FamilySearch Family Tree

Posted On: July 21st, 2008 | Posted by: Dean

A reader of this blog commented on my post comparing collaborative genealogy websites and reminded me that FamilySearch had been working hard on its own flash-based family tree navigation interface, similar to Geni.com’s. I’d completely forgotten about it when writing my review, and I was glad for the chance to catch up on the progress the folks at FamilySearch have made recently.

Basic Look and Feel

NFS Family Tree

Here’s a screen shot using the same example data I used in the earlier post. As you can see, there are several obvious similarities to Geni’s flash-enabled interface. The compass rose and magnify/minify slider are both there, for example. You can navigate throughout the tree by simply grabbing the tree image with the mouse and sliding it back and forth on the screen, which I really like. Not all of Geni’s bells and whistles are implemented, but the sense of easy and fun exploration has been reproduced well.

NFS’s Family Tree isn’t a shameless knock-off either. Reviewing the FSLabs blog archive, it appears to have been introduced in about December of 2007, about 12 months after Geni first came online. Right from the start, Family Tree was designed around the traditional left-to-right pedigree chart, rather than Geni’s bottom-to-top chronological flow. Though I can’t explain why (other than habit and experience) I think I prefer NFS’ approach, at least so far. The inclusion of the right-hand panel highlighting a particular member of the tree is also a distinctive feature in Family Tree, achieved at the sacrifice of smaller font sizes for the tree itself.

Search Capability

NFS Family Tree search results

Of course, the most distinctive and powerful advantage offered by NFS’ Family Tree lies in the modest -looking “Search” tab. Here you can access the LDS Church’s massive database of genealogical data and potentially tie in new individuals or ancestral lines. Of course, this information will only be truly valuable if it’s well-sourced and documented. As I mentioned in my previous post, it remains to be seen how diligent NFS users will be in entering research notes and source citations. Here’s hoping that many are able to catch that vision.


The still-under-development Family Tree capability greatly enhances my opinion of NFS as a fun, friendly site to use for managing my genealogy data online. Thanks to Gary for commenting on my earlier post and pointing me in this direction. I assume Gary is the same one who posts regularly on the FamilySearch Labs blog.

I will be following NFS’ efforts closely in the coming months and I plan to report on my own progress using the site in future posts. If there’s anything you’d particularly like me to try out, just let me know in the comments.


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