Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why Aren't Researchers Using the FamilySearch Family Tree?

I presented my "FamilySearch.org - the Very Best FREE Genealogy Website" to the Orange County, California, Genealogical Society (OCCGS) last Saturday in Huntington Beach.

In the talk, I asked the audience (there were over 100 there) how aware they were of, and if they used,  the different features on the FamilySearch.org website.  The responses were approximately:

*  Have you visited the FamilySearch.org website?  About 95% had.

*  Do you search for indexed records on FamilySearch.org?  About 90% had.

*  Do you browse for unindexed records on FamilySearch.org?  About 33% had.

*  Have you been to a FamilySearch Center or the Family History Library in the past ten years?  About 60% had.

*  Have you used the FamilySearch Library Catalog online?  About 33% had.

*  Do you use the FamilySearch Research Wiki?  About 33% had.

*  Do you use the FamilySearch Learning Center Video Courses?  About 20% had.

*  Have you done Indexing for FamilySearch?  About 10% had.

*  Are you in the FamilySearch Family Tree?  About 5% were.

Isn't that strange?  Here is a completely FREE genealogy website with billions of indexed records, access to billions of pages of unindexed records ( most of them original source material),with a significant educational component (the Wiki and Video Courses), a collaborative family tree (featuring sources, notes, record hints, photos, stories, etc.),

These responses were similar to responses I've received  in other presentations in the last two years on FamilySearch.  I think that they are pretty typical (except probably in Utah) of an audience with a range of experience and age.

Unfortunately, my talk did not cover the FamilySearch Family Tree due to time constraints, although I mentioned that it was a separate talk because of all of the features of the Family Tree.  Maybe next year?

Why is there not much use of the FamilySearch Family Tree?  Is it too complicated?  Is it too labor intensive?  Is it because it is collaborative ("Our Tree" where anyone can edit/add/delete content) and not exclusive ("My Tree" where only the owner can add/edit/delete content)?  Maybe it's just too new?  Or is it because it is "for Mormons" and not everyone?

Do local or regional genealogical societies, and regional or national conferences, have presentations about FamilySearch, and especially the FamilySearch Family Tree?  Do genealogy bloggers explore the website and the Family Tree and write about it?  It's like it's invisible, yet it is probably the online family tree with the most potential to be correct, with stories, photos, notes and sources with collaboration.

I don't know the answers to those questions, so I want to ask my readers (all 5,000 of you if possible) to tell me if you are in the Family Tree and if not, why you  are not using it.  Please respond in comments or on Facebook.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/01/why-arent-researchers-using.html

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


Jim Ericson said...

Randy, I just started working here at FamilySearch again yesterday after spending a couple years outside of family history. I'm very curious to see how people respond. I personally like the experience found in the FamilySearch Family Tree. I even like merging duplicate individuals and linking source materials directly to my ancestors. I think the reasons you provide are all possible candidates for why people outside the LDS Church might not be using Family Tree. From my personal experience, I love the collaborative experience, even when I need to fix things that others have changed.

What has been most remarkable to me is seeing people sharing photos and stories about MY ancestors that are linked to the people in my tree. As a matter of fact, I reached out to one of my distant cousins just today to thank him for the photos he's posted of my 2nd great grandfather. Priceless.

Russ Worthington said...


Three comments from this "non-user" of FamilySearch Family Trees to add to your great summary.

1) I had a bad experience with trees at FamilySearch early on. It was mostly because I wasn't using Online Trees as I do today.

2) I had another bad experience, with another online tree, that was another "OUR" Family Tree website and I didn't then buy into that concept.

3) A comment that you and I heard on Mondays with Myrt that past week, when we were talking about the changes taken place in the Family History Centers, where LDS members "weren't doing genealogy" as much any longer

It wasn't until recently, that I made MY online tree public. "I wasn't done with it" / "It isn't perfect".

Now WE all have other Online Tree websites, and I suspect more coming online in the future, so the use of Online Trees is more spread out.

From some conversations and presentations I have made, there are some that just don't know about FamilySearch Family Trees. Since I am not a "user" of that feature, I am not (at this point) going to talk about that feature.

I do, however, talk frequently about the FamilySearch.org website, especially for those looking for a great resource for records.

Just a few random thoughts on your blog post.


Amanda said...

I use FamilySearch Family Tree when I'm wanting a quick genealogy fix but don't have time to delve into a big research problem. I go in and clean up records, attach any obvious record hints, add people that are missing, etc. I don't use it as a primary family tree because I prefer a more concise/exact sourcing system than Family Tree provides for.

Barbara Jean Mathews said...

I've done some work cleaning up Family Tree and adding sources. I am aware that I am not seeing all the data for the individuals; I am not seeing the sealing or marriage information that only LDS users can see. I worry when I combine people that I have no idea what is happening to that information. It feels like I"m walking in a fog because I can't see everything.

And it's clunky. And the amount of clean-up needed on colonial Connecticut lines is hilarious.

I like adding photos that maybe someday other descendants will find.

It doesn't give me the precision I use in my personal tree, so it won't be the be-all and end-all for my own data.

GeneaDiva said...

At first I enjoyed using the familysearch Family Tree, adding data, cleaning up data, attaching photographs, documents sources, stories, etc. It seemed like it would be a great source for finding ancestors and actual documentation for the ancestor(s) as well as possible relatives to collaborate with especially on my possible lineage society eligible ancestors (patriots).

However, the process has become very disappointing for me and I have stopped contributing to the familysearch Family Tree for several reasons. The number one reason is that as fast as I attach a record to a person or family, someone else comes along and detaches the person (even though I have attached firm evidence and a note for the source documentation). Even worse, is one has no way to contact most of the people removing or adding incorrect data as there isn't an available email.

