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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why are the arrows green? Comments on FamilySearch Family Tree

I am still reading a few articles from various Church publications that relate the genealogical experiences of youth groups in finding "hundreds" names of ancestors for Temple excursions in a relatively short period of time. The most common scenario is that the youth are "challenged" by a leader to prepare for a youth conference or Temple activity and relatively quickly, they are able to find the names online in Unfortunately, it is never completely explained how this was accomplished in such a short time by totally untrained researchers. I can only assume that in almost all cases, the names were obtained by mining the ubiquitous "Green Arrows" of both and now carried over to's Family Tree program.

Here is an example from Family Tree when I sign into the program:

This happens to be my Grandfather, Harold Morgan's family. Traditionally, the green arrow would immediately suggest that there was Temple work that needed to be done for the family. But wait, let's think about this for a minute or two or three. My Grandfather was born in the covenant ( BIC or his parents were sealed in the Temple before he was born) In turn, he and my Grandmother were married in the Temple and all their children were born in the covenant. All of the children were baptized at age 8 and most all were married in the Temple, at least for their first marriage. One daughter died early but the rest lived well into old age. So why would we expect that any one of the members of this family needed Temple ordinances completed?

Clicking on the green arrow shows that ordinances may be available for one of my uncles. Well, I happen to know that he was baptized and took out his own endowments and was married in the Temple to his first wife. The entry for this uncle states, "Possible duplicates exist for ***. You may reserve ordinances however, they may have already been completed." Yes, in fact, there is at least one duplicate entry. But when I try to merge the entry, I get an error message stating that the duplicates cannot be merged.

Now these "fail safe" provisions have been written into Family Tree, but did not exist in (NFS). In fact, it was relatively easy to find a "green arrow" and print off a Family Ordinance Request and effectively redo the ordinances. It is not quite so easy now, but still entirely possible. But as I have said many times in the past, why should I explain to the world how to manufacture duplicate names in Family Tree?

Presently, in Family Tree as opposed to NFS, the green arrows are mostly an indication that more information is needed before any ordinances can be performed.

The complicating factor in considering this topic is that in any given Ward, it is very likely that there are quite a few members who could easily add deceased parents, grandparents and other family members who were never members of the Church and who need Tempe ordinances. I would guess that if I could get some of the members of my own Ward to spend only an hour or two with me on Family Tree, we could have a dozens (perhaps hundreds) of ordinances available for youth groups or family members to take to the Temple. If the names referred to in the various news articles are coming from this type of source, then the program is working. Unfortunately, from my perspective and in working with many patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, there is still a significant backlog of duplication going on.

If the leaders of a Ward or Stake wish to challenge their youth to do family history work, they should qualify their challenges to focus on families who have yet to enter their four or five generations into If we focus on the members and their families rather than mining Family Tree, we will find people who really do need their work done.


  1. Oh, dear. This is quite worrisome, James. And to think that Pres. Hinckley's vision of the advancement of all of this was to prevent the duplication of ordinances.

    In one of the classes I attended a few years ago at the BYU Family History Conference, it was stated that for each name presented in the temple, it takes a total of 17 hours of manpower to complete the ordinances - from the patron to the temple workers involved. We must do all we can to not waste valuable hours.

  2. In our stake they show you how to use the 1900 census and to collect every name that has the same surname as yours. They then show you how to enter the families and check for duplicates. By using the 1900 census it eliminates the 110 year rule.

    They can generate 1000's of names quickly.

    I don't agree but this is how it is taught and encouraged by the temple in our district.