The problem with "you can decide which perspective you choose to have," is when people take the perspective that "my tree" means that they have total ownership and control of it as they do in "my tree" on Ancestry and other sites. Thereby becoming totally offended and enraged when a second cousin makes a change on their common great-grandfather.
I have no problem with people on FamilySearch referring to "my tree" when they really mean "my extended family which I realized is shared by several hundreds or thousands of other users." It is a problem when they mean "my data that I entered that no one else better not even think about touching."
Unfortunately, when you look at the context and complaints of people when they use the term "my tree," the vast majority of the time they clearly have the perception that Family Tree is just like Ancestry and they think they are working in their own, isolated, fenced off, pool of data. Until that perception is eliminated, the term "my tree" has to be corrected through proper education every time it pops up.
'Spot on', you are 100% correct ...
As, I often proffer, on occasion ...
Most new (and, some old) Users/Patrons DO NOT understand the basic 'nature' and 'premise' of "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch', when they join in.
Please let me explain ...
We do not have our OWN "Tree" in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
We ONLY have "Branches" (ie. Ancestral" lines), that are interconnected, in this SINGLE "One" World "Tree", for all of us, that is "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
"Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch' is NOT like 'On-Line' "Websites" (eg. "Ancestry_com"; or "MyHeritage_com"; or, the like); and/or, 'standalone' personal (computer) programmes (eg, the OLD, now no longer supported, "PAF"; or, "Ancestral Quest"; or, the like).
We DO NOT have "Private"/"Personal" 'Trees' in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch' like other 'On-Line' "Websites"; and/or, 'standalone' personal (computer) programmes.
We do not even, own; or, manage; and, are NOT even responsible for, the "Deceased" individuals/persons in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
And, most importantly ...
We DO NOT even, own; or, manage; and, are NOT even responsible for, Our OWN "Deceased" Ancestors/Family/Relatives in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
"Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch' is built on a "Open Edit" Platform - hence, why any registered User/Patron can "Edit" (ie. Add, Delete; and/or, Change) ANY "Deceased" individual/person in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
Like it or NOT ...
That includes that ...
We DO NOT even, own; or, manage; and, are NOT even responsible for, Our "Own" IMMEDIATE Family members (ie. Spouse; Children; Parents; Siblings; ETC; Etc; etc), in "Family Tree" of 'FamilySearch'.
Just my thoughts.
I agree with Gordon entirely, when it comes to his explanation of the "facts".
However, from my everyday experiences, I just do not see the Family Tree model is sustainable in its current form. I take this view from an entirely different perspective to genthusiast, though. My problems never seem to relate to my close / recent family members. It is only through looking at records of distant relatives - and individuals to whom I can find no relationship at all - that I have discovered what appears to be the more accurate view of Family Tree. It has been seriously damaged, causing its whole idealistic purpose of containing one profile for every (well, as many as possible) individual who has lived on Earth.
The true picture is that, in many cases, two or three entirely different individuals have been merged into one "composite" person, so that none of them now has an identity that truly reflects anyone who walked this earth!
Naturally, the Family Tree open-edit model has some great advantages, especially when collaboration works as intended. I'm sure it also remains an excellent tool for LDS Church members, in gathering details of their relatives for their ordinance work. However, the ability for users to be able to "lose" many thousands of real persons (by making careless merges) should present a real worry to those who advocate there should be no change in the way Family Tree operates.
I also agree that there will alway be room for improvement in the programming for FamilyTree and I hope that FamilySearch continues it steady work on things such as the recent tightening up of the match score required for a possible duplicate to display and the warning during merges about significant differences in event dates between the two people.
A couple of things I would like to see:
1) No merging without places having a standard linked to them and no merging if the two equivalent event places as shown in the two records are more than 10 miles apart. (With exceptions as needed for merging such things are duplicate parents where there is no information on the parent other than names.)
2) If a piece of data has source tagged to it, no editing without the forced review of every source attached to that data.
"Locking" data to prevent editing except by a small set of individuals is not the answer.
