Our Family Tree - Help
Contents | Index | By Date | Display All |
Why Register?
What's New from You?
Video Tutorials
Home Dashboard
Growing your tree
General Resources
Military Service
Multiple Trees
Saved Searches
Field Choices
Record Hints
Finding Relationship
Adding a Record
City Directories
Speculative Dates
Pictures & Attachments
Manage Places
Place Formatting
Boundary Changes
Feasibility Checks
Custom Reports - Running
Custom Reports - Editing
Document Entry
Document Search
Link Checker
Find Current Connections
Find New Connections
Message Forums
Google Maps
County Resources
State & County Resources
By Radius
Presidents & Officers
Census Search
To Do List
Privacy & Terms of Use

has tutorial video
* updated last 30 days


Welcome! Our Family Tree is a full-featured online genealogy collaboration website intended both for people browsing, and a tool for researchers to maintain and collaborate on their research efforts.

When browsing different websites it is inefficient for many people to be researching some of the same ancestors, all stored in separate parallel systems, rather than everyone contributing directly to the same system. This website hopefully encourages people to collaborate and work together on common ancestors, and eliminate duplicates copies of each person. Down the line somewhere we're all in the same family, so why not work in the same tree?

This is and will always be free of charge.  This system is constantly growing and evolving based on your needs and feedback.

The basic concept of the system is that each record has a "moderator" with the ability to make any changes needed, and can add other moderators. Anyone else who is not a moderator can submit suggestions for additions and changes, but it is up to the moderator(s) to accept the changes for public display. Those people who are not moderators may be moderators of other records in the system.

To find out more and get started, read through the rest of this guide, browse around the site, register for an account (free), and login. Before adding your own branches, it would be good to look around at other branches already here to see where you can contribute, rather than adding the same families again.

But above all, we want you to share what you know, so that everyone may benefit!


Updated: 9-15-2021


Here is a list of some of the features built into this system:

     Viewing Information
  • Information is online as soon as entered - no uploading or creating webpages.
  • Customizable, flexible pedigree and descendant charts color-coded by birthplace
  • Family timeline chart including births, marriages, children, deaths, censuses, deeds, wills, color-coded by place
  • Integration with Google Maps for plotting locations, descendant, and pedigree charts
  • Finding the relationship between any two people; seeing the relationships of ancestors
  • On-the-fly country, regional, and state maps showing the place distribution of surnames 
  • On-the-fly country, regional, and state maps showing the place distribution by researcher
  • Automatic change of place names when boundaries change
  • Flexible and customizable search options; saving search options for later
  • Statistics graphs showing the average lifespan, average age at marriage, and numbers of people by birthplace, for all of a researcher's branch of data
  • Statistics showing the total numbers of ancestors and descendants of any selected person.
  • Integrated lists of thousands of politicians, rulers, military officers, school presidents, religious leaders, and other historical figures, including all US Presidents, First Ladies, and thousands more.

  • Maintaining complete control over the data you enter
  • Notes fields including WYSIWYG text editing; private notes that only you see
  • An option to include living people for your own use, but hide them from public access
  • Auto-filling place names to save typing
  • Integrated date calculator
  • Attaching photos and other images, Attaching documents, Embedding videos
  • An unlimited number of sources
  • An easy way to link to source documents at FamilySearch.org
  • A separate entry for recording document texts, and linking each to multiple people
  • A full change log, recording who, what, and when anything is updated
  • Date feasibility cross-checks, with on-the-fly and email reporting of issues
  • An automated check for duplicate people across all branches
  • Entering census details for a person, or linking to a census image at FamilySearch.org
  • Color-coded occupations
  • Lookup lists for occupations, membership organizations, causes of death
  • Integrated to-do list for keeping track of all the work you want to do
  • Statistics counting how many times and when your records are viewed online
  • Flexible custom reports
  • Automatic daily backups -- no need to worry about your own backups
  • Real-time graphs showing the number of people browsing the data in your branch.

    Customizing display
  • Home dashboard display to show the information you want to see, and in the layout you want to see it in.
  • A choice of displaying surnames in upper or mixed case.
  • Customizable color and font settings for how your data is viewed by yourself and other people
  • Choosing which columns you want to see in search results and other pages, and in what order

  • Automated suggestions for updating other people's entries
  • An automated check for potential new relatives in other researchers' data
  • Discussion posts by anyone
  • An Email-a-Friend option for sharing data with others
  • Message board for users to discuss the site and offer help to each other
  • Automatic feed out to many state and county websites, linking their sites to your data
  • Ability to mark brick walls in your branch

    Research helps
  • Integrated links for searching other popular genealogy sites
  • Links for surname resources
  • Links for county resources, covering all of the U.S. where a county has people linked to it.
  • Integrated Y-DNA test results

Other than by joining and contributing information, you can also help:
  • If you are skilled at writing documentation -- looking for ways in which this documentation can be improved to be more helpful and intuitive
  • If you are skilled at interface or graphic design -- looking for ways in which the webpages and interfaces can be improved to be more helpful and intuitive

Other features to be added as needed -- just ask!

Updated: 8-29-2016


A few guidelines and recommendations on what to post and not to post...

Living people:  As all of the information submitted here is accessible on the internet, there may be privacy concerns related to publishing information on living people.  If you include living people in your part of the tree, please make sure you have explicit permission from them to include their information.  The Site Administrator will periodically check submissions for information on living people, and may contact you to verify that this is intentional and with their permission.  There is also a "Living-Private" checkbox which will keep the record visible for you but hidden from the public.

Collaboration:  If you have shared ancestors among someone else's branch... are they lacking dates, places, and other information?  Add it!  Do they lack good documented sources?  Add them!  Do they show relationships that are doubtful, or that have been prove false?  Work with the other researchers to get them corrected.

Third party information:  It has long been a common practice to pass around gedcoms, import them into our own trees, and send them on to others who import the information into their trees, and so on.  This is a good way to perpetuate mis-information as often these records are not being actively researched, updated, and pruned.  It is recommended that any information you enter or import here be only the parts of the tree that you are have researched, or are researching yourself, or that it is well-established information that you have received.

Sources:  Good genealogy research must always have sources recorded.  This system does require that at least one source be added for every new record.  There is no way for the system toA tree with overlapping branches verify the validity of the source, and so this is left to you to provide good research behind the information you share.

Duplicates:  As you grow your tree, there will undoubtedly be duplicates where our branches overlap.  One of the main goals of this system is to eliminate duplicates across all the branches and trees here, forming one unified tree, like the illustration to the right.  A few pointers and recommendations:

  • Before you add a new record, do a global search if there's a chance that someone else may have this person in their tree.  Then if you do find this person already there, link to that record instead of adding them again.  Then make suggestions for that record or contact the other researcher if you have information to add or update.  More on Linking.

  • If you do find a duplicate between one of your records and another researcher's, you can contact them and decide how to proceed.  Either you would re-link this person's relatives to the other researcher's record, and make suggestions for what might need to be updated, or they would re-link their related records to your copy.  Either way, the point is to collaborate and get the two copies down to one.

Updated: 1-24-2015


Some more information on the rationale behind this system....
  1. Duplicates:  When searching other online databases, there are often find dozens up to hundreds of matches for a name.  Some of these may be complete and accurate, some may be incomplete or inaccurate, and some may have additional details that I do not have.  Having all of this information to dig through is time-consuming.  One goal of this system is to eliminate all duplicates across all branches of the trees here.  So one record will hold all information that the contributing researchers have on the individual, and will hopefully be reliable.

  2. Expertise:  Each researcher has usually has thousands of leaves in their tree, and it may not be feasible to research each leaf thoroughly, and a researcher may not have access to resources for a given family or geographic location, or might not know much history of a region.  By having one common tree, this system makes it easier for a researcher to concentrate in areas where they have the resources and expertise, and to leave other branches to other researchers.  With many millions of possible leaves to research, this is more efficient than everyone duplicating their efforts to try to cover everything.

  3. Brick Walls:  In my own family I have many brick walls where I might have a few pieces to an ancestor's puzzle, but not enough to find answers.  It is my guess and hope that others out there are researching the same people, and might have other pieces to the same puzzle.  By bringing all of the pieces together and putting them into the same record for each person, pieces might start fitting together to enable new discoveries.

    In message boards and email lists the most frequent question is "does anyone have any information on... ?" and this site in an ideal world makes this question obsolete.  If every researcher who has any information on any one our ancestors puts all of this information in only one shared place, one page per ancestor, then there's no need to go hunting for who has what information.  It would all be right there.  Yes, we have a long way to go to get there, but it's a worthy goal to have and work towards.
  4. Data Online:  Many researchers want to put their data online for others to be able to find and use.  Rather than maintaining an offline database (such as FamilyTreeMaker, PAF, and others), and then uploading changes, here any researcher can maintain their data, with all of the functionality that offline systems have.  As soon as a change is saved, it is online for the world to see.  No other software to install, no uploading, no experience in maintaining a website needed.

  5. Why genealogy?  To many people, the information about distant ancestors, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives may be like a dry barren lifeless land -- nothing of interest or relevance to inspire further time and investigation.  Putting this information online, and adding to it pictures, stories, place information, and the ability to find distant relatives you didn't know you had is like overturning the dry soil, and adding to it seeds and water.  Then it may become rich with life and relevance for who we are today and where we go in the future.
This website and genealogy database is intended to be a successor to the traditional, individual genealogy database, not just an additional tool.  It may be a big paradigm shift from researchers may be used to... but I believe it is an important shift to enable these and other features, bringing our previous generations to our next generations.

Plus some more background information from my Myers Briggs INTJ profile -- this explains a lot of the motivation behind the site and my intentions!

But this is all only possible with your participation!

Updated: 1-24-2015


I see something incorrect in someone else's record.  How do I correct it?
The person responsible for the data you see is the moderator listed under the "Access" button on the left.  Once you have registered on the site and logged in, you will be able to see the full email address of the researchers, and then you can either email that person about the changes, or you can submit changes to be made directly on the site by clicking into a record, and submit "Suggestions".  Then it's up to the record's moderator to accept your changes.

The current moderator can also assign you as an additional moderator of this record(s) in question, and then you have freedom to change and add to those particular records as you like, all directly in the website.

How do I login?
Once registering, the site automatically logs you in, and saves a browser cookie on your system to remember who you are.  This cookie will automatically log you in upon returning.  You are logged in if you see a "welcome back" message at the top of the home page, or in the lower left of any person's detail page.  This cookie is removed if you choose to logout, but not if you just close the window.

If you are not logged in, a bright green login box appears instead, on the home page and in the lower left of a person's detail page.

How do I edit my existing record?
First do a search to find the existing person, and then either:
  • click anywhere in the block containing their name or list of events
  • click the "Edit Husband" or "Edit Wife" buttons on the left
  • choose the menu item from the "Actions" menu
  • use the "[" or "]" (square brackets) from the last name search box at the top of the page.

How do I add a source?
When adding or editing information, click the "Add / Pick Source" button, and then search for it in case you had already added it, and continue to add it if not found.  Read more and see an instructional video...

What is your source for....?
The source(s) for each person is located down the page for each person, in a seciton labeled "Sources".

How do I know that something I see here is valid?
This may be hard to answer as it's a fairly open-ended question.  First it depends on whose information is in question.  There many different researchers who have posted information here, and each may have their own standards as far as what's proven or verified, or what is a "work in progress".

Second, a lot depends on the timeframe.  We have on here ancestors ranging everywhere from "Adam and Eve" to the medieval period to the present day.  Each timeframe brings with it its own quesitons of what is verifiable and what is not.  Just because something may not be known to be historical fact, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be posted, or shouldn't be meaningful.  Just weigh each accordingly.

A few features of the stie also help with this:  Everyone who has dates is cross-checked with the dates of their relatives, and any conflicts are sent monthly to the researchers responsible.  They are also notified of any duplicates or potential duplicates.  Where possible most places are identified with latitude and longitude, and this points out to the researchers those that are not found, so that they may be corrected.

These features don't guarantee validity, but they go a long way towards encouraging it...  compared to other websites where you post your gedcom without any accountability.

How can I be related to all the famous people listed here?
If you go back only 20 generations, which would be around the 1400's, you would have in that one generation 1,048,576 ancestors (2 x 2 x 2... 20 times). Probably a little less, due to cousins marrying cousins, but around 1 million... and it doubles each generation before that... and each one of those could have many thousands to millions of descendants.

With numbers like this, the question is not "How can I be related to all these people?" but "How can I not be related to all these people?"

How can I download a gedcom?
This is not available, as this defeats several purposes of the site...

1) As I've browsed around the web researching my own family, I become very frustrated with the shear number of different places there are to find information.  So the time it takes to look through all of the sites, for all of your names, is virtually endless.  This is partially due to the model where researchers maintain their data on their local computer and upload -- then they tend to upload to many different places.

2) When people upload to many different places, they tend to neglect some or many of them over time.  The information becomes out-of-date, and even just plain wrong when mistakes are not corrected.  So my model, where you maintain the information directly online, and other people browse and read the exact same information eliminates this duplication.  As you make a correction and hit the save button, it's immediately updated for anyone who looks at it.  No other updating or uploading needed, and no one seeing your old information.

3) We have here many inter-linked trees from many different researchers.  A person that you have may (eventually) have parents entered by another researcher, and children by yet another.  While you maintain control and possession of your information, it's not really complete on its own.  It relies on the related information that other people may enter, and you won't have this if you copy your information elsewhere.

Is the system for sale or distribution?
No.  The website is setup for anyone from anywhere to be able to put in as much as they like, all free. You're even free to customize the colors and fonts as you like -- so in many ways it is like your own site. With this flexibility built into the one website, there is not a need to have it replicated to other websites.

In fact this would be contrary to one of the primary goals of encouraging everyone to work together contributing towards one common tree. If you look hard enough, we are all related... and so it makes sense to have us all in one tree, rather than having many different websites for separate families that are not really that separate.

I am constantly putting in system updates and enhancements where it makes sense for the larger community, and welcome any input you might have.

Updated: 2-3-2017


What makes this website unique?

  • Cross-Referencing:  Just about everything about people can be cross-referenced -- clicking a city, educational institution, or cemetery name will show all people in that place.  Clicking an office, military role, military regiment, military awards, religious leadership role, or notable occupation will show a list of everyone with that role.

  • Historical events:  Enabling historical events, such as passenger lists, Revolutionary and Civil War battles, Salem Witch trails, and others to be added for people who were there.
  • Color coding:  All places are color-coded to make it easier to compare people from generation to generation, and to add some color to your branch.
  • Customization:  Many pages can be customized with the information you want to see, and in the order you want to see it...  Plus, you can control the colors and fonts that show for people in your branch.

  • User-driven:  If there's something new you want to see, and if it's feasible and logical, it will be added and available for everyone... just ask.

Updated: 4-7-2015


Trails to the Past Other websites can be setup to extract and display data from Our Family Tree, making the data available in more places and bringing traffic back.  Here are some of these website partnerships.

Trails to the Past -- Some state and county websites in the Trails network are setup to show state and county data.

If you are a state or county website coordinator, read the instructions for setting this up and downloading the code for your website.

Partner Websites:

Updated: 4-10-2011

 Why Register?

Registering for an account provides many additional benefits:

  • Access to adding your own branches to our family tree
  • Having your branches online, for you to share with other researchers and family members
  • Submitting suggested changes for existing records
  • Subscribing to existing records, indicating your interest in this branch of the tree
  • Seeing email addresses of other researchers, so that you may contact them
  • Saving search criteria options for repeating searches later
  • Accessing links from individual records to other popular genealogy websites and search engines -- making it easy to research many people on many websites
  • Having the system remember your name and email address when posting discussions
  • Access to the online to-do-list option to help you track all the research you want to do
  • It's completely free
  • It helps to promote world peace.  Ok, it is not yet proven how, but it can't hurt either.

Register today!

Updated: 4-1-2008


In the account page you can register yourself as a researcher and start adding to the tree, or update your existing account. You do not need an account for general searching.  After registering, this is on the menu under Account > My Account.

  • My Name:  Fill in the name that you want to appear for you under "Access", "Changes", and "Suggestions".  This does not have to be your full name, or even your real name if you prefer.

  • Email:  Fill in your email address where you wish to be contacted.  Note: this is only displayed on the public website for people who are logged in.  This avoids any automated web spiders that might browse through looking for addresses to harvest.

    If your email address changes, remember to come here to update it.

  • Avatar:  The avatar is a small image you can use to identify yourself.  This will appear next to your name for records you manage, making it easier for others to recognize you.  Any image will work, but the size must be 40x40 pixels.   Images of any other size will be resized automatically.

  • Other Website:  If you have another website you would like to share with other researchers, enter it here.

  • Logo:  If your work here is related to another organization, you can attach the organization's logo here.  For example, if you manage a county's GenWeb site, and use this site to store county data, you can attach your county logo here.

  • Login, Password:  These get you into the system.  To avoid others from being able to guess your password, choose something at least 6 characters with a combination of letters, numbers, and other symbols.

  • About Me: Enter here anything else you would like to share about yourself or your family research.

  • Title of your Tree:  A general title of your part of the overall tree.  This will appear in the upper right of the page when anyone is viewing a record for which you are the moderator.
  • Map Choices:  You can select one or two maps that are relevant for your data.  These will appear on page that comes up when clicking "statistics" from the homepage, clicking the "Branch" title in the upper right, or clicking into a researcher's page from the "Access" section of a person's record.

    Typically these would be states or countries that have the largest number of people from your data, and where you focus your efforts.  Then anyone looking at the summary of your work can visually see where your people are from.  If you want a state or country that is not shown, ask!

    If none are selected, it defaults to the USA and UK.

  • Startup Family ID:  When you or anyone else first accesses the site and clicks into your tree, this is the family that will come up as the default.  This ID number comes from the Changes section of a person's page, labeled as "Family ID".
  • Defaults for new records:  When you add or import new records, these will be checked as the defaults.  They can be changed for individual records by going to the Access section and clicking your name.

After registering and logging in, more tabs appear on the Account page:

What I see
Surnames in UPPER Case:  Here each person can decide whether to display surnames in mixed case or upper case.  This applies to all records that you view -- it is not related to the preferences of the researcher maintaining the data.

When entering names, do not enter names in all upper case -- if you prefer all upper case, you can choose this as your display, which will change it on-the-fly. If names are typed in all upper case, then those who prefer mixed case don't have this choice.

Spell Out USA States:  If you prefer USA states to be spelled out, instead of the 2-letter abbreviations, check this option.

Notes Editor:  For the main notes fields, you have the choice of using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, or a plain text window.  More on the WYSIWYG options on the Notes page.

Branch Default:  When searching, you can control which branch comes up as the default -- your own, all, or remembering to use the previous one you selected earlier.

Field Order:  When entering names, choose here if you want the Title & Suffix fields to be skipped in tabbing order, focusing on only hte First & Last name fields, or if you want all of them to tab through in the order they appear.

Background: For people who have photographs or portraits attached, this says whether to show or hide this as a background image for that person.  If turned on, this helps these people to standout a little more.  See an example.  There are 4 choices for how these images may be shown:
  • Show Outside -- show only those to the left and right, outside of the main page
  • Show Inside -- show only those inside the main page, behind the content
  • Show Both -- show both outside and inside
  • Hide Both -- Too cluttered for you?  You can tell it to show neither.

Tag Style: This controls how tags are displayed throughout the site.
  • "Color" will show tags in a variety of different colors.  New tags get assigned random colors.
  • "All Gray" will show only in gray.
  • "Plain Text" takes out all the color, and just shows black text.
Map Color Palette Choices:  The choice of colors here is what you will see on the various state and country maps, on hte home dashboard page, Surname Resources, and State/County Resources.

Child field choices:  Like the search field choices, each person can choose which fields appear for the children of a family, and in what order the fields appear.
  • Styles -- Fonts and Colors:  These are your own personalized colors, fonts, and font sizes for displaying your part of the tree when you or anyone else accesses a page for which you are the moderator.  For example, if you prefer a plain white background, and want this to be how everyone views your information, then you can select a white background here.

