Sunday, July 26, 2015

Genealogy ~ How Many Certificates Do You Need?

My wife calls me a pack rat when it comes to my genealogy records.  I call myselfmarried_couple a well-sourced researcher.  Which of us is right?

This morning, I mentioned that I needed to pick up several more Wilson-Jones 367-49 heavy 3-ring binders and a couple thousand sheet protectors for my ever increasing collection of genealogy source documents.  That comment started a discussion about "how large of a collection do I intend to keep at our house."

My position was that you can't have too many source documents to support your research data, especially if a large percentage of them are Birth, Marriage and Death certificates along with a liberal smattering of wills, deeds, journals and photographs.

Of course, my position on this is correct, as I'm sure you defend your similar position to your own spouse and family.  Undoubtedly, their eyebrows raise when you say something similar to them too.

"I don't have THAT much."  "Why are you concerned about it?"  That is a reasonable statement, isn't it?

"Let's take an inventory of what you have and measure it against what is Too Much"  Hmmmm...  This argument may not go in my favor.

An hour later, I totaled the columns of tick marks just to be sure they were 'fairly' counted.  It does seem that I have a 'little' larger collection than I realized.

Four Drawer File Cabinets 4
Horizontal Four Drawer File Cabinets 1
Book Shelves (6 ft wide to ceiling) 4
Wall Cabinets 10
3” Wilson-Jones Hard Cover Binders 42
Terabytes of Disk Storage 14
Computers dedicated to Genealogy 6
Grab Bags for Interviews 2
Photography Bags and Equipment 3
Flat Bed Scanners 3
Printers 4
Desks or Built in Work Surfaces 4
Storage Closets 2
Rooms to Store all this stuff 3

As you can imagine, my argument was weakened "a bit" by this revealing list.  I'm still not moving away from my initial position but I'm sure the discussion will not 'go away' over time.

My wife also loves genealogy, so we both have that bias in common.  Nonetheless, she asks "How Much Is Enough?" and made sure that I clearly understand that my genealogy space 'creep' will not be allowed into her quilting room / domain.

Our Tech Manager son tells me to 'Digitize Everything', meaning that I should toss the hard copies.  Of course he knows that I've always created digital copies of my documents, notes, etc., and have them backed up in multiple locations, but "Toss the Hardcopies""  That isn't going to happen for a number of reasons, including document survivability in scenarios such as loosing my digital copies to a hi-elevation EMF Pulse or some other cataclysmic event.  The news on television tells me to expect about anything these days.

Yes, I understand the ramifications of such a devastating event would impact my life so greatly that I probably won't care about doing or proving genealogical research for a long time, but I want to give the records as many chances to survive as I can.

I've talked to our children about taking over my somewhat large genealogy collection after my wife and I pass from this life.  Who can house it?  Who wants it?  Who will continue in our ancestral quest?  There is a lot of interest among them but no takers so far.

The answers to the longtime disposition of my records and data isn't settled yet.  Donating the collection to a library hasn't been as good of an idea as I initially thought.  Most libraries don't want it or if they did accept it would 'toss' the majority of it to save space.  The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah doesn't' want it.  They'll accept it in published book form but not all of the binders, files and digital files that I have.  The very large family history library at Brigham Young University doesn't want it, again unless it is in bound books, etc.

The decision about how to pass my research and associated records that were accumulated over tens of thousands of hours with a huge financial investment during my lifetime has yet to be resolved.

I'm currently uploading ancestral photos, source documents, histories and other records to my ancestral records on FamilySearch Tree, but the going is slow.  I know that the images and files that I save there will survive about anything short of the earth being vaporized.

I'm still exploring other solutions that I'll rely on in parallel to the FamilySearch Tree.  I'm not sure that most of them are workable solutions but I'll choose one or two of them before long and run with them.   You are probably in the same position to one varying degree or another. 

Let me know your plan.  However, please don't comment on the size of my genealogy collection as a cc: to my sweetheart though.  OK?  We've already had that discussion.

Posted 26 Jul 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Collaborating With Cousins

It seems like any difficult genealogy research problem can be resolved by teamsgoogle_docs of cousins if they actively engage in research.

I've seen it happen time after time over the years as I've organized cousins teams.  We each bring our unique skills, perspectives and resources to the table.  The cumulative effect always exceeds the research ability of any single member of the team.

Our cousins teams communicate in a number of ways.  We obviously use email but it is a poor vehicle to carry attachments and collaborative information.  Email is best used for brief announcements, clarifications, etc.
Scanned and other images and photos are typically uploaded to Drop Box or a similar cloud storage location.  Links to them are shared to all the team when they are uploaded.

We use Google Docs constantly.  A document, spreadsheet or presentation is easy to access and work on by all of the team when they reside in the Google cloud.  It isn't unusual to see others editing a document that you are working on.  Their edits show up in real time and typically evoke a conversation or series of messages on Google+, Google Hangouts or Skype.

Google Hangouts or a Skype conference call are used for group wide meetings andgoogle_plus brain storming sessions.  I wear a ball cap on bad hair days.  Sometimes the ladies in the group decline to activate their video feed if they are enjoying a similar wild or wet hair day.  I don't know why, they have to look at the men in the group in our 'rugged' and often 'unkempt' state, but apparently the ladies are better trained in appearance than us guys.

We used to use Springpad to assemble some of our research results and planningevernote before it was closed.  Now, almost all of us use Evernote to collect images, quotes and links that apply to our research.

Our collected data is frequently posted on our TNG powered genealogy sites or other genealogy sites, including FamilySearch Tree so we can see our data in pedigree, family and other formats.
All of these resources combined with the skills and resources of the team bring an almost irresistible force to bear.  I love being alive now and having so many real-time powerful tools at my finger tips.  If you haven't created cousins teams before, give one a try.

It may take you a little time to work out the tools and format skypethat work best in your situation but it is time well spent.  The results of your first team project will surprise you.  The feeling won't be a singular event.  Plan on experiencing it over and over as you collaborate with your teams from now on.

Posted 19 Jul 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dinner At Haddo House

Working on my Gordon Ancestry is always enjoyable and frustrating at the same time.  Enjoyable because there is a lot of information written about the family in general.  Frustrating because the surname was frequently adopted by others thus making lineal research all the more difficult.

References to family living at Haddo or having titles and ownership with Haddo in the name string crops up with some frequency.  Although I have long been familiar with the title, I hadn't taken the time to search for the exact location of the home.

Google Maps made the search easy and fast.


Wikipedia offered further insight including a very nice painting by Alfred Edward Emslie of a dinner that was held there.  I don't think that I have never attended dinner with real class yet ... at least I've never chatted around the table with a good set of bagpipes playing in the background.


