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I’m frustrated

Merging is terrible. Merging Needs To Be Easier. Merging is slowing the work of salvation.

Dear wonderful people at Family Search,

I use family search for work as a private genealogist, and have logged hundreds of hours and found nearly a thousand family names for clients, and created a LOT of new sources since I started doing this a year ago. I'm also the family history consultant in my ward. When you guys added the ability to 'drag and drop' pictures to sources I cried a little bit I was so happy. I went from 5-6 clicks to 2 to do that simple process. Bravo. The next most frustrating thing for me is this:

One of my biggest frustrations when I use Family Search revolves around merging duplicates. With any ordinary website, the usability and ease of use of this feature would not be of such consequence. However, duplicate records in this case are of monumental importance because members are doing the same temple ordinances over and over. They are wasting time and effort finding the names. They are then forced to go through and arduous process of merging whole families OR they print out the names, do the ordinances, only to discover later that their work had already been done!

Merging a whole family is very frustrating and goes something like this:
  • You do all this friggin' research to find a family, two parents and 4-6 kids! Woot. It's temple time.

  • You see that there is a duplicate preventing you from doing the ordinances for a family member. Let's say it's the father of the family. Dang it. I wish Family Search told me about this guy before I went to the work of putting in the information for the entire family.

  • You click on the "Possible Duplicates" button, which his hard to find if you don't know where to look or you have already rearranged your dashboard, despite the fact that it's the ONLY thing in the way of you getting this temple name reserved and printed. Like you couldn't just put it with the record hints since it's stopping the whole process?

  • You are disappointed to see that there's not just one but several duplicates. You start with the first one.

  • You compare click 'review merge' and start the process. You compare the two records, looks like the same guy.

  • Wait what happens if I don't click reject? I get the concept of adding stuff from the right side to the left side. But is leaving it alone not the same as rejecting it? Do the things I don't reject go to Family Search purgatory? But why even have a reject button at all if leaving it there and rejecting it do the same thing???

  • For some reason the birth place isn't always on the guy on the right side. Or you can't see his parents. So you click on the link for the person and check to see if he has the same parents in a separate tab.

  • Oh look, the wife and some of the kids are on the duplicate record as well. Wait. You can merge it to the guy but it's just creating duplicate wives and children instead of merging them all at the same time... but they're the same family! Can't I just drag them up to make them part of the same family, like you do in "Source Linker?" You'd think since they have the same names and birth dates, Family Search would recognize that they're the same people too! Well I can just merge them after. You pull the relevant information to the left side and finish the merge. You do the rest of them. You have the same problem with the rest of them. Same spouse. Same kids. But you're creating duplicates on his tree.

  • Now your person has a duplicate spouse and kids. So you now have to go into the spouses, and start merging them. Half the time FamilySearch won't even recognize that they are duplicates. Same goes for the children. So you have to go back to the husband, manually pick out the ID numbers of the duplicate spouses, and start merging the duplicate women. At this point you start wishing your ancestor was a polygamist that liked women named "Maria Eriksdotter." Oh well.

  • Ok so now you have a butt ton (108 imperial gallons + hundreds of clicks worth) of duplicate children to merge. So stupid. You go through the kids and again, for half of them you have to grab the ID number because Family Search doesn't recognize that the same kid with the same name and same birth information is the same. friggin'. kid. You merge the six duplicates for the one kid. And do the other six kids in like manner. What a waste of time.

  • Now you're done. It has taken you 15-45 minutes to merge this one stupid family. And at the end you realize that the ordinances have already been done for most of them. If you're new to Family Search, this is a turn off. Heck unless you do family history for money, this is a turn off.

  • Especially frustrating is if the kids had their own duplicate spouses and you have to remember to go back and merge THOSE duplicates too. Because chances are, THEIR spouse was a pioneer ancestor or something and that whole family has already had its ordinances performed as well.

  • Cry and convince yourself that your grandma has already done all your family history. I mean, c'mon you're descended from pioneers right?


I talked to one of your guys and he said that you had started working on making merging easier, but the project was shelved because it was AND I QUOTE "too complicated." (close quote). Thousands of hours of time, both in using Family Search and attending the temple are being wasted doing these ordinances over and over again. Millions of dollars are funding this wasted time and energy. If it's too complicated, you need better engineers. "Wait but our backend is really advanced and modern..." But your user interface is clunky. It's trash. Thousands of frustrated people are forced to go through the grueling process of merging families. It's slowing down the work of salvation. This process dissuades beginners, frustrates experienced users, and wastes countless hours of time. If you want more ordinances done, and less wasted effort, then fix this. I understand that you're holding back on these kinds of UI updates in order to focus on mobile users but c'mon that's a lame excuse.

