Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ancestry.com Family Tree Data Merging

Merging in Ancestry.com vs. Merging in Family Tree Maker

I have used Family Tree Maker (FTM) since I first started doing genealogy, about eighteen years ago.  I first started using Ancestry.com shortly thereafter; but didn't subscribe until about ten years ago.  One of the big developments that keeps me subscribing to Ancestry.com was the development of the automated search capability by FTM some years back.  For every individual in your data base, FTM automatically searches Ancestry's data base for any records that match with the facts that you have entered.  If the program finds what it believes is a good match a green leaf shows up in the "Family" view for the individual.  When I click on that green leaf, it will tell me how many of the matches are "source records" and how many are "tree matches".   Source records are such things as Census records, Social Security Death Records, WW II Draft Registrations, and other records that are in Ancestry's vast record collection.  Tree matches result when the individual of interest matches with another individual from other family trees that have been submitted to ancestry.  Public Member Trees currently consist of over 2.1 million records.  

I, as a FTM, user can then decide if the records displayed are or are not a match with my individual of interest.  Then I can selectively merge the information in that record or tree into my tree.  


In the graphic above I selected a record that I think matches with the John Minear in my FTM tree.  The left column is the data from my tree and the column on the right is the data from the record.  For each of the three facts: Name, Birth and Death; I can either discard it, mark it as preferred or  as alternate.  The facts then show in the FTM "Person" view as below.  It is hard to see; but there are two death fact lines and two birth fact lines in the screen shot below--each having slightly different information.  I can review them and change their ranking to "preferred" at any time I choose.  However, it is still nice to have the other information, because later developments may convince you to change your "preferred" choice.  For instance if I had two birth dates that were slightly different; but later discovered a birth record that indicated my "alternate" choice was correct, I can easily change it to the "preferred" fact.



Below is a blow up of the screen shot above.  I have highlighted in yellow the two facts that I chose to mark "preferred". 

If I am working on line in my Ancestry.com family tree, I will also have the green leafs visible, indicating there is information from Ancestry's data base that matches that individual.  The screen shot below shows several individuals with the green leaves.



Just as with FTM, one can click on a green leaf to determine what records or tree matches has been found by the automated search.  When you select one of the matches you think is good, the view shown in the screen shot below will be displayed.  Note that the facts from my tree are shown on the right and the facts from the record from the automated search on the left.  The system displays "different" or "new" for facts meeting that criteria.  The user can then place a check in the box to the immediate left of the facts desired to be merged into their tree.  However, that fact will replace the fact that had been in the tree and the option to make one fact "primary" and the other "alternate" does not exist when conducting the merge on line in Ancestry. 


I did not realize this until yesterday when I did some merging of data in my Ancestry.com tree.  This morning I synchronized my on line Ancestry tree with my FTM Tree (a capability that Ancestry introduced last year) and then looked in FTM at the trees that had been merged and realized that both facts were not in the tree--just the ones I had checked.  I feel this is a big disadvantage to doing the merging on line in the Ancestry tree.  This would also be true for most mobile devices, because you are usually working on line directly with the Ancestry tree.

I feel fortunate that I have almost always done my searching and merging of facts in my FTM program.  If you weren't aware of this, you might want to keep it in mind.