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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If you don't make a deposit, you can't make a withdrawal Family Tree is very much like a real-world bank. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints find their ancestors through research in historical records, they "make deposits" of those ancestors into the virtual bank account of Family Tree. As deposits are made, withdrawals in the form of Family Ordinance Request forms can be generated and name cards printed to do the ordinances for the depositors' ancestors. But what happens when someone goes to the bank and and wants to make a withdrawal without having made a deposit? They could end up "borrowing" names from other family members who have been diligent in depositing those names in the Family Tree bank. But there is a real problem if the bank runs out of money i.e. Family Tree runs out of eligible names ready for Temple ordinances.

If you know anything at all about the bank of names called Family Tree, you would realize that it is not a savings bank. It is more like a checking account. Your ancestors did not make deposits of family names just so you could come along years later and take those names to the Temple. Virtually every name put in the Family Tree bank was already targeted for Temple ordinances. The accumulation of names in the Family Tree bank is evidence of Temple ordinances already done in the past, not savings for a future investment.

Now we have a problem. There are those who think that Family Tree is some kind of endless loan account. In fact, there are many members who think all they have to do to get a name to "take to the Temple" is open the account (Family Tree) and check out a name. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the most recent past, many members overdrew the account by doing the ordnance work for the same people over and over again. They chose to ignore the invalidity of those ordinance withdrawals and went deep into debt. Other more frugal members were appalled at the overdrafts. Many of those people who had been listed in the Family Tree bank for years had their ordinances done over and over again.

Slowly, the Family Tree bank managers began putting safeguards in place to prevent this overdraft. The duplicate withdrawals dwindled to a trickle but there was always some leakage as members went back time and time again, even making up false accounts, to obtain withdrawals. But now, the vast majority of the members who go into the Family Tree bank to look for easy withdrawals are frustrated. They find out, most for the first time, that you can't make a withdrawal without making a deposit. Unfortunately, this overdraft situation seems to be lost on the members' leaders. Too many of them challenge the members to find some money in the Family Tree bank. They do this by giving them a deadline to find names to "take to the Temple." Neither the leaders, nor the members realize that honest work and real sweat must go into creating a valid Family Tree account with names to withdraw.

Will the Family Tree bank go bankrupt? There is a real danger that it will. Will the members be able to continue to borrow names to take to Temples? Where will those names come from? From duplication of previously completed ordinance work? From pools of "free" names? How long can the overdraft continue? Will the workers who are busy making deposits be able to keep up with the demand? Can we recruit more workers to help fill the bank's coffers? Will some of those people who find that the bank had dried up be motivated to begin their own bank accounts? Will adding prizes and rewards entice more depositors? All of these are questions that cannot be presently answered. Only time will tell.


  1. Thank you for bringing up this topic. There is a real danger that FamilyTree will end up just like Ancestral File did if users do not use it correctly and members' leaders give unrealistic goals because they have not been trained properly. Part of the problem lies squarely on FamilySearch marketing. They have dumbed down the message and have been teaching that all you have to do is find a green arrow, click and submit with not real thought or checking for duplicates, in order to get try and get more people involved. This leaves the local Family History consultant or worker in an awkward position since they know that the dumbed down message and the leader's message are flawed. FS marketing expects the local consultant or worker to fix things, but they are often ignored since their message differs from FS marketing and the leader and they want to reach the unrealistic goal.

    For example, a challenge was given at a Stake Conference to submit a name by the end of that day. One member went home and submitted 585 names; all of which ended up being duplicates and their work had been previously done.

    I certainly hope that the bank will not go bankrupt and am doing what I can to help. I certainly hope that RootsTech 2015 will provide an opportunity for a course correction.

    1. Thanks for your comment. There is are a lot of different views on this subject.

  2. AMEN!!! Thanks for giving this issue the attention it desperately needs!

  3. Great post. I couldn't agree more.