I’ve heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam. Is this possible?
February 1984

“I’ve heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam. Is this possible?” Ensign, Feb. 1984, 31

I’ve heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam. Is this possible? If so, is it necessary for all of us to extend our pedigrees back to Adam?

Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist, Church Genealogical Department. The simplest answer to both questions is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. A.D. 450–A.D. 752).

Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.

The question also asks if it is necessary for us to trace our pedigrees back to Adam. I believe that when the true purpose for which we do genealogical research is understood, one will realize that it is not necessary, at this time, to connect our pedigrees back to Adam. In fact an attempt to do so is probably detrimental to the overall goal of genealogical and temple work—to make available the saving ordinances of the gospel for all the dead.

It is currently my responsibility to review the records submitted for temple work for those individuals who lived prior to A.D. 1500. I would estimate that 90 to 95 percent of these records are duplicates of work that has already been performed. This does not mean that most of the temple work has been completed for those individuals who lived before A.D. 1500. On the contrary, the great majority of the individuals of that time period still need their temple work done. The problem is that the resource procedures and source materials are of such a nature that members working in this time period end up retracing the paths of many before them, obtaining the same results. A few thousand names are listed over and over, while millions of others remain lost.

The result is that nearly all the effort expended in the pre-1500 area, and all that expended in attempts to compile pedigrees back to Adam, seems to be a waste as far as accomplishing our true purpose. At the same time, our more recent ancestors, to whom we as individuals have a far greater responsibility, are often ignored—even when many research procedures have not yet been explored.

I would recommend that no one undertake research prior to A.D. 1500 without first checking with the Genealogical Department, and then only after all avenues of research for more recent generations have been exhausted. The probability of discovering information in the pre-A.D. 1500 time period that would lead to new temple work is practically nil, unless one receives some specific direction.

In the due time of the Lord we will have our connections back to Adam. Given the current state of our records, I feel that when we attempt to extend pedigrees back to Adam we come dangerously close to ignoring the admonition of Paul: “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions. …” (1 Tim. 1:4.)

The volume of the work is such that there is a need for every member to be engaged in some aspect of it—but at the same time we must learn to work efficiently and effectively. We do not have time for needless projects that sap our time and resources.