Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Dear Randy: "How is FamilySearch Family Tree Working Out For You?"

A society colleague asked me this question in email recently.  She knew that I have used FamilySearch Family Tree for about ten years now, and that I have written about why I use it.  For example, see Dear Randy - "Why Do You Use FamilySearch Family Tree?"

My colleague particularly wanted to know if it is more accurate than it used to be, and how often do I have to "fix" a profile to reflect my own research.

1)  My short answer to all of the above is:  The FamilySearch Family Tree works extremely well, it is full featured, and is improved every year by the source-centric approach used by most of the dedicated and experienced genealogists that use it.

I have added almost all of my known ancestors to it, along with sources and notes, and the important stuff is rarely changed.  When things do change, it is usually because I, and others, have provided no sources for the missing information, usually because no one knows an exact birth date or parents or sibling names and birth/marriage/death information.

It is also a wealth of information for specific profiles - often providing birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial information, usually with source citations and links to records on FamilySearch, that I did not have before.  

2)  However, not "everyone" is in the Family Tree.  Living persons that I have not entered are not visible in the Family Tree.  I still find many people in my RootsMagic family tree that were born in the late 19th and early 20th century are not in the Family Tree, so I add them with whatever information I have gleaned from the record providers, and maybe someone else will add more as time goes on.    

By far the best tool I use to access the FamilySearch Family Tree is the RootsMagic software program.  I can add content to the Tree from RootsMagic (say, events, dates, places, sources, notes) and can add content to my RootsMagic tree from Family Tree.  Profiles in Family Tree often have events with sources that I have not found before, so after evaluating the event and source, I can add it to my RootsMagic tree.  

Adding a new person to FamilySearch Family Tree on the website is not difficult, but it takes a lot longer without the interface with RootsMagic.  The only thing that I cannot do using RootsMagic is to break relationships between a person and spouse or between parents and children.  I cannot delete a profile that I have not entered, although I can merge them with another profile if the situation warrants.

3)  FamilySearch Family Tree is "Imperfect."  Some new users will look in Family Tree and see that some of their ancestors  are not there, or have limited information, or are significantly incorrect according to their own research.  When that happens, a new user has a choice - to fix what is in the tree that is incorrect, based on what the source records say; to open a discussion on the profile to discuss any discrepancies; to add new profiles to the tree that are not yet included so as to help other researchers;  or they can walk away and say the tree is not right and they don't want anything more to do with it.  My preference is to discuss it and then fix it.  

4)  The early problem (until about 2015) was that there were dozens of duplicate entries in Family Tree for famous persons, early colonial persons, and European royals because the Ancestral File tree and Pedigree Resource File trees had many duplicate persons that were used to seed FamilySearch Family Tree.  Those duplicates are mostly gone.  Most of the duplicates I see now are because someone did not check to see if the person they entered into Family Tree already had a profile.  

I have tagged about 400 of my ancestors on the Watch List and can access a weekly report of changes to those persons.  Occasionally, substantive changes are made to one or two of my ancestors that require a critical evaluation, but most changes are adding another event, or another source, or updating a place name, or merging duplicate profiles.

5)  In my humble opinion, I think the FamilySearch Family Tree is stable, is the largest collaborative tree (FamilySearch says 1.3 billion profiles, MyHeritage says Family Tree has about 960 million profiles), it is constantly improved by thousands of researchers, and it will become the de facto family tree, for at least the Euro-centric world, as time goes on for decades to come.  


The URL for this post is:  https://www.geneamusings.com/2021/02/dear-randy-how-is-familysearch-family.html

Copyright (c) 2021, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Marcia Crawford Philbrick said...


Thanks for this post on using the FamilySearch tree.

I first learned about the tree thru using RootsMagic's interface and am still learning. Thus, I appreciate your post.

Also, thanks for mentioning my blog in your best blogs posts. Most of my writing is for myself or to share with others researching my ancestors. Thus, your mentions are very humbling.

Thanks again for all you do for the genealogy community.

Marcia Crawford Philbrick