Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Entering Non-Standard Family Relationships

We all know that families are rarely ideal, so we need to be able to enter adoptions, step-parents, and children with the same mother but different fathers with or without marriage. FamilySearch Family Tree gives you ways to record these family relationships.

If you know both the birth parents and the adoptive parents, you can add both to Family Tree. Start with the child. For our example, we'll assume no parents yet show for Sam. So, we navigate to his record and click to open his details. Then scroll to Family Members and click Add Parent.

We'll start by adding the birth parents. Let's assume for the sake of our example that we only know the name of the birth mother. We enter her information (If you know she is in the system and know her Family Tree ID,  you can click Find by ID Number in the lower right of the Add box and save searching. In our example, we don't know if the parents are in Family Tree yet or not. The system searches to see if she is already in Family Tree. If you see a match, click Add Person. Otherwise, at the top in the "You Entered" box, click Create New

Now we see Sam's birth mother.

We also know his adoptive parents and want to record them too. So, at the top of the Parents and Siblings section, we click Add Parent (notice it in the screen shot above) and enter the name of either the adoptive father or mother. You have to add them one at a time. When you click Next, the system search for matches. Again, click to add a match if found or click Create New if not found. Now click Add or Find Spouse for the parent you added to get the other adoptive parent showing.

Search for and add the other adoptive parent.  Now that we have Sam's birth mother and his adoptive parents showing, we need to decide which we prefer to see on the tree view and be sure that we have the relationships correctly showing. The system has defaulted to showing his adoptive parents as the Preferred set of parents (what you see in pedigree views). If you want to change that, just click in the Preferred box below his birth mother (you can see the Preferred boxes in the screen shot above, at the bottom of each parent relationship box). 

Now let's set the relationship types, starting with Sam's birth mother. First, click Children below her name on the Parents and Siblings side. Then click the pencil icon to the right of Sam.

Below Alissa's name, click Add Relationship Type.

It defaults to Biological, so just add a reason you know this is correct and click Save. Then pop up to his adoptive parents and do the same thing. You need to Add Relationship Type for each parent. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of biological and click Adopted, enter how you know, and click Save. Now you have Sam's birth mother showing as well as his adoptive parents. (This would also be the way to show step-parent relationships.

Now let's suppose that Alissa Hamilton (Sam's birth mother) married later on and had other children with her husband. We want to record that too. So, click to open Alissa's details screen and scroll to Family Members. Click Add Spouse above the box showing her without a spouse but with a son. Search for and add her husband. Now Alissa shows with her husband but also with a child and no husband. 

Notice that we have not added marriage information for Alissa and Marvin. We can click the pencil icon to the right of No Marriage Events and add that. Or, if they had children but never married, just leave that empty. Under the relationship of Marvin and Alissa, we can click Add Child and enter each child they had together. 

Hopefully you see the basic pattern. You can add as many parents as you want to a child and edit the relationship types. You can add as many spousal relationships as you need for a person. If a couple lived together and had children, but never married, just don't enter a marriage event. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How Did My Tree Get So Messed Up?

It's not unusual to return to a line of your family that you haven't visited or worked on for a while and you find that things are different. And sometimes those differences are not good. Relationships have changed; family members are missing; dates and places are goofy. FamilySearch Family Tree has a way that you can see changes that have been made, who made the change, and when. And, you can usually click a button (or 2) and get things back to rights.

On every person details page, on the right portion of the screen, is a Latest Changes box. It shows the 3 most recent changes to the record. Click Show All to see all changes made to a record since the beginning of FamilySearch Family Tree.

Most are obvious: sources were added; family members were added or removed; photos were attached. But some are a little confusing at first.

Let's start with the entries you see that indicate the change was made by FamilySearch. Fear not; FamilySearch is not going into your records and making changes willy-nilly. Here are reasons you see this.

  • The information comes from Church membership records or temple information. 
  • It is information that was on the predecessor to Family Tree and was moved by FamilySearch into Family Tree from the older website. These will not be terribly recent changes as the former system was decommissioned in Feb 2016 and so nothing continues to be brought over to Family Tree that way. 
  • Sometimes data admins come in and make changes requested by patrons that the patrons are not able to do themselves. FamilySearch is then listed as the changer of the information, although they were working on behalf of a patron.
One of the more confusing changes is something like this one:

It says a parent-child relationship was deleted and the reason the person gave was that data was the same. That doesn't seem to be about deleting something, does it? So, how can we learn more? We have  a couple of things we can do. First, we can click Show Relationship (in blue under the reason statement). When we do, we see:
So, they deleted (or maybe did something else to) the relationship of Sallie J Colvard to her parents. OK. That helps some. Can I learn more? If you look all the way to the right of this entry (not included in the screenshot), you'll see Reference. Click it. Now we're getting somewhere!

