How can I prevent people from creating new "better" entries rather than updating
I have a situation where someone took an entry I had created for my uncle, with minimal sourcing, created an entirely new entry, which is technically better than mine, and removed mine, changing the relationships for two of my grandparents.
I would appreciate the improvement if not for the fact that it breaks the links I use to get to these entries both from RootsMagic and from some software of my own.
I'm not looking for a technical answer but for ideas on how to keep people from doing this. In fact, I can't think of any situation where you should create a brand new entry to replace what is already there, so I'm wondering if there's any guidance published to discourage folks from doing so.
I don’t know of any ‘official guidance’ but I generally look for the one that’s the oldest, with the most sources, and the most fully filled in to be the surviving record after a merge.
However the oldest one, the one with the most sources attached, and the one that’s most fully filled in with other info, may be three different records. It’s not uncommon to find six, or even ten, profiles for the same individual that need merged each with varying quantities, and qualities, of info and sources.
No matter which one you choose to survive, someone else could make a different argument.
Having said all that, I agree with you. I find it very frustrating when it happens to me.3
A merge shouldn't cause any broken links: as I said, the profile still exists. "Merge-deleted" is a misnomer; it should be called something more like "merge-archived".
I checked: WikiTree links added using the "FS Matches" tool go the person's details page, for example https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/GXGT-SQH -- which works regardless of the profile's current merge status.2
Cheryl Viering ✭✭✭
In a merge, all family connections will be kept. The web link to one of the people will connect to the merged person, and the web link to the other will connect to a page stating that the person has been merged, and gives a link to the merged person.
Perhaps Roots Magic is more closely integrated with Family Search than I realize, but I don't see any reason to use these links to connect people outside of Family Search. I use them to make unique identifiers of my sources, but I don't expect the link itself to remain valid forever.
Another explanation for why one profile had precedence over the older, is that you have to be very, extremely, careful about which is one the right and left side. The consequences of that decision are not at all clear. If someone has entered information to a profile, I try to merge so that their name remains as the "last changed by". It takes an effort to check which that is, and I occasionally forget that step. And, then, sometimes both profiles have information contributed by different people, so that I have to select one.
I'd also like to add that not everyone is researching their own family. Currently I am researching a specific town in the 1700s, so I am interested in everyone who lived there at the time. I do have an ancestor there, but with the tangled families and repeated names, I can't figure out which one that is without sorting out the entire town.1
Did you look at the changelog down the right side of the profile? The changelog should show exactly what changes were made.
The profile you created may have been merged with a profile created by the other contributor. Here's an example of one in my branch of the tree - there were 2 profiles for one daughter of the family, one with her nickname, Katie, and one with her proper name, Kathryn. I merged them a few days ago. She is still attached to the same correct parents. If you click "Show All" under Latest Changes, you can see all the connections and additions made to the profile over time. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/changelog/L8S9-LWC
If I'm not understanding or if this is not clear, please let me know. If your uncle is deceased, you can share his PID number, and we can view the profile.
Hope this helps.2
Thanks for answering. As I said, I'm not asking for technical help, in fact there is nothing wrong with the profile except for the lack of communication and the fact that the individual decided to create an entirely new profile and favor it in the merging, breaking all the pre-existing links from outside of family tree.
I'm basing this on a review of all the changes and the dates on which they were made. I had a profile created in 2021, which could use some new sources. Instead of adding them, somebody came in a few months ago, created an entirely new profile and deleted mine. This changed links between persons in familysearch and all outside references as well... such as, from WikiTree, Ancestry, etc and from my desktop genealogy software, which maintains the FamilySearch ids.
It seems to me like a very bad practice to do this rather than collaborating on improving the existing entry.
Of course, I realize that's not the general case. Sometimes people work for years on separate records, which then turn out to be for the same person. Then, when they are merged, somebody will have to deal with the fallout of broken links. In this specific case it could have been avoided.
But I hunted for guidelines here, like "don't replace older records with brand new ones you just created", so I could point the individual to them. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any.
