Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exploring Trees - Big FAIL

In my post Exploring yesterday, I noted that had the look and feel of a social networking and family tree web site.

In this post I want to discuss the "Tree" tab on the web site. If you don't want to read the step-by-step of adding data, please skip to the bottom of the post for a summary.

I entered three generations of my ancestors into the We're Related application on Facebook about one year ago. The information included birth and death dates and places, and a head-shot photo of these people. Here is what the Tree on We're Related looked like:

As I mentioned yesterday, my expectation was that the information in the We're Related application on Facebook would be brought across into the Tree application (which can be accessed from Facebook and other social networking sites). That is, I believe, a logical expectation - that when a web site changes from one form to another that it retains the user-contributed information to the new web site.

When I checked several months ago, only my own name and photo had been migrated into - the other persons had disappeared from the site. My "Relatives" had been migrated also, but that was it! I added my mother and father in order to see how easy it was to use the new interface. Here is what the Tree looked like yesterday:

As you can see, the data I had in the We're Related application on Facebook did not migrate to It's like I wasted several hours adding information to We're Related. My expectations were certainly not met!

I wanted to see how long it took to add a person to the Tree, so I decided to add some parents to my parents. I clicked on the "+" sign to the right of my mother's name, and a larger box with her birth and death information opened:

I could have edited her information if I had wanted to. There is an "Edit Info / Add Family" button in the middle of the dropdown box, so I clicked that and saw:

Now the information for my mother and my father is displayed. Above each name is a button to "Add / Edit Parents." I clicked on that in my father's box, and was able to add the name, birth date, birth place, death date, and death place for his parents - Frederick Walton Seaver and Alma Bessie Richmond, as shown below:

I could also choose the marital status for them, but could not add a marriage date or a marriage place. This operation to add two more people to my Tree took just over four minutes. That seems, to me, to be really slow. At this rate, I could have my 2,000 ancestors and their children entered by, oh, say Christmas 2018! does not offer a GEDCOM upload yet. When I asked why they did not offer it, their representative said they wanted to connect close relatives rather than use up precious bandwidth having hundreds or thousands of persons in their database.

I also asked several months ago why the persons that were in the We're Related application on Facebook were not migrated into, and was told that they were working on it. It hasn't happened yet! I sincerely doubt that it will happen.

What does my Tree look like now? Here's a screen shot with the parents of my father added:

I am not going to waste any more time to enter ancestors and family members one at a time into this Family Tree application. Without the ability to upload a GEDCOM file, it is worthless to me as a researcher. There are many Family Tree applications that are free that permit invitation of relatives to join publicly or privately. My impression is that doesn't want the GEDCOM uploads. If they did, it would already be added, since it can't be that difficult to do (and I note that there are many other web sites with the capability).

I also noted that there is no way to see the Trees of my "Relatives" unless I add the "Relative" to my Tree. Three of my four "Relatives" are distant cousins - some out eight or ten generations.

There appears to be no way to search for other persons with my ancestors. So nobody else can find me or my nearly barren Tree.

I've asked myself several times "why has gone to all of this trouble to create this web site and then prevent researchers from using it effectively?" Then I remember that the statistic we saw several months ago was that there were 50 million users of the We're Related application on Facebook who had created 300 million person profiles. Do the math - that's six per Tree on average. I had entered 16 persons - more than the average.

But apparently doesn't have those 300 million persons (that were in We're Related application) in their database, do they? Did all of the pictures and other information that was entered by those 50 million persons migrate from We're Related to FamilyLink? Mine certainly didn't. It's a pain to add content of that nature again - why should I? After all of this hassle, why would anybody even try to use

I believe that the answer is that just wants the "hits" from the fact that 50 million people have the application on their Facebook page. If each registered person checked it out every three months, that would average out to be almost 6 million hits a month (see the traffic post). Or does get a hit each time a person with the application logs into Facebook (or other social networking site)? I don't know. sends out emails telling users to add more relatives to their tree - does that cause the users to check the application? I don't know. What I do understand is that advertising revenue is based on the traffic to a web site, and can show very high traffic - equivalent or higher than But the web site seems "hollow" - there is not much content, certainly not for genealogy researchers. You can draw your own conclusions.

My opinion is that the web site and tree application is useless to me as a genealogist and family historian. I can find free (and paid) family tree sites that allow me to share my tree with relatives, accept a GEDCOM upload, and allow me to search for persons.

The Trees on are a Big FAIL, in my humble opinion.


Randy from Michigan said...

When I first came across FamilyLink weeks ago, my first impression was... social media and genealogy. BLEH. Marriage made in hell.

Glad my thoughts were confirmed. Keep up the great work, mister. I enjoy your blog. :)

bobby said...

Some of these websites are leeches which dont have integrity or a good business model, but are rather like a slimy snake.

I've had some issues lately myself. One website in particular had no DELETE button for your Gedcom - so it was a few emails and a few weeks (and blah blah blah in reply from them) just to get rid of my bloody gedcom. Never will i use them again. This site in particular just wants your tree, so it can build and boast about how many millions of people it has.

Often they have a hidden agenda so be careful as to what it is.

Debbie Blanton McCoy said...


Is there any way to delete an account once a person signs up on the web site? I signed up just to check it out, now if I go to the web site and sign out, it signs me out of my whole Facebook account. Grrrr.