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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

When is a FamilySearch Family Tree Source not a Source?

I am finding more items listed as sources in the Family Tree that are not sources at all. They are revealing as to where the people who entered the data obtained their information and that fact is helpful. But the place where you got the information is not necessarily a "source." What do I mean by this statement? The issue here functions on different levels. There are those who would support the idea that putting anything at all in as a source is a huge step forward from the past when no sources were listed, but I think it is important to move beyond that level and improve the quality of the sources we use to compile our unified family tree.

The first level, of course, is where users add or change the data in the Family Tree program without adding any information as to where the new information or changed information originated. The basic question here is: "Where did you get your information?" By answering this question, the user provides others with a way to evaluate the reliability of the change or addition and, where appropriate, examine the same document or other originator.

I had that experience just yesterday. I have an ancestor who is often referred to as "adopted." Personally, I had never found a source, i.e. original record or document, reflecting that characterization other than "rumor or family stories." Recently, I found another reference to the fact that this ancestor was "adopted," this time in writing with a reference to a church record. The record indicated that the researcher had referred to an "index card" that mentioned that the ancestor was "adopted." I could not find the index card, so I went back to the original record from which the index was likely derived. In this case, the original entry bore no reference at all to an "adoption." Now there is a mystery as to why the derived record had that notation, if it did. Presently, I have no idea how to find the "card index" referred to.

This illustrates a couple of important points about what we need to supply when we provide a source.

First of all and very importantly, the format of a source citation is not as important as the content. I don't really care what format was used to tell me about the card index example I used, but it would have been nice if the researcher had entered enough information to tell me where I could find the record she was referring to. The main idea behind providing sources is to give subsequent users or researchers the opportunity to find the record used. For example, telling me you got the information from your "personal knowledge" is nice, if there is some way given about how to contact you for verification of what was recorded. I fully realize that in some societies around the world, the only family history information available is in the form of oral traditions. If the source of this family history is listed as "oral history" from a certain family historian, at least I know where the information originated. The original informant may now be dead but that may be the only source for that particular information. Whether or not other sources exist for the same information is not the point. The issue is recording where you got the information.

Next, be as complete as possible. Don't assume that anyone knows about your source. In many cases, it is better to provide more information about the originating document or person and their location than less. I am not saying that "personal information" is not a valid source, but by giving me as much information as possible about how and where the information was obtained, I have, at least, a possibility of evaluating the information based on the reliability of the source. When a source is completely lacking, I must conclude that anything recorded is suspect and must be verified. If you copied the information from a Family Group Record or from an online family tree program, I can determine whether or not I think the information needs further documentation and research.

Lastly, provide a copy of the original document whenever possible. This is more than a convenience. I can tell immediately, by looking at the document, if you copied the information correctly, decoded the handwriting or whatever. It does save time and indicates to me that you actually did some research and did not just copy the information.

The answer to the question posed in the title to this post is this: A source is not a source when it fails to give adequate information to evaluate the reliability of what is recorded as being derived from the source. Obviously, if no source is provided, the reliability of the recorded information is close to zero.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Phone Numbers

For a lot of reasons, we have new phone numbers. If you need to contact me, please do so by email and request my phone number. My Email is genealogyarizona at gmail dot com.

An Example of "Cleaning up the FamilySearch Family Tree"

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the need to clean up the Family Tree. I thought it would help to illustrate what I meant by cleaning up a deserving entry and showing my opinion of what needs to be done. Here is the raw entry from the Family Tree.

Here is a good example of an entry that has not been cleaned up yet.

Too see the full extent of the issues with this particular entry, I would need a longer screenshot. Here is a partial screenshot of the list of Alternate Birth Names. There are 27.

What was this person's name at the time of her birth? Why are all these names listed here? Do they all need to be preserved? Is there really that much controversy over her name? Where did these alternative names come from? How much time do I need to spend looking up these names?

Take into account that Roxalana Ray was born 25 June 1794 in Hubbardton, Rutland, Vermont United States. Also take into account that entries for this person have been submitted by hundreds of her descendants, many of whom did not know her "birth name." Granted, there are variations as to the spelling of her name but none of these belong in the category of "birth name." If birth name has any meaning, it should be the name that is on a birth record or the earliest mention of the person if no birth record exists. In the Family Tree program, the name that is in the Vital Information section should be where this "birth name" is recorded and when there are actual variations in the record, any additional copies should either be documented variants from actual records and designated as "Alternative Names" or they should be labeled as duplicative or incorrect and deleted. Too many users of the Family Tree program think that merely because all these names are listed, we are under some kind of obligation to keep them in the program. This is not the case. They are superfluous and misleading.

So what was Roxalana's birth name? Here is the information from the following record:

"Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 April 2015), Samuel Shepherd and Roxy Ray, 04 Dec 1820, Marriage; State Capitol Building, Montpelier; FHL microfilm 27,684.

Here is the "original" record.

Guess what? This is an index card, not an original record. But here, her name is recorded as "Roxy L. Ray." My daughter, Amy, has done extensive research on this family. She explains in a blog post entitled, Tanner 9: Julia Ann Shepherd Tanner, the following:
Julia's mother was Roxalana Ray. Roxalana's name is a nod to classical history (the original Roxolana was the wife of the Sultan Suleiman the Lawgiver). Roxalana married Samuel in 1820 and they moved to Ohio in 1823. Samuel and Roxalana had eight children.
Amy's blog,,  has four articles on Roxalana Ray Shepherd with source citations. Here are her conclusions after extensive research for the couple:

b. 10 November 1788 Bennington, Bennington, Vermont
m. 4 December 1820 Castleton, Rutland, Vermont
d. 10 October 1877 San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California
b. San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California
Wives: (1) Roxalana Ray, (2) Charity Bates Swarthout, (3) Sarah Whitney Crandall
Father: David Shepherd; Mother: Diadema (Diana) Hopkins

b. 1794 Castleton, Rutland, Vermont
d. 11 November 1832 On a boat on the Mississippi River
Husband: Samuel Shepherd
Father: William Ray; Mother: Joanna Pond

I would refer you to TheAncestorFiles for considerable more information about this family. The point here is that careful research shows what her name was at birth and why. Do I need to search out the origin of each of the other listed variations? The simple answer is no. If you find variations listed in other records, such as the Vermont Index shown above, then they should be listed as "Alternative Names" rather than leaving a long list of misleading birth names. Very few users of the Family Tree seem to realize that the "Other Information" section had an +Add link to unlimited categories of information. 

What will I do about cleaning up this entry. I will first delete all of the different birth names with an explanation that they are inaccurate or duplicative. Next, I will edit the name of this person to reflect the research and include a source reference to Amy's research. 

