PROVO — So you think your family history work has all been done?
Think again, said Loretta Evans, one of the session presenters at the 2017 Brigham Young University Conference on Family History and Genealogy.
An accredited professional genealogist, Evans is a popular speaker at local and national conferences and has authored 14 family histories and numerous magazine articles.
“There’s a whole lot you can do if you think it has all been done,” said Evans at her presentation on July 25. “I don’t want you to give up and say, ‘Well, Aunt Mary did it all, so I don’t have to.’’’
• Upates to online databases. With online databases, such as the LDS Church’s FamilySearch.org, it does not hurt to continue to add legitimate sources to an ancestor’s record, Evans said.
Every week, new documents are added to FamilySearch’s Family Tree database. “Aunt Mary may have found everything available to her, but more is available now,” she said. “Always look at the original record if it is online. Does the information agree with what has been posted by other family members?”
“It shows the rest of the world that you have done thorough research,” Evans said, regarding adding more sources to an ancestor’s record.
On a pedigree chart in FamilySearch, sometimes a blue icon will pop up associated with an ancestor. This is an indication of a hint that there might be records available online that pertain to that ancestor.
“Look through your pedigree chart, look for blue icons and see if those records do match your ancestor,” she said. “If they don’t match, then click on ‘not a match,’ and the hint won’t keep coming up over and over.”
A green icon means the individual qualifies for temple ordinances.
“Always be sure such people have been accurately documented,” Evans said. “Always look for possible duplicates. If an individual was born within the last 110 years, the closest living relative will have the right to perform the ordinances. If you are not a parent, child, spouse or sibling of this person, you must have permission of someone who is” in order to perform the ordinances.
Use the resources available to you, Evans said, such as local church family history centers and ward or stake temple and family history consultants.
• Double-checking, matching, correcting, merging current files. Evans suggests cleaning up the files that you have in your pedigree.
“You will find mistakes,” she said. “However, you want to make sure it’s really a mistake, because sometimes there are records that, although they seem a little incongruous — maybe the husband is 40 years older than the wife — it really did happen. You’ve got to look and find some good sources before you start playing around with things.”
Usual problems include duplicate records for the same person. If you find that, merge them together, and the resulting record will have considerably more information than either one by itself, Evans said. “It’s going to make a big contribution to your family.”
Another problem would be the reverse of duplicate records: two records merged together that shouldn’t have been.
“Sometimes, you can unmerge them,” Evans said. If the erroneous merger occurred after the introduction of FamilySearch’s FamilyTree function, one can go back through the history of the record and unmerge the two records.
“One of the things you want to look for is, do the dates make sense,” Evans explained.
“Little girls having babies at 5 years old is pretty rare,” she quipped. “An old woman having a baby at 70 years old, unless you’re Sarah or Elizabeth in the Bible, is probably not likely to have happened.”
Something else to look for is whether the sources really do match the individuals that are on the record. “If you have a lot of early LDS families, you may find a lot of people have added sources that don’t really match, so you may be able to make some corrections,” she said.
She displayed one instance in which a photo had been linked to the record of a man who lived before photography had been invented. In such an instance, the patron who linked the photo would have to be contacted and persuaded to take it down.
• Records for pioneer ancestors. Evans spoke of a new feature on Family Search that links ancestors to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website at history.lds.org/overlandtravel maintained by the LDS Church History Department.
With that feature, researchers can learn more about their pioneer ancestors, such as the pioneer company they traveled in, their years of travel and how old they were when they crossed the plains. Links on the website take the user to other sources such as autobiographies, diaries, stories and documents.
Thus, there can be a wealth of accessible information about an ancestor, even if he or she never left a diary or a personal history.
“Would these sources be useful for me to read or share with my family or descendants?” Evans asked. “Absolutely. The more I know about my ancestors, the more my heart will turn to them.”
For example, Evans learned that her husband’s ancestor was on board the Mormon emigrant ship in London that famed author Charles Dickens described in his classic work "Uncommercial Traveler." That account thus becomes a part of her family history.
• Looking at a bigger picture. Descendancy research is another thing that can be done with family history when you think it has all been done, Evans said.
“Look through your pedigree to choose someone born about 1800," she said. "The reason I choose that year is records in the 1800s and early 1900s are far richer than prior to that time.”
Next, find the person in FamilySearch. Click on “View Tree.” Then choose “Descendancy,” and finally “Four Generations.”
That yields a view of a descendancy chart with the ancestors and all of his or her descendants in the FamilySearch database. Then, researchers can see holes on other lines and also possibly contact other relatives who are doing family history.
• Indexing. Another thing to do when you think it has all been done is to participate in FamilySearch indexing so others can have the benefit of indexed records. Evans said the LDS Church has 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, “and they don’t have them all indexed. I can guarantee that.”
From FamilySearch.org, choose "Indexing” at the top of the page and follow the directions to learn how to help.
• Start with your records, items and memories. What else can you do in the interest of family history?
“Look at your personal records,” Evans said. “Do you have all the births, marriages and ordinances recorded accurately, especially for all your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? … Unless you record it just as it happens, sometimes it takes some extra effort to find it.”
Another suggestion, Evans said, is to write your life story. “If you don’t write it who will, and which version will you like best?”
You may have photographs or documents that are not yet preserved on FamilySearch, Evans suggested. “Choose the best, and choose ones from different time periods in the individual’s lifetime.”
With documents such as family Bibles or diaries that are one of a kind, that are not in the custody of government agencies or on the internet, “it might be extremely helpful for you to (digitize and) put those online while you have access to them.”
She added, “Only one of your children will get the family Bible. Only one of their children will get the family Bible, and pretty soon, nobody knows who still owns the family Bible.”
Audio files may also be uploaded to FamilySearch from old sources such as reel-to-reel tapes or cassettes that preserve your ancestor’s voice, Evans said. “What would it mean to be able to hear your ancestor’s voice?”
You can write a memory about an ancestor and preserve it on FamilySearch, even if you are not a direct descendant, Evans said. “Do you have an experience, ‘My Memories of My Grandma,’ ‘I Remember Aunt Jane,’ or something like that that you could add to FamilySearch?”
Evans asked, “Do you own a family heirloom? If you do, do your descendants know the story behind it? Have you somehow identified who once owned it?”
It’s important to share the stories so the individuals who will inherit the heirloom really care.”
• Build relationships within your current family, Evans said. She suggested holding a family reunion, creating a calendar with birthdays of your descendants, setting up a family website or Facebook page, making coloring pages that tell how you and your spouse met, cooking family recipes, visiting buildings associated with your ancestors’ lives and celebrating an ancestor’s birthdate in person or on the internet.