Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Printed Research Guides

From time to time we receive requests for the old printed research guides from FamilySearch. We realize that these may be outdated, but some patrons still ask for them. Some can still be found at  
Or you can browse there: > Books > Family History Books > Brigham Young University Harold B Lee Library > Unique Collentions - Family History > Alphabetical List

For more up-to-date resources, use the FamilySearch Wiki: > Learn > Wiki
The wiki articles are hypertext, they can be printed but not in the form of booklets.

If you are aware of resources that are missing from the wiki, you can add them. That way we all benefit!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sourcing in the FamilySearch Family Tree

Firstly go to and click Sign In
This will take you to a form where you input your user name and password, and click the Sign In button.

Now you will return to the home page, but your name will be shown in where Sign In used to be, and there will be a new Family Tree menu beside the FamilySearch logo. Click it to view your family tree.

If your tree is not displayed, you may need to refresh the screen. If you have not yet been given access to the Family tree, click Help and search for the term: Family Tree access
Then open the document about access to the family tree, and click the internal link to get access.  

Now your tree will be displayed, with your children on your left and your ancestors on your right. You can browse your tree or click on Search to search for an individual. Click on the name, then View Person to view the information about that person. You can scroll down to see all of the information.

Scroll down to the Sources area.

To create a new source, click Create a New Source.
In our example, we will add a photograph of Thomas George Ing and his wife Martha Jane Forsbury.

We will include notes and the web address (URL) and save this source.

And now their marriage certificate:

And of course, when we have added them to Thomas, who else will we add them to?

This is where the FamilySearch Source Box is handy. We do not need to re-create the source, we just need to click on Martha's name and scroll down to her Sources. Open the Source box and attach the sources to Martha. It takes less than a minute. Compare that with adding sources on other sites and in software you may have!

This is very cool! If you have linked to a photo or document, anyone viewing the person's Details page will be able to see the photo or document by clicking the link! Try it. Search for KXVY-4H6

When we find something when researching in FamilySearch, it only takes a click to add it to our Source Box. Then we go to the person's Details (View Person) page, scroll down to Sources , open the Source Box, and Attach the source. It only takes a minute or so.

When creating sources, popular sites for uploading photos and documents include Picasa and Flickr, and of course the Public folder of your own Dropbox account if you plan to maintain it over time.

Once you have attached a source to everyone it applies to, you can safely remove it from your Source Box. (But do not remove the image from the remote website.) The source will remain attached to the people you attached it to. This will help to keep your Source Box to a manageable size.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Online Training Video Problems

Online Training Video Problems

We have some excellent free training videos especially on the new FamilySearch Family Tree
but you may experience problems.  

These videos can be found at by clicking on Help, and then looking below the search form on the left-hand side of the screen. They can also be found at / or 

Some users are finding that some videos play without a hitch, but the videos in MP4 format are impossible to use. This document should help.

I can't play many of the FamilySearch training videos available online

The link doesn't work! It brings up an error message.
The sound is muddy/it sounds like it has an echo
The picture is too large or the wrong shape for my screen

The videos that cause problems are usually in MP4 movie format, and the computer is running Microsoft Windows. (MP4 is a common Apple movie format.) The video on sourcing in the Family Tree is a typical problem case. This video can be found in the Family Tree area of the Help Center.

Your computer may not have a suitable player installed. If this is the case, you can install a free player that supports MP4 movies. Popular choices include Apple Quicktime and VLC media player

If the sound seems muffled or has an echo, you probably have the file open multiple times and the copies are playing out-of-sync with each other. In that case, close the extra players, and the sound should become crisp and clear.

If you can only see part of the picture, pressing Crtl+F may resize it to fit your screen.

Download the video:
In many cases, downloading the file will give you better control of how it looks and sounds. To download it, right-click on the link and select Save target as/Save link as, then choose a location for it. The Quicktime and VLC software have a variety of settings in the View or Video menu. In Quicktime, Ctrl+3 is the shortcut to resize the image to fit the screen.

These videos provide excellent training. If you plan to use them for a class, workshop, or other group setting, try them in advance to make sure everything is working. This is especially true if you are using an unfamiliar computer that may not have an MP4 movie player installed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Direction
We have a new director at our FHC! The change-over has gone smoothly. Our new director told us that she has been asked by the stake presidency to try to bring more young people into the FHC. Our previous director has helped our YSA ward to become involved in Indexing, and we will continue to make this a priority. But we need to do much more to get the youth and young adults involved.

I would like to plan classes that appeal to this group. I have been thinking of using the 5-Minute Genealogy videos to introduce each class. They are short, well-done, demonstrate an easily learned skill, and leave a challenge that we can follow-up in the class.

Elder Bednar's talk and the other resources at may also be a help.

