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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Assessing the Health of Entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree

If you go to a doctor for a health checkup, usually a nurse or assistant to the doctor will take your vital signs. These may include weight, height, blood pressure, blood work and possibly other physical tests. Usually, the doctor will then spend a few minutes going over the status of your health. However, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should also be able to take the "vital signs" of our portion of the Family Tree. We might find that our part of the Family Tree is overweight and in need of a diet or has some functional issues that require immediate intervention and perhaps even major surgery. We may also find that our part of the Family Tree is exceedingly anemic and needs some supplemental vitamins and minerals.

What are these vital signs that we need to look for in our portion of the Family Tree?

Some of the symptoms are rather obvious. Here is one example of a Family Tree that is seriously overweight.

This long series of people is pure fat. Those purple icons indicate that no sources have been added and that this flight of sugary fancy going off into the 12th Century has no real basis.

This part of the Family Tree needs to go on a strict diet of research, starting back where the last supporting sources end. It might be painful, but in the end, all of this fat has to be turned to muscle or lost. 

If you look around a bit, you might find some more serious indications of a serious illness in your part of the Family Tree. Here is another obvious indication.

Those red icons may be an indication of a life-threatening disease. Here is what one of those icons has to say.

These conditions merit immediate attention, not just because of the substance of the warning, but because of the danger that the condition indicates some more serious health problems such as genealogical cancer or heart failure. None of the surrounding information in the Family Tree can be relied upon when these warning signs appear. 

Aren't there other warning signs of ill health in the Family Tree that are less serious? Of course, here is a screenshot of some less obvious indicators of ill health.

Here, the Family Tree appears to be healthy, but a close examination reveals some problems. Some of the more obvious indications include the fact that the health of this portion of the Family Tree has been neglected. There is a lack of standardization in the dates and places. The places include non-standard parentheses and the dates are abbreviated. These are both clear indicators of ill health. The blue icons indicate that some of the entries are in need of immediate nourishment and supplement. We don't really have to go much further in our examination to see that there may some serious consequences to any further growth in the Family Tree without some genealogical intervention. If this is allowed to continue, this portion of the Family Tree could be looking at a transplant or an amputation. 

Let me put that last paragraph into genealogical language rather than using my extended medical analogy. The dates and places in the Family Tree are used by the program to determine the identity of the person when doing searches for additional records supporting the entries. If the entries are incomplete (abbreviated) or have extraneous characters such as the place name in parenthesis, then the program may not be able to use the information. Additionally, these incomplete or non-standard entries indicate that no one with some training in the Family Tree has looked at this part of the Family Tree for many years, likely since the original entries were extracted from paper-based records. The information showing in the Family Tree may be incomplete or even inaccurate. The subsequent entries could be to people who are really unrelated which means that research might reveal that the line ends here or that a whole new line is necessary. 

Here is another example of a portion of the Family Tree that is in serious ill health. 

 In this case, the indications of ill health are more obscure. The purple icons indicate that there are no sources, but the blue icons suggest further record hints and possible sources. The issue here is less obvious because the health of the Family Tree at this point appears to be viable, but in reality, the patient has already died. If is necessary to make a closer observation to determine the reasons for the demise. Here is one of those indicators.

To ascertain the problem with this entry, we have to go well beyond a superficial examination. We have to do some checking of the dates and places. First, we need to examine the sources. Here is a screenshot of the sources.

Even though a superficial examination disclosed "three" sources, in reality, there are no sources. There is no real connection between the source and any ascertainable person. The first two sources listed are really duplicated. Here is what these two "sources" show.

There is nothing here to show an actual birth place. The third "source" listed is not a source at all but a reference to someone's family tree. How did the entry get a specific birthplace in Virginia?

Let's look at the date; 1675. Now, using that date, let's look at the place; Goochland, Goochland, Virginia. A quick check with a Google search shows us that Goochland County was formed in 1728 from Henrico Shire and was named after the royal lieutenant governor from 1727 to 1749. See Wikipedia: Goochland County, Virginia. So, the name of the places could not have been known in 1675. So where was this person born? With a common name such as "James Turner," how do we know if we have the right person. This closer examination has confirmed my earlier diagnosis that this person was not only physically dead but virtually and historically dead also. These entries in the Family Tree are pure fantasy. 

A good Family Tree diagnostician can spot these signs of illness and death. But unfortunately, many of us are operating among the sick and dying portions of the Family Tree without ever going to the doctor to find out what is wrong. 


  1. How do you help people who are new to family history and have problems like these (or even more minor errors) in their tree to get started? Do you have them start by fixing the problems? Is that a discouraging starting place?

    1. Well, you do have to know about the problems. But as Temple and Family History Consultants, the place to start is on Temple and Family History Consultant See There is a specific training video for members. You also learn to use using The Family History Guide See

    2. The main goal is set forth in the page Principles for Helping Others. See