FamilySearch for Beginners.
FamilySearch.org has the largest collection of genealogical data in the world. It is also home to the FamilySearch Family Tree. The Family Tree is a wiki-style tree where you can add and edit your own family history information. By adding your information you become connected to the human family. According to the latest data, the tree has over 1.1 billion people contributed by more than 3.4 million users. For many people all that is required is entering your information and that of any living ancestors (such as parents and grandparents), and FamilySearch will do the rest. When you start you will have missing branches. But don’t worry, this article is a tutorial to show you how to build a bridge to your FamilySearch Family Tree.
So, you have decided to do a little family history. You have family members who have been working on the FamilySearch Family Tree. This seems like a good place to start. You get a free account and login expecting to see the research your family has already done. And you don’t find what you expect.
What to do if you login to FamilySearch and your tree is empty? Or what if your spouse’s side of the tree is empty? What if it is empty and you know others in your family have your family connected in the Tree? Take a deep breath, and don’t despair. This is when you need to build a bridge between your living ancestors and the deceased ancestors in the FamilySearch Family Tree. It just takes a few minutes to connect you to your family history.
Enter Your Living Ancestors.
For privacy reasons, FamilySearch does not allow you to “Find” living people. Even if you know your spouse/father/mother/etc. has been entered by another family member, you will still need to manually create a record in your own account. Luckily, it is fast and easy to enter the few missing links so you can tie in to the family tree. Here is a step-by-step guide.
First, login to your FamilySearch account and go to the Tree view. Click on Add Husband or Add Wife to add the missing person.
Second, enter a few basic facts about the person. At a minimum include the name and gender. If you don’t remember, or don’t have the information readily available, that’s OK. You can always come back and fill it in later. I add my fictional father, Daddy Warbucks Taylor, and click “Next.”
Whenever you try to add a person, FamilySearch always tries to find a record already in their database. However, because my father is still living, no record will appear. Don’t get confused by this. On the next screen simply click “Add New.”
Now, it takes us back to the Tree view and we see my father has been added to the tree. We have begun adding the missing branches!
Next, the magic really begins. We are going to “graft” in a branch of the family tree and connect to the deceased ancestors that are already in FamilySearch!
Enter Your Deceased Ancestors.
So now that I have added my father, I am ready to add my deceased grandfather. I repeat the same process as before and click on “Add Husband” in the branch of the tree above my father. I enter my grandpa’s name and some other facts. Make sure to click the radio button for deceased, then enter his birth year and death year. I don’t have his exact birth day or death day, but I do remember the years and the places. This should be enough to find a match.
Hit “Next” like before, but this time review the results that appear and try to find the correct match. I find my grandpa as the first match in the list. I click “Add Person” to select his record and add him to my tree.
My grandmother is still living, but if she were deceased as well, I could “Add Couple” instead of “Add Person.” If you have this option, use it! It will graft in both parents and their branches of your family tree at the same time!
OK, back to our family tree and let’s see what we have now. I see my grandpa which is great. But what is really exciting is I can click the little right arrow next to my grandparents and expand their pedigree. My great-grandparents and great-grandparents have “automagically” been added in! In fact, that line or branch of my family tree is all connected to the FamilySearch Family Tree!
I can repeat the above steps for my mother and her parents to graft their branches in as well. The same goes for my paternal grandmother who is still living. Just remember to add your living ancestors to build the bridge to your deceased ancestors! In no time you will have filled in all the missing branches at the base of your tree. Now you can focus on other parts of the tree!
People often ask me the following questions related to adding people to the FamilySearch Family Tree. This seems like an appropriate place to address them:
Q: If I add my living spouse/father/mother/etc. to FamilySearch won’t that just result in more duplicates?
A: Technically, Yes. However, the privacy of living persons is more important than creating a few duplicate entries. Following the death of living individuals in your tree you will need to look for “Possible Duplicates” and merge them.
Q: Should I enter my living siblings and children to the FamilySearch Family Tree?
A: This really comes down to personal preference. All living people you add are stored in a “Private Space” where only you can see them. If you like to see your family all neat and tidy in FamilySearch go ahead and add them. But it certainly isn’t required.
Also, some apps make use of Living Person data and you might want to have that information in there for that reason. For example, I purchased Little Family Tree for my 4-year-old daughter (although my older kids play with it too!). This app helps her learn about family relationships using fun games and activities. I wanted her to see her siblings and living relatives WITH pictures so I added them to my FamilySearch Family Tree.
Cool Video From FamilySearch.
Lastly, if you are more of a visual person or just like to see different perspectives, check out this little video from FamilySearch discussing this topic: Building a bridge to your Family Tree
Good luck and be sure to ask questions or add comments below!