Devon Noel Lee
FamilySearch Labels: Improve How You Follow Your Ancestors
Monitoring your ancestors on FamilySearch isn't always easy. FamilySearch has recently made a change that will help you keep track of the changes on your ancestor's profiles.
What is the Watch Feature on FamilySearch?
FamilySearch provides free access to billions of historical records and a totally free family tree building platform. The catch is that the family tree can be viewed and edited by any user on the platform.
That sounds scary. Right?!?
If you implement a strategy of watching various deceased relatives, FamilySearch will notify you whenever another user changes the information about an ancestor in the family tree.
Before April 2020, this was called "Watching," and the persons you followed were placed on a Watch List. Since that date, the features have been renamed "Follow" with a "Follow List." The Following Page lists all the persons you have selected to monitor and a changelog.
To follow an ancestor, click on the word "Follow" on their profile page or a pop-up Person card from any family tree view.
To unfollow a person, click the word "Following" beside a black star on the Person Card or the Person Profile. This will turn the start white and the word to "Follow."
Be advised. You'll no longer receive emails when someone changes your family tree. You'll want to make a habit of watching the "Following Page" as part of your family history research process.
What are Labels on the Following Page?
Once you start following more than a handful of ancestors, monitoring specific individuals become frustratingly difficult. Thus, FamilySearch has released a new feature to help tag and filter your Following List. These tags are known as labels.
Unlike Ancestry MyTreeTags, the FamilySearch Labels only affect the Following List. They will not show up on your pedigree chart or fan chart. They will not appear on Person Pages or Person Cards. Again, they will only show up on your Following List.
How to Add a Label to Someone You Follow
Navigate to a name from your Following List.
Click on the three dots beside their name.
Click on "Add Label."
Select the relevant label.
Add a note. (Optional)
The label will now appear below the ancestor's name in the Following List.
What Standard Labels Are Available?
FamilySearch has developed a list of labels that might be of use:
End of the line
I really wish FamilySearch would recommend how to use these labels. Much in the same way, I wish I knew which Ancestry MyTreeTags to use.
Honestly, I don't foresee using "interested" or "completed" often. If I'm interested in the person, they're on my Following List. This seems redundant. As for "completed," I'm rarely finished researching an ancestor, so that's not helpful.
Actively changing and researching seem too similar to me to understand their distinction. Thus, I think I prefer "Researching."
See the new FamilySearch feature in action by watching this video.
Create a Custom Label
If the labels offered by FamilySearch do not meet your needs, you can create your own. Follow these steps or watch the video above.
Click on "Create New Label."
Type in your custom label in the box.
Click "Create Label.:
On the next screen, scroll down your label options.
Select your custom label.
On the next screen, you can type a note.
With this note field, you do not always need to write something. Unlike reason statement boxes, these notes are only for you. If you need it, add it. If not, skip the box.
Some custom labels you might find useful are "Watch for Merging" or "Direct Ancestor."
Watch for Merging Custom label
During RootsTech Connect, Ron Tanner from FamilySearch recommended using a "watch for merging" label. I concur with this idea.
I have an ancestor who is constantly being merged with someone else. I want to make sure that I am watching this relative like a hawk. I also mentioned some relatives in my post about fixing bad merges on FamilySearch, which I also want to monitor.
Since I no longer receive emailed notifications about these individuals, by creating a custom label that says "watch for merging," I can filter my Following List quickly when I do a spot check on recent changes to the family tree.
Direct Ancestor Custom Label
Another label you might have to add to your tree is "Direct Ancestor." While you can watch as many people as you want, you will find value in being able to watch for changes to just your direct ancestors.
Using the filter list option, as shown in the video above, you can view a reduced list that only highlights these multiple great-grandparents.
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Learn How Many People Are Following Who You Are Watching
From your master Following List, you can quickly see how many people are watching the same ancestors that you are monitoring.
You'll access these numbers using the same three dots beside an ancestor's name that you would use to add a label in the watch list.
When the option list appears, you'll see the total number of persons who have elected to follow your shared ancestor. You won't be able to view who they are, but you might discover how many or few are interested in your common ancestor.
For me, I was shocked to see how few were following my ancestors.
BONUS TIP: Reduce Your Following List
When I started filming the video for this blog post, I noticed nearly 1,000 names on my Following List.
For many, that number might not seem like much. However, as I scrolled through the list, I had many extended family members who I am not actively researching or interested in at this time.
As I strive to be more focused and organized in my genealogy research, I often downsize my large family trees on other websites and my genealogy software program. Therefore, I knew I needed to shrink this list as well.
Now my list contains 408 names. These are the individuals I want to know as soon as another researcher adds to or edits their profiles.
Now I know some of you like to follow and create these massive trees. A colleague had over 63,000 names in their only tree.
Please don't try to follow that many.
Follow the people that you're actively researching.
If you find you need to cull your list, you can unfollow names directly from the Following List.
Once again, click on the three dots beside the name on this list.
Select the option to unfollow.
Those names will remain in your family tree but no longer appear on your watchlist.
If you want to follow someone again, return to their Person Page and click "Follow."
More FamilySearch Tips
Put the labels to use on FamilySearch. And then, check out these additional articles.
How to remove a child from the wrong set of parents on FamilySearch