Family Trees: An Online Research Tool

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There are many websites on the Internet that allow you to publish your family tree (pedigree chart) online for free. These sites can be an invaluable tool to the researcher to get ideas of who the parents or siblings or children might be to someone that they are researching. Many of these sites are free to search though some of them charge a yearly or monthly fee. Often there are also message boards attached that can give you additional information. However, these sites must be used with caution—verify information before relying on it.

Sites where you can search others' family trees

Pedigree Resource File
Rootsweb or World Connect
World  Family Tree at, a subscription site, a subscription site

Beware of Information without Sources Attached

Many times people have just looked through these family trees and decided that the people, dates and places that they found are correct, and then add that information to their own family tree without researching whether or not the information is correct. If the data you find on a website doesn't have a source attached or merely says something like: "Note book number 2," beware, the information may not be correct. At least 99% of the time when I have contacted an owner of a family tree regarding some information that they have published, they will respond with the answer that they found that information on someone else's online family tree. In other words, they don't know their information is correct; they are simply copying someone else's dubious posting.

Check For Consistency of Dates and Locations

Many times there are blatant errors in the family trees that are posted on line. For example, while searching for one of my own ancestors, I found him listed in several family trees as being married to two women in different counties miles apart and having children at the same time with both wives. Now this might be true if he had been a "Mormon" in the late 1800's, but he was a German Baptist or Dunkard and that religion didn't believe in plural marriage, nor was plural marriage even practiced during the period in question (1810-1830). But the most amazing thing about him was that according to Virginia court records he was left an orphan under the age of 14 when his father died in 1792 -- but one of these family trees not only noted the death date of his father in 1792 but also stated that his father married in 1801 and had children in 1803. Now that would be amazing!

Purpose of Downloading your Family Tree Online

I just recently watched a webinar at that taught how to use their family tree section of their website. The teacher encouraged the attendees to guess at the dates and places and relationships. I wondered why he would suggest that, but he went on to explain that the purpose of the family tree section was to assist you in finding out more information about your ancestors. When you upload the information that you have, either by gedcom or by simply typing it into the website itself, the search engines on the site will start searching for matching records for you to look at. Then you can look at the records and correct your family tree. This seems like a wonderful tool and the fun news is that you don't have to be a paid subscriber to upload your tree, though I do believe you do have to subscribe if you want to look at the records it finds for you. Another reason they suggest that you upload your tree even if it isn't correct is that there is a place where other users can comment on the tree and give you correct information if they have it. The teacher went on to warn that these trees are meant to be used by others only as stepping stones to assist them in their search for their ancestors.

So how can you use this information?

You can start by looking at the censuses as well as the birth, death and marriage records of the locality listed in the family tree. You can use various search engines on different sites to look at the different people in that tree and see if they are really your ancestors or not. Adding verified sources of actual records to your family tree will not only make it more accurate but also assist others in their research efforts. You can also write to the owner of the online tree and give them the correct information along with the sources. They, too, will be grateful for the assistance. Of course it would be wonderful if all the family trees on line had sources attached. That would really help us as we verify our own research for our own family trees!

Sites where you can upload your family tree

Pedigree Resource File
Rootsweb or World Connect
World Family Tree at, a subscription site, a subscription site

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