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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why is FamilySearch making changes to my ancestors on the Family Tree?

Changes made to entries in the Family Tree are a constant source of anger and frustration to many users. However, the ability to make changes is a basic function of the program and the anger and frustration is misdirected and inappropriate. Users who are used to working on a static storage-only genealogy program are essentially entering a new world with Family Tree. If you or someone you know is suffering from the frustration of the changes being made at any level, please take the time to make this explanation available to them. If you have further questions, please make comments to this post so that others may benefit from your experience.

Family Tree is a wiki and as such, it is designed to allow all of the registered users to make changes, add entries, correct entries and delete information. Users who approach the program with the attitude that they own their ancestors and that they have all of the absolutely correct information about them will be instantly frustrated. In the first place, Family Tree is still under intense development. Changes to the operation and views of program are being made regularly and will be made in the near future. In fact, I have just received notice of some changes that will be made within the next few weeks and as soon as I attend a presentation on the subject will be reporting those changes unless they show up before I get to the presentation.

The basic information in the Family Tree program was seeded and continues to be seeded from several preexisting databases: the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, Church membership records and Temple records. These basic sources created a huge complex of duplicates and conflicting entries because of the submissions made over a period of over 150 years. If you want to blame someone for this mess, blame your own ancestors and not Family Search or the present users of the Family Tree program.

At the second level, Family Tree is still being developed and seeded with the information contained in the now Read Only program This means that information about your ancestors may still be added to the Family Tree at any time. It is the nature of this historical data, historical in the sense that it may have been contributed anytime in the last 150+ years, that it may not agree with current research. The results is that we are in a "correction phase" of the program. We are, in a true sense, put in the position of correcting the data previously submitted by our own ancestors over the years. You will see these changes coming into the program as being contributed by "FamilySearch." But FamilySearch is merely the messenger. They are moving the data over as quickly as possible but it will still take some time to move completely. Some of the frustration in this regard comes as a result of users making corrections to the data when all of the data has not yet been added. Hence, corrections are made over and over again. In this case, I would suggest patience. Wait a while. See what happens. If changes are being made as you watch your individual ancestors, then see what happens with the changes before you get into the battle and try to dominate the changes. Take some time to communicate with relatives and establish a game plan rather than thinking that the task is entirely your own.

The next level of changes being made by users of the program. Not everyone working on the Family Tree has the same level of expertise in finding and recording data. For many, this is the first time they have been actively involved in entering data into a family history program. At the other end of the spectrum, we have users with years of experience, some at a professional level. The professionals will certainly be frustrated at having to share the same space with beginners, especially those intolerant experts that can't abide a little bit of slack in the system. When changes are made arbitrarily and without sources, it is usually an indication of a new user. Take this opportunity to help and educate rather than rant. If a users fails to have contact information or keeps making the same changes despite being provided with sources or explanations, then use the "Report Abuse" link to report these issues directly to FamilySearch. They need to know that people are abusing the system. Continued reports of people failing to respond or acting without contact information should alert the developers to the need for more stringent rules concerning involvement in the program and help them provide a way for people who are afraid to reveal their contact information publicly to be contacted directly through the program in some way.

If you are totally frustrated with the program, stop using it for the time being. Use or to store your data online in their family tree programs where other users can't change "your data." If you feel that you have information that is inappropriate to be shared online at the present time, then keep it in a local program such as, Ancestral Quest or Legacy Family Tree. You can also use the programs linked to the online programs such as's Family Tree Maker and's Family Tree Builder. RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker and Family Tree Builder all have Apple Macintosh versions of their programs available also.

There is really, at the end of all this explanation, no reason to become overly frustrated or angry about the Family Tree program. Family Tree is not the problem. It is the solution. Let's add a measure of charity, patience and long suffering to the program and start making progress rather than ranting.

1 comment:

  1. Hear! Hear! Well said! Best summary I have read yet on this topic!

    (No hints at all on the new changes? It really wasn't fair to dangle that little bread crumb!)