Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Tree Size

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I am loving with the shaking leaves! I have created one ENORMOUS family tree. Will the big size become some disadvantage??? Should I have created four trees, one for each of my grandparents???

Kath Baker

Dear Kath,

That’s an excellent question. I see pros and cons.

I personally share an Ancestry member tree with my siblings. It contains 8,500 ancestors and their descendants. It is convenient to have it all in one place. But if we ever have to split it, we will pay the piper plentifully.

We also have 1,300 photos and document images in the tree and that is a big problem.’s photo management is in the honey bucket. Dealing with that number of photos is near impossible. I’ve uploaded a bunch over the years that I meant to go back and attach to a person. Now it’s impossible to find them. You have to manually scan through 53 pages of thumbnails. I’d like to sort them at times by title, upload date, event date, event location, person attached to, or geolocation. I’d like to search and filter them by any field or by specific fields. All I want are the basic management operations we’re used to from iTunes, Windows folders, Outlook, or photo management programs. I’ll gladly jump ship to FamilySearch or stay with Ancestry Member Trees if one would add some decent photo management. But I digress… The photo management problem would have been one-fourth the size had I used the four tree approach.

When I bought Family Tree Maker (actually, provided me a review copy), I found it took a considerable amount of time to do the first synchronize between my desktop and online trees. Breaking that chore into four may have helped more. But that only needs to be done once. Having the result all in one file is nice if you have to search for something. For example, when I went to a conference in Springfield, I found nearby research opportunities by searching for family that died in Illinois. And may I say that I’m crazy happy that I keep a backup of my Ancestry Member Tree on my laptop. You never know when will find it can make more money renting out puppies and shuts down next September. But I digress…

While I’m collaborating mostly with siblings, I’ve shared the tree at times with more distant relatives. That’s been a bit awkward. Having four trees would make it more natural to grant access to first and second cousins. I also have almost a dozen project trees. These are small, private trees where I’m working on research not ready for prime time. Separate trees make it possible to share select information with select people.

All that said, I’m not feeling particularly well qualified to make a recommendation one way or the other.

Dear Readers,

Can you help Kath out? What is your experience? One tree? Four trees? More?

The Ancestry Insider


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Maybe I'm missing something, but what is the four tree approach?

    1. The original posted question was:

      "Should I have created four trees, one for each of my grandparents??? "

  4. I am following this with great interest, as I have concerns about Ancestry, and their future plans. I am thinking of how I might best keep all of the photos and all of the information, whether separated or not. I suppose that I would have to invest an entire vacation week to do so, and I haven't yet had the clear sense of doing that. Keep up the informative dialogue.

  5. I've been a genealogist for 40 years and started with index cards. So I tended to keep families separate. My first genealogy program was Brother's Keeper. I eventually went with FTM locally and loaded in my paternal line. When I started working on my maternal line, and it started getting large, I split it off into its own tree. As I research other lines, I do the same thing. I would get lost in a tree with 8000 names. It also took me a while to upload a tree to the Ancestry website. And I don't upload photos or other documents. I basically use my trees to document lineages. I may work and search and update a tree online, but then I sync it to my local copy. And syncing is easier with smaller trees. I keep my documentation locally. And that's because I don't trust any one site to keep all my stuff safe. As a computer professional, I know what can happen, so I only trust myself. So, it just makes more sense to me to have trees for each surname when they become big enough to warrant it. I'd say you should do what makes sense to you, and what works best for you.

  6. I'd say forget about family trees on since they can't be trusted to maintain them indefinitely. I've been spending hours copying family news items (260 pages worth) and other things such as comments on photos, ect from MyFamily since ancestry is shutting it down in September. Their download recovery program for MyFamily is a joke, including only, as near as I can tell so far, photos and nothing else. This is quite a betrayal from my point of view. Sad experience (this one with MyFamily and others) has taught me that anything not on my personal storage device (and backed up as well) is subject to loss for various reasons.

    So use for its excellent research resources, but keep your family tree on FamilySearch family tree and/or personal software such as RootsMagic where you don't have to worry about it someday being shut down for economic reasons.

    As far as how to organize your family tree, I think keeping it as one tree is more convenient (despite some unwieldiness when it gets very large) than having to move from tree to tree for different grandparents.

  7. I have one tree. When I had my DNA test done, Ancestry allowed me to connect the results to only one tree. Had I had two trees, I would have had to decide between which tree to use.

  8. Where did you upload all these photos to? Why didn't you upload them to the same place as your tree? Why/how did you upload them with no person as destination? I've had multiple trees and a single tree. A single tree is by far the easiest for me to manage. I sync my online tree to my software program every few days if I've been working on it. It only takes a very few minutes to sync. I suppose if you do it once a year it will take considerably longer. Internet access speed would also make a difference.

    I'm curious what I missed about ancestry going out of business. Where can I find that information? The fact that they are closing some web sites bothers me to the same degree that familysearch "improves" their web site. They've improved it so much I rarely go there any more. What is annoying to me is the revolving "partnerships" all of them are having. From one visit to the next I don't know if the document I found is still available there or if I have to pay at another site to see it. A word of advise. When you find it, save the document to your computer.

  9. One tree for me - where would you put your parents details if you had 4? Or yours? And what about if there are links of some sort between the trees? Having said that - my software doesn't have size issues (my brain does and spending time looking in Tree 1 for the X family before realising they're in Tree 3 after all.... Aaargh)

  10. I tried multiple trees and the overlap people just became confusing - now I use one for my family and one for my onename study. I use Roots magic and It sorts very well

  11. My tree with FTM was over 14,000+ individuals. It was taking an extremely long time for the data base screen to come up so that I could type in another individual. Once you typed the individual into the program, it took forever for the program to process the information. When I contacted their support staff, I was told to split my tree. Not happening. I want all my data in one tree. This went on for over a year and every time I got in touch with them. it was always the same thing, split the tree. The last time I contacted them I was told that they were not going to work on the problem and they have been true to their words. I still have my tree on their software and every now and then I will go over to the program to see if it has improved and to sync things to the web and yes I have the newest program. It is still slow as ever.

    I started trying different software programs from other companies and finally settled on Legacy. I have one tree on their software program; over 30,000+ individuals. The program has no problem handling the data and the media. I attach all the media that I want to the individual and still have no speed issues with the program.

    The backup with FTM took me over an hour if I was putting the data on an auxiliary device. Legacy takes only minutes, plus they zip the files. My media files alone are in the gigabit size range. I will be hard pressed to ever go back to FTM for my primary data base software. Hope this helps.

  12. I have one tree, since I want to make it easy for my children and grandchildren to follow. They are not genealogically inclined at the moment, but there is always hope. My tree is at close to 119,000 names and is doing fine on FTM. I have very little media attached, just notes, mainly.

    PS The reason I have 119.000 names is that I have many, many duplicates on my tree. I know that is the "wrong" way to do it but I wanted to do it "my way." I paid good money for my tree and so I've made my own rules. If Ancestry chooses to delete it at some point, so be it.

  13. I currently have one large tree, it contains both my wife and my trees. The only advantage I have found for having it that way is that we found out we are related through a DNA match about 10 generations back. I am planning to split if for many of the reasons mentioned above.

    I have all of my documentation stored in my Ancestry tree and replicated in my local Family Tree Maker database but I too am concerned about the problems associated with storing it there. I have recently found a program, Clooz, that is specifically designed to store documents and images. It seems to be a great tool and I am going to migrate all of my documentation to that program. It will take a lot of effort to enter it all but when finished I will have very easy access to all of my documentation.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.