I agree with Gordon and Paul that ideas of individual ownership of FS FT need to be actively quashed every time, because no amount of small print (or large!) ever disabuses people of their preconceived notions. If people come here with the idea that it's just like MyHeritage or Ancestry, only without the paywalls, then that's what they will continue to believe -- right up until they notice a change that they didn't make themselves. In my experience, at least 90% of people initially fall into this group. It doesn't matter how often or by what method they've been told that the tree here is shared, they fail to comprehend that until forced. (And sometimes not even then.)
As for a curated or moderated shared tree model, you can try that over at WikiTree. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't -- which can also be said of FS's open-edit model. (FS is easily an order of magnitude bigger than WT, though, and I really don't think WT's procedures would scale up at all effectively.)
(Geni is or was another curated shared tree, but it has now nearly completely retreated behind a rather steep paywall, and the public part basically behaves like MyHeritageLite, with no linking up with existing profiles possible, so I don't know what's up with their supposedly-shared model.)
One of the good things about FS is that everyone can make edits. One of the bad things about FS is that everyone can make edits. Any person a few generations back has hundreds or thousands of descendants. Even though I am offended if someone I don't know edits my great-grandfather, it may be their great-grandfather, too. Or they may be Joe Yablonski from the Bronx who is totally unrelated but thinks it's cool that he found something he thinks matches my great-grandfather. It would be nice to have some rails on the editing road to somehow limit the ability to edit to a few generations away, but that would be hard to implement.
I just keep a watch on people that I know something about (direct line plus a couple of generations away) and monitor edits made to their records. If somebody else makes some screwy edit, I go in and change it back. If they persist, I send them a message. I have never had anyone who made a screwy edit come back and remake it after I removed.
I've had people screw up my grandfather's death data. I've had them link oddball spouses to my great-great grandfather who was born in England. I've had people add pictures of incorrect people to the "memories" of my ancestors, I've had to go in and correct them all.
There's a serious chicken-and-egg problem in using some version of "show my relationship" to determine editing rights: until I edit a relationship to hook up to the newly-found branch (which is a change to said branch!), the system thinks I have no relationship to that branch. Also, conversely: if I enter or attach a branch in error, then the system will think I'm related to that branch; if editing rights are determined by existing relationships, then I will be allowed to perpetuate the error indefinitely.
The other problem is with profiles and families of famous people. I have made my share of contributions to the families of Kossuth Lajos and Kodály Zoltán, for example, even though I'm not related. (I think I'm vaguely connected to Kossuth, via a chain that involves something like five marriages. I tackled Kodály because of his work with my spouse's grandmother the figure skater.) There are also people whose primary contribution to Family Tree is to add the genealogical data from expensive or out-of-print books they own, such as compilations of noble families or full-place studies. Relationship-based edit controls would prevent such contributions.
Even if you're not looking for another Tree solution, you should explore the existing shared-tree setups before you start recommending changes to FS's model.
FamilySearch says I have created 18,785 person IDs. I estimate that for every 1 PID I create I merge at least two PIDs. From my perspective Family Tree is not broken and not a problem at all. Rather, Family Tree is the solution to the problem of every family genealogist making their own tree and most doing it rather badly.
I am totally opposed to qualifying any contributors to work on any part of the tree. My main activity here is assembling small trees into larger trees. As a result, any descendants of any trees I work on rapidly gain more cousins. While the assembly is in progress we do not know who is a cousin and who is not a cousin.
Assuming no pedigree collapse, going back 7 generations everyone has 2^7 = 128 ancestors, half of them women. But in America for many generations the average reproductive rate per woman was 6. So, each one of these 64 women in the 7th generation back has on average 6^7 = 279,936 descendants alive today. Together, these 64 women have 64*279,936 = 17,915,904 descendants.
Of course there is much pedigree collapse. What all of this means is: nearly everyone living today who has an early American colonial ancestor is a cousin to every other descendant of that population. Usually, they are cousins multiple times over.
The problem as I see it is you are proposing guardianship of the 4–5 most recent generations. Basically, anyone born within the past 150 years. We see already how poorly guardianship functions on WikiTree. The people who now scream about anyone touching "my tree" tree would have the opportunity to denying others the ability to edit. There would need to be umpires. Umpires would be instant targets for campaigning and retaliation.
