How to Start a Family Tree on FamilySearch: Adding the First Four Generations

June 12, 2019  - by 

If you’re ready to get started learning about your family tree, then is the perfect place to do it. Opening your own free account is a cinch. Once you have your account set up, you might find yourself wondering, “Now what?”

The best way to get started is to add first four generations of your family. Building your own tree will help you find where you connect to FamilySearch’s global family tree. With one link, your small family tree could suddenly stretch back hundreds of years!

Gathering your family information into a family tree can also help you preserve memories and information about your living family. Besides just entering dates and places into your family tree, you can also upload precious family documents, store photos, or even preserve audio clips.

Creating your own family tree couldn’t be simpler! Here are some steps you can take right now to get started.

Start with Yourself

In the menu at the top of the FamilySearch home page, hover your mouse pointer over Family Tree, and, in the drop-down menu, click Tree. Your family tree will show on the screen. Your name, just as you entered it when you signed up for your account, should appear in the center spot. Remember that FamilySearch protects the privacy of living people. Nobody else will be able to see what you enter about yourself or other living family members. You also won’t be able to find yourself anywhere else on the tree—even if other relatives entered information about you. Information about living people must be entered into each family tree.

a model that shows how to add family in the FamilySearch family tree.

Click your name to go to the person page. From there, you can add more information to your page, including dates and places as well as notes and memories (such as photos, documents, and stories).

Add What You Know about Your Family

With yourself in the center spot on your tree, you are ready to start adding family relationships. To add your mother, for example, simply click Add Mother. A box like this one will appear:

the "add mother" box that appears when you select "Add mother" on the tree.

Enter as much information into the form as you know.

You can add information about other family members—spouses, children, and parents—in the same way. The goal is to reach a deceased ancestor. When you add a deceased ancestor to your tree, FamilySearch will automatically search its vast tree to link you to the FamilySearch global tree.

Ask Relatives for New Information

As you move further back on your tree, chances are you won’t be able to fill in every blank. Don’t let a little missing information stop you! Enter everything you know, leaving parts of your tree blank if necessary. Once you’ve exhausted what you know, you are ready to move to the next phase—searching for new information.

The best way to start your search for new information is to reach out to your family members. If you’re missing information about living people, the obvious solution is to ask them! To find missing information about deceased ancestors, ask older living relatives or relatives who may have known those people.

a family speaks together in the doorway of a home.

Once you have collected what your family knows, it is time to search FamilySearch’s vast collections of records to learn even more about your family. Be sure to let others know where your information came from by adding sources. Learn more about how to add sources here.

Link to Other People in Family Tree

Once you move from entering information about living people in your tree to entering information about deceased ancestors, it is possible to connect with people already entered in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Making this sort of connection can be a huge timesaver. Instead of having to enter in all the information yourself, you can take advantage of information that others have entered.

Ready to get started? Follow these suggestions to add the first four generations of your family into Family Tree. But why stop with four generations? You might find that building your tree is so fun that adding four generations is only the beginning of your family history journey!

Read More about Joining the Family Tree

a young boy explores the online family tree on the FamilySearch Family Tree app.

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. Birth names not married names, if no dates are available assume kids are born when parents are 25 years old that will get you close

  2. I tried using your site. There was a major problem. I understand you are able to put a tree on without a DNA, but when a known adopted adult puts a very bad, and misleading tree on your site it is shown. I found out in 2017 I was conceived out of an affair. Broke my heart but through Ancestry DNA I was able to find the biological father. Things are better emotionally now but I had a friend helping me with her Facebook. I will not have a connection to facebook anymore. I was able to track down a person Lisa Estes that lived in that area. She was nice at first but it became very weird and very bad. She began to do your site and the free Ancestry site putting all kids of a mess on there. I was able to track down a half niece that lives in Ohio. Lisa was adopted and has known all her life. Lisa gave me so a hard time and I soon found out she and household have criminal dealings. I cut it off, even though she told me she had 5 buckets of pictures I would love to see. But sometimes we have to let go. Lisa is still on your site with a total mess. I stayed with Ancestry since and have some issues with it but overall it’s good. I have bee wanting to let you know this for some time. Other wise I would have gone with your company. I am 59 and don’t need that drama and crazy in my life. Best regards, Eleesa Goins biology Carpenter

    1. Eleesa, your long post deserves a reply.
      In all walks of life there will be those that for their own reasons destroy the hard work of others; they go by many names spoliers, vandals, grifters, psychos, trolls etc. Familysearch is certainly not alone is suffering from this problem.
      Fortunately for familysearch family tree, the correct use of documented sources can establish which links are true. Most family tree researchers will however come across primary sources that they know or strongly suspect are falsified, in particular to do with illegitimacy. There is no reason that you cannot enter DNA results as a way to prove the correct biological parentage (or at least disprove otherwise seemingly documented ancestry).

