Saturday, April 30, 2011

Technical problems

I use the free screen-sharing program from for teaching my lessons at the FHC. About 7 PM, as I was about to begin my lesson, it stopped working. The internet access went down. The wireless network in the chapel was working fine, I could even print over the wireless network, it was the network's access to the internet that was "down". I unplugged the power from the DSL modem, the hardware firewall, and the wireless router; then reconnected them; and rebooted two of the computers; but it didn't restore internet access. We phoned the Stake Tech Specialist, who told us that the problem was probably with the telephone company's equipment. I phoned the telco, navigated their automated support maze, and was asked by the mechanical voice to leave a number where they could call me back. When we locked up the FHC at 9:30 PM they STILL had not called. This was all rather disappointing for me and my students.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

FamilySearch Research Wiki

In response to an invitation to create a wiki page for my Family History Centre, I created one for the Edmonton Alberta Family History Centre. After some debate with myself and with the director, we settled on the American spelling of "center" rather than the common Canadian spelling of "centre".

I ran into some snags with links and had to redo nearly all of them. I learned (again) to input the link text, then select the link text, then click the link icon and paste in the URL. Otherwise the links would work but the URLs were visible, sometimes two or three times for a single link ... very messy! The URL for the map spanned 5 lines of code, so it looked especially ugly and confusing, but it looks good now.  

I also wanted to do a good job of including links to other resources for the Edmonton area, which required additional effort, but should be helpful to researchers.

Check it out!

Here is the original invitation from FamilySearch:
"If your FHC doesn't have a wiki page, I encourage you to create one. There is a template that simplifies things. In the last few days, a person with the Family History Department has developed a quick and easy way to create a page on FamilySearch Wiki for your FHC. A few were online before, but they have made it easy to put up a page, then edit it to your center's individual needs and circumstances.
First, go to this page.
You'll see a sample showing the various parts of the page and its layout. The instructions on how to set up the page are below, in the gray box. Note, a few centers have pages, and others have been created using the center's official name, to help get some started already. You can search for your center's name to see if there is an article already.
It may take a little bit to get the hang of editing in the wiki, but we have user group meetings, one is for new users, click on the community meetings tab on the far right of any page to find the meetings and their times and call-in phone numbers. Most meetings are for specific projects, or are more technical, but some are for the newest and otherwise novice users of the Wiki when it comes to editing."

Census and Vital Records

This is my handout from the lesson I taught last Thursday.


Census - An Indispensable Resource for Family History
Censuses have been around since the earliest recorded history, especially by centralized governments all over the world. For example: The Old Testament book of Numbers gets its name from a census that was made when the pyramids were new ...
In the New Testament, the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem was for a Roman census related to taxation ...
Whenever governments wanted to know who is available to form an army or to pay taxes, it was time for another census ...
In more modern times, most of the Western world has a national census every 10 years. This allows you to follow a family backwards in time, giving a rough time-line of moves and births, marriages and deaths.
Here is the family of James Lidgett and Mary Ann Tyson in Lincolnshire, England.

The chart is compiled from census records spanning 41 years. The census gives the birth places and approximate birth years. This makes it relatively easy to find vital records.
James Lidgett born Ludford Parva, Lincoln18451845184518451845
Mary A Lidgett born Ludford Magma, Lincoln 1846184518461846
Edith Lidgett born Ludford Magma, Lincoln 18691869  
James LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  1872  
Sarah J. LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  1875  
Charles W. LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  18761875 
Mary Ann LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  18781878 
George H. LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  18801880 
Thomas LIDGITT born Ludford, Lincoln  18811882 
Fred Lidgett born Ludford Magma, Lincoln   18841884
Earnest Lidgett born Sixhills, Lincoln   18861886
Agnes Lidgett born Sixhills, Lincoln   18881888
Auther Lidgett born Benniworth, Lincoln   18901891
Vital Records
By "vital records" we mean records of major life events: birth (or christening), marriage, death (or burial). In different time periods, vital records may be kept at the national level (e.g. England and Wales), or at the state/provincial level (e.g. Canada), or at the municipal/county level (e.g. USA), or they may be kept at multiple levels – even in the countries listed above. In addition, vital records may also be kept by non-governmental organizations such as churches. Local newspapers may also record births, marriages and deaths.

Primary or Secondary Sources?
This question becomes important if different sources provide conflicting data. A primary source is a record created at the time of the event, by someone who was present. In a court of law this would be referred to as "eye witness evidence". A secondary source was created at a later time or by someone who wasn't present. In a court of law, this would be referred to as "hearsay evidence" (probably true, but open to challenge).
Your research will have greater credibility if you can support your data with sources. Your sourcing should allow other researchers to know (a) what you found and (b) where you found it. It can also be important to explain the basis of conclusions you have drawn from the evidence. PAF's notes gives plenty of space to do this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Canadian Place Names Have Been Fixed in nFS/FT

Yesterday, our Area FH Advisor's blog reported that this long-standing issue has been resolved.
I tried it out with some of my place names, and it is working properly.
So, anyone with western Canada place names in your database can now use the nFS standard place names for this area with confidence.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Updated

(December 2010)

In December 2010, the main FamilySearch website was changed. The former became the new gateway for doing web searches. For some time, the beta site had become the destination for the results of indexing projects. It also became the destination of un-indexed (browsable) image collections, that can be viewed like a series of pages on a microfilm ... which is exactly what they are. i.e. The film is digitized and catalogued but without a detailed index (If you know the place and approximate date of an event, you can usually find it within minutes. But without this information you may not find it or you may, but it will take a long time.)

