Thursday, May 13, 2010


Yesterday I talked about my aboninable online family tree in response to Randy's post The Online Family Tree Conundrum. If you haven't read his post please do and come back.

Randy asks, "What do you think? Are WeRelate and New FamilySearch on the right track here? Will all of this lead to a One Big Monster Family Tree (OBMFT)? Who will be the first company or organization to "get it right" with the right combination of collaboration, arbitration, judgment, and presentation?"


I'll start with where I left off yesterday, and the trees at From submitted trees they have created OneWorldTree. The quality of the entries here is often questionable. It's a great place to look for hints but it will never "get it right." All of the information is presented, including conflicting information and it is up to the individual researcher to pick and choose what is right. I talked some yesterday about Ancestry's personal member trees and "shaky leaves." As long as it is easy to simply import individuals from other trees to your own, people will do so perpetuating errors. In another post Randy points out that Source citations leave a lot to be desired. This is another reason why OBMFT will never work there. I do want to point out what Ancestry gets right. The trees there are very easy to work with. I can "attach" documents directly to an event line. For example if I find an obituary I can upload a copy and then have it show up up the death event line or add a photo of a tombstone to the burial line. There is also a section for weblinks where I can link to something on my blog that I have written or perhaps a their memorial at Find-a-grave. Another plus is that I can download a gedcom of my trees.

New Family Search

I am intrigued by the possibilities of of OBMFT at Family Search however I do not know a whole lot about it. Randy indicates that there might be some cross linking of documents between Family Search and person pages. I see this as a big draw back for two reasons, 1) working back and forth between two screens is a pain and 2) Footnote already has duplicate person pages so will they be creating a new one or how will they decided which is the one to use? The huge plus for Family Search is that they already have dedicated people on board who will be willing to work with whatever format they choose.


I have put a couple of small gedcoms up at WeRelate and I love that anyone can come along and add to them or revise them. The thing is that nobody ever has. The wiki platform is hard to use for a beginner, at least it was hard for me to figure out how to use the site and I still do not understand all of it. Randy stated that information for some of his earliest ancestors was semi-protected. I went and checked some of mine and didn't run across this. I can still make any edits that I would like. On the plus side if I make an edit others that are interested in the page will be notified and if they feel I was wrong they can change the information back. Because I uploaded my information as a gedcom the format I used for place names does not always agree with format the site uses and I've spent hours trying to clean up my information and could spend hours more. I also do not understand how to correctly add my sources. Overall the site has a clunky, uncomfortable feel for me. I would spend the time to learn how to use it if I could someone to work with me or if this was the platform that the majority of genealogists decided was "The One."


I love the idea of one giant tree that we can all connect to. It would be great to see if anyone else has already paid for ggreat-grandpa's death certificate and I would to love see a picture of him that somebody out there must have! Right now I have trees at Ancestry and WeRelate. A couple of cousins have online trees on their websites. Our information is scattered and duplicated all over the place. I have invited cousins to work with me at WeRelate without success. Many have accepted my invitations at Ancestry, however they look at what I have and maybe make suggestions or point me to information in their trees rather than work together on one tree.

For it to work it needs to be relatively easy to use. There would need to some type of arbitration where there are conflicts. And it would have to be a site where the majority are willing to join in. Pluses would be being able to add images of documents and photos directly to a person's page and a source citation template.

My question is, are we as a group ready for OBMFT? Are we ready to freely share all of the information that we've worked for years to gather? Will we share all of the pictures that we treasure, knowing that they will be there and free for the taking? Will we be willing to spend the time it will take to make all of the information consistent? What about putting in the hours to upload our documents and pictures? Or will we just dump our gedcoms and walk away, leaving to others to clean them up?


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Congratulations on Top 100 Recognition!
Visiting all 100 takes some time. Thanks for what you do!

Bill ;-)
Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thanks Bill! And congratulations to you too!

David said...

Ancestry is too easy to use. There are a number of people out there who have no clue about how to research or analyze records, seemingly just grabbing whatever comes up in their search results. I'd like to ignore the home page notifications or turn them off because of all of the bogus possible connections, but I'd hate to miss the ever so rare actual cousin that comes along.

As for the shaking leaves for hints, it's a mixed bag.

David said...

Unless one has put in several years of serious searching, they cannot appreciate the time and effort that it took to compile all of the information, documents and photos, or even what it takes to generate a decent report. I was always very grateful for those who shared when I started out, but now I really understand why some people aren't keen to share everything.

I've also come to realize and accept that sourcing the info doesn't seem to have been all that important to many in the past. (That's probably still true today.)

So to answer your question, I don't think the OBMFT, at least one that is truly useful, will be here in the near future. Old practices and attitudes die hard (or will take some time to die off).

I can't imagine how a company would go about judging whose research is correct or who would want to subject their work to ridiculous claims by newbies. Linking to a document doesn't prove anything.

And the web site will have to monetize the project somehow, either through subscriptions or ads. I would have a problem with a company taking my research, especially that which came in the real world using my time and money, to generate profits for themselves or shareholders. Years (or decades) from now when everything has been digitized and is readily available online it will be a different story. Until then, I'll pass.