructs users to use Family Tree to fix problems. In his syllabus, Baker recommended against that approach:

Instead of simply removing these [inconsistent] values, a more correct way to resolve the issues is to call support and request that the person be separated into its real identities. Doing this will reduce future work as additional data including LDS temple ordinances are migrated from nFS.

Unfortunately, since submitting his syllabus, support has stopped accepting requests to separate combined persons. If I understand correctly, this produces extreme problems for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With ordinances assigned to the wrong people, unnecessary ordinances will be performed for some members’ ancestors, and necessary ordinances will not be performed for others. In his slides Baker states, “Some features are coming to help address these problems…soon-ish”:

  • “Ability to view all of the LDS temple ordinances attached to a person
  • Request that LDS temple ordinances that don’t belong be moved elsewhere”

Baker’s “Coming Soon-ish” slide includes these features:

  • Photos/stories will be handled properly on merge
  • Removal of synchronization with new.familysearch—will allow more merges, including IOUS

It is possible to merge duplicates even if one isn’t listed as a possible duplicate of the other. Baker wrote, “After clicking the Possible Duplicates link from the person page, click on the Merge by ID tab. Copy the ID you would like to merge into the text box and proceed with the merge as usual.”

Because of the synchronization between NFS and Family Tree, once a merge is initiated, it must be completed in less than five minutes, otherwise you will get a pink message that the persons can’t be merged.

If you go through all the steps to perform a merge in less than five minutes and after clicking Finish Merge you get a pink message that the persons can’t be merged, you’ve probably encountered a bug. Call support and report it. The same is true when restoring or undeleting a person.



Baker posted his syllabus and slides online:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map

Conflicts prevented me from attending two sessions at the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy that looked like they would be very good. After the fact, I heard that they were. I have been able to obtain slides for these two presentations, so I would like to report to you what I can glean from the slides. Be careful, I run the risk of misinterpretation. Also, because the presentations were about the quickly changing website, things may have changed since the conference.

Ron Tanner talks at RootsTech 2013Ron Tanner presented a session titled, “FamilySearch Family Tree Road Map.” Tanner is a product manager for the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, FamilySearch) where he leads a team doing research and design of Family Tree and companion products. He has a master’s degree in Computer Science from BYU and has previously worked as a product manager and engineer at Novell, Citrix, and Bell Laboratories.

Tanner’s slides don’t always differentiate between newly released features and soon-to-come features, many of which will have been released since his presentation. Forgive me if I speak incorrectly about a feature.

Family Tree has a Helper Function which allows one person to log in as another person, but without the helped person needing to disclose his password. I think changes to the tree are attributed to the helper on behalf of the person helped. To help a user who is a member of the Church requires the person’s full name, birth date, and a PIN number set by that person. This information is drawn from the Church’s membership record. To help a user who is not a member requires the person’s username and PIN.

One day you will be able to associate a source with a photograph rather than a URL. Pick an image you have already uploaded, or upload a new one. That photo becomes part of the source.

On day FamilySearch will migrate sources entered by users into new FamilySearch (NFS). Information from the several NFS source fields will be combined into the Family Tree citation field. The sources will be displayed with the world icon.

One day there will be a new section in the person page that will contain notes. Notes consist of a title and a text field. Once that is in place, FamilySearch can migrate NFS sources to Family Tree. They will take the individual’s notes, not those associated with individual facts. And they will take relationship notes and put them in the notes section on the couple relationships.

To impede incorrect merges, FamilySearch will add a message stating that merge is a complex process and urging users to please take the time to carefully review and choose which information should be kept.

FamilySearch will add the ability to set the preferred spouse and parents for display in pedigrees. In the Family Members of the person page, each alternate will contain a checkbox for choosing that person.

FamilySearch is adding mechanisms to impede incorrect deletion of people through increased warnings and a checklist. The warning Tanner showed stated, “It is recommended that you delete people only if you added a person by mistake or if the person never existed.” (Too bad it doesn’t recommend Merge as an alternative.) The messages next urge the user to read through the reasons the person was previously deleted and restored. Next users are presented the number of relationships that will be deleted (and presumably links to explore them) and asks if it is relationships that need to be deleted instead of the person. The user is next warned that deleting this person will delete sources, discussions, and notes; and users are given a count of each. Finally, the user is asked to provide a reason statement and fill out a short checklist:

  • I have read the other reason statements above.
  • I have reviewed the couple and child-parent relationships for this person.
  • I have included a reason statement why I feel this person should be deleted.

One day there will be a Report Abuse button in the tools section on the Person Page. FamilySearch will allow you to pick a type of abuse from a list, or to specify your own. This will cause a support case to be sent to administrators for review.

FamilySearch’s goal is to get users off of NFS and moved over to Family Tree by the end of the year. At that time NFS will become a read-only system. Users will be able to log on and view information, but not make changes.

