Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The most comprehensive guide for LDS people using New FamilySearch

Even though the LDS church is well known for promoting genealogy, and well-respected for it's contributions to the genealogy community, most members of the church don't do genealogy. Estimates range from 1-5% of LDS people are involved in Family History of some kind. Our company clientele confirm that statistic. Even though we are based in Utah, the headquarters of the LDS church, from what we can tell (we don't ask, nor care, of course) approximately 90-95% of our customers are not LDS.

The developers of the new FamilySearch Family Tree database are hoping to change that statistic in the members of the church. They are hoping that alot of new people will be trying out genealogy for the first time and that this database will make that easier for them. To help these newcomers to genealogy, the church has recently published a couple of new manuals for using the new database. They can be purchased here, here, and here, or downloaded here and here. They are--as to be expected, and as they should be--very general and mostly spiritual in nature.

(If you are not LDS, access to the new database as discussed earlier will be forthcoming shortly. I know what the projections are but I can't tell you--more of that 'under certified affiliate contract' stuff. It won't be long though.)

But, I have recently learned about another great resource for members of the LDS church who are looking to become involved in genealogy. When George Scott first approached me about reviewing his book I have to say I was skeptical--until I delved into this document. Then I went back and looked at his qualifications and he is probably one of the best people to write the book having extensively been a user of New FamilySearch and writing from that perspective. He has obviously done his research and not only could I not find anything wrong with what he put forward. I even learned a little. He has created the most comprehensive manual for dealing with new FamilySearch that I have seen in print. He didn't hold back--outlining every step for beginners, expressing his opinions (which I mostly agree with), warning of the pitfalls and criticizing where criticism was due. It is well worth a read if you are LDS. And I hope you follow his suggestions with regard to the database.

I have one main concern with the new genealogists that will be approaching this database. I am afraid that beginners will have a hard time distinguishing between real research (libraries, archives, real documents, primary sources) and derivatives/pointers to real research (databases and research of other people, aka NFS). After all, New FamilySearch Family Tree is the ultimate secondary source until the sources and documents are linked in. I am afraid new users will use the database as a sole repository for their research and consider what they find there a reliable source without checking. I think for many coming to this new database, the huge amounts of data will be overwhelming. And I hope they can approach it carefully.

George put it extremely well.
"Generally it is best to stay within the bounds of your own research and allow the researchers who submitted the records for earlier centuries to clean those records" (pg 16)
He further explains:
"You have millions of ancestors. Even if you just go back to the year 1500, you may have 100,000 members of your ancestral families. If you spent night and day for your entire mortal life performing genealogical research, you could never build your entire family tree alone. So define your niche, and let PAF chronicle your niche. [He hadn't gotten to talking about certified affiliates yet]. Then, let New FamilySearch serve as a superstructure over your niche, expanding the family tree beyond the bounds of your personal research" [emphasis mine.]
Well said.

He also called it right on the certified software:
"The third-party software firms advertise that you can combine New FamilySearch records and separate New FamilySearch records using their software. Please do not do so at this time... you generally can not see as much information as you can when you are working directly in New FamilySearch. When you see less information, you make a less-educated decision. (In the future this will likely change, as the third-party vendors continue to expand the features of their programs.)"

He advocates combining records first in New FamilySearch and then syncing the data you have researched using certified software. He convinced me he is right--for the time being. The API that the software is using to talk to the database doesn't allow syncing of sources and only allows 300 characters on the notes (until the first of next year). Most of them have holes in what they show you while you are trying to sync (like the contributors, notes and sources, relationships, details and etc.) While the software is great for keeping track of what is going on in the database with the people you are working on, the developers and the API have more to do before everything is working perfectly. It's coming. It will be better the first of next year. It just isn't there yet.

