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

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Top Five Tips for FamilySearch Family Tree

One intriguing entry in the Get Help Menu is the article entitled, "FamilySearch Family Tree Top 5 Tips." In reviewing these tips, I thought it a good idea to expand on what was in the original list. Here are the tips with my comments:

Tip No. 1
There is no guarantee that the information in Family Tree is accurate. Data comes from many sources, and anyone can edit the information in Family Tree. It is your responsibility to verify names, dates, places, and family relationships, and to provide sources when available.
This is a very frank admission of the status of the content of's Family Tree. In fact, it applies to any user submitted family tree on any online program. The key here is the last comment, "provide sources when available." Despite a huge influx of the source citations to Family Tree entries over the past, almost three years, there are still many entries with no supporting sources. But what is more serious, is that users of the Family Tree make changes to existing records without sources and even more seriously, without consulting the sources that have already been supplied. 

There is an even more serious question, can we add names to the program without providing sources? The recent addition of source hints to Family Tree illustrates that the times when sources are not available are really quite limited. In almost all cases, going back about 200 years, there are many more sources than are usually assumed. For example, adding an entire family to the Family Tree and citing a marriage record is not adding a source when available. The marriage record is not a source for the births of the children. 

This Tip should also be kept firmly in mind when people go fishing for names to take to the Temples. There is no guarantee that a name without a source in Family Tree is not a duplicate and further that the name is actually an ancestor of the user. 

Tip No. 2
To find an individual in Family Tree, click Find in the top menu. To find a Historical Record, click Search in the top menu or click Search Records on an individual’s person page.
This Tip is really about using the program as it was designed to be used. In other words, part of the function of working with Family Tree is to use the Find menu option to determine if there are multiple copies of an individual in the Family Tree. It is not enough to rely on Find Duplicates function alone to determine if duplicates exist. Likewise, the links to Historical Records are also there for a purpose; to be used. It is time to get away from mining the Family Tree for names to take to the Temple and begin adding names from verified historical records.

Tip No. 3
On the Tree page: To view or edit an individual’s details, click the name to display the individual’s summary card. Then click Person or click the person’s name.
 It is not enough to merely view a person's details, it is also important to study and evaluate what you see. The new Descendancy View in Family Tree has highlighted the vast number of inconsistent entries in the Family Tree. Most common are when the ages and/or birth information supplied about a family is inconsistent: children born before their parents and people married at very inappropriate ages. Incomplete or very approximate dates, vague locations and other missing data are a dead giveaway that the person is likely not accurately identified. The real clue as to the status of an individual is the lack of any sources. Missing sources indicate information that is unsubstantiated and incomplete.

Tip No. 4
On the Tree page: You can move the tree by clicking and dragging the page (similar to Google Maps). You can also use the up, down, left and right arrows on your keyboard.
The fact that this Tip is necessary, acknowledges the fact that many Family Tree users lack basic computer skills. There is a need for basic computer instruction. This simple operation is something I have had to show to new users of Family Tree many, many times.

Tip No. 5
On the Tree page: To view a couple’s children, hover over their box and then click the Children tab that appears beneath it.
The idea of hovering over an entry is also a learned computer skill. Most people discover this by accident. Experienced computer users learn to hover over different parts of a program to see if there are any functions that appear. Again, this type of action requires basic computer skills that are missing in a significant number of people who come to the Family Tree program.

I am sure that there are a number of other basic tips that would help all of us learn to use the Family Tree program more effectively.

1 comment:

  1. The latest "what's coming" blog for employees and missionaries that I saw said they are working on doing away with the hover necessity in the Parent/Child Relationship. The family section will just show "Edit Children". So watch for that!. I certainly hope we don't have to wait until 2016 for that one, when nFS is gone.