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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

4 Generations is the key to genealogy

Some years ago,  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints initiated a four generation program. Subsequent programs involve submitting an additional fifth-generation and auditing and correcting the originally submitted four generation family group sheets. These submissions, constituted the basis for the presently available Ancestral File on FamilySearch.org. Now once again, there is an effort by the Church to implement what is essentially another for generation submission program. The recently introduced booklet entitled "My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together" is a simple outline for entering the first four generations of a family history. In contrast to the original submission, the new booklet encourages submitting photos and stories.

I believe that emphasis on submitting or otherwise requiring a four generation family group record is essential to establishing a reasonable basis for genealogy in the Church and otherwise. For example, I would suggest that every new Church Service Missionary called be encouraged to work on a four generation family group record as part of their Service Missionary calling. In many cases this would simply mean becoming aware of work that had already been done by previous generations, but in other instances it would involve considerable research. I would suggest that the idea is not to complete research on for generations but to be actively involved in genealogical research.

The Church has extremely adequate support materials and online resources to allow at least English-speaking members and missionaries to complete a four generation family group record. To be clear about what I consider for generations, the compiled family group records and resulting pedigree chart would include the individual, the individual's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The compilation would include all of the children from all of the marriages for each of the direct line ancestors. Two areas that are often neglected in this process are the inclusion of all marriages and all children from all of the marriages.

Since my own interest in genealogy originated with participation in one of the earlier four generation programs, I can see the value of doing a four generation research project even if it ends up being simply a matter of copying existing information. With our present genealogical tools, in many instances establishing a four generation pedigree would be readily available on FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program. But my recent experiences in reviewing dozens of Family Tree entries for various members of my own Ward,  indicate that a renewed emphasis on compiling for generations would be immensely helpful in increasing genealogical activity.

I am concerned that the new booklet that has been introduced, at least in established Wards,  will be just another book that is put on the shelf and ignored. It appears to be a very effective tool for new members or those who have done no genealogical research but I question whether or not it will be a motivation for established members absent some programs emphasizing updating the information and verifying the information in Family Tree.

Friday, November 29, 2013

RootsTech 2014: Family Discovery Day and Youth Event

If you would like to get a feel for genealogy and family history without paying an admission fee, the FamilySearch RootsTech 2014 Family Discovery Day and Youth Event is the perfect way to get started in attending a major genealogy conference.  The day is designed as a free event created for LDS Church members and will include inspirational speakers with messages to strengthen families. Just-for-youth activities and classes.

You can find out more about the event by going to the RootsTech 2014 website. Here is a screenshot of the Family Discovery Day page:


The event will be held In conjunction with the third day of RootsTech, on Saturday, February 8, 2014, Family Discover Day is a day of devotionals, classes, and interactive experiences designed especially for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

As the page explains the agenda includes the opportunity to:
Hear inspirational messages from Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Allan F. Packer, Elder Bradley D. Foster, and popular speakers who will:
  • Help inspire you to record, preserve, and share your family stories.
  • Teach you to find and prepare your family names for temple work.
  • Teach you the powerful features of the Family Tree on FamilySearch.
  • Help those with family history callings with insightful training.
  • Help you get started on your family history.
In the meantime, if you go to the RootsTech 2014 website, you just may figure out that you would like to attend the main conference.

RootsTech 2013 is being held beginning on February 5th, 2014 with a Developers Day at the

Salt Palace Convention Center
100 South West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

My Family History Calling Newsletter

FamilySearch is now sending out an email newsletter called "My Family History Calling Newsletter." This appears to be a monthly message and likely is being sent to registered Family History Consultants throughout the Church. Here is a screenshot of the top part of the latest issue:


If you are involved in Family History at any level, you need to at least be reviewing what is contained in this newsletter. There is a link at the top of the newsletter to "View as Webpage." Clicking on this link brings the newsletter up in a webpage (surprise!) but there is no clear way to subscribe to the newsletter or unsubscribe if you have now been called to the Primary or whatever and therefore no longer have any interest in or duty to do any Family History.

In searching the document, I found two tiny links at the very bottom of the webpage. One is a link to "Preferences" and the the other is a link to "Unsubscribe." So the first question is resolved, you can now stop being bothered by those pesky family history people and you can go on ignoring your ancestors. But what is the other link?

Here is a screenshot showing the location of the two tiny links at the bottom of the page:


That link takes you to a page called the "Profile Center." Where is this page? I have no idea how to get to this page any other way. You can then review your information and unsubscribe or change the way you receive the email. There are two more links on that page. Here is a screenshot with my personal information hidden:


The link to the Subscription Center is interesting. There are a number of different publications you can subscribe to, most of which I have never heard of previously. Very interesting and useful. But I suggest that if you don't like email, you seriously consider what you ask for.

There is one last link and that is to a Help Center. Here is what the Help Center has to say. That seems to be the end of the links. It still leaves me wondering where I have been and how to get there.

Help Center
The Profile Center is designed to help you self-manage your demographic information as well as communication preferences. To update your personal information, such as name or email address, please click on the Profile Center link. Make your changes in the right hand pane and simply click the Update button in the My Personal Information section. To change your communication preferences, mark the appropriate boxes in the My Preferences section and hit the Update button at the bottom of the page.

The Subscription Center is designed so that you can subscribe and unsubscribe from specific communications. The Available Publications section lists all the communications to which you can subscribe; those marked with a check are publications you are currently subscribed to. To unsubscribe from one or more communications, uncheck the appropriate checkbox and hit the Update button; you will remain subscribed to all those communications whose boxes are checked.

To unsubscribe from all communications, scroll to the bottom of the Subscription Center, check the box labeled I no longer wish to receive any future communications, and hit the Update button.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A View of LDS Genealogical Resources: An Introduction

This post is the first in a series that will review the online genealogical tools provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) both to its members and to anyone interested in genealogy throughout the world. It is my experience that many genealogists worldwide are totally unaware of the huge number of resources available through such LDS organizations as FamilySearch and Brigham Young University and other such entities. This lack of awareness is particularly marked among the members of the Church. During the past two weeks, I have taken the time to talk to quite a significant number of the members of my own Ward and found that they, almost uniformly, had very little awareness of even the most visible resource, FamilySearch.org. Out of about fifty families, I would say less than about 10% had a reasonable acquaintanceship with that one program. Almost without exception, when I show a member of the Church any other resource, they are seeing it for the first time.

