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.

If I had the rights to make a t-shirt without fear of copyright infringement, I would make one that had the FamilySearch logo and the words “FamilySearch Fan Girl” below it. In fact, I would enthusiastically wear the same banner design on a shirt.

Why you should not use FamilySearch.org

Despite how much I appreciate this collaborative family tree, I often hear three major reasons why people avoid the FamilySearch Family Tree.  

  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.”

“The FamilySearch Family Tree is a mess.”

Finding tangled trees with crazy and obvious errors is frustrating; however, the problem often didn’t start with FamilySearch. Those twisted twigs persist in print and online trees.

When you’ve spent hours fixing the problems you’ve discovered, it’s hard to see it change. the FamilySearch Family Tree. However, the folks who developed the FamilySearch Family Tree want to smooth out the tangles.

Their platform attempts to fix the 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.

While I understand finding a tangled mess is a pain in the hindquarters, not using a site that actively wants to sort out the mistakes is not my response.

“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?

  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.

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 a prior marriage than with 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.

You have to manually agree to add new people or to make changes to existing profiles.

Therefore, you can’t rapidly upload your tree from another genealogy software program or online tree platform.

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.

Should you avoid using FamilySearch.org entirely?

Heck no!

  1. You can research the free records on FamilySearch.

  2. You can use the FamilySearch Wiki as a portal to other research ideas.

However, you’re missing out on the ability to keep track of your searches and discoveries by linking the findings to a person on the family tree.

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