The generations on either side of me link me to my past and my future. My view of family history involves revealing the roots and the branches.

Throughout this blog you will find perspectives related to the doctrines of temple and family history work from revealed revelation given to living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS - Mormon).

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thunderous Whisper

“What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, ‘We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come? Here we are, bound and fettered, in the association of those who are filthy?’ What would they whisper in our ears? Why, if they had the power, the very thunders of heaven would be in our ears.” 
– President Brigham Young, 1877, Journal of Discourses, 18:304.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Brick Wall Removal

Have you ever hit a genealogical "brick wall" in your research? Do you put all other research efforts on hold in order to track down the elusive ancestor? Do the records you are looking for even exist? Are you chasing after family folklore that may be too good to be true? Did the ancestor really just disappear? Or mysteriously arrive? And are you really sure that "all the records were destroyed"?

Perhaps you have really just hit a research block: a dead end, stumbling block, roadblock, or barrier to your research. Perhaps you have reached the end of what you know about where to look for records. Perhaps you are exhausted from your searching.

Many new genealogists are often afflicted with this "brick wall" disease. I believe it is not because they have truly found an "end of line" ancestor, but because they don't know which road or path to take or what resources are available. They are new in a great big maze and they have just reached a dead end or stumbling block to their knowledge.

Are you just spinning your wheels, going around in circles, looking for the same bit of information over and over in the same records you have already researched? Are you keeping a research log or notes of what you have already searched and what you did or did not find? Do you have an organized research plan? Are you distracted from the plan by other paths that take you away from your goal? Is your goal too complicated? Can you explain simply to someone else what you are looking for, where you have looked, and what you did or did not find?
Did you build your own brick wall? Did you make an incorrect assumption along the way? Or did your research find an incorrect assumption that someone else made? Are you following only one piece of evidence? Are you trying to prove a myth or fable? Are you preventing yourself from accepting a document because the ancestor's name is not spelled as you think it should be? Have you inaccurately documented something? Are you going too fast and skipping over key details? Do you understand the purpose of the record you are viewing? Are your actions blocking yourself from success?

As you attempt to recreate your ancestor's paths through life, make sure you stay on your own path and follow an organized research plan.

Here are my "R"s to Brick Wall Removal:

What do you already know? How do you know it? Do you have documentation to prove it?

Create a timeline / map to visually record what you know about your ancestor's life.

Where are the holes in the timeline? What are you really missing? Be specific.

What is the new goal? What strategies are needed to reach the goal? Do you need training on available resources or technology? What is the new plan of attack?

Get help from others who know where to find the resources you need. Join collaboration groups like Genealogy! Just Ask! 

Check for newly accessible records often. Utilize "cluster" research for every ancestor. The neighbors and siblings may have the answer to your question.

Take a break. Get some sleep. Refuel. Rebuild your energy and recommit yourself to keep going.

When you finally discover what you have been looking for and your brick wall has been removed, take time to celebrate! And then prepare yourself again to tackle your next genealogical mystery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Super Powers

I believe family historians and genealogists possess superhero powers, traits, abilities, skills, and senses.

What is a superhero?
Clip art image by

Superhero – one possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and dedicated to protecting the public. Superheroes follow a strong moral code which includes a willingness to risk one’s own safety in good service without expectation of reward. They are motivated by responsibility and often assume secret identities. Most superheroes work through the night; some only work at night. Their headquarters or base of operations is usually hidden from the general public. Many superheroes work independently; however, some superheroes are more powerful as a group.

Can you already see the similarities?

Let’s review a few of the popular superheroes and their traits that family historians and genealogists share.

Genius-level intellect
Peak mental conditioning
Master detective, escapologist, strategist, and tactician
Use of high-tech equipment and gadgets
Master of stealth and disguise
Advanced technological proficiency
Excellent observational skills
Access to vast records
Trained computer hacker
Photographic memory
Awake all night
Young sidekick named Robin … written into the story to attract youth.

