What is Unique about the FamilySearch Family Tree?

A brief summary of the unique features of Family Tree


The FamilySearch Family Tree is not just another online family tree program. There are several key features about the program that make it distinctive from other similar programs online. These differences can be summarized as follows:


  • The Family Tree is sponsored and maintained by FamilySearch, International, a wholly owned corporation, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, it is not subject to the whims of a commercially sponsored program. The information incorporated in the Family Tree will be preserved for future generations.

  • The Family Tree is a unified family tree. There is only one family tree. No one has their own part of the Family Tree. All additions, changes, deletions and merges are visible to all of the users of the program. Changes occur in real time and are visible to all users as soon as they are made.

  • Although any part of the Family Tree can be modified at any time by anyone using the program, it stabilizes as sources (documentation) are added. As you add valid sources to an individual and family, arbitrary changes to that individual and/or family will diminish or disappear.

  • The program is mandatorily cooperative or collaborative in nature. Because everyone viewing the Family Tree is seeing exactly the same information, you are going to become involved with all of your family members who are contributing to the information in the Family Tree. Except for your own private space for living people, everything in the Family Tree is essentially under consideration by all the users.

  • You cannot add "your family tree" to the Family Tree. In a real sense, it is already there. There is a virtual space for every person who has ever lived on the earth. You can add information, but adding GEDCOM files will almost ensure that you are adding duplicate entries.

  • The Family Tree will become the master source for accurate information about all the individuals included in the program. That really means everybody in the world. Millions of sources are being added monthly to the Family Tree and will continue to be added. Disagreements over the identity of any ancestor must be resolved since there is only one place in the Family Tree to record each individual.

  • The Family Tree will fairly soon be fully functional. Up until now, much of the data in the Family Tree was still being added by FamilySearch. This will eventually end completely.

  • There will be changes made to the Family Tree program as new features are developed and as the technology in general changes. However, the core concept of the Family Tree will not change and the information will be preserved.

  • If you want to make any real progress with researching your ancestors, you must participate in the Family Tree. The Family Tree will become the go-to place for information about the status of all research efforts worldwide.

  • This whole process is inevitable and you can either participate or not. If you choose not to participate in the Family Tree, you will very likely be doing research that duplicates what someone else has already done or that is in progress somewhere else.

  • You may believe that your information is too sophisticated or detailed for the Family Tree. If you do, you simply do not understand how it functions and the amount of information the program can contain.


Yes, it takes some time and effort to understand how the program works. Yes, people who do not understand the program can add information that is not accurate. But the Family Tree is designed to allow everyone the opportunity to correct existing information. You may not agree with the changes but then you will need to document the reasons why you disagree. Ultimately, any serious disagreements will have to be solved by additional research.


There is an end to every family line on the Family Tree. When you reach that end, there will be no further information to add until further research is done, if that is possible.


Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.




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