Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, June 27, 2016

For more on the upgrade

I am switching back to posting my comments on the Family Tree upgrade to my Rejoice and be exceeding glad... blog. I have been posting most of my comments about the website on that blog just so I didn't have to post everything twice.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Four: The Merging Begins

Who would think that this screen was a reason for celebration? This was my "test case" of an entry that could not previously be merged. The fact that I can now merge these two duplicates signals the dawn of a new age on the Family Tree.

However, no matter how important this particular change is, there are still some residual problems that cannot be yet immediately solved. Here is an example of duplicates that cannot, even now, be merged.

The reason given is "These two people cannot be merged. Both people must be in the same public or private space." I can't figure this out and will have to send in a Feedback.

This duplicate will have to be resolved by some other method. However, there were two duplicates and one of them could be merged.

The next previously blocked merge goes through without a hitch.

Congratulations!!! you finally did it.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Three: The Website Pops Up

The good news:

This may not seem to be much news at all, but this change signals the fact that has finally, after years of waiting, separated the program from the old program and we are off to an entirely new experience in functionality. We were told that if the last three changes showed up after the maintenance, then the change over is successful. 

One significant effect is that the "Cannot be Merged At This Time" people can now be merged. 

Stay tuned. I am going to start working on the program.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Two: The Wait Goes On

Hands, Walking Stick, Elderly, Old Person, Cane

I am not particularly good at waiting. After waiting for a short time, I usually start doing something else, like reading or thinking about something that needs to be done. I many cases, I simply go to sleep. Blogs aren't particularly good at reporting "breaking news." People don't read them to find out what is happening that day, they are usually viewed as commentary to be read whenever there is time to do so.

It is now after 6:00 am on Monday, June 27, 2016. The website is still down for maintenance. The little bit of information that leaked out about this "scheduled maintenance" was hopeful that the end product would be the separation of the program from the Family Tree. The most "reliable" of the rumors indicated that the target was to have the program separated and up and running by 5:00 am. Well, here we are, waiting to see what happens.

It could well be that the attempt to upgrade the program will not work. In that case, the change-over, will happen when it does, sometime in the future.

If you have no idea what I am writing about, I suggest you read a post from my other blog entitled, "What will the FamilySearch Family Tree look like when it is fixed?" While I am waiting to see what happens with the maintenance, I will write about the history of the problems again. I will quote from a handout I wrote in 2012.
Development of a database for storing personal genealogical information by FamilySearch began in 2001. The first Beta test of the new program took place in 2007. The New FamilySearch program was released in stages, first, only to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and later to selected individuals outside of the Church. Introduction of the New FamilySearch program was done in stages by LDS Temple District. By the end of 2009, most of the Church members had access to the program. 
New FamilySearch was primarily designed as a method by which members of the Church could submit names of their deceased ancestors to the Temples of the Church so that proxy ordinance work could be performed. In this regard, the program worked very well, but due to number of duplicates in the file, there was a danger that the ordinance work would also be duplicated. was originally seeded with data from five different sources; the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, the Pedigree Resource File, Church membership records and Church Temple records. Unfortunately, combining all of these sources of information resulted in a monumental problem of duplicate information. Additionally, the program did not allow the users to change any of the information in the file and errors and duplicate information proliferated. Whenever a change was made to the file, the older, sometimes incorrect, information was preserved along with the correction. Some of the individuals in the file ended up with hundreds of duplicates. 
Sometime after the initial introduction of, there was a discussion about the impact and problems with the New. website and development of a replacement program, to be called Family Tree, was started. Family Tree went to Beta test in 2011 and was introduced in substantial form at RootsTech 2012 in February of 2012. 
At the time of its introduction, Family Tree was and has been a “live” program and not another Beta test. During 2012, the program evolved with the gradual addition of new features. It is very likely that the program will continue to evolve in the future. At some point, will be discontinued. Certain key features of the Family Tree program were not immediately released with the introduction of the program and it is anticipated that Family Tree will continue to evolve over time with additional features being added over the next year. But as of the date of this Syllabus, the program is essentially complete. 
Remember, this was written in 2012, about four years ago.  I observed that "at some point, will be discontinued." Now, four years later, we are getting closer to that event happening. Maybe.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part One: Anticipating the Changeover

Is this bad news or good news? I am up early, which is nothing new for me, to watch the saga unfold on the website. This is one of those momentous events in the history of mankind that goes entirely unnoticed except by a few, hardcore enthusiasts. I am certain that there is only a small handful of us sitting at our computers at 5:00 am MDT waiting for the results of the "update." It is now 5:45 am and the website is still down. Hmm. Is this good news or really bad news?

Since the website is not up and running. I am going to keep up a running commentary throughout the day. I have been writing about this day with anticipation for years. If, for any reason, the change over on the website does not work, I have been around computers and programming most of my life now, and I am more than used to programs that do not work as expected.

You can check the progress for yourself. All you need to do is try to open the website. The solid rumors were that the website would be "up and running" by 5:00 am. So, the fact that it is now close to 6:00 is not a good sign.

I know most of the world out there has no idea what is going on. But I will keep watching and posting until the website is either upgraded as planned or the whole attempt is aborted and rescheduled. I certainly do not expect any explanations or commentary from so I will just keep watching and waiting.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Four

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus by Albrecht Dürer, 1526, engraved in Nuremberg, Germany.
The English language is peppered with words derived from Latin. Because of the invasion of England in 1066 AD, through William the Conqueror and his followers who spoke "Oil" a range of dialects from Northern France, the English language became divided between its Anglo-Saxon roots and the newly added overlay of Latin-derived words and grammatical constructions. Hence we have two sets of words for many common objects. Such as the following:

  • ham/pork
  • kingly/royal
  • brotherly/fraternal
  • bring or bear/carry
  • ghost/phantom
  • smell/odour
  • hue/color
  • hen/poultry
This list could go on and on. This may be of casual interest to genealogists, but more importantly, for more than a thousand years, Latin was the language of the Catholic Church. Ecclesiastical Latin, also know as Liturgical Latin or Church Latin, was used until the Second Vatican Council of 1962 - 1965. Interestingly, Latin is still taught in many public schools in the United States.

As genealogists research their family lines back more than a hundred years or so, it is very likely they will encounter records written with Latin terms. In researching church records in Europe, finding Latin is inevitable. As I have been pointing out in this series of posts, Latin was and is used extensively in legal documents.

I have been reviewing some of the more common Latin terms and adding a bit of commentary where appropriate. Of course, if you encounter an entire text in Latin in the course of your research, you will need a lot more than just a word list. I suggest the online version of Black's Law Dictionary and the books in the following list:

Chambers, Paul. Early Modern Genealogy: Researching Your Family History 1600-1838. Stroud: Sutton, 2006.

Cook, Michael L. Genealogical Dictionary with Alphabetical Nationwide Index Included. Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publication, 1979.

Durie, Bruce. Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press, 2013.

Gosden, David. Starting to Read Medieval Latin Manuscript: An Introduction for Students of Medieval History and Genealogists Who Wish to Venture into Latin Texts. Lampter, Dyfed: Llanerch, 1993.

Shea, Jonathan D, and William F Hoffman. In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents. New Britain, CT: Language & Lineage Press, 2000.

Now back to the word lists.

viz. literally namely
This is an abbreviation for the word "videlicet" and could be used instead of the term "following" that I frequently use.

veto literally "I forbid"
This is good example of a word that has passed entirely into the English language. I would guess that very few people recognize its Latin roots. It has a broad range of meanings today, but is used extensively when referring to a governmental executive's power to prevent the passage of legislation.

uxor literally "wife"
This term is commonly encountered in the context of the captions of lawsuits, deeds and other legal documents where a man's name is followed by the term "et ux." or "and wife." It still appears from time to time when an old document is cited as authority in a lawsuit.

ultra vires literally "beyond the powers"
Rather than falling into disuse, this is one of those terms that have moved into a special niche in the English language. They are still recognized as Latin (foreign) terms but are so commonly used that they have acquired additional meanings in English. An "ultra vires" act is one that exceeds a person's legal power or authority. I found this used in arguments when the attorneys disagreed over the power of the court or judge to decide a particular issue. In most cases, throwing in a Latin term or two was an attempt to appear more erudite and to bolster otherwise weak arguments.

trial de novo literally "trial anew"
There seems to be no movement away from the usage of this term. It is completely entrenched in legal terminology and in fact, is almost always used by the courts instead of the plain "new trial." The reason is that there are several reasons why a trial would be reheld. Not all of the reasons compel that the entire proceeding be repeated, but a trial de novo is a complete rehearing of the entire trial. I have been through this experience where the new trial was decided completely the opposite of the original. Believe me, it is not fun to go back and retry a long trial the second time.

trial literally "trial"
Yes the word "trial" is derived from the Latin word "triallum." This is another example of how pervasive Latin words are in the English language.

supra literally "above"
You could probably guess that this is a Latin term, but if you were taught a formal citation method, you probably did not think of this as a Latin term. It goes along with the other citation word, "ibid." which is an abbreviation for "ibidem" meaning in the same place and used when citing sources that come from the same reference location as the preceding one.

i.e. literally "that is"
If you have read any of my posts over the years, you have probably noted that I use this term frequently to mean "for example" or "in other words." It is a useful term and is used from time to time in legal documents today. The expanded Latin phrase is "id est" and is almost never used.

supersedeas literally "refrain from"
This is a technical term for which there is no English equivalent. It is commonly used in the context of a "supersedeas bond" or a money payment that is made to prevent the execution of a judgment. For example, if a party obtains a formal money judgment from the court, then the opposing party who then owes the money can post a "supersedeas bond" during an appeal to prevent the execution of the judgment until the appeal is decided. The court has the option to stay or prevent the execution of the judgement (collection of the money due) or not and the also has the discretion to set the amount of the bond required to be posted with the court. Arguments over the terms of the supersedeas bond can be quite involved and require a separate hearing.

Well, as you can probably guess, I am not running out of Latin terms. See you next time.

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Can the FamilySearch Family Tree become an accurate master reference?

By Teconología - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
There is an innate distrust of wikis. Most people in a Western European derived culture have a strong sense of ownership and a website designed to be a source of contributions from all the users feels "out-of-control." The fact that "anyone" could correct "your" family history is uncomfortable for most and unbearable for some. When you add in the fact that the program is based on the Internet where things seem to randomly change and change quickly, the entire structure seems unstable.

Contrary to all these doubts and misgivings, wikis are fundamentally sound. The key to the success of wikis is based on human nature. The people who care the most about any particular entry are the ones who "win out" in the interchange between the users. When there are fundamental differences, the program can enforce a "truce" until a compromise is negotiated. The key to reliability, is sourcing. If the entries in the wiki are supported by source citations, then any user who doubts the validity of an entry can check the facts and make corrections. Over time, the wiki becomes more and more reliable.

What does this have to do with genealogy and particularly, with the Family Tree? The simple answer is that the Family Tree is a wiki. This is a case that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and lays eggs, it is probably a duck. The Family Tree has every characteristic of a wiki-based program and when being candid, FamilySearch admits the fact.

Aren't there other family tree based wikis? Yes, there are. Are they accurate? That is a good question. To the extent that entries are supported by sources, they may be accurate. Simple citation of a source does not guarantee accuracy. The person entering the source may have chosen a document that is not related to the individual who is in the tree. So, we can think about the Family Tree in the same way. To the extent that accurate and well-supported sources are added to the Family Tree and further, to the extent that the information from those sources is incorporated into the Family Tree, it will become more and more accurate over time.

Can the Family Tree become a "master source" for genealogical information? The potential is there. One thing that would help the Family Tree to become even more accurate, would be for the program to promote accuracy as a goal. For example, the program now marks entries without source citations with icons informing the users that the entries are incomplete. Ultimately, the program relies on the constant review of the users to correct and update the entries.

My personal observation is that the Family Tree is becoming more accurate in the small area encompassing my own family lines. For many of the entries, there is a huge amount of information that supports the conclusions shown as details. My analogy is that the Family Tree is solidifying and becoming inherently more reliable. I believe that this will continue to happen. As long as FamilySearch does not do anything to undermine the ability of the users to correct the information in the Family Tree, it will ultimately become the "go-to" master reference it always had the potential of achieving.