Tools for using family tree/Search

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This page is designed to allow users to share helpful hints they use while working in Familysearch or Family tree.


Links to Family Tree training videos and lesson

If you click Get Help and then choose Learning Center you come to all the training videos, but then you have to search for Family Tree, Family Tree training, or Family Tree curriculum to get the videos. Here is a wiki site that lists all of these. It is easier to choose what you want to learn about.

Training for FamilySearch Family Tree The following includes a link to the training Family Search Family Tree missionaries use. It is maintained by one of those missionaries and is not an official church site.

FamilyTree Curriculum

Here is a series of Wiki articles explaining how to add photos, documents, sources, merge duplicates and fix relationship problems.

Putting Photos as Memories in FamilySearch Family Tree

Putting Documents as Sources in FamilySearch Family Tree

Attaching FamilySearch Records to Family Tree Using Source Linker

Finding and Merging Duplicates in FS Family Tree

Fixing Relationships in FS Family Tree

This blog explains ways to correct common mistakes

Family Tree: Common Mistakes

Making Hints More Accurate

Always accept an FamilySearch hint that is right, even when it is a duplicate because this reduces the possibility that another user will create a duplicate person to match the duplicate record. If you attach the duplicate source to the correct person, others will see your ancestor. When someone searches for a record of their ancestor, they will come to a screen that says, review match in Tree. They will see that the person is already in Family Tree If you declare it not a match they will be able to link that source to a duplicate person

If this feels like clutter follow the instructions How to Organize Sources: Using Title Sources to create a heading to separate duplicate sources.

Marking correct hints as not a match damage the hinting system. You are giving the hinting system incorrect information. It says oh I [the program] made a mistake; this record really does not belong to this person so I need to revise my [the program's] methodology for finding potential source matches.

If you mark matching duplicate hints as "Not a Match", it will degrade the ability of Hints to connect correct sources to people. We have been advised by FamilySearch personnel that this is the worst thing to do. In the future, it may not give you hints for that family member that are valid because of the not a match you declared. It also reduces the likelihood of someone else clicking "Not-a-match" by mistake.

Finally It tells the hinting system that it is not that person. Since there are often other people in the same record (spouse and/or parent and/or child), you are telling the system that those relationships don't belong to those people, either.

It may seem wasteful to attach duplicate third party records when the same record is already attached in FamilySearch. But those third party records often have images attached. PLUS, sometimes they have more transcribed information. So we want both.

In the future there are plans to let users "bundle" duplicate sources together. Meanwhile, please attach them and feel free to create a "Title Sources"

FamilySearch Person Centric System introduces a Modern Linking Model.

FamilySearch is a person centric system. Each person listed in the indexed historical records collections has their own unique persistent archival link (URL) or person source and hence their own unique web page. Linking a person source, or page, from the historical records to a conclusion person in the Family Tree is the manner by which a researcher tells the system that the two people are the same. This system allows FamilySearch to account for each individual recorded in the records more accurately than does the ambiguous linking of images, which may contain many unspecified individuals.

Each historical records person source is stored in the GedcomX data model which gives it deep internal awareness of its person's data and relationships. It knows what vital data is present on the record and what that data means. It knows what relationships to other persons its person has on the record and what those relationships mean. It knows what record (ex a census household record) its person is found on, what image(s) that record is found on, and what collection the image is part of. In other words, if you link the person source in historical records to the Family Tree person you are simultaneously linking the record, the image, if available, and the collection since these are all associated with each other.

Historically, computing systems and data models could not support such internal knowledge and many genealogists are used to creating one source for a record or image and then attaching it to multiple individuals. Since one page might contain from five to one hundred people, many might have the same source. If that old process is still followed in today's advanced system the researcher would be telling the system that the single person source in historical records is the same person as all the persons in Family Tree to which it is attached. That would represent the addition of incorrect information to the Family Tree and should not be done. Please attach each person in the records to the proper corresponding person in the Family Tree.

This data model will enable the delivery of very helpful genealogical tools in the Family Search system. For example, with proper linking of persons in the records to persons in the Family Tree FamilySearch will be able to provide tools that:

• Suggest that you link other individuals in the same record to corresponding relatives of the ancestor. So you extract all the info from a record.

• Include a link in next to each name in a record that takes you to the corresponding ancestor in FamilyTree.

• Indicate who in a record or submitted tree still needs to be linked into FamilyTree.