Posted 15 Jul 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When An Ancestor Changed Their Identity

Kris Williams of Ghost Hunters fame releases a genealogy related video about every month in partnership with  Like many of you, I was introduced to Kris on the SyFy Channel as part of a Ghost Hunter team in their quest to either find or disprove the existence of Spirits.

While Kris is a beautiful woman, her attraction to me was when I heard her say she has been interested in genealogy for many years.  I love hearing those words from young folks.

In her 26 March 2012 video, "Genealogy Graveyard Hunting", Kris talked about searching for the tombstones of her ancestors in a cemetery in New Hampshire.  While she didn't mention the name of her ancestor the video dwelled on the tombstone of James P. Osgood twice.  I assumed that he is indeed Kris' ancestor and after a quick check on, I found that to be the case.

The story she told caught my attention in two ways:  She distinctly heard the steps of an unseen person throughout the search for her ancestors tombstone as did her boyfriend who was in the opposite of the cemetery.

I've heard footsteps, felt touches and have heard words from unseen sources in my own forays in the United States.  Without exception, stopping and paying attention to them has resulted in finding the very tombstone(s) that I hoped to find but had all but written off as not being in the cemetery under my feet.
By coincidence, a number of those experiences were also in New Hampshire while on genealogy 'vacations' with big research agendas and very limited on-site time.

Most of these trips would have ended with total or substantial failure had the tombstones not been found.  They were the last clue available to me in that particular ancestral quest.

The second item that caught my attention was the name of her ancestor, James P.osgood_james Osgood.  I had been working on the extended family of my Burgess line in the weeks previous to Kris' video and James P. Osgood's name had been among the names I'd added to my database with one significant difference:  James P. Osgood was the AKA name for Robert Luce Robbins in my research.

Could my Robert Luce Robbins, AKA, James P. Osgood be the same person as the man in Kris' story?  it only took a few minutes searching to find another confirmation of that fact.

The memorial for James P. Osgood on Find-a-grave tells his story.  Robert Luce Robbins left Maine with my cousin, Mary B. (Luce) Spalding and her child along with two sons from his first / current marriage.  They eventually settled in Southern New Hampshire, where he was known as James P. Osgood.osgood_james_headstone
You and I can imagine any number of reasons why he changed his name and one of us may be right but I haven't found the truth of the story or at least the truth in a well-documented record.

It doesn't matter that much to me.  He was the second spouse of my 5th cousin  times removed, Mary Belinda Luce Spaulding.  It's not a close relationship.

His name change does matter to his descendants, like Kris Williams.  How were they to supposed to find him when he started life with a different name than the name known to his descendants as witnessed on his tombstone?

I've been fortunate in my own ancestry to not encounter ancestors who changed their names like this.  Or, have I encountered them and not realized it when I've hit my own ancestral 'brick walls'?  Probably not, but who knows?  I do have a few Black Sheep ancestors, (thank heaven in their case or I never would have found them without their law breaking records) and a few others that seemed timid in broadcasting their existence to anyone else.

What are the stories about your name changing ancestors?  How did you find them?  What was the process?  How long did it take?  Did you too hear footsteps or enjoy some other genealogy serendipity in resolving the puzzle?

If the stories I've heard from others telling how they found their name changing ancestors can be considered as the 'norm' then yes, you did enjoy similar nudges and shoves in a serendipitous way.

Here's to learning to listen and then acting on the prompts that we receive in our ancestral quest.

Posted 14 Jul 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Google Photos Is Great–Except When It Is Not

The recently released Google Photos with its unlimited storage is you allowgoogle_photos_albums Google to resize your images is Great!  Except when it is not.

At the end of May 2015, Google announced Google Photos Unlimited, a free service for Google users that allows unlimited photo storage for your Google account as long as you allow them to resize your images to no longer than 16 megapixels.  The company states that the resizing is “near identical” to the original image.  I’m not a photographer beyond my family and genealogy snaps and found the resized images were indeed “nearly identical” to my eye.   If you want to store your images in their original size on Google Photos, you can do so but you’ll have to pay for the storage space used that exceeds the free storage limit associated with your Google account that includes Gmail, Google Docs, Blogger posts, etc.

The new Google Photos storage is a steam roller in the cloud photo storage sector.  For example, Yahoo’s Flickr offers 1 terabyte of free storage (which is great but it isn’t unlimited), and Dropbox only offers 2 gigabytes of photo storage for free.

From a personal perspective as a genealogist, I was delighted with Google’s news.  I keep a full set of my genealogy related images in many locations, including Flickr and other cloud backup sites as well as on local storage drives both in my home and in proximity to my home.  If the “Big One” from the movies ever hits and my home is sucked down to the depths, the odds that at least one copy of my images surviving on an external backup site is still high.

I can’t stress enough how this knowledge comforts me.  I want my genealogy images to survive me to be used by my family and the public for a long time.  There is no need for them to spend the huge amount of time and money that I’ve expended to acquire them, and in many cases, I have the only surviving original copy of the hardcopy photo.

Using Google Photos

Adding photos to Google Photos is simple. Just click the up arrow at the top of your browser page in photos, or install the Google Photos App if you aren’t using an Android phone or tablet.  The Android OS has the photos app installed in it.

My genealogy person or homestead image collection is fairly large, but in terms of storage size, it isn’t very large.  That selection of my genealogy photos could reside on my free Google Drive account without the need to purchase additional storage memory.   However, I am a volunteer who takes thousands of headstone photos annually to post on sites like Find-a-grave.   Even though the cemeteries in my area are relatively small ranging from 1200 to 20,000 headstones, the corresponding number of images at even a 5 megapixel size adds up after season of 1000 photo image per day forays.   

When I first started adding the photos to Find-a-grave, I kept a copy of the images for my own local purposes because a large percentage of the names on the images were related to me.  As time when on, I continued to keep a copy of all of my images even after they were uploaded to Find-a-grave and started to wonder if it was necessary since my job was done.  Find-a-grave had a copy of the image, why waste storage space locally for the same image.

Then came a note from the husband of a young woman buried near me that I’d posted a photo of her headstone on Find-a-grave.  He thanked me profusely for posting the photo.  When she passed away, they were living here as students.   Like most students, they had little money and it was a few years before her husband could save enough money to purchase a headstone for her grave.   He finished school and went to his home country and later ordered her headstone from there.  The stone was beautiful but the company that placed the marker sent him a photo of the marker in the mail but it looked like one our grandmothers took forty years ago.  He hadn’t seen a good photo of the maker for his beloved wife and couldn’t find anyone who would take the photo for him.   