I think that to gain their attention and hold it until they feel the spirit of Elijah, we will need to base our activities on practice rather than theory. And we will need to make it personal rather than impersonal. If we can help them find their own ancestors it will be more meaningful than finding someone else's ancestors. The fan chart from has been very effective in capturing the interest of "non-genealogists". Our goal is not for all members of the Church to become professional genealogists, but for all to strengthen their family ties across the generations, and to unite the family for eternity.

Perhaps we need to recognize that family history goes far beyond pedigree charts and FORs, although they are part of it. Indexing, journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, Facebook pages, and showing young children where they are in the family's story book or Book of Remembrance are part of family history too. Repeating the old family stories is another way of building bonds between the generations. At present these are mostly activities of the middle years and the senior years.

Does anyone have other suggestions to involve youth and young adults?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Plans and Realities at the FHC

Yes, I know that every shift at the Family History Center can be a new adventure. For Thursday I planned to give a lesson on Doing More With Your Scanner. I planned to use

I arrived at the FHC an hour before class time. I discovered that the multi-function printer/scanner/copier was setup for the wrong network. All of our printing is normally done on an old HP Laserjet, at a fraction of the cost of the Dell inkjet. So when the network was changed, the multi-function device was not updated. A quick Google check indicated that updating it required uninstalling the software and re-installing it. While looking for the software CD, I found a USB cable I could use to connect the multi-function device directly to one of the computers. I was now able to scan and do OCR, and I had 5 minutes to spare before class time.

We had just two patrons, and they had other priorities, so we decided to help them. Lois wanted to know how to create books from her PAF database. She had created books full of photos on some of her family lines, and was looking for an easier way. This topic was fresh in my mind because I had given online training on that very topic just the previous day! So I proceeded to show her how to generate Ancestor (Ahnentafel) books and Descendancy (Modified Register) books including the default photos. She didn't know how to link photos to records in PAF so I showed her. She was amazed at how PAF could create a whole book in just a few minutes instead of months of time.

Her daughter Carol had a different question. "I have this new Mac laptop. How do I get my mother's genealogy on it?"

I asked what genealogy software she had, and she didn't have any yet. I suggested that she try the free Personal Ancestry Writer II software for MacOS-X. A Google search for [la nopalera software] found it at  Carol installed it on her Mac Book while I helped Lois export a gedcom file. We plugged the flash drive into the Mac, and Carol found how to import the gedcom into PAWII. She was impressed that in a minute or two she had her mother's whole family tree on her Mac.

So things did not go as planned, but a good time was had by all!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Best Choice of Web Browser?

Why would a FHC want to use Internet Explorer?
The main reason is that the Portal assumes that you are using IE. That is sufficient reason!

Why would a FHC not want to use Internet Explorer?
IE has serious compatibility problems that pop up at the most inconvenient times. Sometimes the patron is unable to see a document image. Other times a patron is trying to register for an account and is unable to advance beyond the page with the Captcha security text. If so, the patron will get stuck at the same spot when trying to recover a forgotten user name or reset a password!

Often the IE compatibility problem can be solved by setting the compatibility mode for the website. This is most easily done by looking for the "torn page" icon in the address bar. If the icon's background is gray, click it to turn it blue, and the problem is usually solved.

My personal suggestion is that FHCs should have Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome installed. That way if they run into a problem with one browser the solution is just a click away. The hard disks in most FHCs are nearly empty, and these are relatively small programs. I see no reason not to have them available. Safari is a good option, but probably not necessary if the other three major browsers are installed.

I would avoid installing the free toolbars etc. that are offered during installation of the browser.
I would leave IE as the default browser, as the Portal expects it. Run FF or Chrome as needed.
When patrons wish to register for FS or LDS accounts, use FF (or Chrome) to avoid problems with Captcha. The same is true for recovering user names and resetting passwords, where Captcha can be a roadblock.
It is handy for FS Support if patrons can access their web-based email in the FHC (recover/reset uses email) but that would be subject to local policy.

My personal suggestion would be to use IE if you don't have any problems, and switch to FF or Chrome to deal with the problem, and then return to IE.

As the Family History Department moves everything to the internet over the coming years, the web browser becomes the key to accessing all of these services. For the present at least, I believe that every FHC should have a recent version of the three major web browsers installed on their machines.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cordless Telephone

I spent a frustrating Support call with a family history consultant in a FHC, where they did not have a cordless phone and where the telephone cord was really short. So every instruction and item of feedback had to be relayed through the consultant (at the telephone) to the patron (at the computer). Sometimes the instructions were garbled in translation.

Before our FHC got a cordless phone (less than $40), I brought a 25 foot phone cord from home (about $3), so that I could talk with the technician while sitting at the computer. If you do not currently have some way to talk to Support while you are at any of your computers, please consider it. This is my personal suggestion, not from FamilySearch.


