NOTE: This post deals with a situation limited to those who have legacy or gateway individuals in their ancestry. If your ancestry includes people who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1830 and 1900, you may very well encounter this type of challenge. If your family has more recent membership or none at all, you will not likely see any of these problems.
Some of the entries in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree have duplicates that cannot be merged at this time. These entries are usually those who are classified as Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUSs). One of these is my Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner. He presently has two very prominently displayed duplicates. Here is a screenshot showing the two duplicate entries:
These two obvious duplicates cannot be merged at this time. This situation is caused by the fact that all of the information from new.FamilySearch.org has yet to be moved into Family Tree. This situation is likely to exist well into 2016. Here is a screenshot showing the warning that these two Sidney Tanners cannot be merged at this time:
The problem is that people are constantly adding information and making changes to both of these duplicate individuals. Let me say that again. There are people adding content to both of these individuals who are the SAME PERSON. They cannot be merged. When FamilySearch finally transfers all the information from new.FamilySearch.org, which of these duplicate individuals will survive? Which of the duplicate individuals will retain all the sources and other information added to each? What if the person undertaking to merge the two makes wrong choices about what information survives the merger and what does not?
I need to emphasize that these two duplicate individuals in the Family Tree have each been extensively modified. They both have sources, notes, additional information and discussion material. One of them happens to be missing the wife and children of the line I come through. Because they both appear with the same father, in this case, they do not each start their own pedigree. But there is another issue here.
Let's take this another step, what if I do a Find for Sidney Tanner? I find at least 13 people in the Family Tree named Sidney Tanner without an additional middle name. But fortunately, at this point, I only find the two Sidney Tanners showing in the John Tanner family group. Are there more out there?
For this step, I use the RootsMagic program for a more in depth search of the Family Tree data. I find that there are two Sidney Tanner's that appear with the same Person Identifier Number; KWJ6-DZX. RootsMagic cannot solve the merge problem.
The solution, for now, is to make sure that the copies of the person that cannot be merged contain the same information. Then, no matter which of the copies survives, all of the contributed information will also survive.
In recent statements, FamilySearch has stated that they will not be addressing this problem until after new.FamilySearch.org program is finally taken down and is no longer online at all. See FamilySearch Announces Milestones for Retirement of new.FamilySearch.org. Read what is said carefully and you will see that they are saying the issue with "gateway or IOUS" ancestors will not be addressed until after new.FamilySearch.org is taken down.