Monthly Archives: May 2010

Wedding rings, and other things…

Recently I saw the the current film titled “Emma Smith” and several interesting questions arose.  I thought I would share several of these with you.

1–when Emma married Joseph Smith in the movie, the wedding band was placed upon the right “ring” finger of Emma.  She wore the ring on her right hand throughout the film.  Others wore their rings on their right hand as well, and this practice was plainly intended to represent the custom of the period (ca. 1820).  After discussion with several individuals, with no answer forthcoming, a little Google research was in order.

Wedding rings are relatively new as a marriage custom, with those coming from orthodox Christianity and Western Europe traditionally wearing the ring on the right hand. Those of German origin, which represents a large percentage of the population of New York and Pennsylania during the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, were of German and Swiss origin–and no doubt had considerable influence on the early practices of the LDS faith.  We typically think of the Pilgrims and other early settlements as being English; but in fact the greatest number of immigrants arrived from Germany during the time period in question.

Early LDS development also included a large body of individuals that en masse joined the LDS Church through the conversion of Sidney Rigdon.  Further study of this group–known to have a strong influence on early development of the Church–is justified to determine their theological swayings, beliefs, and customs.  Based on prior research, it is my impression that we will find this group associated to some degree with contemporary Piest and Anabaptist thinking of the era.

In the United Kingdom and within the United States in past generations, women wore wedding bands much more commonly than men did. Today, both partners often wear wedding rings, though for work-related reasons, personal comfort or safety a spouse may not fully implement this practice.  Some may  dislike the concept of declaring their legal status through jewelry, and waive the practice.

Learning from marketing lessons of the 1920s, changing economic times, and the impact of the great war, led to a more successful marketing campaign, and by the late 1940s, double-ring ceremonies made up for 80% of all weddings, as opposed to 15% before the depression of 1929.

From Feudal times, to the recent acceptance of “equity” by our court system; an engagement ring was given as consideration into the legal contract of marriage.  The ring, in effect, becomes the consideration (earnest money) thus making the contract legally binding.  Many a broken engagement during the times prior to the start of the twentieth century ended in the court system as contractual or tort liability–essentially breach of contract.  As genealogists, we often read about marriage Banns and Bonds–which a large some of money or property is pledged by the groom to insure his performance of the contract.

Anyway… while the Emma Smith movie may have difficulty competing with ‘Gone With the Wind,” it does offer some insight into the historicity of the period; and many scenes are depicted in their actual locations.  The film has a strong emotional component, with a noticeable lacking of in-depth story; but it is probably worth viewing for the music, scenery and emotional appeal.

2–Another puzzle that the Emma Smith film brings out is the use of “bonnets” by the women portrayed in the film.  Several years ago I wrote an article on prayer coverings worn by women in the 18th and 19th centuries, and even today.  The Emma Smith movie portrays women wearing bonnets both inside and outside–giving one the obvious conclusion that these bonnets were actually depicting the wearing of prayer coverings.

To set the stage, the prayer covering seems to emanate from Western Europe, primarily with the Piest religions of Mack and Luther.  While the traditional woman today shuns this Biblical requirement, few even know that the head covering is required by scripture.  The Catholic Church, over the past fifty years, has also accepted the uncovered head–even as a fashion statement. The only possible reason that I can see.  To learn more, read the versus of  1 Corinthians 11:1-16,

So, in the movie we see the liberal use of bonnets both indoors and out.  Pioneer women customarily wore a bonnet when outside; ostensibly to shade the sun and keep their hair from the ravages of the prairie.  Today, we have the Amish, some Mennonite sects, Shakers (what few are left), Brethren, and other orthodox or fundamentalist groups still involved with this practice.  I have noted that when venturing outside, these devoted women also wear their bonnets (over their prayer caps).

Does the Emma Smith movie, for historical accuracy, show the use of the bonnet as a surrogate for the head covering?  I have asked this question before, and not come to reason with it.  After several years of genealogical study of portions of New England, I believe the members of the early LDS Church very well may  have worn head coverings.  It was the custom of the day, circa 1800.

I don’t have an answer for this, but hope some of my friends do.  For that reason, this will be distributed by email, hoping to evoke a response so this matter may be resolved.  Did women in the early LDS Church wear prayer caps or coverings?  Please post or email your thoughts.

