One of the most common discussions in The Genealogy Squad Facebook group revolves around the Family Tree on FamilySearch. Unfortunately, many people seem to associate the word "FamilySearch" only with the Family Tree, ignoring the separate record collections, and as a result, new genealogists may think that they should not use any part of FamilySearch at all.
You can certainly use the records on FamilySearch without ever viewing the Family Tree, and that's what I do 99% of the time. But this month I want to turn my attention specifically to the Family Tree, to dispel any myths about it, and to demonstrate a way to use it in a productive manner.
The FamilySearch Family Tree is a single, collaborative tree. This means that instead of completely separate trees (such as the many public and private trees on Ancestry), there is only one tree that is worked on by anyone who wants to contribute to it. In this way, the Family Tree is structured much like a wiki (like Wikipedia), allowing millions of people to work together to create, add to, and maintain the tree.
The FamilySearch Family Tree is not the only online tree structured in this way. Geni and WikiTree also use a collaborative model to allow users to contribute to the same tree.
The upside to this process is that everyone can focus on the ancestors they know best and contribute information about them to the single tree. But the downside is that people are only human, and make mistakes, and they may add incorrect information to the tree or change correct information to incorrect information. They may connect unrelated individuals or confuse two people who happen to have the same name.
Fortunately, when an error is discovered, it can be corrected. The problem arises when the same error is repeated over time, even changing corrections back to incorrect versions.
The best solution is to (1) "follow" all individual profiles that you have contributed to, to see if any of them are being changed, (2) add source material to support the facts provided, and (3) politely address any misinformation that is published.
This month, I'm going to run an experiment and see what happens when I go through my own ancestors on the Family Tree, confirming information and correcting any misinformation.
I've already looked at my own parents, and their information appears correct (or close enough but I could tweak it a bit and add sources):
George Thomas Smith (my father): https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/L8PG-5J8
Altha Corinne Martin (my mother): https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/L8PG-51K
Starting tomorrow, I'll begin work on my grandparents, and I hope that you will come along for my march through the FamilySearch Family Tree.