Features of the Merge/Compare Dialog

The Merge/Compare dialog is used for Basic Record Merging, Branch Merging and File Merging. It is also used for comparing records, files and branches.

The dialog has some similarities to the Records Window. Like the Records Window, it displays record information, with one tab per record type. However, there is no facility to hide record types.

In File Merging, the dialog will display a tab for a record type if and only if that record type occurs in at least one of the 2 files. If there are no Source records in either file, for example, there will be no Source record tab in the Merge/Compare dialog.

In Basic Record Merging the dialog will display only one tab - for the record type of the 2 records being merged (they will always be the same type).

In Branch Merging, the dialog will display one tab for each type of record being merged. By definition, if it is a Branch Merge, this will mean that it will display 2 record types: one for Individuals and one for Families.

Each tab of the Merge/Compare dialog has 3 panes. These are:

When doing a File Merge, the “Merge Into” pane will simply be labelled “Current Records”, and the “Merge From” pane will be labelled “New Records”.

If you scroll any of these panes vertically, or expand any of the records in the Merge Into or Merge From panes, you will find that they all move together. You should think of each row as extending across all 3 panes.

Each row will display a record (or field, if you 'expand' the record) in either the Merge Into pane, the Merge From pane or both. When doing a file merge, the records in the Merge Into pane belong to the current file, and the records in the Merge From pane belong to the file you selected to compare (and possibly merge) with the current one.

With File Merge/Compare only, it can happen that a row displays a record in one pane only. This means that the record is considered to have no equivalent in the other file. In all 3 types of Merge/Compare, if a given row displays a record in both the Merge Into pane and in the Merge From pane, this means that the 2 records have been 'matched' and are considered to be equivalents. Records in the same row will be merged, if you opt to execute a merge.

As with the Records Window, you can view the contents of a record by clicking on the box next to it, to 'expand' it. Where you have a match between 2 records, some or all of the fields belonging to the records may also match. Again, fields on the same row are deemed to be equivalents and will be merged. Fields which occur in one pane only, are deemed to have no equivalent in the matching record.

Do not be surprised if the details in the 2 panes do not appear to be quite the same, even when records or fields are matched. For example, a record for "John Smith", might be matched with "John Francis Smith". Greater discrepancies are possible.

File Merge: How Family Historian Compares the Files

When you click on “Merge/Compare File…” you have to select a file to compare with the current one. Before the Merge/Compare dialog is first opened, Family Historian will compare the 2 files (the new one and the current one) and decide which records it believes to be equivalent (and therefore, candidates to be merged). It will assume that any unmatched records in the Current file should be retained, and that any unmatched records in the New file should be added to the Current file.

In deciding whether 2 records match or not, Family Historian will assign a score to a match. If the score is greater than 0, Family Historian will treat the 2 records as matched (as long as it doesn't find better scoring matches for either of the records).

When Family Historian has matched 2 records, it will also decide which fields within the 2 records also match. Fields in Gedcom are hierarchical. If 2 fields match, it does not necessarily follow that the child fields of these 2 fields also match. There is no score for field matches.

Family Historian will always try to retain as much information as possible. If 2 fields (within matching records) do not match, Family Historian will try to retain both of them. This is not always possible. In a few rare cases, Gedcom limits the number of instances of a given field within a record (for example, you can only have one 'husband' field, in a Family record). Where one field has to be discarded, because it is not valid to retain both, Family Historian will always flag the field from the New file as the one to be discarded.

File Merge: Checking and Manually Overriding Family Historian

In a File Merge/Compare, as we have seen, Family Historian starts by comparing the 2 files involved and deciding which records are equivalents. When Family Historian has completed its own analysis, and finished comparing the 2 files, the Merge/Compare dialog is displayed. At this point, no merging of any kind has taken place. If the dialog is cancelled, no changes will have yet been made to the Current file (the New file is never affected by the Merge process).

If you are planning to use the Merge/Compare dialog to merge the New file into the Current file (and, as stated earlier, you don't have to - you can just use the Merge/Compare dialog for comparison purposes if you prefer), you are recommended to check the results of Family Historian's comparisons. Given the nature of the items being compared, there is no way to guarantee that Family Historian has got it right. Even if it correctly matches 2 records, you may nevertheless disapprove of the way it has chosen to match the fields within the records.

