Setting up so that multiple family members can edit and contribute

I have done a lot of research and now have an expanding database and have had some offers from other family members to help.
So to this end is it possible to set up so that multiple family members can edit and contribute their findings to the database? I am currently using RM8
I thought maybe somehow using Google Drive or similar?

Appreciate any guidance or direction on this request as it would certainly assist our overall end results.
Thank you

RM is a single user at a time tool. So, if each person had their own instance of the tool and then you could manually co-ordinated exchange of gedcom files … that might work. However, this comes with real risks resulting from potential human error to stuff things up. Another approach is to use an online data platform, i.e. FamilySearch, which allows for multiple contributors to a family tree. With RM, each person in your family could use it to maintain that online tree. Better than first approach. Still another option, is to use an entirely different tool - setup your own collaboration website with a tool called WebTrees. This is open source and free. As a site administrator, you can then setup / control who has access to the online tree and maintain it in one place. This particular tool has ability to import / export gedcom files, so I suppose you could do an initial load of data exported from RM in gedcom format to prime it. I hope this assists consider your options.

Thank you very much Handy for that useful advice. That might just work with Web Trees.
So would one continue on with Roots Magic as well or would Web Trees negate the requirement for RM?
Or might I be better to use Family Search where one might receive some unexpected help from their vast database listings?
What is the downside to Family Search (other than cost) as I had in the back of my mind that there was/is a downside to using them?


Q1. RM + Webtrees or just Webtrees
A1. This depends on your needs really. Webtrees is purposed as an online collaboration tool and certainly can be used without RM. The downside with it however is that it does not (currently) have any interfacing capability to online data platforms such as Ancestry and FamilySearch. So use of both tools gives best of both worlds perhaps.

Q2. Use of FamilySearch?
A2. Like any online data platform, the ability to harvest their massive online digital holdings is a boon to enabling research from home base. Truth is, each online data platform have different digital coverage of source information and their indexing between them can be different. So, a trap many fall into is becoming dependent on one service thinking it is the universe of sourcing research information, which they are not. Tools like RM, offer the ability to interface to the online data platform and allow the end user to have choice of mastering their data locally (home base).

Q3. Downside to FamilySearch?
A3. Any reliance on purely using any online data platform for maintaining a family tree means you become dependent on always needing an Internet connection to it. The other downside (and not often discussed) is that there is a propensity for many to load private information (living people) onto such platforms without real understanding of security risk even though the commercial data platforms offer some level of protection. (Fortunately, there has been no news of hacking of online genealogy data platforms as far as I recall.) If you choose to go WebTrees path, then the online dependency and security risk aspects will also apply. As to FamilySearch itself, keep in mind that the intent of that platform is to create a single family tree for the whole human family - which means if you load your specific family tree, it becomes amalgamated to the single humankind family tree. The downside to this is that others can contribute to making changes to what you think is your tree. Plus side is that there are mechanisms in place for collaboration and notification so you can be made aware of such changes and also change control controls with folk behind the scenes at FamilySearch as adjudicators for exceptions. By comparison, at Ancestry, with your own account you create your own tree that is separate and distinct, and you have option to keep it private or public and others you wish to share it with requires those other folk to also have Ancestry accounts. It’s a booming business right!

In my case, I prefer to maintain my information offline using a desktop tool. This gives me maximum control over all my content. I can then selectively share what I want to put online - e.g. avoid loading up sensitive / private information. By using a desktop tool that has integration capability with online data platforms, I have means to selectively download data into my locally held database. If I desire to share information with others, I can then choose what data I wish to export into a GEDCOM file and then afterwards securely upload / send it to recipient. I have a distant cousin who relies solely on an online subscription service to Ancestry!

So, ultimately, your approach comes down to your needs and wants. There is no one tool that does all things. As efforts in this hobby progress, I expect you will also end up building a toolkit that is a combination of both offline (desktop) and online tools.


Whoa Handy I am absolutely indebted to you for the sage advice that you have provided me.
I definitely was not expecting the extent of your response nor the depth of knowledge and experience that comes shining through so a huge thank you for your extraordinary effort.

And yes you are probably correct in that my “answer” lies within the mixing and matching of multiple tools to achieve the best results of meaningful research, increased database information, privacy and cost.
Just got to figure that out now that I have your base information.

On first reflection it would seem that maybe a combination of Roots Magic for overall control of the MASTER database and security plus either Webtrees for ongoing collaborative research and editing at a hosting cost of around $180AUD per year with ALL FAMILY MEMBERS HAVING ACCESS, but I would restrict any Editing privileges without my vetting and approval first.
an Ancestry subscription at around $140 AUD per 6 months PER PERSON (or a Family Plan at around $400 per 6 months for up to 5 people).
Advantage here is the existing database information that Ancestry have although I think there are ways to see and explore this data through local Libraries and Genealogy groups?

