Family group fractured/shattered by unlinking process -- now what?

So, I discovered that I had linked a woman’s 5 kids to the wrong father (it’s one of those 19th-century Southern families with a number of cousins of the same generation all with the same name). Unlinking is awkward as hell and it constantly drives me crazy, but you can’t just delete a father’s name and type in a different person. And when you do the “inlink parents” thing, it throws out BOTH parents, leaving you with a free-floating orphaned child.

Anyway, I unlinked each of the 5 kids and then re-selected the same mother and the proper father. But when I finished, I discovered it had sort of duplicated the mother-father pair five times, each with one child. The image below shows how this appears on the father’s Person screen:

I can’t merge all these ghost-copies of the mother because they’re all actually the same person. But I’m still stuck with five separate father-mother-one-child sort-of family groups. I don’t know whether I did something wrong with the unlinking or whether it’s a screw-up in the code. And everyone in that family group has a lot of tags, so I’m not willing to just delete everyone and start over.

Has this happened to any of you before? Anyone have any ideas?

Mike Smith

I would Unlink each child, then on the Family View, select the Parents and below them you will see Add Child. Click on that and in the new screen use the “Select Existing Person”. Repeat this for all the kids.

I have always found it helpful to Link the correct parents before Unlinking the incorrect parents. Doing it that way, there is a brief time when a child may have two sets of parents - one set correct and one set incorrect. But there is no time when the child is just free-floating and orphaned.

However, once things are askew, you have to fix what you have, no matter how it got that way. In your case, I would do the following.

  • Look at the family in Descendant View with the number of generations set to 2, and with Thomas Jefferson Lawson in the primary position.
  • Link each child to the first instance of Delia T. “Lilllie” Winston and Thomas Jefferson Lawson. Don’t relink anybody who is already linked to the first instance.
  • Unlink each child from the second, third, fourth, and fifth instance of Delia T. “Lillie” Winston.
  • Unlink the second, third, fourth, and fifth instance of Delia T. “Lillie” Winston as the spouse of Thomas Jefferson Lawson.
  • At this point, you should have one father, one mother, and all the children properly linked to that couple. But the children may be in the wrong order. If so, Rearrange them…

Okay, I tried this, but nothing happens. The child stays linked to the parents, both on the family view and on the child’s own person view.

Link each child to the first instance of Delia T. “Lilllie” Winston and Thomas Jefferson Lawson. Don’t relink anybody who is already linked to the first instance.

I don’t see a way to do this. The different “instances” of Delia are all actually the same person, They’re all just ghosts on the screen, all with the same ID number, not separate copies. (If they were really separate, I could just merge them.)

That is the way I relink people ever since I saw an earlier post of @thejerrybryan. I agree it is much cleaner and really simpler than any other way.

It maybe easier to understand how they are linked and how to resolve it by using the Info Box at the top of the side bar. Click on Spouses and you can see each family group that was created for that person. Under the spouse is a children button. The 3 dot menu next to a name has the unlink option. You can unlink spouses and children using that option. Make sure all the children are added under one family group first then go in and unlink children from the duplicate family groups.

Make sure all the children are added under one family

The problem is, all five children ARE linked to exactly the same father and exactly the same mother. But RM is treating them as five separate family groups instead of one family group. They aren’t “duplicate families,” so I can’t “make sure all the children are added under one family group.”

As I said in my post, if this was just a matter of having mistakenly created five separate and unique persons in the dataset, all of who represented the same human being, it would be a simple problem: I could just merge the duplicates. (I’ve unintentionally created duplicate profiles for individuals before, and so probably have we all, but never five times.) But they aren’t “duplicates.” I didn’t create them – RM did, all on its own. They’re all the exact same person. All five listings on the screen are ghosts of each other.

In Family view, select the wrong father and right mother onscreen. Right-click upon the wrong father and choose Unlink family members.

They aren’t ghosts they are actual family groups using the same people. Each spouse row shows they are separate family groups. That is why you need to link the children to only one family group, and unlink them where they are in a single family group. The only reason RM created them is because you added the children to new family groups with the same parents. More than likely you selected to add father and mother each time instead of displaying the parents in one family group and adding additional children to that one family group.

