I am a big supporter of FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Yes, there are problems with a collaborative tree but I think the pros outweigh the cons. The biggest issue is that people complain when others come behind them and make changes. There are a couple of things I want to say about that.
- All of your research should be on YOUR computer. You should not be using FamilySearch as your genealogy database program. I think it is a mistake to use FamilySearch that way. People can change what is on FamilySearch but no one can change what is on your computer. You can easily sync to FamilySearch using one of the authorized programs (I use Legacy) which gives you full control over what is uploaded and downloaded.
- They aren’t “your” ancestors. These ancestors belong to other people too. Here is a fun Descendants Calculator. I set it at 5 generations, 25 years per generation, and 4 for an average number of children (a very conservative number). This person would have 3,905 descendants. I am sure more than one of these descendants is a genealogist.
So here are a few suggestions on how you can help make the Family Tree better:
If you don’t know what you are doing you can mess it up for everyone else
This is my biggest pet peeve. People get excited and try to make changes to the Family Tree without taking the time to educate themselves on how everything works. Adding people, merging people, and deleting people affects EVERYONE who has those ancestors in their tree. The very best training I have found is the Riverton FamilySearch Library Handouts. There are 11 pdfs you can download to your computer to read and use as a reference. They include screenshots and Riverton updates them as needed. These are the handouts I use when I give a presentation on FamilySearch (with permission).
Take the time to address the possible duplicates
A lot of people don’t address possible duplicates. They have FSID ABC-1234 in their tree and they only worry about updating this FSID. All of the programs that can sync will present you with a list of possible duplicates. If you are working directly on the FamilySearch website you will also be presented with a list of possible duplicates. The two mistakes you can make are not combining duplicates when you should and merging people haphazardly when you shouldn’t. If there is any question, don’t merge. Please see the Riverton Handouts for more information.
Please add your sources
Other researchers need to know where you got your information because if it conflicts with what they have and you don’t have a source, chances are they are going to update the person with their information knocking your data off.
Take advantage of the Discussions area
This is a great place to post your theories and evidence for other researchers to ponder and add their thoughts.
Make sure your email address/contact information is correct
Nothing is more frustrating to a researcher than not being able to contact a contributor when they have a question.
If you use Legacy, here is the training information you need: Legacy FamilySearch Training. If you use one of the other programs that can sync, check to see if they have specific training materials that address both how you use the Family Tree in general and how to use their program specifically to sync. Even if you don’t use Legacy, you might want to read the above article, especially the part about cleaning up your data before you start uploading.
Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis