It is time to return to the issue of duplicates in the FamilySearch Family Tree. I've written on this issue several times in the past, but it still remains one of the most obvious problems with the full implementation of the Family Tree. In a nutshell, the issue is that the Family Tree is a compilation of a substantial portion of the contributed family history information about the ancestral families of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, because members of the Church have relatives who were not members, either because they were born before the Church was organized or because they never joined the Church, the Family Tree contains a broad spectrum of individuals both inside and outside of the Church membership.
Ignoring the method by which the individual entries were accumulated, it is easy to understand how duplicates originated. Despite efforts by the Church through the Genealogical Society of Utah and other organizations, the accumulated databases which contributed to the Family Tree contained a vast number of duplicate entries. The important thing to understand about these duplicates presently is that they exist in the Family Tree, no matter where they actually came from originally. Due to the fact that many of these duplicate entries were submitted as complete pedigrees and then included as complete pedigrees, the entries in the Family Tree are not just duplicate individuals but duplicate pedigrees. I've been discussing this fact in my blog posts for the past eight years. The reality is that if you find a duplicate individual entry, it is very likely that there is an entire duplicate pedigree attached to that individual. Perhaps, you could think of these as bits and pieces of pedigrees floating around in hyperspace all living in the ocean of data called the Family Tree. The key to understanding this complex process is the realization that many of these early contributed pedigrees and individuals were included in the new.FamilySearch.org program which subsequently became the basis for the Family Tree.
This massive collection of duplicate data creates a challenge for not only the users of the program but the programmers and developers. The main reason for the challenge is that because of the multiple submissions over time, the entries vary in their content. Although several entries may refer to the same person, the information submitted could have been different depending on many factors, including the ability of the original submitter to submit the information correctly. The number and variety of entries constituting the duplicates, challenges the ability of the most talented programmers. For this reason, much of the work of eliminating the duplication falls on the individual user.
Unfortunately, many of the current users of the program have no concept of the amount of duplication in the Family Tree and what is further unfortunate is that the tools for eliminating the duplication have yet to be fully implemented. The present limitation on the elimination of duplicates comes from the relationship between the database used for the new.FamilySearch.org website and its incorporation as the basis for the Family Tree. In short, without going into detail, there are several limitations imposed by the new.FamilySearch.org program that are presently limiting the Family Tree program from fully addressing the issue of merging duplicates.
To put it bluntly, the Family Tree program can neither see nor resolve existing duplicates in many cases. This means that even though you use more than one method of searching for duplicates, you cannot find all of the duplicates.
There is a real question as to whether or not all of the duplicates need to be found. There is also a question as to whether or not new duplicates are being created. It is obvious that new duplicates are being created by the current users of the program. If the program cannot find all of the existing duplicates, then it is inevitable that duplicates will be created when new people are added to the program. This will occur more frequently as long as the program itself is unable to find a class of duplicates inherited from the new.FamilySearch.org program.
The existence of duplicate entries in the Family Tree will always be a challenge. But many of the challenges of the present duplicate situation will be resolved once the connection between the old program, new.FamilySearch.org, and the Family Tree is completely eliminated. When will this occur? Estimates now place the completion of the transfer of the data into calendar year 2016. Maybe? Meanwhile, there are challenges in using the program, but once most of the obvious duplicates have been eliminated from a particular family line, there is really no reason why the program cannot be used as intended. Once the final transfer of information from new.FamilySearch.org is completed, many of the issues with the present Family Tree will be rapidly resolved. Personally, I'm looking forward to this time when we can finally put this particular problem behind us and start in on the real issue of correcting the data that exists in the Family Tree.