Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » In Which We Bid Farewell to NewFamilySearch and Welcome Family Tree

In Which We Bid Farewell to NewFamilySearch and Welcome Family Tree

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - January 10, 2013

The Church genealogical database NewFamilySearch (NFS) has been frustrating for so many people, particularly those who do actual genealogical research and care about accuracy. NFS allowed people with no particular skill to upload sketchy aggregated online family trees (usually culled from Ancestral File, Ancestry, and RootsWeb) and have their data look as valid as the correct information.

Family Search recently released a replacement for NFS. It is called Family Tree. So far, I’m impressed. It has solved some of the worst of the problems with NFS and whereas it was hardly worth correcting NFS, I’ve found it worthwhile to go in and start correcting the record in Family Tree.

Here is a guide to getting started. (In addition to this brief tutorial, there are some good tutorials in Family Tree. Click on the “Help” menu in the top right corner.)

* * *

First, every time I start working on Family Tree, I open up two windows: one for Family Tree and one for Family Search.

In the Family Tree window, I select the person I want to work on. For this tutorial I chose my ancestor Elizabeth Ann Pugsley Hayward. She was an early Utah politician who introduced the 19th Amendment into the Utah Senate for ratification and was one of the first women to serve as a delegate to a national political convention. She was vice president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association and president of Daughters of Utah Pioneers.



Elizabeth’s Family Tree entry has not had much work done on it.



First I’ll check the Vital Information section. I just compared the information against her death certificate, personal genealogical records, and a biography written by her daughter. It all looks more or less accurate.

If I did need to edit something, I would click on the entry and edit it, using the standard data formats as shown.



I’m not going to correct “Salt Lake City, Utah” to “Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States” as recommended by Family Tree since it was Great Salt Lake City and Utah Territory at the time. Although I could edit the entry to perfection, I will leave it as is for now.

I will return to “Vital Information” later and show how to add sources.

The next section is Other Information. None of the alternate birth names are correct, so I will delete them.



I click on the alternate name then click “Delete.” The program asks for a reason, so I add a reason:

Family records, church records, and Elizabeth’s death certificate all agree that her birth name was Elizabeth Ann Pugsley. She was listed as “Elizabeth A. Pugsley” in the 1860 United States Census.

The edited version looks like this:



Other information could be added in this section such as military service, naturalization, occupation, and religious affiliation.

Next is the Family Members section. Elizabeth had nine children. Six of them died young. After the fourth death, she copied a poem into a little notebook:

Oh the stillness of the room
Where the children used to play,
Oh the silence of the house,
Since the children went away.

This is the mother life—
To bear, to love, to lose;
Till all the sweet sad tale is told
In a pair of little shoes,

In a single broken toy
In a flower pressed, to keep,
All fragrant still the faded life
Of them who fell asleep.

Someone has added a tenth child to the family, so I will remove her. I move my mouse to the child’s name and click on “Edit Relationship.” That brings up this screen:



I click on “Delete Relationship” in the top right and enter a reason for deleting the relationship:



As noted in that screen, I will add a note to “Discussions.” (See below.) I also sent an email to the person who originally added the child to the family, explaining why I removed her.

I should go through each of the children and correct and source their information, but will save that for another time.

Now to Sources. No sources are shown. I will start adding sources from Family Search.

I click over to my Family Search window and enter some search terms. (Disclaimer: I am very familiar with this family and its related sources. If I were doing work on a family I wasn’t so familiar with, the research would take more effort than what I show here—this is a quick guide to Family Tree, not a primer on acceptable standards of genealogical proof.)



Here is the search result:



Three of the sources are for Elizabeth and four are for her daughters. I’ll start with her 1860 United States Census entry.



I click on “My Source Box” at the top right, then on “Add to My Source Box” in the drop-down menu. A screen will confirm that the source was added. I repeat this for all the sources I see for Elizabeth. Next, I will do a search for “Elizabeth Hayward” with residence listed as Salt Lake City between 1850 and 1950. I just added her additional United States Census records to the Source Box.

Now, I will return to Elizabeth’s Family Tree entry on my other screen. I scroll down to Sources and click on “Go to Source Box.” This is what the Source Box looks like now:



I click on “Attach” for each entry and note why I am adding the entry. For example, for the 1940 Census I type:

United States Census entry for Elizabeth Pugsley Hayward. Name spelled incorrectly, but it shows her living in the household of her daughter and son-in-law.

