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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Unique Genealogical Highlights of the Brigham Young University Family History Library -- Part Three

BYU Family History Library Microfilm Cabinets

With the huge collections of digitized records going online and all the huge repositories around the world, it would be difficult to claim uniqueness for any record. But the reality of genealogical records is that many of them are unique and even some of those that have been published or microfilmed have been released only in very limited quantities. A huge library, such as the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library (Lee Library) by its very nature will acquire a large number of unique items. But in the case of the Lee Library, because of the emphasis of its sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), there are even more genealogically important items than there would be in a library without this type of connection. For an insight into the basis for the LDS interest in genealogy see the article on Temples.

The resources in the Lee Library and particularly in the BYU Family History Library fall into several general categories as follows:

1. Physical items such as books, serial publications, maps, microfilm records, microfiche, photos and other media items.
2. An extensive list of online resources, many of which can only be accessed while in the Lee Library itself.
3. Support resources such as scanners for books, single sheet document and photo scanners, high-speed, sheet-fed document and photo scanners, book scanners, microfilm scanners and film negative scanners.
4. Preserved original documents, manuscripts, photos and other ephemera in special, underground storage vaults.

Access to many of these items requires a physical visit to the Lee Library. Given the background and the Lee Library's sponsoring institution, you would expect the Library to have a sizable number of documents relating to Mormon history and you would be correct. But, the Lee Library is a major research library that supports approximately 30,000 students enrolled in nearly 200 different student majors with many of those majors offering graduate degrees. See BYU Graduate Studies.

In addition, BYU has extensive academic offerings that specialize in family history. The university maintains a Family History Portal that links to many of the resources on campus for family history.

It is important to bear in mind when doing research at the BYU Family History Library that it is only a part of the larger Lee Library and all of the resources of the main library are available to researchers.

Genealogists are not necessarily oriented towards working and doing research in a major academic library. From my own observations, most of the patrons who come to the BYU Family History Library are entirely unaware of the extended resources in the Lee Library, even when they are physically present in the Library itself. The BYU Family History Libraries main area is underground in the Lee Library's Second Level. The BYU Family History Library main area houses the genealogy reference books, the scanning equipment, a huge collection of microfilm and microfiche records, many individual computer stations and comfortable study areas that include a large number of chairs and tables. There is also a huge collection of books from the University's Religious Studies Department. The rest of the vast resources are scattered around the main library on the Library's six levels. Here is an example of the floor map for Level 2 where the main Family History Library room is located.
The BYU Family History Library is the area on the extreme right of the map that extends out from the main area of the Library. Yes, it is that relatively small area. Here is another copy of the map with the BYU Family History Library outlined in red.

Remember there are five more levels to this huge library.

If you are anxious to begin investigating the specific holdings of the Lee Library and our BYU Family History Library then you can do so by looking at the Catalog on the main page of the Lee Library's website.

Entry to the Catalog is that white search field at the top of the page. Meanwhile, stay tuned and I will continue this extensive investigation into the world's second largest family history library.

The previous posts in this series.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On DNA, History and Definitions

Genealogical DNA testing as it is administered today provides reports such as the ones I recently received from both and I have been commenting on the differences between the two tests and this may ultimately result in my taking an additional test or tests for comparison. But before I get to that point, there are some serious issues that I need to resolve with the way the tests are reported.

My questions and comments are not directed at the procedures or scientific content of the tests, I am merely observing what I would characterize as very "fuzzy" history in the reporting of the results. The results from Ancestry are a very good example of my concerns. My DNA test produced the following general percentages of genetic matches as follows:
  • Great Britain 55%
  • Scandinavia 29%
  • Other regions 16%
When I expand the analysis, I get the following results:
  • Great Britain 55%
  • Scandinavia 29%
  • Iberian Peninsula 11%
  • Ireland 5%
When I expand the Irish component, I get the following expanded comment.

From my own research, I have ancestors who were born in Northern Ireland and were Protestants and most like came from Scotland. I also have ancestors who were born in Ireland that is now the Republic of Ireland. I also have some ancestors who, through research, clearly came from Wales and others that are definitely English. Now, I get to the issue of the ethnic history of each of these countries; England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The British Isles refers to a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of continental Europe. The earliest name for Great Britain is Albion. The term "Britannia" was used by the Romans after their conquest by Rome which began in 43 A.D. England's claims to Scotland resulted in more than a century and a half of war beginning in about 1174 and ending in 1296. The term "Great Britain" is loosely applied to what is further known as the United Kingdom. Quoting from Wikipedia: Great Britain:
Great Britain refers geographically to the island of Great Britain, politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used loosely to refer to the whole of the United Kingdom. 
Similarly, Britain, can refer to either all islands in Great Britain, the largest island, or the political grouping of counties. There is no clear distinction, even in government documents: the UK government yearbooks have used both "Britain" and "United Kingdom".
The full name of the "United Kingdom" is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irland." On May 1, 1707, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was formed as a result of the Acts of Union being passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the 1706 Treaty of Union and so unite the two kingdoms.

There is a lot more history, but all this and more illustrates that the terms used by in communicating the DNA results are even fuzzier than the results themselves. This is especially true when you look at the reference to Ireland which then includes both Wales and Scotland which are clearly, now, part of what is often called "Great Britain."

In addition, none of these quasi-political designations have anything at all to do with genetic ethnicity. The population of Great Britain is extremely diverse. For example, in 1066 A.D. there was a considerable influx of French influence. Telling me that I have a certain percentage of my ancestry from Great Britain and then dividing off Ireland, Scotland and Wales is not only historically naive but really doesn't give me any useful information compared to doing careful genealogical research from historical documents. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On Burying the Skeletons in your Genealogical Closet

The British Museum crystal skull.
We all have a skeleton or two (or more) in our genealogical closets. What do we do with them? First of all, history is history. A quote from Michael Crichton is appropriate:
“If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ”
I think I have used that quote before, but it appropriate in the present context. Since we live in the present, anything that just happened becomes history. For genealogists, unless that history was recorded in some way, it simply did not happen. History becomes history when it is recorded. Of course, the methods of transmission vary considerably. Once we become interested in our family's history, we start to become aware of the possible sources of information about our family. We are immediate heirs to an oral history transmitted by our immediate relatives. Some of us are deprived of this oral history because we have little or no contact with our relatives because of adoptions, abandonments or other difficult situations. We may also be separated from our oral history because our immediate family is estranged from other family members or for a whole list of other reasons.

