Add forebears to FamilySearch’s Family Tree
Everything you need to know to help the growth of the largest family tree in the world
1 What is the Family Tree?
Family Tree is a giant crowdsourced tree – anyone who has a FamilySearch account can add people, photos, documents and sources to the Tree, and edit spellings and other mistakes. Having a collaborative tree rather than a collection of personal trees like a conventional genealogy website is a bold choice, but FamilySearch believes that in the long term – over years and decades – the combined group wisdom about a person and their family will produce a more accurate, more comprehensive and better-documented Tree than could ever result from individual trees. Historical errors will be weeded out along the way, and entries will be corrected and updated as new records become available.
It’s all a matter of time. Thanks to its unique relationship with the LDS Church, FamilySearch can have greater confidence than commercial companies that it will exist 50 years from now and beyond. The collaborative Family Tree will still be available and free for everyone to use and edit when the precious individual trees built by today’s family historians and stored on paid-for sites and personal computers’ hard disks have been lost to posterity, and its accuracy and value will grow incrementally as people work on it over generations.
2 Can you still have personally controlled trees on FamilySearch?
Yes! If you would like to submit your personally researched tree to FamilySearch, Genealogies is the place to do it, which you can access via the ‘Search’ option on the site’s menu bar (or just go to familysearch.org/ family-trees). Genealogies is a collection of several datasets of submitted trees. One of the datasets is from the Guild of One-Name Studies, while historical trees from Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File are available in Genealogies too.
At the very bottom of the page you will find a ‘Submit Tree’ button. Clicking this allows you to import one or more GEDCOM files, although note that living people (those fewer than 110 years old) will not be included, and photos and documents will also be excluded.
After files have been uploaded, it generally takes about 15 minutes for the data to be available for a search. However, note that all of the data in Genealogies is read-only, so can’t be edited – if you want to update your tree, you have to delete the earlier version from Genealogies and replace it with a current one. You can’t download a tree from Genealogies either, nor can you upload GEDCOM files into the collaborative Family Tree, to avoid the addition of duplicate entries.
Even if you choose to create a private tree on FamilySearch, you should also try to add your bit to the collaborative Tree. You may have personal knowledge, sources or photos that no one else can contribute to this very, very long-term endeavour.
3 How many names are in the Family Tree?
There are about 1.1 billion people in the Tree with distinct identification numbers. But not every person is unique – because of the merging of many datasets to create the starting point for the Tree, many people have more than one ID. Duplicates can be eliminated by merging, which is a good deed for anyone to do when they have spare time.
4 Can I contact someone who has contributed to the Family Tree?
Yes. Each event, source, photo and document is tagged with the date it was changed and the username of the contributor. Click on the person’s name and you will find an email address or a way to send them a message through FamilySearch.
5 Why do some people have several sources for the same event?
This is a result of more than one dataset in Historical Records documenting the same thing. For example, a christening can appear in a parish register, a Bishop’s Transcript, a book of transcriptions of the register, and combined transcriptions such as ‘England Births and Christenings’. It is better to attach all versions of an event to the right person than to leave them unattached, in case they are incorrectly attached to someone confusingly similar.
6 What is the easiest way to attach basic sources to a person in the Tree?
It is simple to attach sources, such as BMDs or censuses, while viewing a person’s details on the Tree. Under ‘Search Records’ on the righthand side of the screen, clicking ‘FamilySearch’ enables you to attach sources to not only the person you started with but also their relatives in the same record, and professional citations are generated automatically. Page 18 has more advice for working with Historical Records.
7 How many people in the Family Tree have sources attached?
It’s hard to know exactly, but probably more than half of the people in the Tree have no source attached at all. Although nearly one million sources have been added, there are a thousand times that many people in the Tree. So add sources for your relatives if you can.
8 How can I get help using Family Tree?
Go to Get Help in the upper righthand corner of the FamilySearch home page. Select Help Center from the drop-down list. From here you can go to Family Tree Help for step-by-step instructions.
Try to add all available documentary sources
Everyone on the Family Tree has a searchable ID
You can display a relative on the Tree in a fan chart