Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One Family Tree File or Many Tree Files?

On the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook, Betty Marek asked this question yesterday:

"What is recommended on FTM--one huge single tree, including all branches of your family as well as spouse's family; or several trees for each branch of the family surname as well as separate trees in a spouse's family?"

We also talked about this in the Monday, 13 October Hangout On Air for Mondays With Myrt (on YouTube.  This discussion starts at 1:00:00 on the video.

1)  My response was "One big tree."  My reasons:

*  I have several cousin relationships between my mother and my father which were unknown when I started growing my family tree.  If I had one tree for my mother, and one for my father, I would have to input information for their common ancestral families twice.

*  The same thing happens for my daughters and their husbands - one of them is her husband's distant cousin in several New England lines.  It also happens for my cousins spouses.

*  I started several One Name Studies with separate trees for each - Seaver, Carringer, Auble, Vaux, Buck, Dill, Richman, etc.  I had to enter information for my own ancestral families twice in several different trees.   I finally combined them into my one big tree about ten years ago and haven't regretted it.

The chart above shows that my parents are seventh cousins.

2)  My family tree database has one "Big Tree" (my ancestral families, with my daughters' spouses' ancestry, and my one-name study families that connect to me.  My database also has many "bushes" of various sizes because some of my One Name Study subjects that are not connected to the "Big Tree."

I do have some family tree files sent to me by other researchers, but I have extracted the information that I want, and that sources support, and added it to my "Big tree" one person at a time.

3)  I also have several separate "client" trees that I have created over the years.  I've wondered if I should add those to my "Big Tree" as just another "Bush" in order to save the research, but I haven't done that yet.  The alternative is to add these client bushes as separate Ancestry Member Trees on Ancestry, and to add the data to the FamilySearch Family Tree from the client trees.

4)  What are your reasons for having one "Big Tree" or several smaller "Grandpa Trees?"

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2014/10/one-family-tree-file-or-many-tree-files.html

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


nancy said...

I'd add the following reasons to your list:

1. Linking tree to DNA results - both FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry DNA only have ability to point to a single tree. For most autosomal matches, don't know what surname might be associated, so helps to see all options.

2. Searching easier when everything in one tree - those share with will find easier to navigate when only have 1 tree to search; even I have trouble remembering where by-marriage surnames connect

Ruth said...

I've got one big tree but was considering splitting into smaller trees (not that I've worked out how to split a tree on FTM yet!). You make some interesting points about having one big tree but if you have a common ancestor down 2 branches how do add then to both branches without adding 2 people?? Not figured out how this can be done...thanks Ruth

Keith Riggle said...

Randy, I prefer one big tree for the convenience. If I make contact with a distant cousin, I don't want to have to open multiple trees to see how we're related. However, FTM has technical limitations on how many individuals and all the associated media that can be added before it starts acting sluggishly. This depends on the amount of RAM on your machine, how much free disk space you have, the speed of your processor, etc. I have a 7-year-old Mac with 6 GB RAM, and I found that with almost 30,000 people in my tree, FTM for Mac 3 was getting very laggy, so I pruned my tree to about 4,500 people, and it runs much better now. Hopefully things will improve when FTM migrates to 64-bit from the current 32-bit versions (both Mac & Windows).

Ruth, I posted an article on how to split a FTM tree at genealogytools.com/splitting-a-family-tree-with-family-tree-maker-part-2/ . Although it's written for the Mac version, the steps for Windows should be similar.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well with you Randy. Having multiple trees can get confusing as you're having to update multiple trees if they are related to both. It also just helps to keep the big picture of the family together in one place to see the lineage.

Cousin Russ said...


I was in the FB conversation on this topic AND use FTM2014.

If I had split my tree, I would NOT have known that my parents were related.

My brain wouldn't remember to put a person into more than one file. I would and have seen many other Family Tree Maker users end up missing people or having duplicate people with multiple files.

FTM2014 and FTMM-3 (Family Tree Maker for the Mac, 3rd version) have made many improvements for large files.

The fact that our images are NOT in the same file as our data had improved FTM2014.

One users opintion.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

I like one big tree for all the reasons posted and the convenience of checking for new cousins among all the possible branches. However, my big tree is BIG and it takes a lot of tending technology wise. In order for it to run well on my computer, I need to keep upgrading to more memory, faster processors. It is too big to run on my laptop, and too big to put on Ancestry so I can use the app on my mobile devices. So I do have an "abridged tree" on Ancestry just for that purpose.

Rachel R. said...

Funny, Nancy's first reason is the one major reason I'm considering SPLITTING my tree to remove my husband's family, due to her second reason. ;) It gets very confusing for DNA matches to identify which common locations or surnames are relevant when they're searching my line AND his.

It certainly is easier to manage in general, though, with it all on one tree like we have it.