George gives wonderful suggestions on how to decide whether to combine or dispute information (pg 19 or so). And I really appreciated his plea for civility and using the golden rule in collaborating with other people on the database (pgs 7-8, 39-41). At first I thought his step by step process was a little turned around, but as he walked me through it, I was convinced he had the process right. I wish he had spent a little time talking about the difference in good and bad sources/research and going back to the original source (my clarion call on the subject) but that wasn't really what he was trying to do here. He talks about "your research" and "the database" but doesn't really distinguish what "your research" is. I think a discussion on good research would help. And he had some interesting (albeit kind of sidetracked IMHO) stuff at the beginning about we really are all related to each other and the Most Recent Common Ancestor studies that have been done.

I have three criticisms though. The biggest one is that he suggests standardizing all the names of places in your file before syncing the data. You will lose some of the fine points (such as farm names and cemeteries) in your geographical data if you do that. That is the perfect example of why you should use certified software and what could be left in your personal files and not synced with the database. Secondly, he calls the pedigree interface on NFS a "fan chart" (pg 13). Only the Chart Chick would argue with that one. This is a fan chart, the NFS interface is a left to right hourglass chart. And third, Generation Maps charts should have been added to chapter 9 "A Perfect, Inexpensive, Christmas Gift." :-)

Whether you are new to genealogy or not, his new Appendix "E" is a must read about how to resolve major problems in New FamilySearch--such as wrong gender, incorrect relationships, loops and quarantines. If you are LDS and looking to try out or teach the New FamilySearch database, this book is well worth a look.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

As time goes by

With all the weddings in my family going on this summer, and having spent last weekend at the Davenport, and then digging out the wedding picture for the post on the Davenport, I have to add this picture. I'm sure it means more to me than it will to you--but maybe you'll be somewhat impressed with what hit me--how quickly time has flown. It seems like yesterday, and yet things have changed so quickly. (Ok. I'm beyond sounding like my mother. Now I'm sounding like my grandmother ;-)

Jenn, (furthest left) is my sister who was married two weeks ago. The two little girls on my right are my sisters Amy and Emily. Amy, closest to me in the picture, got married this last spring. The comparison between this family picture and our most recent one is so striking to me. I'm not getting older but everyone else sure is ;-)

Lindsey, Kim's niece on his left, is married and has a child of her own. And on her left is her younger sister Madison who is getting married next week. Craig, Kim's nephew on Madison's left was married last year too.

Unbelievable. This picture is only from 1994. My children are now older than the children in this picture. My family marches on through the years. I don't see it as much as I work on family history several generations back because it seems more distant. This closer family history seems to be rushing by faster, and yet if you were to lay it all out together, I'm sure it is *all* rushing quickly.

I tend to want to capture life and put it in a bottle--it all seems to be moving on so fast. Whatever did they do before cameras? But cameras don't seem to be enough. Does anyone else have this fleeting sense of life? How do you hold on to it all?

No wonder I'm a genealogist.

Digital Heart Links--A new company you should know about

I got to catch up with an old friend at the Family History Expo the other week. Across the way from us was Tara Bowen and her husband Brook.

Tara worked with me at the Markosian Library at SLCC long before either of us were into genealogy. She was a fabulous co-worker with a can-do attitude. I knew that any project I took to Tara would be done right, right away and with a smile. She was great to work with and even though we were good friends I had unfortunately lost touch with her as we had both moved from SLCC.

So imagine my surprise when we went to set up at the expo and Tara showed up to set up her company's booth directly across from me. Tara and Brook had started Digital Heart Links a company that will digitize your photos, home movies, audio tapes, slides, etc, etc and etc.

We've talked on this blog alot about the dangers of making sure digital files survive. Brook and Tara help you out with that using only the highest quality materials. But following the Library of Alexandria rule, once the items are digitized you can share and disburse them, and of course we can help you make extra printed copies--all of which is much easier in digital format.

