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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 Steps to Success in Family History

If you feel the need to find a family name to take to the Temple because of a Ward or Stake challenge or simply because of your own feelings, how do you go about finding a new ancestor who has not been found before?

The answer to this question is easily stated: you identify an ancestor or other relative by searching historical records, you then add them to the Family Tree and reserve the names of those needing Temple Ordinances. You then print off a Family Ordinance Request (FOR) and take that sheet to the Temple where the ordinance cards can be printed.

Getting to the point where you find an ancestor or other relative to add to the Family Tree is the challenge. With the new tools provided by, my experience is that you can be successful in finding new names for the Family Tree if you follow these five steps. For some, the challenge is greater than others due to particular family circumstances. But some obstacles such as those ancestors who are orphans, have children born out of wedlock or other such circumstances can, with effort, may possibly be overcome.

First some definitions. We refer to those from whom we are descended as our "ancestors." It is convenient to think of these people as those in your bloodline or as direct line ancestors. The word "relatives" is a more general term that includes all of those people who are related to you through both blood lines and marriage. Currently, the rules for submitting names to the Temple include the following: (See Individuals for whom I can request temple ordinances)
You are responsible to submit names of the following individuals:
  • Immediate family members
  • Direct-line ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, and their families).
You may also submit the names of the following individuals:
  • Biological, adoptive, and foster family lines connected to your family.
  • Collateral family lines (uncles, aunts, cousins, and their families).
  • Descendants of your ancestors.
  • Your own descendants.
  • Possible ancestors, meaning individuals who have a probable family relationship that cannot be verified because the records are inadequate, such as those who have the same last name and resided in the same area as your known ancestors.
You are also encouraged to follow the guidelines set forth in the letter from the First Presidency, which was read over the pulpit, dated February 29, 2012, it states, in part, "Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter." If you wish to perform temple work for a friend, or other person to whom you are not related, please contact Patron Services by phone, chat, or email. (See Individuals for whom I can request temple ordinances).

The key here is the term, "biological." All of those people who share a common ancestor with you are your cousins. Current policy allows you to take those individual's names to the Temple. Collateral relatives are the siblings of your direct line ancestors and their spouses and families. The definitions do not include the ancestors of the unrelated, i.e. non-blood line, family members. For example, you qualify your uncle, his wife and their children and other descendants, but you would not be related to the uncle's wife's parents.

I am setting forth the steps in an outline format. If you want a more detailed explanation of any of the steps, I suggest my blog post, "Get Help with the FamilySearch Family Tree, where I list many of the help resources available.

Here are the five steps:

Step One:
Open the Family Tree and look at the individuals shown to you in the traditional or landscape view. (FamilySearch is in the process of updated the traditional view to a new landscape view. You might see the older traditional view or the new landscape view). Examine your ancestors as shown in the family tree. Depending on when your ancestors joined the Church, you may have many generations of family members or very few. Become familiar with the families and your relation to them. Look at any photographs, read any stories and examine any documents you find in the FamilySearch Memories section. If you notice that you have any photos, stories or documents that are not already in the Family Tree Memories section, you should add them so they can be shared with members of your family. Go back, looking and examining the data for each family. Choose a family line you are interested in and go back to the first person in that line who joined the Church. For example, if your great-grandfather joined the Church, then go back one more generation to your great-great-grandfather. If you or your parents joined the Church, your search is over quickly.

Step Two: 
Examine the details page of each ancestor. Look carefully at the details shown. Ask yourself if the information is complete and accurate. Check birthdates, marriage dates and other events. Make sure all of the information makes sense. Was a child born before the mother? How old were the parents when they got married? Look to see if FamilySearch has suggested any record hints. If so, look at the records and make sure the hints apply to your ancestor. Attach the records to your ancestors. In doing this, you may find that there are family member listed in the documents who are not in the Family Tree. When you add them to the Family Tree, you should automatically search to see if there are duplicates already in the Family Tree. If there are duplicates, then merge the duplicates before reserving any names for Temple work. If your ancestral line on the Family Tree is very short, you should add sources to all of the people showing. You will very likely find additional people who are not listed.

Step Three:
View one of your ancestors in the Descendancy View. You can expand this view to see up to four generations at a time. Click through these lines and check the icons that are visible on the right. Add sources where they are suggested. Look for families that have only one or two children and verify that they really did have only these few children. Add any family members you find and search for duplicates. My experience is that with some effort, you will very likely find families that need additional research. Search for records for these families and you will find additional family members who need Temple ordinances. See my videos, Researching, How do I do it?  and Researching In-depth on

Step Four:
Continue to add sources to all of the people in your ancestry and their descendants on the Family Tree. Adding sources is the best and most efficient way to find relatives who are not already in the Family Tree.

Step Five:
If you find someone who needs Temple ordinances, make sure there are no duplicates of that person already in the Family Tree. It is possible that someone added in a duplicate and already did the ordinances. Check the Find Duplicates link on the individual's Detail Page, but also take a minute to search for the person using the Find link. Merge any duplicates you find. If the person still needs ordinances, reserve them immediately, even if you want to do more research before taking them to the Temple. If you add them to Family Tree, anyone working in the program can reserve their names. It is essentially first come - first served. Once you are satisfied, print the Family Ordinance Request Form and take that with you to the Temple to do the ordinances or share the ordinances with others in your family. See Sharing Ordinances with the Temple, Family, and Friends


  1. One can not access the temple policies on who one can do temple work for until s/he signs into with the LDS membership username and password

    1. Good Point! I assume that you are already in the program if you want to submit names for the Temple. Perhaps that isn't a valid assumption. :-)