Category Archives: Family Search

Genealogy Puzzles (?)

Through the years, I’ve learned a lot about the right way to do genealogy at the blog Genealogy’s Star by James Tanner.  I follow him using Feedly.  Today he had a post about errors he has found in data in the FamilySearch family tree.  He presents them in a puzzle fashion and I found myself getting a kick out of trying to find the error.  Perhaps you will find this particular post fun and informative too.

Place of birth vs. Ethnicity

One of the reasons people take a DNA test is to figure out their ethnicity. That is fine, I have no problem with that. In fact, I have tested my DNA at 6-7 different places! But did you know that has a tree display option that will show you the country of birth of your direct ancestors? Yes, country of birth really is not ethnicity at all (or is it), but the price is right, and some of my grandkids think it is a great show-n-tell chart! All you need is to have built out your ancestral tree at FamilySearch to where you connect to the already-existing folks in the “one world tree”. Here is how:

Sign into FamilySearch and then open your tree. The default display mode is Landscape as shown in the upper left corner of your tree screen. Presumably you will be the focus of your tree. You can change the focus to someone else, if you wish.

Then, first click where the word Landscape originally showed and select Fan Chart. Then a drop down will appear and select Birthplace. Bingo — a colorized fan will display with a color code table signifying the Country where the ancestors were born. You can select how many generations to show.

Oh ya, you need to have filled in the Country of Birth for the ancestors that you add to the tree! That is where the genealogy research come in. I don’t have a good display for that!

Try it, you just might like it. While you are there, try the other fan chart options.

AI Genie

The dream of many genealogists is that the technology industry would create an AI module that would build the “master tree” and then all we would need to do is maintain it by adding new births.

DeepMind’s latest venture, Neural Algorithmic Reasoning, is using Google Maps as a test bed. I wish they had pointed their test routines at and FamilySearch. Maybe next year?

Meanwhile, FamilySearch is not setting still. They have digitized all of their microfilms and are currently indexing the lot. The trouble has been that indexing has always depended on human volunteers. There seem to be more data than there are volunteers! People like you and me just aren’t helping.

One solution FamilySearch is developing is computer-assisted indexing using artificial intelligence. Yes, really. Read this really interesting article that appeared in my Google News feed today.

The artificial intelligence the computer uses is not perfect, and that’s where people come in. You can help the system get better by actually working on your family history at FamilySearch. Records indexed by a computer are labeled with a box in your system that reads “This record was indexed by a computer. If you find an error, click here to report it.” The AI system will learn from what you tell it.

Read the above article for more understanding. The people and the FamilySearch AI systems might be able to build the “master tree” before DeepMind gets around to it! 🙂

(The article appears to be in a LDS members only site, I am not sure how long it will remain in the public domain. If you are interested in this, I would advise you to read the article pronto.)

Microfilms in the Monterey California Family History Center

We have just added a PDF here in this blog-space that shows a list of all the microfilms that are housed here in the Monterey California Family History Center.

Even though FamilySearch is no longer making microfilms and fiche available for rent, our local Family History Center has about 5,000 “long term” films available to be viewed. Yes, some of these have been digitized and can be viewed in FamilySearch from home. But some are not. You can view and/or download the PDF file below which contains a list of the tape housed in Monterey FHC. Then, when you find a tape in your searching at, you can check here to see if we have it. If we do have it, then you can visit the center to view it.

Perhaps a few details about the report will help you use it.  Basically the report is a cross reference between the film number in FamilySearch (called SLC Number) and the film identifier here (called FHC Number).  The report is sorted in order of the SLC Number.  The PDF file is searchable.

The SLC Number is a 7 digit number, our report includes leading zeros.  Code of M means Film.  Films that start with 6 are actually Fiche. 

The FHC Number starts with ‘F-‘ followed by the state or country code.  It is used as a locator in our Library. So F-IA-25 means the 25th film in our Iowa group. 

Find the film first in Family Search. Then if you are interested in viewing the real thing, check this report to see if we have it.

If you need more help with using this report, perhaps we can create a Zoom “show-n-tell” meeting!  Ask Shelly about that.

The PDF file is in a submenu under FHC in the menu bar.  Find it here too:

Getting FamilySearch website help

To get help from the FamilySearch website, go to FamilySearch. In the upper right hand corner, there is a “Get Help” (a little circle with a question mark in it) icon. Clicking on “Get Help” will produce a drop-down box listing the various ways to find answers to questions and links to “Contact us“. “Contact us” includes Call Us, Live Chat, Send Message or Finding Local Help.

For those who only want to make a quick voice call: Family History Customer Service 1-866-406-1830

There are also new Virtual Research Strategy Sessions available where you can get guided help for research questions which are 20 or 40 minutes sessions via ZOOM with a FamilySearch Research specialist. Genealogical research strategy sessions are free, virtual meetings designed to provide you with research guidance, methodology, and next steps.

