Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Your Weekly FamilySearch Family Tree Report

If you have been watching any of the people in your ancestral lines on's Family Tree program, you will likely have been receiving a weekly update from FamilySearch listing any and all changes made to those people on your watch list. If you are not receiving this list, it is because you have either failed to provide a current email address or you have not marked anyone in program to be watched.

This is an extremely valuable function and helps maintain the integrity of the data in the program and enables you to communicate and collaborate with other family members. Here is a screenshot showing the link to adding a person to your watch list:

When you click on this link, the word will change to "Unwatch," telling you that this person is now on your Watch List. Here is another screenshot showing the change in the word:

Here is a screenshot of the Watch List showing all of the people, including the one just added, to my watch list:

In my case, I have lots of people on my list, so I have to scroll down in the list to see the newly added person:

What do you do if someone changes a person in the Family Tree? Well, the answer depends on whether you agree that the change is necessary or not. If you agree with the change, then you do nothing. If you do not agree, you should change the entry back to what you believe to be the correct information and communicate with the person who made the change in an attempt to collaborate in the future. The key here is whether or not the changes are supported by documentary sources and the evidence in those sources. For example, if the change involved a birth date, if you don't have an documentary evidence to correct the change, then why make the correction? What you need to do is see this as an invitation to do some research. If the other person provides a source and you have no sources then you can expect changes and should welcome both the change and the source. But if the other person makes a change when you have sources already listed, you should change the information back to reflect the sources and contact the person as I have already indicated.

Watching entries in the Family Tree is a basic mechanism for helping to advance the objective of the Family Tree to provide accurate and complete entries, supported by sources, for each individual in the tree.


  1. Most of the changes I'm seeing right now are Legacy (NFS) sources, and I'm detaching about 95% percent of them since they don't contain any usable information.

    But there are changes that need to be monitored. My latest change list showed that someone changed Charles Defriez Jarvis's name back to Charles Defriez and listed his birth record as a source. Normally that would be correct; a name should be recorded as found in the earliest/most official available records, but in his case he legally changed his name later in life and all his children were named Jarvis, so I noted that and changed it back.

    Hopefully this doesn't touch off a Wikipedia-style editing war since there isn't a board to arbitrate the final word in disputes like this. That's one way that Family Tree differs from Wikipedia. In the case of contested changes on Wikipedia, the editors can point to a clear set of guidelines that dictate which sources and styles are acceptable.

    1. I think you are correct about the changes to Charles Jarvis, but I also see the need for more explicit guidelines, as you mention, for arbitrating changes.

    2. I have found that same issue with the Legacy (NFS) sources, I have not been but have really wanted to remove them. It is common that people are removing these not so useful NFS sources?

    3. Mat, I just click "detach" and in the reason box note something like, "Contains no useful information."

      The only reason I can imagine to keep them is because they provide contact information for people who have worked on the entry in the past, but since all that information is preserved in NFS, I don't know why it would need to be preserved in Family Tree as well.

      If the Legacy Source does include any useful information, I edit the title and contents so it looks like a normal Family Tree source.

      By the way, just so this is perfectly clear, the sources I'm detaching usually contain information like the following, which is of little to no use:

      "Ancestral File (R), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Copyright (c) 1987, June 1998, data as of 5 January 1998, Family History Library, 35 N West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150 USA"

  2. The Watch List is indeed useful.

    But what you say is not quite accurate: "If you have been watching any of the people in your ancestral lines on's Family Tree program, you will likely have been receiving a weekly update from FamilySearch listing any and all changes made to those people on your watch list."

    The Watch List still does not show when someone has come along and deleted a relative. I am surprised that this still is not fixed, but ran into an example yesterday.

    Deletions will show up indirectly -- such as (if the deleted person had children) a notation that someone removed a parent-child relationship.

    It still would be very useful for the list to indicate directly when deletions were made.

    1. I guess the reason is the a deletion is not a "change." The list shows changes to existing people in the program.