Resolving Merge Issues

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Revision as of 23:13, 5 January 2010 by Shmuelakam (talk | contribs) ('Merge Issues' List page)
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Temp link to my discussion on this topic

What are Merge Issues

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. These issues are caused when they (or someone else) initiated a merge (but didn't or couldn't complete it) between profiles that appear multiple times on Geni (AKA "duplicate profiles"), either in their own tree, or in separate trees created by others.

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.


  • 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 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 either by a message that says "This profile has been linked to another profile pending a merge. View his other profile." either in the yellow title line of the profile, or in a light-orange box under the person's name.
  • 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 -
  • "main" profile - When the merge is created, Geni automatically chooses the profile with the more complete information, as the one that the other profile(s) are merged into. The manager of that profile, will be listed as the first manager. ALL managers of the combined profiles, retain full control of the profile. So there is very little practical difference/importance as to which manager this is.
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'Merge Issues' List page

At first glance, the list of merge issues CAN be pretty confusing. So if we are to resolve these issues, then we must first understand the information that is listed on this page, about each merge, and in general.

Ignoring the yellow box of 'advanced controls' on the left side of the screen for now (they may even be hidden initially), the page is arranged as a table with the following columns:

Photo First/Last Name Relationship Modified by Modified on Manager Merge Issue Actions

This is a brief explanation of what these columns mean:

  • Photo - profile photo of the person (if any), otherwise the standard gender specific icon.
  • First/Last Name - Full name of the person being merged. Also contains their years of birth and death (if entered), or "(deceased)" when relevant. If the person also has nicknames entered in their profiles, these too will be displayed. [If the profile is shared, the green circle icon, will also be displayed.]
  • Relationship - a description of the person's relationship to you, if any (e.g. "wife's third cousin").
  • Modified by - Name of the person who created this merge issue. With multiple profiles pending merge, this is for the LAST one added. As always on Geni, the name is a link to their profile.
  • Modified on - Date of the last change to this merge issue.
  • Manager - Name of the actual manager of the the "main" profile.
  • Merge Issue - Identifies the TYPE of merge issue. The next section of this document explains in detail what these types mean. This (and the next) are the most important columns in this table.
  • Actions - The action you can take to resolve the issue. These are specific to the type of merge issue. As such, they are explained with them.

This page will try and explain what each type of "Merge Issue" means (see middle column of list) and how to resolve them (see "Action" column of right side); and other things relevant to this crucial topic.

Type of "Merge Issue"

merge pending

This type of merge issue means that two profiles (or more) have been merged in the TREE, but not the profiles themselves. These are generally the simplest to resolve.

What needs to be done is to click the "view profiles" link for that issue. This takes you to a page that displays the two profiles opposite each other. Like a regular profile view, it starts with links to the immediate family: parents, partners and children. Below that is the basic profile information, such as the various name fields, birth and death dates and locations. When the data in both profiles is the same, it is displayed in green, to indicate a match.

At the very bottom of the comparison table, you will see the names of the managers of the two profiles (initially you will most often be one of them). If you are a Family Member or Collaborator of the other(s), you should be able to complete the merge. If not (or if the other manager(s) have restrictive Settings on profiles they manage), the Yes button will be labeled "Yes, request merge". This will open a screen that let's you add a personal note, explaining why you want to merge etc., press the send button, and an email will be sent to the other manager with your request. I generally avoid sending merge request because most users seem to ignore them. So… compare the data, and press the appropriate Yes / No button at the bottom of the page. If the merge went through, and the two profiles have conflicting data, you'll be taken to a page with 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.

conflicting data

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 will take you to that 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.

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.

parent conflict

This type of merge issue means that two trees have been merged, but only partially. These can be tricky to resolve, depending on the exact case. The profile with the merge issue has a "problem" with its parents, who have not been merged properly. If the profile lists more than two parents, then the duplicates need to be merged. This can be done by pressing the 'View Tree' link, which will open the usual "resolve conflicts dialog", in which you can drag-n-drop the duplicate parents onto 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.

possible partner conflict

This is somewhat like the "parent conflict" both in cause and solution – Two profiles were merged, but the system thinks they *might* (hence "possible" conflict) also have partners (and children) that are duplicated and need merging. Press the 'View Tree' link, to open the "resolve conflicts dialog", and if any, merge the duplicates. Complete stepping through the dialog and save.


There are ways to get merges that you can't complete yourself resolved (you look for someone else who can…). In general if you find that you share parts of your tree with other users, and thus have a number of unresolved merge issues with them, it is best to send them a message pointing to overlapping parts of your trees and duplicated profiles, and then invite them to join your Family Group or Collaborate (if you are a Pro user).

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: a) the names 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. b) the birth/death dates 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. c) the names of their parents, 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. d) the names of their parents 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.

A less obvious case to not merge, is in my personal opinion 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 'parent 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.

Advanced Controls & Topics

Merge Groups

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