Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Satellite #RootsTech Locations

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxIn “#RootsTech FamilySearch Blogger Dinner Report” I reported that FamilySearch was planning on having satellite sites utilize recordings of RootsTech sessions in local family history conferences.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

You said: "They have 622 locations signed up across the world, covering ten languages." Where are those locations? Is there a list of them somewhere? I looked at the RootsTech site and can't find them listed. I googled "roots tech Satellite locations" and still don't get a list. Thanks for more information.

Claire Bettag

Dear Claire,

What is it about and hiding things on their websites?

I could not find anything on either or I did, however, find a page on that might help. ( is the website of FamilySearch’s sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

There is a page titled “Host a 2014 Stake Family History Fair” that states, “The classes, training and workshops are provided to the stakes from RootsTech.” (Stakes are ecclesiastical units of the Church composed of about a dozen congregations.) It links through a page titled “Family History Day” to a page titled “Find a Fair” at Go to that page and enter your address. The webpage will show the five closest fairs to your location. (See below for an example.) I’m guessing the number of sites has grown beyond 622.

I would call and ask if and which of the RootsTech sessions they will present and if the fair is open to the general public.

All of the RootsTech sessions they will present are posted on If you’re not interested in attending the local classes taught at the fair, you may find it easier to watch the RootsTech sessions online.

The Ancestry Insider


Friday, March 28, 2014

Darned Online Trees

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: Online Trees

Do you hate those online trees like I do? You too may be guilty of “source snobbery.”

“Disdained sources may contain accurate information found nowhere else,” Thomas W. Jones wrote in a recent article in Onboard, the newsletter of the BCG. “Some source types have higher error rates than others, but no type is error-free or worthless.”

In the article, “Perils of Source Snobbery,” Jones lists “undocumented and unverified databases, family and local histories, genealogical compendiums, heritage books, old lineage-society applications, [and] online family trees” as disdained source categories.

However, these sources might contain information from eye witnesses, or from destroyed, hard to find, or unknown records. I experienced this myself. Only by checking a compiled genealogy did I discover the existence of a journal containing the direct evidence I sought.

Jones gives examples of the contrary situation, preferred sources like government birth and death records that contain erroneous information. All would be worthy of spotlight in this column. Preferred sources are the mainstay of careful research, but their accuracy is not guaranteed.

“A source’s accuracy is unknown until the researcher has accumulated enough evidence for tests of correlation—the comparison and contrasting of sources and information to reveal points of agreement and disagreement.”

So if you too are guilty of “source snobbery,” you may want to think again. Darned source snobbery.


You can read Jones’s entire article on the BCG website.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Obfuscated FamilySearch Family Tree Manual

One complaint I hear made about FamilySearch Family Tree is that there is no manual. It turns out, there is a manual. But the contents are secret so FamilySearch keeps it hidden. Just kidding. The part about it being secret is not true. The part about keeping it hidden, well that is more true than you might think.

The secret to finding the FamilySearch Family Tree manual is to stop looking for it among manuals. Instead, look among videos.

  1. Click Get Help in the upper-right corner of the page. (Illustration below.) home page
  2. In the drop-down menu, click Product Support. (Illustration above.)
  3. Scroll down to the blue rectangle labeled Family Tree. (Illustration below.) Product Support page
  4. Click More Training Videos. (Yes. “More Training Videos.”) (Illustration above.)
  5. Family Tree training pageLog in the, if not already. There is different training and manuals for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and non-members. FamilySearch needs you to log in to determine which set to present to you.
  6. Click the Guides and Manuals shortcut, or scroll down to that section of the page. (Illustration to the right.)
  7. View or download either the Family Tree Quick Start Guide or the Family Tree Reference Manual. (Illustration to the right.)

Pretty straight forward; not.

One last caveat. Family Tree changes so fast, the manual is always out of date.

Maybe that’s why FamilySearch hides it so intently.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#RootsTech 2014 Sessions Online, 2015 Free Passes

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech 2014 bloggerI think I’m done with my RootsTech coverage. It’s only taken me a month. Oh well.

Now that RootsTech is over, you can view videos of some of the popular classes online. Classes are available from both 2014 and 2013.