I could certainly get into a long discussion about the causes of this lack of knowledge of the LDS websites and online resources, but that will have to be in another post.  The purpose of this post and those that follow is to highlight the vast free genealogical resources provided by the Church and all of its subdivisions. Here is a brief summary introducing the history and background of the main LDS organization, FamilySearch.

The involvement of the Church in the field of genealogy cannot be understood without examining its doctrine and teachings. As stated by Joseph Fielding Smith, a former President, 
Salvation for the dead is the system whereunder those who would have accepted the gospel in this life, had they been permitted to hear it, will have the chance to accept it in the spirit world, and will then be entitled to all the blessings which passed them by in mortality” (DS 2:100-196). Provisions have been made, therefore, for the living to provide, vicariously, ordinances of salvation for their deceased family forebears and friends. This cannot be done without information about the dead.

At the April General Conference of the Church in 1894, President Wilford Woodruff announced that he had received a revelation and admonished the members saying, 
We want the Latter day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it…. This is the will of the Lord to this people.” Later that year, the First Presidency of the Church authorized the formation of the Genealogical Society of Utah. Franklin D. Richards was selected as its first president. Archibald F. Bennett, later an executive secretary, gave the following historical summary: “It was to be benevolent, educational, and religious in purpose-benevolent in gathering together into a library books that would help the people trace their ancestry; educational in teaching the people how to trace their ancestry…; religious in that they would do all in their power to encourage the people to perform in the temples all the necessary ordinances.

One of the founders of the Genealogical Society of Utah, Nephi Anderson made the following statement in January of 1912:
I see the records of the dead and their histories gathered from every nation under heaven to one great central library in Zion — the largest and best equipped in the nations, but in Zion will be the records of the last resort and authority. Trained genealogists will find constant work in all nations having unpublished records, searching among the archives for families and family connections. Then, as temples multiply, and the work enlarges to its ultimate proportions, this Society, or some organization growing out of this Society, will have in its care some elaborate, but perfect system of exact registration and checking, so that the work in the temples may be conducted without confusion or duplication. And so throughout the years, reaching into the Millennium of peace, this work of salvation will go on, until every worthy soul that can be found from early records will have been searched out and officiated for; and then the unseen world will come to our aid, the broken links will be joined, the tangled threads will be placed in order, and the purposes of God in placing salvation within the reach of all will have been consummated.

This religious mandate explains, only in part, the vast effort the Church and its members have expended in creating one of the largest record repositories for genealogical information in the world. It is truly amazing to contemplate the extensive genealogical organization of the Church.


Through the years the Church’s genealogical interests have been conducted under a variety of names and organizations. Beginning in 1894 the Church sponsored the Genealogical Society of Utah and despite the name changes in 1944 to The Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then in 1975 to The Genealogical Department, later in 1987, and another name change to The Family History Department,  the Church kept using the name and titles of the Genealogical Society of Utah. In 2000 the Church consolidated the Family History and Historical departments into the Family and Church History Department. Today FamilySearch is used as the tradename for the Utah Genealogical Society, even though FamilySearch, International is also a separate corporation.

Today, FamilySearch is a large international organization employing hundreds of people and utilizing hundreds of volunteers Church-Service missionaries. 

Tune in for the next installment. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Started with Descendancy Research




Sometime people tend to refer to doing genealogical research as "easy" in some form or another. This is especially true of people writing books and articles about genealogy rather than doing it themselves. There is nothing particularly easy about genealogical research. If you do find it to be easy, that is usually because you are picking the low hanging fruit, that is, finding people who are easy to find.

A recent blog post on the FamilySearch Blog is entitled "Easy Help for Beginning Your Descendancy Research." I would make the point in my opinion, the word "easy" as used in this context does not refer to the process of doing the research, but instead refers to finding the help resources. The post references a handout and an accompanying video. The video is referenced above and the handout is found by clicking here.

Getting started with descendancy research is also covered in depth in the FamilySearch Research Wiki article entitled, "How to find Descendants in the United States." I suggest reading through the article and looking at the links. With this you will a fairly good idea of what is involved.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Keeping a Journal - The Door to Family History

I began writing a journal in 1975. My main regret is that I did not start sooner. I have become convinced that many of the world's problems would be solved in more people just wrote a journal consistently. Wilford Woodruff, the 4th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, about journal writing:
There is one subject I wish to speak upon and that is the keeping of a journal with respect to the dealings of God with us. … When the Prophet Joseph organized the Quorum of the Twelve, he counseled them to keep a history of their lives, and gave his reasons why they should do so. I have had this spirit and calling upon me since I first entered this church. I made a record from the first sermon I heard, and from that day until now I have kept a daily journal. Whenever I heard Joseph Smith preach, teach, or prophesy, I always felt it my duty to write it; I felt uneasy and could not eat, drink, or sleep until I did write. (in Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors [1964], 476–77)
I am not so consistent about writing in a journal but I do write several times a week. The perspective that it gives to your life is irreplaceable.  President Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th President of the Church wrote about journals:
Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there. … Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. … What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity. … Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your going and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events. ... This is what the Lord has commanded and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance their daily lives. (New Era, Oct. 1975)
We can keep journals on our computer now, but we need to be aware of the changing technology and make sure we keep migrating our files to newer programs so that they can be read in the future. Originally, I was keeping my journal on paper but transitioned to a computer when they became available. My original program was MacWrite, but after a few years, I realized that the program was no longer available and almost lost much of my writing but was saved at the last possible minute when my brother dug up an old copy of MacWrite on an older computer and was able to move the files to a newer format.

That happened again when I began using Microsoft Word and discovered that the newest versions of Word could not read the older files. I went through a long process of making sure that the whole archive of journal pages were moved to a later format.