Now I know how to digitize are going to have a hard time convincing me to pay much for something I can do myself. But guess what? Convince me they did. They have a system set up where they can do it so quickly that it is incredibly inexpensive for the time I would have to invest. And they will do it accurately without messing up the lighting, etc, and etc that would take most people tons of time to perfect. I have three shelves of scrapbooks that I put together on my life and Kim's life and our married life together. I've never gotten around to having them digitized so that I can easily reproduce them for my children, and store copies in another place in case of a fire or something. Now I can--at a price I can afford.

Of course she can describe it better than I can. Tara sent me this about their company:

When you digitally archive your family’s history you preserve it against fading, loss or damage and you make it available to all your family members. A digital format allows every family member access to one collection. It’s as simple as copying a disk! Once digital the images are available to be used again and again in a variety of formats including print, slide show, on-line and genealogical records and keepsakes, just like you would use images from your digital camera. It is the first step to so much fun! See us on the web at or give us a call at 801.706.3253

I know you'll be pleased if you do. And then let us know when you are ready to make one of our fabulous photo charts once all your pictures are digitized.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spokane--A great time was had by all.

We got back yesterday from the Washington State Genealogy Conference. What a wonderful event. It was a quick turnaround after the Family History Expo in Sandy two weekends ago, and then the wedding last weekend but it was worth it.

I finally got to meet Miriam Midkiff. I had been so looking forward to that. And she was just as wonderful in person as she is online. She bent over backwards to help us with a couple of vendor's issues we had. But somehow we never got a picture together. We'll have to try again at the next conference.

But I did bring you a bunch of other pictures. The conference this year it was held in the fabulous Davenport Hotel in Spokane Washington. You can't help but take pictures of that beautiful hotel. There just aren't enough gorgeous historical places like that.

You should see this place. The vendors were up on the balcony above the beautiful victorian lobby. Apparently the Davenport was *the* place to be, having been built on the money coming from the silver mines in Western Montana and Northern Idaho. The balcony was lined with pictures of the glory days--fabulous pictures of turn of the century parties and weddings and etc in this beautiful building. Tons of famous people have stayed there, presidents and celebrities. But it suffered in the 50s, 60s and 70s, eventually closing for many years. Thankfully, Walt and Karen Worthy bought the building, re-opening in 2002 after an incredible restoration project. They restored all of this history and added great technology too. The classrooms were all equipped with huge built in projection screens and the internet was free and fast.

Kudos to the Washington State Genealogical Society. A perfect place to have a genealogy conference.

The kids were having too much fun in the pool to notice the gorgeous Trompe-l'oeil surrounding the room. We let them order room service--creme brulee, french fries and chocolate lava cake--they thought they were in heaven. They loved going on the tram across the waterfall a couple of blocks away, and we all enjoyed going out with Bruce and Laurie Buzbee to some great local resturaunts and walking around the park along the riverfront.

I think I fell in love with the Davenport because it reminded me alot of the Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. My High School senior prom was there, and Kim and I had our Wedding Reception there. I don't know if you can see it but the glass ceilings in the lobby are very similar, along with all the turn of the century opulence.
(Dating myself with the hairstyle--oh well.)

Anyway, the conference was wonderful. Thanks to the Washington Genealogy Society. A great time was had by all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another New Podcast Interview.

I did an interview with Steven Kapp Perry this week in those couple of hours we were home. We had a great time talking. He was kind enough to edit out all the umms for me so I sound better as well.

He wrote that it "Appeared today on:

The click-to-listen link is:

It will also appear on the FM100.3 website this week only, on for the week, and will be broadcast on FM100.3's "Soft Sunday Sounds" stream online this Saturday at Noon, but none of those are permanent links."

Thanks Steve. It was great to talk to you. Hope we can do it again sometime.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another beautiful family wedding.

