Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But My Genealogy Has All Been Done!

I have heard this countless times as a reason why many LDS people don't spend any time doing their genealogical research. Perhaps you have family members that joined the church clear back in Kirtland or Nauvoo. Those ancestors have lots of LDS descendants now, and when you go to research your direct ancestors, you find that "the work has all been done." Trust me, that is not possible no matter how long your family has been in the church.

Let me offer a few suggestions for family history research for those LDS researchers out there who seem to think there isn't much work left to do on their lines.

There may very well be a huge amount of genealogical work done on your direct lines. However, this does not mean that this work is all correct. It would be very helpful to you and future generations if you are willing to take the time to doublecheck the work that has been done. I could not even begin to list the errors that I have found in the LDS databases online, such as the International Genealogical Index, Pedigree Resource File, and the new Family Search website. Verifying dates, names, and sources; combining duplicates; and correcting relationship errors can be of immense help in accurate genealogical records. In addition, you might find, as I have occasionally, a child that died young that was never included in the work done for the family. Those lost children will be very appreciative of your work in finding them and connecting them to their families.

You can also spend time putting together stories and biographies of your ancestors. Current and future family members always appreciate collections of stories about their ancestors being organized in one central place, either online or in a traditional published format. This kind of research can be rewarding in its own way as you start to see your ancestors as individuals with real struggles and triumphs. Genealogy is more than just names and dates. It's our history.

Finally, you can focus your efforts on down lines research, also called descendancy research. There was an excellent article in the April 2007 Ensign called "Branching Out On Your Family Tree." Basically, the idea is that you selectively focus your efforts on the siblings of your direct ancestors and their spouses and children, moving forward in time. For example, let's say your great-grandfather's work has all been done, but he has 5 other siblings. Their work has been done, but you have no information on their spouses and children. You can take the time to research these names and collect details for this branch of the family. You might even find several of these "down lines" where ordinance work for couples or individuals has never been done. You are related to these individuals so you can submit them for ordinance work; however, please be sure to keep in mind the guidelines of the church in regards to submitting these names. (These guidelines include getting permission from the closest living relative if the person was born in the last 95 years, and making sure that you have a death date for individuals born in the last 110 years.)

Unless you can say with certainty that your ancestral research traces back to medieval times for all of your direct lines, there is plenty more work to be done. You might be just the person to find and piece together other branches of your family tree.

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