My experiences with writing a journal are similar to those expressed by our current Church President, Thomas S. Monson, the 16th President of the Church, who said,
I would like to share with you just a tiny sampling of the experiences I have had wherein prayers were heard and answered and which, in retrospect, brought blessings into my life as well as the lives of others. My daily journal, kept over all these years, has helped provide some specifics which I most likely would not otherwise be able to recount. (General Conference, Oct. 2012)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turning our hearts towards a name?

I am afraid that many budding family historians in the Church have a mail-order bride kind of relationship with their ancestors. They find a name and fall in love with it only long enough to "take the name to the Temple" and ignore the reality of who or what they are really getting into. The scripture commonly used in conjunction with the process of submitting ancestors for ordinance work says, quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants Section 110: 14-15:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come— 
15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
This same idea is also found in Joseph Smith--History, Chapter 1 where relates Joseph Smith's account of what Moroni said to him:
38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 
39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
This was not too long ago the tope of an article in the November 2011 Ensign entitled "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn" by Elder David A. Bednar.

In the context of genealogical research, I question how the hearts of those who merely collect names for submission without any real research or any interest in the families can really have had their hearts turned to their fathers? I think Elder Bednar had a more complete understanding when he said, in the same article quoted above:
The Lord has made available in our day remarkable resources that enable you to learn about and love this work that is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. For example, FamilySearch is a collection of records, resources, and services easily accessible with personal computers and a variety of handheld devices, designed to help people discover and document their family history. These resources also are available in the family history centers located in many of our Church buildings throughout the world.
The key here seems to be to learn about and love the work and to discover and document family history. It would seem to me that this involves more than merely filling in the spaces in a pedigree. It involves a serious and careful consideration of our ancestors. It involves learning about who they were and opening our hearts to their lives and their stories. It would seem to me to involve much more than copying names out of a book or from someone's online family tree. Elder Bednar invites the youth as follows:
I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.
I strongly agree with this invitation and the thoughts behind it. My concern is that much that has already been recorded in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is inaccurate and even wrong.  I think those of us who are already involved in the technical aspects of recording our family histories have a duty to correct the information with adequate documentation, as stated by Elder Bednar, so that the youth who go to this marvelous tool find it in good repair and a a useful way to begin investigating their families.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Visit to Temple Square


One of my favorite places is Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have early memories of standing on the corner of South Temple and Main Street and waiting for a bus to take me to Rose Park. I was on Temple Square just a few short days ago and we picked up chestnuts that had fallen from the huge trees losing their leaves. It is a wonderful place to visit at all times of the year.

How will the end of New.FamilySearch.org affect you?

There are some areas of genealogy that give rise to really deep emotional conflicts. I was passing by a patron in the Mesa FamilySearch Library the other day and notice that she was working away on New.FamilySearch.org. I paused and mentioned to her that the program was being discontinued shortly and that she might consider working in FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I was absolutely amazed at the reaction. She all but spit fire at me and told me in no uncertain terms that she was not going to move to a new program. I smiled and moved on. Unfortunately, I have had this same type of reaction from many of the people I interact with at the Library.

What is going on here? Is this just another example of technological paranoia? Or are there some other issues? I think part of the reason for the reaction lies in the type of work people are able to do with New.FamilySearch.org (NFS). At the core of the problem is a lack of accountability to entries and the consequences of entries in the NFS program. My wife was feeling discouraged with the information in FamilySearch.org Family Tree (FSFT) because entries carried over from NFS had so entangled her ancestral families with wrong people and information that it seemed impossible to rectify. But those working with NFS never have to confront these issues. Right or wrong they can just keep adding information to NFS and further qualifying "people" for ordinance word with impunity.

There are those who are looking at NFS for names to take to the Temple who are simply adding variations on existing names, making the program think they are new individuals and not copies and then printing off Family Ordinance Requests. Let me be clear. These people are making up or fabricating bogus individuals simply to acquire cards to take to the Temple. They can do this because NFS lets them do it. I have no idea what motivates someone to do this, but I do know that they feel threatened with FSFT because they guess that it will not be quite so easy to fabricate people in the future. If you want to see what I am talking about, here is a screen shot of one of my family lines. The first screenshot shows the line in NFS:


What is happening here is that the ancestor in the primary position is William Tanner of Rhode Island. I have done extensive research on him and his parents have never been identified. The names used as parents are copies of the names of his descendants. The key here is the small shield symbol with the plus sign next to William Tanner and his wife's names. Clicking on that symbol shows the following screen:


In short, the NFS program shows this many variations of wives for William Tanner. None of these are correct. In fact, the information showing in the prime position is not correct. If you look closely, you will see that additional information was added by a user as recently as 13 November 2013. Another example, the "new" information added lists William Tanner's burial in Usequepaugh, Kent, Rhode Island. I have personally visited William Tanner's grave in South Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island.

This is one root cause of the animosity against FSFT. This type of wholesale fabrication will no longer be allowed or fostered. I need to mention that the pedigree line (totally fabricated) for William Tanner in NFS extends back another five generations.

Now what happened when this mess transferred over to FSFT?

Here is a screen shot showing the mess as of today. This changes as people keep putting information into NFS so every day is a new adventure. But today we have two generations back past William Tanner (the end of the line) and as yet not one source has been added to William Tanner. I haven't added any sources because I am not sure yet which of the "William Tanners" in the file will end up being the one I need to work with as people get deleted from the file.


This is one major reason why I have been writing for so long about the need to move on to FSFT and abandon NFS. But I am now concerned that the same people who are fabricating names in NFS will continue to do so in FSFT and cause continual problems with the program.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Landing Page for New.FamilySearch.org

In an announcement dated 20 November 2013, FamilySearch notified users that the link to New.FamilySearch.org will be modified to include the above notice as part of the landing page. What this means in English is that when you go to New.FamilySearch.org, instead of going directly to the program, you will see the above screen. This is already in effect. Here is the explanation of what is happening from the blog post:
Recently, we have announced that new.familysearch.org will become a read-only website by next month. Once this change takes place, each time you log onto new.familysearch.org you will be guided to a new landing page. From here, you can either proceed to new.familysearch.org or you can go to Family Tree. 
One small step for a man and sort-of small step for mankind. 

