Category Archives: Family History Library

My Friend Ruth

I am sitting at my desk, in disbelief, still shocked by the sad news that Leland Meitzler shared yesterday about the passing of Ruth Ellen Maness, AG.

My friendship with Ruth began with a fortuitous meeting. Back in 2011, I decided that it was time to attempt to crack the brick wall in my family tree that was blocking the path to Denmark and Sweden and the family of my maternal great grandmother. Technology did the trick and I was able to find my family living in Copenhagen in their 1850 census. From it, I learned that my 3X great grandfather, Johannes Jensen, was born about 1810 in Copenhagen (per census information) and that he was a career musician/soldier in the Danish Army. The family lived in the barracks at Rosenborg Castle, which houses the crown jewels.

Johannes Jensen became my new brick wall. In 2011, FamilySearch still had its forums up and running. Researchers could post queries and request help with their problems. Volunteers trolled the boards and provided terrific help and guidance.

I had heard about the Danish laegdsruller records (military lists somewhat like draft lists) and was hoping that those records might help me trace the parents of Johannes Jensen, as neither his baptism nor parents/siblings were to be found anywhere.

Someone on the Danish forum took the time to answer my query and typed out a two page guide to the steps I needed to take to search the laegdsruller microfilms. The person who responded was “RE Maness.”

I live in Tucson, but try to get up to the Family History Library once or, if I am lucky, twice a year. Soon after my forum post, I was off to Salt Lake and the international floor in the library.

I immediately headed to the help desk (in the old library configuration, Scandinavia had its own reference/help desk) and explained to the lady that a very nice person had given me all this information (as I held the print out) on accessing Danish military lists, but I needed to be pointed in the right direction to get started and would definitely need some help reading Danish.

The lady at the desk glanced at my print out and replied, “I’m the one who helped you.” It was Ruth and, thus, our friendship began. During the following couple of years, I actually made it to Salt Lake five or six times, as solving the mystery of Johannes’s life turned out to be not so easy, but the goal was accomplished with Ruth’s tremendous help and guidance. (Answer: Johannes was born at the unwed mothers’ hospital in Copenhagen and given up for adoption. Later hospital records identified his mother by name and, indirectly, also named his father.)

There were others who helped me in my quest – Naomi, Anka, Liv and Roy – but it was Ruth who spent many, many hours and days with me, guiding me from one place and filmed records to another until we hit the jackpot.

I was only able to hear Ruth as a lecturer at a conference once and I hadn’t realized that she would be there. It was in Mesa, Arizona about five years ago when the Family History Expo held a conference. I ran into Ruth while walking around and attended the sessions at which she presented. She was as excellent a presenter as she was a teacher in the Family History Library.

Even after Ruth retired a few years ago, she still came to the library a couple of times a week, at the least, to help patrons. It was clear that she loved what she did.

I last saw Ruth in February when I was in Utah for RootsTech. As usual, she had a hug for me and asked how the Jensen research was coming along. Before leaving for home on Saturday, I said goodbye and mentioned that Dave and I would be driving to Yellowstone National Park this summer and that I would have some time in the library both going and returning. I was looking forward to seeing her then. Little did I know.

I would describe Ruth as a gentle soul, somewhat quiet and low-key, but an absolutely top notch researcher who loved what she did and maybe even loved helping others even more.

Another friend of Ruth’s posted a farewell to her on Facebook and those leaving comments pretty much say it all about Ruth:

Lived her entire life for others
Selflessly shared her time and knowledge
Wonderful lecturer and teacher
Lovely person
Encouraging and thoughtful
Generous with her expertise
Remembered fondly, special, kind
Shared her considerable talent
Friend and mentor
Love for people
The epitome of family history

She was the consummate professional who contributed so much to the genealogy world.

Ruth Ellen Maness
Source: BYU Religious Studies Center

R.I.P., My Friend


Genealogy Heaven – Family History Library

What does Monday of RootsTech week look like? Well, here’s a summary of my day.

Up early – 6:30, which is my usual time. I had a good breakfast, as the brain needs nutrients to function well in an intense setting. 🙂

The convention center is still very quiet, as RootsTech 2017 doesn’t officially open until Wednesday.

