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.

Adoptions
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, FamilySearch.org to the rescue!

Sign in to FamilySearch.org 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. 

Take-aways: 
  • 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 lds.org, 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 lds.org. I find it easier to find this info using the links in the app than navigating through all the lds.org 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 lds.org. 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.

iOS

  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.
Android
  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 Ancestry.com. 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 Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org 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 FamilySearch.org 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 lds.org 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 FamilySearch.org. 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 FamilySearch.org or lds.org, 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 FamilySearch.org 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!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Great Place to Learn

If you haven't discovered it yet, I suggest you make a visit to thefhguide.com. This is a great place to learn and to create training for others.

It has projects with goals to help you become familiar with all aspects of FamilySearch.org. In addition, there is a technology project that talks about webinars, using mobile devices, social media, and genealogy software. There is a project where you can learn about DNA testing and matching and one where you can explore how to do family history research in nearly any part of the world.

Check out the Misc tab. It even has a section on helping children have fun with family history activities. Cool stuff here for families or others who work with children. And there is an LDS Topics section to help Church members with temple-related activities.

I haven't poked around in the Training tab much, but it looks like it would be valuable to anyone teaching classes or workshops or helping new consultants get up to speed.

I've been going through the projects carefully as I want to feel comfortable recommending the site to the consultants I train. It will take a long time to get through them all. I'm still in the Family Tree project, and overall it is excellent. I have found some minor inaccuracies. Some things are just plain wrong, but most are a reflection of how often FamilySearch.org changes and how difficult it is to keep online content completely up to date. None of the inaccuracies are such that the site would not be valuable to anyone wanting to learn and improve skills.

Check it out!


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Change in Calling Names--What Is Different?

If you have been serving in a family history calling, you probably know by now that a change in the titles of the callings happened recently. Why? And does that mean your calling responsibilities have also changed?

Now all members of the Church who have family history callings are called Temple and Family History Consultants. Two reasons for the change:

  • To emphasize the link between temple and family history work.
  • To highlight the new focus we are all to have of working with members one-on-one to help them have a positive experience in finding family members and providing saving temple ordinances. 
What's different about my calling? 

If you were a ward family history consultant before--nothing has really changed. The change is in emphasis and encouragement to have temple and family history consultants working with families and individuals. We want to move away from classes or sitting in a designated room once a week waiting for someone to come ask for help. We want to move toward prayerfully preparing individualized lessons and working with members and families one-on-one.

If you have been a stake indexing director, you would now be a Stake Temple and Family History Consultant with a secondary assignment to promote indexing in the stake. 

If you have been a family history center director, you would now be a Stake Temple and Family History Consultant with a secondary assignment to oversee family history center operations.

If you have been serving as a person in the stake who trains ward or branch consultants, you would now be a Lead Stake Temple and Family History Consultant with a secondary assignment to help train unit consultants. 

Notice the word secondary in the above paragraphs. Now, all consultants have a primary responsibility to work one-on-one with members, preparing personalize lessons to help them with their family history.

I am now a Lead Stake Temple and Family History Consultant and am looking forward to having a good excuse to get with our stake leaders and their families one-on-one to help them find, take, and teach. What a wonderful opportunity to help those who can have a huge impact in moving the work forward in our stake to feel the Spirit of Elijah and become converted to this sacred work! And, of course, I'll still work with the units to help their consultants understand their calling. 

More work? Yep. But that is how we grow. Becoming too comfortable is not terribly good for our eternal progression. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Family Tree Mobile Apps--Possible Duplicates and Merging

Good news! The mobile Family Tree apps (both Android and iOS) now allow you to see possible duplicates of folks on your tree and merge them. You still can't search for duplicates by ID, but it's a step in the right direction. Here's how:

  1. Open the Family Tree mobile app on your iOS or Android device and sign in if prompted.
  2. Tap a person on your pedigree, or use the magnifying glass icon to search for someone and tap the name.
  3. Tap the 3 dots. On iOS devices, it's on the top right, above the dark bar that has the person's name. On Android devices, it's on the right portion of that dark bar. 
  4. On Android, tap Possible Duplicates. On iOS, first tap More, and then Possible Duplicates
  5. If the system finds possible duplicates, you see a list of them.
You can scroll down the list, if there is more than one and decide which seem to be likely duplicates. For any you're sure aren't duplicate, tap Not a Match--it's right beside the large green Review Merge button.