Superhuman hearing, longevity, stamina, and intelligence
Multiple extrasensory and vision powers
Leaps through brick walls
Stands for truth and justice

Wonder Woman
Super strength, agility, reflexes, senses, stamina, and endurance
Magical Weaponry including the Lasso of Truth

The Flash
Super speed
Time travel
Supercharged brain activity
Probability prediction
Enhanced strength, endurance and agility
Velocity sharpened perceptions
Accelerated reflexes

Green Lantern
Higher sense of awareness
Time-space manipulation
Large scale reality manipulation

Able to speak and understand any language on Earth

Green Arrow
Intelligent tactician
Trained computer hacker
Peak mental condition
Use of high tech vehicles and gadgets

Captain Marvel
Superhuman strength, speed, stamina and courage
Genius-level intellect

Incredible Hulk
Superhuman strength – breaks through brick walls

Superhuman strength, speed, agility, stamina, reflexes, and endurance
Ability to cling to most surfaces
Genius-level intellect

Iron Man
Genius-level intellect
Highly proficient scientist, engineer, and businessperson
Superhuman strength and durability
Regenerative life support (sometimes powered by solar power)

Captain America
Master agility expert and tactician
Excellent field commander

Bionic Woman
Amplified Hearing
Strengthened right arm
Jumps over brick walls

Six Million Dollar Man
Enhanced strength, speed, and vision
Eye has 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities
Power of a bulldozer – breaks through brick walls

Did you identify any powers, traits, abilities, skills, and senses that you have as a family historian or genealogist? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Superhero traits listed above were found on Wikipedia.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Direct Relationship

Photo from LDS Media Library
“The work we are performing here has direct relationship to the work over there.  Someday you will know that there are ordinances performed over there, too, in order to make the vicarious work which you do effective.  It will all be done under the authority and power of the priesthood of God.”  

- Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Sao Paulo Brazil Temple, 26 February 1979, in Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 252-253.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Genealogy! Just Ask!

This month I found the best genealogy collaboration group on Facebook.

I have only been a group member for a little over a week and I am so impressed with what is taking place that I want to shout it from the rooftops! 

Everyone who is interested in genealogy or family history in any form and at any level should be a member of this group. 

The group is a SAFE environment for anyone from beginner to expert to ask questions and also to provide answers. And it is FREE help! From those who are in the same research trenches as you are and from those who have been there and done it before.

It is inspiring to read the requests and see all the suggestions of help. It is taking family history / genealogy from what has historically been a "do it myself struggle" to a community collaborative effort. When you hit that "brick wall" and you have exhausted all you have within you, it is comforting to know that others know what it is like and can offer assistance. And many are willing to offer assistance before you hit that discouraging wall. 

Perhaps you just need help on knowing where to focus your efforts. Perhaps you are just beginning and are overwhelmed and need a little nudge of encouragement. Perhaps no one in your own family understands anything you are talking about and you just need an understanding and listening ear. It is about sharing success with those who understand the struggle. It is about matching the person with the question to those who know how to find the answer.

As this Facebook group has grown larger, the administrators, Jan Mitchell and Robin Foster, knew that it was time to create location and topic specific groups. They surveyed the group members and the first sub-groups created were for England and Ireland. Now, nearly all the US states have separate groups as well as handful of other countries. I like to think of these groups as "offspring" from the parent group. The Genealogy! Just Ask! website home page provides Facebook links to all of these offspring. Check out the website here:

I am also a member of a few of the "offspring" groups and in the Germany group another member posted some resources yesterday that were amazing to me. One website was particularly helpful to my family and our research efforts. I didn't even ask a question ... yet someone offered me some answers.

I wanted to know how and when these collaborative groups started, so I messaged the administrators with some questions. They were so positive with their responses. Let me share with you a little bit about these two women and some of their goals and purposes for Genealogy! Just Ask!