The weather isn’t going to be too cooperative this week, it doesn’t seem, as there is a 100% chance of rain most days. However, I think the rain is a bit easier to deal with than the biting cold temperatures I experienced when I was here in December. I think the low were about 14 degrees.

The Family History Library had just opened its doors before we got there so we were able to walk right in.

Right inside the front door of the FHL, I took a quick look to see how the renovation of the first floor turned out.

The Grand Opening of the new Discovery Center, which is the “now” name for the first floor of the FHL is scheduled for this week. It looks spectacular!

I headed upstairs to the books and microfilms so I could get started on my list of 38 research people/families. The library isn’t terribly busy yet, but patrons will begin to fill up the seats as the week goes on.

I had to stop for a break, as Pat Richley-Erickson (DearMYRTLE) held her Monday morning hangout on the air live from the 3rd floor of the FHL – right where I happen to be.

I had a chance to say hi to Thomas MacEntee, who I spent all day with on Saturday at the Green Valley Genealogical Society seminar in Green Valley, Arizona. Thomas was the speaker for the day and presented four interesting talks to a maxed out audience of 100 (with some left on a waiting list.) If Thomas happens to come to your neighborhood to speak, I highly recommend attending in person.

The hangout ended at 11:30, but then it was time to head to the cafeteria in the church headquarters world office building. That cafeteria is one of the best kept secrets in town for lunch. Library patrons can pick up a guest pass in the library to eat there.

The food is cafeteria – buffet style, home style cooking and inexpensive. I’m a really picky eater and I love to eat there.

After lunch, it was back to the library for serious research. As expected, more people had appeared, but there was no problem finding a seat, accessing a computer or using a microfilm reader.

Monday is the “easiest” day of RootsTech week for me, as the FHL closes at 5:00 that day. That leaves time for a relaxing dinner and some serious retail therapy at City Creek Mall, which is beautiful.

It also leaves time in the evening to regroup, review my research list and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is a much longer day, as the library is open until 9:00 and the only breaks will be meals. Not to worry, though, that just toughens one up for RootsTech itself, which opens on Wednesday.

Preparing for Double Rs – Research and RootsTech 2017

RootsTech 2017 is almost here – it’s just over three weeks away and I am ready! This will be my 4th visit to RootsTech, but maybe my 30th (or more) visit to the Family History Library, which is pretty good, I think, since I lived in California or Arizona all that time. I just can’t go to Salt Lake without making time somewhere to visit the library.

I always recommend having one’s ducks in a row long before walking through the library doors. How do I do it? Here is a list I first published in 2015, with a few updates, so I see no need to reinvent the wheel.

1. Keep a running list of the items and call numbers you want to view in the library.

I began preparations for my next library visit as soon as I got home from RootsTech last February. How? By starting a running list of everything I wanted to view on my next library visit. I keep a pad of paper on a shelf behind my desk. Every time I am in the midst of researching a family and come across an item – book, film or library-only computer access – I add it on the “to do” list. I currently have 40 specific items on my list to view.

2. Just before I leave, I review my list. Have any books or films been digitized since I entered the title on my “to dos”? If so, and I can view it at home, I cross it off the list. Be aware that digitized books are no longer on the library shelves! Are any of my films in the Vault? If so, I need to make sure to request them as soon as I first enter the library so there is time for delivery and viewing before I leave. Is any item on the only-in-the-library computer access arena? If so, I try complete these items early in my visit so they don’t get overlooked.

3. If you have never been to the Family History Library before, check the FamilySearch website for library tips, floor plans, hours of operation, etc. so you are somewhat familiar with it. I also recommend letting the volunteers at the library reception desk know that you are making your first visit so they can set you up with an orientation session. It is very easy to be very, very overwhelmed by this library so taking time for the orientation is time well spent in the long run.

3. Being retired, my travel time is somewhat flexible. My travel funds are less so and I try to stretch my dollars. Obviously, reasonable airfare is the first thing I check. However, and I don’t think most people think of doing this, I am not adverse to hotel hopping. I actually do it on every visit. I am reasonably fit and figure I can easily walk a radius of about six blocks from the library. When I look for hotel rooms, I check prices day by day for the time period I plan to be in Salt Lake City. Rates varying considerably and I choose the hotel with the lowest rate per night. It isn’t a problem to get up early, check out and drop my luggage off at the next night’s hotel on my way to the library in the morning.

