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Find and Merge Duplicate Records with Ease

by Richard S. Wilson La Habra, California
Reprinted from the NGS Newsletter, Vol. 25, Number 3 (May/June 1999)

WilsonRS.gif (5006 bytes)Legacy has one of the most powerful merge features of any of the current genealogical software programs. Not only does Legacy show you both sets of data side-by-side, it also indicates which fields contain different data.

In the last Legacy column we discussed using multiple databases with the Legacy program. The multiple database feature makes comparing and copying data between databases safer and easier than ever before. However, after importing information [from another Legacy database or a GEDCOM file) you will probably have duplicate records for one or more people in your file. Legacy's power merge features allow you to safely and easily merge duplicate records.

There are two different ways to access these merge features.  Access them using either the toolbar or the menu bar at the top of your Legacy screen.  The menu bar is the top bar with with words on it (such as File, Edit, Add, View. . .). The toolbar is the row of icons (pictures) just below the menu bar. Included with these icons is one with the yellow sign, labeled Merge. Clicking on the Merge button brings up a list of merge options. The other method id to click on Tools in the menu bar which opens a pull-down menu on your screen, including Merge. Clicking on Merge will then list the merge options. Either method provides access to the same merge options. Use whichever method you are most comfortable using.

The merge options listed with either method are:

Manual Merge
Find Duplicates
IntelliShare

The functions of each of the options are listed below.

Manual Merge: Used to merge the data of two individuals in your database who are the same person.
Find Duplicates: Used to determine which individuals appear to be the same person, according to their data.
IntelliShare: Used to more easily allow you to share your database information and research tasks with other people. This feature will be covered in a future article.

There are two steps in the Find and Merge process. First, the computer must compare the records  in your database to see if any possible duplicate records exist. This is accomplished via the Find Duplicates option. The second step is to merge the data field-by-field in those duplicate records. This is accomplished using either the Find Duplicates or the Manual Merge options. If you have only a few records to merge, then the Manual Merge is adequate.

Whether you choose the Find Duplicates or the Manual Merge options, the first screen you see is the Merge Backup warning screen. Any time you merge records there is a risk that your data will be corrupted. Always make an additional new backup of your family file data before performing any merging operations.  Warning: Do not attempt to merge records if you are extremely tired or in a hurry.  The risk of errors occurring is too great

Choose the Manual Merge option when you know that a particular individual has two or more records that are the same.  Sometimes these records are exact duplicates and sometimes they have variations in data.  Click on the Continue button from the warning screen to bring up the Merge Two Individuals screen. On the other hand, if you need to search for possible duplicate records use the Find Duplicates option instead. When you use the Find Duplicates option, you will also see the warning screen , click on the Continue button and the Merge Options screen will appear. This screen is not available if you use the Manual Merge option.   Select the options you want the computer to use when it searches for duplicate records.

The Normal Duplicate Search tab of the Merge Options screen gives you the ability to tighten or loosen the parameters the computer uses to compare the data for the records in your database.  The default settings are:

  • The surnames must be exactly the same.
  • Individuals with blank surnames are not considered.
  • Given names must be exactly the same.
  • Birth dates must be the same (if there is a birth date).
  • Birth locations must be the same (if there is a location).
  • Parents of both individuals must be compatible. Both sets of parents must have the same names, or one person has parents and the other does not, or one has a mother and the other has a father.

Modify these default settings to meet your needs.  For example, if you are using data from the Ancestral File you may want to change the Compare Last Name Using setting to Sounds Like instead of Exact Spelling.  Depending on your circumstances, you may want to tighten or loosen the settings via these options. Once you have adjusted all the settings, let the computer go out and do all the hard work.

For you convenience, print out a list of possible duplicate records. To save paper, you have the option of previewing it on your screen or printing it out.

To start the merge process, click on the Continue button in the upper right hand corner of the Merge Options screen. The Merging Two Individuals screen will appear. The merging two individuals screen best shows the power of the Legacy merge feature. Select the General tab. The two records shown at the top of the screen were selected by the computer to be possible duplicates.  This screen makes comparing the differences in the two records quick and easy.  Legacy provides a convenient look at just the data fields that are different on the lower half of the screen. Legacy tells you which data is different, and you judge which version is more accurate.  Simply click on the radio buttons next to the data you want to keep.

If you find that the record on the right is more complete or has a RIN (record identification number) you want to keep,  you can switch it to the left position. Using the buttons on the bottom, switch that record from the right side to the left side.   You can also edit either person's data from this screen or tell the computer to skip over this pair of possible duplicate records with the Skip to Next button.

Choose between the various tabs at the top of the screen to view the additional information about the records being compared for merging. You only need to look at the tabs that have an asterisk by them  The asterisk indicates there is information on that screen.  When you select any of these tabs, a screen opens up with that information. From this screen, you can quickly see that these records have the same spouse and that the record on the right contains no links to children's records. These tabs are available so that you can check all of the data about each record.  This allows you to be absolutely sure that these records are duplicates.

Once you are sure that two records are duplicates, select the Merge Right Individual into Left Individual button on the lower portion of the screen to perform the merge.   This eliminates the record on the right from your database.  Repeat this process to find additional duplicate records.

Legacy has an AutoMerge feature to automate this process for records that are exact duplicates.  For two records to considered the same they must have:

  • Exactly the same given and surnames.
  • Both have birth dates that are exactly the same.
  • All other information must be exactly the same.
  • Their parents must have the same names and marriage dates.
  • If married, their preferred spouses must have the same name and marriage date.

During the Manual Merge process, if you have checked AutoMerge box (in the lower right portion of the Merging Two Individuals screen) and you encounter two records that are the exact duplicates of each other, Legacy will ask if you want to start the AutoMerge process.  If you choose to use the AutoMerge process, Legacy will then proceed to automatically merge all exact duplicate records it finds in your database.

Be very careful when using the AutoMerge feature.  Even though all the information about the individuals must be the same, there is still a possibility (if you have very little information about them)that the records may not be the same.  The greatest danger is when you have records with very little data in them.   So use the AutoMerge feature with caution, and make plenty of backups.

Program Information
Millennia Corporation
PO Box 9410
Surprise, AZ 85374
Phone (800) 753-3453
E-mail: info@LegacyFamilyTree.com
http://www.LegacyFamilyTree.com


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