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Merging Family Files - Best Practices

Database Management Notes

 by Joseph Vernon Leavitt, 

Database Manager for the Western Association of Leavitt Families

Merging a Database into Your Master File - Preliminary Steps Using Legacy Family Tree

1. Import the received file into a new empty database.
2. Use the "Split Screen View" (from the View tab of the Ribbon bar), to open your master file next to the shared file.  Compare the two files so that a decision can be made as to those parts of the shared file that can be advantageously extracted from it for merging.  Consider the advisability of using the shared data at all, by checking available documentation, and doing some of your own research.
3. If extracting descendants only, make a search list of the descendants, and tag them all (use #1).  Tagging is done from the Search List, by clicking on the "Options" button at the bottom of the Search List, and selecting "Advanced Tagging..."  First "Untag" everyone (use #1), and then Tag "Everyone in Search List."  Close Advanced Tagging, and the Search List, and from the File tab on the Ribbon bar, click on "Export to GEDCOM File..."  Now use the "Record Selection" options to export "All records with an individual Tag of:" (use #1), and include all spouses and all parents (not children) of tagged individuals.  Similar operations are used to extract other parts of the shared file.  Import the resulting GEDCOM file into a new working database.  The original file might be placed in a folder called "Collateral Lines," if applicable.  
4. Perform merge operations on the new working database.  From the Tools tab of the Ribbon bar, click on "Merge Duplicates > Find Duplicates."
5. Change names to mixed case.  Click on "Customize" from the Options tab on the Ribbon bar, and select the "Data Format" option on the menu panel to see options for changing the letter case of names.  After changing names to mixed case, click on "Save."  Be aware that if this is done on given names, those that have inner-letter capitalization (such as LeRoy, or LeAnne), will then have only the first letter capitalized.  Make notes beforehand, if the inner-letter case of given names is to be preserved.  On the View tab of the Ribbon bar, click on "Master Lists," and "Surname..." to fix any surnames still needing a change in the mixed case format. 
Using the Name List, assure that name prefixes and suffixes such as titles are in the correct fields.
6. Make a quick backup of this file (on the hard drive, or on a second hard drive if available), and perform all file maintenance options (See "File Maintenance" on the File tab on the Ribbon bar).

Note:   The Search Lists referred to in the next four steps are found by choosing Find from the Search tab on the Ribbon bar.  On the Search window, use the tab that says: "Miscellaneous Searches."

7. Make a Search List of those with multiple parents.  With this list open, click on the "Family" tab.  As each individual is selected in the list; check to see if the multiple parents are appropriate, and if not, make necessary corrections, such as merging or deleting.  After each correction, get back to the Search List by using the down double-arrow on the Toolbar.
8. Make a Search List of those with multiple spouses, and again, using the Family tab, check to see that spouses listed are not duplicates.   Ask yourself if they or their children have duplicate names.
9. Make a Search List of those with unknown spouses.  Use the Family tab on the list as above.  For those in the list with an unknown spouse and also without children, click on the "Select" button to return to the Family ViewIf deemed appropriate, right-click on the Marriage information bar, and use the sub-menu to "Remove the Marriage Link..."
10. Make a Search List of "All records with bad dates," and make the changes that are necessary.
11. Make another quick backup of the data, and then fix location names in the Master Location List, adding counties and merging entries where possible.  Helpful resource websites are "US Town/County Database" at, or a place search in the "Family History Library Catalog" at  Another option is to export all records to a GEDCOM, and run it through the US Cities Galore program.  Be aware that county names added to city and state locations using this program are those where they are found at the current time.  Examine results carefully if bringing this data back into a new working database. 
12. From the Reports menu, print a list of potential problems (printing it to a PDF file).  Using this list, fix any real problems found.
13. If a global source was included in the original file received, edit it to include all information about the submitter.  Otherwise, create a new source citation to be used as a global source citation when importing this database into your master file, which gives credit (or blame?) to the person who shared the data.
14. From the Options tab on the Ribbon bar, click on Customize, and use the option labeled Other on the menu panel.  Click on Clear all user ID's.
15. Perform the Advanced Set Living operation (from the Tools tab of the Ribbon bar).
16. Prepare your master file for the merge by making a quick backup, and refreshing the Tree Finder list of trees.  Make a note of the number of trees listed and the number of individuals in each tree.  (You can print a report from the Tree Finder screen by clicking Print….) Also perform file maintenance options so that the Master Lists and indexes are cleaned up.

     - Now you can merge the working (super clean) database into your master file - 

After the Database Merge Operation - Postliminary Steps

1. Check all families where merging was done to make sure there are not left-over duplicate children or spouses who were missed by the Merge utility due to differences in spelling, et cetera.  Re-sort child lists where needed (see "Child Settings" on the Edit tab of the Ribbon bar).
2. Refresh the Tree Finder list of trees.  Make a note of any differences in these numbers to those seen on the original master file Tree List (step 16 above).  Further file management operations may be needed to correct linkage problems not found, or brought on, by the Merge utility.
3. Backup the master file on one of your hard drives, and then perform file maintenance options.  These, while checking the integrity of the data, will also remove data left over from deleted individuals, and will rebuild indexes.
4. Delete or save the original and old working files and intermediate databases, and make another backup of the master file, possibly on another form of media. 
5. Thank the person who has shared data with you.  In return consider providing a copy of the part of the data altered by your merging and other clean-up operations, including image files and source citations or other forms of documentation collected during your own research.
6. If you have a version of your master file posted on an Internet website, replace the GEDCOM file being used there with an updated web version.
Note:    If you have submitted your file to "Pedigree Resource File," do not automatically resubmit your data.  The way this resource works, your submissions cannot be removed or updated.  They are a permanent part of the CD's already published.  If you have substantial changes to share, and have already submitted a less mature form of your data, consider submitting only a small section that would include significant additional data, such as two or three additional generations on a line.  In the meantime, use your own website, or a free one like RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project to post a database that is being updated on a regular basis.

For a summary of the above steps, see Merging Family Files - Best Practices (Summary) 

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