Resolving Merge Issues

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Most people who have added profiles to their tree on Geni, will sooner or later "discover" in the top-right corner of their Home page on Geni, that they have a link to Merge Issues or looking at the tool-bar under Relatives notice the Merge-Center.

This page will try and explain what these issues are and how to resolve them. Don't let the long explanations put you off. It's really NOT that complex. The length here is mostly due to trying to make this as clear as possible. After you have fixed a few of these, you will see how simple it really is.

What are Merge Issues

To understand "Merge Issues" we must first understand where they come from:

  • Duplicate profiles - are profiles for a single person that appear multiple times on Geni, in separate trees or even in the same tree. They were usually created by different users
  • Merging - is the process of combining these duplicates, to create a single unified profile (and tree). See Profile merging and Tree Merging.

Merge Issues are caused when you (or someone else) initiated a merge between such profiles, but didn't (or couldn't) complete it.

Glossary

  • Merge Center - This is the primary list of merge-issues that you have. The link to it can be found in the tool-bar under Relatives, or in the top-right corner of the main page: Merge Center. It can optionally also list all of the merge issues for your Collators as well (see the “Include Collaborators” checkbox in the title bar).
  • pending merge - This is when two (or more) profiles have been merged via the tree, by dragging one onto the other, but the actual profiles have NOT yet been merged. In the Tree View, these are indicated by a small blue circle with a plus sign in it (+) in the bottom-left corner of the profile's box. In the profiles this is indicated by a message that says "This profile has been linked to other profiles pending a merge. View his other profiles and complete the pending merges." in a light-pink box near the top of the profile.
  • stacked profiles - When multiple profiles are in a pending merge, they are said to be "stacked", because they were dragged one onto the other. People will also refer to this as "the stack" for a profile.
  • compare profiles screen - This screen is used to compare two (or more) profiles to each other and actually merge them. A detailed description is given below: Compare Profiles screen
  • carousel - When more than two profiles are in a stack, then at the bottom of the compare profiles screen, you will see a line of 1-6 boxes. Clicking on them will compare the profile on the left, to a different profile in the stack.
  • "main" profile - When the merge is created, Geni automatically chooses the profile with the more complete information (and more managers), as the one that the other profile(s) will be merged into. The manager of that profile will be listed as the first manager. ALL managers of the combined profiles retain FULL control and access to the profile. So there is NO practical difference as to which manager is “first”. When looking at the compare profiles screen, you can identify which profile will end up as main. It's the one with the manager's name in bold.
  • focus person – lists of merge issues are generally shown with regard to a specific person. They will each be described with relation to that person (if related). Usually this is YOU, but can be any profile.

Merge Center

Under the title of the Merge Center screen you will see a simple the following table of four tabs:

Tree Matches Profile Merges Tree Conflicts Data Conflicts

These are the four types of “merge issues”, which will be explained shortly. Next to each such type, will be a number in () indicating the number of issues of this type you have.

Putting aside Tree Matches, which are an “issue” of a different type, the other types of merge issue are arranged in a table like this:

[ ] Photo Name Updated by Updated on Manager Action

Explanation:

  • [ ] – This checkbox is shown only in the Profile Merges list. It lets you select a number of merge-issues to resolve, and then when you press the View Selected Merges button at the bottom of the screen, display them one after the other.
  • Photo - Profile photo of the person or the standard gender specific icon.
  • Name - Full name of the person being merged. When entered, also contains year of birth, death, "(deceased)" when relevant, and any nicknames. The blue-green globe icon will be displayed for Public profiles. The green-arrows Collaboration icon will be displayed if you Collaborate with the profile manager(s).
  • Updated by - Name of the last person who created or changed this merge issue.
  • Updated on - Date of the last change to this merge issue. The table can be sorted by on this column, by clicking on the column header.
  • Manager - Name of the manager of the "main" profile.
  • Action - The specific action you can take to resolve each type of merge issue. Will be explained with each type.

Compare Profiles screen

This is the screen that is used to actually merge profiles. It has the following elements, from top to bottom:

  • Title box

This optional green box lists the names of the users that think this merge is a match.

