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What Are Family Tree Data Problems, and How Do I Fix Them?

A red exclamation point icon (!) on your family tree may be surprising, but there’s no reason to worry. The bright symbol is simply an indication that ancestor data has been added incorrectly and needs to be fixed. Most of the time, those fixes are quick and easy!

The top four reasons for data problems are the following:

  1. A location or date has been entered in the wrong format.
  2. Dates indicate that an ancestor as has lived more than 120 years.
  3. An event appears to be a mistake, such as a marriage that took place before the person was born.
  4. Someone has added new information that doesn’t agree with what is already there.

Mistakes such as these are generally easy to correct.

Locating Data Problems

The data problems icon is displayed on the FamilySearch Family Tree when the system detects data that seem incorrect. To find alerts in ancestor profiles on Family Tree, please sign into (or create an account and fill your family tree), and follow these instructions for the most common ways to find errors.

Tree View

  1. Next to the FamilySearch logo, click Family Tree.
  2. Select Landscape, Portrait, or Descendancy view in the drop-down box.
  3. Click the Options menu on the far right of the page, and select the Data Problems box.
FamilySearch data problems as they appear in the tree view

By clicking the red icons that appear next to ancestors’ names, you will find out what type of data problem needs to be fixed. To fix the data problem, click the person’s name. Then, in the summary box, click the person’s name again, or click Person.

Fan Chart View

Data problems on the fan chart display differently than they do on other tree views, but it is just as easy to find the information you need!

  1. Under the fan chart view option, click Research Helps. Boxes with ancestors’ names will display colors according to the research help that is available.
  2. On the right, under the Options box, you will see a color legend for the research helps. The color for data problems is red.
  3. If you want to highlight ancestors who have data problems, select the Data Problems option in the color legend. Ancestors with data problems will be highlighted with a grey outline around their place in the fan chart.
the research helps tab in the fan chart view
the FamilySearch data problems legend in the fan chart view

Click the ancestor’s name for a summary box to appear. In the summary box, click the person’s name again, or click Person, and the full profile page of the ancestor will display. The Research Help section shows the details of the data problem.

a fan chart view of an ancestor who has a data problem.

Before You Change Anything

Once you discover a data problem, consider the following before making any changes:

  • Many data problems occur because dates, events, and locations have not been added in the FamilySearch designated format.
  • Check sources before attempting to fix a data problem. You will be asked to provide a reason why you have made the change. With documentation on hand, it is easier to explain why the change is correct and cite the source at the same time.
  • Other Family Tree users may contact you about the changes you have made because they are working on the same line. They may have information you don’t! Consider working together to solve data problems for shared ancestors.

How to Fix Data Problems

  • Once you have found a data problem, go directly to the ancestor’s profile page.
  • Select the Details tab under the portrait on the far left. Scroll down to locate the specific data problems.
  • Near the Data Problem icon, click Edit. A pop-up box describes the problem and allows a correction to be made. If the problem is a standardization problem, be sure to select the standardized date, event, or place. If the Family Tree system doesn’t have a standardized option that agrees with the information you have, retype what you want to include. You will be prompted to update the reason the information is correct. This is a good place to add or refer to a source.
  • Click Save, and refresh the web page.

Data Problem icons are great tools to ensure that your records are accurate. Although correcting these problems can require a bit more research, most often they are a simple change. Search your tree for data problems, and see what you can fix!

Source: Family Search

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