How to Find Ancestors in Need of Temple Work in the Family Tree

May 16, 2020  - by 
a family searches on their computer for temple names

Performing temple ordinances for family can be a joyful experience! And today, it’s easier than ever to find your deceased family members who are in need of temple work. It is something that is doable and that will bless your life.

In the April 2018 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson pled with us to “choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” He also provided a formula to receive personal revelation. He said, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.

Family history is a great way to follow the prophet’s counsel to receive revelation. The Spirit can guide you to know where to work on your family lines. He can help you find missing family members and even avoid mistakes. As you rely on the Spirit in doing family history, you will be more able to hear and follow the Spirit in all areas of life.

Here are some practical approaches anyone can use to find deceased ancestors in the FamilySearch Family Tree, from beginners to those with more family history experience.

a woman and her son use the my family booklet

Ordinances Ready

You may be aware of Ordinances Ready, which is available on and the Family Tree mobile app. Ordinances Ready searches Family Tree for the names of deceased family members you can take to the temple. Ordinances Ready may be a good resource if you are just starting your family history and want a family experience in the temple.

You may even be able to do some research on people found through Ordinances Ready to find missing family members and do the work for them (see “Help Build the Family Tree” below). More information on Ordinances Ready is available here.

Green Temples and Temple Tasks

Sometimes you may see a name with a green temple in Family Tree. Or you may see green temples in the Recommended Tasks section of your home page or when using Helper Resources to help someone else. What should you do?

First, it helps to know what a green temple is and what it means. Green Temples are a symbol FamilySearch uses to signify that an ancestor’s name is temple-ready—that is to say, that all the needed information has been gathered for you to take the name to the temple and do proxy work for you ancestor.

Green Temple icons can be found to the right of your ancestor’s name on the family tree in the landscape, portrait, and descendancy views. They are not visible in the fan chart view; rather, to see which of your ancestors have temple work needed, select “Ordinances” below the fan chart setting on the left. Ancestors with ordinances ready to be performed will be highlighted in green.

By clicking on the green temple symbol, you can select the ordinances you wish to perform and request to reserve the names. Then, print out your ancestor’s temple cards. This can be done at your home, but if you do not have a printer it is possible to print names at the temple using the FamilySearch Tree app.

Once your ancestor’s cards are printed out, you are ready to perform ordinances for your ancestors at the temple.

Some like to learn all they can about the person before going to the temple to stand in proxy for them. In doing so they many times actually can find more information and records about their ancestor or relative. It is important to remember that a green temple icon means “ready to go to the temple,” not complete, nor even that it has achieved a minimal standard as defined by genealogists and family historians. In finding out and documenting more about the person you are serving the person before the temple and that can enhance your service in the temple. Both ways will still bring blessings and the spirit of the Lord into your life.

a woman builds her family tree

Help Build the Family Tree

As of 2019, there were 1.24 billion people in Family Tree. But how many people have ever lived on the earth? Estimates vary, but it’s probably somewhere around 110 billion. That means about 109 billion people are missing from Family Tree!

Every method we’ve talked about so far looks for ancestors who are already in Family Tree. But how would you like to find one of those 109 billion missing people? You could try using record hints; sometimes historical records for one person contain information about other family members. For example, a person’s birth record probably lists his or her parents.

But what if there are no record hints for someone? Perhaps the first thing to check is that your family members are in the tree at all. Draw from your own knowledge of your family; ensure that you have added parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles to the tree.

Make sure to include all the information you know about your family! Adding this information may even generate the record hints you need.

a woman writes on her computer

Here’s another simple approach you can use.

  1. Pray for guidance; then look at your fan chart, and follow promptings about which family to focus on.
  2. As you do, keep in mind a few commonsense guidelines:
    • Choose a country where you are comfortable with the language. If your family comes from a country with a language you don’t speak, the FamilySearch wiki has lists of genealogical terms in various languages.
    • Focus on people born in the 1800s and early 1900s (records in this period are generally easiest to find and read).
  3. After deciding on a family, look for people without spouses or couples with few or no children.
  4. Check in FamilySearch Historical Records or on partner sites to find records with information about the spouses or children of these people.

You can find more information about these steps in this presentation.

Once you’ve found a missing person, the next step is to add the person to Family Tree.

two youths in front of the temple

Preparing Family Members’ Names for the Temple

After you have added someone to Family Tree, follow these instructions to reserve the person’s temple ordinances. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in this blog post.

Be Part of the Gathering

We live in an amazing time. We’ve never had so many resources to help us find deceased family members to take to the temple. In addition, our prophet has invited us to make a greater effort to follow the Spirit. Doing family history is a great way to accept that invitation. Whether you want to start your family history or get more involved, this is the time! You can join the effort to gather Israel on both sides of the veil.

Kathryn Grant

Kathryn is a writer, teacher, and family history enthusiast. Her specialty is mentoring new family historians and helping them find success--and maybe even avoid some of the mistakes she's made. She believes that with the right guidance, everyone can learn to love and do family history.

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  1. How my dear wife and I love to work on our Families. With regards to seeking, finding, an preparing their names for the House of the Lord, a nagging thought enters my mind from time to time. My Birth mother was never married. Neither was my adoptive mother. My wife and our children are sealed together with me as the bearer of the Priesthood. We now have many offspring, who will all be counted in our eternal family. However, I cannot be sealed to my two mothers, and the name of my Birth father is uncertain. Therefore I can not be sealed to parents. What now? Any suggestions, please?
    Thank you, Grace, Idaho.

  2. Thanks for the article about finding people who need temple work.
    1) I love the thought about praying to be guided. I know what a difference that makes.
    2) With the new ordinance coloring system, the green temple only seems to mean that temple work is available for a person. However, a green temple may mean that someone has prepared this person, reserved and shared their name with the temple system. When using the descedancy view, we don’t know for sure if a green temple means we should research a person to prepare them for temple work. Some of us have provided feedback at FamilySearch asking for an improvement on the green temple. E.g., either have another color, or the ability to mouse over the green temple and see if this person has already been submitted for temple work. In the mean time, we can pray to be guided.

  3. I particularly look for children who died young and like being able to add them into the family. Ways to do this include looking for children who appear in one census record but are absent in the next one. Did they die in between the two census periods? It is a challenge to find the death date for such children. Searching death records or going to cemeteries where other family members were buried are ways of finding the death dates. Another thing to check is the 1910 Census record, which gives the number of children born to the mother and lists the number still living. Compare that to the number of children shown with the parents. This can show that there is a missing child or children. Also, look for gaps of more than two years between children in the family. Then use cemetery records or death records to find children who died. Find A Grave Index can be helpful. Sometimes there is a biography that can be helpful, or you can search by sir name for possible family members in the same cemetery, sometimes finding missing family members in this way. I use Google as another tool to find obituaries which often list children who died.

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