There is some small controversy about gaining access to FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program. First of all, the program is live and not a Beta test. It is well on its way to replacing New.FamilySearch.org with many features in New.FamilySearch.org being "turned off" and the functions moved to Family Tree. Second, it has been the stated policy of FamilySearch since Family Tree's introduction at RootsTech 2012, that the program is open to everyone, both those and those who are not members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church).
Both presently and during the past few months, there continue to be statements made by FamilySearch employees about the "formal introduction" of the program when the program will be made available "to everyone." These statements raise issues with the access to the program. Many people who already use New.FamilySearch.org believe that they need to wait until the program is formally introduced to begin using the program. In conjunction with teaching classes on Family Tree every week, week after week, I get this question regularly. I have been using the program for almost a year now and I urge all of those who continue to experience frustration and problems with New.FamilySearch.org to move to using Family Tree. Almost always, the problems they express in using New.FamilySearch.org disappear (and they get a whole set of new problems, but that is another post and another time).
It is my present experience that anyone, whether or not they are members of the Church, can gain access to the program. But both those who are members and those who are not can experience difficulty in gaining access to the program caused by a whole variety of variable issues. So how do you go about gaining access to the program?
There is a document, freely available on the FamilySearch.org website explaining how to gain access in detail. It is available through the Help menu on the startup page for FamilySearch.org. Here is a screen shot showing the location of the Help page link:
Clicking on the link brings up a list of Help documents, including one appropriately named "Gaining Access to the FamilySearch Family Tree." This short PDF document has an explanation of one of the ways you can gain access to the program. However, the document is way out-of-date since it dates back to 27 March 2012. However, if you following the instructions, most of the time, you will be successful in gaining access to the program.
Currently however, there is a simpler way of gaining access. All you have to do is Register with either an LDS or FamilySearch Account and sign into FamilySearch.org. The link to Family Tree should then immediately appear in the top menu bar next to the logo. All access to FamilySearch.org is entirely free. You do not have to register to use most of the resources available on the website. However, there are some of the Historical Record Collections documents that require registration and signing in to see the actual documents. This is due to agreements with the document providers. You do have to register and sign in to see and use Family Tree. One of the main reasons for this is the need to have a recorded and available email address so that those using the program can be contacted by other users and by the program itself.
You register for FamilySearch.org by clicking on the "Sign In" link. Here is a screen shot with an arrow showing the link:
When you click on the link, you get the following page:
If you have not already registered, you click on the link that says "Create New Account." As a matter of note, if you have previously registered but lost your registration information such as your login and pass word, you can recover those by trying to re-register.
Once you have registered and sign in to FamilySearch.org, you should automatically see the link to Family Tree appear in the menu bar. Here is a screen shot showing the link to Family Tree:
Now, what happens if you go through this process and the link does not appear. First, go back to the Gaining Access document and try that. Most of the time, this cures the problem and the link appears. Finally, if that does not work either, you will have to call FamilySearch Support and ask for help. The Help number is available on links from the Help Center from the "Help" link I show above. On the Help page you will see a box with a list of Help services. These services include links to local Family History Consultants in your area, FamilySearch Centers in your area, an outdated link to Forums that no longer exist, and finally ways to contact FamilySearch directly including a telephone call center.
Just a word of advice, the people who answer the phone are all volunteers. They vary to some degree in their experience and knowledge. Be patient and polite. If you do not get a satisfactory answer, ask to talk to another representative with more experience. Just like the website with outdated links, some of the information retained by the support volunteers may also be outdated.
Now, if you are presently using New.FamilySearch.org, you might have noticed that there are several links to Family Tree from that program. Clicking on those links, if you are already signed in, will take you directly to Family Tree. The problem is that once you are in Family Tree the program does not let you know that you have moved to a new website and once you have left the program you may not realize that you were on the FamilySearch.org website. Once you have gained access to Family Tree through New.FamilySearch.org you should see the link on the FamilySearch.org website when you log in, otherwise, you may have to go through the process outlined above.
Our experience is that anyone who is persistent can presently gain access to Family Tree. But, of course, that is just the beginning of the story. One of the most common problems experienced by new users is the issue of connecting with existing information. But that is also the subject of another post.