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

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Case of the Disappearing Photos -- This could happen to you!

There is an interesting issue with's Photos program that adds images to Family Tree. I received an email from a reader was working on adding photos to an ancestor. In order to see if anyone else was adding information, he had placed a watch on the ancestor. He was then notified that someone else had changed that ancestor by merging a duplicate. As a result, all of the photos attached by my reader to that ancestor were deleted. I suggested that he contact FamilySearch and so he did. Here is the response received from FamilySearch with a copy of his letter to FamilySearch below:

Dear ***, (name removed for privacy reasons)
We are sorry that the photos you attached to your ancestor disappeared after someone did a merge.  We understand your frustration.  Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent that at this time.   All you can do is re-attach them to the new merged record.  They should still be in your My Photos.  
Your suggestions for ways to prevent this from happening when people are about to do a merge are very good.  We are forwarding them to the appropriate department for their consideration.
Patron feedback and requests for product enhancements are very important to us.  We encourage you to send any other suggestions you may have in the future.  We are including a link to an article that has instructions on how to do that.  Please click here  to view the article.  

Again, thank you for your suggestions, and please send us any others you might have in the future.


Patron and Partner Services

------ Your Question / Comment ------

Your Original Case Description:
I received notice in my weekly e-Mail that a person I was 'WATCHing' was modified. To my _HORROR_ I was surprised to see that the Photos that I had attached to this person were _LOST_ after the merge!!! They stay with the DELETED person!
Does the person merging NOT get a warning that photos/documents/stories exist for this person. Why does the system not include photos in the merge information. This can cause _MASS_ problems if inexperienced/novice merge without looking first at the 2nd person in the merge to see if there are photos. The system should _MAKE_ them reverse the order if photos/documents/stories exist for one of the people being merged (mergee?). And what happend if BOTH people have photos attached?!?
This is a serious problem and should be resolved ASAP.
Now let's suppose that you have added a whole slug of photos to an individual and then someone does just what has been done here, merges that individual with another copy of the same person. Guess what. The person doing the merging may not even be aware of the photos and the person will certainly not know that the photos will disappear. This could be a very serious issue depending on the circumstances of how the originally loaded photos were discovered and whether or not the person uploading the photos kept a copy on their own computer. 

Of course, I strongly suggest that you never put anything online that you don't want to lose at some time or another and that you maintain backup copies, but that isn't always the way it happens. Here's hoping that the reader has backups of his images. 


  1. I suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg James. Losing attached media is a rather obvious issue that I would rate as "collaboration 101" (i.e. I'm truly shocked that it happens) but what about items of data? You may have included lots of specific information such as dates, places, notes, citations, all of which could potentially be dumped or superseded following some type of merge. If that is true then the final suggestion of not treating the site as a definitive version of your data must, surely, have an impact on some older posts of yours about the cloud and online collaboration.

    1. When I was in the retail computer business, we used to ask ourselves every day, "What business am I in today?" Every time there is a new development, we have to keep asking ourselves the same question about genealogy. You are right. I would like to see how this develops.

  2. Sources can be deleted too if people are not careful and not paying attention to what they are doing, not to mention temple ordinance dates if duplicate names of children spouses or parents are ignored and deleted during a merge.

    1. Yes, that is only part of the problem.

    2. I think the "merger" has an option to merger the Sources. BUT it should not be an option; sources should always merge.

  3. An "interesting issue"? That is seriously "interesting" as in the (apocryphal? ) Chinese curse.

    I am used to Family Search not having a GEDCOM manual. I did think they might own a dictionary that defined "merge".

    1. Apparently not in the context of genealogy at least. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Now I am wondering if the sources also disappear. I have a bunch of ancestors that need merging, so this is all a real concern.

    1. I am not sure yet which of the fields survive a merge since most of the ones I need to do are blocked until NFS actually goes away.

    2. You should be able to see all the sources at the bottom of the Merge page and move any that are on the right side to the left, where they will be saved.

  5. Perhaps everyone should submit FEEDBACK (as they suggested); the more requests they get, the more they will pay attention. "Squeaky Wheel"??
    MR. Missing Photos