Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What if your genealogy appears to be all done? -- Part One

One common issue among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have ancestors who joined the Church is the overwhelming amount of genealogical information that shows up in's Family Tree. When opening the program and looking at Family Tree, it appears that the folklore handed down that the "work is all done" seems to be true. I can assure you that the impression obtained from looking at an extended pedigree in Family Tree has little or no relationship to whether or not all of an individual's ancestors have been identified.

While teaching classes on genealogy, I commonly state that if you give me fifteen minutes with your online Family Tree pedigree (or any other online pedigree) I can show you enough inconsistencies and inaccuracies to dispel any thought that the "work is all done" from your mind. If you approach a large pedigree file with the same attitude, you can also do the same thing. Focus on the dates and the places. I might mention that I can do this with my own files and find huge inconsistencies.

The main difference between today and the past when our ancestors were doing genealogy is that we have the ability to see a compilation of all of the efforts of all of the researchers' submissions, all at the same time. Unfortunately, the Family Tree may not show the best or most accurate choice in each instance. Hence, I am extremely safe in making the above claim. My goal for some time has been to correct as much as possible and document with sources, my first four generations. You would think that I would have finished that a long time ago. But if you try to verify every name, date and place in your first four generations, you will soon see that such a task is very difficult. When you extend the same level of examination and proof to the fifth generation, you will start to find serious questions that need to be resolved. It also applies even more to the sixth generation. I am not talking about your surname line, I am talking about all of the lines from all of your direct line ancestors. What happens with the common LDS pedigree is that the first few generations are pretty well established. There are errors but the errors may not be very evident. If you keep going back in time, you soon find end of lines, inconsistencies, obvious errors and all sorts of contradictory situations.

Now, if you are reading this and had "done" all of your lines and all of the descendants of all of your direct line ancestors back to Adam, you are of course excused from this discussion. So don't make comments to me about how all of your thousands of ancestors and their descendants are correct. But if you are realistic enough to realize that such claims are ridiculous, then read on.

What then do we as genealogists tell a newly interested researcher when their pedigree on Family Tree goes back generation after generation? Where do we start? As I related above, I start by poking holes in the idea that the genealogy is all done. Then I move quickly to suggestions where additional research would likely add more information and identify additional people. Fortunately, we have some wonderful tools that help us to analyze our pedigrees on Family Tree and identify areas where there has been little or no research. One of those tools is a program called This is a series and I will be addressing this program and some other strategies for those who think their genealogy is all done.

1 comment:

  1. James, The finished tree syndrome isn't confined to the LDS community.It is a more common condition.