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Special alerts to avoid problems aka warnings/alerts AND mediation requested

As the Warnings Alert request was 8 years ago and still a huge problem I want to add some other suggestions that might help,

One of the biggest issues is adding children - that some see from a single source appears valid. If there could be an alert symbol *astricks *) at the point where it lets you 'add children' with maybe text like 'see collaboration' that could give the person pause. The word Collaborate I think should be changed to the word 'alert' or warning or something to draw immediate attention to a topic.
On the flip side I have noticed where someone has been so insistent about an issue, that no one dares do anything else. 2 years ago my cousin did such a thing and the fight was over the marriage date... (KWJ1-Y9J) which then stopped anyone from adding more for 2 years temple work isn't done because no one dare add children. As odd as it seems I think we need to have 'intervention'!!! To have professionals like yourself be the mediator to perhaps prove one side is correct, etc. Maybe this idea comes because I work in the court system. You need to have someone outside the situation offer advice. As new records are available all the time, what was 'thought' to be an issue 2 years ago...hasn't changed and maybe the correct marriage record won't be found. Sometimes new records prove differently but no one dares act. Someone with a higher position needs to be the liaison.
Otherwise more duplicates will be created to get those children's temple work done... Which brings more duplicates and more merges for people to fight over.
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  • Just so you understand that FamilySearch Family Tree does not provide research assistance. However, it is the relationships that are paramount and proving the relationship is the most important. The dates and places are secondary to the relationships. It is possible that there are another couple with the same names and have children with similar names-- all in the same time period and place. You must be extremely careful. If you are not confident in your sources-- do not merge. Do not make changes unless you have documentation. I have seen people provide documentation for an event but fail to use the event information from the document. It makes no sense. There are sufficient alerts already, perhaps more experience is needed. Now let's not jump on me and burn me to death.
    • Oh I agree with you.

      "It is possible that there are another couple with the same names and have children with similar names-- all in the same time period and place."
      Absolutely true - I've got that with some of my Billingtons in Nantwich - I've never yet dared see how well they've been linked up in Family Tree.

      "The dates and places are secondary to the relationships."
      Personally, I think they're as important and are crucial to determining the relationships - if one wife dies before the birth of the next child, it's fairly indicative that she can't be the mother of the next child! :-) Each feeds one into the other and back round again...
    • I agree with Adrian regarding the dates and places. E.g., without a marriage date and place, you cannot identify which "Joe and Mary Smith" you are supposed to attach specific children too when there are several "Joe and Mary Smith" families living in the same area around the same time. Proof of relationships cannot be based on names alone. Ultimately it comes down to the related dates and locations (events) that are mandatory to determine if a relationship is really correct.

      When people don't understand that, you constantly get people merging families together that are NOT the same family. And then after you split them up, someone goes in and remerges them again.
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  • Welcome to the community support forum for FamilySearch. FamilySearch personnel read every discussion thread and may or may not respond as their time permits. We patrons (the users of this site) have various levels of knowledge and experience do our best to help each other with concerns, issues, and questions.

    You mentioned an "alert" from 8 years ago (about when FamilySearch was first opened to a restricted set of users -- I was one of those.)

    At that time, it was felt that for the most part, the open-edit nature would eventually result in accurate records and that the need to moderate and "control" entries would require far too much work on the part of anyone assigned to the task. The use of FamilySearch is very high and it would take a dedicated team of moderators their full time to oversee the changes in the tree.

    The idea of some kind of warning has come up and we users have asked for some kind of message that we could turn on when we felt that a record was relatively complete. Those kinds of requests are given serious consideration and the feeling we got from the FamilySearch personnel is that the idea has merit. Where such a warning system is in terms of implementation is not provided for any feature requests. There have been many requests made, but like overseeing and changes in the tree. responding in this forum (and yes, every message thread is read) is something that takes time.

    FamilySearch, being a free site and supported through donations to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a limited budget and limited available resources. The site is still in development and there is a significant list of concerns and issues that are slowly being addressed. A lot of the resources that are available are working in the area of updating old code (some of which is actually "borrowed" from the previous system -- and is badly out of date) and providing much needed enhancements to areas that are already heavily used.

    As far as helping manage changes, I have provided the following material that I have found to be largely effective in minimizing unwarranted changes (incorrect data). But no system is going to be completely effective. People will do what they want and in a significant number of instances, will refused to accept instruction. That should not stop us more experienced users from trying to help them become better in working with the records.

    Unfortunately, the approval process for any official training documentation used on the site is lengthy and the changes are so often that any release is going to be out of date before it ever goes through the final editing pass. But, there is a resource that can help to a limited degree. The Family History Guide ( is an approved training resource. It not only contains procedures for working with the site and the massive tree, but also exercises for you to use.

