George Ryskamp presented “Apples and Oranges: Trees on Ancestry and FamilySearch” at this year’s BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. He gave an overview of the tree systems on each and then presented head-to-head comparison tables.
He began by warning us that all he could present was an overview (which I have further summarized). To make it worse, the Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are moving targets.
On the FamilySearch.org home page there are links to two different tree systems. Underneath “Discover Your Family” is the “Trees” link. This leads to “User Submitted Trees,” which are the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File (PRF).
“Not only are we searching for the dead, but the submitters are dead too,” joked Ryskamp. Ancestral File and PRFs are so old, many contributors are deceased.
While an ancestor will not typically appear more than once in the Ancestral File, they may appear multiple times in Pedigree Resource Files. There is no pedigree view. There is no family group view.
The sources found in the PRF are usually not very good. In Ancestral File, there are none at all. There is no contact information. And there is no updating. [If it isn’t already possible, there is a plan to allow PRF submitters to replace a submission with a new upload.]
For those with access to the FamilySearch Family Tree, there is a “Family Tree” link at the top of the page.
Anyone can update the Family Tree. “All of us are hopeful that a sense of rationality will appear,” said Ryskamp. Otherwise, wars can develop where two relatives disagree on the facts. “It is exciting and hopefully it will eliminate duplication.”
Ancestry Member Trees are unique to the owner. You can have a whole series of trees. You can start a tree by uploading a GEDCOM, but you can’t upload a GEDCOM to add to an existing tree. Trees can be public or private. If a search matches an individual in a private tree, a notice is included in the search results and the searcher can request access to the private tree. The tree owner decides whether to grant access or not.
The tree owner controls who can make changes to the tree or who can contribute photographs and documents.
Member Trees have a pedigree view and a family view. Ryskamp that it was interesting that on the pedigree view the principal person’s siblings were labeled as such rather than as additional children of the parents. The family view is more conventionally known as a descendency chart.
For citations to sources on Ancestry.com you can easily click to get to the record. You can easily add source citations or upload images of documents.
In your trees Ancestry shows hints to records available on Ancestry. They are relatively conservative, so only a few reference incorrect records. They will show you hints in records and in family trees of others. You can review a hint before accepting. If accepted, the information is automatically copied into your tree.
Comparing Apples and Oranges Tables
|* Share Data||* Do Temple Work|
|* Research Support||* Avoid Duplicating Temple Work|
|* Preserve Data||- The Universal Tree|
|(And of course, make money)||* Collaborate|
|* Source Citation||* Source Citation|
|* URL Links||* URL Links|
|* Direct Link to Ancestry Records||* Direct Link to FamilySearch Records|
|* Document and Photo Upload||* [FUTURE] Document and Photo Upload|
|* Able to Share or Not||* Share and Edited by Everyone|
|* Makes Available Photos and Documents||* No Images|
|* System Setup to Contact Any Submitter (Although Not All Answer)||* Contact on Family Tree Although Email Not Mandated. No Contact Info On AF and PRF|
Compatibility with Other Programs
|* GEDCOM Compatible||* GEDCOM Compatible|
|- No Ability to Add a GEDCOM File to an Existing Tree||- No Ability to Add a GEDCOM File to an Existing Tree ?|
|* No LDS Temple Work Capacity||* Full LDS Temple Capacity Coming|
|* Family Tree Maker 2012 TreeSync||* Integrated with Affiliate Programs|
|* Compact Data Display||* Lots of White Space|
|* Easier to Go Deep in a Couple of Clicks||* Several Clicks to Go Deeper|
|* Source and Photo Attachment Can Be Complicated||* Source Attachment is Simple|
|* Encourages Research Through Hints||* No Research Emphasis Beyond Sources|
|* Direct Links to Ancestry Documents||* Direct Links to FS Documents|
|* Stories and Other Items Included||* No Stories, But Possible Through URLs|
|* Large Non-LDS Participation||* Primarily LDS Participation|
|* Sources Not Mandated||* Sources Not Mandated|
So which trees are best? “The advantages of Ancestry are definitely worth putting out a tree,” said Ryskamp. “The real answer: I use both.”