As mentioned before, Family Historian uses a match 'score' as the basis for deciding whether 2 records match or not. This score is displayed in the Information pane. Low-scoring matches (say, under 100), should be considered a priority when it comes to checking.

Tip: Click on the 'Score' column heading in the Information pane to sort all records, based on score. This will make it much easier to find low-scoring matches.

If you consider that 2 records have been wrongly matched, you can 'Unmatch' them by selecting either or both, and clicking on the 'Unmatch' button.

Equally, in a File Merge/Compare, if you consider that 2 records should be matched, which haven't been, you select both (click on one record in one pane, and then press the Ctrl key while clicking on the other in the other pane, to prevent the first record being unselected), and then click on 'Match'.

You can discard records from either the New file or the Current file by selecting them and clicking 'Discard'.

Finally, if a record has been flagged to be discarded, you can reverse this decision by selecting it, and clicking on 'Retain'.

None of these actions intiate the merge process, and no changes are made to any records until the merge process has been initiated. When you click on 'Discard' for example, you do not actually discard the selected record. Instead you flag that record to be discarded when the merge occurs.

Single and Multiple Selection in the Merge/Compare Dialog

Depending on what you are doing, you may need to select a row in the Information pane, in the Merge Into pane, or in the Merge From pane. Although you can only select one item at a time in the Merge Into pane and the Merge From pane, the Information pane supports multiple selection. This is very useful if, for example, you wish to unmatch all records of a particular type. You can simply select all rows in the Information pane, and click on 'Unmatch' to unmatch all of them. Family Historian will warn you if some of the rows were not previously matched that it will ignore those rows. You can only unmatch all records in a File Merge. You would not be allowed to unmatch all the records in a Basic Record or Branch Merge.

To select multiple rows in the Information pane you use the standard techniques that you use for multiple selection in Windows Explorer, and other applications. You can, for example, click on the first row and then press the shift key while clicking on the last row, to select all rows in between. Or you can click and drag a stretchy box to 'lasso' a group of rows. The Information pane has multiple columns, and as with most multi-column lists in Windows, it is actually only the first column that is selectable.

The Information pane

Has 8 columns - you may have to scroll sideways to view them all. The columns are:

Column Description
Action What will happen to that row's Record or Field if you Merge. The possible values for this column are described in the "Merge Actions" table below.
Match

Only applies to records or fields which have been matched. Can take the following values:

All When used with a pair of records, this means that all fields in the records have been matched. When used with a pair of fields it means that the fields and all of their child fields (if any) have been matched.
Subset When used with a pair of records, this means that all fields in the right-side record have been matched. When used with a pair of fields it means that the right-side field and all of its child fields (if any) have been matched.

Some left-side fields/child fields have not been matched.

No fields have been discarded on either side.

Discards Indicates that some fields or child fields have been discarded on one side or the other.

Note: Family Historian will never flag any Merge Into fields (or records) to be discarded. If you want fields or records in the Merge Into pane to be discarded, you must flag them as such yourself, using the Discard button.

Compatible There are differences between the left- side record or field and the right-side one (including some fields on the right- side, which are not matched); but no fields have been flagged to be discarded on either side.
Score Only applies to records which have been matched. The Score indicates how confident Family Historian is that the records match. Family Historian will create a match for any 2 records that it scores above 0; however, the higher the score, the greater the confidence. Any score less than 100 should be checked.

If you manually match 2 records, negative scores are possible.

L+ 'L' is for Left - i.e. it refers to the Merge Into pane, which is to the left of the Merge From pane.

'L+' flags the presence of data that is present on the left-side (the Merge Into pane), but not on the right-side (the Merge From pane) - and which has not been flagged to be discarded. This may mean the record itself (if it is an unmatched Current File record), or some field somewhere within it (if it is matched).

If you expand a record that has a 'Y' in the L+ column, you will find at least one field where the 'Action' value is 'Keep' (tip: double-click on a record or field to fully expand it).

The only possible values for this column are 'Y' or blank.

L- Flags the presence of data that has been flagged to be discarded on the left-side (the Merge Into pane). This may mean the record itself or some field somewhere within it.

If you expand a record that has a 'Y' in the L- column, you will find at least one field where the 'Action' value is '* Delete *'.

The only possible values for this column are 'Y' or blank.

R+ 'R' is for Right - i.e. it refers to the Merge From pane, which is to the right of the Merge Into pane.