This gets us through the first level of "cleaning up" the record.

Find your cousins with Puzzilla and Puzzilla Premium -- Part Three

In this post in the series about and Premium, I take a look at the Hints and Sources links. Here is a screenshot of the startup page with arrows pointing to the two additional resources.

If you look carefully at the tree diagram, you will see that nearly every person on my direct lines has sources. If I click on any one of the ancestors with sources, Puzzilla Premium will give me a list of the sources for that person. Here is an example from one of my Great-great-grandmothers:

This feature helps to give you a perspective of how much work has gone into each of the people on your tree. Entries with long lists of sources are rock solid. But if there are individuals with very few or no sources, there is always the possibility that the conclusion about the identity of that person could be wrong. In other words that might not be the right person in the Family Tree.

The orange colored squares are Record Hints. You can see that my ancestors have very few, probably because we have added so many sources already. But there is a Record Hint for one of the ancestors who shows as the end-of-their-particular-line. Unfortunately in this case, the Record Hint was not the right person.

Previous installments in this series include:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mount Everest and Genealogy

For much of my life,  I was actively involved in mountain climbing, rock climbing and rappelling activities. My first real interest in climbing started when I was about 14 years old. As I grew older, my interest centered on technical rock climbing with some winter climbing and skiing thrown in. I could easily have become completely dedicated to climbing and the outdoors, but my life took a different turn and although I maintained my interest in climbing, I adjusted my priorities to family, church service and work. However, until relatively recently, I will still teaching rappelling.

My interest is such, that I had, in the last couple of weeks, watched a documentary on some attempts to clime K2 in the Karakoram Range. I never did get beyond climbing locally high mountains. I was very much interested in the recent tragic earthquake in Nepal and particularly saddened at the loss of life, including many of those waiting to climb Mount Everest. As I thought about the climbers, I realized that many of them had spent their whole lives dedicated to being physically and mentally prepared to climb the highest mountain in the world. I realized that but for the choices I made to make family, church and work my emphasis, I could have possibly been among those climbers. Of course, at my age, that thought was more of a fantasy than a reality, but it could have been possible.

As I thought about this tragedy in the Himalayas, I wondered what those who lost their lives really accomplished by choosing to dedicate their lives to climbing. It was not just that they were killed, we all die sometime and I could lose my life as easily here in the traffic in Utah Valley as I could on a mountain, but the what was the eternal value of their life? I am reminded of the scripture from Matthew 24:39 that says,
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
I am sure that many who climb high mountains do so, in large part, to "find their life." But I realized that finding my life in the mountains was not important to my eternal existence. What at first was an interest in seeking out my ancestors became more and more important. I think part of my motivation to turn from a very physically oriented emphasis in climbing and skiing to a more spiritual one, came about as is explained by President Howard W. Hunter in a quote from an article entitled, "A Temple-Motivated People," in the Ensign for February 1995:
Surely we on this side of the veil have a great work to do. For in light of all the above-noted facts about temple ordinances, we can see that the building of temples has deep significance for ourselves and mankind, and our responsibilities become clear. We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in life. Doing work for others is accomplished in two steps: first, by family history research to ascertain our progenitors; and second, by performing the temple ordinances to give them the same opportunities afforded to the living. 
Yet there are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples. They do the best they can. They pursue family history research and have the temple ordinance work done by others. Conversely,there are some members who engage in temple work but fail to do family history research on their own family lines. Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets. 
I recall an experience of a few years ago that is analogous to this condition. At the close of a fast and testimony meeting, the bishop remarked, “We have had a spiritual experience today listening to the testimonies borne by each other. This is because we have come fasting according to the law of the Lord. But let us never forget that the law consists of two parts: that we fast by abstaining from food and drink and that we contribute what we have thereby saved to the bishop’s store house for the benefit of those who are less fortunate.” Then he added: “I hope no one of us will leave today with only half a blessing.” 
I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing. 
Furthermore, the dead are anxiously waiting for theLatter-day Saints to search out their names and then go into the temples to officiate in their behalf, that they may be liberated from their prison house in the spirit world. All of us should find joy in this magnificent labor of love.
As much as I may be attracted to climbing, I understand more the need for spending the short time here on earth wisely. I can think of nothing more important that being involved in the great work of salvation. Maybe we should think more about losing our life for Christ's sake and less about "finding our own time" to do our family history. Most certainly, now is the time to start the process of seeking our own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cleaning up the FamilySearch Family Tree

Over the years, I have had the opportunity of visiting thousands of people in their homes. Without being judgmental, I have seen the full spectrum of the way that people maintained the interiors of their homes. Some people live in immaculately clean and completely maintained homes, while others verge on the classic hoarders syndrome. The information dumped into the Family Tree program sometimes seems closer to the hoarders type of home maintenance than it does to an immaculately kept house. Previous copies of the databases included every scrap of information whether or not it was useful or even pertinent and much of that information was dumped into the Family Tree.

Along with her goal of extending our family lines and generating names for Temple ordinances, we also need to remember that our ultimate goal is that stated in the Doctrine and Covenants 128:24 which states:
Let us, therefore, as a church and as a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.
 Additional definitions of the word "acceptation" include "approval" or "favorable reception." In other words, we need to do our job entering our family history into the Family Tree program as perfectly as we can possibly do so. It would seem to be obvious that this includes "cleaning up" the entries that are already in the Family Tree.

So what do we mean by cleaning up the Family Tree?

Let me give a few examples of some of the parts of the tree that need to be "cleaned up." Here is an example of an individual with several so-called first names listed in the file. These first names came from variations in the submissions of all of the information that was previously included in the Family Tree. Unless these entries are in fact, truly alternative names for the individual, that is, names that he used during his lifetime, these particular items are misleading, duplicative and inaccurate. The individual's real birth name should be recorded in the place where the detail page calls for the name of the individual. If in fact, there are alternative names then the alternative name option should be selected rather than leaving the names as "birth names."

In this case, all of these birth names should be deleted and a reason given that the names are duplicative and/or incorrect. In addition, this particular individual has multiple wives listed some of which appear to be obvious duplicates. Although the program has not progressed to the point where all of these duplicates may be able to be resolved, in many cases duplicates can and should be resolved. Additionally from the screenshot below you can see that the father also has multiple names and multiple marriages. This indicates that the research for this person is faulty and that the information is incomplete. This is an obvious suggestion that future research needs to be done.

