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. You can give them a “helper” number, so they won’t have your sign-in information. When they access as a help, it identifies them as making changes in your behalf.

    2. Give them your Helper number, which is found in your Account information. When you are on your family tree, look at the right hand, top bar and see your name. Click on it and then click on Settings. Your account information will come up. Your Helper number is there–a 5 digit (or letter) number. They will use that to access your account. DO NOT give them your password to get on that way.

  1. It is said that, “Information added to a living relative’s profile will only become public after he or she is marked as deceased.”

    But how can it be marked ‘deceased’ by a DECEASED person? Nobody but the creator of the private page can see it.

    Even FSFT instructions do not seem to provide this important piece of information. They say, “All records of living people added within a private space remain attached to that account, even upon the account holder’s death. They are nontransferable.”

    This is a worry, as no living person wants their own private page data to be lost when they die. There is possibly a simple answer, which seems to be never provided for patrons. My questions on this, emailed to FSFT, are answered differently by various people there.

    BTW: I cannot find a way to correct my name entry below.

    1. I provided this information on how living people are identified as deceased with or without the assistance of the person who entered these live people into the family search system. During my addition of family members I add as live I do receive notification of their demise when documented death data is available. Keep in mine legal documents are proof of death:
      Doniece Watkins says:
      September 13, 2019 at 6:22 pm
      Ron V., there are multiple ways the status of a person is changed from Live to Deceased:
      1. Should I learn the person passed I can manually change the status to Deceased and enter any death and funeral information I have to verify the person is no longer living.
      2. The person passes and death information is recorded: SSA, State death info, Obituary recorded, burial information recorded – Find A Grave Index, Billioniare’s Grave.
      3. When all of the official recorded records become eligible for public search these records will appear during future searches as information applicable to that person.
      4. Future/Other researchers will be able to access these individual records, add source documents, and change the status of the person from live to deceased

  2. I went through this process but still wasn’t able to find female names on my husband’s side through the ordinances ready function. Is there anything else I need to do to be able to access those names on his side?

    1. Ordinances Ready will only show you names that you can personally take to the temple. It is not set up to give you names for your husband. However, you can still reserve names for him through your own research in the tree. Hope this clarifies things!

    2. Ordinances Ready will only show male names for your husband. If you want female names from his side, you will need to do research and find them, then reserve them.

  3. I’m a seminary teacher. One of my students has “no relatives around me” when we use that feature in class. She’s from Utah and her family has been here several generations, so she’s definitely related to some of us. Do you have any idea why she’s not being connected to anyone? Could there be a problem with how her account was created?

    1. Roxanne, we are at the mercy of those who wish to contact and meet us.

      One way to find living relations is to talk to family members about your research efforts. Sometimes they may refer you to elders or distant family members they know. I have met several relations based on referrals because I am tracing our family history

      I have been contacted by two living relatives who are also researching some of the same ancestors via Family Search. Here are two cases where I am now talking to and have a relation with living cousins:
      1) There were multiple duplicate PINs for the primary ancestor. All source records, multiple marriages, children did not match. I formulated the differences and sent emails to the four other people researching this person. The only person who has responded so far turns out to be a great-granddaughter from one of the marriages on the wife’s side. I have living and deceased relations resulting from two marriages. From this one ancestor I have met one cousin via Family Search and two cousins via family referrals.
      2) Thanks to the obituary information located in Find A Grave that we can link to ancestors in Family Search a researcher emailed me to determine how I knew about that side of her family and how I am related to her. We have never met in person because we live in different states but are cousins. I am not the only living person we have in common. We have exchanged telephone numbers and personal email addresses. If I have questions regarding ancestors on that side of the family, I do not alter the data or people she has linked I send inquiries with information for her to research and validate.

  4. If I enter information about a living person on FamilySearch but I die before they do, is my information lost forever because I can’t enter “Deceased” on their record? Or does FamilySearch automatically assume that people are deceased after 110 years (or whatever) so information I entered will not be lost forever.

  5. Not all records are available, peter Rooney Born 1853 lreland married Susannah Watson in West Derby Bootle Cum Linacre 1878 to 1880, this record is missing, so is Peter’s death and the birth of his children.

  6. How do I connect a deceased family member with his LDS membership record number?
    My nephew died about 18 months ago. I notice that his ordinance work is ready to be done now, but it doesn’t recognize that he was baptized and confirmed as a child, and so has this work open to do in the temple. How do I connect his FamilySearch record to his Church record?

    1. Hi Elaine! Thank you for your question. You can upload a GEDCOM to FamilySearch. Please follow the instructions here for uploading.

  7. The inflexible privacy policy is problematic, if not dysfunctional. I want my family tree to extend to my adopted children’s birth families in Russia, and I want the birth families to be able to access this tree via a Russian language interface, build their own trees and connect to ours. FamilyTree’s option of Russian user interface, alongside the ability to enter names in Russian are very enabling, but then the inflexible privacy policy stands in the way.

    On a similar note, I’m working with a Russian Jewish extended family, where branches in the U.S. and in Russia lost contact in the 1930s when Stalin made foreign correspondence extremely hazardous. Again, FamilySearch’s multilingualism could be hugely helpful, however the main point of the exercise is for living relatives to be able to reconnect, and again the privacy policy prevents this.

    Wouldn’t it be possible to have a less procrustean privacy policy?

    1. Hi David! Thank you for your thoughtful and helpfully detailed suggestions. It has been forwarded to the Family Tree Product Team. We appreciate your support.

  8. I have recently completed my tree very extensively by adding from my Ancestry tree that I’ve been working on since 2097. At times the matches were already a choice to add and at times I had to add them and it assign them a number. Then maybe it picked up the next few couples on its own. Here is my question. Relationships that I know for sure I have are not showing up on relative finder. Many relatives are there yes but many I know I have are not. For example I have a fifth cousin and we were able to find our common ancestor in our family search tree and follow it forward all the way to ourselves so we know the information is in the tree database. Yet it will not show us that match in relative finder. Any thoughts?

  9. I added my maternal grand father on my family tree.It is showing with his first wife, their four children and my mother as one of theirs. She was born with the second wife not the first. How can I change this to show the second wife and all their children?