Sunday, November 27, 2016

Helper Information

FamilySearch has a feature in which an LDS family history consultant or FamilySearch Support agent can sign in as a "helper" for another person. Why would someone want to do that, and why should you let them?

  • Consultants might sign in as a helper to enter family history information or reserve names for temple work for a person who is not comfortable using a computer.
  • Consultants are more effective if they sign in as a helper and explore the tree before meeting with members and families to help them with their family history. They can see potential problems or temple opportunities ahead of a meeting and be better prepared.
  • Support agents sign in as a helper when people contact Support to ask questions about Family Tree. This allows us to see the tree the way the patron sees it, allowing us to more quickly understand and solve problems.
  • Support agents are instructed to never make any changes to Family Tree when signed in as a helper. They are to only use it as a tool to see what the patron sees. Consultants will sometimes make changes or enter information, but should only do that if the person they are helping asks them to. 
So, if a family history consultant or FamilySearch Support agent asks for your "helper information", this is what they want and how to find it:

You have 2 options. You can provide

  1. Your username (the one you use to sign in to FamilySearch.org) and helper number OR
  2. Your first and last name, birth date, and helper number.
Here are the ways you can find your helper number:
  • From FamilySearch.org: Sign in and then click your name in the upper right corner. In the dark box that pops up, click Settings. Your Account page opens. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find your 5 character helper number. 
  • From the Family Tree app on an Android device: Tap the 3 lines in the top left corner. Tap Settings. Your Helper Number is in the Account section.
  • From the Family Tree app on an iOS device: Tap More at the bottom of the screen.Tap Settings. Your Helper Number shows on the right panel in the Account section.
Your helper number is case sensitive. If it has any capital letters, you need to tell the helper that they are capitals.

As a precaution, you might want to change your Helper Number after someone has used it. You can't do that on the app, but you can do it online. Just go to your Account page where you found the number. Click in the box that contains your Helper Number and enter a different 5 letters/numbers. Any combination is fine, but don't use any special characters--just letters and numbers.  Then click Save at the bottom of the screen. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Correcting parent-child relationships in the Family Tree app

Sometimes you find that a person is attached to the wrong set of parents in Family Tree. Using the Family Tree app on an Android or iOS device, here is how you fix those problems.

  1. Navigate to the person who has the wrong parents showing.
  2. When you tap to open a person's record, you see a dark bar at the top that shows the name of the person, a photo if you or someone else has added one, the birth and death years, and the Family Tree ID. Under that, tap Parents. It's on a white strip on iOS and a green strip on Android. 
  3. Now you see the parents and your person along with other children associated with those parents. To the right of each name in the Siblings list is a pencil icon. Tap the pencil icon to the right of the person who should not be showing in this family. 
Both parents are wrong.
  1. Now you see the parents. Below them you see a red Wrong Parents link. If both parents are wrong, tap that. 
  2. You'll see a diagram showing the link you are breaking. If you want to continue, tap Continue in the top right of that screen.
  3. Enter a reason you are confident in removing the person as a child of these parents. Then tap Remove in the upper right. 
Only one parent is wrong. 
  1. Instead of tapping Wrong Parents, tap the down arrow to the right of whichever parent is incorrect. 
  2. Here you can change the relationship type. Tap Edit to the right of the current relationship type add change it to adopted, biological, foster, guardian, or step. 
  3. You can delete the relationship type or add one.
  4. You can also tap Wrong [Father or Mother] to remove the person as a parent.
  5. The next screen shows what relationship you are breaking. At the bottom you can tap Remove to just get rid of the incorrect parent. Or, if you know who the parent should be, you can tap Replace
  6. If you tap Remove, you need to enter a reason and then tap Remove in the upper right. 
  7. If you tap Replace, you can enter the name and other information about the correct parent and then pick from a list or create a new record. Or you can add by ID if you happen to know the Family Tree ID of the correct parent. For each of these choices, just enter the information on each screen and then tap the word in the upper right corner. 
So, just like with everything on Family Tree, you can fix the errors you see. Please do take the time to indicate clearly why you are making the change. That and adding sources to back up what you do go a long way to not only create a more accurate tree, but also to lessen the chances that someone is going to a) be irritated by the changes you make, or b) un-change your change.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Broad Record Searches

Sometimes when you are researching a family and you know that family lived in the same area for many many generations, you want to do a fairly broad search for possible record matches. This is also a helpful strategy when you've gotten a bit confused about a family line. Which fit where? Am I really on the right path or have I gotten families all tangled up?

