Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Use the Find function in addition to Merge on FamilySearch Family Tree

There is a serious issue with the merge function in Family Tree. With certain individuals, the program fails to find obvious duplicates. This issue extends to the use of the "Find Duplicates" function also. Let me give an example.

I will use one of my ancestors, Sidney Tanner. He is one of those individuals in the Family Tree that is considered to be an IOUS or Individual of Unusual Size. This comes about because of the large number of descendants who have submitted records on his behalf. In, he had dozens of combined records. By the way, will be "turned off" on February 1, 2015. Anyway, let's just say that there are problems with his entries in Family Tree also. But for the purpose of illustrating the problems with searching for duplicates and merging, he is an adequate example.

Here is a screenshot that shows the results of clicking on the "Possible Duplicates" link on Sidney Tanner's Details Page:

You will note the warning message, "Can't Be Merged At This Time (1 result)."

Since I cannot merge the two obvious duplicates, this creates a problem in knowing which of these individuals will be survivor if and when the merge function begins operating. The two duplicate individuals are as follows:
  • Sidney Tanner KWJ6-DZX
  • Sidney Tanner LZXK-Y57'
What am I able to do at this point? The two records actually contain different information. Will all this information be preserved if the two entries for the same individual are finally combined? This is a real question since the merge process is somewhat based on the judgment of the person effectuating the merge. Here are screenshots of the pertinent parts of the two entries showing the differences:

This is the second one:

One important difference, besides the "Other Information" contained on each record, is the changes that have been made. If people think they are correcting the record concerning Sidney Tanner, they are mistaken since the changes to one instance of the record do not show up on the other record. Apparently the people making changes are not aware that there are two different Sidney Tanner entries. Which changes will survive? Will all the work done by one group of people on one of the entries be entirely lost?

Now to the second issue. If I search using the Find function, after having searched for duplicates, then I will find at least one more duplicate record. In fact, the list of "Sidney Tanner" entries is quite large; 58 results. Here I find a "Sidney Tanner MSSC-K9X" born in Beaver, Beaver, Utah in about 1835. Interestingly, there is no further information on this potential duplicate. But note, that the date, 1835, is well before the arrival of the pioneers to Utah in 1847 and many years before the founding of Beaver, Utah. Here is a screenshot of the entry:

This is a good example of entries that were made with insufficient information and without searching the existing records for a duplicate. It is also a good example of entries made without thinking about the historical context. However, I consider this to be a duplicate entry. Which of the two entries above should I consider it to be the duplicate? The last step is to search to see if this duplicate that was found from searching for a duplicate with the entries above, will itself find a duplicate. Here is the result of the search for a Possible Duplicate. Bear in mind, I know of two actual duplicates already.

The results: No results found. The Family Tree program did not match to either of the existing duplicates even when this record was found by searching for duplicates.

The conclusion is that doing any more editing to Sidney Tanner or anyone else in the family line before him is a risk that all of the work will be lost with an improper merger when that is possible.
In addition, if you fail to do a Search for additional copies of your ancestors in addition to using the Merge function, you are running the risk of missing obvious duplicates and there may still be more duplicates out there the program has missed as shown by the last results from the search. 

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