Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Questions about FamilySearch Family Tree

At the Mesa FamilySearch Library Expo today, I taught two well-attended classes on FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT). The questions about the program are fairly predictable and consistent from class to class, including the classes I teach every week at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. I realized that I should probably cover some of those questions in a blog post.

You can see from the nature of the questions that there are some serious issues that need to be addressed concerning the way people are doing genealogy and how the program will function in the future.

Question: When will I be able to add people outside my family lines?
Presently, you can only add people on your own family line in FSFT. The Reference Manual indicates that the feature of adding individuals outside you own family lines will be implemented shortly. I am quite sure that this is a very controversial topic given the reaction of the national press to recent allegations concerning some of the users of submitting LDS Temple ordinances for people to whom they are not related in any way. This includes submitting the names of celebraties and victims of the Holocaust, a practice emphatically condemned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Quite franky, I wouldn't care if ability to add people outside of your family lines were never added to the FSFT program, since many of the most blatant errors in my own lines come from people who are arguably not related to me. But there are some circumstances warranting this option. Perhaps those circumstances could be handled on a case-by-case basis rather than opening the entire program. I would assume that the timing on the resolution of this issue will depend on how the question of the improper submissions is resolved.

Question: When will we be able to submit GEDCOM files?
From my perspective, this question falls into exactly the same category and the preceeding question. The huge number of duplicates that keep appearing in are partially caused by people adding entire pedigrees without any verification or sources. I see no need for the ability of individuals to add a large number of names at one time to the program. As with the issue of adding people outside your family lines, I view adding names from a file to be one of the main contributors to the duplicates in This is another feature I would be happy to see left out of the final program.

From one standpoint it may seem somewhat inefficient to restrict the inclusion of GEDCOM files, but if what we want from the FSFT program is accuracy and sources, adding more names by uploading GEDCOMs defeats the purpose of the program.

Question: When will the connection with the program be severed?
My answer is not soon enough. Because the two programs are still synchronized, those who want to add huge numbers of people in GEDCOM files are still doing so by means of (NFS). People are also making changes in NFS without documentation and without having a proper, working email address. This is causing me and others to have to re-do changes may to correct the wrong information in FSFT.

Question: If everyone can change in the information in FSFT, why isn't this going to result in a mess?
This question is asked mainly out of ignorance of the way the program works. In fact, there are adequate mechanisms in place to ensure that the data in FSFT maintains its integrety. What is presently unspoken about the program is whether or not if there is a revert war, the program can be locked to prevent multiple changes.

These are a few of the questions I get in almost every presentation of the program. They are very interesting and show that people presently have little concern or regard for duplication. In some cases, people have told me that they will accelerate their efforts to upload large files to NFS and also to add individuals outside of their families before the connection between the two programs is severed. So there is a total disregard for the concerns that created the need to move to FSFT from NFS in the first place.


  1. A couple of weeks ago I participated in a user test of a possible future feature that allows an upload of a GEDCOM to Family Tree. After uploading my GEDCOM, I was able to compare each name in the GEDCOM with what is presently in Family Tree and decide who to add and who not to add as a duplicate. Perhaps they are incorporating a way to prevent names from being added if someone uploads the GEDCOM and does not go through the comparison process. You can see a preview of how it works at the very end of the 'Family Tree Overview (video)'in Help at When the video is finished a printed menu appears on the right hand side of the screen. The last item, 'Bonus: Import GEDCOM' is what to look for.

  2. James, you said "In fact, there are adequate mechanisms in place to ensure that the data in FSFT maintains its integrety."

    Wrong. FS-FT has all the duplicates, wrongly combined persons, and even more duplicates (from user-submitted IGI) than n.FS already. And duplicate individuals are added from uploaded database indexes/extracts as well as apparently from other sources I don't understand yet.

    1. I guess I disagree with you in part. I think that my answer will take a whole blog post. So, wait a while and I will address this issue more in depth.

  3. How are the integrity of the database guaranteed? I heard a very interesting program on NPR about sources and Wikipedia. Listen to it and think on Familytree.