Jan Mitchell has been researching her family since 1994. While serving for three years as a research missionary and volunteer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints her main responsibility was training the other missionaries on how to help the patron. She loves teaching others how to use available websites to locate records online as well as where to find records offline. She helped to create and promote the FamilySearch Genealogy Research Communities on Facebook.

Jan created the Facebook group, Genealogy! Just Ask! in June 2014 as a safe non-intimidating place that anyone could feel comfortable asking questions in their own way. That comfort also needed to extend to all members of the group as they should feel comfortable in responding to any question without threat of critique or criticism. Everyone who has done any research in any area can be an expert in their own right. When you are familiar with a certain record set or website, you can also direct others there as well. Everyone can be a teacher and helper.

Robin Foster has been researching her family since 1985. She served for seven years as a family history missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where she helped patrons to answer research and product questions and helped build the family history community through social media. It was through this social media effort that Robin met Jan. Robin is the chairperson of the Fairview Cemetery Project and the new Greenwood South Carolina Family History Center Director.

As Jan was busy building the Genealogy! Just Ask! Facebook group last Summer, Robin was involved with reclaiming the Fairview Cemetery that she had found. She posted a question on her Facebook timeline about the initials to a headstone she had found and Jan provided the answer. Jan proceeded to help document all the burials and they went from 56 known burials to over 845; by using obituaries and death certificates. It was at this time that Jan asked Robin to join her with Genealogy! Just Ask!

Jan and Robin are great friends who respect and admire each other. Though they work well together, they have never met each other in person; Jan lives in Oregon and Robin lives in South Carolina! This is the magic and beauty of social media. They also never expected to find so many people who wanted to join Genealogy! Just Ask! They love all people and want to represent to the world that all people of any color, race, religion, etc. can work together in doing genealogy. This is a huge paradigm shift they believe will happen within the genealogy community.

While the focus of the group is to find records of deceased individuals, one amazing experience happened recently. Robin explained, "The group worked together to find a living descendant of someone who was cremated and box 6 of 7 of his remains were found in a house. It was wonderful to watch". Jan commented, "We also knew it would be impossible to do it alone but saw what could be done when everyone contributed. We knew one person could not know everything but everyone could know something. Combine the knowledge everyone had in a safe environment and brick walls would fall."

If you have a genealogy or family history related question, you should join one of the Genealogy! Just Ask! Facebook groups to find help. Be very specific in your request by providing what you already know and what resources you've already checked and what specific information you are still needing. And then see what happens. You will be amazed by the help you will get. 

While in the group, be sure to take some time to check out the posts from other group members. Perhaps you have the answer for the question they are asking. Remember to be courteous and respectful of other's opinions and beliefs.

Then come back to this blog post and share in the comments how Genealogy! Just Ask! has helped you. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It Is Not A Race!

Photo from LDS Media Library
I believe in the Bible and in God's literal creation of Adam and Eve as our first mortal parents. I believe that Adam and Eve are the parents of all those who have ever lived and will live on this earth. I believe that Adam was the first father of the human race. I also believe that through the recorded "begats" in the Bible we can identify some of the descendants of Adam and Eve.

I further believe that in the days of Noah that God flooded the earth and that Noah and his family were the only ones to survive the flood. Therefore, because of the flood, I believe that Noah was the second father of the human race. And through the recorded "begats" in the Bible we can identify some of the descendants of Noah.

So, yes I believe we all descend through Noah and through Adam. Do I believe that we need to prove that we are the literal offspring of Noah and Adam? No! Because I believe everyone that has ever lived since the time of Noah are his offspring. Should we go around boasting of this fact that applies to everyone? No! In fact, when I hear such things, I think "Oh, how trivial, why are they wasting their precious time?"

Family History is not a race to Adam and Eve!