RootsTech has also announced a contest to give away five all-access passes to RootsTech 2015. To be entered in the contest, go to and find an article you enjoy or a project that you plan to do this year. Share the link on any social media site with the hashtags #RootsTech and #FamilyStorytelling. You'll be automatically entered into the contest and five winners will randomly be drawn.

My experience is that not a lot of people enter these types of conferences, so your chances of winning are pretty good. So far, there are only four entries via Twitter.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Duplication Service

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I recently received from someone a comment that you can now request a document from FamilySearch by email. My feeble brain cannot remember who wrote that. Is it true and how do i do it?

Love your column. It keeps me going when i hit the wall. Started 35 years ago going blind looking at microfiche in the Chicago archives.

Richard E. A'Hern

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your kind comment. We do practice a grand hobby, don’t we?

You heard mostly correct. The Salt Lake FamilySearch Family History Library does offer a photo duplication service. Results are delivered via email. They won’t copy anything online or illegal. Requests are limited to once per month of up to five images. The service is provided free, but you may have to wait some time for the results.

For more information, visit “Photoduplication Services” in the FamilySearch wiki.

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, March 21, 2014

Darned Half Records

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: Half Records

Here’s a citation FamilySearch supplies to a record on

"Utah, Tooele County Records, 1855-1956," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Mar 2014), Probate records > Index to wills 1887-1955 > image 5 of 51.

This is a perfectly fine citation to the record. One can quibble about dropping the word “digital” from before “image.”1 Rather than cite the URL of an individual record, it is best to cite the website homepage to guard against broken URLs.2 FamilySearch has broken that general practice, but presumably FamilySearch knows how persistent these URLs are. So while an entire URL is a bad practice for you and me, it isn’t necessarily so for a website publisher. (I wish FamilySearch would implement a shorter URL, but it is what it is.)

Still, these are quibbles insofar as citing the online image.

But what they’ve provided for this record is only half a citation! A complete citation to an online record needs to cite both the online record and the offline original from whence it was derived. Why is it so important to cite both the online derivative and the offline original?

Here’s the image cited by the above citation:


Without knowing where the original was, one would not be able to track down the original to see the other half of this record. (I’ve informed FamilySearch about this record set. Hopefully it isn’t too late for them to retake the photographs.) Fortunately, this citation, as is, contains enough information that with a little effort one could track down the original. But that isn’t always the case.

Darned half citations to half records!

[After I wrote the above article, I was pleased to see that FamilySearch added the missing half to many of its citations. Hat’s off to FamilySearch. In some cases the citations to the offline originals are still incomplete, so you may still want to examine and supplement them. I’ve learned from FamilySearch why this is so and I may explain it in future articles.]


     1.  See Elizabeth Shown Mills’s comments about the practice in “Citing FamilySearch images,” forum comment, Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage, website ( : accessed 18 March 2014), path: Forums > Evidence Explained > Citation Issues > Citing FamilySearch images > comment #14.

     2.  Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 1st ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 59. The page is the same in the second edition.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 Government Filing 2013 Form recently filed a form with the government that contained some interesting information. has 2.1 million subscribers on the website as of the end of last year. That goes up by only 600,000 when including their other websites:, and (Have you ever felt like they ignore

They had over 12 billion records at the end of the year. (I went through their card catalog and could only account for 10 billion, but, hey, what’s 2 billion among friends.) That’s an increase of 1.2 billion records during last year.

Users have created 55 million trees containing more than 5 billion persons. (I just found the two billion records missing from the catalog!) Users have uploaded 207 million photographs, scanned documents, and written stories. Users accepted about 1.3 billion shakey leaf hints last year alone.

About 65% of their subscribers have subscriptions of six months or longer. identified what they felt were their key business highlights for the year:

  • added more than 1.2 billion records to their content collections;
  • completed an agreement with FamilySearch, one of the largest genealogy organizations in the world, to make approximately 1 billion global records available online over the next five years;
  • total subscribers to branded websites increased to approximately 2.1 million or 6% compared to December 31, 2012;
  • acquired Find A Grave, Inc., which provides a significant collection of burial information with more than 105 million records and 81 million photos;
  • the AncestryDNA database more than doubled in size in 2013, and the AncestryDNA test now maps a test taker’s ethnic origins to 26 global regions, including expanded regions for people of European and West African descent;
  • their mobile apps have now been downloaded more than 10 million times across the Android and iOS platforms; additionally, the redesigned iOS app includes new social and other features;
  • launched the StoryView product experience that enables users to create a highly sharable narrative around a person in their family tree; and
  • released a new version of Family Tree Maker software that includes updates on editing, sharing, tree viewing and TreeSync to make collaboration even easier.

