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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beyond Green Arrows and Temple Icons

Doing family history is a composite skill. It requires a number of acquired skill components including computer skills, research skills, language skills and others. Moreover, doing your family history takes time and effort.

What do I mean when I say "doing your family history?" This is a shorthand way of referring to the process of accumulating information about your ancestral family. I often hear comments about how doing your family history is so much easier now that it was in the past. However, the "easy" parts of family history have already been done for many people. Even if you have never done one day of family history in your life, you can go onto a program such as and enter a very minimal amount of information about your parents and grandparents and, in most cases, the program will provide dozens of relatives.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been taught repeatedly about the importance of doing their family history with the goal of providing the names of real individuals who qualify for Temple ordinances. Why then is there a problem? The answer is that you actually have to do it. That is, you have to begin and learn some skills to find your ancestors. It is this time and effort component that is the main obstacle. Here is a quote from the October, 2014 General Conference from Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy:
However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work. All it requires is a decision and a little effort. It does not require a large block of time. Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield the joy of the work. Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you. They will! The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for “the book.”
The reference to "the book" is found in Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 and 24.

Many members of the Church are convinced that their "work is all done." This misimpression is fairly common and comes from the idea that family history is something that can be done or finished. Quite simply, family history is never finished. There are always opportunities to do more research. I may have adequately documented my parents, but in each generation, there are twice as many direct line ancestors. At some point, in every pedigree, the information is no longer accurate. In addition, by using the newly developed tools of descendancy research, each of those verified ancestors becomes a point to begin research on their descendants. Those descendants can be numbered in the millions.

What about involving the youth? Most Wards and Stakes in the Church have not yet begun to involve their youth in family history. The youth are often told that all they have to do is log in to the Family Tree and find a name to take to the Temple. The problem is that the available green icons are getting scarce and the green icons that do announce available ordinances are coming with qualifications about obtaining additional information. At the same time, the youth are not receiving consistent help in doing actual research beyond searching through the Family Tree for opportunities. In some cases, there may be opportunities available but the links are faulty due to data issues. Here is an example from a screenshot of the Family Tree:

Here the wife of the main ancestor has a red icon data issue and an obvious duplicate. This calls into question the accuracy of any of the "descendants" shown on this view. In fact, lower down on the screen, there is a green icon. Here is another screenshot of the same descendancy view:

When I click on the green icon, I get the following message:

I suggest that anyone, youth included, needs to be taught what this means and how to proceed. It is not much consolation to simply tell the youth or anyone else to just keep looking and they will find someone. We are at a crossroads, either we will begin to teach the program or we will see a decline in the participation of the youth and others. I hope I am wrong.

1 comment:

  1. My mother and I are both consultants in our wards and have felt the same frustration. We want the youth to have early success as they get started, but often the goal is to "find a name." It's not usually possible for most youth to find a name within the hour and a half they are given at mutual, and if they do find one, there's no way of knowing they are actually cousins because their ancestral lines haven't been verified. We are both leaning more toward teaching the youth simple tasks they can do such as cleaning up the tree and adding record hints and stories for their ancestors as they get started. I think that if they start with a prayer and hope to learn how to do family history, they will find names as they go along. I love the quote by Alan F. Packer that you referenced.