Which is Which?: Genealogies and Family Trees on FamilySearch.org

By Diane Haddad

To beginner FamilySearch.org users—and even to those with more experience—it can be confusing to distinguish the various types of user-submitted pedigree information on FamilySearch.org.

So what’s the difference between the Genealogies and Family Tree sections on the site? Guest writer and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org Dana McCullough has the answer with this comparison guide.

Many people use FamilySearch.org’s Family Tree function, but it’s not the only way to submit and record your family information for later reference and for other people to see.

The Genealogies section of the site is sort of like a repository for family trees. Here, you can find databases of genealogies that FamilySearch.org has acquired throughout the years. It’s made up of the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, and Community Trees. These records have come to FamilySearch.org in a variety of ways, and some of them are even user-submitted. One of these collections, the Pedigree Resource File, is a searchable database with, in addition to resources from multiple genealogies, more than 200 million records submitted by FamilySearch.org website users and LDS members. You can contribute to this resource by uploading your family information in a GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) file, a standard file for genealogical information.

When you submit a GEDCOM file (the universal genealogy computer file format) of your family tree to the Pedigree Resource File, FamilySearch preserves a copy of it forever. Because this record is now an archival copy, you can’t change any of the information in it. But you can submit a new, updated GEDCOM file in the future. After you submit your GEDCOM file, you and other users can search for and through it in the Genealogies section of FamilySearch.org (see image above).

By contrast, FamilySearch Family Trees, a separate feature from the user-submitted genealogies, aren’t locked in time. You can edit your Family Tree at any time, and anyone searching for your Family Tree will see the most recently updated version (see image above). As a result, you can add new records to your Family Tree as you find them and make changes to the information on it if you find new or different information.

Unlike Genealogies, you’ll use the Family Tree Find tool (under the Family Tree tab, then Find) to search information you and other have posted to FamilySearch Family Trees.

To put it another way: Think of FamilySearch Family Tree as your evolving family tree that’s a living, breathing organism, while Genealogies (like those in the Pedigree Resource File) are more like fossils that have been carefully preserved in a collection. You’ll want to stick with your Family Tree as you’re conducting your research, but you can create a GEDCOM version of your genealogy and upload it to Pedigree Resource File when your research is “final.”

Learn more about the differences between Genealogies and Family Trees on FamilySearch.org and how to find them by ordering your copy of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org today.