Fix it.
  • Make it easier to identify duplicates so I don't waste my time trying to find them. If you're giving me a pop-up of record hints on the home page, I want a pop-up of possible duplicates too. But only if it's easy to do and it doesn't make my life worse by simply doing it.

  • Make it more obvious where to go about the process of merging duplicates. Stick it up by that hints box or something duh. In fact if you tell me that there's a duplicate while I'm in tree view WHY NOT JUST LET ME CLICK THAT YELLOW BOX AND GO DIRECTLY TO DUPLICATES. "No, let's make them click on the person's box again, then click on the link to go to the person's profile page, then scroll down to find the friggin 'merge duplicates button', then pick a merge to examine. That's like 5 clicks. Five. Cinco. Fem. You could do it with one click. ONE. Uno. Seriously this is as bad as it was to add a stupid picture. It's like click-bait for dead people. "you'll never believe what this member of your family did!" (Spoiler alert: after 60 clicks and some old lady tears, you find out that they had their ordinances done over and over already because it was "too complicated" to make merging easier.)

  • MAKE IT SIMPLE TO MERGE A FAMILY. You make it relatively simple with Source Linker. I want drag and drop once I have figured out that the heads of the households being merged are the same person. I want the ability to see the details of each one, just like Source Linker, compare the information for each member of the family, and merge them all at once, whether I'm adding new children or merging existing children.

  • Why is there a reject button when leaving the info on the right side does the same thing? Stupid.

  • Let me see some more relevant information about the guy I'm merging, like the names of his parents. I'm pretty sure sometimes you have to go to their profile to see their place of birth as well, which is unnecessary - everything you need should be right there.

  • FS sometimes doesn't recognize when people that are exactly the same are duplicates so I have to go through and copy and paste the ID numbers for each one individually.

  • Find a way to make it easy to merge multiple generations if a whole segment of the family tree is a duplicate.


If you can make merging easier, it'll save people, both alive and dead, a lot of grief.

Sincerely,
Paul A. Ahlstrom
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  • 1
    Merging is the Achilles' Heel of FamilySearch FamilyTree. Without a doubt, it is the most abused feature that people complain about. There are two positions on the matter of merging:

    1) Too many people merge without fully checking to make sure the two people are indeed the same person. This creates no end of headaches to straighten out the mess.
    2) Some people complain that merging take too many steps. They want it simplified.

    Unfortunately, Item 1 works against Item 2 and vise versa.

    But there is an even bigger Achilles' Heel and that is failing to locate all the temple work that has already been performed and thus, duplicating work that was previously performed without spending any time finding the duplicates which may already have completed temple work.

    The following was written in 2007 about the time that newFamilySearch (the system in the comments) was being introduced. While it worked to a point, it was not up to the task of handling all the duplicate ordinance work that had been performed. Here are the comments:

    "I remember President Hinckley sometime ago announcing in conference that temples would all be moving to this system. My grandfather worked in the the Ogden temple and he and his wife finished his entire family. He just got word that it had been done 20 times before. He was very sad because he felt like hundreds of people have been delayed in receiving these blessings and ordinances because his family has repeated the same ordinances for the past 100 years. The Lord really teaches us to be accountable and responsible and this is one way we can all improve.
    In helping my own father with genealogy we have found many times people wrote things down that they assumed, heard from a friend, or even made up. Our genealogy hit a 7 year road block until we discovered that we had an enormous amount of mis-information. We have no decided to add a note to each person in our genealogy to state when the info was confirmed and by what or whom. This could be a good addition to future software as well.

    -- end of comments --

    Because many people think they have found someone with whom they are related that does not have the work done, they get all excited and want to submit the name instead of going through the all-important steps of locating and merging all the duplicate entries into one family.

    So, what is a person to do?

    1) Establish a person and fully source all records to that person. In many cases, you'll also find family members to whom you can attach the same sources.

    "Fully source" means to locate all the available records for the person, and that often extends far beyond the limited Historic Records on the FamilySearch site.

    Ancestry actually has a larger collection, including many collections that FamilySearch does not have. This includes state census records for those states who performed census enumerations on years other than those performed by the United States. (An interesting factoid is that Washington state performed a state census every two years leading up to statehood in 1889.)

