Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Dear Randy: "What is the Best Way to Refresh My Online Trees?"

Reader Dennis asked this question in email recently:  

"What is the best way to get the new information into the trees on the other sites?  It is not easy to copy the source, find the relevant person on each tree, and copy the source document and information to keep the trees in sync.  Nor does it seem practicable to take the hints from all sites, get the source documentation, include it into just the Ancestry tree, and then send a new GED to the other sites.  I think I am overlooking a good method for managing the new data, and would appreciate your insights."

My response:

1)  I have and currently use the RootsMagic desktop family tree program and have used Personal Ancestral File, Family Tree Maker and Legacy Family Tree in the past.  I have personal online family trees at, MyHeritage, Findmypast, American Ancestors, GeneaNet and FamilySearch.  I contribute to the collaborative trees at FamilySearch Family Tree, WikiTree, WeRelate and

2)  With the current capabilities of the desktop genealogy software programs and the online family tree websites, I have found the best process is to:

*  I add content to one desktop family tree program - RootsMagic.  Names, relationships, dates, places, events, sources, notes, and media - everything goes into RootsMagic.  

*  I use TreeShare in RootsMagic to update profiles in my personal tree on a weekly basis.  I don't attach historical records to my Ancestry tree because their source formats are poor.  

*  I create a GEDCOM file once a year in RootsMagic and upload that file to a new personal tree on MyHeritage, Findmypast, GeneaNet and American Ancestors, and to any other site where I have a personal family tree.  

*  I match my RootsMagic profiles with profiles on FamilySearch Family Tree and share information both ways as needed.   I add new profiles to FamilySearch Family Tree as needed.

*  I add or edit selected profiles to and WikiTree as needed.

*  When I add content to any of the personal trees, the tree provider creates Record Hints or Matches for profiles in those trees.  I review those Hints/Matches and add content to my RootsMagic tree.  

*  When I want to utilize one of the desktop family tree programs, I import a GEDCOM file from RootsMagic and use the desktop family tree program to take advantage of their unique features (such as genealogy reports.

3)  In summary, my process is to make changes to my family tree in only one personal family tree - I chose to do it in RootsMagic.  I then distribute the changes to online family trees as efficiently as possible.  The online family trees are temporary and only the Ancestry Member Tree is always up-to-date.

4)  All of the above is done because there is no easier way to keep my online family trees synchronized.  The genealogy industry does not have a simplified process of doing this.  Years ago, the AncestorSync process had the goal of synchronizing a personal tree with a number of online family trees, but it never came to fruition.  

My preference is to maximize my search and research time using the process described above, and to minimize the import/export time to generate and use a GEDCOM file, while utilizing the Hint/Match capabilities of each online tree program.

A researcher could do the same thing with Family Tree Maker as the personal family tree program, synchronizing it with an online family tree, accessing FamilySearch Family Tree profiles, accessing Record Hints/Matches and inputting them into Family Tree Maker, and using an annual GEDCOM to update other online family trees.

Alternatively, a researcher could use Family Tree Builder as a personal family tree and synchronize the personal tree with their MyHeritage online family tree. 

5)  I created this graphic back in 2014 when I discussed this topic in a blog post:

Unfortunately, we are all waiting for "Some Other Program" that will permit us to synchronize each of our personal family tree and online family tree programs!  The problem is that each of these companies want to control what information comes into and out of their own family tree program/site and would require an agreed upon API for each company-to-company interface.

Thank you, Dennis, for the question, and I hope my response provides some help for you.


Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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Grandpa Landmeier said...

Thank you for that post. I agree with your method and it is essentially what I do except only on FSFT and MyHeritage. I do sometimes tire with synching Ancestry, but I do it. Great question and great answer.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Randy. I do (of course) find your suggestions very useful and intend to model my procedure after them. I KNEW you would have some answers!

Susie Q said...

What do you mean by Ancestry source formats are poor?