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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Confronting the Issue of Errors in the FamilySearch Family Tree

I recently received the following comment to one of my blog posts.
Am I missing where you report errors to the LDS people; e.g. DNA now proved bound book info in error, yet the bound book error continues ad infinitum. Errors cause me to be weary using
 It appears that the "error" referred to comes from some book. It is too bad the commentator was not a bit more specific. It is also too bad that the commentator blames both the website and the "LDS people" for the proliferation of an error from a "bound book." Apparently the commentator does not realize that the website is exactly where you "report" such "errors" and I would point out that this can easily be done through the Family Tree.

I guess the commentator mistakenly assumes that the website has a monopoly on genealogical "errors" particularly those of the kind that involve the disproving of a commonly held belief by the use of DNA evidence. I am also somewhat mystified as to how the commentator got this impression from reading my posts. Hence, the present post.

I was recently preparing for a presentation involving looking at a volunteer's pedigree. I have a standing challenge that I have repeated for many years that if I am given about ten or fifteen minutes to look at a pedigree, any pedigree in any format, I can spot and point out some serious errors. So far, over the years I have been offering to do this, I have yet to find a "perfect" pedigree unless it happened to end in one or two generations. Because the Family Tree is a unified, combined pedigree involving the contributions of thousands of people for a period of over a hundred years, there are bound to be numerous, very serious errors. Let me repeat what I have said and written many times before:

The FamilySearch Family Tree is the solution not the problem.

By the way, I too can get "weary" in confronting the errors and problems associated with confronting the tangled mess in some parts of the Family Tree. The pedigree of the volunteer I was examining the other day was a case in point. There were duplicates, red exclamation point errors and simply wrong combined records in such profusion, there was no way to rely on anything in the that part of the Family Tree. On the other hand, I was wishing that the errors in my own lines were as obvious and easy to correct as those I was examining for the volunteer.

We know there are errors so then what? Correct them! The essence of the Family Tree is the ability of everyone who participates to correct errors. I just got my weekly list of Recent Changes in Family Tree from FamilySearch. Here is a partial screenshot:

For the people I am watching, there were a total of 137 changes this week. Most of the changes were constructive and did not need my intervention. In this case, someone added a duplicate child without checking for duplicates. In this case the duplicate added was a female when the exact information was already in the Family Tree with a spouse and children as a male and with extensive documentation. So, I wrote a message to the person asking them to delete the non-existing female entry. 

This is one of the most egregious examples of errors in the Family Tree. But clearly, there is a mechanism for correcting such errors and any other errors found. The solution is simple.
  • Document the entries
  • Watch your ancestors in the Family Tree
  • Read the emails sent by FamilySearch
  • Make the corrections or request that the person making the wrong entry make the correction
  • If no correction is made, send the information to FamilySearch to have them make the change

Granted, there are some longstanding, persistent errors. But these generally involve changes in the way the records have been interpreted in the past. The issue of newly discovered DNA tests will likely result in quite a few changes. The results of these tests can easily be entered into the Family Tree and the results of the tests made available through the Additional Information section. 

The fact that changes are being made is evidence that the Family Tree is alive and well. The fact that some of these changes are made in error does not reflect on the mechanism of the Family Tree at all. It merely points out that there are dishonest or careless or ignorant people in the world. 


  1. I recently tried to untangle a mess that was the result of multiple incorrect merges. It took several hours and in the end I fixed my portion of the tree and disconnected it from the rest of the mess because I couldn't make sense of it all. I watched the people I had fixed. Within a week someone had added an incorrect source about the person I had just unmerged them from. But it took me two minutes to go to their page and delete the source with an explanation. I do feel that a lot of my family history work right now is cleaning up the mess, but there is a feeling of satisfaction too when you do good research and fix a person's page to be error free and well-documented. And all the cleaning up has paid off because now I'm finding temple work that needs to be done. I think we need to be patient because we're sorting out decades of work that has never been all in one place before.

    Do you watch every single person who you have worked on or just the people who you feel are likely to be changed?

    1. Hi, I usually watch the heads of families and anyone I have spent time working on. Thanks.

  2. I recently responded to a post on Genealogy's Star concerning profiles getting worse and not better for individuals I am watching who lived in 17th and early 18th century Virginia, but this comment does belong on this blog.

    You don't have to post this, but I would like a response.

    I think another issue is that the George Calvert mentioned below is probably sealed to the parents who keep being added every two or three weeks. I am not privy to that information. Is that a possibility? When someone is wrongly sealed to the wrong parents is that undone? What is the process? If someone is sealed to parents would that increase the likelihood of someone connecting the child with the parents?

    To be clear, if George Calvert LFSQ-83N is sealed William Calvert and his wife, I am not advocating nor asking that be undone. While there are no 17th or 18th century sources that support this, or that even connect George Calvert to Maryland, so many people want this to be true and to date there is no "direct proof" that "proves" the negative. As a matter of fact, within the last month results have been published concerning the haplogroup of William's uncle Philip Calvert and "Baby Calvert" that place them, and half the European males living today, in the same haplogroup as George Calvert.

    To give this some context: I wrote in a second response, I still agree FamilySearch Family Tree is the solution, perhaps the Calvert family is an aberration, however I have carefully traced back to and filled in the lineage to George Calvert and his son John. The former appears to have lived entirely in the 17th century and the latter lived into the early years of the 18th century. I have entered every event in their lives backed by the source where that event is found. I have uploaded digital copies of the most important source documents. There are no other records that have been found for these men in the research done over the last 120 years by countless people, amateur and paid professionals.

    George Calvert is an end-of-line person based on the state of research as of today, however on average about every two or three weeks he is given parents, whose names were first published in two articles from the first two decades of the 20th century that allow our lineage to be traced back to Lord Baltimore. Each time the parents are added by a different contributor. And then the exact dates and places start to fill the blanks for which there is no information available.

    One person told me concerning another relationship issue in this family a generation later, he did not care what the sources indicated he would hold on to his cherished beliefs until the end of the world and he was going to construct his version of our family in another part of FamilySearch Family Tree, not linked to the area we are working in.

    Alas, I suppose the only thing to do is to, yet again, unlink the parents and provide the 167 word rationale that I use as a canned response.

    1. Temple ordinances are always conditional on the person accepting the ordinances. Yes, what we do in correct the inaccurate relationships as many times as they are made with an explanation. Thanks for the comment.

    2. Ric you can email me at genealogyarizona at for more discussion on this topic.

    3. Hi Ric, I looked at George Calvert's record. I would suggest adding a Note to explain why he is an end of line person, and if needed also put the same information in the Life Sketch where it can't be missed. I have had good success keeping people from adding wrong parents or other crazy information by adding notes about the research that's been done and everything I know. Good luck!