Thursday, November 21, 2013

Checking Out Puzzilla - a Descendant Viewer Using FamilySearch Family Tree

Genea-blogger James Tanner posted I Hope This Program Gets Fully Developed and Available: on 3 November 2013 on his Genealogy's Star blog, and commented more about it today in Finding What Needs To Be Researched on Your FamilySearch Family Tree: Revisited.

So I clicked on the link and, like James, I can see real possibilities for as a way to help add leads for further genealogy research, especially descendant research.

1) The home page for (which is in Alpha development) looks like this:

That's pretty bland, but it is in the alpha stage of development.  The "About" page says:

"Descendant Viewer: Research Patterns in FamilyTree Collateral Lines.

"The Puzzilla Descendants Viewer lets researchers see descendants in FamilyTree using compact symbols that reveal patterns in collateral-line research. Names and details appear as you move the pointer over the symbols.
  • Clicking on a symbol in the pedigree leads to that person's descendants.
  • Clicking on a descendant leads to searching for that person in FamilySearch historical records.
  • Shift-clicking on a descendant leads to a new descendant view with that person at the root.


There are also detailed directions for how to use the site.

2)  First, the user has to enter their FamilySearch registration credentials - username and password.

Then Puzzilla finds the registered person in the FamilySearch Family Tree in a fan-like tree:

If the user runs their mouse over one of the nodes on the tree structure on the right side of the screen, they can see the name of the person represented by that node.  The other nodes are the person's ancestors - blue for males, red for females, and green for the registered person (me).

All of the information in the fan tree above is from the FamilySearch Family Tree, which I've worked in quite a bit adding my ancestral families, matching and merging persons, correcting relationships, adding sources, etc.  I need to have checked each family and relationship out to ensure that it matches my genealogy research.

I moused around the tree and found my 4th great-grandfather, Humphrey White (1759-1814), and the screen below shows him in my ancestral tree:

3)  If I click on Humphrey White, then the tree changes so that Humphrey White is the central node and the chart becomes a Descendants chart:

Each one of those dots represents a descendant of Humphrey White.  In addition to blue for males and red for females, there are also yellow for died before age 16, and gray for persons born within 110 years.

The user can select how many generations to see on the descendants branch chart.  I chose 6 generations.

4)  If I run my mouse over one of the persons in the tree above, I can see their node.  Here is my father in Humphrey White's descendant tree:

If I want to see the FamilySearch Family Tree entry for my father, I can click the information box for him:

You can see why this website will be an excellent way to do descendant research to find heirs, find cousins, or investigate autosomal DNA connections.

5)  Of course, someone has to enter the information for the descendant families.  I was surprised to see so many descendants, even out to my generation, of Humphrey White.  I usually track only one more generation, and at most two generations, of siblings of my ancestors in my genealogy database, unless it's one of my one-name study surnames.

If becomes a production program, I expect to see a link on the FamilySearch Family Tree page for each person that says something like "See Descendant Tree of This Person."

6)  I really like this Descendant Viewer program - it works well and should be very useful for me and others.  But the user has to be in the FamilySearch Family Tree and linked to ancestral families in order to use it effectively.

It will be interesting to see if genealogy software programs will incorporate a descendant view feature like this into their offerings.  Currently, the software programs use dropline lists or boxes to do the task in large descendants charts.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds at

Have a great weekend!

bdimter said...

All those years ago, you were definitely right about "I can see real possibilities for as a way to help add leads for further genealogy research, especially descendant research."

I've used FamilySearch descendancy view a lot over the last 7 years but only recently used's Premium Service for descendancy research. With the premium service, will open 10 tabs of record hints with one click, making it much faster and less clicks to review record hints.

If you're into cherry-picking what sources you review, "the New Person service finds hints that contain a candidate family member that is missing from FamilyTree that you can add to the tree." That way you only review sources where new relatives are able to be added to the FamilySearch Tree. is great for tracking each line you're researching, as a way to quickly pick up where you left off. Ex. I log each of my 4th great grandfather's to quickly go to their descendants and review all the record hints and possible duplicates. I mark on the log the color tickers to indicate I've checked the record hints and possible duplicates, and in the notes section of the log, I enter the date I last completed that line of research, in case I wanted to follow up a few months later.