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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What are we supposed to do with FamilySearch Family Tree?

The obvious answer to the question in the title of this post is that we are supposed to do our genealogy or family history work and submit names for Temple ordinances. But the question raises some more additional fundamental issues, particularly for those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that find much of the work of finding their ancestors has been done. We find a clue to how the word needs to proceed in the Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants where it states as follows:
Each new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants has corrected past errors and added new information, particularly in the historical portions of the section headings. The present edition further refines dates and place-names and makes other corrections. These changes have been made to bring the material into conformity with the most accurate historical information. (emphasis added)
Those of us who find ourselves in the position of inheriting a great deal of genealogical information as shown by's Family Tree, should take a lesson from process of revising the scriptures outlined in the Introduction quoted above. We need to go through the existing records as reflected by the Family Tree and bring them into conformity with the most accurate historical information. This can best be done by adding sources and correcting the existing information where necessary.

I can best illustrate this by showing some screenshots of ancestors on my own lines on Family Tree. Because my ancestors have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for generations on all of my family lines appear to be "complete." All this really means is that there is some minimal amount of information about each ancestor taken from previously submitted records. When I first opened Family Tree, I saw all of the information that had been added from the program. Much of this information was incomplete and very few of the entries had any source citations. To correct the information from "the most accurate historical information" as in the example from the Doctrine and Covenants, I needed to go through the process of adding source citations and correcting the information shown in the Family Tree records by examining and analyzing those sources. Not all the information in the sources is accurate or correct, but it is important to record both the accurate and inaccurate sources so that future researchers do not have to go through the same process.

Fortunately, we are not left alone in our efforts to correct the records. Since Family Tree is a unified family tree program, all of the users, i.e. my relatives, have the ability to add information, add sources, make corrections and help with the overall work of the Family Tree. Here is a screenshot showing an ancestor's list of sources that have been added by me and others for my Great-grandfather.

This is not a complete list, but illustrates the types of records that can be added as sources. Of course, if I look at many of my other ancestors, I will find much less information has been added. Here is an example of one ancestor where there are very few sources:

Of course, there are likely many ancestors with no source citations at all. This means that the information has not been verified or brought into conformity with the best historical sources. As you proceed with this process, you will likely find mistakes, inaccuracies and other wrong information in the Family Tree program. The great advantage of this program is that any of the users can change and correct the information so the burden of correcting the records does not fall on any one individual user, but is the obligation of all of the related members of the family.

One question that is frequently raised is what happens if there is conflicting information or if someone adds incorrect information. This is why it is important that the family members using the program have contact information available, usually in the form of an email address. In this case, the members of the family having correct information can communicate with the person whose information is less accurate or complete. The program also has a "Report Abuse" link if people refuse to cooperate or are adding inappropriate information.

The idea here is to systematically work through the existing information, one individual at a time, and add information, make appropriate corrections and then add all the photos, stories and other documents that you may have available. If we do this, we will also have the benefit of adding in any new individuals whose Temple work remains undone, such as skipped children and others.

For information on adding sources see the following:

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