Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discrepancy between standards for temple submission and the GPS

I am working on submitting my ancestors' names to the temple, where temple ordinances will be done in proxy for them. Here is a link that explains more about temple ordinance work.

The purpose of this blog post is to point out an interesting discrepancy that I see between the bare minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple, and the Genealogical Proof Standard, or GPS.

In full disclosure, I am not an employee of familysearch.org. I don't really know the program's bare minimum requirements. A brief perusal of the internet leads me to believe that these requirements have changed as new.familysearch and family tree have evolved. Researching what they used to be is not interesting to me.

So, speaking purely from my own experience, in the latest iteration of the LDS church's temple name submission program (Family Tree), it seems the minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple are that you have the name, the gender, a date (even just a broad "before [year]"!), and a place (even something as unspecific as "Texas", or as shady as, "[Texas]" meaning, I think they were born in Texas but I really don't know).

That's it.

What's even more crazy is that you don't even have to cite your information. In the past, public source citations weren't even possible. Happily, now they are, but they aren't a requirement.

I'm totally not dissing the program. I really, really love familysearch. I love family tree. I understand why it is this way, and I'm totally okay with it. I'm not sure that citing one's sources should be a requirement. For me, personally, oh my gosh of course it is are you crazy I would never submit my ancestor's names without citing the sources!!!!

[deep breaths]

I just find it fascinating that if I were to submit such unsubstantiated information to my BCG application, or a client, it would be unacceptable, yet it is somehow acceptable for our ancestors' temple work?

Huh?

I don't know Ms. Eileen O'Duill, but I really appreciated her opinion on the "Why Certify" section of the BCG website. Basically, her point is that her ancestors deserved the best research she could give them. I feel similarly.

Though, on the other hand, I am happy that I don't have to create a kinship determination project for every family whose names I want to submit to the temple. And my minimum standard for temple work doesn't technically meet the GPS, I think.

Last month I completed a massive client report, which I had been planning on using for my BCG portfolio. I was advised against this by several people. They hadn't read the report or anything - aka they didn't think it was horrible based on it specifically, but just knowing that it was my first time doing it, they cautioned that it would be much better for me, and my chances of becoming a CG, to write several reports and pick from the best one. One reason I arrived at the decision not to use this report is because it relied almost exclusively on one type of record, Czech Parish records.

Now, these records are highly reliable. They are awesome, and I could spend a whole other blog post writing the specifics of their awesomeness. But the GPS requires a "reasonably exhaustive search." This means:

  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion

One type of source isn't going to cut it for proving to the BCG judges that I know and follow the GPS.

But it is far beyond the bare minimum for temple name submission.

Honestly, because of the nature of these specific records and the lack of availability of records (both physical and financial accessibility), working with clients, I DO mainly rely on these parish records. I don't use one sole record by itself, but many (even hundreds!) to figure out the web of relationships, places, and people. Baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, witnesses - lots and lots of information in these records.

But parish records are still only one type of record. It's kind of a conundrum to me, and I find myself wishing that I understood it better. I'm excited to read Tom Jones' book, "Mastering Genealogical Proof." Maybe that will help me understand the GPS better.

When I started submitting my ancestors' names the to the temple, with Temple Ready, there was no way to cite a source in that program. Instead, I cited it in my PAF file. My father drilled into my mind that you must always, always cite your sources. I only did this a few times before new.familysearch went live in 2008. When I started using new.familysearch, I cited every piece of information that I found for every ancestor. Even when I linked my husband's living parents to me, I found out their information and cited it as my own personal memory.

I continue this same practice today. I can usually find birth, death, and marriage (if they lived long enough) records for all of my Czech ancestors in the parish records. When I don't find a death before they turned 8, and I know (from the other births and deaths in the family) they were still living in the same residence, I use that as negative evidence. This person did not die before the age of 8 so we can do all the temple work for him, not just the sealing to parents.

To me, this level of research is my own personal minimum. I'm not going to submit a person for proxy work if I only have one census with a vague reference to being born in "Austria." Or, before double checking the deaths to make sure that they didn't die young. I just really, really don't want to waste peoples' time! If I'm going to go to all the trouble to go to the temple (here in Houston, it's about an hour away) and do proxy work, by golly, those people had better be real, and it better not be duplicate work! I read of a person who had his temple work done by proxy 8,000 times. What!!! Noooooooo!

But it is so weird to me that the research I have done for these people, with solidly cited sources, doesn't meet the GPS.

I'm also not dissing the GPS. I think it's fantastic. I am so glad that somebody way smarter than me came up with standards for genealogical proof. It's truly, truly wonderful, and I don't have any suggestions to make it better, yet.

Basically, my point is: isn't it so weird that there is a discrepancy between what I need to submit my ancestors' names to the temple, and the GPS?


My goal for 2013 has been to submit 1,000 names of my ancestors to the temple. I'm on track to completing that goal, which is great. This non-BCG portfolio related research will help me know which branches of my family would be best (aka easiest) for compiling a solid, GPS-sound, BCG-worthy kinship determination project, as well as the other sections of the portfolio.

I really hope I can decide where to research soon. It's already been two months and the only parts of my BCG portfolio that I have partially completed are the BCG-supplied document and the applicant supplied document. And I haven't done the research plan (the important part), just the transcription and citation.

Okay kids need lunch.

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