If you see a likely duplicate, tap Review Merge. This allows you to compare the records and decide if they match. First you see a warning message, asking you to review carefully. A good reminder. I'd rather leave duplicates unmerged than make a mess by merging people who are not duplicates. Tap Continue Merge to look at the two records.

On the right you see the record you currently have in the tree and on the left is the record that might be a duplicate. Scroll down and compare the data. If you feel something on the left is more accurate than what is currently in the record, you can tap the green arrow in the left column to add information that's missing from your record or replace information that is there.

If you decide the records are not duplicates, at the bottom, tap Not a Match. Enter a reason the people are not duplicates and tap Done. Tap Not a Match in the top right corner. 

If you feel they are duplicaes, tap Continue Merge. If you didn't make any changes, you see a message. Tap Continue. Enter a reason you are confident that the records are duplicates and tap Merge in the top right corner. 

We can do more and more with the mobile apps, which is really nice when traveling or sitting waiting somewhere. Most of the time I still prefer working with a larger screen, but the apps have their place and are pretty handy to have.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Consultants Use Personalized Lesson Plans

One of the things we are pushing just now as far as consultant interaction with members is to learn the family history goals of the person or family, use the helper feature to view their tree, and design a personalized lesson for them. I have put this to the test and can attest to the fact that it is truly inspired. It takes more work and preparation on the part of the consultant but is truly amazing in results.

Here are the steps a consultant takes:

  1. The high priests group leader gives the consultant an assignment to work with a family or individual. In our stake, we encourage the consultants to work in pairs and have found that to be a really good option. 
  2. The consultants get together and prepare spiritually for the meeting and talk about what role each will take.
  3. Learn what goals the person or family have in the area of family history. Really listen with both your ears and the Spirit. Those goals will be as different as the people you work with, and it is vital that you start there (remember "What desirest thou?").
  4. Ask if you may sign in to FamilySearch.org as their helper in order to see Family Tree as they see it. This is key! See below for how to sign in as helper and plan the lesson.
  5. Preview the tree and find ways to help the person meet their goal and have a successful experience. This takes time and work!
  6. Use the editable PDF you can find at https://fh.familysearch.org/system/files/team/ait/images/blog/HelpingOthersLoveFH_Editable.pdf to write out a plan for the lesson. Make it detailed enough to leave with the family so they can use it to remember how to do things.
  7. After the lesson, ask for a follow-up meeting if you and they feel that more help would be useful.
  8. Ask for referrals--who else do you think might benefit from a visit?
Let's look at steps 4-6 in a bit more detail, using some examples from people I have worked with (details are changed to protect privacy).

First, here is how to sign in as a helper:
  1. Ask for the username of the person (or a member of the family). This is the user name used to sign in to FamilySearch.org or lds.org. If they have no idea or have no account, ask instead for the first and last name and birthdate (day, month, year). 
  2. Ask for the helper number. There are multiple ways to find this. Sign in to FamilySearch.org and click your name in the upper right corner. Click Settings and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the 5 character helper number. Or, look on their temple recommend to find the last 5 characters of the Church Membership Number. Or, ask the ward or branch clerk for the last 5 characters of the Church Membership Number. Some end in a letter. If so, be sure to capitalize the letter.
  3. Now you are ready to sign in. First go to FamilySearch.org and sign in with your own username and password.
  4. In the upper right, click Help Others--it's right under your name.
  5. Enter what you know: either their username and helper number or (by clicking the Full Name tab), the name, birthdate, and helper number.
  6. Click Sign In.
  7. You'll know you are helping someone because you see a green banner along the right side of the screen saying "helping [person's name]".
Now you are ready to explore Family Tree. What you do there depends on the goals of the person or family. Some examples follow. 

Fixing Tree Problems
Suppose the person just wants to straighten out some tangled things on Family Tree. They can describe the problem to you till they're blue in the face. But if you sign in as the helper and go to the person or family that has the problems, you'll see the problem and the solution much faster. See the table of contents of this blog for the solutions to most kinds of tree problems. Don't fix it! Just look and write down the steps for them to take to fix it. Then, when you meet, walk them through the changes. Leave that list with them so they have it for future problems. 