I also often time my visits for a Sunday evening arrival. That way, I am fresh on Monday morning and can build my library time stamina up with “only” an eight hour day the first day since the library closes at 5:00 on Mondays.

4. What to pack – When packing, I always include some granola bars, mozzarella sticks and licorice to have something on hand in case of airport delays and need for a bite while in the library in between meals. I also bring two pairs of tennis shoes, as they provide good traction with a rubber sole in case the sidewalks are wet or slippery. If one pair gets wet, I can wear the second while the first is drying out.

5. Bring a couple of flash drives with a lot of memory (at least 16GB) with you. Information found on the computer can either be directly saved or screen clipped and saved. Also, BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME, create a file folder on each flash drive titled “If Found, Return to Owner” and put a document in there with your contact information in case you lose/leave your flash drive behind in the library. It is also a good idea to attach the flash drives to a lanyard so you are less likely to walk off and leave it in the computer.

6. Even if you use Evernote or some other tech note taking system, pack a pad of paper. I also bring a paper version of my “to do” list as I have been in the library when the computers are off line or the server is down. It is absolutely horrid being in that library with no access to one’s notes!

I travel just with an iPad, no lap top in the library although I keep one in my hotel room, and have never had difficulty getting on a computer in the library when I needed to. My iPad also has 4G, so when the internet was spotty in the library, I still had access. I NEVER enter new information into my genealogy software when I am on the road. I much prefer reviewing all my notes when I am home. Besides, who wants to waste research time entering computer data???

7. When in Salt Lake, be sure to eat a substantial healthy breakfast before going in the library and be sure to take time to eat a good lunch, too. My two favorite lunch spots are the Nauvoo Cafe in the Joseph Smith Building and the cafeteria downstairs in the LDS Church’s headquarters building on the other side of Temple Square. Just pick up an entry card to go there at the reception desk right inside the Family History Library. Both are very reasonable in cost and, if you head to lunch before 11:30, you will beat the business crowd.

8. What do I work on first when I get there? I always begin with items for which I know I will need help. I’ve been doing a lot of Danish and Swedish research and, while I can make out basic words, I often need help reading the old German script or navigating obscure military records. I head directly for the Scandinavian section and settle in.

Also, by beginning with difficult items, when I am feeling tired and need a change of focus, I have easy items to renew my energy.

9. Technology in the Library – The Family History Library has equipment needed to scan images from microfilm, to produce photocopies, etc.  Don’t worry if you are technologically challenged, as there are volunteers staffing the equipment areas and all are most willing to help/teach you how to use the machines.

Access to photocopy machines is by cards, which you can purchase in the library. You can choose the amount to put on the card. I recommend starting with a small amount – $5 or less – as I find so much that can be saved digitally that I am making fewer and fewer paper copies with each visit. Their new photocopy machines now have the capability to directly scan page images onto a flash drive – for free – so no paper copies are necessary unless you want them.

If you have a personal small hand scanner, you can use it in the library. (FYI: There are a few libraries that don’t allow the use of hand scanners.)

10. BSO’s: You have a research plan going into the library. What about all the BSO’s (bright shiny objects) discovered along the way? There is nothing wrong with following some new trails discovered on site. However, make sure that you are not using valuable research time going down rabbit holes that can be entered through your own computer at home!

11. Take a bit of time each day to enjoy Salt Lake City. Tours of Temple Square are available and you might be able to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practicing. If you are lucky enough to be there in December, the Christmas decorations are fabulous. The new City Creek Center shopping mall is very close to Temple Square. It is fun to walk through and you can get some retail therapy if you need it.

12. Time to Leave – All good things must come to an end. Before you know it, it will be time to head home, hopefully with lots of new research treasures. I always time my flights to be the last one out for the day so I have as much library time as possible. I travel with just a carry on and take my suitcase with me to the library on the last day. Although airport transportation is often available via my hotel, I tend to pay the small amount for a shuttle, again so I can spend every last possible minute in the library. It is also possible to take the TRAX light rail system out to the airport. Consider your options and make your decision BEFORE you leave home.

To summarize all this into one tip: Plan ahead before you leave home and you will have a most enjoyable visit to a fabulous library!

Tomorrow, I will excitedly review all my session options for RootsTech.