The plus sign Add Father (and/or + Add Mother) are notoriously the cause of these family linking problems. Ideal is to add each spouse as individuals, then right-click EITHER and Add Spouse via Select existing followed by adding a Marriage fact. With children it is less of a problem (when the right parents are already on screen), Right-clicking a parent and choosing Add Children as part of regular methodolgy is still better in my view, than +Add child.

All the time I was replying to this thread, I was on a nine day road trip of over 2500 miles, and I only had a few minutes on the computer each night. As a result, I don’t think I did a very good job of answering the question. It turns out that you can do the Add Parents just fine from Descendant View, but you have to do the Unlink Parents from Family View (or possibly also from Pedigree View). So now that I’m back home, I made a video of how it actually works.

It really does work, but it’s pretty tricky. I think the process needs to be made much easier. For example, perhaps in Descendant View the right click function could include a Relink Parents function. Right click a child, click Relink Parents, and then click on the family to which the child should be relinked. But I’m not even sure that’s easier. Creating an easier user interface for this task is a challenging programming problem.

At one point in the video I said that you can’t Add Parents from Descendant View, but you can. I corrected the mistake in the video itself, and I didn’t want to remake the video. But if you try to Unlink Parents from Descendant View, it is likely to unlink the person from the wrong parents. The only way to be sure to unlink from the correct parents is to be in Family View (or maybe in Pedigree View). I think this is a bug in RM’s support of Descendant View that needs to be fixed. But I make note of the fact that RM7 had the same problem.

That video is a little long and may be found at Unlinking and Relinking Parents, 7:16

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Thanks for making this video, Jerry. I’ve shelved the problem for a while, but now I’ll go back now and try to fix it again. Watching it being done is much clearer than reading the explanation – especially since none of the explanations that were offered by various folks used the terminology in the same way.

However, I’m still baffled why connecting children to their parents was done in this abstruse way to begin with. Now, I’m not a coder. I’m a librarian, archivist, and historian (retired). But I’ve also been messing around with PCs since 1981, and I was part of the crew that put together the original DOS version of The Master Genealogist (with Bob Velke behind the scenes at CompuServe, where I was a sysop) back in the early '90s. And while I don’t do code, I have a good sense of program look-and-feel and how things ought logically to happen. I did more than a hundred flow charts for the first TMG design, and my wife I ran the beta testing for it.

And what you did there to change the parents of a child was to just choose an item on the right-click menu called “Change Parent.” So you said yes, you wanted to do that, it asked you who you wanted to change the parentage to (or to no parent at all), then you selected the correct parent you wanted to switch the chald to, clicked that person – and that was it. Everything else happened behind the scenes. The user didn’t have to get so deep into the nuts and bolts. That makes a LOT more sense to me.

I think there are two different answers to your question.

The first answer is that RM and much if not most other genealogy software does not actually connect parents and children together. Rather such genealogy software creates a sort of abstract and amorphous concept called a “family”. With the “family” in place, the parents are connected to one set of connection points in the “family” and the children are connected to the to another set of connection points in the “family”. What people in the real world would call a family would be the actual parents plus the actual children plus this amorphous and abstract data structure called a “family”. I think that genealogy software mostly tries to hide this complicated data structure from its users, but occasionally this complicated data structure does show through to the users’ detriment. You have experienced this problem yourself.

The second answer is that RM is trying to be user friendly by supporting the addition of one parent at a time in Pedigree View and in Family View. When the first parent is added, this abstract and amorphous “family” structure is created and only one of the connection points for parents is filled in. Then when you use Pedigree View or Family View to add the second parent on another one at a time basis, it’s very easy to do it in such a way that another whole abstract and amorphous “family” is created, this time with the second parent included and the first parent omitted. This is essentially what happened to you.

It’s not as user friendly, but if you connect parents and children using RM’s Add Parents tool or using RM’s Add Child tool, it’s much more likely that everything will be linked up correctly. Both parents will be joined up properly and at the same time with the abstract and amorphous “family” structure and all will be well.

This data model is called a lineage linked data model. I suspect it’s as old as is genealogy software. The model may even have been around before genealogy software. I don’t know for sure about that. On it’s face, the lineage linked data model seems to make sense. But to me, this data model actually includes an even worse problem than the one that you encountered. Namely, I don’t think that this data model provides a good place to attach evidence of parentage - for example, that Sarah Doe was the daughter of John Doe and Jane Smith. Let me give you a real example.

