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Help! My Family Is All Messed Up on FamilySearch Family Tree!


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For various reasons including the origins of data and the collaborative nature of FamilySearch Family Tree, there are many situations where incorrect data may exist in your family tree.  This presentation will help users to learn from an experienced FamilySearch engineer strategies to understand and resolve commonly seen bad data situations.

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Help! My Family Is All Messed Up on FamilySearch Family Tree!

  1. 1. 1© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Help! My Family Is All Messed Up On FamilySearch Family Tree BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy July 31, 2015 Ben Baker
  2. 2. 2 My Background • Over 5½ years as a Senior Software Engineer at FamilySearch • Currently work on Family Tree, but try to use all our products • Have previously given several presentations going into more detail on several similar topics. To view/download these presentations go to
  3. 3. 3 Agenda FamilySearch Family Tree Basics Guiding Principles When Cleaning Up Messes in Family Tree Specific Common Problem Scenarios
  4. 4. 4 FamilySearch Family Tree Basics
  5. 5. 5 Main Types of Family Trees User Specific FamilySearch Genealogies … Most other online trees and desktop records managers Collaborative FamilySearch Family Tree …
  6. 6. 6 User Specific Family Trees … Mary Beus 1851 - 1936 Michael Beus 1811 - 1888 Marianne Combe 1813 - 1910 User1 … … … Mary Beus 1851 - 1936 Michael Beus 1811 - 1888 Marianne Combe 1813 - 1910 User2 … … … Mary Beus 1851 - 1936 Michael Beus 1811 - 1888 Marianne Combe 1813 - 1910 User3 … …
  7. 7. 7 Collaborative Family Trees … User1 … User3 … Mary Beus 1851 - 1936 Michael Beus 1811 - 1888 Marianne Combe 1813 - 1910 User2 … …
  8. 8. 8 FamilySearch Family Tree • Freely available to anyone worldwide • Reduces duplication of effort • Increases collaboration to arrive at the best information • Information added outlives contributors • Can link person profiles to additional information like photos, stories, sources, etc. We can all go further faster by working together
  9. 9. 9 How is Family Tree Like a Wiki? “A wiki is a web application which allows people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others.” – Wikipedia Like Wikipedia and other wikis, Family Tree is maintained by volunteers and changes made to data on pages is reflected to all users and change tracked.
  10. 10. 10 If a Collaborative Family Tree Like FamilySearch Family Tree is So Great Why is My Family So Messed Up There?
  11. 11. 11 Lots of Inputs + Imperfect Patrons + Imperfect Algorithms ≈ Lots of Bad Data + Lots of Duplication Ancestral File Record Extraction Family Tree More …
  12. 12. 12 Evidence Data is Getting Better • Hundreds of millions of historical record sources are attached to persons throughout the tree • More than 40,000 merges per day continues to reduce duplication in the tree • Ratio of merges to unmerges/restores much higher than combines to separates in nFS • Tens of millions of photos, stories and other memories are attached to persons in the tree • Many non-LDS users are seeing value of Family Tree and contributing new data • Not many reported issues of edit wars
  13. 13. 13 Who are These Uncontactable Contributors Making Changes? FamilySearch – Means that an administrator made changes either manually or via an automated job to fix up data unknown4470317 – Indicates that this came from a system previous to FamilySearch, but the original contributor information has been lost. This most likely came from a PRF or family group sheet contribution to FamilySearch in the past. LDS Church Membership – Means that the LDS Church membership system brought this information into the tree
  14. 14. 14 Guiding Principles When Cleaning Up Messes in Family Tree
  15. 15. 15 Play Nice With Others • Remember those in “your” family are also other user’s families • Watch out for symptoms of my-tree-itus • Changes you make should leave persons outside your family in a good state • Use preventative measures to prevent recurring mistakes • Collaborate and make sure others can contact you (i.e. make your e-mail public) • Apologize if necessary • Remember that more and more users of Family Tree are not LDS • Believe that others generally aren’t trying to maliciously mess up data
  16. 16. 16 Watch out for my-tree-itus mytreeitus mī-trē-ˈī-təs (noun) An inflammation common to many genealogists, particularly heavy users of PAF. Symptoms include extreme anxiety over others modifying their extensive genealogical research, possessiveness of ancestors, unwillingness to work in collaborative family trees and disregard for others when removing erroneous persons from their family. Usually occurring in more mature adults and rarely seen in those under 40. Learning to use FamilySearch Family Tree has been shown to be an effective treatment for this affliction.