…..And then I posted my photo as one of the 1000 that I’d taken the weekendgoogle_photos earlier.   When I brought up her memorial on Find-a-grave and inspected the full size display of the image I’d uploaded, I noted that the image had be significantly resized by Find-a-grave.  The original image was dramatically better.   Which image should you want of your beloved’s marker?  The original hi-res image or the significantly resized image on Find-a-grave?   Of course, I found the original in my backup storage and sent a copy of it to him.   

That experience alone convinced me that I needed to keep a copy of my images in my off-site storage plan.

Since that time, I’ve received hundreds of requests for a copy of my original tombstone images.  The stories vary, but the are invariably consistent in one aspect.  Family members want a copy of the headstones of their family but live so far away from their burial location they can’t afford to make a trip here just to take a photo.

Problem with Google Photos

After the requests for images started to arrive, I created an account on Flickr and received a free 1 terabyte account for my images.   I installed the Flickr uploader program and uploaded all my genealogy photos.  The process was simple and fortunately, I created relevant albums for each category or cemetery.   Moving images from album to album through a browser was simple if I messed up.

The day that Google Photos Unlimited went hot, I started uploading the headstone photos there as well.  I had to use my browser because there isn’t a standalone program like Flickr Uploader but it isn’t an issue.   The problem I encountered is that as you know, sitting and uploading thousands of images over a long period of time turns you into a mindless zombie.  My mind degraded to that level around 1:00 a.m.   I have four monitors and so I kept working on genealogy research on three of them  while using the fourth as my window into Google Photos.  I’d glance at it, note the status of the current upload set and act if necessary.   Mindless, repetitive action for hours on end in that venue.  Sometime early in the 1:00 a.m. hour, the shutters on my uploading intelligence slammed shut.   I started uploading the first batch of images for a new cemetery without creating an album for it first.   My mind and memory motion was set and it was wrong.   After 20,000+ image uploads later, I tumbled the fact that I was just dumping the images into the Photos bucket, not in the right album.  They were now all floating there without a home.

Thinking that I could move them fairly easily, although with a fairly significant time impact, I selected 1000 images in the browser window, clicked on the plus (+) sign on the top right of the screen and clicked “Add to Album”.  No problem right?   Not so Joe Jitsu!!  You just discovered your mess up.   After waiting a few minutes an error message appeared saying that the move to the new album had failed.  Thinking that I’d taken too big of a bite at a time, I selected 200 images and tried again.   Once again, No Joy!   Hmmmmm…   I selected 100 images and the transfer took place.   OK, I had to keep the bites small.  I’d only have to do the same transfer movements 210 times!   Phew!   

…. And then…..  the next selection of 100 , no, rather 99 images failed.   50 failed.   20 failed.   9 worked.   

…. And then….. the next selection of 9 failed,  5 failed, 2 worked……… aaarrggghhhh

…..And then….. the next selection of 2 failed, 1 worked.   What the heck?    

It looks like there is a limiter built in Photos that will allow you to make one fairly large move of images to albums.  After that, the choker hits and hits hard.   

I’ve played with the transfers a number of times since and the initial group continues to get smaller every day that I try to make the transfers.   I hit 1 image at a time within a few transfers now.

The problem arose because I failed to create the cemetery album before I uploaded the first headstone image associated with it.   When you upload your images, think first, think second and don’t turn into a zombie hours into the process.

Create the album(s) first then upload your groups of photos to them accordingly.

I haven’t found a solution yet.  I haven’t found a way to grossly delete the images for that cemetery and starting over.  It may exist but my zombie mind his affixed itself to my conscience instead of my normally ‘brilliant’ self.  It was a very short trip.

Bottom line…. I highly recommend Google Photos but do as I say, not as I did.  Let me own the pain from messing up and just laugh at me at my expense.  You don’t want to find yourself in my particular pickle.   

Posted 9 June 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

Early spring is my favorite time of year.  Here in North America, the land comesMemorial Day Thank You back to life after a winter hiatus.  In our locale, we use the Memorial Day Holiday as a marker for the end of the school year, beginning of summer and as a safe date to plant your most delicate flowers and vegetables.

Memorial Day is much more than an excuse to have a BBQ and family fun day in our family however.  We remember our family members and others who served in the military in the protection of freedom and democracy.

Our children remember our family Memorial Day forays to numerous cemeteries in our area when we visited the graves of family members.  My wife and I used the cemetery visits to teach our children about their ancestral families.  We told them stories about each of their ancestors as we visited their respective graves.  We always had a basket of goodies with us during the visits.  If you ask our children about their memories of those visits, they’ll invariably include the memory of eating Hey Day and Fig Newton cookies and cans of their favorite sodas at the cemetery along with the ancestral stories.

To this day, their visits to each headstone immediately brings the stories about that ancestor to their minds, which is exactly what I had hoped would happen.   When I have the opportunity to visit cemeteries with our grandchildren, I repeat the snacks and stories activities with them.  It only took a couple of years before the young ones knew the stories as well as me.  They delight in telling the stories to their younger siblings when they visit the graves our our ancestors now..  They are doing exactly what I hoped would happen.  Fortunately, I’ve lived long enough to see it become a reality.

When I consider the changes in the world during the lifetime of my parents, I’m always astounded at the advancements of technology and the devolvement of society in general.  There have been similar changes during my lifetime.  What will our grandchildren experience during their lifetimes?  

Knowing that our grandchildren will experience tests that are very different than those that I’ve experienced in my life, our stories about our ancestors become even more important.  I’ve made sure to emphasize the difficulties and trials that our ancestors encountered and endured.  Their success in life will probably require them to remember the values and fortitude of their ancestors as they face their own unique conditions and trials in life.

The number of people who visit cemeteries has dropped a lot since my youth.  In that long ago day, the holiday was enjoyed as a major social event in addition to a day of remembrance.  As our family went from cemetery to cemetery, we encounter different groups of family members and friends that we didn’t see very regularly.  In fact, our only “in person” interaction with them was at the cemetery on Memorial Day.  The day was almost like a series of family reunions.

Facebook, Google+, Twitter and all of the other social sites didn’t exist in that day.  Memorial Day provided a venue for the social contacts.   Stories were told and photos were taken all under the cloud of the aroma of Iris’s, baby’s breath, peonies and the dozens of other varieties of flowers that covered the graves in the cemeteries.  The scents combined with the face to face interactions created lifelong memories.  To this day, I still picture the Memorial Day interactions in my mind when I smell iris’s.   

What are you doing on Memorial Day this year?  Will your activities involve family members living and dead?  Will you both celebrate and remember those people in your family and community who served our country so valiantly in the past, sometimes at the surrender of their own lives?   That’s what Memorial Day is all about.  It isn’t the excuse to party and purchase every sale item that stores flash before us in online ads and window covering banners.