My paternal line great grandparents were Harley Bryan and Nannie Harrison. They had four children. The children were born at a time when official birth certificates were just becoming standard. The first two children did not have official birth certificates and the second two children did. For the third child Edna Bryan, I entered a citation for her birth certificate on the Parents line of her Edit Person screen in RM. For the fourth child Willie Bryan, I went into her Edit Person screen in RM to enter a citation for her birth certificate only to discover that the citation for Edna Bryan’s birth certificate was already there. And it was already there because Edna’s citation was not really for Edna. Rather, the citation was for this abstract and amorphous thing called a “family”. And when I added a citation for Willie’s birth certificate and then went back to Edna’s Edit Person screen, I could see the citations for both Edna and Willie’s birth certificate.

I’m just a simple country boy, but I think this data model is terrible. Edna’s birth certificate should be for Edna and Willie’s birth certificate should be for Willie. But it’s too late to change the data model and then to get the GEDCOM standard changed and and then to get all the genealogy software in the world changed to work with the new data model. Well, itself seems to be an exception in that it doesn’t seem to use the same model because it doesn’t seem to have this abstract and amorphous concept of a “family”. And the fact that it doesn’t seem to use the same model sometimes seems to wreak havoc with TreeShare when a Marriage fact is added to couple in RM and is not propagated properly into or vice versa.

Since I’m already on my soapbox, another place that I encountered this terrible data model was on the application form to become a member of the First Families of Tennessee. It’s like many other such organizations where membership is based on descent from some sort of distinguished ancestor or ancestors. In this case, the ancestors had to be already be living in Tennessee when Tennessee was admitted to the union in 1796. On the form, was a chart with two columns to be filled in. the first column was a list of names - the applicant’s lineage, beginning with the distinguished ancestor and ending with the applicant. Let me list just three of my generations.

Thomas Bryan
Peter H. Bryan
Will Bryan

The best evidence that Thomas Bryan and Peter H. Bryan were father and son is Thomas’s will which lists Peter as his son. The best evidence that Peter H. Bryan and Will Bryan were father and son is Will’s death certificate that lists Peter as his father. So I have three people and two documents, and I have to have have a document listed beside each name. As a math and computer nerd and somewhat of an expert in data structures, I think this is absurd. Nothing should be beside any of the names. Instead, Thomas’s will should be between Thomas and Peter. Similarly, Will’s death certificate should be between Peter and Will, viz.

Thomas Bryan
      will of Thomas Bryan
Peter H. Bryan
      death certificate of Will Bryan
Will Bryan

But that’s not the way the application form for First Families of Tennessee works, and to this day I don’t know how to fill out the form. To me, it’s the same problem as not having a proper place in RM or most any genealogy software to enter citations for the birth certificates of Edna Bryan and Willie Bryan to show that they were daughters of Harley Bryan and Nannie Harrison.

Great Job @thejerrybryan with the video and explanation-- @emkaysmith --Jerry ( I believe ) likes to use the Descendant view–I prefer the Family View-- which is okay…

When in Family View do NOT use ADD PARENT BOX on the Person’s page–rather go to the Parents and ADD CHILD-- either using new or existing person…
AND NEVER NEVER EVER use ADD PARENT BOX in the PEDIGREE VIEW-- it will create a new family even when using EXISTING PERSON…

I totally agree that those Add Father and Add Mother boxes are the chief cause of users having this problem of parents and children being linked incorrectly. Use of the boxes makes it very easy to create extra and unnecessary families by accident. The extra and unnecessary families are then hard to straighten out. The Add Father and Add Mother boxes can be a great convenience and I’m not sure I would advocate for getting rid of them. But they sure can be a land mine sometimes.

Also, I certainly support users taking advantage of whatever view or views work best for them. Just because I use Descendant View for certain things and Family View for other things doesn’t mean that’s they way everybody should be doing it. I suspect that many users try Descendant View using the default of 7 generations and find it not very useful. For most purposes, I usually find Descendant View most useful when it is set to 2 generations or 3 generations at the most. I think it should default to 3 generations instead of defaulting to 7 generations. In any case, I advocate that you use whatever views in whatever combination works best for you.

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