Friday, May 23, 2008

Solving the NFS problem of incorrectly combined records

Several weeks ago Dave Merrill made a post on FHCNET (pronounced "fish-net," a message forum for Family History Center directors and "staff"). I think his posting was spot on, so I am reproducing it here with his permission. I have made minor edits and added some text to improve flow, mostly to match the editorial style of this blog. To see his original post, click on Reduce incorrect combining of separated records.

After several months of using New FamilySearch (NFS), several problems with the current system have emerged.

  • Infinite loops exist where fathers are combined with sons of the same name, etc.
  • Patrons have spent hours or even days correcting a folder containing hundreds of records of multiple people only to have someone come along afterwards and incorrectly re-combine the records.
  • Twins with similar names have been repeatedly combined.
  • Children have died and the next child given the same name, then the records combined.

All these problems result from the incorrect combining of separate records. Many patrons have stated they will wait until these problems have a solution before attempting to separate or correct large folders [where a "folder" is the combined collection of all the records about a person].

The solution I propose has these advantages:

  • Existing technology similar to the edit process can be used.
  • It encourages documentation and collaboration between patrons.
  • The burden is placed on the patrons.

Here's the solution I'm proposing:

  • Add a link in the Summary/Detail view next to `Combined Records' named `Separated Records'.
  • Let anyone combine or separate a record that has never been combined or separated before.
  • When a record is separated open a box and allow/encourage the person to document or comment on the separation.
  • Track each separated record, who separated it and the documentation or comments given.
  • Allow only the person who separated the record (and nFS support) to re-combine the records.
  • When a patron tries to combine records that were previously separated, do all of the following:
  • Open a new window with the message: "This record was previously separated by [name and contact info] based upon [documentation or comment]. To have the record re-combined please contact this person."
  • Allow the separation to be disputed.
  • Tell the patron how to appeal irreconcilable disputes to NFS support.
  • Should the patron have conflicting documentation, suggest the patron create a new folder/person with the desired facts and events. Then combine the disputed record with the new folder/person.

Thank you Dave Merrill. This is well thought out and I think it is an elegant solution to what is emerging to be an ugly problem. If you don't mind, I will re-iterate your suggestion to anyone I can get to listen at FamilySearch.


  1. Yes, Yes, Yes - the eternal loop is a major problem to fix. As a consultant I am currently working with a patron who spent hours to clean up a problem and this week someone came back through her ancestry and recreated the problem. She is very frustrated. Your suggestion is right on!

  2. Dear Ancestry Insider,

    Is there a way to send you a recent article about "The Hidden Other" as we transition to Family Tree?


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