If you haven’t created your own family Memorial Day traditions to celebrate the holiday as it was intended, it isn’t too late.  Do something that brings remembrance of your kindred dead and military brave to the mind of your families and yourselves.  

Memorial Day is a wonderful holiday, for all of the right reasons.  Let’s remember to both enjoy and celebrate it accordingly.

Posted 24 May 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Moose Dung and Ancestral Graves

When one of my ancestral walls tumbled after a long fought research battle, IMoose couldn’t wait to see  where that family walked and lived.  The wall fell on a Wednesday.  Three days later on a bright  Saturday morning, my wife and I stood in the Piper Hill Cemetery just a short distance south of West Stewartstown, New Hampshire ready to explore the tombstones looking for the Tirrill surname.  We were quickly rewarded with success.

When I called the airline to obtain tickets using points from my mileage account, I was sure that the rewards tickets wouldn’t be available for many weeks.  The representative asked when I wanted to schedule the non-stop flight to Boston and laughed when I said, ‘this Friday”.  Her first response was, “I don’t think that will be possible.”  “Are you going to a funeral or something?”   I responded, “Well no, but we are going to a cemetery.”  “I just knocked down an ancestral brick wall after 30 years of research!”  “Really?”  “I love genealogy too!”  “Let’s see what we can do.”

The odds of contacting a fellow genealogist who appreciated my excitement and consequently pulled a ‘few strings’ to book the flights on such short notice were high if not astronomical.  However, as often is the case in family history research, magic occurs, impossible becomes possible and sometimes events related to your family unfold immediately.  The airline tickets were secured.  Would my wife agree to drop everything and leave our brood of kids home and fly with me to the east coast with such short notice?  Of course she would and did.  She’s that kind of a lady.

By sunset on Friday we had checked in to our motel that was located just a few miles south of the Canadian border.  The winter snow was still evident in shady places, but the weather was beautiful on that spring day.  Early the next morning, I opened the motel room door and was greeted with the nose of a moose a foot in front of me as it stood under the canopy of the walkway and thus out of the misty morning drizzle.

Delighted to see him, we knew to take a "hello" photo from just inside our room rather that stepping out to let him help choose the camera settings.  After a few words of greeting and a quick snap or two, our visitor walked away.  I had no idea that West Stewartstown had such an interesting welcoming representative to greet travelers from across the country.

Our greeter or one of his family extended the welcome when we found the Piper Hill Cemetery.  Standing inside the fence, he looked at us, flicked his head toward the back fence and began walking that way.  Not wanting to be rude, we followed.   I called out to him that we were looking for Tirrill graves.  He responded with a quick glance back over his shoulder with a flick of his ears and a grunt that all but screamed, “Dumb Tourists!”  Within minutes our guide had directed us directly to the graves of my 4th great grandparents, Seth and Azuba Chandler Tirrill and many other family members.
Apparently our guide enjoyed communing with the Tirrills given the evidence of his previous visits in the form of moose dung on their graves.  I must say that the grass was greener there than anywhere else in the cemetery.  The spring runoff water must have hit hardpan soil a few feet under the sod because it felt like we were walking on marshmallows as we moved from stone to stone.

After an hour of transcribing tombstone inscriptions and taking photos of each marker, it was time to leave to go find folks in town that may be able to assist in my ancestral research.  Waving goodbye to our guide, he swished his tail, stepped over the back fence and walked down toward the Connecticut River.   Like I said, West Stewartstown, New Hampshire really treats its visitors well.

The remainder of our trip was equally magic.  We found records and homesteads, stories and more graves of my ancestors at every turn.  The moose magic continued with us south to Plymouth, Massachusetts when even more family records, graves and residences were in evidence at every turn of our head.

I’ve seen moose charge fools who stray too close to them or their calves in the woods, so I can’t recommend counting on a moose to act as the guide on your own ancestral quest, but in my case, the image of a dignified moose comes to mind any time I think of New Hampshire or my ancestral families who lived there.
Who knows what you’ll encounter in your own family history research?  If you don’t give up, eventually you too will have stories to tell about ‘genealogy magic’ that happened to you too.  It’s inevitable.  Maybe you’ll get a bird or a Chihuahua or a friendly two-year-old with sticky fingers that will point the way to your ancestral records.  Or maybe you’ll encounter a smiling gray-haired lady or gentleman in a library somewhere that knows the exact book you need or who knew your family when they were young.

Interesting stuff happens in genealogy research.  Count on it.

Posted 25 Apr 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Thursday, March 26, 2015

May 1985 ~ A Day of Pizza, Hot Peppers and the Logan Temple

May 1985 doesn’t seem that long ago in my mind, although the majority of our family hadn’t been born at that point in time.  When I pizzaam researching our ancestors, I  commonly work with dates ranging from hundreds to thousands of years ago. 

I picture the lives of my ancestors based on my own experiences and on the mental visuals that have grown in my mind through reading histories including details about their lives.  The lack of details about them continually bothers me.  

After watching several of our youngest grandchildren be their natural “wee” little selves after deciding that playing in the sandbox was more fun than running inside to “go potty”, questions arose in my mind about our ancestors yet again.
What did they use for toilet paper?  How clean were their hands?  Did they really put their little boys in dresses? 

The long ago details of their daily lives are lost in time.  

In the eyes of our grandchildren, is the same “lost in time” thought true for my ancient generation?  By ancient, I include our children in that stone age collection because we know that is how their children view the lot of us.

Details emerged from an ancient day in May 1985 recently when I found photos of a day trip to Logan, Utah.  I had been working 100 hour work weeks and wasn’t home much more than to sleep and change clothes.   A day in the car going to see stuff and eat pizza at the best pizza place in a foreign town seemed like the perfect family outing.

I ‘neglected’ to tell our brood that the flakes I was shaking on my slice of pizza wasn’t just a flavor enhancement.  It may have contained a little ‘heat’ too.    Watching me decorate my slice with flakes from the round bottle with big holes in the lid seemed to enhance the desirability of following dad’s example and so of course all of our young ones mimicked me.
Their mother immediately give me the snake eye and yelled, “Don’t eat that!” but her reaction time was too slow.

Their jaws only had to cycle two or three times before the load in their mouths was spit out and their hands were grasping for water or their sodas. 

What would these wee ones have done if the pepper flakes actually had any heat in them? 

As it was, the first pizza order had to be discarded and replaced by another set of pies that were under the careful guard of my wife. 

Our children haven’t seen the photos below since that long ago time, yet I’m confident that a single glance at them will bring back the pizza store plus all of the other details of our visit to Logan that day. 

