Finding Ancestors to Submit to the Temple


In last week’s post we discussed a few common reasons many LDS members think that their genealogy has been done and why this is probably not true. This week, I wanted to discuss a tried and true method that I’ve used to find my own ancestors as well as help other members find their ancestors.

Many people want to start doing family history research, but don’t know how to start  — so they never do.  Or, it is so overwhelming to them they never try.  If you or your family come from pioneer stock, you might think all temple work has been done for your family — so you don’t think you can find names to take to the temple.  If you fall into anyone of these categories, this post is for you.  I’ll show you some simple steps you can follow to find relatives needing temple work and then take them to the temple.

As an introduction, I would like to compare finding relatives to submit for temple work to fishing. Good fisherman know very well how to (obviously) and where to catch fish. The really good fisherman have “secret fishing spots” where the fishing is ridiculously amazing. They don’t often tell everyone where these spots are for fear of ruining the spot.  The method I’m about to describe will show you where the “good fishing” is for family history work and how to have a productive fishing trip once you arrive.

The method that works for me is heavily based on “descendancy research.”  Most people starting out in genealogy start researching their direct ancestors (and families). With this more traditional type of research, you start with an individual and work back until you can’t research a line any further (and hit what genealogists affectionately call “brick walls”). Descendancy research is the exact opposite:  You start with an ancestor as far back as you can go (provided you have verified that the research is accurate and they are really related to you), and start researching their descendants until you can’t research anymore. 

Most of the large web-based genealogical sites (,, etc.) have what is called a “descendancy view” to help researchers view the descendants of of an individual.  Another common site to use is has an excellent demo about how descendancy research works on FamilySearch (using the site’s “descendancy view”):

Here is my method of doing “descendancy research” to find relatives to take to the temple. 3/4 sides of my family came from Utah pioneers, so this has been helpful to me.

  1. Download or print out a fan chart from  I like using importing my FamilySearch data (or using a Gedcom file from family history software) using TreeSeek (free).  I like TreeSeek because you can create larger fan charts (9 generations back instead of 5 with FamilySearch).  I usually get a “blueprint” sized version printed from a local print shop (I like to hang it up on the wall after), but 8.5 by 11” paper is fine too.  For this purpose, don’t spend a lot on expensive paper because we’re going to mark it up.
  2. For each side of your family, determine which ancestor was the first generation to join the church.  I highlight mine in yellow on the copy of the fan chart.  You will notice at this point that between you and this ancestor, there is a pretty good chance that all the temple work has been done for this line (direct ancestors and their children).fanchart
  3. For each ancestor you have that meets this criteria, you are going to want to make a list of their names, their siblings, their parents, and their parent’s siblings (along with their FamilySearch IDs).
  4. With each individual on your list:
  • Verify through sources, that the person is actually existed and is related to you.
  • Check for duplicates on FamilySearch and merge records if applicable.
  • Check the individual’s, temple work to see if it has been completed. If there is a legitimate need, reserve the temple work.
  • Go to the next name on the list you completed in #3 and repeat these steps in #4 until you run out of names.

You should find that you are able to find names of people born between the years of 1830 and 1906. You also need to know that FamilySearch will not have every descendant of your ancestor in its databases. There is no substitute for good old fashioned research to find relatives (in non-digitized or indexed records, paper records, etc.) that you likely will need to enter into FamilySearch to get the temple work done.

In conclusion, “descendancy research” is one of the more fruitful methods for finding relatives needing temple work. It allows LDS members to find, research, and discover things/people in their family trees that have been long forgotten.

For more information and a ton more resources about descendancy research, I would recommend downloading a syllabus to a RootsTech class that Mr. Ron Tanner of presented in 2015 entitled, “How to Find Your Cousins on”  As a side note: if you ever get a chance to hear Mr. Tanner present, he’s a great presenter, knows his stuff, and is pretty entertaining.


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