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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Can You Believe This?

My daughter-in-law asked me to look at this entry for Christen Pedersen, MJNM-VQ1. Here is part of the rest of the story:

This is the first screenshot of the list of wives for this person. Here is the next screenshot.

Here is the next screenshot. These are all for Christen Pedersen MJNM-VQ1.

Wait, the list goes on. Here is the next screenshot down.

Yep, there is even more. Here is another screenshot down the list.

Finally, we get to the bottom of the list

Guess what? I have seen worse. But not one with so many Data problems. How did this mess come about? Most of these types of issues come from multiple submissions of the same person with different wives over the last 100 years. In this case, the problem, even if there was one originally, was caused by multiple merges primarily done by the same person. By the way, there are seven possible temple sealings to spouses available for this person. No, this person was not a polygamist.

How does the average user (or even an advanced user) of the Family Tree untangle this mess? There is no real way to do so without spending a huge amount of time. The first step is to step back and verify that your family line actually connects you to this person. You must determine with solid sources that you are really related to Christen Pedersen MJNM-VQ1. If you happen to be related to one of the listed wives, and you have supporting sources, you need sources that show you are related to Christen Pedersen also in the form of specific marriage information. You then have to determine if he was, in fact, married more than once. You then need to verify that the children listed are the children of Christen Pedersen and your ancestor. If so, then all you have to do is detach all of the other wives and children.

In looking at the places where all these people are said to be born, I suggest that there is only one or at most two of the people that actually belong here.

Good Luck.


  1. This actually looks doable, unlike some I have seen. If I were to take this on, and the temptation of this fascinating challenge is quite strong, I would consider it the same type of volunteer effort that motivated those indexers to provide all those Norwegian parish record indexes of people they are not related to that make it so easy to research Norwegians.

    I would take a first step of looking through the change log for each of the wives and seeing what came from New Family Search, which cannot be simply reversed, and what was done in Family Tree, such as tacking on one more random wife just last week, which can be reversed in just a few minutes.

    Next, I would make use of the fact that much of "Christen's" ordinance work was done between 1942 and 1962 which means there should be Family Group Sheets in the "Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969" microfilm which is on-line. Using those sheets to reconstruct the original submissions would likely take care of at least half of these people. Any copies of the various Christen's that need to be recreated because they can't be un-merged can have their ordinances restored by Family Search Support based on the FGSs.

    I would also message each person who has been working on this record and ask them who they think they are actually working and try and get some co-ordinantion going.

    From the looks of Christen's change log, it looks like there is one contributor who looked at the Possible Duplicates record and merged every single Christen listed there without taking a single look at the records, apparently subscribing to the philosophy, "if the computer says they are duplicate, they must be duplicates." I have heard of people who don't realize Family Tree is a universal family tree that covers everyone, think they are working in a personal tree, and just merge away people to "clean up" all those possible duplicate people they are not related to since they can't delete them.

    1. Thanks for your really good analysis and suggestions.

    2. Gordon Collett: I noticed that you made some changes on this person's record. Have you decided to take this on?

      I contacted the person who did the recent merges, and she replied with the following message which shows that the recent changes she made were largely accidental:

      "Thanks for letting me know. Our ward genealogist, as a favor to me, spent some time trying to locate names to ready for baptism. To undo what this sweet older gentleman did, can you change it back, or would I need to do this myself under my password? I'm sorry for the confusion and oversight on my part. I'm inexperienced, as a young busy mom, and as most of the work has been done on both sides clear to the 18 th century, We've never really had an opportunity for our kids to take their own family names to the temple (nor have I). Other than indexing and gathering pics and stories, I'm very unfamiliar with how to use Family Search. Yes, I'm fully aware about the challenges to verify Danish names, as so many share the exact same names. Let me know what I can do to "de-merge" all those my friend merged together."

    3. Don't sell yourself short. You are a careful and meticulous researcher.

    4. Now I feed bad. I hope I wasn't too blunt about checking that merges are correct.

      I initially wrote:
      On November 25 you performed a series of 13 merges on this person which involved records for thirteen other men of the name Christen or Christen Pedersen. Examining the record I could not see any evidence that these were the same people. Some of the merges were clear incorrect, such as the one bringing in a Christen Pedersen born in 1808.

      I have reversed all the merges and repaired the records for all of the fourteen different Christens.

      Please be more careful in the future with merges. Please thoroughly investigate the records and the people involved before merging.

      I wish you well in your Family History efforts as you strive to learn how to work properly in Family Tree."

      I sent a second message today:

      "I read this morning in James Tanner's blog that someone he knows messaged you and had your reply that it was your ward genealogist that was working as a helper to try to find names for your family to take to temple and not you who did all those merges. Is there any tactful way to let him know that things did not go well? I apologize if I sounded a bit harsh. Good luck with your future family history work."

  2. I scrolled through all of Christen's change log. It looks like the original record that came from New Family Search was pretty simple. The very first thing that happened, back on 29 Aug 2012, just two months after Family Tree opened, is that someone merged this Christen born in 1808 with a Christen born in 1708 and everything just went downhill from there.

    Very concerning are the 13 (isn't that number ironic!) merges done the day after Thanksgiving this year which are not something to be thankful for and appear to all need to be undone.

  3. I just couldn't leave that record alone. It took me about two hours to analyze each of the thirteen recent merges using the change logs for each person, see that many were clearly incorrect (in particular the one that merged Christen born in 1707 and Christen born in 1808) and the rest had absolutely no foundation for the merge, to restore the 13 deleted Christens, and fix the record for the Christen who had everyone else merged into him. I also sent a message to the person who did those 13 merges and requested more caution and more research in the future.

    No, they are not my family and maybe it wasn't my business, but since it is almost Christmas, I'll quote Marley's ghost, "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business."

    The record still has major problems and it could still be a combination of more than one person, but now it needs real research by someone who knows these people. It does look a whole lot better than your photo.