In a case like this one, I would suggest that the state of the record is such that there are probably an equal number of difficulties with the descendents of this person. Cleanup of the Family Tree should begin at the level where all previous individuals in the tree have been cleaned up. Until these multiple families are resolved, it is not even possible to determine which of the different couples is the true ancestor. If we go back to the Family Tree Landscape View,  we will quickly see that there are serious problems with these particular entries as marked by the red exclamation mark icons. The daughter of this John Smith Senior is supposedly Miriam Smith but the Data Problems icon indicates that the child's birth years later than the mother's death year. In other words, Miriam Smith's birthdate in 1689 is after her mother, Abigail Day Smith's death date of 1677.

 An appropriate place to begin to clean up this particular ancestral line would be to move closer in time by several generations to the first person with that surname. In my case, this person would be Roxalana Ray born in 1794 who has 27 alternate birth names listed.

Another significant cleanup that could be done to the Family Tree is to add in all the possible sources. Adding sources is one of the best ways to find additional names that are not in the Family Tree. It is also a way to help correct the information that is already in the Family Tree. It is also a good idea to review any discussions and notes that may have been brought over from the attached to the person in Family Tree.

As you can probably guess, resolving these difficulties can be difficult and require a fair measure of research. There are, of course, other items which need to be cleaned up including the accuracy of the names, dates and places. These can be corrected as sources are added.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Find your cousins with Puzzilla and Puzzilla Premium -- Part Two

The first of the Premium specialized tools is the one designated as Targets. There is a pop-up explanation about Targets that explains that they are suggested starting points for new research and that they are experimental. They show persons with no child records, who reached child-bearing age, were born within 110 years ago and who lived within a specified place and time. In the default family tree diagram, that appears above, my ancestral lines show three red dots, indicating that these individuals are "Targets."

I decide to look at each of those particular individuals. Right from the start, I have a question about this particular indicator. Obviously, if these individuals are in my family tree diagram, they are my direct line ancestors. So they must've been married. They must have had children. So why don't they have any child records? Here is the first one of the Targets:

If I click on the link to "View in FamilyTree" I see that Targets are definitely "experimental." Margaret Turner, according to the Family Tree had ten children.

 But when I go to her descendents, I see a large number of the red squares that indicate Target ancestors. Here's a screenshot of the descendents from Margaret Turner.

So, it appears that the red squares additionally may indicate that I should show that person's descendancy view. The first of these new red squares or Targets that I click on, indeed does show a person who deserves additional research.

As a side note, FamilySearch Family Tree has, in my view point, matured to the point where the program is actually usable. Previously, there were so many unresolved duplicates and other errors that the program could not be safely used. Over the past few months, there have been some major upgrades and the data set is finally beginning to coalesce into a more useful content. Of course, this means that  is also becoming more useful.

Here is the person I clicked on among the descendents of Margaret Turner.

When I view this person in the Family Tree program, indeed this person is lacking in specifics and would merit additional research. Here is a screenshot showing the lack of detail available for this particular individual:

At this point, I decided that it would be a good idea to view the James P Hamilton and Margaret Turner family in the Descendancy View of Family Tree. I would consider the information about the James P Hamilton family to be suspect because of the use of the single initial "P" in the name of the father. I also find serious data problems in the tree extending from James P Hamilton. His grandfather is shown as living more than 120 years and his maternal grandmother was married before age 12. Here is the Descendancy View from the Family Tree:

Here are the descendents of James P Hamilton, including the James Hamilton I highlighted with Unfortunately, the program has no historical record suggestions or hints for either the father, James P Hamilton, or his son, James Hamilton.

My conclusion is that there is a serious amount of work that needs to be done on the Family Tree. The indications that I get from just a brief look through is that adding the sources suggested by through their record hands will certainly produce additional new people not previously added to the Family Tree and very likely, enable me to correct many of the entries in the Family Tree.

This first tool from the Premium version proves to be valuable.

Here is the first installment of this series:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Find your cousins with Puzzilla and Puzzilla Premium -- Part One

Screenshot of FamilySearch Family Tree diagram from Premium Version is one of the most powerful analytic tools available for's Family Tree program. Although, as is common for online programs, has a "free" version, tools available in the Premium version are well worth the $39.95 price tag for an annual subscription. The Premium version adds the following capabilities to the program:
  • Research Targets. Searches the chart for eligible persons who reached child-bearing age with no child records and who were born within the optional specified time and lived in the optional specified location.
  • Hints with clickable title links. A hint is a historical record with significant possibility of matching the selected person.
  • Sources with titles and some with clickable links. A source is an attached historical record containing the selected person, in the opinion of the submitter.
  • Changes made by the user, either by adding or changing the record in FamilyTree
  • Possible duplicates. A possible duplicate is another person whose identity is similar to the selected person and may be the same person.
  • Available Ordinances. Accessible by LDS user accounts.
  • Search the chart for records containing (1) a name, place, or ID number and/or (2) a birth within a specified time period.
This post begins a series about this powerful program. I will be examining both the features of Puzzilla Premium and the free version and how the information made available from Puzzilla impacts the information contained in the Family Tree. Most of the users of this program approach the program as a way to obtain "names" to submit to the Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to perform ordinances. Much of the time, the expectation is that available names are simply sitting in the Family Tree ready to be gathered like so much ripe fruit. This is a very short-sighted view of both the Puzzilla program and the Family Tree. The real purpose of both programs is to facilitate finding candidates for research that will add NEW people to the Family Tree who have not been found or added previously. Puzzilla calls these people Research Targets. Of course, this means that the user of the program will have to do some work, but no one should ever assume that finding deceased relatives will be easy. There is sometimes a trade-off between quality, i.e. accuracy, and quantity. If you are merely looking for numbers of ordinances, you will soon move away from any considerations of quality. 

Signing into Puzzilla

In order to sign into the Puzzilla program, you need a account. If you have not signed in previously to, you will need to register. Here is a screenshot showing you where to click to Sign In and to Register.

Once you sign in, Puzzilla will draw a graphic representation of the people in your direct lines. The dots, representing your ancestors, are color coded in blue for male ancestors and red (or pink) for female ancestors. You can see a screenshot of my own startup screen above. On the left hand side of the screen, there are some slider switches that activate the additional features of the program. Here is a screenshot of the left-hand side of the screen.

Puzzilla selections showing default (free) choices

This screenshot shows the features available with the free program; those ancestors who died before the age of 16 (not likely with the initial view or they would not be your ancestor) and those who were born within the last 110 years. The grayed out selections are those added by the Premium version. Of course, this information is based on what is recorded in the Family Tree program and is only as accurate as what is recorded. It is good idea to approach any information in the Family Tree with a healthy degree of skepticism. 

You must look closely at the Puzzilla tree to see the designations for those relatives who were born within the last 110 years. You can use your screen's zoom function to look closer. 