    On the right are a few pre-defined choices to give you ideas and make it easier for you, and a set of optional gradient background colors.  Move the mouse over any of these options, and the box on the left will update to show what it looks like.

    You are still free to pick any font, size, or color you like using the options on the left -- just pick ones that are pleasant for others to look at.  Text suggesting shades of light, medium, and dark is on the screen to guide you for the best results, but the choices are up to you.

    To change a specific color, click the small box to the right of a color field, and a popup window should appear. 

  • Flags: These options create general checkboxes on each person's record, used for miscellaneous needs.  Here you may also check if it is to be private, only for you as a moderator.  Otherwise this displays for the public.  These are searchable through the Other Search Options at the top of the Search Results page.

Updated: 4-6-2016

 What's New from You?

It's good to promote your recent work, so that your efforts have a greater chance of getting noticed.  An examples that you might add:

  • "Added 100 records of people and pictures of their tombstones from Woodlawn Cemetery in Williamston, NC"

To add this information, go to the Home Dashboard > Statistics / Summary > Add What's New.  Enter a couple of sentences to describe a recent project, and optionally copy & paste a link of a page related to this work.

Once added, this shows up in two places:

  • A new "What's New" section on the Statistics / Summary page, which is also accessible by clicking the title in the upper right of any page.  If no "What's New" information is added, this section does not yet show up.
  • Optionally, on the Home Dashboard, for those who choose to add the "What's New" module to their dashboard page.  To add this to yours, click "Edit Layout" in the upper right.

Continuing to think of ways to push this informaiton out for everyone to find....

Updated: 4-26-2012


Several options are available to help you make this site personalized for you.  Here are described a few options, all under Account > My Account.

At some state and county genealogy sites, there is interest in using this site to store information for the state and county.  If so, you can use these options to include information describing the purpose, match the color scheme with the other website, and attach images to identify who you are.

Title: A general title of your part of the overall tree.  This will appear in the upper right of the page when anyone is viewing a record for which you are the moderator.

About Me:  Enter here anything else you would like to share about yourself, your group, or your family research.

Logo:  If your work here is related to another organization, you can attach the organization's logo here.

Avatar: The avatar is a small image you can use to identify yourself.  This will appear next to your name for records you manage, making it easier for others to recognize you.  Any image will work, but the size must be 40x40 pixels.   Images of any other size will be resized automatically.

Website address:  If you have another website you would like to share with other researchers, enter it here.  Additional websites can be entered into the "About Me" section.

Styles: These are your own personalized colors, fonts, and font sizes for displaying your part of the tree when you or anyone else accesses a page for which you are the moderator.

Updated: 4-3-2011

 Video Tutorials

Included here are a few online tutorial videos demonstrating some of the features of the system.  These are indicated in the Help Contents to the left by a green arrow:   Feedback welcome -- more will be added as time allows.

These videos require Adobe Flash to run, and are more suited to broadband internet connections.

Updated: 4-13-2008


Some personal thoughts on standards and consistency....  In life I like to do what I can to make the world a cleaner place, and it makes sense to extend this to genealogy... As I browse data online, I routinely find things that drive me nuts. Perhaps it comes out of my database management background, where I like everything neat and organized.

As the number of researchers and the amount of online data increases, it makes sense to try to apply some sort of standards, or else the possible variations and the resulting confusion will only multiply.

So if you post your data online, here or on other sites, below are a few suggestions or pointers for cleaning up your data. Also listed below are a few other websites I have found with other suggestions.

  • Names
    • Unknown spouses: I do a search for John Seymour (b.abt 1218) to see if he had any known wives. Half of the results I find are for "Mrs. John Seymour", because this name matches the one I searched for... To me, this just makes things more confusing, rather than getting only his records. Plus, this was NOT his wife's name.

      Don't put in placeholders or abbreviations like "Unknown", "LNU" or "MNU", as again, this was not the person's name.  Just leave it blank.

      Some of the entries often don't contain any additional data - just a blank record.  if a spouse name is not known, but you still have data to include, just use "?", rather than assigning him or her a married name. If no other data is known, then do not include a spouse record at all.

    • Maiden names: Along the same lines, record a wife's name as her maiden name, not her married name.
    • Unknown parents: I often notice a person's parent listed as "N.N. Smith" (intended to be "No Name Smith", but could be confused with someone's initials which could be N.N.), or "__ Smith", only to find no additional data after clicking into it. If there is additional data to record, use "__ Smith" or "? Smith", and if there is no other data, then do not include a parent record at all.
    • Patronymic names: For medieval names that include "de", "ap", "von", "le", etc., it is helpful to list the given name as "John de", and the surname as "Seymour", rather than the surname as "de Seymour"... at least in cases where the "de" is optional or dropped in some generations. (Modern cases may be different, as the surname may be more standardized with the prefix). As long as both forms are used, online searches need to be repeated for both variations of the name, or else miss half of the results.
    • Abbreviations: Similar to the patronymic names, if you have surnames like "St. Martin", choose whatever form you like, but stay consistent. Including variations such as "St. Martin", "St Martin", and "Saint Martin" at the same time may lead to names not being found.

  • Dates
    • Many genealogy programs can do cross-checks on the dates of related people, to point out errors. Online I often find people who were born before their parents were, or were born years after their parents died. As these point out obvious impossibilities, it makes sense to clean up the data where possible before posting online for everyone to see. If your program has this option, check it out.
    • If at all possible, record the birth and death dates, or make educated guesses based on parents, children, date of marriage, etc. if the actual dates are not known (and record that they are guesses). When cross-checked (mentioned above), the dates may expose errors. If left out, there's nothing to validate the data against.

  • Places
    • When possible, it is helpful to spell it all out, except perhaps in common abbreviations such as the 2-letter state abbreviations, and when it is clear what these mean. Sometimes I have seen place abbreviations and have had to do more digging to find out what they stood for, and this can lead to misinformation...
    • When possible, include the county names and city names. In NC and at least a few other states, there are several cases of a city name and a county name being the same, and the city is not in that county. So "Washington, NC" could be confused for either "Washington Co, NC" or "Washington, Beaufort Co, NC", again, leading to misinformation.
    • Where possible, include the state, county, city along with the locations of cemeteries, rather than only the cemetery name.  This will help others browsing your data, when they are not as familiar with the cemeteries.  This can also help you, if you are planning a trip -- then you can search for all of the cemeteries in a state or county.

  • General
    • In any genealogy database program, use the fields provided for ONLY the information they are intended for..  I often see parenthetical information added to the names fields, place fields, etc.  Name fields are only for names, places only for places.  Anything else should go to the notes.

  • Posting Online
    • Many times I have seen one researcher's data posted on the same website (such as at Rootsweb WorldConnect) multiple times - probably one set of data is an update of the other sets? If you do not need to have multiple copies, then please remove the older uploads. If you don't know how, ask.  Otherwise, the outdated data is still there for people to see and copy, and it increases the amount of data to search through.

  • Links

Above all, intentionally choose your standards, stick to them, and be consistent.

If you believe these ideas to be helpful, feel free to refer this page to the listservs you are on, or provide links from your website. Only by spreading the word will the ideas be able to make a difference.

Thanks for your efforts. If anyone has suggestions to update the above, or other ideas to add, please let me know.

Updated: 5-16-2018

 Home Dashboard

The "Home Dashboard" page is a collection of recent updates and statistics to keep you informed on what's happening in your branch and in other branches on the site.  Below is an overview of the different sections on the page.  Note that only sections that have information to display will show up.

Editing the Layout
You have the option of re-arranging, resizing, and adding to content on the page.  Click the "Edit Layout" button at the top.  The page refreshes to show lines around each box. 
  • Click and drag any of the right or bottom light-gray borders to make a box larger or smaller.  Note that some boxes have minimum sizes so that they remain functional.  Any information that overflows the size of the box will automatically enable a scrollbar.
  • Click and drag any space inside the box that is not already clickable, and it will move to where you drag it to.  Note that if you click something that links to another page, you lose any layout edits you may have done.
Continue moving and resizing until the information shows like you want it to show, and click "Save" at the top.  If it's really messed up and you want to get back to the default layout, click "Reset".

To add new content:
  • Go to Actions > Index , and setup the search criteria for the set of data you want to see.  For example, if you want to see notices of other people who update records with the surname "Gurganus", add criteria for the branch is not yourself, and last name = "Gurganus".  See the documentation on Searching for more information.
  • Enter a name for the search in the "Name this Search" box.
  • Click the "Search" button.
  • In addition to saving this search under the "Search" menu, this also becomes an option when you edit the Home Dashboard layout.  There, select the search name from the list under "Add".
  • A box will appear in the middle of the page.  Enlarge it to the size you want, and drag it to the place you want, and Save.

Default Content
Note that some of the default boxes of content can be removed to reclaim some screen space.  Click the "Edit Layout" button, choose the option from the "Remove" list, and save.

My Account:  A general welcome back message, including links to your account page, to logout, and the number of your records in the system.

A dropdown list of number of days controls the number of days of history that shows in each of the boxes explained below.  If you are back from vacation and want to catch up on more than the last 7 days, changing this to 14, 30, or 60 days will show more history.

My Data For...:  This is a randomly chosen map among USA and UK maps, showing your data in this state or country.  Clicking the map opens up a fullsize, which then drills down into more detail for the state or county.  By default, this maps only your own data, but can be changed to show everyone's data by clicking the "Whose Branches" option.

Spotlight:  The spotlight is a set of randomly selected pictures of those uploaded to the site.

What's New:  Notices from the System Administrator about new things added or updated in the system.

Suggestions Received:  From other researchers, a list of suggested updates for your records.  Clicking one will take you to that person's record.

Suggestions Still Pending:  Suggestions that you have made but which have not yet been accepted by another researcher.  Clicking one will take you to that person's record.

Recent Subscribers:  Other researchers who have recently subscribed themselves to records in your branches.

Recent Discussion Posts:  Recent posts under the "Discussions" section of a person's page.

Recent Changes From Others:  A summary by surname of all updates that other researchers are making to their branches.  If you see any names that might intersect with your branches, check them out!  Clicking one will take you to a search results list for the people of that name, updated in the past few days.

Recent Changes to My Branches:  A list of records that have had changes accepted from other researchers, or changes made by other moderators for records in your branches.

Recent Records:  Records that you have recently browsed into, saving you from having to search over and over for people you want to return to.

Updated: 12-10-2017


There are several statistics pages.  From your home dashboard, click "Statistics", or click a researcher's name under the Access section of an individual's page.  This page shows a summary of a researcher's data with their 30 most common surnames, and maps showing the place distribution of their data in the US and UK (where applicable).

For some states and countries, clicking will break it down further in a more detailed map.  For others where a map is not yet setup, it goes to a list of the researcher's data in that state or county.  Other maps for US counties will be added as time allows.

Other statistics pages from here are:

(1) By Year & Age:
This is accessed from the homepage, clicking "Statistics" and "Stats by Year & Age".

This page shows several different graphs summarizing the information from a researcher's part of our tree.  All information is in real-time -- coming directly from the additions and updates that researchers put in.

First is a general count of people by birthdate.  Second is an average of both male and female lifespans over 50-year increments.  Third is the average age at marriage over 50-year increments.

For the second two, note that this information is only available for individuals who have both birth and death, or birth and marriage dates defined.  Also remember that in some cases the averages are covering only 1 or 2 individual records -- while they are accurate based on the data it has available, the averaged numbers may not be statistically accurate.

For the above graphs, you may also filter the information shown by place and / or by last name.

Visitor Statistics for My Records
The final graph on the page shows the amount of traffic those records are getting, summarized by week.  This only shows for you when you are logged in and browsing your own page -- it does not show for other people.

Two lines are shown:  One is the number of records visited by people.  As long as you are logged in when you visit the site, this excludes yourself, and where possible excludes search engine spiders and other automated "bots" that access the site.  So the numbers are counting actual people who visit your records.

Second is the number of records visited by the Google search engine.

Below is a sample screenshot of what a stats chart could look like, once you have a larger number of records entered and being accessed.

Browsing statistics

(2) By Birthplace
This is accessed from the homepage, clicking "Statistics" and "Stats by birthplace".

This page summarizes the numbers of people born in a place by their birth year, in 50-year periods.  Color-coding ranges from light (fewer people born in the place) to dark (the place with the most born there) for period following each year.  Click to drill down into details for a place.

These pages are examples of how it's important to be consistent and thorough in recording birth places.

Updated: 10-6-2010

 Growing your tree

Want to your tree to grow?  Some suggestions:
  • Links: Use the Links section at the bottom of each person's record.  These link to common genealogy sites, linking directly to relevant search results.  If you consider each page linked here, multiplied by each person in your tree, and revisiting each periodically to catch newer updates, it is an impossible task if you search each site by retyping someone's name manually.  This helps to speed up the process.
  • Email-a-Friend:  Do you know relatives or other researchers who might have information that relates to yours?  Use the Email-a-Friend button to email them a direct link to your person's page.  More visitors will mean more information to add onto your branches.
  • Surname and Place Resources: Each surname and each location has countless websites and other online resources that may be able to help.  You can find links to some of these by going to the Surname Resources page, or the State & County Resources page.  If you have other good resources to share, you can add them yourself on each page.

  • Counties: Where possible, include the county name in the event places.  Having this in there means that the person will be counted in county maps, will show on county information pages, and thus will be more likely found by someone browsing through the site.
  • Pictures: Post a picture of someone, or their grave, or where they lived.  Having a picture attached will boost their likelihood of being displayed on the Surnames page, and will get them in the mix for showing on everyone's home dashboard page.  Then others are more likely to click into your records.

  • Posting:  Try replying to genealogy listservs and message boards where others are posting about ancestors you have, and include there a link back here to the relevant leaves of your branch.

Updated: 3-10-2009

 General Resources

Some general resources and tips for beginners...

Helping Kids Learn Their Family History

A fun project for families is to study the family history. It is a project that parents can do with their kids no matter how young they are. It makes an interesting learning experience and can even turn into a gift for a grandparent or other relative.

Be Visual

The first thing to do is to decide how you will organize the information you collect. Since most kids are visually focused, a family tree template can be helpful. This is a great way to organize names and dates for easy access and to keep things from getting confusing.

Choose a template that works for the age of the children you are working with. Young kids need a basic template that only contains basic information such as names. It can even be a good idea to select one that provides room for pictures. If you don’t have photos, you can have the kids draw pictures. This is an especially fun idea if the family tree will be given as a gift.

Choose a Starting Point

For the very young, you may want to stick with an actual tree as your template. Choose a three-generation wide or tall tree to keep things simple. You can decide if you want the child to be the beginning point and include his or her parents and grandparents or if you want to begin with a different generation. For the littlest kids, it is best to start with them to help them understand about genealogy.

For kids that are slightly older, it is easy enough to begin with yourself or your parents.  As kids get older, they are able to do more research and can go back farther into their history. In this case, you may want to make the oldest generation the starting point. Write down a grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s name at the bottom of the tree. Have the child talk to the living relative and ask the person about their parents and grandparents. Write that information in on the family tree template.

For kids just getting started in genealogy, a three-generation family tree template is the ideal choice. It is easy enough to find that information without being too overwhelming. You can decide ahead of time how much information you will try to collect on each person before moving on.

Advanced Researchers

As your kids get older or learn more about researching family history, you can move onto more complex family trees. For instance, a four- or five-generation family tree may be a good choice. You may also want to continue with the three-generation template but branch out in a different area.

No matter which family tree template you choose, make sure it is visually pleasing for the kids to work with and easy to understand. Some kids will gravitate towards templates that look like actual trees while others may prefer a different format. The right template will make studying family history more fun and easier to understand for even the very young.

Suzie Kolber created Family Tree Templates to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects. The site offers the largest offering of free family tree templates online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

Updated: 3-8-2015


The Browse page is the central page in the site, showing the names of a couple, their dates and places, parents, children, other spouses, related documents, discussion posts, researchers, a history of changes, and sources.  Below is a sample screenshot, pointing out many of the features on this page.  See below to reference the numbers and descriptions.  The couple shown are Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles.

Note: If a person is not married, their information will still show on the half of the screen for their gender, with the other half blank.

  1. Two dropdown menus, one for the women, in pink, and one for the man, in blue.  Each option edits, adds to, or shows more information on the corresponding person.
  2. The grandparents and parents for the current couple.  Click a name or section to navigate to that couple.
  3. Everything on the left side is information about the man or husband.  In the main section at the top is the person's name, dates, places, and notes.
  4. Everything on the left side is information about the woman or wife.
  5. Below the main couple is a list of all of their children.  Click a line to navigate to the child.  The children are listed in chronological order, males in blue, females in pink.  Each shows their name, dates, birthplace, and spouse(s) -- but these fields are customizable under your account page.  To the left of the name are icons as shown here:
    + Has Children  No Children Adopted  Twin
     Never Married  Died Early  Living-Private

    To edit a child's record, first click it to move to that person, and then edit.
  6. To the left and right of the page is the option to show the first image for each person.  If you have a large screen, this fills up the blank space provides a good view of the images, when images are attached.  This can be turned on or off under Account > My Account.
  7. Below the children are listed images for each person. 
  8. The Associates section lists other people who were in some way assoicated with the main couple -- friends, business colleagues, mentors, etc.
  9. The sources for each person.
  10. The "Access" section lists the moderators who manage the couple's information.  Click to see more about the moderator.
  11. The dates for when the couple was added or updated.
  12. Tags for each person, each linking to a page for anyone who has that tag.
  13. At the bottom of each person is a "Custom" field where you can type any letter or number that identifies the person for later reference.  For example, for someone you want research later, you might type a "R", and do a search for anyone who has a "Custom" value of "R".

More on Events:   Each event for each person lists the type of event (Birth, Residence, Death, Grave, Marriage), the date or approximate date, and the location.  To the left of the place is a color-coded block indicating the country, state, or county.
  • If the place has been identified on a map, a clear pin marker will show, and clicking it or the place text will link to a map showing that place.
  • If the place has not yet been found on a map or gazetteer, a red pin will show for you if you are the moderator.
  • If no pin shows, then either the place is not specific enough to map, or has a location has not yet been plotted.
If you see the red pin, it would be good to research this place to see if the state or county or spelling is incorrect, or if it should be changed to something else.  Some may be legitimate, in cases where the place has ceased to exist, but other cases may point you to data errors.

If the place is correct and you would like to identify the latitude and longitude of where it is, then click the place, choose "More on this location", and there will be fields there.  Enter the numbers in decimal form.

Updated: 8-22-2016


At the top of every page is a row of buttons.  Some are specific to that page, or are general for all pages.  Below is a list with definitions.

Help -- This online documentation for this website
Menu for adding to, editing, and viewing information for the husband
Menu for adding to, editing, and viewing information for the wife
For husband and wife menus above, each of these options appear:
A list of links to other websites with search results looking for the person's name
Edit the name, event, and notes information
Add additional information
Descendant chart options
Ancestor or pedigree chart options
Show a popup list of links to the person's siblings
Options to calculate relationships for the person
A series of colored numbers will show, each indicating the number of different features that appear on the page.  This is helpful when some of these options may be off the bottom of the page -- so you can be aware of what's there, without having to scroll down to see.
10 The number of recorded sources tied to individual fields

For each of these, the button will show the number of the options on the page.  Clicking the button will hide or show the options, helping to minimize clutter if you have to much showing.

10 The number of event notes
10 The number of additional events between birth and death, when they are defined.
10 The number of children

For each of these, the button will show the number of the options on the page.  Clicking the button jump to corresponding area lower down the page.

10 The number of pictures
10 The number of documents
10 The number of discussion posts
10 The number of associates
10 The number of political appointments
10 The number of namesake places
Social Media Options
Send an email to a friend.  If on a person's page, it uses the email form on the website.  Other pages use a generic email form.
Share this page on Facebook
Share this page on Twitter

Updated: 1-4-2016


Many options are available for navigating through the family tree, mostly centered around the main browse page for a couple.