The Youth and Family History


LDS.org is building a library of stories, talks, videos and other media items for use in helping the youth of the Church become involved in family history. Lately there has been a movement to integrate FamilySearch.org programs into LDS.org. You can see this on the page called FamilySearch Youth and Family History. Since FamilySearch.org and LDS.org are both massively large websites, it would be interesting to see what percentage of the visitors use the specialized type pages. In my experience, helping members of my own Ward become familiar with FamilySearch Family Tree, I would guess that the percentage of members who are even aware of the resources would be very, very small.

From my viewpoint, one of the keys to youth involvement in family history is the Indexing program. Watching videos and listening to talks may be motivational but there is no substitute for actual participation at a useful level. Another challenge is the issue that even if youth become interested in family history it is unlikely that they would seek help from the existing genealogical structure. I see a vanishingly small number of youth spontaneously visiting the family history centers unless they are participating in group activities. I would also guess that it is very rare for Ward Family History Consultants to be actively involved in youth activities.

Whenever I make these kinds of observations, I frequently receive comments from readers contradicting my observations based on their own experience in their own Ward. My observations are based on years of experience serving in a major FamilySearch library and from visiting quite a number of Wards around the United States.

One of the most promising developments is the encouragement received from the Church to involve the youth as Family History Consultants. I have not yet personally seen this happen but I am certain this is one way to break down the barriers between the generally older adult Family History Consultants and the youth in their Ward.

Another very successful program initiated by the Mesa FamilySearch Library has been to organize a structured and very active Boy Scout Genealogy Merit Badge program.  This program alone has resulted in hundreds of young men visiting the Library.

I think there are some wonderful programs out there for involving the youth and genealogy and family history but I think we still have a long way to go before a substantial percentage of the youth become involved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Maps of LDS Geography

A recent post on LDS Media Talk featured Maps of LDS Geography. The original article was published in the BYU Magazine by Brittany Karford Rogers. I immediately realized that this mapping technique, either done formally or informally, could be a huge asset to genealogical research. A quote from the article indicates how maps can have a dramatic impact on our perceptions of history. Here is the quote from geography professor Brandon S. Plewe of Brigham Young University:
Take just about any topic—even something you’ve heard about thousands of times. “Look at it on a map, and it makes you think about it differently,”
In examining genealogical conundrums, I have taken this position over and over again.  It is absolutely necessary in order to resolve any difficult genealogical relationship question to closely examine the geography of the events in question. If you don't take the time to look at a maps of the areas involved in your research, you may spend years searching for the wrong information. Likewise, as the maps referenced in this article show, those geographic locations must be put into the historical context.

In my experience, nearly all of the so-called "brick wall" issues claimed by researchers can be solved by referring to maps and plotting the exact locations of events. The reason for this is that I find that the researchers are looking in the wrong place. When they identify specific event locations and then search, in depth, for records in those locations, they make dramatic progress in finding their ancestors. It is not magic, it is merely acknowledging that records are most likely associated with a specific time and geographic location. The records themselves may have been dispersed to the four quarters of the world, but the association with a specific location is a basic characteristic of the records and failing to recognize this fact lies at the base of the brick wall problems.

If you ignore history, you are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. This applies doubly to genealogical research. But I will add, if you ignore geography, you will never be sure you have properly identified your ancestors and may be doing someone else a favor by researching an unrelated family line.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Hands-on Approach to Genealogy or Family History

My experience over the past few years in teaching and interacting with people starting out with researching their ancestors leads me to a strong conviction that the only way to get people involved with genealogy or family history is to work with them directly, on a computer, searching for and entering information about their family. This most effectively takes place on a one-on-one basis with the more experienced researcher sitting down next to the aspiring family historian and helping to answer very specific questions about what to do and how to do it.

Holding a general motivational-type class where the benefits of family history research are extolled, yet once again, has almost no effect on the individuals attending. It is true that every once and while, someone will "catch the vision" and decide to become involved. But if they lack the basic skills necessary to get started, the inspired potential researcher will soon lose interest and get bogged down in what to do next.

One of the biggest challenges in implementing this mentoring process is found in the Bible in Matthew 15:14 which says in part, "And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." This whole idea presupposes that experienced genealogical researchers are willing to become involved and help on a very frequent and regular basis. From my own personal experience in attending and visiting dozens of Wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) , what usually happens is that a person with little or no experience and no interest in genealogical research is called to the position of Ward Family History Consultant. I usually talk to one or two newly minted Consultants every week at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. They often come into the Library seeking help with getting started in their new calling but have no previous interest or experience.

It is very rare, that I find that a newly called Family History Consultant has been asked to do anything more than teach an occasional class about "Family History." It is even more rare to find one who has been shown the resources for Family History Consultants that are easily available on LDS.org. What is even less common than the two proceeding steps is to find a new Family History Consultant that has gone through the online training. There are notable exceptions, but the long range goal of having an active Family History effort on a Ward level takes more than just calling someone to fill a slot on an organizational chart.

Every so often there is a highly qualified person called as a Family History Consultant, but then the next step needs to be taken; that is, involving the Ward members on a one-on-one basis rather than simply holding a class during Sunday School whenever there is a classroom available and there are not competing classes being held. Focusing on Family History as something done in a Sunday School Class with eight or ten people is like talking to a group of people about learning to swim while they sit in bleachers on the side of a pool. You have to get into the water and start doing something.

The closest similar activity in the context of the Wards I visit is the Scoutmaster and the activity of the Ward's Scout Troop. Over the years as my boys grew up in the Church, it was apparent that the skill and attitude of the Scoutmaster was the decisive factor in the activity of the Troop in the Ward. If the Scoutmaster had a good background in Scouting, had the time and interest to help the boys, then the boys advanced in Scouting. If the Scoutmaster did not attend Roundtable meetings, had little interest or knowledge about Scouting and did not spend time with the boys structuring activities that led to advancement, very few boys advanced in rank.