It is also not about "bragging rights" to whom we may be related. It is not about wasting time duplicating people or records or even duplicating LDS temple ordinances. It is not about harvesting other's work when you have not spent anytime yourself tending to the garden. It is not about arguing or quarreling over who "owns" what piece of information about a common ancestor or even who "owns" the ancestor!

"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt

It is about moving at our own pace, in our own time, and with our best efforts. It is about growing where we are planted.

Family History takes great care, like holding a newborn child; examining every finger and toe. It is about documenting, with valid sources, the real people who had a close connection to you and your life. It includes a young mother sharing family stories and pictures with her young children. It is visiting with the oldest living member of your family to record their life history before time and age and illness take it away.

It involves time and thought and effort and dedication and patience and long-suffering and cooperation and collaboration. It involves waiting and hoping and crying and laughing. It involves heartache and sadness and warmth and love. It is about the living just as much as it is about the dead. It involves miracles when records are finally found in ways that cannot be described by any words. It is a tugging in the heart.

How often do we miss the best gifts in search of something that is trivial or isn't ours to claim? Are we racing past our generations of ancestors and their meaningful lives? Who will claim our ancestors and their families if we are in a race to "boast"? I believe the destination is important, but the journey is critical!

Have we documented all 256 of our 6th great-grandparents and their families? Most of this generation lived in the early to mid 1700s; where many records are available and to some extent accessible in our own homes, on our own computers, and even on our phones!

What about all of their children? And their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc to the present day? If we estimate each couple had only four child-bearing children per generation, then within only NINE generations that would be 22,369,536 people (with spouses),  Have you documented, with sources, all the the descendants of all of your 6th great-grandparents? Do you know the identity and location of all of your living 7th cousins? Are you collaborating with them in your research; all 8 million of them?

We have work enough to do!

Here is some further understanding on the subject taken from the February 1984 LDS Ensign, I Have a Question -

"I've heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam. Is this possible? If so, is it necessary for all of us to extend our pedigrees back to Adam?"

Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist, Church Genealogical Department. "The simplest answer to both questions is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. A.D. 450–A.D. 752).

"Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.

"The question also asks if it is necessary for us to trace our pedigrees back to Adam. I believe that when the true purpose for which we do genealogical research is understood, one will realize that it is not necessary, at this time, to connect our pedigrees back to Adam. In fact an attempt to do so is probably detrimental to the overall goal of genealogical and temple work—to make available the saving ordinances of the gospel for all the dead.

"It is currently my responsibility to review the records submitted for temple work for those individuals who lived prior to A.D. 1500. I would estimate that 90 to 95 percent of these records are duplicates of work that has already been performed. This does not mean that most of the temple work has been completed for those individuals who lived before A.D. 1500. On the contrary, the great majority of the individuals of that time period still need their temple work done. The problem is that the resource procedures and source materials are of such a nature that members working in this time period end up retracing the paths of many before them, obtaining the same results. A few thousand names are listed over and over, while millions of others remain lost.

"The result is that nearly all the effort expended in the pre-1500 area, and all that expended in attempts to compile pedigrees back to Adam, seems to be a waste as far as accomplishing our true purpose. At the same time, our more recent ancestors, to whom we as individuals have a far greater responsibility, are often ignored—even when many research procedures have not yet been explored.

"I would recommend that no one undertake research prior to A.D. 1500 without first checking with the Genealogical Department, and then only after all avenues of research for more recent generations have been exhausted. The probability of discovering information in the pre-A.D. 1500 time period that would lead to new temple work is practically nil, unless one receives some specific direction.

"In the due time of the Lord we will have our connections back to Adam. Given the current state of our records, I feel that when we attempt to extend pedigrees back to Adam we come dangerously close to ignoring the admonition of Paul: “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions. …” (1 Tim. 1:4.)"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Are They Waiting For You?

