Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Medieval IOUSes in FamilySearch Family Tree

Wedding of John of Luxemburg and Elise of Premyslid in Speyer 1310I am told that some of the worst IOUSes in New FamilySearch (NFS) are European medieval royalty.

An IOUS is an Individual Of Unusual Size. IOUSes are individuals in NFS that were formed by combining many like people from multiple trees. NFS retains all the separate contributions inside the individual, so the more the matches, the larger the size of the combined individual. If an IOUS becomes too large, it can crash NFS, so FamilySearch caps their size and does not allow them to be combined with other duplicates.

That some of the worst IOUSes in New FamilySearch (NFS) are European medieval royalty makes sense, as thousands of submitters to Pedigree Resource File are descendants of them.

New FamilySearch indicates IOUSes with an icon adjacent to the name.IOUSes are identified in NFS with an icon to the right of the name. (See the graphic to the right.) In FamilySearch Family Tree, there is no such thing as an IOUS. However, because the Family Tree database is synchronized with the NFS database, the combine limitation in NFS is imposed on merging in Family Tree. Effectively, there are IOUSes in Family Tree. As far as I know, there is no indication in Family Tree that the individual is an IOUS in NFS.

One IOUS of European medieval royalty is King Hroar Half Frodasson. According to NSF, he is the combination of 383 records. He is identified as the son of Halfdon Frodasson. I’ve done no work with patronymic names, but even I can see there is something suspicious about Hroar Frodasson being the son of Halfdon Frodasson.

Fortunately, the FamilySearch Royal and Noble Houses of Europe tree comes to the rescue. His name is actually Hroar Halfdansson. The Royal and Noble… tree has been carefully researched and is fully sourced. Want to see evidence that Hroar Halfdansson is the correct name? Check the sources.

  • [S1167] #11565 The Viking Age: the Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-speaking Nations: Illustrated from the Antiquiites Discovered in Mounds, Cairns, and Bogs as Well as from the Ancient Sagas and Eddas, Du Chaillu, Paul B. (Paul Belloni), (2 volumes. London : John Murray, 1889), FHL book 948 H2d; FHL film 1440113 items 1-2., p. 68.
  • [S713] #11577 Ættartolurbækur Jóns Espólíns Sysslumanns (1980-), Espólín, Jón, (Reykjavík: Samskipti, 1980-), FHL book 949.12 D2e v. 6; FHL microfilms 73,257-73., p. 5, FHL microfilm 73257.
  • [S283] #2 Der Europäischen käyser- und königlichen Häuser historische und genealogische Erläuterung (1730-1731), Lohmeier, Georg von, und Johann Ludwig Levin Gebhardi, (3 volumes in 1. Luneburg: Sternischen Buchdruckerei, 1730-1731), FHL microfilm 1,051,694, items 4-6., pt. 1 p. 126-127.

There are 339,786 people currently in the Royal and Noble… Tree. No doubt all those individuals are also in Family Tree at least once, and some perhaps a dozen times. That’s easily a million people in Family Tree that need to be cleaned up. How long will that take? If you do the math, it would take one person working full-time for 40 years. More likely would be a thousand people spending a couple of hours a week. It would take them over 10 months.

(The math: Assuming it takes 5 minutes to clean up facts, relationships, and duplicates for each of the million people, that’s 5 million minutes, divided by 60 minutes per hour is 83,333 hours, divided by 40 hours per week is 2,083 work weeks, divided by 52 weeks per year is 40 years. 83,333 hours divided by 1,000 people would be 83 hours a piece, divided by two hours a week is 42 weeks, divided by 4 weeks a month is over 10 months.)

Remember that there are hundreds or even thousands of incorrect trees on people’s desktop computers that are regularly being synchronized with these people in Family Tree. I’m trying to keep just one person clean in Family Tree and every month or so I have to spend a half hour repairing damage and communicating back and forth with the person(s) to prevent immediate reversion.

If you do the math it will take 118 people working full time, 24x7, to keep these people clean.