The same conditions occur with Family History. Being called as a Family History Consultant is very similar to being called as a Scoutmaster. It is a complex calling with a lot of training and skills needed to be successful. If the Bishops viewed the need for a good Family History Consultant with the same degree of concern they give in calling a new Scoutmaster, I would guess that Family History would start to move in the Wards and the members would become more involved. It is interesting that Stakes very frequently hold Merit Badge Rallies but how many Family History Rallies have you attended in your life?




Saturday, November 16, 2013

Announcement of Read Only Status Appears on New.FamilySearch.org Website

When you go to the New.FamilySearch.org website you will get a notice that the website is going to become "Read Only" in December, 2013. Here is a screenshot of the notice:


The text of the message says the following:
December 2013 new.familysearch.org Becomes Read Only
The next step to fully implement FamilySearch Family Tree on FamilySearch.org is to change new.familysearch.org to read-only status. This milestone will occur in December 2013. 
Users will still be able to view information on new.familysearch.org after the change, but users will no longer be able to edit or change information.
Users have many reasons to switch from new.familysearch.org to FamilySearch Family Tree. They can 
  1. Correct information about ancestors and relationships.
  2. Find valuable records for any ancestor, right from the person page.
  3. Add sources to ancestors with a few simple mouse clicks.
  4. Add photos, documents, and stories to ancestors.
  5. Print fan charts, pedigrees, and family group records.
This certainly looks like a firm commitment. I still know quite a few people who are refusing to use the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. This might wake them up to the change.

FamilySearch.org Site Map

One of my online friends, Michael McCormick of the Enduring Legacy Genealogy Blog, did some poking around and came up with a site map of the FamilySearch.org website.  Here is a screenshot showing the site map:


A site map is supposed to have a listing, by category or section, of all of the pages in a website. Some of the pages are not readily found any other way. For example, I have not looked at my own Detail Page in Family Tree on FamilySearch.org and found out that my photo is sideways:


Probably reflects my need for sleep.

Interestingly, the "Site Map" page isn't listed on the Site Map. I realize that this would get into "self referential" issues, but I wonder if even this site map is complete. I do see some omissions such as the new documents page in the Photos and Stories section. I did find a few pages I had never seen before such as the News and Press page. The News and Press page made me stop and wonder. It appeared that the Facts and Statistics section hadn't been updated for some considerable time. For example, the page lists 1,363 searchable historic record collections online but the actual number as of the date of this post is 1,664.

Oh well, who knows what else lurks in the heart of FamilySearch.org?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Family History Centers

One of the most valuable resources for finding your family history is a visit to a Family History Center (now frequently called FamilySearch Centers) FamilySearch has 4,600 local facilities in 126 countries where anyone can access genealogical records and receive personal assistance with their family history. These centers include the world-famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, large regional facilities in places like Mesa, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California, and smaller centers that are usually found inside Latter-day Saint meetinghouses.

I have been frequently surprised at how few of the genealogists in the Metropolitan Phoenix Area have never visited the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library. All family history centers are free and open to the public and staffed by knowledgeable volunteers. Each facility offers both novices and experienced family historians the tools and resources to learn about their ancestors. There are even a substantial percentage of the Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have never stepped inside a Family History Center.


The Family History Center locator is under the "Get Help" link on the FamilySearch.org Startup Page. Here is another screenshot showing the location of the link:


Just a couple of suggestions; call ahead to make sure of the operating hours and ask if someone will be there to help you in the area you are researching. Family History Centers are staffed by volunteers and the times of operation may vary. Not all of the volunteers are equally familiar with all the different areas of research and although there may be someone particularly qualified in your area, they may only work certain hours during the week or month.

Many of the Family History Centers have pages in the FamilySearch Research Wiki. There are also a few of them, such as the Mesa FamilySearch Library, that have their own websites.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some more or less obscure resources from FamilySearch

Sometimes the FamilySearch.org website seems like one of those old mansions you see from time to time in movies that seem to have an endless supply of rooms, some of which are filled with old abandoned furniture and other items. I have always wondered why those people didn't hold huge garage sales, but then the movies would not have a lot of old props to use in the plot. One major difference between the mansions and FamilySearch.org is that in the website, the doors (links) keep moving around.

So what has been "lost" lately on FamilySearch.org? One example is the post I wrote recently about the Reference Guide to Family Tree. So far, I found the updated Guide once, but have not been able to duplicate my return journey. So far the only link I can find to the Guide is in a Help Center document entitled "Getting started using Family Tree." Just to assist you in finding the Reference Guide, here is the link again.

Another of the "lost" parts of FamilySearch.org is the "Learning Center." In this case, this particular resource consists of hundreds of videos on various topics. The page used to be prominently available, but now has moved off into obscurity under a link from the "Get Help" option in the upper right-hand corner of the startup page. It is called the "Learning Center Video Courses" and the page is essentially the same as it was before the whole website was redesigned.

OK, no post about obscurity would be complete without a treasure hunt. Here is screen shot of a FamilySearch.org page. See if you can figure out where it is on the website and how you get there from the startup page. I am not going to give you any hints or include a link, but this is a currently active and available page on FamilySearch.org:


Here is another page that is linked to the one above. Have you seen this before? Do you know how to get to this page? If you do, you score high on the familiarity with FamilySearch.org tally sheet:


Did you know that the FamilySearch.org website was in several different languages? See the link at the bottom of the startup page for a list.

Now finally, by going down one long hallway, we find the "Community-powered support for FamilySearch." This page is actually on a different website but can be reached through a series of links from FamilySearch.org.  Here is a screenshot:


If you haven't guessed by now, you might begin to realize that FamilySearch.org is a really big website with a gigantic number of resources. Click around and see what else is hiding behind those mansion doors. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Recent Changes to FamilySearch Family Tree

It seems like a challenge to keep up with all the changes to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. If you want a regular notification of the changes, I will be posting about then regularly here in this blog and on Genealogy's Star. Sometimes, there might be some overlap in posts but aimed at different audiences. Some people view the constant changes to websites as an obstacle to their use. However, all maintained websites will change frequently to adjust to the overall technological changes on the Internet and to add more useful features. Rather than viewing changes as a reason for alarm or having a negative reaction, changes should be viewed as an opportunity to increase the utility of the programs.