"Some of us have had occasion to wait for someone or something for a minute, an hour, a day, a week, or even a year.  Can you imagine how our progenitors must feel, some of whom have perhaps been waiting for decades and even centuries for the temple work to be done for them?  I have tried, in my mind’s eye, to envision our progenitors who are anxiously waiting for those of us who are their descendants and are members of the Church on the earth to do our duty toward them.  I have also thought was a dreadful feeling it would be for us to see them in the hereafter and have to acknowledge that we had not been as faithful as we should have been here on earth in performing these ordinances in their behalf.”   

- Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity-Stand We in Jeopardy?”, Ensign, Jan. 1977, p.7.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cousins ... Removed?

I think family relationship charts are intriguing.

I also admit they can be confusing. 

If you really want to see something confusing, try a Google image search for "cousin chart" or "relationship chart" and take a look at all the confusing images.

I am also often asked questions similar to: "What is all this business about cousins being removed from each other?"

Here are some relationship charts that are intriguing to me and may help you figure out your relationship to a common relative.

This one is from Crestleaf:
This one is from Cousin Country:
And Ancestor Search offers an online cousin calculator:

I really love the Wikipedia resources on "Cousin":

Here is the Wikipedia definition of "ordinals" and "removals" used in defining cousins:

The ordinals in the terms "first cousins", "second cousins", "third cousins", refer to the number of generations to one's closest common ancestor. The number of "G" words used to describe this ancestor will determine how close the relationship is. For example, having "Great-Great-Grandparents" in common would be third cousins.

When the cousins are not the same generation, they are described as "removed". In this case, the smaller number of generations to the common ancestor is used to determine the degree, and the difference in generations determines the number of times removed. Note that the ages of the cousins are irrelevant to the definition of the cousin relationship.

I have made my own cousin chart that I use in determining relationships with common ancestor cousins. 

Perhaps my chart and my explanation will help you more easily determine your cousin relationships. 

Here is my chart to the right >>>
The children of a common ancestor are siblings. 

The grandchildren are 1st cousins, the great-grandchildren are 2nd cousins, the 2nd great-grandchildren are 3rd cousins, etc.

For an example in using my chart: 

I want to determine the relationship between a 2nd great-grandchild and a 5th great-grandchild of a common ancestor. 

We use the cousin closest to the common ancestor in determining the degree of the relationship.  

In this example it would be the 2nd great-grandchild and the cousin degree would be 3rd Cousins. 

Next we determine how many generations are different between the 2nd great-grandchild and the 5th great-grandchild. 

From the chart we can see that these two cousins are separated by three generations.

These 2 cousins would be 3rd Cousins 3 times Removed (3C3R).

You can also figure out a relationship between two cousins of a common ancestor without using a relationship chart.  Just some simple math ... well, I love math ... so I think it is simple.

Example 1: 
3rd great-grandchild & 5th great-grandchild
The cousin degree is 4th Cousins ... (the 3rd great-grandchild + 1 generation). Remember to use the cousin closest to the common ancestor.
The generation difference is 2 times removed ... (5th - 3rd). The number of generations between them.
= 4C2R

Example 2:
1st great-grandchild & 4th great-grandchild
Degree = 2nd cousins ... (1st + 1)
Removed = 3 times ... (4th - 1st)
= 2C3R

Example 3:
6th great-grandchild & 3rd great-grandchild
Degree = 4th = (3+1)
Removed = 3 times = (6-3)
= 4C3R

I hope my cousin chart and my math examples will help you more simply determine your relationship with your common ancestor cousins. 

Please try my chart and my math equations and let me know in the comments how they work for you.

Monday, March 9, 2015

2015 UGA South Davis Family History Fair

Put this event on your calendar and plan now to attend the Utah Genealogical Association's South Davis Family History Fair on Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Woods Cross, Utah.
Check out this link for registration and schedule information:

The conference is $20 for non-UGA members and $15 for UGA members ... and FREE for anyone who is selected as a volunteer! Registration includes a free electronic syllabus for all sessions.

