Sunday, January 21, 2018

Changing Parent-Child Relationship types

Parent-child relationships are not always simple, and in genealogy sometimes that can make things a little more complicated. I thought I'd show an example from my tree and how I decided to deal with it.

The census record below shows Kristjan Peter Madsen and his family in the 1890 Denmark census. In the household are his wife and two sons, but there is also another child, Jens Peter Jensen, who is designated as a plejebarn (foster child).

When I find a plejebarn in a family, I generally try to find that child's birth record. Often these children are relatives of other members of the household (for example, if a woman had a child out of wedlock and didn't marry the father, her parents would take in the child). So finding these children can give me more information about other members of the family.

The census record says Jens Peter Jensen was born in Horby parish and he is age three, so with that information I was able to find his birth record. Here is the left page:

By the way, Kr. Peter Madsen is listed as one of the witnesses or godparents on the right page.

From this record I now have his birth date and I know that his mother was Johanne Marie Jensen of Faurholthuus. She is designated as Ugifte (single) and there is no father listed.

Recently I looked again at Jens Peter Jensen and noticed that another use had added a link to his marriage record (notice that Christian Peter Madsen is one of the witnesses):

So now the question is, where does Jens Peter Jensen belong on the Family Search Family Tree? I don't have enough information to figure out who his father is, and I also wasn't able to find much about his mother. When I was initially researching him I only had enough information to add him and his mother, so they would have been free floaters in the tree. In addition, he apparently had a close relationship with Kristian/Christian Peter Madsen's family because Christian was his godparent and a witness at his marriage. Jens was probably raised by Christian Peter Madsen and his wife Ane Margrethe Pedersen. So that foster child/parent relationship was probably important too, maybe even more important than his relationship with his biological parents.

In the end what I decided to do was give Jens Peter Jensen two sets of parents: his mother with an unknown father, and Christian Peter Madsen and Ane Margrethe Pedersen who were his foster or adoptive parents. To make it clear for other researchers why I did it this way, I added all my sources and explanations and edited the parent-child relationship so that it notes he is a foster child. Here is how you do that:

First, here is Jens Peter Jensen shown in Christian Peter Madsen's family with the note that his relationship with these parents is "Foster."

To change the parent relationship type, you click the gray icon to the right of the person's name (I think it's meant to be a pencil?).

When you click that icon, this screen appears:

For each parent you can click "Add Relationship Type" (in blue). When you do this a drop-down menu will appear and you can choose the type of relationship and give a reason the information is correct. The drop-down menu is hiding that there is also an option to add a date, which could be useful in many situations, such as if you have documentation of an adoption date or if you want to indicate how long a foster child lived with a family.

Next you can click save and repeat this for the other parent. Then when the child is shown in the list of children there will be a designation of their relationship type.

In the case of step parents, you could designate a parent-child relationship where one parent is the step parent and one is the biological parent.

I should note that this does make the ordinances available for the child to be sealed to those parents, and in fact somebody did reserve the sealing of Jens Peter Jensen to Christian Peter Madsen and Ane Margrethe Pedersen. Deceased people can be sealed to multiple sets of parents. Personally this doesn't bother me because I think God (and the Spirits whose temple work we perform) recognizes that we are imperfect and doing the best with the information we have. The way I see it, if someone is sealed to multiple sets of parents, that will be resolved at some point, and we're not going to be forced to be sealed to parents we don't want to be with. Maybe in this case Jens would prefer to be sealed to the parents who raised him, or maybe this is a blessing for him since without any information about his father he couldn't be sealed to his biological parents at all. I've also found that if we listen, sometimes we are able to get some communication from beyond the veil to help us decide what to do in these complicated situations.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Accuracy vs. Good Experience: What to Do if You Have Many Names in Your Family Tree

When I help people at my local family history center, I often encounter people who have very full family trees, and I've been at a loss for how to help them find a name to take to the temple. The church has made some excellent materials explaining the basics of descendancy research, but what I couldn't find was any explanation of what to do if there were errors on those lines. When I started doing family history I really didn't expect to ever find people who needed temple work, so I made it my project to add life histories and photos and make sure my ancestors' entries on Family Search were accurate, complete, and cleaned up. It took me a few years of work before I was able to do descendancy research and find family names, and that didn't really bother me. And as annoying as the errors and messes are, I view them as a challenge and I find it fulfilling to make those parts of the tree accurate again.