  • Profile Comparison table

The majority of this page is a table that displays two profiles opposite each other, so that we can properly compare them and determine whether to complete the merge or not. As such, the information displayed is that which is most relevant to the merging: Their full name and profile photo, the names of their parents, siblings and spouse(s), dates and locations of birth and death, the specific values entered in the various name fields.

If there is an exact match on both sides of the table, the text will appear in green. Regarding profile links to immediate family, a “match” means this matched name refers to the exact same profile.

Last in the table, but of crucial importance, are listed the managers of the two profiles. It is your connection to these people (if any) that determines if you are permitted to complete the merge or not.

Under the bottom-right corner of the table you will see the name of the person who created this pending merge, and when this was done. If you have doubts about the merge, you can send that person a message (from their profile) and discuss this with them.

  • Yes / No buttons

Under the table you will see two Yes/No buttons to actually complete or undo the merge. The exact text on the Yes button is important.

If you can complete the merge, it will say "Yes, merge these profiles" otherwise the label will read "Yes, Request to merge", in which case a special merge-request message will be sent to the manager(s) of the profile being merged to complete it. You can add your own message, perhaps explaining why you think the merge is needed.

If you send such a request, then the next time you review this merge issue, the 'Yes' button will be absent, and the title above the buttons will read "You have requested that this profile be merged." and the 'No' button will give you the option to cancel the merge request.

  • Carousel

When more than two profiles are in a stack, then at the bottom of the compare profiles screen, you will see a line of 1-6 boxes. Clicking on them will compare the profile on the left, to a different profile in the stack. When there are more than 6 profiles in the stack, the carousel will also have blue Left/Right buttons on the sides of this line of boxes. Clicking these arrows will "rotate" the carousel itself, and show you a different set of pending merges within the stack. Rotating the carousel does NOT actually change the profiles displayed. That only happens when you click on a box.

Merge Issue Types

The following sections explain what each type of "Merge Issue" means, and what needs to be done to resolve them.

Profile Merges

This type of merge issue means that two profiles (or more) have been merged in the TREE, but not the profiles themselves. Also included here are suggested profile-merges created by other users. These are generally the simplest to resolve.

What needs to be done is to click the "View Pending Merge" link in the Action column. This takes you to the Compare Profiles screen. Carefully compare the data, and press the appropriate Yes / No button at the bottom of the page.

Data Conflicts

This is the type of merge issue that happens when two profiles (or more) that have conflicting data in some fields, are merged (see previous item), and the final step to resolve these conflicts was ignored (or postponed). These too, are generally easy to resolve.

Pressing the “View Profile” link in the Action column, will take you to a table comparing the specific fields that are different. You will have to choose which value you want for each field. If you don't know, you can decide to not choose, leaving this for later. When done, press the Save button. Because people often divide the names differently between the various fields, you might have to go into the merged profile and edit/fix the fields.

If one of the profiles is "claimed", i.e. the person it is for has joined Geni, then by default only they will be able to resolve the conflicts. As such (and for additional reasons), it is always best to NOT merge such profiles, instead, after connecting the trees, just delete your copy of the duplicate.

Tree Conflicts

This type of merge issue means that two trees have been merged, but only partially. This could mean that the profile has multiple copies of its parents, spouses or children, all or none of these. These can be tricky (or trivial) to resolve, depending on the exact case. To resolve these, click on the 'View Tree' link in the Action column. This will open the tree with the Resolve Conflicts dialog open for this person.

Drag-n-drop the duplicate parents, spouses and children on to each other. This is not always possible because you might have the required edit permissions to do this (in this case the profiles that you can't move, will have padlocks on them). Complete stepping through the dialog and save.

A simpler form of this type of issue happens when one of the merged trees had only one parent while the other had both. In this case, the profile will only show two parents, but when stepping through the "resolve conflicts dialog", you will be asked to choose which "set" of parents is the correct one – the two listed in one tree or the one Parent & Unknown, referring to a possibly unknown other partner. Choose the correct answer – most often the two parents, of course. Complete stepping through the dialog and save.

