Sunday, November 5, 2017

Doing more with the FamilySearch Mobile Apps

I'm not a huge app user. I tend to prefer the convenience of a larger screen and a real keyboard. But I do like the FamilySearch mobile apps, and they have recently added features that make them more useful. Here are some of the recent updates you might want to check out.

FamilySearch Memories App--Android and iOS

It's been a long time since we've seen updates to the Memories apps. But now they work much like the Memories Gallery on FamilySearch.org. Check out these recent additions:
  • You can now group your memories into albums.
  • You can move items you don't particularly want to see in your list of memories to an Archive. They stay in the system. They stay linked to people. You just don't see them cluttering up your Memories display.
  • You can delete memory items. They stay in a deleted folder for 120 days so you can un-delete if you change your mind.
  • You can toggle between the FamilySearch Memories app and the FamilySearch Family Tree app. 
      Android
  • You can choose to save a copy of any new photo to your library on the mobile device. 
  • You can download all photos, stories, documents, and audio files to your device memory. This lets you show off the family photos from the app when you don't have Internet access.
      iOS
  • You can choose to remove synced memories from your mobile device. This frees up space on the device. All these items are stored on FamilySearch.org so you can still see them in the app when you have Internet access.
  • You can reset all the data and settings. This erases all content in the FamilySearch Memories app. A start-over option.

FamilySearch Family Tree App

FamilySearch makes fairly regular updates to the Family Tree app. One new one below and some not-so-new that you might want to take a look at.

Map My Ancestors--iOS only (so far)
This feature came out just this week. To see it, tap More at the bottom of the screen. Map My Ancestors is in the list on the left. 

You see a map with your location in the center. It populates with map-pins and circles. Map pins are there if more than one ancestor had life events at the place. Otherwise you see a mini-portrait or generic silhouette for a person.

Below the map is a list of ancestors and the distance of their life events from your location. You can search for a person just above that list. 

On the map, you do the usual thing with your thumb and index finger to spread or pinch to increase or decrease the zoom. You can also swipe across and up and down to see different parts of the world. 

Tap a photo or map pin and it zooms to that place and you see the name(s) and life event(s) associated with the place and the life events.  

Other FamilySearch Family Tree App features--iOS and Android 
None of these are new, but maybe you haven't played with them yet.
  • Search Historical Records--you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org just as you do from Search Records on the web interface. You can browse all published collections, research by location, or search by name, dates, and relationships. 
  • Relatives Around Me--a fun tool for discovering how you are related to other people physically near you. Could be a handy tool to have at an extended family reunion.
  • You can toggle between the Family Tree app and My Memories (the Memories app).
  • Tasks lists: ancestors with tasks and descendants with tasks are wonderful to use when you have a few minutes to work on your family history.
  • The Recents list is nice for quickly getting back to an ancestor you were working on. 
Android Only
  • Tap the 3 lines on the top left and then Settings. The last item in the Setting list is Clear Cache. This forces the app to retrieve the latest data from the website. This is handy when you aren't seeing things synchronize very quickly.
Bottom line: don't discount the usefulness of the mobile apps. They should be included in your family history toolbox.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Microfilm records with the end of microfilm ordering

FamilySearch stopped lending microfilms and microfiche to family history centers and affiliate libraries recently. They are working to digitize and make available online as many of their microfilms and microfiche as possible. One thing that slows this process down is the need to negotiate with governments, record custodians, and copyright holders to get permission to both digitize and publish the records.

Some patrons are experiencing frustration as information they need is not yet available online. In these cases, you have 3 options:

  • Plan to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to view the microfilms.
  • Get the film numbers and titles of up to 5 microfilms you wish FamilySearch would prioritize for digitization. Call FamilySearch Support (1-866-406-1830 in North America). Ask to speak to Historical Records Support. Tell them you want to make a request to have certain microfilms prioritized for digitization. They will take up to 5 requests per call from you and send the request on to the digitization team. No promises as to when or if the items you want will quickly make it to online status. But the team does take requests into account. With proper permissions, they work to meet the requests of patrons. Be aware that, if another version of the material is already online (a digitized book or microfiche, for instance), FamilySearch will not also digitize the microfilm version of the same material.
  • Check in the catalog to see if a family history center within a reasonable distance of you has a copy of the microfilm in their collection. Centers and libraries have been allowed to retain their current collections, so you might be able to find a place closer to you than Salt Lake City where you can search a film. 
Here is how to search the collection of a specific center or affiliate library. 
Sign in to FamilySearch.org.
At the top of the screen, hover your mouse over Search and click Catalog.