    2) Use the Find Duplicates function to locate the obvious duplicates. Fully vet the found "duplicate" (which may not be a duplicate) against the fully sourced record. If there is a match, then merge the two records, making sure of the following:

    2a) Parents, siblings, and children line up with the fully sourced record. Since the record is fully sourced, it should already contain the majority of parents, siblings, and children attached to the individual.

    2b) Make sure the places are within reason. Follow up on any oddities to make sure that the dates come close to matching (many dates were previously estimated), along with places. If one of the children is out of place with respect to where they were born against the other children, find out why and document it. This includes relationships with parents, siblings, and children.

    3) Mark any "duplicates" that are discovered to not be duplicates as "Not a Match" and document why you drew this conclusion in the reason statement.

    3) When merging true duplicates, again document why you drew this conclusion in the reason statement. Please, please, please do not simply document "same person" or something similar. Why do you feel it is the same person.

    4) After merging those discovered with the Find Duplicates feature, use the Find function to look for other possible duplicates, which may not be apparent on the surface. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for any found that look like they could be a match.

    Only after completing all of the above is that person ready to have any ordinances reserved. It takes time to do this. I often spend a full day or longer locating (not just from FamilySearch) material about the person. I research newspapers for obituaries that can help lead to locating additional children that may not be caught by a census. I spend time with ancestry and build the tree first over there, fully sourcing the person in my personal family tree in ancestry, since that will not be changed except by me.

    Then, if the person has no more duplicates, even taking into consideration, am I ready to reserve the name.

    When it comes to the rest of that person's family, I repeat the whole process for each person. Yes, especially with long LDS lines going back to pioneer days, there are a lot of duplicates to find and merge. It has to be done and no matter how much time is involved, it is very important that this work be done to the best of everyone's ability.

    As a result, reserving the name(s) for temple work is straight-forward and fulfills the First Presidency's instructions of not duplicating the work.
    • "Back in the day" when we used to have to do all this stuff at the Family History Center, when you went to submit a name for temple work, you got a screen that said, "hey, there might be duplicates." It then brought up the 15 most common duplicates and usually the first 2 matched exactly and the next 4 were partial (just throwing out numbers here.)

      It's not the MERGING that is the issue. Everyone is on board with merging multiple duplicate records in one place.

      It's "Do One."

      Now go back to that previous screen.

      Grab another.

      Merge it.

      Now go back to that previous screen.

      Grab another.

      Merge it.

      ad infinitum.
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  • Welcome to the FamilySearch community discussion board. Don't worry! Your post also went to the FamilySearch designers and they will certainly be interested in your comments. But your post also goes here where were we other users can see and comment on it.

    You do have some valid and interesting points. Yours is one of the first to thoroughly combine and cover in one blow concerns that have been raised here before about the possible duplicates routine and the complexity of merging. Most recent comments have been about preventing people from merging, as you can read here:

    https://getsatisfaction.com/familysea...

    https://getsatisfaction.com/familysea...

    Since you are a professional and a family history consultant, I hope you take the time to head off some the frustration and disappointment of people you work with in Family Tree by explaining to them exactly what Family Tree is: a combined database of about 170 years of genealogy work done by many of their relatives who were working independently and did the same research and same temple work for their ancestors over and over as well as containing millions of extraction records for those same ancestors with temple work done from those extractions as well.

    Teach them that Family Tree is still in the phase of frantically cleaning up all that mess of data and there are huge numbers diligent users working on that project (I've read of people on this board who have individual ancestors who had a couple of hundred of duplicates that needed to be combined into one person). But at the same time, no one wants duplicates combined incorrectly and the process has to help insure that.

    Teach them that:

    1) If your ancestors were member of their church, the vast majority of their ancestors are already in Family Tree and the temple work is done. Do not add them. Find them in the tree, merge their duplicates and fix their records.

    2) If your ancestors came from certain areas such as Colonial America where everyone has ancestors, the vast majority of their ancestors are already in Family Tree and the temple work is done. Do not add them. Find them in the tree, merge their duplicates and fix their records.

    3) If your ancestors came from areas where extraction projects were done, the vast majority of their ancestors are already in Family Tree and the temple work is done. Do not add them. Find them in the tree, merge their duplicates and fix their records.

    One example of this is Norway. If they have ancestors born there between about 1760 and 1870, depending on the parish, these is a high chance those microfilms were all extracted. The same goes for large parts of Sweden. The extraction batches are where the historical record databases came from in the first place! Only the newer extraction projects will contain new names. I expect that the easiest way to tell the age of an extraction project if whether a digital image is attached or not. If there is, that has got to be more recent.

