• Devon Noel Lee

Are You Adding Fun Details to FamilySearch's Shared Family Tree?


Go beyond adding birth and death dates to FamilySearch family tree

If you're not having fun adding fun facts to FamilySearch, then you're not enjoying genealogy research as much as you could.


Do more than add only birth and death dates to the shared family tree. This blog post focuses on several places where you can add fun facts about your ancestors on FamilySearch.

Life Sketches


Life Sketches are great because you can give people a quick overview of your ancestor. In addition, life Sketches can help people quickly know that other researchers are working on this individual and what they know about them.


Here's one I created for Milby Townsend, FamilySearch Person ID: KN3V-S6C.

Milby served in Company K Regiment 133 with his brother William James Townsend.

In the 1860 US Census, Milby and his brother Perry live with Catherine Helsel. She appears as the head of the household with no husband and at least a son and potentially his wife and their two children. She is Milby and Perry's sister.

All of Milby's siblings were in different homes in 1860. His mother died in 1857, and the siblings lived in various homes in the same county.

Notice this gives just enough that when you come to Milby's profile, you know:

  • He's a Civil War veteran.

  • Why did his family is all over the place?

  • Who cared for him after the death of his mother?


Pro Tip: If you find a biographical sketch in a published book, do not copy and paste that whole biography into the Life Sketch. Instead, add a Source Citation to the printed text.

To see how to add these details, check out this video about adding Fun Facts to FamilySearch.





Additional Life Events to Generate Robust Timeline


Most researchers know to add details about the life events of birth, marriage, and death.


The fun happens when we add additional details about our ancestors to the FamilySearch profiles in the "Other Information Section."


The more information you add, the more we call can know about the people in our family tree. Plus, the additional facts (with a date) show up on the Timeline Feature.

On the Timeline for Milby Townsend, you'll see:

  • his birth

  • birth of siblings

  • death of parents

  • residences as child

  • residences as adult

  • military service

  • marriage

  • birth of children

Anything we add to the "Other Information Section" and connect with a date can appear on the Timeline.


We can also customize the Timeline by selecting whether to view: other events, record hint, residence, occupation, custom event, and historical events. We can also include the birth, marriage, and death events for his spouse(s), children, parents, and siblings.


As we play with the items on the Timeline, we'll see the events plotted on a map. For example, I noticed that Milby started life in Ohio, moved to Indianapolis, and then to Illinois. I can also see where events happen in the lives of his family members.

Talk about fun!!!

Types of Additional Information to Add to FamilySearch Profiles


You'll see various options when you click "Add Information" under the "Other Information Section," including:

  • alternative name

  • affiliation

  • bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah

  • cremation

  • immigration

  • military service

  • naturalization

  • title of nobility

  • occupation

  • religious affiliation

  • residence

  • stillborn

  • caste name

  • clan name

  • national indentificaiton

  • national origin

  • no couple relationships

  • no children

  • physical description

  • race

  • tribe name

  • custom events or facts


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Clarify Parent/Child Relationships on the Family Tree


The next thing I invite you to do is identify relationships, particularly if a relationship is not biological. This feature allows us to keep track of step-parents, foster parents, guardians, and the like.

In this video, I walk you through designating each parent according to their specific relationship to a child.

After specifying the relationship, decide which parental couple should appear on the family tree (the pedigree or fan chart).

I typically leave the adoptive parents as the preferred parents for my Grandma Louise on the fan charts. Since Grannie was adopted as a baby, her adopted parents are the only folks my aunts and cousin ever knew.

However, you can change the preferred parentage at any time. For example, when I'm working on the biological lines for Louise, I will often switch the preferred parents for a short time before reverting to the other couple.


Caution: I really and truly hope your family doesn't battle over which couple to mark as the preferred couple. Keep in mind that the changes are often temporary. So, allow sometime before you make a change.



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Collect and Share Your Notes


You should be adding to your family tree is Research Notes. While you might think, "notes aren't Fun." I beg to differ.

Notes are beneficial when somebody new is starting to research their family tree, and they don't know all the things you know.

On the Collaborate Tab for Emily Huldah Sprague, you'll see notes under the title "Biographical Sketch." Here's a sample of that note:


Her mother died when she was 4 years old (Lydia Barrus)

She and sister Barbara lived with grandparents until her father remarried (Mary Weatherbee)

She was baptized by her father, Festus Sprague.

Her father was a lawman. He was killed by a bandit when Emily was age 12.

In 1870 Emily was with her stepmother, Mary, 1 month after her father had died.

SOURCES: Family records of Edith Sprague Croft; '88 IGI

Notes for Emily Huldah Sprague: (from Scott Sprague)

Joseph W. Heward, "Marysville, Idaho People and Happenings," (Self Published, Ashton, ID, 1983), page 43.


While you could say this should go in the Life Sketch, notice how it's not a narrative. These notes work better in Collaborate section.


Feel free also to leave questions that you're thinking about or hoping others might know the answer to.

Thanks for the Memories


My last fun thing to add to a FamilySearch profile is memories, memories, memories. It would be best if you shared memories. Don't hoard the memories. Share the memories


On the profile for Emery Barrus, his memory section is incredible. You'll see:

  • Photos from family reunions with everyone labeled

  • Photos of property owned

  • Scans of hard to access documents

  • Items from home sources

The above fun things to add your ancestors to the FamilySearch family tree are the tip of the iceberg.


Feel free to share URLs to profiles on FamilySearch where either you have added or discovered fun facts about your relatives.

By sharing these URLs, we'll all learn some great things that we can do to our profiles.


Additional FamilySearch Tips and Tricks



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