I am presenting the following sessions at this conference:

10:30-11:30 am
Overwhelmed …. Paralyzed?  Time to get organized!
Overwhelmed by all the new technology?  Too many ancestors to research?  So much to share with your descendants?  Are you awake around the clock trying to figure out where to start? Come discover how to get it all sorted out and put together a personal priority plan.

12:45-1:45 pm
Piecing together the Evidence
How do you know the documents, sources, and photos you just found are really about your ancestor?  We will discover, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, if you have the right pieces of evidence, where to find the missing pieces, and what to do with the pieces that just don’t fit.

2:00-3:00 pm
Family Reunion Planning:  Tools & Resources for Successful Events
From simple cousin parties to multi-day events, come discover the available resources to help you organize, plan, prepare and pull-off successful family events.

3:15-4:15 pm
Finding the Living among the Dead: Using the Internet to Find Your Living Cousins
The missing link in your family history may be one phone call or email away. We will explore clues available in family trees, obituaries, online tools and the resources available to identify your cousin’s contact information. Come discover your living cousins online.

I am looking forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Photo from LDS Media Library
“Do you … want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances … Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work?  Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter.  Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences…” (Emphasis added)
 – Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” General Conference, October 2012.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

From Facebook to Family - Shane's Story

Did you catch the article in the LDS Church News today about my session at RootsTech?

Check it out here:

In the article I share an inspirational story that demonstrates how the tools from my presentation can be used in finding the living. Two years ago I helped my friend Shane Adair find his birth family. Please read the LDS Church News article for the story and then enjoy the photos below of Shane and his new family.

Facebook Post
Shane and his MOMS
Shane and his brother (paternal)
Shane's maternal family (minus 2)
Myself and Shane - March 2013

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Chosen

Llewellyn Harris
We are the chosen.
In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors.
To put flesh on their bones and make them live again.
To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.
Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before.
We are the story tellers of the tribe.
All tribes have one.
We have been called, as it were, by our genes.
Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do.
In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.
How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count.
How many times have I told the ancestors, "You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us."
How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.
It goes beyond just documenting facts.
It goes to who I am, and why I do the things I do.
It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying - I can't let this happen.
The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
It goes to doing something about it.
It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.
Llewellyn Harris letter
to children and grandchildren
How they contributed to what we are today.
It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.
It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation.
It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.
It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach.
That we might be born who we are.
That we might remember them.
So we do.
With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are.
So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.
It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers.
That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before.

- By: Della M. Cummings Wright
- Rewritten by her granddaughter: Della JoAnn McGinnis Johnson
- Edited and Reworded by: Tom Dunn, 1943.

This is where I found the poem: 

The man in the photo is my 3rd great grandfather, Llewellyn Harris; and the letter he wrote on August 15, 1903 to his children and grandchildren about their ancestors.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Relative Finder - Cousins Around Every Corner

I am all about finding cousins. When I meet someone new, and we start talking about family history, my brain begins working immediately to try to find a common ancestor with my new friend. Did you catch that ... "we start talking about family history"? I can turn any conversation into a family history conversation ... can you? We all have parents and grandparents and ultimately we are all part of a global human family.

I love Relative Finder from the BYU Family History Technology Lab.
Go to and login with your account.

Relative Finder will pull up to 14 generations of FamilySearch Family Tree data based on your account. You need to be connected to deceased generations in FamilySearch for this process to work. 90% of people with FamilySearch accounts are not yet connected to all four grandparents in the FamilySearch Family Tree. If you haven't yet been into FamilySearch or haven't been into your account for awhile, you will need to go there first to make sure you are connected to deceased generations.

There are currently two parts to Relative Finder: Public Groups and User Groups. The Public Groups are data sets the provider maintains that contain a specific set of individuals. For example, there are only 40 signers of the US Constitution.

User Groups can contain an infinite amount of people. Users join these groups by entering in the group name and group password.

