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

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.


  1. I have found the easiest place to start with cleanup is using You can change the start person to anyone you want by adding /FSFTID at the end of the URL. Findarecord will find other errors as well and you can work through them family by family, person by person.

  2. This reminder is going into the Family Search lesson today!

  3. What I find so difficult about cleaning up is, I have to do extensive research to DISPROVE all the name variations, additional children and wives with various birth, marriage and death dates. I hesitate to delete an obvious error such as a child born after the mother died, without first having to do extensive research to be sure the correct death date is given; then research the child to be sure that birth date is, in fact, correct. It is very labor intensive to try and correct many many years of incorrect, poorly done research. It is not that I don't want to do this, it is just that it is sooooo time-consuming and I was not the one to cause this jumbled mess yet I feel I have been tasked with cleaning it up. Having worked in the temple office, I see from experience that as fast as I am trying to clean up the mess, there are still those adding to it ten-fold!

    1. I guess I never get to the point where I care that I was not the one who caused the mess. I didn't cause most of the world's problems but I still care and try to fix things when I can. :-)

  4. The duplicate names you find under "Other Information", if added by FamilySearch, it is a nifty way to tell you that an ordinance had been done within 7 days. To keep track of this, add the person's to your watch list, especially if you have them in "Shared with Temple system" list. This is a nifty way to tell the LDS members without tipping off the non-LDS. You can always delete the duplicates after updating your own database if others haven't got to them. Keep the Weekly Reports in separate folder so you can catch up later.

    1. I have had some experience dealing with the "FamilySearch" duplicate names. I don't consider it very nifty. I see it as part one of a two-part problem, that has yet to be solved by the folks at FS.

      Problem #1: After a temple ordinance is completed, "FamilySearch" adds REDUNDANT information (an alternate name that matches the record name). If they need to add this information, the least they could do is call it something other than "Birth Name". Perhaps, "Name when ordinances were completed" is more accurate. (The folks at FS have remarked that this feature helps when doing searches and finding duplicates, in case the record name gets changed. I tend to think there could be a better option.)

      Problem #2: When I noticed the redundant alternate name, I deleted it in several records ( makes it very easy to see which records have "identical names"). In some of the records, however, something VERY STRANGE happened after I deleted the redundant name. From what I can tell, the alternate name appearing right above the alternate name I just deleted BECAME THE RECORD NAME and also disappeared! And in the history it shows I changed the record name. Which I certainly did not! I only deleted the redundant alternate name.

      I've been on the phone for 1 1/2 hours so far with FS to explain this issue, but they need to be able to reproduce the problem. I don't understand all the reasons why sometimes the record name changed and sometimes it didn't.... so I'm frustrated and not sure I want to spend the time trying to fix it. I guess I'm posting here, to ask....

      Has anyone else noticed this issue?

    2. Thanks for your observations. I hadn't noticed that.