Jan 27, 2023

Using Family Search Family Tree

January 27, 2023

Getting started is often the hardest part of undertaking a new genealogy project. For me, one of the best ways to begin is to look at what’s already been done. Family Search’s Family Tree is a great place to check out that research. Family Tree is my go-to source for clues that can get me started on a new project.

Family Search ( ) is a free website operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which contains all kinds of genealogical information. You can search original records in a variety of ways as well as get basic genealogical information from the Family Search Wiki. These features are useful, but the Family Tree is even more helpful. If you find an ancestor in it, you’ll get a quick start on researching that ancestor.

Family Search’s Family Tree includes trees that span generations so you may be able to extend a family line back hundreds of years. The Tree also includes photos, documents and biographical sketches. I have found pictures posted on the tree that I never knew existed. Just recently, I found a photo of my great grandparents. I’d never seen their faces before.

While Family Tree contains amazing amounts of information; it also contains amazing amounts of misinformation. Since Family Tree is collaborative, anyone can post anything. The tree does request that the poster explain why he/she believes the information is correct. Unfortunately, many users ignore this request.

Over the years, I’ve found a lot of incorrect information on Family Tree. Mothers are listed as giving birth at the age of six or at the age of ninety-six. Parents are sometimes confused with other people with a similar name. Photos are misidentified. Documents don’t really refer to the person they are purported to.

None of this means that you shouldn’t use Family Tree. It does mean that you should apply the old Russian proverb “Trust but verify” when you use information that you find on the Tree. If you do that, the Family Search Family Tree just might become one of your favorite websites, just like it is mine.

Carol Stetser