Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Duplications in New FamilySearch

In past posts, I have been discussing some of my impressions of the New FamilySearch program. Admittedly, New FamilySearch has a limited number of users, only those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) that have registered and can register. At the present time, the last few English speaking Temple Districts are being scheduled for access.

I do not have any official connection with FamilySearch. I do not have any particular inside knowledge of New FamilySearch other than that obtained through official channels and through blogs and the news media. I have used the program extensively for over two years and my impression are my own. But I would have to add that many, many of the knowledgeable users I associate with have the same opinions.

Back in the October, 2005 LDS Conference, then President Gordon B. Hinckley states, "One of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity is that as we get more and more temples scattered across the earth there is duplication of effort in proxy work. People in various nations simultaneously work on the same family lines and come up with the same names." New FamilySearch was originally intended to address this serious problem of duplication of effort. This is not a new problem, in 1934, President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
Temple work should not be done in a haphazard or disorderly way. Those who labor for the dead should endeavor to prepare their records in an orderly and systematic manner. Let each family do the work for their own kindred, and if they do work for others, it must be at the instance and with the consent of the living relatives who are immediately concerned. No person has a right to select names for other than their own family and go to the temple to perform the work for them. This cannot be tolerated, for it would lead to confusion and duplication of work. When names are copied in an improper way and incomplete records are sent to the temples. but one thing will be the result--confusion. The compilers of records should try to find the information so that records can be made in family groups with all the necessary data for correct identification. When names are taken out of books without any accompanying information that will identify them or show relationship to parents and other members of the family, little, if any, good can follow. If work in the temples is done with records that are incomplete and inaccurate it will more than likely have to be done over again. In this way the records are burdened with unnecessary matter which cannot be properly arranged.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol.2 pgs. 207-209, 1955)
All I can say to this quote, is Amen. This quote should be included in every opening screen of the New FamilySearch program. However, Neither President Hinckley nor President Smith were addressing the present problems with duplication caused by misuse of the New FamilySearch program. In a Deseret News article on the new Draper Temple, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve is quoted as praising modern technology and how computers are preventing duplication in temple work. That may be the ultimate effect of the New FamilySearch program but presently, my perception is that the program is facilitating even more duplication that was previously possible. Temple work for my own ancestors continues to be duplicated even since the introduction of the program. By checking back from time to time, I can literally see additional copies of my ancestors' records being added to New FamilySearch and additional work being done. Duplication is not being prevented, in some cases, it is being facilitated.

There are a number of reasons why I think this is happening. First, there are no standards for submission of additional names to New FamilySearch. Ordinance work can be done with nothing more than a name or even a partial name. No dates or places are necessary for redoing the Temple work. It is impossible to tell if the "Mary" being done is not the same as any other "Mary" when there are no dates, no places and no complete names.

Nothing prevents someone from re-entering a name either ignorantly or purposefully by making a minor change in the record, thereby creating an entirely new "person" whose work can then be submitted to the Temple. I have actually found instances where changes were made to an existing record, apparently for the purpose of creating new records to do additional Temple work for those whose work had already been done. If I wanted to re-do my own father's Temple work, all I would have to do is put his name into the program again and click on the green arrow and then refuse to combine him with existing records. I could produce a Family Ordinance Record for him in a few minutes and take his name to the Temple.

Although there are cautionary messages when names are being selected for submission, there is nothing that prevents a user from clicking on a green arrow, without doing any further search for duplicates, and then printing the Family Ordinance Request form and taking the names to the Temple. The program will ask if there are duplicates, but if the person does not agree or ignores the suggested duplicates, then the work will be done over. The existence of the suggested duplicates does not prevent duplication of effort.

Members of the Church are being told in meetings held by Stake officers that all they need to do is go home, log on to the program, and start doing Temple Work from the green arrows.

Users are allowed to add entire GEDCOM files to New FamilySearch. Many people who create GEDCOM files are ignorant of what the file contains and the records included may be entirely duplicative of the records already online.

Ward and Stake Temple excursions require hundreds or thousands of names to be generated by pushing for a specific goal. It is regularly announced in meetings that the youth are going to the Temple and we need so many names by such and such a date. There is an intense pressure to produce names. Genealogy is not something that is done well or at all under pressure.

There does not seem to be any official statement about the duplication of effort but there are several suggested methods by which the amount of duplication in the present program could be reduced. These methods include allowing corrections to existing information, requiring some kind of collaboration when existing relatives are already in the program and other ideas which I will present in future posts.

My comments are my own and as always, I welcome comments and feedback.

1 comment:

  1. The other side of the duplication coin is the fact that millions of records have been lost or mangle in the process of going from one database to another over the years.

    There is one lady in her late 70's who has completely stopped working on her family history, because there are thousands of her ancestors whose church information has been lost. The official policy is that if completed temple work is not showing up in new family search, then it must be done again! She is adament about not doing the work again.

    I am still trying to convince her that as long as her family has a record of the work being done, then just move on to someone else whose work is not completed.