This will be followed with the support of living persons in the tree that can have sources, photos, and stories.

FamilySearch is adding a box on the right-hand side of the person page that lists the top few matching records from Historical Records, along with a link to list them all. When you click on one, it will go right to the record where you can review it and attach it to the tree if it matches. If you click the link to see them all, you will have the capability to attach records directly or mark records as not matching.

A significant portion of the persons in NFS was originally created from extracted IGI records. These same records are available in a historical records collection. In Family Tree FamilySearch will automatically create a source for each one, referencing the record in its historical records collection.

Hopefully, sometime in the next year, FamilySearch will decommission NFS and stop synchronizing information between NFS and Family Tree. This link between the two is causing many of the problems that you see in Family Tree, including merging of some persons not being allowed, relationships coming back into Family Tree, alternate names re-appearing, inability to change genders, and inability to see membership and all temple records.

FamilySearch would like to add a set of quality indicators, such as

  • Birth (christening) after death
  • Death after burial
  • Person died young (under 8) and has spouse
  • Birth before mother/father
  • Birth (christening) before mother/father was 12
  • Birth (christening) after mother died
  • Death (Burial) before marriage date
  • Marriage date before persons are 12 years old
  • Direct relationship between people that weren't alive at the same time

He would like to add some way to impede changes to a person that is in good shape so that unskilled users don’t mess it up. This could be done by metrics, both automatic and community contributed. These might be done by checking the number of sources or a community indicator that the sources and conclusions are accurate.

FamilySearch would like to provide a mechanism for families to work together, giving each other permission to view living persons.

And there are many more things they would like to do:

  • Support for fixing bad NFS combines (I understand support can no longer do this)
  • Internal messaging system
  • Genealogical proof statements
  • Audio and video
  • Warring detection
  • Sharing ordinances
  • Bequeathing reservations
  • Google search of ancestors

So there you have it, Ron Tanner’s road map for the future of FamilySearch Family Tree—at least to the degree that I understand it from his slides.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 Search Improvements

Last month released improvements to the search results obtained when beginning a search from your tree.

“For the large group of users who search for an ancestor using the information in their tree, we have summarized their research to date by consolidating the records already attached to the ancestor at the top of the results,” said Matt Deighton, spokesperson. “Previously, already-attached records were interspersed amongst results, making it challenging to see what was already attached and what was a potentially new result.” The list is sorted and can be closed to hide it from view.

Consolidated list of previously attached

Another new feature associated with the consolidated list is smart filtering. Since an ancestor is expected to be found in some record collections only once, once a record has been attached to an ancestor from a record collection, filtering removes all other results from that collection.

These features are being gradually launched over two or three weeks. If you don’t see these features right away, you should see them shortly. Implements New Old Search

If you are an “Old Search” user, you definitely remember the 27 June 2013 announcement that it would soon retire its Old Search engine. Immediately users began expressing concerns. was quick to respond. (See “ Responds to Old Search Controversy.”) They clarified that they don’t want to get rid of Old Search, the functionality. They are retiring Old Search, the underlying servers.

That means they must adapt the code on their current search servers to provide Old Search functionality. To make certain they get it right, they offered a survey to users, allowing them to specify what functionality they needed and expected.

“We received thousands of survey responses,” said Matt Deighton, spokesperson. “By far, the most popular features in the old search experience among old search users were the ability to view search results grouped by category and the availability of a simple search form with an exact option.”

“In our work to bring the best of both our old and new search features into the primary experience, we have released a new search mode,” said Deighton. is calling it “Category Exact Mode.”

The simple search form of Category Exact Mode

The new mode includes the two experiences requested, a simple search form with an exact option and results grouped by category.

“Old search users will see a banner announcing this feature in the old search experience after September 4th,” said Deighton, “but the feature is available now.” Information on how to enable it can be found in this article.

Users of Old Search should try it out and see that it does what they need. You can then provide feedback to help tailor the mode to your desired experience.

Monday, September 2, 2013

RootsTech Extra Discount Ends 9 September 2013

Rootstech, Where Families ConnectAn early, early bird price for RootsTech ends in one week, according to a press release from RootsTech:

Various pass options are available, with pricing set to make RootsTech an affordable experience. Early Bird pricing discounts for a Full Access Pass ($159) and a Getting Started Pass ($39) are available until January 6, 2014.

An additional $20 discount is available for a limited time. Attendees can get a Full Access Pass for just $139 simply by using the promotional code RT14EXCLSV before September 9, 2013.

The press release also states,

Registration is now open for RootsTech 2014, which will be held February 6­-8, 2014 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. This annual family history conference, hosted by FamilySearch, is a unique global event where people of all ages learn to discover and share their family stories and connections through technology. Over the past three years, RootsTech has grown in popularity with attendees to become the largest family history event in the United States!

To get more information and to register, visit