I click in the top left corner to go back to Elizabeth, and now her “Sources” entry looks like this:



Other sources from Family Search can be added in the same manner. For sources from outside Family Search, click on “Create a Source,” and add all requested information. I will add a link to my materials about Elizabeth on my personal blog:



Family Tree is still working out some bugs: when I clicked “Save” on the last screen, I saw this alarming screen:



The screen went away with a screen refresh, so I won’t worry about it.

Now I’ll go back and add sources to the vital facts. I clicked on one of the vital facts, Elizabeth’s death date, and then clicked on “Tag.”



I chose the two sources that support the death information, and here’s the result:



Next, a note about the Discussions section. This is a good place to leave information that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

Here is a note I left about the nine Hayward children:



Here is a note I wrote on another ancestor’s NewFamilySearch entry last year. It was merged over into Family Tree:



And, finally, after you’ve spent some time working on an ancestor’s entry, look up at the top of his or her screen and click where it says “Watch.” Family Tree will send you a weekly email that shows changes made to your watched entries.

* * *

In closing, here are three rules of thumb:

• Don’t change information in Family Tree unless you have documentation to prove your claims.

• Be polite. Even if people don’t have the same understanding and documentation as you do, they are (more or less) working toward the same goal, and they may have family stories or photos that they could share.

• Don’t spend so much time obsessing over genealogical details that you lose track of the real purpose of genealogical work and your ancestors’ stories and personalities and life experiences, and what they mean to you. As Walt Whitman said:

I believe of all those men and women that fill’d the unnamed
lands, every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible
to us,

In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out
of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn’d, in life.

I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of
them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or
of me;

Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products,
games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets,
I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world,
counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world,
I suspect I shall meet them there,
I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed



  1. Thank you for this, Amy. I expect it may be a little overwhelming for readers who glance through it this morning … but anyone who goes through it carefully and who is ready to try the same process with one of his own ancestors is going to appreciate the precise step-by-step illustrations of how to correct, complete, and document the ancestor’s record.

    I may take a deep breath this weekend and try it myself with one of my own people.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2013 @ 7:40 am

  2. It may sound complicated with all those steps, but it isn’t, really. On Sunday I had my husband source and correct his grandfather’s entry, and it only took about fifteen minutes. (It’s a great Sunday activity, and it’s easy enough that kids can help, too.)

    If anyone has any questions about using Family Tree or FamilySearch, the change from NFS to Family Tree, FamilySearch’s photo program, the current state of genealogical research in the Church, etc., genealogy technology expert, author, lecturer, and blogger James Tanner of Genealogy’s Star said he would be happy to answer questions.

    And if anyone has already started using Family Tree, do let us know about your experience so far.

    Comment by Amy T — January 10, 2013 @ 7:59 am

  3. This is awesome, Amy. I think your detailed and easy to follow. Thank you for this.

    I started looking at, but have not edited, the Conder family from Cane Creek. I am very familiar with the family, and they have no descendants in the Church. They too have an added child who did not exist, and at least one wrong baptism date. Not sure what to do with that. So much to fix, so little time.

    I know the Church has been taking a dimmer view of submitting temple work for those with whom we are not related, but I suppose they would not have a problem with this kind of professional quality research.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — January 10, 2013 @ 9:34 am

  4. Arrgh. Your directions are detailed and easy to follow.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — January 10, 2013 @ 9:36 am

  5. Hurrah! NFS was such a good idea to start with, but wow it turned into a mess. Last time I went in one of my ancestors (not that far back) who’d had 4 kids, had 17. I needed a date, but then couldn’t tell which was actually real. So much for all the original work I put into NFS. Good thing I didn’t do all that much.

    Comment by Emily — January 10, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  6. Excellent guide. Thank you, Amy.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — January 10, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  7. After my scornful and utterly public shunning of NFS, I am feeling somewhat optimistic about revisiting my family records online, and seeing about correcting some of the more egregious fabrications. Despite the overwhelming amount of detail here, you give me hope for a better world. Thanks for the tutorial!

    Comment by kevinf — January 10, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  8. My experience has been similar to Emily’s — but since this post isn’t a good place to get into our horror stories, I’ll refrain from throwing mine into the pot.

    Instead, I’m going to concentrate on what Family Tree does that NFS did not: There is a heavy emphasis in Family Tree on providing sources and explanations. It will take a lot — a LOT — of work to add that material to my messed up family lines, but once it’s there, that will help cousins recognize the right dates and know to rely on this claim instead of that one. That’s a tremendous contribution, maybe more important than adding new records, for the time being.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2013 @ 9:54 am

  9. That is funny, Kevin. Part of what makes Family Tree manageable right now is that few people have started using it, so it’ll be interesting to see how things work going forward, as more people start using it.