3–finally–a final parting comment.  The Emma film deals with issues, but without sufficient information to define the problem nor draw a rational conclusion.  Towards the end of the film a brief, but very direct statement is made concering LDS polygeny–referred to as polygamy within the film.

The LDS Church is currently facing a great deal of criticism over this matter, and historically they have chosen not to deal with this topic in a public way.  Before making a positive statement or offering an opinion, I would need to view the movie again.  But, is this statement an attempt by those making the film to change the public perception of Mormon polygamy?

The statement could be construed as apologist; or with more license as an explanation of how the practice was viewed.  I have no opinion, but am interested in yours on this matter.  I think we have not heard the last of this statement–and that it may have been placed there for a particular reason, intended to draw comment and discussion to a heretofore sensitive issue.

Please post your responses, as many would enjoy and benefit from your comment.  These issues are of interest to me, and all commentary will be greatly appreciated so we can all learn what the director of this film really wanted to tell us.

—Ron Snowden.

Searching for names in the UK? Here is a great site.

Genealogical researchers seeking names of ancestors in the United Kingdom (UK) often rely upon the IGI as a place to begin their searches.  Because the UK has a somewhat complicated system for reporting births, deaths and marriages—using counties, civil registration districts, ecclesiastical registration districts and towns—we often struggle with these unique classifications and spend far more time than we should formatting our search.  This article briefly describes a website that will help, in a significant way, and deserves a few minutes of you time to learn about what it offers.

This website has been put together byfellow genealogist Hugh Wallis.  It deals with expediting lookups on the IGI, based upon country/county/parish criteria, and uses only those records of Births, Christenings and Marriages EXTRACTED by the LDS Church.  Mr. Wallis’ work does not include patron-submitted records, because he feels these are fraught with errors.

Wallis’s website has a great deal of information, instruction and research tips, and much can be learned by studying it.  To use the search capability, you first select the country of interest from  a list.  Countries included are England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Channel Islands and a few special files.  Next, the county within the country is selected; followed by the town from the list.  Searching is very simple.

Within each town are a series of parish records (extractions), given either “C” or “M” designations (extraction batches).  C designations are births and christenings, and M designations are marriages.  A few “E” designations are included, which represents the “special” files.

Once a parish and particular batch number are selected, you may then enter a last name and search the batch for your particular name of interest.  You may simply want to leave the “name” field blank, which opens the entire list.  Parishes tend to be small geographical areas, with relatively few names, and searching the entire parish list is not that cumbersome or time consuming.  In fact, by reviewing all the names within the list you may often find more names of interest.


The Hugh Wallis website is a worthwhile opportunity to expand and expedite your search efforts in the United Kingdom.  Take a few minutes to look it over, and I believe you will be as pleased as I am over the information available.  This website can be accessed at

File Structure for the Aspiring Genealogist

In my experience, beginning genealogists almost universally have difficulty with understanding the use and purpose of gedcoms in genealogy, how to save their files, backing up their files, restoring—and using the flash drive, which some of you call thumb drives.

To begin to better understand file structure, lets spend a minute or two on basic file structure. Think of your computer as a large filing cabinet—similar to a filing cabinet used in an office. The filing cabinet has drawers, and in each drawer you keep a certain kind of information. One could be bills, another could be legal papers, the third could be Boy Scout information, and the fourth could be recipes and hobby information.

To make it easier to keep track of things, we simply file things into the cabinet, first sorting by drawer, then by those green hanging files, and finally by those manila files with the tab on top to write on. It’s a simple system, but very effective in keeping things organized, and finding what you need.

Over time, you would no doubt fill up your filing cabinet—and be left with no place to put things. In that case would you do? Sure, simply buy another file cabinet.

Let’s shift gears a bit, and talk a little about your computer.

Well, it may surprise you to know that your computer has many tens of thousands of files on it. Yes, I said tens of thousands. If you dumped them into a big box, how in the world would you be able to find one particular file amid tens of thousands? The obvious answer is that you need a filing system.

On your computer you have one or more disk drives. Usually, drive “C” is the drive you work with. Drive D may likely be your CD burner and reader, or compact disk drive. Drive A is normally the 3-1/4” floppy drive—used for reading and writing to a floppy disk, but today few computers are being manufactured with a floppy drive. The floppy has not become OLD TECHNOLOGY. Slow, expensive, and they don’t hold very much data in the information age.

