Please change the procedure for merging two profiles!

+13 votes

I would like to request a change in procedure for merging two profiles. My biggest frustration with wikitree is how messed up my tree gets by other users who do not merge “intelligently”.

Currently if someone initiates a merge they do not get any say in what information gets transferred to the merged profile. The person who does the final merge gets to decide what information gets transferred however the default is the newer information gets merged into the older profile.

What I have been finding is that usually the people initiating the merge know more of the facts for the profile but they get no control in the merge. The initiator is usually actively researching this particular profile and the final merger is usually responding to an email to approve the merge. The people who approve the final merge usually approve it with the default check marks so the wrong information is being re-written over profiles that have been corrected a number of times.  The older profiles usually have the correct information because we have corrected them each time someone merges a new profile… aaugg! It becomes never ending.

I suggest that the initiator gets to choose what information becomes the default selections for the profile so that the person who makes the final approval can either approve the profile or question any of the selections.

One other thing that gets frustrating during a merge if there are different parents is one set of parents get lost. While sibling collect into a big pile of duplicates in a merge parents get abandoned and detached from their family tree.  I have several profiles that used to have parents and children, and a family tree but now have none because of this process. They have become single profiles attached to nothing.  Can we not somehow attach both sets of parents to merged profiles so that one set does not get orphaned?  Yes this is procedural, and it is usually because someone does a quick final merge of a profile with the default settings.

It has become a lot of extra work to keep going back to profiles and putting the same information over and over because you get no say in what information gets merged.  The only thing I can do now is to wait for someone else to initiate the merge of one of my profiles so that I can make sure the correct information is in the final merge.

My thoughts on making wikitree better…

in WikiTree Tech by Darin Neves G2G2 (2.7k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
Unless I'm mistaken, the default is to keep the data from the older profile. The only time the data from the newer profile are kept by default is when the fields in the older profile are blank. That's why I'm always surprised by merges where really bad data from a new profile are kept, because someone would have to actually check the checkboxes to change them.

That would certainly seem to help but like you said there is a lot of bad data getting merged. Maybe theres a flaw in the system. The last profile I merged had check marks to keep all of the information from the profile with the larger number which was merging into the profile with the smaller number.

Either way the person initiating the merge needs to be able to select what information should be merged

I tend to agree with all you’ve said Darin. The merging procedure could do with a bit of a look at :) I also think re merging profiles of people whom lived several centuries ago, they should not be held up if you aren’t on the trusted list. I've found that this afternoon with profiles of people who lived in the 1400's & 1500's! It seems rather silly when these people no doubt have 1000's of descendants that these profiles are controlled by one person, and in this particular case it looks like that one person has not been active on wikitree for quite some time - there are a stack of merge requests pending awaiting their approval. I've just had to leave it now as it is with duplicate siblings, spouses, parents etc ... a complete mess - all I was achieving was getting a headache! Time to walk away

Hi Lianne, I did a screen dump of a merge.  As you can see, the green profile is the default choice in most cases, even when the information in the two profiles is the same.  I generally go through and unclick them all, selecting only the information that is different and correct to be changed.

Hey Darin, I think this question could also have the tag improvements.

But you can also see in that screenshot that whenever the data don't match, by default the old one is selected. That's what I was saying.
However, non-blank is always preferred to blank, but sometimes blank is the right answer.

With pre-1700, a lot of stuff is unknown.  But it's difficult to fill in Unknown, because the info might be out there.  So you leave it blank, and then somebody's random guess gets filled in.  After which, if the real info turns up, it won't override the guess.

3 Answers

+2 votes
There's a lack of clarity about who does what and what "propose" means.  Matchbot Wikitree will "propose" a merge when the profiles aren't even the same person; let alone ready for merging.  This basically implies that it's the completor's job to do the genealogy.

That's one way to go.  The other way is that the proposer does the genealogy and proposes the merge when it's ready to go, so the completer's job is cleanup.

I think the original idea was that the approvers did the genealogy, but that went by the board with default approval.  So now often nobody thinks it's their job to check the data, and nobody does.
by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (565k points)
+7 votes
When I initiate a merge, I first put sources, text and footnotes on one of them to support the data. Then I suggest in the merge request that certain data is sourced and would be the preferred choice in merging. Members have been nearly 100% responsive to these requests.

The merge request is posted in the Bulletin Board on the profile, and goes to the profile managers, so that is the logical place to specify what data should be checked in the merge and why.

I developed this procedure after being very frustrated in the past when I documented a profile but the merge didn't go with the documentation.

It isn't enough to put the source and data in the text box - the profile managers need to be told it's there and how it affects the data chosen in the merge.
by April Dauenhauer G2G6 Pilot (109k points)
+5 votes

When I propose a merge that includes different data in one profile than in the other, I add instructions in the "reason to merge" box. For example:

Correct date of death should be 18 Dec 1891 Buffalo, NY. 


Correct Last Name at Birth should be Smith.

Alternatively, if the profile is OPEN, you could edit the profile that contains the wrong information and change it to the accurate information. Be sure to include the source. Then propose the merge. Only works with open profiles. 

by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (767k points)
Well I never propose a merge if It's not straightforward.  But then there still needs to be a way to "suggest" a merge.

You might want to say "These two might be the same person, could be worth a look" (well I don't, but Matchbot does).  Or you might want to say "These are the same person, but some decisions need to be made, and I'm not that interested."  Or "I haven't got access to the sources."

We can use unmerged matches etc.  But I think there are conflicts between the practice that works and the statements made.  And the pending merges to-do list ranges from all-ready just-do-it to leave-this-one-alone.

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