Saturday, December 30, 2017

Removing names from the temple list of the Android FamilySearch Family Tree app

I was helping a person use the mobile FamilySearch Family Tree app for Android devices recently. She wanted to release some names from her temple list and was not seeing an obvious way to do it. Since it is a bit hidden, it seems worthy of a blog post. Here is how to release names using the app:

1. Open the FamilySearch Family Tree app on your Android mobile device. If prompted, sign in.
2. In the top left corner, tap the 3 parallel lines.
3. In the list that appears, tap Temple.
4. In the temple list, to the right of each name, notice the circle. For each name you want to remove        from your list, tap in the circle to turn it green with a check-mark.
5. In the upper right, below the green bar, tap the light gray set of 3 dots.

6. Tap Unreserve.
7. Read the message and then tap OK.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Using and Interpreting the Family History Activity Report

Stake and ward temple and family history consultants can get a feel for temple and family history activity in the units and in the stake using the Family History Activity Report on As a stake consultant, when I am going to be meeting with a new consultant or a group of consultants from a unit, I like to look at the report for that unit before we meet so I can see where they are.

I also like to show unit consultants and leaders how they can see the report. Stake consultants can see info for the entire stake or for an individual unit. Unit consultants and leaders can see information for their unit.

I use the report mostly to see if things are improving. It is important to remember that all numbers are year-to-date numbers, rather than numbers for the month of the report. So, if in October I saw that 458 members had logged into FamilySearch in the stake, that means that between January 1 and October 31, 458 of the stake members logged in to the site--not that 458 logged in during September.

I print each month's report, so I can make comparisons (I have not found a way to get past reports on For example, if the Oct 31 report gives me that number of 458 logging in to FamilySearch, I can look at the Sep 30 report that I printed and see that the number was 442 in September. That gives a new spin to the numbers. Looking at the difference, we can see that only 16 people in the entire stake logged in to FamilySearch during the month of October! At first glance, we see those nice big numbers near the end of the year and get the impression that we are getting lots of folks involved. But we aren't. We have a lot of work to do.

Here's how to find the report. (If you are a stake or unit temple and family history consultant and cannot access the report, touch bases with your stake or unit clerk to get your calling entered in leader and clerk resources.)

Sign in to In the top right, click My Account and Ward and then Sign In.

Click My Account and Ward again. In the Tools and Support column, click Leader and Clerk Resources.

From here, your callings will determine what you see. If you are only a consultant (do not have another leadership calling), you see a link for the Family History Activity Report on the main screen. Click it.  If you have other leadership callings, you need to first click Reports in the top left and then click Family History Activity Report from the list. 

By default, stake consultants and leaders see information for the entire stake for the top portion of the report. At the bottom, they see a break-down by unit for year-to-date temple submissions. Ward and branch consultants can see only the information for their unit.

If you are a stake consultant and want to see the more detailed report for a specific unit, click the small (easy to miss) drop-down arrow in the top right of the report--to the right of the name of the stake. From there, click the name of a ward or branch to see the complete report for the unit.

Obviously, this report is not perfect, in the sense that it does not necessarily reflect all temple and family history activity in the stake. But, it's pretty good. It measures indexing, using the FamilySearch website, getting the first 4 generations into Family Tree, and temple submissions. Obviously, if I spent the month interviewing older family members, organizing my photo albums, writing my personal history, or doing temple work my daughter shared with me--those activities are not reflected in the report. And those activities can turn hearts to family and covenants. But, at some point, those activities should also be turning me to the activities the report does measure. So, it remains an excellent way to get the pulse of the ward, branch, or stake.

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 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. 
  • 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.
  • You can choose to remove synced memories from your mobile device. This frees up space on the device. All these items are stored on 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 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
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 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. 


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 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 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.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Show Me How--New Learning Option on is quietly introducing a new way to learn how to use various aspects of the website. Right now, it's only on the Wiki page, but I understand that they are hoping to add it other places in the future.