The arrow shows the gray square dot representing an ancestor or relative born within the last 110 years. If you hover over the dots on the tree representing your ancestors, you will see pop-up information about each individual. If you click on the dots, the pop-up information will remain for your reference. Here is a screenshot showing one of the individuals in my tree:

You can explore these individuals further by clicking on the buttons to show this individual's Descendants or Ancestors. You can also view the individual in the Family Tree program. If you click on the button to show this person's descendants, you will see another graphical representation of that person's descendants such as this one:

The more dots you have in your diagram, the more people there are represented by those dots, in the Family Tree program. If you examine this diagram closely, you will see a yellow line indicating your direct line relationship with this person. You can choose how may generations up and down you want to show, but you have to realize that adding generations may add huge numbers of additional people. It is less confusing to focus the Puzzilla tree on a particular individual by clicking on that individual and viewing their particular tree diagram.

At this point, you may be surprised at the number of children who died before age 16 as shown by the yellow squares. This was a fact of life in earlier times and may help you to realize some of the difficulties suffered by your relatives.

If you are looking for ancestors/relatives who may need additional research and therefore may harbor possible additions to the FamilySearch Family Tree, you need to examine those lines where the person lived past the age of 16 and shows up as an end-of-line in the diagram. Here is a screenshot with arrows showing likely candidates.

I will zoom in on one of these possibilities.

If your motivation is to find candidates for Temple ordinances, you will see that this person was born in Australia, but died in Beaver, Beaver, Utah, United States. Because Beaver, Utah was settled by the Mormons, it is very likely that he was already a member of the Church and you will need to move backward in time to find an ancestor who was not a member. We can assume that if a person was a member, it is very likely, but not certain, that his or her descendants were also members. To find individuals and families who were not members, it is a good idea to start your search with a person who did not join the Church. This may require you to go back many generations. 

How you proceed from this point in using the program will be the subject of future posts in this series. I suggest you become very familiar with the basic or free program. There is a very good instructional video available on the website. See the link to the video under the How To menu item at the top of the pages. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Get Ready for the Worldwide Arbitration Event *LIVE*

FamilySearch is holding a worldwide Indexing Arbitration Event. The Arbitration Event will be held May 1st through 8th, 2015. Here is the announcement from the FamilySearch Blog.
More than six million indexed images containing valuable genealogical information are waiting to be arbitrated (reviewed and corrected) before they can be published and made available to family history researchers on Eliminating this backlog of needed records is the object of the first online Worldwide Arbitration Event sponsored by FamilySearch Indexingand scheduled for May 1-8, 2015. 
Volunteer arbitrators worldwide, and FamilySearch indexers who are qualified and willing to become arbitrators, are being called upon to help arbitrate the images which were previously indexed (transcribed) by indexing volunteers. In the FamilySearch indexing system, historical records are indexed by two different volunteers, then an experienced indexer known as an arbitrator reviews and corrects any discrepancies between the two indexers’ work. Only then can records be published for researchers on
As part of the announcement, there is a an explanation about the process of becoming an arbitrator for qualified Indexers. Here are the qualifications:
All indexers who have indexed at least 4,000 records are eligible to become arbitrators. Qualifying indexers who would like to participate as arbitrators should visit to learn how to get started. 
Following four essential tips will ensure volunteers are ready to submit high-quality arbitrated records during the Worldwide Arbitration Event: 
  1. Read the instructions. Read or re-read the field helps and project instructions for each arbitration project before beginning.
  2. Record match. Record matching ensures that arbitrators use a correct and fair comparison between the information recorded by indexer A and indexer B. For instructions, watch the video: “Arbitration Training – Record Matching,” which teaches how to complete this essential step in the indexing process.
  3. If possible, volunteers should index one or more batches from each project they plan to arbitrate during the event, then continue to index one batch for every ten they arbitrate. Indexing (and reviewing the instructions) will help arbitrators stay sharp.
  4. Arbitrate in native language. Accuracy is highest when volunteers work only in their native language. Unless they have received extensive training in a second language and are highly proficient in that language, or have been specifically trained to index certain types of records in a second language, volunteers should stick with projects in their native language.
For additional information, volunteers can visit

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ordinance Reservations to be Released After Two Years

A recent blog post from by Ron Tanner entitled, " Releasing Reservations After Two Years," makes the following statement:
Starting in the next few months the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will begin releasing user temple reservations that have been inactive for more than two years. If you have reservations that you haven’t been able to complete, now is a good time to share them with family members via email, or with the temple. 
Releasing inactive temple reservations has become a priority due to the large number of ordinances that currently fit that two-year window, and is in line with instruction from the First Presidency to ensure that temple work for ancestors is completed in a timely manner. There are nearly 12 million ordinance reservations held by FamilySearch patrons in Family Tree. Amazingly, 5% of FamilySearch patrons hold 60% of those reservations.
This issue has been one of the more constant background complaints about the Family Tree program since its inception. In fact, the complaints go back nearly ten years and began at the point, with when users could reserve names without arranging for the ordinances to be done in a timely fashion. It is not unusual to find reserved names dating back more than five years and some much longer than that.

One of the immediate concerns is that many of these individuals who are reserved, at least from my standpoint, are people with duplicate copies where the ordinances have already been done. This most frequently occurs when there is an obvious duplicate where the duplicate shows that the ordinances have already been done, but the duplicate cannot be merged. In these cases, the reservations were made to keep the ordinances from being done yet another time. Without allowing these individuals to be merged with their obvious duplicates, releasing the reservation will simply result in someone immediately performing the duplicate ordinances.

For some considerable time now, there has been a background discussion concerning the issue of putting a time limit on reservations. One of the concerns, has been the inability of some individuals to travel to the Temples. The concern arises, in part, from the issue of people doing ordinances for individuals to whom they are not related. For example, if I were preparing to go to the Temple and had entered my immediate ancestors into the Family Tree, I would have a concern that someone else, unregulated, would complete the ordinances before I had a chance to attend Temple. The very recent change in policy concerning reserving names for those who were born within the last 110 years, may have an impact on this particular issue. In the alternative, members could be encouraged to only enter their immediate ancestors into the program when they are prepared to go to the Temples and perform the ordinances. After watching a rather large family in the Brigham Young University Family History Library last night sit for hours clicking on green arrows trying to find names to take to the Temple, I am not encouraged with the prospect of preserving near relatives' unique position.

The blog post goes on to discuss what individuals can do in the face of the time limit. It is also unclear as to the rather substantial backlog of Temple Ready cards floating around out there. I can always remember one individual that I saw who had a rather large briefcase on wheels that was completely packed with thousands of printed Temple Ready cards.

