Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Waiting to Merge -- an assessment of the status of Family Tree

If you look carefully at the manual for's Family Tree (FT), you will find a chart near the end of the online PDF file, that shows a comparison between the features planned for Family Tree and similar features in the older (NFS) program it is replacing. Absent any other news from FamilySearch other than presentations by FamilySearch representatives, the manual is the "definitive" source for the status of the program. The latest version, as of the date of this post, is 6 August 2012.

I want to focus on the features that are now implemented and those that are yet to come. Without reproducing the entire chart, which is found in the PDF document listed on the first page of the Help Center menu (reached by clicking on the Help link at the top of the startup page), here is a sample of the first part of the chart only.

Before, getting further into the list, a note of explanation. The feature list for NFS is used as a comparison, but there are certainly features in FT that are not available in NFS. So the possibilities are as follows:
  1. The feature is available in both NFS and FT.
  2. The feature is available in NFS but not yet in FT
  3. The feature is or will be in FT but was never available in NFS
  4. The feature is in NFS but is not being reproduced in FT because it is not needed
 The chart classifies the features as either present (with a Yes) or coming soon sometimes with an explanation.

So what is presently missing from FT? Here is a summary:
  • Printing of charts
  • Family Group Records
  • Notes from NFS and add notes
  • Upload a GEDCOM file and see a list of people in a contributed GEDCOM file
  • Search for ancestors by Ancestral File Number
  • Add new people and families not connected to your family line
  • Templates for information for Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world
  • Specific help screens
  • Sign in to help someone else
  • Have FT find possible matches
  • Search for matches yourself
  • Combine duplicate records
  • See the combined records
  • Separate records
  • Merge duplicate records
  • Unmerge and re-create incorrectly merged records
The only real deal killer for me is the lack of a merge function and the associated functions. I assume that if FT has a true merge function coming, that there will be no need to "combine" records as it is now done in NFS. I would assume that the mentioned merge features should have been put in the category of not needed in FT?

Why is the lack of a merge feature a deal killer right now? Because there is no way to further edit your online files once you reach a place in the file where there are duplicates. For example, I now find in the file that my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner has quite a number of variations of parents brought over from NFS. He is also duplicated in the lists of children. Without the ability to sort out this roadblock, I am essentially stopped from further progress in sorting out the bad data from NFS.

If you study this list carefully, what you really see is a program that is almost fully functional. All of the the other necessary features, that I did not list, are there and working just fine. Meanwhile, I will just keep waiting and watching.


  1. James, you are so right about need for a 'merge' function ASAP.

    There is also need for "delete" - such as where a purported child of a couple, with only a birth year (say, decades after death of supposed parents) or no date at all and no other connections, who did not exist as their child or as a child of any near relative, and with no other connection such as spouse or child. There is no way to reconstruct ~who~ the original submitter to, say, IGI, meant this child to be (no life-path can be determined), so there is no point maintaining the name in the database. Same for persons entered as "Mrs. Whoever" with no other connection when the database already includes two or a score more identifiable versions of the wife of Mr. Charles Whoever. It is quite pointless to 'merge' that PID with the other versions of the spouse.

    Ron Tanner recently has stated in one of the GetSatisfaction threads that GEDCOM files will not be uploadable wholesale, but that the would-be contributor will be required to go through a routine intended to determine whether each individual in the file is already in the database. Given the mess in the database at present, there is no telling how effective such filtering will be, but the intention sounds good.

  2. James, Is the family tree not yet open for non LDS members. I managed to enter my name but could not enter any family members or ancestors of mine?