Should one create a duplicate profile on purpose?

+6 votes

You have just found a plausible relationship on WikiTree (you think), but what is there already there does not quite match. Do you connect (possibly erroneously) or do you create a new profile (that may need to be merged in later)?

Maybe first tell us what you do before we all jump in with a hard-and-fast rule?

I'm so undecided on this point that in this case, for one person I  created a new profile (and now I need the manager of an existing profile to approve a merge) and then connected her as daughter to an existing profile (and now I need that manager to change the LNAB).

WikiTree profile: Maria van der Merwe
in Policy and Style by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (36.4k points)
retagged by Dirk Laurie

It was not visible on the shortlist, but now that I have already posted, I see there was a previous question.

The only time I would do it is if the other profile is something clearly fictitious and the error is so common that it needs to be kept as a "Uncertain Existence" or "Frauds and Fabrications" and you mark it and document it as such. Otherwise, you should work for a consensus in the existing profile. If you can't reach a consensus, explain the controversy in the existing profile.

5 Answers

+21 votes
Sorry Dirk but I'm going to come in with the hard-and-fast rule first, which is that it is never appropriate to deliberately create a duplicate profile.

Now how I would handle a profile that is maybe a duplicate maybe not?

I would look at what make me think it's a possible duplicate, are they minor things (slight difference in spelling of the name, or dates) or are there major differences (parents, other relationships, big change in dates)?

The other thing to look for is whether the other profile has good sources that back up the detail, or is the profile poorly sourced or no sources.  Can you add sources that might help identify the person more clearly?

There is probably no rule that fits every circumstance, but that a couple of ideas I use.
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (542k points)
Which is easier: to merge or to disentangle a mistaken merge?
i see that someone had given John a down vote here. I am upvoting to cancel it out. I agree with his statement that we should not deliberately create duplicates. If there is an almost match, then more research needs to be done first. Creating a duplicate just causes more work later for you or someone else in handling a potential merge.
John is absolutely correct. People should be working with the aims of Wikitree (one person, one profile), not against them. Merges should however only be undertaken when the sources all add up to it, or we can get into a pickle. Sometimes that involves a lot of research and is the reason the "Unmerged Match" selection exists, although we don't like to use it because it slows things further.

People should definitely not create duplicates because they want to be "in charge" of their ancestor, nor because they aren't getting a response from a trusted list request. If we all follow procedure, we'll have a nice tree. If we don't, we'll be forever trying to connect and merge.
I gave the downvote. I gave it because it started off by doing precisely what I said I did not want.

I would not have given it if John had first set out his custom and the reasons for it, before arguing that a hard-and-fast rule is maybe the best option.
A couple of things in reply Dirk.

Firstly your question about which is easier - one of the issues with merges ,is that they are about the only thing that can't be undone on WikiTree, so there is no way to "disentangle a mistaken merge". If there is a mistaken merge, the only way out is to recreate one of the profiles all over again and that's definitely not ideal.

Secondly the hard-and-fast rule, isn't the best option - the best option is either we merge those profiles that need to be merged or we don't merge profiles where there are indications that they are different people.

The hard-and-fast rule about not deliberately creating duplicates is not an option at all.

Maybe I should not have used the word "duplicate". I do not advocate making another profile when I am virtually certain that it is a duplicate.

The situation I have in mind is one where there is a partially matching and partially conflicting profile, bearing every sign of having been cut-and-pasted from one of those websites into a desktop genealogy program, exported as a GEDCOM and imported into Wikitree. There is really not enough information on that profile to judge whether the Robert Brown born 1820 married to Sally Smith born 1830, child James born 1850, no other connections, is my Robert John Brown born 18 March 1818 married to Gertrude Sarah Smith born 21 November 1823, no child named James, but I don't claim to know all their children.

I say make a new profile. If later it transpires that James is in fact the child of my Robert and Getrude, the merge will be easy.