Parents and Children:  If there are parents or children defined for the current couple, the blocks showing the parent and children names will highlight as the mouse moves over them.  Click to go to the browse page for the parent's or child's family.

Paging through records:  If you arrived here by doing a search, and there was more than 1 record found in the search, there will be << and >> links near the top, below the button bar.  These will page through the found records one at a time.

Recent Menu:  Any recent records you have edited, or found from search results, will add themselves automatically to those that show up under "Recent", with the most recent always at the top.

Searching:  For quick searches based on first or last name, use the search option at the top of the main browsing page.  Each time the page loads, the cursor will automatically be placed in this last name box, so that searching or any of the other options below are just a keystroke away.  There is a "Search" button, but all you really need to do is to tab out after typing the last name, and the search begins.  Note: the text showing in the boxes will clear out when you begin typing.

    Quick Search

More advanced searching can be done from the top of the search results page.

Actions Menu and Short-cut keys:  On the "Actions" menu are all of the choices for navigating to related records, and for performing actions on the current record -- adding and editing related people.  While each of these options works by choosing it from the menu, most are also available with short-cut keys for quick access.  Each of the numbers or symbols shown on the left side of the menu are also accessible as shortcut keys from the "Last" name search box, pictured above.

For example, the \  key will navigate to the husband's parent's record, and the  /  key to the wife's parent's record.  Think of them as arrows pointing to the upper left and the upper right.

Other examples are adding spouses -- to add a new wife to an existing husband, you can use the option from the "Actions" menu, or press "4".  To add a new husband to an existing wife you can use the option from the "Actions" menu, or press "2".

In addition to those shown in the "Actions" menu, the "Last" name search box will also accept Shift+1 through Shift+0 for the children, 1 through 10.  So if you see that you want to go to child #2, pressing Shift+2, or @, will take you to the main record page for the second child.  If there are more than 10 children, then you have to click.

If for any reason the cursor is not in the last name search box, Alt+L will put it there.

Other short-cut keys:  Throughout the system for any button or field that shows an underlined letter, this letter is a short-cut key for that button or field.  In Internet Explorer and FireFox v.1 (and perhaps other browsers), this is Alt+(letter).  (Note: For Firefox users, see this related note.)

Pedigree and Descendant pages:  From the pedigree and descendant trees, clicking a person will take you to their browse page.

Updated: 1-4-2016


The "Associates" section at the bottom of each person's page is for linking people who not related but are associated in some other way.  Some examples:

  • friends
  • neighbors
  • students / teachers
  • colleagues
  • military unit members
  • musical organizations
  • other members of a wagon train
  • people in a wedding party
  • opponents in duels
  • pallbearers at a funeral

Do not use this to relate aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and other famly relations, as this would be rather redundant... unless there is something special to add, like being in a wedding party.

Adding an associate:

  • Go up to the
    menu, to "Add", to "an Associate"
  • Enter part or all of the name of the person to link, and a popup window will show possible matches.  Find and click the correct person in the list. 
  • Define a description of how one person is associated to the other.   If the same description applies to both (two people who are friends with each other), leave the second description blank, and the same one will apply to both.  If the descriptions are different (two people who are an employer and employee), then define both descriptions.
  • Select a source.

In the display of the assoicates, clicking the name will take you to that person's record, and that person will also link to previous person.

Any researcher can add relationships for any records, even if not a moderator of those people.  Then the person who adds the relationship, in addition to the moderator(s) of either associated person, has the permissions for editing or deleting the link.

Updated: 1-4-2016

 Military Service

Military service information is entered and viewed in many different places:
  1. Add an event with the type "Military".  Here you can choose their rank, branch of service, regiment, war or campaign, the side represented, the years served, and awards given, if any.  This is then shown as an event with their birth, death, and other events.  If the years served are not entered, the event automatically sorts itself depending on the date of the selected war.  (If needed ranks, wars, or awards are needed but not listed, contact the administrator.)

    After this is saved, you can edit it (or remove it, if entered in error) by clicking one of its links, then finding the person in the list that comes up, clicking that person, and then "Edit Role".

    You can also enter a military event while editing the person, though if the above information is known, it is better to enter it as described above, rather than while editing the person.
  2. When entered as described above, the event shows with multiple links -- a link to all people with that rank and in that war, a link to all people in that regiment (if defined), and a link to all people with that award (if defined).  These lists are also accessible from View > "Presidents, Politicians, & Other Officers" > "Military Officers".

    On this page, you can again navigate between lists of ranks, regiments, and awards.  Each person may customize the choices and order of the columns that appear here. See more information.

    The list of people may also be viewed by map (when their places have been identified with map coordinates), and for lists of regiment members, a list of companies for that regiment may also be displayed.

  3. When entered as above, military ancestors will show with in search results, pedigrees, and descendant charts.
  4. If it is known which battles someone was in, the battle may be chosen from the list of historical events.  Add an event with type "historical event".  If the desired event is not listed, you can add it, or contact the site administrator.  This then shows as an event for the person, linking to a list of people for the event.  This is also accessible under VIew > Historical Events.

    In some cases, connections are made between regiments from (2) above, and historical events, when it is known which regiments were at which battles.  More to be added when time allows.
  5. More general resources are found under View > Records:
    • listing known soldiers in the US Revolutionary War for NC and SC
    • listing many (eventually ALL) US Civil War regiments and companies.  Our Family Tree ancestors will automatically be linked in the Civil War regiment lists if entered as described in (1).
    • listing North Carolina Civil War solders as shown in composite photos of each NC regiment, and many of the officers of other regiments of other states
  6. Regiment information for states and counties of origin also show on each state and county page, found under Places > State & County Resources.

Updated: 5-7-2016


Screenshot On the Browse page for any person or couple, there is a "Timeline" button on the left. This shows a sub-menu listing different types of timelines:

Timeline - Vertical
This shows a chronology of all events for the person or couple., including births, marriages, children births, deaths, censuses, deeds, and wills.

The husband's events show on the left, the wife's in the middle, marriage and children spanning between them, and historical on the far right.  For census, deed, and will abstracts, hovering the mouse over the event will show the full text of the abstract.

Places are color-coded to provide a clearer sense of when and where someone migrated from place to place.

Note:  Events without dates or approximate dates are not shown.

Timeline - Horitzontal
Containing much the same information as the vertical version above, this shows the couple, their parents, their children, and any recorded documents, but in a horizontal Gantt-style format.

Timeline - By Surname
This is not about the one family, but more broadly about all people of a surname and / or of a place, and showing when they lived.  At the top are options to change the surname, the place, and whose data are included.

The latter two above use a format where you can scroll to the left and right by dragging the mouse, or if you have one, using the mouse wheel.  Above the name are historical events happening at the same time to give you a context of when the people lived.  Clicking any line or point opens a window with the specific dates, and a link to more details.

At the very top of this format is a higher-level view showing the centuries and which centuries contain information.

Updated: 7-10-2010

 Multiple Trees

Though the main intention of this system is for all researchers to build onto the same overall family tree, each researcher adding information does so within their own branch.  When you are adding new records, they will automatically belong to your own part of the overall tree.  When you search, the search will default to searching within your own part of the tree, but at any point you can change the search to look across all branches of the tree contributed by all researchers.

The "Branch" choice on the main search page:


The "Branch" choice on the search results page:

Search Results

Updated: 4-1-2008


When doing a search from the basic search page, or a quick search from the first and last fields in the main menu bar, or linking one record to an existing record, the search results will display in a table showing the names, dates of birth and death, parents, spouses, places of birth and death, and the date last changed.

To go to one of the found records, single-click the last name, or double-click anywhere else in the record.  Then in the browse page on the right side of the main menu bar are << and >> arrows for paging through the records found one at a time.

Search Options
At the top of the search results page are many options for changing the search criteria and sort order of the records found. 

Any number of search options can be added -- From the "Selection Options" list, choose an option, and it will be added to the list at the top.  Fill in the information sought, and then either add more criteria, or click "Search".  For all of the options, upper / lower case does not matter.

Information on specific search options:
  • Branch:  This dropdown list is a list of all of the separate branches of the overall tree, maintained by different researchers.  This will default to the branch you are currently in, but can be changed to search any or all.  Checking the "Not" box will exclude the selected branch from the results.

  • First / Last names -- Soundex: Checking "Soundex" uses a method of somewhat selecting a name based on the phonetic sound of the name, rather than the spelling.

  • Dates:  The "Which Date" choice is used together with the "from" and "to" dates, to determine which date to search.  The dates should be either 4-digit years or full mm/dd/yyyy dates. 

    Blank dates:  Even if you are searching by date, you can include records that don't have this date at all, by choosing "Yes" here, the default.

    Choosing "Blank Dates" = "Only" will find only those that do not have the "Which Date"  defined, helpful for finding and filling in those blanks.

  • Places: The place fields search all event places, or a specific type of event, related to a person.  Similar to the data entry page, the place fields are separated for states & countries, counties & provinces, and cities and towns.  Selecting one will refresh the latter two.

    Added to each are the options to search for states, counties, and cities that are blank or not blank, by choosing "(blank)" or "(not blank)" from the dropdown lists, or by typing into the city field, including parentheses:
    • "(blank)" -- only places that do not have a city or town
    • "(not blank)" -- only places that do have a city or town
    • "(not cemetery)" -- when searching grave locations, find only grave locations that do not have the name of a specific cemetery or burial ground.
  • Needs Census: For the year that is chosen. it will return a list of people who were living before this year, and living after this year, but who did not have a "Reside" event for this year. They may have had reside events in other years, but they weren't necessarily in the same place in this year -- so it seems logical that you might want to search the census for this year to find the family, and record where they were living.

    This lists only the years 1790-1940, and restricts itself to the United States. If you want to use this for other census years, or for other countries, let us know and the options can be expanded.

  • (temporarily disabled) Findagrave: This is more helpful if you choose it with the comparison option of "blank", returning those people who do not have a Find-a-Grave number entered, so that you can go through them and fill them in.

  • Positions:  So for example, if you would want to find any legislator who was from North Carolina, regardless of the office or the state represented...
    Executive -- President, VP, Governor, Lt Governor, First Ladies, Monarchs
    Cabinet -- Secretaries and other cabinet members, both national and state
    Legislature -- US Senate & House, state senates & houses, and members of Parliament
    Judicial -- Supreme and Superior Court justices, judges, US attorneys
    Ambassadors -- from and to any country
    Local Officials -- mayors, sheriffs, city council members
    Peerage -- dukes, earls, lord, barons, counts, etc.
    ... and and option for All of the Above


This selects everyone from my branch, with the last name of Smith, born between 1800 and 1900, and including those without birthdates.

Finding Orphans:  To find records of people who do not have any parents, spouses, or children, put in the options for the parents blank, spouses blank, and no children.  Such records may often be mistaken entries that can be deleted.

Finding people to be researched:  Search for birthdate where "blanks" = "only", and birthplace = "blank".

This is a more complex example, showing how to use the grouping with an OR.  This selects everyone from my branch who was born in VA, and died in either NC or SC.

AND's, OR's, and Grouping
Note that if you mix "AND" and "OR", you should always specify a grouping.  Consider this simplified example:   X AND Y OR Z   This is ambiguous, as it is not clear whether you want
( X AND Y ) OR Z ...  Both X AND Y are true, or Z is true... OR
X AND ( Y OR Z ) ...  X and either Y or Z are true.

Typically "AND" is most often used, except for specific cases where it needs to change to "OR".

When finished defining the search criteria, click "Search".  Note that search results are limited to 300 records to keep from bogging down the system.  If your search finds more than 300, you probably need to do a narrower search anyway...  Or click the "Next" button to get to the next 300.

Customizing Field Choices
Each person may customize the choices and order of the columns that appear here.  See more information.

Selecting Records
Clicking a record once will select it for later use, indicated by the change in color of the row.  Clicking it again (once) will unselect it.

Then with one or more selected records, several buttons at the top are enabled:

  • The "Show Children" and "Show Siblings" buttons open a window showing the children or siblings of the selected people.  This is more often useful for one record, rather than multiple, but using them with multiple is available if needed.  For example, if you are linking a person to his or her parents, and you have here a list of possible candidates, you may want to see someone's existing children or siblings before you select a record to link to.
  • Additional moderators may also be added to selected records from here.  This is helpful if you are working with another researcher and want to give them the ability to update a larger group of records.   Do a search or searches to find the records, single-click to select them, and then at the top select a specific researcher to whom you want to allow access.  This is automatically restricted to records for which you are already a moderator.  Even if you select other records, their access permissions won't be updated.
Saving Searches
Typing a name in the "Name Search" field will save the search criteria options you put in to be re-run later.  Read more.

Searching by Region
When searching, at the bottom of the list of states & countries are a few new options to allow searching for a pre-defined area.  Some families cross boundaries too frequently, and so searching by a single state or county isn't always convenient.

The current list includes these.  Others can be added as needed -- just send a list of states and counties, and a logical name for the area.
  • DC area (DC, Montgomery Co MD, Prince George Co MD, Fairfax Co VA, Arlington Co VA, Alexandria)
  • NC Outter Banks (Dare Co, Hyde Co, Currituck Co, Tyrrell Co)
  • New England (All of ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI)
  • NJ / NY (All counties)
  • Northern VA (Fairfax Co VA, Arlington Co VA, Alexandria, Loudoun Co, Prince William Co, Fauquier Co)

Updated: 8-8-2017

 Saved Searches

Searches that you do frequently, or if that have multiple options that you might not want to retype, can be saved and then re-run with one click.  To save a search, put in the criteria options you want, and in the "Name Search" field at the top of the Search Results page, type a descriptive name for the search, and click the "Search" button.

The search criteria are saved with this name, and appears as an option on the "Search" menu at the top of the page.  Then to re-run the search, just select the menu option.  This shows only your own searches.

To modify the options in a previously saved search, retype the same name, and it will replace the search that was defined before.

To rename or delete a search, go to the "Manage Saved Searches" menu option on the "Search" menu.

A good example of how this might be used is doing a search for people without birthdates defined -- "which date" = "Birth" and "blank dates" = "only".  Then returning to this search to find those to be updated is only one click away.

Pre-defined searches
A few pre-defined searches appear in the search menu:
  1. Orphans: Finding records of people who do not have any parents, spouses, or children.  Such records may often be mistaken entries that can be deleted.

  2. Blank Birthdates:  Finding records that do not have a birthdate. 
    Tip: For anyone living in the US 1850-1940, birth dates and states can usually be found in the census.
  3. Blank Birthplaces:  Finding records that do not have a birthplace.
    Tip: For anyone who had children living 1880-1930, the parents' birth states can be found in their children's census.
  4. Blank Marriage Dates:  Finding records that do not have a marriage date.

Updated: 2-8-2015

 Field Choices

For several different pages -- search results, surnames, locations, politicians, military officers, historical events, other occupations, pedigrees, descendant charts, and others, you can select the fields you want to see.  Go up to the button at the top of the page. 

On the left under "Selected" are the fields selected to show, on the right are other fields available, but not shown.  For any of these pages other than the pedigree chart, the fields will show in columns in the order listed here.  To select, de-select, or re-order, click and drag, up or down, or left or right.

After making changes, the page will refresh with your changes shown.  (If not, try it a second time.)

Each page should remember your choices, using browser cookies.

Updated: 6-5-2016

 Record Hints

On each individual's page, near the bottom there may be a section "Record Hints". This cross-references the 1.7+ million records collected at https://www.ourfamtree.org/records, and lists records that may apply to the current person. If none are found, then nothing will show.

This is fairly narrow in what it checks - a year within the person's lifespan, and the same surname, same or partial given name, and same location, or the same surname and given name, where the given name has at least a middle initial. This will still result in false positives, especially with common names or fathers and sons who share the same name.

It is still needed for you to detemrine if the person referenced is the same person. If yes, click the checkbox and "Accept". In some cases, the linked source for the record may contain more biographical information. The information will be added to the main display, and will disappear from the hints.  This also makes a link from the larger records list to your person.

If you determine this is not the same person, you can either click the checkbox and "Dismiss", or just ignore it for later research.

It is also good to double-check records at https://www.ourfamtree.org/records, as there may be other variants of the same name, or the same name in other cities, but don't show as hints.

If you accept a hint and later determine it is incorrect, you can edit the person as you normally would, and remove the event. If so, please also notify me, as the link from the records page to your person should also be removed, and this part is not yet automated.

If you know of other online sources for similar data but is not yet included (and is in the public domain), let me know and I can look into importing the data.

Updated: 4-19-2023


Pedigree TreeFound under the
menus, under "Ancestors".

At the top left are a number of options that tell the tree what to display -- the number of generations, picture thumbnails, icons for attached documents and discussion posts, and options to show more details.  The tree will refresh whenever any option is changed, and should be remembered whenever you return to other pedigrees in the future.

 5 The number of generations to show
Show a list of options of what to include or not include in the pedigree.  See more information
Choose whether to show or not show the birthplace background colors, useful when if printing, and you don't want the colors to print.

Clicking the arrows on the right expands the tree with more generations.  Then within the new branch that displays, clicking the X in the upper left closes that branch.

Clicking a name brings up a menu of choices -- going to the individual page for the person, redisplaying the pedigree starting with that person, or displaying descendants of that person.

The background color of each person corresponds to the county, state, and country of the person's birthplace.  Each color is identified at the bottom of the page.  If the place is not known, or does not have a corresponding color, it shows in gray.

Tip:  When viewing more generations than will appear on your screen, use the browser's Zoom function to zoom out (Ctrl + minus in FireFox 3+ and I.E. 7+).  This makes everything smaller.  Even if you are not able to see the text, but you would still be able to see the colors.

Ancestor Percentages

This shows up to 15 generations of a person's ancestors summarized by a percentage of birthplaces, over the total number of people of that generation. For most people, the "Unknown" percentage will dominate the distant generations, as the exponential number of ancestors swallows the smaller number of ancestors defined... but it should be interesting, nevertheless.

Another reason to fill in those blank birthplaces wherever possible. Clicking any "Blank" will open a search results list with those people, so you can look through them and see if any can be filled in.

As an example, here are the ancestor percentages for Queen Elizabeth II.

Updated: 1-4-2016


Found under the
menus, under "Descendants" are links to the descendant tree starting with the current person.

Descendant Charts
The dropdown list includes options to limit the tree to only male descendants, or only those with the same surname.  These are helpful for doing one-name studies, or seeing where people with the name migrated.  The tree will refresh whenever any option is changed.

Under the button are other options that you can choose to include or not include.  See more information.

There are two descendant formats -- one as an outline, showing people vertically; and a second showing generations in a left to right format.  In the Outline format, clicking the – or + buttons next to each name collapses or expands the branch.

Tip:  When viewing more generations than will appear on your screen, use the browser's Zoom function to zoom out (Ctrl + minus in FireFox 3+ and I.E. 7+).  This makes everything smaller.  Even if you are not able to see the text, but you would still be able to see the colors.

Desendant Counts
To get a summary and number of descendants of a person, go to "His" or "Her", to "Descendant Counts".  This shows the number of people in each generation, and the average birthyear of each generation.

After the Descendant Count runs, it saves back to that person's page something like this below.  Clicking each of the icons will show a list of that person's notable descendants, corresponding to the icon.

This person has 523 descendants recorded online here. (Last updated 5-12-2014 11:49 PM)

Notable descendants:

Updated: 11-21-2016


Under the
, under "Descendants", menus are options to view the statistics or counts for the numbers of descendants of any person.  Each starts with the person's children, and keeps adding a row for each additional generation until no more are found.  With each are shown the number of people found, the average birth year for the people in that generation, and the total number of descendants.

For descendants, it works much the same way but going forward in time.  If there are multiple lines of descent to any person, they and their descendants are counted only once.

This include people from both your own branches and everyone else's, where yours may be linked in with theirs.  So over time, the numbers that you see for your branches will hopefully increase, as other researchers add on people that they have, and that you do not.

