Devon Noel Lee
3 Reasons Not to Use the FamilySearch Family Tree
FamilySearch is a free genealogy tree building website with billions of freely accessible genealogy records. Despite these advantages, here are three reasons you may not want to use the FamilySearch Family Tree in your research.
Why You Should Not Use FamilySearch.org
Three common complaints by users of the FamilySearch family tree appear below. If you find yourself saying any of the following, then don't use FamilySearch.
“The FamilySearch Family Tree is too tangled.“
“My research is accurate. I don’t want folks changing my tree.”
“I can’t upload my Gedcom file.”
Let me explain the complaints and the reasons why you won't enjoy FamilySearch if you agree with the complaints.
“The Family Tree is Wrong.”
Since 2012, casual users of FamilySearch have complained that the family tree has wrong information. They don't want to put in the time and effort to improve the genealogical research that has accumulated for over 100 years. Such individuals feel they would better off creating their own tree.
Are they right?
Experienced genealogists know that poorly created family trees have been around since the beginning of genealogy.
You will find what I call "junk" in hand-drawn paper trees, in printed books, and online trees. You have to critically evaluate every document and source that you find before you accept it into your family tree.
No platform is immune to error and every genealogist makes mistakes.
FamilySearch is an open edit platform. Meaning everyone with an account can make changes to the tree. Everyone can work to untangle the knotted branches and share their research in a collaborative, user-friendly way.
However, if you're unwilling to contact other FamilySearch researchers, share your documentation and conclusions with them, and be patient, then maybe you should use Ancestry, MyHeritage, or Findmypast to build your family tree.
However, if you're willing to work with others, you can fix the perpetual errors for future generations. Eventually, folks will work with one version of George Adams of Victor, Minnesota rather than 100+ versions with only 35% of those profiles being accurate.
↪️ Are you looking for more genealogy resources?
Grab your copy of this FREE Genealogy Research Guide:
“My Research is Accurate. I Don’t Want Anyone Changing My Tree.”
Before you proclaim that your family tree research is accurate, answer the following questions:
How many persons have I personally exhaustively researched? Or am I relying on the research of others?
Is there anyone on my family tree that lacks all the evidence to prove every fact of their life? Does each fact have a source attached?
Am I humble enough to admit when I made a mistake?
If your tree is small, you likely have a fairly accurate family tree. For trees with thousands of names, you could have mistakes and not know them. If you're unwilling to admit to potential flaws in your research, don't use FamilySearch.
However, if you're willing to admit to making mistakes, FamilySearch is a great platform.
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 Caroline had married before she wed 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.
Meanwhile, my Townley line had a mistake that I made.
Two brothers married women named Catherine M.!
As a baby genealogist, I ‘married’ to the wrong Catherine to the wrong brother.
That wasn’t the worst of it.
At some point, someone on the FamilySearch merged both Catherines to a third woman with the same name living in an entirely different part of the state.
The unrelated Catherine’s family historian contacted me and kindly indicated the errors in my research. *Gulp*
Together we worked to sort out the three Catherine Ms and ‘remarried’ them to the correct husbands.
Mistakes happen. If you disagree, then perhaps FamilySearch Family Tree will drive you insane.
“I Can’t Upload My Gedcom File.”
The goal of FamilySearch Family Tree is to have ONE profile for everyone who ever lived. Each time you add a new person to the family tree, FamilySearch will check to see if that individual already appears in the database.
Therefore, you can’t rapidly upload your tree from another genealogy software program or online tree platform. You have to manually add new people or make changes to existing profiles.
Depending on your heritage, your ancestors are likely in the FamilySearch Family Tree database. Do you descend from any of the following?
Early Colonial Americans
United Empire Loyalists
Additionally, if you have a copy of a published family history prior to 1990, 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.
The FamilySearch Family Tree already has millions of duplicate profiles that already need to be merged. They don't need your complete GEDcom file when less than 10% of what you have is new data.
If you want to keep uploading your tree without working with others, FamilySearch is not the platform for you.
Should You Avoid Using FamilySearch.org Entirely?
Actually, there are many reasons that you SHOULD use FamilySearch. Even if you're frustrated with the changes on FamilySearch, site-wide investigations have with additional documentation and sources added to profiles on the family tree, things start to settle down.
If you refuse to use the FamilySearch Family Tree, you can still benefit from the resources. You can:
You can research the records like the following on FamilySearch
Discover what other records you should research using the FamilySearch Wiki.
Use the online family tree to do Descendancy Research.
Use FamilySearch with Puzzilla to find research opportunities
And so much more. There are many more tips and tricks for using FamilySearch on this blog.