    (Perhaps my dad could say something about Family Tree and gedcoms. It seems like I read somewhere — probably on his blog — that there are still provisions for dumping gedcom files into the database, but I don’t know how they are handled. How is the data added to the entries? Is there a merge process?)

    I’m sure that’s fine, Bruce. I’ve edited entries on Cyrus Wheelock and people from my Eminent Women and Slave List projects and nobody’s complained yet.

    What editing entries allows is for you to be listed in Family Tree as a source and expert on the family. I never hesitate to contact the people who have added information, which is one of the reasons for my first “rule of thumb.” Once you change information, there you are for the whole world to see and contact as someone with information on the family.

    Comment by Amy T — January 10, 2013 @ 11:11 am

  10. Ardis, one of the positive changes is that sources and discussions are listed right at the top of the entry. Before, there was no indication if there was anything in the “Discussion” section and adding sources in NFS was confusing, to say the least.

    And what to do about relatives who keep changing an entry without proof? Good luck! Actually, I found something that worked recently. Perhaps I’ll share the story when I have a few minutes later.

    Comment by Amy T — January 10, 2013 @ 11:18 am

  11. I have been using the tree and absolutely love it. I have been adding my family and sources. I have emailed a few people who are connected to my lines with some success. I have also corrected and sourced an ancestor who was listed as married to a different women and all wrong kids. I did not delete the wrong women and children, because at the time could not figure out how to delete people.

    I too would open two windows and use one for the search and one for the tree. I loved using the source box, but now it is not working for me. When I click or hover on it, it only gives me the option of going to my source box and will not let me add to it. I hope I get use of it again as I love that feature.

    I had a friend sign in and familytree was not available for her. When will it be available?

    Comment by Tina T — January 10, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

  12. I set her poem to music about twenty years ago. Dunno if I ever told you.

    It became even more powerful to me after I lost several babies of my own.

    Comment by Heidi — January 11, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  13. That’s good to hear, Tina. Thanks for your comments.

    Source Box wasn’t working for me the other day, either, but it seems to be back up now.

    I’m rather concerned about how the delete relationships feature will work with the 19th century adoptive sealings. They weren’t actual marriages, of course, but will the program keep the record of the sealings, which can be important historical and genealogical information?

    Is your friend a non-member? I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know if my dad (James) is able to read this post today since he’s presenting at a genealogical conference this weekend. I’ll see if he knows the current status of Family Tree’s availability.

    Comment by Amy T — January 11, 2013 @ 9:16 am

  14. I didn’t know that, Heidi. That’s very touching. It’s such a hard thing to deal with the loss of children. It took me years to be able to blog about Elizabeth’s experience; in fact I just got to it recently because of this post. Could you share the musical setting? (Privately, perhaps.)

    Comment by Amy T — January 11, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  15. One reason that some parts of Family Tree work sporatically is because FamilySearch is still in the process of changing from NewFamilySearch to FamilyTree.

    This is the first time since the original Ancestral File began showing all of my genealogy a total mess that I have a positive attitude. So far things are looking good. When I was called to be the FAmily History Rep in my ward two years ago, I told the bishop I couldn’t do it because I hated NewFamilySearch and I wouldn’t teach people to use PAF because I hated that, too. He jokingly told me to go home and repent because he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. It has been an interesting ride and I’m having fun teaching classes and working with people.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — January 11, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  16. My wife thinks I should jump into the discussion here. Occasionally, I show some wisdom and follow her advice. By way of background, I would categorize myself as a somewhat experienced genealogist. I am considered the expert in my ward, but that is more of a statement about others’ efforts than my own insights. My ancestry is largely Norwegian, and I have some rough knowledge of the language. My parents joined the Church when I was very young. My father is an active genealogist. My mother, who passed away a few years ago, had gathered a good deal of information from family members but had not done much if any independent research. Temple work is done for the direct line ancestors we have found, but we are working on aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

    I have to admit that, reading the prior posts, I feel like a rube. I did not feel like I had the option to blow off New Family Search as much as it drove me crazy. I still had temple work to do, and this was the only system available. Furthermore, in perhaps a fit of irrational exuberance, I thought I had at least some obligation to try to straighten out the record where I could. I kept my own PAF File so my data would not be corrupted by whoever showed up and went on a merge binge, but I spent countless hours merging and unmerging as needed to clean up the record of my family.