However, oral histories are very selective. In some cultures, oral histories are the main method of transmission but in our American and Western European-based culture in the United States, we only get our oral history, if at all, in bits and pieces. For most of us, starting our research into our family becomes a voyage into the unknown.

After spending years doing genealogical research and learning more and more about my ancestors, I find that there are plenty of skeletons that were entirely ignored by the relatively small number of stories that were transmitted through the oral history channel. I have found stories of inspiration and overcoming obstacles and hardship. But I have also found that some of my ancestors were not model citizens.

There is an old saying, that I first heard from the Walt Disney movie Bambi, that goes, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." This attitude is an undercurrent that strongly affects oral history transmissions. As I have solicited oral histories over the years, I have seen that there is a distinct tendency to ignore or eliminate any references to conflict or unpleasant issues. But sometimes, these issues are recorded in court records, newspaper articles, and other less editorial sources.

There is another saying that applies here and that is, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." In our case, as genealogists, we are happy to connect ourselves with all sorts of unsavory characters as long as they are back some distance in time and turn out to be famous or infamous. I am always amused that so many genealogists proudly display their "royal" ancestry when many of those same kings and queens were horrible people. It is interesting that some people will refuse to even talk about a close relative who has done something "terrible" but are proud to parade their more distant ancestors who did things that were much worse than the closer or more proximate relative.

Another aspect of this issue is the tendency genealogists display to rewrite history both to eliminate undesirable connections and to bridge gaps that they think need to be bridged. Although much of the inaccuracy of today's online family trees can be attributed to sloppy research and indiscriminate copying, there is a good measure of fabrication also. If a lengthy pedigree is impressive to some people, it is now easier than ever to acquire a long pedigree especially one leading back to royalty. It is also easy to overlook the lack of any supporting documentation. Many of the surname books I have inherited containing my "family history" start out with statements about how our family is related to royalty when no such connections have ever been documented.

Genealogists should be more in the mode of digging up the skeletons rather than burying them and don't forget that even the skeletons need to be carefully documented with the sources recorded.

Monday, May 22, 2017

DNA Update: Results Are In.

Well, according to, my connection to India and my Jewish Heritage both disappear and now I am Spanish. I have to believe that some of the conclusions from Ancestry are in the margin of error. When I received the results from the test, I could immediately see a correspondence to my own extensive research. However, I have never found any connections to the Iberian Peninsula in all my research. Here is what had to say about my DNA test.

The results are as follows:

  • Great Britain 55%
  • Scandinavia 29%
  • Iberian Peninsula 11%
  • Ireland 5%
Here is the report from, which I have posted previously, for comparison.

The results here are as follows:
  • British and Irish 87%
  • Scandinavian 9.3%
  • Ashkenazi Jewish 2.5%
  • South Asia 1.2%
By the way, now has an interesting fan chart that shows your origin according to the records in your part of the Family Tree. Obviously, if you had someone from one part of the world move to another, the fact that a person was born in the place of arrival does not affect your ethnicity. But, you can see the results of your research rather than what a DNA test might show. Here is the fan chart.

Another obvious fact is that this is a report of existing research, not a glimpse into ancient origins. This fan chart also lumps all of the people in the United States together. Here the unknown people are those with no birth place information. 

What is the reality? Who knows at this point. After spending a year reading and studying the genealogical DNA process, it looks to me that the margins of error erase any possible fine point conclusions. 

One important fact for me is that the DNA test conclusions are and were immediately explainable from my own research. Even the small percentage link to Southern Asia has a possible explanation backed up by research. However, the DNA connection to the Iberian Peninsula is really interesting because my wife showed up with the same connection and neither of us in all our extensive research has found any possibilities that would indicate such a connection. 

Now let's get into a hypothetical situation. What if I had taken both these tests before I had done any genealogical research at all? What would I think? How would I proceed? Would either test have been at all helpful? Would I have been motivated to begin the research process because of the tests? I really can't answer any of those questions. My personal motivation to start doing genealogical research had nothing to do with a curiosity about my ancestry. Maybe someone else would be so motivated, but how would the average researcher approach their genealogical research any differently given the discrepancies between the two tests?

What will I now do differently than I would not have done before taking the tests? Absolutely nothing. I am still doing intensive research in Rhode Island. Oh, I didn't mention the two findings from about their Genetic Communities that I have very likely had Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West as ancestors and that I had Settlers of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts as ancestors. Both of those conclusions could have easily been determined from my family tree. 

I guess I am left to speculate whether or not speaking Spanish almost all my life has somehow altered both my own and my wife's genetic makeup someway. 

More on this later when I calm down. 

Restricted Records -- A Word to the Wise

This is going to be short note. While doing a microfilm search on the Brigham Young University Family History Library webpage, I got the above response to my search. Because I seldom believe such notices, I immediately searched for the same item online. I found the both and the Hathi Trust had compete and available digital copies online. I also found the item, a book, in the BYU Harold B. Lee Library.

Here is the word to the wise. Always assume that the item you are looking for is available in digital form online. You will be right more than half the time. If it is not online, it will be in the BYU Family History Library in Provo, Utah. If for any reason, it is not in the BYU Library, it will be in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If it is in none of those places, it may be available through interlibrary loan. Only after all this searching, should you really feel justified in traveling to a remote repository to do some research.

Moral of this story? I do not have to travel, even to Salt Lake City.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why we may be wrong in our approach to genealogical research
An article from the JSTOR Daily website entitled "Have Humans Been in the Americas Longer Than We Thought?" makes an interesting statement:
The study of human migration to the Americas shows that widely held beliefs can be proven wrong.
This statement is made in the context of the revisions that have been made to "accepted" theories about the time depth of human remains in America contradicting current dogma on the subject. This particular subject has interested me for many years and I have been watching as the dates are revised further and further into the past.

