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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Managing Your Part of the FamilySearch Family Tree

Is your part of the Family Tree looking a little neglected and sad? Here is a checklist for working with the Family Tree. The items listed aren't in any kind of order but I have given them numbers for easy reference. They are all things that need to be done to have a happy, healthy Family Tree. For each of these suggested activities, When appropriate, I have provided a link to The Family History Guide for instructions about performing the required maintenance.

Why do we need to manage or maintain our part of the Family Tree? The answer is not simple. The Family Tree is essentially a cooperative and in a sense, a "public place" to share all of the information we know about our families with others who are part of our family or may be interested. All such virtual public places, just like real public places out in the real world, need to be constantly cleaned up and maintained. Maintaining the Family Tree is directly analogous to maintaining a garden or keeping our house neat and clean. 

Here we go. Here are my first examples of some entries that need to be cleaned up and then maintained.

#1 The name needs to be cleaned up. The addition of a second surname in parenthesis will not make the Family Tree Searches possible or easy. If there is an alternate spelling of a given name or surname in the records those variations should be added to the other information section of the Details page as Alternative Names. 

Here is the link to The Family History Guide to make this edit. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.


The places and dates need to be standardized. Present and future functions of the Family Tree will depend on having accurate, standardized entries. The double date for Old Style/New Style will not standardize, you need to read the instructions about entering a non-standard entry. The existing place name for the Christening is actually two different places and cannot be resolved without research. My research indicates that the Butterton place is likely correct but I have yet to find a source to support either the place or date. There are no sources attached. By the way, he could not be born in Massachusetts Colony and Christened in England

This task has the same link to The Family History Guide. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.


I routinely delete all of these extra birth names. They are artifacts of all the previous submissions for this person over the years. They serve no purpose unless they are actually alternative or nicknames in which case they should be changed to reflect records with the alternative names. They are all duplicates of the name that should be the main entry in the Detail section. 

This task also has the same link to The Family History Guide. Goal 6: Change information for ancestors in your tree.

When these three steps are finished, the entry will look like this with the caveat that there are still no sources attached to verify this information. It actually turns out that finding information about this person may be a real and extensive challenge. If this happens, you may want to work on this person or leave it for someone else. But cleaning up the entries is helpful to future researchers. 

Most of the time, I automatically clean up entries as I see them in the Family Tree even if I am not going to do any more research. With this entry, there is a lot more work that needs to be done. 


  1. This post prompted a trip down the FS Tree rabbit hole. I wondered whether a FS Tree search includes alternate names so that if I only knew this man as Thomas Hambleton would I find this Thomas Hamilton entry. I did a FS Tree search for Thomas Hamilton born 1718 Massachusetts - and the person page seen above did not appear in the search results. Top of the list was Thomas Hamilton, 99PS-KFV, name added by FS in 2012. According to FS there are no possible duplicates. I also found a Thomas Hamilton born in Chatham, Barnstable, Massachusetts Bay, British America, LBGD-HXH - again no possible duplicates. I also found a Thomas Hambelton, L163-MTS, born 1718. He has two possible duplicates - but not the Thomas Hamilton entry that was shown above. I also tried Thomas Hamilton, Barnstable, Massachusetts Bay, etc., born 1718 - still no match for the entry above - sigh. I am not sure what I am doing wrong but this exercise worries me.

    1. Well, I wouldn't worry too much about it. My experience shows that most duplicates in the Family Tree only come to light when you start doing research. I call these "hidden" duplicate entries "Family Tree Duplicate Dark Matter." The process is to establish a beachhead with sources and then start picking off the duplicates one by one as they surface.

  2. Janet:
    Yes. When you search by name all records with that name as either a main name or an alternate name are included in the results. I just tried searching for Thomas Hambleton without other information and the example above came up as the third result on the first page of strong matches which lists twenty five Thomas Hambletons.

    Adding in 1718, Massachusetts and picking the first choice of standard place Massachusetts, United States causes him to move to page 13, that is, he is the 306th Thomas Hambleton listed in the search results. Picking the second choice, Massachusetts Bay, British Colonial America, causes the above record to appear at the top of the list as one of only two strong matches. So the search engine does have some interesting quirks.

    Double dates standardize just fine. Typically the green standardized bar will show the second year notation. Typing in 15 March 1719/20 and clicking outside the text entry box puts the standard of 15 March 1720 in the green bar just fine.

    Just curious: did you completely delete the christening information so no one can find it except in the change log? Or did you move it down into the notes? Maybe with a title "Future Research Project - Birth and Christening" with a nice explanation such as "This record originally had birth information of 1718 in Massachusetts but a christening of 15 March 1719/20 in England. Either the birth place or christening place must be incorrect due to the distance between. It is possible this contradiction arose from a prior bad merge to two different individuals of the same name. Also the christening place of .... combines the names of two different parishes and this contradiction also needs to be sorted out."

    1. You can also click on "None of the above" and accomplish the same thing by selecting the closest place. Thanks for your comments as always. I think I will save working on the Thomas Hambleton line for a while. :-)

  3. Some great tips. I routinely do these sorts of things myself. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone and that I'm not stepping on other people's toes. Sadly, my wife still refuses to work in the "Tree" portion (or pedigree/family group area if you will) of FamilySearch because it is a "public place". She's a careful researcher and uses FS almost daily, but it drives her crazy to see the bad data in the Family Tree. Especially when someone who doesn't know what they are doing comes along and tries to "fix" something that was correct to begin with.