But I realize that I'm probably the anomaly. I didn't want to intimidate people who are new at family history by telling them they would have to do all this before they could find family names. However, I also wasn't sure if it was right to encourage people to do temple work for someone when they haven't verified that they're actually related to that person. So for months I've been left feeling uncertain how to teach people with full trees.

Next month my stake is hosting a Family Discovery Day, and I've been asked to teach a class for people with many names in their tree. I was looking at the church's suggested lesson outline and found this:

"Explain that while searching for these icons class members may come across data problems, missing sources, or possible duplicates. Encourage class members to skip these issues and come back once they have more experience in searching records or ask for help from other family members or friends who do."

So I guess that's my answer. And in a lot of ways it makes sense. Yes, it grates on my organized side that wants everyone to do it the way I did, but for inexperienced genealogists that's going to be really intimidating and drive them away. Considering that only about 5% of Latter-Day Saints are involved in family history, my guess is that the church is just trying to get more people to do it. If a person can have a good experience finding a name and doing that person's work, they are more likely to come back and do more, and this will eventually lead to them getting more experience. Then they can help with cleaning up the data errors if they feel led to do it. Plus they'll hopefully tell family and friends how to do it too so that more people will give it a try. So at this point the goal is probably just to get people to try.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Why I'm Committed to Using Family Search

I've talked to several people who tell me they've stopped putting their genealogy on Family Search because they don't like other people changing it. Many of these are people who have done genealogy their entire life and spent countless hours reading microfilm, looking through books in courthouse basements, and searching cemeteries to find the information they need. Then they get onto Family Search and find that after all that hard work somebody added incorrect children or spouses or merged their great-great grandfather with someone completely different.

I get it. I'm currently watching 309 people on Family Search and I know to some people that number is low. Lately my Weekly Changes emails from Family Search tend to have over 100 changes that I have to verify, and usually there are at least a few merges or added relationships that I have to check and fix. I know several people in my family deal with this too.

But I won't stop using Family Search. I'm committed to it, and here's why:

  • It's reducing duplicate temple work. Before the unified family tree, you had to look people up on the Temple Ready discs, which had to be updated and sent to family history centers periodically and missed a lot of duplicates. With the Possible Duplicates feature and the Find feature it's a much faster and more effective process to look for duplicates and avoid doing someone's temple work unnecessarily.
  • It connects distant relatives, making it possible for them to share information as well as inherited items or pictures. One of my favorite things is to look at one of my ancestors and find that someone uploaded a photo or diary. I have even been able to share audio files of my grandfather (who I never met) singing to my mom.
  • Having a unified family tree makes it so that I don't have to do all the research from scratch. If another relative has already done all that research and shared in on Family Search, I can look through the information they've added to see if it seems right, enjoy any memories that have been shared, and move on. That frees me to work on other people who haven't been researched yet.
  • It's an efficient way to reserve temple work and check to make sure the ordinances were recorded properly. It's also an efficient way to share ordinance cards with my family.
  • While the interface isn't perfect (I would like to see ways to tag sources to events other than birth, christening, death, and burial), for the most part I really like the program and enjoy using it. I love that we can view our trees in several different ways (fan chart, vertical, horizontal, descendancy) and add sources with explanations.
  • Because the tree is open for editing, I can quickly make changes instead of having to call church officials or submit dispute forms. This saves me a lot of time and it also means that people who would have to process disputes have more time to spend elsewhere.
  • Family Search Family Tree has made it possible like never before for descendancy research to be done. Previously this was just too complicated because you had to check for ordinances on Temple Ready, so we focused on tracing our own ancestors, which is why a lot of us descendants of pioneers thought our genealogy was all done. Now the potential for temple work on my family tree is enormous.
  • By sharing my research on Family Search I get access to Family Search's record hints, which are getting more accurate all the time. This saves me a lot of time because I can find a lot of information without even having to do a search and look through results.
  • Having my family history on Family Search makes it more likely that all the research I have done will be preserved for future generations. How many people do you know who have everything saved in boxes and boxes of notebooks or on old floppy disks? Are their descendants going to happily sort through all that when they inherit it, or will they be apathetic about it?
  • If not me, then who? I do good research and I am experienced enough with the program that I can make good contributions and I can work through the process of fixing the complicated messes. If all the good researchers abandon the program it will just descend into chaos. I stay because I feel that I've been called to contribute and especially to help deal with the messes and inaccuracies.
  • Many of the features on Family Search have made family history work much more efficient, which means we find temple opportunities much more quickly as well. In fact, the church no longer has to rely on extraction work at all because there are enough people submitting names for the temple to fulfill all the temples' needs. And with over 150 temples throughout the world, that means that God is truly hastening the work of redeeming the dead!
  • In Doctrine and Covenants 128:24, it says: "Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation." I suspect that this "book" will be the unified family tree on Family Search. Personally I want to be able to say that I did what I could to contribute to it!

