Chapter 4: Recording Family History Information

Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, (2012), 13–20


The Importance of Keeping Records

In this chapter you will learn how to record the family information you have gathered. You will find it most helpful to record information as you gather it. The process of gathering information from a variety of sources and then recording it will be repeated many times as you strive to learn about your ancestors.

information cycle, record information

In the time of Adam and Eve and their children, a “book of remembrance was kept,” and a “genealogy was kept of the children of God” (Moses 6:5, 8). The value of these records and other records is shown by the Lord’s commandment to Lehi and his family to obtain the brass plates. Lehi’s family needed the plates because these records contained their genealogy and the teachings of the prophets. From the plates, the Nephites taught their children about the gospel and about their ancestors. (See 1 Nephi 3:3–4; 5:14–16.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the importance of record keeping. He declared: “Let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation” (D&C 128:24).

The records you preserve of your ancestors’ lives and of your own life—including journals, personal histories, and other family history records—can bless your ancestors, descendants, extended family members, and others.

Using the FamilySearch Internet Site

Family history information may be handwritten or recorded by computer, but before temple ordinances can be done for your ancestors, their information must be entered into the FamilySearch Internet site at www.familysearch.org. When your family history information is entered into this site, the system will:

  • Show what information has already been gathered about your family.

  • Show which temple ordinances have been completed and which ordinances need to be done.

  • Provide a way for you to print Family Ordinance Request forms that can be taken to the temple.

  • Allow other researchers to use your family history information to help them in their research.

  • Help you find and communicate with extended family members who are also searching for your ancestors.

You can enter your family history information directly into the FamilySearch Internet site, or you can give your handwritten information to a family history consultant, who can help you enter the information or do it for you.

Entering the Information Yourself

If you have access to the Internet, follow these steps to enter your family history information directly into the FamilySearch Internet site:

  1. 1.

    Register or log on to www.familysearch.org. If you are using the system for the first time, you will need your Church membership record number and your confirmation date to identify yourself.

  2. 2.

    Enter the family history information you have gathered, including details about how and where you obtained the information. Correct any incorrect information that your research may have discovered. The system will prompt you about what to enter and let you know if more information is required before you can perform temple ordinances for your ancestors.

Working with a Family History Consultant

If you do not have access to the Internet or do not know how to use a computer, you can record your family history information on forms. Then you can work with your family history consultant to get the information entered into the FamilySearch Internet site.

The FamilySearch Internet site allows you to print pedigree and family group information for the family you are researching. Your family history consultant or the staff at a family history center can help you print your family information from the site. As you gather additional family history information, you can record it on these printouts. If you are unable to obtain printouts, you can use blank pedigree charts and family group records (see appendix A for copies of these forms).

After you have written your family history information on printouts from the Internet site or on pedigree charts and family group records, take the forms to your family history consultant, who can help you enter the information into a computer. If Internet access is not available in your area, the family history consultant can help you send copies of your forms to a family history center or some other location where the information can be entered into the FamilySearch Internet site.

How to Record Information on Forms

Pedigree charts show extended family relationships across generations. The pedigree chart shows the direct ancestors of a single person, whose name is recorded on the left side of the chart. Use completed family group records and other information you have gathered to fill out a pedigree chart.

filled-out pedigree chart

Follow these steps:

  1. 1.

    Write the name of the first individual on line 1 of the pedigree chart. Fill in the details about the individual. If the individual was married, fill in the details about the spouse. Mark the boxes for ordinances the individuals have received. If you are filling out your first pedigree chart, you will probably start with your own name in line 1.

  2. 2.

    Write the names of ancestors, starting with the father and mother on lines 2 and 3 of the pedigree chart. Fill in the event details, and mark the boxes for any ordinances. Continue this process for as many ancestors as you can. Make sure you have a family group record for each couple shown on the pedigree chart.

  3. 3.

    Provide your contact information on the back of the form. This will allow you to share your family history information with other researchers.

Family group records show detailed information about a single family unit. Use a family group record to organize key information about each family group for which you have information.

filled-out family group record

Follow these steps:

  1. 1.

    Record information about the husband and wife, including their names and as many dates and places as you can for the events listed.

  2. 2.

    Record information about each child, including name, gender, and event information.

  3. 3.

    List the sources of the information. Sources may include personal knowledge, family possessions, public records, information from Internet sites, and published information.

  4. 4.

    Provide your contact information on the back of the form. This will allow you to share your family history information with other researchers.

A family history consultant can help you fill out these forms. Consultants can also help you enter the information from your forms in the FamilySearch Internet site .

Information Needed for Temple Work

As you record information, remember that in order for temple ordinances to be performed, individuals must be deceased for at least one year. You must provide at least the given name or the surname of your ancestor, the person’s gender, and enough information to uniquely identify the person. This information may include dates, places, and names and relationships of other family members. For a sealing to a spouse, you will also need the given name or the surname of the spouse. For a sealing to parents, you will need to know the given name or the surname of at least the father.

Guidelines for Record Keeping

As you identify ancestors, record as much information about them as you can. For example, find the day, month, and year an event occurred, if possible. These details can provide clues to help you discover more information about your ancestors. Use the following guidelines as you record family history information.

Names

Provide names that are as complete as possible. Below are some examples of complete names:

  • Elizabeth Blackshaw

  • Matthew William Harman Jr.

  • Juan Angel de la Cruz Vasquez Ovalle

  • Ah-Yueh Chen

If you do not know the full names of your ancestors, record as much of the names as you know.

Gender

Indicate whether your ancestor is male or female.

Relationships

Record as much information as possible about the family members of your ancestors. Try to include information about the following family members of your ancestors:

  • Spouse

  • Parents

  • Children

  • Siblings

Dates

  • General guidelines. Record the date as completely as possible. For example:

    • 23 Mar 1842

    • May 1901

    When you are recording the date on a paper form, be sure to write the date so that the day and month can be clearly distinguished. If you enter a date into the FamilySearch Internet site that cannot be interpreted, you will see some date options from which you can choose.

  • Other calendars. The FamilySearch Internet site correctly interprets dates from the lunar calendars used in China, Japan, and Korea if you record the dates in Chinese-based characters. If you cannot record dates in Chinese-based characters, convert dates to the Gregorian calendar.

    If you have a date that does not correspond to a calendar that the FamilySearch Internet site supports, you can use one of these strategies:

    • If possible, convert the date to the Gregorian calendar. Record at least the year.

    • If you cannot convert the date to the Gregorian calendar, record its original form.

  • Approximated dates. If an exact year is not known, it can be approximated. Use the words before, after, or about before the approximated year. For example, you may know only that an ancestor died during World War I. The death date could be approximated as 1916 and recorded as “About 1916.”

  • Calculated dates. Some dates can be estimated from other known dates. For example, if a person was two years old when a census was taken in 1860, the birth year can be calculated as 1858. Since the actual year could be different from what was calculated, use the word about with the year.

  • Unknown dates. If you do not know a date, do not try to make up the information. The FamilySearch Internet site allows you to leave the fields blank. If a relative died within the last 110 years but a death date cannot be found, record an approximated date that is based on the best information available. This will allow temple ordinances to be done.

Places

  • General guidelines. Record as much as you can of the name of a place where an event occurred. If possible, record all the levels of the name, such as city, county, region, district, prefecture, province, state, and so on. For example:

    • Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States

    • Ixhuacán de los Reyes, Veracruz, México

    • Maugerud, Flesberg, Buskerud, Norway

    If you do not know all the levels of a name, the FamilySearch Internet site will likely give you a list of complete place-names you can choose from.

    Use the following guidelines as you record place-names:

    • Include the name of the country whenever possible.

    • Put a comma and a space between the levels of the name.

    • Record the levels of a place-name as is customary in your language. In English and other languages that use a Roman alphabet, record the smallest government level first and then move to the largest—for example, start with the town and end with the country. For place-names recorded in Asian writing systems, start with the largest government level and then move to the smallest—for example, start with the country and end with the village.

    • You can spell the place-name in your own language or in the native language of the region where the place is located.

  • Incomplete places. When all the levels of a place-name are not known, record what is known. The FamilySearch Internet site will help you fill in the missing levels. For example:

    • Ohio, United States

    • Dafen, Carmarthen, Wales

  • Abbreviations. When writing place-names on paper forms, do not abbreviate them. If you record them in the FamilySearch Internet site, the site will help you clarify the complete place-names.