How to Contact Other Users—Working Together on the Family Tree

June 12, 2019  - by 

Have you ever messaged someone on or had a discussion about an ancestor on their person page? Contacting other FamilySearch users can be a key part of building the Family Tree and connecting with your family—past and present.

The FamilySearch Family Tree empowers families around the world to work together and build a family tree. Descendants from various branches of a family often have different family photographs, documents, and memories. Those researching in a particular language, region, archive, or on different websites may discover unique information.

When descendants contribute what they know to the shared Family Tree and work together to find new information, their collective knowledge becomes more powerful. They can learn more than they might have found on their own and can save time by leaving notes and messaging other users.

Three Easy Ways to Communicate with other Users

Communicating with other users can be both inspiring and helpful. Perhaps you want to thank someone for uploading photos or sharing a meaningful story. You may want to know the source of another person’s data if it hasn’t been posted. You might reach out to ask questions if another user has introduced errors. Or you may simply want to connect with someone who shares your interest in a particular relative.

Here are three simple ways to communicate with other FamilySearch users when you use the Family Tree.

1. Explain Your Work

A screenshot with arrows showing how to explain your work.

By far, your most important form of communication on the Family Tree is to record why you think the information you have added is correct. Whenever you enter or edit information, you’ll see a box that says “Reason This Information Is Correct.” Take the time to explain the sources and reasoning that led you to enter this piece of information. Your reason statements become part of an ancestor’s profile and can help other descendants understand why a change was made and help them in their research.

Not sure what to say? Here’s how to write an effective reason statement. (Remember to attach historical sources that support what you’re saying too!) 

2. Use the Collaboration Tab

On the profile pages of each of your ancestors is a Collaborate tab. Here, you have a place to add notes and have discussions.

In the notes section, you can post messages for others who may be researching the ancestor.  Use notes to coordinate research, tell others where you have or haven’t been able to find records, or make notes about specific records. (See an example of a note below.) Notes in this section can be viewed and edited by anyone using the Family Tree.

Important Note: The notes tab isn’t the place to put specific relationship or event details, such as birth and death dates. These details go under the Details tab for your ancestor. Stories and memories also have their own place, under Memories.

A screenshot with arrows showing how to add a new note.

In the Discussion section, you can start or join a discussion about your ancestor (Example: “Did Charles marry someone other than Valeria?”). Responses are public and remain visible unless the person who started the discussion deletes it. This feature is a good way to have a conversation with multiple descendants.

A screenshot with arrows showing how to add a new discussion.

3. Contact an Individual User

Every user-contributed piece of information in the Family Tree is tagged with the screen name of the user who submitted the information. To see the tagged names, look for the Detail View toggle at the top of each section and click it to view the information.

A screenshot with arrows showing detail view and how to see latest changes.

You can also see a summary list of the most recent changes to an ancestor’s profile (and who made the changes) under the Details tab, where it says Latest Changes; click Show All to see a full history.

Contact a user by clicking on that person’s screen name, wherever it may appear. As shown here, a new window will pop up that allows you to send a message. (To check your own messages, sign in, and click the Messages link at the top right of the screen. You might also receive an email notification when another user messages you.)

A screenshot showing how to send a message.

Occasionally, you may notice that a user has submitted multiple errors. Some users aren’t as experienced or knowledgeable as others. Some may not have complete or accurate information. FamilySearch welcomes everyone who wants to help grow the Family Tree and hopes that more experienced researchers can help willing learners improve their contributions.

To get started or to improve your current collaboration with fellow descendants, click here to go to the FamilySearch Family Tree!

The World’s Largest Shared Family Tree

A little boy on the FamilySearch app.

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton teaches personal and family history to worldwide audiences. You can hear her on Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast, read her work in Family Tree Magazine and find her speaking at events around the United States. She is the author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy (Family Tree Books); Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites (Genealogy Gems Publishing) and a forthcoming book on finding your family in U.S. church records (Genealogical Publishing). She has degrees in history and humanities from Brigham Young University.

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  1. It would be very helpful if on the next contract go around we could have extended abilities to merge not just our data from Ancestry but The memories section. With 16 years of Ancestry and many hard drives later I would have to right click each pic and save it to my drive then upload to family search.

  2. This is very helpful Sunny and timed just right. I only knew how to contact users via the send a message feature.
    Last night I noticed changes to a branch of my husbands tree that were so incorrect. I suspected they were from a merge of two different families and probably from a new user. I made such mistakes in the beginning.

    I messaged the person and happily they replied and said to just un merge the families. I do not know which of the two families they belong.
    My problem is that despite reading up how to do it, I am still very unsure and don’t want to stuff up the two families.

    Could you do a blog post on the step by step process please?