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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Where is the approved training for FamilySearch Family Tree?

A question came up about whether or not the content of the new website was "approved" by FamilySearch or some other entity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the context of a Sunday School "class." The real question is whether or not there is any approved training at all and further, what would constitute approved training? 

The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts, discusses a Family History class during Sunday School and says the following at page 17:
Holding a temple and family history class is a good way to increase participation and interest in family history. The class can be used to help with ward activation, retention, and missionary efforts. Anyone may be invited to attend the class. The ward council may decide to invite certain ward members.

The class is taught by an effective instructor, who may or may not be a family history consultant. The class may be taught during Sunday School or at another time that is more convenient for members. It is taught under the direction of the bishopric rather than the Sunday School president.  
Lessons are generally conducted as workshops in which members actually complete their own family history work, either on the computer or on paper. Where feasible, class participants should have access to computers. Many meetinghouses are currently being equipped with wireless Internet connections.

The number of class participants should be limited to the number who can be given personal help. The class can be repeated as often as necessary to accommodate all who desire to attend.

Family history consultants can provide personal help to participants during the class as well as after the class in members’ homes or family history centers.  Resources available for the class include the Instructor’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, the accompanying Temple and Family History Course DVD, and the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. Leaders should go to the Serving in the Church section of to find additional resources.
Note that the class is conducted as a workshop where class members come to learn about doing their family history. It should be noted that none of the resources mentioned in this section talk about the website. Does this mean that the website is not approved? Obviously not. Since the only way that members of the Church can now submit names for Temple ordinances, it is absolutely necessary to have instruction about the website and the Family Tree program in particular. Where does this instruction come from?

Again referring to the Leader's Guide at page iii:
FamilySearch is the name used by the Church to describe its family history efforts, products, and services to the general public. is the name of the primary website where patrons can discover, preserve, and share their family histories.
Continuing at page 4:
Register online at to receive access to additional resources specifically for priesthood leaders.
The Leader's Guide goes on to encourage members and leaders to "Use and local family history centers. The Church has the world’s largest collection of family history and genealogical resources." See page 13. See also pages 16, 17, 19 and 20.

Well, for example, I serve as a Church Service Missionary at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. The Family History Library has an extensive library of resources online for use my missionaries and anyone else who wants to use them. This includes a channel of video class presentations. See the BYU Family History Library channel for a number of videos in support of Family History.

Where is the "official" instruction on FamilySearch Family Tree? This is a very interesting question to try to answer. By the way, FamilySearch has its own channel. See the FamilySearch channel. I might mention that one of the videos features me on the subject of social media.

What about the resources of the website? Well, they are mainly located in the Get Help menu and on the Blog. There are several of my own blog posts on the FamilySearch blog Tech Tips section.

It is important to note that the guidebook, "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013)" has been discontinued and has not been updated since the date in its title. Obviously, we are intended to look elsewhere for information.

As I mentioned, the Get Help menu contains a link to the Help Center for FamilySearch. There is a specific section for the Family Tree program, but one of the main resources is the Riverton FamilySearch Library Handouts and Guides, exactly the same type of material provided by the website. In addition, there is a Learning Center that includes hundreds of video presentations from Family History Centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In addition, there are FamilySearch partner programs. These are third-party family history oriented programs that are entirely separate from the Church or FamilySearch. They work with FamilySearch to provide additional functionality to the FamilySearch Family Tree program. In addition, members are encouraged to use the other online database partners with FamilySearch,, and None of which have any Church approved instructional materials.

It would seem to me that the question of the content of a Sunday School workshop should incorporate all of the available family history resources. There are detailed instruction on Family Tree program on, but there are also an abundance of wonderful supplemental resources from people dedicated to helping members and those who are not members to accomplish the task of connecting with their ancestors.

I think the is another extremely valuable resource for learning about family history and particularly about FamilySearch Family Tree. I also suggest that anyone who is involved in a Sunday School activity concerning family history follow the guidelines set down by the Leader's Guide and also follow the counsel of the Ward's Bishop who is responsible for the direction of the class. I should also point out that the Bishop can call upon his Stake High Councilor, Stake President and Area Family History Advisers for help in training about family history work in the Ward. I would also suggest that it would be a good idea for any Bishop to read the Leader's Guide and follow the counsel given.


  1. James. Go back to the site and see what Jim Greene, FH Member Outreach Manager, said about the whole thing. What is approved material, and by whom. What is out of date, and what they are going to do about it. What the official process for a consultant is through the HP Group Leader and Ward Council. What the FH department's plans are regarding doctrine and how to curriculum. I'd love to see what you think of it all.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I need a link to Jim Greene's statements. Thanks

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful answer to this very good question. I say it is a very good question because it provides an opportunity to teach others about Family Tree, the need for training and the resources that are available for members to learn how to do this work. As soon as leaders get past the idea that Family Tree and submitting individuals for ordinances is simple, “just click and submit,” the better. It is very discouraging to see so much duplication occurring both as a genealogist and as a temple worker. Some say statistics show duplication is insignificant, but the statistics do not agree with actual experience. If the duplication is so low, then why do I and others keep running into so many examples of duplication?

    Speaking for myself, I created a couple of narrated slide shows or videos to introduce others to how to determine if their research is correct and ready for temple submission. I saw a real need for something like this after looking at existing FamilySearch training materials and some of the beginner mistakes that were being made in their training videos.

    FamilySearch asked if they could place links to these videos in their learning center. I was agreeable to this as long as they thought the videos filled a FamilySearch need. Legal issues, however, created an insurmountable road block. I purchased the copyrights to add a few clipart images and a little music to make the presentation more enjoyable, but I was then asked to sign a legal agreement which I thought could possibly give the Church the right to violate these copyright agreements. Even though they said they would not violate my copyrights and I believed they would not do so, I was not comfortable signing the agreement if it gave them the right to do so. Thus, I asked them to have their legal department review the agreements, but the effort then died.

    Links to these videos are now on the FSFamilyTreeUserGroup website. There is nothing in these videos that would be considered inappropriate. They just teach others good practices if the goal is to submit valid ordinances.

    As I said at the beginning, this question provides a great opportunity to teach others about the need for training and good practices for using Family Tree and submitting ordinances. With this understanding, you can better appreciate the valuable contributions these other individuals and websites are making to move the work forward at no or little expense to the Church. After all, we are taught that we “…should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will…” What better activity to be engaged in and isn't this an appropriate activity?

    Thank you for the opportunity to express my viewpoint.


    1. Thank you for your insightful comment. Family History cannot be summarized in one manual or guidebook. Note that the FamilySearch Research Wiki has 80,000+ pages and is still far from comprehensive.

  3. Jim Greene's comments are now visible on under FAQ.