'R+' flags the presence of data that is present on the right- side (the Merge From pane), but not on the left-side (the Merge Into pane) - and which has not been flagged to be discarded. This may mean the record itself (if it is an unmatched New File record), or some field somewhere within it (if it is matched).

If you expand a record that has a 'Y' in the R+ column, you will find at least one field where the 'Action' value is '* Add *'.

The only possible values for this column are 'Y' or blank.

R- Flags the presence of data that has been flagged to be discarded on the right-side (the Merge From pane). This may mean the record itself or some field somewhere within it.

If you expand a record that has a 'Y' in the R- column, you will find at least one field where the 'Action' value is 'Discard'.

The only possible values for this column are 'Y' or blank.

Chk This column is entirely for the convenience of the user. If you flag a row as 'Checked' or 'Unchecked' it will set or clear this flag. That way, you can methodically check each record if you wish to, and use this flag to remind yourself which records you have checked and which you haven't.

If any records are unchecked when you click on 'Merge...', you will get a warning message to that effect, which you can safely ignore if you wish to.

Merge Actions

The actions that will be performed when you execute the Merge Process, are listed in the Action column of the Information pane. The possible values and their meanings are given in the table below:

Value Meaning
Null Merge Only applies to matched records or fields. Indicates that the items will be merged, but that the nature of the 'merge' is such that it has no effect at all on the Merge Into record. This could happen, perhaps, because the 2 records or fields are absolutely identical; so no changes are needed. It could also be that there are fields in the Merge From record, which are not present in the Merge Into record, but the user has chosen to flag them all to be discarded. Or, again, it could be that the Merge From file record is a subset of the Merge Into record, and adds nothing to it.
* Merge * Only applies to matched records or fields. Indicates that the items will be merged, and that, unlike the 'Null Merge' case, this will result in some change to the Merge Into record. The presence of the asterisks indicates that this action will result in a change to the current file.
Keep Only applies to unmatched Merge Into records or fields. Indicates that the record or field will be kept, and not deleted or merged, during the Merge process.
* Delete * Only applies to unmatched Merge Into records or fields. Indicates that the record or field has been flagged to be discarded, and will be deleted during the Merge process. The presence of the asterisks indicates that this action will result in a change to the current file.

Records can only be flagged to be discarded in a File Merge, and not also in a Basic Record or Branch Merge.

* Add * Only applies to unmatched Merge From fields and records. In the case of fields, it indicates that the field will be added to the Merge Into record during the Merge process.

In a File Merge only, it can also apply to Merge From records, and it indicates that the record will be added to the current file during the Merge process. The presence of the asterisks indicates that this action will result in a change to the current file.

Discard Only applies to unmatched Merge From fields or records. In the case of fields, It indicates that the field has been flagged to be discarded, and will be ignored during the Merge process.

In a File Merge only, it can also apply to Merge From records, and in this case, it simply indicates that the record will not be added to the current file during the Merge process.

Dialog Commands

Button Effect
Match Manual override, to indicate that 2 records or fields are equivalent (and should be merged, as part of the Merge process). Requires one record or field to be selected in the Merge Into pane, and one in the Merge From pane. You can only match fields if their parents are already matched. You can only match records if they are of the same type.

Tip: click on one record in one pane, and then press the Ctrl key while clicking on the other in the other pane, to prevent the first record being unselected.

Unmatch Manual override, to indicate that 2 records or fields are not equivalent (and should not be merged, as part of the Merge process). You can use multiple selection in the Information pane to do this, or single selection in either the Merge Into or Merge From panes.

If you unmatch 2 records as part of a branch merge, all records matched after those 2 records will also be unmatched. And all the unmatched records will be removed from the Merge From and Merge Into panes. This does not happen with a file merge.

Retain Manual override, to indicate that records or fields, previously flagged as 'discarded' should not be discarded after all. You can use multiple selection in the Information pane to do this, or single selection in either the Merge Into or Merge From panes.
Discard You can discard fields in all merge types, but you can only discard records in a file merge.

This is a manual override, to indicate that the selected records or fields should be 'discarded' as part of the Merge process. 'Discarding' a New File record or field in a file merge does not result in changes to the Current file. It simply means that the 'discarded' record or field should be ignored when the Merge process occurs. Discarding a record or field in the Current file (again, in a file merge) is a more significant action, as it will result in the record or field being deleted from the current file when the Merge process takes place.