• Optionally filter out linked-in individuals from search results for records (i.e., in order for users to be able to focus on new information that hasn't already been assimilated into the tree yet).

• Automatically know which conclusion types the source satisfies for a given ancestor (as well as what values it has for each conclusion type!)

• Display in the source list a summary of what each individual-linked source says about the ancestor.

• Show what all the "individual" sources say about a particular conclusion (e.g., birth event).

Most of these helpful features aren't possible if the people in the records are incorrectly linked to the people in the tree that aren't them.

The above explanation is true only for FamilySearch, or 3rd party records, that are encoded in the new GedcomX data standard. At present (Oct 17 2013) only FamilySearch uses this model, but there is significant interest from other record keeping organizations. Source links created to external images, documents, etc that are NOT encoded in GedcomX will not have any of the rich internal knowledge. They consist of largely a URL--whatever titles and citation info the user provides and little more. These external sources may need to be linked to multiple persons in the old manner.

The following explains how to properly link a family in the FamilySearch records.

1. From the main page search form conduct a search of Records, or from the person page in Family Tree, click on the Search Records button. Choose a record from the search results. If there is only one name indexed in that source proceed as normal. (Click on Attach to My Tree and attach the record to your ancestor.) There may also be a father, mother, spouse, or child or other relative indexed in blue on the page. Click on the blue name link for one of those other people. Now the page will change to show the title of the person source with their name in it. Now click on Attach to My Tree and attach this record to the individual. So attach the father to the father, mother to mother, child to child, etc. Note that records for spouses can be attached to the marriage record which is a layer deeper than the person page, however this is not necessary for FamilySearch records since each person record knows about the persons present on it and what events it provides evidence for. If you need to attach non-FamilySearch records to an event, click on Edit Couple to find this layer.

See Using the Source Box Master Copies for a suggestion as to how to create one record for each person in a source record that is not indexed.

Assorted Good Ideas

Using Different Views of the Landscape Pedigree view

The landscape view does have nice flexibility in view options. These are accessed through the "Show" menu which is in the top right hand side of the page just under your name and the button "Help Others." Click "Show" and you see a drop down menu that allows you to choose which icons you want to see in your tree. The choices include:

  • Request Ordinances
  • Record Hints
  • Research Suggestions
  • Data Problems
  • Portraits
  • Marriages
  • Invert Colors

You can check any or all of these and then those icons will appear in your tree.

How to Start a Tree without Using Living Relatives

There is nothing wrong with starting a tree with yourself or your parents. No one but you will see any living people you enter into the tree. However if you prefer to start with members of your family who are deceased there is a way to do this. Go to the Person dropdown list and at the bottom is "Add unconnected Person". You could do this for each of your grandparents. Then bookmark the page where they come up. Once you have visited each page, they will come up in the person drop down list without your having to use your bookmarks.

Searching for Duplicates

Possible duplicates only shows 3 star matches and above. And when we submit names for ordinances only 4 star and above are considered. Sometimes records with exact matches do not show up in the duplicates. One factor that can cause this is that one record does not have standardized dates and or locations.

This is a very complicated issue. In new FamilySearch many more possible duplicates were displayed and the result was that a significant amout of incorrect combining created numerous "hidden records" and much confusion. FamilyTree is trying to avoid merges poor quality merges between well sourced individuals and ones that don't have enough information to determine if they are truly the same individual.

Depending on where you start ( the specific record), you may see different results in the duplicates page. This is because different information is used as the basis for the search. Sometimes duplicate records are missed. If you strongly believe there may be a duplicate record, Here is an alternate way to search.
1. Use the find function to search for individuals in the tree - using this function you can add or change information such as birth location etc. This allows a much wider view of possible duplicates.
2. Examine each record you find and determine which ones you believe are really duplicate records. Write down the ID's of each duplicate.
3. Use the possible duplicate screen but then the merge by ID function to combine the duplicate records.

The above procedure will allow you more choice in your search but you must be very careful in your search. For example, 6 people with the same name were born in the same small town in England within a 6 year period. One of them is the spouse of your ancestor but you cannot be sure which one. Two of them actually have the same parents names. It would be incorrect to merge these records. Just because they are close in time and location does not mean they are the same individuals and sometimes records have been linked incorrectly in the past so they might show the same spouses.  One way to tease records apart is to look at the individuals in

Useful Keystrokes  While Entering Data or MERGING

1. Hit the space bar after a date or place entry to get the standards library (Note if you don't standardize dates and places, FamilyTree can't put them in order.  For instance,it can't organize children into the correct birth order if dates aren't standard.
2. Refresh the screen if you didn't get what you expected. It is probably cached to make the system run smoother.
3. Use two screens/windows/tabs to go back and forth between the tree and records

4. Right click on the "hints" so they open in a new window.  You can also right click on a child or spouse's name to get to their personal page in another window. This allows you to make sure the relationships and information are correct especially when you MERGE.

