Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Some thoughts on duplicates in FamilySearch Family Tree

The guidebook called, Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (18 October 2013) LDS Version, at page 152 gives a number of specific reasons why merging duplicate entries in Family Tree may not be possible:
You cannot merge records in the following situations:
• The gender on one record is male, and the other is female.
• One record indicates the person is alive; the other is deceased.
• Both records come from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints.
• One of the records came from, where it has been combined
with too many other records.
• The duplicate record has already been deleted due to another merge.
• One of the records has restrictions that would prevent it from being changed.
Let me put this as concisely as I am able. Family Tree inherited thousands of duplicate entries from (NFS). Many of these duplicate entries exceeded an arbitrary limit of the number of combined entries allowed in NFS. Because the two programs have been using the same database, this arbitrary limit was imposed on Family Tree. Therefore, there are a huge number of duplicate entries in Family Tree which cannot be resolved. In fact, because of limitations in the find function used for the merge process (not the overall find function) many of these duplicates cannot be found even when both are showing on the screen at the same time. In short, merge does not yet fully work.

The merge function will work properly if none of the above criteria are present.

What are the results of the merge function's inoperability?

More duplicate Temple work.

In effect, with un-merged duplicates, one of the duplicate entries can show all of the Temple work completed and the other can show all of the Temple work available to be redone. The availability of the Temple work is shown by a "Green Arrow." You would think that users of the program would realize by now that famous people and their pioneer ancestors probably had all their Temple work done years ago, if it could be done at all. But, that is not the case. They still keep clicking on green arrows and redoing the work.

You might also suspect that FamilySearch would have some kind of notice out there that the merge function does not work. Guess what, you just read it above.

There is no stated time frame for when NFS and Family Tree will finally be separated completely and more of the merge functions start to work, but that will be the day I start cleaning up the existing entries on my ancestral lines. 


  1. At the time new.familysearch was launched I asked a church representative what the rate of duplication was in temple work. As a Family History Center staffer I was concerned about what I saw happening with submissions. He responded that the church estimated that 1/3 of all temple submissions were duplicates. This meant that in a temple that had been operating 15 years, 5 whole years of operation had been for duplicate ordinances. I have been assured that the rate of duplication has dropped significantly, but when I work on Family Tree and find multiple duplicate records that the program did not, and when I see some of family file cards coming through as a temple ordinance worker, I am not convinced.

    1. I have some of the same concerns. That is why I keep writing about the issue.

  2. I just received an email from FamilySearch today on this very topic. This is what it said:

    The duplicate individual, Nicolai /Sorensen, cannot be combined at this time because the files of one or both are too large. This is a rare case, but sometimes happens when many grandchildren of a common ancestor turned in information on this individual during the FAMILY HISTOR 5 GENERATION GROUP SHEET program. We may have tools sometime in then near future to combine files of this enormous size, but presently we do not have the tools to combine them.


    FamilySearch Data Administration

    1. I would take exception with the comment that this is a "rare" case.

  3. And you are correct that these two records don't show up under Possible Duplicates. You have to do a search to find the duplicate record.

    1. Thanks for your input. I have the same situation with my Great-great-grandfather. He shows as a duplicate but the program cannot merge the duplicates.