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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cleaning up entries in FamilySearch Family Tree

What do I mean when I say that the entries in the Family Tree need to be "cleaned up?" This process includes the following steps:

  • Entering a life sketch when available
  • Checking the names of individuals to see that they are correctly entered
  • Verifying and standardizing dates and place names
  • Removing "Christening" dates for LDS entries
  • Completing and regularizing death and burial information
  • Eliminating duplicate entries from the "Other Information" category
  • Editing remaining information in the "Other Information" category
  • Verifying and editing family member information
  • Adding sources and editing existing "Legacy NFS Sources"
  • Reviewing any discussions
  • Deleting inappropriate notes transferred from

When I start to talk about this process in a class, I find out that there is a measurable amount of opposition. The most frequent response is "Who cares, the Temple work has already been done." The next most frequent response is "I don't have time to do all that, why does it have to be done anyway?" The conclusion is that only a very small percentage of the people who end up using FamilySearch Family Tree will realize the benefits of cleaning up the entries and do something about it.

Here are examples of what I mean by cleaning up the entries. Note that some of the steps from the above list are combined into one step. I did this when editing the information turns out to be trivial.

Step No. 1 Entering a life sketch when available
The information in a life sketch can be essentially the same as would be found in an obituary. Longer entries are better placed in the Memories section for the individual. It may well be that there is no information for a life sketch. This indicates that little historical work has been done on this particular individual by those using Family Tree.

Step No. 2 Verifying Names
You can see from the "Other Information" whether or not the primary name has been submitted a number of times in different formats. The primary name should be the name earliest recorded, preferably at the time of birth. If there is a disagreement, then the family members should collectively decide on the primary name shown and alternative names should be shown as alternatives not birth name. This particular individual has an the alternative name of "Keziah Morgan" indicating that there may be a wrongly combined individual.

Step No. 3 Regularize and correct date and place information
Most of the entries for this particular person are incomplete. This may reflect a lack of sources for this person or it may simply mean no one has spent the time to do the research. Be careful when using standard place names from the suggested entries from Family Tree that you do not put in an inappropriate current place name for the actual location where the even occurred.

Step No. 4 Delete duplicate birth names and other inappropriate entries in "Other Information." 
Many people do not seem to know that you can delete inappropriate information from Family Tree. All you need to do is click on the entry and select delete. If the name variations are true variations and not just misspelling or poorly copied, then these "Birth Name" entries should be changed to "Alternative Name" entries. Check the additional entries to see if they make sense and either edit or delete those that do not.

Step No. 5 Review, correct and add to the entries for family members
It is evident that this entry lacks any particular research. There is no death date for the mother. There is only one child listed and it looks like from the entry for the father/grandfather that there is some confusion about Garrard Morgan and Kesiah Morgan. All in all, very little research seems to have been done or there is a dearth of record sources.

Step No. 6 Add Sources
In this case, there are no sources listed, even for the information that is already in the entry. Source would assist in finding additional family members and in documenting the dates, place etc. of currently listed family members.

Step No. 7 Review, add to or delete any inappropriate or incomplete entries 
Many of the entries in these categories will come from comments made in and may no longer apply or be incomplete and meaningless. These can be deleted or at least edited so as to make sense.

This is the basic process of cleaning up the entries in Family Tree. It is very likely that this will occur over a period of time. You may wonder why I haven't "cleaned up" my own entry. This particular ancestor is seven generations back in my ancestry and I am slowly getting all the entries cleaned up back that far. I have been hesitant to do much very far back until FamilySearch completes the transfer of all the information from, so I do not have to do the task more than one time.


  1. Yes! This is exactly what needs to be done! Family Search needs to make a real attempt to connect with and engage the serious, committed genealogists to get this cleanup done. Unfortunately, instead, it feels like FS is marginalizing the work of the serious genealogists in pursuit of getting more people involved in submitting names for temple work. Unfortunately, as you point out, I'm afraid that is simply going to overwhelm those who are new to family history when they see what a mess Family Tree is. FS really needs to connect with the traditional, committed, genealogists and enlist their help in cleaning up the Tree.

    1. I think I might have a different take on the situation. Right now, the Family Tree program is in transition. It has the potential of overcoming all of the limitations and becoming self-correcting.

    2. From what I have observed, people new to Family Tree will not get overwhelmed if they will stick to the oft repeated council to start with their first deceased ancestors, whether parents or grandparents. By the time they get information corrected, sources added for every bit of information, photos added, and documents added for those six people, they will be well versed in Family Tree. Then they can work on the siblings and spouses of their parents and grandparents. That will keep them busy for months. It seems to me that most of the complaints about people messing up the tree usually involves families in the 1700’s.

    3. Sorry to be late in reply. I was in Mesa for the week. My impression is that the people who are complaining the most about changes are battling with IOUSs. I also agree that many of them are remote ancestors who should be ignored until all of the intervening generations are sourced and corrected. Most of the really emotional complaints come from people who simply do not know how the program works and will not take the time to listen and learn.