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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Family Tree as a repository for your genealogy

Inevitably, when I write about FamilySearch Family Tree or when I previously wrote about New.FamilySearch.org, I get a comment or two accusing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of some ulterior motive or wrongful actions with respect to the information on the FamilySearch.org website or related sites. I am amazed that there is so much residual anti-Mormon sentiment out there, even among genealogists who ought to know better.

I am absolutely certain that there are a number of people out there in genealogical community that will not only avoid Family Tree, but will vilify the sponsor for deigning to foist such a nefarious scheme on the genealogical community. At the heart of this ill will is a misunderstanding of the Church's teachings and practices concerning proxy Temple ordinances, such as baptism, for deceased relatives.

To the extent I am able to do so, let me set the record straight. I do not speak for the Church, I speak for myself. Individual Church members may not follow Church policy regarding those deceased individuals who qualify for proxy ordinances. But the policy is clear. On February 29, 2012, the Office of the First Presidency of the Church issued a Statement to the Members of the Church reiterating a policy first stated in 1995. Here is a link to the document. The document is publicly available in the Help section of FamilySearch.org if you search for "proxy ordinances policy."  The key phrase in this statement is that "Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter."

Family Tree will become the first successful unified online family tree. Unlike the fragmented trees on other websites, with a separate tree for each submitter, the Family Tree will bring together all of the copies of your family tree in one location. Further, unlike other large online family tree sites, you will never have to pay an annual fee to keep your information online. If you are still concerned about the Mormons stealing your information, you need to realize that you are likely related to a Mormon or may soon be and there is no reason why "your" genealogy might not end up in Family Tree after all, even if you decide you are too concerned about the Mormons to allow your genealogy to be entered.

It would be pretty funny, if the people worried about their genealogy were not so serious. Think about it. Suppose you put your genealogy on Ancestry.com. What is to stop some "Mormon" from taking your information off of Ancestry.com? Do you think your ancestry is private? Don't we all have access to the same source documents that you do? If I wanted to do so, couldn't I do a pedigree for you (whoever you are?) and submit your ancestors for proxy ordinances? Assuming of course, that I followed the policy of the Church and were related to you? What is the big deal?

So, if you want to ignore Family Tree for whatever prejudicial reason you may harbor, that is your business. But it is also your loss.

2 comments:

  1. James,
    I agree with your post. I have found that many people have a fear of belief systems other than their own. I am sorry, but it is probably true that the rest of us must just put up with those people. (By the way, I am Presbyterian — which is "less different" — but I meet such disagreements also.)
    Unfortunately, I have had some unhappy experiences with some youthful missionaries from LDS during the sixties. In my case, I have not let this color my reactions to other people that I meet. But it may be that some of this "aversion" to Family Search may spring from people that have had such prior experiences. "Guilt by association" is unfair and probably unChristian, but people will apply it.
    I am not condoning the adverse reactions, merely seeking to supply a different angle as we look at it.
    Even if the first "one-eyed purple people eater" I meet is rude to me, I will endeavor to be polite to the next one, as long as they continue to be polite to me. Unfortunately, not all people are willing to be polite.

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  2. I am surprised to hear that Sue had "unhappy" experiences with LDS missionaries. I am not LDS and I have never met a rude missionary. Those who have come to my door and whom I have met in other venues have always been exceptionally polite and well-mannered. In my 30-plus years of doing genealogy, I can't recall a single incidence of rudeness from any Mormon in any situation, and doing genealogy, you get to know LOTS of Mormons. :) Few try to proselytize and all stop at once as soon as they see that you're not interested. "Guilt by association" is not only "unfair" and "unChristian", it's ugly prejudice and bigotry. How can one presume to judge millions of people from interactions with one or two who share the same religion?

    James, I find it truly sad that you have felt compelled to write at least 2 posts about this phenomenon of people suspicious of FamilySearch Family Tree. What in the world do they think the Mormon Church is going to do with that information?? In the old pre-Internet days, I was glad to find Mormon cousins because that meant some of the research may have already been done. I have always been very grateful to the LDS church for the wonderful free access and help provided to everyone, no matter what their religion. And as for proxy baptisms, etc., what's the problem? As a Jew, yes, I was offended by the mass proxy baptism of Holocaust victims years ago, but finding ancestors who have been baptized by distant cousins doesn't bother me at all. If I don't believe in it, how is it affecting me in any way?

    I am excited by the possibilities of Family Tree. So far, it takes a lot of effort to try to correct the mistakes, but I think in the long run, it's going to be worth it since sources can be added so easily. That should help keep at least some people from changing the corrected info back to the incorrect (I hope!).

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