Read more here:

There is always the Family History Guide for free online self training:

“In theory I’m anti crastination, but in practice I find I’m often pro.” – Nicholas Gruen


A couple of questions popped up this week. I could guess answers, but I would prefer to tease the group with them and get better answers in the process.

First question:
Two people are DNA matches at Family Tree DNA. Not close cousins, but real matches. They also are experienced users of Family Search and have placed themselves into the “one world” tree. They do not know how they are related. All communication has been by email. They have tried to discover their relationship by using the “View My Relationship” function from within the Person View of various “most recent common ancestors” on both sides. But it never works. Could it work? Should it work? Why won’t it work?

Second question:
Two men are Y-DNA matches on the Big-Y test out at a Genetic Distance of 9 (8 STR differences out of 389) level. In the Yfull tree, they “connect” 950 years ago. But, they do NOT match autosomally. Could they? Should they? Why not?

New question:
Can Family Search be used, generally, to solve these tree building exercises needed to bring DNA matches together? Specifically, can Family Search be used to connect the guys in the 2nd example?  We always use and Thrulines to connect the dots, but if people cooperate, would the “View My Relationship” at Family Search be a better way? Just an idea….

More free genealogical classes and webinars

Speaking of FREE classes and webinars about genealogical research, did you realize that has lots of them and they are all free!

The webinars are broadcast using Zoom. There are many classes available, look for the October and November schedules by clicking on the link below.

Train yourself, then train others. If you help someone in your family learn to do genealogy, their fresh eyes can help you flesh out your shared tree!

“Would you go to someone’s funeral who didn’t go to yours?”

Free Online Consultations by FamilySearch

Jo Ann Robinson, Director of the local Monterey California Family History Center, reminded us the other day about a service provided by the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Quoting from her:

In these challenging times, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is making it a bit easier for you to find your ancestors. They are offering free, 20-minute consultations to help you with your personal research questions, using Microsoft Teams for remote meetings.

Click Here to find out how to use this service: FHL WIKI

The Wiki article provides videos about using Microsoft Teams. It is pretty easy. If you are having trouble with a persnickety ancestor, give it a try.

See other ways you can get assistance at the: Family History Guide

Things to do: Indexing

Some folks have a bit more spare time these days. Things that have been put off are getting done! That is good news, even if we complain about current events. But there are only so many weeds to pull, only so many socks to knit, only one fence to repair, only so many miles to walk. Some who love to volunteer in the public sector are suddenly missing their need for an altruistic fix.

Here is an idea…. there are still old genealogical records out there that need indexing!

If you have a few hours to spare and the T-V is turning into a radio and your family tree is filled out through six generations of cousins, then maybe you could volunteer as an indexer at either or

As they say, from the comfort of your own home…. all you need is a computer connected to the internet. You can even choose projects that you prefer, like in Wisconsin, Italy, Guatamala, Georgia, etc. I would like it if some of you who can read German records would help index some of my family’s records! 🙂

Here is a link to the top of FamilySearch indexing project:

FamilySearch Indexing

They also have a need to index records at

Ancestry Indexing

Of course, you could start your own blog. That could be my next Things ToDo article ?

”My wife keeps reminding me about some things that need repair around the house. One would think that after six months she’d know I have the list memorized.”

Uploading Gedcoms into FamilySearch

The following information has not been tested by me. But, as a volunteer at the Monterey Family History Center, the question about uploading gedcom files into comes up once in a while. I never know how to answer, some of my coworkers say Yes, some say No. In a message site the other day, the subject came up and a couple of links were posted as well as some advice. I have decided to share this information here (before I forget where I saw it!)

Kitty Cooper wrote about this subject 6 years ago, and updated it last year. See here:

How to add a GEDCOM to

Family Search themselves wrote about this subject. Here is the real story:

Tim Janzen gave me this wise counsel on the message board:

This is probably best done by people who have ancestries that are not currently very well represented in the FS Family Tree. I think that for most people the best thing to do is to find their grandparents or great grandparents in the tree and then add the genealogical data one fact at a time. I am frequently correcting errors in the tree made by people who uploaded GEDCOMs into the tree and did so in a very sloppy manner resulting in unnecessary duplicates that “cleaners” like me have to merge and get rid of after doing some careful research about the situation.

In any case, the FS Family Tree is a wonderful tool for genetic genealogists. If FamilySearch ever starts integrating genetic data into the tree it will be even more wonderful than it currently is. I learned at RootsTech that about 16 million new people are being added to the tree each month.

”The Internet is making smart people smarter and dumb people dumber.” – Kevin Drum