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

Friday, November 20, 2015

On Honesty in Family History

Quoting from on the Articles of Faith,
The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth's request to know what members of the Church believed. They were subsequently published in Church periodicals. They are now regarded as scripture and included in the Pearl of Great Price. [Link added]
I would like to quote Article 13:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
One of my ancestors in the Family Tree was converted to the Church during her lifetime and received all of her Temple ordinances and was sealed to her husband while still living. All this was accurately recorded in the Family Tree. Notwithstanding this fact, someone deliberately changed the data to enable the program to authorize her ordinance work to be done again in November, 2015. When this occurs, we are quick to excuse this behavior as done through inadvertence or ignorance. But in this case, the person would have had to disregard what was in the record and deliberately change information showing that the work had been done.

We lock our doors and cars to prevent stealing. Perhaps we need some procedures to prevent what is essentially the same thing from happening in the Family Tree. Another not uncommon practice is that of creating a "new person" with almost the same information, but ignoring the need to merge the newly created person so that the ordinance work can be done over again. This is not a new practice, we have been seeing this happening for many years. It is just so obvious now.

When I have reported this issue to FamilySearch, I get a standard response that excuses the action as a problem with duplicates etc. This is not what is happening. There is a way to "lock" entries or make them "Read Only." Perhaps this is something that needs to be expanded to the people who did their ordinance work during their lifetime?


  1. I couldn't agree more. FT seems woefully lacking in any kind of basic validation checks and controls. Someone recently added a spouse to one of my wife's ancestors who was born 200 years after her supposed husband, and then they reserved the temple sealing!

  2. A fine way to get to Heaven! Reminds me of the man who told a general authority that he never missed a priesthood meeting even if he had to lie to his boss and tell him he was sick!

  3. How infuriating. I don't think that locking entries is the answer since then we can't add sources and discussions explaining the problem, but the answer should involve a robust problem resolution system from FamilySearch, perhaps an accessible and moderated locking system like Wikipedia.

  4. As I recall, one of the "new innovations" with FSFTree was encouraging "collaboration" among ancestors, so we could "put together the most perfect representation of the common descendant" that we have.
    As an FHC Director, what I have noticed is that if a patron doesn't recognize the person (or people) submitting additional info for the common descendant, then the patron is less likely to want to collaborate with the other submitter(s). [Could that possibly be due to the insecurity of the internet, itself?] Of course, the best thing is to try and get the patron to collaborate with the other submitters re: the work on the common descendant(s).
    If that doesn't seem to work, however, then I have given my patrons other suggestions: some create their FT off-line, so no one can intervene with their work via the computer or internet; the other option is to have the patrons (who have accts. w/Ancestry) to set up their FT on Ancestry as a PRIVATE TREE, so people cannot make random, uncollaborated changes.
    The most frustrating thing I see is when patrons come in with FSFTree changes and there are NO SOURCES for any of the changes. This is especially frustrating for those patrons who have worked hard to research and find sources documenting their descendants. All of a sudden, someone the patron doesn't know has merged the patron's info into info submitted by the unknown ancestor. Sources are gone and I have a very UNHAPPY and confused patron on my hands.

    1. We all have exactly the same responses and exactly the same experiences. I was pointing out the problem for which there is no readily available solution.

  5. As a missionary in the Family History Library, another missionary showed me that her uncle was putting in new ancestors way back and faking the data so he could do temple work. She showed me he used names from the present to make up these fake people from the past. We contacted him and told him he need to quit this behavior or his use of then new.FamilySearch could be suspended. He stopped.
    It seems to me we wring our hands over these behaviors at times, but don't do much to stop them. If Support won't take care of this, since they are always swamped, then perhaps threatening some kind of legal action might help. James - you would know if that is even possible.

    1. To go to court, you have to be able to prove some damage in monetary terms. A successful lawsuit would be highly unlikely.