  17. 17. 17 Managing Your Settings
  18. 18. 18 Make Your E-mail Public
  19. 19. 19 Draw Pictures and Take Notes • To help sort out mixed up relationships and families • To lay out what the data should look like when you’re done • To visualize merges and their resulting persons • Pay attention to person ids and historical record ids • Use multiple browser tabs when doing work to keep context more easily. Using your mouse to middle click will open something in new tab. • If you’re really worried about how to do something correctly, use to try out things.
  20. 20. 20 Visualize Relationships Parent Child Relationship Father Mother Child Mother Child WifeHusband Parent Child Relationship with Single Parent Couple Relationship
  21. 21. 21 F M C Tips • Visualize or even draw out the relationships when trying to decide how to fix something • Pay attention to person IDs • Remember how to edit and delete relationships M C WH WH WH … … F M C F M C F M C F M C F M C F M C F M C F M C
  22. 22. 22 new.familysearch Combine Family Tree Merge A B A B A B A’ B Merging B into A will delete (archive/tombstone) B, potentially changing A with some of B’s data. Combining B into A will result in A with B as an “inner person” of A. Data from both persons is preserved and can be selected as viewable values.
  23. 23. 23 Delete Person Deleting a person will delete all relationships that person was in, orphan any LDS temple ordinances and won’t keep a link to the real person. Use with care! Only recommend using when you’re sure the person is fictitious (Ex. wrong gender) Often, a relationship should be deleted or a merge should be done. Man Wife WifeMan
  24. 24. 24 Deleting Relationships Deleting relationships often leaves people “floating” in the tree too. Conscientious genealogists will try to make sure the result is as complete as possible. For example, say your ancestors have a child in the tree that isn’t theirs. If you just delete the relationship, that child is now “floating”, greatly reducing its chances of ever being found again. A better solution is to link that child up with correct parents, assuming you can determine who the correct parents are. Be aware the same is true when you don’t keep relationships during merges. Father Mother Child Father Mother Child New Father New Mother Child Father Mother Remove child from incorrect parents and link to correct parents Remove child from incorrect parents
  25. 25. 25 Dropping Relationships During Merges Be aware that “floating” or “orphaned” people are also created when relationships are not kept during merges. For example, say a father, mother and child are all three duplicated in the tree. If you don’t keep the relationships by moving them left during the merge process, the duplicate mother and child are cut off when merging the fathers. Instead, the duplicate mother and child should remain so they can be merged too. Father1 Mother1 Child1 Merge Father2 into Father1 and copy relationships Merge Father2 into Father1 without copying relationships Father2 Mother2 Child2 Father1’ Mother1 Child1 Father2 Mother2 Child2 Father1’ Mother1 Child1 Mother2 Child2 Father2
  26. 26. 26 Leave a Trace, but Keep Your Room Clean Too • Base actions on verifiable sources as much as possible • Use both halves of – Tree and Records • Provide good reason statements • Mind the indicator icons - eradicate icons to achieve regular small successes and find persons not in the tree yet
  27. 27. 27 Critical Paradigm To Understand The best way to find people who need LDS temple work is to find people who are NOT in the tree yet The best way to find people not in the tree yet is to find them in a historical record with someone who is already in the tree
  28. 28. 28 Congratulations! You have just found someone in a record that is not in the tree
  29. 29. 29 Achieving Regular Small Successes • Look to resolve indicator icons on your relatives • Data Problems • Record Hints • Research Suggestions • Ordinance Icons • Add any memories you have • Photos • Documents • Stories • Audio • Try to work from closest to more distant • Start with closest direct ancestors • Make sure children for direct ancestors are recorded and also have indicator icons resolved • Move to grandchildren and great-grandchildren of your direct ancestors