Tree Matches

Tree Matches are a special type of merge-issue. Geni has an automated process that tries to match profiles in your tree, with similar profiles in other trees. Similarity is defined by matching names of the profile and those in its’ immediate family. These matches are just suggestions shown to you, to follow through (or not), as you choose.

This type of merge issue is arranged in a table like this:

Photo Name Relationship Manager Action
  • Photo - Profile photo of the person or the standard gender specific icon.
  • Name - Full name of the person being merged. When entered, also contains year of birth, death, "(deceased)" when relevant, and any nicknames. The blue-green globe icon will be displayed for Public profiles. The green-arrows Collaboration icon will be displayed if you Collaborate with the profile manager(s).

Most importantly, it lists the number of suggested similar profiles found.

  • Relationship - a description of the person's relationship (if any) to you (e.g. "wife's third cousin").
  • Manager - Name of the manager of the "main" profile.
  • Action – Will say “View X other trees”, where X is the number of suggested matches.

XXX

When NOT to merge

In general if people pay attention, the cases when not to merge, or even when to CANCEL a pending merge, are pretty obvious, but I'll try and also mention some non-obvious ones.

  1. When the data in the two profiles being compared does NOT match. This means that:
    1. Names in the profiles look completely different. This is NOT an absolute rule, as in many cases, especially in the historical parts of the tree, people will enter names in different languages. Example: I myself would never have guessed that Guillaume is the French form for... William. Not to mention biblical names which in English were completely butchered after going two-three-four consecutive translations.
    2. Dates of birth/death are completely different. Again this is not an absolute. The further back in time you go, the greater opinions/estimates/guesses about such dates tend to vary.
    3. Spouses and/or children are rather different. Presently this is actually NOT an easy case to identify, because Geni lumps them all together, combining the lists from the two (or more) profiles, instead of comparing them. So some knowledge of the relevant part of the tree is needed. If this is an actual near-relative of yours and you know Uncle Ed had a single wife named Nancy (and/or two spoiled brats named Reuben and Simon), then if the compare display shows an additional wife or child, by another name, you're probably better off not merging.
    4. Parent names are rather different. Because of how Geni presently displays them all together, this isn't always obvious. But if you see a pending merge with parents listed as Peter, William, Sarah and Sue, then most likely you are talking about two different trees entirely.
  2. A trickier case is when the parent(s) names are the same, but yet these are different people (having for example different grand-parents). When people send you and invitation "out of the blue", you probably want to do more than a superficial check, so looking at the grandparents, is actually very reasonable. Undoing a BAD merge later, can be a real mess.

A less obvious case to not merge is ANY pending merge that has duplicate parents. I find it is always best in such cases to go and first try to merge the parents, and only then handle the children. This is because you won't always have the required permissions to do so, and completing the merge will only create a 'tree conflict' that won't get resolved.

Of course in ANY case you find a merge suspect, you can ask the person who created it, as Geni now shows their name on the bottom right side of the compare page.

Other possibilities

Older profiles, especially in English speaking countries, have a number of "special cases" for when to go forward (or not) with the merge, despite apparent "differences":

  1. You can very often run into multiple occurrences of "Multiple Parent" (mother) having the same first name but different last name. due to life expectancy issues it is entirely likely that one could have three marriages where Jane Doe and Jane Smith are the same person, one's a maiden name and one is a previous married name.
  2. "Back in the day", it was quite common for people to have ~8 children and they used the same family names over and over again , ergo, their could easily be 2nd cousins with the same name and birth years. Consider the family of USA Presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, the number of people named "John Adams" is truly staggering. Not to mention that it wasn't uncommon for 1st and 2nd cousins to marry, which adds a fun wrinkle, sorting them out.
  3. Another "naming tradition" that we'd find morbid today, was due to high child mortality. You can find families that "recycled" names within the same nuclear family. So yes, John & Mary Smith, really DID have three sons named James. So be careful to check the birth-death dates. It is ALSO a Very Good Idea to check the lists of managers before merging. If the same manager added all three James, then you had better ask them before you merge them!

Advanced Topics

In general if you know someone has duplicates of your relatives in their tree, and you want to combine (i.e. merge) them, or if the trees have already been partially merged, but a number of non-merged duplicates or unresolved merge issues remain, it is best to send the manager(s) of these profiles a message pointing to overlapping parts of your trees and the duplicated profiles. You can then invite them to Collaborate with you, or even join your Family Group, if they are a closer relative.

