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

Friday, August 31, 2018

What makes you think your part of the FamilySearch Family Tree is perfect?

I continue to get a steady stream of people who are using or have used the Family Tree and who complain about "changes" to their "family tree." Among those who complain, I see a significant number who aver that they will never ever use the Family Tree for their genealogy.

I guess my initial comment is directed at those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you are a member and you are taking the position that you will not utilize the Family Tree then you are simply saying that you refuse to do ordinance work for your ancestors. I suppose you can take that position, but I might also mention that taking that position has some ultimate consequences you may not like. The reason this is the case is that the Family Tree is the only way you can presently reserve names for Temple ordinances.

But what I think is more astounding is that these same people profess to be "genealogists" or "family historians." If they are concerned about changes to their portion of the Family Tree, I can only think that they must believe that what they have in some other program is perfect and totally accurate. Well, I have been looking at pedigrees for about 36 years now and I have yet to find one (even my own) that is not riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Oh, there are some exceptions. Those who have less than a dozen or so names in their portion of the Family Tree. Most of the complaining about changes applies to people who lived before 1850. If the person is complaining about changes to more recent family members, they are not watching the people or they have yet to add all their documentation.

I am not writing about people who, like me and my family members, who see dozens of changes every week but just go about fixing any of the inaccurate or incorrect information or reversing the changes to the information supported by the attached sources. As I have written just recently, if you are going to participate in Temple work, you need to accept the fact that there is a degree of maintenance and support needed to maintain a cooperative enterprise such as the Family Tree.

Here is a list of appropriate responses to changes in the Family Tree that don't involve abandoning Temple work and having negative thoughts about the Family Tree.

  • Clean up all of the entries in your part of the Family Tree
  • Research and add valid sources to every person
  • Watch everyone in the Family Tree that you can identify and are concerned about
  • Carefully go through and look at each change made every week as you receive notices about changes
  • Make all the corrections as quickly as possible and resolve any real issues that develop
  • Make sure you contact every person who makes a change and politely ask them for sources supporting what they changed
  • Don't rant, yell, throw things or otherwise react to the changes made
  • Accept the fact that some of your relatives don't have a clue
  • Do more research and make sure their changes aren't valid before you react at all
That's a start as to what I would suggest. We find the Family Tree to be a fabulously valuable research and support tool. The Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. 

Yes, I have seen more than my share of irrational, careless, uninformed, ridiculous, wrong, changes to the Family Tree. So what? I have also seen a lot of extremely valuable researched additions. 


  1. Sources win over Aunt Mabey's memory. Make sure you are both talking about the same relative. Assumed family history is not a vital record. Remember we are trying to put together a single family tree not reenact the battle of Gettysburg. Do what is right and there will be less need for Devine inspiration later on to correct it after you are no longer in this life.

  2. While we must use FamilySearch Family Tree in order to do ordinance work and load memories. Our FS/FT tree is degraded almost every week by seemingly well meaning but untrained people. We keep our "accurate" family tree in one of the offline programs (e.g., Roots Magic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy, etc.). When someone messes up the FS/FT we go back to the "accurate" tree to see what we need to do to fix FS/FT.

  3. I'm committed to FS/FT, but it does get overwhelming when every week you get emails with over 50 changes and you have to go through all of them to see if it's just distant cousins adding a new round of record hints that are basically correct or if someone made changes that turned your hours of research into a mess.