Guardianships would mean the "my tree" people would have not only still more motive but also new means to prevent connection of lateral lines. I have seen that situation already on FSFT and it is ugly. Elsewhere the already-existing conflict is easy to hide and hard to see. Even on FSFT it can be hard to see, due to cleanup of the worse offenses by FS.
There is a saying among family therapists: it is not that the other person does not understand, it is that they do not agree. Reason statements are worse than useless when given to people who choose to fight. By far the ugliest fights I see are among the nearest cousins who happen to not agree on some key detail of family lore. I think identifying cousins rarely solves anything and instead brings real life family feuds into genealogy and turns genealogy into family feuds.
Also, it isn't enough to say "Hey, I am cousin so-and-so." Next you need to prove your identity and you also need to prove your pedigree, which is likely to violate the privacy of other living persons.
If you think the fighting is bad now, imagine the fighting that would ensue when someone's privilege to edit a part of the tree depends on their nearness of relationship to that tree, when a nearer relation can deny them that privilege. People already fight over pedigrees; now add a built-in source of power over other people.
Guardianships, proofs of identity, proofs of relationship through living persons, umpires, vetting, etc. None of that is necessary, and there is already a great alternative: "my tree" people can build their trees exactly the way they like them on Ancestry or in offline software.
Re anonymity, you lost me.
On the genthusiast - dontiknowyou spectrum, I'm much closer to the latter: I don't think edit controls would help on FamilySearch's Family Tree. There's just too much of it for any of the models I know of to work.
(What might help, at least a little, is an end to file imports and other large-scale addition methods, especially if accompanied by a clear explanation of why not, right on the front page. But that's a different topic.)
Does an "average reproductive rate" of 6 take infant mortality into account? As in, is that 6 babies per average woman, or 6 children who lived to reproduce? If it's 6 babies, then the actual cousin count may be much lower -- but at seven generations, still quite high: assuming two children who reproduce per woman, that's over 8000 distant cousins (2^7=128, 64*128=8,192).
Does an "average reproductive rate" of 6 take infant mortality into account?
Yes. It is an estimate of how many of a woman's children survive to have children of their own. But one can argue only women should be counted, in which case cut the number to 3.
Birth rates were far higher than 6, but infant and child death rates also were far higher, so estimates are pretty rough. FSFT is becoming the source of data for such analyses prior to 1790 when US censuses began.
Quoth genthusiast: "Records containing spouse/parent-child relationship are indexed, and added to Tree all the time by FS (if I understand correctly)."
Nope, not any more. Baptismal records in the International Genealogical Index (and I think a little bit past it) were made into sets of parent-child profiles in a predecessor system to the current Family Tree, and those tryptichs were (unfortunately, in my opinion) imported into Family Tree as part of the initial "seeding" in 2012, but FamilySearch has not been adding any profiles -- index-based or otherwise -- since that time.
Sorry folks, I didn't get the memo! Seems like I've missed all the best bits. Are there any biscuits left ?
I think I can see the point that was being made in the first case. I already know the status quo. My question is: would we be happy with the results if FamilySearch users were given the facility to create multiple "private" trees based on the same data and then have a bunch of trees that are in many cases contradictory as they are in other systems.
In this case "private" means publicly viewable, but not editable by anyone except the originator.
It's great for beginners, because they would not cause damage to existing trees, but it's bad for researchers because they would be misled by all spurious matches caused by the conflicting trees.
Personally, I would still prefer an open system despite all it's foibles. Yes novices can create havoc, but everybody has to learn. Those novices will be the experts someway down the line. If they are allowed to develop the skills and they have a conscience, they'll fix the damage themselves as they gain experience.
Trying to create a cut-off point where public switches to private might be a lot more difficult to implement than it is to imagine. What about cousins working on the same tree ? Will there need to be "group" edit capability within the private tree so that closely related researchers can work on it ?
@genthusiast Would some kind of 'Record Locked' switch meet your objectives? As in "This record or relationship is locked, please contact the researcher for permission to make changes"
WikiTree has profile managers and trusted lists, with some types of edits (such as merges) restricted to the "in" group. One of the consequences of this setup is the need for an "unresponsive manager" process.