Additionally, people add all sorts of children, parents (without documentation), and incorrect sources to profiles in the tree. It feels like a shouting match or a tug-of-war at times to defend and safe guard the ancestor and the documentation. One of the straws that pretty much broke the camel's back for me was someone killed off my dear sweet mother. I had to write numerous emails to get her re-instated into the land of the living.

I rarely open my email of Weekly Family Search Changes from familysearch as it is just too exasperating and labor intensive to constantly review,verify and update ancestor profiles I have already corrected.

This is probably petty on my part, but I have noticed some ancestry subscribers can attach records from ancestry to the Family Search Family Tree, but for some unknown reason I do not enjoy this access, which slows the process of attaching sources and documents. If one subscriber has access, then all subscribers should have access.

On the other hand, I enjoy all the records, wiki, books; even the records, I have to manually read through to locate my ancestor (or not). I used to take the time to attach those same records to ancestors in the family search tree, but alas, have stopped for the above reasons.

I hope the process improves with time or that family search will decide to spend their time and energy on what they do best which is preserving records and presenting actual record images to the website. This is truly an enhancement to the genealogy community and one that is appreciated from the bottom of my heart!

Pat Richley-Erickson said...

I won't use FamilySearch family tree actively because other people can incorrectly change things on my tree. For instance:

My uncle Jack isn't dead. Yes, there is another man by the same name who did die in the same state where my living Uncle Jack lives, but he was born a few years earlier in an Eastern US state, not Utah.

I'm tired of explaining that my great-grandparents didn't have a daughter named Shirley, that's what they named my grandfather.

Susan Petersen said...

The trees are every bit as unreliable as those found on Ancestry. My time is better spent doing my own research rather than trying to fix the errors made by others.

Ellen Anderson said...

I spent my first few months of genealogy work using only Family Search Family Tree. I did a lot of cleaning up if immediate relatives. Then I joined Ancestry on a great sale and soon the arduous process of maintaining Family Tree didn't seem worth it anymore. Especially when I added one direct relative and suddenly lines appeared going back hundreds of years with no evidence and I gave up on it. I still use it with my Genealogy Club students though, since it's free and a good way for them to learn about records and benefit from others' research. Plus we aren't allowed to download software, so it keeps their work online.

Mary Trogg said...

I tried, I really did. But the site is too clunky to use and slow. I make changes and the results are not what I wanted. Operator error, probably, so I don't make changes anymore. The trees are such a mess that I don't want to give up any more of my time to fix them.

Sometimes I think that FamilySearch thought that they would dump all this data into a tree and church members would rush in to correct it and come up with a gloriously correct tree. Not going to happen. I now use the trees the same way I use Ancestry, as a clue generator. That is it's only value as far as I'm concerned. I have better luck searching on my own.

Geolover said...

Much of my ancestry is in the FS-Family Tree.

I monitor parts that are incessantly mangled in other trees, and occasionally make corrections and add sources.

While photos and 'stories' can be added to the site, I do not like the indirect and complicated way of doing this from an external site and the hassle entailed in viewing them.

LDS doctrine opposing same-gender marriages/unions and LGBT persons in general prevents software coding to present real-life relationships and families in this Tree.

The FS-Tree, compiled from mostly-sourceless pre-existing trees, LDS traditionary accounts and coded algorithms' "conclusions" from some actual records, is riddled with duplicates and stupid mistakes (e.g., in one of my lines, woman who died in 1608 listed with 32 children born after her death) (not to mention she is locked into a marriage to a wrong husband). Mistakes are constantly being added by the site server program from more user-submitted material, including LDS members' submissions.

FS-FT shares the weakness of other internet-hosted trees, of disallowing linking associates such as baptismal sponsors and neighbors. Its tagging system is weak, such as in preventing differentiation between types of marital-related events (Marriage Bonds, Licenses, Banns, Intents, Betrothals . . .)

I have experienced what others have mentioned, such as some anonymous user's making drastic wrong changes in family groups with not a hint of a reason for doing so.

More frequently I am seeing people giving as reason for an entry or change an unidentified GEDCOM or tree that is posted elsewhere.

Amanda's point regarding sourcing is spot-on. FS's automated citations often do not mention the actual location of an event or the nature of a record, and often mislabel record books or files that have been uploaded to the site.

As with any wiki, there is potential for both illuminating accuracy and ridiculous errata. The hosting system's results, as with all internet trees, depend on user input and should not be expected to exceed the overall quality of other such trees.

Linda Stufflebean said...

Randy, I haven't posted anything on the FamilySearch Family Tree, but have used it to search for people, much as I use the hints generated by other sites. I found one line that was already such a mess that it more or less confirmed my suspicion that instead of many inaccurate trees on a website, this will be one tree with lots of mistakes. Others have already commented that corrections made with documentation can be undone immediately by someone else.

Gadget Surplus said...

When I find something in the tree of potential, it is almost pure fiction or very wrong with no supporting source references. Even ancestry.com hints in user trees have a higher credibility and usefulness.

Chriss said...

To answer all your questions:
I use FamilySearch.org, including their indexed records, their search isn't my favourite.

I use their unindexed records frequently, especially parish registers. I have made some incredible breakthroughs whilst reading these and I just wish more were online.

I've never been to a Family History Centre. Our local centre is only open 1 hour per week by appointment only, and it's over a 2 hour round trip. If it was more convenient (aka open more), I'd probably use it to order films.

I have used the Wiki, and the video resources on a few occasions. I have not done indexing, but have thought about it and will likely do some in the future.

I don't use Family Search Family Tree. Mostly because I don't want to spent my research time updating yet another tree. I'd rather be discovering my people. I have done a few searches for my ancestors and a few do appear, but they were such a mess I didn't want to touch it with a barge pole. Whilst I love the concept of 'one tree' and am happy to collaborate, I don't want to put effort in to spend my time cleaning up problems other people have created, at least not at the moment. I still have big holes in my tree and that is where I want to spend my time and effort. If I want to clean stuff up, I have 3 year-old to clean up after -- his messes are much easier to deal with.

