Thursday, 15 January 2015

The reason why I stopped using FamilySearch's Family Tree

This morning I received an email notification from FamilySearch alerting me to the fact that someone had modified a person in my family tree. I had all but forgotten about this tree on FamilySearch as I had stopped using that functionality a long time ago and this email reminded me of why I stopped using it.

Before I get too far into this, I will admit to not having used the Family Tree properly when I first started using it, but after a short while I realised my mistakes and started adding people and sources and built up a small tree of my ancestors. It was a nice tool and the fact that FamilySearch was integrated into my genealogy tool (MacFamilyTree) made it quite attractive to use. However the functionality to merge people has some major issues IMHO. It is not always clear when or how to merge people and if a decision to merge is taken, there is a lot of collateral work that also needs to be done to ensure that the merged entity retains its integrity.

The changes I was notified of this morning highlighted the integrity problems to me. I now have in my FamilySearch Family Tree, an ancestor (let's call her EB) who has to sets of identically named parents and two sets of identically named siblings. The user who modified EB simply added the parents from their tree to EB without first checking EB's record. A quick check would have shown that EB already had parents attached, and via the parents a complete list of siblings - 11 in total.

Now when I look at my FS Family Tree I see EB with two sets of parents and 22 siblings! I have neither the time, nor the inclination to go through each of the pairs of parents and siblings to do a proper merge of the family, but it does need to be done. As such, this tree is broken, not just for me, but for anyone who views it. I can flag one set of parents as "preferred", but I doubt that will really do anything useful.

One big problem with FS Family Trees is that anyone can edit any person with little or no control over what edits are made. Randomly adding a person to a tree by creating a parent-child or spousal relationship without checking to see if any other details need to be updated or associated people need to be merged is just creating a mess. IMHO the only way to add a new person into your tree is to carefully and methodically go through each connected person and check to see if they need to be merged with another record. This is a slow and painstaking task, but if everyone did this, the resultant trees would be much more useful to all involved. Without this careful merging, what you end up with is two trees joined by a single person, with a whole mess of duplicates on either side.

So for now I am just going to turn off the FS notifications and pretend that this functionality does not exist. I will continue to use FamilySearch for research but will not be linking people in my desktop tree to FamilySearch when my rebuild finally gets underway.

No comments:

Post a Comment