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

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Following Your Ancestors on the FamilySearch Family Tree

 In social networking, following has become endemic. In this context, when we "follow" someone, we are interested in learning about what happens in their lives. On the Family Tree, following is considerably different. The function of following is to learn about any changes being made to a particular individual by other contributors (usually your relatives) on the Family Tree. This feature was previously called "watch."

First some definitions for clarification. The Family Tree is a collaborative, universal, user maintained family tree. It is based on a wiki design and that means that registered contributors can add, delete (under some restrictions), and change any information. This concept does not sit well with people who think they own their ancestors and all their ancestral information. But that is a topic for another day. 

The Family Tree is also source-based. This means that if the information entered into the Family Tree is not supported by valid, genealogical sources, it is suspect and of course, subject to change. It is also common that different contributors have different opinions about the content. Because of the structure and basis for the Family Tree, the contributors are, in a sense, forced to collaborate. 

So how do we reach a balance between accuracy and stability? This is an especially difficult concept because of the occurrence of randomly entered wrong information. So we divide the types of information into hierarchical categories. Such as these:

  • Level One: Randomly entered data that is obviously wrong and unsupported by any source citations
  • Level Two: Information that is unsupported but not obviously wrong
  • Level Three: Information that is supported by a source citation but wrong
  • Level Four: Information that is well supported and is subject to opinion
  • Level Five: Information that so well supported by historical, genealogical records as to be accepted subject to future research
We would like all the information in the Family Tree to be at Level Five but obviously, it is not. The "Following" feature encourages contributors to be actively involved in maintaining the integrity of the information. 

Practically speaking, when you click on the "Follow" star you notify Family Search that you would like to receive and weekly notification of all the changes to the people you follow. However, in order for this to happen, you must register and include an email address. You should also review the Notifications section of your settings menu.

Here is one of my own recent notifications.

Depending on the number of people you are following this list can be quite long each week. Of course, you can ignore the changes and hope that some other member of your family will take care of any potential errors. But the whole idea is to be actively engaged in maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree, so you really should review each of the changes as they appear. Granted, this can take a few minutes or hours depending on the changes and the complexity and number of the issues involved. You may also decide to ignore the changes to certain individuals that I call "revolving door ancestors." These people garnar so many changes that maintaining their integrity can be a full-time job. 

There is a lot more that can be said and I will probably say it. 

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