On a tree the size of FamilySearch's, I don't think such a setup could work: the "unresponsive" process would be immediately inundated and overwhelmed by mostly-spurius requests from a variety of users, ranging from the clueless to the malicious. Dealing with the flood would be full-time work for multiple people, and I don't think FS has the resources for that. (Nor does it want to, I'm sure.)
Defining the "in" groups, and delineating which part of the Tree needs them, are also not easy topics. Generational skew happens: my spouse has a grandfather born in 1866 and a great-grandmother born in 1865, and I have a great-great-grandmother born in 1864. This means that neither time nor genealogical distance make good boundaries. On WikiTree, it's mostly determined by users, who decide whether a profile needs to be "protected", and ask to join trusted lists, or to manage profiles. On FS, I'm afraid that such a setup would just bury the current genealogical headaches under a layer of administrative ones.
Ok, pretty clear with all that. It now begs the question: How do you gain sufficient merit and how do you apply to be elevated to the level to be able to lock a record ?
OK. Maybe we can approach at it more from a security perspective rather than personal preference. I think we can all accept that there is a general responsibility to deter a malicious person from destroying contributors work. I know there are recovery options, but it's like having been burgled, you'll never feel safe. So for that reason alone, a protection mechanism is desirable. If we can start from that point, and look at how it can be implemented, then it might gradually condense to something practical.
1: Locking - Already practical. The issue is privilege.
2: Privilege - Somebody has to become the branch controller to give permission to edit. Presumably the branch controller can enable privilege for seconds. Seconds can allow edit permission, but can seconds also enable privilege ? If not, then what happens if the branch controller and a bunch of seconds are not around for a significant period ?
3: Permission - A list of users given edit permission, created and updated as each user requests permission from the branch controller or a second. Does this imply an edit permission list for every record, or is it a pass to work freely within the fence ? Is permission granted until revoked or for a limited period like a weekend pass?
Nitty Gritty Issues: The source linker would need to check permission when a user attempts to attach an entry in a source document to a ring-fenced person. If the user does not have permission, what happens? does the record stay in limbo until permission is granted or is the attempt just rejected? Visually it's as easy as making the colour change to red and using a popup message 'This record is locked' but the user then might have to wait for days for permission to revisit that one record. It achieves the purpose of protecting the branch, but it could become so obstructive to novices that they simply give up. Maybe a 'pending' state is workable. The attachment is allowed, the controllers and seconds are informed, and the attachment can be reverted if permisson is refused.
The reasons some individuals end-up as read-only, or in ones "private space", are often impossible to determine. Is this based on a computer algorithm, or the decision of an employee in a department of FamilySearch we are unaware of? We just don't know. What we do know is in 99% of cases FamilySearch policy continues to remain firmly in line with the open-edit model. Any further controls would lay the organisation open to criticism of inconsistency - especially if some users managed to be able to "protect" their relatives' profiles, but others were not allowed that "privilege".
Regardless, can you honestly see FamilySearch being able (let alone willing) to provide the resources (personnel) to administer anything in line with some of the suggestions made above? It would probably require a large volunteer input to administer anything like what is being suggested. As Family Tree is run under the auspices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would individuals outside the Church be allowed administrative powers? If not, again there could be accusations that some users had greater power than others in safeguarding their relatives' details.
The point of my comments is not to take my concerns too literally, but to consider if you can honestly believe FamilySearch has either the interest or resources in making such changes to the current Family Tree model. I just don't think so.
Genthusiast, there is no technical obstacle to what you propose. English Wikipedia has added layer upon layer of special privileges. Family Tree could do the same, but would that be a good thing?
What you propose is to institute built-in special privileges for certain individuals based on some estimate of descendancy.
Again, descendancy is not clear cut. In Family Tree descendancy is defined by the tree structure. So not only is it a work in progress, but it is open to manipulation and abuse. Consider how often we see complaints about some other contributor detaching a prized branch of "my" ancestry? Also, your proposal has highly offensive social connotations. What quantum of relationship do you have to Ancestor X?
What if you are 1+ generations farther removed than some other descendant, but you are descended through multiple lines? Does that add to or multiply your quantum? Compared to the other descendant, are you more related, or less related?
What if DNA analysis reveals a "not parent expected" event in your pedigree, hence you are not descended genetically from Ancestor X? But historical records say otherwise?
