As budding genealogists attempt to use FamilySearch Family Tree, they quickly face the learning curve that’s not as easy as some other online offerings. Learning to add reason statements when making a change, attaching a source, merging people, or deleting a relationship can be overwhelming. But anything worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
With FamilySearch Family Tree, three reasons to use the program out-weight the learning curve associated with mastering the mechanics of the program.
1. Public Trees and Public Sources
With FamilySearch, there are no private trees. Okay, the private trees are the living individuals you add to the tree. But when we’re talking about the history of deceased persons, no one is private. Though you might want to believe this is blasphemy, look through the eyes of a friend’s story.
My friend wanted to work on her family tree using an online service that allowed private trees. She found a match to a private tree that indicated that it had sources. This friend was super excited! She hadn’t discovered any sources for this ancestor, and she was anxious to contact the private tree owner. When she reached out to the owner of the private tree, her excitement deflated.
This person had worked on the ‘common’ ancestor but gave up the chase. Why? Because that common ancestor was actually on her ex-husband’s line. Instead of separating the ex-husband’s line out, making it public and forgetting about it, she kept it as part of her private tree. No one can blame the woman for doing this because it does take the effort to separate trees. The sadness occurs when the ex-wife wouldn’t share the sources she accumulated for the tree branches for which she no longer cared. Her research would have helped my friend, but the private tree owner didn’t want to be bothered. Perhaps the tree owner had painful memories open up when the ex-husband’s family contacted her, and we all want to give her a big hug.
However, on FamilySearch, her research would have been in the public space, my friend could climb the ex-husband’s family tree and see the accumulated sources.
In FamilySearch Family Tree, I have contributed numerous sources to branches that I may never visit again. Part of my efforts is purely service-oriented. Part of my research involves hunting down potential friends, associates, and neighbors to my direct ancestor. Whatever the reason, these people are on FamilySearch Family Tree with all the documentation I used to make the associations. No one has to request what sources I used because they are at the ready.
2. Longevity of Research
Another benefit of FamilySearch Family Tree is that my research will likely live on after I have passed away.
Time and time again, I run into individuals who want to know “What will happen to my stuff when I die?” It’s highly likely that all of your research in your file cabinets and binders will go in the trash heap. Maybe you’ll have a descendant who sees the importance of saving your original records. But far too many people I encounter feel that is a huge maybe.
Use FamilySearch Family Tree as the repository for your research and stories. The organization backing the service has accumulated and shared family history since at least the 1850s. They’ll do everything they can to preserve your stuff and make it available for your descendants (direct or collateral) who want to know your story and the stories of your loved ones.
You can’t say the same with many other genealogical offerings. And indeed nothing is entirely safe from loss. But, my money is on FamilySearch to preserve your heritage and mine for the long haul.
3. Reduce Duplication Errors
Recently, I had someone thank me for posting a naturalization record for her direct ancestor. Now, this ancestor is the step-father of my 2nd great-grandfather Henry Joseph Geiszler. I’ve written about his father Joseph Geissler before.
I had searched for naturalization records hoping to locate the one belonging to Joseph Geissler. As it happened, I stumbled upon Michael Billman’s documentation instead. I copied the image when I was in the repository and then I added the naturalization record to FamilySearch. When Michael’s direct descendant came across the picture, she was able to connect with him more deeply. And she didn’t need to look for the record that I had already discovered.
I enjoy uploading documents or attaching sources using FamilySearch to my relatives and to those who aren’t part of my family. I don’t do this process randomly. I’m methodical about why I’m making discoveries. But there’s no sense making others find information that I have already processed and uncovered when I can add a record to my ancestor and then tag others as well. These efforts are my contribution to the power of the crowd.
FamilySearch, as a collaborative network, seeks to reduce the duplicated research efforts. Eventually, we can spend less time searching for the same records for the same ancestors repeatedly. We can spend our research effort exploring the little-known record sets like Post Office, Justice of the Peace, and Circuit Court collections.
Overcome the FamilySearch Learning Curve
If you’re a beginner who has to face a learning curve in genealogy, you might as well build your skillset using FamilySearch. If you find an ancestor on their open-edit tree, you’ll have access to the stories and sources that have already been discovered and connected to your relative. What you contribute to the tree will live on, and you won’t be looking for the same records that others have already found.