5 Tips to Expand Your Family Tree

January 20, 2014  - by 

With FamilySearch goals to help everyone take their ancestors to the temple, the golden question is “How do I find someone to take to the temple?”  The answer can be as varied as the family trees you are searching.  However, there are a few patterns to follow for greatest success.

Tip number 1—Review your tree.  Check that the relationships make sense.  Not being able to find the next generation is sometimes because the generation you are working from has errors. Take a look at your ancestor and see if the dates and relationships look reasonable.  You want to avoid obvious errors such as your grandfather marrying his mother, or a grandmother having children at age 65.

Look for duplicate records.  You many find valuable additional information in a duplicate record that hasn’t been merged with the record you have for your ancestor. You can often resolve problems like these by doing a little research. Merging and correcting records can sometimes help you break through to new generations.

Tip number 2—Add sources. Click on the blue Search Records icon on the home page.  This will start a search through FamilySearch’s indexed records.  In the search results screen, open all records which may pertain to your ancestor. You can quickly add all related sources to your ancestor’s page by clicking on the blue “Attach to Family Tree” button. See if you can find your ancestor in the census records that appear.  Find any vital records belonging to your ancestor.  You will begin to get a much better understand of your ancestor by seeing the records that you attach to his/her profile. And, you are very likely to find associated family members in some of these records. You will then begin to expand your tree by finding forgotten family members who may be listed with your ancestor in their records.

Tip number 3—Look at the families who descend from your 3rd and 4th great-grandparents. This kind of search is called descendancy research. Begin looking for the children of your ancestors.  They may be your aunts and uncles or cousins.  They may be the spouses who marry someone in your direct line. These people may not be your direct-line ancestors, but they are the children of your grandparents. Remember to be aware of the 110-year rule. This rule states that if your ancestor was born with in the last 110 years you should not submit their name for temple work unless you have permission from the closest-related family member. Researching descendency lines gives you the opportunity to significantly expand your family tree.

Tip number 4—Look for ancestors with no spouse listed.  If your ancestor lived to a marrying age, look for a spouse.  Census records are a great place to start looking for spouses.  To locate U.S. marriage records, go the FamilySearch Wiki and search for How to Find United States Marriage Records.  For other countries, go to the FamilySearch Wiki and look up the county name you are interested in. Search for vital records in that county to see if you can find links and research suggestions.  Cemetery records and death records of children may also list spouses.

Tip number 5—Look for ancestors in Family Tree with no death dates.  Pay special attention to whole families where only birth information is recorded.  This is a clue that this family has not been carefully researched or kept up to date.  A family with only birth information is often missing spouses and children in the subsequent generations.  These are all people who can be used to expand your tree.

Use the wiki to help you learn the best resources to use to find death records. Click How to Find United States Death Records or look up your county name and vital records for links and research suggestions in the FamilySearch Wiki.

Bonus tip: Some companies are now developing software to help you locate people in your tree who need further research. A company named Puzilla is an example of a program that works well with FamilySearch to find where more research may be needed.  It uses these same tips to look at your own tree and it analyses data patterns to determine where additional research needs to be done. Go to the Puzilla website to view instructional videos on how this can help you. You may be surprised to see how easy it is to find ways to expand your family tree.

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  1. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for this information. However, we have been told to only do our direct line and not stray onto the aunts and uncles and other such people on the tree to do ordinances for. Refer letter from the First Presidency.
    Linda Wright, New Zealand

    1. For the most part this is correct. I think what the letter you referred to was trying to stress is the responsibility that we have to take care of our families and NOT to take away opportunities from those who are connected to the direct lines in those family — subject to the 110 year rule.

      However, there are sometimes circumstances that need to be handled differently. For example: In my own family lines there is (I will call him baby unknown — even though I do know who he was).

      Baby Unknown was born between censuses. I have documentation of his birth. I have documentation of his death. His parents are deceased. His siblings are deceased and because he died at age two — there are no descendants. Even though he was born less than 110 years ago, nieces and nephews are not among those from whom permission is required.

      I could let him go with the attitude that, obviously, he was not my direct line ancestor and that it will be taken care of in the millennium OR I could go ahead and submit for the temple ordinances that needed to be done (in this case a sealing to parents). That is what I did. He was not a direct-line ancestor, but he was part of my direct-line ancestors family and nobody else was likely to do this ordinance.

      The MOST important thing is this: The 110 year rule. That and, please, don’t troll the online family tree looking for names to do that you are not even remotely connected to just so that you can submit the names; particularly among those that were born within the last 110 years. KNOW WHO YOU ARE SUBMITTING and don’t just HARVEST for the sake of collecting names.

      1. There is a neat little video on FamilySearch.org entitled Principles for Submitting Names to the Temple found after signing in, by clicking Get Help > Product Support > Temple > More training videos. It clearly demonstrates who you can do work for, and it is much broader than direct line only. With the capacity on Family Tree to click on a direct line ancestor’s summary card and choose Tree so you can see his/her descendants, you will find tons of temple work that need to be done, after merging duplicates and sourcing, of course.

