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

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Unanswered questions with some comments on family history

I started this list of unanswered questions with some of my explanatory comment some time ago. I have decided to list the questions with some of my comments. Some questions do not need comments. All of my references to the Family Tree are to the Family Tree.

1. What does FamilySearch do when all the green icon (Temples, arrows whatever) disappear?

There has been a lot of discussion and interest in the so-called "green arrow" or now "green temple icons." The idea here is that there are minions of people waiting on the Family Tree with available ordinance work. has conveniently marked those individuals lacking ordinance data, first with green arrows and now with green temple icons. But if you think about this for just a few minutes, you will realize certain facts.
A. If I add new, undiscovered people to the Family Tree, I will probably reserve the Temple work for myself or my family.
B. The number of people who are already on the Family Tree who needed ordinance work are probably finite.
C. If you have a lot of people searching the Family Tree for green icons and converting them to their reserved lists, then the pool of possible green icons will diminish rapidly.
D. If no one adds new, valid names to the Family Tree, then the supply will probably dry up.
2. What is the current status of green icon names in the Family Tree?

Some time ago, if you choose a family line at random in the Family Tree and started clicking back without regard for the accuracy of the line until you were in the 1600s or even the 1500s, you could find any number of green icons. But my current experience is that these icons are rapidly disappearing and those that are left contain the limitation that Possible Duplicates Exist.

So should I ignore the duplicate warning? Here is what is available in the Family Tree for this perosn with a green icon.

There is no birth, death or other information at all. What am I supposed to do with this green icon now? Actually, I can click on the Ordinances tab and request the ordinances But that leads me right back to the screen above about the possible duplicates. So the supply of green icons is diminishing and this brings me back to my first question. Here is the next question.

3. What do I do when I see a notice that possible duplicates exist?

If I click the "Learn" link on the notice, I will be taken to a Help Center article entitled, "Merging duplicate records in Family Tree." The introductory statement says:
Note: Merging is a complex process. You must decide if two entries are for the same person. If it is the same person, you decide the information to keep. Please take the time necessary to carefully review each possible duplicate.
Now, if I have been learning about the Family Tree for a while, I understand exactly what this notice is talking about. But that brings up the following question. 

4. What do I do if I do not understand how to merge duplicates"

Of course, I suggest that you carefully read the instructions given on the "Merging duplicate records in Family Tree" article. So I do this and then I check to see if "Alexander Allan" has any duplicates. The only distinguishing characteristic of Alexander Allan is that he is married to Sarah Nevers.

On the other hand, Sarah Nevers has three husbands, two of which are named Alexander Allan.

She has no children listed for either of the Alexander Allan marriages both of which took place in 1805 when she was 48 years old. This could be a second marriage. Hmm. This sounds like we are getting into that dreaded area of "genealogical research." How is that possible? I thought I could click on a green icon and take the name to the Temple.

In this case, when I click on the link to possible duplicates for Alexander Allan is see the following:

If I review the merge, I see that both of the Alexander Allans were married to Sarah Nevers but I have the option of disregarding all this matching information and clicking on a link that says "Not A Match." I could hypothesize that Sarah Nevers could have married two people with the same name and one of them needs ordinance work. Of course, they were both married in the same year in the same place, but it could happen. So even at this point, if I really want a name to take to the Temple, I can still do so.  But since I am an honest person, I see that the two individuals match and click "Continue Merge."

When I finish the merge, I check to see if the ordinance work is still available. I find that all the work for this person with the green icon, was done back in 1996. No more green icon. Maybe next time I won't be so anxious to merge the two individuals especially if there is some argument that they might be not a match.

5. Am I really related to Alexander Allan?

This is a more complex question. At this point I could probably not figure out how I am related to Alexander Allan, but I did get to him by going back to one of my remote ancestors listed in the Family Tree and then found him as a descendant. Theoretically, he is my cousin. There are no sources listed for any of these people so I have no way to verify any of the information. In fact, it is unlikely that I can remember how I found Alexander Allan in the first place since I was just randomly clicking on names in the Family Tree. Maybe since the Family Tree had a connection to Alexander Allan, I am automatically related to him. But since there are no children listed for the marriage between Alexander Allan and Sarah Nevers, I am certainly not a descendant of this marriage. Do I know what to do now?