As far as the time limit involved, I feel that two years is more than fair. The post suggests the following actions:

  • review your temple list
  • share with family members via email
  • share with the Temple
  • unreserve names
  • do nothing

You may wish to read this post carefully. You will note that a date for implementation of the rule has not been set or at least has not yet been released. However, it would be a good idea to communicate this information to any members who may have cards on reserve.

Monday, April 20, 2015

5 ways to avoid becoming upset with changes to the FamilySearch Family Tree

Very frequently the classes I teach devolve into a litany of complaints about the abuses of the Family Tree program. Complaints run the gamut from frustration with random and inaccurate changes to anger and sadness over blatant violations of the 110 Year Rule. I am not even vaguely interested in turning this, or any other blog, into a forum for complaints. I get enough unsolicited ones as it is. But I am interested in helping people understand how to deal with difficult situations that they cannot seem to overcome on their own.

Sometimes the complaints concerning a certain type of apparent problem are really only a lack of understanding of the functions of the program or are based on unreasonable expectations. But some of the difficulties stem from very complex issues involving the building of a mammoth database such as's Family Tree. I have commented on this issue and also provided some explanations in the form of videos. See the Brigham Young University (BYU) Video Channel.

The person complaining about problems with Family Tree is usually placing themselves in the position of being a "victim" rather than a participating actor in the program. Over the past few years, I have discovered that there are certain things that a proactive user can do to minimize the impact of irrational, random or otherwise unsubstantiated changes to the Family Tree. However, all such changes cannot be eliminated. After all, the Family Tree is a unified tree in which all users of the program can participate and make changes. My suggestions below, are intended to minimize the impact of those changes.

That said, here are my top five suggestions for avoiding the consequences of the abuses of the Family Tree.

 Number One:
The foremost way to minimize the impact of random changes made by people who do not understand the program, is to be careful to justify and add sources for every fact concerning your ancestors. This includes making corrections to the existing entries. Entries in the Family Tree, that have not been edited properly, such as those with multiple "birth names" in the Other Information category demonstrate a lack of involvement with the program. These "birth names" are merely indications of duplicate entries having been entered into the program. They only have value if they are in fact alternative names. Usually however they are merely variations in those names that have been entered previously and should be deleted to avoid confusion. Another indication of lack of attention to the entries is the obvious existence of duplicates. Both of these conditions invite additional unsubstantiated information. In addition, the more complete an entry concerning the Vital Information entered for an individual, the less likely that others are going to make changes. This is not always the case, but my experience is that the more complete the entries and the more edited the entry appears, the less likely there are to be irrational changes made.

Number two:
My second suggestion involves responding in detail and appropriately to changes being made. Before responding, it is important to evaluate the changes to make sure that the information being added is not in fact more accurate than your own information. Sometimes changes are an invitation to you to do additional research and you should avoid responding rather than acting emotionally and dismissing the change as inappropriate. To adequately respond to changes to the entries in a unified family tree program, you must act from the "higher ground." In this case, it is important that you have sources and substantiation for your position. It is not enough, to simply write a note to the other party making the change and say you are wrong and I am right. I fully realize, that even with overwhelming information involving specific sources, some people will refuse to accept your explanations. However, merely correcting the "errors" without adding additional explanations and sources asks for additional changes to be made.

Number three:
Suggestion number three involves being ready to endure a siege. One of my tactics for overcoming irrationality was to respond with a detailed explanation of my position. For example, many times during my legal career I was faced with a seemingly irrational demand or response. In these cases I would send a detailed letter outlining my position and requesting a correction. If I failed to get satisfaction, or if the same irrational demand was made, I would send the same letter along with a copy of my first letter. Each time I received an irrational response I would write a new letter and enclose all of the previous letters. Eventually, my response would be an entire packet of letters. I found that at some point the sheer volume of my responses broke through whatever level of irrationality was present. I am not advocating spamming participants in the Family Tree, but I am indicating that we all need to be persistent in responding to irrational changes. The idea here is to endure the siege. That means being prepared to continue to make the changes over and over again until the other party gets tired of the action or begins to listen to the explanations. My letter always began with the phrase, "As I indicated in my last letter(s), please see copy(ies) attached,..."

Number four:
This suggestion involves adopting an attitude towards the program that does not involve acting emotionally or personalizing changes made. If someone makes an irrational change to the Family Tree this does not mean that they are disagreeing with you personally. In fact, they have probably no idea of your existence. As I indicated in the previous suggestion, it is important to educate the person concerning the reasons why you feel the changes are inappropriate. But at the same time, it is equally important to avoid becoming emotionally involved, i.e. upset, with the changes. Think of the changes being made to the Family Tree program as you would about people making irrational moves in traffic. You can lean on your horn, scream out the window, make rude gestures and take other inappropriate actions or you can merely avoid getting killed and proceed with your driving. I suggest that the second course of action is much less intrusive into your personal well-being. Likewise, I suggest that you react to irrational changes in the Family Tree by unemotionally responding with appropriate explanations as I indicated previously.

Number five:
This last suggestion involves a situation where the changes are being made by FamilySearch. Presently, as I pointed out in previous posts, FamilySearch is still in the process of transferring the vast amount of information from the old program into the Family Tree. If your ancestors happen to be individuals whose information is still being added, you may as well wait a while until the process is completed before you try to make all the changes necessary to correct the data.

As a final note, I would suggest that you evaluate whether or not the changes are merely done because of ignorance or lack of understanding of the program or are they in fact a violation of one of the basic rules governing the operation of the Family Tree? If for example, the problem involves a violation of the 110 Year Rule,  it may be appropriate to report the abuse to FamilySearch.

Family historians who are used to maintain their own isolated individual program will likely become more emotionally involved in the changes than those of us who have been working online for many years and are used to irrationality. I think it is unwise, to get involved in "correcting" the actions of others without making the changes in a way that conveys the correct information. And as I indicate, this may need to be done repeatedly.

Tightening the 110 Year Rule

One of the most consistent complaints I field from day to day, concerns the blatant disregard for the 110 Year Rule for submitting ancestral names for Temple ordinances. There no other action accompanying the activities associated with the Family Tree that causes more hurt feelings and ill will than when unrelated people perform ordinances for people born within the last 110 years without permission. The Rule is clear:
110 Year Rule:

To do ordinances for a deceased person who was born in the last 110 years, the following requirements must be met.
The person must have been deceased for at least one year.
You must either be one of the closest living relatives, or you must obtain permission from one of the closest living relatives. If you are not a spouse, child, parent, or sibling of the deceased, please obtain permission from one of the closest living relatives before doing the ordinances. The closest living relatives are an undivorced spouse (the spouse to whom the individual was married when he or she died), an adult child, a parent, or a brother or sister.

