I hadn’t used Find My Past in a while, and I wanted to check out their family tree features in 2021.
Here’s a review to get you started with a family tree on Find My Past, and tips on getting the most benefit from their features.
I’ll also point out some aspects that I think need major improvement from the company.
Can You Create A Family Tree On Find My Past For Free?
You can use a free account on Find My Past to create or upload your family tree.
There are a limited amount of free record collections on Find My Past. You can search and attach free records to individuals in your tree.
The website software will give you hints to other records that may apply to the people in your tree. However, if these records are part of the paid collections, you will need a subscription to use them.
Is Find My Past A Legit Website?
If you have the details of living people (such as yourself) in your family tree, you should always check out a website before you put your tree on it.
Find My Past is a reputable British company that is owned by a long-established publishing corporation. You can read more about the background in our article on who owns Find My Past.
How To Upload A Family Tree To Find My Past
You have the option of creating a family tree from scratch. However, I already have a tree on Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and some other sites.
So, I wanted to take the convenient option of uploading an existing tree. But first I had to export the latest version.
Exporting a tree from another site or software
Find My Past accepts trees in the format of a GEDCOM file. This is the standard genealogical format.
If you already have a tree in software or an online site, you will most likely have the option to export it to a GEDCOM file.
Here are our tutorials for different sites:
Steps to upload your tree to Find My Past
- Click on “Family Tree” in the top menu of any page on Find My Past
- Choose the option to “Import a tree”
- Click the “Choose File” button to browse to a GEDCOM file on your computer
- Click the “Upload Tree” button.
The website has some processing to do so the upload isn’t instantaneous.
My tree had about 550 people and plenty of sources. It took about two minutes to complete the processing.
The next step is to go to the Settings page.
Find My Past Family Tree Settings
It’s important to check your tree settings after you create or upload a tree. The default settings that Find My Past chooses for you may not be what you want!
The little cogwheel icon will take you to the settings page.
Check your Home Person and identify yourself
When I uploaded a tree, I found that the website had chosen a seemingly random individual as the Home Person.
It’s a good idea to set the correct home person and identify yourself in the tree. This helps the software do more work for you.
It’s not immediately obvious how to change the entries. Just start typing a name into the input boxes. The software will give you a dropdown list of suggestions to choose from.
Edit the name of your tree
The tree will be named the same as the file name that you uploaded.
So if your GEDCOM file was something like “xyz_123r-as.ged”, then it’s a good idea to put a descriptive name here. This will jog your own memory if you intend to upload multiple trees to the website.
I’ll review privacy in the next section.
I’ll just say here that the default setting is that deceased entries in your tree are available as hints to other members with family trees on the site.
If you want to lock down your tree completely, then uncheck the box “Share deceased ancestors”.
If you like email updates, you can toggle on notifications for hints for your tree.
I can’t tell you how often these come in, as I’ve got all notifications turned off.
Find My Past Has High Privacy Standards For Your Family Tree
All the major websites let you apply strict privacy settings to your family tree. However, most keep the defaults as very open. Some people on Ancestry.com aren’t even aware that their new tree is public.
I must give credit to Find My Past for defaulting to high privacy settings for family trees. However, I’ll dock them points for not giving members the choice to make their trees more open.
Your tree can’t be public
This is what other Find My Past members can’t do:
- Other members can’t view your tree
- Other members cannot search for details in your tree
- If you allow hints from your tree, other members won’t see where the hints came from
- If you allow hints from your tree, the details don’t include photos or documents you uploaded
The settings that I listed above are not something you control. This is how privacy currently works on Find My Past.
If you want to make your tree public and available for browsing by other members…well, you can’t.
Locking down your tree completely
I mentioned in the previous section that there is one privacy setting that makes your tree more open by default.
The “show deceased ancestors” setting is turned on when you create or import a tree. This allows the Find My Past software to show hints to other members that are based on details in your tree.
Let’s say that you have an entry John Humperdinck, born in 1850 in New York.
If another member has John Humperdinck with no birth details, the software may show them a hint with the birth year and location from your tree.