That will be the end of my rant now. :-)
There's a basic "chicken and egg" problem at the root of things: until/unless the details and relationships are entered, the match to an existing profile cannot be recognized.
It has happened to me countless times: I find the name and parents of a person's spouse. I try "Find" on them and come up with nothing definitive -- whether due to the Find algorithm's shortcomings, or due to some failing in my use of it, I cannot tell -- so I create new profiles. Even before I finish adding all of the children and other records, Possible Duplicates comes up with a match, and looking at it, I agree that it's the same person. So now I have to do some merges, apologizing in the reason box for creating the inadvertent duplicates, but offering as my excuse the fact that Find didn't show me the existing profiles.
I suspect that the new profile for your uncle was similarly created in good faith: since as you said, your version was short on details, it probably didn't show up in searches, or if it did, it was too far down to be noticed. It wasn't until the other contributor got to your grandparents that the duplicate was found.
It's unclear from what you wrote: were the two profiles merged? Does RootsMagic's link to FS break when a profile is merged into another? (It shouldn't: the merged-away profile still exists and can still be accessed using its profile ID.)
If the actual problem is that the other contributor didn't merge the duplicates, and instead disconnected your version and left it floating, then the solution is to merge them yourself. You can also contact the other user to educate him or her about the correct procedure with duplicate profiles.2
Merging duplicates is something that happens every day. FamilySearch even has a regular beginner's webinar with instructions on how to merge duplicates. It's how the system is designed because it is all one big tree where we all collaborate - hopefully in peace and mostly in harmony.1
Yes, that makes sense. I can see that someone who had spent time would not want to "lose" their changes.
So to verify, I looked back at the details. As I said, my profile had been there for a year or more with a few sources - I have lots more on Ancestry but didn't get around to replicating them on FamilySearch.
The new profile was created, sourced and merged in what looks like one continuous session on April 18, 2022. The person creating it isn't related according to FamilySearch, but they must have had some reason.
In merging, the creator selected their new profile as the one to be kept, disconnecting the old one. That changed the parents as well, so three profiles were modified rather than one. I assume they did it that way because the new profile was better, but of course all facts and sources would end up on whichever profile was chosen to survive the merge.
As far as referencing the disconnected profile from RootsMagic or elsewhere... yes, that would work but then I'd be updating a true duplicate entry where there hadn't been one before this all started. That doesn't sound like the right thing to do. Of course, my references to sources will still be OK, so that's good.
I thought about educating the other user, but first I'd like to understand how this cummunity thinks collaboration should work. To be frank, this and a few other incidents have dampened my enthusiasm for the global tree idea a bit.
I understand that merging of duplicates is important. I've done some of it myself.
I'd still argue that deliberately creating a duplicate and merging it destructively all in one day is not a good practice and should be discouraged. You may not agree but I can't see why anyone would choose to merge a newly created person leaving the existing entry disconnected. That seems wrong in the same way that it's wrong to break permanent links to a web page.
I was hoping there were guidelines I could point this person to but from what I'm hearing it's the wild west with everyone looking out for himself. That's not what I was hoping for.
@Charlie Poole, I think your problem is in your perception expressed when you wrote "In merging, the creator selected their new profile as the one to be kept, disconnecting the old one." Merging doesn't disconnect the old profile. It just archives it. Yes, this adds an extra step between your offline or offsite links and the current profile, but it's all still connected.
Don't attribute the choice of profile to be kept to any sort of malice, and don't assume that the duplicate was created knowingly. It very, very likely wasn't, because merging is a tedious chore, to be avoided whenever possible. It's much easier to update an existing profile -- provided you find it before you've created a new one.
Also, don't be alarmed by all the nonsense that a single merge causes in all of the relatives' change logs. It'll say things like "relationship deleted" or whatever, but really, nothing has changed except the active PID of the merged profile.2
I had it happen recently. I created a record for my grandfather and all my immediate family members many years ago. Last year, someone not related to me created another record for grandpa using one piece of newly found information. They merged my information with their scant information and deleted my original record which I had been caring for and updating. I simply did a restore and put a note in that that I was resuming "ownership" of my grandfather's record. I realize that we don't own any of these records, but, I do think people should at least look back to the person who created the record and the information before they start deleting original records in a merge. But, you are correct, it is the Wild West.2
I guess broken web links is a poor analogy for what bothers me. I'm happy to know that no links are broken, but if future updates go to the non-linked person, then those links will become stale. Maybe there's no resolution to that in an ever-changing tree, however, so I took your comment as an answer.
