I’ve heard it said more than few times and in a few different settings that a LDS member’s genealogy and family history has all been done. I kind of cringe a little bit inside when I hear this. This just can’t be true (no matter how strong you think your argument is)! Read on and I’ll try to convince you… The purpose of this article is to point out a few reasons why family history and genealogy is still important and relevant to all LDS members. Here are a few common reasons people give me of why their family history and genealogy is done:
Reason #1: I have a genealogy enthusiast (or more likely a genealogy zealot in the form of a distant “Great Aunt Francine”) for a relative and assume that based on that person’s enthusiasm, it really all has been done.
The concern here is with the quality and accuracy of the research (no offense to Francine). How confident are you that the long held traditions of your family history are correct? Is your pedigree chart backed up with records, facts, and sources? Some people add names to their family tree (and even submit temple work) without verifying the relationship of the name to their family. Even worse, if something like this happened 50 or 75 years ago (and the wrong information has been taken as fact and copied over and over again all that time) — it is easy to think it is the truth. However, that doesn’t make that research true (now or then).
Also, not all researchers are equally prepared when they embark on this work. Family historians and genealogists differ in experience, skill, and diligence in accurately documenting their work. Several genealogical organizations offer certification and professional industry standards that can be followed in your own research.
But why does it matter? If one of the four pillars of the LDS Church’s mission is to “redeem the dead,” we really should take our work seriously and strive to be as accurate and professional as possible. Our ancestors deserve it. Our kids and other relatives deserve it too (so they can accurately and efficiency start where we leave off). It’s your family, so at the end of the day it’s your responsibility to make sure everything is as accurate as possible.
Another reason: New records have been and are currently being digitized and added to online databases. The records and resources we have today are exponentially more than great aunt Francine ever had. Important things (and people) may have been missed by past family historians.
Reason #2: My genealogy or family history is complete because it appears that everywhere you look (most likely on Family Search), the temple work for all their direct relatives and families has been done.
I must disclose here that I really like FamilySearch.org and I think it’s pretty awesome. It has records other genealogy companies can only dream about and is completely free to anyone. However, it does have weaknesses and LDS researchers need to understand what they are:
- Anyone can edit records on the FamilySearch Tree. The FamilySearch Tree is almost like the Wikipedia of the genealogy industry. I’m not arguing Wikipedia isn’t a very powerful resource — it’s just hard to take information at its word without additional research. It’s also really annoying when others change your changes (and it’s obvious it wasn’t fact based). FamilySearch has been attempting to get people to attach sources though — which has been helpful.
- FamilySearch is only as good as the records entered into it. And from my own experience, not all records of my family tree have been added in. It takes research outside of the system to verify all family members are accounted for in FamilySearch. It’s not the one stop family history shop or record repository.
Reason #3: I’m Mormon, my family is Mormon, and we always have been Mormon. Mormons love genealogy and so there is no way that my genealogy is incomplete (or something like that).
Mormons definitely do not have the corner on family history and genealogy. It has been my experience that a person’s genealogy from the time a person’s ancestors enter the church to the present day has been done over and over and over. But, the generation before that and all of their descendants usually haven’t had their genealogies recorded or their temple work done (which could end up being thousands or tens of thousands of relatives). Mathematically, it’s nearly impossible all of your genealogy is done!
One more example: I heard an interesting experience at the 2016 roots tech conference (during a DNA class). A LDS member discovered (after getting his DNA tested) that his traditional Mormon pedigree was incorrect prior to his family arriving in the intermountain west. Apparently while traveling west, many parents died along the way and their small children left behind were adopted by other Mormon pioneer families (and records regarding what happened are now rare or not existent). How important it is to check your family’s traditional research using modern tools.
In conclusion, I hope this post has expanded your scope on how much can be done for your family history and genealogy and inspired you in some way. There is so much to do! As a start, I encourage you to take a look at your family tree to see what proof you have of what is listed in your genealogical database files.
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