Monday, January 29, 2018
Ten Problems With Using Ordinance Crawlers
Ordinance crawler programs are those programs that purport to find temple ordinance opportunities by searching the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. I returned to this topic because a popular version of one of the programs was prominently mentioned more than once in talks given during a local Stake Conference meeting. Evidently, those advocating the use of these programs are unaware of the nature of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. All of the programs operate on the premise that the information in the Family Tree is correct and reliable. In fact, there is no basis for such an assumption. The accurate parts of the Family Tree are those where people have recently been working and correcting the existing information. These parts of the Family Tree are also the least likely to contain green icons indicating the availability of temple ordinance opportunities.
After attending the conference session, I went back to our apartment and downloaded the app mentioned in the talks. I ran the app for quite a while until it found the first reserved ordinance after examining 5888 names. The person found was already on my reserved list. As I began to analyze the situation, I decided there were, at least, ten good reasons why these programs were more of a problem than a solution. Here I go with my list of reasons why I think these programs are a very bad idea run amuck.
Now, I am not saying that these programs never find valid temple opportunities. There is always the possibility of finding a valid need for temple ordinances just sitting there in the Family Tree. But even if the opportunity appears to be valid, there are some issues that are not obvious and all such opportunities need to be validated.
1. The ordinance crawler programs all assume that the family links in the Family Tree are accurate which is not the case.
As I have written many times before, the Family Tree is a conglomeration of all of the family history work submitted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others outside of the Church for over 150 years. Over the past few years, those of us working on cleaning up the entries have spent a huge amount of time and effort correcting and adding sources to support the entries in the Family Tree. We are far from finished with this work of correcting the entries. Many of the entries and links between individuals, especially those dating back more than 200 years, are either inaccurate or simply entirely incorrect.
How do I know they are inaccurate? Because I can look at any portion of the Family Tree and go back on any ancestral line and fine totally inaccurate information including children born after the death of one or both parents, mothers having children at a very young age, such as three years old and so forth. Not all of these errors are marked by FamilySearch with red icons. Some of the errors are less obvious but only require a minimum amount of research to correct. One error connecting one child to the wrong parents can result in an entire ancestral line being wrong.
Note: As I was writing this post, I kept the ordinance crawler searching. The second name it found was descended from a person in the Family Tree who had two wives and ten children listed and every single child listed was born after the death date listed for the father.
2. Ordinance crawler programs tie up online resources that could better be used to speed up the FamilySearch.org website on Sundays and other days.
What the developers and users of ordinance crawler programs do not realize is that their programs use up a huge amount of computer resources continually searching through thousands of names. This is one contributing factor to the "slow down" seen while using the FamilySearch.org website on Sunday afternoons. Some of these programs search the Family Tree for hours at a time.
3. The ordinance crawler programs are a substitute for research that would add individuals and families to the Family Tree.
I have taken the time to research some of the names supplied to me by the ordinance crawler programs. In every case, I find unverified or obviously wrong links leading up to the conclusion that I am related to the specific individual found by the program. This may not be true for some users, especially if the links shown are quite recent and if relatively few of the ancestral links have been discovered previously. But the real tragedy here is the fact that additional research usually corrects the deficiencies and provides more viable and supported and entirely new people to add to the Family Tree. This is an opportunity lost on those who are fixated on finding the "easy" names which are usually unrelated to the person using the ordinance crawler.
4. Because they present the Family Tree as a place to look for ordinance opportunities, the ordinance crawlers discourage real research.
As I examine each of the ordinance crawler programs, I note that there is no mention by the programs of the fact that research into original, historical records will produce many more opportunities than the superficial ones that are already on the Family Tree. Since our family has been coordinating research into historical records, many of which are now available online, we have added hundreds perhaps thousands of people to the Family Tree. Each of these additions is completely supported by sources to carefully examined historical records. Clicking on the start button of an ordinance crawler is no substitute for actual research.
5. The number of ordinance opportunities that are "just waiting" for someone to find are decreasing every day.
I was able to do research and find so many temple ordinance opportunities that recently I began unreserving the names on the temple list so that others who could find validly researched names to take to the temples. But even with this type of addition to the "green icons" with the ordinance crawlers allow people to harvest hundreds of names at a time, the number of green icons is dramatically being reduced. What will happen when the programs cannot magically produce green icons?
6. There is no emotional connection to a person who is only known by a line of unfamiliar relatives.
If one of the purposes for doing genealogical research is to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, how can this happen when the name is simply produced with a line chart showing a distant relationship? Attending the temple can be an uplifting experience but taking a name that is produced by a program does not particularly add to the experience.
7. Ordinance crawlers reinforce the idea that FamilySearch somehow manufactures temple opportunities.
It is not unusual for me to talk to members of the Church that somehow have the impression that FamilySearch is doing all the work to locate their ancestors. We have had people come into a Family History Center and ask to see their family tree, expecting that someone somehow has already done the work. This idea is reinforced by ordinance crawlers that give the impression that FamilySearch or someone else is doing all the work and, of course, they don't have to do anything but click and print.
8. Many of the ordinance crawler apps are commercially created and involve an advanced fee-based level.
FamilySearch.org is a free program. There is absolutely nothing wrong with add-on programs that are commercially based and charge a purchase price or annual fee, but for a Church leader to tacitly endorse such a program in a Church meeting seems to contrary to the intent and spirit of doing ordinance work in the temples. Most of the ordinance crawlers have a free component, but most have an advanced version that costs money. I think this distracts from the entire concept of FamilySearch as a free program.
9. Ordinance crawlers are not like training wheels on a bicycle, there is no incentive to learn or do more.
There is an undercurrent of ideas about family history that it can be caught like a cold or the flu. You don't catch a case of family history. Competent researchers may have a variety of backgrounds but they have some things in common. They all have a desire to strive for perfection and a large measure of tenacity and persistence. They also spend years and decades doing research. Some learn to read foreign languages and old handwriting. Others become familiar with obscure record sets. Trying to make genealogy/family history into a simple activity that can be done with no preparation and little or no effort denigrates the time and effort spent by these valuable human resources. Why should I spend a year of my life digitizing records so someone can ignore those same records and find a name to take to the temple in a few minutes with no involvement in the records I digitized?
10. Let's face it family history is a difficult, time-consuming avocation. It is a disservice to our tradition as family historians to reduce the activity to a mindless clicking of buttons.
Do I sound put out? I hope so. Enough said.