Unknown said...

GeneaDiva illustrates perfectly why I won't ever use FSFT: collaborative is not good. Plus I have no American ancestry, and FS records are predominantly about the US. I prefer my private Ancestry tree, because it IS private.

sandraf93 said...

I also hoped that FamilySearch Family Tree would be a great way to collaborate. However, I discovered that while I was providing sources for my data other people would start adding data that conflicted with my data (many times the information was also incorrect) and did not provide sources for their data. I ended up having to clean up the mess other people were making of the tree. It was just too much....Great idea but it only works if each person that makes a change also cites their sources and gives the reason for the changes they are making to your tree or why they are merging their data with your tree.

Lisa Gorrell said...

My answer would be yes to all except the last one, though I am in the tree, just not connected to it.

I use the tree for hints and when I teach beginners, I do show them the tree and the searching capabilities in the records. Most of my beginners are only on Ancestry.com.

I have cleaned up records on FSFT but it is arduous, especially if it is a large family and you loose your place sometimes. I'm not always sure I got all the loose ends.

To me, FamilySearch is valuable for the records (indexed or not), the wiki, and FHL catalog!

Enno Borgsteede said...


I'm quite happy with it, using Gramps and RootsMagic's WebHints to check for sources, which are great for Europe.

There are of course messy parts, like in every other on-line tree, but here I can at least do something about that.

I'm in The Netherlands, with ancestors from England, France, and Germany, and have a dozen relatives in the US and Canada.



T said...

No, because anyone can edit/add/delete content. It would be a daily proof. I'll just do it at ancestry. A tree there is free and no one can change anything without my permission.

Susan Olsen LeBlanc said...

The change to the FS-FT was challenging after working with new.familysearch.org. Most of my work transferred and was blended with the work of others. It took some doing to re-connect all of the links in the process. Now the lines I work on are linked, but overseeing needed changes is a very time consuming process. I do teach classes on using FS-FT for various groups locally. Last week I posted on my blog goperhgenealogy.blogspot.com on using the FS-FT and some recent problems, one being my mother. After making the changes I emailed the person with no response. Then I put her on my watch list in case theri are any more changes. This is not an easy process and the average person will not devote the required time to manage such problems.
Overall I love the FS-FT and other features at familysearch.org. It is complicated and not easy for the general public. The family trees found under genealogies may hold additional information that is not included in FS-FT.

Jacquie Schattner said...

I can answer yes to all but the last question. I volunteered for 15 years at the local FHL. To me, the tree is relatively new and there has been quite a bit of tweaking. I'm waiting for things to settle down, and then I hope to use it.

Doris Wheeler said...

Familysearch is wonderful; the trees are a disaster. I have mine there, but it is hardly recognizeable. I have corrected, recorrected and recorrected some more, and still the old misinformation supersedes. I've given up on the trees.


upnover said...

I haven't used it for the following reasons:
1. I have an Ancestry tree & it seems confusing to a novice to work off 2.
2. Every time I attempt to do searches for info on Family Tree I get far fewer results than on Ancestry. I don't find the search functions very user friendly but that could be a lack of experience I suppose. (And I have taken one of your classes but still have a lot of trouble)

I may try in the future to do a tree hopefully to find info I can't on Ancestry but really wish the entire site was more user friendly.

Melissa said...


I do not use the Family Search Family Tree for the same reason alot of people don't use it and that is because I don't like the idea that anyone can come along and change what I have put on my family tree. Now, I am not saying that I am perfect and that I don't need corrections but what I am saying is that it is better for me to find my error and correct it so that I learn from my mistakes.

BarbJ said...

In theory, it's wonderful, but in practice, to quote others, "it is clunky and slow". It's not instinctive and it's hard to correct mistakes. I have a tree on Ancestry and would rather spend my time updating FTM and my Ancestry tree. If I were going to do the 'do over' which seems to be the current buzzword, maybe I would do it on FamilySearch. But since I'm not, I probably won't spend a lot of time expanding what I have already done.

okielois said...

I live in Oklahoma, but I am Mormon. So I was predisposed to try the tree, having already worked with the NFS. I have a tree at home on my computer that I use more as no one else can change it. And I can post things in notes that I'm not sure of yet. But I do periodically go to FS FT and add sources. This is a needed thing for those who come after us. And sometimes I look up things to get hints for my own research. I also use both FS and Ancestry for research. I volunteer in the local FHC and there aren't very many researchers there now. Most people do it from their homes on line. I bring something to read or do my own research or indexing.

Stephen said...

Hi, Randy. I just started importing my family tree from ancestry.com into FamilySearch yesterday. The thing I'm frustrated with is that I have to confirm each person, but I can't seem to do it for living people or people for whom I have no date of death. Since I can't get past that, there doesn't seem to be any way to get past the review cycle. I appreciate your article, and will read through these comments to see if anyone else has a similar problem.

Steven Montgomery said...

I use FamilySearch all the time. When I encounter "tangled lines," I just either skip past them or on to another line.

I consistently use Ancestry.com, Myheritage and findmypast as well. Thanks.

DanniDoodle said...

I have one public tree and two private trees on Ancestry.com. I also have a tree on FamilySearch Family Tree. However all of my genealogical information is on the Legacy Family Tree 8 software program.

When Legacy Family Tree 8 linked up with FamilySearch, to share information, I decided to use that as an opportunity for my own little online "Do Over" for a public tree on FamilySearch Family Tree. In setting up the FamilySearch Family Tree using the Ancestry.com trees it was amazing how many records I had originally found using FamilySearch and sourced to my tree on Ancestry.com! What is really great is I can put in the FamilySearch ID number in Legacy Family Tree 8 and if I am working on that individual, easily pull them up in FamilySearch to search for sources.