Verbal approval is acceptable. Family members should work together to determine when the ordinances will be done and who will do them.
This last statement has NOW been modified. The current statement occurs above in yellow. I applaud the fact that the requirements have been substantially modified. This is a well deserved change and overdue. It is sad for me to hear all of the complaints. I hope this change helps to deter this tragic behavior in the future. It is further very sad that people would ignore the rule simply for the purpose of qualifying one more name.

I decided to give a few comments about how I select the topics for my posts. Over the course of a month, I will teach anywhere from about twenty or more classes at the Brigham Young University Family History Library or in other locations. Many of my blog topics come from the comments and questions raised in these classes. In this case, this particular complaint takes a number of different forms, but it is a consistent complaint and one that I received just yesterday in a class I taught at a Ward here in Provo, Utah. I all cases, I am careful to avoid discussing any specifics, especially the identities of the commentators. If I hear the same comment or question over and over, even though I do not conduct a "scientific" survey, I get a pretty good idea that the issue is a real problem.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My First Real Look at the New Interface for FamilySearch Family Tree

To my surprise, the new interface for the FamilySearch Family Tree finally showed up more or less permanently for me yesterday. I am guessing this is true since it is still here today. Some of the more obvious visual changes are as follows:

  • The additional information about ordinances, spouses and alternate parents visible when hovering over the entries has disappeared.
  • The icons for the families are larger and show the various suggestion icons previously only visible with the Descendancy View. 
  • You can turn the photos of the individuals off and on from a drop-down menu entitled "Show."

The entries show only the preferred wife with the preferred husband when there are multiple wives or husbands. Any choices about which husband/wife combination to show on the startup screen must be selected from the detail page of the preferred wife or husband. Here is a screenshot showing the preferred choice:

Showing the suggestion icons is the most significant change. I still think that the Descendancy View is more useful for suggesting research opportunities, but it is a big step to show the icons on the default view, now called the Landscape view rather than the "Traditional" view.

Here is a screenshot of the explanation of the research icons:

Without the addition of these icons, the changes would be superficially cosmetic, but the addition of the vital information conveyed by these icons is significant.

Another significant change is also generating a great deal of comment. That is that the procedures for reserving names, particularly for individuals who have been born within the past 110 years have been substantially made more restrictive. In some cases, it appears that reserving a name for anyone born within the last 110 years now requires written permission from the closest living relatives. I am also hearing accounts of disciplinary action being taken against members who willfully violate the rules.

FamilySearch Family Tree is rapidly moving towards resolution of the basic underlying problems caused by over 100 years of inconsistent family history submissions. There are still some areas that need to be resolved, but on some of my lines, I can now do some productive work. Good job FamilySearch!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

FamilySearch Family Tree is a Gift, Let's Not Misuse It

I have just gone through another round of working through issues caused by people indiscriminately adding names to the Family Tree with no concern for accuracy or any sense of propriety. This type of issue usually arises with someone's statement about adding thousands of names to the Family Tree in a very short period of time. Now, this may be possible in some very unusual cases, where a person has done extensive research on an ancestral line where very little prior work has been done, but my experience is that the large numbers most often come from unauthorized, individual, name extraction projects.

The hallmark of a name extraction project is collecting names without any pretense of putting individuals into validly documented family groups. Also, the names gathered are not verified as new to the Family Tree and are usually duplicates. These names commonly come from simply copying lists from existing books and other records, accepting the prior work done on its face without question. I have seen this happening with records that I inherited from my own ancestors. One of my relatives accumulated over 16,000 names during her lifetime, but only a much smaller number of these names were even arguably related to her.

Statements about the huge number of names submitted for Temple work, usually are accompanied by claims of lines going back to royalty. It would be interesting, if it could be done, (and I expect that it can be done) to isolate individual contributors who have entered a certain large number of records in a relatively short period of time and check to see exactly what they are doing. My guess is that you will find rampant disregard for sources and relationships.

This can be illustrated very easily from my own family lines on the Family Tree. Here is an interesting screenshot. By the way, I finally consistently got the new interface today, so I will be writing about it shortly.

I am looking at an Austin line. Stephen Austin II, (b. 1520, d. 1557 is shown to have married Margaret Wrigley (b. 1508, d. 1550) in Staplehurst, Kent, England. The source for this is listed as the "Austin and Rich Genealogy." Here is the complete source listing:

Austin and Rich genealogy Authors: Rich, Harold Austin, 1896- (Main Author) Format: Books/Monographs/Book on Film Language: English Publication: Washington [District of Columbia] : L.C. Photoduplication Service, 1984 Physical: 1 microfilm reel : ill., coats of arms, map. ; 35 mm. United States & Canada Film 1405320

In other words, the person who submitted this entry to the Family Tree blatantly admits having just copied the entries out a book. Here is the catalog entry for the book in the FamilySearch Catalog.

The catalog has the summary as follows:
Jonas (Jonah) Austin (1598-1683) emigrated from England to Newton (now Cambridge), Massachusetts, moving later to Hingham and then Taunton, Massachusetts. He married twice (once in England). Descendants and relatives lived chiefly in New England.
At this point, I am going to start using the Humphery-Smith, Cecil R. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Chichester: Phillimore, 1984. That shows the oldest known parish records for each parish in England.

Now it gets interesting. The first Austen (with an e) listed in my family line is a Mary Austen (b. 11 September 1603 in Goudhurst, Kent, England, d. none given) There are no sources given for Mary Austen in the Family Tree. Her father is supposed to be John Austen, (b. 9 February 1577 in Marden, Kent, England, d. 5 June 1631 in Goudhurst, Kent, England. This John Austen is listed with four different wives and at least 22 children.  The wives were all born in different places in Kent. So we begin to track the places where this line of people supposedly lived. We start in Goudhurst, then with the father who was supposedly born in Marden, hence to the Tenterden. The problem is that when we get to Tenterden and the birth of Richard Austin on the 19th of April 1544 in Tenterden, we have almost exhausted the parish registers. Both Goudhurst's and Marden's parish registers stop in 1558 and 1559. It is almost too convenient that the next Austin (with an i) in line is born in the last year that parish registers are available in Tenterden, quite a distance in that time period from either Goudhurst or Marden. So how do we get back one more generation with this family? We jump to the parish of Titchfield, Hampshire, England even outside of the same county, for Stephen Austin II, (b. 1520 in Titchfield, Hampshire, England, d. 17 November 1557 in Staplehurst, Kent, England. We have added two more parishes. Coincidently, the records in Staplehurst, Kent end in 1538 thus enabling us to move back one more generation. To make the connection, we have to jump to another county, Hampshire because, of course, we have run out of records in Kent.

