Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Dear Randy: Should I Use FamilySearch Family Tree as My Main Genealogy Database?

 Genea-Musings reader Richard asked this question in an email:

"I am considering using FamilySearch as my primary Genealogy software.  Some of my considerations are:

*  No one in my family seems to be interested in doing genealogy and I will be 87 this year and we want our information available to others.  

*My IMAC computer has difficulty handling RootsMagic version 8.

*  FamilySearch does backup, available to all etc.  

"What are your thoughts re the downside of using FamilySearch as a main genealogy data base?  Your comments would be appreciated."
My response was:

I use RootsMagic 8 on a Windows 10 computer to do all adding and editing of names, relationships, events, dates, places, sources, notes, media etc. in my family tree because it has more features and is easier for me to consistently use than inputting to an online tree one event and one person at a time.

I have faced the same issues and have come down on the side of "put your stuff everywhere you can" - so for me it's genealogy ancestor and descendants narrative reports as ebooks on Scribd and on FamilySearch Books (haven't done that yet); Ancestry Member Trees (trying to keep it updated weekly); MyHeritage Family Tree (updated yearly); and FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT).  

The only downside with FamilySearch Family Tree is that someone may mess up some of my ancestors - combine them with someone with the same name, edit or remove my memories and life sketches, claim ancestor ownership, ignore evidence sources, or start and continue an edit or flame war, etc.  Thankfully, I have encountered very little of that in my 8 years of adding and editing info to FamilySearch Family Tree.  Adding Notes and Sources to FSFT profiles really helps with collaboration, and adding Discussion items for conflicting information (such as parents names, same name problems, etc.) shows that "you know what you're doing."  

On the other hand, I have been convinced by information in some FSFT profiles that I had it wrong and have adopted the information provided by FSFT and drawn my own conclusions about the relationship information in profiles based on the evidence at hand.  

I usually use RM8 to add or edit information in FSFT because it has those capabilities.  The sources and notes are especially easy to move from RM8 profiles into the FSFT profiles, but it is one person at a time.  I haven't tried to add a source to FSFT by hand recently.  If the record is in FamilySearch records, it is pretty easy to do from the record of interest, and the FS source citations are pretty good compared to Ancestry or MyHeritage created source citations. I make my own source citations from Ancestry and MyHeritage and other sites as free-form in RM8 because free-form transfers well in GEDCOMs.

If you only use FSFT, then the issue of DNA matches is raised because FSFT doesn't have any DNA component.  If you aren't into DNA, then it doesn't matter.  Keeping a tree of  just your ancestral families on Ancestry or MyHeritage makes sense if you are into DNA matches and finding common ancestors.

I like the fact that FamilySearch Family Tree is collaborative, source-centric, is very full featured (except for creating reports, some charts and books), and it should last a long time.  When Jay Verkler introduced it in 2011 at RootsTech, he said they were looking at using it into the 2060 time frame.  

Here is my 7-generation fan chart family tree in FamilySearch Family Tree:


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Diane Gould Hall said...

You may one day convince me Randy. Thanks for you excellent explanation.

Anne Young said...

I often refer to FamilySearch but I am much more a fan of Wikitree as a single online tree - I find its layout more clear in documenting sources and also discussions about editing - how you know various facts and relationships. For my forebears I have found it more reliable too - FamilySearch has many duplicate people when it creates separate people from primary records such as baptisms resulting in a father having 9 profiles - one for each child. I have done a lot of work to clear up and verify these multiple profiles into one but it is challenging to ensure one has got it right. I do like FamilySearch citations and use them at Wikitree and I try to link the two trees.

I definitely concur with the "put your stuff everywhere you can".

mbm1311 said...

I agree about Wiki tree but I use both. On family search I use of Collaborate. I might say "WARNING there are two Edward Sullivan's in Portsmouth, Ohio about the same age. One married Anna Zamp, the other married Mary O'Brien. See the notes under the attached documents. PLEASE DO NOT MERGE THESE TWO MEN. Thank you." No family member wants my research but someday a family member, who I haven't met will want to evaluate my research.

Karen Polk said...

I use FSFT, Ancestry, My Heritage, purchased RM8But nit installed. I also have Family Tree SW But not used to date. I'm trying to put stuff everywhere as I am able. I have so many hints I'm inundated...time is always my enemy. What is your method to keep up?

Keith Riggle said...

I think it would be a huge mistake to use FamilySearch Family Tree, or any collaborative family tree, as one's main genealogy database. As Randy pointed out, other users could mistakenly change information about your ancestors or merge completely different profiles together. While Randy says he hasn't had major problems with this, I have, despite adding copious sources, notes, discussions, and reasons. I've detailed some of the problems I've had at The root of the problem with FSFT, as I see it, is that it lacks referees for disputes over information. WikiTree and Geni avoid many of these problems by having profile managers, projects, and curators. I will contribute to WikiTree and Geni, but I will not contribute to FSFT again until they implement some sort of referee. The main thing I use FSFT for is their excellent trove of digitized and/or indexed records.

I agree with Randy and the other commenters about storing one's family tree in as many places as possible, including websites where you control the tree such as But even then I wouldn't rely on a website to be my main database storage. I want my main database to be on my computer that I own and have complete control over. For me that's a 2012 Macbook Pro with Family Tree Maker 2019. I'm trying out RootsMagic 8 right now, and though there's lots to like about it, there are too many problems with how it handles GEDCOM files for me to use it as my main genealogy app. I'm surprised your reader with an iMac has trouble running it; I'm curious how old it is, how much RAM it has, and when was the last time they reinstalled the OS.