Some months ago, this question Who were the children of Jacob Fisher and Sarah Hodges? was asked, closed and not re-opened after a meta-discussion about how it could be improved, although it had two answers, one of which (wholly coincidentally) answers the question in its final form (by listing the children asked about). The question was then deleted at the OP's request.

Yesterday this question was asked by the same OP: Jacob Fisher and Sarah Hodges (married in 1773 in Sharon, MA) - who were their childen?.

Should I have closed it as a duplicate and offered (as I did) to re-open the original one edited to match the new one?

Or should I have done something else?

My reasoning for doing what I did:

  • Two people put significant effort into answering the original question and ought to have that work recognised and visible.

  • Nobody should have to repeat the work that had already been done when answering the original question, although they might choose to build on it.

  • The OP may not have realised it was possible to resuscitate a deleted question.

  • Leaving the new question open sets a dangerous precedent -- if the community has decided to close a question, in what circumstances is it right to re-ask it in almost exactly the same words?

However, there may be a better solution that balances the interests of the OP, those who answered the original question and the site as a whole, and I'd be delighted to hear it.

ETA: At the suggestion of jmort253, I've merged the old question into the new.

  • The link you refer to isn't the original question. It's the modified question that the community did not reopen. I thought it was different enough from original question that I reasked (probably what I should have done the first time instead of editing since it seems impossible to get questions reopened and that isn't just a genealogy problem).
    – Duncan
    May 4, 2013 at 22:27
  • @Duncan, unfortunately duplicates are judged against current wording of Qs, not any previous iterations. Yes, perhaps it would have been better to ask the completely different question in the first place, but we're all still learning.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 14:04

3 Answers 3


In general, we shouldn't delete posts with upvoted answers. Closing a question is okay, but deleting should generally be reserved for cases where the post has no value. This was of course a special case, one that now has an impact today.

It's possible the user who reposted the question didn't know the original could be recovered. In general, a user should edit his or her existing closed posts to try and improve them instead of reposting them. Reposting simply creates noise and confusion, and this is generally frowned upon on Stack Exchange.

I'd suggest deleting the new duplicate, and then leaving a comment on the original closed post to encourage the author to edit the post and make it fit the guidelines of the site, then flag it for reopening or discuss the issue in chat to try and round up some reopen voters.

Of course, if the scope of the site has indeed changed since the original question was posted, as a moderator, you can of course decide to reopen it yourself. If that goes against the wishes of the community, then it only takes 5 more close votes to close it again.

  • The OP (me) requested deletion. I believe you should always be alowed to delete your own content, particularly when it appears to cause controversy. I tried to address the complaints that caused the question to be closed, but it was not reopened, so I didn't want the new form misinterpreted (since it was the orginial form that was closed). I reasked the question because it was not in original form (the one that was closed) and I thought the group might be more ameniable now.
    – Duncan
    May 4, 2013 at 22:23
  • 1
    Hi @Duncan, I won't disagree 100% in this case, as it was a special circumstance. But I've seen cases where people delete their question after they get their answer, rendering those answers useless to future visitors and taking advantage of the community. However, in this case, the best approach is to utilize the existing work you, and others, have already done on that question. It sounds like the moderators are willing to reopen it, so you have an opportunity to preserve the time and energy you, and others, have already invested.
    – jmort253
    May 4, 2013 at 22:28
  • @Duncan I also have a concern when somebody is allowed to delete other people's content, as you did (2 answers). I understand why you did it, but I'm not sure why your content was more important than theirs.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 14:12
  • The new question is IMO absolutely fine for the site, except for the duplicate issue, but I thought that about the amended old question as well.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 14:13

I'm seeing a viable option here. Bear in mind that:

  1. There is no reason IMO to close the new question as worded except that it's a duplicate that's already answered.
  2. My preference is to end up with a single version of the question about the children open, and the answers provided to the original question preserved.

Possible solution:

(a) Revert the original question to the very first wording:

I am descended from Jacob Fisher (1776-1820). The Sharon, Massachusetts Vital Records show he was the son of Jacob Fisher and Sarah Hodges (her maiden name comes from this marriage record).

I am looking for any information anyone has on either Jacob Fisher (his birthdate/place, his deathdate/place, his parents) or Sarah Hodges (ditto). I am also interested in any other children of Jacob and Sarah.

and leave it closed but not deleted. This has the advantage of making it very clear why the original was closed as NARQ ("looking for any information") as well as preserving the answers that were given before the question was closed and edited.