To that end, I'd like to show you an option that is not terribly obvious on the Search page of FamilySearch.org that I find helpful when I am trying to do these kinds of searches and then save the results to chew over later.

Start by signing in to FamilySearch.org. ALWAYS sign in--it makes a difference in your search results. At the top of the screen, click Search.

Enter your broad search terms. For instance, a surname and a birthplace or residence. Usually that's all I'll use for these sorts of searches.  Here is an example:


In my example I used the ? wildcard in the last name. The name sometimes shows as Herman and sometimes as Harman. I want to capture both in my search results. Now, click Search

At the top of the search results page, click 75 for the "Number of results to show".


Since this search gives over 30,000 results, I like to further filter them and download the results in sets of similar record types. To do that, click the Collections tab in blue just above the Search Result from Historical Records header. For a first run, I'll limit the results to census records. In the Census & Lists header, click Show all 11


Then click in the boxes to check the census records to include in the results. Since this family never lived in New York State, I click all except the New York State Census and then scroll to the top of the page and click Filter These Results.


Here is what I now see: 

Notice, at the top, that I can click the X beside any record set to remove it from the search results. So, if I decided I don't really want to see records after about 1900, I can click to remove 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records from the results. 

Now we're to the part I really want to show you. See the Export Results 1-75 button on the right in the image above? Click it. And you can save your search results in a spreadsheet (well, 75 records at a time). Open it with your spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel. Repeat for 75 records at a time until you get all of them on spreadsheets. You can bring all the data into one spreadsheet after you've gotten them all downloaded. The spreadsheets include names, gender, birthdate, residence, other relatives on the record, marriage... all the information in the indexes. And the url to jump to a given record. 

You can bring all the data from the spreadsheets into one huge one and then sort in various ways and compare names, family members, dates, etc. It can really help when trying to sort out how families fit together. 

Handy tool. Give it a try. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Add or Edit Marriage Information on the Family Tree App

If you are new to the Family Tree app for Android or iOS mobile devices, you might be struggling a bit to learn how to perform basic tasks. So, let's learn how to add or edit marriage information for an ancestor.

Start off by finding and tapping the name of the person for whom you want to add a spouse; add a marriage, divorce, annulment, or common law event; remove an incorrect spouse, or edit an event.

When you tap a name, you see the person details screen. At the top is a dark bar that includes the name of the person, the birth and death dates (if available), the 7-character Family Tree ID, the portrait photo (if available), and three dots that give some other options. Directly under that dark bar is another bar. On Android, it's green. On iOS, it's white. To work with marriage information, tap Spouses on that bar under the dark bar.
Depending on the record and what has been added, you see the spouse, the marriage information and the children identified with that spousal relationship. And under that are the Add Child and Add Husband or Wife options. So, if you need to add an additional spouse, it's pretty obvious where to tap to do that. But, if something is wrong: the wrong spouse or problems with the marriage information, or you want to add missing marriage information, or a divorce--then people start scratching their heads and wondering how do to that. So, notice to the right of each bit of info is a pencil icon.
To edit or add marriage information for an existing relationship, tap that pencil to the right of the current marriage information. Now you see options: Wrong Spouse; Edit to the right of the marriage information; Delete Marriage Event; Add Event. Click the one for what you need to do, add the info, add the reason you are confident of what you're doing and it's done.

Incidentally, in my last post about the new look of the iOS app, I talked about messaging. At that time, the option to send a message to a user from the app seemed to not be working. Now it is! Notice that the name of the person who last modified this record is in blue. Tap it and you see any contact information the person has made public as well as an option to Send Message (well it's misspelled on the app as "Send Mesage", but we'll pretend we didn't notice that). The Send Message option sends a message to the user through FamilySearch. 