In my opinion, along with scientists, genealogists are among the most dogmatic people I know. Of course, there are other dogmatic people, but in this post I am focusing on these two groups.

We all know exactly how genealogical research should be conducted even if our methods vary considerably. What is also interesting about both scientists and genealogists is that they tend to have cadre of experts that try to heavily influence and control the rest of their respective communities. I ran into this when I was finishing up my Masters Thesis at the University of Utah. I had some opinions that clashed with the accepted scientific dogma of the time and was told by one professor in particular that if I followed that line of investigation, I would never get a job with a university in the United States. This is not an extreme example. I have a fairly good contact with the acedemic community today not only from my position on the Brigham Young University Campus, but also because many of my children and their spouses have advanced degrees and four of them are or were professors at major universities. I also taught at the community college level for many years.

As genealogists, we are presently caught in the middle of a huge technological revolution that is directly affecting how and even why we do our research. But there are those who wish to ignore the changes and maintain the comfort zone of "traditional" research methodology. It is not uncommon for me to encounter long-time genealogical research experts who barely know how to use a computer and who are not at all comfortable with online research. Many of them also have limited typing skills. Yet, they are still considered to be leaders and experts in the genealogical community.

For example, neither of the major genealogical certification programs contain any reference to using computers, online research or anything having to do with technology at all. Conceivably, an applicant to either organization could complete the entire process without using a computer except for typing in a word processing program. I was approached not long ago by a person who indicated that they were in the last stages of qualifying for one of the professional certification processes and asked me for help in getting onto a computer and for instructions about how to login to

I am certainly not denigrating the skills outlined and selected by the certification organizations. But I am pointing out that genealogists fall into the same trap as scientists when they ignore or even oppose new discoveries and technological advances. I am sure that there are a large number of genealogists who have a broad understanding of technology and utilize all of the available resources, but currently they are a decided minority.

We are presently in a technological shift in genealogical research that is the functional equivalent of finding 130,000 year old stone implements in America. We are also experiencing the equivalent resistance to those changes as are the scientists who have found the ancient implements.

Friday, May 19, 2017

MyHeritage introduces the Collection Catalog

One of the things that has been "missing," in a sense, from is the ability to easily search a catalog of all of the collections. That issue has been decisively put to rest with the new Collection Catalog introduced yesterday, May 18, 2017. I immediately appreciated the utility of the new feature because I frequently use similar features on other programs. Here is where I found the link to the new feature:

It is located in the pull-down menu under the Research tab. The list of collections is impressive with a well-developed filtering system.

I find this kind of list particularly useful when I am looking for records in a specific part of the world. This list lets me know the time period covered by the records and whether or not the website has the particular records I am looking for.

For more detailed information about the Collection Catalog, please see the blog post entitled, "New: Collection Catalog. "

Genealogy and Premium Features: The Family Nexus

One of the most interesting recently developed programs or "apps" for genealogy is The Family Nexus.

The Family Nexus is following what has now become a standard program development model. A programmer or developer comes up with a new idea for a program (for genealogy or any other area or interest) and after creating a workable product begins to promote a "free" version. Once the free version gains some traction, the developer adds a number of features and then introduces those features as a fee-based add-on to the original free version. Huge online genealogy programs such as still maintain their "free" version of their programs. The developers count on the fact that the added value of the upgrades or new features will attract paying customers.

This whole process is necessary since there are few options for providing a "free" program without ultimately obtaining some method of support. For example, in the case of The Family History Guide, a completely free program that intends to remain free, we are now promoting The Family History Guide Association, a non-profit corporation that will ask for and solicit donations to continue the work of the free website. Users of free computer programs should not be at all surprised when this happens.

One other trend is that programs and apps are going to a subscription model of marketing rather than a one-time sale. The reality is that the subscription model is really what has been happening all along. Every program that has endured for any period of time has had to be upgraded. Genealogists seem to be more prone than the rest of the computer world to complain about upgrades and the cost of upgrades. But since I used the first, pre-release versions of programs such as Microsoft Word and what is now called Adobe Photoshop, I have been constantly paying for upgrades. In some cases, the upgrade cost alone has caused me to abandon the program. Now, many of the programs I use are on annual subscriptions rather than paying for an annual upgrade.

The Adobe Creative Cloud is a good example. We use several Adobe programs regularly and the cost of upgrading those individual programs has, for some time, exceeded the cost of a subscription to the Creative Cloud. I also have subscriptions for my online backup program, some online storage programs and some other apps and programs such as the Microsoft Office Suite.

Going back to The Family Nexus, I strongly suggest downloading the free program and taking a look at the new features linked above. One of the challenges of trying to implement a fee-based program by piggy-backing it on a free program is setting a price that will be acceptable to subscribers. This issue engenders a lot of discussion and thought. Genealogists should realize that they wouldn't have any programs or apps or databases or anything at all unless someone paid for it.

Bowing Out
Another one of the pillars of the genealogical blogging community is bowing out. The Ancestry Insider, for an unstated reason other than the time commitment involved, is saying goodbye. The Ancestry Insider joins Thomas MacEntee of in retiring from the online blogging world. See "Major Changes At" Actually, from my perspective, the field of active bloggers dating back to the time when I started is looking pretty thin. Many of those original bloggers are still officially onboard, but their blogs have not been active for some time.

Back in 1776, Edward Gibbon (b. 1737, d. 1794) published the first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The last volume in the series was published in 1789. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on the book:
Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, unusual at the time, its methodology became a model for later historians. This led to Gibbon being called the first "modern historian of ancient Rome"
Interestingly, a six-volume set of the hardcover book is for sale from Barnes and Noble for $1,176.88.

I mention this book for several reasons. I am beginning to think that I am chronicling the rise and fall of genealogical blogging. On the other hand, given the number of blog posts I have written (currently 4831), I believe I may have passed The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the number of words written. By the way, I usually give a citation to the book, but there are well over a thousand different entries for the Gibbon book in and I don't think I can guess which of the citations is the most common one.

I am still not ready to concede that blogging about genealogy is a dead issue. I am still online in most of the major social networking programs and I am approaching 100 online videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. For reasons I have stated previously, I am not about to abandon the blogging venue for Facebook which I still find to be highly annoying at times. Genealogy as a pursuit is going to be around for a long time and probably a lot longer than I will be alive. But as long as I am still able to sit up and take nourishment, I will keep writing.