Hampshire county is quite some distance from Kent, and interestingly, the records for Titchfield ended in 1589 so it must have been quite a feat to find Stephen Austin II's birthdate in 1520. His father Stephen Austin, (b. 1484 in Yalding, Kent, England, d. 17 November 1557 in Staplehurst, Kent, England) lived just long enough to die in Staplehurst a long way from his birth and the place where his son was born. At this point, we have come back to the book cited at the beginning of this search.

My conclusions. This whole line is fabricated from a series of people with similar surnames picked from counties and parishes where the records supposedly existed at the time. When the records ran out, the researchers just moved to a county with older records, picked up a similar surname and recorded the people who fell into the right time slot. The clincher in this theory? Yalding. A place known for its extensive records but according to the Phillimore Atlas, the records end in 1559.

To me, this is a classic example of a kluged pedigree. The researcher has simply chosen those individuals who fit from whatever parish was convenient. This particular Austin line finally ends in 1330 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England with the birth of Edward Austin.

Although this illustration is somewhat complicated, it illustrates the issue of name gathering. Plucking names from different parishes in England to make a pedigree. This is classic name extraction. Some name extractors do not even make a pretense of logic. They just throw the names together without checking if the conglomeration is logical.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Updates from FamilySearch

FamilySearch continues its furious pace of posting to its various blogs. Keeping up with the flow can be a major project. Here is a sample of the last couple of weeks worth of posts. Happy Reading!!
That's about it. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Revealing Look at the New Interface for FamilySearch Family Tree

I got a heads up from Amy Archibald about a post in her Revealing Roots and Branches blog. She has the new Family Tree interface and gives the most extensive review so far with numerous screenshots. Here are some of the features she covers:

  • New Welcome to FamilySearch Page
  • The What's This button
  • The Learn What to Do button (looks like a really valuable feature)
  • The What do I Look For button (another valuable feature)
  • Recommended Task link
  • Source Linker
  • Ancestor's Memories Tab sub tabs for photos, documents, audio and stories
  • Your Activity tab
  • Youth Temple Challenge
  • Your To-Do List
  • Your Statistics
  • Help Link

It looks like the new Interface is much more than a pretty face. It also looks like we will all have a lot more help from FamilySearch with the new links and tabs. Check out Amy's post for the details about each of the items in the list.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

People Not in the Family Tree!!

Why are individuals either in or not in the Family Tree? This may seem like an almost constant topic, but the question does come up continually and I find it necessary to repeat how the names get into the Family Tree program.

Where did the names come from? Unless you, yourself entered the names, they came from your relatives and ancestors. None of the names in the file come from "FamilySearch." All of them were and are user submitted. However, they were submitted in a variety of ways. For example, some of the names came from the Ancestral File. The names in this huge file came from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Somehow, an expectation has arisen among those not overly familiar with the Family Tree program that the Family is a source for "finding names to take to the Temple." In fact, there well may be some individuals in the Family Tree that have not yet had their ordinances completed. But the best source for finding such individuals is through doing new research and adding individuals who are not already in the tree.

There is no really fool-proof way to determine if a newly found individual is not already in the Family Tree. The best indicator that some one is already there is fact that the place they would occupy on the Family Tree is already filled with another individual's record. There is only one place (slot, entry, etc.) for each person. The idea behind the Family Tree is that each individual that ever lived would have a unique entry point on the Family Tree. If you add any one to the Family Tree without searching for duplicates, you are risking a very high probability that the person being entered is a duplicate of someone already in the Family Tree. Because of name variations and some uncertainty about dates and places, even a search for duplicates using the Find feature, will not always find every possible duplicate. For example, your newly discovered ancestor may be named "John Doe" but the Family Tree program already has that person with the name of "John" without a surname. How do you know if this is the same person? Essentially, you have to rely on the position of the person on the Family Tree and his relationships. If there is already a child in the family named "John" you would need to verify that the first one with the name died or establish some other reason why two people with the same name appear in the same family.

If I were to go through each of the Family Tree contributing databases (as I have in the past) we would see that there has been almost 150 years' worth of names already submitted and that people have been performing the ordinances for these individuals for most of that period of time. We should be truly surprised when an individual without his or her ordinances completed has escaped detection for all these years, contrary to the commonly held belief that the Family Tree is a source for finding names for the Temple.

This same line of reasoning applies to adding information to existing individuals in the Family Tree. Granted, some of the information is wrong and needs to be corrected. However, there is no need to "correct" information simply because what you have in your personal file differs from what is recorded online. There are a number of questions that you need to ask yourself before you change existing information in the Family Tree.

  1. Do I have a source for the information I am adding or "correcting?"
  2. Does the existing entry already have supporting sources?
  3. Have I examined each of the sources and evaluated the information?
  4. Does the information I am adding fit or appear more correct than the existing entries?
There are probably several more questions I could ask, but the point is that any changes to the program should be made only when you have a valid supporting source for the change and add the source to the individual's Detail Page when you make the change. You should also explain the why the change was made with an appropriate comment. Do not be surprised if your "change" is reversed or deleted by another user if you fail to justify what you did. 

As it turns out, this process of verifying the information and adding sources is fundamental to adding new people to the Family Tree that are validly qualified for ordinances. If you make a change simply because what you have in your file is different than what is already in the Family Tree, you are being irresponsible and unethical. But what if the information already in the Family Tree has no sources? The answer to that question is simple, unless you have a valid source supporting your own data, you have no business changing what is already in the Family Tree.

How do I go about finding new people to add to the Family Tree? The most efficient way is to examine the entries in the Family Tree for completeness, consistency and believability and then add sources for every individual. It is not the "source" that matters, it is the valid content of the source that has been properly evaluated that matters. As I have said in the past, by adding sources you will inevitably find people who have not been in the Family Tree previously. At the same time, you will be assisting in the process of cleaning up the Family Tree and verifying the existing entries. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

What happened to the new FamilySearch Family Tree Interface?

I have been getting a lot of questions lately about the new Family Tree interface. The main reason for this is that the interface is appearing and disappearing somewhat randomly. From my own personal use of the program, I have had the new interface for the Traditional View on the Family Tree show up three different times on different computers with different browsers only to have the new interface disappear shortly after.

It is my understanding that the new interface is being introduced in stages to a certain percentage of the FamilySearch users at a time. I heard that the first installment was for 5% of the users. So far, I have not heard why I would be getting access to the new interface intermittently. In a class of 20 or 30 people, one or two have had the new interface.

