Most family / genealogy researchers prior to like 20 years ago - maintained their data in a very "siloed"  approach.   As Home PC's came into existence and common use - people would often use a genealogy program like PAF, or something similar, with both the program being installed  and the data being stored  - on their local PC.

They were in total control of their data. It was, for the most part, a single user system.  Most people appreciated the "control" aspect.  But faced many challenges in trying to share data and work collaboratively with other researchers.  Each person using their genealogy program - was, as the allegory goes,  doing the work in their own silo.   This was before the days of the Internet and email was still very young. 

Definition: "Siloed Work"  - - where,  what one person does - does not directly affect the work of another.  Information sharing between different people is very limited and/or often done manually versus systematically.  Information and data does not freely flow and is not freely visible between two different people/groups/organizations/databases.  Everyone is maintaining their "own" set of data. Each person is working as it were - in their own distinct "silo"


This "siloed approach" in the area of genealogical applications and methodologies  has seen its polar opposite come into existence in recent years in various Internet based collaborative systems.  Systems like Family Tree at are based on an architecture where there is ONE massive database stored "in the cloud" and NOT on your local PC and the application itself being access via the Internet and not requiring a local program install.   This  type of collaborative system is used by millions of people around the world.   It is a SINGLE database - where what one person enters into the system - immediately becomes part of what any other user can sees and use.    There is no concept of "my data" versus "your data".  Billions of family tree records are all shared among all the system users.  FamilySearch is also a very "open system" - with not many restrictions on who can update what.  Thus what you enter today - can be modified, updated, corrected, merged or even overlaid with bad information,   tomorrow.   Though the Family Tree system surely supports and recommends the use of source documents to support what one is entering - users are not systematically required to submit "proof" of the validity of their data ( and any proof of genealogical data is to varying degrees - a matter of subjectivity any way).    In this shared and collaborative environment - it is very easy for many people to all be working on the same family tree - and allows for ease of information sharing and and date flow. 

As you can pretty clearly see - both of these extremes  - the siloed approach and the collaborative open (non restrictive ) approach  both have their pros and cons.  And depending on the researcher and their goals - one system may be more useful than the others.  With millions of people doing genealogy, with many different goals and desires, and with so many different people with differing technological and computer skills. - there will never be one single  application that meets everyone's needs and wants.

Both the siloed approach and the collaborative open approach continue to be used by many people who feel these systems meet their needs. 

HOWEVER - in reality many people actually end up working somewhere in the middle of these two extremes  - in some sort of hybrid approach.   They might, for example, use a program installed on their local PC - that does "sync" with data from on line systems like    Or they might use as their primary application - where their family tree is kept distinct from others - but still allows it to be easily seen and reviewed by others.   Or you may be the user of some sort of collaborative system but where only "administraors" of given pages can update the information (such as how works)  

No matter what system you use - be aware of its pros and cons and be aware of how work you do can impact others for good or bad. 

If you are a user of a totally open system like Family Tree at Family Search (or similar systems)  - then I encourage you to really be keenly aware of how what you do and what you input into the system can affect other users and can also impact the quality of the data.  With only a few exception I highly encourage people to really go the 2nd mile in ensuring what they update the system with really is accurate information supported by primary documentation.  Please consider the possibility that if you are simply adding  items you  "found on-line"  with no idea of whether or not they are supported by real evidence - you may actually be "wreaking havoc" on the very difficult work of others who are trying to ensure the quality and veracity of the family data. If what you are entering is estimated or assumed information - then be sure to indicate that.  Please realize that "some info" that is not founded on evidence of some sort  ( that might turn out to be totally wrong )- is not always better - than no info at all concerning a specific family detail .  Also be aware of how the use of notes and comments about clues/possibilities/theories can be VERY helpful to others - but when added with no comment at all - can often result in the rampant propagation of downright blatantly wrong information. 

For any users of FamilyTree at FamilySearch - I recommend reading this dramatization:

To the newbie this may seem like a wild dramatization.  But to those who have spent years trying to "clean up" the family data - this can ring so very true to their experience. 



  1. 1.
    A tower or pit on a farm used to store grain.


also see these pages:

Collaboration - This is a great video on how to improve your collaborative efforts

FamilySearch Apps

Digital Genealogy - a double edged sword

The Best Software

TNG Genealogy Site Building

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Dennis Yancey