In the case of FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program, the program is evolving to become a much more reliable and useful place for storing, sharing, maintaining, and expanding genealogical research. Many of the current changes pertain to the Photos and Stories program as it becomes fully implemented. Here are some of the recent changes as outlined in the FamilySearch blog:

Deleting relationships
Both the deleting relationships functions and deleting individuals functions have been the subject of some concern by FamilySearch and users. In an effort to make sure that any changes to the program are done with careful consideration FamilySearch has come out with new dialogues that accompany both of these functions. Quoting from the blog post:

When you delete a relationship, you now see a screen with more information to help you make better decisions about whether to delete the relationship or not. For example, you now see how many sources and events are attached to that relationship. The Delete button remains unavailable until you:

  • Enter a reason for why you are deleting the record.
  • Click both check boxes, certifying that you have reviewed other relationships.
  • Entered a reason statement.

 Changes to Photos and Stories
 You can now switch between Photos, Documents, and Stories from an individual's detail page. New additions to the menu bars make this possible. Here's a screenshot of the addition to the menu bar:


 Show Photos for Living People
 You can now see photos of living people in Family Tree if you have permission to see their records.

 Attach FamilySearch Historical Records without adding them to the Source Box
When you are on a historical record and you click Attach to Family Tree, the source, until now, has been automatically added to your Source Box. You now have the option to attach the source without adding it to you Source Box.

Attach Browse-only Images as Sources and Edit the Title
This is probably the most important change made to the program in this round of changes. When you are viewing an image from an unindexed (“browse only”) collection on FamilySearch, you can now attach that image to a person in Family Tree as a source. You can also edit the title of that source, since the title that is automatically generated may not have much meaning. During the attaching process, you have the option to include this item in your source box or to leave it out.

Detailed instructions about this process are in the blog post from FamilySearch.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FamilySearch Homepage has New Link to My Family Booklet

Every so often FamilySearch hits a home run. The new booklet "My Family Booklet" truly circles the bases and waves to the crowd. It is a real winner. So where is it? Now it is on the startup page for FamilySearch.org and for sale in the LDS Store as My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together.

The version of the booklet on the FamilySearch.org startup page is tied directly to Family Tree. When you fill in the booklet with your family information, that information is saved to the Family Tree. This is a wonderful introduction to Family Tree and really simple and understandable way for anyone to enter four family generations into Family Tree. You have to see it to understand how simple it is. Here is a screenshot of the FamilySearch.org startup page showing the link to the booklet:


This booklet would be a perfect introduction to adding family information to Family Tree. If there is already information in Family Tree then the program adds the online information to the online booklet. Obviously, if you want a copy of the book with your information you have to write it into the booklet and then someone computer literate has to enter the information into the Family Tree program, assuming the person has a login and password.


Two New Certifications for FamilySearch Partner Products

This post is a copy of the one on my Genealogy's Star blog, but because of the importance of this issue, I decided to post in on both websites.


Since the recent criteria change by FamilySearch.org for categorizing itsFamily History Partner Products, only two products have moved up in their certification rankings. The two programs who recently qualified for full Family Tree Certification are Ancestral Quest (and Ancestral Quest Basics, the free edition) and Celebrating My Family History. Previously, the only software program with full certification was RootsMagic.

If you visit the FamilySearch Family History Products page, you will see that the method used by FamilySearch to indicate certification has changed. FamilySearch has implemented a series of icons that describe the various levels of interactivity with the Family Tree program. You can see instantly now the degree of connectivity between the products and the Family Tree program. Here is a list of the icons from the website:

Tree Share  Tree Share (full tree read and write) - Certified to read and write Family Tree data to match, compare, and modify records. Also includes required certification for sources, discussions, change history, and interaction with community members.
Sources   Sources (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read Family Tree data allowing user to match and reference online "sources' such as records, photos, documents, and media that provide evidence of events and relationships.
Discussions   Discussions (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read, write, and comment on discussion threads for individual records in Family Tree.
Change History   Change History (Tree Access or Tree Share required) - Certified to read and list changes made by contributors to the Family Tree, sources, and discussions.
LDS Support   LDS Support (Tree Access or Tree Share required) – Certified that specific data and features for 'LDS members only' can only be accessed when the user is appropriately logged in to FamilySearch. Tree Access Certification is necessary for reading ordinance information, Tree Share Certification is necessary for requesting, changing, sharing, and printing Family Ordinance Requests (FORs).
I am sure that I will have more information about this subject in the not-too-distant future. I also hope to have some interaction with the programs. But that will take some time which I don't seem to have too much of lately.

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Would You Like to Be an Italian Indexing Missionary?

The following request was recently appeared on the FamilySearch blog. There are many other opportunities available to serve as Church Service missionaries. Here in Mesa, Arizona we are always looking for Church Service Missionary volunteers at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Contact the Library for information about serving. Here is the announcement from FamilySearch:
FamilySearch indexing is seeking qualified Church-service missionary (CSM) couples to help accelerate the indexing of Italian vital records. Qualified couples should have extensive indexing and/or arbitration experience, as well as native or secondary Italian language skills. Church leadership experience is a plus.
Missionaries are requested to serve for two or more days per week, with a minimum commitment of one year. All work will be completed from home or in the couple’s local area. The assignment includes working with stake indexing directors and their priesthood advisers to identify, train, and support individuals who have a strong interest in learning to read and index Italian birth, marriage, and death records.
Couples are needed immediately in the following locations:
  • Logan, Utah
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Layton, Utah
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Price, Utah
  • Provo, Utah
  • Richfield, Utah
  • St. George, Utah
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Boise, Idaho
Qualified couples in these and other locations should contact Ornella Lepore with FamilySearch indexing (Ornella.lepore@ldschurch.org, 1-801-240-8656).

The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- Will FamilySearch Family Tree help?

