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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Importance of Properly Recording Genealogy

Record keeping is an essential activity in the process of preserving our family history. In working with an online family tree such as's Family Tree, it is easy to become frustrated with the inaccurate records inherited from our ancestors. I was talking to a missionary at the Family History Library at Brigham Young University last night and she was spending most of her time merely correcting the existing records. In this regard, I found the following.

Quoting from a commentary on D&C 128:2–4 entitled, "What Happens If Ordinances Are Not Properly Recorded?" on,
Elder Rudger Clawson explained the sacred obligation of keeping accurate temple records: “In the early days of the Church, some baptisms for the dead that were not properly witnessed and recorded, were rejected of the Lord, and the work had to be done over again. We know that great care and attention is given to this matter today in our Temples, and that efficient help must be secured to do this. … Truly it is a great and marvelous work, and not the least important thing about it is that these ordinances are all carefully recorded in the books and are filed away in the archives of the Temple, to be brought forth in due time. From these records the people who have gone to that house will be judged. Nothing that is done in that Temple will be accepted of the Lord, except it is properly witnessed and recorded.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, pp. 43–44.)
 Genealogical records should not be approached in a casual and negligent manner. Especially those records pertaining to Temple work are, as Elder Clawson states, a sacred obligation. Aren't we, in effect, violating that obligation when we fail to record the information accurately? Even more, aren't we ignoring the fundamental importance of the work when we needlessly duplicate the ordinances?

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
One of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity is that as we get more and more temples scattered across the earth there is duplication of effort in proxy work. People in various nations simultaneously work on the same family lines and come up with the same names. They do not know that those in other areas are doing the same thing. We, therefore, have been engaged for some time in a very difficult undertaking. To avoid such duplication, the solution lies in complex computer technology (“Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, pp. 5–6).
The Users Guide to the now discontinued, New FamilySearch website dated December, 2012 urges users as follows:
Occasionally you may find that someone else has already performed or reserved ordinances that you would like to perform. Please honor the work being done by others. Do not add duplicate records into the system just so you can perform the ordinances. Duplication of ordinances, however well meaning, should be avoided.
As I have noted in previous posts, this is not a new problem, in 1934, President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
Temple work should not be done in a haphazard or disorderly way. Those who labor for the dead should endeavor to prepare their records in an orderly and systematic manner. Let each family do the work for their own kindred, and if they do work for others, it must be at the instance and with the consent of the living relatives who are immediately concerned. No person has a right to select names for other than their own family and go to the temple to perform the work for them. This cannot be tolerated, for it would lead to confusion and duplication of work. When names are copied in an improper way and incomplete records are sent to the temples. but one thing will be the result--confusion. The compilers of records should try to find the information so that records can be made in family groups with all the necessary data for correct identification. When names are taken out of books without any accompanying information that will identify them or show relationship to parents and other members of the family, little, if any, good can follow. If work in the temples is done with records that are incomplete and inaccurate it will more than likely have to be done over again. In this way the records are burdened with unnecessary matter which cannot be properly arranged.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol.2 pgs. 207-209, 1955)
Lack of careful entry of the information into FamilySearch Family Tree can raise the risk of duplication. Back on 12 November 2013, I wrote on this same subject in a blog post entitled, "The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- Will FamilySearch Family Tree help?" With all of the changes to the Family Tree program since that time, I can safely say that the features of the program are now very much involved in reducing and attempting to eliminate duplication. In using the program today, now eight months after my initial post, you will have to consciously avoid the warnings not duplicate ordinances in order to enter duplicates into the program.


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  2. I am very frustrated with the "Possible Duplicates" function. Most names that I add as a new person fail to find a duplicate, but as I keep working with the family, I find that many actually are in the system They fail to produce a match because they have been entered with "about" dates and/or name issues (such as nicknames, initials, different spellings, etc.) that keep them from showing up in the initial search. Even in the process of combining two children in a family that I know are duplicates, the program may not show them as duplicates if the birth years are one year off. I have to combine them using their PID#. As long as people are under the mistaken belief that clicking a green arrow is all they need to do, there will still be massive duplication of temple ordinances.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that the merge function is still in need of some development. However, I do not agree with the term "massive." I think duplication of existing ordinances is on the decline and will continue to decline as the Family Tree program matures.