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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Finding Ordinance Work that needs to be done on FamilySearch Family Tree

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found themselves challenged by their leaders to "take a name to the Temple." The motivation for such challenges is generally very positive and the idea is to increase both Temple activity and family research and history. If you take some time to review the history of such challenges, you will find that they have run in cycles for the past one hundred years or so. For an interesting history and commentary on this phenomena, see the following:

Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.

As far as I can discover, this book is the only comprehensive and readily available source for information about the history of Temple submission policies over the years. I have attended classes at the BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference on this topic, but I am not aware of any other source where this much of the history is consolidated. One overriding theme of this history is the effort by those involved in Temple and family history work to avoid duplication of ordinance work in the Temples.

There are several important principles that need to be observed in searching for available ordinances in the Family Tree and that are often ignored either through ignorance or lack of true interest. The very first thing you (and we all) need to do is to ask the following question:

Where did all the names in the Family Tree come from?

It is clear from even a cursory review of the names, dates and places in the Family Tree that they have been accumulating over the past 150 years. If you have any questions in this regard, I suggest you login to and review the  the 5,337,178 images in the Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969 Collection.  There is nothing like reviewing these submitted family group records to give you a perspective as to the amount of work that has gone on previously in submitting the names that now appear in the Family Tree. As you are reviewing the records I would strongly suggest that you note that the records all are marked with the Temple ordinance work done. Here's a screenshot of a random sample record:

If you look at this record carefully, you will see that all of the Temple ordinance work has been completed for this family. No, I am not related to this family. These particular Tanners came from Switzerland. You can click on the record to see it more clearly.

The fact is nearly every one of the records presently in the Family Tree are there because people have already done the Temple ordinances for them.

It is true that there are opportunities to do further research and produce new information about people whose temple ordinances have not been done, but assuming that the "Green Arrows" are all available for Temple ordinances ignores the fact that these names were entered into the Family Tree record by people who intended to do the ordinances themselves. It is important also to remember that the names in the present Family Tree program have been there for over 10 years, available online for people to review. In actuality, most of the Green Arrows are obvious duplicates where one record has the ordinance undone and the other duplicate record shows where the ordinance was done.

I have an old saying that I use quite often, you can't plumb a dry well. This means, quite simply, that the records in the Family Tree have to come from someplace. If you did not do the research and you did not find the names by your own effort, what makes you think that someone else did the work and simply left it for you to take the names to the Temple?

Now, that said, it is entirely possible that some of the opportunities for Temple ordinances have been overlooked. But it is much more realistic to view the Green Arrows (or green temple icon) as research opportunities rather than opportunities to take names immediately for ordinance work.

In past posts I have shown how Green Arrows can be nests of duplicates. I fully realize that as long as there is a supply of apparently available names that people will conclude that is necessary to do the work over. I am also perfectly aware of the cyclical nature of the "duplicate record problem" that has been discussed since the late 1800s. I just feel that it is somewhat of a tragedy that we now have the tools to find many ancestors who have been either overlooked or unavailable and yet we spend an inordinate amount of time redoing work that has already been done.

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