Bach and Genealogy

Gavotte from the first notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach (French suite No.5, G major, BWV 816) Taken from the Bach Gesamtausgabe (BGA), vol. 44 [B.W. XLIV]: "Joh. Seb. Bach's handschrift" (Joh.Seb.Bach's manuscripts), Originally published by the Bach-Gesellschaft in Leipzig, 1895. This image is in the public domain.
While I am writing or doing genealogical research, I like to listen to Bach. I am especially partial to the collection of pieces called the French Suite. When I was young, I was not particularly involved in music. As I grew older, I became more and more involved. At one point, I briefly considered becoming a professional musician and actually got some jobs singing and playing the guitar. I loved rock and roll and then started a lifetime interest in folk music that lingers until today. I have sung both in solo performances and choirs for nearly my entire life.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Well, for me, it turns out that it has quite a bit to do with genealogy. When I was well into my 20s, one afternoon, I was listening to the radio and heard a program of Bach organ music. Up to that point, music had been a "hobby/" I was not particularly involved in the serious technical side of music even though I had learned to play a few instruments and even taken piano, flute, and guitar lessons. The key to becoming more than casually involved was when, as I listened, really listened to the Bach pieces, I realized that I had missed a whole world of music. Music was a very complex and challenging pursuit. The complexity of Bach opened my mind to a whole new world. Here is an example of what I have found.

J.S.Bach - French Suites

Essentially, I had the same experience when I started to become involved in genealogical research. At first, if was more of a hobby than a passion. Over time, I became aware of the complexity of the research process and the challenges. My casual interest evolved into a more intense interest and then a passion. I even considered becoming a "professional" genealogist. But for some of the same reasons I did not pursue a music career, I decided against trying to make genealogy into a business or profession. So now, I listen to Bach while I am writing or doing genealogical research. However, I do find that when I really get involved in my research, I cannot have any distractions, even Bach. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Unique Genealogical Highlights of the Brigham Young University Family History Library -- Part Two

Large libraries, such as the Harold B. Lee Library (the Lee Library) at the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, share the same challenges for researchers. The Library's collections are spread over the huge physical area of the Library. The BYU Family History Library is not part of, although both organizations are sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although the BYU Family History Library is not an integral part of, the two organization cooperate closely. The volunteers who serve the patrons in the BYU Family History Library are Church Service Missionaries for the Church and are designated as Family History Missionaries. There are also a small number of people who are volunteers and are not also missionaries. Because the BYU Family History Library is part of the Harold B. Lee Library, the Director of the BYU Family History Library and the staff are paid employees of the University. The Director is a University Professor.

It is important to understand these relationships when doing research in the Library because of scheduling issues and the type of support available to researchers at any given time. For example, the volunteer missionary support staff serve each week divided into 16 separate, usually, five-hour shifts. While you are doing research in the Library, the support staff will be changing every few hours. In addition, the Lee Library has very extended hours, normally from around 7:00 a.m. until midnight six days a week. The main Lee Library is closed on Sundays but the BYU Family History Library is open on the second and fourth Sundays of each month except for holidays and school schedules. Let's just say that the schedule of the Library is very complicated and even the staff and missionaries can get confused sometimes. For this reason, it is very important to check the Library schedule online before planning a visit. Finding the schedule on the Lee Library's website is usually a challenge. Here is the link and if you are going to the Library, the best way to find the schedule is to do a Google search for it.

Here is a sample of a current Library schedule.

You might notice a few anomalies such as the Lee Library opens on Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. rather than 7:00 a.m. The BYU Family History Library is open during the general operating hours of the Lee Library, but the volunteer/missionaries are only there from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays and as I mentioned, the BYU Family History Library is open on the 2nd and 4th Sundays for classes except when it isn't.

REMEMBER: The Library schedule will change for holidays, the school academic calendar and other scheduled activities. For example, during the summer, BYU hosts a number of huge seminar activities such as Education Week and the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. These events and many others may alter the schedule of the Library including the BYU Family History Library.

If you are looking for specific help with your genealogical research, it is also a good idea to contact the BYU Family History Library in advance and see if there is someone who will be available to help with your particular needs. There are a large number of country and area specialists who can help you with your research but because of the schedule of the Library, they may not be on any one particular shift. In some cases, you can make an appointment to meet with a specialist.

By the way, the Library is not at all unique in having such a complex schedule. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah also has a complex schedule and expert help also depends on that schedule and the availability of any one individual. In my experience, having worked in and with many libraries, a researcher will face exactly the same issues in every library.

The next challenge for researchers is to determine the availability, content, and location of the Library's collections. The main entry to the collections is the Library Catalog. The Lee Library Catalog is online and contains almost all of the Library's collections and resources. I say "almost all" because, in any library, there are always resources that are not fully cataloged. There is no substitute for "poking around" in the Library's collections and looking for additional resources depending on access and availability. It is also a good idea to ask a lot of questions and find the people who have the experience. In my experience with libraries around the U.S., I have been told that certain items I requested were not in a library only to find out that they actually were there all the time.

Now, because the BYU Family History Libary is part of the larger Lee Library, not all of the family history or genealogy related materials are located in the family history part of the Library. In fact, pertinent research materials are scattered across most the collections of the Library and could be on any floor and in any section of the Library. In essence, when you go to the BYU Family History Library, you are really working with the entire BYU library system. It is also a good idea to realize that the Library is physically really big and has multiple floor levels. You might end up doing a significant amount of walking to find all of the pertinent materials.

Even before you go to any large library, you should become very well acquainted with the library's catalog. Spend some time looking up possible research topics but always keep in mind that there may be more resources in the library than you can easily find in the catalog. If you find one item of interest in the catalog, it is a good idea to search the physical area around where that item is located for additional items. The Lee Library catalog has a feature incorporated in the online catalog that allows the researcher to do a "virtual" search of the shelves around any item found. Here is a screenshot showing the virtual shelf feature. The feature is called "Browse nearby items."