In the specific case of RootsMagic, it's potentially worse because I use the FamilySearch ID to push changes. I'm afraid that will cause the duplicates to diverge further. I'll have to try that out and see what happens.
nothing has changed except the active PID
I expect that is exactly the core problem for @Charlie Poole. RootsMagic could deal gracefully with changes of PID, but doesn't. I would focus user feedback efforts there.
When merging, it is good etiquette to keep the older PID. But the mobile app does not show which PID is older, and for some profile pairs there are additional considerations.
For me the bottom line is this: persons used to how things are done on Ancestry.com who try to do the same here on FSFT are very irritating. Enough said.0
Would you be willing to post the ID numbers involved? Reading through the posts here, I get the feeling that people are talking past one another because no one can see exactly what happened.
You state that "because I use the FamilySearch ID to push changes. I'm afraid that will cause the duplicates to diverge further." which seems to imply these were not actually merged but one replaced the other and the duplicates still exist. On FamilySearch, it is impossible to make any changes on a deleted, that is a archived away via a merge, profile unless it is restored first. I'd view it as a very big flaw in the sync routine if it can update a frozen record that no one really should ever have to look at again.
But I'm also not clear what your concern with a less correct, less complete, non-editable, archived record that is hidden away and should never be viewed again diverging from the person's current, active, continually improving record is.3
Paul W ✭✭✭✭✭
Going back to your original post, the simple response is that users are always encouraged to try to find an existing ID that fits, rather than create a duplicate. This is not always easy, however, so if a further ID has been created it is recommended that the merge should leave the remaining ID as the one (often older) with the fuller detail.
I would not necessarily base my merge on age: FamilySearch programs created many IDs (often dated 2012) that are purely based on an event - e.g. the christening of a child to a father. That ID will often just have the one source attached, so I would not hesitate in making that the one to disappear in a merge, in spite of it being much older than one I might have created.
One important factor is that, whatever the guidelines, there are no real "rules" in this open-edit program. So, other users are always free to act contrary to any "official" advice, even though this might cause annoyance or hurt to the user who wants to see their ID as the one retained after a merge.3
RootsMagic allows you to synchronize your local tree with FamilySearch. You can pull down FS changes or push local changes to FS. That's what had me worried.
I experimented with the record in question and found that the old "deleted" entry basically disappears from the RM side. I can't even see that the record was even merged. All changes go to the surviving record. That seems like a good thing, since it avoids accidentally updating the deleted record and forces you to actually go to the FamilySearch site if you want to undo the merge.
It's a good point about different reasons for doing research. I'm afraid I was thinking "If they aren't related, then they shouldn't care which record survives." But I can imagine other reasons for doing the research where that might not be the case. Good lesson for me there. :-)1
I avoided posting the ids so as not to trigger a discussion of the part I already understood and focus on my question of how I ought to expect people to interact and collaborate when merging - as well as how I should interact myself when the shoe is on the other foot.
That said, the surviving id is G6RD-G17 and the original, which was merged, is GHNJ-ZLW. As I said at the start, it's very clear that the new entry is much better than the old one. It was only the direction of the merge that I found annoying.0
The surviving ID is actually G6RD-Z17 (I try to never type an ID. It is so easy to type them wrong. I stick to copying and pasting.)
Boy, looking at this, I don't think there is any way, or really any need, to have much in the way of guidelines.
Looking at the Change Log, what I see as the course of events, is that the other user was working back in time with a family he probably is related to somehow and probably got a hint on somebody in the 1940 census and in the process of attaching the 1940 census source created the new copy of Frank. You can see this because the first nine entries in the Change Log are all directly from that 1940 census source. I have no idea why the source linker did not show Frank as already existing.