Tips for organizing temple work

You can sort the temple list. At the top of the page next to the legend is the "sort by date" and a drop down arrow that allows you to sort by name. Unfortunately it sorts by given name and not surname. But it is better than no sort at all. The other thing that is available is cntrl-F which will allow you to search for any name in the list. This can be useful if you are trying to find a single record.

Save a copy of your Family Ordinance Requests. Then put them in folders by who you sent them to. Then when you know the work is complete, you can delete the file.

Create a folder in your source box of ordinances that will be available at a certain date.  See the instructions under "Uses for source box: Future Temple Ordinances/Wait List.

Use a Google (or other online) calendar to record the date when a name will be available. Include the PID so you can find the person again.

Write the relationship path on the back of the card, so you can remember who they are.

Ways to Use Google Docs or other cloud programs in your work

Tree Connect

You can download this tool which allows sourcing from non-FS Internet sites, taking the information from books,, the Pioneer Overland travel database, Wikipedia, Findagrave, and on and on. Visit the site below. Drag the applet to your bookmarks toolbar. When you find a site you want to connect, make sure FamilySearch is open and click the button. Tree Connect creates a Source template and fills it in automatically

Research History

Create a google doc to use wherever you have access to a computer. Use this to record what you have done researching an ancestor. You can include: where you have looked, what failed to yield results, what you found, what other places you should search, or what you need to do. You could organize your document using those titles or by surname. In fact, you might want to create a seperate document for each surname. You could then go to source box, and create a folder possibly named tools. Use the create a source to link your google doc to the source box in that folder. If you wanted you could then attach a page with a surname to a family. Then others would know what you have already tried.

Links to other sites

Create another google doc that has links to sites you frequently use or that you don't have time to read now. Bookmarks would also do this. However google docs can be shared with other family members or even be made public to all users.

Organizing Notes While Doing Descendant Research

Keeping track of where you have done research and how you are related to the person you are looking at is always a challenge.  First choose your favorite means of taking notes.  You can use a notebook, a Word document in Dropbox, or a Google doc.  Here are some ideas to help you record and organize what you find. do it when you are searching for descendants.

Start with yourself at the Center of a fan chart. If the first few generations on your fan chart are still living, create a fan chart with the first deceased person on each line as the center person in a fan.  There might be eight or more fan charts.  Then you can keep track of where you are working in the tree. Use these charts to take notes.  For overall tracking you could write notes like - check descent from 8 generations back. Then list the names of the couples you check and if they look fruitful or not.

Now you can choose someone on one of the fan charts who was born in the early 1800s.  Use  Puzzilla to check for potential holes in the tree.   When you choose a line to work down, click on a person, so you can see the path back to the ancestor as it is shown at the bottom left of the screen. Copy and paste that into word (or write it on the fan chart). Now you can write notes like “from John Doe's page look for an 1850 census - he is in Timbuctou, PA and there will be 3 new children to add to the family, etc”.   Use FamilySearch to work down through their line to the most recently deceased generation (adding missing people, documenting with sources, fixing standardization errors, attaching any memories, or creating sources for items not available on FamilySearch and working through any duplicate merges. Put a “Watch” flag on people you "cleaned up", sourced, or added to the Tree, so that I'm notified of any changes.)  Identify any available temple work along the way. If it is too early to request names for temple work, add the name and ID to a calendar in Google so that you can look at it again in a few years when it is available.  Print a descendancy chart from FamilySearch, and  highlight anyone on that list that  you've reserved temple work for and I make a note as to their relationship to me.  If I have printed any temple cards, I write that relationship on the back of the card (ex: 2C1R, or great-grand aunt, etc).

Alternately, create a group in Relative Finder called "___'s Relatives."  Add any deceased PID to and the Relative Finder software identifies the relationship for you.

Sources and Uses for Sourcebox

Organizing Sources on the Person Page

Using "Title Sources

If you have more sources for a person than you can easily see here is a way to organize them.  Create a source Labeled "Censuses" (or any other title that would help you ie. Reference Works, Birth Records, Marriage records, Death records, Birth records as children).  That is all you put in the source, just the title.  Then organize your sources so all the similar sources are together.  Include a title source and move it to the top of each grouping.  Keep these title sources in one folder in your sourcebox and reuse them.  See Silas Trowbridge for an example 273W-1MW

Editing Sources to include a date to organize them 

Some prefer to organize sources chronologically and change the source titles slightly to include a year at the end of the title. See, for example, Evan George Black KWCH-7WG. A chronologically listing allows me to see the sources as a quasi-timeline of the ancestor's life.

Editing Sources to include a state name and date

Others put the date in the first part of the title so it stands out in the same place on the list rather than at the end of different length titles. You can also include the state 2 digit postal code following the 4 digit year to show where my ancestor migrated. See an example: KFXW-NJ6

Alternate Uses of Source Box

Research logs

You can use the notes section of a source similar to a google doc. I will advise however because of the open edit nature of sources attached to persons anyone could edit your notes so if you want to share the research log I would use an online document like a google doc or a blog. However for personal use just leaving it in your sourcebox unattached to someone is great. (Though discussions might be even better than sources for this use see below)

Recording Useful Links

In addition you can create a folder and create sources for links to useful sites like, or By having these as source links in your sourcebox it acts like a favorites bar but the same favorites are on any computer you use as long as you are logged into Family Search and go to your sourcebox.

I create a source and keep it in my sourcebox for any "hard to find" place on FS
I added a folder "_Useful Links" (The underscore is so it sorts to the top of the folder list)
I generally open a tab in my browser that is my sourcebox because I have links to lots of tools, saved searches and a host of other things there. While I think having MY Cases in the place you stated is good having it in the sourcebox link has one advantage, it opens in a new window/tab

Saved Searches

Much like the useful links you can use the URL (web address line) of any search results you perform on most any search engine to perform the search over again at a later date without having to remember what parameters you used. Just copy the address line from the search results as the link and create a source for it. Store these sources in a folder for saved searches. You can even record your results in the notes field of the source each time you use it. This can be very useful for those searches that produce very few results so that you can repeat them every so often as new stuff is added all the time. You can even do that with searches here on FamilySearch. (Though some search results require you to login)

To Do Lists.

If you are having trouble remembering where you were or you find something you simply don't have time to complete you can create a source in your sourcebox and use the notes for to do items. Other uses of this same type are to record link to a microfilm description you may want to order. Or copy the link to a person who you may want to do some work on. (The history navigation works for this too but you might not remember who it was when you look at the list).

Clean Copies

Due to the open edit nature of sources that are created by users and even the notes fields on FamilySearch supplied sources it is probably good to make a copy of a source before you attach it to an ancestor because it is difficult to track when someone else may have made an edit to a source. Leave these clean copies unattached in a folder.

Future Temple Ordinances/ Wait List

You may have people for whom you could do ordinance work when they will have been dead 110 years or one year for near relatives  If you have ancestors that you are aware of that are approaching significant dates this you can set up a folder in your source box labeled something like "Wait List"

Then you can create a source out of the URL to their person page. You can title the source with a Date to take action. Then whenever you are in family search you can review the wait list folder and determine if any of these ancestor's dates have come to pass.

Master Sources and Good Sourcing Etiquette

See FamilySearch Person Centric System introduces a Modern Linking Model. above if all names on a source record are indexed. If all names are not indexed on the source you should keep a "Master" source unattached. Store it in your source box and copy it editing it for the individual person and then attach it to only one person or if the source is for a couple to the couple relationship. Be careful editing or using others sources. You should not copy a source and change the note to make it apply to your ancestor. Notes on the source record apply to all individuals who have that source attached. The individual who created the source may not realize that you have changed the source on their ancestor to talk about your ancestor.

1001 uses

As you can see anything you can link to can be made into a source and the notes field can be very helpful for keeping track of the reasons for things.

Use of Discussions

Due to the open edit nature of sources I find that using discussions for things can have a better effect because only a data admin or the originator of a discussion can remove them from a person and only a data admin or the poster of comments can edit any information in the individual comments. FamilySearch has stated that discussions were not meant to be permanent records and were expected to be removed over time however until such useful tools as research logs and other less open edit features can be added I see them as a good place to hold items that help back up Sources, etc. Here are some suggestions of discussions that I like to put on my ancestors by default.

