RootsTech 2014

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hear us out: FamilySearch is Corrupting Sourced Entries; Needs to Stop IMMEDIATELY

Note: There have been some updates to this whole story. Please check out Amy's latest comments on the blog post linked below.

This was written by my daughter Amy in her blog TheAncestorFiles. I agree completely. This sort of action invalidates the entire Family Tree. If this continues, the Family Tree program will be essentially useless to real researchers. The problem does not stop with what Amy has pointed out. What I found last night was that I could not enter the corrected information at all. Here is Amy's blog post in its entirety:

As far as we can tell, FamilySearch is employing a battalion of volunteers to go in and corrupt sourced entries on Family Tree.

Named people are migrating data from the old NewFamilySearch by hand. Instead of a carefully and thoroughly sourced entry, these sources now look like this:

Basically, most or all of the sources have been stripped from an entry and replaced with nonsense.

For example, if I had added a census source and created a citation and copied the information out of the census about family members and the pertinent data contained in the census, now it looks something like this:

No data. Just nonsense.

In the case of George Jarvis (LWYL-M7G), his entry had been carefully and thoroughly sourced by myself, noted genealogy lecturer James Tanner, and many devoted members of the Jarvis family including Sharon Simnitt, Danelle Curtis, and family website manager Mark Jarvis.

A few of us have been trying to correct the mess, but there does not seem to be any way to restore the previous contents of the Sources and the entry is so corrupted that it could take months to get it back to where it was before FamilySearch started making corrupting the data.

This is outrageous. It is compromising any reputation FamilySearch had left with the serious genealogical community. It is compromising its integrity. It is compromising the trust I had that my work will be preserved, and if changes were made by other family members, we could negotiate and come to a reasonable conclusion.

This is not a case of what Ron Tanner at FamilySearch calls "my-tree-itis." This is clear cutting of the virgin forest.

Fix this problem immediately, FamilySearch.

End of Amy's post.

If you want to see this for yourself, you can enter George Jarvis' ID number into the program and see the entries. This is not just a minor issue. It is a deal breaker. 


  1. I just went back into George Jarvis's entry and now beneath all of the empty NFS sources there is a "More" button and it shows previous sources. Was I seeing a glitch in the program before? Why was it not showing the other sources until now? I used several different browsers to make sure it wasn't just me seeing only the new NFS migrated sources.

  2. I have seen many entries in person-page "Notes" like the 2nd illustration, bearing "urn:familysearch[long number]" and nothing else. This supposedly represents what had been entered in PAF notes and was an intelligible source entry in n.FS, but the migrated version has no meaning whatever.

    1. Yes, I understand the need to preserve notes and sources rather than throw them out, but too many people now think these "notes" and "sources" are to be left alone because the come from FamilySearch and so must be useful and correct.

  3. just when we thought Family Tree was making some progress toward improving the data integrity with sources, then this! BTW, same with adding all the "JUNK" notes. I have wondered if Family Tree has crossed the "point of no return" and has merely become another junk database.

    1. Well, we are all jointly responsible for these "junk" notes so perhaps it is only fitting that we try to clean them up.


    George Jarvis profile on familytree shows 46 sources. The migration of these legacy sources has just pushed other sources to a page that can't be seen unless you click on the "more" link. All 46 sources are there I believe. The initial source section only shows 20 of the 46 sources.

    1. Yes, we have noted that most of the added sources suddenly reappeared. That only solves half of the problem.

  5. James. Thank you for posting this. For me, it only solidifies why I do not and have no plans to have a tree on Family Search. And, although Legacy is now an authorized partner and we can connect directly to family search, I will not do so.
    That being said. I use Family Search every single day, jointly with Ancestry, to find records and images on my ancestors. The site is wonderful for that purpose and I am very grateful to them. In my opinion, they would best serve the genealogy community by concentrating on what they already do well and abandon the whole tree idea.
    My blog is where I share research tips, strategies and successes. Your blog is listed on my blog as a recommended read.
    Thank you for always sharing items of interest,

    1. Oh, FamilySearch Family Tree is a great program. The theory behind it -- a single unified family tree -- is a wonderful idea.