You can read the entire, rather boring, report online.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#NGS2014GEN National Genealogical Society Streaming Conference

The Ancestry Insider is a member of the Official Social Media Press for NGS 2014Interest in this year’s National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference has been high. Hotel after hotel has sold out. The conference will be held 7-10 May 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.

The deadline for registering with the early-bird discount is coming up quick. Register by Monday, 24 March 2014, to receive the discount and to order a printed syllabus. The price for members of the society will increase from $195 to $230. The price for non-NGS members will increase from $230 to $265.

For more information about attending the conference in Richmond, Virginia, visit the NGS Conference website.

Now, those who can’t attend in person can have access to five or ten of the 175 sessions.

This is the first time that NGS has offered some sessions remotely. Sessions can be viewed live and for three months thereafter. NGS has selected some of the most popular topics and nationally known speakers. Sessions have been organized into two tracks. Registrants for live streaming can select one or both tracks. A single track of five sessions is $65 for society members and $80 for non-members. Both tracks, all ten classes, are available for $115 for members and $145 for others.

For more information about watching sessions remotely, and to register, visit the Live Streaming page of the NGS Conference website.

Track One: Records and Research Techniques

Thursday, 8 May 2014

2:30 p.m.  T241 - Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

4:00 p.m.  T252 - Can a Complex Research Problem Be Solved Solely Online?, Thomas W. Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Friday, 9 May 2014

8:00 a.m.  F308 - Using NARA’s Finding Aids and Website, Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL

9:30 a.m.  F311 - Disputes and Unhappy Differences: Surprises in Land Records, Sharon Tate Moody, CG

11:00 a.m.  F321 - “Of Sound Mind and Healthy Body”: Using Probate Records in Your Research, Michael Hait, CG


Track Two:  Virginia Resources and Migration Patterns

Friday, 9 May 2014

2:30 p.m. F342 - From Ulster to Virginia and the Carolinas, David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA

4:00 p.m.  F355 - Researching a Civil War Soldier in Virginia, Craig Roberts Scott, CG

Saturday, 10 May 2014

8:00 a.m. S403 - The Migration Triangle: Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA

9:30 a.m. S415 - A Treasure Trove of Rarely Used Records, Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS

11:00 a.m. S425 - Colonial Migrations In and Out of the Shenandoah Valley, Vic Dunn, CG

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 Search Sliders has released a feature intended to make it easier to deal with the thousands and tens of thousand of results returned when not using Exact search mode: search sliders. “Search Filters,” as calls them, are located in the upper-left corner of the search results page. new Search Filters

For each search term users specify, they can broaden the number of results by moving a slider to the left, or narrow down the number of results by moving a slider to the right.

Five positions are available on name sliders. Names can be set to return matches that are

  • Not exact [Left most position. Returns the most results.]
  • Exact, similar, sounds like, and initials
  • Exact, sounds like, and similar
  • Exact and similar
  • Exact [Right most position. Returns the fewest results.]

The six positions for date sliders are

  • Not exact
  • +/– 10 years
  • +/- 5 years
  • +/– 2 years
  • +/– 1 year
  • Exact

The positions for locations, using a U.S. city as an example, are

  • Not exact
  • Country
  • State and adjacent states
  • State
  • County and adjacent counties
  • County
  • Exact

The number of positions for locations can be less, depending on the location. In fact, if a location is not selected from a drop-down list at the time it is entered, the only positions available are Not Exact and Exact.

“Not exact” basically means the results may not match the search term at all, but matches other criteria so closely that the result may still be a match. This might be the case for a previously unknown nickname, for example. advanced mode search filters for namesThe feature opens up in a friendly way the advanced search options that are available as drop downs beneath fields in advanced search mode. (See the illustration to the right.)

