Why Should We Trust Anything on Family Search?

In some recent playing around, I found that on Family Search there is a direct line all the way back to Adam and Eve.  I have also found that I am a descendant of Jesus Christ through one of his children.  I don’t really believe any of this.

I have long felt that the criteria for entering names into things like Family Search is a ridiculously low bar, and that people can submit ‘information’ based on almost nothing.  It also seems that Family Search and similar data bases are so open sourced (if that is the right term), that anyone can get in and do whatever they care to do.  This would seem to include sabotage, or just goofing around.

With these possibilities I wonder if any of us should trust anything on Family Search or similar sites.  Am I over reacting to this?  Should there be something done to verify what people submit?

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13 Responses to “Why Should We Trust Anything on Family Search?”


  1. 1 STW May 31, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    First we need to understand that FamilySearch is many things. One part is the shared family tree that you refer to. A second is submitted family trees that may or may not agree with the shared tree. The third is a collection of source documents (census, wills, marriage records, etc.) that can aid you in finding and proving your ancestors. There is an ongoing attempt to link the source documents with the shared tree. The last are user submitted materials like photographs or other memories and documents that attempt to flesh out individuals in the shared tree.

    Second, it seems that, on average, Mormons are lousy genealogists. I believe, in part, that’s because our emphasis is on quantity, taking family names to the temple, and not on quality, being sure that the name you take is actually family. This means that critical questions are often not asked and emotion rather than logic builds the shared tree. Generally, for example (addressing an issue I’m currently dealing with), men do not date their wills 20 years after their death and rarely do they have children ten years after they’ve been buried.

    The only part of the shared tree that I accept without (much) question are LDS families from LDS membership records. Beyond that the information in the shared tree is just another clue that may or may not help in verifying a connection. The collected source documents can help in proving the information. I usually start with source materials and only look at the shared tree later to see if others have reached the same conclusion. If I’m the first down a particular path I’ll add what I’ve found when I’m ready to do the temple work.

    Needless to say, I do not rely on FamilySearch to keep my family tree. It is too easy for someone with more enthusiasm than insight to make a hash of things. Oddly, FamilySearch only seems to request documentation when you’re trying to fix something someone else mucked up.

  2. 3 Mary Ann May 31, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Sourcing facts with historical records in Family Tree is supposed to be the public validation of said facts. Unfortunately, the ability to accidentally merge two individuals together means it is incredibly easy to transfer all the historical records to a different person. Whoops.

    The open source nature is meant to eliminate duplication of temple work. So you enter in the correct info, get the temple work done, and then walk away knowing someone will come in and mess up all the relationships you’ve painstakingly researched and sourced. If you want to keep an accurate record, you need to have everything stored on a private tree via desktop software or through another site. This is why a lot of experienced researchers absolutely hate Family Tree. It’s the only way to do temple work, though.

    • 4 Eric Nielson May 31, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      I think you are right about the ultimate purpose of this is to avoid duplication of temple work.

      • 5 Mary Ann May 31, 2016 at 10:34 pm

        In October 2005 President Hinckley said in the opening remarks of general conference: “One of the most troublesome aspects of our temple activity is that as we get more and more temples scattered across the earth there is duplication of effort in proxy work. People in various nations simultaneously work on the same family lines and come up with the same names. They do not know that those in other areas are doing the same thing. We, therefore, have been engaged for some time in a very difficult undertaking. To avoid such duplication, the solution lies in complex computer technology. Preliminary indications are that it will work, and if this is so, it will be a truly remarkable thing with worldwide implications.”

        Beta testing for new.familysearch.org (the forerunner of today’s Family Tree) began the next month. Eliminating duplication was a main goal from the very beginning.

    • 6 phbrown June 4, 2016 at 9:10 am

      So I’ve made a mistake in giving up PAF and relying on the wiki that is FamilyTree. Which desktop software do you recommend?

  3. 7 Last Lemming May 31, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I have occasionally thought that there should be an option to submit a person’s information (with accompanying documentation) for official vetting, after which it would be locked. But then I figure that those doing the vetting would likely be of the same skill level as those arbitrating indexing batches and so quickly set my idea aside.

  4. 8 Lily May 31, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I have several living aunts that are dead, according to Family Search.

  5. 11 Marivene May 31, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I can only control my actions, not the actions of others, so when I add information to Family Search, I also link the source. I am old enough to remember when information had to be documented, using primary & secondary sources. I have noticed that when someone else tries to change documented information, Family Search makes the call as to which set of documentation is better.

  6. 12 Wally June 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

    I’m pretty sure my genealogy has been traced back to a Neanderthal. I’d better check FamilySearch to see if they’ve got it.

  7. 13 Eric Nielson June 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    You could probably do the work for the Neanderthal.


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