So after writing this down I think the Roots Magic plus Webtrees hosting might be the major focus. Then at some time in the future if we are struggling to progress further we could if we wish, make the Tree more public via a Private Ancestry listing which could be taken out for say a 6 month period with access by any other potentially interested parties controlled by them requesting access if they are prompted?

Does that sound reasonable or can you see any holes in this approach?

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First off thank you for the acknowledgement and I’m pleased the feedback has been helpful.

As to your approach, it certainly comes across reasonable. Identifying up front a balance of pragmatism and flexibility, while containing cost is being smart. By writing things down and creating an outline approach also give you a powerful tool for reflection and update at regular intervals as you learn and adapt maturing your approach.

A few extra points for consideration:

  1. Doing research with Ancestry at a local library should do well to minimise cost, keeping in mind this will not allow you to create a personal family tree online within Ancestry.
  2. Doing research with FamilySearch can be done also at a local chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with a FamilySearch Centre. No cost. You do not need to create a family tree to do research. They make this available for members of the public (do not need to be a church member).
  3. There are three areas of genealogical tool use that can get complicated fast without preparation: a) an approach to sourcing and citation, b) digital image content management, c) data exchange with GEDCOM.
    a) sourcing & citation - freestyle or templates? Typically folk are pointed to Evidence Explained and use of templates which are present within RM. Suggest you research first then post questions after to ascertain what is right for you.
    b) digital image content management - naming approach to files and folder organisation? By default, RM uses a media folder for holding digital content that may be referenced. As per a), suggest research first then post questions to ascertain what is right for you.
    c) data exchange with GEDCOM - unfortunately, tool adherence to GEDCOM standard is not consistent between tools. It is common that there is data loss when moving data from one tool to another. However, WebTrees import of a file exported from RM should work ok as WebTrees has been engineered to a high standard of GEDCOM v5.5.1 compliance. Typically, data loss occurs with sources and citations. As per a), suggest research first then post questions to the forum.

A hint regarding WebTrees: It is possible to set up WebTrees on your local desktop or laptop. By doing this, you can experiment with its features and test setting it out ahead of formally setting up as a hosted Internet site. The core technology is PHP and a database can be either Sqlite or MySQL, and using the in-build PHP web server running as localhost. If you are a bit tech savvy, do some reading and ask questions later. It is actually really easy to do.

Good luck with it all.

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Do understand that FamilySearch is totally open to the world. Anybody can undo any of your good work at any time. Also (and for good and valid reasons), it places severe limits on the sharing of information about individuals who are still living. FamilySearch is a wonderful resource, but it is not well suited for the kind of collaboration between a small number of trusted researchers that you are talking about.

Sharing GEDCOMs which are imported into a single instance of RM is extremely labor intensive. Individuals and sources have to be merged constantly in a manner which is very time consuming. I would not recommend that approach.

The Google Drive approach could probably be made to work in theory, but the single RM database could not be shared in the manner you are looking for. RM is a one user system. So for example if there were three of you, you would have to do something like one of you could work on it only on Mondays and Thursdays, one of you could work on it only on Tuesdays and Fridays, one of you could work on it only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and you would all rest on Sundays. I’m being a little silly, of course, but it really is the case that you would have to be extremely disciplined to have only one of you working on the system at any given time. This is not an easy thing to do.

I’m not familiar with Web Trees, but from its description it sounds like the sort of tool that you need.

No matter how you do it (and as has already been mentioned), you will have to develop some standard procedures about handling sources and citations, media files and their names, exactly how you enter names (for example nicknames and names by which people were really called such as when they were called by their middle name and married names for women, etc.), exactly how you will enter place names, etc. There are a lot of different opinions in the genealogy world about how such things should be handled.


Great additional information. An additional thought, use of Google Drive or similar online cloud storage can be used simply as an online backup vault for local drive content. Part of the everyday workflow should include regular data and software environment backups which can be done local on a usb drive or network NAS and can also cloud storage. If doing a local copy / backup usb drive, I’d suggest a rotation scheme with additional portable drives (two or more) and store such drives in a separate physical location and / or in a fireproof safe.

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Jerry Thank you for highlighting the Family Search potential unwanted editing problems. I will only use Family Search for research I think.
I am hopeful that Webtrees will be useful as some sort of central corordinating point but we will see.