What if you are female and even though your father shared a surname with Ancestor X and no NPE have occurred, nonetheless you inherited zero DNA from Ancestor X?
Who do you propose to play umpire, judge, jury on this hair-splitting?
What does "reference no content" mean?
Here is a post about the games close cousins play to control who "gets" to do ordinances: https://community.familysearch.org/en/discussion/109379/a-wonderful-explanation-with-insight-regarding-the-300-name-reservation-limit#latest
Sure. You could maintain the tree the way you like it in 3rd party software, and just upload GEDCOMs when it suits you.
Would the gatekeeping be worth it? I estimate under 5% of edits by other contributors on the over 3000 profiles I watch need correction. Most are easy to fix. And very few bad edits are malicious.
Also worth noting: I watch only profiles that are difficult. Because they are difficult I expect bad edits. Yet bad edits are few and far between. I gladly tolerate bad edits in order to enjoy the benefits of open editing: so much work done by others, saving me the trouble.
Family Tree is a work in progress. Beware premature perfection; that is the true enemy of achievement.
In surname research a popular method is to exhaust all available historical records. On Family Tree that method finds so many profiles that appear essentially complete but prove to be far from it. Also, each month the available historical records increase by the millions.
So, I think a proposal to restrict editing on profiles judged complete would need to include procedures to (1) evaluate new historical records for relevance and (2) unlock profiles for more editing.
no reason to unrestrict if no additional collection for the location(s)
I cannot agree with this. One very common cause of brick walls is the family moving to a new location. This is probably the primary reason to do a surname study.
How about stepping back from locations and looking more at personal names?
Like many researchers here I started out reading books on how to do genealogy research. They were very oriented around collections, because in the past there was no alternative; historical records were organized into physical collections. The rare exceptions were the very highly organized family genealogy projects that worked by letter campaign. Those were surname based, and exploited the emergence of city directories in the late 19th century.
But now we have FamilySearch et al. Now anyone can work by surname.
Great discussion about how users can and do interpret working in the FamilySearch Family Tree! Sometimes verbiage can help guests understand the true purpose of the FamilySearch Family Tree, which is defined in the following knowledge article from the FamilySearch Help Center.
When teaching guests as a Family History Consultant, I help them understand that they create their own Pedigree in the Family Tree program. Taking them to the 4-pedigree views verifies that they will see those ancestors to whom they are connected as they learn to use our software. I also emphasize that since our own ancestors have many other descendants, others will find and can connect to our deceased ancestors who can be viewed by all users.
I feel that if instead of telling guests they are working in "their tree" we tell them they are working "with their pedigree" we could eliminate many of the misconceptions when guests mentally equate our Family Tree to be the same as those private trees they create at other sites. Just some additional comments about the very common issue that is perpetuated by our terminology.
Word choice absolutely matters.
Rather than "your tree" or "your pedigree", why not "your project" or "your work" or "your interest today"?
Anyone can work on any part of Family Tree, except the rare bits that are locked; it belongs to all of us and none of us. FamilySearch introductory literature tends to assume everyone wants and is able to work on their own pedigree, but for so many persons this assumption is false, often painfully so.
Interesting that you don't consider descendants as part of a "Pedigree" when this is an official definition of "Pedigree": What is family pedigree?
A pedigree shows relationships between family members and indicates which individuals have certain genetic pathogenic variants, traits, and diseases within a family as well as vital status.
The word "relationships" would indicate both moving forward in time or backward in time in my opinion, however, we will each interpret the wording used to describe our family relationships in a way that has meaning to us. While descendancy is important in a personal sense, to protect privacy we share ancestors in Family Tree, not descendants. This being said, the focus of the FamilySearch Family Tree is not to record every person we might be related to, but it is a focus on how we fit into a World-wide Family. There are many, many personal programs that allow us to record our entire family history, or "pedigree" moving both forward and backward. Our Family Tree allows that on a personal basis but is not designed to focus on that. For family tree management programs where a personal tree can be developed, we invite guests to go to the Solutions Gallery as described in the following knowledge article. There are several programs that have certified to sync with the Family Tree program which enables a user to keep their personal records and still work with others in Family Tree.
Thanks for the discussion and suggestions made by all of those who have shared their perspective.