Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Our Tree and Your Tree on FamilySearch

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Sir (or Ma'am?  I've never been able to figure out if you're male or female),

I had heard that we shouldn't upload our trees to because anyone can go in and change the info we've entered. Do you know if this is true or not? If it's true, this new feature isn't very applicable to those of us who are just keeping our trees on and our own software because we don't want others messing with our information. But if it's not true, this would be an excellent reason to upload our trees to FamilySearch, and I would start promoting it to my students.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Katherine Willson (Ann Arbor, MI)

Dear Katherine,

Gosh, where to start. First, yes I am male or female.

Next, the rumor you’ve heard that you shouldn’t upload your tree to is pretty much false. I’m hedging a little bit. Let me go through the steps and you’ll see why.

Save a copy of your tree in GEDCOM format. You’ll upload this copy to FamilySearch, Go to You’ll need to register (it’s free) before uploading your tree. Click on “Join For Free” near the top-right corner of the page and complete the registration. Click or hover over Search on the menu bar, then select Genealogies. On this page you can upload your GEDCOM tree or search the GEDCOM trees of others. This collection of trees is called the Pedigree Resource File. Your GEDCOM tree is your tree and no one can change it but you (by uploading a new GEDCOM over the top of it). Scroll down to the bottom and click on the button “Submit Tree.” Click on Add GEDCOM. Select your GEDCOM file, give it a title, and enter a description that might be helpful to others.

After it has finished uploading it will show up in your tree list at

Pedigree Resource File list of your uploaded GEDCOM files

From the list you can Compare your tree to FamilySearch Family Tree, you can download a copy of your GEDCOM file, or you can delete it. As opposed to your tree, where you just uploaded, FamilySearch Family Tree is our tree. It is all of us building the family tree of all mankind. If you wish to be a part of this ambitious project, you can start by comparing your tree to Family Tree. Your tree remains unchanged in this process. To start, click Compare. tells you they will do the compare and send you an email.

You will get an email when the PRF compare is finished

When FamilySearch completes the comparison, the Compare button changes to View.

Pedigree Resource File list of your uploaded GEDCOM files, with View button

Click on View and shows the results of the comparison.

Pedigree Resource File results of GEDCOM comparison to FamilySearch Family Tree

The people in your tree fall into four categories. “Potential Matches” might already be in Family Tree, but FamilySearch computers defer to you, a human being, to decide. “Add to Family Tree” are not in Family Tree, at least as far as the FamilySearch computers can tell. “Already in Family Tree” are in Family Tree already (duh). and “Invalid and Living” can not be added to Family Tree for whatever reason, including the potential of being alive. Click Review Results.

You may add those not already in Family Tree and view those considered invalid or living. For potential matches, you may specify if the person from your tree (on the left) is the same person as the potential match from Family Tree (on the right).

PRF GEDCOM potential matches to FamilySearch Family Tree

For those already in Family Tree, you have the option of copying facts from your tree (on the left) to Family Tree (on the right).

PRF GEDCOM person already in FamilySearch Family Tree

This can get rather tedious, as new people must be added to Family Tree one at a time and new facts about old people must be added one at a time. FamilySearch says this is by design. In the early days of New FamilySearch it was slammed with boatloads of duplicate people that gummed up the gears something fierce.

I won’t go into it here, but another, perhaps easier, way to contribute to Family Tree is to use a tree manager that supports direct synchronization with your tree on your home computer.

Let sum up. You should upload your tree to FamilySearch Pedigree Resource File. No one can change Pedigree Resource File trees but the contributor. You can also contribute to Family Tree. Anyone can change anything in Family Tree. Discussing the pros and cons of that model is beyond the scope of this article (which has already grown too long).

Thanks for your letter,
---The Ancestry Insider


  1. Thank you, Insider. I hadn't realized that Pedigree Resource file was ongoing, not just a leftover from "old" stuff. I personally never upload gedcoms. I made that decision long ago and have never regretted it. Mostly because I want more control over what I put online. So all my Ancestry trees and Family Tree people are added one at a time..

  2. Based on your article, I decided to stop hoarding my family tree and to publish to both and to Family Search. However, I have subsequently deleted both of my trees BECAUSE:
    Ancestry - Searches assumed I was looking for information on an individual from my tree and began populating my search criteria with that information. To proceed, I had to keep clearing out the prepopulated information. This was extremely annoying, and I could find no way to turn off this feature.
    Family Search - I discovered with the first few individuals I was trying to "COMPARE" that my gedcom had populated events such as death based on date order rather than preferred date. I maintain a number of records in my tree that aren't preferred so that I can see sources for other dates and places that may be relevant at a future date or to know where other researchers got their bad data. I could find no way to get my gedcom to populate with "preferred" data rather than sorted data and I have too many records to manually change. I didn't want my questionable data to mislead other researchers.

  3. Need to ask your people what they think about FamilySearch’s open editing community Family Tree, or public tree.

    This should have been FamilySearch’s goal from the first, to make sure correct FAMILY Genealogies, Histories and Research Records were “preserved indefinitely.” What good is a database that is full of bad data? The problem is FamilySearch’s open editing community Family Tree, or public tree! FamilySearch can put up a "people I am watching list," or "good data more sticky," or have their goal as "the changing of bad data and discourage the changing of good data" or whatever, in FamilySearch’s attempt to preserve indefinitely Family Data and research, but nothing will change, and none of the above will work in a public tree. You will still get people INPUTTING BAD DATA INTO AN OPEN EDITING COMMUNITY FAMILY TREE, OR PUBLIC TREE.

    Problem is now members of the church are just assuming that all on FamilySearch’s Family Tree is true, and are shipping - transferring - corrupted data around the world. When you have an open community public tree where everyone and anyone can add data, means that people with not good intentions can also add data, - subtract data, or move it around into different family lines. HOW GOOD IS THE DATA IN AN OPEN EDITING COMMUNITY PUBLIC TREE OR PUBLIC VENUE ANYWAY-?


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