For those who are new to family research, Ancestry.com is the place to go. In a few clicks, one can start their own family tree, and quickly add branches to that tree. However, there is a membership fee to review documents and Ancestry’s research hints. (It is free to manually enter a family tree.)
There are two ways to add ancestors to a family tree. First, we’ll talk about what NOT to do.
Shared Family Trees – Caution Advised
When a user creates a family tree at Ancestry, that tree can be private (viewable only to the owner) or public. A public tree will turn up in search results, and information from that tree can be added to your tree. If Elvis Presley was in my family tree, something like this would should up under “Hints”:
If you select “Review”, you can select one or all trees and add that information to your tree.
What many users do not do is verify the information provided in that other tree. Never assume another user’s tree is accurate until you have reviewed any attached documentation. If there is no documentation for a person, move on!
In my view, user trees are only useful for suggesting another research avenue. I have come across trees that have accurate, detailed information. I have also come across trees that are completely wrong, lack sources, and/or lack correct sources. Review all records attached to a public tree before concluding that this is one of your ancestors.
Adding New Ancestors – Green Light
From any of the hints on Ancestry, you can add the information to the ancestor. If the ancestor does not exist in the user’s tree, Ancestry will add him/her and attach the documentation.
New ancestors or ancillary family members can be added manually. For instance, if I know of another child of Thomas and Caroline Duvall, I can click on “Add family” to add a missing parent, a spouse, or a child. This is sometimes easier because you can enter the person’s name as you want it to show instead of copying it over from another source. This is my preferred method, as I have gotten in the habit of capitalizing the first name of a direct ancestor.
Ancestry trees are great for adding Ancestry sources to a family tree. Adding sources from other sites is possible, but I am not a fan of how the outside sources link to Ancestry.
Another popular research site that contains family trees is FamilySearch. This is a free research site, maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site offers a wealth of genealogical information, including records, online trees, and research Wikis for every continent in the world. FamilySearch has a lot of documents that Ancestry.com has available, but I can sometimes find documents at FamilySearch that I can’t find anywhere else.
While you can create your own family tree, what you are actually doing is connecting to a collaborative tree. This means that information and sources can be added, edited and deleted by anyone. In my genealogy research, I find my ancestor’s information to be about as accurate and inaccurate as on Ancestry.com. However, on FamilySearch I can edit the information that is incorrect.
Remember Thomas Duvall from my last post? I did go into the FamilySearch tree and edit the incorrect information. Not long after, however, another user changed his name back to Thomas Mastin Duvall, despite the fact that I included sound reasoning as to why this is incorrect. I may write up something that shows more proof and attach it to the tree, but I’m not going to engage in a battle of wills with this user. But, they didn’t remove my note about the reason for my change of name.
Adding to “your” tree on FamilySearch is similar to the process to add a person on your Ancestry family tree. In this case, however, FamilySearch will alert you if there is someone (or more than one) who is already in the system that may be your family member. If so, you can click on the existing person to add.
Wikitree is a website for a collaborative family tree, much like FamilySearch. There are no sources available to search. However, a user can create a family tree and manually add source information.
In addition to documentary research, WikiTree also has a section for DNA evidence.
WikiTree requires that source information be entered for information that is added. I find this to be a good thing. However, there is a work around, and not all individuals on WikiTree have proper sources. One other deterrant, for me anyway, is that other users can maintain control of an existing ancestor. For example, I tried to add my maternal great grandmother, found an existing profile for her, and received an alert stating “You are no on the Trusted List. . . “, so I could not add her. I also could not find a way to contact this user privately. I could add her as a new person, but that just defeats the purpose.
WikiTree seems great in theory, but I don’t have enough time to dediction to it at the moment.
Whichever online tree you choose to use, make sure you’re finding the sources and not just the ancestor!!