Monday, January 13, 2020

Day 13: Organize Your Online Trees

Some folks have their family trees only on their desktop/laptop computers. Some have them only online. Some have both. (I strongly recommend that you keep your primary family tree on your own computer, well backed up.) If you do have online trees, how many do you have, and where do you have them? Are you running into problems keeping track, and keeping them all updated?

Your online tree might be personal (only you can update it, but perhaps you give explicit edit permissions to one or a few other folks too). Your personal tree might be on Ancestry or MyHeritage or Findmypast (to name the best known). Or your online tree might be part of a larger, shared tree. Your shared tree might be on FamilySearch or Geni or WikiTree (again, to name the best known).

Your personal tree could be public or private. Public personal trees might attract comments by others, who can offer additions and corrections, but it will still be entirely up to you to make those corrections. Shared trees, which must automatically be public (at least for the deceased individuals) will result not only in comments but also in actual changes by others.

If you do keep your tree in more than one place, and make it public, you make it available to a wider audience, and may discover cousins you didn't know about. But if you keep it in more than one place, you also create the needed work to make updates to each one (in order to keep them synchronized). And if you also keep a shared tree, you now have taken on the additional work of monitoring any changes that may need to be added to your other trees or that may need to be undone.

Your first step, then, is to decide exactly where online you are going to keep your tree.  Make a checklist of locations.  Start small. You can add additional locations later, if you find that you are organized enough to update them all as needed.

How do you keep it all organized? Keep one very well-sourced and complete tree on your own computer, and then sync it (to Ancestry) or upload a GEDCOM of it (to MyHeritage or Findmypast). Then use the checklist going forward as you make any changes to one of the trees so that you'll remember to make the same changes elsewhere.

If you do decide to work with any of the shared trees, then you're also going to want to keep watch on your ancestral profiles so that you can be notified of changes. If your information is already well sourced, this will be less likely to result in changes made that you feel are incorrect. Even so, you may find that you'll need to schedule some time each week to undo any unsupported changes.

Unfortunately, the time has not yet come where your making a change in one tree results automatically in all your other trees being updated. For now, you'll have to decide for yourself how much time you have and how much benefit you think you might get from having your tree in as many locations as possible. This is clearly a personal decision, so don't feel pressured to do more than you want to do.

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