If you want to see all of the microfilms a given center has in-house, leave all the search boxes blank. Click the down arrow beside the search box for "Search these family history centers". You can browser the alphabetical list and click a center name.

Click Search and you get an alphabetical list (with titles beginning with numerals first in the list) of the holdings of the center. At the top you see how many items are in the inventory of the center. 


Most of the time, you are more interested in a specific microfilm. In that case, choose Film/Fiche Number search on the catalog search screen. Enter the film number. Then select the center you hope has it and click Search

You'll either get the "No results found" message or see that the center has the film.

If a center or affiliate library near you is not on the list, ask them to contact FamilySearch Support to be added to the list. When they call, they should ask for Family History Center Support. The agent will ask them to be sure that their inventory is up to date in the Film Admin Panel and then will send the request to the team that can make their inventory visible to users in the catalog. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Saving Consultant Planner Lessons as PDF Files to Share with Members

When the consultant planner first came out, it saved our lesson plans automatically as PDF files. This was really nice, since it allowed consultants to email the lesson plans to members. Of course, we can still print the lesson plan and give it to members when we work with them, and I encourage that. But I do miss having the PDF version. So, if you are wishing you could get those lesson plans as PDFs again and are not a tech guru, here is a work-around.

This post shows how things look using Mozilla Firefox on a Windows 10 computer. Some details might be a tad different on different browsers and I confess to complete ignorance as to Mac computers, but hopefully the Apple folks among us will know how to interpret the basics to fit the Mac.

Go to your Consultant Planner and click the title of a lesson plan you have already created. In the top right, click Print.


This opens your print dialog box. At the top, you will most likely see your default printer. Click the little down arrow to the right of it to see other options.


In the list, click Microsoft Print to PDF. I assume an Apple product has a similar option. Then click OK.


On the next screen, tell your computer where to save the lesson plan and give it a name. 


Choose where to save it using either the list on the left or the drop-down arrow at the top. In the File name field, give it a name that means something to you--something like Johnson Lesson 1. Click Save. And... ta da!... you now have a PDF version of your lesson plan that you can save in a folder or that you can email to the member you are working with for them to easily refer to in the future.

By the way, the next time you want to print something, your computer will probably default to the save as PDF setting on your print dialogue box, so you'll need to re-select your printer.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Using the Consultant Planner on the Android Family Tree App

A recent update to the FamilySearch Family Tree app for Android mobile devices now gives you access to the Consultant Planner.  Here's how to get to it and use it:

Open the app and sign in if prompted. In the top right corner, tap the 3 lines icon.

Tap Help, near the bottom of the list and then Consultant Planner--again near the bottom of the next list.

You might be prompted to sign in again. You need to sign in with an account that includes a Church Membership Record Number.

You see what would be the center panel of the planner if you were using a web interface.
From this portion, tap Understand Your Calling to be redirected to the page on lds.org for consultants. Tap Invite Person or Add Person to invite or add folks to your planner. The Tips link at the bottom right seems to not be working right not. 

To get to your current list of invited or added folks, tap the tiny arrow at the top left of the screen.
Just as with the web interface, tap a name on your list to open the window where you can preview the tree and make your lesson plans for the member as well as keep notes about your visits. 
While the smaller screen might not be the most convenient, it is nice to have options and taking a mobile device with you when you meet with a member might be more convenient. You'd still have access to your lesson plans and all the resources of the planner. 






You

Monday, September 4, 2017

What if someone asks me for help researching in a country I know nothing about?