While you're there, you might glance around for other opportunities, such as record hints or temple opportunities, but focus on what they want to do and help them feel good about fixing things so they feel that they can use Family Tree.

Adding Memories
One person I worked with didn't want to work on Family Tree to add to the family or find temple opportunities. But he did want to add photos and scan and add documents he had for his ancestors. So, for this I didn't need to sign in as his helper. I did need to be sure he knew how to sign in so we could work together on uploading items. In this case I needed to review how to upload photos and documents and audio files. Then, list the steps on the form. Use that to help him accomplish his goal and leave the form with him so he can continue on his own. 

Evaluating Information
Sometimes people see things on Family Tree that they are pretty sure is not right, but they are reluctant  to make changes. They want help to understand how to evaluate what they see and decide what is the most accurate information. Sign in as a helper. Look at the records they want to evaluate and do some evaluating yourself. Look at sources already attached. See if there are notes and/or reason statements for the information already showing. See if people who entered information included contact information. If sources and reasons are missing, do some basic research to see what conclusions you would come to. Write down what you did. When you meet, help the person evaluate things. Suggest contacting contributors to ask them (POLITELY) about their conclusions. It is not unlikely that the other contributors have knowledge that is helpful. Don't make decisions for the person--just help him or her look at things and make a decision. Then, if they decide to make some changes, you can help them do it. 

My Tree is Full
Many LDS folks have very full trees and it looks like temple opportunities do not exist. Often, as far as their direct line goes, this is true. For these, you'll need to do more exploring and poking about to see what you can see. This is one area where that spiritual preparation really pays off. Ask for direction and then explore. Go to the fan chart and pick an ancestor on the outer rim. Click to put him/her in the center. Then switch to the descendancy view. Maybe expand that view out a bit more. You want to get out to someone born before 1830. Then start opening up the descendancy view and watch for record hints, temple opportunities, people not showing spouses, people with spouses but no children. These are research opportunities or temple opportunities or records the system found that might help uncover more family members. Decide what to pursue with the person or family and write down all the steps you take in your plan so you can leave it with them to use after you are gone. There can be a lot of steps in your explorations, so write them down as you go along or you'll get lost for sure!

Hopefully you get the idea. Make it personal. Help them meet their specific goals so they feel the Spirit and their hearts turn in love to their families. Offer to return to help them some more. They felt the spirit and the joy of the work and will probably either be delighted to work with you some more or feel confident and excited to continue on their own and just contact you if they need more help. 

This is fun stuff! This is where you can see that you are changing lives and helping to bring families together for eternity. What can be more satisfying than that?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Resources for Family History Consultants

Consultants who want to learn to be more effective have some excellent resources available to them.

The Family History Callings page at lds.org (https://www.lds.org/familyhistorycallings). This is a fantastic resource. It has resources for all aspects of the calling. There are 7 sections, each valuable:

Understanding My Calling has training materials for consultants in either a learn-on-your-own format or a class format as well as links to many other resources for learning.
Start with a Personal Family History Experience walks the consultant through a Find, Take, Teach experience. 
Helping Others Love Family History is perhaps my favorite section of the page as it helps a consultant understand how to plan a personalized lesson for those she works with. I think this approach is worthy of its own blog post as I am totally sold on it.
Learn to Use FamilySearch.org has answers to the most common questions that come up as people learn to use the website.
Resources for Finding Ancestors gives basic research strategies so consultants can help members find records to grow their trees.
Technical Training links to one of the other fantastic resources out there: the Family History Guide--see below.
Media Resources takes you to the LDS Media Library where you can find wonderful videos and images to use as you teach.
The Family History Guide (thefhguide.com)
This wonderful website covers sooo much. There is a section on computer basics for those who are a bit technically challenged. Beginners can start with the Family History Basics. The Projects tab takes you through step-by-step as you complete projects that get you familiar with the tools and methodology of family history. There is a Children tab that has lovely ideas for involving the whole family. The Training tab includes a section for training consultants. The Vault tab has other articles and videos. And the LDS tab is more specifically aimed at temple opportunities. Don't miss this amazing resource!

