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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Update on the Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUSs) in FamilySearch Family Tree

I just received the following comment to a very old post:
I understand that a fix is on the way to allow the merging of IOUs. I have two concerns. My first concern is what will happen to the temple ordinances which have been done. Where will their records go if people become impatient and start deleting records before the fix is in place. My second concern is right now I see people who are submitting temple work on unmerged records because they see the "green arrow" and they don't pay attention to the fact that temple work has already been done and the records still need further merging.
Even though the post was dated way back in 2009, we still are facing substantially the same issues. But there is hope that this problem will be resolved. Now I realize how long I have been dealing with this issue. Many of my own ancestors fall into this category. Now some background.

Individuals of Unusual Size or IOUSs, are entries in the and Family Tree programs. The name is borrowed from the movie The Princess Bride. If you didn't recognize the connection, it is just as well. Anyway, the original data corpus for the (NFS) program incorporated multiple databases including the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Temple records. In many, many cases the addition of these records created multiple copies of certain individuals who had a long history in the Church and whose names had been submitted up to hundreds of times. The design of NFS was such that there was no real way to either delete some of the duplicates or merge them into one consolidated individual. There was a limit (somewhat arbitrary) of the number of individuals that could be combined. Unfortunately, that left many "orphan" duplicates in the program that could not be further combined. Further these uncombined individuals were not just individuals but usually represented an entire pedigree.

OK, so we had all these duplicate individuals and in many cases entire pedigrees that could not be merged in NFS because there was no merge function. There was a way to combine individuals but because of the limit, this was not a satisfactory solution. There were, of course, additional copies of the IOUSs added to the NFS program regularly. Any user who failed to search diligently for a duplicate or simply felt they had additional or different information to add to the program, simply added another copy, resulting in duplication of Temple ordinance work, by the way. And so the era of the NFS struggled on for years.

Finally a solution to the issues caused by the data appeared in the form of Family Tree.

Today in the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I had two patrons busily working away on NFS. In one case, the patron was surprised that she had "duplicates" in the NFS system and that the newer programs wouldn't let her easily duplicate the ordinances yet again.

The advent of Family Tree promised an ultimate resolution to the problem. That was nearly two years ago. But the problems with NFS and IOUSs carried over into Family Tree and essentially because the two databases shared the same data, Family Tree inherited NFS's limitations. This essentially rendered the Family Tree program inoperable for some users who had IOUS ancestors. Even though a merge (rather than a combine) function was implemented in Family Tree, that did not solve the problem because the limitations inherited from NFS were still present. This situation will continue as long as the two programs are joined at the hip, so to speak.

Separating the two programs was talked about at the introduction of Family Tree, but as time dragged on, a number of "technical" difficulties postponed the separation. The next deadline is the end of 2013 when NFS is supposed to be turned off.

Will turning off NFS solve the problems with the multiple pedigrees? Some of the problems are being solved in work-arounds by editing out or deleting the entries. Some serious problems relating to Temple ordinances being recognized between the two programs remain. Unless turning off NFS eliminates the limitations of the program, we will have to wait until the program is "taken down" supposedly at the end of 2014, seven years or more after the first introduction of NFS.

Meanwhile, users of Family Tree have come up with inventive ways to circumvent the limitations of Family Tree and do hundreds of duplicate ordinances. The IOUSs are also still here, unsolved.

I still think Family Tree will ultimately work, but I will not be able to tell completely until the merge issue is resolved.


  1. Here is a thought. I wonder if some people think that each individual has to do the work for all of their own ancestors. That is, even though John Doe did all his genealogy back to Adam and did their temple work, perhaps Jane Doe, John Doe's daughter, thinks that she also has to do all of her ancestor's temple work, and that is why they keep trying to duplicate the ordinances.

    It may be a little far fetched, but I am sure that someone somewhere thinks that they have to duplicate the work even though somebody else has already done it.

    Also I wonder if people think that they have to have the ordinances done again because we are moving to a new system. So they think, "The work has been done previously, but we have a new system now and now that I am putting the people into the new system they need to have their work done again so that they can properly be in the system."

    1. I can't speculate on what they are thinking, but I have heard both reasons expressed by people who are trying to do the work over.

  2. do you mean the end of 2013 for NFS?

    1. What I heard was that the program would be read only at the end of 2013 and stay online for another year, until the end of 2014. I am wondering if leaving it online will prevent the merge function from working? It is just a question.

    2. The plan is to make the nFS user interface read only by the end of 2013. Synchronization between nFS and Family Tree will continue for some time, hopefully not until the end of 2014, but there are reasons why this must continue. As long as synchronization is in place, merges of IOUSs will still not be permitted.

    3. I guess we will see if "B" knows what he or she is talking about.

  3. I think straightening out all the ordinance data is potentially a bigger problem than resolving the duplications. Some subscribe to the philosophy of "as long as the work is done, what does it matter what the date is?" I believe having the original date is more important than simply having any date. any thoughts?

    1. That is a difficult issue to address. I think recording the original date is important to demonstrate duplications.