Bill Buchanan
(FamilySearch Product Support)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What to Do?

The question was asked, “What do I do if a patron comes into the FHC and I (with minimal or no training) am the only person available to help them?” Here are some suggestions (I welcome any additions!)

Ask “How may I help you?”

If they already have films or know what to do, just say, “Please go ahead.”

If they are unsure, ask “What country and time period are you interested in researching?”

If they are researching Canada, USA or UK between 1840-1910, suggest they check the records in and other commercial sites (Computers > Portal > Premium Sites >

For all areas of the world and a wider time-span, suggest (Computers > Portal > FamilySearch > Records)
Then try searching the Trees on by clicking the Trees menu.
And also try:
Family History Library Catalog (i.e. the list of the microfilmed records). This can be found in Computers > Portal >  FamilySearch > Catalog > Place-name
They can find if we have microfilmed records for the time and place they are researching.
Films can be rented for 90 days at, and viewed at the FHC.

To find resources for research, try and search for the place.

If they want training, suggest the training videos at Computers > Portal > Learn
There are hundreds of training videos to choose from, for beginners to advanced researchers, and in a variety of countries.

OK … what other suggestions do you have? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Printing a Free Fan Chart from (also

For this to work, you must already be registered for nFS ( Your local Family History Center may be able to help you to register. The colored 9-generation fan charts are beautiful, but you may need to save the electronic copy and take it to a quick printing shop that has large sizes of paper to have it printed. If you have Adobe Reader 10 installed on your computer you can probably print the chart in a "tiled" format across several sheets of normal-sized paper. Another option is to save the electronic (PDF) file and email it to family members. The charts are beautiful.

This process allows you to print a chart for anyone whose Person IDentifer number you know:
Go to
Click Start Now
Click Login (below the FamilySearch logo)
Input nFS user name and password
Click Sign in (window closes when done)
Click Create Tree
Click on the link to the person, or scroll down and input the PID of anyone in nFS
Click Create Data Set (window closes when done)
Click Create Chart
Click Open or Save to open or save your fan chart. (If you save it, choose a meaningful name and location so you can find it again.)

NOTE: The person whose fan chart you are printing does NOT need to be a registered user of nFS, they just need a record in nFS (i.e. have a Person IDentifier) You can check in nFS for someone's PID (e.g. George Washington) and input the PID (KNDX-MKG) in to create a fan chart of his ancestors. Try it.

This site is sometimes busy. Be patient, if nothing happens for 10 minutes it may be necessary to reload the page to complete the process.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Handout for Teaching Indexing to a Youth Group

FamilySearch Indexing

The Church has billions of family history records stored on microfilm. Searching microfilm is very slow.
1. You check the FamilySearch Catalog for the numbers of the films you are interested in.

2. Then you pay to rent the films.
3. Then you wait 3-4 weeks for the films to arrive at the Family History Center.
4. Then you go to the FHC and spend 2-4 hours per film reading the records, looking for the record you are interested in. You need to know approximately when and where the event took place.

When indexing, you create a computer searchable index, allowing researchers to search thousands of films in a few seconds. As a researcher, even if you do not know the exact time and place of an event, there is an excellent chance of finding it.

REGISTERING: In advance, LDS members should register for an LDS Account, if possible. This can be done at or or

If you do not have an LDS Account, you can register for a FamilySearch account. These are available to the general public. (Minimum age is 13 for indexing unless there is parental approval.)

Registering has the usual confusion over acceptable user names and passwords. Write down your user name and password and keep it with you. (User names must be unique. The password must be a combination of at least 8 letters and numbers.)

Our network in the chapel is ______________ and the password is __________________

If you are bringing a laptop, try to install the indexing software at home, as the wi-fi in the chapel slows to a crawl when you get 8 people trying to download the software at the same time. Get the software by clicking on Get Started at or
Try the Two-Minute Test Drive to get an idea of how indexing works.

If we can arrange for a projector, it will allow everyone to see the Indexing Test Drive. They can also watch and provide suggestions as someone does indexing.  This is handy if you have more people than computers.

Once the software is installed, look on the computer Desktop for the FamilySearch Indexing icon, and double-click it to run the program.
Make sure that you select a Beginner batch. (usually a draft card registration or other simple document.) Beginner batches do not need to have records added, so when that box pops-up just close it.
Leaders can help you complete the batch and the Quality Check (which mostly looks for fields that have been left blank).
If the window to transmit the batch fails to pop-up, use the icon (second from the left above the data entry table).

We had about 15 boys and leaders last night, and it worked out very well. The boys were 12-13 year-old Scouts, and quickly caught on. At least one completed multiple batches. Good job boys!