Understanding the Data
in FamilySearch Family Tree

Family Tree

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Fact or Myth?

Family Tree is an official, complete genealogical record which has been validated and is free of errors.

In order to understand why,
let’s look at the purpose of Family Tree
and where the data came from.

The Goal of Family Tree

Family Tree

One complete, accurate record for each person who has lived on the earth,

linked to other records by

correct relationships

Family Tree is a Shared Tree

Family Tree

There is no “my tree” or “your tree.”

Users may see different parts of the tree, but anyone can see any part

Where Does Family Tree Data Come From?

Family Tree

LDS Church Membership Records

LDS Church temple records, including extracted vital records

User submissions, including GEDCOM files, 4-generation programs, etc.

What does this mean for data in Family Tree?

LDS Church Membership Records

There’s a lot of overlap between these three categories, and some user-contributed data is not accurate. So there are many duplicate records and errors in Family Tree.

In addition, temple work has already been done for many of these records. For instance, the whole purpose of extracted records was to provide names for temple work.

LDS Church temple records, including extracted vital records

User submissions, including GEDCOM files, 4-generation programs, etc.

Family Tree

So one of our most important tasks is cleaning up Family Tree: resolving duplicates and errors. (For more information, see Duplicates in Family Tree.)

Misconceptions about Data in Family Tree

  • Let’s consider some common
    misconceptions about data in Family Tree.
  • Understanding these misconceptions will help us correct and avoid errors.
  • We will also be better able to avoid duplicate temple work.
  • We’ll be closer to our goal of having “a record worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:24.)

Misconception 1: If I find a green temple icon in Family Tree, it means temple work is definitely needed.


  • Think about the sources of names for Family Tree. Why might a name not have temple ordinances?
    • Someone added the name and is getting ready to reserve it.
    • Someone added the name but chose not to do the work or forgot to reserve it.
    • The name was submitted through the Extraction Program but the temple didn’t use it yet.
    • It is a duplicate of another record in Family Tree.
  • Users who add names may not have verified them (they may come from an unverified GEDCOM file or Ancestry tree, for example)
  • Think of green temple icons as an invitation to research.

Other Reasons to Be Careful when a Name Has a Green Temple Icon

  • Relationships may be incorrect.

Families may be incorrectly linked in Family Tree. So even if someone on your line has a green temple icon, you may not be related to that person. It’s wise to verify the relationship before reserving the name.

  • The person may have died before age 8.

If there is no death date on the record, the system assumes the person lived past 8. But if the person died before age 8, only sealing to parents is needed. Always verify whether the person lived past 8.

  • Green temple icons are not time-sensitive.

Green temple icons may appear on older records, but they may also appear on records someone recently added and is planning to reserve.

Did you know. . .

  • Before new FamilySearch, if ordinances were done on different days, a separate person record was created for each day.
  • Example: John Bescoby has two records in Family Tree:

  • If you find a record which has no baptism and confirmation but does have other ordinances, look for a duplicate!

One for his baptism and confirmation on 2 March 1920

Another for his initiatories and endowment on 19 March 1920

Misconception 2: Family Tree finds all duplicates; if I don’t see a duplicate warning for a name, there must not be any duplicates.


  • Family Tree finds possible duplicates by comparing records.
  • If two records have a lot of information in common, they are suggested as possible duplicates. However, two records may represent the same person even if they don’t have much information in common.
  • Family Tree can’t reasonably be expected to find all duplicates that a person could recognize based on research (for instance, one record with a woman’s maiden name and another with her married name).
  • Family Tree finds many duplicates, but there are many it doesn’t find.
  • It’s important to do careful research and listen to the Spirit to avoid duplicate temple work.

For more detail about identifying duplicate records, see
Duplicates in Family Tree.

Did you know. . .

  • It is estimated that doing all ordinances for one person takes approximately 10 hours of patron and temple worker time.
  • Each duplicate ordinance delays temple work for someone who really needs it.
  • If you avoid duplicate ordinances for just 10 people, you have saved approximately 100 hours of time which could be spent on other ordinances or research!

Misconception 3: Family Tree is a database of people who need temple work. Rather than doing research myself, I should just go to Family Tree and find names.


  • Family Tree is a wonderful tool to hasten the work of salvation for the dead.
  • However, it was not intended to be an ongoing source of temple names so that we don’t have to research our own families.
  • We have an important responsibility to help resolve the duplicates and errors in Family Tree.
  • Along with that, our goal should be to research our own families and add the names we find to Family Tree (if they are not already there). Then we can do the temple work or invite others to help.

Let us . . . offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple,

when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

D&C 128:24

Thank You!

© 2015-2016 Kathryn Grant. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. (You may copy, distribute or modify this work as long as you do not charge for it and as long as you give proper attribution.)

Email: kathryngz@gmail.com

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