There comes a point when your computer drive—usually drive C—fills up, with no more space for your programs and files. If you think back a few years, a new computer sported a two gigabyte hard drive. I still have one, and my daughter uses it every day. Well, today, if you purchased Microsoft’s Office Suite—consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a few other ancillary programs—that would more than consume your available storage. Or, there is no more room on the disk to store the things you write, download or create.

Without remaining disk space, you can’t fit anything else into your computer’s filing system. You are out of business.

But, you do have a few options. They are

  • Clean out some of the files that you don’t need, use or want
  • Move some of the files to another filing cabinet
  • Use one of your computer’s special tools that compresses files for storage, usually to about ¼ of their original size. This is a good option, but the files become a little slow to open and save.

The solution I am most interested in today is simply adding another file cabinet. For your computer, you have a few options. They are

  • Store some of the files on a compact disk. But, each time you want to us a file, you have to find and load the CD—which takes a little time. But, it works.
  • The other option is to purchase an additional hard drive. This works just like your drive “C”, and in most cases it provides a tremendous amount of storage. 5 year old computers had perhaps 20 gigabytes of disk storage. Today, add-on drives with say 120 gigabytes of storage space cost $75-$120, depending on the manufacturer, where you purchase it, and a few whistles and bells. That is a very inexpensive solution for 6 times more storage space, AND the convenience it offers during use.

While we are on this subject, let’s talk a little about kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and other bytes that the computer geeks often mention. The byte (pronounced bite, like taking a bite out of an apple) is a unit of measure for information storage. A typical business letter would be roughly 100 kilobytes, meaning that it occupied that much of your computer’s storage space.

A kilobyte is 1,000 bytes of information, per second

A megabyte is 1.000.000 bytes of information, per second

A gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 bytes of information per second

So, on that older 20 gigabyte storage disk on your computer, you could store about 200,000 of those typical business letters that we talked about. Of course, documents such as photographs, scanned documents and other typed of images can take up much more space.

If you need a break for a minute or two, remember to press the PAUSE key just once. That will stop the player. To start it again, press the triangle—which means play.

For the aspiring genealogist, a trip to the Family History Center presents some problems. First of all, you work on your genealogy at home—and getting it to the Family History Center would be quite a job if you had to lug your entire computer. Your Family History Center can’t allow your files to remain on their computers, because with all the users they would soon fill up and make the system inoperable. That’s why most centers clear out user files at the end of each day. When I say user, I am referring to you.

If your file is very small, you can transport it on a floppy disk. If it is bigger, you can transport it on a compact disk—but often you may need one to bring it, and one to take it home. Your cost, then, would be about 50 cents per trip—the approximate cost of two CD’s.

The best solution, though is to use a FLASH DRIVE to carry your work back and forth. It works well when going to a genealogical library as well, as you can copy records, census files, photographs and anything else that can be stored on a computer.

Flash drives are those little things that you see either plugged into a computer at the family history center; or hanging around the neck of the patrons. All aspiring genealogists need one.

Flash drives come in a number of sizes, with the smallest being 256 megabytes. The cost is about $10-$15. The next size is 512 megabytes, for about $12-$20. But probably the best buy is the 1 gigabyte size, at $14-$24. Prices vary widely because they are so inexpensive, and by looking around you can pick one up quite inexpensively. There does not seem to be a major difference in quality or feature either.

About five or more years ago computer manufacturer’s began making computers with what is called a USB Port. This is a small outlet, which you can plug comuter periphals into. Your flash drive plugs into this port very easily, and doesn’t require any adjustment or loading by your computer. USB stands for universal serial bus—which means absolutely nothing to us computer users. So, just remember USB and you are up to speed.

Oh, by the way. I walked into my son’s office a while back—with a flash drive hanging around my neck. He gave me a lecture that that was not considered cool. It would embarrass him if his friends saw me with it dangling around my neck. You be the judge on that one…but I remember how cool I was walking into class with my Pickett 12” slide rule hanging on my belt. I think I will leave the lanyard on my flash drive, at least for now.

Let’s get serious about genealogy now.

