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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Uploading and downloading from the FamilySearch Family Tree: A very bad idea either way

I had an interesting experience recently. I was asked to help a patron in the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some trouble she was having with a large file. I asked her what she was trying to do and she explained that she was having trouble with her genealogy program on her computer at home. She couldn't work with the file and had been told that it was too large. After further discussion, and repeatedly asking what she was trying to accomplish, she indicated that she wanted to make sure that her file was uploaded to the Family Tree. I asked her about the size of the file. She indicated that there were approximately 33,000 names in the file. She had been told, that perhaps she had exceeded the size of a file allowed by the program she was using. I assured her that this was probably not the cause of our problems.

While this discussion was going on, I noticed that she was using two different computers. For some reason, which was never made clear, she had decided to "download" her portion of the Family Tree to a flash drive. For this purpose, she had started to download indicating that she wanted to download 100 generations with all of the associated information. For this purpose, she was using a different program than the one she had at home.

As a side note, I am purposely avoiding using the names of the programs. I will explain why this is being done later in this post.

Apparently, she thought that she was downloading her portion of the Family Tree or approximately 33,000 names. The program she was using indicated that there were over 350 million names left to be downloaded. In other words, she was actually attempting to download approximately 1/4 of the entire Family Tree.  At this point, I was totally puzzled as to what was going on. If she wanted to make sure that all the names in her personal file were in the Family Tree then I could not see any reason for downloading what was already in the Family Tree. Of course, her flash drive was totally inadequate for attempting to store 350 million names. In addition, the process would probably take several days and could not be completed in the Library because the library would close.

This experience was one of many similar situations have confronted over the years since the Family Tree was made available. Two of the most frequent questions I hear are about how to download information from the Family Tree or about how to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. There are two or possibly more programs that have connections to the Family Tree that would allow you to download portions of the Family Tree. There is also a roundabout way to upload a GEDCOM file to the Family Tree. I am purposely avoiding writing about either process in detail.

The basic problems with both uploading and downloading files involve duplicate entries, inaccurate entries and the time involved. Some of the information in the Family Tree is verified and correct. On the other hand, some of the information is entirely fictitious and/or incorrect. Because of this fact, there is no way you can rely on the accuracy of information downloaded from the Family Tree unless you do so one entry at a time.

Those people who assume that the information contained in their own personal file is free of duplicates and absolutely correct are fooling themselves. In addition, a personal file of any size will likely contain a considerable number of duplicates of people already in the Family Tree. Even if you believe that no one in your family has ever had contact with the Family Tree previously, you cannot be sure that some of your family records are not already in the Family Tree unless you check every name. Time after time people who have had no connection at all with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found that some of the relatives are already in the Family Tree.

What about the person with thousands of names that wishes to share them with the Family Tree? The best way to do this is to purchase one of the programs that connect directly with the Family Tree. I mentioned earlier in this post that I was avoiding using the names of the programs. The reason for this is because the issues of either uploading or downloading information from the Family Tree are really program independent. None of the methods of either uploading or downloading information avoid the problem and the challenge of examining each and every entry individually. The Family Tree was built this way intentionally. Can you imagine the mess that would be created if people could easily upload GEDCOM files? We already have a mess in the Family Tree and don't need any help adding to the mess.

So bite the bullet. The restrictions on uploading and downloading files are there for very good reasons. Get busy comparing your own file with the information in the Family Tree. You can find some good programs that will help you avoid retyping all the entries, but the process will still involve examining each entry. You may find your own file is inaccurate, or you may need to correct the entries in the Family Tree, but this is how the process works.

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