This is the third and, for now, final installment in my recent series about the duplication of Temple work. The current method of submitting names for Temple work involves using the FamilySearch Family Tree program. Family Tree is presently the only program for submitting names for Temple work except for an extremely small number of exceptions. However, at the time of the writing of this post, although the Temple submission portion of New.FamilySearch.org has been disabled, users of the program are still able to add information. The question arises as to whether the transition to Family Tree will positively impact the number of duplicate ordinances being performed?

Although, several procedures have been implemented in the Family Tree program to discourage duplication, it is still possible to duplicate ordinances without too much difficulty. Family Tree requires the user to review possible duplicates before entering information into the program. In order to avoid the issue of confronting a possible duplicate, the users merely has to indicate that the suggested duplicates are not the person being submitted. By ignoring possible duplicates the user can create a duplicate entry. The system of allowing users to use their own judgment in determining whether or not additions to the program are duplicates relies entirely upon the integrity of the individual and their ability to detect similar entries. Unfortunately, some users under the exigency of producing names for groups will use a rather liberal interpretation of these requirements. In this, I'm speaking from personal experience where I have seen whole stacks of cards duplicated.

Granted, it is not nearly as easy to produce duplicate entries in Family Tree as it was and still is in New.FamilySearch.org. In my first post in this series, I pointed out several methods by which Family Tree may allow duplicate entries. From an engineering standpoint, the real question is whether duplication can be reduced to an acceptable background level. One type of duplication that could be nearly entirely eliminated depending on the acceptance of Family Tree as a basic reference for family research is the duplication of research efforts, especially for remote ancestors. Because of the unified nature of the Family Tree program, if genealogical researchers utilize the program as it is presented it should allow even very remotely related researchers to collaborate and avoid research duplication.

Family Tree probably is forced to operate under the assumption that the users are employing their best efforts to provide accurate and properly sourced information. Resolving this issue when there is a breakdown in the reliability of the users or simply a lack of careful research scholarship seems to be outside of the realm of the solutions that can be presented within the program itself. It is also not clear that teaching and or education of the importance of avoiding duplication will have a measurable effect on the duplication problem.

Since presently, we have not experienced how Family Tree operates separately from New.FamilySearch.org, there is no real way of telling its ultimate impact on the duplicate ordinance work. It doesn't appear, that certain of the easier methods of duplicating ordinances in New.FamilySearch.org have been rectified, but even at this early date when the two programs are still sharing the same database, it is apparent that Family Tree will not entirely eliminate the duplication problem. One method that might have an impact is implementing a further duplication review process at the time the Family Ordinance Request forms are printed. Unfortunately, this would only work with names were there are sufficient facts to properly search for and find duplicate entries.  Another method for reducing duplicates would be to require a minimal amount of information about newly created individuals and at least one supporting source.

One unfortunate holdover from the New.FamilySearch.org program is the implementation of the "green arrows" which previously indicated ordinances were ready to be performed. Users who are transitioning from the New.FamilySearch.org program may automatically assume that the existence of green arrows in Family Tree,  will have the same indication. In working with the program, it is apparent that the green arrows in Family Tree are more likely to be a request for additional information rather than an indication that ordinances are ready. At some point, Family Tree may progress to the point where "harvesting" green arrows may not be such a great problem as it is today.

If you reflect upon the origin of the names in Family Tree, you will realize that it is not a place to look for ancestors whose Temple work has not been done, it is rather a record of past Temple work and an indication for further research. Personally,  I am anxious to see what affect, if any, Family Tree will have on duplicate work, especially after the separation of the program from New.FamilySearch.org.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- A Very Brief History of the Efforts to Avoid Duplication

A more complete history of the efforts to avoid the duplication of Temple work by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found in the following book: 

Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.

I have referred to this book in making the following summary.

Proxy baptisms for the dead began in the Church in December 1840, when Joseph Smith wrote to members of the Quorum of the Twelve and other priesthood leaders who were serving missions in Great Britain: 
I presume the doctrine of ‘baptism for the dead’ has ere this reached your ears, and may have raised some inquiries in your minds respecting the same. I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject; but … I would say that it was certainly practiced by the ancient churches; and St. Paul endeavors to prove the doctrine of the resurrection from the same, and says, ‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?’ [1 Corinthians 15:29.] 
“I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead. … Without enlarging on the subject, you will undoubtedly see its consistency and reasonableness; and it presents the Gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have imagined it. 
See History of the Church, 4:231; paragraph divisions altered; from a letter from Joseph Smith to the Twelve, Dec. 15, 1840, Nauvoo, Illinois; this letter is incorrectly dated Oct. 19, 1840, in History of the Church.
This entire concept gave a new basis for investigating and recording family history. Although genealogical research had been done for a long period of time before Joseph Smith's revelations, the involvement of the members of the Church in genealogy would have far reaching effects. Original efforts to perform proxy ordinances took place in Nauvoo, Illinois. As the Saints moved west and became established in Utah, they almost immediately began to build Temples. It very soon became apparent that family members who were separated by both time and distance from each other were duplicating the ordinances performed for their common family members. This issue began to be a concern in the 1890s but was not adequately addressed until 1927 with the founding of the Temple Records Index Bureau (TIB).

In a "A chronology of society's historical development" dated 26 November 1994 in the Church News
the Temple Records Index Bureau was explained as follows:
1927 - Temple Records Index Bureau card index. The First Presidency authorized the checking of all name submissions against a card file index to all endowments. The index was maintained through 1969 when new endowments were recorded in Genealogical Information and Names Tabulation (GIANT). The TIB was still used to check submissions through 1990. It prevented duplicate ordinances for one in five names submitted for which work had been done.
After the establishment of the TIB, any names submitted for ordinance word were first compared against the records in the TIB to avoid duplication. Unfortunately, there were many privately kept Temple Books containing the dates of ordinances that were not incorporated into the TIB.