However, the other member only sees that this information from *a* tree. They don’t see your user name, your sources (if any), or any link to view the rest of your tree.
If you don’t want to send out hits, then you can open the Tree Settings and toggle this option off.
Disadvantage: We Can’t View Other Member Trees
Ancestry.com and MyHeritage are two major competitors of Find My Past.
Both these other sites allow members to make their trees viewable by other members (the details of living people are hidden).
Find My Past has chosen not to allow members to make their trees open to other members.
However, I took a look through the official Facebook group for the company. This was a recent comment from a moderator in response to a question.
You cannot currently view other trees. Work is underway to allow the facility.
In my opinion, this will greatly improve the value of using Find My Past.
Record Hints Are A Great Time-Saving Feature
Record hints are an excellent time-saver for your research.
As you build your family tree, the software searches through the website’s record archives for potential matches to your entries.
The picture below shows an entry in my tree that has two hints. The little orange circle is the giveaway.
Important: review every hint for accuracy
It’s important that you review each hint and analyze whether it does pertain to the individual in your tree.
Always view the transcript when it’s available. Sometimes the transcript has an image link that takes you to a copy of the original document.
For example, transcripts for the Ireland 1901 and 1911 census will have an image link that takes you to the Irish government’s National Archives website.
There, you won’t just get to view the image for the transcript. You can also see images for adjacent pages that have all kinds of interesting information.
Tree Hints Feature Is Problematic
While I’m a fan of record hints on Find My Past, I’m surprised at the hash the company has made with tree hints.
Tree hints are hints that come from another member’s tree. We should always check and verify hints of any kind.
The problem with Find My Past is that we don’t get access to the member’s tree to make these checks and verifications.
We can’t even see any source records associated with the entry. In fact, we can’t tell if the member has attached any sources at all.
This is what Find My Past has to say about tree hints:
Because they’re sourced from other Findmypast members, the information they contain has likely been checked and verified already.Find My Past support document
But, going by my experience using family trees on Ancestry.com and MyHeritage, this “likelihood” just isn’t true.
There are very many genealogy enthusiasts who have spent years researching and documenting the family trees that they put onto online websites.
However, there are also people who create and expand their trees without checking and verifying a single entry. Some parts of the tree may be accurate, and some parts may be complete fiction.
Unfortunately, Find My Past hasn’t given its customers a way to evaluate tree hints appropriately.
This isn’t a showstopper for me as the record hints are implemented well.
But I advise you to be very cautious about accepting tree hints into your own tree. You should always try to find evidence to support any new information.
Messaging Other Members May Or May Not Work
When I came back to FindMyPast after a year of not using the site, I was surprised to see that my account didn’t have a tree. I was sure I’d uploaded one in the past.
When I uploaded my latest GEDCOM file, I got tree hints popping up all over the place. I suspect they are coming from an old account of mine that I’ve forgotten.
The Find My Past help pages mention that when we get a tree hint, we can send a message to the tree owner.
I looked in vain for the option, which doesn’t exist for my account. This may be because I signed up from the Irish website. But when I log in through the UK site, I also don’t see this as an option.
Family Trees And DNA
Both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage have features that integrate your DNA results with your family tree.
You’ll also see advertisements on the Find My Past website for DNA services. You can upload your DNA results from elsewhere or order a DNA kit using the site.
However, the DNA services aren’t provided by Find My Past. Instead, they’ve partnered with another company. Currently, there is no integration between the DNA features and your family tree on the website.
If you want to know more, read our article on whether you can upload your DNA to Find My Past. The article will show you what you actually get if you do so.
Is A Family Tree On Find My Past Worth It For Adoptees?
Many adoptees use online family trees as a way to make contact with genetic relatives who are researching the same family branches.
The advice is to fish in every pond! Your first cousin (or closer) may be on one site instead of another. So, you may as well upload your family tree on all the reputable sites.
Unfortunately, the implementation of tree access on Find My Past reduces the benefits for me. Particularly as the messaging feature doesn’t work for my account.
However, the company seems to be moving towards opening up trees to other members.
If your family is of British or Irish heritage, I still think it’s worth uploading a tree for free on the website.