When we leave home and come to the family history center, we need to bring our information to the center so we can work on it. I will assume all of you are using PAF 5.0. If you aren’t, you should upgrade by going to the LDS Church’s website FAMILOYSEARACH.ORG. Upgrading to PAF 5.0 is free—as is simply downloading the program the first time.

PAF 5.0 runs on computers that operate on Microsoft Personal Computer software. Several versions are in use, and they are called Vista, Windows, and several other names—found on older computers. They all work, but of course—newer is always better, faster and more efficient.

Some genealogy files have lots of names in the. Many genealogists also load photographs and scanned documents into their files for better understanding and enjoyment. This can make your file larger than a CD, and even larger than most flash drives. I fellow I talk to through email has over one million five hundred thousand names in his data base. Wow—you’d have to have a wheelbarrow to carry that one.

Many years ago the LDS Church developed a system for condensing files, and allowing various software developers to develop genealogy programs that will work with all the other software that is available. They called this genealogical data communications, and gave it the nickname GEDCOM.

Today, we tell our computer to create a file in gedcom language, and wherever we go we can use it. In anyone’s computer, even Apple computers—which have a totally different operating system than the one marketed by Microsoft. As an aspiring genealogist, you need to know how to make a gedcom from your data, and how to load it onto another computer. It’s actually very simple to do.

Regardless of which genealogy software you are using, creating a GEDCOM is pretty much the same for all programs. To begin, you need to plug your Flash Drive into a USB port—in slip a floppy or CD into the correct drive.

In the menu that runs across the top of your program, you first click on FILE; then when the drop-down menu opens you simply tell it to EXPORT a Gedcom. The rest is just like saving any other file. You have to give it a name, and then tell it to save.

Oh, it will ask you if you want your name put into the Gedcom so anyone using it will know you created it. And, it may give you the chance to fine tune the file a little—but you really don’t need to deal with this at this stage of your career.

Remember, if you need to send your genealogy to a friend or relative, the GEDCOM is the way to do it. You can even save a part of your data by itself—but that is for another day.

Why don’t you take another break for a few minutes, to let your mine cool off for a bit. Just press the pause icon; then press the play icon to begin again.

We are coming to the end, but there are two more things that we need to learn. First, we need to know how to load a GEDCOM into the computer at the family history center. Don’t get nervous, this is a snap.

First, install your flash drive, CD or floppy. Then, click on the PAF icon to open PAF. Then, click on the FILE icon at the top of the page, followed by the IMPORT GEDCOM command. You will then have a dialog box that asks you to select the GEDCOM to import. This is simply selecting the right file to load into the computer. Remember, gedcoms all have the file extension of .ged.

Well, it should be there. After you do this a few times it will be a piece of cake.

Now, the final challenge…and the one that confuses people the most. The infamous BACKUP!

Your family history center will recommend you obtain and use a flash drive. They also recommend that you don’t use the GEDCOM. They want you to use the backup and restore commands found in the FILE menu of PAF.

PAF operates on a real-time basis. That means that when you type something into PAF it is there immediately, even if you don’t use the SAVE command.

When you are done for the day, instead of creating another GEDCOM of your latest data, you can create a BACKUP file. A backup file is often called a .ZIP file, and what it does is compresses your data to less than ¼ of it’s actual size. In essence, a large file can fit into a small space.

Backup works very well, and is very easy to use. You can easily tell if the file is a backup or gedcom by looking at the file extension—the three letter tag following the dot, after the name of the file. So a file named Jones.ged is a gedcom of your ,PAF file called Jones. Should you decide to save it as a backup file, you would see the file as Jones.bak.

To save a BACKUP file, load your flash drive, click on FILE, then click on BACKUP, then name it, then SAVE it. How complicated can it get; and it keeps the people at the family history center happy.

When you want to open the file, say the next day at home, you put your flash drive into your computer, load PAF, then click on FILE, then RESTORE, then select your file, then OPEN it.

Why do people get so confused over this? In mathematics, its called math anxiety. People have a bad experience, and are terrified that it will occur again.

Revisit this tutorial a few times and dealing with file structure should come to you with ease. You need to think through what you are doing though. You need to understand the steps, not just follow the list.

Spend fifteen minutes thinking about it, and you will never have another problem understanding computer filing structure. It’s that simple.

If you find this help session worthwhile, check back often. If people find our genealogy tutorials worthwhile, we will continue to create them.

Thanks again