The Consultant Blog (https://familysearch.org/blog/en/consultants)
FamilySearch.org hosts several blogs. One is specific to consultants and well worth visiting on a regular basis. The posts vary a lot, but always give ideas that can help consultants and those they serve.

FamilySearch.org's Get Help
Whenever you have questions about the website, or about how to research something--or anything family history related, go to FamilySearch.org. Sign in. Click Get Help in the top right corner. In the little search box, type some key words and press Enter on your keyboard. You'll see help articles, Learning Center lessons, and wiki articles. It's hard to think of a family history question you won't find help answering here.

FamilySearch Support
If you are still stumped or confused, pick up the phone and call 1-866-406-1830 to talk to the support folks at FamilySearch.

With so many wonderful resources out there, anyone who has a desire to be an effective family history consultant can do it. I think that part of the calling needs to be setting aside regular study time so that you can be the best possible help to those you work with.


 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Training Family History Consultants

This is the first post in what I plan to make a section in the Table of Contents of my blog specific to LDS family history consultants. I hope it can become a resource and forum for them and those who direct their work.

I recently received an assignment to serve as Family History Consultant Trainer in my stake. I am beginning by traveling around my stake and visiting with high priests group leaders and consultants in each unit.

I live in southwest Virginia and our stake is large geographically and very diverse. We have university towns and we have more isolated mountain communities. So resources and computer skills vary widely. In many of the mountain communities, high speed internet is rare in the homes of the members. Likewise, the skills and understanding of consultants varies from those who really don't use computers at all to the very knowledgeable and skilled. So, the challenge is to understand how to help each do the best possible in his or her specific circumstances.

As I have pondered how to approach training for each group, I came to realize that a trainer for consultants must take the same approach as we ask the consultants to take as they work with their members. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to serving as a family history consultant, so training needs to be individualized.

So, let me launch this endeavor by talking about individualizing training--and that applies both to training consultants and helping members with their family history.

I was given my assignment in December--just after our Stake Conference. Our stake president had asked us to read the Book of Mormon before the next stake conference, so my husband and I had re-set our reading of the Book of Mormon to the beginning. Naturally, my new assignment was much on my mind, and I had been praying for direction. And, lo and behold, my answer came as we were reading in 1 Nephi. In 1 Nephi 8, we read of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life.  Then, beginning in 1 Nephi 11, we have the account of Nephi learning about the meaning of the vision.

1 Nephi 11:10
And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
Before teaching and frequently as he was teaching, the personage asked what Nephi desired. We ask consultants to do the same as they work with members--find out what their personal goals and desires are in the realm of family history. Those goals and desires will be as individual as the people they work with and we must start there if we are going to be successful in helping them feel the Spirit of Elijah and having a heart-turning and successful experience. Likewise, in training consultants I am beginning by talking to them about how they envision their calling; what are their successes; what are their challenges; what do they wish they understood better....

1 Nephi 11: 11-12
And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof... And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked....
After learning what is desired, the personage shows him something--not everything all at once, just a bit at a time. Successful consultants and trainers of consultants do the same. Step-by-step, just a bit at a time. "Look at this with me."

1 Nephi 11: 14-18
...what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
A couple of instructive things here. First,  after we show something, we check for understanding. "What beholdest thou?" and "knowest thou [what this means]" or in other words, "What do you understand from this?"

And then, isn't it interesting that the teaching of Nephi didn't actually start with what he asked to understand? He asked in verse 9 to know the interpretation of the tree in Lehi's vision. But the angel starts with Mary and the birth and mission of Jesus. Why? Nephi needed some background before he could really understand the tree. So with our members and consultants. We find out what they want to learn or do and we show them things to get them to what they want--and sometimes that involves backtracking a bit to give them sufficient background to understand.

I love this approach! It not only helps me understand how to be a good resource to the family history consultants in our stake, but it also gives me a good way to help them understand the need to learn the desires of their members before meeting with them to offer assistance.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Narrowing Your Search

Earlier, I posted about doing broad searches. But sometimes you really want to narrow things down to get specific information. This post will talk about ways to narrow searches in the Catalog and in Historical Records on FamilySearch.org

Catalog Searches

First of all, sign in--always sign in to FamilySearch.org before you start working. It makes a difference.

