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!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Great Place to Learn

If you haven't discovered it yet, I suggest you make a visit to 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 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 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!