So far I have not experienced anyone changing information in my FamilySearch Family Tree. And to be honest, I personally don't care what someone else has in their tree. My main focus is finding information and making sure my "real" tree in Legacy Family Tree 8 is correct with proper citations.

Lauri said...

I use FS Family Trees. I have cleaned up a lot of the information and it has stayed clean. Some people are still a mess and I won't bother with those until the old/new FSFT is retired. I have my tree in FTM as well, but FS trees are a good way to share data. I have found the ancestry trees to be a mess, and rather than just one tree (FS) to worry about, there are tons to look at and they oftentimes have the same mistakes in them. At least with FSFT I am correcting data to make it right and can add notes and sources to justify what I have entered.

Monte LeBlanc said...

I have used the Trees but have become discouraged in all the data added anonymously. Everyone who adds to the trees should be required to provide an e-mail address so that we can collaborate on disputed data. I continuously see the same individuals changing data for the worse on the weekly report with no way to contact them.
Another problem I have is Legacy 7.5 is no longer linked.

Janice Harshbarger said...

I have trouble enough keeping one tree straight! Also, the learning curve time it would take me to learn another one could be put to use better in doing more research. I still have brick wall ancestors, and would rather spend my time learning how to find these folks, and then actually finding them! I don't expect to find them on the FamilySearch Family Tree!

Unknown said...

I started adding my tree several months ago, but am always confused when Family Search adds an alternate name for my ancestor which is EXACTLY THE SAME as the name I have. What is that about? And one set of gggrandparents have been, since day 1 of my research, the hardest to trace of my ancestors. It took me ages to find their 13 children and their spouses, and I am still missing two. One woman married a man whose name was spelled differently in every census. They took so long to sort out, but I even know now where they are buried. Another user came in and added four more husbands to that same woman, who apparently gave birth to most of her children in Wisconsin, but, every two or three years acquired another husband and gave birth in another state --and sorting this all out ultimately meant I had to delete my ggaunt and start all over again. I think it needs a lot more refinement before people take it seriously.

lineagehunter said...

I started to use FamilySearch Family Tree but stopped after spending many hours correcting and adding sources that had been removed from family members I personally knew or had birth, death and marriage certificates for. There was one family member who was so fouled up with what the other person was doing that I tried to delete them just to have a fresh start and remove the misattributed sources. I will not be using Family Tree again, I quit using Geni for pretty much the same reasons. If I have gone to the time, effort and expense of doing research on a person to have proper sources and put that information on a publicly changable tree only to have someone who is just collecting names, sources without correctly attributing them to the person and changing things, evidently, because they can or feel like it to make it fit their ideas or agenda, there really isn't much point. I even had someone change me and my parents, attributing me as an adopted child, which I was not, and my parents as unmarried, also untrue. I really can't recommend Family Tree or Geni until they find a way to handle the willy-nilly additions. Maybe if it was required for sources to match for a person to be added or something but the way it stands now it's absolutely meaningless to bother using a public tree anyone can screw up for you.

Arleen Ellis said...

I love FamilySearch Trees and Records. I am in FamilyTree and I use it regularly. I was frustrated with the fact that folks could change my research. Most of the time they were new and just didn't know what they were doing. But as I am adding photos, stories and attaching documents to prove information...less and less are trying to change the information I added. A couple of folks have contacted me and argued their case...and I actually liked what they had and changed a record or two. More folks need to add photos, stories and documents to make it more user friendly to new users.

I have asked the same questions that you asked. Some folks I talk to don't even know about the original records in FamilySearch. FamilySearch needs to make that Little tiny Link, larger or more visible so users see it.

Keep up the good work Randy. Love your blog. Thanks. Arleen

Kay said...

Easy. It's slow, it's clunky, it's overly complicated, and the data is a total mess. And even if I spend valuable time cleaning it up, someone else can come along and mess up all my hard work again. As a LDS, the ONLY reason I would ever much use it is for Temple Ordinances. Otherwise, I avoid it like the plague.

- Kay

Susan Marie Hillier Roe said...

I don't use Family Search Family Trees or the ones on Ancestry or other sites very much because they are so largely erroneous. It is my opinion that trees should not be allowed to be public unless they have sources. Most do not.

Marian said...

Randy, I can answer "yes" to all of your questions except the one on indexing (blush). Somehow it's always time to work on my own genealogy and not index for the community. I promise to do better this year.

I still use the local FHC to read microfilm for records that aren't yet online -- and I'm often to hear from others that they didn't know those records exist. It's a pity -- they're missing out on a lot, and they're missing the chance to meet people the others there.

I do use FamilySearch Family Tree to post branches of the family that are in danger of being lost or forgotten, to document them and to use as cousin bait. But frequently I'm frustrated by links that are broken, such as the links to images for some records. Also, sometimes, the other family names on a page go dead and I can't click on them to take me to the pages for those people.

I'm very happy that -- in the long run -- we'll have a place where we can post a tree and images that will stay around in spite of the acquisitions, mergers, strategy changes, bankruptcies, etc. among the commercial sites.

Pam Carter said...

It takes so much time and is so frustrating to untangle the messes that others make in the collaborative family tree. If genealogy is not your full-time job, it's impossible to keep up with the bad info that creeps into the process. Also the fact that all information and photos become property of the LDS Church is bothersome to me. I am not a member of this church and don't want to give up control of my research and family information (stories, photos, etc.).

Bonnie Samuel said...

While many who commented are not professional or certified genealogists, they are in a growing camp of accomplished and knowledgeable researchers who have good skills. The "industry" today is geared to the monetary gain, and attracts those who want to get their family history quick and put it in a pretty chart.
Familysearch is an excellent site and provides a valuable service, and other sites do so as well. But what most DO NOT DO is promote good research techniques. Yes some have such info as part of their offerings, but they do not speak of such in their promotion. Instead, charts, find your famous relative here, and already completed trees and other gimmicks are all available quick and easy...for a fee.
That FS promotes their tree service, that is open to any one who wishes to alter it...well why would any serious researcher be part of that?!

