Getting Started with FamilySearch’s Shared Family Tree

July 19, 2019  - by 

The FamilySearch Family Tree is the world’s largest online family tree. It is a cooperative, public tree, where participants can see how they connect to each other, learn their lineage, and share what is known about deceased relatives.

When you connect to the FamilySearch shared tree, you may discover ancestors you didn’t know about and learn more about those you are already familiar with. You can even see photos and read family stories uploaded by other descendants. As you build your ancestors’ profiles in the FamilySearch Family Tree, you also create a foundation for other family members to learn more and share what they know about your ancestors.

How to Get Started

To join the FamilySearch Family Tree, go to Sign in or create a free account. Under the Family Tree tab, select Tree.

Screenshot of the FamilySearch navigation menu.

Next, click  Add Father or Add Mother, and enter what you know about your parents.

Screenshot of Add Father and Add Mother buttons on FamilySearch.

Living versus Deceased Ancestors

If a parent or another relative you add is living, FamilySearch will create a private, protected profile that only you can see. Once you add death information to a profile, that person’s profile becomes public. This change means that the profile can be seen by others who are using the shared family tree.

Matching an Ancestor’s Profile with One Already in the Shared Tree

When you try to add a deceased relative, FamilySearch will first check to see if a profile for that person already exists among the 1.2 billion profiles on the Family Tree. You will be shown any profiles with similar information. For example, let’s say you want to add a woman named Opal Collins who was born in 1918 in Kentucky, United States. As shown below, FamilySearch tells you that a similar profile is already in the Family Tree.

Screenshot of adding a match in the Family Tree.

It is up to you to decide whether the existing profile shown under “Possible Matches Found” (with a 1917 birth in Kentucky to the parents shown) is the same Opal Collins you want to add.

  • If the profile information matches what you know about your ancestor, accept it by choosing option 1, Add Match or Add Couple Match.
  • If you are sure none of the profiles matches, create a new profile using option 2, Create Person.
  • If you are not sure whether one of the profiles matches, you can try clicking the profile name to get more information. (Tip: Use Ctrl+click or Command+click to open the person’s page in a new browser tab to avoid interrupting the process of adding your relative.) If you want to add more details to your search to better identify your relative’s profile, you can also choose option 3, Refine Search.

If you take the time to check for a correct match and add it to your tree—instead of creating a new profile for that relative—you may discover more about your relatives, and you can share what you know with other descendants of that person. If you add a match that already has parents and other ancestors attached, you will also make the process of filling in your family tree a lot easier. When a duplicate profile is created for an ancestor who is already in the Family Tree, the profile will later be merged with the existing one.

Adding More Ancestors

After creating or finding profiles for your parents, use the same method to create or find profiles for your grandparents and additional relatives. Note that you can add multiple sets of parents, including stepparents, biological parents, and adoptive parents. Here is how to do it.

Making the Shared Tree Grow

When you connect to existing profiles in the Family Tree, additional deceased relatives who are already connected to them on the tree will automatically appear. The sample diagram below illustrates the process of connecting to the FamilySearch Family Tree on different branches of your tree:

  1. Add profiles for living relatives, which remain private.
  2. Add information about deceased relatives and review possible matches from the shared Family Tree. Deceased profiles will be publicly viewable.
  3. If you found a match in the Tree, additional profiles for other relatives may automatically appear!
Graphic showing how to connect to the FamilySearch shared tree.

You may find mistakes in deceased relatives’ profiles or in the ways they are connected to others. We hope you will help fix them!

What to Do If You Can’t Find a Match

Some people may not find that their relatives are already in the FamilySearch shared tree. If this is the case for you, you have the challenge and privilege of adding what you know. Then you and your living relatives can collaborate to learn more about them. Others around the world who are related to those same people may eventually discover and connect with you on the FamilySearch shared tree.

Go to FamilySearch and create your place on the FamilySearch Family Tree today!

How to Find Your Family

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton teaches personal and family history to worldwide audiences. She's a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine, past Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, and the author of How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records (co-authored with Harold Henderson, CG); Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy; "Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites," and hundreds of articles. She has degrees in history and humanities from Brigham Young University. Read her work at

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  1. Visiting an uncle, a brother of my deceased father in Newfoundland Canada, he told me of an ancestor named Patrick Linehan from Waterford Ireland, who married a NFLD woman named Katherine Bonia. I found the names in a very large book of Parish listingsn in a shop in St. JOHNS Newfoundland. It listed of date marriage 1846.which corraborated my uncle’s information. Now that I found Patrick, how do I find out more about his family in Ireland and how do I connect that information with my own family tree which I have started to enter?
    One problem I also ran into, I am the youngest of 8 children. When I started listing the names, i.e.,my brother Harold, it would not let me enter my 6 sisters’ names. I wrote the names and birth dates of the next 2 girls ( the 2nd is named after my mother Edith) but then only my brother’s name appears as a child and no siblings. EMacD

  2. Help!!! I want to print out my complete tree as found on FamilySearch. I cannot find a way to do that. Only family group sheets are possible and that doesn’t work for me. In 1995 I printed the entire pedigree in one operation on CommSoft Roots III, 362 pages, so I know it can be done. The 1995 pedigree is out of date and that company is out of business. I can’t get through to the library in SLC. Please forward my message to any of your offices that might be able to help me. Thank you.

  3. quisiera contactarme con parientes de mi abuelo Enrique Federico Morassutti nacido en Italia Udine. Sus padres fueron Angelo Morassutti y Antonia Facca de la Comuna Sesto al Reghena

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: I would like to contact relatives of my grandfather Enrique Federico Morassutti born in Italy Udine. His parents were Angelo Morassutti and Antonia Facca from the Sesto al Reghena Commune

    1. Hi Isabel! Thank you for your research question. Please check out the FREE Virtual Research Strategy Sessions where you can schedule time with a specialist to help you on any family history question you may have. You can also connect with other FamilySearch users who may be able to help you, by joining the FamilySearch Community. Good luck and thank you for reading the blog!

      Google Translate – English to Spanish: ¡Hola Isabel! Gracias por su pregunta de investigación. Consulte las sesiones de estrategia de investigación virtual GRATUITAS en las que puede programar el tiempo con un especialista para que lo ayude con cualquier pregunta de antecedentes familiares que pueda tener. También puede conectarse con otros usuarios de FamilySearch que puedan ayudarlo uniéndose a la Comunidad de FamilySearch . ¡Buena suerte y gracias por leer el blog!

  4. I would like to have info on my Great grandfather John Greiner born 1867-1907. He was married to my Great grandmother Johanna Schiller (born in Wurtemburg Germany 1866) on July 14, 1892. They had 3 children Louise, John, William Adam Greiner. They lived in Clark Co., Ohio.

  5. I am looking for a John Greiner born 1867-1907 m. to Johanna Schiller 1892 Springfield Ohio. Johanna was born in Wurtemburg Germany and immigrated to America (US) 1886. They had 3 children Louise John William Adam Greiner. I would like to know John’s parents and ancestors yours Karen L Greiner

  6. I have found out so much since I started in distant relatives I didn’t even. Know I had between a witch and two grandfathers who hung people during the witch trials to 5 different founding Fathers to a abolishinest to Louisa may alcot on my grandfathers and grandmothers side as well as 3 different presidents.on some great grandparents side.well educated people.