Now I know what happened. On 28 Apr 2016, KeithWray merged two instances of Sallie J Colvard. Merging involves one record surviving and the other being deleted. Since the person whose record was deleted had been showing as a child in this family, the change log shows this as a deleted relationship rather than a merged record. 

If you wanted to explore further, you could click the deleted Sallie J Colvard and actually look at that record. And, if you wanted to bring her back into the tree (the one deleted in the merge), all the way to the right of this Relationship Deleted box, you can click Restore Relationship, enter the reason you feel it needs to be restored, then click Restore.

When the merge did not delete the record currently showing in the tree, this is what you see in the change log:

Notice the Unmerge button in the top right allowing you to restore the deleted record as a separate record if you feel it was not a correct merge. This is one of those times that reason statements can be very important. They can help others understand your changes and hopefully avoid a tug-of-war. 

So, take the time to explore the change log when things look wrong. Look at reason statements; click the name of the person who made the change and send them a message asking (NICELY) for more information; if you think something is wrong, click Reference or Restore or Unmerge to put it back--and enter a good reason for doing it.

As long as we're on the topic of reason statements, take time to put in reasons that are helpful. It's not helpful to say something like "This is how it is in my tree." That doesn't tell others anything at all. It does not avoid tree wars. If anything, it would probably just aggravate people who felt that the change didn't make sense. Take time to search for evidence, and provide that evidence to your fellow Family Tree users.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Organizing Your Work for the Non-Enthusiast

Recently I was chatting with a friend. He indicated that he knows he should work on his family history. But, every time he sits down to start, he feels like he starts all over again and does the same thing every time. He felt that he needed an easy way to organize his work so he could see what he had accomplished the last time he was working in FamilySearch Family Tree. He felt this would help the work seem more do-able in small bites.

For years the standard ways of keeping track of family history work have been through the use of Research Logs and Research Planners. There are also various checklists out there that folks like to use. And I've used all of these tools and over time developed my own personal approach that suits me best. But, I think that these tend to be organizational tools most often embraced by the family history professional or enthusiast. My friend, and probably many people, would prefer something very basic and easy to use.

So, to the rescue!

Sign in to these days and you'll see a personalized home page. Everyone's looks a little different depending on callings, how full your tree is, special campaigns, and what-not. Here is an example:

On the left, the top box is going to vary depending on your experience, the fullness of your tree, your current Church calling, or current campaigns. You might see another box under it encouraging you to fill in the My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together booklet. Then you'll see any memory items "recently" added to your ancestors. Actually, many of the ones I see were not recently added and all of them were added by me, so I sincerely hope our engineers will decide to make this section collapsible in the near future.

On the right, everyone should see these 3 items: Recommended Tasks, Recent Ancestors, and To-do List. Notice the arrows pointing to the right for each of these. You can collapse these fields and I did so to make a smaller screenshot above. You'll also see a box that varies. You might see suggestions for trying the descendancy view or capturing family stories or visiting the app gallery or getting help at a family history center. And at the bottom of the right side are quick links to help you get to frequently used spots on the website.

I think that Recommended Tasks, Recent Ancestors, and the To-do List are wonderful tools for the an-hour-a-week or less family historian. They can help you keep track of what you've done and what you want to do next. Let's look at each one.

Recommended Tasks doesn't really fit in the organizing category, but is handy if you have just a few minutes and want to look at some record hints to add sources to ancestors. Sometimes that might be all you really have time for, but it does help you learn more about your family members and can be heart-turning. I've written about this sort of activity before in regards to the Ancestor with Tasks and Descendants with Tasks lists you can generate using the FamilySearch Family Tree mobile apps, so I won't go into any detail on that.

Recent Ancestors shows you the last 5 people whose records you have visited in Family Tree. If it's been awhile since you sat down to work on family history, this can jog your memory as to who you were working on last. Click a name on the list and bring up the summary card and then click the name on the summary card and go to that person's details page and resume your research or clean-up work or whatever.

The To-do List can be whatever you want it to be. I like to use it to leave notes for myself each time I am ready to stop for the day. I make some notes about what I found or didn't find and what I want to look for or do next time I sign in. I also note problems I noticed with records but didn't have time to fix yet. When I no longer need a note or have completed what I wanted to do, I click in the box to the left of the item and it goes to the Recently Completed Items section. And, if I want to go back and look at something in Recently Completed Items, I can click Show at the bottom right of the To-do List box to see those items. If I click the box again, the check-mark goes away and the item returns to my To-do List. If I don't want to see something in Recently Completed any more, I can hover my mouse over an item and a red X appears to the right. Click the X and that item is permanently gone.

