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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sharing genealogy online with family trees

In continuing the presentations at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah concluded on Monday, 28 July, 2014 with a panel discussion entitled, "Internet Collaboration: How Do We Share Our Family Trees Online?" This presentation was described as follows:
Genealogists learn most when we collaborate and share information with others. At the start of organized Jewish genealogy, Gary Mokotoff created the Family Finder and the Family Tree of the Jewish People, and we shared our family trees via photocopies. A little later, we exchanged GEDCOM files on floppy disks. Today, we primarily share online either via or on countless stand-alone, family-managed and moderated websites. This panel assembles three experience genealogists who have written widely, and often intently, discussed articles on the topic over the past year, with the goal of developing ideas to bridge the gap between the collaborative and the family-website models. Adam Brown will discuss the collaborative model; Israel Pickholtz will present the family-managed and moderated model; Gary Mokotoff will ofter a plan that combines the advantages of each model. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus will moderate. Audience participation will be encouraged.
If you read my blog posts regularly, you probably recognize that I am clearly in the collaborative camp and I am advocate of Family Tree. None of the panelists suggested using FamilySearch Family Tree. All of the participants were well versed in genealogy and in the nature and use of online family trees. I reviewed the handouts and listened carefully to the presentations from each of the participants.

Israel Pickholtz summarizes each of the positions in his blog post "Genealogy as a Quilting Bee, Maintaining the Integrity of the Database."

There were three different viewpoints expressed:

  • Traditional Genealogy Model
  • Collaborative Family Tree Model
  • Family-managed Family Tree
It appears to me that there were some basic assumptions made about how online family trees function in the genealogical community and how a unified family tree should or does function. I agree with much of what each side of this issue has to say. But I believe there is a fourth possibility, I would add a unified family tree based on the moderated wiki model. I think the differences in the approach to online family trees stems primarily from different expectations and goals of the researchers and contributors. 

As much as any other genealogist, I have been aggravated by sloppy, poorly documented, copied without review, multiple family trees in a variety of websites. It further seemed to me that some of the concerns with a unified family tree model arise from actual or imagined issues with conflicts and controversies between family members. 

Because I will be here at the Conference for the rest of the week. I will take an opportunity after the Conference to elaborate on this subject. If you have a strong opinion on this subject, one way or another, you are welcome to write you opinion in a comment or in your own blog and comment on the link to your post. I will then considered all of the information received in my more in depth blog post.


  1. I think the reason Family search Family Tree was avoided is due to past history with Jewish genealogists and the church. Several years ago the Jewish community found out that the church was performing ordinances in their family that had been submitted via Ancestral File, Pedigree File or IGI batches...... They were not happy and as a result the church created a policy to deal with just this issue. I personally have no problems that ordinances were performed on my line and have given my permission for such under the new policy. Some don't want it and so they avoid mentioning Family Search as their way to avoid the situation. Just my 2 cents as to why I think it happened not to be mentioned.