    4) Teach them that right now their job may not be to find names for temple work, but to help clean up the tree so that real new names can be found.

    5) Teach them to start with Family Tree, not with research. They need to learn what is already there about their family first.
    • Hey thanks Gordon!

      I'm really glad to hear that my thoughts made it to the designers. Absolutely I agree that researchers need to take responsibility and make every effort to avoid duplicate names, and clean up duplicates as well.

      I think it's wrong-headed to make merging duplicates harder (like sending an email to other relatives to alert them) since there are so many to be done! But one of the things I liked from those comments you linked was this:
      "if you need training to use a User Interface in 2017, then the User Interface and software is at fault."

      The mandate of the family history department should be to create a tool that you don't have to be a professional to use. But you haven't done that yet. That's why the apostles come out in general conference and are like "hey bros [brethren] like 90% of the church doesn't even have their grandparents in their tree AND we're running out of girl names AND like a third of all temple ordinances are duplicates." It's not necessarily because members haven't gotten on the website at one point or another, it's because it's hard to use. The tool you created for people to 'frantically merge' people is extra clunky and hard to use and that's my main point here. It would go a lot faster if it didn't suck, and I wouldn't have to explain to anybody that "Family Search is a combined database of about 170 years of genealogy work done by many of their relatives who were working independently and did the same research and same temple work for their ancestors over and over as well as containing millions of extraction records for those same ancestors with temple work done from those extractions as well. " It's a technology problem.

      Your designers need to guide stupid users into paths of righteousness by erecting stumbling blocks, and make using the darn thing easy for everyone else.

      For example, your first point, 1) 'do not add them'. - Sure if someone has already done the work then of course I don't want to put all that stuff in again. But the fact that you have to tell people that instead of Family Search giving them a pop-up that says 'hey this guy already exists in family tree!' is an example of how the system needs to improve, not the users. When I create a new person in 'tree view', I get the box that pops up that says "add child". See link - http://imgur.com/a/TJVj

      If I put in my ancestor's child, (named Spider Man), click next, and he's already in the tree, it SHOULD show him under "possible matches found". But often what I find is that they don't show up in the list of people here: http://imgur.com/a/6MPWf , and then I get notified AFTER that there is a duplicate or six of "Spider Man" when I try to do the temple work. That's when there's a fault in the program. Why does one part of Family Search know about this guy and the other part doesn't?

      I'd love to keep up to date about the status of the process! Let me know if you have any other things I should know about.
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  • 1
    Yes! You said exactly how I feel. When I see all the mess in familysearch I almost want to give up. I won't, but it surely is discouraging! It takes hours to do what should only take minutes.
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  • 5
    I know what you mean by finding duplicates upon duplicates of the same person. I was working on a family last year that had 13 children. All of the family was born in England. I began to put the family together from the earliest Census the family was in and I ran into a duplicate of one of the children. It was from extracted christening records. Long story short ... all 13 children had christening records that were extracted 3 separate times over the past 100 years. So not only were each of the 13 children merged 3 times, the parents were duplicated 39 times each. It took a ton of time to merge them all together so that all the duplicates were eliminated.

    When I finished the merging and cleanup and fully sourcing this family there were just a few ordinances that needed to be completed. However, the strongest spiritual impression I received was that this family was finally put together in one place after 150 years. It was powerful and tearful! Though all the work didn't lead to dozens of ordinances, it was just as important to have the family in one place complete.
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  • 2
    Amen! As a consultant, I always dread teaching members how to merge duplicates, because the whole process is so confusing. I agree that the interface can be much better.

    In spite of the challenges, I do make sure I emphasize the importance of merging the duplicates and verifying the information with sources before doing the temple work. And I have seen some very diligent members who have spent hours merging all the hundreds of duplicates of their pioneer ancestors.

    Merging is a headache, and unmerging is a headache. But there are so very many duplicates in the tree, and so many of them are unsourced, I think there is a greater need to make merging easier than there is to make it harder to merge for fear of merging the wrong people.

    A drag-and-drop interface where you could merge an entire family with just a few clicks would be awesome. And the yellow "Possible Duplicates Exist" box is just confusing. Don't just send them to the instruction page. Send them to the duplicates and give them instructions on the same page. "Here is a list of duplicates. Make sure you do some research on this person before you start merging." Or have an instructional video or a tip box that pops up, so they have to look at the instructions before they start clicking buttons.
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