Events and stories are ingrained in our memories when something out of the ordinary happens to us.

When we interview our family members for their histories, we need to remember to ask questions that open their thoughts to memories of unexpected events because the details will still be safely tucked away in those memories.

Drew Crew Logan Temple 1985

Drew Shellie Seth Logan Temple 1985

Drew Steffanie Logan Temple 1985

Logan Temple 4

What memories do you have of events in your lives that instantly bring the related sounds, smells, colors and details to your mind when you think of the event?  Was it going through the gates of Disneyland for the first time?  Spilling punch on your date at your first prom dance?   The death of a loved one?   Being tickled by grandpa until you wet your pants?  Attending your first play on Broadway?  Seeing Santa walk by your window late at night on Christmas Eve?  Learning that picking and eating too many cherries from the tree in one day is a bad thing?

Whatever the events were, capture them in words and images while you are still around and are able to share them with your families.

Posted 26 Mar 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Which Research Path To Follow?

RootsTech 2015 once again focused on investing much of our genealogy related
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time in adding photos, histories and stories about our ancestors to our records.  I agree that they bring our ancestors to life or at least more real in our imaginations.

I've explored spreading my genealogy related activities to include more time for photos and stories during the past year wondering if it is time well spent.   It certainly is when I’m sharing information about our ancestors with our children and grandchildren.  At least, it holds their interest for a little while.

Is that investment of time as valuable as just focusing on genealogy research though?  In my case, maybe not.  I’ve been very fortunate in research success over the decades, finding information about our lineage that has eluded everyone else for generations.  The blessing of that success is unabated to date.  I’ve found more information that I dreamed possible.  It truly is a blessing for our family.

This discussion leads to a decision I have to make in the near future.  Friends and family my age and younger are graduating from mortality with an ever increasing frequency.  Shall I ask our younger generations to mine my files for the stories and photos and post them on sites that will probably survive for the long term leaving me to employ the research skills that I’ve acquired over the decades or should I split my efforts to do both research and the posting of images and stories?

Which route will produce the longest lived success in the quest to find the lineage of our ancestors?  Even though interested in the photos and stories I share, will my descendants engage in our ancestral research themselves based on that interest? 

Is my time best spent doing research using the skills I've acquired at great effort, or should I let them invest a significant amount of time acquiring skills that will help them gain success?  Will any of them be willing to spend the currency of time in their lifelines to acquire the skills?  Will they be interested in their lineage if I haven’t shared enough stories and photos of their ancestors to ignite a deep interest about their ancestry?

In my case, I started looking for information about my ancestors at the age of five.  My mother was interested and as the caboose in the family, I was taken to the libraries with her.  It only took one exposure before I was hooked.   Her interest continued throughout my formative years and although my life became very busy, I never lost interest in ancestral research.  After a relatively brief period of time, associated with college and early married life, I couldn't deny the pull to engage in research any longer.  That pull hasn't abated to date.

Did I similarly invest enough time and opportunities to be infected with this wonderful quest in the lives our our children and grandchildren? 

The answer is yes and no, for all of the typical reasons.

Will those early exposures and shared successes come back to the surface as their lives evolve?

Which brings me back to the original questions.  Is the currency of my remaining life better spent in research or in a combination of research and finding and posting photos and stories about our ancestors?   Which has the largest ROI over time for our family?  Which path has the best chance of long term interest in family history in my descendants?

Whatever path I choose, I need to make the decision before long.  Even though I think I have many more years in this body, the clock is ticking and unexpected events can change everything you’ve envisioned in short order.

What path or paths have you chosen in the quest for your own family?  Have you found a way to not only share your research with your descendants but also enlist their interest in the long term?

Posted 18 February 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Friday, January 30, 2015

Not So Nice Ancestors

One of the joys of genealogy is finding information about your ancestors thatking_bad provides insight into their lives and personalities.   Letters, documents and other stories written by or about them are treasured discoveries.

We are elated when we find them.  We read them to other family members and friends.   We often give them higher praise than the straight “A” report cards that our children bring home. 

Really?  Praise them higher than our child’s achievements?

Well, yes at times we do.  Not consciously but because we know our kids and expect big things from them.  We don’t know almost all of our ancestors and finding any story about them has a cache of perceived value in our ancestrally infected minds.

How do we feel when we find good reputationally challenged stories about our ancestors?
In many cases, their indiscretions don’t run ninety degrees to societal laws and values, but at times we find some real rotters.

Recently, I found information about one of my medieval ancestors in an old scholarly book that described him as being an abomination to the human race, a perversity in the role of a husband and father and tyrant to his people.… Hmmm…  No warm fuzzies there.

I like finding information about ancestors who have infractions with the law because there are records about them but am less enthralled with those that were despots. 

Other ancestral quests have uncovered a medieval grandmother who murdered her husband and a number of her children along with one of her sisters.  The descriptions of their murders is so unpleasant, I won’t include additional reference to them.

We commonly find male ancestors who killed their father, brother(s), cousins and friends to obtain the throne or a leadership position.  They certainly lived in different times than we have enjoyed for the past few centuries in most of the western world.
Once again we are happy that information exists about our ancestors but wish that they hadn’t been such rotters.

I often pause before sharing information about our more infamous ancestors with our grandchildren.  They certainly provide more stories in our ancestral tree than the ‘normal’ folks but a full diet of their tales of debauchery and murder is a plate best served in extreme moderation.

How did our grandmothers survive their arranged marriages to these villains?  What factors were involved to allow any of the children to grow into peaceful, pleasant and productive people?  Many of them did.  Some of them became Saints, even without all of the accompanying politics.

Fortunately, with all of the unpleasantness comes stories of wonderful folks, living their lives as best they could and at the same time being shining examples of goodness in their communities. 

Sometimes sweet and sour items on the menu are the finest meal.  The same is true in the weave in our ancestral tapestry.

Posted 30 January 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ancestral Recipes

Some of the favorite recipes in our family came from our grandmothers.  Werecipe_book collected as many as we could while our own mothers were alive because they collected them too.  All of our daughters immediately copied the old recipe cards as soon as they were engaged.  They wanted them in their homes too.

Consider collecting your own favorite ancestral recipes too.  They make a great Christmas gift if you print and bind them in some fashion.   Twenty years ago, while stopping in a tiny service station in the mountains above Angel’s Camp, Calaveras County, California, I spotted a little self-published recipe book that was a collection of favorite recipes from the area.  My 2nd great grandparents lived there during the time that most of the records were written down.  My grandfather left home at an early age coming to Utah and had little contact with his family afterward.  He died at a relatively young age and as a result none of Great Grandma Drew’s recipes were passed down to our branch of the family.  