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Share on Family Search

Genealogy is a fairly solitary activity. Family Search shows pictures of families gathered around a laptop and smiling, but I suspect that for most who use it we are working on our computers alone and most collaboration happens through web communication.

A common complaint about Family Search is having to deal with people changing "our" genealogy. Many of these people have been working on their family history for decades, before the unified family tree on Family Search was created. They're used to working alone and previously didn't have to deal with strangers who were researching the same people.

Since I'm one of the few young genealogists, this hasn't been my experience. The Family Search Family Tree was created soon after I got interested in family history, and for the most part I've been thrilled with the program.

In recent months, however, I've found that I can relate more and more to the possessive attitude some people have adopted about their family history. My early experiences were researching people who I was clearly "sharing" with others because I was simply adding pictures and stories I had inherited and making sure my pioneer relatives were documented with sources. In contrast, my experiences in the past two years have been more independent because I've added at least 100 people to the tree and I've been doing research about people that other users hadn't worked on. I don't know that I feel "possessive" about those people (or their names), but I did put a lot of work in and I had the information entered the way I liked it.

With the recent addition of the Denmark Church Records database to Family Search, I've seen a lot more users making changes on these people who I worked on, and I've been feeling a little resentful of that. So I guess I'm not immune to it. Generally the changes are fairly benign--someone added some record hints or changed a place name, for example--but I cringe if I see a merge or relationship change because it could mean spending a couple of hours undoing a bad merge or restoring deleted relationships.

Anyway, here are my tips for "sharing" the space on Family Search:

