Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dear Randy: Why Are You Using the FamilySearch Family Tree?

I posted Why Aren't Researchers Using the FamilySearch Family Tree? on 6 January 2015, and have received many comments that are helpful and intriguing.

I received a question via email asking "Why are you using the FamilySearch Family Tree?"

My answer is pretty simple - I think that being collaborative with my genealogical research is beneficial, because it helps me and other researchers define relationships and events, as long as the conclusions in the tree (names, dates, places, relationships, events, etc.) are source-based.  My view is that this is the best online collaborative family tree available, with the most person profiles, and will be the "gold standard" in the future.  Wikis work, but it takes time to get the critical mass of active and dedicated users.

The FamilySearch Family Tree has just about every feature that I want in a collaborative family tree, including:

*  Names
*  Alternate Names
*  Vital Events
*  Alternate Events
*  Other Events
*  Fact Notes
*  Life Sketch
*  Stories/Memories
*  Family Structures
*  Document Images
*  Photograph Images
*  Sources
*  Discussions
*  Family Tree Views
*  Chart Printing
*  Research Help
*  Record Hints
*  Change Notices
*  Matching/Merging Duplicate Profiles
*  Add, Edit or Delete Profiles

The main reason that I like the FamilySearch Family Tree over other "collaborative trees" (e.g., Geni, WikiTree, WeRelate, OneGreatFamily, etc.) is that I can synchronize information in my own RootsMagic database with information in the Family Tree - either from RootsMagic to the Family Tree, or vice versa.  Other software programs do this also, notably Legacy Family Tree and Ancestral Quest.  This synchronization makes dealing with the Family Tree profiles relatively easy, but it is somewhat time consuming.  Sometimes, the information in the Family Tree is better than the information I have in my database, as long as it is source-based and conclusive.

There are several significant problems with information in the FamilySearch Family Tree, including:

1)  Profiles for some historical persons (usually famous Mormon pioneers and their ancestors, famous historical persons with many descendants - such as Mayflower passengers, etc.) cannot be merged at this time.    These are called IOUS - "Individuals Of Unusual Size" (meaning that there are many profiles for one person).  FamilySearch promises that this issue will eventually be corrected - we will have to see if that's the case.  I hope it will be!  My guess is that FamilySearch personnel will have to do this in an arbitration mode.

2)  Some historical persons have several (or many!) profiles with spouses and children, and are terribly messed up.  These profiles can be merged and untangled, but it requires patience to do this task along with a good understanding of the process to do the task.  Collaboration, in the form of providing sources and participating in civil discussions, will be needed to sort these out.  Arbitration may be needed with some of these historical persons also.

3)  Some historical persons are conflated with another historical person.  Again, it takes patience and knowledge to sort these out.  Collaboration, in the form of providing sources and participating in civil discussions, is needed to sort these out.

4)  Many profiles do not have supporting sources for the names, relationships, events, etc. of historical persons in the Family Tree.  Sources and Notes for these need to be added to the person profiles.  

5)  Some information is just plain wrong, with no dates and places, or a date range, for vital events.  A dedicated and rational researcher with source citations and cogent arguments in hand can replace the wrong information in a person profile and improve the information in the profile.  There may be some contributors who will vehemently disagree.  

6)  There is the potential for significant disagreement for profiles of historical persons, and there may be "Edit Wars" for some profiles.  I haven't seen any in my own lines, but I've heard that there are some in the Family Tree.  Again, some sort of arbitration feature may be necessary to decide these disputes.

Because of these known problems, and there probably are many more (and I'm sure my readers will help me expand the list!!), I have limited my efforts to adding persons from my RootsMagic tree who are not in the Family Tree, and to add Events, Notes, Sources, etc. the Family Tree for my ancestral families.  Even though I have a fairly well documented ancestry, my ancestral families really are just a few twigs on the Family Tree.  

The benefits that I see from the FamilySearch Family Tree includes:

1)  Cousins!  There are many researchers who have added information about families descended from my ancestors.  In most cases, I've entered a spouse, and perhaps children and their spouses, for siblings of my ancestors.  Others have done the same thing for their own lines.  By reviewing these lines, and perhaps adding them to my database, I may be able to find more information about my ancestors, and to identify how I am related to cousins who appear on my DNA matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and GEDMatch.

2)  Being part of an effort to identify as many historical persons as possible, and to be able to add as much documented information as possible to the Family Tree.  

3)  Collaboration encourages other researchers to collaborate.  Discussions encourage other researchers to discuss.  I want to be a good example without being overbearing.  

At this point in time, I have added and edited all of the information about my ancestors back into the fourth grand-parents.  I'm still working on the siblings of my ancestors, and the earlier generations,  as time permits. I usually find IOUS in the 9th and 10th generations back in New England.  For now, I stop there, as long as I connect to one of the IOUS that seem to be correct (at least according to my research!).   If I work at it, I spend 3 to 6 hours a week in the FamilySearch Family Tree.  

Here are fan charts showing my childrens' ancestors in the tree:

1)  My father's ancestry:

2)  My mother's ancestry:

3)  My wife's ancestry:

What other problems do you find in the FamilySearch Family Tree?  Do you think they will be fixed?

What other benefits do you experience or perceive in using the FamilySearch Family Tree?

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


Steadgreen said...

What are IOUS?

Michele Simmons Lewis said...

I make sure my brickwalls are up on FamilySearch and synch'd in Legacy. I can then see if anyone adds or changes anything :)