Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trying out FamilySearch's Family Tree

Note: I work for WikiTree, but this blog is my personal space and any opinions expressed here are not the official opinions of WikiTree. I am not paid to blog here. Obviously I have a bit of a bias caused by my undying love for WikiTree, but I have tried to keep an open mind when trying out new things.

After hearing a whole lot about Family Tree while at RootsTech, I decided to try it out. I figured I at least should have more experience with which to answer people who ask me "Why should I use WikiTree when Family Tree does the same thing?" (Spoiler alert: The answer is "Because they don't do the same thing.")

One of my great grandparents was already in the tree, so I started by adding just enough of my tree to connect to him.

Positive first impressions at this point include the fact that a whole line of my tree, from my great grandfather all the way back to my immigrant ancestor, was already on the site. Also, the graphical tree that you can drag around and expand pieces of is really nice.

Negative first impressions include the fact that the immigrant ancestor had all kinds of incorrect parents and spouses attached to him, and there are duplicates coming out of my ears. (To be fair, that family was just as bad on WikiTree before I got my hands on it. But people keep talking about how Family Tree is "source-based", and therefore more accurate, and I'm just not seeing it.) Also, I don't really like how couples are grouped into one box in the pedigree chart. It means that when I look at my pedigree, only half of it is used, because the other half is reserved for my husband.

So, I started merging duplicates. It's what I do best, after all! Right away I ran into problems. Some of my 2x great grandparents' daughters were duplicated, with one copy of each being male. I quickly learned that you can't merge a male and a female. You also can't change the gender. Or delete a person. So, all you can do is disconnect the incorrect person from the tree, and leave it to float around forever, with no accurate information in it. I don't much like the thought of that.

The processes of editing and merging are pretty nice. When editing, you're asked to provide a reason why you think your info is true, which I quite like. When merging, you select data to save from the person that will be deleted, and it slides over to the other side, clearly showing you what will be kept. There's an annoying issue where some people cannot be merged, but apparently that will become less common when New FamilySearch is gone. In the meantime, it means there are duplicates out there that we can't do anything about.

Overall, I think once the kinks are worked out Family Tree will be a pretty good collaborative tree. But keep in mind that that's all it is. There is nothing but the bare bones here. There are no biographies. There are no pages for cemeteries, towns, buildings, etc. Right now, it appears that you can't even add photos. This is strictly names, dates, places, and relationships.

So, while I will try to improve the pages for my ancestors on Family Tree, because I hate to see mistakes in my tree anywhere, it's not something that will absorb a lot of my time. For me, there's a lot more to genealogy than raw data, so I prefer sites/apps that allow for that richer content.


  1. Thanks for your article. I wanted to point out the photos and biographies are stored in their own area (Photos and Stories) which show up when you look at the person data from FamilyTree. Each person can load up to 5,000 photos to their account and link them to their people in the tree. I have also been linking sources from outside FamilySearch, such as Findagrave and local newspapers.

    1. Hi Miles, thanks for your comment. Now that the site's been revamped, I can see the Photos section, but I still don't see a place where a bio can be added.

      And I know that a variety of sources can be added on Family Tree. I don't have a problem with that part. I was just referring to how a lot of people are under the impression that Family Tree is somehow more reliable than other collaborative trees because it's "source-based" (I've heard several people use that phrase), but it's just as easy to add unsourced info here as anywhere else.

  2. Lianne,

    Thanks for this great post. I hope this isn't bounced out but there's a terrific page from 2007 that explains the Mormons and why they perform genealogical research and consider genealogical material to be so important. It explains a lot and is important information for researchers outside the LDS church to understand. (I'll send the link in a separate comment, just in case.)

    For now, I stick with my private tree on Ancestry...

    1. Thanks Laura!

      I am aware of the reasons behind the Mormons' enthusiasm in genealogy, and have mixed feelings about it. Usually I just ignore it and am happy for the records. :)

      If you don't want to give your data to the LDS church, there's always WikiTree! :)

  3. Here's the link to the PBS article on the Mormons :

  4. I just tested as H1c1 as my maternal line.