Temple and family history consultants are encouraged to change their focus from a pre-set set of lessons to asking members what they want to do and helping them meet those goals one-on-one. This can be a rather scary thing to do. You never know what those goals will be or what the member wants you to help with.

My goal with this post is to try to take some of the fear away by showing you that you have resources. You don't need to know all there is to know about every aspect of temple and family history work. After all, I suspect that even the most experienced researcher or helper has many areas where he or she lacks knowledge and experience. All you really need to know is where to turn for help when you need it.

Let's take an example. Suppose I contact a member and ask what she would like to do when we get together. And suppose she says she'd really like help to track down her Ukrainian ancestors. And let's suppose I have absolutely no idea even where to find Ukraine on a map, let alone how to go about finding family history records for the country. Do I throw up my hands and ask to be released? Do I say, "Yes, well, that's an interesting goal. Want to pick one we can actually do?" Or, do I say, "That will be an interesting challenge. Let's set a date to get together and I'll do some research to see what I can learn." (In case you didn't guess, the 3rd answer is the right one).

Now you've accepted the challenge. Where do you go from here?

First, of course, you add her to your consultant planner. You look at her tree to see what she has on her Ukrainian ancestors so far and what sources she has attached. You hope and pray that you can do some searching right there in FamilySearch records and find some more stuff that you can show her how to find so she can move forward. You get a feel for how experienced she is based on whether she is the person who added records to Family Tree and what you see about her activity level on the consultant planner. (Check out my table of contents for other posts about using the consultant planner if all this is Greek to you.)

What if you need to dive deeper? Here are some places to go for help.


  1. The FamilySearch wiki. Go to https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page. In the search box near the top of the screen, enter Ukraine. The page for this particular country is FANTASTIC. It has links for getting started; links for research tools; maps; countries that border present-day Ukraine (VERY important for these Eastern European countries whose borders and names have changed so much over the years). Every country page in the wiki has 2 valuable buttons:

The Online Records one takes you to a page full of links to online records. Ask the Community takes you to the wiki page about Facebook research groups where you can find the link for the country you need help with. Experienced researchers will help you move forward with your research.
You'll find maps and information about jurisdictions in the country as well as other FamilySearch resources. Don't overlook the value of the FamilySearch wiki.
2. The Family History Guide Countries/Ethnic projects. You won't find every country or ethnic group here, but you'll find a lot. Access it at http://www.thefhguide.com/project-9-countries.html. Scroll down to find the countries and ethnic group of interest and click. I went to Eastern Europe and was happy to see they have one on Ukraine. Click the country. As with all the projects on the Family History Guide, they break it down into goals and each goal into smaller sub-goals. This is a nice way to learn in small bites. Each sub-goal gives you information and links to places to learn as well as tasks to complete as you apply what you learn. 
These are my favorite 2 places to go when I need to learn how to help someone. You can also do google searches and I've done that sometimes with good results too. And there are undoubtedly other valuable resources out there I have not used, such as other family history sites that have research helps. As you learn, you can help the other person learn too. Remember to take things one step at a time. Don't dump all you learned on your poor unsuspecting student in your first meeting. Helping them explore these resources is a good option. Looking at resources together; learning together; praying about next steps together; deciding what to try next together--these are ways to help and empower the member.

So, don't let a lack of current knowledge stop you. Have an inquiring mind and go looking for answers. And, have fun!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

View My Relationship on the Mobile Apps

I much prefer the View My Relationship option on the Android and iOS FamilySearch Family Tree apps to what I see on the web interface of FamilySearch Family Tree. On the web, I see a diagram tracing back to a common ancestor. But on the apps, it tells me in words how closely we are related. I especially like to use this when working on the Ancestors with Tasks or Descendants with tasks lists.

NOTE: The screenshots below are from an iOS device. But the feature is very similar on Android devices.

For example, here is part of my Ancestors with Tasks list (gotten to by tapping Tasks at the bottom of the screen on iOS and by tapping the 3 lines in the top left and then Ancestors with Tasks on Android.) I have no idea who Jefferson Franklin Echerd is or how I might be related. So I tap his name on the list, which takes me to his details page.