Help Us Find:

Post a description of the discussion as a place for people to talk about information or even physical items that are of interest about the ancestor but have to date not been located. Then use comments for the items you want to look for.

 Research Log: 

You can create a Discussion headed "Research undertaken on John Smith." 
Write a description of your past searches as a way to record what search activities and results you've performed on this ancestor. Then later you can add new comments about your search and results.  If you copy the url of a search you can paste it here to get back to the same search. Start by recording the results of a duplicates search. Iif you fill the box to the maximum allowed characters, create another headed "Research undertaken on John Smith (continued)".

Attached Source Notes:

Post a description of the discussion as a way to record notes about sources that can not be inadvertantly removed by others edits. Then [bracket] the source name in a comment and add your notes here often giving even more detailed description. This also serves as a buffer against someone detaching a source and an indicator to look for it in the change log.

Using Stories and Photos/Documents

Editing Pdf Files has a free online editor that allows you to rotate pages in a pdf file individually.  So if some pages were scanned correctly, but a few turned to the side, you can fix the problem here.  It opens online in Chrome.  You can edit the pdf online and save it back to your computer there.  At this moment it does not open in firefox.


Using Stories for some of the features of research logs or even for recording personal interviews (either formal or memories) are also a great way to document an ancestor. Future enhancements of FamilySearch will allow these stories to become sources as well.

Help Us Connect:

One way to help facilitate collaboration is to add a "Surname Story" and tag as many ancestors as possible in that story. Add a brief blurb about how you found out about them. Start the story off with something like the following

"Hello This story is a simple collection of the people in my ancestry of the surname xyz and how I learned about them. This story serves as a focal point for members of this extended family in order to foster collaboration among the descendants. I have come across a variety of research materials that cross many family lines. I have attached sources to individuals as referenced in them however there are many more individuals that may be of value to other family lines. I am listing these sources here along with the individuals to whom I attached them. Feel free to copy any of these sources to your source box and review and create sources from the referenced material as needed for your ancestors

"XYZ Family genealogy published 1888" Attached to herman xyz (PID) Files located at Dropbox

"def Town Records 1658-1788" Attached to maybell def (PID) "

Please feel free to comment about any of the individuals listed or if you have information about persons who should be added. I have listed and tagged each of the names with a small commentary on how I learned about them. Comments of significant interest will be edited into the story by me. Please contribute any significant facts about any of these individuals to their individual pages and or memories. Additionally if any of the persons tagged in this story need to be merged with another Family Tree ID please tag the surviving person in this story and leave a comment"


You can upload photos(or other images including documents) as further evidence of your ancestors. You can even organize these images into albums and attach them to stories or tag them to people. If you have a document in a foreign language, you can upload a scanned copy as a photo. Then link the translation as a story.

Choosing to label an item as a photo or document

Some people prefer to scan documents, death certificates, and grave markers as .jpg files instead of .pdf files. This gives additional flexibility to highlight the names referenced in the document. For example in a Last Will and Testament, there are often multiple people listed. This method allows you to easily find which people are already linked in the document.

You can also do the same thing for photos of certificates and grave markers. Upload them as “documents” rather than “photos” so you can highlight the names. This also helps when reviewing vital information for a person. One rule is if it has words, it is a document; if not it is a photo.

To change a photo to a document, go to the photo page then select the circle with the italic “i” under people, albums, stores details and event. Highlight the check box indicating the image is a document not a photo. It is then placed in your documents album not your photos album.

On the other hand multipage documents may work better as a pdf. You can still tag names as you would faces.

Labeling a Document as a Source

Create a Source for you document. Type in a Title.  In the space labeled Web Page click the button Add a Memory and add the file as a document.  Then copy the link from the document into the Citation field.

Create Traceable Family Lines

Put together 5 generation pedigree indexes as documents  Then tag your direct line ancestors in each document.  Every 5 generations an ancestor will appear in both pedigrees allowing you to bridge the link between them.  Put these pedigrees in into a single album called my tree.

Name your tags differently as well:

Name (b.Year) [pi.#]

pi# is the first pedigree index that they appear in

So whenever I need to trace back a line I just go to the document find the person tagged with an earlier pi# and use the tree link off that tag. that person will give me a link to the next pedigree chart and so on and so on.  That allows you to jump multiple generations and view a pedigree chart at the same time. When you go to the tree view of that person its a direct line ancestor and you can see descendants on the left.