Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sorting Out How to Work With the FamilySearch Family Tree Problems

I spent most of the morning trying to sort out how to deal with the problems with historical individuals with many entries in the FamilySearch Family Tree.  for background, see my blog post The Problem with FamilySearch Family Tree - For Example: Thomas Dudley (1576-1653).

I looked at several more "problem ancestors" - for instance, George Soule (1593-1680), the Mayflower Passenger, and his family.  As I suspected, the problem is even worse.  George is represented in FamilySearch Family Tree by over 100 separate entries, as is his wife (who has many alternate name spellings).  I can match my George Soule in RootsMagic with one of those profiles, but I cannot merge any of the other profiles to my RootsMagic person or to another Family Tree profile.  Which one should I choose?  

1)  I decided that I'd better look for help on how to deal with Family Tree profiles like Thomas Dudley and George Soule.  On the FamilySearch site, there is a "Get Help" link on the top row on the right. Clicking the "Get Help" link opens a dropdown menu with six links, including "Product Support."  The "Product Support" page has five buttons for different topics.  I clicked on the "Family Tree" link (two screens):

There is a print handout, and some video training courses available, and there are six articles available as FAQs for the Family Tree.  The last one is the "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide:"

This is a 168 page manual, in PDF format, covering everything that can be done using the FamilySearch Family Tree.  I downloaded it and saved it for reading on my computer, and put it in Dropbox so I can read it on my laptop too.

Several of the other FAQ articles look helpful - especially the ones about "Merging Duplicate Records," "Correcting Common Problems With Couple Relationships" and "Correcting Common Problems With Parent-Child Relationships."  Those do not provide PDF documents, only short and concise directions on how to do the tasks. 

Well, for the problems I have with Thomas Dudley and George Soule, they don't help me much.  The directions on how to Merge Duplicate Records work, but are best applied for the case when there are only one or few duplicate persons.  The last line of instructions say:

"Merges can fail for a variety of reasons. See document 100446 to see some of the reasons."

However, the link to document 100446 is not active and does not work.  Can someone fix the link or provide the document?

2)  I think users of FamilySearch Family Tree are faced with two avenues to follow on persons like Thomas Dudley and George Soule:

A)  Work within the Family Tree system using their directions.  I think the best course is to work one family at a time and:

*  Select one person (e.g., Thomas Dudley) to work on.
*  Merge all of the person profiles who are the same person as your selected person and get down to one person profile.  Add logical reasons for merging the profiles.
*  Delete the extraneous alternate name, alternate events, etc. for that person profile.   Add logical reasons for the actions.
*  Do the same for each of the spouses of that first person.
*  Do the same for each child of each spouse of the selected person.
*  Delete relationships of the selected person with extraneous persons, and delete the extraneous person if they are not a historical person.   Add logical reasons for the actions.
*  Delete relationships with the extraneous children of the selected person and spouses, and delete the extraneous person if they are not a historical person.   Add logical reasons for the actions.
*  Match my RootsMagic persons with each of the merged and edited/corrected Family Tree persons.
*  Add content and standardize events, dates and places as best you can.

The above should probably be performed within the Family Tree system rather than from within a software program, except for the last two steps.  I've noticed that the software programs take a long time (minutes!) to merge and match and add or correct information when there are a lot of relationships and events.

Of course, this won't work with Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS) like George Soule and many others, since the system won't permit Merges.

B)  From RootsMagic (or another certified software program), add the family members to FamilySearch Family Tree as new persons and:

*  Add sources to FamilySearch for the added family members.  
*  Try to merge as many duplicate persons into the newly created family members as possible, using the new person in Family Tree as the person to be merged into.  Add logical reasons for merging the profiles and events.
*  When completed, delete the extraneous alternate name, alternate events, for each person profile.  Add logical reasons for the actions.
*  Delete relationships of the family members with extraneous persons (parents, spouses, children) and delete extraneous persons as required.  Add logical reasons for the actions.

Only the matching and event data can be performed from within the software programs.  Deleting extraneous event data is much easier to perform in FamilySearch Family Tree.  Deleting relationships and persons have to be performed in Family Tree.

This appears to be the only way to deal with IOUS at present if you want your connection to a historical person in Family Tree to be accurate and sourced.  However, if a user uses this Plan, then they're just making the IOUS problem worse by adding yet another profile to the list for a historical person.  

3)  My conclusions:

*  Historical persons with multiple profiles in the Family Tree are really difficult to "fix."
*  Using Plan A leads to significant frustration and timesucks.  The problem snowballs to parents, siblings, spouse's other spouses, children, children's spouses, etc. of a selected person and spouses.
*  Profiles for IOUS cannot be merged at all ... once you figure out that you are working on an IOUS, don't do any more work.
*  Plan B appears to be the only way to deal with IOUS and others with many profiles for the same historical person. 
*  Plan B leads to additional profile(s) for historical persons already in Family Tree if merging cannot be performed.
*  Save the RootsMagic (or other software) interaction for persons with no, one or few duplicate matches in the Family Tree, and for adding sourced content to the Family Tree.

4)  The two Plans above are what I think are the most effective (time efficient and minimum frustration) ways to deal with the problems inherent in how FamilySearch Family Tree was created and updated.  

I would be very interested in hearing how other users of FamilySearch Family Tree are dealing with these types of problems, other than ignoring them and hoping that somebody else will fix them.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/09/sorting-out-how-to-work-with.html

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

Concerning Knowledge Document 100446, FS has been moving a lot of stuff around -- and it is possible that document is available only to those with LDS accounts.

To find its equivalent, use the search box in the 2nd screen in your first image, search for "merging." You will find a list of articles, including one "Cannot Merge Duplicate Records in Family Tree".

Left-click on the link (you can not open it in a separate tab or window in order to save it--another annoying feature) and an article with numerous links will open. I can not give you a URL because it does not have a separate URL from this "product support" section. I do not know if this is a version of the Knowledge Document referred to in the manual, but it seems to cover the merging problem instances.

Regarding the IOUS merging issues, so common among New England ancestors, these will disappear when FS-FamilyTree no longer synchronizes with the new.FamilySearch database. This is promised by early in 2014, when new.FamilySearch will become read-only and will be kept in existence for some unstated time period.

There has been a delay in separating the two because the FS-FT program can not directly 'read' the material in new.FamilySearch, and there has been a major problem with transferring LDS Ordinance data to FT from n.FS and with developing the subroutine in FS-FT for handling LDS Ordinances.

There will still be data-management problems with the IOUS individuals because the person-page will not display more than 100 versions of spouses, parents, etc. Only in a general tree search can you determine how many versions there might be for an individual and for each spouse. But such a search will not tell you how many permutations and combinations there may be.

Jim Gill said...

I agree with your work process for unraveling FS-FT spaghetti. It will take me the rest of my life to unravel my ancestors lives, more if FS keeps dumping garbage into FT. Is there a forum some place where FS-FT users can exchange ideas, woes, problems, solutions?

Geolover said...

Jim Gill, a lot of the problems and tricks for dealing with FamilySearch Family Tree are dealt with in the large how-to document for which Randy gave a link.

There is a message board for discussion of FamilySearch site issues, including FS-Family Tree:


It has no topical subdivisions, and you can not sort posts by subject, but you can use the rather primitive keyword search at upper right to determine if your question or problem may already have been addressed there. Most problems that users have encountered have been discussed, some at great length.

Wendy Lavender said...

All I want to know is how to completely delete (remove)the whole tree from my account? I could of sworn that I did it once before but now that doesn't seem to be a possibility or I'm I missing something?