I searched for "Grayson County Texas History" and then clicked on the "Browse nearby items" feature. Here is a screenshot of my initial search with an arrow pointing to the browse link.

The browse feature lets you search up and down to see adjacent items. In this case, I see several other interesting items. When you go to the physical shelves, you can then see the actual items.

In my next installment, I will begin to explore some of the unique genealogical resources found the in the Library.

The previous post in this series.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genealogy One Byte at a Time -- Part Four

For some time now, there have been studies correlating a decline in text-editing capabilities with an age-related learning difficulty. Quoting from the following book,

Rogers, Wendy A., Arthur D. Fisk, and Neff Walker. 2014. Aging and Skilled Performance: Advances in Theory and Applications. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Egan and Gomez (1985) conducted a series of experiments concerned with identifying and isolating individual differences in learning a text editing task. They found that age was a significant predictor of learning difficulty. Age was related to [the] number of first try errors and execution time per successful text change such that errors and execution time increased with age. The participants in their studies ranged in age from 28 to 62 years. In terms of isolating the components of text editing that accounted for learning difficulty, they found that age was associated with difficulty producing the correct sequence of symbols and patterns to accomplish the desired editing change. This finding supports the conjecture that age-related decrements in memory may contribute to learning difficulties. The text editor was command based and necessitated remembering a command language and producing a complicated command syntax. In fact, they found that when a display editor was used, in which changes were made by positioning the cursor at the location of change and using labeled function keys rather than a command language, the predictive power of age, with respect to the difficulty of learning, was greatly reduced.
Although this particular study dates back to the 1980s, there is a positive correlation between participation in genealogically related activities and the decline in learning difficulty referenced in this study. Not only does genealogical research require a significant amount of what the study calls "text editing" but it also requires advanced motor skills. In this regard, the Sage Journals have produced a review of this book with an extensive list of related references. See Technology and Aging. Nearly all of those publications listed are available on Google Scholar.

One fact that seems to be discounted, however, is that some of these older adults began using computers when they were much younger. In my own case, for example, I began using computers back in the 1970s. As a result, I have over 40 years of computer background. For me and many of my cohorts, using computers is not an issue of acquiring new skills but in maintaining old skills.

If doing genealogical research was merely the equivalent of an online computer game than you would certainly see a dramatic difference between young users and older ones with younger users having the advantage. But as I have pointed out previously, genealogical research involves a broad spectrum of skills and is not particularly dependent on small motor skills such as those that are used in playing online games. In developing genealogically important research skills we are not teaching monkeys to push buttons.

What I have noticed is that the gradually progressive cognitive decline that accompanies dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease have a negative impact on an individual's ability to operate and conceptualize the visual interface used by computers. My own father died of dementia-related issues. I was able to observe his decline in cognitive function over a ten-year period. For reference, see the following:

Albert, Marilyn S. et al. “The Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment due to Alzheimer’s Disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association Workgroups on Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Disease.” Alzheimer’s & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association 7.3 (2011): 270–279. PMC. Web. 17 May 2017.

In my continued contact with thousands of patrons over the years, my personal observation is that a decline in genealogical research skills may be a valid predictor of the symptomatic predementia phase of Alzheimer's disease. The tragedy here is that a lack of adequate diagnostic tools for identifying early dementia-related illness results in a general impression that all older adults are incapable of adequately functioning in a complex environment such as online research conducted for genealogical purposes. This unwarranted assumption results in a complete lack of interest in developing genealogical software that addresses the needs of older adults.

In addition, it is entirely possible that much of the frustration suffered by some researchers with regard to arbitrary changes to online family trees and other issues may find their origin in cognitive impairment.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, genealogical research is a highly complex skill that requires a number of associated skills. In my own experience, I find that young people seldom have the interest, time, or motivation to acquire these skills. But unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum, older adults who have the skill set necessary may lose it due to the onset of cognitive difficulties associated with memory related illnesses.

Here are the previous posts in this series

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Genealogy is not a competition sport

Several years ago in a previous post, I made the observation that genealogy is not a competition sport. At the time, the comment was made in a discussion about the common question I hear concerning the number of people in my genealogy file. In genealogy, the person with the most names does not win anything. By adding names from other online family trees, I suppose I could amass hundreds of thousands of names. The reality of trying to work with such large numbers is more than overwhelming, it is virtually impossible.

When reporting about genealogical activities, news stories commonly mention the number of people found or the number accumulated. Historically, the number of names indicated the time involved in doing research and was an external indication of effort. In today's electronically based world, the number of names in a particular file is meaningless. For example, I work with the Family Tree. How many "names" do I have in my file? 1.2 billion? Well, in reality, yes. I am working with a unified family tree program and I do have about 1.2 billion names to work with. How many of these am I related to? In a real sense, potentially, all of them. So what? The next time someone asks me that question, I now know the answer: 1.2 billion.

In finding one name to add to my family tree, I may expend more effort and be more successful than someone who adds thousands. How do we measure success in genealogy? I suggest that we should be more focused on quality than quantity. I further suggest that we focus on the accuracy of the work rather than the most remote ancestor located. Of course, that reference is to the second most common question that asks how far back I have traced my ancestry. There are still people who are impressed with long lines even when they are pure fantasy.

If there is some human activity, someone will figure out a way to make it into a competitive sport. I used to be very much involved in rock climbing. Now, it is going to be an Olympic sport. I did it for the challenge and the exercise. I would probably have stopped if I had guessed that it would one day be a competitive sport. I would probably stop doing my genealogy also if I really believed that I was involved in some sort of competition. I am attracted to genealogy because it is not a competitive sport.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it (including genealogists)

The actual quote, which I have used before in posts, is "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." See George Santayana 16 December 1863 in Madrid, Spain. Here is the entire quote:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
As usual, this particular topic was suggested by comments and circumstances in course of teaching or helping people with their genealogical research. Old people in the United States may have had one or two classes on history in high school and a smattering of history in grade school. Younger people have been deprived of almost any formal education about history. They now have "social studies" which consists primarily of polemic on social issues such as racial and gender equality. This lack of formal, historical education results in a dismal inability to put genealogical research into context.