Immediately after creating Frank from the census record, that other used did the merge. He probably had no reason to prefer one ID over the other since neither had much information at that point and neither had much of a change log. Most likely, he was just on the page for the Frank he had just created, saw the red possible duplicate data error, clicked it, and merged.
Since IDs have no particular meaning in and of themselves and since all the information combines well, there really is no fundamental reason to pick one over another. The main thing I look at is the length of the change log. If one ID has a five line change log and the other has a five hundred line change log, I keep the ID with the longer change log. The families I am currently working on require tons of merges. My record is about 120 merges for a family with twelve kids and many duplicate records for each of them. I have no way of knowing which IDs someone might have recorded somewhere outside of FamilySearch.
It was only after the merge that the other user added a bunch more information that was not on either record prior to the merge and nine more sources.
I think I agree with dontiknow you that you should complain to Roots Magic. Their program for syncing - and it is theirs, FamilySearch has nothing to do with it - should be able to take an archived ID and follow it forward to the person's current ID without any trouble at all and update the ID for you. Also, it should not be possible for Roots Magic to make any changes to an archived record.3
When merging duplicates and deciding which PID to retain, I look at the number of attached other profiles and historical records.
Some of the lines I work on have LDS branches, in which case the PID to be retained may be dictated by FS in the merge tool.
Ideally, RootsMagic would gracefully update the RootsMagic record to the new FS PID and also tell you the PID has changed. I am sure many researchers use FS PIDs as their own record keys, and while RootsMagic makes this practice easy and convenient RootsMagic also needs a few tweaks to handle synching merges on FS more gracefully. Merging happens, and as a rule (and in this case) merging is a very good thing.2
Thanks to everyone for your help with understanding this issue. I thought I'd post a summary of what I feel I have learned in the process and what I plan to do going forward.
1. Recognize that collaboration on FamilySearch doesn't mean that anyone will contact you before making changes. I had assumed that was the norm and even tried to do it myself a few times. That worked with other family members, but FS is really more wiki-like, and relies on the ability to back out changes.
2. Therefore, make sure I get notifications of changes! I didn't know I could do that but I'm setting it up now.
3. Once I add a family member to FS, I should immediately add all the facts and sources I have, so others can find the entry more readily. I haven't always done that in the past because many of my sources are on ancestry or FindMyPast. It takes a bit of time to replicate them on FamilySearch and doing it isn't a lot of fun as it's not new information. Maybe I'll try adding the facts alone if I'm short of time.
4. I had not really thought before of people doing research for other reasons than their own family history. I'm glad someone pointed that out and I'll try to keep it in mind when other folks do things I don't quite understand.
5. I can understand now that broken links are inevitable because merging will always happen. It's up to the client software to deal with it. I was glad to learn by experimenting that RootsMagic actually handles it well and I'll have to think about what my own software should be doing in future.
6. Using FamilySearch well seems to mean going all-in both on the shared tree concept and the way FS implements it. What I mean by that is really accepting and trying to work with the openness of the platform rather than fighting it. Frankly, I'll have to think about that. I'm also working on WikiTree, which works quite differently with regard to who is allowed to change an entry. It may turn out that dealing with two different global trees is more than I can handle.
So I feel I learned a lot here. Thanks again to everyone who responded.7
many of my sources are on ancestry or FindMyPast. It takes a bit of time to replicate them on FamilySearch
Don't create sources for historical records indexed elsewhere. Instead, find historical records indexed on FamilySearch and attach them.
I use Ancestry.com too, but I do all my tree building here on FamilySearch. I find it much easier here, and here any disputes can be resolved rather than swept under rugs.0
Don't create sources for historical records indexed elsewhere. Instead find historical records indexed on FamilySearch and attach them.
Yes... that's exactly what I meant by "replicate them."0
Yes, that's the main weakness of RootsMagic in this area. It doesn't actually tell you that a merge has occured. The very first time you use the FamilySearch synch feature after a merge you can briefly see the old FS id in the window title for the record when you bring up the comparison. The next time you open it, however, the info has disappeared.0