How to Connect to a Family Member’s Tree

July 19, 2019  - by 
Picture of a bride hugging her new grandmother.

FamilySearch’s Family Tree is all about discovering and making connections. Many people on FamilySearch find these connections by uncovering records and finding new ancestors or finding new information others have posted. But you can also make connections to your living family on FamilySearch—especially as it grows!

When you add new members to your family, such as spouses, in-laws, stepparents, etc., these new additions can come with their own separate family trees. Connecting to the tree information for living family members on the FamilySearch Family Tree isn’t difficult—but it does require a little different approach.

Protecting the Privacy of Living Family Members

FamilySearch Family Tree is a shared, public tree. Information about deceased relatives can be seen by anyone who searches for that relative on FamilySearch. To protect privacy, any information about living people on the Family Tree can only be seen by the person who entered it, in his or her private space.

As an example, I entered my husband, children, and parents on my family tree. Nobody else can see the information I entered because they are all living.

Information added to a living relative’s profile will only become public after he or she is marked as deceased. At that time, duplicate profiles may appear and can be merged to group that person’s information into one shared profile.

This means that if my siblings want to see our parents (who are living) on their own tree, they have to enter our parents themselves.

Connecting Trees of Living People

Because of this respect for privacy, connecting to information in the tree about your spouse or other living family members works a little differently than connecting to deceased ancestors in your direct line. The key is adding information about your living relatives until you can connect to the profile for a deceased person.

Below is an example of how to connect a spouse’s tree—but the steps would work for connecting to the tree information for any living person.

1) From the Family Tree screen, find the place you want to add a living relative.

In this example, I want to connect Heather to her living spouse, John, so I can see his family line that stretches back many generations. So I navigate to Heather’s profile in my Family Tree.

Screenshot of a tree view on FamilySearch.

2) Add information about the living relative.

To do this for John, I start by clicking Add Spouse next to Heather’s name. (If the option to add a relative doesn’t appear on the tree view, I can also add family members on Heather’s person page and then come back to the Tree.)

Screenshot showing add spouse button on FamilySearch.

I then fill in basic information about him and click Next. On the summary screen that appears, I click Create Person to add John to my tree view. On Heather’s family tree, John will now appear as her husband.

Screenshot showing how to add information about a living relative.
Screenshot showing how to create a new person in the Family Tree.

Remember that even though John can already see his information in his own tree view, creating a duplicate profile is necessary because living information is not shared. The record of John I create will only be visible in my own private space—so long as his status is marked as living.

3) Add information about other living relatives.

John’s parents, Liam and Emma, are still alive, so I click on Add Mother and Add Father to create new records and add these relatives to Heather’s tree in my private space. I can also do the same for John’s other living relatives.

Screenshot of Add Father and Add Mother buttons on FamilySearch.

4) Connect to deceased ancestors.

Once I have entered in the information for the living people on this branch of the tree, I am ready to connect to deceased relatives. In our example, Emma’s mother is deceased and already in FamilySearch. I click Add Mother and type in Margaret Brown, born in 1924 in Kentucky.

Note: If I already know the ID number of the person I am searching for, I can choose to enter that instead.

Screenshot showing how to Add Mother on FamilySearch.
Screenshot showing how to add a relative by ID number on FamilySearch.

Once I click Next, FamilySearch shows me possible matches that it finds in the Family Tree.

Possible matches found in the FamilySearch Family Tree.

One of these possibilities is a match, so I could click Add Match. Before I do, I also notice that one option allows me to add Margaret Brown and her husband, Soloman, at the same time, so I choose Add Couple Match to add both relatives to my tree view. Once I do that, FamilySearch will connect them to Heather’s tree information—along with all their ancestors.

Now John’s family tree on his mother’s side is successfully connected with Heather’s family tree. To add John’s father’s side, I can repeat the same steps.

Screenshot showing spouse's tree on FamilySearch.

Ready to do this on your own? Go to the FamilySearch Family Tree, and give it a try!

How to Use the Family Tree

Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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  1. i bought ftw in 1996 and update in i think was 2017 or 19 forgot the cost..what i want is a family member to continue but no one can aford ftw anymore and i have the dvd/cd but not ready to mail to anyone!!! i can send the guts of the data to my daughter but she cannot buy the software to see it now what… i am too old to figure out what to do to preserve the work i have done so my descendents can get the info

    1. Hi Sherrie! Thank you for your feedback. Please check out this FamilySearch Blog article for more information about the nature of the FamilySearch Family Tree: The World’s Largest Shared Family Tree You can share your family history to the shared family tree and any of your descendants will have access to it no matter where they may be in the world.

  2. I read the article, but it appears all this does is connect the duplicate living spouse to a tree of deceased relatives. What I would like to do is merge my ID with the duplicate my wife has on her account. I want to be able for both of us to see any events or memories we each add to my entry. I would also like to be able to see any of the memories she enters for other living family members. Is this possible?

