3 Reasons Not to Use the FamilySearch Family Tree


FamilySearch is a free genealogy tree building website with searchable and image-only record collections. Despite these advantages, there are three reasons you may not want to use the FamilySearch Family Tree in your research.


Why you should not use FamilySearch.org


There are three reasons people often use to complain about the FamilySearch website. If you find yourself saying any of the following, then don't use FamilySearch.

  1. “The FamilySearch Family Tree is too tangled.“

  2. “My research is accurate. I don’t want folks changing my tree.”

  3. “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 FamilySearch Family Tree is a mess.”


Since 2012, causal users of FamilySearch complain because the family tree is inaccurate. If the tree on FamilySearch is inaccurate it's not worth the effort to use the tree. Folks would be better off creating their own tree.


Right?


Wrong.


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 a FamilySearch account can make changes to the tree.


You'll find yourself frustrated with other users who change 'your tree.'


However, if you're unwilling to contact other researchers on FamilySearch, share your research with them, and be patient, then maybe the FamilySearch family tree is not the tree building platform for you.


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.



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“My research is accurate. I don’t want folks changing my tree.”


Before you proclaim that your family tree research is accurate, answer the following questions:

  1. How many names have I personally and thoroughly researched each fact?

  2. Is there anyone on my family tree where I am lacking all the evidence to prove every fact of their life?

  3. 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 she 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.!


(Why!?!?)


As a baby genealogist, I ‘married’ to 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 agree to add new people or to 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?

  1. American Patriots

  2. Mormon Pioneer

  3. Mayflower ancestors

  4. Early Colonial Americans

  5. 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.


And, 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 to FamilySearch 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, three of which I wrote about here. Even if you're frustrated with the changes on FamilySearch, other researchers have shown 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

  1. Land Records on FamilySearch

  2. Tax Records on FamilySearch

  3. Census Records 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.



For more Tips on Research FamilySearch


FamilySearch is a free genealogy website with a vast array of resources. Continue learning about how to use FamilySearch.



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