One of the many lamentable instances of historical blindness was a pedigree that I reviewed this past week where the people as being born in Austria during the latter part of the 1800s. Lack of historical context is confounded by a lack of geographic awareness. Here is a short explanation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the Wikipedia: Austria-Hungary:
Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire in English-language sources, was a constitutional union of the Austrian Empire (the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council, or Cisleithania) and the Kingdom of Hungary (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen or Transleithania) that existed from 1867 to 1918, when it collapsed as a result of defeat in World War I. The union was a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and came into existence on 30 March 1867. Austria-Hungary consisted of two monarchies (Austria and Hungary), and one autonomous region: the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia under the Hungarian crown, which negotiated the Croatian–Hungarian Settlement (Nagodba) in 1868. It was ruled by the House of Habsburg, and constituted the last phase in the constitutional evolution of the Habsburg Monarchy. Following the 1867 reforms, the Austrian and the Hungarian states were co-equal. Foreign affairs and the military came under joint oversight, but all other governmental faculties were divided between respective states. 
Austria-Hungary was a multinational state and one of the world's great powers at the time. Austria-Hungary was geographically the second-largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire, at 621,538 km2 (239,977 sq mi),[5] and the third-most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). The Empire built up the fourth-largest machine building industry of the world, after the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.[6]Austria-Hungary also became the world's third largest manufacturer and exporter of electric home appliances, electric industrial appliances and power generation apparatus for power plants, after the United States and the German Empire.[7][8] 
After 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina was under Austro-Hungarian military and civilian rule[9] until it was fully annexed in 1908, provoking the Bosnian crisis among the other powers.[10] Sandžak/Raška, de jure northern part of the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar (in modern-day Montenegro and Serbia), was also under de facto joint occupation during that period but the Austro-Hungarian army withdrew as part of their annexation of Bosnia.[11]The annexation of Bosnia also led to Islam being recognized as an official state religion due to Bosnia's Muslim population.[12] 
Austria-Hungary was one of the Central Powers in World War I. It was already effectively dissolved by the time the military authorities signed the armistice of Villa Giusti on 3 November 1918. The Kingdom of Hungary and the First Austrian Republic were treated as its successors de jure, whereas the independence of the West Slavs and South Slavs of the Empire as the First Czechoslovak Republic, the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, respectively, and most of the territorial demands of the Kingdom of Romania were also recognized by the victorious powers in 1920.
I have left in all the links and footnotes on purpose for this example. Where did these people who were listed as being born in Austria really live? That is the first and most difficult challenge faced by a genealogical researcher when faced with an American "interpretation" of European history and politics summarized in a birth or death place.

Can we continue to pretend that genealogical research is somehow exempt from historical constraints?  Breaking out of this fog of ignorance takes a great deal of time and effort. Are we really concerned with discovering our ancestry or creating a simplified fable?

If your ancestry starts in the United States (or any other country), take the time to read a book or two on the history of that country. If you are doing research in a particular state or region, study the boundary changes and other historical issues that influence where and how the records were kept. Genealogy is really a lifetime of learning and study. No one is ever really finished with their ancestral investigations.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

1st Annual Conference of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage

The Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) is holding their first annual conference at the Rider University North Hall, 20823 Lawrenceville, Lawrenceville, New Jersey on May 20, 2017. Information about attending the conference can be obtained from their Facebook Page. My daughter Amy Tanner Thiriot is presenting at the conference. This may be her first conference appearance as a presenter. Membership in the society is encouraged for the following:
Any person is eligible for membership in the National Society of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) who is not less than eighteen years of age, and who is directly and lineally descendent from a man or woman who is of African-descent and was forced into slavery in the United States of America, including its colonial days, prior to the end of slavery as marked by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, effective December 1865.
The mission of the organization is as follows:
Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) is a lineage society that is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to the memory, education, and historic preservation of the artifacts and landmarks of slavery in the United States and its economic, psychological, and cultural impact on today's society. @SDUSMP
Quoting from their Facebook page:
The objectives of the organization are Historical, Educational, Memorial, and Patriotic:
• To promote the connection of descendants of the Forced American Heroes, the American slaves of African descent, to their ancestors through genealogy research;
• To proclaim, through education, the role played by the Africans forcibly brought to United States in creating our great nation, including their patient endurance of the cruelties of American slavery, their extraordinarily strong will and spirit, and their connections to their descendants who have gone on to make our country even greater. We want to especially commemorate the connections to all black American soldiers;
• To educate the nation and world about the contribution of the descendants of enslaved;
• To cherish and to strengthen the family ties among the members of the SDUSMP; and
• To collect and preserve the materials necessary for a complete history of slavery and to protect, preserve, and mark the places of the sacrifice of these men, women, and children, including historically significant sites such as churches, battle sites, gravesites, plantations, and museums.
 The term "middle passage" refers to the sea journey undertaken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies.

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Ten

Well, the list of Latin Legal Terms seems to have taken a vacation for a while, but it is now back and well rested [bene quievit].

Perhaps it is a good idea to review the idea behind this list of Latin terms. Genealogists who do research into legal and church documents in any time period, up to and including the present, will run into a plethora of legal terms in Latin. This is especially true for countries in Europe. For this reason, I began explaining and analyzing some of the more common Latin legal terms. This is part 10 of the series.

For a side note, a legal term expressed in Latin is called a "brocard." The interesting thing here is that these Latin terms are used in court even today but they will also be found by genealogists doing research.