      Most problems are easily solved or involve negotiation between family members, which is not a bad thing, since it usually makes the genealogist take a second look at the line in question, and question their own conclusions. (No one is perfect, not even the best-trained genealogist, and all of us make mistakes.)

      The problems usually pale in comparison to the great benefits of the program, and when problems arise, FamilySearch usually takes care of them quickly.

      Overall, I've had a great experience using it, and the fact that it is free and open to anyone to use and is based around the sharing of sources and reliable information should eventually make it a great treasure trove of reliable information.

  6. Not only are these rather bogus sources appearing, but I am also getting extra marriages, children, etc. - posted by, guess who ..."FamilySearch". These are families that I have spent considerable time trying to clean up. Recently found one with a new child - born 50 years before the parents and added by FamilySearch. I agree with the last post that the whole tree idea needs to just go away. I've spent way too much time already.

    1. I am sorry you feel that way. If I had quit after each loss and reversal, I would never have lived through 39 years of being a trial attorney. I have not given up on FamilySearch Family Tree. I will just keep working with the program good or bad until it is time for me to move on to meet those whom I have have researched all these years.

  7. I really feel sorry for the Family Tree engineers. First, people were yelling and screaming because New Family Search is being discontinued and they spent so much time putting notes and sources into NFS.

    So the Family Tree people say, OK, you want all your old notes and sources, we will transfer them for you the best we can allowing for differences in the two systems.

    Now people are yelling and screaming because all their old notes and sources got transferred over. Yes, most of them are junk, just like most of the notes that got transferred last year were junk, but this is because NFS had some real flaws when it came to sources and source entry, you could never find the sources to read them, and because no one realized that all the junk they had in their notes in GEDCOM files they uploaded were included in NFS.

    When I see these Legacy sources, I check them out and fix them if useful or toss them if not. I have not seen a single source I have entered in Family Tree disappear.

    If you go into NFS for George Jarvis dig through the unending pages of sources there you will find about three quarters of the way through the following source:

    Source type: Other, Title: International Genealogical Index, Author: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Repository name: Family History Library, Repository address: 35 N. West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, Actual text: GEORGE JARVIS; Male; Birth: 25 MAR 1823 Harlow, Essex, England; Death: 06 JAN 1913; Father: THOMAS JARVIS; Mother: ELIZABETH BILLINGS; Batch Number: 7203229 Sheet: 60 Source Call No.: 0820195 Type: Film, Comment: Form submitted by a member of the LDS Church Search performed using PAF Insight on 19 Jul 2005, Contributor: crimsoncat, Contributor of repository: crimsoncat

    This shows that Family Search is not employing a bunch of named volunteers to transfer sources, but is keeping the name of the person who put a source in NFS attached to that source when it is automatically transfered.

    1. OK, I understand the process. The problem we faced was that all of the sources we had entered disappeared. That may have been a temporary problem, but no one is telling us anything about the process, so what are we to think? I can tell you I was not one of those yelling and screaming to get the sources from NFS. I was well aware that 90+ % of the stuff in the sources was junk. There seems to be a consistent issue from the start of NFS of wanting to protect every scrap of information in all the files. Perhaps, as I have said many times in the past, they should have started NFS and now Family Tree with a clean slate. But we now have the legacy stuff to deal with and we will deal with it. It might have been a good idea to warn us that the current sources would disappear for a time, if they knew that would happen. That's all,

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thanks, Gordon, for tracking that down. Until now all these changes had happened under the name of FamilySearch, so it was puzzling suddenly seeing names. And why are these sources not going under "Notes"?

    4. It is very hard to tell if these changes are being made by a program or being done individually by volunteers assisting with the transfer. The changes seem to come at random times and appear to apply to only selected individuals which would indicate that they are being done by individuals and not a program.

  8. James and daughter

    I contacted support back in the beginning of March, when these "sources" started to appear, with my concern of these NFS sources by named people AND the appearance of wrong relationships all added overnight that I had spent months fixing. This is the response I received from support.

