There are a number of very specific things you can do to enhance and improve your experience with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. After teaching hundreds of classes and answering innumerable questions about the Family Tree, I am boiling down all the answers to all the questions and my comments about the Family Tree into just ten short suggestions. They are "suggestions" because you still have to choose to improve your own experience. Here I go with the list and explanations.
1. Take the time and effort to improve your computer and keyboarding skills.
Young or old, many people are still typing with two fingers. Others are still at the stage of trying to remember their logins and passwords. If you lack basic computer skills, you will be challenged to use the Family Tree and almost any other computer program.
When I start to help someone and the first issue is remembering their login and password, I can only assume they have little or no experience with the website. This obstacle can come always using the memorized passwords from your computer's operating system or from Google, but you should have a procedure, such as writing down your passwords, to retrieve the password without using a second forgotten password.
If your computer skills are lacking, it may be time for some formal training. There are many online free educational websites that provide instruction for both Apple and PC computers. You can get started with the links from The Family History Guide's free Intro pages Computer Basics.
However, it may be obvious that if you are reading this blog post, you have some basic computer skills and telling you to go to a website to enhance those skills may be entirely unneeded. But, if you know someone with limited or no computer skills you might want to help them find the website I cite below.
Even assuming you have some basic or even more advanced computer skills, that does not mean you understand how or why the Family Tree works. Many users are frustrated because the Family Tree is an open, collaborative website. This means that anyone can add to, change, correct, or in some limited circumstances, delete information in the Family Tree. Understanding this process and not being challenged or frustrated by the way the Family Tree works is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Those who do understand the Family Tree learn to work through the changes and apply some simple procedures that will minimize unwanted or incorrect changes. Here is a video that will talk about those procedures.
Handling the changes made to the FamilySearch Family Tree?
3. Learn the basics about sources, standardization, and merging
These three topics are the ones that challenge even people with extensive genealogical research backgrounds. Fortunately, there are specific sections in The Family History Guide that teach you how to use these tools with simple, step-by-step instructions. To begin, see The Family History Guide section on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and then look at the Project Goals listed at the top of the page.
You may not even have six generations of your direct line ancestors and other relatives in your portion of the Family Tree, but get to know all that you do have. What I mean by this is that you know all the surnames of, at least, your direct line ancestors by memory so that you can recognize related family names when you run across information that may be about your family. Keeping track of all the descendants is an entirely different matter but that is why it is important to know the core ancestors. People you meet (in real life, not genealogy) will sometimes ask if you are related to them. There are some online apps, such as the one on the FamilySearch.org mobile Tree app, Relatives Around Me, that can help to see if you are related, but it is a good idea to have the core ancestors in your own memory to take advantage of these "relationship" experiences.
The existence of a hole in your direct line ancestry back in the 16th or 17th Centuries can be overwhelmingly alluring. But generally, those holes or missing ancestors are there because adequate records are missing. Your experience with doing genealogical research will be much more pleasant if you focus on filling in the gaps among the descendants of your first four to six generations of direct line ancestors and all their siblings. These people are your cousins and they are your relatives. If you need help in doing descendancy research, take the time to learn about the resources for doing this type of research. Here is a good place to get started.
Basic Series: Part 3 - Beginning Descendancy Research
6. Start with your primary spoken language research first.
I talk to a lot of people who speak English and who are just beginning their genealogical research experience and too many of them want to begin by starting with research into their German or Scandinavian ancestors when they know nothing about the history of Germany or Scandinavia and do not speak or read any of the necessary languages. Moving into research into a language you do not understand adds an overwhelming challenge to the already difficult task of learning how to do genealogical research. If you first become proficient in researching in your native language, then moving into another language is possible, but not easy. If you do speak two or more languages, all the better. But you still need to begin doing research in one of the languages before you move on to another one. Here is a link to The Family History Guide section on Countries that will get you started in almost all the major countries of the world.
There are quite a few FamilySearch Partner programs or websites in the Solutions Gallery. Here is a link to the Solutions Gallery. The link on the FamilySearch.org website is located at the bottom of the Home page.
8. Be sure to correct names, merge duplicates, standardize dates and places, and work to complete entries before branching off into research.
This step might seem a little repetitious but I cannot overemphasize the importance of "cleaning up" your entries before attempting to move on to researching those same entries. The most important thing you can do is to make sure that the places listed in each entry are as accurate and specific as possible. If you have learned how to do this using the previous suggestion, then you need to actually apply what you have learned.
9. Attend a class or genealogy conference and talk to other users of the Family Tree.
Genealogy is a very solitary and personal activity or persuasion. To avoid getting overly frustrated with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, you should spend some time in a class or attend a genealogy conference. This gives you some perspective about how others are coping with the difficulties of working with online websites and other challenges. A good conference to consider is the upcoming RootsTech 2020 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 26th to the 29th, 2020.
10. Don't give up.
You have to realize that learning about a complex website such as FamilySearch.org and all that goes with it can be a real challenge. There are a bundle of skills that go along with learning genealogical research and then putting those skills into the online technological challenges adds yet another level of difficulty. The results are worth the effort. You can succeed. It may take so time and effort but there are substantial rewards. Get busy and start learning.