6. Don't I just keep trying to find a qualifying green icon?

After all, there is no need to worry about how I am related or if I am related at all because the Family Tree provides the relationship and I can rely on the Family Tree. So now I go back to the list of descendants of William Green II and see what I can find.

I see a whole lot of icons but none of them are green and some of them are red warning icons. Oh, oh, it looks like I might be back to that dreaded problem of doing some research to resolve some of these icon problems. Fortunately FamilySearch is providing me with a lot of sources in the form of record hints. But since no has told me what to do with the other icons, I just keep looking down the list for more green ones. I see some Temple icons but they are blue or orange. This means that someone has already found these opportunities for Temple work and I am too late.

But here are two more green icons.

This time there are no warnings about duplicates. Apparently, I am free to click on these icons and take the name to the Temple. I read all the rules for qualifying names and guess that I have read and comply with the requirements. So I click and add Mary Stockwell to my Temple list. Just in case, I check for a duplicate for Mary Stockwell. FamilySearch finds no duplicates. Of course there are no sources for this marriage between Mary Stockwell and Nathanial Green, but there it is in the Family Tree.

7. Do I have any further interest or concerns about Nathanial Green and Mary Stockwell?

Here is where there is an area of disagreement. Some people feel there is no more obligation at this point to do anything with the Family Tree. There is no need to verify the information or find any sources at all. If I take that viewpoint, I am relying entirely on the accuracy of the Family Tree. But I just read a long statement about how I was supposed to be doing Temple work for my relatives.

8. What if Mary Stockwell did not marry my Nathanial Green?

Without resorting to some intensive research, there is no answer to this question. But do any of my concerns really matter? Aren't I just a picky, old genealogist who should be ignored because I am not in tune with the times. The last question is as follows.

9. Am I related to this Nathanial Green?

Can I depend on the relationships in the Family Tree without any sources? That is the real question and maybe I shouldn't be asking the question at all. In any event, there are now two fewer green Temple icons in the Family Tree. But Mary Stockwell has no birth, christening, death or burial information and there are about 2,500 people in the Family Tree named "Mary Stockwell" or with a name very close to Mary Stockwell and one of them is listed as marrying a Nathaniel Greene in Massachusetts in the 1700s but she has apparently been combined with a person named Abigail Fetch.

Anyway, I am just being picky again. This Mary Stockwell also had the name "Cutler." But that gets way too complicated and messy. Besides, there is a marriage record showing a marriage between Mary Stockwell and Nathaniel Green on 14 December 1755 in Leicester, Worcester, Massachusetts. So what am I worried about?

At this point, the real issue is whether or not I want to find out anything about the woman or not. Am I through? Haven't I done my family history? What about the stories? Who was this woman? Who will find out who she was? Of course, now I go on looking for another green icon. Unfortunately, there aren't any more on that particular line down four generations. But I will keep clicking. But I am finding a huge number of red icons. Does that tell me something I should know?

I guess I just have too many unanswered questions. 


  1. Shucks. Clearly I've been going about this the wrong way. Only last night when I was on Family Search I found a brother and sister who were listed as married to each other and I could have reserved their temple sealing, but instead I looked at their obituaries and found out who they were really married to. And I've been wasting all this time verifying and adding sources on generations nearer to me when I could have gone back ten generations to find some green temple icons. By now most of them have probably already been taken.


  2. I am with you 100%. I just wish those in charge were too! It's gut wrenching.

  3. Thank you for your thought provoking post.

    This is akin to the question of should I go ahead and submit ordinances if the “possible duplicates” search shows no duplicates.

    As I understand it, the “possible duplicates” search intentionally does not report all of the possible duplicates. It only reports the more likely possible duplicates and many duplicates are missed. I believe this was done because lots of users were not careful when merging. This corrupted the database so bad that “possible duplicates” was made to only catch the most likely duplicates.

    In order to be sure you have found all duplicates, users need to do both “possible duplicates” and “find” searches, but then they are circumventing the reason why “possible duplicates” was made to only find the most likely duplicates.

    Thus, should users stop and submit after finding no duplicates with the “possible duplicates” search, or should they also use the “find” search to make sure they have found and merged all duplicates before submitting a person for temple work? The latter is necessary to prevent submitting ordinances that have already been completed, while the former is needed to help prevent incorrect merges. What should family history volunteers.

    To further complicate matters, these searches are best made after researching the person and his or her family and then adding as many vital details for them in FT before searching. It seems like you just cannot avoid that nasty word of work or research.