Updated: 1-4-2016

 Finding Relationship

There are two ways to find relationships between people, under the

1) The "Relationship With...", found on the His / Her menu when viewing anyone's page, is used to determine the relationship between any two people on the website, even from different researchers. 
  1. Navigate to one person's page, and choose "Relationship With..." under His or Her, depending on if the person in question is male or female.
  2. A second space offers the option to select a second person.  Type part or all of that person's name, and select the correct person from the popup window.
  3. After selecting the second person, the relationship shows below the two people.  It shows the closest relationship it was able to find between the two, and the path of people it went through to get there, along with their places of birth.
To the right is an example showing the lines of descent for 14th cousins.

This finds grandparents, grandchildren, aunts / uncles, nieces / nephews, and cousins up to 35 generations apart.  It does not find in-laws.

2) "Relationship Lists" shows a list of aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins for the current person.

For each person listed is an image (hover the image to see the full size), name, birthdate, birthplace, spouses, and avatar for the researcher who posted.

As always, if you see blanks for the birthdate, birthplace, or spouses, go back and try to fill them in wherever possible.

Updated: 1-4-2016



1) Under Account > "Calculcate Ancestors" is a page that will calculate all ancestors of a chosen root person.  Typically this would be yourself, but if you are exclusively researching another person, you can select that person as your root. After choosing the person and submitting, it will churn through the ancestors of the root, and mark them for later reference.  This stops with the 26th great-grandparents, as the volume grows exponentially large.


2) After (1), when you browse into a page of one your ancestors, it will show near the bottom of the page your relationship -- parents, grandparents, or the count of great-grandparents.

3) Clicking this relationship will go to a new page listing all branches that have this person identified as an ancestor, showing the root person of each branch. For recent generations, this will show only yourself, but after you go back a few hundred years, and once other users have calculated their ancestors, it will show more.

4) On any page where you can select your own fields to show, including pedigrees and descendant charts, it now includes an "Ancestor" choice. Selecting this will show your ancestors in green.

5) In the search, there is a search criteria to limit the results to only your ancestors, or the ancestors of your root person.

6) When browsing up a tree of ancestors, a couple's child or children who are your ancestor will show in bold to remind you which line is your own.

If you add or remove any significant limbs to your tree, it would be good to rerun #1, as this does not update itself.


After you have done (1), the page found at Places > Cemeteries > My Ancestors will summarize the list found above, but limited to those who have grave locations defined, and will show a map of those locations that have coordinates defined here.  Going across the Atlantic there may be many more to show there, if your tree has been tied into the medieval families in Europe.

Updated: 4-27-2017


The most complicated part of the system is figuring out who has access to do what, as everyone is adding to and updating the same tree. Below is what the system is setup to do, intended to provide enough flexibility and security, but not be too prohibitive.

Anyone who is logged in can add an unconnected person, and becomes the moderator or owner of that record.

If you are the moderator of a record, and of that person's spouse, parents, or children, you have unlimited access within those records to update the information and linkages as you like. 

This is to try to provide a little more security, so that you can't just go to any record that someone else posts and add onto it. Instead you start with information you have already entered, and link out to other records from there. For any records that you do add yourself, you can add children, parents, and spouses, or link to anyone's children, parents, and spouses directly from there.

While browsing, avatar icons may show in the lower right of each person's parents, indicating your moderator access for the parents.  This will not show if you are viewing your own people, and you are also the moderator of the parents -- this would just be cluttering up your screen.  But they do show if the current person and the parents belong to different moderators.  You can also choose to show the avatar icon for childen, under My Account > What I See.

Here is a summary of what you can do:

To be able to do this:You need to be the moderator of:
Edit husband's record Husband        
Add new wife Husband        
Link to an existiing wife Husband        
Add husband's parents Husband        
Link to husband's existing parents Husband        
Delete husband Husband        
Edit wife's record     Wife    
Add new husband     Wife    
Link to an existing husband     Wife    
Add wife's parents     Wife    
Link to wife's existing parents     Wife    
Delete wife     Wife    
Add a new child Husband  or Wife    
Link to an existing male child Husband  or Wife    
Liink to an existing female child Husband  or Wife    
Edit Marriage Husband  or Wife    
Access to unlink spouses or parents from the current record is restricted if you are not also the moderator of the linked records:
Unlink wife Husband and Wife    
Unlink husband's parents Husband and     Parents
Unlink husband Husband and Wife    
Unlink wife's parents     Wife and Parents
Other options:
Add new events, documents, offices, associates, or attachments Anyone who's logged in
Edit husband's documents Husband or document
Edit wife's documents     Wife or document

For the cases where you and other researchers both need moderator access to unlink a relationship, you can suggest the change to them, or they can suggest to you, and then the change will be made when the moderator accepts the suggestions.

Updated: 2-28-2014


See a tutorial on linking parents
Below is shown the "Actions" menu and it's options.  Here are some longer descriptions.  Note that some menu items may appear and disappear, depending on whether they are relevant for the current couple.  For example, if a wife already has linked parents, the option for "Add HER New Parent" will not appear.

The numbers or symbols on the left are shortcut keys that may be used while the cursor is in the "Last Name" search box on the menu to the right of the menu options.  For example, just typing "4" will go to the page for adding a new wife for the current husband.

  • Index: Go to a blank index, or search results page, where you may define different search options.

  • Sample Actions menu showing menu choicesAdd Unconnected Person:  Add the name and event information for a new person, not yet related to others in your branch or the overall tree.  Note: Before adding a new family, do a search over all of the branches here to make sure they're not already entered as part of someone else's branch.  If they are already entered, then you can add any missing family members and link them to the existing records.

  • Add New Child:  Add the name and event information for a child to be linked to the current couple.

  • Link Existing Male Child:  Link the current couple to an existing male child that is already defined elsewhere in your branch or the overall tree.  In the search results, you may change the search options as often as needed until the search finds the person in question, and then double-clicking the child links it to the couple.

    This may be a person in your branch, or someone found in another researcher's branch.

  • Link Existing Female Child:  Link the current couple to an existing female child that is already defined elsewhere in your branch or the overall tree.

  • Edit Marriage:  Add or edit marriage or divorce information for the current couple.

  • Delete Family:  The option to delete a family record will appear if the husband or wife has multiple spouses, but now the additional family record is not needed.  For example:  John has wife Mary, and with a second unknown wife a child Bob.  If Bob is deleted or unlinked, the second family for John is still there, but with no children and no wife.  If this second family for John is no longer needed, the choosing the "Delete Family" option will remove John's second family page, leaving him with only Mary.

  • Edit HIM:  Edit the name and event information for the current husband.
  • Goto HIS Parents:  Navigate to the main page for the current husband's parent(s).

  • Add New Wife:  Add a new person as a wife of the current husband.  Note: If the spouse had other spouses, do a search over all branches first, in case he/she is already entered.

  • Link Existing Wife:  Link to an existing person as a wife of the current husband.  This parent may be a person in your branch, or someone found in another researcher's branch.

  • Add HIS New Parent:  Add a new parent for the current male.
  • Link HIS Existing Parent:  Link the husband to a couple that already exists.  In the search results, select either parent to create the link.  If a selected parent has multiple spouses, another page will prompt for which spouse to choose.  This parent may be a person in your branch, or someone found in another researcher's branch.

  • Unlink Wife:  Unlink the wife's record from the husband's record.  This does not delete either person -- only their marriage.

  • Unlink HIS Parents:  Unlink the husband from the currently linked parents.  This does not delete either parent.

  • Delete HIM:  Delete the husband's record and all related event and historical information.  Note that if a person has both parents and children or both parents and spouses, the record cannot be deleted.  First either delete or unlink the related records.

    A person is also not deletable if there are two or more children.  This would orphan each of the children, and may not be what is intended.  Instead, go to the children records and unlink or delete the children until the parent has no children or only one child, and then delete the parent.

    An automatic backup copy is made of all deleted records, though there is not currently an interface for accessing the backup data.  This may be added later, but until then, contact the System Administrator.

The menu options for a wife's record work the same as those for the husband's record.

When linking to an existing person, the list that comes up may be large.  If too large, there are two ways to narrow it down, to find the person needed:
1) First, type a first name (and only a first name) in the first name search field at the top of the page, and then choose the option to link.  The search results will be limited to the name you type.
2) After the search results comes up, add or change any of the search options at the top of the page, and click "Search".

When you are the moderator for both sides of two linked records, you can choose the unlink options above, and they will immediately show as unlinked.  If you linked to someone else's branch, you can unlink them directly only within 24 hours of making the link -- perhaps you realize you chose the wrong person and want to undo it.  After 24 hours, the system notifies the researcher on the other end of the link, and they approve the request.

Order of the menu
Two options are available for controlling the order of this menu.  Under My Account > What I See, changing the "Actions Menu" option here will change how it shows for you.

Updated: 5-14-2012

 Adding a Record

To add a new record for an unconnected person, go to the Actions menu, "Add Unconnected Person".

To add a new record for someone who is a parent, spouse, or child of an existing record:

  • If the related person is someone that you added, or for whom another researcher assigned you  as a moderator, then go to Actions, to "Add New Child", "Add New Wife (or Husband) ", or "Add New  Wife's (or Husband's) Parent".


  • If the related person is part of another researcher's branch, and you want to add new relatives, then you first add your new person as an unconnected person.  Then once the person's record is saved, go to link an existing parent, spouse, or child in the Actions menu.  This brings up a list of search results, where you would change the "Branch" choice to someone else's branch, or "All", and find the person to link to.

This setup where you add your record first and then link to the relative is to try to provide a little more stability and security -- so that you can't just go to any record that someone else posts and add onto it directly. Instead you start with information you have already entered, and link out to other records from there. For any records that you do add yourself, you can add children, parents, and spouses directly from there.

See the Permissions page for more information on the security setup.
See the Editing page for more information on the data entry.

Updated: 2-13-2011


Adding and editing individuals -- here is an explanation and tutorial for the fields on this page:

At the top of the page are multiple tabs:
  • "Main", containing the vital information about a person
  • "Flags", containing a list of miscellaneous flags for a person
  • "Walls" for marking brick walls and questionable relationships
  • "Notes" for additional notes
  • "DNA" for recording DNA information.

On the Main Tab:
  • Gender: Male, Female, or Unknown.  Tip: typing an M or F will skip you down to the next field automatically.

  • Names:  See the separate help topic on Names for more information.

  • Events: See the separate help topic on Events for more information.

  • Occupations: When the cursor moves into the "Occupation" field, a dropdown list will appear listing all occupations across the whole website.  Click one to select, or type a new one if yours is not found.  Up to two occupations may be entered per person, separated by a comma.

    Please limit this field to only the occupation titles.  Other information such as employer, notes, or commentary can be added in the general notes.

    Note that there is also an "Occupation" choice under events, for those that are linked to specific dates or locations.

  • Organizations, Memberships, and Tagging: See the separate page on Tagging.

  • Sources: See the separate page on Sources.
  • Flags: These are general checkboxes used for miscellaneous needs. There are a few always present -- living-private, died early, never married, no children, twins, adopted. Any others you may need you can define yourself under the Account > My Account menu option. Here you may check if it is to be private, only for you as a moderator. Otherwise this displays for the public. These are searchable through the Other Search Options at the top of the Search Results page.

    If the "Living-private" box is checked, the individual will only show up when browsing and searching for you or other people marked as moderators of the record -- So you have the choice of including living people for your own reference, but keeping the information blocked from anyone else. Note that if either spouse of a couple are checked, both spouses are hidden.

    The "Bef Parent Marriage" checkbox is to indicate someone was born before their parents' marriage.. Checking this removes the person from the feasibility check of their birthdate vs. their parents' marriage date.

    The "Marriage bef age 10" checkbox is to indicate someone was marriage before age 10 (presumably an arranged marriage).. Checking this removes the person from the feasibility check of their birthdate vs. their marriage date.

    Note that a few of the checkboxes are mutually exclusive -- for example, someone marked as "died early" won't accept "never married" or "no children", as these would be redundant.

Updated: 2-6-2016


Fields for entering names:

  • Title, Suffix: The title and suffix fields are skipped in the tabbing order as they are used less frequently.  If you need to enter something here, either keep tabbing until the cursor gets there, or use the mouse to place the cursor there.  Title is for military or professional titles like "Capt.", "Dr.", or "Rev.".  Don't use titles such as "Mr." or "Mrs." as they don't really add new informatrion.  Suffix is for "Sr.", "Jr.", etc.

    Titles display in italics, to make it clear when it is a title, vs. a given name that can be confused for a title.

  • First Name: The person's given name.  Include here prefixes used with the last name such as "de", "ap", or "von", as in many cases it seems that this is either optional or dropped over time.  Thus including this with the first name and not with the last saves confusion when searching.

  • Last Name: The person's surname.  Try to keep the spelling accurate and consistent, and put only the name itself here.  For any parenthetical information (question marks, alternative names, alternative spellings, etc.), put this in the notes instead.

    Always use a spouse's maiden name here.  There are several reasons for this:
    • If you put in a married surname, it gives the impression that this was her name when she was born.
    • If you add a husband later, you don't need to edit the wife's name
    • It would get confusing if she had multiple husbands, or if she divorces and changes the name again.
    • It would get confusing if her maiden name were the same as his.  Then someone might not realize this, unless the maiden name is always the one that's shown.
    • It would be repetitive, as the husband's name is already there.  It is more informative to see what her name used to be
  • Alternate Names: Click the + in the upper left under "Name" to get a second set of name fields.  These are NOT used for:
    • Married Names
    • Listing various alternate spellings of the same name.  One is ok, but if there are many, go to the Notes instead.  Example: not someone who is known interchangeably as "Smith" and "Smyth"
    • Other people, different from the first person named.

    These are  used for:
    • People who change their name to different name.  Example:  "Schmidt" deliberately changed his name to "Smith"
    • People who are known by two different names that are not spelling variations of each other.

    Both sets of names will then appear, one under the other, separated by a dotted line.  This name appears on the main browse page, the pedigree chart, and the descendant chart, and is searchable in the main search.

    If any of the alternate name fields are filled in, the first & last names will automatically carry foward if not supplied.  For example:
    When you enter this: You get this: When you enter this: You get this:
    Johan Schmidt
    Johan Schmidt
    John Schmidt
    Johan Schmidt
    Johan Schmidt
    Johan Smith

Unknowns: In cases where a name is not known, just leave it blank.  Many other databases online show a wife's married name, or even both the first and last name of her husband as her name.  This was not really her name, and putting this in only confuses matters, and increases incorrect search results... so just leave it blank.

The system will show a blank name as ______ to indicate that the name is blank.

Case:  It is best to enter names in mixed case, or all lower case and the system will capitalize first letters.  Do not enter names in all upper case -- if you prefer all upper case, you can choose this as a display setting under View > Account, which will change it on-the-fly.  If names are typed in all upper case, then those who prefer mixed case don't have this choice.

Parentheticals:  Keep the name field to the name itself.  For alternate spellings or other additional information, put it in the notes.  Adding more here reduces chances that the name will be found in searches and duplicate checking.

Special Characters: For letters with accents and other special characters -- with the cursor in any text field when editing a person, hit the F2 key.  A small window will appear below the field showing a list of characters.  Click one to insert it at the end of the field.

Updated: 3-15-2015


See a tutorial on entering place names
Events can be entered in two different places -- on the main page when adding or editing a person, or under the His / Her menu, go to Add > An Event.

The latter is for when you know that all you need is to add one or more new events (not editing anything else). This has all the same choices, but is only for this one purpose, and should be faster as it does not need to process anything else.

  • Events: An unlimited number of events may be added, though only one birth, one death, and one grave event are allowed.  If alternate birth or death dates are needed, they can be entered in the notes.  If all of the lines for events fill up, save the record and re-enter it, and more lines will be available.

  • Events - Type: Current types include birth, christen, office, military, organization, reside, immigrate, death, grave, marriage, divorce, and a few others.  Types such as Education and Occupation are for when this information is tied to a date or place.  To record this information, but not related to a date or place, go to the general Notes field, on the Notes tab.

    Other event fields are hidden by default, until an event type is chosen -- then the remaining fields appear.  This helps to shrink the amount of vertical space occupied until that space is needed.

    Tip: When adding new events, typing the first letter of an event will select it and move to date for ones that have only one with that letter. For example, there's only one "B" for "Birth" or "G" for "Grave". For others that have multiple for a first letter like "O" or "Office", "Organization", or "Other", the event type remains selected so you can select the right one, and then tab on to the date.

  • Events - Date:  Read more on formatting dates.

  • Events - Place: The place data entry is separated into 3 different fields -- US State / Country, County / Province, and City / Town.  When choosing a US State or country, the county list will refresh to show only counties in that state or country.  For all US states and many countries, the list should be complete with all choices.  When choosing a county, the city/town list will refresh to show a list of cities, towns, churches, and cemeteries defined for that county.  Here you can pick from the existing list, or enter your own if yours is not found.

    In all 3 lists, your own entries from the past 15 days will show at the top, separated by a line and then the remainder.  For frequent entries, you should be able to choose from one of these at the top.

    Tip:  Type the first letter of an entry, and when the correct one is found, use the tab key to move to the next field.

    For editing the city, town, and other location information of an existing entry clicking into this field will bring up the list of places in the selected county, making it easy to pick an alternative.

    • If a state and city are known, but not the county, skip the county selection and type in the city.  Then click the Link to Gazetteer icon on the right, and a gazetteer page will try to locate the city entered.  If this finds the correct county, then go back and select the county.  If the county is still not known, then go ahead and leave it blank.
    • If you know a county, but it is not in the list -- double-check your county to see if there's a mistake, or email me about a possible mistake in the county list.
    • If only a town is known, but not the state, then just enter the town by itself.
    • For other countires not yet found in the list of countries, enter the country with the city in the form "Country, City", and the country will eventually find its way to the list of countries.

    Consistency is important for the color coding to work, and to help with general usability.  Always include the state and county when known.  Read more on formatting place names.

    It may also be helpful to type part of a place name and click the ? button, or press the F12 key -- this is bring up a list of all places that contain this phrase.  From this list you can click to fill this into the field where you were typing.  The list will default to showing only the places in your own records, but there is a choice to "Show Everyone's", which will help to maintain consistency across branches.

    Alt Keys
    Though the data entry is somewhat automated, in that you don't have to type the names of the country, state, county, and often not the city, it can still be time-consuming if you are repeating the same information over and over for successive records.

    To aid in this, you can define hotkey combinations for places.  Each state / county / city combination is added to a list that shows on the right side of the screen.  If all 10 slots are filled, a new combination replaces the one least recently used.  Then when adding or editing other people, with the cursor in a event field, press hold down the ALT key, and then a number 1 through 0.

    You can drag and resize the box to put it wherever you want it, and whatever size you want it, and it should stay there from edit to edit.  So if it shows off your screen, you can just move it to anywhere you can see it.

    The "ALT" key may vary by computer and browser.  For PC users, it may be ALT or ALT+SHIFT, or for Mac Users OPT or OPT+CTRL.  See this related note.
  • Events - Questionable / Uncertain places: To the right of the place entry field is a checkbox for marking a place as questionable or uncertain.  Instead of typing a ? or "probably" or something like this in the field, just check the checkbox and leave the text to be the place itself.

  • Events - "OF":  In cases where you want to list someone as being "of" a place, check the "of" checkbox instead of typing it in the name of the place.

  • Events - Notes:  The notes field with each event if for any additional information related to the event, beyond the actual date and geographical place.

  • Event Color Codes: In the browse, pedigree, and descendant pages, the birthplaces are color coded to provide a quick overview of where the family has migrated from and to.  Each US state or foreign country relate to a general color, and  counties  or provinces within the state or country  are shown in different shades of this general color.  If county colors for your family are not yet defined, email them to the Site Administrator.

Causes of Death:  Part of the "Death" event is a place to record one or more causes of death.  As you start typing, a lookup list of existing causes will come up.  Choose an existing one or continue to type a new one.  Remember to keep the entries brief and consistent so that they are re-usable for other ancestors.  Then clicking one goes to a list of others with the same cause of death.