    2. Linda, I believe that if you read the submission instructions (when you reserve a person’s ordinances) you will see that the primary responsibility is direct-line ancestors, but you are permitted to do descendants of ancestors and their families as well. Just don’t cross blood lines; (don’t do ordinances for parents of a person who married into the family – I made that mistake once)

      I hope this opens up lots of opportunities for you.

      1. I copied the section from Family Tree. Here is what it says:

        Who You Can Do Ordinances For

        You are responsible to submit names of the following individuals:
        •Immediate family members
        •Direct-line ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, and their families).

        You may also submit the names of the following individuals:
        •Biological, adoptive, and foster family lines connected to your family.
        •Collateral family lines (uncles, aunts, cousins, and their families).
        •Descendants of your ancestors.
        •Your own descendants.
        •Possible ancestors, meaning individuals who have a probable family relationship that cannot be verified because the records are inadequate, such as those who have the same last name and resided in the same area as your known ancestors.

        1. Thanks for your replies. Glenn’s same information is found the the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, Chapter 7.

      2. Glenn. Here is a quote that I hope will clarify the discussion on who you can do work for by Elder Allen F. Packer from February 2012, Roots Tech Conference.
        A First Presidency letter of Feb. 29, 2012, reminded Church members that those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter. Elder Packer explained that members may authorize names for temple ordinances for immediate family members, direct-line ancestors, and adoptive and family lines connected to one’s family.

        Beyond that, they may authorize work for collateral family lines (uncles, aunts, cousins, and their families) and possible ancestors (meaning those with a probable family relationship that cannot be verified because records are inadequate), Elder Packer said. The policy also allows individuals to do work for descendants of direct-line ancestors.

        Displaying a genealogical chart, he said, “For example, if we focused on just one 10th-generation ancestor, it means I could do the work for his spouse and children and his children’s children and so on.

        “If we made a very conservative assumption that there are on average four children for each set of parents, and if we excluded those in the 110-year window [during which it is presumed the descendants might yet be living], we could have about 16,384 people in our pool. But these were only the descendants of that one 10th-generation ancestor. To get all potential descendants of my 10th-generation ancestors, we must multiply 16,384 by 512 10th-generation couples. If we combine all the descendants—and remember, we had 2,047 direct ancestors—we get a pool of 8,388,608.”

        Even if that were reduced to only 5 percent of the pool due to lack of records or some of the work having already been done by others, the potential could still be 419,430 related people, Elder Packer said. “That is ample work for all. If all of your work is done, your neighbor could use some help.”

        1. Yeah, I like the way that is said. It matches directly with the policy you have to accept when reserving ordinances.

          The math gets pretty staggering when you stop and think about it. I had always done the calculation at 6 or 7 generations with 5-6 children and had ended up with something in the range of 2,000,000. Kind of crazy, really…

  2. Well, thank heavens for Lisa McBride, who gives a very complete overview of what is truly needed before temple work should be reserved. I hope this is an answer to the last blog we got titles 3 Easy Steps to taking a name to the temple, which totally absented research, sourcing, merging duplicates, etc. Lisa has restored my faith in FamilySearch employees regarding Family Tree!

  3. Wow! Did I ever learn a lot from this article on this blog I go to every day. Some of it was entirely new. Others I expanded on in my own personal Journal I started doing again right after Christmas. My brother Bruce brought me some new note books to write on and how I have enjoyed picking up a habit that I started way back in 1972. My collection that I am leaving my family consisted of mostly Journals from so many years. I can not fathom how I can cover all I learned in this blog Article. Any suggestions on how to plow through all of this would be most helpful and an email on my facebook would be most welcome. Thank you again for this blog note.

    1. I have gone through and done some orginizing. I will use Puzzila in Torch, Familysearch and lds.org in Crome and email in Enternet Exporer . I use Legacy, Rootsmagic. Ancestoral Quest, and MyHaritage for Software.

  4. I think someone needs to review tip 3. I understand 110 [years ago] or sooner means before 110 years ago. You also have a “not” in there I don’t believe belongs. In both cases I think your text reads the opposite of what you intended.

  5. now correct error. we only had four girls. the oldest is listed twice,
    her name is candace lee sommer. Her married name is candace lee lee.

    1. If this has to do with information concerning living people in your family, you are the only one that can correct it. If you need help with that, you might try contacting a local FamilySearch Center and asking one of the consultants there for help. OR, if you are a member of the church, ask you ward family history consultant to talk you through it.

  6. Because of the user-friendly Family Tree we’re now up to 675 completed temple ordinances, most done in 2013, thanks to help from youth, brethren, my children and me. I don’t expect this to happen again unless alot of new names are found. And two distant cousins I’ve never met have helped me with information and pictures. I love the photos and stories features. In short, I love Family Tree.

  7. Thanks so much posting this. A friend mentioned using Puzilla last night and was surprised to see this online today. I have watched the videos and look forward to using this myself and then teaching others in the Family History Center.