Simple ways to keep track of your work and leave yourself notes and goals right in FamilySearch. Can't get much easier than that to be involved and not spin your wheels.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Solving the Problems of a Shared Tree

FamilySearch Family Tree is a shared tree. Unlike trees you might upload to other websites or that you keep on software on your personal computer, Family Tree has no concept of "my tree". It is all "our tree." We can all edit, add family members, add sources, merge duplicates, add Memories. We can all remove stuff we feel is not correct and change stuff around. Because of that, we all have times when others make changes we don't agree with.

As I help folks with their issues, it is not unusual for them to begin with something like, "Some idiot has made a mess of my tree." People get pretty passionately angry about changes made by others that they don't agree with. They want to be able to lock a record down so nobody can change it. Or they want to be able to isolate "their" tree so others can't muck about in it.

What to do?

There are things you can do to safeguard your data.

  • Have your data in more than one place!!! Keep it on multiple websites or keep it on FamilySearch Family Tree but also on software on your computer. Keep paper records. Do something more than putting your research results in FamilySearch Family Tree. If someone really makes a hash of things, you want to be able to look at your records and put it right again.
  • Look at your tree data. What evidence have you given other users to help them understand why you have things the way you do? Have you added good sources? Do you have some helpful notes that explain some things about how you reached conclusions? When you made changes to the stuff someone else added, do your reason statements give them enough information to be able to properly evaluate what you did? If the answers to any of these questions is "no", I fear you have precious little room to complain about the actions of others.

There are also some attitude adjustments that might be in order

  • Charity, my friend. I sincerely hope you do not go through life assuming that the rest of the world is out to make your life miserable! Most people most of the time are trying to do right. Sure, some have more expertise and are more careful about things than others. But I have yet to meet the person who goes into FamilySearch Family Tree chuckling softly to themselves, "Let's see whose tree I can mess up today." Recognize that others are doing the best they know to do. 
  • Communicate in a friendly way. Family Tree gives you ways to contact other contributors of information. I have done that on many occasions. I do not accuse them of making a mess. I ask them questions: "Can you help me understand why you feel that he was born in Sarasota?" Sometimes I get no answer, in which case I go ahead and make the correction I feel needs to be made and document it as well as I possibly can. Sometimes I do get an answer and sometimes those answers are very helpful. Once my husband got an answer, "I have no idea why I did that. Please fix it."
Lastly, don't get into an eternal tug-of-war. Sometimes neither you nor the other fella are willing to give in. You might be able to compromise if it's just a matter of a few years' difference in dates and agree to enter an "about" date. Or, sometimes, you just need to break your tie to a particular Family Tree record entirely and create a new branch. I've had to do that on one line where we were never going to be able to agree and more than one person was getting rather testy about the whole thing. Here's how to do that.

Let's suppose that I have an ancestor, Henry. Someone else has an ancestor who is one of Henry's siblings. We don't agree as to who their parents are. We've tried to work together but are not getting anywhere. So, it's time to walk away from the problem and move on. I decide to let them have that record of Henry and do their worst with it. I let them leave Henry showing with the other set of parents and I go to the folks I believe are Henry's parents. Then I click to add a child to those parents and create a new record for Henry--rejecting the possible matches FamilySearch finds for me. I might need to create some other records too that are involved in the disagreement, but it usually doesn't take too long to get things back in order with new records. 

Then I have to be sure to search for possible duplicates for the new records I created and mark them as "not a match" with good reason statements about differences in parents or whatever so we don't get things merged and just get right back in the same fix again.
Takes some time, but it's better than being aggravated and fuming over things I can't control. 

  • Recognize the good in others.
  • Don't let their mistakes upset you. 
  • Don't always be so sure that you are the one who is right--be willing to ask and consider the opinions of others.
  • Don't let it fester--you can fix it no matter how aggravating it is.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Family History Leadership Guide on Gospel Library App

A new feature is in the Gospel Library app for those with family history callings--from the ward level consultant to the Area President. Really, it mostly duplicates what is at the Temple and Family History Callings page of, but it is nice to have quick references here on the app. Here's how to find it.