Thanks to the little recipe book treasure that I found by happenstance, we now have some culinary insights into the dishes that grandma prepared for her family.   Wow!  She was a good cook if she used even 10% of the recipes in the book.  Capture and share the recipe treasures from your own family.  It takes time and patience to collect them.  Keep a reminder and list of discoveries on your phone or tablet.

The recipe card on my wife’s recipe box for Zucchini Cake looks too new to be one of the original copies from our first year of marriage.  I don’t know if it has been recopied or if the following recipe is of more recent vintage.  Either way, it is delicious.  Whenever the cake is made in our home, it seems to draw all of the neighbor ladies within minutes of being frosted.  I even get a taste of it if I’m lucky.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


  • 2 ¼ cups sifted all purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 ½ medium)
  • 16 oz package (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts


  • Preheat oven to 325 F.  Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.  sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.  Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each.  Mix in grated zucchini.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts on the bottom of the pan.  Pour batter on top of the chips and nuts.
  • Bake cake at 325 for about 50 minutes.  Cool cake in the pan.


  • About 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • Vanilla
  • Enough milk to achieve the consistency you like.

Posted 10 January 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Exploring Ancestral Towns Through Photos by Others

I traveled thousands of miles to find ancestral records and explore their homecamera towns and houses, only to have a TSA scanner scramble my digital photos on the way home.  Hundreds of photos of ancestral tombstones and inscriptions were lost along with the photos of their homes, towns and other memorial scenes.  My memory is full of the scenes, sounds, smells and textures of my visit but words alone don’t paint them in the minds of my family like photos do.  I only remember the general information on their tombstones, not the specifics.  How do I restore even a portion of the images to share with my family?

In my case, I lucked out.  When searching for photos of Plymouth, Massachusetts to accompany my verbal tales, I found a distant cousin or cousin-in-law who is a scenic photographer specializing in the scenes in Plymouth and the surrounding area.  Better yet, Janice Drew posts her photos online for sale and she is a master of social sites and online marketing, so the breadth of her collections cover the location scenes that I lost.

Let’s take a tour of some of those scenes through the words from my mind and the camera of Janice.

Plymouth Rock

Many of my ancestors arrived in America aboard the Mayflower, so of course one of our first stops was at Plymouth Rock.

Art Prints

Sell Art Online

Of course we had to stop by the replica Mayflower boat and go aboard.

Sell Art Online

We stopped by the Mayflower Society Library just up the hill and was warmly greeted by the staff.  There were many books on the shelves that further proved my Mayflower lines.  Several other visitors stopped by and within minutes I found that every one of them was my distant cousin.  That must be a common occurrence at that library.

Photography Prints

Burial Hill was the next stop for the day.  I knew that it would take hours to find all of the graves of my ancestors.  I hadn’t anticipated how long I would spend at each tombstone taking photos, reading inscriptions and listening to the echos from the past as I looked out over Plymouth Bay.

Photography Prints

One of the buildings in view adjacent to the cemetery was First Church, where grandpa Atwood preached and served.

Sell Art Online

When stretching my legs after kneeling by grandpa Drew’s tombstone, I turned to my left and saw grandpa Bradford’s marker.

Sell Art Online

If you too have relatives buried on Burial Hill, I highly recommend taking time to visit their graves and to also sit and listen to the breezes of history that float over that locale.

Sell Art Online

The next morning we again started our day near Plymouth Rock.  A stroll along the Town Brook path in Brewster Gardens was in order knowing that my ancestors had walked the ground.

Photography Prints

Walking through the bridge and continuing up hill, we soon exited to find Pleasant Street and the home of my Drew ancestors at number 51.  Arriving at Training Green, we could see the white frame home as seen in the bottom right corner of this photo.

Photography Prints

After taking photos of the home, we continued back up hill to the ‘new’ incarnation of grandpa Jenney’s Grist Mill.

Photography Prints

Sell Art Online

We walked back down hill on Leyden Street to get to our car.

Art Prints

We drove north and then back to the south to get near the Plymouth Light House location where grandpa Churchill commanded a small group of men during the Revolutionary War.

Sell Art Online

The remainder of our stay in Plymouth was spent finding additional ancestral records, exploring the Oak Grove Cemetery to find more graves and of course at the Plimouth Plantation.  

All of the photos were lost.  The loss of the tombstone images hurt the most because of their value to me both as sources and as tokens that evoked extensive memories in my mind my quiet time in the cemeteries. 

Since that time, I’ve found an undeveloped roll of film that contained images of some of the tombstones.  The film camera I had with me was old and inexpensive and the images reflect its lineage, but at least I have the photos.  It is too bad that the digital media with me wasn’t as hardy as the film.

Thanks to Janice, many of my memories of Plymouth are available online to view or buy.  

Have you been similarly blessed by photographers who have captured images of locations associated with your ancestors?

Posted 21 Dec 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Exploring The Lives of Ancient Ancestors

There are times in our lives when we wake and a realization comes to us that we hurt all overold_garden or that we can’t remember the name of a common object.  We quickly determine that we need to take a pill of one kind or another as a remedy for our maladies.  Within minutes, we’ve swallowed the pill and have moved on with our day.  It’s usually just that easy.

That thought crossed my mind today while I was writing the history of one of my ancient ancestors who died at a relatively young age after a decade of misery due to a variety of ailments.

What did our ancient ancestors do for the pains, maladies and health misfortunes in their lives?  They certainly had herbs and treatments that helped or at least created the illusion of assistance, but most of the time they had to bear their misery in whatever manner their constitution allowed.  

I’ve reached the age when a minor procedure isn’t that uncommon.  The procedures are miracles in truth because in almost every case the issue they fixed would have been terminal back in the days of the ancients.  

When I find records that show that an ancient lived a relatively long life, I look at them with a jaundiced eye.  One of my second great grandfathers lived to be ninety-six.  I know the number to be correct because I’ve verified it with numerous sources including a cross country trip to read the inscription on his tombstone.

It is much harder to verify the age at death of our ancient ancestors.  Their life chroniclers note that they were “old”, “ancient of days” or “achieved that rare age”.  Of course these connotations are relative to the lifespan of that time.  

Several of my grandchildren noted how “old” I am when they visited today.  I looked at them with a furrowed brow because I don’t think I’m very old.  I’m just getting started in seniorhood.  Why would they say that?    Could it be the silver hair and day-of-the-week pill strip?   Could it be the giggles that escape their lips as I try to climb to my feet after sitting on the floor to play a game with them?  Nah.  It must be just their perception of age relative to their short lives.

