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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Don't abandon the unified Family Tree!

I read some alarming statements by The Ancestry Insider that intimated that may be considering abandoning the unified FamilyTree before it even gets operating. Is it possible that the challenge of fixing the data is too daunting? Going back to individually submitted and owned family trees would be huge step backward for genealogy and a loss to the world of research that will likely never be resolved again. There are already millions of individual family trees out there in programs like,, and other similar programs. Although these programs are useful for an individual, because there are so many differing opinions on the data, they are essentially useless for the purpose of coordinating a universal family tree. Programs like show promise but do not have the wide spread usage and historical record resources of It will be a sad day if becomes a place simply to park your individually owned and maintained family tree. It is not possible to underestimate the importance of the staying power. FamilySearch which is not going to be bought out by a European investment group.

My recent posts have been clear about the importance of FamilySearch's vision of a unified program incorporating data, sources, images, documents and stories into a family archive of unsurpassed value to the world. To trade that for another genealogical parking lot would be a disaster.

What are the problems here? The answer is simple, the problems with's Family Tree do not originate with the program, they originate with the data. Had Family Search launched Family Tree without any data at all, we could have all added our data one person at a time and avoided a lot of the complicated problems apparent now with the imported data. But even though the data is a mess, to ignore that situation is like hiding your head in the sand. The same situation of bad data exists on all the other online family tree programs but it can be ignored because no one has to look at any other family tree but there own and we can't see our own problems. It is important that we confront the issue of bad information at some point. If FamilySearch abandons the battle, it will only be postponed until it is virtually impossible for anyone to find consistently accurate data online and there will be only a very few genealogists with truly accurate family trees. The mistakes of the past will be copied over and over just as they have with surname books and other unsourced documents.

My own family tree is a good example. Back a few generations, I show a husband and wife with the same parents, that is, the mother and father of the husband are listed as the same as the mother and father of the wife. Online, there are many different opinions in different user submitted family trees about resolving this situation in different programs. None of these differing opinions in different programs have any possible way to talk to each other about resolving their differences. If I have the correct data in and you have your tree in we may never see or hear of each other. There is no one place to go to see what everyone says about the correct information. Family Tree could fix that.

Let's stay the course. Keep Family Tree moving towards a unified tree.


  1. After reading the article on Ancestry Insider (and I'm not familiar with that blog or its tone) it really just seems to be an advertisement for a presentation at a conference, rather than any breaking news. (But like I said, I'm not familiar with the blog.)

    I don't understand the complaints about the redundancy of clerical effort. These are real people we're considering here. (Our ancestors.) Is it so awful to have to take a good close look at each one of them, and consider their sources and documents and families and family documents and our potential collaborations with the other people who are adding information about them to FS Family Tree?

    Despite all the complaints, a good number of which seem to be justified, I really don't think that the "cons" of FS Family Tree outweigh the "pros."

  2. James,
    I had the same impression because the wording of the AI post suggests "pressure" to turn toward individual trees. I couldn't decide if he was talking about FamilySearch employees or the public. Even if it was something he felt from associating with employees it is critical that we know more background about his statement before we can begin to understand what he is really saying. Your post is a good wake up call that those of us who complain should be glad we have Family Tree at all. :)