    Thank you for contacting FamilySearch. The NFS sources are coming from the final shutdown of They can be removed by clicking on the detach link just under the title of each source. Also check your Sourcebox (click on your name in upper right, then sourcebox) to see if you have them there also. They can easily be removed there also if you choose.

    Thank you,


    These NFS sources weren't mine but sources created in newFamilySearch by others. Part of my concern was the vast majority of these NFS sources made no sense and had no relevance. They did not cite an original or derivative source. They appeared to be more artifacts from a computer program.

    All I wanted to do was correct the big mess that is in FamilyTree for just one branch. Too many people following a book that was not sourced and has a fraudulent/not-real ancestry. And on top of it over 300 duplicates for each of the main characters of this branch. A nightmare to correct, a horror when a lot of the errors have returned ... cue the little girl in front of the TV, "They're ba-ck."

    Part of me says just unlink the two systems. If something needs adding/fixing let the people do it. Yes it might be annoying to some to have to re-do something again but it might eliminate the transfer of "junk" and the undo-ing of corrections already made in FamilyTree and even more people having to re-do things.

    1. I certainly agree. See my other comments.

  9. Good to understand this a little better, but still frustrating. I was thinking too that all of a sudden more "potential duplicates" were showing up and thus more data had been entered that wasn't very clean. I hope this is the end of the addition of data from NFS.

    1. Yes, we are all waiting for the final shoe to drop from NFS.

  10. Well, look at all the damage this blog has done, discouraging folks from using FamilySearch Family Tree, when really James and Amy just didn't really investigate carefully what was being done. Shame on you! Read Gordon Collett's comment again above. Try to be a little more responsible in the future.

    1. It sounds like there was more than a misunderstanding on our part. I have been constantly supporting and teaching about FamilySearch for years now. There is a lot more to the issue than the problems of the last few days. If anyone is discouraged it is people like us who are trying to use the program every day and have things happening without any notice or explanation. We have yet to have even one statement about the situation from FamilySearch. How are we supposed to "investigate carefully" when they do not respond to our inquiries? Any suggestions?

    2. Cathy, like my father said, please let us know how I could have found out what was going on. Where would I look? Where did FamilySearch explain what these sources were and what issues might arise as they were migrated over?

      Seriously, I'd really like to know, since you have just made some pretty offensive complaints here.

      The process of transferring NFS sources was not mentioned on the FS blog that I ever noticed, and although I've emailed a long list of people who made the NFS changes, not one has replied to identify who they were or where the sources had come from. So, perhaps the first two paragraphs of my post were incorrect (but I don't know that yet) but I did state in the very first words of the post that that part was an assumption. (That's what "as far as we can tell" means.)

      Despite its blog, many of the workings of FamilySearch are opaque. There are very few ways to find out what is going on at any given point in time.

      Part of the systematic and ongoing problem for users of Family Tree is that the development team needs to work on it as people are using it, and when changes are happening, we're still using it, and tend to get upset when years' worth of sources disappear or other glitches happen.

      I do believe that they'll take care of it, but it does take time, and we need to let them know what problems we're seeing, and sometimes let them know in strong language.

  11. Someone asked me yesterday what my blog post meant. She could tell I sounded irked, but didn't understand the technical details. I explained that many problems that show up while using Family Search are pertinent only to the individual line, such as family disagreements over genealogical details, problems with using merge, or the need to reclaim ordinance reservations made under a previous system. Those usually can be solved by a simple note to FamilySearch, where a friendly volunteer will help resolve the issue.

    Other problems, like the one described in this post, seem to involve system-wide changes or institutional attempts to solve an existing problem. This change seemed to be creating the potential for far-reaching corruption of data in the system, and needed to be brought to the attention of FamilySearch immediately. Perhaps they already knew about the problem. Perhaps they didn't. Perhaps it was actually limited to this one entry. Perhaps it was widespread. How could we tell? None of this was mentioned on the FamilySearch blog. (Which I read consistently.)

    So, there are a few ways of getting immediate attention for an issue like this, and writing a blog post like this (not that anyone at FamilySearch reads my blog) followed by my dad reprinting it on his blog (which they seem to ) is one of them.

    1. This all illustrates a fundamental issue with FamilySearch - an inability to communicate effectively.

      Just take the discussions on about the "standardised" placenames and dates. It was a complete revelation to me that these things existed - yet they affect what I'm doing and how. Nobody should respond "Read the manual" or "Watch the video" - this is the 21st century for goodness sake. If you need to explain the way a single screen works, it ISN'T WORKING. (Explaining the background, that's different).

      These updates were coming over branded with people's names - that implies the named people were immediately responsible. Clearly(?) they weren't. Some relatives in my FSFT data keep getting alternative names that duplicate their primary name. Apparently "FamilySearch" did it. Which means? If Amy's updates had been branded something like "Bulk Update of Old Sources From nFS", this would have been clearer - and the extended text could then refer to the people who were the original source. Oh hang on - what does this remind me of? Citing sources? Naming the "source of the source"? Err, shouldn't these things be second nature to FS?

      Now I need to point out that communicating effectively and simply are NOT easy things to do. I know, been there, done that. Got the scars as well as the T-shirt.

      But please, FS, please try to make it clearer than you do... Communicate with us. And don't try to hide detail in case you frighten the horses.


  12. Before FamilySearch engineers started migrating sources over from new.FamilySearch, I was asked if I wanted the ones I had put there and I said no. By then I had spent considerable time attaching sources in FamilyTree and figured I would just end up with duplicate sources.

    At RootsTech, Ron Tanner (see if it works today) mentioned that they still had a million sources that needed to be transferred that they had "forgotten" about. Or something to that effect.

    After RootsTech I started seeing a few of these mostly useless Legacy sources being migrated into my Source Box. They are a nuisance but easy to delete. I just wrote to FamilySearch about that but have not heard back yet.

    I love Family Tree. I am sorry to hear about people having bad experiences with tangled family trees. I have some too but will not tackled them until nFS is disconnected.

    I think eventually Family Tree will be a wonderful resource for everyone. The ease of creating and attaching sources and uploading images of documents & pictures makes it fun to use - and addictive, I might add.

    I am finding it easy to show people how to use it and am receiving lots of positive feedback about people reserving ordinances for their family members who need them. And they are having marvelous experiences in the Temple doing them.

    We all need to be patient and give Feedback when needed, to help make Family Tree better and better.

  13. I do agree that the Family Tree people don’t always do a great job explaining new changes and that it would be great if there was a page on the site just dedicated to listing everything that has been modified. All the little nudges, not just the major improvement. I also think that Family Tree is more susceptible to the law of unintended consequences since, as mentioned above, frequent small changes are made without much interruption in service. However, the pages do seem to catch a lot of these changes. The people commenting there can get very vocal if a change causes a problem.

    For example, this issue with sources you are discussing has been talked about for months there. Here are some of the threads where it has come up:

    1. It is disappointing that the "What's New" link on the FT pages goes to the FS-Blog rather than to a site dedicated to listing what is new in the FT programming and operations.

      On the site it can be like pulling teeth to actually get answers to questions such as why are reversions of corrected family groups (such as re-additions of wrong parents/spouses/children, sometimes more than once), attributed to "FamilySearch" without explanation, plaguing the FT?