    So, now we have Family Tree — the latest best thing since sliced bread from the Church IT department. There are improvements. There are things I like. And there are things that are going to drive me to drink. And for those like my dad who still think PAF is superfluous because of the latest whizbang production from Salt Lake (not to be confused with how it was superfluous because of the previous whizbang production), let me make this perfectly clear: you will take away PAF from me when you pry my cold, dead fingers off from it. Putting data on New New FamilySearch or the yet to be developed New New New FamilySearch without having it on a private, secured file is like posting the only copy of your dissertation as a public document that anyone can edit.

    I will drop in occasionally to give reports on my experience with Family Tree. I have had some dandy nightmares already.

    Comment by Ole — January 12, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  17. I have very little experience with doing genealogy. The constantly changing programs that come out have a lot to do with that. When I was pregnant with my oldest (he is almost 13) our bishop decided that “Every member a missionary,” extended to missionary work for the dead as well. We had a ward goal that year of 10 earthly baptisms, and 1,000 celestial baptisms (and the rest of the temple work) before Christmas, so they could be presented to the Savior at the ward Christmas party.

    My ex husband’s father was from India, and while an uncle on his mother’s side had joined the church as a teenager and done most of the easy genealogy on that side of the family, the bishop personally challenged us to have 100 names through Temple Ready by October. My husband grew up in South East Portland. He only spoke tourist Hindi and none of the Mahrati Dialects that his ancestors spoke. Because his family were Brahman, they did have the priesthood lineage, but that is only father to son, and because a son’s middle name is always his father’s first name, it is essentially I line of first names written on a scroll with a date, that is how many years after the original ancestor, who was given his “priesthood/spiritual ownership” of the village for whom he is a priest. (Priest means more than spiritual guidance, and less than complete ruler because the warrior caste honors, but is not beholden to the priest caste.)

    So, with his lineage, we could put names and very approximate dates (priest years are not always the same length, and years can be added when a priest has only daughters and must accept a son-in-law as his son, so an extra 100 years between the birth of generations does not mean missing generations) into PAF, but all we had were men, birth dates and the names of their fathers. As the one not in school (although working full-time, trying to get pregnant and “helping with homework”) I was not sitting around doing nothing. I put in over 150 names into PAF, and then took them in, in August, to get help with figuring out what “Temple Ready” was and how the next part of the processed work.

    In the end, less than 10 names passed the Temple Ready standards, and all of those were the aunts uncles, grandparents and child deaths during the last 200 years that the British had been keeping records. Nothing I had entered after January was ever going to be accepted by Temple Ready. As I tried to understand why I had been asked to put all of the older records in, I was told that the bishop had thought that there might have been other Indian converts working on the same lines that would have the information about the women from his family, so they could convert all those ancestors and surpass the goal.

    When I saw the bishop the next week he gave me something, I think from the church news, about a branch opening in Hydrobad. He said see, I am sure if you write the members there, they will be able to help you get the rest of the information you need. I got a little hysterical at that point (I was only a few months pregnant, so I don’t think I can blame it on hormones.) and asked him how many people in Honduras or Hawaii he would be able to help with their genealogy, if someone wrote to him asking for help.

    At that point he became very confused, so I explained that until British colonialism, Hydrobad and Maharashtra had been different countries, with different languages, who almost always fought against each other. About the only thing they had in common was the caste system and loosely sharing forms of Hinduism. As I was about to explain that nowhere in India did they keep marriage records, simply matriarchal and patriarchal lines, he stopped me and told me that I must not have the Spirit of Elijah.

    Instead of joyously welcoming the three converts and being excited at the 300+ family file names had been through the temple, the ward got a lecture on being committed to the Spirit of Elijah, the need for faith in our leaders and the unexpected blessing that come from obeying our leaders. I think everyone was glad when a couple of Sunbeams started throwing up jello and the YM/YW decided that meant it was time for them to lead the ward sing along.

    I never told him that I did write to the branch president in Hydrobad, but I never got a letter back, which is probably better than the “stupid American” letter he probably wanted to send. That was my only foray into family history. My mom and stepdad have us a copy of everything they had on PAF in 2005. I have no idea where we would find a machine that could read the disks, but they gave us the print outs too. Maybe someday I will have a child or grandchild with the Spirit of Elijah, and they can have what I have, and maybe they will not go insane trying to learn whatever the current church history program is.

    Comment by Julia — January 13, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  18. Thanks, all, for your comments.