How did my ancient ancestors accomplish so much in their relatively short lives?  Granted, the only reason I know their names is because they were royalty of one type or another, otherwise, nothing would have been recorded about them.   Sometimes their stories are brief and other times they are fairly long.  The more ‘rotten’ they were in their actions, the greater the collection of facts exist about them.  Do we cheer them for the misdeeds in their lives because they resulted in a paper trail that has bridged the centuries?  I don’t support their misanthropic activities but yes, I do cheer that records exist about them.

From time-to-time I cheer for the goodness exhibited by an ancestor.  They are typically my female ancestors but sometimes the men conducted their lives better than the norm for the time and their station in life.   Some of the ladies were pure saints; not from the biblical or religious perspective but certainly from the way they conducted their lives.   

We find ourselves talking to our computer monitors saying, “Way to go grandma or grandpa!”  We have smiles on our faces when we uncover yet another positive nugget from their lives.  We groan when we read of the misdeeds hoping that a lot if not all of them were committed due to a lack of knowledge or common sense training and not because they were just part of their character.  We growl out loud when it is grandma who “went south” in their life.  “How could you!”  “Ohhh, Man!”   

What stories will we leave for our descendants?  Will any written life record survive across the ages?  Will a digital record survive or will it be lost in the petabytes of data that is generated daily?  Are we living a life in the eye of the public or are we just one of the cast of ‘normal’ folks who live remarkable yet little reported lives that aren’t noted as being extraordinary?  

We all need to record our own stories and be sure that we’ve shared them enough that they have a chance of surviving the decades and centuries ahead.  Hopefully, most if not all of our descendants will be in the “Way to Go” camp rather than on the “Awwww … phooey” side of the fence when they read our stories.  

They won’t cheer or groan if we don’t record our stories though.  Whatever the stories are they will make us real in the minds of our descendants.  They will always be happy to be able to put our stories with our names.  We will be real to them, not just a name and a date.  

Is the title of this post misleading?  It’s all relative.  I’m hoping that those reading this missive eventually will be able to call me their ‘ancient’ ancestor.  How do my stories relate to you my descendants?  Do they depict me on the good or on the bad side of the scale?

Posted 13 Dec 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Friday, November 14, 2014

When Aunt Mable’s Genealogy Is Wrong

After a flood of notes and comments from distant cousins who questionancestors my genealogy postings, it is obvious that not many of them are actually doing genealogy research.  Rather, they have copied erroneous genealogical information found on the Internet and in the possession of family members.

Many of the notes I receive argue that my data is incorrect because their “Aunt Mable” or whomever found information that the truth about our common relative was much different than the data that I have posted.   

When I ask them about the sources for their data, they answer, “Aunt Mable”.  Asking if she had written any sources on the group or pedigree sheets in her genealogy book, invariably, the answer was ‘No”.   The story plays out as you’d expect.  Their full trust was in Aunt Mable who would not lie and that if I knew her, “you would say the same thing”.

When I point to the primary, secondary and circumstantial sources that I’ve included that support my data, they respond, “Someone made a mistake and everyone is copying them.”

I ask if they “think that anyone would copy the data created by someone else and perpetuate the errors”, they always respond, “of course people do that.”

At this point of the conversation, I stop and wait for the light bulb to come on in their minds.  It does fairly frequently but unfortunately, it doesn't in many cases.  When that happens it is necessary to gently break it to them that that is exactly what they have done and that until they have original sources other than the much lauded veracity of Aunt Mable, we really don’t have much to talk about.

Similar issues have surrounded photos that others have posted that don’t actually contain the image of the person in the record.  In most cases, I acquired my ancestral photos from my grandparents and great grandparents along with their hand written names and information on the back of the photo that identify the person(s) in the image.  A lot of the time the photos were of their siblings, aunts, uncles and even grandparents, whom they knew in life. Unfortunately, many newbies assume that any photo they find posted on the Internet is correctly labeled and is therefore a validated photo of their ancestor. Once again, this rationale creates fallacies that are believed and perpetuated across the Internet.

Stories of this nature aren’t new to most researchers.  We’ve been on both sides in these tales, but eventually we finally “got” the concept that we need firm or thoughtfully elucidated proof of our information before it represents valid data in the eyes of others.

Remember to treat folks raising red flags with kindness and patience when you encounter issues like those above.  We may be surprised when their proof is actually ‘better’ than our proof. It happens to all of us. I have been caught by surprise as the person with the incorrect evidence on many occasions, regardless of how well I thought I had proven the facts. It happens to all of us. Some of the revelations hurt.  I have been very attached to my data and the people that I had claimed as ‘mine’ in these situations. Cutting them free to float away was difficult indeed, but it was the correct thing to do.

One error that surfaced involved the loss of thousands of ancestors from my pedigree. Two men were born on the same day to parents with the same names five miles apart in the early 1800’s.  Of course they had the same first names and married women with the same names. Did I expect the issue to be simple? Even most of their children were similarly named.

I had wonderful sources for ‘my’ male ancestor just like the person that called the issue to my attention did for ‘their’ ancestor with the same name.

We met at my house, compared information and then she pulled out the ‘bigger’ source document that proved her point. Bang! Down went the balloon of proven research 'righteousness'. She was right. I was wrong. She gained all of ‘my’ ancestors in that line, while I gained the few ancestors that she had proven in ‘her’ line. She got the man that was well known and revered in his world, while I gained the man who couldn't read or write and worked at menial jobs all of his life. My new ancestors didn’t have any less worth than my ‘lost’ ancestors, but the paucity of recorded events in their lives made them a LOT harder to find and prove.

My new genealogy friend sent me a number of notes that thanked me for all my work on her lineage along with a little nudging to remind me to not try and take them back. That had to bring a smile to her face every time she penned a communique to me.

All of us will eventually encounter problems like this for a variety of good and not so good reasons. We may lose our ancestor, “Daddy Warbucks”, and all of the brag stories that go with him but the truth is that he never was ours from the start. Neither was “Auntie Mame” or “Dagwood” or “Daisy”.

We all have the huge pools of “John’s”, “Mary’s”, “William’s” and “Elizabeth’s” that richly populate our lineal families and the historical records we search to find them. Sometimes we feel that if we discover one more John Brown or Elizabeth Smith in our ancestry, we will pull our hair out. Often, the common Joe's and Sally's are the real treasures in our lineage. Let's keep our hands away from our hair and use that energy to find the nuggets of greatness in all of our ancestors and their families.

It seems counter-intuitive but frequently these wonderful, salt-of-the-earth, common folks had fantastic life stories that will enthrall us if we can throw off our negativity and work to find them. After all, they are our kind of people! Most of us are just as common as most of them.

