I apologize for the delay in responding, but I've been on a wonderful genealogical adventure
that has taken much of my discretionary time since I last posted... but which will inform the response I promised to Alan's question. Reader's Digest
version of the adventure: While working on a particular family, I received the strongest impression that the mother, Mary Joyce, wanted her work done. I set about finding her maiden name. The 1850 census gave me a clue, because an elderly woman named Elizabeth Smith was living with the family... but as relationships aren't given in that census, I didn't have proof. After no results in the usual places, I prayed fervently for guidance. Following the prompting I received, I found... no information on Mary, but information which enabled me to clear several other names for temple work. So I kept looking for her maiden name, but no results. So I prayed again, received another specific prompting, and followed it... only to find more information about her family, but still none about her! I really wanted to find her name because we had a youth temple trip coming up.
The day arrived and I still hadn't found it. As I prepared to print the FOR. I was sad for Mary and wondered if I should just clear her name as Mary with no last name or as Mrs. John Joyce. But I felt impressed that I should not, so I prepared the other cards but not Mary's (which was tricky because of the current problematic design of forcing all family members to be cleared at once, but that's a tangent. Suffice it to say, I did it
I kept searching and praying earnestly, particularly in the temple. I was led to a will which filled in more pieces of the missing puzzle and more names, but still not Mary's maiden name. Along the way I even found a child in another family whom I had not known about and who only needed to be sealed to his parents because he died before 8.
Then the other night I was beta testing nFS. Some of the screens were slow to load, and I brought Google Books up in another browser window. I'd found several public domain family histories there which had helped on other lines, and I'd even searched for Mary there as well, but without sucess. But that night, the idea came into my mind to search for "Mary (Smith) Joyce" (I'd noticed that women's names were often listed that way in these old histories). Lo and behold, one of the first search results was a short biography of Mary's daughter-in-law, which confirmed that Mary's maiden name was indeed Smith. I wept. Mary is now in new FamilySearch with her correct name and I will do her work as soon as I can get to an open temple (ours is closed for the Christmas break).
Can I tell you how glad I am that I didn't find Mary's maiden name immediately, because of the other names I found? And how glad I am that I kept looking?
So ... realizing that each research experience is different, and that, as Russell pointed out, different time periods and cultures call for different criteria, here are the general criteria I would recommend for countries that kept written government or church records during the time they kept them:
- Death date or birth date over 110 years ago.
- Full name, including maiden name for married women. One can't be reasonably certain of avoiding duplicates without it. E.g., "Mrs. John Joyce" is not sufficient because Mary could have been extracted under her maiden name and put in nFS (and she would be marked Ready).
- Proof of living to eight years of age. Proof could include a birth and death date allowing the age to be determined, a marriage date, proof of having a child, or being in the census 8 years or older. (Doing an endowment for a child who doesn't need it has the same effect as doing duplicate work.)
- At least one relationship to a family member.
If a name meets all these criteria, it could be marked Ready. If not, it could be marked Ready to Validate, with some way of indicating the needed information.
I realize that sometimes the information simply isn't available and flexibility is needed in applying the criteria. However, I believe that many times the information is available; at least the effort should be made to find it.
While this adventure was going on, I came across several ward members and friends who were just learning to use nFS and were delighted to see that names they entered were marked Ready. "It's so easy!" said one. It takes some explaining to help them realize that they often need to do more research on names marked Ready in nFS in order to be confident they are not doing duplicate work.