Friday, January 30, 2015

Last night at the FHC

Yesterday evening, we had 8 teenage girls and one leader in the Riverbend Family History Centre. Neila Davidson, the director, was also there to help us. The goal was help the girls to become "submitters of temple ordinances" as defined in the quarterly reports. i.e. someone who has Printed a FOR (family ordinance request) or else Shared ordinances with the temple.

Steps involved included, finding people:
(1) related to the girl by a definable relationship
(2) dead for at least a year
(3) who were missing one or more temple ordinances
(4) who were born over 110 years ago or for whom permission was granted by an immediate family member

Step 3 included checking for duplicate records and merging them. (This immediately eliminated some good prospects.)

One girl was ecstatic that she had found a missing ordinance that "the experts" in her family had missed! It was a sealing, so she will need to give the ordinance card to an adult who can serve as proxy, but she will have accomplished her goal of submitting an ordinance.

Three of the girls were from long-time LDS families, the others were second or third generation LDS. I was able to help two girls to find missing ordinances and print Family Ordinance Requests. A third girl was also able to print a FOR. This has to be the most FORs I have seen printed in our FHC during a single shift! A 4th FOR will be printed when permission is received from the girl's grandmother, a former FHC director. It was a hectic, but very rewarding evening.


For the last two Thursday evenings I have been able to spend a few minutes of my shift at the Riverbend Family History Centre searching  the newspaper archives at

My experience with digitized newspapers has usually been negative. The OCR (optical character recognition) has been so poor that searching them has usually been more frustration than it is worth. I was happy to discover that the OCR quality at was generally excellent. My search criteria were: Buchanan Neepawa

It is sure handy to have a unique place name like Neepawa to search!

Encourage your patrons to give it a try with their family lines. For people born in the last 100 years it can be one of the best resources, and it is free at the FHC.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT) keeps getting better and better. If you are a family history consultant or serve in a FHC you should find this site helpful.

It contains some very good lesson material prepared by people that I consider experts.

A word of caution: The site sometimes has a problem with the registration process. It may bring up a screen that asks you to invite all of your email contacts to join this group. If it happens, do not allow it to do so! There should be a link that allows you to decline this offer. If you cannot find this link, close the page.

I believe you can use the material without registering. If so, that would be a good option.

Note that this is not an official FamilySearch site but is operated by people who have a strong background in FamilySearch. They have some valuable cautions about common mistakes made when using FSFT and suggestions for avoiding these mistakes. They come across as quite strong on avoiding doing ordinances for duplicate records, which I appreciate. I like the comparison "Doing ordinances for someone whose ordinances are already done, is like ignoring the pioneers stranded out on the plains and rushing to rescue those who are already safely in the valley."

Get Help on also contains good material, but check out too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Handy Translation Tools

Frequently our patrons are working on records in other languages. Sometimes we have local people who are willing to help. Calling FamilySearch Support will bring help, but not usually with the translation of documents.

Most of us are familiar with using Google Translate to translate text from one language into another. This is a wonderful tool!

But did you know that the Google Chrome browser has the ability to translate web pages? (In my FHC Firefox is the default browser, but Chrome is available at the click of a mouse.)

During a recent Stake cultural activity we had hundreds of visitors, many of whom came into the FHC, where we had some excellent conversations! One lady asked if FamilySearch has any records from Ukraine. I showed her the browseable images and we did a search of the indexed records. But she could not read the Cyrillic alphabet, so the search results were gibberish to her. I switched from viewing the page in Firefox to to viewing  the page in Chrome, and I right-clicked on an empty spot on the screen. The pop-up menu included the choice "Translate to English". And in seconds the page was translated into English. Wow!

In the example above, the same exact page of search results is seen in Ukrainian and in English.
The Ukrainian version shows the names in Ukrainian, but the dates and descriptions are in English.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Relative Finder ... Wow!

In a recent FamilySearch newsletter there was a link to a BYU site called Relative Finder. I decided to give it a try, but I was not very hopeful. I am a convert. In 40 years of research I have not found any royalty or anyone rich and famous in my family tree. But I was curious. Like most researchers, I am used to dead ends and brick walls. But I am always hopeful that some new tool will bring new successes.

So I clicked the link to  and put in my LDS account credentials, and clicked to search all lists. Well! Surprisingly, I was related to some LDS pioneers and also Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the twelve! Wow! I was vaguely familiar with the fact that one branch of my May family had emigrated to the new world, where son John was somewhat prominent, and on the charts generated by the website, the May family proved to be my connecting link.

My wife became intrigued, so she signed in. She is from a convert family that has done research for even longer than I have. We knew that some of her ancestors were United Empire Loyalists and were descended from original settlers of Massachusetts and Connecticut, but we had never found any connection to royalty. Well, Relative Finder found hundreds of famous relatives, including Robert The Bruce, William The Conqueror, Charlemagne, and many other kings. Obviously the process of verifying these connections will be the work of many years of research. But it is exciting to see the possibilities.

I think it is important to avoid the trap of getting wrapped up in "celebrity hunting", when there are humbler and much closer ancestors who are available for temple ordinances. Charlemagne doesn't need to have his ordinances done for the 375th time. But there may be an Agnes Peabody or a Domna Haluszka somewhere in the family tree who is waiting anxiously for us to find her and see that her ordinances are done.

If you are looking for a way to spark the interest of long-time members who are disinterested in family history, maybe give Relative Finder a try. Once an interest is sparked, see if you can direct it into productive work.

