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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What are you going to do when all the green temple icons disappear?

Originally, these green temple icons were green arrows. When they were first introduced back in the days of or NFS, the green arrows were intended to indicate that LDS temple ordinances were available. Unfortunately, at that time, there were an unimaginably large number of duplicate entries in the database and the huge number of "green arrows," for the most part, merely indicated that there were duplicates. In most cases, the reason why the program picked up opportunities was due to the fact that one of the instances of an individual's record would be incomplete and show that ordinances were available even when they had really been done, sometimes many times. Also, the NFS program did not find or adequately combine records. Using the "green arrows" to indicate the need for ordinances resulted in massive duplication of effort. Some of my own ancestors had over 800 duplicates.

Fortunately, the NFS program was replaced by the Family Tree. However, for a number of years, the program shared the NFS database and the artificial limit that program imposed on the Family Tree resulted in the same issue: duplicates could not be merged and the new "green temple icons" were still indicating duplicate ordinance opportunities. The database problems between the two programs were finally resolved on June 27, 2016.

With the restructuring of the program in June of 2016, FamilySearch was able to overcome the limitations of the NFS program and we, as users, could finally merge the duplicates. That was the good news. Since that date, some of us have been merging literally thousands of duplicates. However, there seems to be an almost inexhaustible supply left to merge. In addition, FamilySearch implemented a process that would not let the temple ordinances be done if the program detected the existence of a duplicate entry. The bad news was that the detection program only worked if the duplicate was obvious.

The reality of the Family Tree is that there are still a huge number of duplicate entries. But that is only part of the challenge. The real challenge is that there is still a focused effort on the part of those who seem to be unfamiliar with this history and the way that the Family Tree program operates to promote finding "green temple icons" as a primary activity in becoming involved with the program and with "family history."

The basic issue with the Family Tree is two-fold. First, there is the residual problem of the duplicate entries. Second, there is the more challenging problem of the accuracy of the family links present in the Family Tree. So even if a "valid green temple icon" appears in one of your family lines, there is no way, short of doing extensive research, to determine whether or not that person is even related to you.

There are those who advocate finding and using the green temple icons on the assumption that any involvement with "family history" is a positive experience for the users, especially for new users, and therefore the duplication is an acceptable by-product and will ultimately result in an increased interest in submitting new names to the temples. But at the same time, we have some wonderful examples, primarily introduced by Mike Sandberg at RootsTech 2016, of how the work should proceed. See "Begin at the Beginning: Helping Others to Love Family History."

There are some of us who spend a tremendous amount of time working with the data in the Family Tree. We know how to find new people to add to the existing Family Tree database that are not duplicates or who are not imaginary ancestors who happen to have names that are similar to those in the Family Tree. But what about the green temple icons?

There are very few people who are adding authentically new names to the Family Tree that are leaving the temple work undone. Our family, for example, is organized online to share all the names found with the teenagers and others in the family who are visiting the temples regularly. The ordinances come from our research. When we find more than we can use, we are releasing those names to the temples. We are NOT leaving a trail of green temple icons. In addition, we are systematically incorporating all of the green temple icons we do find or merging and doing research until they disappear.

The results are that the green temple icons are becoming more and more scarce. When do those who are new to the Family Tree see these opportunities? When they add in their own relatives. When we sit down with someone who has not had a family in the Church for years, we can see their conversion to the process as we help them enter their family members into the Family Tree and reserve the newly added ancestors' ordinances. But simply showing a long-time member a green temple icon, seldom has the same effect. I have several people that I have walked through the process of finding names to take to the temple, following every step outlined by Mike Sandberg, and these members have never even bothered to do the work for the people when they have a green icon in front of them.

The results of what we are doing right now, almost every day, is that "green temple icons" are very rapidly becoming an endangered species. There is no real mechanism in place to replace the green temple icons as they disappear. In fact, we are not going to allow them to stay any longer than it takes us to find the few that are left.

So how about changing the thrust of the promotional efforts directed at green temple icons? How about promoting the program that is already online and available that is an effective way to use the Family Tree and which I have linked above?

We are adding hundreds and in time, thousands, of new names to the Family Tree. But we are not adding green temple icons. That is the reality.


  1. Like you, I regularly find far more temple names than I can possibly do myself or even that my immediate family members can do. Several months ago, I added a couple of families to the tree from some research I did. I left the green icons there unreserved, intending to go back and reserve them later, and then I forgot. A couple of weeks later I remembered and came back to those families and found that not only had someone reserved them, but most of the ordinances had been completed. The name of the person was vaguely familiar, so I asked my dad about it, and he said that it was one of his cousins. I contacted her, thanking her for getting those names done. Her response surprised me. She said that she had been hoping to find some family names for temple work for a long time, but didn't know how to find them. She was thrilled when she came into the Family Tree and found those names unreserved. She had gathered her children and her grandchildren together and they had all gone and done those names together, and it had been a special experience for them. Here was someone I didn't know personally and that I would never have thought to contact but a relative of mine who had done the temple work for names that I had found.
    Since that time, if I can't do the names I find myself in the near future, I do not immediately reserve the temple names that I find, I just leave the green icons there. A couple of weeks later I go back into the tree where I was working and share any names that are unreserved with the temple to ensure that the work is completed. 95% of the time, though, the names have been reserved by someone else and often portions of the work has already been completed. Sure, sometimes people don't do the ordinances that they reserve, but so many people are sharing names with the temple that they have a 3 year backlog of names on endowments anyway, so even if I share the names with the temple, they are not going to be done immediately either. I know where the places are in the tree where I have worked and FamilySearch releases the names periodically, so I can easily go back to those spots when they have a big name release and reserve them again if needed.
    In the meantime, perhaps I can give others the joy of finding their relatives and doing the temple work for them. There are many, many users of the Family Tree who don't have the research skills to find new names, but they do have the skills to click on the green icons and go to the temple and do the names. You say that you believe in the collaborative nature of the tree to get the research done, don't you believe also that the collaborative nature of the tree also helps to get the temple work done? Perhaps you may want to try leaving those green icons there unreserved for others to find and give it a test. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

    1. This is one of the best comments I have ever received. Thank you for taking the time to write. We are still in the position of doing the ordinances as a family. We have a large family and all that are over twelve attend the temple as frequently as they can. We can also share ordinances with our in laws and their families. But your idea of leaving some online is wonderful.