    As to the incorrect information -- Those who make changes usually believe they are related to the person for which they are making changes. Their changes may be valid, invalid, or contain errors and may lack support from primary and secondary source material. Or the changes may be based on misinformation, or information that was copied from an unreliable source. Many genealogies are treasured because they connect people with royalty or famous personalities in history, and that has introduced creative and, at times, fraudulent solutions.

    For instance, one infamous self-proclaimed genealogist, Gustave Anjou, produced well over 100 genealogies about American families. While they often had ample reliable sources, Anjou made claims using alleged (but non-existent or forged) sources to connect those families with famous people and royalty. He is known to have charged up to $9,000 for such genealogies during his lifetime. He died in 1942.

    The desire to belong to an elite group of people, such as Mayflower Descendants, the Daughters of the American Revolution, or the Sons of the American Revolution has likewise produced some inventive genealogies. These were often accepted without adequate documented proof and have been used to make connections that actually never existed. In 1990, the D.A.R. organization published a new "Centennial" Index in three volumes. Many previously accepted Revolutionary Ancestors no longer appeared in the index. The D.A.R. organization explained, "Omission from this edition of the name of a DAR member's ancestor would be due to conflicting data received which raised some questions about the patriot's identity, service or descendants."

    Not all participants who add to and make changes to existing material have the same level of knowledge and experience. Novices or Newbies often try their best to be useful, but they can and will make mistakes, some of which are going to cause concern. Others are convinced that their information is factual, despite not having primary or secondary sources that validate their information.

    While this can be frustrating, remember that everyone has been at one time or another in their lives, or is now, a novice or newbie. I remember what it was like for me, now over fifty years ago.

    To minimize the changes others make to the tree, there are several things that I have found to be largely effective, given the nature that many inappropriate changes are being made by people who are new to FamilySearch FamilyTree, or do not work with the tree on any kind of regular basis.

    1. I make sure every deceased person I work with in the tree is fully sourced with citations that can be used to locate original records, not only with sources from FamilySearch Historical Records, but also from other sites as well as material that may not be available online. I also add whatever stories exist about that person and provide sources for those stories. The more information I can include, the less likely someone will come along and make changes.

    I make sure that every conclusion (fact) that is in a person's record actually applies to that person and I have included my reasoning why that conclusion is the right one. There is no room for speculation, which is not fact. If I am unsure about some aspect of a person's life, I put that information on the person's page in notes, discussions, or even as a story, especially if an old well-worn family tradition is involved.

    2. Every time someone makes a change or merge that I feel is incorrect, I use the FamilySearch message system to leave them a kindly written message that contains the following elements:

    -- Thanks for their interest in making the person's record as accurate as possible.
    -- The person or family involved and my relationship.
    -- My thoughts and sources with respect to the changes they made.
    -- The corrections I made to their incorrect changes and why I did it.
    -- Request that before they make changes that they study the record, including the sources that are attached, any notes and stories that may be included in memories.
    -- Remind them (if they have not provided a source or a reason) that sources are crucial to establishing conclusions and facts, and that a person's reasoning is needed to let others know what research and thinking was done to reach those conclusions.
    -- What I did to correct what I perceived to be incorrect material.
    -- Thank them in closing for their interest in making the record as complete as possible.

    3. I am prepared to not receive a response from the person. They have the choice to respond or not respond. Many times, they respond, indicating that they are beginners.

    4. I am well aware that not everyone works with FSFT every day or extensively, so there are many different levels of knowledge and experience being applied. I try to help others understand things like the differences between primary and secondary sources and that published family and locality histories often contain errors and are not sourced. I let them know that unsourced material needs to be treated as hints, not as facts. If a faulty record may have been involved, I let them know about the problems.

    By taking an active part in working with a few of my relatives, I have found that bad changes either stop, or slow considerably (no method is entirely effective). To track what changes do take place, especially with critical persons in the tree, I put them on my watch list.

    The most gratifying part about taking an active role, I receive thanks from those who made changes, especially since I go into great detail about what I know of the person and their immediate family, the area, and the families who were neighbors to our common relatives.


    One final note, as has already been said, FamilySearch does not provide research assistance. However, there are many Family History facilities throughout the world, In many instances, there are people who can assist in research needs.

    The FamilySearch Research Wiki contains a lot of very good information with regard to researching families. Specific questions can be asked here as well.

    FamillySearch's open-edit approach means there are going to be disagreements. However, a well-researched and documented record for a person can go a long way toward reducing any disagreements. Without a record being fully "fleshed out" with plenty of details and sources, along with reason statements providing the user's reasoning for the conclusions they enter, then the record is wide open for anyone's interpretation and changes.

    There is no mediation involved and there won't be. The secret is documentation and sources. "Genealogy without documentation (sources) is mythology." -- (American) National Genealogical Society.
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