Fall Family History Fair

This was the brain child of Helen Gwilliam, an Assistant Director of the Edmonton Riverbend FHC.
She organized the whole thing and did an amazing job of expanding it beyond the borders of a "genealogy open house". In fact it didn't take place at the FHC, or even in Edmonton, but in the nearby city of Spruce Grove. It was done in cooperation with Alberta Culture and included a wide variety of activities for young and old, from variations of hopscotch, fish pond, and sidewalk painting, to research classes and story telling. I taught some research classes, but that was the limit of my involvement. Everything was organized by Helen. The Parkland and Spruce Grove wards were heavily involved, as well as other members and non-members.

This was a display of brands and family stories,
one of many activities there.

Good work everyone and especially Helen! I could never have done what you did. You involved people that I would not have expected ... doing things I would never have thought of. You are amazing! Our FHC is really fortunate to have you on our staff.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Free LDS Accounts for Large Commercial Sites

Patrons at your FHC may ask about this. It has had a lot of discussion, but there still seems to be some confusion. Formerly, there was a need to wait for a personal invitation, but now that is unnecessary. Just click the links given at:  Since I live in Canada, my free account is with but I have access to the info on  I am spending a lot of time there.

If you need additional help, call the toll-free support number for your part of the world to get help from a real, live person. This link will give you the contact info

The FamilySearch blog posting starts off by saying:
"Create Your Own Free Accounts with Our FamilySearch Partners
We’re excited to announce that all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as LDS youth ages 13-17, can now create their own personal accounts with, findmypast, and MyHeritage at no cost!"

Note that this offer is not extended to those who have a FamilySearch account for the general public, only those who have an LDS account. Why? Because these companies depend on subscriptions to pay their expenses. Giving free accounts to everyone who has a free FamilySearch account would quickly put these companies out of business. The deal, as I understand it is: the LDS Church is giving these commercial sites access to the world's largest repository of genealogical records (the Granite Mountain Record Vaults), and in return these companies provide LDS members with free access to their online records. These companies are also supposed to help index the records in the vaults. So it is a win-win situation. The indexes will be accessible on for free. We will all benefit from more records online than ever before.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Proving Your Pedigree

In my ward, I have been asked to teach a class during Sunday School on using Family Tree. I particularly enjoy using the Search Records link on the Person page as a way of researching and sourcing. I have always found Sourcing to be difficult, but this link has changed that. It has become easy and almost fun! Seeing the tally of sources for my ancestor increase, has almost become like a video game, bringing the satisfaction of improving your score. If you add a free and easy-to-use tool for sourcing online sources found on other sites, it just keeps getting better. I wrote the following handout for my class. Please note that my definition of "source" is just my definition. Better ones exist. If this handout is useful to you I invite you to use it or adapt it to meet your needs. You will probably want to add to it.
Note that Search Records allows you individually source multiple people on the same record by attaching it to one person, clicking the next member of the family and attaching it to them by name, etc. This is the preferred way of using sources.
Tree Connect does not seem to have that degree of specificity, you may need to identify the source as "James Watson household in the 1852 census, Edwardsburgh, Grenville, Canada West.", and then use the Source Box to attach the same source to all the members of the family. Tree Connect saves time and work.


Proving Your Pedigree

Sources are records that prove events and relationships, or provide strong evidence of them. 

Sources may be classified in these ways:
Primary sources are records created at or about the time of an event using information provided by someone who was present when the event happened.  e.g. birth certificate or marriage certificate, christening record from a church register
Secondary sources are records created at a later time. e.g. a census may be a primary source of relationships but a secondary source of birth information. A tombstone likewise.
Original Sources are original documents or photographic copies.
Derivative Sources are transcriptions or partial transcriptions of the document

Many good books have been written on sources. See Evidence Explained, by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Creating Sources in Family Tree
1. The easy way is to click Search Records on the Person page, find and Attach the source document.

2. An Alternative is to click Create Source in the Source area of the Person page and follow the prompts. This is much more flexible, as it allows you to use documents that are not online.

3. Tree Connect is a free tool that simplifies attaching online sources that come from online sites outside of FamilySearch, to Family Tree. Go to and drag the Tree Connect icon to your browser's bookmark/favorites tool bar.  Then when you find an online source you want to use, click on the Tree Connect bookmark, and follow the prompts to attach that source to the person.

The Possibility of Error
Even using the best sources does not eliminate the possibility of a mistake, but it sharply reduces that possibility. I had one line “proven”, based on finding the birth, marriage, and death records of my ancestor Elizabeth Goldring in a rural parish in Sussex, England. Then I received a photographic copy of a will that proved that the birth was for a different Elizabeth Goldring, who married in a different parish. Even using good sources, I had made an error. The marriage and death sources were for my Elizabeth, but the birth source was for someone else.
We do the best we can with the information available, and make corrections as needed.

What Should Be in Your Source Citation?
A source should identify the individual, the type of source record, where the record is found, and the key contents of the record. It should allow other researchers to find the same source.

Durability of Online Sources
Personal websites can have some of the best information one day and disappear the next day. Company and government websites tend to be more durable. FamilySearch has said that they will never change the URLs of the documents in their Historical Records collections. Some online sources are only available to paid subscribers. Get in the habit of quoting the key information as part of the source citation. That way the information will continue to be available, even if the source record disappears.

FamilySearch encourages the use of sources, but they are not required when reserving temple work.