You send such requests to Collaborate, or Family Group invitations by pressing the links for this, from the managers profile. The 'requests to Collaborate' link, is under the 'More Actions' link. You can in theory, send a customized message WITH this request/invitation. But you'll get better results, if you FIRST send a regular message, because people often categorically reject such requests if they are not expecting them.

Collaborate vs. Family Group

These two options now cover different parts of the tree. So using the following table you can determine which is required for the specific situation. Sometimes you will need both. The diagram here explains the two "levels" of privacy: Understanding Privacy on Geni, and the following table explains how this relates to merging.


Collaboration: Family Group:
PRIVATE profiles (i.e. your Family-Group):
  • Edit: NO.
  • See: Partially. Collaborators are just like any other user. They can see the name, and whatever else the manager decides to show (See Managed Profiles Privacy Settings).
  • Edit: YES. Family-Group (including invited ones), can edit your private profiles.
  • See: YES (obviously).
PUBLIC profiles:
  • Edit: YES. Any public profile that you are a manager of.
  • See: Yes (obviously).
  • Edit: NO. ONLY Collaborators (and managers) can edit public profiles.
  • See: YES. Just like any other user. They can see the full profile.
Additionally:
  • "Problem" profiles - If you have profiles that are WRONGLY marked as "living" (AKA "zombies"), then your Collaborators will NOT be able to edit or merge these either.
  • Indication - Wherever a Collaborator's name appears as manager, you will see a small green double-arrow next to it, to indicate their status as such.
  • List - Look at the Activity tab of a profile. On the right side is a box titled Collaborators. This shows up to 12 people. Click "view all" link to see full Collaborator List.
  • "Problem" profiles - If you have profiles of close relatives that are public (common for deceased relatives), Family-Group members will NOT be able to edit these.
  • Indication - On their profile page ONLY, you will see in the title of the Relationship Path box, "[name] is your relative".
  • List - Filter your list of Family Members, for Claimed profiles. Go to the lat page(s)of the list, you'll see all of your added "relatives".
  • Removal - To STOP collaborating with someone, go to the Collaborators Settings page, and click the [x] next to their name. If the relevant profiles have additional managers, other than yourself, your ex-Collaborator might still be able to edit them, if they collaborate with one of the other managers.
  • Removal - To remove someone from your Family Group, go to their profile. Click the "Options" button, and the link to "Remove From Family Group". This should prevent them from seeing and editing your private profiles.

Collaboration Pool

The Collaboration Pool is a way to maximize the number of merge issues that can be resolved. Since anyone who is a Collaborator of the managers of both sides of the merge can complete the merge (on public profiles), it follows that the more Collaborators you have, the more merges you can complete and the more people can complete merges that you have.

The Collaboration Pool is a group of over 500 of the most active Geni users working together to do exactly that. There is really only one condition and purpose to joining it: you agree to accept Collaboration Requests from all other members of the pool (present and future). This “instantly” gains you 500+ Collaborators, who can now complete merge issues between you and their thousands of additional Collaborators.

To join just post a comment with your name in it, to the following Public Discussion: Collaboration Pool, and accept the Collaboration Requests that start coming in. You will need to continue following this discussion, and sent such requests yourself, to new members that join after you. When you send these requests, it is best to explicitly mention the Collaboration Pool so that people will be faster in accepting them. Here is an example message. Feel free to use it.

Welcome to the Collaboration Pool. Please accept my request to collaborate. Thanks, {{your name here}}.

The bigger the pool gets the more effective it gets. So be sure to invite all of your Geni acquaintances join.

Projects

The Projects feature is a VERY useful tool to resolve issues, and work together with others who have an interest in any specific part of the tree. By joining such a project you will gain access to all public profiles that are associated with it. Similarly, by creating a project you can give other users, access to any profiles that you have added to it.

Curators

When all of the above fails, and you have merges in the public parts of the Big-Tree that you need help clearing up, perhaps ones of Geni's Curators can help you.

Known Issues

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