Again referring to the above cited Church News article:
1970 - GIANT. An acronym for Genealogical Information and Names Tabulation. This system automated names processing and introduced the automated storage of massive name files, primarily the International Genealogical Index. It functioned until 1990, when it was replaced by TempleReady.
The International Genealogical Index was first released on microfiche in 1973. Originally published as “the Computer File Index” it contained 20 million entries. About 80% were extracted. See International Genealogical Index. The subsequent development of the IGI was as follows:
  • 1975 Microfiche edition with 34 million names.
  • 1981 This, the 4th edition, was the first to be called the International Genealogical Index. Contained 81 million entries.
  • 1984 Record count was 108 million. Offered for sale to the public.
  • 1988 First published on compact disc (CD-ROM). Part of the FamilySearch DOS computer program. Contained 147 million names. Excluded some indexed entries from the 1984 edition.
  • 1992 Microfiche edition. Contained 187 million names. About 94.5% were indexed.
  • March 1993 The CD-ROM edition took longer. Contained over 200 million names from over 90 countries.
  • July 1994 CD-ROM release of the 1994 edition issued as an addendum with 42 million entries. Includes entries dropped from the 1988 edition. Duplication rate increased over previous editions.
  • 1997 CD-ROM addendum increased entries from 240 to 284 million, of which 100 million were from extraction.
  • 24 May 1999 FamilySearch website released. Not all 285 million IGI entries available immediately, but were released by region.
During this time, the Church began using a program called TempleReady in 1993. The following announcement was made in 1995:
Members in the United States and Canada are reminded that after 1 June 1995, all processing of names for temple ordinance work will occur in local stakes and wards. In its 8 November 1993 announcement of the new TempleReady™ computer program, the First Presidency advised that after 1 June 1995, the Church would no longer process names for temple work at Church headquarters. After this date, Church members in the United States and Canada will need to use TempleReady in their stake or district to prepare their ancestors’ names to be sent to the temple. Ensign, June 1995, 74
Each of these changes were implemented in response to the increase in the number of names being submitted and in an attempt to reduce the amount of duplication of effort. This effort culminated in the release of New.FamilySearch.org in 2007 which replaced TempleReady.

This brings us up to the present and the release of FamilySearch Family Tree to replace New.FamilySearch.org

To be continued.




The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work

 On the LDS.org website, there are a number of valuable resources to assist local leaders in their family history responsibilities. Primary among these resources is the publication, "Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts." This publication contains Quick Start Guides for Stake Presidents, High Counselors, Bishops, Ward Council Members, High Priests Group Leaders, Family History Consultants, and Area Family History Advisors.

 As the Guide points out:
Members who engage in this work are inspired to live gospel centered lives and are more likely to participate in personal and family prayer, personal and family scripture study, and regular family home evening. Typically, when members participate in Temple and family history work they are more likely to participate in all other church meetings.
 Reading the Guide can have surprising results. For example, on page 9 of the Guide it states:
Wards may choose to organize a ward indexing effort if there is no structured FamilySearch indexing effort in the stake.
 As I observe how family history work is implemented in many wards throughout the church, I am certain that there is little general familiarity with the contents of the Guide.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- Opening Comments

I am going to begin this discussion with an amazing prophetic quote from Nephi Anderson made in 1912:
… Let me suggest the future of this work. I see the records of the dead and their histories gathered from every nation under heaven to one great central library in Zion—the largest and best equipped for its particular work in the world. Branch libraries may be established in the nations, but in Zion will be the records of last resort and final authority. 
Trained genealogists will find constant work in all nations having unpublished records, searching among the archives for families and family connections. Then, as temples multiply, and the work enlarges to its ultimate proportions, this Society, or some organization growing out of this Society, will have in its care some elaborate, but perfect system of exact registration and checking, so that the work in the temples may be conducted without confusion or duplication.  
And so throughout the years, reaching into the Millennium of peace, this work of salvation will go on, until every worthy soul that can be found from earthly records will have been searched out and officiated for; and then the unseen world will come to our aid, the broken links will be joined, the tangled threads will be placed in order, and the purposes of God in placing salvation within the reach of all will have been consummated.  
We live in a day of small beginnings, as far as this is concerned. We are still pioneers. We are but helping to lay the foundation of the ‘marvelous work and a wonder that is about to come forth among the children of men’. (Emphasis added)
Nephi Anderson, "Genealogy’s Place in the Plan of Salvation," UGHM 3 (January 1912): 21-22. 
Unsuccessful efforts to eliminate duplication of research and Temple work date back as far as the 1890s. [See Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995, Page 96]. During those early years, all of the systems used to avoid duplication proved inadequate. I will return from time to time to the history of the efforts to avoid both types of duplication in future posts, but at this point more than 100 years after Nephi Anderson't prophecy and almost 120 years since the establishment of the Genealogical Society of Utah we are still facing exactly the same challenges only on a massive scale.

The present duplication of both research and Temple work exceeds imagination. Most recently, many of the features of the New.FamilySearch.org (NFS) program facilitated rather than impeded duplication. Since NFS is still in operation, it is still too early to tell if the full implementation of FamilySearch.org's Family Tree will have any effect at all on the duplication issue. (By the way, I am choosing to no longer link my posts to the NFS website).

I am not privy to any statistics showing the exact amount of duplication, so any comments I make are based entirely on my personal observations handling hundreds of Temple cards on a regular basis and working directly with patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Some of the basic issues I observe that likely lead to duplication included the following:

  • Lack of sufficient documentation by researchers making a determination of the identity of a person impossible and making it equally as impossible to determine if the Temple work has already been done. Patrons tend to "give proceeding with the work" the default position is there is any question about identity even when the research has been inadequate or sloppy or both. 
  • Allowing names to be qualified without any requirement of substantiation or even a cursory verification that the person's work had not been done previously.
  • Allowing end of lines to be continued by merely copying in the surname and using Mr. and Mrs. as first name with approximate dates and very general places.
  • Allowing individuals to be qualified even when the dates and places are imaginary or outside of reality. Such as work done for my ancestor supposedly born in Cottonwood, Utan in 1775. 
  • Allowing names to be simply fabricated and still qualify.

I have personally observed all of these as causes of duplication.

Next, some thoughts on the historical methods used to avoid duplication.