I got to attend the most wonderful wedding last weekend. I just have to tell you about it. My sister Jenn got married on Makena Surf Beach in Wailea, Maui last Thursday. She is now the beautiful Jenn McKay. I can't tell you how absolutely wonderful it was to see my little sister sooooo happy. And to see her new husband Ian so happy to. They are both in their early thirties and have been looking for someone for a while. And they both finally found the perfect person. They are such a good compliment to each other. So did we ever celebrate.(Picture: My Family, including my uncle Ken) I couldn't help but think all weekend what good hearts they both have. Jenn works with handicapped children and adults and has always had the good of others at the forefront of her thoughts and deeds. Her wedding was no less. They planned the wedding just before Labor Day weekend so that we could all relax and get a vacation out of it too. My whole family, and Ian's whole family, and many friends were able to attend. (It helps that Iain works for Delta, and there are lots of frequent flyer miles floating around the family)(Picture: My sisters, Amy, Me, Jenn, Emily and Kristen) And it was so good to be able to spend some time with my sisters. Amy and her new husband Collin, and Emily and Kim and I got to spend quite a bit of time together over the weekend. We got to laugh and laugh together. My twin little sisters have always been the joy of my life. As have all my sisters. I am so blessed with such wonderful women to be in a family with. In fact my sister Kristen was actually the one who set Jenn up with Iain. Her husband's brothers' wife knew Iain (he was her sister's husband's brother) and had met Jenn and she and Kristen had talked several times about setting the two up. When they finally did, it clicked. So get this: Jenn's sister's, husband's brother's wife's sister's husband's brother is now her husband. So Iain is now his brother's wife's sister's husband's brother's wife's sister's husband. Isn't that great :-) If you got lost don't worry. I have been lost the whole time they have been dating, until they all lined up for a picture at the wedding. Now I think I have it straight. Amy and Kristen took the pictures. They are both professional photographers. And they got some gorgeous shots. (the good pictures in this post are Amy's the bad ones mine.) We are going to blow several of them up as canvas giclees again like we did for Amy's wedding. I'm looking forward to printing them some beautiful prints.
And of course we enjoyed the beautiful scenery all weekend. I had only been through the Honolulu airport on my way to Japan, never stopped in Hawaii. Kim laughed at me because all weekend I kept saying "Now I understand why Ohana Software uses the Plumeria flowers in their logo." They are so beautiful in person. Everything there is. I don't know if I fit in in Hawaii very well--I never slow down that much. But it was nice. Missed FGS but I found out Kim loves snorkeling and I'm more of a sit on the beach and read person. I hope we get to go back again soon.

Well, we are home for exactly 52 hours this week so I'm amazed I actually got this blog post in. You wouldn't believe what we are trying to cram into that 52 hours to try to keep up with everything. We are on our way tomorrow to the Eastern Washington Genealogy Society conference in Spokane. Thanks to everyone who is holding the fort down the last couple of weeks while we have had several conferences. I'm looking forward to a little break after this weekend but then I'm sure I'll be looking forward to our next conference in Redding, California too. Hope we'll see you soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2010 Census cautions

My sister just forwarded me the following email from the local Neighborhood Services Manager. A good word of warning. Maybe the ancestors I can't find in the census were just trying to avoid identity fraud :-)

FYI, 2010 Census Cautions
August, 2009
Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers

With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way, as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data. The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice.

Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you do not know into your home. Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit
Craig D. Thomas
West Valley City | Public Relations Division | Neighborhood Services Manager |

Legacy receives NFS read access certification.

UPDATE 9/1/09 10pm:

Apparently Millennia Corp jumped the gun in their excitement and are not "officially certified" until the product is shipping. It looks like they will be waiting until they meet the requirements for several other certifications to release the software. Here is their revised statement.


Received this from Geoff Rasmussen today.

SURPRISE, Arizona – September 1, 2009 – Millennia Corporation today announced that its family tree software, Legacy Family Tree, has received official certification from FamilySearch.

Users of Legacy will soon be able to synchronize with, backup, and publish their information to FamilySearch’s Family Tree. These capabilities will be included in Legacy’s Standard (free) and Deluxe Editions. It will also soon provide support for LDS members including ordinance reservation and requests.