  1. Open the Gospel Library app on your mobile device.
  2. Go to the Library section (where you see all your options).
  3. Scroll down and tap Temple and Family History.
  4. Tap Family History Leadership Guide
You'll find 4 sections
  • Learn about My Calling gives a basic description of the responsibility of all those with family history callings to have a personal find, take, teach experience. It includes a couple of videos and links to other resources.
  • Helping Others Find Ancestors gives the steps we should take in helping others, includes a video and has links for more help and also to see others ways to participate in family history.
  • Support and Accountability for My Calling gives a nice explanation of each calling, who the person is directed by, who the resource people are for the calling, and links to more information. I especially like this section, because it is a quick and clear way to help folks understand their stewardship.
  • Tools and Resources has links to a Sunday lesson, talks from Church leaders, media resources, and activities and events. All these links take you to I find it easier to find this info using the links in the app than navigating through all the material. One click and you're there. 
One thing to point out that it took me a little bit to find. The links throughout this section take you out of the app to On my Android smartphone, it's pretty easy to find my way back to the app. Just tap the back arrow on the device. On my iPad, it was not quite as obvious to me. Probably because I'm still kind of new to iOS. But I did discover that, in the top left corner, is the word "Library" and I can tap that to get back to the app. Probably obvious to long-time iOS users. 

Nice feature for the app and one I think I'll use a lot. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Seeing Change History on the Mobile FamilySearch Family Tree Apps

In the most recent updates to both the iOS and the Android versions of FamilySearch Family Tree apps, you can now view the change history for a given person.


  1. Open the app and sign in if you see the sign-in screen (DUH!)
  2. Find the ancestor and tap to open the details screen. 
  3. In the top right corner, above the dark bar that includes the ancestor's name, tap the 3 dots.
  4. Below the short list, tap More.
  5. Tap Recent Changes.
  1. Open the app and sign in if you need to.
  2. Find the ancestor and tap to open the details screen. 
  3. On the right side of the dark bar that includes the ancestor's name, tap the 3 dots.
  4. Tap Recent Changes.
What You'll See 
  • Whatever change was made--along the lines of Photo Detached, Residence Added, Child Relationship Added....
  • The date of the change.
  • The display name of the person who did it. Tap that name and you'll see contact information if the person makes it public. If they don't and you'd like to get in touch, you can use the Send Message option. 
  • The reason for the change, if the person entered one.
  • If records were merged, you see a green outline around the information. It shows any information added to the surviving record from the deleted record and reason statements. It shows the surviving and deleted record, but that is not awfully useful as it only shows names.
You can't unmerge. You'd need to open a browser and go to the website to do that. You also can't restore information that was removed--usually. Sometimes you can restore when changes were made if you see a Restore button. If no changes have been made to the record since information was removed, I believe you will see the Restore button. That is just my current working theory. I've seen it only on very recent changes to ancestors.

Anyway, it's nice to have this option on the apps now. Handy for when a record is suddenly different and you want to see what someone did and who that someone is. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Look--I'm Just Looking For Names To Take To the Temple

Often, when I am helping a Church member with their family on FamilySearch Family Tree, I notice they have no sources added to their family or I notice pretty glaring inaccuracies. So, after I help them with the problem they came to me about, I'll point out one thing they could do to improve their tree data. Maybe I'll show them some record hints and suggest we look at them together to see if they can learn more about their ancestors and possibly find missing family members. Or I'll point out a problem in a family relationship--such as a mother having children after her death--and suggest that we do some research together to try to fix that problem.

Most of the time, members are happy to have suggestions and help to learn more about those who went before and gave them life. They are happy to do what they can to create an accurate record of their ancestors.

But, once in a while, I encounter a person who has absolutely no interest in any of this. This is often a strong stalwart Church member--active in every respect. But the only interest is to find tree information already put together and then to find some green temple icons in order to take family names to the temple.

I feel very sad when I have such an encounter. Sad for the ancestors of this person. Sad for this person.

If a member feels that all they need to do is find names to take to the temple, they do not understand what this work is all about for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's NOT about having family file names to do when you go to the temple. If you're taking "names" to the temple, you are still providing a great service to someone waiting for this opportunity. But you are completely missing out on the tremendous blessing and deeper purpose of this work.

What did Moroni tell Joseph Smith when quoting Malachi regarding the return of Elijah?
And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. It if were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
How can my heart turn to someone I don't know? As I have delved, even a little bit, into the records of the lives of my "fathers" and "mothers", sometimes it's almost like reading a really gripping novel, where you find yourself completely swept up in one or more of the characters. I feel the pain of a great-great-grandmother who lost 4 sons in the Civil War. I marvel at the strength and courage of a great-grandmother who made her way from England to Canada to Michigan to North Carolina as a young girl, looking for a better life. I feel like I really want to sit down and talk to a great-great-grandfather when I get to the other side and ask him, "Who ARE your parents? I've looked and looked for them."

I marvel that I can feel such a deep connection and love for people just by looking at the few records left behind of their lives. But that is indeed one of the blessings and miracles of this work.

As we hold in our hearts the many promises in scripture regarding family and salvation; as we come to know our ancestors and turn our hearts to them; this work becomes a great joy. And we want to do all we can to provide an accurate record of their lives. And, when we go to the temple, we aren't taking names--we are going with our family.