SALT LAKE CITY — Genealogical research became even more family friendly Tuesday when FamilySearch, the genealogical organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released its online Family Tree — an enhancement that will allow individuals to start building their family tree entirely online, starting with themselves and then expanding to other generations.
“This enhancement is going to be very appealing to those who consider themselves to be novices or beginners in doing family history,” said Paul M. Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager. “A lot of research tools that you find online are aimed at more experienced researchers. But there is a broad interest among people who would be considered the ‘weekend warriors’ of genealogical research — those who are not trained or experienced genealogists, but who want to know about their family’s story.”
The Family Tree technology enables individuals to build, manage and share family history information online. As information is input, the program accesses billions of genealogical records already contributed by others in the FamilySearch database to link families together. They can also search billions of additional historic records on FamilySearch.org’s Records Search to fill in missing branches on the individual’s family tree.
“Up until now we had a version of the Family Tree feature that was available to Latter-day Saints,” Nauta said. “As of Tuesday, the feature is totally free to the public and can be used by anyone who comes to our website (www.FamilySearch.org), clicks on the Family Tree tab, and signs up for an account.”
Once they have an account, Nauta said, creating a personal family tree is simple.
“You start with yourself,” he said. “Then you add your mom and dad and build your family tree with the information that you know.”
But the Family Tree technology isn’t limited to your own immediate knowledge. FamilySearch’s Family Tree includes collaborative features that allow individuals to work with family members online — or relatives they have yet to discover — to add their information to the effort.
“The neat thing about the tree,” Nauta said, “is that if someone is already out there doing research on your family line in the Family Tree and has already entered data about a common ancestor, the system will recognize the information and ask you, ‘Is this the person you’re working on?’ If you say yes, it will pull that ancestor's record into your branch of the tree along with all of the other information that is associated with that individual.
“And even if no one is working on your family line, this gives you a place online where your family history and related efforts will forever be preserved for you and your family for free,” he continued. “As you start and stop your family history efforts throughout the year, your family tree will always be here for you and from anywhere you have Internet access. You can start on it today and then come back to it in three months or six months or a year and pick up right where you left off. The main thing is, you’ve got a foundation started that you or other family members can come back to or continually build on as you find additional information.”
That often includes family members who you don’t even know — yet. Nauta spoke of how his personal genealogical efforts led to him being contacted by a student in Italy, who told him: “Hey, we’re family!”
“I was able to connect me with family members there in Italy that I had never known before putting my family history online,” he said. “Making that link has been precious to me, and I have no doubt that others will have similar experiences as they build and collaborate their family trees. They’re going to make discoveries about their family — both their living family and family members who have died — that will be thrilling and exciting to them.”
Family Tree is one of several significant enhancements that will be launched this year on FamilySearch.org, Nauta said, with “more exciting experiences coming very soon.” Among those changes will be the ability to link to photos and documents.
Family Tree is replacing the www.new.familysearch.org website for Latter-day Saints. “We’re giving people a chance to become familiar with Family Tree, and then we’ll migrate all related traffic to the Family Tree feature at FamilySearch.org and eliminate new.FamilySearch.org,” he said.
“But that won’t happen for a while yet,” Nauta continued. “For now, people have time to explore Family Tree and get started building, managing, sharing and collaborating on their family information.”
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