On the other hand, when the other profile was created manually, says Robert Jonathan Broun born 18 March 1818 married to Gertrude Sara Smith born 21 November 1828, and Gertrude's profile cites a photo of baptism record where there might or might not be a squiggle ater the 'a' and the 3 might or might not look like an 8 to some eyes, of course I do not create duplicates, I link to them and ask the profile manager about where that LNAB comes from.

Not to rely on my instinct and experience, and then to justify that failure on the grounds of some rule deemed unbreakable, is not an option at all.

That's why I wanted other people's experiences, not their opinions.

Dirk,you and I are really on the same page.  I totally agree that as experienced genealogists we use our experience and instinct to gauge whether two profiles might in fact be duplicates or are more likely to be different people.

And if as in your example, you have judged they are different and later find more information that demonstrates that James is their son and they are more likely to be duplicates after all, then that is unfortunate but unavoidable.

When talking about this hard and fast rule, I have always been careful to write that we should never deliberately create a duplicate, and perhaps I should have written never knowingly create a duplicate.  And my apologies, I perhaps jumped to the conclusion that's what you were asking about.

+3 votes
Dirk you give the perfect example of what we mean by collaboration.   A discussion with the profile manager of the existing profile on your "theory" and making sure that they do not have data that proves that there are two different people is key.   I spent a lot of time last week with a new member on what we thought we duplicates in our family tree. (She had not created the profiles, yet, as she wanted to make sure they were the same person, first)   After a lot of discussion we figured out that we had "different people" and she created the new profiles.
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (755k points)
The first case is the one that bothers me, because there are millions of those on Wikitree. GEDCOM uploaded three years ago, profile manager reasonably active for a couple of months, loses interest after discovering how hard it is to properly source profiles of such poor quality, does not respond to messages.

Why must good work be linked to such crud?
Because it is our very basic mission....a single family tree, and with collaboration, you can help clean up the profiles that need work.   It is what makes Wikitree different than other sites.
The thing is, in some cases the existing profile is so sketchy that it may well be impossible ever to link it with certainty to anything, especially if the LNAB itself is probably wrong.

I don't mind putting in work on profiles that will extend the descendant list of some indubitable common ancestor.

I do object to taking seriously a profile of a purported ancestor of the profile manager's spouse, created after a fireside chat (no recording equipment) with Aunt Lucy, still amazingly lucid considering her age.
+3 votes
There is no hard and fast rule, because there will always be exceptions.

But if there was a hard and fast rule, not creating duplicates on purpose would be one of them.

There's no reason to be in any hurry. Add research notes to the one currently existing, until enough data can be gathered to determine if they are the same or different people.

Almost any change can be undone, but some are more difficult than others.
by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (540k points)
+3 votes
Dirk, I have done that myself.  It was early in my membership and I came across a profile in one of my lines that was so full of badly done research that I couldn't stand it, so I created one that had more accurate info and an explanation of common mistakes that were being 'researched" from Ancestry.  Since that time, I have taken the "hard and fast rule" to heart and just don't connect one of my lines to a previous profile that I see as problematical.

In my defense, during my career I had to deal with several people who were thought of as psychos and socios, and since I retired many years ago,  I find that I now go out of my way to avoid situations that have potential for resulting in conflict, even disputes as minor as who is whose ancestor.

So that was my solution now, better to leave unconnected than create duplicate profiles.  Hope this in some way addresses your question.
by Art Black G2G6 Mach 4 (49.7k points)
0 votes

To all;

Dig a little deeper by asking why five times.  How did we get here to this point OF UNSCERTANTY, AND HESITATION.. This question keeps popping up and the obvious answer keeps getting tossed.  Ask why can I not tell from the profile I'm looking at, if it is related to the person who I think matches.  Use the five why's rule.  Answer that, then ask why I'm still uncertain, and answer that question, and continue five times, and you will mostly arrive at the solution.

