I have been searching my family history for 10 years now. What started out as a list of 20 people that my great-grandmother gave to me in an old photo album has blossomed into a family of over 1,000 people and growing.
Until recently I was paper-based. I have never had a desktop family tree program but I recently paid for a month of Canadian Ancestry.ca access and managed to build a sizable public tree on-line. I appreciate the work that Ancestry has done but can't afford to keep paying for their service (two daughters with braces...) and I need to avail myself of a free service.
I would appreciate your advice on a 'next-step'.
If I download my GEDCOM file from Ancestry and upload it to FamilySearch will any of the data be compromised? Should I wait for the new version of FamilySearch to go live?
Do you think I should bother with a desktop program at this point or is it better to keep everything on-line? I run a Mac at home, where I do most of my research and will sometimes do a bit of searching from my office PC.
Finally, will there ever be one big happy on-line family tree, where if I input 'proof' that I am the son of X and Y - I will be instantly connected to all of my ancestors?
A Stanford University initiative to help libraries backup digital information is called LOCKSS: Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Save. That’s a maxim we should all live by. Try to keep copies of your genealogy in a variety of places, and in a variety of formats. Use choices that are convenient for you, or you won’t use them.
And variety there is:
- Web and desktop
- Electronic and paper
- PC and Mac
- GEDCOM and proprietary
- Trees, personal and communal
- For profit and not for profit
- On your property and off your property
- Local backup and cloud backup
Unfortunately, FamilySearch.org let the GEDCOM standard languish so it is difficult to make complete copies of your genealogy. GEDCOM can not transfer genealogical data without compromising sources, images, attachments, and citations.
What do I recommend for you? I work almost exclusively with Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, so I am ill qualified to speak to other possibilities. I invite your fellow readers to proffer their advice.
But here’s what my family does.
FamilySearch Personal Ancestral File (PAF)
One family member is our designated archivist. She has the official copy of our PAF-compatible tree. She sends copies to us and when we have new information to add to it, we make the changes and send the PAF file back to her. Various FamilySearch affiliates make it easy to merge the changes back into the master. Affiliates can also store a collaborative copy online, and upload information to the new FamilySearch Tree.
We don’t use PAF much for photographs and digitized documents. For those, we use an…
Ancestry.com Member Tree
We use our Ancestry.com Member Tree to share ancestor photographs and digitized documents. We leave the tree public so that lots of people will pilfer our stuff. Should we ever lose anything, we can find lots and lots of copies. (Some of the copies even credit us. But I digress…)
You don’t have to maintain your Ancestry.com/Ancestry.ca subscription to continue using your tree. Once your subscription expires you will not be able to see others’ trees, but you can use your own for free. While I believe you can still see the Ancestry.ca records attached to your tree (Ancestry.com, is that true?), in the spirit of LOCKSS, you should download the records to your desktop for safety’s sake.
Keeping a copy of your tree online allows you to access it as easily from home on as Mac as at work on a PC. Also, Ancestry.com takes care of hardware, software, and media upgrades for you. You don’t have to move files from floppies to CDs to DVDs to flash drives.
Of the online genealogy vendors, Ancestry.com is one of the most stable. They aren’t likely to go out of business or disappear anytime soon. They keep copies of your stuff in a granite vault similar to the FamilySearch Granite Mountain Record Vault.
new FamilySearch Tree
We regularly spend time in the new FamilySearch Tree (NFS) citing sources that dispel myths in our lines. The Tree is currently optimized for adding information, not removing bad. So my current counsel and practice is to ignore the bad and add the good. There’ll be time enough for fixin’ when the system’s done. (Apologies to Schlitz.)
We won’t use a communal tree as our only online solution, but in keeping with the LOCKSS principle, we plan on using it for one.
Will there ever be one, big, happy tree to rule them all? One tree to find them, one tree to bring them all and in the brightness combine them? (Apologies to Tolkien.)
Scientific cannon is filled with universally accepted truths that were debated for years, decades, even centuries, before attaining unanimity. And this by minds more logical and careful than some of today’s communal tree contributors.
How about you? Do you think there can ever be a universally accepted communal tree?
-- The Insider