Grave Disposition Unknown: Part of the "Grave" event is a "Disposition Unknown" checkbox.  Like on Findagrave.com, it is not for cremations, people missing in action during war, or lost at sea, as in these cases the disposition is known. It's only for when it is truly unknown.  Use it if you have searched Findagrave and Billion Graves thoroughly and have not found the person in question, or if there's a "Burial Unknown" memorial entered there.  Down the road this can help to distinguish people who have been searched but not found, vs. people who have not yet been searched.

Editing Events
When editing a person's information, since there may be many events for this one person, all existing events will be collapsed down to one line each.  The date field is visible and editable, but to edit anything else, click the arrow or the brief description on the right side.  Then make any changes needed, and save.

To delete an event, blank out the "type" selection, and save.

Updated: 1-30-2017


Date Formats:
D MMM YYYY where "MMM" is the 3-letter month abbreviation
M/D/YYYY  where "M" is the 1 or 2 digit number for the month

Though both numeric and text months are accepted, using the format "D MMM YYYY" is strongly prefered as it removes ambiguity for anyone accustomed to seeing month and day numbers in different orders.

To designate old and new style dates, single dates may also entered with an additional year, in the form:
D MMM YYYY/Y  where /Y is at most 1 year after the first year.

For more complex date formats, enter a simpler form in the date field, and spell out the details in the event notes or the person's main notes.

Date Shortcuts
Any date may be preceded with "abt", "bef", or "aft", or followed with "BC".  For typing efficiency, "abt" can be abbreviated to "c" (for circa), "bef" to "b", and "aft" to "a".  These will be expanded to the longer versions automatically.  Upper or lower case does not matter.  Also, typing a year followed by a slash will fill in a year 10 years later after the slash.

When using textual months:
-- Entering the day followed by F, S, O, N, or D will replace the letter with FEB, SEP, OCT, NOV, or DEC respectively.  (The other months do not have unique letters.)  Then you can continue on to the year.
-- Entering the day followed by a space and a number 1-9 will replace the last number with the corresponding month JAN - SEP.  Then you can continue on to the year.

Age: Below a person's dates, if both the birth and death dates are defined, don't contain "bef" or "aft", and don't contain a range of years, there is an automatic calculation of the person's approximate age at death.  One researcher mentioned "I am finding it really helpful to keep a perspective. I did not realize how young some people were when they died and how elderly some others were."

Is Date Speculative?
Check this when a date is purely speculative -- then the date displays differently to make it very clear that it's a speculative date.  Note that this is only intended for when the date is purely based on a guess, and not an approximate date that is based on actual sources.  In English, it's like saying "I know John was probably born around 1800 as his parents were born in the 1770's"

The benefits are that when you return to the person, it's immediately apparent to you that the date is a guess, and when visitors browse, they are alerted that your guess is not a date based on sources...  and it aids in feasibility checks.

: When an actual birthdate is not known, always try to define an estimated birthdate. This can often be estimated based on censuses and the birthdates of parents, spouses, and children. This will aid in the feasibility checks by finding impossibilities that would not otherwise be found, and will aid in duplicate checking and general searching.

Date Calculator
If you're transcribing tombstones, and you have a date of death, and it says something like "aged 55 years, 7 months, 28 days", you can have it calculate the approximate birthdate, and not have to do the math.

Enter the date of death, and then select a birth event, and then to the right of the date field, click the calculator icon . A window will come up where you can select the date of death, and enter numbers for the years and/or months and/or days. Then click "Save", and it will put the calculated date back in for the birth date.

If you leave out the number of days, it will only do month & year, and if you leave out the number of months and number of days, it will do only the year. 

Updated: 2-23-2015


Details from many of the censuses can be entered, including the US Censuses from 1850 - 1940, and Massachusetts state censuses 1855 and 1865.

  • First, if there is not already one there, add a "Reside" event with the year and location, as found in the census, and save.
  • Back on the main page, hover over the "Reside" event, and choose "Edit Census" from the dropdown list.
  • A form will come up that is specific to this census. It does not contain all columns from the census, but only those that add new information and seem the most useful for later reference.

Included in the form are lists of this person's parents, siblings, spouses, children, and a space for finding other people (inlaws, cousins, boarders, etc). You can check any of the relatives who were also in the same household.  It's not required to check the household members, but if you do...

  • When you save, all of the other household people inherit the same "Reside" event and the same FamilySearch census source, if not already there.
  • Return to the "Reside" event menu, and there will be an option "View Household". This lists out all the people in the household. On this page, you can add and remove the columns using the green check button at the top left.
  • For the census information that may be different for each household person, you can go to each person's page, choose "Edit Census", and put in their details.

After saving, a green or blue button will show up next to the "Reside" year -- blue with a small picture of a person if the census entry has multiple household members, or otherwise green.. Clicking this will open a read-only view of the information entered. To edit the information, go back to the same "Edit Census" option above.

Access permissions: Anyone who is logged in can add a "reside" event (if needed), and add a census to it. That person and you as the record moderator have access to edit the information.

Occupations: Next to the occupation field in the census there is a checkbox (defaulting to being checked).  When still checked, the occupation(s) entered will be copied down to the "Tags" section of a person's page.  If someone shows as a laborer, farmhand, and farmer in successive censuses, for example, you can uncheck the checkbox for the ones you don't need to copy.  Just having "farmer" is sufficient for the tags.

Other censuses:  If a particular census has not yet been enabled, you will see a message saying so as you go to enter the information.  US State censuses or censuses from other countries can be enabled as needed -- contact the administrator if you have one you would like to see enabled.

VIewing the information in the green window above is currently the only place this information appears... but as new ideas come up, it may be useful in other ways to aggregate or report on the census data that is entered.

Updated: 12-12-2016

 City Directories


When editing a person, an event type "City Directory" allows entering a person's entry as found in a city directory.  Fields included:

  • Date (limit to a 4-digit year)
  • State + County + City
  • Page number (so that the person can be easily located in the directory source at a later date)
  • Occupation: Directories often abbreviate occupations, with a list of abbreviations elsewhere in the directory. Please look it up and spell it out, consistently with others already there. If you still can't figure it out, check with directories from other years or censuses. It doesn't help much to record something that does not make sense.

    If there are multiple occupations in one listing (like "shoemaker and bootmaker"), enter this as too separate occupations, not one joined with "and"

    The occupations are automatically copied to the tag section. If a city directory entry is updated or removed, this does NOT automatically remove the related tag. If needed, remove it separately

  • Employer: The employer is automatically comes from the list found under the event type "organization", but it remains separate, not does populate to the organization list.
  • Work Address: Enter only the street address
  • Home Address: Enter only the street address
  • Notes

On the main page when viewing a person, since there could be many city directory entries per person, a button in green at the top shows or hides them. These then remain shown or hidden from person to person, until the button is clicked again.


When hovering over the location part of the city directory, a popup menu comes up with the additional options:

  • "People in City Directory" -- Lists all people found with this city directory year and location.
  • "This Person in All Directories" -- Lists this person across all city directory entries.

In these lists that come up:

  • The green checkmark button at the top allows selecting and ordering the columns that appear, which can include all of the fields specific to the city directory (page, occupation, employer, addresses, notes).
  • Clicking a column heading will sort the list by that column. For the address columns, it attempts to sort by the street part of the address first, and then by the number second.
  • In the upper right is a link to a global city directory index, listing all years and locations with the number of people in each.  This is also found on the main menu under "Places"
  • In the right is the option to save the link to the full source of the directory for future reference.


On a person's page, clicking the globe button in the upper right goes to a map of places the person lived.  This includes the city directory entries, and it tries to map the location of the home addresses if defined.  Note that addresses from 100+ years ago may or may not correspond to current maps.

Updated: 7-29-2016


It is always important to have a birthdate and birthplace (and even a speculated birthdate if necessary), and a deathdate and deathplace where possible, for many reasons:
  1. It helps with searching...
          • if you search for someone born between 1700 and 1750, but include those without birthdates in the search, this includes many people that don't need to be included as they may have been born centuries earlier or later, but just not recorded here.  So getting the date in drops them out of the search results.
          • If you are searching for someone born about 1750, and you see in the search results a birthdate of 1750, then this will be more likely to catch your attention.  If it's blank, it won't.
          • Even if you're not searching by date, but just scrolling through search results, it's disconcerting to see people with no dates or places, as you don't know as much about them.
          • If you're searching for people who lived in a certain state, you will not find people who don't have any locations recorded.
  2. It exposes relationship errors relationship errors that would have not been found otherwise.
  3. It helps to find duplicate people, as only people with birthdates are included in duplicate searches.
  4. There's an automated tool to find connections from your data to other people's data, based on matching dates and places -- but if dates and places are not defined, these people are not included.
  5. NC MapPlaces that are filled in show up in shaded maps, which drill down to your data.  If yours are not entered, they won't show.
  6. Places that are filled in show up in other websites that extract and display data from here based on place.  If yours are not entered, they won't show.
  7. It saves the website administrator the grief of having hounding everyone to do this, and working with your data when you don't.

Also do searches over your existing data to fill in previous gaps, and consider doing the same to help out other researchers.

If you have any ideas on how to inspire others to be more complete in their data, or if you would like to help fill in gaps in other people's data, please contact the administrator.

Updated: 11-12-2016

 Speculative Dates

It is always good to have a birthdate defined for many reasons.  When a real or approximate birthdate is not known...

Speculative Birthdates
Since there are many for whom an actual or estimated birthdate can't be found, a speculative birthdate is a good alternative to help with all of the items in the link above.

For example, if a marriage date is known to be 1750, but you can't find birthdates for either person, you may speculate a wife's birthdate to be 1722/1732, and a husband's to be 1717/1727.  This is based on averages over the entire website showing a husband's average age at marriage as 28, and a wife's average age as 23.  Likewise if a youngest child is born about 1750, as this is often soon after marriage.

Is Date Speculative?:  When entering dates, a checkbox is available for indicating that a date is speculative.  Check this when a date is purely speculative -- then the date displays differently to make it very clear that it's a speculative date.  Note that this is only intended for when the date is purely based on a guess, and not an approximate date that is based on actual sources.  Like the speculation above, or in English, it's like saying "I know John was probably born around 1800 as his parents were born in the 1770's"

Then when you return to the person, it's immediately apparent to you that the date is a guess, and when visitors browse, they are alerted that your guess is not a date based on sources.

Living People
If a date is left blank for living people, go ahead and fill in the date but check the "Living-Private" checkbox -- then this person will not show for anyone but you, and this hole in the data is filled in.

Updated: 9-30-2011


Several different ways exist to indicate a person's occupations, positions, and memberships. and the different methods depend on what the information is.

  • If recording information that has a special section setup specfiically for that position -- politicians, military offficers, university officers, or peerage members, then use only that setup.  Go to add an event with type "Office" or "Military".  Do not use any of the below options to record that someone was a senator, governor, general, etc., as this is only duplicating information.

  • If recording an occupation does not have a specific geographic location, or when the locaiton is not that important to record, or the location expands further than a single location, and the name of the organization is known, then use the event type "Organization" (see below) to record the dates (if known), organization name, and role (if known).

    Example: Riggs National Bank:  Role: President
  • If recording an occupation that does not have a location or organization, perhaps listed in an obituary, tombstone inscription, or other biography, use the event type "tag" (see below).  Please capitalize only for items that should have capitals -- Methodist minister, Shakespearean scholar.

    Example: bank president, Methodist

More information on the Tags and Organization / Membership sections:

Organizations & Memberships
Use the event type "Organization". Record the names of membership, civic, society, or fraternal organizations, committees, or conferences that a person belongs to, or employer organizations where a location is not needed.  Start typing, and it will show a list of matching organizations. Choose an existing one or continue to type a new one.  Because this is a shared list of organization names, use GENERIC names.  Anything specific to a person should go in the person's notes.

After saving, if a date is enterd, it shows up in the person's list of events, sorted by date;  if the there is not a date, it shows up in the "Associates" section of the page.  Clicking one will go to a page showing everyone related to that organization.

The choice of fields available is customizable per organization. There's a green checkmark button next to each, and this gives the option of enabling one or more additional fields for that specific organization, and this applies to anyone else attached to that organizaiton. The access to changing this is open to anyone if it has not yet been customized by anyone... but after options are added, it is locked down to only that person (and the website administrator). Anyone can still update the data, just not the choices. Options cannot be unchecked after details have been entered for that option and organization.

Because the fields are variable, they are collapsed in a section accessible by clicking the gray arrow to the right of the organziation name.

Available options are:

State, County, Place -- When the relationship to the organization is specific to a state. For example, the Virgnia Secession Commission. This is NOT just someone's place of residence at the time they are related.
Role -- Someone's role at that organization.
Appointed By -- A list of all Presidents and Governors, to choose who appointed the person. This adds a link to that President or Governor, and also adds a link from there back to this person, as it does with existing political appointees.

Tags:  Use the event type "Tag".  You can enter an unlimited number of tags or keywords related to a person -- occupations, hobbies, etc. -- anything that may be applicable to multiple ancestors.  Because this is a shared list of tags, use GENERIC names. Anything specific to a person should go in the person's notes.

To enable/disable tags showing in different colors, see the option under Account > My Account > What I See.

A few "don'ts":

  • Don't include dates, names, or places. These are intended to be generic information that can be applied to many people, and including dates or names is too specific, possibly for only one person.
  • If a person was both a carpenter and a plumber, and you want to tag both occupations, don't use an "and", as this will create one tag with both. Instead, type a comma after one or a "tab", and this will separate them.
  • Don't repeat information from elsewhere. For example, there are other places to record religious affiliation, or military or political service -- there's no need to repeat that here.
  • Don't abbreviate, as this can lead to multiple tags for the same thing. Spell it out.

and some "do's":

  • When you start typing in the field, it will come up with a list of previous tags, including the current number of times each is used. Select one whenever possible to insure consistency, or continue typing in a new one.
  • After saving, each one becomes a link to a tag page listing all people tagged with that tag. Some like "farmer" might not be that helpful, but others like "policeman" might be interesting to reference.

Updated: 8-19-2018


When editing a person, the "Walls" tab allows for flagging the parent, spouse, and child relationships.  If a relationship has not been defined, you can flag it as a "Brick Wall".  When one has been defined, you can flag it as questionable.

Brick Walls
More specifically, this means that you have thoroughly researched the relationship and have no idea who it might be.  (How you define "thoroughly" is up to you.)   It is not for when you simply don't know or have not yet researched it.

When this is checked:
  • It stops you from being able to add a parent or spouse -- first you have to edit the person to uncheck the brick wall, and then add.
  • It stops other people from being able to link a parent or spouse to your person.  It seems probable that their relationship is one that you have already seen and believe to be false.  So rather than allowing this to be linked, it is hoped you will discuss among yourselves first, and then link when needed.
  • It displays on the person's page with a very obvious brick wall graphic to draw the attention of you and anyone else looking at it.  Perhaps seeing this will spark more research and collaboration to tear down the wall?

When there is a relationship defined, but you believe it may not be correct, you mark it as questionable.  The only difference here is that it shows on the screen in red to warn passersby.  You should add to the general notes information on why you believe this relationship is questionable.

Searching and Search Results
Search field options exist for both parents and spouses, for both brick walls and questionable relationships.  In search results, these will show for a person's parents.  This does not show not for spouses, as there may be multiple spouses for one person.

Updated: 1-10-2012


On the editing page for a person, two tabs separate the information -- "Main" for the vital information and "Notes" for other general notes.  Anything that does not fit in elsewhere, feel free to enter here. There is practically no limit as to the amount that you can enter.

If you wish to put website links in the notes, just copy & paste the link, preferably including the http:// or ftp:// at the beginning. It should automatically be recognized and will link itself.

The Notes tab contains two notes fields -- one for text that is displayed for anyone browsing through the site, and second a more restricted notes field that displays only for people who are logged in and identified as a moderator or subscriber of the person in question.

In the second you might keep more speculative information about who someone's relatives might be,information about where they may have migrated to, theories you're working on, or other notes about leads you want to look into later -- anything you want to record for future reference, and collaborate on with other researchers, but don't want to put out there for the world to see.

The general search options do cover both notes fields, but results will return from the second notes field only where you have the ability to access the information. To search specifically the "Notes for Research" field, choose this option under the "Other Search Options" choices.

Choice of Notes Editors
On the main account settings page is the choice of whether to use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, or a plain text editor.  The plain text choice has the advantage that it loads faster...  but the WYSIWYG choice enables the options of adding color, bold, italics, underlining, bullets and numbered lists to the notes.

One example of how you might use the more advanced formatting options is if you have a record where the person's information is in doubt, and you want emphasize this for people browsing.  You can make the text bold red to make it easier to spot the warning.

Updated: 1-16-2009


If someone has multiple spouses, a dropdown menu will appear above their name.  Choosing a different name from the dropdown menu will switch to that couple's record and their children.  In this list in parentheses is the number of children for that couple.

To add or edit marriage (or divorce) information for a couple:

* Click the block in the center above a couple's names, OR
* Choose "Edit Marriage" from the "Actions" menu, OR
* Press =, which corresponds to the "Edit Marriage" from the "Actions" menu

The order of the spouses in the dropdown menu is based on first the marriage date, and then second by first name for those that don't have marriage dates.  So where possible, define a marriage date or approximate date.

There are also several feasibility checks based on the marriage date, and these are only possible when the date is defined.

Updated: 10-6-2008


The Children's section lists the current couple's children, sorted by birth date.  Included with each child is the name, birth and death dates, birth place (color coded), and spouse.  To the left of each child is a number, optionally followed by one of the following icons, defined by the "flags" choices when editing a record.

+ Has Children  No Children  Adopted  Twin
 Never Married  Died Early Living-Private

Updated: 8-20-2011

 Pictures & Attachments

Henry familyMultiple pictures or other document attachments may be attached to each person's record.

Go up to the
, to "Add", and choose "Picture or Attachment".  The same form is used for diffrent uses, just with different options used or not used as needed.  For example, you can attach a picture but enter no text content, or enter a page of text content but not attach a picture, or enter a website URL without a picture or other text content, or fill in everything.

A "page" is a longer amount of text that's too long for the general "notes" field -- like a biography or a long musing about someone.  See David Gurganus or Edward Gurgany for examples.  Please, no copying, pasting, or attaching of material from elsewhere, unless you are the author or you have explicit permission from the author to republish it.

Editing & Deleting

On the left is a list of all images, documents, and pages related to the current person.  Click a title on the left to show it on the right.  Then in the upper right are the options to edit or delete.  Note that if an attachment or page is linked to multiple people, the "delete" option goes away.  Instead, edit the item to "unlink" people until there's only one left -- then it's deletable.

The first attached image marked as type "person" will appear on the main page next to the person's name.  All others appear lower in the page in the "Attachments" section.

Go to edit a person, to the "Attachments" tab.  Between the list on the left and the detail on the right is a column of dotted blocks for each item.  Click and drag a block up or down to re-order the items, and then save.  You can mix up the images, attached documents, and pages in any order that is logical for the reader.

By Surname
You also have the option of adding a page and choosing to relate it to everyone with a surname, or multiple surnames -- for example, information about the origin of a surname.  This page then appears for everyone with that surname.

A picture should be at most 500 to 700 pixels high and wide, so that the image is not larger than the size of the screen for people browsing.  Note that many digital cameras create files that are huge in size -- so resize them down to about 600 pixels before uploading. Each image should be a JPG, GIF, or PNG image.

When viewing thumbnail pictures, in an individual's "browse" page, in a pedigree chart, or in search results, hovering the mouse over a picture will show the full picture size right there on the page.  Move the mouse off the thumbnail, and the fullsize will go away.

DocumentsFor other documents, PDF, DOC, XLS, RTF, and TXT files are accepted.  For anything other than an image, a book icon like that on the right shows under a person's name, listing the titles and linking to what's attached.

What kinds of content should be attached?  It is not helpful to attach "family group sheets", lineage charts, or gedcoms.  This information is ideally entered into the website, with each person in their own record, and attaching it here would be repetitive.  This is intended more for biographies or more in depth analysis by a researcher -- more content than is feasible in the notes.

