Family Tree,

I ran into a weird FamilySearch glitch…

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At the end of April, I shared the story of meeting a cousin and then getting together the next day with him and my uncle.  That afternoon, as we were visiting, we pulled up our tree on the FS app several times.  At one point, my uncle pulled up our ancestor, William Taylor.  He turned his phone to show me the page on William Taylor and I blurted out, “That’s not William Taylor, that’s James Lake.”  (James is also our ancestor.)  We got back on topic, but I was definitely puzzled about the photo issue and revisited it later.

I logged into FamilySearch on my laptop and looked at William Taylor.  Sure enough, his profile picture was a picture of James Lake.  An edited version of this photo of James Lake:

LAKE, James

But the really weird part was that the photo showing as William Taylor’s profile picture was NOWHERE in his memories.  I must have looked through that list of photos ten times trying to find the James Lake photo.  It simply wasn’t there.

So how on earth did a photo of James Lake become the profile picture for William Taylor?

I clicked on the profile picture and chose a different picture from William’s memories to become the profile picture for William Taylor.  Once I had done that, James Lake was no longer seen anywhere on William’s page.

This funny little moment has me wondering about a few things.

First, how did the wrong picture end up in his profile in the first place?  Was it uploaded to William Taylor and then later deleted?  If so, why did it still show as his profile picture?  Was it the first picture uploaded to William Taylor?  Does that make it the profile picture by default?

Second, how does a picture get assigned as the default profile picture?  I did not choose a photo as the profile photo for William Taylor.  So how does FS go about deciding for me?

Third, if this little glitch was a ghost of a photo that was uploaded and then deleted, why did it still show up as William’s profile picture?  That seems like a problem to me.

Here’s the good news in all of this.

IF I am correct and someone erroneously uploaded James Lake’s picture to William Taylor, crowdsourcing is working well on FamilySearch because now, William Taylor has a whole list of photos that are clearly all photos of the same man – hopefully of William –  and not of James Lake.  That is a good thing.

I’m grateful to all of the FamilySearch users who are trying to make the tree more accurate.  Thank you for your diligence!

And for those of you who get frustrated by the mistakes on FamilySearch, I am hopeful that this is an example of how the tree overall is evolving to a more accurate collection of data, photos, and stories.  I hope that trend continues!



Happy Tuesday, I hope you have a glitch-free week of family history!  xoxo




ps – I also hope that FamilySearch can make some adjustments to their system that will help beginners participate in a way that is less frustrating for more seasoned users.  We all go a little crazy when our pet relative is suddenly a disaster created by a beginner who doesn’t really know better.


13 thoughts on “I ran into a weird FamilySearch glitch…”

  1. And this is why I don’t like crowdsourced trees. I am too much of a control freak to want anyone messing with my tree!

    1. Haha, I definitely get that! That is why my primary work is not found there. I just update a person I have researched once I feel somewhat “done”. Participating in a crowdsourced tree is not always fun. 😉

    1. I totally get that! It definitely takes a lot of work and patience to participate in the FS tree.

      You probably already know this, but I just want to clarify something for other readers; the tree on FamilySearch is one tree. Individual users can upload “their tree” as a gedcom in the user submitted genealogies section, but the main tree that everyone is generally referring to is only one tree and no one “has a tree” on FamilySearch in that part of the website.

  2. Lesson re-emphasized: Always keep your own separate database that no one can touch, but be willing to use the crowdsourced trees so everyone can benefit! I recently was so appreciative of someone who uploaded an early record from a home for unwed mothers in Minnesota to my husband’s great grandfather’s profile on FamilySearch (this g-grandfather later married this woman and raised her illegit son as his own). It was a record I definitely would have had a very hard time finding!

    1. Oh, that is awesome! I love those little miracles that happen in a crowdsourced tree. <3

      And, YES, always keep your own data in another place as well. That is so important!!

  3. I discovered the picture switch in 2012. In 2008, I was told there were no photos of William Taylor. Then I saw James Lake’s picture posted as William Taylor & wanted to cry. Previously I’d seen an error on my own Family group sheet. It floored & upset me. In addition Family Search didn’t want to remove this bogus sister that a cousin had added. When I go to the Family History Center, I spend most of my time correcting errors others have made. Two sisters 6 months apart with the same 1st name but spelled differently. The Center in SLC wanted to leave it because they felt it wasn’t hurting anything. Only confusing her non-LDS children & grandchildren!

  4. That sounds like which is a disaster of a site as far as I’m concerned… but whatever site works best for you is the site you should use. 🙂

    1. I’ve never used so I can’t compare it. I only participate in the tree on FamilySearch, but have my work in other places as well. It is definitely a bit of a challenge to participate at times, but worth it to me. Lots of cousin connections etc.

  5. It would be a full-time endeavor to fix the errors in the branches of this large tree which I connect to. We need more people like you, Amberly, who know how to work the tree correctly.

    1. Thank you, Cathy! That is so kind of you to say. It really would be a full-time endeavor for each of us to keep “our” part of the tree error free. But even keeping just a few areas in good shape is wonderful. I appreciate any FS user who is genuinely trying to do their best. I appreciate them even more when they are willing to communicate with other users. <3

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