Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dear Randy: How and Why Do You Use the FamilySearch Family Tree?

A society colleague asked this question recently, and I thought my Genea-Musings readers might be interested in, or have comments on, my answers:

1)  Why do I use the FamilySearch Family Tree?

*  Because it is the largest collaborative family tree online at present -- over 878 million profiles.  Big is not necessarily better, but in this case it is, IMHO.  It is not perfect, of course!

*  It may last forever (well, maybe 40 years?) - and should preserve the genealogy and family history of my ancestors all the way back to medieval times.  And yours too, if you enter your ancestral information.

*  I can add names, events, dates, places, sources, notes, stories, media, audio and video (?) to a person profile.  I can link persons to a profile as children or parents.

*  The Family Tree is collaborative - nobody "owns" a profile, and anyone registered on FamilySearch can change it.  Many perceive this to be a drawback, but in the end it is a benefit because the central idea is that the information in the tree should be based on sources that support the assertions for names, events, dates, places, etc.  Other persons can add content to the profiles that may be helpful to my research.

*  While there are many duplicate person profiles, and some wrong names, dates, places and relationships, these will be gradually eliminated as more users attach events, sources, dates, etc., and merge duplicate profiles.

*  I don't have to type names, events, dates, places, notes, sources, etc. into the Family Tree fields, I can use RootsMagic (or Legacy Family Tree or Ancestral Quest) to do almost all operations except for deleting a person or a relationship.

*  The tables and charts available in Family Tree, and in the FamilySearch apps developed by other companies and organizations, are better than every other online family tree, and of many software family trees.

*  Contributing to the Family Tree makes me feel like I'm contributing to a major collaborative effort that should be able to help beginning researchers avoid duplication of effort.

UPDATE:  I received an email from Gaylon Findlay, the owner of Ancestral Quest, who offered:

"You said, 'can use RootsMagic (or Legacy Family Tree or Ancestral Quest) to do almost all operations except for deleting a person or a relationship.'

"Ancestral Quest allows you to delete both persons and relationships. In fact, when it comes to fixing incorrectly entered spousal relationships, AQ provides a unique aid. If you find that someone had incorrectly recorded a relationship between your ancestor and someone to whom they were never actually connected, and there are children listed, in FS you have to go through an involved process of not only deleting the relationship between the spouses, but also of deleting the relationship between the errant spouse and each child one at a time. Until the last errant child/parent relationship is deleted, FS will still show the couple as related. In AQ, when you choose to delete a relationship between two such spouses, and children are involved, AQ asks whether to break the relationship between one spouse and all of the children, or the other spouse and all of the children, so you can accomplish a complete separation in just a couple of mouse clicks. You also have the option of keeping the children connected to each parent, while breaking the link between the spouses. By choosing this option, you leave the door open to deal with the children one at a time later."

My thanks to Gaylon for correcting my misinformation.  This appears to be an excellent process to use - perhaps RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree will incorporate it into their programs.

2)  How Do I Use the FamilySearch Family Tree?

*  I use RootsMagic to match my RootsMagic persons to Family Tree person profiles.  In the matching process, there may be duplicate Family Tree profiles for the same person and I can merge them.  If there is no Match for my RootsMagic person, then I can add a new person to the Family Tree and attempt to link that person to an ancestor already in the Family Tree.

*  I use RootsMagic to add and edit person profiles on the Family Tree.  Often, it is only to standardize place names, to delete duplicate events, or merge duplicate profiles.  Often, the Family Tree has additional events, a better name, a more complete date, or a more complete place name that I can add to my RootsMagic database.

*  Many Family Tree person profiles have sources, notes and media for events that I can capture.

*  There is a link in RootsMagic to see the Family Tree person profile, which may have Record Hints that I can add manually to my RootsMagic database.

*  The Family Tree is a Finding Aid and Hint Tree.  I add descendants of my late 18th century ancestors to my RootsMagic database in the matching process.  I check the sources, events, dates, places and relationships before I enter the information into RootsMagic.  These are my 1st to 5th cousins, depending on the common ancestors, and they may appear in my DNA matches on Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe and GEDMatch.

3)  Some observations about FamilySearch Family Tree:

*  My observation is that there are many 19th century and early 20th century persons in the Family Tree, defined by LDS member family group sheets and Tree users, that are not in any other online family tree.  Often, there are specific dates and places for these persons that were derived from family papers and records.

*  I have had very few discussions with other researchers about a Family Tree profile, and very few names, dates or places have been changed by other Family Tree users.  I have initiated more discussions, and deleted questionable parental relationships, for many of my 16th and 17th century ancestors.  Only occasionally is there a Discussion item from another researcher about one of my  16th or 17th century ancestors to respond to.

*  There are more duplicate profiles for persons born before 1700, probably because there were more entries for these persons in Ancestral File and the IGI.  More users have the same ancestor and duplicate persons have been added without checking for the person profile.

