Terry's TMG Tips

Copying or Moving People Between Data Sets

This page updated 31 Jan 2006

Version note: Applies to TMG 8 & 9

In TMG Projects may contain many separate Data Sets, you can copy or move people from one Data Set in a Project to another (for help understanding Projects and Data Sets, see my article on Projects and Data Sets). The two operations are very similar, with the obvious difference that when you use Copy, the person(s) will remain in both Data Sets, but when you use Move, the person(s) will be removed from the "source" Data Set and remain only in the "target" Data Set.

Topics Included in this Article
Copy the Whole Group
Why it is important to copy everyone at one time
Tag Issues
How customized and custom Tag Types are treated
Source Issues
How Sources are treated
History Tags
History Tags not included
Selecting the People
How to select the people to be copied
Drag and Drop
Using "drag and drop"
Why Not Use Move?
Why Move Person(s) is a bad idea
Deleting Groups of People
Except to delete groups of people at one time

Caution: I highly recommend that you not use the Move Person(s) feature unless you are very sure of what you are doing. It is very easy to destroy information with this feature that cannot be recovered except from a backup, or by re-importing the Data Set, if possible.(See the note below for why I say this.) Use the Copy Person(s) feature instead.

Because of my strong conviction that the Move People feature is generally too risky to use, most of the rest of this article focuses on only the Copy People feature. I expect most of what's here also applies to Move, but I haven't tested Move enough to be confident I know all the differences.

When you Copy people between Data Sets TMG must undertake a highly complex process accounting for copying not only the person with all their attached Tags and Sources, but also deal with potentially dissimilar Tag Types, Source definitions, Source Types, and Source Elements, among other issues. The user is more likely to obtain the intended result if he or she has a working understanding of some of the issues involved.

Some of the most significant considerations are discussed in the following sections. The extent to which these issues impact a specific situation depends mostly on the complexity of the data being copied. Copying people from a Data Set created by importing a simple GEDCOM file with no sources will create few issues. By contrast, copying people from a TMG Data Set in which extensive use has been made of TMG's advanced customization features will offer the most complications.

Copy the Whole Group at One Time

You can Copy one person at a time, or any size group. But whenever possible, you should include all of the "related" people you want to copy in a single operation. By "related" I mean any people linked by parent/child links, by marriage, by appearing in another joint Tag, or by appearing as a witness on shared Tags. It is important to copy the whole related group at one time because links between members if the group are maintained, but links to those not in the group are destroyed. Specifically, the following occur:

Once the links described above are broken by the copy operation, they can only be restored manually. Copying a "missing" spouse, for example, will not result in connecting both back to the Marriage Tag. You will have to make that connection yourself.

Custom and Customized Tag Issues

When you copy people, all the Tags associated with those people are copied into the target Data Set (unless you specify certain types not to be included by un-checking options on the "Data Types to Include" tab of the Copy Person screen, or fail to include key people in the Tag, as described above). However the results of copying those Tags may vary depending on any customization that was done to the Tag Types involved.

Both the source and target Data Set may contain standard Tag Types that have been customized by changing the Sentence Structures or adding Roles. They may contain some custom Tag Types as well. And of course, the customizations to these Tag Types in the two Data Sets may be different. When you copy people TMG will copy any Tag Types from the source Data Set only when there is no Tag Type of the same name in the target Data Set. Therefore no standard Tag Types will be copied, and custom Tag Types will only be copied if there is not a custom Tag Type of the same name in the target Data Set.

As a result, when there are customizations to Tag Types in the source Data Set that are different from those in the target, those customizations will be lost during the copy operation. This means that any custom Roles that exist in the source Data Set but not in the target Data Set may be lost.

Note that this discussion applies to customization to Tag Types – that is, changes to the "default" Sentence Structures. Customization made to individual Tags will be copied to the target Data Set.

Source Issues

Sources associated with any Tags copied are also copied. All of the data associated with the Source definition will be copied, but the associated templates, and hence the source notes produced, may be altered significantly. Exactly what happens depends on a number of factors.

If the templates have been customized in an individual Source definition, those customized templates are copied without change. But Source definitions using default templates may be changed, depending on the Source Categories used by the source and target Data Sets, and whether the templates in either or both have been customized.