The databases at are a work in progress.

It is definitely the place to search for new record sets, but for older record sets, better access is available on the old website. To get there, click to blue link on right-hand side of the home page, the link that says “Go to previous site”. Then click on Advanced Search or Search Records menu > Advanced Search, to view the familiar searches:

All Resources
Ancestral File
Census for 1880/1881 USA / Britain / Canada
International Genealogical Index
Pedigree Resource File
US Social Security Death Index
Vital Records Index for Scandinavia and Mexico

Items from the old site will continue to be added to the updated site, but at the present time, the following are not available on the updated site:

International Genealogical Index patron submissions
Ancestral File pedigrees (only individual details are viewable), no GEDCOM downloads
Census for 1881 Britain
Pedigree Resource File

The new site has the remaining items, classed in two categories:

Historical Records, includes census, parish records (including IGI), vital records, passenger lists, browsable images ... lots of new records!

Family Trees presently consists of individual records from Ancestral File.

The remaining information from the old site will eventually be added. Access to census images from affiliates is also supposed to be added when we are signed-in, but is not currently available.

You can select a database to search, or do a general Advanced or Basic search. Wildcards are accepted.

This information comes from the electronic publication “Adjusting to the new version of (8 December 2010)” from FamilySearch

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teaching Indexing

Tuesday night, for the first time, I was asked to teach indexing to a group of about 30 people (youth and their leaders) with about 15 laptop computers.

While much went right, we had our share of snags. I thought that a posting here might help things to go more smoothly for any of you planning to do the same thing.

Give participants a handout with the name of the wireless network and its password, as well as the URL for indexing. ( or

The leaders need the names and membership numbers of the youth to help them register. (Minimum age is 13 for indexing.) (This was provided by the ward membership clerk and returned to him afterwards.)

The Indexing "test drive" is best run from a computer with a 3:4 (rather than a 9:16) aspect-ratio monitor to eliminate constant scrolling up and down the screen. A projector will allow everyone to see the test drive or a 3-minute PowerPoint/Impress presentation for orientation.

Make it clear that members who already have an LDS online account should use it without registering again. If it doesn't work, then register.

Registering has the usual confusion over acceptable sign-in names and passwords. Ask everyone to write down their sign-name and password and take it home with them.
Downloading the software and installing it put a strain on the wi-fi network, as several people were doing this simultaneously. Download times increased to about 8 minutes.

Make it clear that once the software is installed, they look on the computer Desktop for the FamilySearch Indexing icon, and double-click it.

Once they run the software, they can sign-in for indexing.

Make sure that they select a Beginner batch. (usually a draft card registration or other simple document.) Some of my students didn't accept the Beginner batch suggested to them, and were overwhelmed by a more advanced-level batch.

Beginner batches do not need to have records added, so when that box pops-up they should just close it.

Have enough leaders to help them complete the batch and the Quality Check (which mostly looks for fields that have been left blank).

I noticed that some youth and leaders were reading "County" as "Country", so maybe watch for that.

If the box to transmit the batch fails to pop-up, they can use the icon (second from the left above the data entry table).


Actually, if you include all of this info in the hand-out, it should eliminate most of the problems. (I wish I had had it.)

Still, several of the youth were able to complete batches. Some did 3 or 4 batches. The YW leaders plan to do a follow-up indexing session next Tuesday without my help. If I am asked again, I will be better prepared.


Bill Buchanan

Friday, April 8, 2011

Protecting Your Family History Research

In last night's lesson, my subject was "Protecting Your Family History Research", and the areas of focus were:
Where to?
This link is to the document where I discuss these questions and offer suggestions.


Here is a hillarious genealogical horror story, that leads to the next point.

A Codicil is an addition to a Last Will & Testament. Should you give your Executor and your family members direction on what to do with your research when you die? I think the obvious answer is "Yes". Should it be in the form of a Codicil? "Maybe and maybe not". The following link is to a modified copy of a Genealogical Codicil that is available at many places on the internet. I don't know who created it nor whether it is valid in your part of the world. Still, if it gets you thinking and discussing your wishes with your probable successors, it will be worth your time to download and print a copy. On my first read of  "CLEANING MOTHER'S HOUSE", my sympathy was entirely with the deceased Barbara. On re-reading the article, my sympathy was a bit more divided. Apparently Barbara had left no instructions, leaving the self-obsessed Charlene and her children to do whatever they wanted. Maybe a Codicil with an inventory and clear instructions would have changed the outcome. I leave that to you to decide.