Mary Foxworthy said...

What they said.

Marian said...

A serious concern for all of us who put time and effort into FS/FT should be the fact that there isn't much in the way of output data. Charts, yes, but we can't export a Gedcom of our work, and we can't create a Register- or other-style report of a person's descendants. The family group sheets that it produces don't show the connection between each data item and the source of it -- just a list of sources for the person "at large."

Celia Lewis said...

I use Family Search in the same way I use Ancestry, FindMyPast, AmericanAncestors, etc., as clues for genealogy information. If there are images, then these can be very GOOD clues!

I have used FH Libraries in my area, and enjoyed the access to more commercial database companies.

I go through spurts of Indexing depending on my busy life.

As for FS-FT - it's a mess. (rolls eyes in exasperation)...I have lots of early NE ancestors and others from England, N.Ireland, Germany - and the tree is sometimes amazingly ridiculous for them. I personally do NOT understand the supposition that "one" tree can even be done when older unsupported details are added as if they're as valid as current details with excellent documentation & analysis. So, I won't be adding details from my tree (on my computer, and also on Ancestry). Ever.

McElrea One-Name Study said...

GeneaDiva said it for me.

Unknown said...

One cannot really collaborate with enthusiastic users who have no concept of the Genealogical Proof Standard. Actual facts can be "corrected" by absolute whimsy. It is a nice playground for those who want results without effort, and don't mind having ancestors they aren't actually related to. Also, it's clunkier than clunky. But familysearch.org is my favorite website.

Kathy Nicholes said...

I do think it would be a significant step forward if FSFT would REQUIRE anyone changing other's data to provide a valid email address. If someone has privacy concerns, they may add their own data, but should not be able to "hit and run" on other people's research.

Yvonne said...


I'm a FHC director. I routinely teach others how to use Family Search and the tree; however, I now include a warning in my workshops: Expect that your information might be changed. Expect that you can source until you're blue in the face, and someone will come along and merge and delete your evidence, sources and citations. It's discouraging, frustrating, and I'd rather spend my time more productively. The last time I complained to Family Search, I got a less than courteous email that told me not to make a report when this evidence and sourcing has been deleted. They told me to work it out with the person who deleted it. That would have worked very nicely if that person had provided contact information. Now I teach, but I don't participate.

TheJZB said...

The most disturbing alterations in my FamilySearch Family Tree have been (1) from people who make changes for no justifiable reason (one said "it looked better" to alter a name spelling); and (2) the unpredictable and perhaps brain-dead changes that FamilySearch makes, changing my tree with unvetted, sometimes unrelated, information from other records. I'm through wasting time trying to keep my FSFT clean and accurate. I hope someday FSFT gets it right. In the meantime, they are reaping what they have sown. Waste people's time and good intentions, and they will stay away.

For people without LDS background and connections, Family Tree seems to be less aggravating. Some tell me they like it.

Ted Johnson said...

The whole theory behind a "wiki" is that over time "good data" will drive out "bad data." Unfortunately, my experience with Family Tree has been exactly the opposite. I spend several hours each week trying to fix all the bad merges and other completely irresponsible changes made to the Tree. Users completely ignore sources, notes and documentation. There are no validation checks in the system to prevent obviously incorrect changes, such as merging people born over 100 years apart. Users are not required to provide contact information, so it is impossible to even discuss the irresponsible changes with those who make them. In short, it is simply not humanly possible to keep up with all the irresponsible changes constantly made to the Tree.

janniebgoode said...

I stopped using my tree after some busybody deleted a member of my family! It was a child that was born between federal census taking. If random people can edit my tree, then I'm not going to bother making one.

Ted Johnson said...

I think the problem is that FamilySearch released a wiki-style tree without providing any of the tools or controls to prevent the tree from descending into chaos. They went from the extreme of New Family Search where no one could change anything to Family Tree where users hiding behind anonymous user IDs can made irresponsible and ridiculous changes with no repercussions and not even a way to contact them!

IsraelP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
IsraelP said...

Randy, I do not put my information into any "online trees." And when I do, it certainly won't be one which allows anyone else to touch my data.

As I have written on my blog and elsewhere, I am a firm believer is a database which is definitive and a website which is illustrative. My database is in Brothers Keeper 5.2 for DOS and my website sits at pikholz.org. Both are primitive but serve me well.

Joy Mcmullen said...

I am basically an optimist, and so I headed into the FSFT creation thinking it was a great idea and would lead to new collaborations. What I found, almost immediately is that someone merged my data with hers, causing her name and contact information to prominently appear on the data and mine to disappear. Now, I know I do not own the data, but with my name basically gone, and hers attached to the ancestor, how will I ever be contacted should someone else be interested in that ancestor entry? To make matters worse, the merger's email address was not listed, so all communication stops.

Like others who have complained, I have lost interest in doing any more additions to FSFT. The reasons given in the above posts are valid and FamilySearch should give them serious attention.

Joy Mcmullen said...

I am basically an optimist, and so I headed into the FSFT creation thinking it was a great idea and would lead to new collaborations. What I found, almost immediately is that someone merged my data with hers, causing her name and contact information to prominently appear on the data and mine to disappear. Now, I know I do not own the data, but with my name basically gone, and hers attached to the ancestor, how will I ever be contacted should someone else be interested in that ancestor entry? To make matters worse, the merger's email address was not listed, so all communication stops.

Like others who have complained, I have lost interest in doing any more additions to FSFT. The reasons given in the above posts are valid and FamilySearch should give them serious attention.

Ryan said...