When you go to, notice on the right border the words "Show Me How".

When you click it, a box flies out where you can click one of the choices to indicate what you want to learn about. Or you can enter a question in the search box. Let's try the Country Page Overview to see how it works.

It jumps to Sweden Genealogy and we click Next to begin the tour.

The tour takes you to various parts of the page and provides an explanation. To progress through the tour, you just click Next on each explanatory box. You can also click Back if you want to return to an earlier box. Or click the small x in the top right to leave the tour.

It's a nice way to get a feel for various aspects of the wiki that you might not have stumbled on on your own. When you finish a tour, a box pops up with possible  next steps. 

It's nice to see more tools to help us understand how to get the most from The folks there are trying to make it as easy for us as possible. 

And, as long as I'm writing about ways to learn to use the website, you might also notice the lightbulb icons in the lower right corner of Family Tree pages, Record Search, the Memories Gallery, and (for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) your Temple reservation page. Click the icons to learn how to use the page you are on.

You no longer need to wonder how to do the basic FamilySearch tasks. Help is at your fingertips.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Relatives Around Me--Fun Feature of the Family Tree Apps

FamilySearch has recently added a Relatives Around Me feature to the Family Tree apps -- both iOS and Android. This can be fun to use at youth activities, family reunions, a Family Discovery Day, or any gathering of folks who happen to have the app. Here's how to use it:

  1. Everybody who is participating needs to open the Family Tree app on an Android or iOS device and sign in if prompted.
  2. People need to be within about 100 feet of one another -- or you can move around in a bigger crowd and scan again.
  3. On an iOS device, tap More at the bottom of the screen. On an Android device, tap the 3 lines in the top left. 
  4. Tap Relatives Around Me.   
  5. Tap Scan for Friends
  6. A message pops up asking if Family Tree can access your location--you need to allow it or it can't do the scan. 
  7. The scan starts and shows names and relationships of the people it finds.
Note: Don't take what the scan tells you as absolute truth. Especially for relationships like 17th cousin or something sorta remote like that. The results are only as reliable as the data in FamilySearch Family Tree and we all know that this data can be dubious--especially as you move back before about 1800. 

Have fun!

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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Protect and Preserve Your Family Tree Data

With the advent of online places to record family history, many people now keep all their family data on a website--and often on only one website. Those websites are fantastic places to add your family information and share it along with photos and documents and audio recordings with your extended family.

But, be careful not to have all of your information in only one place. There is great safety and peace of mind in redundancy.

For example, if you keep all your family history information on FamilySearch Family Tree, and only there, you could lose valuable information if someone comes in and makes an incorrect merge or significantly changes family relationships. In addition, you'll have no record of how you reached your conclusions, so getting things corrected could be very difficult.

I make a point of having my data in multiple places and formats. I keep information on FamilySearch Family Tree; I have trees on MyHeritage and I have a personal data manager on my computer and one on my iPad. And I have paper copies of everything in binders. I keep a file with all of my research notes, documenting my search efforts. I keep a paper copy and another copy in a file on my computer that I save in cloud storage.

More work? Yep, but not really as much as it seems at first blush. And once it's a habit to record things more than one place, it's just part of the research process. A lot of paper? Yes, but paper is still the most reliable way to store data. If I happen to tap the wrong spot on a piece of paper, the words don't all suddenly disappear. If my book case falls over, the data is still in my binders--maybe scattered about a little, but easier to find again than if my hard drive crashes.

Might be worth thinking about. How easy would it be to recreate your tree if you woke up tomorrow and or didn't exist any more or someone had hacked your account and decided to have fun with your family data? Or if your house burned to the ground, would you be able to find all the stuff you now have on paper somewhere else? I put a lot of effort into finding the records of my ancestors. I want to be sure I can find the results of my efforts no matter what.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Consultant Planner

A new tool is in place for temple and family history consultants. I have been using it for a couple of months and consider it a fantastic resource and help.