If the Evidence (Mills) or Cite Your Sources (Lackey) categories are used in the Project, and the templates on the Source Types used have been modified in either Data Set, the templates in the target Data Set will apply after the Source is copied. But if the Custom Category is used, the Source Types used by the copied citations will be copied to the target Data Set and will be applied to the copied Sources. If the copied Source Type has the same name as an existing Source Type, a number will be appended to the copy to distinguish it from the original.

If you make more than one copy operation, and are using the the Custom Source Category, you will find that any Sources and Source Types referenced by copied Sources will be copied separately for each operation. You can see any multiple copies that result in the Master Source List and Source Types screen, where they will have the same names with different numbers at the end. If you wish to merge the duplicates (after verifying that they really are duplicates) you can do so with the following procedure:

Backup Project – Always make a backup of your Project before doing a major change such as this.

Sources – In the Master Source List, find the first set of duplicates and note the source number of the copy you want to keep. Then select one of the extra copies, and click the Merge button. In the Merge Sources screen, enter the source number of the copy you want to keep in the lower box and click OK. Repeat for all other extra copies of that Source, then start the same process for the next set of duplicates.

Source Types – In the Source Types screen, select the one copy from the first set of duplicates, and mark it as Primary by clicking on the Primary. Next, delete the duplicates of that Source Type – all Sources using them will be transferred to the Source Type you marked as "Primary." If there are other sets, mark one of the next set Primary, and repeat the operation.

You can avoid all this merging if you are able to copy all the people you want to copy in a single operation, or at least minimize it by using as few separate operations as possible.

History Tags

History tags are never copied.

Selecting the People to be Copied

There are two ways to select the people to be copied. You can select them in the Project Explorer, or collect them in a Focus Group. In general, I recommend using the Focus Group. I do so because, as discussed above in detail, it is important to copy at least all linked people at one time. Also, to reduce the problem with duplicate source items, preferably all people should be copied in one pass. Unless you intend to copy only a few people, selecting them in the Project Explorer is tedious and error prone. It is easy to miss some people, or to make a wrong click and accidentally un-select those previously selected.

Using the Focus Group allows you to see the list of those who will be included. If you have a lot of people to copy, you can set an Accent to show who is already in the Focus Group, allowing you to use the various views in the Detail, Children, and Siblings window to check for missing people. The easy way to add people is to right-click on them in one of those views and choose "Add this person to the Focus Group." You can also use the "Add Others" feature in the Focus Group screen to add Ancestors, Descendants, and/or Spouses of those already included.

After you have all the desired people selected, use the Add > Copy Persons menu to bring up the Copy Person screen, and complete the copy operation.

Drag and Drop

It is possible to use "drag and drop" to copy or move people. While this may be useful to copy a single person within a Data Set (to make a clone of that person), when it comes to copying between Data Sets, my recommendation, in a word, is to "forget about it." (OK, that's three words.) If you want to know why I say this, see my notes on Drag & Drop.

I recommend just using the Add > Copy Person(s) menu command instead.

Why Not Use Move?

For those that want to know why I so strongly recommend not using the Move People feature, here is the essence of the problem: When you move a person or group of people, all links between the moved group and those left behind are lost, not only in the target Data Set, but also in the source Data Set. This includes parent/child links, marriages, and more subtle links like witness appearances. In addition, customizations to Tag Types, such as custom Sentence Structures and Roles, are in many cases lost. Similarly, customized Source Types and other source information can be lost. As explained in more detail above, similar loses can also occur with the Copy People feature. But if you use Copy, the original information remains in the Source Data Set, so you can refer back to it and reconstruct the lost elements. If Move is used, the information is removed from the Source Data Set, and the only way to refer to it is if you have a backup copy available, or can re-import the Data Set from an original source.

Deleting Groups of People

Sometimes one wants to delete a whole line of people at once – perhaps a line imported from someone else's data. But for safety, TMG allows you to only delete people with no relationship tags. That makes a long task of deleting a long line of related people. It's said that every rule has an exception, and this is the exception to my "rule" to never use the Move Person(s) feature. You can easily "delete" a whole line by moving everyone to a separate Data Set, then delete that Data Set. In step-by-step form:


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