3 Reasons Not to Use FamilySearch Family Tree

If I had the rights to make a sidebar banner without fear of copyright infringement, I would make one that had the FamilySearch logo and the words “FamilySearch Fan Girl” below it. In fact, I would enthusiastically wear the same banner design on a shirt. Despite how much I appreciate this online collaborative family tree, I often hear three major reasons why my friends and associates do not want to use FamilySearch Family Trees.  

  1. The FamilySearch Family Tree is too tangled.
  2. I know my stuff is accurate and I don’t want folks changing my tree
  3. I can’t upload my Gedcom file

Oh, boy, do I hear you.

Finding tangled trees with crazy and obvious errors can be frustrating; however, the problem often didn’t start with FamilySearch. Tangled trees with egregious problems float around in print and online trees. When you’ve spent hours fixing the problems you’ve discovered, it’s hard to ask you to help fix the FamilySearch Family Tree. So, if you don’t have the patience, perhaps you shouldn’t use FamilySearch.However, the folks behind FamilySearch Family Tree realized that the messes existed prior to the open-edit service. Their attempt to fix the errors for future generations and attempt to work toward an accurate family tree centered around the idea of having folks work on essentially one version of George Adams of Victor, Minnesota rather than 100+ versions with only 35% of the those being accurate. Then multiply this across all persons who have lived on the earth (as far as records support). While I understand finding a tangled mess is a pain in the glutes. Not using a site that actively wants to sort out the mess and ultimately keep it tangle-free is not my answer.

Would it be worth the attempt to help prune and clean up the FamilySearch family tree? For me, it is. If it’s not for you, then use another service.

Defending the accuracy of our research is natural. Avoiding the possibility of another changing your research is scary.

Is there anyone on your family tree where you are lacking all the evidence to prove every fact of their life? If your tree is small, the possibility you have all the facts correct is higher than if you have a large tree. For trees with thousands of names, you could have mistakes and not know them.

Recently I encountered someone who changed the FamilySearch Family Tree for my 2nd great-grandmother Caroline Mack who married Joseph Geiszler and Michael Billman. The person who detached her from Joseph didn’t realize that she had a prior marriage than with Michael. Following her research trail, I could easily understand how she made the mistake. When I shared the evidence that Caroline had a prior marriage, she was surprised and humble enough to admit her changes were incorrect. Admittedly, I felt a twinge of frustration with the changes but we worked it out and the woman learned something new about her ancestor.

Now, someone cringed with my research.  While climbing my Townley line, two brothers married women named Catherine M who I ‘married’ to the wrong brother for a time. That wasn’t the worst of it. At some point, I merged both Catherines to a woman with the same name living in an entirely different part of the state where they lived. When the non-related Catherine’s family contacted me and presented evidence of their line not being related, I was able to untangle the three Catherines. I have learned not to pride myself on my accuracy of research. Mistakes happen. If you disagree, then perhaps FamilySearch Family Tree will drive you insane because your research might be changed for the worse as much as for the better.

When you have built your trees digitally, FamilySearch is frustrating because you can’t upload your tree rapidly.

FamilySearch doesn’t let you upload a Gedcom file or quickly transfer a family tree from one site to another because their focus is different than others. If their family tree has 1.1 billion names in the tree, then the FamilySearch database wants to ultimately have 1.1 billion unique people rather than any percentage of duplicate profiles for the same individual.

There is a great chance that your ancestors are already in the FamilySearch Family Tree, especially if you link into American Patriot, Mormon Pioneer, or Mayflower ancestors. If you have a published family history, those family names are likely in the family tree as well. There is no reason to add your duplicate version of these individuals who are already in the common family tree. Adding your Gedcom will bloat the tree and create the need to merge multiple (100s or 1,000s) of profiles. It would be better to force you to only add new individuals not previously added to the tree. If you don’t want to add to the research that others have already compiled on FamilySearch or review the accuracy of their research along the way, then perhaps FamilySearch Family Tree is not a site for you. You could still find records for your ancestors on the “Record” side of FamilySearch. However, you’re missing out on the ability to keep track of your searches and discoveries by linking the findings to a person on the family tree.   I’M STILL A FAMILY SEARCH FANGIRL.

Despite the reasons some people avoid using FamilySearch Family Tree, I’m still loyal to the collaborative online tree. It has the potential to create the most accurate world family tree. I’m not naive enough to believe we’re there yet. There is still more to research to do to connect everyone that has lived on earth to the right family members. But I’ve come to think this is the path forward. I’ll still use other sites and services to ‘plant’ my tree, but I’m willing to put in the time to prune the branches of my tree in FamilySearch.

If you decide FamilySearch is not for you, it’s okay. At least make that choice based on your experience, rather than personal fears or the frustrations of others.

Frustrated with FamilySearch? #genealogy #familyhistory
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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