  30. 30. 30 Phone a Friend When Needed • Contact support when you need to Call 1-866-406-1830, Live Chat, E-mail or Local Help • Escalate if necessary • Track cases you’ve submitted at • Report abuse if you believe someone is purposely destroying data
  31. 31. 31 Protect Yourself by Staying Informed • Use the Watch List more effectively • Learn to understand and use the change log better • Read the blog, subscribing if you’d like - • Embrace change, don’t be afraid of it. Click on new things to see what they do. I don’t think you can mess up anything in a single click, but be sure to read warnings. • Take advantage of training resources online and in your local area
  32. 32. 32 Use Underused and Powerful Features of the Watch List • Navigation to distant relatives • Filtering by various criteria • Sorting by various criteria • View latest changes over the past 30 days • Filter and sort latest changes
  33. 33. 33 Navigation
  34. 34. 34 Filtering on Names
  35. 35. 35 Filtering on Places
  36. 36. 36 Filtering on Dates
  37. 37. 37 Filtering on Deleted Persons
  38. 38. 38 Sorting – Part 1
  39. 39. 39 Sorting – Part 2
  40. 40. 40 Changes to People I’m Watching
  41. 41. 41 Changes to a Specific Person
  42. 42. 42 Changes by a Specific User
  43. 43. 43 Changes of a Specific Type
  44. 44. 44 Viewing Changes of a Particular Type
  45. 45. 45 Restore Changes When Necessary Collapse Multi-change Operations
  46. 46. 46 Sample Blog Post on This Topic
  47. 47. 47 Realize Some Things Aren’t Fixable Yet Coming Soon • Contacting those who don’t have public e-mails • Being able to perform LDS ordinances held by someone else for over 2 years Coming Sometime Later • Merging Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUSs) • Moving LDS ordinances to correct persons • Proposing modifications to read only persons and relationships
  48. 48. 48 Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS) If the resulting record in would have more than 250 combined records, persons cannot be merged. This is sometimes called an Individual of Unusual Size (IOUS). There isn’t anything that can be done to merge these persons until synchronization with new.familysearch is turned off.
  49. 49. 49 Specific Common Problem Scenarios Disclaimer: The following scenarios aren’t intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive for every situation, instead they are trying to illustrate common problems and strategies to resolve them
  50. 50. 50 People that don’t belong in your tree (i.e. incorrect parents, spouses or children) • Realize that delete person is rarely the correct thing to do • Deleting relationships, is often the right thing, but remember to leave the other persons in as good of a state as possible • Relationships can be deleted (or modified) from the Edit Couple and Edit Parents links • Even when deleting a relationship, it is often a good idea to find or create a person to fill the gap just made in the relationship • To leave the other family in a good state, you may need to change a parent for a set of children one by one
  51. 51. 51 Example Say after researching, you are confident Frederick and Anna don’t belong in this family, but to a different George Paul and Mary Bass Click on the Edit Parents icon. Then you could simply delete the relationship, but a better solution would be to either change the parents one at a time or remove and then add the correct parents. You may need to create new persons in the tree to leave the persons you’re removing from your family in as good of a state as possible.
  52. 52. 52 Same parent listed twice, one with a spouse and the other without Delete each of the parent child relationships without the spouse. Make sure that the person ids of the children and mother match, however.
  53. 53. 53 Multiple Persons in a Family with Similar Information • Usually merging people is the correct way to resolve • Pay attention to person IDs • Remember to keep relationships during merges – don’t leave people “floating” • You’ll often need to perform multiple merges to clean up a family fully • Due to system restrictions, you may not be able to clean up some duplicates now
  54. 54. 54 Pop Quiz Which persons should be merged and why? Should any persons be removed from a family? Remember the guiding principles and that sometimes more research is needed to move forward.