    Maurine — that would explain the glitches.

    Ole — yes, it’s very important to keep multiple copies of your own work, and upgrade the copies as technology changes. And we’d be happy to read about your experiences.

    Julia — that’s not an uncommon experience. Well, perhaps the wrinkle about Eastern Indian genealogy, but it’s unfortunately common for local leaders to establish programs like that without any understanding of how genealogy, the local family history centers, or temple submissions work.

    Comment by Amy T — January 13, 2013 @ 8:11 am

  19. Problems still come using family tree. Many are server error, cannot display page, cannot reassign, cannot merge, and a stubborn border white space that interferes with what is own the page. NSF was no picnic but it worked better than this. They hurried its release and we are paying for it.

    Comment by Bill jones — January 15, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  20. Loved the tutorial. Some of these things I knew some I did not. I have an LDS FamilySearch account and a non-member account and I can access Family tree with both, I just have to be signed in.
    I too love PAF and it will have to be pried from my dead hands too. Tried other software don’t like it. I also want something that’s not just on line.
    I did find my aunt on Family Tree. It was a little strange since she’s still alive and well. Her information was removed as sonn as I notified them.
    I’m hoping to find some answers to my dead ends if more people start using Family Tree.

    Comment by Debi — January 15, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  21. Bill — it’s definitely a work in progress, but I do find reasons to be hopeful that things will get worked out.

    One new improvement is that we can now restrict searches for documents in FamilySearch. That will be very helpful. And FamilySearch contains such an amazing, growing collection of genealogical resources. It’s really getting to be one of the wonders of the world.

    Debi — thanks for your input. The staff is good at making corrections if you notify them. (I can think of one instance when someone couldn’t help, but it’s too complicated a story to tell here.)

    I’m on the Macintosh, so I haven’t used PAF in many years, but that does remind me of something amusing. On Sunday I finally told myself “Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” and started editing the Family Tree entry for a prominent ancestor with tens of thousands of living descendants. I saw that someone had made a change to an 1801 marriage and for a source referenced, “My PAF.”

    (And since I just realized that there may be people reading this post who wouldn’t know why that would make people want to laugh/cry/swear, here’s a very basic guide to citing genealogy sources. LINK.)

    Comment by Amy T — January 15, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

  22. Reading through, and I see one item not addressed and it is being resolved – a very tricky one.

    For those LDS, the ordinances are a problem, mere deleting will not solve comingled ordinances beloning to different persons even with same names. This is a real issue not completely resolved yet.

    Comment by W David Samuelsen — January 15, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

  23. Yes, Amy, this is good. I’ve had more time tonight to go over it as I will be mentioning FamilyTree in my RS lesson in a couple weeks. I’m slightly sick that we’ll have to go back in and undo what’s been done in NFS. I almost wish they would have dumped all the new data added into NFS, and reverted to older data! Thanks again!

    Comment by Emily — January 15, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

  24. thanks for an interesting article Amy. Is this only available to LDS members? I signed in to but do not have the Family Tree menu option you show in your first screenshot. When I try to sign in at it just keeps refreshing the screen

    Comment by John — January 16, 2013 @ 12:44 am

  25. Excellent “walk through” on Family Tree. One suggestion: when adding sources, I start with the year of the record ie: 1860 United States Census … This allows a chronological survey of the sources.

    Comment by S. L. Swope — January 16, 2013 @ 7:01 am

  26. Thanks, all, for your comments.

    When I wrote this post, it was intended as a heads-up for the Mormon history community and the audience at Keepapitchinin in particular, so we could all stop complaining about NFS and move on to what we hope is a great improvement: Family Tree, with its emphasis on sources and discussions.

    So, I’ve been a little bemused to see this picked up by the Deseret News and Dick Eastman, among others.

    We’re happy to try and answer questions here, but this is a history blog, not a genealogy-technology blog. In-depth technical questions would probably be better discussed back at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter or at Genealogy’s Star or at other genealogy-technology blogs.

    In addition, I also mentioned the tutorials in Family Tree. The tutorials should come up the first time you log on, and then afterwards they are available in the Help menu in the top right, along with answers to Frequently Asked Questions and other ways to find help.

    Finally, you can ask for help at your local FamilySearch Center.

    Comment by Amy T — January 16, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  27. Many comments seeking in-depth technical assistance — all beyond the scope of this post — have been removed by the blog owner.

    Amy may try to continue to answers questions and offer help with the matters discussed in her post, but I’m not going to burden her with the expectation of addressing complaints and questions about the website itself, all of which are entirely beyond her control and beyond the scope of this post.