Here is a preview of the new interface from the Beta test website:

There are photos and the icons that now appear in the Descendancy View. Until I get the new interface consistently, I cannot really comment on how it works. So I will just have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, April 12, 2015 -- FamilySearch Partner Program

Part of the recent website partnership announcements made by that gave free access to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints included free access to the website. Registration for this website is essentially the same as that for all of the other free partnership websites. For a quick review of the process and the reasons for using these additional websites see my video, "A Closer Look at FamilySearch Partner Sites." falls into a new category of online family tree programs. The emphasis of the family tree in these newer programs is to establish a network of family members. The interface and the relative simplicity of the program will initially not be very attractive to established family historians, but the idea here is to engage those who are not technically involved in family research. The program provides a pleasant and engaging interface to the information in the Family Tree. The names and some details of my own ancestors came right into the program from the Family Tree but very little else. There were links for Memories and Records but none of the existing Memories or Record (Sources) seemed to come across from the Family Tree. The program seemed to import lines back to my Great-grandparents in some cases, but not in others where it stopped with my grandparents.

Using the Records link to search for records about my family was also not obviously helpful. The search results included only a surname and minimal information about the individual. Here is a screenshot of the search results for "Tanner."

There did not seem to be any way to add additional family members from the Family Tree, making this program a completely isolated copy of what was already available. I guess the program will be attractive to those who simply wish to talk about their family and add memories, but it is not yet a tool for doing any further research.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 Steps to Success in Family History

If you feel the need to find a family name to take to the Temple because of a Ward or Stake challenge or simply because of your own feelings, how do you go about finding a new ancestor who has not been found before?

The answer to this question is easily stated: you identify an ancestor or other relative by searching historical records, you then add them to the Family Tree and reserve the names of those needing Temple Ordinances. You then print off a Family Ordinance Request (FOR) and take that sheet to the Temple where the ordinance cards can be printed.

Getting to the point where you find an ancestor or other relative to add to the Family Tree is the challenge. With the new tools provided by, my experience is that you can be successful in finding new names for the Family Tree if you follow these five steps. For some, the challenge is greater than others due to particular family circumstances. But some obstacles such as those ancestors who are orphans, have children born out of wedlock or other such circumstances can, with effort, may possibly be overcome.

First some definitions. We refer to those from whom we are descended as our "ancestors." It is convenient to think of these people as those in your bloodline or as direct line ancestors. The word "relatives" is a more general term that includes all of those people who are related to you through both blood lines and marriage. Currently, the rules for submitting names to the Temple include the following: (See Individuals for whom I can request temple ordinances)
You are responsible to submit names of the following individuals:
  • Immediate family members
  • Direct-line ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, and their families).
You may also submit the names of the following individuals:
  • Biological, adoptive, and foster family lines connected to your family.
  • Collateral family lines (uncles, aunts, cousins, and their families).
  • Descendants of your ancestors.
  • Your own descendants.
  • Possible ancestors, meaning individuals who have a probable family relationship that cannot be verified because the records are inadequate, such as those who have the same last name and resided in the same area as your known ancestors.
You are also encouraged to follow the guidelines set forth in the letter from the First Presidency, which was read over the pulpit, dated February 29, 2012, it states, in part, "Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter." If you wish to perform temple work for a friend, or other person to whom you are not related, please contact Patron Services by phone, chat, or email. (See Individuals for whom I can request temple ordinances).

The key here is the term, "biological." All of those people who share a common ancestor with you are your cousins. Current policy allows you to take those individual's names to the Temple. Collateral relatives are the siblings of your direct line ancestors and their spouses and families. The definitions do not include the ancestors of the unrelated, i.e. non-blood line, family members. For example, you qualify your uncle, his wife and their children and other descendants, but you would not be related to the uncle's wife's parents.

I am setting forth the steps in an outline format. If you want a more detailed explanation of any of the steps, I suggest my blog post, "Get Help with the FamilySearch Family Tree, where I list many of the help resources available.

Here are the five steps:

Step One:
Open the Family Tree and look at the individuals shown to you in the traditional or landscape view. (FamilySearch is in the process of updated the traditional view to a new landscape view. You might see the older traditional view or the new landscape view). Examine your ancestors as shown in the family tree. Depending on when your ancestors joined the Church, you may have many generations of family members or very few. Become familiar with the families and your relation to them. Look at any photographs, read any stories and examine any documents you find in the FamilySearch Memories section. If you notice that you have any photos, stories or documents that are not already in the Family Tree Memories section, you should add them so they can be shared with members of your family. Go back, looking and examining the data for each family. Choose a family line you are interested in and go back to the first person in that line who joined the Church. For example, if your great-grandfather joined the Church, then go back one more generation to your great-great-grandfather. If you or your parents joined the Church, your search is over quickly.

Step Two: 
Examine the details page of each ancestor. Look carefully at the details shown. Ask yourself if the information is complete and accurate. Check birthdates, marriage dates and other events. Make sure all of the information makes sense. Was a child born before the mother? How old were the parents when they got married? Look to see if FamilySearch has suggested any record hints. If so, look at the records and make sure the hints apply to your ancestor. Attach the records to your ancestors. In doing this, you may find that there are family member listed in the documents who are not in the Family Tree. When you add them to the Family Tree, you should automatically search to see if there are duplicates already in the Family Tree. If there are duplicates, then merge the duplicates before reserving any names for Temple work. If your ancestral line on the Family Tree is very short, you should add sources to all of the people showing. You will very likely find additional people who are not listed.

Step Three:
View one of your ancestors in the Descendancy View. You can expand this view to see up to four generations at a time. Click through these lines and check the icons that are visible on the right. Add sources where they are suggested. Look for families that have only one or two children and verify that they really did have only these few children. Add any family members you find and search for duplicates. My experience is that with some effort, you will very likely find families that need additional research. Search for records for these families and you will find additional family members who need Temple ordinances. See my videos, Researching, How do I do it?  and Researching In-depth on

Step Four:
Continue to add sources to all of the people in your ancestry and their descendants on the Family Tree. Adding sources is the best and most efficient way to find relatives who are not already in the Family Tree.

Step Five:
If you find someone who needs Temple ordinances, make sure there are no duplicates of that person already in the Family Tree. It is possible that someone added in a duplicate and already did the ordinances. Check the Find Duplicates link on the individual's Detail Page, but also take a minute to search for the person using the Find link. Merge any duplicates you find. If the person still needs ordinances, reserve them immediately, even if you want to do more research before taking them to the Temple. If you add them to Family Tree, anyone working in the program can reserve their names. It is essentially first come - first served. Once you are satisfied, print the Family Ordinance Request Form and take that with you to the Temple to do the ordinances or share the ordinances with others in your family. See Sharing Ordinances with the Temple, Family, and Friends