Find Data Problems Using The Family Nexus App

Visualizing Tree Data Problems

Without standardized locations, Google Maps may display a pin in the “wrong” place!

Open Google Maps and search for “PA.” Although a common abbreviation for “Pennsylvania,” without context Google Maps shows you Panama! The Family Nexus iPhone app automatically maps birth, marriage, death, and burial locations of 6+ generations of your FamilySearch family tree. It uses the “standardized” place associated with locations of life events stored in FamilySearch. Seeing these locations instantly plotted on a map is awesome. It can also be a very convenient way to spot data problems in your Tree. Let’s review 2 ways you can find data problems using The Family Nexus App.

Using the Map View

When I first used The Family Nexus app, I noticed pins all over the world. Since my ancestors had lived either in North America or Europe it really startled me to see life events showing up in Africa, South America, and the Indian subcontinent. This was an immediate and visual reminder that I had data problems.

Fortunately, it is easy to fix! Having a map pin appear in the wrong location typically occurs when the “Standardized” place does not match the place in the “display” value. So you may think everything looks good at first glance, but behind the scenes there are issues. For example, in the screen shot below I had an ancestral event that occurred in Delphi, Carroll County, Indiana. However, the location was not completely filled out and so it appeared in Delphi, Greece.

In The Family Nexus app tap the event in question. This displays the Event Card which tells you the ancestor, event type, date, and place associated with that pin on the map. Here you can see the location we retrieved from FamilySearch. You now have a couple of options. You can use this information to open FamilySearch in a browser on your computer or look it up on your mobile device. The FamilySearch website is not very mobile friendly, but everything works.

To do everything from your mobile device, swipe up on the Event Card to see the Person Details. From here click on the FamilySearch Person ID and the app will open up the FamilySearch website with that person selected. You may be prompted to login.

A Note about How FamilySearch Stores Data

FamilySearch stores each date and each place for each event in two different locations. First, it stores it in the white box where you enter the information (the “display” value). Second, it stores a “standard” date or place in the green (or yellow) bar below that. This “standard” is what helps you and others find matching records and individuals. It is a “behind-the-scenes” value the computer uses to match to a specific date in history and a specific location on the globe.

When entering data in the first place make sure you have a green bar before continuing. The system will accept a wide variety of different values in the white display box. Often this “extra” information is very valuable. The image below explains how this works. For a (much) longer explanation on this visit the FamilySearch Community Forum.

The “display” value does not have to equal the “standard” value! You can enter anything in the white display box, and as long as the system can find a “match” it will store a “standard” value behind the scenes.

Standardized Place instructionsRefresh Data in The Family Nexus App

After you have corrected the data problems in FamilySearch, return to The Family Nexus App to refresh the data. You can update or refresh the data for a particular person’s record by opening their Details Page and pulling down and releasing. The app goes out to FamilySearch and retrieves the latest information. You should find that the map pin is now in the correct place!

When Something is NOT Visible in Map View

Sometimes The Family Nexus doesn’t display a pin for a particular event. This can also be an indication of data problems in your FamilySearch Family Tree. This can happen for many reasons. 1) No location specified in FamilySearch for that event at all, 2) No standardized location for that event 3) or The Family Nexus can’t find a location match for some other reason. In all these cases what you don’t see can tip you off that something is not quite right.

If you don’t see a pin where you expect to, search for that person in the app and open their Details page. Next to each life event, such as birth or death, look for the location information. If there is none, do some research and add the location in FamilySearch! Then refresh as mentioned above.

If there is a location, look for a red or gray map pin. The gray, crossed out map pin indicates that the location text could not be matched to a place on the map. Again, this could be because there is no standardized place, or for some other reason. Just like in any research, trace the information backwards towards the source. First go to FamilySearch and make sure it has the correct standardized place. If it does, go ahead and refresh the app data. If you still get the gray map pin, take a screen shot and email us so we can look in to it.


Seeing your Family Tree data visually on a map is an excellent way to spot data problems. Don’t be alarmed when you first notice this! And don’t assume there must be something wrong with the app! See it as a great opportunity to clean up the data problems and ensure the accuracy of the data in your FamilySearch Family Tree. Remember that FamilySearch also uses this data in its search and hinting algorithms so there are other benefits to doing some Spring cleaning on your data!

Share in the comments below, how the app helped you find data problems. Oh, and if you have an iPhone or iPad and you haven’t yet tried The Family Nexus app, try it today!

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