Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Frankenstein Monsters

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Just out of curiosity, since this has nothing to do with me—if [FamilySearch Family Tree] is a huge collective project, which it appears it is, and no one can delete a person unless they are the only ones who added the person and no one else has jumped in on it, how do you deal with what I can only imagine will eventually be thousands or tens of thousands of people—duplicates, misascribed children—who should not be there and can't be removed? My ggggrandmother's immediate family all became LDS (except for her), and the amount of well-meaning misinformation on the trees of her parents and siblings means many duplicated children with varying birthdates and children who never existed.I don't even link to most of my LDS relatives earlier trees because of this "noise." So how will they handle this problem?


Dear JudyBG,

True duplicates are easy: merge them.

Misascribed children are easy: delete the parent-child relationship. If the actual parents are already in the Tree, attach the child to them.

Misascribed spouses are easy: delete the spousal relationship.

Truly imaginary persons are easy: ask FamilySearch to delete them.

The obvious Frankenstein monsters—combinations of persons already in the Tree—are easy: merge the Frankenstein with one of the source persons, ignoring inapplicable information. (For more information about what I mean by Frankenstein monster, see my article “Frankenstein Genealogy.”)

That’s it for the easy ones. The remaining Frankenstein monsters are the things nightmares are made of.

Just kidding. While difficult, it will be straightforward. Of course you have followed the genealogical proof standard in the instance of your ancestor. You have proved all the facts. You know what your ancestor looked like. FamilySearch suggests creating your ancestor from scratch with the facts you have proved, their associated sources, and their proof statements/summaries/arguments. Mark the two—your ancestor and the monster—as “not a match,” providing a good explanation. If someone tries to merge the two, your explanation is shoved in their face, which will dissuade most people from merging them. I think it wise to throw something in at the beginning of the life sketch as well, since they are displayed at the top of the merge comparisons.

But what is to be done with the monster? I’ve heard someone say that as a good member of the community, you should clean up the monster, that it is particularly important if the monster is left floating without relationships. That’s fine in theory. But one should never make changes in Family Tree without proof, and you probably have not researched the persons composing the monster.

You should not delete the parts of the monster that are in common with your ancestor. While your ancestor may have been the only child born on that date in that village, one of those two facts may apply to a real person trapped inside the monster.

You should not suggest that FamilySearch delete the monster. You may be deleting one or more real persons imbedded in the monster that exist no where else in the tree. In the worst case scenario (I’m good at imagining those), if all other records are no longer available, one of those real persons may be documented no where else.

You shouldn’t delete any of the facts associated with the monster and you shouldn’t delete the monster. That’s the nightmare.

---The Scared-of-Monsters Insider


  1. I finally deleted my own info on family search trees--I could not stand the constant changes other people were making to the solid information I had posted with sources. It just became too much trouble. I like having more control over my tree than what is available through family search.

    1. FamilySearch Family Tree wants people to talk to each other, help each other, and work together. They have provided many features that will help you keep your perfect data the way you want it. See this video for more information on how to do this:

    2. (The link above is to Ron Tanner's talk at RootsTech 2016.) FS FT now has the ability to contact the person that made changes without knowing their email address. This has worked well for me. Why not ask them why they made the change, then show them your proof standard evidence that your data is more correct. Then, once the data is corrected again, add an explanation as to why that data is wrong so that someone else doesn't repeat it. For example, you could say "Aunt Phoebe was wrong - there are only four children in this family, and they are Robert, Joseph, Mary and Ellen. Please do not include William - his parents are Herman and Elizabeth Schultz."

  2. Thank you for the clear explanation. This is real keeper, and should be part of some sort of required training for all users of the Family Tree. The only thing I would add is that while merging, ALWAYS merge spouses, parents and children, even if those would also create more duplicates. (By this I mean, any people listed on the right-hand-side of the merge page should ALWAYS be moved over to the left-hand-side. This should be the built-in behavior of FamilySearch Family Tree when merging! If you don't do this, you'll end up with orphaned people dangling out there, unattached to the tree. Someone will eventually find them and merge them, but putting them in the same family as duplicates makes it easier and more obvious that they are duplicates.

  3. When was in such a flux over their NEW version, I looked at the possibility of putting a tree over on familysearch for "a backup" but I bought a book about familysearch, hoping to find tips about using it better and when I discovered other people could change my info I said NO WAY was I going to put ANY info over there. I did entertain the thought of putting a GEDCOM there when I feel like I have done all I can do on my family tree BUT I have looked at other genealogies on familysearch and find it pretty useless as I cannot find anything but BMD info--no back up sources (if they are there I sure cannot figure out how to get to them).

    It's too is a GREAT resource and I use it a lot---and I would love to be able to share info with people who don't have for one reason or another as I have a large, well documented tree and have cleared up some mysteries for some of the more confusing ancestors who were some of the first people to come to the US.

    BUT without sources attached to the genealogies it is all just "noise"--I would never rely on a GEDCOM anywhere without backup documentation-although it is useful to use as a hint.

    I wanted to be able to upload a GEDCOM on familysearch but found I could not work in it--what good is that? They SHOULD have it set up so that you can upload a GEDCOM and work in it. I am certainly not going to manually load over 10,000 I have on with almost as many documents and certainly many more sources attached to their files.

    With over 10,000 ppl in my tree (I do extended families when I find them) if I cannot load a GEDCOM and add info as I find more, it is useless to me. If I cannot see sources of other genealogies that too is less than optimal-not to mention it is difficult to get around in those genealogies.

    I wish familysearch would reconsider how they do things--I don't want a tree that anyone can change, nor do I want to manually add 10,000 + people.

    I think familysearch is probably missing out on a lot of info they could have if they would change their system--the way it sits, I would not add anything to their site and I am sure there are others out there who will not add their info to familysearch for the same reasons.


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