Looking ahead

Tantalizing changes in view for family history work

PROVO, Utah — Imagine sitting at your computer in your bathrobe and slippers late at night, accessing thoroughly indexed digital images of microfilmed genealogical records from the Church's vault and, then and there, clearing names of your ancestors for temple work.

Such a day is not far off, according to presenters at the annual Computerized Genealogy Conference at BYU. Billed as a "how-to guide" for beginning, intermediate and advanced researchers, the conference included presentations covering recent and future upgrades to the Church's family history Web site, streamlining of family history research and temple work, and the digitizing of microfilmed records at the Church's Granite Mountain Records Vault. (Please see March 11 Church News for a story on records digitization.)

On this page are reports of two of the presentations at the conference.

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Suppose you owned a world-renowned attraction where hundreds of people wanted to go every day, but only four out of six could ever make it through your gate. That has been the situation with the Church's family history Internet site,, said Steve W. Anderson of the Family and Church History Department in his conference presentation.

Brother Anderson said the site design until recently has been such that all but four of six visitors would spend enough time to find what they were looking for before giving up in frustration. But last fall the site's home page was redesigned such that, for instance, the search function is readily apparent on the home page so visitors can immediately involve themselves in searching for ancestors. The home page redesign is just the beginning of an effort to thoroughly revamp the site.

He told listeners they should do several things:

  • Make certain they are registered so they can be notified of new features.
  • If they are interested, volunteer to be part of a global community that will be extracting information from digitized records to index them so they are useful for everyone via the Internet. Information is available on the Web site.
  • Acquaint themselves with new guides on the Web site and digital family histories offered by BYU, accessible through the site's Family History Library Catalog.
  • Avoid delay in adding their own family history information to the site's Pedigree Resource File, even though they feel they are "not finished with it yet."

"Family Tree: What is it?"

At last October's general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a tantalizing glimpse into the future. Referring to duplication of ordinances and research, he called it "one of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity," then added: "The solution lies in complex computer technology. Preliminary indications are that it will work, and if this is so, it will be a truly remarkable thing with worldwide implications."

The technology to which he referred is a program that has been tested by the Church called Family Tree, and it was explained by Jim Greene at the conference.

Brother Greene, product manager with the Family and Church History Department, said, "Family Tree is the first step toward ending duplication of temple ordinances and, hopefully, maybe even some research."

Noting that it will be a replacement for TempleReady, the currently used software for clearing ancestors' names for temple ordinances, he added, "It is a new, Internet-based program for novices and experts to work together to link generations."

He contrasted the current 16-step process of clearing a name with the new Family Tree procedure, which involves only five steps, and which may be conducted over the Internet by an individual either at home or at a Church family history center:

First, an ancestor's name is added to a family pedigree in an Internet database.

Second, one or more individuals is selected from the pedigree for possible temple work. The computer system then checks to see whether the work has been performed already.

Third, if the work has not been done, a family ordinance request is printed out for each ancestor for whom work is to be performed.

Fourth, the printouts are taken to the temple, where ordinance cards are printed for the ancestors.

Fifth, by the time the patron arrives home, the completed ordinance work should be reflected in the Internet database.

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