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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Why is FamilySearch Making Changes To Your Family Tree?

Pedigree chart with title why is FamilySearch changing my tree

Have you used the totally free online genealogy website FamilySearch and noticed that they are the person changing your family tree?

There is a lot of confusion on why you may see "FamilySearch" as the person who added details about your relatives on the family tree. Let's clear things up a bit.

Where To View Changes to Your Family Tree

On the person page of your ancestor, if you look in the right-hand column (on a desktop), you'll notice a changelog.

Snapshot of FamilySearch change log
A FamilySearch change log from a Person Page.

You'll see something like Source Attached, Relationship Added, Relationship Deleted, or Merge. You'll then notice the date and a 'by [User Name]'.

Sometimes, when you look at this snapshot on this page, or after you click "Show All", you'll see that the user making the change has the name "FamilySearch."

Are These Changes Legitimate?

If you see that FamilySearch has changed your ancestor's person page, take a look at the date the alterations happen. Notice that many additions and subtractions occurred in 2012.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Why is FamilySearch in the business of changing a profile?"

To understand why the website altered your ancestor and determine those modifications' accuracy, you have to learn a little history of the current site.

Video: Why is FamilySearch changing my tree?

Brief History of the FamilySearch Family Tree

In 2012, FamilySearch launched a new collaborative tree platform where researchers could work together to build a family tree with a single profile for everyone who ever lived on the earth. But they had to initially seed that tree with some different databases.

One initial database included the International Genealogical Index or IGI.

If you've been around genealogy for more than 10 or 15 years, you've heard of the IGI collection. To learn more about the IGI collection, read my post What is an IGI source on FamilySearch?.

Other initial input to the 2012 launch of the current version of the online family tree included Membership records from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, temple files for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the database that proceeded what we're now viewing.

Since this free online tree building platform is a collaborative environment, FamilySearch had to identify someone as the initial reason the person(s) is in the tree. Thus, when FamilySearch dumped the IGI database into the family tree, they identified themselves as the user.

You'll also find sources attached to the family tree to the IGI collection, and the user's name is FamilySearch.

So, when you see an entry on the family tree to FamilySearch and the date added took place in 2012, you'll know that FamilySearch:

  • added the information based on one of their initial databases.

  • is not researching and changing your tree.

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Who is Changing My Ancestor?

Some of my colleagues, who don't use this website as often as they should, have suggested that FamilySearch is changing their ancestors. This is false information and shows a lack of familiarity with the platform.

As a user since the early days of the free genealogy site and someone who studies the platform, I can say that rarely does FamilySearch alter your relative's profile. Further, no algorithm makes automatic changes either.

In short, FamilySearch may have started branches for your family history research. Then, Users edit your family tree.

In rare instances, FamilySearch tweaks your tree. Still, most often, that's because someone contacted the helpline to resolve a complicated tangle.

The reason FamilySearch, as a company, stays out of changing your family tree has more to do with their genealogy research vision. Each change should record who did the change so that other researchers of the same ancestor can contact each other.

A Positive Change to Your Family Tree

While FamilySearch does not change much of the content in your family tree, one recent change to the sources on your ancestors' profile is remarkable.

If your ancestor was created from the IGI files or you've attached these indexes as sources to your ancestors, FamilySearch has made accessing the various records behind some of the entries easier to find.

For such evidence, FamilySearch marks the source as "This extracted IGI record was used to create this person." You'll notice a link to the original record behind the source.

You may still have to browse the digitized image to find the actual entry.

What to Do With the FamilySearch Changes?

Now that you know why FamilySearch appears as a creator of a profile or someone adding facts to a person, what should you do?

First, be grateful. This free platform combines research provided to the Family History Library since 1894 when the LDS Church began compiling family trees and preserving genealogical records.

Then keep researching. The branches and ancestor profiles often lack significant documentation that the genealogy proof standard would require. As such, your job is to figure out what records are missing and add them to your relative's leaf on the one world family tree.

Your name will be added to the change history

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