Today I want to share one of my favorite apps from the FamilySearch app gallery – Puzzilla!
Puzzilla.org reads the data on your family tree and creates a compact, bird’s eye view of your pedigree. This is interesting for viewing your ancestors, but it’s incredible for viewing descendants. There is no better way to visualize your cousins than to see them plotted out in a Puzzilla descendancy chart. As you view cousins in this new way, it’s simpler to spot gaps in the research and find new places to work. For those who want to find names for temple work, Puzzilla is an invaluable tool!
Puzzilla.org is FamilySearch certified and can read information from your FamilySearch account. It’s easy to get started – just sign in with your FamilySearch.org username and password, and it imports six generations of your ancestors to create this pedigree:
Starting with you at the bottom, Puzzilla builds a pedigree of your ancestors. Each man is represented by a blue square, and each woman is represented by a pink dot. Hovering over a person turns their symbol green and shows you their person card with their name, FamilySearch Personal ID, birth, and death information. Click on “Descendants” on the person card for one of your ancestors, and a new tab opens to create a descendancy chart like this:
To zoom or pan on the chart, you can follow these instructions from the Puzzilla FAQ:
You can zoom using Ctrl-+ (hold down the control key and press the plus key). Ctrl-minus zooms out. Ctrl-0 returns to default size. On Mac, use the command key instead of the control key. You can also click-hold-and-drag to pan sideways or up and down, and you can use touchpad pinch gestures or your mouse scroll-wheel to zoom. Refresh the page to return to default size and position.
If you click “targets” on the control panel on the left, a red square is added to any descendant who has no children (on a descendants chart) or no parents (in an ancestor chart). This helps you narrow down the opportunities for research by showing you where the research has stopped.
I clicked targets, and now I see about seven red squares next to some people in the 2nd generation circle. Let’s zoom in.
You’ll notice that next to several gray squares next to people. As you can see on the control panel, that means someone who was born within the last 110 years. This is helpful for those looking for relatives who need temple work. Unless you get permission from the closest living relative, you won’t be able to do temple work for relatives born in the last 110 years.
People with a yellow square died before the age of 16, so in most instances, they had no descendants.
People with a red square are “targets” who are missing children or parents. From here you can click on the people with red squares and start working on them in family tree by attaching records that may show their family members.
When you go to Puzzilla.org, this is the landing page. You’ll notice that there are free and premium services. Everything I’ve shared above is available for free.
The premium services cost $39.95 annually. You might be wondering why a FamilySearch certified app would cost money. This is answered on Puzzilla’s FAQ page:
Why are Premium Services not free to LDS Church members like other FamilySearch partners? Why are we paying to see data we helped create? A handful of major FamilySearch partners provide paid services at no charge to LDS members because these partners received very large compensation packages from FamilySearch in exchange. Their compensation includes use of millions of scanned and indexed FamilySearch historical records that the partners can provide to their large non-LDS user base for a fee. Puzzilla does not receive compensation from FamilySearch and is not allowed to use FamilySearch scanned and indexed historical records. We charge for our Premium Services in order to provide professional, high quality capabilities to help our customers with their work, and we use these resources to pay for the essential fundamental services that Puzzilla provides for free. The magnificent view of the earth from an airplane is free, but there is a cost for the ride to fly up into the air to see it. Puzzilla is the vehicle that brings you a magnificent bird’s-eye view of your family tree.
The free version of Puzzilla allows you to view ancestor charts, descendant charts, and targets. With the premium version, you can also view hints, sources, my changes, possible duplicates, ordinances, search, and tracking.
Clicking “hints” on the control panel puts an orange square next to anyone who has record hints in Family Tree. When you click on a person with an orange square, it show the record hints in the control panel at the bottom left. This is a great way for beginners to practice attaching records to cousins, possibly find new relatives to add to the tree, and have early success. You’ll notice below that when you click on a person who has hints, the person card also gives you the option to search a couple of the partner sites.
Clicking “sources” on the control panel puts pink squares next to relatives in your tree who have sources attached. To narrow which sources you want to see, type in the box “census” or “death” to see only people who have those types of sources attached. This would be helpful, for example, if you want to find people who have no censuses attached. Then you can find the missing census records and add any new relatives found on them. In this example below, I found that Daniel Joseph Welch had no censuses attached, but in the control panel, it shows that he has a couple hints for census records.
Clicking “My Changes” puts a purple square next to people who I have added or made changes to in family tree. Now I can see which lines I have already worked on.
Clicking “possible duplicates” puts a light blue square next to people who may need to be merged. The only other app that I can think of that lists people in your tree who have duplicates is FindARecord.com.
Clicking “Ordinances” puts a green square next to anyone in the chart who has available ordinances to request. Once you locate someone who needs ordinances, you can easily click “view in Family Tree” to open a new tab and reserve the ordinances.
When you click “ordinances,” you see this pop up reminder:
Clicking “search” allows you to highlight certain people in the chart based on your search criteria. Before you type anything into the search box, everyone in the tree is gray. After you type search term or a complete birthdate range, only those matching the search will now have a teal square next to them.
When you click “Tracking,” you are able to see a brown square next to people you have decided to track with the new “Puzzilla Log” feature. In the person card, you can click “log this person.”
Clicking “log this person” puts them into your Puzzilla Log and also puts a brown square next to their name. In the Puzzilla log, you can write notes and view ordinance status.
On the Puzzilla log “how to” page, it says,
Puzzilla users find so much information that it becomes difficult to keep track of where they are with each person. Solution: Puzzilla to the rescue! Announcing the new Puzzilla Log, now in initial development and testing. For those of us who are short on short-term memory or long between work sessions, relax and focus on one thing at a time. Let Puzzilla keep track of the rest.
This is a great idea. I’m always encouraging others (and reminding myself) to keep better notes. A research log is a must for a professional genealogist, but beginners and intermediate genealogists often let the ball drop in this area. With new tools like the Puzzilla log, we can remember where we left off and waste less time!
To print these beautiful charts, you can click print in your browser or take a screen shot. Puzzilla is working on more ways to print the charts. For this chart, I clicked on “my changes” and took a screen shot. I added some text and now I can print this chart which shows the descendants of my handcart pioneer ancestor that I’ve worked on.
As a family history consultant, Puzzilla helps when I preview someone’s tree before I meet with them. If the person I’m helping wants to find a name for temple work but has a full tree, I’ll create a few descendancy charts for some of their ancestors (who were not early mormons) to see if I can find opportunities for research. This “treeage” makes it much easier to work with members one on one because you have evaluated their tree and already have suggestions for where to start.
To read others’ reviews of Puzzilla, you can go to the FamilySearch app page. I think it’s worth the money for premium, but many people are able to get plenty of use out of Puzzilla’s free features. Try it and see what you think!