Often, we are hero's in the eyes of family members and friends, regardless of how common or uncommon we perceive ourselves. We aren't unique in the miscalculation of value and worth of ourselves and others, be it too high or too low. It was just as hard for our ancestors to recognize their own worth in the scales of eternity as it is for us. People were praised for the wrong characteristics and actions then just as they are now. Success and value are measured in the eyes and minds of others, regardless of the perceived quality of the visage that stares back at anyone from the mirror.

Let's claim and praise our ancestors. They've earned it and deserve it. However, at the same time, let's be sure that we are laying our wreaths at the feet of the correct people by proving that they are ours to love and revere.

Posted 14 Nov 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do Beginning Genealogy Researchers Need To Be Experts?

There has been a continuing stream of dialog among the LDS genealogy18 community about the need for folks new to genealogy and LDS temple work to either do dedicated original research or alternately to mine the existing records on FamilySearch Tree to find possible incomplete temple ordinances for family members.

The two camps are polarized in their thoughts, although the old-school researchers seem to be more vociferous in their position on the subject.  They regularly declare that original research is THE ONLY way to be involved in securing LDS ordinance reservations.  It must be the only method used to discover ancestral family members.  They state that anyone who shortcuts the traditional research process is:

  1. Not a real genealogist

  2. Not an accurate record keeper

  3. Following a path that will lead to their destruction in both their research habits and in the accuracy of their work.

  4. Creating duplicate or false ordinance work in LDS temples.

  5. Wasting their time.  Kidding themselves.  Becoming a purveyor of junk data.

Their attitudes and words hurt the feelings newbie researchers and do as much to quash their fledgling interest in genealogy as do the ever present pressures in their lives that ranges from school to work and to raising a family. 

Let’s face facts.  Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy plainly stated in his 2014 RootsTech talk that less than 3% of LDS church members submit names for temple ordinances. 

He noted that “To reach the other 97 percent, we need to change how we think, how we teach and what we teach.”

He went on to say: “These numbers are a cry for change.”

There was good news in his message though: “In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17 percent over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members.”

His message called for the improvement of both member involvement in family history research and in church genealogy curriculum and research tools. 

He supported the call for improvement by noting that “in the United States 25 percent of Church members do not have four generations of ancestors in the Family Tree section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Internationally, 70 percent of members don’t have both parents in Family Tree, 90 percent don’t have their grandparents in it, and 95 percent don’t have their great-grandparents included.

“These individual members already know the names of the people that are in their first four generations,” he noted. “But our responsibilities go far beyond those first four generations. We need to help all members of the Church find their ancestors.”

His message on this subject wasn’t new although it wouldn’t matter if it was or even if he was the only church leader speaking and teaching on the subject.  His assignment in the Presidency of the Seventy includes being the Executive Director of the Family History Department.  Not only is his direction in family history work consistent with the goals of the church, it is consistent with direction from the highest level of church leadership

Noting the current lackluster involvement of all church members in family history, the church through their genealogy arm, FamilySearch, has introduced numerous new methods, programs, opportunities and tweaks in curriculum in an effort to help members engage in the work. 

Obviously much of the focus is on new researchers ranging from young folks to busy adults.  They need opportunities that provide them semi-easy research tools and early successes to reinforce the knowledge that success is possible and enjoyable. 

The Family History Department recently released a program named “New Way to Find Cousins”  and video directed to them that specifically focuses on using the Descendancy View of Family Tree to find incomplete or missing temple ordinances for members of their ancestral families.

Just over a year ago, they introduced the Memories tools in Family Tree that encourages users of Tree to add photos and stories to the records of their ancestors.

The release has been followed by numerous campaigns that encourage writing and attaching memories about ancestors in Tree like the recent #meetmygrandma campaign.

Several months ago, FamilySearch released two mobile apps, FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories to make it easier for everyone to access records on Tree and add information to them.

The tools and methods used in the past hadn’t proven successful with the masses.  Something had to change if participation in family history research was to increase.  No matter where we reside on the family history research skill spectrum, we need to listen to the words of church leaders and take heed of the programs, tools and education that is being released by the Family History Department through FamilySearch.

It is time for all of us to accept the direction of these programs and help in their success and stop finding reasons why they are wrong.   They aren’t wrong.  Our vision of “right” is too narrow.

I’m an old-timer in genealogy research like many of you.  I’ve been heavily involved in family history research for over 60 years.  I’ve taught family history classes for over 30 years and like other instructors throughout the church have spent much of the teaching time focusing on sources, accuracy and avoiding the bane of duplicate records.   Hopefully, the long term successful research involvement of my students or my nebulously denoted “success rate” as an instructor exceeds the 3% average of the church.  Memory tells me that is true but unfortunately, the long term active involvement research numbers are still far too low.

As a father and grandfather, I’ve taught family members how to “do” genealogy research.  We’ve enjoyed research trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and to libraries in other locations as well as numerous trips to ancestral sites including their residences, cemeteries, local historical societies and the rest of the commonly visited research venues.

We’ve had a good time.  We’ve found ancestral records.  We’ve been successful. 

All too often the “We” in these sentences has been the royal “We” with me sitting on the throne of royalty. 

Real success in helping them engage and actually love the research engagement has been when we’ve used similar tools and the objectives that FamilySearch is using now.


Sessions of dry research never stoked the love of family history in their lives, but it flourished when ancestral stories and photos were introduced.  Confidence in research success was never achieved until I purposely directed them to resources that I knew would result in the discovery of ancestral records. 

Ordinance work that they performed for their ancestors was never as sacred or internalized as it has been since they have been an integral part of our ancestral research.  Their confidence is built on their research skills and on the stories and photos about their ancestors that were found and written during the research process.

Is the LDS Church and its Family History Department asking researchers to abandon source proven records, avoidance of duplication and engage in speculation and low value ancestral information? 

Absolutely not! 

They are asking us old timers to look in a different teaching and experiential window than the one we’ve know and focused on for generations.  We are still needed to produce the stream of accurate new records, but we are too few and too relatively slow in the production of those records. 

A much broader spectrum of involvement by all church members and researchers worldwide is required for the ultimate success required by the Lord.

Come on Old Timers and Journeyman Researchers, stop hogging all of the research fun and stop trying to assume all of the research responsibility.  Share and encourage it with everyone.   Help them be successful in their ancestral quest. 

It all starts with baby steps.  Think back far enough and you’ll remember when you too wore the infant shoes of a new researcher that you’ve now bronzed and proudly display for others to see.

It’s time to realize the promises of Elijah in turning our hearts to our ancestors.  Let’s gently and encouragingly share our hard won skills and knowledge as we help new researchers successfully achieve their own goal of being successful, accurate family history research scholars who along with their families hope to be Saviors on Mount Zion.

© Article Posted 18 Oct 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lee Drew’s Views and on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog