2 October 2014

Web-based family trees

dreamstimefree_383175_320x240I’ve recently been contacted by the people responsible for a new family tree website called It’s Our Tree. It’s free and just requires you to enter your name and email address. I’ve just registered and now it wants me to enter my parents and grandparent and so on, and to invite my relatives to join as well.

There are more and more of these sites around; some are free and some are not. Ancestry lets you create your family tree for free and let’s you know whether it has any “hints” for these people: either trees with the same people in them or databases which may have them. You can’t see the hints, though, unless you have a subscription.

GenesReunited is a similar kind of thing. I don’t know if you can start from scratch without paying the yearly subscription, but if you have created a tree in it and then stop paying the subscription your tree remains for others to find. I have found a few relatives with my subscription and so I keep it up but I haven’t put much detail on my tree and so it keeps sending me hints that are completely irrelevant.

Another one is FamilyTreeLink from the World Vital Records people. This one is free, and allows a gedcom to be uploaded. I can see who else is researching people from the same places as my people, and I can add photos, stories, documents and headstones (presumably photos). It has some different features such as the ability to request lookups from people. I haven’t been into this one for a while and when I just tried to see a tree diagram with more than the default number of 4 generations it seemed to kill my web browser (which is Firefox V3). No, it just gave it a scare, it’s working again now.

What I like about Ancestry is the ability to link records that you find with the relevant person in your tree. If you find your great-grandfather in the 1930 Census you can link the page to him. You can also upload pictures and multimedia, share it with others and even give them the ability to add to it. In theory members of different branches of your family could all be working on the same tree, but in practice I think I would want to check things for myself before allowing it on my tree.

You can also create a book that can be printed, which is a great idea. A family can collaborate and print a number of books to distribute amongst family members, or you can do it by yourself.

What worries me about these things is that there are so many of them. You need to be on as many of them as possible to have a chance of catching other relatives. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve gone to the trouble of entering the details of all of my ancestors individually and adding photos and stories and the like I’m not likely to do the same in another site. If any of my living relatives have started using another site then we won’t find each other.

The social networking sites such as FaceBook have family tree applications as well. You can upload gedcoms to these instead of entering them from scratch, which makes them more appealing to me, at least.

Is there any sense in using a new one that has just started? I certainly won’t be unless I can upload a gedcom; there aren’t enough hours in the day to enter the data into the ones I use now without starting again with another one. If I can’t upload a gedcom directly it isn’t worth the time for me. I’m afraid that It’s Our Tree may be too late.

My experience this afternoon with FamilyTreeLink leads me to another issue. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to build a web application that will work perfectly with all web browsers and all computer configurations, and each new application has to do it themselves. A bad experience with one of these new ones can turn you off it for good. And then the browser will come out with a new version, as Mozilla has with Firefox 3, and suddenly things that used to work don’t any more.

The answer to this one, I guess, is to stick with a site that has been around for a while and has a large development team behind it. I’m not advocating Ancestry specifically but I have to confess that it’s the one I am spending more time entering data and linking records.

Which one do you use? Do you use any of them? Have you found any relatives?

What do you think? Leave a reply here.