  • Acknowledge that your family history "style" might not work for other users, and therefore they might make changes so they can understand the information. For example, you might prefer sources organized by type, whereas others might prefer sources arranged in alphabetical order. You might want every single residence, occupation, and variation of names added to "Other Information," whereas other users might not feel a strong need for that./
  • Remember that other users on Family Search are real people too. Sure, they mistakenly introduce errors into the family tree, but they're also the Relief Society sister who is always the first to volunteer to bring meals for the sick or the high priest who shows up to help every time someone moves. They're not deliberately trying to make life harder for you--they're good, well-intentioned people making honest mistakes or still developing their research skills.
  • In fact, other users on Family Search are your family.
  • Focus on the "collaboration" aspect of Family Search rather than feeling like you need to protect your research. Look forward to seeing the information other people might add that builds on your research. In a lot of ways it's actually really great that we can all work on the tree, because that means we don't have to do research if someone else has already put in that work. It's fun when someone else adds a record that you weren't able to find.
And here are some practical tips that seem to help prevent/reduce/deal with the big messes:
  • Add all of your sources with good explanations and transcribe the information into Family Search. Sometimes I talk to people who complain that someone messed up their genealogy or did a bad merge, but if you look at the person they added, they entered the basic information and didn't add their sources. If someone else comes along, that makes it a lot harder for them to distinguish "your" Billy Hopkins in Edgefield, South Carolina from another Billy Hopkins from Columbia, South Carolina. Make your places very complete. Monroe, Sevier, Utah, United States--not just Utah.
  • Move important records like birth/death/marriage certificates and censuses closer to the top of your source list so that they're easier for you and other users to find.
  • "Watch" anyone who you have made significant changes on by clicking the star at the top of their page. You will get a weekly email with a list of changes made to anyone who you are watching. Then you can check these changes to make sure they make sense and fix anything that's wrong. (But again, remember that by using Family Search you're collaborating.)
  • Send messages if there is a problem. Click on the name of the person who made the change, and a box will come up that has their email address and an option to send them a message. If you click Send a Message then the message will include a link to the person you are referencing, which can be helpful. Again, keep in mind that these are real people and be polite and friendly. A nasty message could make a new user so discouraged they stop doing genealogy, whereas a kind message with a correction or question could help that person learn (or you could find out you were wrong).
  • Look through all the record hints and possible duplicates and choose whether they should be rejected or added. Sometimes inexperienced users just assume that Family Search's automated hints must be correct and add everything, or they assume that same name = same person.
  • You can look through the entire list of changes to any person by clicking "Show All Changes" under "Latest Changes." You can undo merges or go to deleted people and restore them.
  • If you make a correction, give a thorough explanation. Refer to sources to back up the change you have made. Make use of the discussions, notes, and life history sections to explain your research.
  • Keep a personal copy of your research in another family tree. is a popular one and is free for members of the LDS church. I also like RootsMagic. This way if someone makes incorrect changes on Family Search you'll have a separate copy that will help you restore the information. Make sure to save your sources on your backup tree.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Denmark Church Records added to Family Search

Almost two years ago when I started doing Danish Family History, the only Danish records on Family Search were from an incomplete database of indexed baptism records (no image). With the help of the Research Wiki page about Denmark Genealogy I taught myself how to find records using a combination of looking at indexed census records on Danish Family Search and browsing through church records on Arkivalieronline.

At some point My Heritage acquired and indexed a huge number of Danish church books and census records, which has been really helpful at times. And now it looks like Family Search has gotten access to their databases and these records are available on Over the past several months I've started noticing record hints about census records coming up. Then within the past couple of weeks the database "Denmark Church Records, 1484-1941" was apparently uploaded because my tree has exploded with record hints from this collection.

I've had mixed feelings about this. Part of me wonders why I felt so led to start doing Danish family history the hard way when I could have probably found these people in a much shorter amount of time if I had waited until now. I guess the benefit is that I learned some very valuable research techniques in the process that will continue to help me even with the indexed collections on Family Search. Not all of the records are indexed correctly, which means they won't all show up as record hints (or if they do, I've found that often the places are wrong), but I can still look them up on Arkivalieronline or Danish Family Search since I know how. I've also gained a fair amount of skill in reading gothic script and deciphering the records, which I probably wouldn't have picked up as well if I had been able to find these records through the record hints.

The explosion of record hints also means that I have a huge amount of work to do right now going through all the people I've researched and adding the record hints. The reason I need to work on this is because other well-meaning Family Search users often crawl through their trees adding all the record hints without giving a thought to whether they are correct or not. Then when I get my weekly changes email from Family Search I find out about bad merges and extra spouses and children from the other side of the country added to families, so I get to clean up the mess. I figure if I add the record hints myself I can prevent some of those headaches in the future. But it's a big project right now.

But once I get all of that sorted out, I can already tell that I'm going to be able to do research much faster than I ever have before. With record hints and searches on Family Search it will be incredibly easy to find records about people and in many cases quickly add entire families to the tree. God really is hastening the work of redeeming the dead. Ultimately I see this as an incredible blessing.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Help! Parts of my tree are missing!

A problem I often come across when helping people in my local family history library is missing portions of a family tree. In the most recent situation, a patron knew that her family tree went back several generations because she had seen them on her son's tree, but on her own tree there was a line that stopped at two of her great-grandparents. She was concerned that she would have to redo all of that research and add all the people one by one.