  3. This is very helpful. I quit Elder Cook when he was asked where do I start. He said start with those you know

  4. There is alot of information on my relatives that is not correct. And the fact that people.change information not having documentation is irritating. I have had the right people changed to the wrong people. I use ancestry and match documents with DNA matches. At least my ancestry is correct and can only be changed by me. I.E.there is no documentation that Absolom is Julius Green Barrows father. Some of the family and genealogist lean more towards his father being John. Just irratated that the email notifications do not match actual documented information from geneologist.

    1. Have you been able to sign on to that account you created when you did the search? If you can login to the account, you will be able to find all the information you collected in your family tree. If you have forgotten your username or password this article can help you reset it. Hope this helps!

  5. One problem I have encountered is several People with the Same first name and same last name as an ancestor and living in the same area, at the same time period. Sometimes they have similar dates of birth maybe off by a year or 2 and other times they have very different dates of birth, sometimes off by as much as 10 years. Also may have similar or may have different birth months.

    How can I determine which one is the RIGHT person and my ancestor?

    Another thing I have noticed is with the old Census reports. Sometimes the person either writing on the Census document or Transcribing the document will miss spell a persons name. As an example: one Male relative I have found was named “Amandus”, but a person transcribing this name from the Census document thought it was “Amanda”. Another example: My grand mother’s sister name was “Elizabeth”, but someone transcribed it “Isa bets”. Little things like that can make it a little harder to find your ancestors.

    1. Knowing when to merge is sometimes tricky, but the good news is anything you do on FamilySearch can also be corrected later. This article talks about merging more in depth. Hopefully it can clarify some of your questions! As for incorrect indexing, FamilySearch just came out with a new update. You can now make corrections to names in the index. This article will walk you through the process.

  6. I have lots of information on the site but didn’t start a tree until later. When I returned to that tree, I found someone else had corrupted the information by added wrong family members from a different person with the same name as my grandfather. I commented on all the wrong entries and even emailed the person to take it down. No Luck. Now I don’t know how to get rid of the bad information or start a new clean tree. Therefore the information I have stored there can not be used on this site.

    1. Judy, my name is Doniece Watkins. I just ran across your post. I like you have tons of family source information that I have found over the years in FamilySearch. After participating in several indexing projects, I finally found my paternal great-grandparents marriage license. Adding and linking multiple facets of my ancestral and current lineage I have run into family and non-family members changing entries and/or linking people that are not family members to my extensive family tree. I have also found people may or may not respond to emails we send via family search. I have also talked to one researcher who had linked incorrect family members based on race. The gentlemen was aware he had made a mistakes but had not figured out how to correct his errors that spanned 3 different non-related families. I corrected the errors to all family records plus emailed the researcher on the family neither of us knew so that she was aware of data being removed from her family members. My maternal great-grandparents have a partial family tree on Family Search. The cousin who had this data added does not have all of the children, their spouses and children linked back to the parents, there are several individual family trees that need to be merged. This information does not hinder me from adding and linking family members using the person page and record number identification part of the system. Luckily, my cousin and another family member have not re-visited FamilySearch to make additional updates or entries to our family data.
      You asked how to get rid of the bad information and start anew. You have documented and done everything I would have done except correct the family information to what you know to be true. Starting a new family tree from you and going forward you would run into the same problem that exists if not corrected when it comes time to link your grandfather to the rest of your tree. Working backwards from your grandfather correct his data, then add his spouse and their children, then add the spouses and children of these children. ANYONE WITH ACCESS TO FAMILYSEARCH HAS THE ABILITY TO MAKE CHANGES AND UPDATES TO DECEASED INDIVIDUALS RECORD ID’S. THIS IS HOW YOUR FAMILY INFORMTIUON WAS CHANGED – CORRECT IT! Keep going until you are reach live family members and you (OR START THE TREE WITH YOU AND GO FORWARD)– add them to your tree as well based on what you know. Working forward from your grandparents add their siblings and parents, etc. I have encountered multiple marriages by various family members. At first, I thought these were errors until I realized multiple family members were appearing on different sides of my tree and I knew relations between people were accurate. There is an alert you can add to records that will let you know when someone has made changes. This may require a bit more documentation but to keep people from just changing information without further research would not hurt. In addition, when you Merge, Delete, or combine Duplicate records you have the information to justify your changes. Sorry for being so lengthy If you wish to discuss further please let me know

  7. I made a mistake on my family tree and added names that I thought were my ancestors but turned out not to be true. How can I remove those names so I can add the correct names?

  8. I Don’t know which side of family to explore. I know more of my Mother’s side. I am new at this I’ll start with my Father. Thank you.