Thursday, October 4, 2012

FamilySearch Family Tree Introduces Merge Feature

I noted James Tanner's post yesterday, The Last Piece Falls Into Place? -- Merge Comes to FamilySearch Family Tree? on the Genealogy's Star blog.  Great catch, James.

I had a preview of this Merge feature about a month ago in a session with FamilySearch developers, and it acts pretty much the way I recall from then.

One of the major problems with FamilySearch Family Tree is that there are a LOT of duplicate persons.  In the New FamilySearch tree period, LDS members were supposed to combine duplicate persons as best they can.  But they could not delete the data associated with those persons, they could only select the best evidence for presentation.  As noted in my post, The Problem with FamilySearch Family Tree, it is difficult to sort out event assertions and relationships in FSFT for many persons due to the erroneous information, conflicting information and duplicate persons.

There is another way to match duplicate persons, and that is to use one of the genealogy software programs (like Legacy Family Tree or RootsMagic) that permits the user to search for matches and combine persons.  However, the resulting event assertions and relationships cannot be combined or deleted - the user can only do this in FamilySearch Family Tree.

The Merge feature for possible duplicates works well.  I've tried it several times, and will show the process below.

Like James Tanner, one of my first attempts was on a Person (Peregrine White, 1620-1704).  The FSFT would not let me finalize the merge for some reason.  After spending some time looking at Event assertions and relationships, I got the message "These two People can't be merged."  That's frustrating...

I chose another ancestor of mine that had several possible duplicate entries - Ichabod Kirby (1710-1794).  Here's the process I followed:

1)  From the Person screen for Icabod Kirby:

Note the "Tools" section on the top of the right-hand sidebar.  It now contains a "Possible Duplicates" tool.

2)  I clicked on that, and the "Possible Duplicates for Icabod Kirby" screen appeared:

On the screen above, the information for Icabod Kirby is presented at the top of the page.  There are four other "Possible Duplicate" persons listed.

3)  I clicked on the second one on the list above because the spouse's name was the same, although it did not have any Events or Parents listed.  This screen, which compares the information for the base persona (Icabod Kirby, the one above) in the left-hand column with information for the selected "Possible Duplicate" persona (Icobod Kirby) in the right-hand column:

On the screen above, each assertion in the "Possible Duplicate" right-hand column is highlighted within a light green box.  For each assertion, there is a link for "Replace" or "Reject."  Clicking on "Reject" will change the box color to light red, and that assertion will be deleted if the two persons are merged.

5)  I "Reject"ed the two assertions above because they were either duplicative or wrong, IMHO, and saw:

6)  Further down, I "Reject"ed the spouse's name because it was duplicative (and on second thought, I probably should have "Replace"d it and then merged those two personas also - a rookie error, I think!).  There is a son, David Kirby listed for the "Possible Duplicate" person:

7)  However, the only assertion of a child that I saw on this page was the son, David Kirby, so I decided to "Replace" him into the base persona.  After I clicked on "Replace," the entry moved over to the left-hand column, as shown below:

8)  Further down the page, near the bottom, is a blue "Continue" button, and the system took me back to the top of the page, and showed:

On the screen above, the right-hand column has a text box for "Reason This Merge Is Correct."  I typed in a fairly lame reason - "The merged person was a duplicate by all indications provided."

9)  I clicked on the blue "Finish Merge" button on the screen above and saw:

The two persons were merged, and the information for Icobod Kirby that I "Replace"d in the Icabod Kirby persona is listed in that.

Look at the right-hand column on the screen above - the "Latest Changes" list reflects the completed merge, including the addition of several other changes, including mother relationship and father relationship (since I effectively added a child to the base person, Icabod Kirby).

This is a logical step-by-step process, but it's going to require guidelines and experience in order to implement merging possible duplicate persons effectively.  Using this process to merge duplicate persons will require judgment on the part of the user performing the task, and should be done with some thought and discernment.  

In my opinion, the bigger problem in the FamilySearch Family Tree will be how to effectively get the relationships between parents and spouses correct.  In many of the Persons in the FSFT that I connect to, there are three or four spouses, sets of children, and even sets of parents and siblings for the base person.  All of that needs to be reconciled so that duplicate persons are merged and not left hanging as isolated persons in the FSFT without a set of parents or a spouse.  The problem is much worse for persons that have many descendants, the so-called "Persons of Unusual size" like Peregrine White that could not be Merged for some reason in my exercise above.

My guess is that there are more "Tools" still to be deployed.

I know, "Icabod Kirby" should be "Ichabod Kirby" - after I merged those two persons, I changed his name on the "Person" page.

My hope is that FamilySearch will provide a "how-to" video for this "Possible Duplicate" Tool to demonstrate the correct way to merge persons in the FamilySearch Family Tree.

Like James Tanner, I ran up against the "These two persons can't be merged" for whatever reason.  This needs to be fixed, because these persons have the most duplicates of all!

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Kay Haden said...

Randy, I've been trying this today. I've discovered two things. The persons who report they are unable to merge have no dates at all and I think are therefore thought to be "living". I suspect this may have something to do with the Merge. I also noticed that a few times, the attempt to merge to people that did have dates and data, reported they could not merge, but if I waited for a bit, they went ahead and merged and disappeared from the reported Duplicates.

Brien Smith said...

Randy, I appreciate the guidance with the "Possible Duplicates" and how the "Merge" function works. I was able to complete the process successfully. I agree wholeheartedly that FamilySearch needs a step-by-step "How To" video on this process. Thanks for your web site.