Fortunately, resolving this problem is actually much easier than this. If you know the line goes several generations back, all you need to do is find the people's profiles on Family Search and connect them to your family. Then the rest of the ancestors should show up. Here I'm going to walk through one situation like this that I found while doing research.

In the image below, you can see that the line stops at Cilius Sorensen. Neither of his parents are listed. I know his tree should extend farther back than this because I know his father and paternal grandparents are already on Family Search.

What I need to do is find his father and connect him to Cilius Sorensen, and when I do that the grandparents will already be connected as well.

First, I click Add Father:

When I do that, this form opens up:

I know that Cilius' father's name was Rasmus Christian Sorensen, and he was born in about 1856 in Glesborg, Randers, Denmark, so I enter this information in the appropriate fields and click next.

On the next screen, Family Search shows me some possible matches.

Usually at this point people recognize the names or information and it's an easy matter to add the ancestors to the person's tree. In this case, I know the first possible match is the correct one because I recognize his parents' names and the birth information matches. So I click the blue Add Match button and that will add Rasmus Christian Sorensen and his parents to Cilius Sorensen's tree.

Here is what Cilius Sorenson's tree looks like after clicking Add Match:

As you can see, the only person I had to add was his father, and the grandparents were automatically added since they were already connected to Rasmus Christian Sorensen.

You may have to add a generation or two of living people before you can hook up to the people already on Family Search. For example, I wanted to be able to see my husband's ancestors on my tree, so I had to create new pages for his parents, who are still living, then when I added their parents I was connected to my husband's entire tree.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How to Restore Deleted People in Family Search

Recently I was researching a relative and trying to find more information about her husband. I started with only his name and the town where his family lived, but with that information I was able to find them in two censuses and learned that his parents and siblings had already been added to Family Search, although I had to do some merges to get them all together.

I added my relative's husband to their family as well. I had found and merged some duplicates for him, but none of them had any temple work done. However, as I looked through this person and all his siblings I noticed that he was the only one who hadn't hadn't had any ordinances completed. I thought this was odd because it looked like their records had been created in an extraction project, which means this person should have been included in that project. When I searched for him using Find no other people on Family Search came up.

This was when it occurred to me that he might have existed on Family Search at some point but been deleted for some reason. So I started searching to see if I could find the deleted person.

I started by going through the father's list of changes. If you click "Show all" in the Latest Changes box, you can see all the changes that have been made to a person since they were created in the Family Tree.

After scrolling through the changes I found the following deleted relationship: 

Here is the summary card you see if you click Lars Nielsen's name:

By clicking "Person" you can still view a deleted person's page. Unfortunately I didn't take a screenshot the first time I found the deleted person, but here is what it looks like now:

The christening date was exactly the same as for the Lars Nielsen I was researching, so I concluded that the birth date was a typo or error (the birth place was right) and restored the person. To do this, you click Restore Person (circled in red above), and then you give a reason for restoring the person.

After restoring the deleted person, I found that before he was deleted he already had all of his ordinances done. It was pretty clear to me that he was the same person, so I merged the restored person with the Lars Nielsen who I had been working on, and when I did that he was deleted again and replaced. The surviving person, who previously didn't have any ordinances, now has all of his ordinances complete.

Yes, maybe this was a little time-consuming, but think about how long it would have taken to re-do his ordinances. For my husband to do just his endowment would have meant a two-hour drive to the temple, two hours in an endowment session, and then driving back home, all for somebody who had already received the ordinance. I'd rather have all that effort go towards somebody who needs it rather than doing it to fix a clerical error.

As a side note, I was glad I took the time to find the deleted person because he had a burial date, whereas I had been unable to find death information about this person. It only took me a couple of minutes to find the burial record using the date and verify that it was the right record.

This is also really useful to know when someone does an incorrect merge. If you find that somebody has incorrectly merged your relative, you can go through the list of changes, find the deleted person, and click Restore Person as I showed above. This makes it so you don't have to put back in all the information you've added about a person and redo their ordinances.