Randy, thanks for the forum. I can only echo what most others have said in that it just looks like to much work to battle with people on FSFT. I am greatly appreciative of the other features of the Family Search site and use them alot. I do like the idea of a single tree as often it becomes a real bear to look at an ancestor on a site like ancestry.com because there are often many trees that just have duplicate unsourced info. I haven't looked at wikiTree yet and am wondering if it is any better than the FSFT.

Red said...

FamilySearch family tree is to unprotected. It's to easily changed by users who don't even have contact information let alone supporting documents. It is too difficult to undo inaccurate information changed by hecklers. You spend countless hours being accurate and anyone can come along and change names and information to potty words. And if after more countless hours you fix it, you find they create a new free user and mess with it all over again... A good idea poorly monitored, and lacking the undo all changes made by a user tool. You can't even report the abuse of a tree. The act of creating the tree is to view and show the tree not spend endless hours with the maintanence of said tree...

Sue/Ahnenwald said...

I agree with Jim Ericson's post, 6 January 2015. "I love the collaborative experience . . ."

Careful research seems outnumbered on all family tree websites. Rather than maintaining cousin bait elsewhere, I prefer to spend my time perfecting my data and citations at FamilySearch's tree. I also regularly adopt problems I find in other branches there, adding sources from Historical Records that support my changes, and leaving gentle (?) comments about math and geography.

Solitary efforts, whether by new, untrained enthusiasts or chronic sufferers of my-tree-itis, have not improved accuracy overall. I believe collaboration is the cure.

jimmerjam said...

I think the obvious reasons have been covered. It is/was clunky to enter data, and too easily changed by ignorant "contributors." I still have bad feelings about an Ancestral File contribution I made many years ago, that was merged and "corrected" with wrong data. No way to change it, and ALL my source documentation was stripped by LDS at some point. That left a permanent bad taste in my mouth.

Don Martin Thomas said...

This should have been FamilySearch’s goal from the first, to make sure correct Family data & research was “preserved indefinitely.” What good is a database that is full of bad data? The problem is FamilySearch’s open editing "community" "Family Tree!" FamilySearch can put up a "People I am watching list," or "good data more sticky," or have their goal as "the changing of bad data and discourage the changing of good data'" or whatever, in FamilySearch’s attempt to preserve indefinitely Family Data and research, but nothing will change. You will still get people INPUTTING BAD DATA INTO AN OPEN COMMUNITY PUBLIC TREE.

Problem is now members of the church are just assuming that all on familysearch.org is ture, and are shipping - transferring - corrupted data around the world. When you have an open community tree where everyone and anyone can add data, means that people with not good intentions can also add data, - subtract data, or move it around into a different Families line. HOW GOOD IS THE DATA IN AN OPEN COMMUNITY TREE OR VENUE ANYWAY-?

George Mouchet said...

I just started using FamilySearch Family Tree a couple of months ago. I do also have my tree on Ancestry.com. My "main tree" is on my PC in RootsMagic, which links to Family Tree. My Ancestry tree was loaded from a Gedcom export out of RootsMagic.

I think the concept of building a single tree is really useful and compliments sites where everyone loads their own tree. One of the best things about FamilySearch is that when you change something it asks you why you think it's correct. It makes you (and anyone making edits) stop and think about it. Everyone can see what the change was and why you changed it. If someone changes your data, you have the option to accept or reject the change. There a place for discussions of disputed information so everyone can decide for themselves what is correct. In the change log it shows everyone who has been working on a person and you can contact them if they choose to make their email address visible. I have sent and received a lot of great information by contacting other researchers. I made connections and found ancestors that I had not found on any other site. I think more people need put their sources on Family Tree, but I don't mind asking others for their sources, or doing the research myself to prove things.

Like Wikipedia, Yelp and other collaborative web sites, Family Tree has had its growing pains, but like those other sites, the quality of the information improves as more people use it

Cynthia Strangeways said...

I added my great grandfather and the next thing I knew my tree went back to the year 900. Not awesome. Many of the individuals added were not even sourced. Now I have generations of meaningless garbage. The question here should not be "Why don't we use FamilySearch trees?" But "Why does anyone?"

Wendy Garmatter said...

So I ended up here when I did a search to find out what to do about other researchers merging to my tree. It is exactly why I am quitting my Family Search family tree. I don't have time to check all the updates that magically grow my tree three or four generations instantly. Many may be correct, but one individual added a source (Census) to an ancestor that made him 20 years younger than he should have been, with his first wife after he had re-married, in a location that did not make sense. I believe he and the first wife were both deceased at the time of the record. That is it, in a nutshell.

mrlimbo said...

The simple reason ive never started a a tree on Family Search , is for that excact reason , they expect me to start all over again , as they dont allow you to upload a ged file , who in their right mind is going to do all that again , when they already have a family tree thats taken years to compile ?

Lisa Marker said...

Without reading all of the other comments already posted, here are my reasons for not putting my information on the familysearch family tree:
Because of the access of beta testers to the site, long before the public could enter information on family trees, there was already a ton of information on the family tree site. The result is that, although familysearch's goal is one person, one record, they are nowhere near that goal. The information provided is very accurate many times, but other times, you can tell that the research was done incompletely, facts are wrong, and/or there are no source citations backing up what is already there. As an example, I have found families where the same children are listed multiple times, with no effort (apparently) to correct this situation.
In a professional capacity, I work on a database where a part of my duties is to find and determine whether records are duplicates of the same person, and then merge the records. I have been doing that for 15 years, and I find the de-duplification utility on the familysearch family tree so confusing that I refuse to interact with it. I want to know precisely what I am moving, which direction it is going (am I properly moving it from the "duplicate" to the "keeper?"), and it should only have to do with the one person, not with the whole family (one person, one record, right? If I am right about the person, the family should fall into place correctly anyway). I would never combine two people without absolutely knowing that they were the same person, and yet, someone could come along behind me and reverse what I had done.
There are many aspects of the site that I like, in that records can be attached to the person from familysearch. However, this does not override my true concern regarding the de-duplification process. Because there were already so many pre-existing records in the database, it will be a very long time before this is resolved.
One person, one record is a very noble goal. I don't expect to see it met soon, if ever. And until/unless that de-duplificaiton process is made much less confusing, I won't be interacting with the family tree database on a regular basis.

bintelly said...

