How many family history trees should I have?

Should you have a public or private tree seems to be the topic of a lot of discussion.  There are trees and there are trees!

The first question to ask yourself is how private you want your family information to be.  Only available to yourself, or also to your family, or for anyone to see?  One answer to this is to have more than one tree.  I have one on my home computer that is only available to myself, and use Legacy Family Tree (the free program) for that.  

Haveing your family history at home allows the falexibility to do a couple of things:

  1. Keep any information private that you want to
  2. Back up information on a seperate hard drive so you don't lose anything
  3. Only put information into the program that is fully sourced
  4. Print from the tree.  (charts, informtion, reports etc)
  5. Track my research and make notes about conflicting information.
  6. No-one else can edit any information in my family tree.
I definately recommend having your own copy of a family tree program and using it as your primary source, here is a good comparision of some of the family tree software available.  Which program you choose depends upon what computer you have, whether you want to link to online programs and the costs involved.

Before you do anything else, check out Cindi's List and make sure you have mined all the free stuff available.

At some point you will need to use public records (like census) that are indexed (searchable) and available online, but not for free.  Some examples of this are English Census, UK National Archive records, Immigration records etc. etc.  Even if some are available to view for free they may be too far away to be useful.  This is where sites like Ancestry, Find my Past, My Heritage, and Family Search  come in.  Here is a good comparison of the sites available.

There are some things to consider when choosing which site (or sites) to use:
  1. What information do they have in the catalogue?
    1. Does it cover the contries you are likely to need?
    2. Within that country what range of resources are available?
    3. Does it only have information you could get for free anyway (eg by searching other indexes online) or does it have a broad range of information?
    4. Can you view the original document or just an index?
    5. Can you save the document to your own hard-drive?
  2. How much does it cost, and can you afford that?  (Some sites have yearly subscriptions, some you pay per view etc, etc, so don't make a quick decision).
  3. Can other people change or add to your tree?  Sites like Family Search and WikiTree are single, world wide family trees that allow anyone to edit information, they usually include a mechanism for you to be notified for people you are interested in.
  4. Can you mark people or information in your tree as private?  Many people like to share genealogy information, but not everyone does so consider which options you want.
  5. Can you colaborate with others?  I have found colaborating with other family history researches using these sites both fantastic and frustrating, depending upon the person involved.
  6. What "bells and whistles" are available and will you use them?
  7. What happens when you stop your subscription?  Can you still access your tree?
What do I do?
I use Legacy Family Tree on my own computer, backed up on a seperate hard-drive, it is my primary way of recording and storing (eg photos and documents) information.

I used free sites for most of my initial research and recorded that in my tree program, then I joined Ancestry and uploaded the GEDCOM from Legacy to begin searching for more information  (primarily UK).

Once I had even more information I uploaded my (updated) GEDCOM file to Family Search to see what further information I could find.  On Family Search I have "followed" all the people I am interested in on my tree  (see below) so I can keep track of any changes.

I also uploaded my tree onto WikiTree.  I would recommend this only once you are feeling confident with the information you have, and read everything about the site before you begin.  Its a great site, but may not be for everyone.

So I have 4 trees I need to change when I find information! (Phew)  I have found it best to make your decisons based on what you want and need, and not be swayed by others. I have 3603 people on my tree at home, so it certainly has grown.


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