Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From BLM to Google Earth -- Finding Your Ancestor's Land and Land Records

This class was taught by Terry Nels Lee who is a BYU Professor Emeritus from the Marriott School of Management.

This class was fascinating. I learned how land is measured in the United States. In the 13 original colonies and in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas and Hawaii they use the Metes and Bounds system. Fortunately the rest of the country uses a rectangular survey system. The BLM web site has a detailed printable 8 page primer on this system. It explains base, meridian, township, section etc.

The BLM web site is There is a database for all homesteaded property in the states where they use the rectangular survey system. Once you find your ancestor and his property, you can order copies of the homestead application and supporting documents such as citizenship papers from the National Archives.

Some wonderful people at Montana State University have converted the survey descriptions for a lot of places to latitude and longitude or GPS equivalents. Go to and look for the township-range-section (TRS) link. After you do this, then there is a conversion link to terraserver to view photos of the property. Or you can go directly to

You can also access google earth and enter the GPS co-ordinates to see the locations. I am going to request the powerpoint presentation for this lecture.

Gadgetology 101: Cool Tools for Gadget Lovers

Alan Mann is accredited in England and Australia research and he is the Manager of Information Services for FamilySearch with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The easiest way for me to share this class is to refer you to his web site which has links to notes for this and other presentations he has made.

It was an entertaining and informative presentation.

Ten Great LDS Family History Databases You've Got to Try

This was the very first class I attended. (Well, the first class was the keynote speaker Merrill J. Bateman who is now serving as the president of the Provo Temple. His talk was very spiritual. His job was to remind us why we do family history research.)

So, after President Bateman's talk I listened to Devin Ashby who is a Project Coordinator for FamilySearch with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of the things he talked about can be found by looking at the links at the church's web site. Briefly, here are the ten databases.

1. Record Search the publishing site for FamilySearch Indexing.


3. The link to the LDS Church History Library.

4. Patriarchal Blessing Index, also with the Church History Library. Note to my family: Being the self-reliant family that we are, if we decide that we want copies of all our ancestors' patriarchal blessings, which I think would be valuable, then we should order one set and make copies for the rest of us who are interested. I do not think these blessings should be made available on the Internet when we get our web sites going. They are too sacred.

5. BYU databases:

6. Daughters of Utah Pioneers databases
Also Sons of Utah Pioneers

7. Utah Territorial Case Files (This collection (1870-1896) contains over 2500 case files, the majority of which deal with cohabitation, usually polygamy. has several LDS databases. Utah Pioneers and Prominent Men has been digitized and is online.

9. World Vital

10.TWYHBY The Website You Haven't Built Yet

This lecturer likes acronyms. He is the one you taught me LOCKSS.

BYU Family History Conference July 29-Aug. 1, 2008

I decided to attend the BYU Family History Conference after hearing about it on the Sunday afternoon show "Relatively Speaking" on KSL Radio in Salt Lake City. It is every Sunday from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at KSL 1160. Jackie McKay is the moderator and Mary Slawson is the expert who answers the callers' questions. Sometimes there are other guests as well. You can also listen to it over the Internet at the KSL web site archives.

I have done some family history research in the past and have enjoyed it very much. Now I want to take my research to the next stage and (1) computerize it and (2) post it in appropriate places on the Internet.

It has been a lot of work getting ready to go to the conference. I drive about 45 minutes each way and I wondered if I should find someone to carpool with or arrange to take the bus. But I decided to just drive it alone and that will give me more time to get my work done in the mornings and the evenings. I can compensate for the cost of gas by taking my own lunch.

There are many wonderful knowledgeable speakers and a thick syllabus. I am attending mostly the classes on the Computers/Internet track. But there are a variety of classes with a Beginner's track, a Preserving your History track, a Methodology track, a United States/Canada track, and a British Research track. I want to make short reports of each class and will make each one a separate blog. That way my family/friends who want to learn more can pick what they are most interested in.

The purpose of this blog is to share my family history adventures and to keep me better organized.