FamilyTree: New FamilySearch Service Promotes Collaboration

  By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 11 March 2013

This screen image illustrates the new FamilyTree online service. A visitor likely will see his or her own pedigree chart largely pre-populated.

Article Highlights

  • The FamilyTree enhancement to FamilySearch.org went live to the public on March 5.
  • FamilyTree allows patrons to collaborate with relatives across cyberspace in researching and documenting their ancestry.
  • Family history researchers can explore the site by logging into FamilySearch.org and then clicking on the FamilyTree tab.

“The idea is to get people to interact with one another so that supporting documentation can find the correct ancestor.” —Tara L. Bergeson, FamilySearch representative

FamilyTree, a long-awaited enhancement to the Church’s FamilySearch.org Internet site, is live to the general public as of March 5. It is accessible free of charge by going to the website at FamilySearch.org.

FamilyTree is the successor to New FamilySearch, which Church members have been enjoying for the past few years but which up to now has been accessible only with a Church membership login and password.

Now for the first time, other visitors to FamilySearch.org “will be able to start building their family tree entirely online, starting with themselves and then expanding to past generations,” said Paul M. Nauta, FamilySearch marketing manager.

A key feature of FamilyTree is the ability to collaborate with relatives across cyberspace in researching and documenting one’s ancestry.

“You can discover what others may have already found about your family history,” Brother Nauta said.

In the context of an online pedigree chart, users can attach photos and links to sources. An easy “grab-and-pull” feature allows users to move up and down the tree, zoom in to focus on a particular ancestor, and zoom out to get a multigenerational perspective.

“The goal behind FamilyTree is to create what we would call the best-sourced genealogy in the world,” said Tara L. Bergeson of FamilySearch during a briefing with representatives from LDS media outlets. “The idea is to get people to interact with one another so that supporting documentation can find the correct ancestor.”

She explained, “Among the features we’ve added is sourcing to be able to link directly, say, to a census document or a ship’s register.”

Brother Nauta said a visitor to FamilyTree will likely see his or her pedigree chart already “pre-populated with millions of family histories contributed historically by patrons.”

Visitors “will also have access to billions of free records on FamilySearch.org to fill in the missing branches of their family tree,” he added.

FamilyTree will be improved as time goes on, Sister Bergeson noted.

“One of the features that will be visible during the year is the ability to link to photos or documents you’ve added to FamilySearch yourself,” she said. This will hasten the work for family history enthusiasts who might need, say, a copy of a birth certificate but cannot find it, even though it might be in the FamilySearch database, because it has not been indexed yet.

Brother Nauta said a key focus in FamilyTree is on the novice user or patron of FamilySearch. “We want to create some intuitive tools that teach them what good information looks like and how to work together so that you can learn as a family community to present and save good information.”

FamilyTree is designed ultimately to replace New FamilySearch, the program that heretofore has been available only to Church members.

As FamilyTree comes online, its predecessor, New FamilySearch, will be phased out, Sister Bergeson said. “As we launch features on FamilyTree, we discontinue those features on New FamilySearch. Eventually, as users make the full transition to FamilyTree, we will completely remove or redirect the website address of New FamilySearch.”