    1. Hi Adam! Thank you for your question. Currently what you are requesting is not possible due to varying privacy laws in many countries. The FamilySearch engineering team is aware of the desire of living people to connect with other living family and to have only one ID for each living person. Right now, each person will have a separate ID for any living person they create in the FamilySearch Tree. Perhaps someday in the future there will be a solution that will meet this need.

      1. So why can’t you make it an invitation system or something that they have to consent to sharing information? Like I send an invite to my wife asking to connect, and she accepts?

        Ancestry has this figured out and I have easily been able to grant access to my parents, wife, and others with no problem. Why can’t you?

        It seems like this creates a lot of database overhead for the Church, and makes it extremely difficult to share information between family and spouses.

        Family history shouldn’t be this frustrating and difficult. It’s hard enough tracking information down on ancestors as it is. Every time I use this I find myself getting angrier that I can’t even share information with my wife, especially as there are CHURCH RECORDS for BOTH of showing us as being married – in the temple no less.

        Make it easier please!

        1. Hi Kris! Thank you for your feedback. FamilySearch is working on a shared family group feature where you will be able to share your personal detail page info with others in that same family group. It is something that is still being developed. Since FamilySearch in an international organization, it has to abide by the privacy laws in every country in which it operates. Privacy laws for living persons are much more strict in other countries and that is why you currently cannot see the living records from other users accounts. Thank you for reading the blog!

  3. Hi, I’ve recently noticed I have a different ID number for my husband on my account compared to his. It means I can’t seem to see his family tree on my account. How do I change his ID number on mine to connect them both including our children instead of having duplicates?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Amanda! Thank you for your question. Yes, you will have a different ID number for anyone who is living. All living persons are found only within your individual private space on the Family Tree. You cannot share these living IDs with others. They are private only to you. In order to see your husband’s family tree on your account, you will need to add him, and any living ancestors he may have to your private space until you reach the first deceased generation in each of his lines. Then you will be able to connect these living persons to the public deceased IDs for these relatives. There will be duplicates of living persons. Once a person dies, each user will mark that person deceased. This will move them out of the private space into the public space and you can merge your deceased ID with any other deceased ID for that person. Your children will also have this same situation when they create their own accounts. They will have different ID numbers for your and your husband, etc.

  4. I created an ID for someone born in 1921 and added sources and memories, linking her to the tree via her deceased spouse. I have not yet found evidence that she is deceased. Later I found another ID for her marked “deceased” with no source for her death, but with a couple of other sources attached. I merged the two IDs, leaving the older ID to survive the merge, which is not the ID I created.

    Now after scouring multiple places for an obituary I am of the belief that she might still be alive. If I change the death field to “living” will I lose access to the page/ID since technically, with the merge, I did not create the ID?

    1. Hi Margaret! Thank you for your question. Yes, you will lose access if you did not initially create the ID for this person.

    2. Hello Margaret, I have ran into several situatiions like yours. You do have do have options:
      1. send an email to the person who added or worked on the surviving PIN and see if they know for sure this person is deceased or they assumed based on her age she would be deceased. They can change the indicator from deceased to live OR have Family Search change the indication.
      2. You can unmerge the two PIN Numbers and get the one you activaced back. In addition you then can change the deceased indication back to live on your PIN number.
      3. You still have the option to coordinate with the other researcher after retrieving the PIN number you activated with a ‘live’ indication to determine if this person is still live, and if not when and where did she pass.

  5. First, I want to thank your organization for creating such a wonderful site for family history. It is amazing!
    I would like to be able to share my family tree information with other family members. I see that they need to set up an account like I did. I tried doing this for my wife before telling other family members so that I could learn what to tell them. I think it would be helpful if there was a step-by-step set of instructions for me, or them, to follow. As I tried to help my wife do this it was not clear exactly what she needed to do. Is there a list of the steps that need to be followed in order for other family members to access the tree/chart information that I have put together?
    Thank you in advance!

  6. How easy is it to change a person from Living to Deceased in Family Tree. And . . How easy is it to enter a person who as deceased if they were born within the last 110 years?

    1. Hi Glenn! Thank you for your question. You need to edit the vital section for death and mark as deceased. Please include the date and place.

  7. I did the famous relatives activity when I had mostly my maternal ancestry and Princess Diane of Wales showed up. I did it again after I had more paternal ancestors and she was still there, but it changed my relation from my 11th cousin on my moms side to my 8th cousin 3 times removed on my dads side. Don’t know if it’s because it just shows closest relation, but would be nice if it showed both.

  8. For an older person getting back to genealogy and the new system I found you articles very helpful and well written. I have to educate myself again. Thank you very much.