I find too many errors. The errors are not always possible to cleanup. Not everyone using the trees is using reasonable proof concepts. Most of the records I found had no proof. Much of what I found was hearsay from family legends, and the researcher had not bothered to do the primary research. So basically quality was the problem for me. And I didn't want to insult family members who had been researching many years longer than I had but had errors, so it works better for me to not use it. Also, there are no privacy settings. Some information I have reason not to share, at least not at this point in time.

Marty Bialke said...

I have found familysearch.org to be the most un-userfriendly tree I have ever tried to work with. Someone can come in and change my documented information, which can cause confusion with others who view my tree. If mistakes are made by other people on my tree, I am not able to delete the mistakes. This is my biggest complaint. I have tried for months to work with it, and frankly, it is not worth the headache and trouble. Just my opinion.

RVcook said...

This morning, while preparing to use FS-FT for the first time, I stumbled upon this blog post and subsequent comments. Needless to say, I decided NOT to even bother. Thanks for the heads up!

Paul1307 said...

If I'm understanding the reasons people are giving for using FamilySearch Family Tree, the primary issue is that "anyone" can delete an existing link between two people without having to provide any documentation. As a first suggestion, why not suggest to the managers of that site that making changes without accompanying documentation should not be allowed. That might - emphasis on might - alleviate at least part of the problem.
The second issue is that even when documentation is provided it conflicts with existing citations or documentation (if it didn't there wouldn't be a problem!). Why not allow all versions of citations or documentation coexist so that users can see where the differences are. Some citations might (emphasis again) be seen for the ludicrous "guesses" that they undoubtedly are, while others might pass the test of time. Perhaps some form of voting for what users agree is the more likely connection would break the bottleneck? Seems to work for WIKIs of all sorts, might it work for FamilySearch Family Tree as well?
Either dialogue will result, or it won't, and if someone can't of won't defend their version of things, then de-facto, their opinion no longer counts. Not very democratic, I'll agree, but at least the "one-hit-wonders" with misinformation might eventually either disappear from the discussion, or be brought around to accepting the collective wisdom of the masses or a majority of other contributors?
The current situation rewards the least knowledgeable, but most persistent. Clearly, the most knowledgeable are fleeing in droves. A method of presenting conflicting opinions rather than simply overwriting the most recent one would be far more democratic, and more likely to yield some positive results. The managers can either save their site, or lose it to chaos. Isn't there some way to influence them to adapt to a more productive system?

Paul1307 said...

That first sentence should have read "...are giving for NOT using FamilySearch Family Tree..."

Kent J said...

It is interesting to read everyone's views and experiences. Thank you for sharing them.

I might mention that earlier last year, FT added a messaging system so users can collaborate with users who have not provided an email address. I have used this function,it works really well and I want to thank the programmers for adding this function. My experience in collaborating with others has been very positive.

There have been a lot of improvements made this past year.

I also index records. While I really prefer to work on my own family, I figure I need to give back as a token of appreciation for others who have made my research easier. I think of working on FT the same way. Others taught me and I use FT to help to others learn.

scotia8 said...

I use FamilySearch Family Tree. It's not perfect, but I find it to be user-friendly for the most part. The FT programmers respond to feedback and have gradually been improving the program over the last few years. I like the whole idea of collaboration since "my" tree is far bigger than anything I can personally research. I appreciate seeing what others contribute, including pictures, stories, and research backed up by sources. When stuff is added or changed which is obviously mistaken, I make corrections and add a note saying why. Detailed notes and sources are persuasive. Collaboration can be messy, but it's the future of genealogy, and the sooner we join in the better.

Alex Holub said...

Why aren't more people using Family Search more often. I disagree with scotia8 it is not user friendly. I am constantly calling them up to find out how to find something. So often when I do a search for someone I put in before I get, "No data found..." even if I get quite specific it isn't found. Their programming needs to be simplified. It is VERY confusing.

DavidE said...

I use FT regularly now. Initially I had problems with someone changing some information I put in, but I have been careful to support my work and explain why I changed the information back. So far I haven't had anyone else change what I corrected. The best part of FT for me is that often see new photos, stories and sources shared by others that I wasn't aware of. FT is a wonderful tool, and I suspect it will get better and better over time.

AmericanGirl said...

For most of the same reasons commenters above have said they find FamilySearch frustrating. The site is slow, the processes are clumsy and laborious, but most of all it's the problem with bad data. What was the old term? GIGO? Garbage in, garbage out.

When anyone, no matter how careless, malicious, or misguided can add data and, even worse, change good data input by other, more careful, skilled, diligent people, you've got a bad system.

Ancestry has loads of errors as well, but at least no one else can alter my carefully researched contributions. In fact, at this point most people can't even see my trees, because most of the date is not yet close enough to certain, and I don't want to share errors that too many people will copy and share. (It would be great if we could share only the parts we're sure of.)

Collaboration can be great, but only if all parties share a level of commitment to getting it right.

Hal Lee B said...

This is an excellent thread.

I have used Ancestry on and off since 2007 or so to build up a tree. I had a trial sub and then another sub that came with the desktop software. I *really* like the user interface. It's extremely intuitive for me, a non-professional.

I exported my GEDCOM and started to import it into FamilySearch last year, but haven't yet finished (although frankly I'm not clear on whether it is visible to others, because I see it when I search). I will say that they have excellent user support (I chatted with someone when I was confused about whether or not I had uploaded my tree).