At the top of the home screen, hover over Search and click Catalog. Notice all the ways you can search the catalog. 


The Call Number search is not terribly useful for online searching since it pulls up books at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT. It's a good search to use if you are in the library and happen to have a call number of a book you want to find. The rest are all good ways to search online. 

The system defaults to a place search because that is most often what we want to do. We want to find records from a specific place. The other search I commonly use is the Film/Fiche Number search as I explained in the post about finding images you didn't know were there. 

What I want to point out is that you can use more than one of these search types simultaneously. For example, I am looking for a marriage record for an ancestor that I haven't been able to find searching the digitized indexed records. I believe the person was married in Catawba County, North Carolina. So, I can do both a place and a keyword search. That will limit my search results to marriage records from the place where I'm pretty sure my ancestor married. 

So, I enter the place and then click Keywords and enter Marriages. I could go a step further and click Author and enter the author as the county court records so I only get official records and no extractions. But, since the system is not terribly generous in interpreting what you enter, I don't usually do that. I'm likely to miss things if I do. Another option would be to use the Subject filter rather than Keywords. But, again, the system is not terribly generous in interpreting and, if my subject doesn't match the subject the system gave to a record, I don't find it. Here's my search:

And my search results:
So 1 periodical and 1 probate records talks about marriages. But it's the vital records I expect to be helpful, so I can click that link and look at the offerings in the usual way.

Play around with search combinations. For instance, you might search by Surname and Place if you know that your family lived in the same place for many generations and you want to find some books about the family that others have compiled. 

Records Searches

Similarly, filter your record search results to hone in on the records you really want to find. There are multiple ways you can go about filtering search results. I'll tell you the way I prefer. But play around and find what works for you. Most of the time I get to the record search page not using the Search > Records path but from the details page of an ancestor I am working on. On that page, I click FamilySearch in the Search Records box.


The system auto-populates the search fields with the name and birth information. That's a good place to start. But, if I've found most of what I want to find about someone, I often want to narrow things down more. One way to do that is to use the Collections tab, but let's look instead at the filter options in the Refine your search panel to the left of your search results. 

First, realize that you don't have to enter a name in those first 2 fields. For women, you might want to enter only the first name and use other fields to find her with parents or spouse. Sometimes you want to search with only the last name and other filters. Sometimes you leave the name fields blank and search with spouse or parent information and other filters.

You can search using birth, marriage, or death dates and/or places. Or use the Any option in the life events area to enter a place and date range of the person's life. 

The "Restrict Records by:" is especially useful. 
  • Restricting by Location means you only want to see records for a certain place. If you know the person never left Catawba County, North Carolina and you are tired of seeing search results for a person with a similar name and date range but living in Alabama, you can restrict the results to only Catawba County, North Carolina. 
  • Restricting by Type can remove the records types you already found from your search results or focus in on a particular kind of record you want to find. For instance, if I have found all the census records about my ancestor, I might click Type and then check the boxes beside everything except Census, Residence, and Lists. Or, if all I really want to find is an ancestor's military records, I can only click in the box for Military.
  • Batch number is helpful if you have the batch number from an old IGI extracted record and you expect to find other family names on that same batch of extractions. For this, you'd typically enter only a last name in name fields and then enter the Batch Number. 
  • Restricting by Film Number can be helpful if you found a digitized indexed film that you suspect has information about more family members. You can enter the film number and other information such as a surname to see if you can find more family. 
With both the batch number and film number filters, you can also just enter the batch number or film number with no other filters. This tends to give you huge numbers of search results, so only do it if you expect this film or extraction batch to yield a lot of family information.

Just like with the catalog search, you can combine filters in the record searches. Add as many as you'd like: name, birth, death, spouse, location, record type.... But be aware that if you use too many filters simultaneously you are likely to not find much. The system is trying to find records that match everything you filtered by. So, if you enter both birth and death information in your search, you'll not find a person's birth record, since the death is not recorded there. 

Bottom line: play around. Do multiple searches with different search combinations to maximize your results.