    2. I am one of those who pleaded with Ron Tanner to migrate sources entered into NFS by individuals to Family Tree, as I have in my database over 27,000 names, mostly compiled by descendancy research, with 1453 Sources and 136,337 Citations transferred from my PAF program to NFS over the years by many, many small GEDCOMS.
      In discussing the issue of migrated Legacy sources, I think we should distinguish between the type of issue we have with the records in Family Tree for our pioneer ancestors compared to the records in Family Tree for earlier generations.
      Presently I am reviewing/upgrading the records in Family Tree for the early New England Colonial direct ancestral lines for my wife and myself. I seldom have found a source in the new format attached to a record of an ancestor born before 1800, so have been adding sources in the new format and such biographical items as I can locate. I have used the computer over 30 hours a week on this project for the past year, finally completing the upgrading for my own colonial New England ancestors and barely getting a good start on my wife's lines (she did amazing research for over 60 years and has shelves of bulging binders she has compiled with a research log for each family and copies made from books, articles and vital records , but very little of it is in her PAF program and almost none as yet in Family Tree).
      At my age (84), there is no way that I can do a similar review of the sources for the thousands of collateral relatives that I added to NFS over the years and so am relying upon the sources that are migrated to Family Tree to inform those who
      come after me as to basis I used in compiling each record.
      Incidentally, Jim Tanner, we have some similarities in our backgounds. I too am a retired lawyer, but took a seminar about preparing to be a trial lawyer while at HLS in the mid-1950s and knew that I did not have the stomach to be a trial lawyer. I started doing research in 1952 as a young man serving in the Air Force with time on my hands since I did not frequent the local bars, and I took a correspondence course from Archibald Bennett. I began corresponding with and visiting, when possible, elderly cousins of my grandparents and acquired materials which have been of great help to me over the years.
      Since my retirement,we served on the staff of the Utah Valley Family History Center (now BYU FHC), then, after my mother passed away, we were able to serve a full-time mission and five years of subsequent service missions at the Family History Library. Currently I am the director for our stake at a tri-stake family history center in Provo and for the past 18 years, except while on our full-time mission, I have been a trainer at the Utah South Area Family History Center which has a wonderful week-long course each month where each student attends a class and then does exercises at the computer with the assistance of a trainer assigned to that student.
      I read your blog e-mails faithfully, but it is more difficult to find if there are comments.
      Appreciatively, R. Stanley Hall

    3. I can see those help forums when I paste in your links, Gordon, but I just spent half an hour going through the FamilySearch website from the user side, clicking through the Help section, clicking through all the options on the Site Map, and I cannot find those forums.

      That's pretty well hidden, and I'm surprised that in all the time I've helped others use the program and used it myself -- community history and biography writing is my primary work right now and sometimes I use FamilySearch and Ancestry and other research sites daily -- I had no idea that existed.

    4. Hi Stan,

      So nice to hear from you. I remember discussing your wife's research with you a couple years ago on an article on Keepapitchinin about sourcing Family Tree. I'm glad to hear you're doing well and keeping busy with the genealogy.

      If weeding out and reconfiguring the numerous blank citations is the price we need to pay in order to make sure that genealogical records like yours and your wife's make it onto Family Tree, I'm more than happy to do so, and assume that most others would feel the same.

      I explained elsewhere that what seems to be the most obvious underlying issue here is the lack of communication. If we as users could be informed that changes like this were going to be occurring and why, I think there would be a lot less stress on both sides.

      Best wishes!

  14. One of the common complaints on the boards at is how good FamilySearch is at hiding things on their web site.

    Here is one notice of the feedback boards that I was able to find:

  15. I have stopped updating the profiles that I have entered on family search and only use it for research now. There are too many people who don't know what they are doing, constantly creating havoc. It is essentially the wild west. I had one person tell me that they merged all the profiles because they were "merging profiles together to cut down on the number of profiles per person". It didn't matter that many of them weren't good matches. And because they weren't good matches, they then did many deletions, date changes, etc. as well. And so multiple non-related people get merged into one useless profile. When I pointed this out and provided the sources that showed the separate ancestral lines that had been glommed together, the answer was that " If it isn't correct you can always fix it.", in another words, they weren't going to fix the hundred or so incorrect mods/merges. And this is not the only problem merger I have seen, just the worst.
    My tree is now related to almost every King or Queen that ever lived and even, amazingly, can be traced back to Noah, at a point where someone skipped a few thousand years and made Noah someone's 's parent.
    I am going to try wikitree going forward, they seem to be a little more restrictive about people just randomly changing profiles. But I will still use this for research, for that it is very helpful.

  16. Although I've never had to do this, can't you report the person for abuse and FamilySearch will bar them from making changes?

    1. The answer to your question is yes, you can report abuse, there is a link on every individual's detail page. But this was happening from FamilySearch. It is also old news and not a problem presently.

    2. No, familysearch wants everyone to collaborate, so you can change whatever you want as long as you are not being intentionally malacious and there are no repercussions. And this issue happens all the time, but it is not the issue Mr Tanner is talking about, as I posted this in the wrong post section on this site.