How can more checks and balances be put in place to prevent this?
I've seen this problem before with my direct ancestors. This I accidentally stumbled across when correcting a wife that was added to an ancestor.
Farquhar Roy Mc Rae M9Y5-X33 has been merged many times and now has 4 sets of parents with completely different names and 4 wives with completely different names. What a shame that all that work has been lost.
Seventeen merges is quite a few. Fortunately, no information is ever lost. Anyone who has the time, knowledge of the family, and inclination can go into the change log, restore the sixteen people who were merged into the final one, reassess all the information on these people, find additional sources, add additional information to them, merge any that really are the same people, and clean all this up.
Yes, this would be a couple of weeks project, but if it were my family, I would find this a very worthwhile use of my time.
First I would contact the three users who did all these merges and find out who they each think this man is, how they are related to him, outline what the problems are, and see if this could be a co-operative project.
When I fix something like this on my own, my routine for doing so is to first create a document to keep track of all seventeen ID numbers that can be seen by filtering the Change Log to see just merges. Then I would go into each ID, go to the Change Log for that person, and see how that person was originally created and if that person had any merges, record all those ID numbers if any, and figure out who each of them were supposed to be. Then I start carefully untangling things buy restoring anyone that should not have been merged in and working to fix that record. Generally this process goes pretty smoothly as long as there really are sources to show who is who.5
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
However, I doubt that there are many people who have the time, patience and skill to do just what you have explained. I recently read another post by another user who was leaving FamilySearch Tree as they had had enough of constant incorrect changes being made to the records of their ancestors. I accidentally stumbled across this tangled mess. These people are not closely related so I don't know enough to easily fix it. I also currently have very limited free time.
It would be much better if checks and balances were put in place to prevent these types of things from happening in the first place.
I've seen worse than this over the years, especially with Scottish records. Many users do not have any knowledge of Scottish naming traditions and don't understand that names were used over and over and that 1st cousins married so husband's surnames can be the same as the wife's maiden name. There could be several people living in close vicinity with the same name (and whose parents have the same names) who are of a similar age. This is way too complicated for those people who are spending time trying to reduce the duplicates in the system to causally take on and they should not be being encouraged to do so.
I've also previously tried to communicate with those doing these merges while they were still in the progress. They either didn't respond and continued with their work, sometimes even remerging what I had un-merged, or proudly informing me that they knew what they were doing when I pointed out the issues with Scottish naming traditions.
Looking at the work of such people, it very clear that they do not look at the relatives of the records of the people they are merging. If they had done so they would quickly realize that, as in this case, the Farquhar Roy Mcrae's being merged had different parents so cannot be the same person.1
Yeah, I got rambling on about the information being lost part of your concern and didn't get back to the main issue, the prevention of bad merges. How to do that without making correct merges overly burdensome to complete is a difficult question.1
Don't feel so bad, @Gordon Collett . You gave me a new idea. An ancestor of mine has been victim of multiple merges and some of the memories I uploaded 4 or 5 years ago vanished, although I made sources out of all of them at the time. The sources didn't vanish - or at least a bunch are still there. I also saw in the change log that they were tagged to memories at one point. When I discovered this, I went to the sources and immediately retagged the memories from the source (which you can do), but I left one untagged with the express purpose of trying to research how the memory became untagged in the first place. User action to untag or merge action? I assumed during of the merges, but not really sure. You have given me a new way to look at this and I am a person who uses spreadsheets routinely for my research anyway. I will also now get to see if any sources I originally had have been removed during a merge.
By the way, this is the kind of ancestor many users are complaining about and threatening to leave FamilySearch over. This guy is the original immigrant ancestor for me in one line, me and many others, I surmise. He is the stuff of legends, larger than life and has had more wives and port entries than you can shake a stick at. He is really the only record I have run across with family connections that routinely floats between fantasy and fact. To be honest, I hope my life is contested as much as his is. I would be thrilled to have such a dedicated bunch of descendants. He has achieved almost god level with his life. Too bad everyone in FamilySearch can't take that attitude.1