  55. 55. 55 Incorrectly combined/merged persons • First, determine whether the incorrect merge occurred in Family Tree. If it did, you can unmerge or restore • Signs of incorrect combines in new.familysearch • Several completely different birth names are listed as alternate names • IGI sources are attached for completely different people • Multiple sets of spouses and children that don’t belong • Follow the steps in these Help Center articles to correct incorrectly combined persons prior to Family Tree. • incorrectly-combined-records-in-Family-Tree • Incorrectly-combined-records-in-Family-Tree
  56. 56. 56 Two Ways to Restore After a Merge 1. Unmerge • Undoes all merge changes, restoring both persons to the pre- merge state • Can currently only be done if no changes have taken place on either person since the merge • To unmerge, click on the Show All link in the Latest Changes box to the right of a person who was merged into. Then click on the Unmerge button and enter a reason for the unmerge. 2. Restore Person • Restores the person who was deleted to the pre-merge state, but leaves the merged person alone • Is only option if changes have taken place since the original merge • To restore a person, bring up the deleted person page and click on the Restore Person link.
  57. 57. 57 Another User Deleted Someone From Your Tree • Determine whether they were deleted by a merge or a delete • Contact the user to help understand why they did what they did • Unmerge if possible, otherwise restore • Report abuse if necessary
  58. 58. 58
  59. 59. 59 Another user “hijacked” someone in your tree and made them a completely different person • First seek to understand, contacting the user if possible • Try to find a way to record both real people in the tree if there really are two people • Report abuse if necessary
  60. 60. 60 Incorrect Computer Algorithm Suggestions that Won’t Go Away • Record hint for a record for a different person • Click Not a Match after bringing the hint up • Research suggestion or data problem that isn’t true • Click the X in the popup showing the suggestion • Possible duplicate that isn’t the same person • Select Not a Match on the possible duplicate
  61. 61. 61 Not a Match an Incorrect Record Hint
  62. 62. 62 Dismiss Research Suggestions • Some research suggestions and data problems are not dismissable • Click on Show Details to view dismissed suggesitons/problems
  63. 63. 63 Not a Match Incorrect Possible Duplicates
  64. 64. 64 A Historical Record Is Already Attached To Another Person • Determine which persons in the tree each person in the record are currently attached to and which they should be • Detach incorrect attachments and attach the correct ones • May need to merge persons in the tree if there are duplicates
  65. 65. 65 Can you spot the problem?
  66. 66. 66 Incorrect Data on a Person • Data is incorrect or superfluous • Just fix it, leaving good reasons and hopefully sources • Apparent duplicate sources • Determine if the sources are truly the same record id, detaching if duplicate • Duplicate record sets within FamilySearch are being retired
  67. 67. 67 Can’t Reserve or Print LDS Ordinances • Understand reasons why a person doesn’t qualify • Can’t reserve persons outside close relatives born within 110 years • Submit a case showing how you got permission • Can’t reserve with duplicates or data problems • Resolve the duplicate (merge or not a match) or data problem (fix or dismiss) • Shows a warning on reservation list that wasn’t there before • Determine reason why person no longer qualifies and resolve or unreserve
  68. 68. 68 Determine Why Person Doesn’t Qualify
  69. 69. 69 Confused About How to Perform Merges or Undo Them? I gave an extensive presentation on this at the 2013 conference. Go to the following links for a presentation and handout on this topic. Three key guiding principles: 1. Merge the person with less data into the person with more data if possible, using Switch Positions if necessary. 2. Copy all data unique to the right hand side, unless you know it is not correct 3. Prevent bad merges for situations such as twins or successive children with same name by marking as not a match
  70. 70. 70 Wrong Photo, Story or Document is Attached • Contact user who uploaded photo, if possible • Detaching the photo is possible even though memories are not open edit like the tree • Leave comments on the photo or other memory
  71. 71. 71 How to Contact User Who Uploaded a Memory
  72. 72. 72
  73. 73. 73 Incorrect or Missing Data on a Read-only Person Contact support and ask them to please unlock it or make certain changes
  74. 74. 74 Thank you! Any more questions?