    Ardis E. Parshall, blog-owner

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 16, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

  28. :) Thanks, Ardis.

    I agree. Why entertain random gripes here? They’re off topic and neither of us works for FamilySearch.

    Also, dear readers, it would be a waste of your time and ours to bother explaining questions we can’t answer. See the above suggestions for finding help. For questions about difficulties with specific software (Legacy, Family Tree Maker by Ancestry, etc.) please contact the software company.

    Comment by Amy T — January 16, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

  29. I appreciate the comments and instructions. When the New Family Search came out, I was so excited. I began entering the data. I, too, began to notice the errors in information.
    On my line there were BIG errors. I emailed to everyone who had submitted and had left their email address about the errors. Most emailed back and agreed with the error, but the actual person who submitted, did not leave contact info. I disputed, discussed, and did everything to get whoever to
    see the error of their info. No response. I got so frustrated that I just quit. Fortunately, most of my direct line is done.
    I even wrote to the Family History Department and told them that they MUST require contributors to identify themselves with an address or email. I have not checked out the new
    Family Tree, but I HOPE that it requires all submitters to
    identify themselves. That would have saved a lot of frustration and errors. Thanks for the info. Now that I have found your site, I will come back again.

    Comment by Joy B — January 16, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

  30. After I reread my post, I noticed that I said “Most emailed back and agreed with the error”. What I meant to say was
    “most emailed back and agreed that the info was in error”.
    They, too, did not know who submitted the incorrect info.
    Thanks again for the helpful instructions.

    Comment by Joy B — January 16, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

  31. Here is an interesting response from James at Genealogy’s Star to some the issues raised in the comments.

    (“In Response to Comments on Family Tree.”)

    Here is a sample from his post:

    Are the details in Family Tree overwhelming?

    …That’s what I always thought genealogy was all about: details. If you are overwhelmed with details perhaps genealogy is not your favorite pastime? You could watch TV or play shuffleboard or do some thing less detail oriented.


    What to do about relatives who keep changing information without proof?

    …If you see a change that is not sourced or is wrong information, then you can change it back and send the person who made the change an explanation. This is an opportunity to educate people. You might be careful to include all your own documentation as a deterrent to further posting. If that doesn’t work and the person persists in putting in wrong information, then send a complaint to FamilySearch in the Feedback link explaining the problem. They have already indicated they are willing to take care of troublesome posters.

    Fun times! (Or in other words, let the turf wars begin…)

    Comment by Amy T — January 16, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

  32. Hi Amy and Ardis, I understand your need to keep blog discussion on topic and avoid highly technical areas. However I was surprised that you removed David’s kind replies to my query (no. 24) about whether Family Tree is open to non-LDS people. Fortunately I had subscribed to the email alerts, so I received his reply that it is, along with his suggestion of how to gain access, something that wasn’t covered in your comprehensive tutorial. My impression was that NewFamilySearch was LDS only, so given that your blog is easily findable using search engines, and not restricted to LDS members, this seems like reasonable information. By the way, I do have access this morning, so perhaps there was some internal registration process happening that just required time. Kind regards, John

    Comment by John — January 16, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  33. I’m glad you found the answer to your question, John.

    Amy is not to blame at all for the removal of comments — that was entirely my own decision and for my own reasons. It’s been well established here at Keepa that Amy is far kinder and more patient and tolerant than I am, and all of this is just further proof of that. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 16, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

  34. Ha. That’s funny. This has reminded me of how much we view Ardis’s blog as a conversation between friends. Yes, it’s open to Google and is listed on Mormon studies aggregators, but it’s a specialized enough topic that many of the conversations here happen between people who know each other in real life or through years of interacting online, or both.

    We enjoy getting to know new people who join the conversation, but when it’s a sudden spate of complaining or plaintive voices, it may help new readers to know that since this is a Mormon history blog, many of the complaining voices here tend to be about the truth claims and culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those repetitive complaints tend to get really old really fast. (See the comments to any story about the Church on the Salt Lake Tribune website for an example of this.) (Actually, don’t bother. Just take my word for it.)

    Ardis decided right from the very beginning of this blog — almost five years ago (!) — that it would be a place for constructive conversations. She moderates comments, an occasionally onerous task, and consequently it has been an amazing place to build community and help people make contacts in the field, assist others on their research, find help on research, find work, start interesting projects, and even publish and present at conferences.

