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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Fate of the Green Icons: A FamilySearch Family Tree Challenge

Back on December 22, 2016, I wrote a blog post entitled, "What are you going to do when all the green temple icons disappear?" Just recently, I tried out a new program from the BYU Family History Technology Lab called Descendancy Explorer. The idea of the program is to search your extended Family Tree for "cousins" that need temple ordinances, i.e. green temple icons.

Admittedly, I am not a good test case for this type of process but the program searched over 6000 of my relatives and was only able to find 11 possible opportunities and as I further pointed out, these "opportunities" very likely involved complex research issues and likely were not related to me at all.

When I do research, I do find names to take to the temple. Perhaps, my function is to find those names and then leave the green icons to be "discovered" by others? But this is not the idea of the Find, Take and Teach system that is currently being implemented. From my perspective, clicking through a bunch of names of people you do not know about and do not know if they are related is no different that taking a random name to the Temple. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the people who find these green icons are not especially motivated to do any more work.

In this screenshot, the dark blue temple icons represent ordinances that have been "reserved" but not printed. I have heard that there are people who have reserved tens (hundreds) of thousands of names, far more than it would ever be possible for one person or even a large family to complete. What incentive do I have to "share" my green temple icons with others when I see all these names being hoarded by others? For example, when I click on one of those dark blue icons and then continue to click, I find that the reserved name dates back to 2014. We are not talking here about precocious teenagers, we are talking about dedicated hoarders. 

The tragedy of this situation is that I can focus on the blue icons and use them as a guide to where I need to do some research. Frequently, with more research, the reserved ordinances evaporate and are replaced by valid ones that do not represent either fictitious people or duplicates. What is the solution?

One solution is the need to impose rather strict limitations on the number of reserved ordinances from any one person. In this, I mean 100 or less. If they want to do more or can, then the names should be shared with the temples. There are people who have done everything they can to find additional family names without success. These people can help by going to the temples and helping those of us with a surplus. But if the hoarders simply pile up thousands of names we have to wait until the passage of two years and then what is to keep the hoarders from simply going in and reserving them all again. 

For some of us, the Family Tree represents an unlimited supply of names to take to the temples. For others, the well is dry. Let's start developing programs that incentivize real research and at the same time promote sharing names with others. Let's do something to prevent the names from being gobbled up by the hoarders. 


  1. The one part of the problem you have missed is that some of the people who go through looking for names and reserve them HAVE shared them with the temple and they sit there for years before they are actually printed. I have a family of documented direct ancestors for whom the temple work has been sitting there with red boxes on endowments "Shared Not Printed" and the date it was shared with the temple is 2012. How long does it take for the temples to get to these names? I tried sending a message to the person who reserved and shared them and got no response. Is there a way I can get FamilySearch to release them so I can do the endowments? My husband and I work at the Houston Temple, so we could get them done very quickly.

    1. You point out another of the issues facing the Family Tree. I suppose that the solution, from the Church's standpoint, is to build more temples and increase temple attendance.

    2. In reading the help sections on FamilySearch, I think you can request ordinances to be released if they have been reserved for a long time with the temple and the person who reserved them is not responding.

    3. In reading a recent comment from one of the programmers, they are working on many of the changes that you are suggesting. They will be putting a limit on the number of names one person can reserve, release names more often that aren't done in a timely manner, and making it possible to reserve names that others have shared with the temple. These are big policy changes that take time to make, but they are on the horizon.

    4. These are long standing issues that go back years and I suppose it is now time to do something about the problems.