While I didn’t see any help information in the few minutes I looked at the feature, I know that the various terms are defined in help windows designed for the advanced mode drop downs. Help is available for names and places. How the slider works for dates is pretty obvious.

In a private briefing with members of the social media press back at the NGS Conference in May of last year, first broached the concept of search sliders and showed us some mockups. It looked like a great idea so I am glad to see it come to fruition.

For more information about search sliders, see the five minute video, “Start Small, Go Big – How Sliders Can Improve Your Searching.”

Monday, March 17, 2014 Retires Old Search

Old Search gravestoneThe luck of the Irish may have been wanting last week, depending on who you are. announced they had shut down Old Search.

“Over the years, we have been maintaining two separate search experiences – ‘Old Search’ and ‘Primary Search.’” said Katharine Nester, director of product management at “We’ve consolidated the two systems….  This consolidated search brings forward and improves the best features of both search experiences.”

Maintaining old search was problematic. Having two technologies increased the complexity of adding improvements. The technology used to support old search was outdated and fragile. (You’ve probably experienced this yourself. You find your computer so old that the manufacturer will no longer sell parts for it. Or you find Microsoft no longer provides support for your operating system, which by the way, is happening next month for Windows XP. If something breaks, you’re toast. That means can gracefully retire Old Search, or one day a blown transistor will catastrophically do it for them.)

Retiring Old Search brings benefits as well. “[It will] allow us to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting transcriptions on existing collections,” said Nester. Meanwhile, improvements in what used to be called ‘New Search’ will continue. “We will be continuing to improve our search over this year and have improvements planned in our location data, relevancy, results filtering, and more.”

As might be expected, users response from those feeling strongly enough to respond has been almost completely negative. Users have complained variously that New Search is too complex and forces them to change while providing no increase in productivity. Many of the users complaints are addressed by using “Category Exact Mode,” which interestingly, didn’t mention in the shutdown announcement. I wonder if they are backing away from it. If you want to try it out see, “How to simulate old search using category exact mode” in the help system.

To read the entire announcement, see “A Fond Farewell to ‘Old Search’” on the blog.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Darned Grave Markers

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 Grave Markers

Good genealogists extract subtle clues from records while simultaneously holding that same record suspect. The two are at odds, but both are necessary. Many records have additional value waiting for the careful, well-informed researcher. However, no record is above verification.

A case in point is the grave marker of Donald N. Hall and Dorothy N, pictured here.


What clues can you discern from this marker? Are there any clues about religion or economic circumstances? If you deduced that Dorothy is still living, you are correct. However, you might have made another, incorrect assumption without even thinking. Can you guess what it might be?

If you assumed that Donald and Dorothy were married, you are correct; BUT NOT TO EACH OTHER!

They are, however, related. They are twins.

Darned grave markers!

Credit Mike Hall for the photograph and the example. Thanks, Mike!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

RootsMapper: Another FamilySearch Family Tree Extension

Dennis Brimhall mentioned a couple of FamilySearch Family Tree extensions, FamilyMap and Puzilla, in his RootsTech keynote address. (See “RootsTech Thursday’s Opening Session.”)

The ecosystem growing up around FamilySearch Family Tree is an increasingly compelling reason to add your data. Here’s another interesting program and an interesting way to visualize your data. is a free website that shows your “pedigree” in geographical format. For the map below I mapped myself, although I could have specified any Family Tree PID (person identifier).  I specified four generations (which doesn’t include the root person.) RootsMapper then animated backwards the migration of my ancestors.

A circle with a generation number indicates the birthplace of each ancestor. Blue indicates male, and pink, female. The root person is indicated with numeral “0” (which is currently highlighted in yellow in the map below). Parents are indicated with the numeral “1,” grandparents with “2,” and so on. Just like a pedigree chart, lines link each person to their parents (although they can be turned off).

Hover over a circle and RootsMapper pops up a box with the person’s name, birth year, and death year. Click on a circle and it pops up a person card with name, full birth and death information, a photograph (if available), the PID, and options to remove that circle or extend the pedigree beyond that point.

