Sunday, September 4, 2016

Finding Submitter Information Using the Family Tree Apps

Sometimes you want to know who has submitted information about an ancestor. For instance, you might see changes to a record that seem incorrect. Or you are just curious to know who the unknown "cousin" is who knows so much about your ancestor and where they found the information.

If you use the Family Tree app on a mobile device, you have a limited ability to see submitter information. Really, all you can see is the display name of the submitter. You can't see other information such as contact information that the person might have made public.

If you're curious as to how you can see the display name of a submitter using the app, here are the steps.
  1. Open the record of a person on the tree.
  2. Tap any piece of information on the details screen, such as the birth or death.
  3. One of the fields you see is labeled Modified on the Android app and Last Modified on the iOS app. There you see the date of the most recent change to that piece of information and the display name of the person who made the change.
Sometimes, if you know the person and the chosen display name is a variation on the person's name, the display name is enough for you to know which family member made the change and you can get in touch if you want to discuss the change.

Otherwise, if you want to contact the person, you'll need to open a browser on your mobile device or other computer and go to FamilySearch.org. Find the same person on Family Tree and click to open the details page. Click the same piece of information about the person that you were looking at on the app. 

Again, you see the date of the most recent change and the contact name of the contributor. But this time, the contact name is a link, so you can click it.

A card pops up with whatever information the contributor chose to make public: name, email address, phone number, mailing address. If the person gave you some of that information, you can get in touch to discuss the change. 

If the contributor did not choose to make any information public, you can click the Send a Message link in the lower left corner of that box. It looks like a paper airplane in flight.
A box appears where you enter a subject for your message and your message. When you click Send, a message goes to the email address the submitter used when creating an account, unless the person chose not to see such messages. In addition, when a person signs in to FamilySearch.org, in the top right corner are three words: Messages, Volunteer, and Get Help. If a person has unread messages from another Family Tree user, a number appears beside Messages. If said person happens to notice that number and knows what it means, they can click Messages and read and respond to your message.  

Of course, you can see the difficulty. If a person does not make any contact information public, they are either very cautious, or don't want to communicate with other Family Tree users. Chances are also good that they have no idea that the Messages link is even on the home page. And, even should they happen to notice it and to notice the number beside it and be curious enough to click it, they are not guaranteed to respond. 

But it's still worth a shot. I have in fact made contact with some other users who provided me valuable information or who agreed that their change was not a valid one and we were able to amicably agree on the correct information. 

One thing you can do to increase the chances of getting a response is to be courteous in your email or message. If you are showing your "righteous indignation", you're more likely to make someone angry than you are to get any information from them. I think it helps to remember that people are not out there rubbing their hands together in glee and deliberately messing up family tree data. People do the best they know to do--and sometimes they make mistakes--and usually it is innocently done. So, be nice. 

Hopefully, options to see contact information will eventually be added to the apps too. The engineers are frequently improving the apps, so I for one will be watching for this to be added.

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