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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Questions about FamilySearch Family Tree

Warning, this is another of my tirades. You can skip it if you want, but I would appreciate comments.

During the past few days, I have made two presentations about FamilySearch Family Tree. In each case, I have been confronted with frustrated, annoyed, desperate, overwhelmed, and in some cases very angry people who are confronted with transitioning from to's Family Tree. I have been asked the same questions over and over again.

Most of the issues raised have nothing whatsoever to do with the programs themselves, but center around the data. Predominantly, the issue is the overwhelmingly large number duplicate people in the data pool and the number of inaccurate relationships, dates and events. Almost every single person has a story to relate about an ancestor with the wrong gender, married to the wrong person, with the wrong children in the family, with inaccurate and unbelievable dates or any of hundreds of other possible issues with what is being presented in Family Tree. This is nothing new. It is just that people are becoming acutely aware of the accumulated dietris of a 150 years of poorly documented and researched genealogy.

The reactions vary from "who cares, I'm not going to do anything" to intense anger. I have become the target of many people's frustration and have spent literally an hour trying to get their anger under control. I had one lady come to me with a file containing over 42,000 names "going all the way back to Cleopatra" and wanted an instant solution as to how to get all of this information "into Family Tree."

Many of the people I talk to are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have issues with the ordinance process and the status of the records concerning ordinances. They are alarmed at the ordinances that have been performed for individuals who are in no way qualified, such as marriages to the wrong person, children not in the family and etc. An underlying problem are those people who are entering hundreds, sometimes thousands of names into the program of people they are not related to. They are alarmed that they will not be able to "finish" entering their thousands of names before Family Tree prevents them from uploading GEDCOM files full of names, hundreds at a time that they have extracted from old records. In almost every case, they do not have any intention of checking for duplicates, they just want to make sure their extractions get entered. I have talked to quite a few people who have pools of names they are in process of entering. I know of groups of researchers who are essentially extracting all of the names in geographic areas, related or not, and entering them wholesale into I also have talked to people who have hundreds of printed cards and are worried if they will be able to keep these cards in the future. Most of these people fully realize that once Family Tree kicks in, they will be unable to add huge blocks of names without checking for duplicates and they are angry because they cannot keep just adding names like they have in the past. They are going to be dumping these names into in an effort to beat the deadline.

Some people are mollified once they understand the concept of the FamilySearch Family Tree program. But they are overly concerned about other members of their family entering unsupported and inaccurate information into the program. They see changes in Family Tree occurring without any rhyme or reason because the program is linked to They are also dismayed at the prospect of "cleaning" up the mess. They say they simply do not have time to correct everyone's errors and they refuse to do anything about it. In my own lines, I am watching a few people already enter random information into Family Tree without any sources and without explaining where they got the information and if they do give a source, it is usually one that has long since been discredited.

OK, at this point, I have talked about the people who actually know about both and Family Tree. What is more than apparent, is that these people constitute a vanishingly small minority of the genealogists, much less of the community at large. Most people I mention the program to, if they are not already interested in and participating in genealogy, simply are unaware of the entire program or unaware of FamilySearch altogether. When I talked recently to one of my own adult children, he did not remember ever having looked at either program and he is the rule not the exception. I think most efforts to involve a greater participation in the process of genealogy are like trying to push a rope. All the effort you put into announcing the program ends up moving only a very, very small number of people.

Despite all this, I will keep presenting, in fact I have two more large meetings about Family Tree scheduled for this weekend in different parts of the State of Arizona. But it is clear, that with few exceptions, the message about Family Tree is not getting through yet to the average genealogist.


  1. I have been actively in family history my whole life and I am very technically savvy, but this past year I have had the "do little" approach. But, now I've begun with "me", working my way back through my ancestors, searching for primary records (birth, death, marriage, and in some cases, census). I keep a database so I can track each person and what I have to verify them. I suggest this approach to everyone. I have found already, primary records noted in family search family tree, by other relatives such as my aunt Hope.

  2. We can now contribute GEDCOM files to Family Tree (at - Trees - Submit Tree), compare the names and add the information that is not already there. Hopefully adding GEDCOM's to will soon be turned off.
    I am experimenting with a file containing about 624 names and it taking a looong time - all day, in fact, and it is not finished yet comparing the names. Another small file of 22 names took minutes.

  3. I have started going into the Family Tree and adding the documentation. Usually I am looking over the pedigree and find something so egregious that I can't help myself in going and fixing it up and documenting it -- right now. The latest I found is so bad I can't decide whether the person (this happened in the last month) intentionally sabotaged it or they were so out of it mentally and physically they didn't know what they were doing. I'm still sorting through it and trying to decide what will fix it. All of this is also spurring me on to find more information and add the "flesh" to my family history. Found details this week on the canal my gg and ggg-grandfathers helped dig in the 1860's - how many feet and inches they dug and where - and that has added a dimension of turning my heart to my progenitors I didn't have before. Fortunately over the years I have used the notes section of my database to list each one of my sources, with the pertinent information as to where to find it, and I usually also quote what the information in the source says. It is now just an easy matter to copy and paste from the notes section of my database as to why I am changing the information and also to copy and paste this into a source entry.

  4. Last night I spoke to a FS service missionary who told me they had been asked to stop helping patrons to "merge" as it has created a larger problem.