RootsMapper shows a geographic map of your pedigree

The first time I ran this four generation map several points jumped out at me.

I have southern roots! Lots of them! I have an Irish line! And I have a Scandinavian line! Of course I already knew all that, but I’ve been suppressing it to avoid collisions with burned counties, Irish research, and patronymic names. (You’d think someone comfortable with pseudonymic names would be fine with patronymic names, but apparently not.)

The program can map up to eight generations of all ancestral lines, but that takes an extremely long time. A better approach is to map several generations and then extend particular lines. That can be done up to 20 generations.

The program has several options. One displays the number of births per country. Another displays a small pedigree of the mapped generations. Another isolates the display to only one line.

To run the program, you’ll need a (free) FamilySearch account. And of course, you’ll only see what information you or a relative have added to Family Tree. If there are errors in your tree you’ll have to fix them in Family Tree before the RootsMapper map is accurate. While free, donations are accepted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#NGS2014GEN Releases Mobile App for 2014 Annual Conference

NGS 2014 Conference AppThe National Genealogical Society (NGS) has released the conference app for their upcoming conference to be held 7‒10 May 2014, in Richmond, Virginia. 

The NGS Conference App is available for iOS and Android. Search the respective app store for “NGS 2014”. For Blackberry, Windows Phone, and web-enabled devices, access the app at It also works for laptops and even desktop computers and can be synched to your mobile device.

Conference apps have become increasingly important in recent years. If you haven’t yet decided to attend the conference, it can be used to review the classes being offered, the presenters teaching them, and the vendors in the exhibition hall. If you’ve already registered for the conference, it can be used to review the schedule and plan your time. Once at the conference it can be used to manage your time, receive conference announcements, and follow Twitter message about the conference. (That’s what the #NGS2014GEN tag in the title of this article is all about.)

New this year is a five-minute video that reviews highlights of the app and explains how to use key features. The video can be found on the NGS conference website at Click on the App Video Tutorial.

The Ancestry Insider is an official member of the conference social media press.

The Ancestry Insider is a member of the Official Social Media Press for NGS 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 Releases Find-A-Grave App

image“As promised, we have recently released the first version of the Find A Grave mobile app," said Mike Lawless of’s Find A Grave app team. “With the app, you’ll be able to bring the most important aspects of Find A Grave with you.” The new app can:

  • Access burial info
  • Locate grave sites through a simple search
  • Search grave marker, cemetery, and memorial photos
  • Request headstone photos
  • Find cemeteries
  • Fulfill photo requests, posting the photographs instantly
  • Create memorials with bios and photos
  • Share discoveries through Facebook, emails, and texts

I don’t know if the Find A Grave people had an app in development when purchased them. I’m guessing they did not. This would then be the first big value the public has enjoyed because of the purchase. Along with the app, users get access to’s large, full-time support organization. The app, like Find A Grave itself, remains free.

“This release is just the beginning and we have a road map of features for our users which will keep the Find A Grave mobile app improving over time,” said Lawless.

I was not able to install the app on my iPhone because it requires 7.0 or later and my phone’s stuck on 6.1. An Android app is in the works, but hasn’t yet announced a date. The current Find Grave Android app was not official and I’m not certain if it is still available. I would assume would ask them to remove it.

The marriage of cell phone, camera, and GPS is a natural for grave marker photography, but Find A Grave is not the first to offer such an app. BillionGraves released its app three years ago. While they don’t actual have a billion grave marker photos, they have grown from nothing to six million markers in a very short amount of time. The Find A Grave app may curtail BillionGraves’s encroachment on Find A Grave’s domestic market, but last month BillionGraves and MyHeritage announced a partnership to make the BillionGraves app available in 25 languages and expand its use worldwide.

Tombfinder from SaasSoft is a similar app, but is approaching the market differently. Thy have partnered with 230 cemeteries to provide visitors a finding aid to cemetery plots in those cemeteries. NMCP Finder provides the same service, but is dedicated to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punchbowl Cemetery). Beloved by Eilon Fulman allows users to mark the GPS location of gravesites, but doesn’t support photos.