You can use multiple selection in the Information pane, to flag a group of records to be discarded. However, if the selection includes any matched records, these will not be discarded. You should unmatch them first.

Check Sets the 'Chk' flag. See discussion of this flag in the The Information pane section above.

You can use single selection in either of the File panes, or multiple selection in the Information pane, to do this.

Uncheck Unsets the 'Chk' flag.

You can use single selection in either of the File panes, or multiple selection in the Information pane, to do this.

Go To Similar to the "Go To Record" facility in the application toolbar. Will jump you to the record details for a given record, referenced elsewhere. For example, if in a file merge you see a link to a Family record in an Individual record, if you select the Family record and click on 'Go To', the Merge/Compare dialog will switch to the Family record tab, and the selected record will be displayed.

Requires a record selection (usually in the right-hand column) in either the New or Merge Into pane.

Is primarily for use with file merges. Is not usually useful with Branch Merges.

Merge Initiates the Merge Process (see below). If some records have not been flagged as 'checked', a message will warn you of this.

Before the Merge Process is started, you will be given the opportunity, if you wish to do so, to create a new Source record, to represent the file being merged (the 'New' file), and to link changes to this file.

Cancel Closes the dialog, without changing the current file in any way.
Help Opens this Help window.

The Merging Process

If you understand what the Merge/Compare dialog is showing you, you can see from it exactly what the outcome of a Merge will be, if you do one. There are a few possible areas of confusion, however.

The first thing to be clear about is that the direction of the merge is from the Merge From pane on the right into the Merge Into pane in the centre (or from the New file, into the Current file in a file merge).

In a file merge, the New file's contents are merged into the Current. The New file itself is left untouched after the merge.

Where 2 fields are flagged to be merged, the 'merging' process only affects which child fields (on either side) are added or deleted. There is no actual updating of field values as such. To illustrate this, imagine that you match a pair of Name fields within a matching pair of records. The Current File name value let us say is 'John Smith' and the New File name value is 'Jonathan Smith'. Family Historian would not have matched these 2 fields, but you can do it ‘manually’. What will you get as the name value after the merge? The answer is: "John Smith". Merging never occurs at the level of field values as such. To make this clearer, Family Historian will display “Jonathan Smith” crossed out to show that this value will not be retained. Instead of matching 2 fields which were in fact different, you probably should have kept them separate. If you were convinced that the new information ("Jonathan Smith") was correct, you could if you wanted to, have simply flagged the Name field in the Current record to be discarded. Or you could have flagged the name field in the New record to be discarded, if you thought that was wrong. Or, if in doubt, you could have kept both.

A Note on Header Records

Header records are not treated like other records. The Header record for the New file is always discarded, and the Header record for the current record is always retained. You cannot override this.

 

Tip: The Merge/Compare dialog is resizable. Click on an edge and drag to make it bigger. You cannot make it any smaller than its initial size. Click on the Maximize button to make it fill the screen.

Tip: You can sort records in a variety of different ways, and it is likely to be useful to do so. Click on any column in any of the 3 panes, to sort all records based on that column's values.

Tip: The Information pane supports multiple selection. Don't forget to use it! Sort first, if it makes it easier to see what you're doing (see previous tip).

Tip: The action column in the Information pane makes it easy to see which rows will result in changes to the Current file in a file merge. Any action which will change the current file, has asterisks before and after the action word, and, when applied to records, is displayed in boldface. So, for example, '* Merge *', '* Add *', and '* Delete *' will all be in bold, whereas 'Null Merge', 'Retain' and 'Discard' are not - because none of the latter will result in changes. Sort on the Action column to group together all rows where the action begins with an asterisk.

Tip: If, in a file merge, you want to group all unmatched New File records together, click on the left column heading of the Merge Into pane. Unmatched New File records will be listed after all matched New File records. The same technique works in reverse with Current File records.

Tip: If you have a large file, you may not want to merge it all in one session. In that case, make a copy of the file and use "Split Tree Helper: Delete Unwanted Records" to delete any records you are definitely not interested in. Then merge the resulting file over several sessions. During each session, check as many files as you have time for, and discard all the New File records that you don't have time to check. In the next session, merge the same file again. This time you should have considerably more 'Null Merges' than you had the first time. Repeat as necessary. You may not end up with nothing but 'Null Merges', but you should find in practice that the merging process gets simpler each time, until you can finish it in one session.

The CHM file was converted to HTML by chm2web software.