New Look and New Features for the iOS Family Tree app

This past week, the FamilySearch Family Tree app for iOS devices got a new look and a couple of new features. So, if you've been using the app and just gotten used to where to find things, guess what? It's moved!

Before we look at the location and purpose of the various icons, let me tell you about a new feature. The app now "remembers" the 3 most recent screens you have opened. For example, suppose I open the app to my pedigree. I tap my husband's name and then use the option to see his tree. And, lastly, I tap his maternal grandmother. 

Now, at the top left, I see a left-facing arrow and a word beside it--the word will indicate the screen I looked at just before this one. So, from his grandmother's page, I see "Pedigree", meaning my husband's pedigree. If I tap the arrow, it returns me to his pedigree. Now the arrow has my husband's name beside it, since that is the screen I was on before I saw his pedigree. I can tap to return to his page. Again it says "Pedigree"--this time it means my pedigree, since that is where I started out. And I can tap to get back to my home page. 

This probably doesn't seem like much of a change, but it might surprise you. Before, if you clicked to go back, you always went back to your pedigree view. Now, you might not. So, if you want to go to your pedigree view, tap Tree at the bottom of your screen.

The biggest change you'll notice is that you no longer see the 3 lines icon in the upper left that took you to various options.

Two icons continue to be in the upper right:


The History List (also at the bottom labeled Recents): tap to see a list of names you have visited before in Family Tree. You can also tap at the top of the list in the search box and enter a Family Tree ID to jump directly to a specific ancestor.

The magnifying glass: searches all of Family Tree for a person. You can search by name or by ID. It is different from the history list in that it does not just search for names in your tree, but in all of FamilySearch Family Tree.

The rest of your options are at the bottom of the screen:


At the bottom, we have already learned about the Tree button--I think of it as my Home button, always taking me back to square one.

The Tasks button loads your Ancestors with tasks list: it searches people you've recently viewed, your first 5 generations of ancestors and their children, and any part of your pedigree you have expanded. It shows ancestors with record hints and, if you are LDS, temple opportunities.

If you are LDS you see Temple at the bottom. This shows you your reserved ordinances list where you can share with temple or others or create temple cards.

More is where you now find Search Historical Records, Settings, Help, Other Apps and Sign Out. It also has a new feature: Messages. It does not appear that the engineers have incorporated the FamilySearch messaging option in this app. If someone has sent you a message from the Android app or the website, you see the message if you tap Messages. To the right, I THINK you could reply to a message sent to you by another user. I have no messages showing, so I'm not really sure how that works. Bottom line: Messages is limited in usefulness, since you have no clue that someone sent you a message unless you happen to tap More and then Messages. And you still have no way to contact another user from the iOS app.

So, a few new things, but mostly just a new look.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The New Get Help on FamilySearch.org

Get Help on FamilySearch.org changed recently. so I thought it might be worthwhile to take give you a feel for the change and how to find stuff now.

From what I can tell, the idea is to get all kinds of help content on a given topic in one place. That way, if you search for information on a topic, you can see help articles, wiki articles, and online lessons without having to jump from one spot to another within the Help Center. Here's how I like to use it:

Sign in--always sign in. It makes a difference in what you see. Click Get Help in the top right corner of the screen. Notice that you have links to various options, but I like to put my search words in that search box right at the top. Then press Enter or click the magnifying glass icon.


This takes you to the Help Center. Notice that you see a search box with your search terms, so you can easily modify the search if you aren't getting good results. It defaults to showing you all content: articles, lessons, and wiki articles. But if I only want to see one kind of content, I can click one of the options and limit my results.

I'm not sure that it is going to stay exactly like it is now. I've heard that it is still in beta (test-mode), so we might be seeing more changes soon. 

One thing I like is that it does give me the online lessons and wiki articles in my search results. Too often I forget to look for those kinds of content when I am searching for help. It's nice to see them all together. 

