Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

tree 1

There are four links, Tree, Person, Find, Lists.   We will talk about all four but first you need to know exactly what Family Tree is.  Family Tree is a single collaborative tree.  The picture you see in the screenshot happens to be of Silas Simmons.  In all of history there was only one Silas Simmons that was born about 1794 in South Carolina who married a woman name Janet, fought in the War of 1812 and whose parents were James Simmons and Ellenor Lee.  When you go to Family Tree you will find this Silas Simmons one time.  He has a unique FamilySearch Identification Number (FSID) which is KDM1-8B5.  Every genealogist who has information about THIS Silas Simmons will add it here.   In contrast, the Genealogies section of FamilySearch and the Member Trees on are collections of uploaded gedcoms.  If you run a search in for this Silas Simmons you will see him 189 times.  To see what information everyone has on Silas you will have to access all 189 trees and compare/contrast what you see.  In Family Tree you only have to look at one person.

I personally like the Family Tree concept better.  Is it perfect?  No, but neither are the collections of uploaded gedcoms.  Family Tree is still relatively new.  It is getting better all the time.  FamilySearch is making improvements and the genealogists working on the tree are doing a lot of cleanup work which will also make it better.

When Family Tree was first introduced as NewFamilySearch they started the tree by importing all of the gedcoms from the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File.  We discussed what these two databases are HERE and I also posted a follow up HERE.  These gedcoms contained a lot of errors and a lot of duplicates.  Using my Silas Simmons example there are 189 on and I am sure that the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File had even more.  The first order of business was to try and merge all of the duplicates which in itself was (and still is) a massive undertaking.   Then there are all of the errors and unsourced information.   There are thousands of experienced researchers doing this cleanup work, however, inexperienced researchers are sill adding people without checking to see if the person is already there and they are still adding unsourced data so the cleanup is ongoing.  As more data gets cleaned up and as more people gain the experience needed to use Family Tree it will only get better over time.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

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