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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Don't Fall Into the Duplicate Trap on FamilySearch Family Tree

I was recently reviewing yet another program affiliated with that purported to review your ancestors on the Family Tree and indicate which of them needed their Temple ordinances done. For the time being, the program will remain anonymous because it does not differentiate between valid Temple opportunities and where there are obvious duplicate issues. Following is an example of exactly what I mean by this statement.

Here is a screenshot of the family where the son is shown as needing to be sealed to his parents by the program. Clearly, the anonymous program is merely following the directions from but blindly ignoring obvious problems.

In Family Tree, the son, Marinus Christensen is shown as the child in two marriages, one with a mother named Karen Marie Johannesen and a father named Jens Christensen and one with no father and a mother named Marie Christensen. Here are the details on the two mothers:

As you can see, there is no data whatsoever about the second mother, Marie Christensen. There is no birth information and only the word Deceased as a death date. Some one, in the past, failed to do adequate research and entered the mother in without this information. By the way, has stopped showing a list of the last few changes made and merely has a link to the "Show all Changes" page. If I go to that page, I see that the changes made page has changed considerably and now includes a lot more information, including the addition of items to the Memories section such as photos. Here is a screenshot of the new Changes Made page:

Looking back through the entries, it is impossible to determine exactly when or who added this new mother to Marinus Christensen but if you look at the page for the new mother, Marie Christensen, you can see that there is no information at all about this person including now sources. Here is a screenshot showing the lack of information:

The new mother's changes page under the link to "Show All Changes" indicates the following. The source of every change is indicated to be FamilySearch. I am listing them from the earliest change to the present.

  • Gender Added 2012
  • Death Added 2012
  • Name Added 2012
  • Wife Added 2012 Marie Christensen
  • Father Added 2012 Christian Christensen
  • Father Relationship Type Added: Biological 2012
  • Mother Relationship Type Added: Biological 2012
  • Couple Relationship Deleted 2013
  • Father Relationship Type Removed 2013
  • Father Removed 2013
  • Living Status Added 2014 Deceased
OK, so far, we have no one to contact for an explanation. We have no sources or explanation why someone thought that Marinus Christensen had another mother with an unknown father (which may have been true or not) and we know that he is shown as a child in with both parents identified and at least ten sources. 

Now, an inexperienced user of the program might conclude that because all this information was entered by FamilySearch that it must be correct and the sealing to parents ordinance needs to be completed. This would be especially true if the inexperienced person knew nothing at all about the family. As a matter of fact, there is a question about the status of Marinus Christensen in that family. One family tradition is that he was "adopted." But years of research has not disclosed anything but the fact that he shows up as a child in this family. In any event, if he was adopted, there are no documents showing who his biological parents are. All of this information, of course, is not recorded in Here is what the ordinance status shows:

Now, we can do several things with the information as it now stands:
  1. We could go ahead and do the sealing ordinance
  2. We could look for duplicates (even though we see obvious duplicates)
  3. We could do more research and see what other information comes to light and meanwhile reserve the ordinance until the research is completed
  4. We could do nothing at all
I elected to take the first step and look for duplicates. There are no duplicates found for Karen Marie Johannesen. Here is the screenshot.

There are no duplicates found for the new mother, Marie Christensen:

Under the rules of the Family Tree, I would be perfectly justified in doing the sealing to parents ordinance for the new mother and her son Marinus Christensen. What saves this from happening? FamilySearch has the comment on the ordinance that it "Needs More Information." The further comment is made, "This person must be linked to the parents before the sealing can be performed."

A complicating factor is that all of these names are exceptionally common in Denmark. Now I am in a quandary. Do I delete the relationship or merge the two mothers together? My initial reaction was to merge the two mothers. But upon reflection, I am concerned that the new mother, Marie Christensen, is not really a duplicate at all, but an attempt to include Marinus Christensen in an entirely different family. In other words, the mistake isn't in adding a mother but in including Marinus in the wrong family. Also, because of the family tradition, there is the thought that maybe someone thought they had identified a biological mother and father and then changed their mind but not completely.

In this situation, the suggested ordinance cannot be performed, but what if it could be? How would an unsuspecting inexperienced user of the program even know that all these issues existed? As you can see from this example, going back to the beginning of this post, having a program that simply shows you that there is an ordinance opportunity and does not disclose all of the other issues can arise is not at all helpful. To add even more complexity to the situation, Jens Christensen, Marinus Christensen's father is shown with three wives and a total of ten children. One of the supposed wives was married before she was 12 years old. The sources shown for Jens Christensen show entries for a "Jens Peter Christensen" gleaned from Danish baptismal records for four of the children with the less-than-twelve-year-old wife.

Unfortunately, the program mentioned above, does not address these issues at all, at least in its free version. But FamilySearch does indicate these problems in the Descendancy View. Here is a screenshot showing the Red error icons.

This is a situation that needs to be resolved, but not by offering a user the opportunity to do an ordinance.


  1. Our group has been deeply concerned with these kinds of issues for a while now. We have written, made presentations, given lessons at various sites, - trying to warn users about these kinds of data problems. Unfortunately, those at FamilySearch and those who govern it, are less concerned with data problems, than they are about bringing new users to the program. Novices should come to a highly technical, open edit, database of families just as they come to the scriptures? Come on.Perhaps it is a money issue? In any event, to see one of the new FT App programs, which claims to analyze the tree, also ignore these issues is more than discouraging. It is genealogically criminal! To invite the inexperienced, untrained novice users to this program and encourage them to do ineffective temple work, for bogus people and relationships, is a travesty of huge proportions in conflict with trying to create "a record worthy of all acceptation." Pity! You are courageous to point it out. Thanks.

  2. I couldn't agree more! Duplication of effort is a waste!