To find the planner, you need to first sign in to with an LDS member account. After you sign in, click Get Help in the upper right corner of the screen. On the little pop-up screen, at the bottom of the list, click Help Others. This opens the Consultant Planner.

In the center of the screen, you see the steps effective consultants take to help members have a successful, spirit-filled family history experience.

Below that are links to where you can learn to have a personal family history experience, if you are new to family history; learn 7 proven principles of creating heart-turning experiences as you help others; or access The Family History Guide--a wonderful place to get familiar with all things family history.

On the right side of the screen, click Help us improve as you use the planner and have suggestions for improvement. Your feedback goes to the planner developers and helps them know how to improve the tool.

Now, let's dive in to how to use the planner as you work with families and individuals. On the left panel, you see 2 buttons: Invite Person and Add Person. Use these to add people to your planner using their helper information. Doing so allows you to see Family Tree from their perspective so you can plan a personalized lesson for them.

When you click Invite Person, you get a screen where you fill in the name and email address of the person you are going to help. This sends an email to the person. 

When you click Send, the email goes off, and you see a message telling you an email was sent. If the person doesn't get the email, you can suggest he or she check the spam folder or you can send the link in the message. The email the person gets is from FamilySearch with a title of "[Your name] wants to help you with family history". I find it helpful to let them know what is coming as that email title sorta looks like it could be spam.  

When the person opens the email, they see a message:
[Your name] would like to help you with your family history and assist you in finding names of your ancestors. Please click the link below to give [Your name] permission* to do this. If you do not want help, please ignore this email." 

Below the Yes, I'd Like Help button is an explanation that the person will be able to access your FamilySearch account, but not change your user information, password, or settings. It explains that the purpose is to help you achieve your family history goals and that you can revoke access at any time. And there are links for resetting a forgotten password or recovering a username. 

If the person clicks Yes, I'd Like Help, the system redirects to If they are not signed in, they see the sign in screen. After they sign in and click Grant Permission, they appear on your Accepted or Added list on the planner. 

If you click Add Person, you can manually add someone to your planner. You will need to contact the person to get information: 

You need the first and last name of the person and the helper number: unless they have changed it, this consists of the last 5 characters of a person's Church Membership Number. They can find it on their temple recommend or get it from their unit clerk. 

Then you have choices. If the person knows the username they use to access or, ask for that username. If they know the username, ask for their birthdate. 

Enter the info and click Add to Planner and they appear in your list.

Under the Invite and Add buttons, you see the number of folks you've invited who have not yet accepted and you see the number of folks who have accepted or who you have added. 

To begin preparing for a visit, click Accepted or Added and then click the name of the person you are getting ready to help. You now see helpful information to guide you in your preparations. First, you can get a feel for how experienced the person is:

Obviously you're going to take a different approach with someone who uses regularly than with someone who has never logged in or hasn't logged in recently.

To the right, you see some possible opportunities for success that the system found. 
Notice that the numbers are blue? Those are links. You can click to see names ready to reserve, records where they might be able to find more information in order to be ready for temple work, etc. Handy way to find easy success experiences. 

Under the Experiences box is a small version of the person's fan chart. 
You can hover your mouse over a segment to see the name of an ancestor and click to go to the record. You can get a feel for what part of the world you're going to be working in as you help the person. You can see how full the tree is and hone in on empty portions where you might be able to help them expand their tree. This is a handy tool. Just above the fan, you can click Go to tree to go to FamilySearch Family Tree and view it as the person sees it and decide how you will help the person or family move forward. 

After you have explored the tree with the person's goals in mind, and have decided on how you want to help the person, move down to the Lesson Plans section.

This is a nice place to keep your lesson plans and notes, especially if you are going to work with a family or individual multiple times. You can keep all the lessons for them together to review and use to plan the next one. 

One last note: When you finish working with someone, it is courteous to then remove the person from your planner. Just click Accepted or Added and click the X beside their name.

Enjoy your new tool!