RootsTech: Family History for Beginners; It’s about the Journey

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 4 March 2015

The fan chart is one of four views a visitor to FamilySearch Family Tree can use to view his or her own pedigree.

Article Highlights

  • Samantha Sulser, manager at FamilySearch International, shows that family history is about the journey.
  • In her classes at RootsTech, Sister Sulser showed tips and tricks for getting started.

Family history “is not about the destination; it’s about the journey,” said a speaker at the recently concluded RootsTech 2015 family history conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Samantha Sulser, a manager at FamilySearch International, conducted classroom sessions February 12 and 13 on the topic “Brand New, What Do I Do? Getting Started with FamilySearch.”

As the name implies, her presentation was geared toward beginners in using, the Church’s Internet family history and genealogy website, particularly Family Tree, which is a part of FamilySearch.

Illustrating her talk with projected images from the website, Sister Sulser showed how anyone can register for an account at FamilySearch.

She pointed out that in Family Tree, a user can view a family pedigree chart in four different ways.

The traditional view shows an individual’s name branching out to his or her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on.

The fan chart view is a semicircular pedigree chart with the individual in the center and the progenitors emanating out in ever widening concentric circles, the earliest ancestors shown on the rim of the semicircle or “fan.”

The portrait view is similar to the traditional view, but it includes portraits of each person on the chart as they have been submitted by FamilySearch users.

Finally, the descendancy view shows the descendants of a given ancestor. It is useful for identifying and recording one’s cousins and finding lines on which more genealogical research and record keeping can be done.

Sister Sulser demonstrated that with the traditional or portrait view, the computer mouse can be used to move the page around. One simply left-clicks and holds the mouse button as the mouse moves, thus moving the entire page.

Clicking on a person’s name on a pedigree chart yields a summary card displaying information such as birth and death dates and places and links to sources, photos, and discussions.

A “Person” link takes the website visitor to further details about the ancestor, including family members and notes.

A new feature in FamilySearch Family Tree is “Record Hints,” windows that spontaneously pop up, giving links to documents entered into and indexed in FamilySearch such as census records, certificates, obituaries, and others. Sister Sulser said the Record Hints are accurate more than 97 percent of the time, meaning that they link to documents that really do pertain to the ancestor being viewed on the screen.

FamilySearch Family Tree also displays a change log giving the latest changes that have been made on an ancestor’s record by other FamilySearch users.

For users needing assistance, there is a “Get Help” link in the upper right corner of the screen, taking the user to resources such as a Quick Start video, Learning Center videos on how to use Family Tree, and options for live contact with someone at FamilySearch, including call, chat, and email.