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

Monday, May 12, 2014

Let's set a goal to do four generations

Many years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a program to have every member of the Church submit Family Group Records establishing four generations of their family history. The Church's Ensign magazine of March, 1972 in an article entitled, "What Is the Four-Generation Program?" described the program as follows:
In 1965, the Priesthood Genealogy Committee announced the three-generation program. Each family in the Church was asked to prepare documented family group record forms for the first three generations: one form for you and your spouse and your children; one form for your parents, with you appearing as a child on the form; and two forms on your two sets of grandparents, with your father appearing as a child on one form and your mother appearing as a child on the other form.

Later this program was expanded to include the fourth generation—families of great-grandparents with each of the four grandparents appearing as a child on one of the four forms.

Each adult member of the Church is to document (not just copy) a family group record form for each family in the first four generations of his ancestry—seven sheets for each individual plus one for the immediate family of the husband (or wife) and children, making fifteen sheets per family (seven sheets only for single individuals).
Obviously such a program created a lot of duplicate work, especially if each member of the family submitted the same records. In reality, the families often appointed one member to provide the information. Incidentally, this is how I became involved in genealogy. However, the program was intended to duplicate the work, as the article states:
To the question, “Should everyone submit the forms when they have already been submitted?” the answer is yes. Each adult should submit the sheets on his or her family. Once an individual has submitted them, he need not do so again.
What happened to all the forms? The article goes on to state:
The forms are to be submitted to the ward, where they will be checked by the ward records examiners, and then sent to the stake, where they are alphabetized for the stake and submitted at the end of each year to the Genealogical Society. These forms are microfilmed and filed in the patrons section, and microfilm copies are sent to branch genealogical libraries.
Ultimately, this Patron File was accumulated by the Research Bureau of the Genealogical Society of Utah from 1928 to 1966. Part of that file is available in digitized format to members of the Church on as the Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969 in the Historical Records Collection. The submissions also helped to compile the Ancestral File. Quoting from the Research Wiki:
The current version of of Ancestral File is available online as part of FamilySearch Genealogies. Previous editions of Ancestral File have been available as computer databases on compact disc, and online. In addition, the paper family group records submissions 1983-1996 were made available on microfilms arranged by AF submission number.
Much of this information was included in the original database that was used to create and is now being ported over to the Family Tree. Hence, part of the reason for duplicates in the Family Tree.

The practical results of all this is that many members of the Church open Family Tree for the first time and see a significant amount of data already entered into the program. Granted, it is sometimes inaccurate, contradictory and incomplete, but there is a good start for many members of the Church.

As I have quoted recently, many members of the Church still lack this basic genealogical information.
Quoting again from a Deseret News article entitled, Family History Is about Hearts before Charts, Says Elder Packer and quoting Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Chairman of the Board of Directors of FamilySearch,
"These numbers are a cry for change,” Elder Packer said regarding the statistics he cited, though he did say he was happy to report progress. “In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17 percent over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members,” he said. 
But he supported the call for improvement by noting that in the United States 25 percent of Church members do not have four generations of ancestors in the Family Tree section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Internationally, 70 percent of members don’t have both parents in Family Tree, 90 percent don’t have their grandparents in it, and 95 percent don’t have their great-grandparents included.
Now, if this is the case, and it certainly is, then why not start another "Four Generation Program" for the Church members?

This time, the process would be a lot simpler. Each member could be asked to go onto Family Tree and verify the information contained in that program back four generations. The Ward Family History Consultants could help with this process and the Wards could report to the Stakes and the Stakes report to the Church on the progress of having each member review and add in their Four Generations.

It has now been more than 30 years since the last program ended. Many new members have been added to the Church membership. We presently have the means to record all of the information without the need to submit paper copies. For those members without computers, the program could be administered by the local Family History Centers, with the Wards participating.

Why isn't this an option?


  1. "Why not start another 'Four Generation Program' for the Church members?" They are trying to. It's called the "My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together" booklet.

    1. The problem with the booklet is what happened in my Ward. They passed it out to the members and then never mentioned it again. As Family History Consultants, we saw no activity at all from simply passing out the booklet.

    2. Not mentioning it again would be a problem. As you have written before, someone in an official position in the ward needs to work up some excitement and enthusiasm for this.

  2. To expand on my comment just a bit. My daughter is currently serving in the Arizona Phoenix Mission. We got an e-mail from her mission president last week letting us know that all the missionaries in that mission have been instructed to completely fill out the My Family booklet to use in teaching investigators, new members, and members. And, to paraphrase, "Oh, by the way, the missionaries don't have time to collect all the information and photos needed, please put this all together and send it to your missionary." So I'm going through our scanned photos, taking snippets and resizing them to give nice little 1.25 by 1.6 portrait shots, putting them all on a single sheet to get printed through Costco's photo service, and then printing out the needed family group sheets to send to her. We have this all in Reunion and Family Tree. But if some of the missionaries have families that have never put together their four generation information, this will certainly get them started.

    1. That sounds like a really good idea. Thanks for letting us all know.