VideosYoutube videos related to an ancestor can be embedded into the body content of an attachment.  Select "Video" as the type, and in the WYSIWYG window, click the media button in the toolbar, and then copy & paste in the website address of the video.  All videos are shown on a separate page found under View > Video Index.

Linking to existing attachments
If the same picture or document is related to multiple people (like the group photo above, a tombstone with multiple people, or a scanned document mentioning multiple people), these can be linked instead of uploading them multiple times.  On the Add page, on the right side, click a recent attachment, or search to find an older one.

Other Information
For each, you can enter a title (this is what shows in the contents list on the left), URL's for sources or external documentation, selecting a source from the database (see the Sources page for more information), and general notes or short description.

Just a reminder that if you post pictures or documents online here, be sure that either you have permission from the photographer or author to post, or if they are copyrighted, that you have permission from the copyright holder.  It would also be good to mention in the notes or source for the picture that you have permission -- then you have it spelled out for future reference.

Updated: 8-13-2016

 Manage Places

Found under Places -> Manage Places is a page to help in managing places across all of your data. 

Consistent formatting, spelling, and punctuality in place names, and place names containing only place information, is important for many reasons:
  • less ambiguity -- there are many cases of a city or town in a state multiple times, in different counties, or a city and county name being the same
  • automatic color coding by county or province
  • linking people and places to individual county or province pages (under View -> County Resources, or View > Surname Resources)
  • more consistent Google mapping links
  • matching in the Account > Find New Connections logic.
In the "Place" box, type a county, state, or other text, and the page will list all places in the system with with these letters or words.  The next line down has the choice of "Starting with" or "Contains" or "All".

Examples: with "Starting with":
  • "N" selects all states, countries, or unidentified places starting with "N"
  • "NC" selects all information in North Carolina
  • "NC, Martin Co" selects all information in Martin Co, NC.
  • "NC, Martin Co, Williamston" selects all information in Williamston, Martin Co, NC (churches, cemeteries, etc.)
"Contains" selects all places with the text anywhere in any part.  "All" selects all places.

Other checkbox options restrict the list down further to help you find different sets of places that might need to be updated.

Search results
The list of places shows the matching results, sorted by state / country, county, and city / town.  Blanks in each part bubble up to the top of the list. 

Other options:
-- With each place name also shows the number of times each is found. 
-- In cases where the place is found only once, a person icon links directly to that person's page.
-- The link appearing as a number of lines links to the full search results for that place.
-- A blue pin icon indicates that the system has stored the coordinates to identify this place on a map, and is linked to that map.
-- A red icon indicates that the system has tried to find it, but has not been successful.  Thus the place may be misspelled, in an incorrect county, or somehow isn't a valid place.
-- A globe icon links to one of several sites that help you to find where the place is.  Note that if a place is not found here or on other websites (links below), this is a good indication that it is in correct and needs more research.

When clicking a place, the fields at the top of the page become editable.  If you should discover a place name is misspelled, or you want to change formatting or punctuation, editing it here and clicking "Save" will update all cases of that event with what you enter.

URL: Each city or town can have an associated website or URL with more information, a page that is primarily about that city or town.  This is often prepopulated with a Wikipedia page.  For others not defined, you can supply a webpage address.  This then appears on the browse page, when clicking a place and then "More on this location".

Coordinates:  Filling in the coordinates is optional.  With most U.S. places, this will fill itself in when the system tries to identify the place on a Google map page.  In cases where the place is not found, you can also identify it yourself by filling in latitude and longitude coordinates here.  These can be found on several websites such as USGS or Global Gazeteer.

For the URL and coordinates, these are only editable if they have not previously been defined -- so you can't erase anything that someone else supplies for this place, or vice versa.  If something here needs to be changed, contact the administrator.

Read more on formatting place names.

Updated: 3-30-2012

 Place Formatting

Consistent formatting, spelling, and punctuality in place names, and place names containing only place information, is important for many reasons:
  • less ambiguity -- there are many cases of a city or town in a state multiple times, in different counties, or a city and county name being the same
  • automatic color coding by county or province
  • linking people and places to individual county or province pages (under Places -> State & County Resources, or View > Surname Resources)
  • more consistent Google mapping links
  • matching in the Account > Find New Connections logic.
The data entry fields are separated into separate fields -- first, a state / country list.  Selecting one then populates the corresponding county / province list, and select one here then populates the city / town list.

For places in the US, enter places in the form:
State (2-letter abbreviation), County name (including " Co"), City and other location information.
NC, Martin Co
NC, Martin Co, Williamston
NC, Martin Co, Williamston, Woodlawn Cemetery
MD, Baltimore Co
For independent cities, enter the state and city. If the name of the city is also the name of a county, differentiate by adding "City". Of the many in Virginia, below are the most common.  (Others that are contained within a larger county, I list those with the county.)
MD, Baltimore City MD, Baltimore City, Woodlawn Cemetery

VA, Alexandria VA, Bristol VA, Charlottesville VA, Chesapeake
VA, Danville VA, Franklin City VA, Fredericksburg VA, Hampton
VA, Hopewell VA, Lynchburg VA, Newport News VA, Norfolk
VA, Petersburg VA, Poquoson VA, Portsmouth VA, Radford
VA, Richmond City VA, Roanoke City VA, Staunton VA, Suffolk
VA, Virginia Beach VA, Williamsburg    
For other countries, enter the country, province, and city. For Ireland, select the county in the form "Cork Co".
England, Middlesex, London
Ireland, Cork Co, Cork
France, Ile-de-France, Paris
For some countries the county or province to use may not be clear. Here are some links to maps for suggestions:
England, Scotland, WalesIrelandFranceGermanySpainItaly

Boundary changes:  See the separate page on boundary changes.

Questionable / Uncertain places: To the right of the entry field is a checkbox for marking a place as questionable or uncertain. Instead of typing a ? or "probably" or something like this in the field, just check the checkbox and leave the text to be the place itself.

: In cases where a state or country is known, but efforts to find a county or province have not been successful, then just enter the state/country and city.

For help in finding places, click the Globe icon.  A website will come up with more information about the place, if found.  Alternatively, try GNIS or Wikipedia.  If you can't find a place anywhere, then it's probably not correct.

Updated: 3-30-2012

 Boundary Changes

Data Entry
The data entry for all places should be done relative to the present-day location.  Even if at that time the city was in a different county, or the county in a different state, enter the present-day location.

List of Changes
In cases where names and boundaries have changed over time, the display of place names will change automatically, based on the list of changes found at Places > Boundary Changes.

On this page are defined the name for a current place, how that place was named at previous times, the start and end dates for these time periods, and a website that documents this change.

This list is not exhaustive, but will be expanded as boundary changes are submitted.  New submissions are saved but will not be active until the website administrator reviews and approves it, based on the website link provided.  Since each submission relates to the entire website, accuracy is important.

If there are situations that are not yet handled here, email the website administrator with details on these situations, and these will be examined.

An Example
The city of Alexandria, Virginia became part of D.C. in 1790, and then returned to Virginia in 1846.  Any location defined as "VA, Alexandria" will display like this for event dates before 1790 and after 1846, but between these years, the display and the related color-coding automatically changes to "DC, Alexandria".  To highlight this change, an asterix Asterix will follow the place name.

Note that when searching by place, the search criteria always uses the place entered into the data, but the search results will show the adjusted place.  So with the example above, if you search for "VA, Alexandria", search results may include "DC, Alexandria".

Updated: 4-18-2012


See a tutorial on merging duplicates
Avoiding Duplicates:
Before adding new records, do a search over all branches on the site to be sure that the people are not already entered as part of someone else's branch.  If they are already there, then you can enter any missing family members and link them to their existing relatives.

Also remember that this is a growing tree -- with other researchers adding new information, search results down the road may include more than they do today.

Finding Duplicates:
Under Collaborate > Find Duplicates is a report that will run across all names in your branch of the tree, comparing to the all names in the entire system, and will report back any possible duplicate records.  This is based on the following:

  • two people having the same surname
  • similar first names.  This does match people with a few of the most common variations of given names.  For example, "Mary" matches "Polly", "William" matches "Bill", etc.
  • same gender
  • same race (based on the race checkboxes on the editing page)
  • birth and death dates within 4 years of each other, or blank death dates.  Note: This counts only people who have birthdates entered, as matching a common name with no birthdate would match too many others -- thus it is good always to put in speculative birthdates where exact ones are not known.
  • birth and death places that do not exclude each other, or blank places.  For example, places of "NC" and "NC, Martin Co" will potentially link two people as born in the same place, but "NC, Beaufort Co" and "NC, Martin Co", or "GA" and "NC" will not.
  • similar or blank spouse names
  • similar or blank parent names

This is one example of how consistently formatted place names are important, as "NC, Martin Co" and "Martin Co, NC" will not match as being the same place.

It is likely that this will produce pairs of people who are not duplicates, but there is not enough information for the system to determine that they are not the same person.  For these cases, they can be cleared from the duplicate list by

  • editing one or both of the people in question and update their information to be more specific, where possible -- such as recording dates or places where they were blank or not as specific as they could be, OR
  • clicking the "Not Dupes" link on the far right.  If no other distinguishing details are known, but you know that the pair in question are not the same person, then click this link.  The line will turn gray to indicate they are marked, and they will not show up the next time the duplicate check is run.

If the pair in question could be the same person but you don't really know, then maybe leave them there as a reminder to keep looking for more information.  Maybe contact other researchers for both of the people to ask the questions you may have.

Clicking a person's name will open that person's record in a new window, so that the duplicate list will stay as it is -- you do not have to keep re-running it to return to it as you continue down the list.

If your screen is large enough, you can open side-by-side the two windows for the two duplicate people, and compare their information.  Then edit one to contain any additional information that the other has, and delete the other.

Resolving the duplicates is important both for you and for other researchers.  If two of the same person are not merged, then you will only see part of the information, and other people browsing your information may be missing whole branches of the tree they would not see otherwise.

The list of possible duplicates will be emailed to you once a month, to notify you of ones you may not be aware of, and to remind you to keep on top of resolving them.

Updated: 9-30-2011

 Feasibility Checks

Under Account > Feasibility Checks are a few options that cross check spouses, parents, and children, comparing their dates of birth, marriage, and death, and report back any that it sees as not feasible, or not probable.  This is limited to records for which you are the moderator, but includes their related people for which someone else may be a moderator.

On this page, the "Preview" button runs all of the checks and gives you a count of what how many it finds.  Clicking each one brings up the list of people in the search results page, where you can go into each and look into the problem.

In some cases dates will turn out to have typos.  In others, it may have what you intended to type in, but at the time didn't realize that there was conflicting information.  Other cases, such as a couple having children before their marriage date, might be correct as-is.  For these, you can tell the system that the error is correct and doesn't need to be reported to you.

Please contact the Site Administrator if there are any other checks you would like to add to the list.  Below is a brief description of each:

Birth after Death A person's birthdate is after their deathdate or burial date.
Child after mother age 70 A child's birth date is after the mother was 70 years old 
Child after parent died A child's birth date is after a parent's death date 
Child before parent birth A child's birth date is too close to, or before, a parent's birth date
Child before parent marriage A child's birth date is before the parent's marriage date.  There may be actual cases of this, but good to check nevertheless.  For ones that are correct as-is, check the "bef parent marriage" checkbox in the child's record.  This will exclude this record from the report.
Date range more than 50 years For birth, marriage, and death dates, when a date is entered in the form "1800/1900".  Having a range 50 years or more is not much better than having no date at all.  Ideally, a good range estimate would be more like 10-20 years at most.
Death before marriage / Birth after marriage A spouse has a death date before their marriage date, or a birth date after their marriage date.
Generation Gap There is a large gap in the birthdates of a parent and child, perhaps indicating there should be an additional generation in between, or an invalid relationship.
Lifespan too long People who are shown as living more than 110 years (while possible, not probable)
Married before Age 10 People who were less than 10 years old on their marriage date.  There may be legitimate cases, like with arranged marriages.  For ones that are correct as-is, check the "marriage bef age 10" checkbox in the person's record.  This will exclude this record from the report.
Spouse Birth & Death People whose birth date is after a spouse's death date

Tip: When an actual birthdate is not known, try to find a date from a census, or define a speculated birthdate.  This can often be estimated based on the birthdates of parents, spouses, and children.  This will aid in the feasibility checks by finding impossibilities that would not otherwise be found, and will aid in duplicate checking and general searching.

For example, if someone is born 1800, his father has no birthdate, and his father is born 1780.  At first this might not seem to be a problem, until you try to assign an estimated birthdate to the generation in the middle.  Then it becomes clear that something is wrong.  With the dates filled in, the feasibility checks will be able to find more errors that you may not realize.

To aid in finding those without a birthdate, choose "Blank Dates" = "Only" at the top of the search results page.

Keep on top of your errors!
In addition to this page you can access at any time, the list of feasibility errors will be emailed to you once a month, to notify you of ones you may not be aware of, and to remind you to keep on top of resolving them.  While it can be time-consuming, confusing, and maybe even frustrating, it is important to stay on top of resolving these errors.  Otherwise, people seeing your data may copy and propogate the same errors, or they may see the errors and not take you seriously since you have something posted that is clearly not correct.

Too many times there are blatant errors repeated over and over (and over and over and over) in research shared and posted to WorldConnect or FamilySearch.  We can't do much about it in other trees there, but here, you can fix it.

If you see an error in someone else's branch, submit a suggestion to fix it, or email them to inspire them to get to it!

Updated: 8-21-2012


The score is a calculation over a researcher's data giving an overall score on the completeness of the data.  The goal is that seeing this number go up will encourage you to fill in gaps in your current data, and to keep it filled in with new entries.

The score is calculated based on the number of a researcher's records that have
  • a first and last name AND
  • birth date and state/country AND
  • death date and either state/country, or grave location (with state/country, county, and place).  Since the death location and grave location are often the same, I count them together for scoring purposes.
Partial credit is given for records that have some these but not all of them...  plus a bonus point for each:
  • picture (either posted to a branch, or posted by a researcher to another branch)
  • document
  • wikipedia link (under "reference")
... all divided by the number of records.  This excludes all people marked as "living", as these are sometimes intentionally left blank.

So if everyone of in a branch has a first name, last name, birth date & place, death date & place, the score will be 100%, or higher if there are enough bonus points added.  The score is then shown in the form of gold stars StarStarStarStar with 4 starts being 100%.  Remember getting gold stars for being a good kid?  Here's your chance again.

Tip: For anyone living in the US 1850-1920, birth dates and states can usually be found in the census.  For anyone who had children living 1880-1920, the parents' birth states can be found in their children's census.

Updated: 10-23-2010


If you have submitted information here, and the time comes when you no longer want to participate, you may want to remove your entire branch.  Since you still own your data, this is certainly your right.

Deleting a whole branch can be very difficult, as it's like removing one thread from a spider web without the whole web being affected.  Once you have your information online here, it may take on a life of its own -- it may be inter-linked with branches of other people.  It may accumulate discussion posts from other people.  So removing your branch is a loss for the greater Our Family Tree community.

Consider that other researchers might have attached themselves as descendants of people in your branch.  This is great, as you are gaining cousins you might not have know you had!  But then if you should want to delete your information from here, you are not just deleting your own, but other people's ancestors as well.  To get a list of all of the conenctions from your people to people in branches from other researchers, go to Account > Find Current Connections.

As a better alternative I suggest that the information be left "up for adoption".  You would no longer be expected to interact with the site and maintain your data, and other researcher(s) who have an interest in this information would be able to adopt it as their own, update it, and extend it as they like.  Though your participation would still be valued and preferred, leaving the data for others would be a good alternative to deleting it.  If this option is desired or if you have questions, contact the Administrator.

Updated: 2-15-2012

 Custom Reports - Running

See a tutorial on editing & running custom reports

Found under Account > Custom Reports, the Custom Report module allows researchers to create, save, and run queries or reports based on the database.  This gives you the options to select any fields you want to include, in the order that you want them, any combination of criteria, any order for outputing the records, and (coming soon) few different ways to format the output.  Only you will see the reports that you create.

When editing:
Fields:  On the right under "Not selected" are all of the options available.  Drag a field to the left to select it, and place it in the order that you want them to appear in the output.  To remove one, drag from the left back to the right.

Selection Criteria:  Select here who it is you want to see in your output, using the same options available in the search page.  All reports by default will show all people from all branches. If you want only your own, you can add criteria for selecting your own.

Ordering:  All fields selected above will be copied to the ordering section, on the right side.  To determine the order in which information appears, drag an option to the left.  For each option, you can choose the order Ascending (A-Z) or Descending (Z-A).

Grouping:  If checked, the first option from the ordering section will become a group heading.  Instead of this column being duplicated down the page, it will appear once above all related records.

Updated: 6-25-2016

 Custom Reports - Editing

See a tutorial on editing & running custom reports

Below is a list of fields on the form for adding and editing a custom report.

: The title or name of the custom report. To be able to group similar queries together in the alphabetical list, it may be helpful to prefix the title with common keywords.

DeBrowsefault: When created, each custom report can have saved with it a default output, including "Browse", "Download". Then when clicking a custom report from the main menu, the custom report's default output will come up in the "Output" list.  Here are the output options:

Browse: Displays all of the fields from the custom report in a table on the screen.  The columns appear in the order of the "selected fields" list when editing the custom report.

SpreadsheetDownload: Saves all fields from the custom report into a delimited text file for use in other applications like Excel, or a fixed-width text format for contributing to archive sites.  Note that a downloadable custom report must be defined to filter down to your own data.  You cannot download anyone else's data.

Map reportArea Map: When choosing this option, an additional choice offers which map to use, including a world map, USA state map, many European countries, and county maps for the 48 continental USA.  Then this map displays the output of the custom report, shoiwng the number of records per country, county, or province.  If multiple places (birth, christening, marriage, death, grave) are included in the output, this maps the first one that it is referenced.

Google mapGoogle Map:  The output goes to a Google map plotting the locations in the custom report.  If multiple places (birth, christening, marriage, death, grave) are included in the output, this maps the first one that it is referenced.  Clicking a pin shows the other information for each person related to that place.  Note that this works only for places that have been identified with latitude & longitude coordinates.  If you have places that are not identified on your map, see about getting the coordinates defined.

Category: As your number of custom reports grows, you may need some way to categorize them.  Typing something here will create an expandable subheading, containing all custom reports with this category.


Hide Border in Browse: In some cases, it may help the browse output to be able to display without the table border. Clicking this will turn the border off.

Hide Detail: Used with the "Grouping" option explained below, this hides the individual detail lines of a report, leaving only the subtotal and total lines.

Distinct: In some cases, the logic of a report may produce duplicate records in the output.  Checking this will eliminate the duplicates.

Full Memos: If a notes field is included in the output, by default it will be limited to only a few lines so that the length does not make the output too unwieldy.  Checking this tells it to show the full notes regardless of how long they are.

Notes: Any miscellaneous notes to record with the custom report. This may include notes on when to run it, what it means, etc. This information will show on the main menu when clicking on a custom report.

Selected Fields: This list shows all of the database fields. First (IN CAPS) is shown the description of the table or section of the system, and second is the name of the field.  If the "PERSON ID" field is included, in the output it becomes a link to that person's record -- so it's often helpful to include.

To select a field, either click once and then click "Include", or double-click. To select multiple fields, Ctrl- or Shift-Click the fields to select multiple, and then click "Include". Likewise to remove a field or fields that are already selected on the right.

To change the order that fields appear, click a field and then click the up or down arrow buttons to the right of the list of fields.

Selection Criteria:  This is where you specify which records you want to include or exclude in the output.  After selecting an option from the main list, a new row will appear where you can specify what kind of comparison and what it is compared to.  To remove a row previously selected, click the X on the right.

Note that by default, a custom report covers all branches on the site.  If you want it to include only your own, you need to include the "BRANCH" option to select yourself.