I've heard some complaints about the new approach. Mostly it seems that people miss the Get Started and Frequently Asked Questions content. Getting Started is now a link on the pop-up you see when you click Get Help and has been updated. For LDS users, that page also now includes names and contact information for your unit family history consultants, which is nice.

If you click Help Center from that pop-up illustrated above, you'll see the more familiar look of the Help Center, in case you prefer that approach. If you click one of the icons to search on a topic, the results are the most frequently used help content for that topic, so you're getting the FAQs without them being labeled as such. 

Go explore the new Help Center. And, if you see ways it could be better, click the Help us improve banner along the right border of the page. 



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why do family history if there are no temple ordinances to do?

Recently I was chatting with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who explained to me that he had a relative who did family history and had added all their family to FamilySearch Family Tree along with photos and stories. He asserted that all the temple work was complete for his family. Therefore, he saw no point in involvement in family history at any level, because there was not "work" to do.

This conversation caused me to ponder a bit. What IS the point of family history for a Latter-day Saint? Why does God want us to do it?

The primary response from the average Church member would be that we do it in order to identify ancestors who have died without the saving ordinances of the gospel so that we can provide them the opportunity to accept or reject those ordinances. We certainly do that. But it does seem to be a terribly inefficient way to assure that all the human family eventually gets the opportunity to accept or reject the Savior. If that is what God wants to happen, I can't help but think He'd find a better way of going about it. After all, we mess it up pretty freely. I'm sure many a person has been linked to the wrong spouse and/or parents.  And many a person has had no written records of his or her life created and therefore the chances that we'd even discover the existence of a huge portion of the human family are near zero.

So, I turned to scripture to see what I might discover. The most often quoted scripture regarding this topic comes from the Old Testament book of Malachi, chapter 4, verses 5-6:
Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.  
So, Elijah the prophet must return and do something or other that will cause fathers and children to turn their hearts to one another. Otherwise, the earth is cursed.

When the angel Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1823, he quoted these verses differently:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 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. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
So, Elijah was to restore the priesthood. And the turning of hearts is a result of having promises made to those who went before planted in our hearts. And all this must happen or the earth will be wasted when Christ returns.

I could make a VERY long post on this and have given several talks on the topic, but I'll spare you. I'll assume the reader is LDS and has some basic understanding of our doctrines. (If not, and you are interested, post a comment to this and I'll be happy to answer your questions).

Cutting to the chase:
We know that the wasting of the earth if hearts do not turn to family isn't that God is going to blast it out of existence. Rather, the earth was created for the purpose of giving our Heavenly Father's children a place to learn and grow and progress and be united as families. Family is key to our eternal existence. We lived in a family before we came to earth and our life after this mortal sojourn is meant to be a family life. Families are the ideal place to learn to be more like God. Our hearts need to turn to family--and to the promises God has made to families. The most important of those promises is the promise of the Atonement--of forgiveness of sin and the opportunity to return to God and to be eternally united as families.

We are to be involved in family history for what it does for us as much as for what we are offering to others. As we learn more about those who gave us life, we learn to love them and look forward to meeting them in the next life. We come to feel connected and that changes us in ways that are hard to express. It fills a need in the human soul that you just can't fill any other way. As Alex Haley expressed it, that yearning for connection is "bone-marrow deep."

Everyone who gets involved in this work becomes a better person at a fundamental level. It doesn't matter what sort of involvement it is as long as it turns our hearts to family. It can be showing photos of ancestors to children and teaching them what we know about those who went before. It can be cross-stitching a family tree, scanning and preserving old photographs, interviewing older relatives to learn about their lives, compiling stories of your ancestors for future generations to read, researching records to grow your family tree, going to the temple to perform saving ordinances. The list is as long as your imagination.

As our hearts turn to family, not only do we become better, but our families become stronger. And, ultimately, I think our hearts turn to our entire human family and our eternal Father in Heaven. That is why everyone should be involved in this work. It's not just a nice hobby. It is a bedrock principle of the gospel.