Monday, October 26, 2009

FamilySearch Community Trees

FamilySearch Community Trees Last week a new project appeared on FamilySearch Labs.

Historical Family Trees

Ever wish you could reconstruct the families that lived in your ancestral village in the 1750s? FamilySearch works with individuals and groups with the expertise to piece together the families that lived together historically in a community. We’re experimenting with ways to make these richly-sourced lineage-linked trees more available and expand the number of people helping with this effort. Check it out and tell us what you think.

Updated 21 Oct 2009.

The website currently hosts 19 collections (“Trees”) with 484,048 families containing 1,189,105 individuals. For individuals with surnames, there are 77,130 unique surnames across all the trees. The 3901 sources are linked to 106 repositories.

While titled historical on the labs website and bearing the URL, the website itself is titled “Community Trees.” The website seems to be a combination of community trees documenting a specific community and historical trees, documenting nobility back to medieval times. Community trees were produced by the FamilySearch Family Reconstitution team headed by Raymond W. Madsen in combination with local partners. Workers canvassed particular record sets to reconstitute all the families of the locality. Historical trees were produced by the Medieval Families Unit, now identified as the Historical Families Unit.

Some trees can be downloaded in GEDCOM format. One has oral genealogies attached. Some partners may have additional information on their own websites. Partners can make corrections and additions to the information shown. Some of the trees are works in progress.

According to the website, the current collections are:

  • British Isles: Peerage, Gentry and Colonial American Connections: This database was compiled from 15 reputable publications. These lines are very important because they connect to many immigrants to America.
  • Canada: New Brunswick: Southampton: Millville Communities Family Tree: The Millville Community Family Tree is a joint project with the community of Millville, New Brunswick and FamilySearch International to preserve the heritage of the communities of Southampton parish and other communities including some in Bright and Queensbury parish, through genealogy.
  • Canada: Nova Scotia: Kings County: Community Family Tree: Kings County Community Family Tree is a joint project with the Kings Historical Society and FamilySearch International to preserve the county heritage through genealogy.
  • Canada: Toronto: Youngs in Toronto: Extracted and linked records of Young families in Toronto, Ontario from provincial civil registration: births (1869-1909), marriages (1869-1924), and deaths (1869-1934). Also includes allied families.
  • England: London: Residence of London: The London Project consists of individuals living in London extracted from Boyd's Citizen's of London; controlled extraction records from the International Genealogical Index (IGI); and other records dealing with London.
  • England: Norfolk Visitations, 1563: The Visitation of Norfolk conducted by William Harvey, Clarenceux King of Arms. This database contains lineage linked families.
  • England: Todd Knowles Jewish Collection: Jewish database from the British Isles
  • Europe: Royal and Noble Houses (predominately England and France):This database contains ancestors and descendants of Charlemagne; Louis IX of France; Edward I of England; Charles I of England; Scandinavian and Spanish Royal families; plus many other royal, noble and gentry lineages.
  • Europe: Royal and Noble Houses (predominately German): This database was first compiled by the previous Medieval Families Unit and has been updated and corrected using on-line databases, Schwennicke, and other nobility sources.
  • Iceland: Iceland Historical Family Trees: Linked Genealogies of Iceland from 100 A.D to the 1800s extracted from sagas, parish registers, census records and compiled family histories.
  • Norway: Oppland County: Sør-Aurdal Clerical District: Norway project by FamilySearch International Family Reconstitution team to build community family trees for the several clerical districts of Norway.
  • Pacific Islands: Cole Jensen Collection: This important collection is one of the best sources for family records, pedigrees, and historical information that is available for the Pacific Island People.
  • Pacific Islands: French Polynesia: Atuona Island: Atuona, located on the southern side of Hiva Oa island, is the centrer of the of Hiva-Oa. Atuona was the capital of all the Marquesas Islands but it has been replaced by Taiohae (on Nuku Hiva). Atuona comprises the valleys of Atuona, Taaoa, Tahauku and Hanamate.
  • Pacific Islands: New Zealand: Maori: Meha Genealogy: Information entered from Maori pedigree charts, 13 B.C. 1790 A.D.
  • Pacific Islands: Tonga: Oral Genealogies and Community Trees: Tonga Oral History, Siosifa Tu'Iketei Pule of Kolofo'ou, Nuku'alofa. Tape 2 Interviewer: Tevita 'Uatahausi Mapa Dates 4th July and 25 August 1973.
  • Peru: Community Family Tree: Extracted from compiled family and historical records. Many of the notes are in Spanish.
  • Scotland: Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: Lineage linked families for ministers of the Church of Scotland from the Reformation.
  • United States: Washington: Lewis County: Community Family Trees: This database contains the records of families listed in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 US Census for Lewis County, Washington. We have merged families that appear in multiple census records together to provide a better view of the family over the years. The data that came from each census can be seen in the source citation for that record. This is a preliminary version of the merging and will be updated with an improved version containing additional records from the History of Lewis County, Washington (by Nix) in October 2009.
  • Wales: Medieval Records Primarily of Nobility and Gentry: This Welsh database, when complete, will include lineage linked data for approximately 350,000 individuals, living from about 100 A.D. to 1700 A.D. The base data was extracted from Peter Bartrum's Welsh Genealogies.

The website suggests,

If you have a database you have created from original source material that you think would be a good addition to the FamilySearch Community Trees or would like to participate somehow, contact Raymond W. Madsen at

Interestingly, the website icon is “TNG” and examining the source code shows the message, “The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, v.7.0.3 (14 January 2009), Written by Darrin Lythgoe, 2001-2009.”

The “labs” nature of the website was observed in several deficiencies. I found some operations extremely slow. I found no way to browse. Some links showed no useful purpose. The single photograph would not display. A PDF family group report displayed the wrong site URL.

The Historical Trees Unit and the Family Reconstitution Unit are producing conclusion trees that are GML (Genealogical Maturity Level) 3 and GML 4. By contrast, New FamilySearch (NFS), the tree, has been pre-populated by lots and lots of data at GML 1 and 2 and is subject to edit by genealogists of any level, making it an unsuitable environment for publication of more mature genealogical data. Community Trees is a wonderful forward move allowing FamilySearch to publish their high maturity lineage linked trees.


  1. How is "Genealogical Maturity Level" determined? I could not find any other mention of this phrase.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on this one. I am currently preparing a presentation on all the FamilySearch projects and I didn't have this yet since it is so new.

  3. I have long supported TNG as a tool of future genealogy. It's great to see that even the FamilySearch team decided Darrin Lythgoes' program was better than rolling their own. It may not be new.familysearch, but it's doing a great job. Go Darrin!

  4. Dear bgwiehle,

    For an explanation of Genealogical Maturity Level, see my article "The Genealogical Maturity Model."

    Thanks for asking,
    -- The Ancestry Insider

  5. I have done a lot with Beta, Pilot, nFS, Forums and Wiki. This Community Trees thing has generally puzzled me. I wish there were more blog posts and analysis of it online. I teach about family history, but I have avoided teaching about this because it seems too complex. For example, will it become part of the new version of How? Will it be searchable under the Trees option on the homepage? That would make sense. I can understand the usefulness of keeping source based trees seperate from each other and from nFS because where the connections end and begin can signify that group as families coming from a specific record set. If I understand it correctly, the purpose is to provide an easier method of research, skipping the historical record stage for us because you are doing that part and documenting it. It is a lot like Extraction which was put into the IGI, but the sources are cited better and the people are more connected within sourses right?
    Please share everything you can about the project. I'd love to see a new blog post letting us know it is not dead. I have not seen one since November 2009.


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