|Maurice Prendergast, born St. John's, Newfoundland 1858-died New York City 1924|
One of the tragedies of modern genealogical research is the fragmentation of the huge collections of digital online genealogically valuable resources. There are presently four huge online family tree/database websites and a huge number of smaller more focused collections. But there are also valuable digital resources on websites that do not even mention the words "genealogy" or "family history."
The four large genealogy-focused websites include the following with estimates of the number of images or files or collections or whatever in each. These numbers are calculated differently for each website but will give you an idea of the enormous number of records available in just these four.
- Ancestry.com -- 32,744 Collections for about 24 billion records
- FamilySearch.org -- 3.14 billion digital images with 4.93 billion searchable records in 2,724 collections
- MyHeritage.com -- 11.9 billion historical records in 6,641 collections
- Findmypast.com -- Over 4 billion searchable records
You may well ask why you would want to have more than one family tree? The first and most common excuse for a second or back-up family tree is fairly common among users of the unified, collaborative FamilySearch.org Family Tree. It is possible that some unresponsible changes to the Family Tree could wipe out sections of your part of the Family Tree and having a back-up of your data and sources makes restoring that information easier. I hear horror stories of irresponsible changes fairly frequently but most of the stories relate to a particular ancestor or at most, a particular line. There are several ways to back up your work but none of them will automatically restore "correct" data to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. If you have this concern about the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, I suggest you watch the following videos.
- Untangling the Mess on the FamilySearch Family Tree
- Why Use the FamilySearch Family Tree
- Handling the changes made to the FamilySearch Family Tree?
Besides back-up issues, there are some other exceptionally good reasons to have a family tree on all four of the major genealogical database programs. The main reason is simple: they all have exceptionally helpful automatic record hints and no, they do not all have the same records. Of course, there are those who claim that these record hints are "frequently" wrong and don't help at all but when I hear that, I often find that the person complaining does not have a family tree on all four programs and does not even try to use the record hints available on the one program they do use. I also find that a significant number of people fail to review the record hints they add to their family tree or in the alternative fail to correct the entries from the information in a validly discovered record.
I admit that the number of record hints or matches can be overwhelming to some users. For example, I presently have 17,634 record hints waiting to be confirmed and attached for 13,006 records on my Ancestry.com family tree and 2,470 people with 7,737 Record Matches on MyHeritage.com. My own experience is that the accuracy of both is very high. It seems strange to me that a genealogist can be bothered by too much information. It is usually the other way around.
This past week or so, I helped a patron in the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some Irish research for a "brick wall" ancestor. She said they had been looking for this person for a long time. However, I soon discovered that she was not acquainted with the Findmypast.com website. After making a search for the person she was stuck on, I found his birth record on the parish register where he lived in Ireland on Findmypast.com, Granted this does not always happen, but don't underestimate the huge number of records on just these four websites.
I think one main reason why more genealogists don't have family trees on all four programs is simple inertia. It takes effort to learn all four programs. It takes more effort to add information to all four trees and harvest the record hints.
For some genealogists, looking at or participating in a "family tree program" is beneath their dignity. They do research in libraries and archives and do not deign to use such public resources such as an online family tree. Whether through lack of computer skills or for whatever other reason, they can be found teaching an entire class on research in a particular country or writing a book about genealogical research without even mentioning any online sources. Paraphrasing a well-known quote, those who ignore online family tree/database websites will be bound to waste their time looking for sources that are easily found online.