Sort By: Select the fields to use in controlling the order of the records in the output.  It works similar to the "selected fields" options above, moving fields from left to right. To set a field to sort in descending or reverse order, choose the "Z-A" option, and then include the field.

Grouping: When selected, the output will take the first number of fields, and will make that into a group header for all records containing that value.

Updated: 10-20-2010


The setup for adding and choosing sources is the same in several parts of the system, when updating people, documents, and pictures.  One source can be linked to an unlimited number of records.

Note the distinction between documents and sources.  A document is the text or abstract of a historical text such as a deed, will, census listing, newspaper article, etc, and can be entered separately.  A source is where this document came from - a book, a library, a website, etc.  A source may also be for information that is not a document, such as a website, email correspondence, or personal knowledge.  While it is always good to have documents as proof for secondary sources, it may not always be possible.

Do's and Don'ts
Based on what's been entered by others on online, here are some suggested do's and don'ts:
  • Your own name or email address alone are not sources, unless the information comes directly out of your personal memory -- like the information for your immediate family.  Instead, reference the place where you found the information.
  • Google.com is not a source.  Reference the website you found through Google.
  • A source entry typically does not contain any information about individual people in your branch, unless you received information from that person.  The source lists where you found the information, not what you found.
  • When quoting a large website like Rootsweb or FamilySearch as a source, use a specific URL for a collection or section of the website, rather than the website in general.  Actually you won't be able to enter "www.familysearch.org" or "ancestry.com" as a source.  There are several reasons for this:
    --- If you go back to lookup the source later, you won't know where on the website it was.
    --- If someone else reads this and wants to get more information, they won't know where to go.
    --- When quoting other online family trees, it's good to reference the specific researcher, so that they get the credit for their work.  For example, when in someone's tree, you could click their "index" link, and quote that as the source for all information from that researcher.
  • Look at the information from the point of view of someone browsing -- does the source give them enough information to know where to go to find the same information?
  • Whenever possible, use online sources that are publically accessible, vs. the same source on a paid service -- then it will be accessible by other people.

  • Do not quote different sources in one source.  Add a new source for each, and link each to the related people.

Adding a New Source:

There are two ways of creating a source.  Below shown in RED is where ou create and select a custom source, which can be any book, website, correspondence, or other information you want to quote.  More information below.

The second way to add a source is using one of the pre-defined websites listed in the "Sites" dropdown list, outlined above in BLUEMore information below.

Shown in GREEN are sources that are already attached to the record.  More information below.

Shown on the right in PURPLE are options to connect each source to individual fields. More information below.

Adding a custom source
  1. Each custom source can be re-used as many times as needed, as so it's important to search first, just in case you added it before.  To search, click "Add/Pick Source" and then as you type in the fields on the left, matching sources will appear on the right.  Then click one to select it and return.
  2. If the source is not found, then continue filling in the fields on teh left.  Fill in any information as needed, and save.  Note that some of the source fields may not be applicable for some sources -- just leave them blank.  The main thing is so that someone else can look at your source, and from there find the same information that you found.
Below are a few examples:
After saving, a source added is automatically be added to the list of "Recent" sources, and selected for the current record.
Verifiability: With each source is an option to label the reliability or verifiability of the source.  Wherever sources show up, a color-code corresponding to this option will also appear, giving you and your readers a quick glance at how verifiable the sources are.
  • 99% Verifiable; Primary or direct evidence -- Knowledge of your immediate family, census records, wills, certificates, etc.
  • Probable; Secondary evidence -- Published works
  • Shared from other researchers, but solid work -- Researchers who do excellent work, to distinguish them from all other researchers quoted
  • Shared from other researchers, all others
  • Speculation; Questionable
  • Unreliable

Auto-link:  All selected sources are automatically added to the dropdown lists under "Auto-Link" and "Recent".  Only the sources that are selected in these dropdown lists will be linked to the record being added or edited.  If a source under "Auto-Link" is selected, it will also be pre-selected for all future records added or edited, until the end of your session, or until you blank out this choice.
Recent:  If you need to link a source just once, rather than repeatedly, choose it under "Recent", and save.

Adding a Pre-Defined Source
If one of the pre-defined websites covers the source  you want to add, it is much quicker to use this, vs. adding a custom source.  These include:

  • Findagrave.com -- a person's memorial page, not the homepage or search results.
  • Wikipedia.com -- a page about a person.
  • FamilySearch.org - a document (census, marriage record, etc.) about a person, not the homepage or search results.
  • ncpedia.org -- Encyclopedia of NC, a bio page about a person.
  • encyclopediaofarkansas.net -- Encyclopedia of Arkansas, a bio page about a person.
  • encyclopediavirginia.org -- Encyclopeida Virginia, a bio page about a person.
  • www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers.htm -- an index to US Civil War soldiers.
  • services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search/?Tab_ID=1 -- DAR Ancestor Search
  • wikiquote.com -- quotes by a person
  • billiongraves.com --- a person's memorial page
  • valleyforgemusterroll.org -- service record at Valley Forge, PA

Findagrave and Wikipedia can only be used once per person, as they have only one primary page per person.  Other pages can be added as custom sources, if needed.

Just copy & paste into the "Site Information" field the website address of one of the pre-defined websites.  If it is recognized, the corresponding website will show in the space to the right of the field.  That's all that is needed.

For FamilySearch.org documents, one other difference -- the system will retrieve the collection title from FamilySearch, and display that with your source after saving.

Related To...
To the right of each selected source are checkboxes, one for most of the fields, including the title, first name, last name, occupation, general notes, and the date, place, and notes for each event. To show that a source relates specifically to one or more of these fields, check the appropriate box(es). These are optional. The sources will still appear at the bottom, whether checked or not.
When checked, a small number will show after the field, corresponding the numbered sources at the bottom of the page.

Unlink Source:
Sources previously attached to the current record appear in a list below the selection fields.  To unlink a source, click the source's radio button, click "Unlink Source", and save.

Displaying Source information:
The source information you attach to a person is displayed at the bottom of their page.  When someone else browses into the page, this is what tells them where you found your information.

A couple notes:
  • When a source is a general Rootsweb page linking to the index of someone's database, like this below:


    then when this link shows as a source, the ancestor's name will be added to the URL, so that the Rootsweb page is positioned at or near that ancestor's name in the index list.  Thus you don't need to specify a direct URL for each person, but the link will still at least get close to their name...  At least easier than searching for the name.

Manage Sources
To edit or delete a source, go to the overall list of sources found under the Account > Manage Sources page.  Here you can search through the whole list, sort it, see how many records are linked to each source, and edit source information.   The count of linked records is the total of the sources linked to individual people, documents, pictures, and change log records.

To edit, delete, or list linked records, first click  a source.  The hover highlight color should stop moving.  Then click the corresponding button.  To select another source, click any record and the hover highlighting will move again.

Think about it from the opposite point of view.  Suppose you've been searching for years for a long lost relative, and finally find them mentioned on a website.  The person who posted is no longer reachable, and he/she didn't leave any source information.  So you have no leads to follow, and you doubt the accuracy, as you can't verify it anywhere.  You are doing the same thing if you quote yourself, if you say "various online resources", if you quote a website that doesn't exist, or if you just say "ancestry.com" -- then you are essentially leaving no trail for anyone to follow.

Set a high standard, and challenge yourself to go beyond it.

Updated: 2-3-2017


The Documents section records text or abstract text of any census listings, deeds, wills, or other documents.  Each document is maintained as a separate entity to minimize the chances of its text being compromised with commentary or editing, and to enable the same document to be linked to multiple records (such as beneficiaries or witnesses in a will, or multiple families in one census household).

Also, sometimes document information will come from a source that you have (a personal book, something at a library, or a paid online resource) that other researchers will not have. So in recording it here, others have the full source information they would not have had otherwise.

An additional benefit is enabling the ability to search for people who do not have a census found, in the People Without Census report.

Clicking the type link goes to the editing page if you are the document's moderator; otherwise it opens up a view page for the document.

Clicking a name linked in the document text goes to that person's individual page.

Each document also appears on a person's Timeline page.

Updated: 9-9-2007

 Document Entry

The document entry page is used for maintaining the text or abstract text of any census listings, deeds, wills, or other documents.  Each document is maintained as a separate entity to minimize the chances of its text being compromised with commentary or editing.  Through this page the same document can link to the records of multiple people.

  • Type:  The type of document being entered

  • Date: The date of the document.  Acceptable date formats are the same as those when entering event information.

    Note: When entering a census listing, with the year between 1790 and 1840, a key to the age ranges will appear above the text entry box.  It's not guaranteed to be accurate for all counties and states, but nevertheless should be helpful to avoid confusion and errors.

  • Sources:  The source is where the document came from -- a book, which library, a website,  another researcher, etc.  See the separate page on Sources.

  • Full Text: The full text of the document or abstract.  Note: For historical accuracy, try to keep to the original wording where possible.  If annotations or comments are needed, enclose in [square brackets].  While entering the text, commonly used phrases are available with the Ctrl+Alt hotkeys listed at the bottom of the page.

  • Related People and Places: The related sections provide a way to link multiple people and / or multiple locations to the document.  The person to whose record the document is added automatically fills in his/her ID number -- you just need to pick a "Role".  Then for any additional people or places, click "Save & Continue". 

    For linking a person already in the system, choose his/her role, first and last names, and click the "Name Search" button.  In the popup window, click the correct name, and then this person's ID will be inserted into the page.  The names are no longer needed with the ID having been found.  If the person is not found, leave the typed names there and save.

    Once linked, people and places will be listed above the link fields, showing related information if found.  To edit one of these links, click the line.  To delete a link, click the line and then click "Delete Related Link".

    On the browse page under the Documents section, the linked people here are displayed as links to their own records, which will again show the document on their record, linking back to the original person.  These links are based on their name being found in the document text.  If their name is mentioned in some other form, add their actual name in [square brackets], and this should enable the link.

Updated: 3-24-2014

 Document Search

The document search page on the "View" menu searches over all of the documents entered into the system, with the options of searching by for text, places, sources, type, and the date updated.

Documents contain the text or abstract text of any census listings, deeds, wills, or other documents. Each is maintained as a separate entity to minimize the chances of its text being compromised with commentary or editing.  This setup also allows a document to be linked to multiple people without duplication.

When searching by name, multiple words will each be required in the search results. Enclose a name in quotes to find that exact name. Examples:
Thomas Gaylord finds all documents containing Thomas and Gaylord
"Thomas Gaylord" finds all documents containing Thomas Gaylord
"Thomas Gaylord" Gurganus finds all documents containing Thomas Gaylord and Gurganus
"Thomas Gaylord" "Nicholas Gurganus" finds all containing Thomas Gaylord and Nicholas Gurganus

In the search results, clicking the highlighted line will edit the document if you are the moderator;  otherwise it will open a view window.  Clicking a linked name in the document text will link to the person's individual record, if it is known who this person is; otherwise it links to another document search for that name, as this may reveal more matches.

The "Unlinked Names" and "Unlinked Surnames" options list out names that around found in documents, but which are not linked to individual records.  Sometimes you run across a deed or will that you know the people have to be related to your family somehow, but it's not yet clear how.  So you can go ahead and enter it, add generic links to the names, and then use these buttons to find the unlinked documents down the road.

 Link Checker

Under Account > Link Checker is a page that goes through all of the websites listed in your sources, and checks each to see if they still exist.  Each will be listed out on the screen with a green (it is found) or pink (there was a problem) code indicating the status of that address.  You can click the link to the website to test it yourself.

Also provided are a count of the number of records the source is attached to (only if there's a problem), a link to list those records, a link to edit the source, and if it is not attached to anyone, a link to delete.  So you can update or delete it right there.  An update does not appear immediately, but it is saved.

If an updated link can't be found, either (1) update the people attached to the link to reference a different source that is found, and then delete the source, or (2) move the out-of-date link to the "notes" field in the source, and label it as an obsolete website -- then you will still have it for reference, but no one will be trying to access it.

If the same address is quoted multiple times, it is only listed once here, but a number appears after the "edit" link showing how many times it is used.

Note that this doesn't guarantee that the website still contains relevant information, but just that it is still accessible.  Cleaning up any bad addresses will help you to maintain your data and others as they browse your data.  Please check your website sources when you can get to it, and check again at least every few months.

Updated: 3-6-2010


On individual records
Discussions are general message boards that relate to individual records.  These can contain questions, speculations, comments, or general notes that someone would like to post.  Researchers posting information do not have to be logged into the system, but if they are, their name and email will fill in automatically.  Email addresses are only displayed for researchers who are logged in -- so no need to worry about attracting more spam.

For contributing updates on someone's name, dates, or places, it would be good to use instead the Suggestions feature, as the moderator can apply the changes directly.

If you are not already the moderator of a person, go up to the
menus, to "Add", and choose "a Discussion Post".  If you are already the moderator of a person, this goes to the edit page for the person, rather than adding an entry under "Discussions".  Here you can add your information in the notes.

General comments
On other general pages at the bottom is an option to post questions, comments, or add information -- anything related to the page in question.

Updated: 1-4-2016


Website users who are logged in, and who are not the moderators of a record, can make some changes directly, and others are saved as suggested changes -- just go to the same Edit option you use for your own records.

New events (such as adding a death date and place for someone who does not have either) can be added directly without approval needed from the moderators.  They will still be notified by email of your additions.

Editing any existing information is saved for the record's moderator to approve.  After being saved, but before the moderator has responded to them, these suggested changes are visible under the Suggest section.  An additional field is available to include a message to the moderator about the suggested changes.  This is only visible to you and the moderator, and is not saved once the moderator responds.

For the person submitting, these are listed just below the person's information, with the buttons to "Cancel" or "Remind".   Here they may be canceled if needed.  Unless canceled, suggested changes will show up for the moderators of the individual records until accepted or declined.  If accepted, the changes will be applied directly to the records themselves.

The moderator of these records are automatically emailed a notification that you have entered a suggested update.  If suggested changes sit for a long time without the moderator responding, the reminder option will re-send the email notification.

Clicking a name under the list of researchers brings up this person's profile page.

For the moderator, these are listed on the home page, and on the person's record under the "Suggestions" section. To accept changes, click the checkbox next to each one and the "Accept" button, or the "Decline" button to delete it without it updating the record.

If you choose to decline, the system prompts for a reason to decline.  A couple pre-defined reasons you can be selected, or you can write your own.  Whatever is written is emailed back to the person who made the suggestion.  The website administrator will be copied on all messages, to monitor what kind of changes are being declined, and what the responses are.

Updated: 1-25-2015


The system has three levels of access:  Moderators, Subscribers, and Browsers. 

You are automatically assigned as the moderator of any record that you add or import yourself, giving you complete editing control over the contents of your records.  Only moderators have editing access, and only you can add additional moderators to your records, should you choose to do so. 

To add another researcher, click into edit your own line in the Access area, and then type part of their name or email address in the box.  A list of matching researchers will appear.

As the moderator of a record, you will see subscribers if there are any, and you can click the subscriber and promote them to be a moderator -- perhaps you trust their work and want to give them access to edit common parts of your trees.  If there is at least one other moderator, you may also relinquish your own moderator access.

If you added a moderator, you may also remove another researcher as a moderator -- click into their line on a person's record, and click the checkbox to remove them.

A moderator may also be added to multiple records in your data through the search results page, rather than one at a time.

Adopting a Record
If another researcher has tagged a record as being up for adoption, or if the original researcher is no longer online on the site, you can adopt it as your own.  At the bottom of the page, click on "Show Moderators/Owners".  A green  Adopt  button will appear next to the person's name, and clicking the button will add you as a moderator.  Then you have full access to the record.

Giving a Record up for adoption
If there are parts of your branch you wish to give up for adoption, making it available for anyone else on the site to take over, edit your moderator record under "Access" and check "Put this record up for adoption", and optionally "Take me off as a moderator".  If checked, when someone else adopts it, your moderator status will be removed.

A subscriber is some who has signed up and logged in with a website account, and has subscribed themselves to an individual record by clicking "subscribe me" on the Access section.  Doing so gives the subscriber the choices of having their name and email address visible to the public on this contact's record, visible only to authenticated users of the website, and receiving email notifications when the record is updated.

Subscribers cannot edit the details of a record, but they can submit suggestions to the moderator.

The lowest level of access if for the general public browsing the site.  Browsers cannot edit anything, or submit suggestions, but can submit posts to the discussion section for each person.

Clicking a name under the list of researchers brings up this person's profile page.

Updated: 9-1-2016

 Find Current Connections

The Collaborate > "Find Current Connections" page lists out all people from your branches who are the children, spouses, or parents of other people online from other researchers.

Click a column heading to re-sort the list by that column.
Click a name to go to that person's page.

Updated: 8-20-2011

 Find New Connections

There are two separate "Find New Connections" pages, using different logic.

1) The Collaborate > "Find New Connections #1" page lists out all people from your branches who could potentially be related to other people online from other researchers.

Ancestors:  When searching for ancestors of your people, it lists those who do not have parents identified, do have a birth date and place, and where other researchers do have this same surname in the same location as yours, and up to 110 years before yours.  For these it would be possible that the parents or earlier ancestors of yours are already online in another researcher's branch, or perhaps are in the same family if not ancestors.
An example:
Mary Cooper from my data, last modified within the past month, is a possible descendant of other Cooper's from two other researcher's information, one of which has also been modified within the past month.  This is based on entries with the same name, same county, and close dates.
Descendants:  When searching for descendants of your people, it lists those who have a birth date and place, and where other researchers have this same surname in the same location as yours, no parents identified, and up to 110 years after yours.

Clicking the name from your data opens up the page for your person.  Clicking the name of the researcher opens a list of their people with this name, in this timeframe.  Also shown is the most recently updated date from the other researcher's data, and in yellow if within the past month -- so that you can focus on recent updates, vs. older ones you may have already looked at.

Also helping you to focus on recent updates, putting a date in the date field at the top fill filter the list to show only those matches with updates since this date.

Note:  This is limited to only those who have at least an approximate birth date, a birth state / country, and a birth county / province.  So be thorough where possible!

2) "Find New Connections #2" uses broader logic to connect people, where the above page is a little more narrow.  #2 lists anyone in your branch where you have 2 or more people with the same surname, in the same county, and no parents.  Maybe they are siblings or cousins, and could use more research.  For each in the list, it shows the count from your branch, the count from all branches with the same name in the same county, and the most recent date these were updated.

Updated: 11-1-2011


The "Email a Friend" option makes it easy to send an email about a specific couple, automatically including their name, dates, and a link to their record in the email that you send.

To:  Fill in a comma-separated list of email addresses to send your message to.  Below the "To" box are email addresses of other researchers -- those listed as sources, as researchers, or as posters of discussion messages for the current couple.  You may optionally check any or all of these to receive the message.  These addresses will appear only for researchers who are logged in to the website.

Note: if any of these addresses bounce, the System Administrator will be notified and these addresses will be cleared out.

My Name:  If you are logged in, this will be filled in with your name; otherwise, you should fill it in so the recipients will know who is emailing them.

My Email:  If you are logged in, this will be filled in with your address; otherwise, you should fill it in so the recipients can reply to you.

Subject:  The subject is filled in with the name of the couple, but this can be edited as needed.

Format:  Either "HTML" or "Plain Text", this controls how the message is formatted.  Some email recipients, including email listserv groups, may not be able to read HTML formatted email, though most people probably can.  When the format choice is changed, the preview of the message changes as well.

Message:  Add any additional message to explain why you are sending this message.  The message will look more or less like you see it on the screen.

The address(es) and the message you type in are not saved.

Besides making it easy for you to communicate with others, this also helps to spread the word about the site, hopefully inspriing others to join in and add more.

Updated: 8-8-2007

 Message Forums

The message forums, found on the Home Daskboard or under Collaborate > Message Forums, are setup for users of the site to be able to share more information and converse about using the site, including:
  • Listing Information about new features of the site
  • Suggesting changes and improvements to existing features or suggesting new features to be added.
  • Sharing success stories that you have had in using the site
  • Sharing ideas and ways in which you use the site to grow your tree
  • Asking questions of other site users about how best to use the site
Note that this is not for posting queries about specific families or people.

