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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Are we still stuck on Green Icons?

It has been awhile since I wrote about the ubiquitous "green temple icons." I used to write about this subject more frequently when the icons were "green arrows" but that time has passed. The historical challenge here was the fact that most of the green arrows were the result of duplicates in the program and the duplicate issue in the Family Tree has been brought under control although not eliminated. Advances in the programming of the Family Tree have made the "green temple icons" more reliable as an indication that ordinance work for the person needs to be done. But there is a secondary result that is far less positive. Emphasis on finding the "green temple icons" has begun to completely supersede any actual research work being done in the Family Tree.

The constant references to finding the green temple icons have given many people the impression that or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is somehow replenishing the supply of green temple icons. There are two opposing poles of response to this situation. At one end of the spectrum, we have people who do not connect working on the Family Tree with any activity other than gathering green temple icons. At the other end of the spectrum, we have people with many green temple icons who are not motivated to even look for a "name to take to the temple." What is missing is an emphasis on the actual work of finding deceased ancestors and relatives.

Here are examples of both ends of the spectrum.

This first example shows a family with no children where the green temple icons have now been reserved. The dark blue icons represent reserved ordinances. But the spouse in this descendency view has a light blue icon representing record hints and a purple icon that represents a hint that the couple may have had children. This indicates that some research will possibly provide additional temple opportunities. But what I am finding is that very few of these opportunities are translated into research that produces more information for the Family Tree. The number of these light blue record hint icons is so large, in my case, that there is no practical way for me to investigate all of them. But whoever reserved the names for the temple should be following up with the research suggested by the light blue icon. What is missing from the promotion of investigating the Family Tree for green temple icons is the emphasis on doing the research necessary to fully utilize the record hints and other information that is undoubtedly available.

I hesitate to give a screenshot of a cluster of green temple icons because I do not think that anyone other than the family members should be out there picking them up. But it is not unusual for me to be helping someone with their research, either using the Consultant Planner or merely helping with a research problem and find several green temple icons. I also find that when I come back to help the person sometime later, that the green temple icons are still there and no one in the family has done any further work on the family. But what is also possible is the following without identifying the source:

Here is an open invitation to do some fairly basic research with the almost immediate reward of finding a number of names to take to the temple. But in promoting the Family Tree, there is almost no emphasis on actually doing the research necessary to resolve these gold icons. By the way, the yellow or gold temple icons mean that some research is necessary to establish whether or not temple ordinances are needed.

What is needed is a more balanced approach to promoting the Family Tree. Yes, there are a number of immediately available green temple icons, but these icons do not come automatically from; they are the result of many years of research. In addition, there are opportunities to do research that will produce many more such green temple icons with a modicum of work.


  1. I'm amazed at how many people think doing their genealogy means combing Family Search for temple icons. There are even apps that will do that for you. Is there something about the way we talk about it that gives the impression that it's just there on Family Search? How do we help people understand what research really is?

    1. Good comment. Yes, there is something about the way we talk about the Family Tree that makes most people belief that the green icons grow there unassisted.

  2. My wife and I are temple and family history consultants in our ward. It seems that in the minds of the people we work with "doing your family history" means combing through Family Tree looking for green temple icons. The concept of actually doing family history research has been completely lost. The Find-Take-Teach program seems to promote this kind of thinking. I'm not sure what the answer is. It almost seems like there has to be a dual approach where FS encourages the seasoned, committed genealogists in the Church to go in and clean up the tree and do the serious research. Unfortunately, this aspect of family history seems to be completely absent from the message that is going out from FS. For the rest of the Church programs like Find-Take-Teach will at least give them the experience of taking a family name to the temple.

  3. Your comments here go along, somewhat, with a bit of a quandary I find myself in. I have recently completed the project of going through my wife’s ancestors in Family Tree, all Norwegian and Swedish, back eight generations on all lines cleaning up names and places and attaching all the historical sources in Family Search and in the Norwegian and Swedish Digital Archives. This has included the ancestors, all their additional spouses, all their children, and all their children’s spouses. This has taken about four years. We have been working on her family far longer than that, of course, and I have gotten really good in Norwegian research.

    In this process, we have added sufficient names to her temple reservation list to keep us and our adult children busy even though we have never taken anything other than family names to the temple since shortly after we got married years ago. We have no need to add any more to her reservation list.

    Also in this process, I have seen where the descendants of these ancestors continue on, which records have been covered by extraction projects, and which have not.

    I feel it would not be an exaggeration and not too immodest to say that that because of all this work, I could pick almost any one of her ancestors, start descendancy research, and have several hundred individual with good, complete, well sourced Family Tree records with green icons with a few months of work.

    So my quandary is, what do I do?

    Start researching just because I find it a fascinating, stimulating, enjoyable intellectual exercise akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle (I won’t say fun, having read your blogs about that particular term) and rob the descendants of these cousins of my wife of the opportunity to find their ancestors through real research?

    Or do I find other things to do in Family Tree and let the descendants of these people do the research themselves someday, if ever?

    When I have completed large blocks of families and have added dozens of green icons to the tree, does my wife submit them all to the temple to be sure the work is done, thereby depriving their descendants of the opportunity to “find” them and do the temple work themselves? Since they would all share a common ancestor with my wife, my wife is authorized to do that.

    Or do I just leave all the green icons to reinforce for anyone stumbling along these lines that Family Tree is full of green icons just waiting to be found?

    Any thoughts?

    1. Look for a blog post on this subject and your comment.

  4. Considering that only 5% of members are even doing family history, and there are many members who live close to the temple and yet rarely go, I wonder if they're trying to just get people to log on to Family Search and be interested on some level.