Here we go:

per capita literally "by head"
You are most likely to run into this term in conjunction with a probate file. It refers to the division of the property equally between a number of beneficiaries. When I was introduced to probate in law school, I ran into my first heavy dose of Latin.

pendente lite literally "while the litigation is pending"
This turns out to be a fairly common term, enough so, that the English translation is rarely used. I would not say that this word has passed into the English language because those who use the term are aware that they are using a Latin phrase. I'm also aware that, outside of the legal profession, this term would be rarely used. The term refers to certain court orders that are entered to provide relief to one or more of the parties anticipating a final judgment. Although I stopped handling divorce cases many, many years ago, interim court rulings are common in these matters. Not all court rulings made during the course of a lawsuit are considered to be pendente lite unless they affect the legal position of the parties. The adverbial form of this phrase is lis pendens, which I will address some time in the future.

pater familias literally "father of the family"
This particular term is archaic even for Latin phrases. Most of the terms that I am considering here could be found in modern legal documents. This phrase has a very narrow use in today's law but could be encountered in older documents. It is used to designate the "head of household" when considering the rights and responsibilities thereof. I understand that it is also used in the phrase "bonus paterfamilias"  to refer to a standard of care equivalent to the ordinary "reasonable man." The reasonable man concept has been discussed extensively in court literature and despite all of this discussion nobody knows what it really is. Current political correctness has modified the "reasonable man" theory to the "reasonable person" theory. You can find thousands of references to this legal theory by searching for "reasonable person." But if you want to find older discussions of the subject you need to search for "reasonable man."

parens patriae literally "parent of the nation"
This term refers to the situation where the court, on behalf of the state, acts as the parent for a dependent child when the legal parents are unwilling or unable to assume that responsibility. Since this is the actual legal term for that situation, it is used more frequently than other Latin terms.

obiter dictum literally "a thing said in passing"
 In law, an observation by a judge on some point of law not directly relevant to the case before him, and thus neither requiring his decision nor serving as a precedent, but nevertheless of persuasive authority. In general, any comment, remark or observation made in passing in a written court decision. See Wikipedia: Obiter dictum. The phrases often shortened to "dictum" in speaking and in the legal literature. Quoting from the Wikipedia article:
A judicial statement can be ratio decidendi only if it refers to the crucial facts and law of the case. Statements that are not crucial, or which refer to hypothetical facts or to unrelated law issues, are obiter dicta. Obiter dicta (often simply dicta, or obiter) are remarks or observations made by a judge that, although included in the body of the court's opinion, do not form a necessary part of the court's decision. In a court opinion, obiter dicta include, but are not limited to, words "introduced by way of illustration, or analogy or argument". Unlike ratio decidendi, obiter dicta are not the subject of the judicial decision, even if they happen to be correct statements of law. The so-called Wambaugh's Inversion Test provides that to determine whether a judicial statement is ratio or obiter, you should invert the argument, that is to say, ask whether the decision would have been different, had the statement been omitted. If so, the statement is crucial and is ratio; whereas if it is not crucial, it is obiter.
If you can understand what is said above, you are well on your way to becoming a lawyer. After that explanation, I think it is time to stop for today.

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What if I don't speak the language? A common genealogical complaint

Eventually, everyone who becomes involved in genealogical research reaches the point where their ancestors spoke a different language than the native language of the researcher. This happens even if the ancestors in question all lived in the same country as the researcher because languages change over time. See Wikipedia: Language change. Over the years, some genealogists have "specialized" in a certain region or country. Those genealogists who do not specialize in a certain region or country often defer doing research because of their lack of specialization. Lack of familiarity with a specific language no longer needs to be an absolute obstacle to doing research in that language because of the technological developments that are now available.

Specialization in a particular region or country or even a specific topic involves certain identifiable components. These include the following:
  • Knowledge of the existence of and availability of records
  • The ability to access those same records
  • The ability to read both the language of the records and the handwriting involved
  • An in-depth knowledge of the culture, religion, history and context in which the records were created
  • The knowledge of basic research principles and the ability to apply those principles
If you think about these requirements, you may realize that much of what you learn through doing genealogical research has broad application in any area of the world and in any language. During my lifetime I have studied many languages. The degree of perceived difficulty in learning a target language depends on the language of the learner. For example, most English speakers consider Spanish to be an "easy" language to acquire. However, very few English speakers acquire a native proficiency in Spanish. In fact, all human languages have the same degree of complexity. Fortunately, genealogists do not have to become proficient in either speaking or reading any particular language in order to do genealogical research in that language. The set of terms and phrases needed for genealogical research is very limited compared to the complexity of learning the entire language.

Not every researcher is going to achieve proficiency or become an expert in a particular country's records, however, many researchers can acquire the level of proficiency needed to do their own individual research. There are many online helps for acquiring information about the components listed above. Where most researchers fail is in addressing all of the aspects of doing research by focusing on the details of translating a few records rather than becoming acquainted with the culture, religion, history and context in which the records were created. It is true, that by using Google Translate, many records can be deciphered. But rote translation of the records often fails to convey their full meaning. However, the ability conferred by Google Translate provides an entry into research in any particular language not previously available.

Genealogists who were previously reticent to attempt the task of doing research in a language other than their own should now be encouraged to use Google Translate to begin the process of acculturalization necessary to do research in any target language.

How do I start to learn to do research and a new language, culture, religion, or time period?

For example, when I began doing research in Denmark before computer programs were available, I had to find a Danish word list to help me with the translation. Today, that word list is readily available on Google Translate. Of course, having ready translations of key terms usually raises considerably more complex issues. But by diligently working my way through the various Danish records I was able to achieve a level of proficiency sufficient to do adequate research. By the way, I am still learning more about Scandinavian research. My language background is very helpful. However, my wife who has no particular linguistic background has learned to do Swedish research at a very high level of proficiency even though she has to ask for help occasionally.

In addition to Google Translate, there is also an abundance of online specific country resources such as the FamilySearch Research Wiki. By using these online resources anyone with experience in doing genealogical research in their native language as an entry into doing research in another language. By the way, this entry is merely an entry you still have to do all the work necessary.

Friday, May 12, 2017

DNA Report: Update on my DNA Test

Some time ago, I took a DNA test from You can read about those results in my post entitled, "My DNA: What have we learned so far?" I have written several other blog posts about DNA in general and my own DNA test. Subsequently, I took a second DNA test from My wife took a DNA test from also, but she sent her test in much earlier than I did. I was sick with a persistent cold after having the flu and I figured I didn't want flu or cold mixed in with the test.

As you can see above, my own DNA test is progressing through the system. I would expect to see some results in the near future, so stay tuned for further updates and a comparison to my own family tree information as well as my previous test.

