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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Global Warming and the FamilySearch Family Tree

It is very likely that you have an opinion about the topic of "global warming" or climate change. The interesting thing about this subject is that it is basically a scientific fact issue. Measuring changes in the average temperature of the earth is a purely physical and technical process. If I have an accurate thermometer or similar device and measure today's temperature in Provo, Utah at the same place for a period of time, I can easily calculate the "average" temperature. In fact, this is regularly done for millions of locations around the world. Here is one such chart of the average temperatures for Provo, Utah from the National Weather Service:

This particular chart illustrates the "mean" temperature, not the average. The "mean" is the number that is exactly in the middle, with half of the readings below that number and half above. If we compile all these measurements from around the world over a long period of time and also work out the historical figures for years before the measurements were being made, we can tell if the temperatures are getting warmer or cooler. So why is there a disagreement over the results of these scientific measurements? Good question. Here is the same type of chart showing the trend of temperatures measured on the land and sea for more than a century for the entire earth:
Here is a quote from about the chart.
Temperatures measured on land and at sea for more than a century show that Earth's globally averaged surface temperature is rising. For the last 45 years, global surface temperature rose at an average rate of about 0.17°C (around 0.3° Fahrenheit) per decade—more than twice as fast as the 0.07°C per decade increase observed for the entire period of recorded observations (1880-2015).
What does this have to do with genealogy and the Family Tree? Well, the answer to this question is rather complicated. The global warming trend is an established scientific fact but despite overwhelming observations, half of the people in the United States still do not believe the facts.  See the "Half of US Are Now Concerned Global Warming Believers."

For a number of years now, the Family Tree has been in existence and functioning. For more than a year, the major defects in the Family Tree have been rectified and the Family Tree now works reasonably well. Just as science uses physical measurements to establish the temperature trends, the Family Tree uses "sources" to establish the "history" of the individuals in the Family Tree. No sources, no information, end of story. However, there is still an overwhelming number of individuals in the Family Tree who show the following:

Whole sections of the Family Tree look like this:

Just as with the overwhelming facts about global warming, users of the Family Tree are faced with notices telling them that there are problems with the data in the Family Tree. Each of those red icons indicates a fatal flaw in the data entered into the Family Tree. Despite these obvious warnings based on the lack of accurate historical data, many potential users of the Family Tree believe that everything in the Family Tree has been verified by the "Church" and is accurate. They either ignore the Family Tree because they believe that their work has been "all done" or mine the Family Tree for green icons based on the same inaccurate belief. You can see one of those green temple icons in the above screenshot. There is no way that anyone can claim a relationship with the people at the level of the green icon given the number of red icons that are evident.

Collectively, we seem to have a wonderful capacity for ignoring both scientifically and historically established information. We believe in our own opinions. We had a commonly quoted statement in the law about disagreements; "I know what I think is true, don't confuse me with the facts."

For the past few months, I have been writing about just such a situation that exists on my Tanner line. I have written a number of posts using the title "Finding Francis." Last night, I found another historical link in the situation where a group of people has been saying, "Don't confuse us with the facts, we know we are right." The Family Tree is a microcosm of the same type of irrational arguments that are being made nationally about global warming.

I am getting tired of having people look at me with a condescending smile and tell me that all their genealogy has been done for a long time and that all I have to do is look at the Family Tree and see that it has all been done. I am also getting tired of people popping names into the Family Tree without bothering to read what is already there and without providing even one source for their activities. That is enough of a rant for today.


  1. Would the median temperature be the one at the 50th percentile?

    1. The mean is the arithmetic average of a set of numbers, or distribution. A mean is computed by adding up all the values and dividing that score by the number of values. The Median is the number found at the exact middle of the set of values. See