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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Understanding the Private Spaces on FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the ongoing concerns of the users of the FamilySearch Family Tree program is the privacy of the entries for living persons. Recently, has implemented a system of private spaces. You may have seen the following notice appear on a detail page for a living individual in the program:

It turns out, that each user of the Family Tree program is automatically given a "private space" to manage the privacy and confidentiality of the data in the program. All living people, i.e. people without death dates born within the last 110 years, are automatically given a private space. Any records created by the living person are included within the private space and are not visible to anyone other than the person who created the record. As stated in the Help Center document "Understanding Private Spaces," private spaces cannot be shared. This may change in the future.

Again quoting from the Helped Center document,
A living person can be represented in multiple private spaces as a different Family Tree person, and that person will have a different ID number in each private space.
Living people cannot be found by searching either by ID number or by name. However searching by the ID number will not find the person in any other account besides the one that uses the number being searched for. In other words, you can only see your own private space.

In addition you cannot add sources to living people. As explained by the help Center, Family Tree does not compute living people, even after they are older than 110 years. Users will need to mark their copy of the individuals his deceased and then search for any possible duplicates. I am speculating that this rule change because of the overwhelming number of people being created with separate ID numbers who are presently living. Imagine a situation where all of a living person's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren include the person in their private space. There could be well over 100 copies of the same person needing to be merged. It would seem to me to be a good idea to Mark the living people as living and tie them into a common living person so that when the common living person was marked deceased all of the copies would automatically be merged.

The Help Center contains the following information for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
  • Each living person will have a different ID number because each person is listed as a separate individual in each living record. Living records do not sync.
  • For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, membership information will be used to create certain people in their private space to help start their tree (mother, father, children, and so forth). Once created, these living people can be changed by the user, but such changes will not modify Church membership information.
  • Church members can modify their private space in Family Tree without having to ask the ward clerk.
  • Please contact the ward clerk if you feel the membership records are incorrect.
  • When a ward clerk records that a person is deceased, then Church membership will create a deceased person in Family Tree, making it public. The ordinances that the person had done while living will be recorded on that copy. This will not affect the copy in your private space, and you will need to add the information that shows the person is deceased in your private space. You will then need to search for Possible Duplicates and merge your copy with the membership version. If a person made his or her personal space copy show the person as deceased, that person should merge these two records together. This procedure will need to be done by each person who has created a living person in his or her own private space.
There is more information about the private space in the Help Center. Search for "private spaces."

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