The Find A Grave app can be downloaded from the iTunes app store.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Serendipity at #RootsTech 2014

Boy "Unknown1" was David Franklin RawlinsI’ve already mentioned Judy Russell had a serendipitous meeting at RootsTech.1 (Read her account, “The Cousin Who Isn’t.”)

She was not alone.

I experienced one myself. I have several photographs from a great aunt with people I haven’t been able to identify. One of a cute, freckled faced young boy proved useful in my “Do It Yourself Photo Restoration” class. Cleaning light dust specks and dark dust specks from a digital photograph takes two steps. For a complete tutorial, I needed a photograph that suffered from both problems. After looking through numerous digital photographs, I found one that fit the bill: the photograph of the cute young boy. The photograph became a part of both my live presentation and the lengthy syllabus accompanying it.

When I arrived in the hall (pictured in a previous article) for my presentation, a kind-looking lady excitedly approached me.

“We must be related!” she said excitedly. “You have a picture of my father in your syllabus!” She showed me the photograph. It was the young, unidentified boy. We spoke for a moment, exploring our connections. I learned the name of my unidentified little boy: David Franklin Rawlins.

That’s serendipity in genealogy.

The third story comes from an article in the LDS Church News by Rayn Morgenegg. The complete, original story is on their website.2

Just weeks before RootsTech, Hayley Elizabeth Heineken started doing genealogy. She wanted to go to RootsTech, but just couldn’t afford to. Then she just happened to be scheduled to fly through Salt Lake on business. By chance she just happened to meet a woman who gave her a place to stay. The woman just happened to mention Hayley to her niece who just happened to start working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a few months earlier.

Just days before RootsTech, someone scheduled to help in three of the four training sessions for new family history consultants just happened to come down with pneumonia. The niece just happened to ask Hayley to fill in.

Just hours before, a person helping in the fourth session just happened to cancel. They just happened to ask Hayley to fill in.

During the session, they just happened to display Hayley’s fan chart on the large projection screen.

That’s when someone in the large hall stood and yelled, “We are related!”

The two met after the session. They hugged. They talked genealogy. They exchanged contact information.

We call that, serendipity in genealogy.


     1.  Judy G. Russell, “The Cousin Who Isn’t,” The Legal Genealogist, 8 February 2014 ( : accessed 1 March 2014).
     2.  Ryan Morgenegg, “RootsTech 2014: Family History Miracle,” Deseret News: LDS Church News, 2 March 2014; online edition ( : accessed 1 March 2014).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Annual Fine Print

Once a year I like to make sure you know where I stand.

I am not a spokesperson for FamilySearch. I write the Ancestry Insider independently of my work at FamilySearch. In this column I call it the way I see it, sometimes disagreeing with FamilySearch, albeit trying not to get fired. I try to be helpful and supportive. If I criticize FamilySearch, I try to suggest how they might improve.

I am not a spokesperson for I do not work for The name “Ancestry Insider” does not apply to Again, I try to criticize constructively.

The Ancestry Insider is written independently of and FamilySearch. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of or FamilySearch.

The Ancestry Insider may be biased by the following factors: 1) The Ancestry Insider accepts products and services free of charge for review purposes. 2) The author of the Ancestry Insider is employed by the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, owner and sponsor of FamilySearch. 3) The author is a believing, practicing member of the same Church. 4) The author is a former stock-holder and employee of the business now known as and maintains many friendships established while employed there. 5) It is the editorial policy of this column to be generally supportive of and FamilySearch. 6) The author is an active volunteer for the National Genealogical Society.

All content is copyrighted by the Ancestry Insider unless designated otherwise. For content copyrighted by the Ancestry Insider, permission is granted for non-commercial republication as long as you give credit and you link back to the original.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#RootsTech – FamilySearch Family Tree: What’s Next

Ron Tanner speaks at RootsTech 2014On Thursday, Ron Tanner, a FamilySearch product manager, presented the session, “FamilySearch Family Tree: What’s New and What’s Next.”

“Some reports estimate that we duplicate up to 80% of our research,” said Tanner. “I want us to quit doing that.” He said that using Family Tree, we can eliminate duplication by working together.

“I’ve got a few ideas I’d like to share with you as you consider working in Family Tree together,” he said.