Dealing with the Deluge of Information from a Genealogical Standpoint

Smartphones, social networking, email, newly digitized sources, new programs and apps, updates, books, music, videos, all of this and more clogs our online world. As genealogists, we can always "opt out" of the online chatter and ignore what is going on, but the danger of doing this is that we will be marginalized and ineffective in our research. So how do we deal with or even control the deluge?

Genealogical research is based on examining historical documents. Millions upon millions of those documents are constantly being digitized and added to online programs every day. How can we possibly know whether or not the particular information we are seeking is already online or has been recently added?

Let me give you a hypothetical situation. Suppose that you are doing research in the early 1700s in Rhode Island (like I am doing right now). Depending upon your degree of sophistication in doing such research, you may or may not be aware of the many types of records that were created during that time period. Let's further suppose that you are a sophisticated researcher and know all about town records, tax rolls, land and property records and all of the other types of records which may possibly be available. Traditionally, your investigation would be limited to examining those records available locally in your own libraries or possibly available from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah through microfilm rental. Today, your task is far more complex. There are literally hundreds of websites that contain digitized records from Rhode Island and more are being added every day. Returning to the past, when you ran out of locally available records, your only option would be to take a "field trip" to Rhode Island to do research in the original repositories of the records.

Again, in today's world, you could ignore all of the online records and take that road trip to Rhode Island. What you could find, however, is that many of the records you are seeking have been rendered unavailable due to the fact that digital copies now exist. As an example, this is happening with the microfilm records previously available from the Family History Library. So not only would your trip to Rhode Island be unnecessary but it may also be totally unproductive. I am not suggesting that trips to libraries and other repositories are not necessary. I am merely pointing out the fact that the information who are seeking may be available online and determining whether it is or is not as part of the challenge of doing research in today's world.

My example is tended to illustrate the need to be aware of the stream of documents and records being digitized and made available online. Of course, there are many other tools and programs online that will measurably increase your research capabilities. Unfortunately, dipping your toe into the deluge does not measurably affect your ability to utilize all of these records online. You actually need to jump in and start swimming.

It is way too easy to get caught up in reading distracting entries from Facebook, watching trivial videos and spending time on other nonproductive activities. I can write about this firsthand because I spend a considerable part of each day in front of a computer screen. My main defense against inundation is utilizing "filtering" programs that either limit the amount of information I receive or put it into a format that can be quickly reviewed for pertinent data. For example, I subscribe to around 300 blogs or other websites. First of all, I do not feel a compulsion to review every one of them every day. I use a reader program, such as to organize newly posted content in a headline fashion allowing me to review hundreds of posts in a matter of a few minutes. Obviously, I'm going to miss some pertinent information. But it is the nature of the Internet that anything of substance will be copied and repeated and thereby increasing the possibility that I will eventually see a notice of any significant changes in the genealogical community.

I use the same type of filtering mechanism with email and all other online offerings. I spend very little time reviewing the endless stream of Facebook posts because I have a notification system that will send me an email about any relevant postings. The filters allow me to focus on genealogical issues. Whenever the filters become overloaded, by simply delete any remaining content and start over.

When I am specifically doing research, I begin by focusing my efforts on determining the availability of online sources. This becomes an ongoing task. For example, Rhode Island, Vital records, 1846-1898, 1901-1953 were added to as recently as 11 April 2017. I may or may not make these records, but it takes only a few moments to determine if any new records have been added to

I do get distracted from time to time and it does take a degree of discipline to return to the task at hand. It helps to treat my genealogical research as if I were working in an office that had strict rules on accessing outside distractions such as social media.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Unique Genealogical Highlights of the Brigham Young University Family History Library -- Part One

The Brigham Young University Family History Library is undoubtedly the second largest such library in the world. In addition, many of the items in its vast collections are unique. To say that the resources of the Brigham Young University Family History Library are underused would in itself be an understatement. The library itself is located in the center of the campus and parking is a challenge. But the advantages of having a large, first class university library at your disposal while doing research on genealogical subjects easily outweighs any of the physical limitations of the Library's access.

Some libraries have a tendency to be both geographically limited and parochial. However, the Brigham Young University Family History Library (BYU) has a worldwide reach as part of the University's Harold B. Lee Library. Because of the worldwide nature of its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the collections of the Library are surprisingly eclectic and also universal. In addition, the Library has an impressive collection of up-to-date electronic equipment such as scanners, computers and other useful items that are freely available to patrons. Patrons can also order up to two microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah for free and the microfilm remains permanently in the collection of the BYU Family History Library.

The hours of operation of the Library are also attractive. The Harold B, Lee Library is open from 7:00 AM to midnight weekdays and from 8:00 AM to midnight on Saturdays. When visiting the library, it is always necessary to check the schedule due to the fact that it is an academic library, the entire University is on an academic schedule and the library may be closed due to semester breaks or holidays. The BYU Family History Library is staffed by a volunteer staff of approximately 130 Church Service Missionaries. The missionaries serve from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Fridays. On Saturdays, the missionaries are available from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Although the rest of the library is closed, the BYU Family History Library is open on the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 10:00 AM until approximately 7 o'clock PM except when there is a conflict with a holiday or the university is closed. Click here for the current schedule.

 The BYU Family History Library is located on the second floor of the main library. However, the second floor is underground, and expansion of the library a number of years ago put two huge underground levels adjacent to the existing library. Here is an interior photo of the BYU Family History Library.

As I mentioned, there is an impressive collection of electronic equipment. There are a variety of scanners with the capability of scanning single sheets, multiple sheets, photographs, slides, and books. In addition, there are a number of microfilm scanners that enabled you to adjust microfilm images and save them to a flash drive. All of the equipment is open for free use by the public. However, there are times when the Library is busy and you may have to contact the BYU Family History Library to reserve a time for the use of specific equipment. Here are some photos of the equipment.

The Library has an impressive collection of microforms including both microfiche and microfilm. No one seems to know the exact number of microfiche, however, I estimate there are well over a million. In addition, the BYU Family History Library has over 300,000 rolls of microfilm. Here is a photo of some of the microfiche and microfilm cabinets.

The Library is much more impressive than the photos. Genealogists need to be aware of this nature facility for genealogical research which has been essentially ignored by the larger genealogical community.

This is part one of a series that will highlight the features of the BYU Family History Library.