You can create a User Group and invite anyone to join by providing them the group password.

You can also manage the group and add the FamilySearch PID of deceased people to any User Group you have created and you can choose at any time to leave any User Group that you have joined.

Relative Finder works by finding the nearest common deceased ancestor between you and the other people in the selected group. Because the data of living people in FamilySearch is protected you may find, in a common User Group, that your relationship to your immediate family members may be listed as cousin instead of sibling or parent. Remember that Relative Finder looks for the nearest common deceased ancestor. It doesn't know that you and your sister are siblings if the nearest deceased ancestor is a grandparent; it does know that your relationship is at least cousins.

In a User Group, if you and a friend find that you are related, you may notice that each of you show a different common ancestor. This is common and just means that you are connected on multiple lines.

Relative Finder reports relational data from FamilySearch Family Tree data. The relationships are only as valid as the Tree data. If you find inaccuracies in Relative Finder, then you are finding inaccuracies in the Family Tree. This provides a perfect opportunity to research and document and source the line in question. There are many instances of duplicate individuals in the Family Tree that need to be identified and cleaned and merged. Some gateway ancestors in Family Tree are not able to be merged at this time, but will be within the next two years. This will clean up the data even more. Once changes are made to the Family Tree, you will want to update your view of the Tree data in Relative Finder. You do this by going to "Settings" and select "Update Tree".

I noted in the list above that it looks like I am related to Orville Wright.  This caused a lot of excitement in my family and we had a few discussions yesterday. I wanted to know more about the Wright brothers, so I looked up information about them on a historical website and found that their parents were Milton and Susan Koerner Wright. If you notice in the chart below from Relative Finder, it looks like Orville's parents are Charles and Ruth Wright. So I went to FamilySearch Family Tree.  Due to some incorrect merging a couple of years ago by multiple people, the records of my relative named Orville got mixed with the records for the famous Orville Wright. What a huge mess! And a lot of work that needs to be done to get it fixed. Anyone in my family need a new project?

I have recently created two User Groups.

I am currently serving as the family history consultant in my LDS ward and I recently created a group for my ward members for the following three reasons:
  1. A FamilySearch account connected to deceased generations is needed for Relative Finder to work. Relative Finder is a great gateway for getting people into FamilySearch; perhaps they will linger there.
  2. It is fun to see the famous people you may be related to; only if the Family Tree data is correct. And if they find something wrong, now they have a family history project to work on.
  3. Build unity in the ward family. When you realize that your neighbor / ward member is really your cousin, you feel greater love toward the other person. This can open doors for family collaboration. 
Results so far:
Energized ward about family history.
It is fun to find cousins.
No one knows who the women are in the group because of their maiden names.

Relative Finder just created a new tool that helps fix this maiden name issue. Under "Settings" one can now "Edit Display Name". So now the women can chose what shows up as their last name on the charts and lists in Relative Finder.

I also created a group for my high school graduating class. I am the chair of our 30th class reunion in a few years and I thought this would be a fun way to keep the connection and conversation going between reunions. There is also a common belief among some Utah historians that everyone who has pioneer ancestry in Utah is related to each other. I want to test this theory on a small scale.  I also want to know about my potential cousins I grew up with in an area that my ancestors settled; though my parents were transplants to the area.

Give Relative Finder a try. Create a group with your friends or associates. Have fun!

Be nice to everyone you meet; you never know who you may find to be your cousin!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Temple is the Connecting Link

Photo from LDS Media Library
“And so we have two great churches, one in heaven, the other upon the earth.  They are moving along parallel lines, and the temple of God, it appears to me, is the connecting link that connects the heavens with the earth, because it is through the temple that we will be able to reach our dead and not otherwise.  To pray for the dead may not be of any real assistance to them.  To actually help them, we must do a work for them.”

– Rudger Clawson (Conference Report April 1933, pp 77-78; Doctrines of the Gospel Student Man., p 85)