Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Change or User Change?

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Hello, I enjoy reading your emails, and wonder if I missed something important, such as:

        Did change how personal family trees are managed?   

Last week I looked up my Wilmot tree there, and found someone had changed a last name of an ancestor to Wilmont, when the father and grandson were right there as Wilmot. Duh???

A friend said the family trees are now wide open and anyone can add or change information.

        Normally, all information is good, but in this case I am dealing with an idiot.  

Then someone else gave my Hessian ancestor, John Stegman, a wife who was his mother-in-law,

Does this mean that my tree can be changed by anyone going online to

If that is the case, I will not use the program anymore.  It would be a waste of time - I am not a church member - have served/helped many years in a local Family History library.Too many people are well meaning but uneducated on proof of sources.     Ellen Thorne Morris, Monmouth Co., New Jersey

Dear Ellen,

May Day! May Day! (Yes, today is the first of May. But I digress…)

There has been no change. FamilySearch has Genealogies (personal trees) and it has Family Tree (a shared tree). What you are using is Family Tree, and yes, anyone can change anything. FamilySearch’s Genealogies feature is a GEDCOM preservation service. It is not an online tree management program like Family Tree or Ancestry Member Trees. It is merely a repository to preserve and share your life’s work.

  1. Export a GEDCOM file from your genealogy program.
  2. Go to
  3. Select Free Account in the upper-right corner and create an account. Or if you already have an account, sign in.
  4. Select Search > Genealogies.
  5. Scroll to the bottom.
  6. Underneath “Contribute Your Research to the FamilySearch Community,” select Submit Tree.
  7. Follow the instructions to add your tree.

You will be given the opportunity to synch your tree with Family Tree. That step is unnecessary, especially since it sounds like you already have. I don’t know how long it takes to appear, but when others go to Search > Genealogies and search for a person, they will see results from your tree along with the other contributed GEDCOMs.

Ellen, let me close with a heartfelt thank you for your service in a family history center. Several times last month I had patrons express frustration at the limited hours of their local center. It is only through volunteers like yourself that FamilySearch family history centers are open at all. Thank you, thank you!

---The Ancestry Insider


  1. I somewhat agree with Ellen. Collaboration is all well and good, but allowing anyone to change anything at any time had led to some ridiculous changes in my tree. I haven't the time (or patience!) to go in a constantly correct all these mistakes, or leave a message to the changer and never receive a reply. And FS itself "helpfully" attaches records that are in error as well. To that end, I am not longer keeping up the tree (since we cannot delete it). I too have been a volunteer at my local FHC for more than 30 years. FS is very good for records, but the Family Tree needs a lot of work. And I do NOT synch my desktop program with it - the desktop version is pristine and as good as I can make it.

    1. What do you do though, when family search adds a third spouse to someone who was only married twice? This has happened to my dad's adopted father. Each time I delete the third wife, and explain why I did this, then several months later, it happens again. And when it happens, it undoes his temple work. What a headache.😣

  2. It is a little confusing and I was wondering about this myself. Just a few days ago I found a glaring error in the tree regarding my Grt-Grandfather. Then I discovered that I could correct it so I did! Then I began to think how upset I would have been if someone had changed my tree even if they were right. I'd rather hear directly from someone regarding errors in my trees but I am glad I was able to make the correction.

  3. The thing is that the Family Tree is not any one person's tree. It's everyone's tree. Changes are going to happen. The best offense is to add as many sources as you can in hopes that people will stop, read them, AND understand them before making changes. For ancestor's that are special to you, click on the watch feature, and you will be alerted whenever someone makes a change. Then you have the option of switching it back or contacting the person. Some of the changes made are very helpful (like someone might correct a mistake you have made or add a photograph!), and there is the possibility of making contact with another researcher in your family.

  4. Why not use a program that allows changes only when invited? When its everyone's tree strange things happen. Do your own research and have factual, sourced info.

  5. I am all in favor of collaboration, but it seems that people come in for a brief time, make changes, and do not respond at all to the internal methods of communicating. One of my colleagues at the FHC has had several relatives "shut off" because he's been involved in heated discussions with another who insists impossibilities are true.

  6. I sympathize with Ellen. I started receiving irate messages from a user who had "adopted" my ancestor and started shouting and cussing at me for changing "her" tree. The problem was her ancestor had come 100 years later from Switzerland to Utah, while my entire line traced back to Germany and forward to New York, where he was born and died. Even brith, marriage and burial photos are in the online tree. After sevewral attempts at courteous conversation and after she deleted my ancestor's wives and children, I finally asked FamilySearch to block her insulting emails... only to be scolded by FS for not accepting the fact that my tree was public and anyone could change it as they liked.

  7. If you are an lds member you can click a few buttons and transfer the info from family search to ancestry. I have done this as I have a few of these issues. Normally with a real explanation of why the information is correct it stops. Like a spelling of a name. "Yes, one census 18** the spelling is this. However, if we look at (state more than one document, one the person wrote themself) the spelling is this." Or "I have a letter from said ancestor that they were raised by a different person and this is important to them."
    I'm not a fan of ancestry as it wants you to connect with others. So I don't look at a lot of hints. Not everyone has correct information. I like ancestry for keeping my tree from being touched from my work. I also print out the pedigree charts and sources. I just need to figure out how to make a good book of it.

  8. I would suggest Ellen try using WikiTree instead. This is free, requires collaboration and sources, and has very friendly help from the volunteers there to help you use it and feel welcomed. It has the added advantage of allowing only one instantiation of an ancestor which the descendants collaborate on. I also love the feature that allows you to put your DNA kits in so you find out which members who have tested also descend from the same ancestor.

  9. To repeat what Ancestry Insider was saying, (in a nutshell): FamilySearch has two programs: FamilySearch Family Tree and FamilySearch Genealogies. FamilySearch Family Tree is a community tree. Anyone can change it. We are one big family. The fact that the tree is for everyone has good and bad implications. the second program is FamilySearch Genealogies. You can upload your family to FamilySearch Genealogies and no one can change it. It is not a community tree. It is your very own tree. You can add your tree to the community FamilySearch Family Tree, but the tree that is in FamilySearch Genealogies will remain untouched.
    Best Regards,
    Sandra Raymond Jarvis


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