Sunday, July 10, 2011

Questions About Online Trees

Recently I was flipping through the latest issue of Family Tree Magazine and stopped to look at some of the sites mentioned in “Dazzling Destinations,” an article about what FT considers to be the best 101 sites for tracing ancestors. Listed under the “Share and Store Alike” section were several websites with the capability for posting/sharing family trees. Some of these sites are on my “list of things to check out” and I have read about them in other genealogy blogs. Some of the bloggers mentioned various features of these sites that they liked and found helpful in research and a few even wrote about some useful cousin connections they had made through them.

It is this last item that has made me consider using yet another venue to put my family tree(s) online. Currently my family tree information appears in only two places: on this blog in bits and pieces as individual posts, and on Ancestry in the form of four public trees and one private tree. Eventually I would like to put my trees online on my own website, but I presently lack the skills to do that.

After looking over some of the websites mentioned in the article, I have a bit of an idea what they offer and how they differ, but that is not the same as actually using them and experiencing their shortcomings or benefits.

I like the setup of Ancestry Public Member Trees because they suggest documents and databases that may be relevant, let you add your own sources, photographs, documents, and so forth when you want to, and suggest possible matches in other Public Member Trees. From recent experience I can say that although I have a number of additional sources for my trees, the hints have been helpful.

For those of you who have used or are using these sites for online family trees, I would like to know how they have benefitted your research and helped you to connect with other researchers. I am not so much interested in contributing to anything like One World Tree or in the shared research/Wiki editing type of online tree, although I am aware that some sites that do this also have the option for individual/unshared trees.

Some of my specific questions are:

1. What are the specific value-added components of the site: cousin connections, research resources such as access to certain documents, tree-building and display features, aids to organization of research, or special features such as discussion forums, how-to tutorials, other content?

2. How easy is the site to use: joining/registering, uploading GEDCOMs, adding people individually, making changes, adding sources, documents, and photos, viewing in different formats, privacy settings, Help service for problems?

3. How does the site compare with Ancestry trees, private websites, or other similar websites?

4. Does the website have shortcomings or areas that need to be improved? Does joining the site lead to a large volume of e-mail offers for paid products or to an increase in spam?

The sites mentioned by the article that sounded appropriate to my intended use are:


My Heritage

Shared Tree (could not get this site to load - bad sign)

Tribal Pages




  1. I think it depends on what kind of information you are gathering. Sites like Geni (the only one I have used) help you connect with family members - with hopes you find the ones that might have the elusive picture of the ancestor, and get more in depth and more current information. Ancestry will help you get other researchers. Be careful though, because you wind up sharing information about living individuals, and they might get nervous. And since cousins can add info, you don't have complete control of "your" tree. I did not see an increase in spam.

  2. Shasta - Thank you so much for the feedback. That will definitely affect my choice, as I don't really want to do a shared tree.