I need to show you where I'm going so we can stay on point.  Private profiles on a public tree do not work.  If you want every branch on your tree to be dead, continue down this path.  We must turn about with concerns of privacy, and start encouraging grafting and inclusion so our many branches will sprout from our ONE TREE.

How did we get to a point where I I'm looking at a profile and I still cannot tell if I attach this profile, or create a new one, and possible duplicate. Merging of private profiles is impossible.  Every critical field is hidden. Hopefully less restricted profiles have plenty of sources to possibly see, and some like FamilySearch have ID#'s so you know exactly if its a match or not.  Stay with me as I'm talking about problems with FamilySearch nor the thousands of records that have inconsistent spellings dates, etc....Different subject for another day.

I too am extremely FRUSTRATED with the same problem of not knowing if I may be creating a duplicate.  Worse, several times I'm certain this profile already exists, but I cannot connect to it because the branch of the tree is set to PRIVATE. If I match this family in question, am I also not a relation? Why is one family given more preference when we are all connected to Adam and Eve right?  Keep with me (ONE TREE)!   Why would one attach a profile to a public tree, if in doing so they then hide it, and make a profile private?  Private profiles for non living people defeats our objective of ONE TREE!  It almost forces us to create duplicates, or abandon the project out of frustration. I'd love to have a relationship with living newly found cousins. Conversing with new relatives is of secondary objective here.  My main objective is to verify my ENTIRE TREE (Our one Tree).  How can it be one tree if I create my own tree on the same site with duplicates?  That would be a major fail of the mission of one Tree.  Yet it seem every comment leads us to the wrong conclusion. We must accept privacy for the greater good is a serious flaw.  Tell me how to get to one tree if we ENCOURAGE (not discourage) hiding fields on existing (or newly added) profiles by allowing a profile manager to set deceased profile as private? 

Why do we allow private profiles for non living members who by definition must be connected to one tree?  Stay on subject here.  Answer that question with the five whys.  People are attaching relatives who do not belong on "OUR" ONE PUBLIC TREE.  The one, is stopping the many from execution.  In this case, we have a plethora of pre-Madonna's.  Individuals who give, and then take back (by a privacy setting).  They feel they own a profile, and will not share on the public tree. The one being a person who wants to hide a profile because of security / privacy concerns, or embarrassment of self (or family). The error is attaching a profile of such at all. This is not my problem that they display it (add it) then hide it!  Stay with me.  We as genealogists do not care about the BIOS, but is the correct profile attached so others can also be attached!  If fields are hidden, their is a great chance of duplication and that is not encouraging doing right things right the first time!  Why would be build in inefficiency.  Why encourage individuals to throw a bone or two into the heap, and not expect us archaeologists to try to solve the puzzle?

So let me have it!  Tell me why my attempt at connecting every profile on WikiTree to one tree, is not woefully hampered by people hiding profiles that cannot be totally seen and therefore connected?  Again for clarification, I don't care about a dead end branch!  Whether a child with no children, or any person without a grandchild.  Those are dead ends, at least for now.  Does an Archeologist care about living things, or are they more interested in looking back and drawing conclusions about how this piece fits into our premise?  What is WikiTree?  Is it a social posting of private unconnected trees, or is it by definition a public tree where only under certain (time based) circumstances, profile can be privatized?  If it is both, I submit my resignation.  I joined because I wanted to work with others to find answers about our past.

by Kirt Fetterling G2G6 Mach 1 (16.0k points)
I would agree that too many profiles are still closed off and should be opened. There needs to be an easier way to deal with those. Opening up the living is another matter and isn't just "concerns about privacy" but rather a concern about the legality. WikiTree doesn't really want to be the test case for the European GDPR. Let those with deep pockets do that. Other countries will either be doing something like GDPR or are discussing it.

Yes, it is frustrating. If people didn't keep putting up profiles that need to be private then the problem would be more manageable. Much of the time, the people who end up private have no idea that some well meaning person has put their information online.

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