*  I have set up my Watch List to include all of my post-1650 ancestor profiles in Family Tree, so I can observe changes to the Family Tree profiles on a weekly basis.

Here is the FamilySearch Person Tools screen in RootsMagic (two screens, some overlap) for my grandfather:

4)  The resulting FamilySearch Family Tree profile for my grandfather (selected screens):

5)  My RootsMagic database has over 48,500 persons in it now, and I have matched 18,250 of those persons to a FamilySearch Family Tree profile.  That's just a drop in the big Family Tree bucket (with over 800 million profiles), but I feel like I am contributing my 30 years of research to an online family tree that should last well beyond my lifetime.  I match several hundred persons each month and eventually will have most of my RootsMagic database in the Family Tree.

Perhaps 10% to 20% of those matches were "new" profiles in the Family Tree.

Hopefully, all of this will help other persons find their ancestry.

6)  What do my readers think?  Why are you using the FamilySearch Family Tree?  Or why aren't you using it?  How are you using it?


Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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Diane Gould Hall said...

Thanks for sharing the why and how with us Randy. I have never had a serious discussion about the use of FS family tree. I've chosen not to use it myself for a couple of reasons. One, I'm not very familiar with it, and when I did try it, I found it confusing. Just as with anything new, if I want to learn how to use it, I know I would be able to.
My second reason is the collaborative part. I've just been a bit reluctant to have a tree that other people could change.
Legacy now links and provides hints from both FS and My Heritage. I've chosen not to turn those hints on. I do, however, use the hints on Ancestry to locate new information. Nothing is ever just randomly added to my tree either on Ancestry or Legacy, so I don't copy family tree hints to my tree.
Next time you and I are at the same place, I'd like to discuss this subject in more detail. Maybe I'm missing out on something I could benefit from?

Anonymous said...

I personally decided to delete my trees on "Paid for" sites like Ancestry and MyHeritage for several reasons, but one major one is my hard work and time being used by those companies to make a profit. Let's be honest, they aren't selling access to records, they are selling access to your work.
That said, I will only be putting my trees on FamilySearch, WikiTree, GEDmatch, Family Tree DNA, and maybe a couple select others. As a matter of fact those 4 sites are infinitely more valuable than Ancestry or MyHeritage as those 2 mostly encourage anti social genealogists who only care about making a "Novelty" tree. I've found more serious genealogists else where.

Magda said...

Randy, I use FamilySearch Family Tree on a weekly basis, syncing my research from my Roots Magic database just like you. While I have run into "discussions" and "collaborators" on my German, Irish and French lines with big families, or my husband's early American lines, I found that I am practically the only one working on my Hungarian lines so in this way, I feel like I am contributing original research (not duplicates). I have been reading Microfilms for years and now, most of my Hungarian locations have digitized records (because of transcriptions errors, I always need to see the original record for proof).I also access my FamilySearch watchlist through WikiTree's FamilySearch app so in essence, I have two public family trees.

Ryan Ross said...

I use the FamilySearch Family Tree for exactly the reasons you describe. I sometimes wish that there were more of an editorial screening process for changes (since I have had some correct, sourced information changed from time to time with no sources or rationale added), but I find your arguments for this resource (and those of James Tanner) to be persuasive. I also enjoy contributing to this project. The FSFT has, by far, the best sourcing mechanics and features of any online tree I have seen.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

I too advocate for using Family Search Family Tree. I agree with what RootsRunDeep said about the paid sites and have my tree only on two free ones. I upload my working file to Rootsweb about once a month (or so) and I work on the collaborative tree at Family Search. I use Reunion software so do not merge or pick up hints electronically from family search. But I have found that what parts of my tree I have entered into the Family Search Family Tree has served a few purposes. 1) it has caused me to look again at the parts of my tree that I have entered so far and to more carefully read over the information I have and why I thought what I thought at the time I entered it. 2) it has helped me out to find typos and other mistakes I made along my genealogical learning journey and repair them in my tree - along with finding the inevitable electronic errors that happen when one moves from one type of software to another, and with updates etc. 3) It has provided a system to look at my media files again - re read obits etc and in that way catch some mistakes I made along the way too. 4) It has enabled to me to a wealth of source information and documents to my data base. 5) I have met some helpful people and found some very cool pictures that I would not have otherwise found, and finally 6) I have made some progress that I had been unable to make prior too. I am not LDS but very much appreciate the free genealogical services offered at Family Search in general including the collaborative family tree. If I disagree I try to address it in the discussion box rather than change other people's work and I have not been frustrated with others who might change my work. Having my tree on my lap top with separate software probably avoids that frustration. It is a group project and being a team player means going with a flow a bit. I highly recommend participating in the collaborative tree at Family Search along with the rest of the website to others.