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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How do we maintain multiple online family trees on multiple websites?

There are literally dozens of online family tree programs. Of course, I still talk to genealogists who have all of their years of research on a floppy disk using the Personal Ancestral File program, but the number of such individuals is slowly starting to diminish. Many have now migrated to another desktop program but there are still a huge number of researchers that have yet to put anything online to share with their families. When they are finally convinced that putting their family tree online is a good idea, they, like the rest of us, are confronted with all the variety of places to maintain an online family tree.

How do you choose which family tree program to use and why, on earth, would you even consider using more than one? This is a real issue. The major concern is the ability to synchronize the data entered into more than one online family tree. If you choose one of the three programs that can synchronize data between a desktop program and the online Family Tree, then the problem is resolved. Those programs can be found in the FamilySearch App Gallery. I suggest that when you view the App Gallery, you make sure you click on the small links to "View All." Here is a screenshot showing the location of the links.

Both and have desktop programs that synchronize with your online family tree or trees. has the Family Tree Maker program for both Windows and Apple OS X users. Likewise, has its own desktop program, Family Tree Builder, that synchronizes with the family trees you have on the online program and is also available for both Windows and Apple OS X users. In addition, the RootsMagic desktop program not only synchronizes data with's Family Tree, it also views Record Hints on the Family Tree and Record Matches on In addition, the Heredis genealogy program, has its own online family tree and programs for both Windows and Apple OS X. Heredis also allows you publish your family tree online through Heredis Online.

The ability of these programs to exchange and synchronize data between online family trees will continue to expand. But what if you want to utilize the automatic search capabilities of more than one program? The idea that you might have more than one or at most, two family trees to maintain is daunting to say the least. Of course, the cost of maintaining more than one online tree or even more than one desktop program must be taken into account.

I suggest that you may wish to think this through a little more comprehensively. Each of the programs present some unique advantages. This is especially true for the programs such as,, and that do automated record searching for hints. There are some huge advantages in having a family tree on each of these programs.

Here are some suggested approaches to multiple family trees.

  1. Make one family tree program your primary family tree. Try to keep this tree complete and up-to-date. Ignore trying to maintain the other family trees up-to-date. This primary tree can either be one of the online websites or a desktop program as you choose.
  2. Use the other family trees as research aids or as ways to contact relatives and to warehouse sources. Do not worry if they do not contain all of the information in your primary family tree.
  3. Use the other family trees to focus on a particular research issue. Move sources from the other trees to your primary family tree as an archive. 
  4. Make sure you backup and maintain your primary family tree.
  5. If you can do so, use a program that will synchronize between a desktop family tree and an online one as your primary program, this simplifies both a back up and sharing the information. 
  6. If the idea of having more than one family tree is too overwhelming, then focus on one program entirely but be sure to back up your data.
  7. Keep your chosen master program updated and current. If the program becomes unsupported for any reason, i.e. abandoned by the developer, immediately transfer all of your data to another current program. 
  8. If you decide to use a an online family tree as your primary repository, make sure you can export the data to another program. Some online family trees have gone down and given their users only a short period of time to save the online data. This issue depends on the amount of data you have. The larger your online file, the greater the need to have a desktop backup of the data. 
This is a complicated subject and I could probably keep writing indefinitely from my own experience in trying to maintain multiple databases. If you have your own theories, you are welcome to add them here as comments. 

No comments:

Post a Comment