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 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.


  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.