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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Look Carefully Before You Leap: Correcting entries to the FamilySearch Family Tree

Now that the Family Tree is "fixed," we should be aware that there are a certain number of very knowledgeable and competent people out there cleaning up the entries. If you find yourself in the category of those who are amply endowed with entries in the Family Tree, it just might be in your best interest to "watch" those entries for a while before you jump in and try to add your own data. For example, in my own family lines, my Great-great-grandfather, John Tanner, has tens of thousands of descendants. Presently, there are a very few, highly qualified people working on cleaning up the years of detritus that has accumulated around his entries including duplicates and incorrect information. If you are a descendant of John Tanner, you can watch this process happening by watching the entries and reviewing the emails you get from FamilySearch before you try to add your own two cents worth.

This process is especially applicable to prominent, historical figures such as Mayflower passengers and others in similar categories. Unless you have some particular expertise in doing research with these people, I suggest you may want to wait and watch the process of how these entries are being cleaned up. In fact, there are "Family Tree" missionaries who will be working on some of these issuess. Let them do their jobs. Don't feel compelled to "correct" the data unless you have solid, documented and well researched evidence.

Now these cautions do not apply as stringently to less prominent individuals. In my own lines, for example, there are plenty of individuals where I am seeing absolutely no changes other than the ones I am making myself. But if you come across one of these less prominent people, watch and wait before you jump in and try to make your own changes. The key here is to "Watch" before you begin to make changes and make sure you have documentation before making any changes.

Ask yourself this question; do I really know what I am doing? Think about whether you have the documentation necessary to make the changes unless these changes are obvious in some way. It may be necessary to "back off" and wait until you can do the proper research. It may take some time and additional tools to make the proper corrections.


  1. Thanks James, great advice for us all to consider. Recently, I saw where someone had merged twins in my family. Their names were similar, Frank and Franklin. Two census records had them both listed where you could easily see two distinct individuals listed. With all the rush to clean up the database, it easy to assume duplicates where there might not be any. I sent the person who had merged a message and we worked together to fix it. They un-merged the records and I added additional identifying details. It is great working together as we move forward with this amazing tool. I have found if I contact people who are making changes we can work together. It also allows us to identify who is an expert and who is learning. In this way we can share and build the tree to its greatest potential.

  2. And at the other end of the message is Find, Take, Teach! (head shaking)