From his details page, I tap the 3 dots in the top right, whether on Android or iOS. The only differences in Android from the screen shot below is that the dots are a vertical stack and in a green bar rather than white.

I click View My Relationship in the list. 


And I see both the handy-dandy diagram AND words telling me what the relationship is so I can better decide whether I feel this person is closely enough related to me that I want to work on his record.


I imagine they'll get to this on the web interface one of these days, but for now the mobile apps are the place to see it. Often, when I am working on the web interface on a more distantly-related family, I have the mobile tree open too in case I want to check a relationship.








Monday, August 21, 2017

Pondering Our Teaching Methods

I was looking at some materials for temple and family history consultants recently and the point was being made that people start on the sidelines and our task is to help them into the game until they are self-sufficient and become actively involved in the work.

As I was pondering that, I couldn't help but wonder how often our well-intentioned teaching techniques could be a reason a person gives up in frustration or lack of interest.

My mind went back to the very first genealogy class I attended (which is what we called it back in those unenlightened days). I was a 21-year-old university student. I was relatively recently baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and full of new convert enthusiasm. I had a genuine interest in learning more about my ancestors and excited to be invited to attend the class. But my enthusiasm soon left. We had a very knowledgeable instructor--BUT.... He talked to us a lot. He told us all about court houses and state archives and writing letters and traveling overseas to track down elusive records and genealogical proof standards. He told us long stories about multi-year quests to find a record to confirm something on his own tree. I sunk in the firehose of information he shot at us and was frankly bored with his interminable stories. Nothing was hands-on. We were just supposed to absorb all his knowledge and then go do the same stuff he had done. The only useful thing he said was in the very first lesson where he told us to talk to our oldest living relatives to find out what they knew and get that recorded. So, I wrote a few letters to grandparents and aunts and uncles and got some stuff from them--and that was the end of that.

I also recalled a story a fellow consultant shared with me. She was totally committed to the new one-on-one approach to helping people and especially to determining what the helpee wanted to accomplish rather than just going in with a plan of what the consultant thinks the person SHOULD want to accomplish. She had been assigned by her high priests group leader to work with a sister in the ward. So, she made contact to set up an appointment and learn how she could be helpful. The sister told her that, really, she just wanted to understand the FamilySearch website--how to navigate it and do basic things. So that's what they did--on more than one visit by the consultant. The consultant sat by her side and suggested places to click to discover what happened and to answer questions. She basically had the sister explore the website with the safe feeling of having someone by her side in case she messed somethings up. It was a good experience in every way and the sister grew in enthusiasm and confidence.

You get the idea. As consultants, we need to be careful and thoughtful and learn to be good teachers. We need to move away from the Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 approach to temple and family history work and towards a "what desirest thou?" approach.

It's not enough to have a lot of experience or a strong opinion about the "right" way to do temple and family history work. What is enough?

It is enough to have a sincere desire to help. It is enough to be a person who listens and communicates clearly. It is enough to have the dedication to your calling to continuously study and learn. It is enough to follow the direction of our leaders and use the resources and instructions they have provided us. It is enough to pray--a lot. Pray before making contact. Pray while looking at the person's tree to find ways to help. Pray before preparing your lesson plan. Pray before you leave for the visit. Pray with the person before you begin. It is enough to use the Principles for Helping Others. It is enough to be more concerned about helping the member meet his or her temple and family history goals and to feel the Spirit in the process than about your own personal agenda. It is enough to be flexible and explore the aspects of the work that are of initial interest to the member and then, when they are ready, moving on to other aspects of it that you might have thought should have been the starting place. It is enough to remember that becoming converted to temple and family history work is like being converted to any principle of the gospel. It takes time and more than one meeting to move most people from little or no involvement to full conversion and a love of the work.

We can do it. We just need to rely more on the Lord and the whisperings of the Spirit and on our knowledge and skill. And we can help others to come to love the work and experience the joy of the work of being gathers in the kingdom.