  • Be objective.
  • Be courteous.
  • Be patient.
  • If you edit, share your email.
  • Assume the other person is well intentioned.
  • Write good reason statements.
  • Don’t make changes just because you “know.” Use sources.
  • Rarely delete a person. Usually, the person belongs to a different family. Don’t delete the person, just remove them from the family.
  • Don’t guess when merging. Do your homework.
  • If the possible duplicates list presents a person who is not a duplicate, use “not a match” to remove them from the list.

New FamilySearch is now read-only; that is, users can’t change it directly. However, FamilySearch still synchronizes new FamilySearch and Family Tree. That’s because behind the scenes there are still necessary parts of the system that work only for new FamilySearch. When those parts have been implemented for Family Tree, then the synchronization between the two can be broken. Until that happens, it will not be possible to merge IOUSes. (See “Medieval IOUSes in FamilySearch Family Tree.”)

“Family Tree continues to evolve. We release a new version approximately every two weeks,” said Tanner. “We only do that to make it better, not to keep you confused.”

FamilySearch is working on an Android and iOS app that will allow you to interact with Family Tree. (For a little more information, see my story, “Find A Grave App Coming Soon, FamilySearch to Follow.”)

FamilySearch is working on a smart phone app for Family Tree

FamilySearch is also working on adding support for living persons into Family Tree. Matching deceased persons exist in both New FamilySearch and Family Tree and are synchronized between the two. This is not the case for living persons. Behind the scenes, living persons are stored only in New FamilySearch. There are no living persons in Family Tree. The software just makes it look like there are. Consequently, you can’t attach a source to a living person or attach a life sketch, or see a change log. If you and the living person are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can’t even change vital information about them. These limitations will all go away after FamilySearch adds living persons into Family Tree.

The living persons you add will remain private to you. You don’t have to worry that they will be shown to other people. In the future, probably not this year, you will be able to share your living persons with others so you can work together as a living family.

FamilySearch is also adding record hinting. (It sounds like’s shakey leaves.) On the person page FamilySearch will list possible matching records, both from their own records and from as many of their partners as they can.

Hints to matching records are coming to FamilySearch Family Tree

Clicking “Show All” will take you to a page that lists all the matching records.

Another thing FamilySearch is doing is a descendancy view.

A descendancy view is planned for FamilySearch Family Tree

FamilySearch Family Tree Numbers

310,000 people visit or use Family Tree each week.

500,000 conclusions (birth, death, burial, and other facts) are added each week.

320,000 new persons are added every week.

In New FamilySearch 1 out of every 4 combines was undone. In Family Tree, 1 out of every 100 merges is undone.

12 million sources have been added to Family Tree.

320,000 new sources are added each week.

When Tanner made this presentation to members of the Church on Saturday, he mentioned another feature. Members have asked for the ability to show all an ancestor’s temple ordinances. That will be possible on the new Ordinances tab.

FamilySearch will be trying again (perhaps before you read this) to move the old New FamilySearch sources over to Family Tree. In their last attempt they experienced a glitch and missed several million.

Tanner is going to try to add a feature allowing users to send private messages to other users without knowing their email addresses.

“I know that when we all work together, we can do amazing things,” said Tanner. “I know that we can do that in Family Tree and document the genealogy of the world.”

You can watch Ron Tanner’s presentation in full on the website.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#RootsTech 2014 Syllabus Wanting

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech 2014 bloggerThere were 238 sessions at RootsTech. Just 162 of them provided materials for the syllabus. Part of the value you expect from a conference is the syllabus.

  • At the conference when deciding what sessions to attend, I check the syllabus. It’s a better way to judge the contents than the 20 word descriptions in the program.
  • During sessions I pay attention better when there is a good handout. I don’t feel the same pressure to take complete notes.
  • Since I can’t attend every session, I draw additional value from the conference through the handouts of other sessions.
  • After conferences I store the syllabi on my computer. I search across them all to find answers to questions. I check bibliographies to identify good reference texts.

I realize there are challenges for presenters. Syllabus handout deadlines are many months before most conferences. RootsTech is a technology conference and technology changes quickly. Web sites like or, can change dramatically during that time.

People pay big money to attend RootsTech. I think RootsTech can be better.