“We are excited to provide these new tools for the genealogy community,” said Dave Berdan, president of Millennia Corporation. “Our goal with our FamilySearch integration software was to make it drop-dead simple for brand new users to get started with their family history but also robust enough that it would appeal to advanced researchers. We think we have succeeded in both areas.”

Legacy's new tools help you and your family set goals, plan, and organize projects for working with your family trees in FamilySearch. A simple step-by-step workflow guides your family with constant monitoring of your progress and feedback measured against your goals. As family members collaborate to clean up and grow their trees, Legacy will help each family member share so that the whole family can enjoy their family tree.


Anyone with access to will be able to utilize Legacy’s new integration software. Initially, only members of the LDS church have access until the FamilySearch system is thoroughly tested. Later, FamilySearch will be open to the public.

Legacy’s new FamilySearch software will be available before the end of the year – as a free update to both the Standard and Deluxe editions of Legacy 7.

“Legacy currently has “Access” certification”, explained project manager, Geoff Rasmussen, “meaning it will automatically search and read information from and compare it side-by-side with the user's Legacy data. Once it receives Sync and Update certifications, it will be released to the public. We hope to have it in our customers’ ‘virtual hands’ very soon. Watch or subscribe to our blog at for the official announcements.”

Free Standard Edition Available

Anyone can download the free, standard edition of Legacy from The standard edition lets a person add/edit information, create reports, share information and much more with no time limitations. And soon, all of the FamilySearch integration tools will be included – for free.

Users of other genealogy software applications can easily experiment with their own data in Legacy 7. Legacy can directly import data from Ancestral Quest and PAF, as well as data in a GEDCOM format.

About Millennia Corporation

Millennia Corporation is located in Surprise, Arizona. The company strives to provide top-quality genealogy software so people can record and track their family history. It is also the publisher of Legacy News, an online newsletter bringing genealogists tips and tricks about genealogy ( For additional information on Millennia or the products they offer visit

Twitter best practices--retweet

I have a few more best practices for tweeting lectures. I had a great talk with Lisa Louise Cooke at the conference about twitter and lecturing. We both agreed that you learn more from being tweeted as a lecturer than you do from tweeting someone else. So here are a couple more ideas Lisa and I came up with.

Thanks to Lisa Alzo for tweeting my "Serendipity and Other Miracles: Why you need Family History" lecture. I learned a couple of things from her as well:

1) It is always good to give the twitter name for your presenter (@JanetHovorka, or @GenerationMaps) so that people can go follow them as well and hear what they have to say directly, or what they might respond about their lecture.

2) Tell them great job! (When deserved of course.) There is nothing more awesome than having someone appreciate your work and tell everyone else that they appreciate it too. Lisa came up to me after the conference and said she really loved the lecture. I particularly appreciated her feedback this time because I have struggled with that lecture more than any of my others. I absolutely love the topic, so I'm really critical of myself and I had just reworked the slides again. So I completely soaked up her compliments. That was a wonderful ending to the conference for me. And when I saw that she had been so generous on Twitter, that made my day too. So now that she has recommended it to you--you'll have to catch that lecture sometime. And I'll keep working on it so that next time it can live up to my expectations too.

Also on this topic, take a look at Ancestry Insider's tweeting policy at He has some good usage guidelines. I also think that offering to make corrections is a good best practice. But I hope AI doesn't ever dislike a lecture of mine :-), I think I will personally reserve the right to change opinions too. And I hope claiming copyright of his tweets doesn't get AI thrown out of some lectures ;-). But I do agree with him that he is the originator of those tweets and thus he owns them. Same as a newspaper reporter--it is his take on the situation.

Looking forward to reading the FGS tweets this week. I'll be reading them from the beach in Hawaii while attending my sister's wedding. If you are wanting to read them too, but don't know where to look, take a look the people I follow here or here and follow some of them yourself. Or search for the hashtag #fgs-09. Happy tweeting.