    I hope this explanation may help explain why some of you may have been surprised to get the reaction you did. Thank you for commenting, and please do use the various resources to find answers to your questions.

    Comment by Amy T — January 17, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  35. So that readers can have some understanding of what publicity like this does to a blog, know that Tuesday’s traffic was 3 times Keepa’s normal, all of the surplus due to Amy’s wonderful tutorial; yesterday’s traffic was *10* times normal.

    I’m pleased by the publicity and increased number of visitors — and more pleased that Amy hit it out of the park by providing such a useful tutorial to address what is obviously a crying need. The traffic has taken me by surprise, though, and is likely responsible for the frequent blog blackouts due to over-capacity calls on the server as well as my frayed temper.

    You’re all welcome to Keepa. Just be aware that you’ve caught us unprepared for the response.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 17, 2013 @ 11:32 am

  36. Ardis,

    I am glad to know that my IP hadn’t been totally blocked. :-)

    I tried 10 times yesterday and gave up. Sigh.


    Comment by Julia — January 17, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  37. 1. My wonderful wife, who did genealogical research for 60 years but now is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, never added her pedigree into the newFamilySearch program as so many others had entered the data in various formats, such as the Ancestral File, resulting in much duplication. The result is, however, that none of her notes are included, or notes of others as far as I can see, in newFamilySearch for her ancestors. Thus there are none to be migrated to the Family Tree program when the migration of notes is implemented. I have spent much of the past several weeks working in Family Tree upgrading the record for her lst five generations of ancestors, in order that our children and grandchildren can have a reliable record for at least that part of her pedigree. I have been adding sources (a very tedious process if the source is not found in, adding discussions when appropriate, merging duplicate records, correcting relationship errors, etc. It has been quite an education. While obviously there are features yet to be implemented and bugs to be corrected before Family Tree cam be given a general release, it is a great improvement over newFamilySearch..

    2. For those of us who prefer using PAF5 as our personal data manager as we are so familiar with it, Ancestral Quest can be used as a supplemental program able to synchronize data in the PAF5 database with Family Tree.

    3. The Utah South Area Family History Training Center in Orem offers monthly an outstanding week-long course which includes a day of training on Family Tree and also some one-day classes each month devoted to Family Tree. Each student listens to a lecture for part of an hour and then works at the computer for part of an hour on exercises with the help of a personal trainer

    4. The free and very helpful manual, “How to Use Family Tree Wisely,” by George W. Scott was updated on January 16. To go directly to the manual pages, use
    There is some introductory explanatory material at

    Comment by Stan Hall — January 21, 2013 @ 12:25 am

  38. Thank you for those helpful notes, Stan, and best wishes to you and your wife.

    I had an interesting visit yesterday with the director of the local FamilySearch Center. There is some stress associated with a change of this magnitude but despite occasional technical glitches, this really does seem like a step in the right direction.

    One other thing: various commenters mentioned Family Tree access for those who are not members of the Church. Here is a good review of that topic. (Gaining Access to FamilySearch Family Tree.)

    Comment by Amy T — January 21, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  39. It still has some major issues. I had a hip replacement about the time the new program came out, so I was late in trying it out. Someone had gone in and messed about three generations of my Dad’s family back about 3 gen. I couldn’t solve it so I finally called SLC and asked for helped. The sister who helped me told me that she couldn’t fix it with out all of the ID numbers in the right order. I emailed them to her and the correction was made 12 Oct 2012. Today I went in to print out a fan just to see what it looked like and guess what? The corrections that had been made in Oct were all changed around in a different arrangement that they were then. I spent most of the day trying to get it sorted out again!

    Comment by Elizabeth Watkins — January 23, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

  40. Amy, Although I just discovered it today I appreciate your article. Especially the step about tagging the facts with the sources. It looks like I need to go back and add this to the pages I have worked on so far. My question is how are you managing your source box? The FS tutorials suggest that users delete the information after we are done attaching the sources to the persons page. This does not ‘feel’ right to me.

    Comment by Mat Trotter — January 24, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  41. I’ve been writing a response to Mat’s question, since his question brings up multiple issues, but it got too long, so I’ll split it up into several comments.

    The first is about ownership of work on Family Tree. The second is about preserving sources. The third is about Source Box itself.

    (And of course it should go without saying that this is all my opinion and what I’ve found to work in my particular situation.) (Well, all of it except keeping backups of your work. That’s common sense.)

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

  42. Ownership of Work on Family Tree

    The first issue that Mat’s question brings up is that of ownership of work on Family Tree. How do you keep track of your work?