(The math: 339,786 people times 30 minutes every two months divided by two months is  5,096,790 minutes a month, which divided by 60 minutes an hour is 85,000 hours a month, which divided by 24 hours is 3,500 days a month, which divided by 30 days is 118 man months per month.)

One can argue the assumptions of these calculations, but I think it is clear that it will take significant effort to clean and keep clean royal and noble medieval Europe. If you want to see clean data, consult the FamilySearch Royal and Noble Houses of Europe tree.


  1. Do all these IOUSes live in the Fire Swamp?

  2. Your article about the royal and noble individuals and families was excellent. One way of keeping the records "clean" and to make these historical people manageable is to limit or prevent the editing. There is no need for the facts and names to be assumed or estimated. There are great encyclopedia articles and even entire books on many of these families. We do not need multiple variations of a name based on their titles (ie. duke, prince, king). We have been asked not to submit information for individuals prior to 1500 for temple ordinances and to contact the Medieval Department (although I am not sure it still exists) when our research connects to them. These royal and noble individuals should have established profiles and then leave them alone -- allowing no more edits unless we contact FamilySearch support. The same with the famous people from Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Perhaps one day there will be a missionary team working on all of these individuals and then users of Family Tree will see their families linked into the various branches. We do not need to be historians but we can be far more accurate than we have been with these individuals and families.

  3. I'm in favor of forming projects like Geni has created that cleanup and source certain sections of their "one tree." This same strategy could be used on FamilyTree.

    Geni has a whopping 11,000+ projects and the idea seems very popular.


    1. U.S. Continental Congress http://www.geni.com/projects/Continental-Congress/318
    2. Presidentes de Colombia http://www.geni.com/projects/Continental-Congress/318
    3. Lord Mayors of London http://www.geni.com/projects/Lord-Mayors-of-London/6047
    4. Cambridge University Alumni http://www.geni.com/projects/Cambridge-University-Alumni/16719

    If you're part of the group, YOUR job is to keep the data in the "one tree" correct on individuals that fit your project's description, i.e., the "canonical profile," for individuals such as Presidents of Columbia and their families.

    FamilySearch could set up project descriptions very easily in FamilySearch Wiki.

    What would we need to do to get such projects started Mr. Insider?

  4. Are you aware that for almost 30 years there have been employees and missionaries working on these lines in the FamilySearch old Medeival Zone in the Family History Library, and today in the Historical Families Reconstitution Zone in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building? These folks use the kinds of sources you cite to make a clean record of people in the Royal families. When these records are as complete as sources can make them, these folks Lock them, or make them Read Only records. You will recognize them in Family Tree because any changes you try to make on them will not save. You see them in new FamilySearch when the Edit buttons are gone in the Details of a person's page. When new information may perhaps be found, these Read Only records can be unlocked by authorized people only, and then updated. Right now, as far as I know, the folks in Historical Families folks are not deleting the duplicate, messed up, IOUS-type records for Royals, but it very easily could be done, and surely will be in the future. So do not despair too much. Under Debbie Latimer's focused and dedicated leadership, folks have been working on these records for a very long time already. Whew!

    1. No, I didn't know they were locking the royal lines they've worked on in FamilyTree. Royalty, however, covers only a fraction of Geni's 11,000+ focused projects, so no I don't think the Historical Families Reconstitution Zone is already doing what I'm proposing.

  5. You don’t have to be a royal or someone famous to end up as an Individual Of Unusual Size (IOUS) in FamilyTree. I’m dealing with a bunch of IOUS – none of them royal or famous.

    One way you get them is having multiple people in each generation carry the same (or a similar) first name. Then compound that with users adding names and relationships without checking to see if the person is already in FamilyTree or that they are modifying the correct person. Also adding to the problem is entering information without doing any genealogy work -- having documents that prove what is entered. (Just because it is printed in a book doesn’t make it right or real.)

    After seeing the mess in FamilyTree for just one of my ancestral branches, I read the manuals and the help to try to figure out how to clean the mess up just so I could add the sources I wanted to add. That was last summer.

    5 minutes isn’t even close to the time needed to fix a single IOUS. Try hours and hours.