Updated: 8-20-2011


Changes made to a record, including names, events, and relationships, are recorded under the Changes section.  The changes shown here include the date, time, which field was changed, what it was before, what it was changed to, and the person who made the change.  Clicking this person's name brings up a page with details from their profile.

This information will not show up for the general public, or for people who are logged in but are not subscribers to the record.  Only someone who is logged in and a subscriber will see this history -- this gives them more information on what has been happening with this record and encourages collaboration with the moderator and other researchers.

Added 8-21-2007:  If an "auto-link" source is selected at the time that a change is made, this source is also recorded with the specific record that logs the change, and this source information displays on the next line under the change details.

Updated: 8-20-2011

 Google Maps

Sample MapThe system has the ability to plot people by place on a US map using Google Maps .

How to Use
From any set of search results, clicking the button in the upper right will attempt to plot this list of people on a map by birthplace, for those that have a county or county and city defined.  If someone's birthplace is not found, it looks for their earliest place of residence, often from a census listing.

To move around the map, click and hold the mouse button and drag.  To zoom in or out, click the + or - buttons in the upper left.  In cases where there are many pins in a close area, it helps to zoom in until the pins are more separated.

Clicking any pin on the map will show a person or list of people defined as being born in or near this place, with their dates.  For longer lists of people, the list may be cut off at Map Samplethe end.  For people who have only a county defined, they are listed together at or near the county seat, but the actual birthplace could be elsewhere in the county -- so it is good to be specific where possible.

Individual people
For any person or couple for whom there are places mapped. click the button in the upper right of their page to see their places mapped.  Lines will connect the places in chronological order from birh to death/grave, blue for men, red for women.

On the Descendant chart the button in the upper right does the same thing, except displaying the descendants and showing lines from one generation to the next.  Blue lines show male children, pink lines female children.

On the Pedigree chart the button displays a similar map, starting with one person and showing their ancestors for 6 generations.  Blue lines link to the father, pink lines to the mother.

Locating Places
Map showing some of the descendants of William the Conquerer
Map showing some of the
descendants of William the
Conquerer.  Click map for a
larger view.

For the plotting to work, it is mainly a matter of entering places in the form of "NC, Martin Co, Williamston", being consistent, and having the correct spelling.  For most places, Google will automatically find and plot the correct location based on the city.  In some cases such as places that no longer exist, or smaller crossroads towns, they may not appear.  The System Administrator will periodically check for any places that the system cannot locate, and will attempt to identify the location on the USGS website or by other means.

If any of your places are not formatted as mentioned above, or are not spelled correctly, and thus preventing them from showing on a map, the Administrator may notify you to suggest updating it.

This is currently setup to be automatic only for U.S. places, provided Google is able to locate the place. The UK is somewhat manual, showing the place marker if the location has previously been identified in the system, currently up to about 2,600 cities and towns. Other countries will be added later.  Want to help out in mapping new places?  Let me know, and I'll send instructions!

Formatting Places
Again, to help clean up the formatting and readability, (1) try to include the county and city / town where possible, so that too many people won't be combined together under the general county location, and (2) zoom and or out as needed.

Future Features
If you think of any new ways in which this mapping could be useful, let me know!  There may be many unexplored possibilities.

FYI -- When you view a map and then navigate away, the system may briefly flash a new window.  This is just the system taking new places on the map and saving the coordinates for later use, so that the city and state do not have to be queried each time.

Below are some websites that are helpful for locationing places:
USGS:  http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/
Google Maps:  http://maps.google.com
UK Gazeteer:  http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/Gazetteer
Global Gazeteer:  http://www.fallingrain.com/world/index.html

Updated: 9-6-2012


Do you often go to sites like Rootsweb, familysearch.org, and Google to lookup your family members?

At the top of each person's page are menus for the husband and the woman, and under each are "Links" options showing links to several popular search engines or sites with family history data, setup to pass in the names of the people of the current record.  If you multiply out all of the different resources out there, for every name in your tree, and repeat periodically to find new updates, it becomes an overwhelming task.  These links help to automate the process by taking you straight to the search results.

The links show up only if you are logged into the site.

The links to offsite websites are:

Censuses - 1850 1860 1870 1880 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940
WC Rootsweb WorldConnect 
RM Rootsweb Message Boards, for the surname of the person in question
RL Rootsweb Email Lists, for the surname of the person in question
RS Rootsweb Surname page; Note that this may come up with a "Not found" page if there is not a corresponding page for this surname
GG Google
BK Google Books Search
GC Gencircles
FS1 FamilyHistory.org, main search
FS2 FamilyHistory.org, older search
FS3 FamilyHistory.org, parent search
FSB FamilyHistory.org, book search
GF Genealogy.com forums
W Wikipedia
FG FindAGrave.com
SGM soc.genealogy.medieval discussion group, for people from the 1600's or earlier

Census links
Theses automatically puts in the person's first and last names, and a birthdate range of +/- 5 years.  You can then refine the name, dates, and location to narrow the results as needed.  Note that the years listed are not filtered based on the person's birthdate -- so if they were born in 1910, it will still show all years starting with 1850.  Just use your common sense.

Links on this site
Below these are links to this site's search results for this person's surname and places.  Below is an example.  This gets you to a quick list of others who may be related to the current person.

Tunstall's in VA
Tunstall's in VA, King and Queen Co
Tunstall's in VA, Pittsylvania Co

Some general suggested websites that are often helpful in finding information:

Updated: 1-4-2016


The surname page is a collection of resources and information about the name on the site.  It is accessible from the "SN" (or "Surname") link at the bottom of any person's page, and on the View menu under "Surname Resources".  If chosen from the menu, the default name is random one from all data entered here.

The name can be changed by typing any name in the search box in the upper right of the page.  To view multiple names at the same time (such as one name that has several spelling variations), enter them separated by a comma.  This is mainly applicable for the distribution statistics, explained below.

Listed under links are websites that have information on people with this name.  A few are general sites that apply to any name.  Others may be specific to one surname.  If you have a website to submit, click the "Submit a link" option and copy & paste the website address.  Submitting is limited to users who are logged in.

Submitted websites should be ones that have significant information related to this name, such as one-name studies, DNA surname projects, or other family history sites that have significant information...  rather than a website which just has a few people with this name.  But it's up to you to determine how significant a site is.

Also -- be sure that a submitted link works as a stand-alone link.  On some websites after doing a search, the address of a search results page will not work by itself.

The USA and UK maps show the place distribution for this name, for data that is online here.  The places are color-coded according to the legend that shows below the map.  Hovering over a place will show the exact count of people found in that place.

The "Whose branches" option below the map give the choices of seeing all data, only your own data, or data from other researchers.  The maps are up-to-date in real-time.  As soon as information is saved, it will show on the maps for that name.

For some states and countries, clicking will break it down further with a more detalied map.  For others where another map is not yet defined, it goes to a list of the researcher's data in that state or county.  Other maps for US counties will be added as time allows.

List of People
Each person may customize the choices and order of the columns that appear here. See more information.

Updated: 1-11-2015

 County Resources

See a tutorial on state & county resources
From a state or country map, clicking through to a county brings up a page of county resources, providing easy links for resources for that county.  Information includes:
  • a general list of surnames which are in some way linked to the county, showing the related timeframe and number of people
  • a list of people from the county who have wills online here
  • a list of locations in the county, linking to people from each location
  • a list of helpful links for county research, including pages at Rootsweb, GenWeb pages, Wikipedia, and census resources.

Updated: 6-21-2009


Everyone can contribute their local expertise to the work of maintaining the website.  With "Adopt a County", like the adopt-a-highway program, interested researchers can select one or more counties or provinces to coordinate -- perhaps the one where you live, or one you know very well.

For each county adopted, you would periodically review data entered for that county, checking the following.

  • Validate the spellings of cities, towns, churches, and cemeteries.
    Check websites such as GNIS or Wikipedia or Hometownlocator.  If you can't find it anywhere, then it's probably not correct.

    Note that spelling variations are good to eliminate.  For example, if you see "Saint Louis" and "St Louis", or "Mount Pleasant" and "Mt Pleasant", make suggested updates for the least frequent variation to change to the most frequent one.
  • Identify latitude & longitude coordinates where possible.
    If coordinates are already found,
    will appear, linking to places within a radius of distance.  Otherwise -- Any of the above websites will list the latitude and longitude.  Copy & paste the numbers (decimal format) into the fields on the county page.

    For other places not found, try finding it on this map.  Clicking a place on the map will give the coordinates of that place.
  • Help other researchers with questions regarding locations in the county.  For example if someone has a record showing a town in a county you coordinate, and you believe that town is not valid or should be listed under a different county, you could make a suggested update or ask them about it.
  • What else?  Open to suggestions!
Rather than it all being done (or not done) by the website administrator, it is more effective to spread it out among everyone.

Researchers identifed as a moderator of a county or province have a couple of additional features:

  • On the main homepage of the site, an additional box will display, titled "Recent Changes to My Counties".  This shows all updates from all users where the person has a place in your county.  This will help you to be aware of who is adding what.  To relocate this box, click the "Edit Layout" button at the top of the page.

More administrative options and instructions will be added as needed to help you in this endeavor.

To adopt a county, contact the administrator.

Updated: 2-20-2017

 State & County Resources

See a tutorial on state & county resources
The state resource page is a map of either the USA, showing the US states, of the UK showing counties in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, or of an individual US state showing counties.  From the larger country maps, clicking a state drills down into the state page, or clicking a county goes to data related to that county.

The color-coding counts the number of records for people who lived in the state or county at one time, with the key to the colors showing under the map.

Each state or country map has each of the following options:

Whose Branches:  (If you are registered and logged in) Choose to see all data on the site, or only your own data, or only data from everyone else but you.

: To help the color shading and borders be easier to see, there is the option to change the border color between black, dark gray, light gray, and none.

Century: To see people from only a certain timeframe, choose a year from the Century list.  To see a progression over time, choose several in succession -- like 1600's, then 1700's, then 1800's, etc.

Surname:  To see only people with a certain surname.  For wild card searches, type the beginning of a name followed by *.  For example, Gurg* finds any name beginning with "Gurg", but with any of the various endings.

An example...

From the World map click a country to see more about that country From the country map click a state to see more about that state. From the state map, click a county to see more about that county. The county page lists information about the people and places in that county, linking to their indivdual records. From the county page, click into a specific location for more information about that location and people from there.
World Map USA Map NC Map County Page City Page

For the specific locations pages, each person may customize the choices and order of the columns that appear here. See more information.

Updated: 1-11-2015


See a tutorial on state & county resources
The regional maps covering multiple states, the USA map covering all states by county, and the European map by province / county help to give a broad overview of which counties people were in over the whole region.  Clicking a state will go to a larger map of just that state or country.

Tip:  If you have a smaller screen, and you can't see all of a map at one time, use the browser's Zoom feature to Zoom out, making the map smaller.  If you have a larger screen and want to see more detail, Zoom In to make the map larger.  In FireFox, under "View", and in Internet Explorer 7, under "Page".

Each regional map, in addition to the maps for individual counties or other countries, has each of the following options:

Whose Branches:  (If you are registered and logged in) Choose to see all data on the site, or only your own data, or only data from everyone else but you.

: To help the color shading and borders be easier to see, there is the option to change the border color between black, dark gray, light gray, and none.

Century: To see people from only a certain timeframe, choose a year from the Century list.  To see a progression over time, choose several in succession -- like 1600's, then 1700's, then 1800's, etc.

Surname:  To see only people with a certain surname.  For wild card searches, type the beginning of a name followed by *.  For example, Gurg* finds any name beginning with "Gurg", but with any of the various endings.

Updated: 1-2-2010

 By Radius

A page for any specific location is available from either the county page, clicking the name of the location on the right side, or from browsing an individual by clicking a place and then choosing "More on this location".

From this page is an option "List data within 25 miles of (Name of Location)".  This gives a different view of the people and places, but within a radius of miles around the chosen location.

Viewing by radius can be helpful when you are searching multiple cities in an area, but not contained within one county, or multiple counties in an area but not contained within one state.  The distance is editable, and the people and places shown are filterable by branch, century, and surname.

Note that all of this depends on the cities, towns, churches, and cemeteries each being coded with latitude and longitude.  Many are already done, but many are not, especially churches and cemeteries.  Feel free to help out with your places, under Account > Places.  See its Help page for more information.

More options and information to be added to this page as needed.

Updated: 9-29-2010


Under Places > Migrations is a map that compiles statistics for how many people moved from or to a selected place.  This covers all families entered on the website.  You select a state or country, plus a county or province, but a city or town (or cemetery) is optional.

If "from" is selected, it compiles the data for all people who were in the selected place, and then moved to another place.  If "to" is selected, it compiles the data for all places where people lived, and then moved to the selected place at some point later in their lives.  Selecting a cemetery only applies if you select "to", as most people don't move from a cemetery once they get there.

Above is a sample showing all people who migrated from Washington DC to other places.

Colored lines willl radiate out from the selected place, linking to all the other places where the people were from, or migrated to.  The color of the lines, and color of the pins at the endpoints correspond to the number of people who migrated between those two places.

Clicking a pin at an endpoint will show the name of the place, and a link to the page for that place.

As with any Google map, use the + and -- buttons on the left to zoom in and out, to a better view of the places.

Note that this is limited to only events that have dates defined (except for "grave" events, which can be assumed), and only places that have been identified with latitude and longitude coordinates -- another reason it's always important to fill in dates where possible, and to be consistent with place names so that they can be mapped.

Updated: 8-31-2013

 Presidents & Officers

Found under View > "Presidents, Politicians, & Other Officers", this page compiles lists of US Presidents, First Ladies, Vice Presidents, Cabinet members, Senators, Respresentatives, Supreme Court Justices, Ambassadors, Monarchs, and other office holders, for each showing their birth date, dates in office, birthplace, and optionally, personal and tombstone photos.

A sub-menu off of that links to similar pages for:
  • mayors
  • military officers
  • leaders of colleges, universities, and other organizations
  • listing people by educational institution.  Many are politicians as they have more documentation, but it is not limited to these.

Each of these pages has several different features:
  • Each person may customize the choices and order of the columns that appear here. See more information.
  • A drop-down list will show all of the different offices or roles for the selected page, showing the number of people found for that office or role.
  • If it has been defined, a link will take you to another website which will document the full list of people for the give list you see.  If it has not been defined, a place will offer you the chance to submit a webpage for this list.
  • A list of people who are identified for this office or role.  Clicking their name will take you to their page, which will also show the list of offices and roles they had.

To add a person to an office or role, add an event with type "office".

Political Appointees
When entering a political or judicial office for someone, there's an optional field for "Appointed By". This lists all Presidents and Governors. So for example, US Supreme Court justices are appointed by presidents, and some state supreme court justices are appointed by governors. In some states they are elected, not appointed. It could also apply to legislators, where a governor appoints someone to fill a vacated seat.

This shows up in 2 places, both in the "Associates" section of a person's page: On the appointees's page, there's a link to the person who appointed. On the page for the president or governor, there's a link "Political Appointees" which expands to show the full list, linking to each person. For some it can be long, and so this is collapsed by default.

Related Links
Some related pages on other websites:


Note: this page used to exist on Wikipedia, but has been removed.  The information is not verified and does not have sources, but nevertheless it is provided here for reference.
List of United States Presidents by genealogical relationship

Updated: 5-7-2016

 Census Search

Under View > Census Search are complete copies of the 1850 census transcriptions for Martin, Beaufort, and Bertie Counties NC.  These offer very flexible search and sorting options, if you have family branches in these areas.

 To Do List

Under View > To Do List is a simple to-do list option where you can record things that accumulate on your list -- sources to check, researchers to write to, websites to browse, etc.


On the DNA tab of a person's data entry page, you can record a related group from Y-DNA test results.  For example, see this example results page for the name BEASLEY:

This is intended to pull together people who are as yet unlinked in the family tree but who are associated with other people in the same test results grouping.  Then having these people associated may help with the goal of finding the linkages in those as yet unrelated people.

Each color grouping from the DNA results website would be defined as a separate grouping here, and anyone testing into that group could be assigned to that group.  In the entry page, all existing groups will show in the dropdown list.  If a group does not yet exist, click the button to add a new group:
  • Primary Surname:  The primary surname associated with this Y-DNA group.
  • Group Name:  A general name given to this group of people, perhaps related to the patriarch or area where the group originated
  • URL: The website address of the DNA results website
  • Haplo Group:  The Haplo group code
  • Group Description: Any other information about the history of this group
Displaying & Searching
Once defined and linked to a person, this displays as an optional section at the bottom of their main page.

Clicking the linked group name goes to the page showing the full details of the group and all people assigned to that group.  Then from there is a link to display all Y-DNA groups for that surname.

In the search page is an option to search by DNA Group Name, returing all people in that group.

Updated: 8-20-2011


A general tip:  When printing, or saving to a PDF, if background colors or lines do not show up -- there are browser settings that enable these.  In FireFox, go to File > Page Setup, and in Internet Explorer, to Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Printing.

Updated: 4-23-2009


Throughout the system, hotkeys are available for quick access to buttons or fields.

For Mac users, this is typically done by holding down the Option or the Option+Ctrl keys, and a related letter or number.

For Windows users, this is typically done by holding down the ALT or the ALT+SHIFT keys, and a related letter or number.  FireFox, this key combination can be changed if needed.  For example, to change this from ALT+SHIFT to ALT, try the following:
  • Open a new tab in Firefox
  • Type "about:config" in the address bar and hit "Enter"
  • Find the line that says "ui.key.generalAccessKey"
  • Double-click this line
  • Type 18 in place of what's there, and "OK"
  • Close the tab.
Read for more information

Updated: 11-26-2015

 Privacy & Terms of Use

When posting information about yourself or any other living people, the website will prompt you to mark whether the person should be public or private.  Only choose "public" if the person is famous (where all the information is public knowledge anyway) or if you have explicit permission from the people in question.

Except for displaying on state and county websites, no data collected about anyone is given to any third parties, nor is used for any non-genealogical purposes.

Terms of Use
Information on this website may be copied for personal use, with the understanding that everything is always updated and corrected.  Anything at some point in the future may be determined obsolete and inaccurate.  For any information that is copied, please the moderator(s) of the records, their sources, and this website as your source.

Information on this website may not be published elsewhere for financial gain without explicit permission of the moderator(s) of the records in question.

As the Site Administrator of gurganus.org, I make no claims to the accuracy or validity of the information posted here by other researchers.  Only records that bear my name as the moderator have I posted myself, and in many cases I am passing on information that others have shared with me.

If any researchers out there have more expertise in legalese and would like to offer suggestions, feel free to let the Site Administrator know.

Updated: 2-17-2012


As this is a new and growing system, there may always be bug to iron out, parts to improve, or features to be added.  As the Site Administrator, I welcome any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvement you have.  If you have a problem or question, please be specific, and I will try to help you.

If you receive an error message saying that it has been emailed to an administrator, this is sending the details of the error to me, the administrator, and I will get back to you when it is resolved.

*** For questions about family history, go back, click "Contact This Researcher" at the bottom of the person's page, and use one of the methods shown. ***   For technical questions or suggestions about how to use the site, you can reach the site administrator by email.  But note that there are many people contributing their family history to this site -- only one of which is reachable at this email address....  So do not email questions about specific ancestors to this address, unless they are tied to the researcher at this address.

But first, be sure to read through any related topics in this help guide, especially the FAQ.  If your question is about restoring some information that you deleted, check out  the Changes section on each person's page, as this will have there a history of the changes you have made.

Several backups are made of the data:
(1) The website is hosted at a commercial hosting company with good security and daily backups.
(2) The System Administrator makes complete backups offline a couple times a week
(3) An automatic backup copy is also made of all deleted records, though there is not currently an interface for accessing the backup data. This may be added later, but until then, contact the System Administrator.

Updated: 8-20-2011