    On Wikipedia, you can look at your account and see a list of all the edits you’ve done. Unless you keep notes separately, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent feature in Family Tree. The closest thing is to add each entry to your Watch List, but that could get unwieldy after awhile.

    And of course the real answer to the question of ownership of Family Tree corrections is that it’s a wiki, with all the messy complications that ensue, so a family tree may never be perfectly corrected and documented. I tried to capture a flavor of this in the post, leaving an edit undone, since I am by nature a perfectionist.

    And that leads to the next point…

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

  43. Preserving Sources

    There are a number of different schools of thought on how to organize digital files. This is what I do with my personal information, and I do something similar with my other research projects.

    I keep folders on my hard drive, one for the family of each of my grandparents: Tanner, Morgan, Wessman, and Glade.

    Within those folders, I have folders for each ancestor or ancestral family line with subfolders in each of those like “Census,” “Newspaper,” or “Photos.” When I find sources on FamilySearch or elsewhere, I download a copy and put it in the correct folder and subfolder and change the file name to reflect its contents and source. For example: “1942.01.26ElizabethPugsleyHaywardDeathCertUTArchv.jpg.”

    And then (and I am trying to get better about doing this 100 percent of the time) I open my research log for the person or family in question and enter the source information for each new source.

    I previously kept research logs in text documents, but I’ve switched over to using Evernote since I can access that information just about anywhere.

    One other thing I didn’t mention in this article is that when I work on someone’s entry, I also have Ancestry open, to help identify other sources there. I try to make sure all sources are in both family trees.

    Theoretically I should copy all my work over into my RootsMagic and Reunion files, but there’s a limit to how much effort I can put into this project. (If anyone wanted to pay me to do my own family history I would of course meet the highest standards of genealogical professionalism. :) ) (That would include compiling exhaustive research logs with notes about every source consulted and traveling around the world to find sources in the pertinent locations. “I dreamed a dream in time gone by…”)

    I do need to get better at taking my collections of sources and converting them into useable form like Kevin mentioned yesterday in a post on this blog. (The Search for Edward Arthur Smith.)

    And, don’t forget to have a backup for your files! Either make sure your computer backs up automatically to an external high-capacity hard drive, or use an online backup service.

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  44. SourceBox

    It is serendipitous or funny (or something) that Mat would raise the question about Source Box because I read something on Genealogy’s Star about it just this morning. (How to add sources to FamilySearch Family Tree.)

    Evidently you can put up to 10,000 sources in your SourceBox. You can group the sources into folders. I just moved a bunch of my Tanner files into a separate folder. But at some point your Source Box will get unwieldy, and it would be better to have other solutions, such as the one I outlined in the previous comment.

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  45. About the Source Box, you are correct 10,000 can be unwieldly. For me 200 is unwieldly. Better to have Watch List and copy source info into your family program (in my case it is Ancestral Quest)

    There is another feature to use to create source of any site outside of FamilySearch. It is called Tree Connect by Record Seek. It is a fanastic one. Do not use it within FamilySearch Historical Collection having no indexes because the source didn’t come out quite right. FamilySearch Source Box has a way to do it right within.

    back to Watch List, if it is any indication, not much traffic unless it’s a sore person.

    Comment by W David Samuelsen — January 24, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  46. Thank you Amy and David. I have been busy this week with all of these new tips and tools.

    Comment by Mat Trotter — January 27, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

  47. In the event that you do not receive The Ancestry Insider blog, I suggest you access the current issue at AncestryInsider. You may be intrigued, as I was, by this report updating new developments and planned implementations to Family Tree.

    It appears that there is still much to be done before Family Tree can be released to the general public and newFamilySearch closed down, but I am glad that they are trying to get it right instead of rushing ahead with a product that still has many problems to be resolved.

    Comment by Stan Hall — January 30, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

  48. I’ve been watching streaming versions of as many presentations from RootsTech (the major genealogical convention) as possible, and just got done watching Ron Tanner’s amusing presentation on Family Tree. There are some new features. Here’s a summary; thanks to Tod R. for the link.

    Here’s a pdf of Ron’s presentation, and as always, I’m rather bemused to see myself showing up in the FamilySearch materials.

    Here’s a resource that someone mentioned on Twitter: RecordSeek. I’ve used it, but not extensively. It aggregates information from all over the web to add to your family tree.

    And that’s the very latest on FamilySearch Family Tree.

    Comment by Amy T — March 22, 2013 @ 12:14 pm