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

Monday, March 10, 2014

The genealogical research process from an LDS perspective

For many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the genealogical research process is as foreign as the far side of the moon. Even among those new missionaries who are motivated enough to volunteer to serve at a major FamilySearch Library, the idea of a genealogical research process is entirely foreign. Understanding the research process is absolutely essential to making headway in finding your ancestors. Even if you do not strictly follow the process but merely use it as a model, the basic structure of the research process must become second nature in order to make any real progress in identifying ancestors.

There are dozens of variations both in print and in graphic illustrations of the process. From time to time, I use something like the following drawing to illustrate the various stages:

Here is a more complex variation of the same process:

The additional complexity of the second diagram seems superfluous.

As a member of the Church, there are several considerations that should be included in the process depending on the time depth of the membership of the member's ancestors. Normally, the survey portion of the roof research process involves consulting with family members and gathering locally available records. Members should always consult the records available on Family Tree in order to determine the extent of previous research. Even if the member's immediate ancestors seem to be missing from Family Tree, the potential researcher cannot make the assumption that substantial portions of the ancestry are not in the program.

So, the first step in the research process which is stated as "verify what you know about your family" must include a more extensive examination of the available genealogical records than would normally be the case for someone outside of the Church. The next step in the research process which is commonly described as "decide what you want to learn about your family" is to some extent predetermined by the context of the research to be done. Most common motivation for beginning genealogical research is the desire to "take names to the Temple." Unfortunately for many people, this is the only goal and all other considerations are essentially ignored.

The third step in the research process "select records to search" is also predetermined by the second step.

For many members, the entire process usually breaks down at the point when obtaining and searching records becomes necessary. A considerable amount of effort goes into motivating members to start the process but no concomitant effort is made to learn how to accomplish the fourth step. Often, there is an invalid assumption made that finding new names will be "easy" or take little time. This is especially true for people who wish to motivate others to "do their genealogy" but have little or no experience in the process themselves. However, from this point on in the research process, the original motivation of the researcher makes little or not difference.

The idea of a research process implies that the cycle will be repeated with new goals built upon the discoveries of the prior experience. In order for this to happen, the researcher needs to recognize the need to incorporate some level of research as a nearly constant background activity. This happens only rarely, especially if the motivation for the initial effort was a particular activity or event.

I would suggest that genealogical activities be long-term and involve a significant amount of training in actual research skills, not just motivation. During my service in Young Mens program, Scoutmasters and other Scout leaders were called for a minimum of 3 to 5 years. I think almost all genealogy or family history positions should have the same longevity. The amount of dedication and training are similar.

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