(b) re-open the new question, reworded slightly to explain why the info given in an answer to the original question (see below) isn't sufficient or needs more supporting sources:

Various details about this Sarah (Hodges) Fisher including details about her children: Jacob, Betsey, Sarah, Spencer, Abner, Thomas and Hannah.

  • 2
    Keep in mind that you can always merge the answers the other direction. Merge them into the new post. I can't imagine why it would be helpful to have two separate posts from the same user that ask the same thing more or less. The other issue with having two duplicate posts from the same users is that you now have a situation where the op can gain twice the amount of upvotes for what is essentially the same post. Merging the answers into whatever post the op prefers seems like a nice way to meet in the middle.
    – jmort253
    May 5, 2013 at 17:06
  • @jmort253 Reverting to the original of the first question would make them somewhat distinct, and all the answers to the first question don't focus specifically on the children. I'd love to merge, but at least one of the answers doesn't address the children at all -- is it possible to selectively merge?
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 17:16
  • However, if @Duncan picks a preferred post, I will merge into that -- life is too short to stuff mushrooms (if you were a British woman of my age, you'd recognise the reference).
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 17:17
  • I would like to have some clarity that the original question was closed for being way to vague, which isn't obvious at present.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 17:18
  • They both look like good questions to me. (I'll google the mushroom reference :) )
    – jmort253
    May 5, 2013 at 17:20
  • @jmort253 good questions or good answers? If you think both answers fit, I'll merge into the new post.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 17:22
  • I've reread both answers and the questions several times. They provide a lot of information, but I'm just not clear if Duncan was able to use it to connect the dots and find the final answer he was looking for. It seems to me that the question -- the same in both cases -- is who are the children. Both answers mention who the children are, so it appears like both answers answer the question. Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    May 5, 2013 at 17:50
  • @jmort253 I'll go ahead and merge the old into the new. Hopefully, Duncan can then make use of it and any other answer he gets.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 17:55
  • @ColeValleyGirl I had no idea that merging was possible. Excellent solution!
    – user47
    May 6, 2013 at 3:20

I am the OP. I did know it could be recovered. I tried unsuccessfully to get it reopend several months ago. At the time, I edited the question to try to address some of the issues. One issue with reopening is the comments don't make as much sense wrt to the edited question. That was one reason I requested it be deleted. The other reason I requested it be deleted is because it sent a very wrong message in my opinion (the one currently being sent) - that the question as worded 'is not a real question'. Maybe the original wording wasn't, but I feel the current wording is a valid question.

There were several issues with the original wording that got closed. Note it was closed 'as not a real question' AFTER the valid answers mentioned above (which seems contradictory to me). I believe the newly worded question addresses all of them other than the issue of whether specific ancestors is 'too narrow' and is valuable to too few people. I was hoping the group would allow a more liberal interpretation and now allow the question.

If the issue is the majority of members feel this question as worded 'is not a real question', then I agree it's a duplicate and should be closed. If however, we are considering 'narrow' questions about a specific ancestor then I would hope that it could remain. I believe the new question is cleaner than reopening the old question which contains byplay on whether I'm descended from this person or not (which I feel is immaterial to this specific question - I'm interested in these particular facts, why doesn't matter). But I'm fine with reopening the orignal (but the comments/answers should be cleaned up as well since some answers answer the orginail and not this question as worded).

  • 1
    If it's the case where you have some "hey! this is NARQ" comments on a post that is no longer NARQ, or if there's information in the comments you've addressed already, I suggest a comment cleanup may be in order. If any of those comments have been addressed in the post, you should flag them as "obsolete", and hopefully they can get removed.
    – jmort253
    May 4, 2013 at 22:41
  • @jmort253, the comments have already been cleaned up; I did it as soon as I undeleted the original question.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 14:14
  • And for absolute clarity, if questions about specific answers weren't allowed, quite a few of my own questions should have been closed. We have to allow questions about specific ancestors, as long as they're focused and not just 'cousin bait' (which is well served by a plethora of other genealogy sites and mailing lists).
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 14:36
  • Duncan, I've posted an answer which I hope is a way forward -- is it helpful?
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 15:18
  • @Duncan, I've merged the old question into the new.
    – user104
    May 5, 2013 at 18:05
  • @ColeValleyGirl - Thank you!
    – Duncan
    May 7, 2013 at 4:43

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