This year, I've gotten DNA tested through the free service Genes for Good, and have uploaded my DNA results to GEDMatch.com and am locating DNA cousins through Facebook groups I'm on with people who are searching for the same surnames. This is just to say that DNA is also a factor in my assessment of a given service.

I am particularly interested in mapping my tree geographically. I also found the Gramps software which does link with Google Earth.

I'm starting to tire of giving Ancestry.com money, and before I found this thread I was thinking that maybe Family Search would be a good alternative, but the records are really much more limited (How can that be since LDS has been doing this for centuries?) My tree itself will provide the first records for my ancestors, who go back to the 1600s in the North American continent.

So.... next steps for me are unclear.

Debra Winchell said...

I don't like the trees because the last time I knew, an absolute complete stranger could come along and change my family tree. It is one thing to have your information posted and another to see if you're right or wrong. A complete stranger should not have the right to come along and change things without contacting me or giving me reasons why. When there is controversy and narrow-minded people involved, it matters!

Wendy Barr said...

I am so glad that I googled for reviews on this subject. The thread has been interesting & informative. I don't have much to add but here are my two cents. I've always had an interest in my family history but never really delved into it. About 3 years ago I signed up with MyHeritage.com and thought I would give it a shot. Unfortunately things in life kept getting in the way & I found that I didn't have as much time to devote to the search as I had hoped so I wasn't getting my moneys worth (I cancelled after one year). Last Fall I felt like I was in a better place to start the family tree research again but I was reluctant to sign up on a site that you have to pay for (just in case I didn't follow through with this project). I joined FamilySearch.org because it was free & supposedly had access to tons of records. I had some information already so I wasn't starting from scratch. My first few attempts were challenging but I thought that, maybe, I just wasn't used to the site or doing it wrong. I would leave it for a few weeks and go back but continued to have issues. I couldn't find people or when I did the information was wrong. I found building the family tree very awkward to work with. I thought it was just me. Recently I spoke with a woman that had done major research on her ancestors and clan. She suggested FamilySearch so I decided that I had better give it one more solid try. Once again I ended up frustrated. I just do not like the FS website.....at all. Maybe it is me but I find it incredibly frustrating which takes the enjoyment out of doing this project. Every single time I go on the website I waste time and get aggravated. And now I find out that strangers can go in and make changes??!?!?!?! WTH? I know it is free and maybe it will work for others but I am done with it. I think I will go back to finding what I need on other free sites. Even if I have to pay a little bit I don't mind (which I do for the ScotlandsPeople website). I just may have save up my pennies and go back to MyHeritage or sign up with Ancestry.ca.

Kenneth Sturmer said...

I too, am losing interst in FSFT, because I have found people added to my tree, without my consent. Where my grandmother came from, for instance. There are many families with the same last name. THEY ARE NOT ALL RELATED TO EACH OTHER, yet Family Search as well as Geni tends to make them all one family which they are not. It's just like there are many John Smiths in New England, but they are NOT ALL RELATED! Just because they have the same name.

Wendy Barr said...

OK so it isn't just me. I was starting to think it was because I was new at it and not grasping how to work their website. But I have been reading reviews/comments and so many people swear by the site. I am still unsure how I feel about FamilySearch but I am giving it another try.

Rosie said...

I'm a FamilySearch.org user. The one thing that sets this program apart from the other ones I've tried is that I can source all other records using RecordSeek.com from MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, other people's trees, or even a Google Search. I like linking up with other people's trees on this program because they give me great clues to find records and sometimes they have already found it for me. Why reinvent the wheel? I'm a bit obsessive compulsive on finding records when dates are recorded so I source things to see if their information is correct. I would say 90% of the time it is correct in my tree.

I can put a great myriad of photos on it, life stories, audio recordings of deceased relatives, and even a short story about a family member I knew personally. (Look under "Memories" in the person's profile.). I have not found all these features in other programs I've used.

I have found that if I source well; it doesn't get changed much. (I can periodically keep my updated tree in another program if I want to.) I put "watches" on people who I am concerned about. A note will come up that it is being "Watched" when someone looks at this person or they are wanting to change something.

When I source, I put very specific places that have more details so it intimidates the beginners especially.... For example if I put something like "Copenhagen, Denmark" it is more likely to be changed. If I put something like Copenhagen, Sokkelund, Copenhagen, Denmark or Gentofte, København, Sokkelund, København, Denmark (parish, city, judicial district, county, country) then it is less likely to be changed. The same concept works in the United States, also.

Another sourcing suggestion is if you have something like a birth/death record then under the "Sources" section there is a tag that you can check something like "Name," "Gender," "Birth," or "Death/Burial" This record will show up under the person's name, birth, gender and death when someone clicks on any of those fields. I put the actual records not just a website link since those can change frequently. If someone sees a real birth record document when they click on a name, they are less like to want to change it.

I have found a wonderful 3rd cousin who I have been able to share Danish photos of my grandmother's with while she shared her grandmother's photos. They are priceless. We have been able to work on our tree together and share common research. She has found that her work rarely gets changed, also.

I understand many concerns, but if one knows how to handle the problems in advance, the program is the best one I have seen. (Currently Danish records are better on MyHeritage.com for my line of research, but I transfer the information to FamilySearch.org because the tree fits my needs better.)

emmwho said...

At some point... years ago... I must have uploaded my tree to Family Search. I think it may even have been before the feature existing now that anyone can change anything on that tree. I just realized that fact while doing a search one day... a lot of the "matches" were from my own tree that I had forgotten was even on there.

I would like to delete that whole tree but find there is no way to be able to do that now. And the reason I'd like to delete the whole thing is as has been mentioned in the numerous other posts on this thread. Anyone can change information even if they have totally wrong information about someone in my tree. It just doesn't seem like a very sensible option to me.