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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Persistent Merging Problem on the FamilySearch Family Tree

Here is a screenshots from the Family Tree that illustrate an persistent and unresolved issue with the program.

Here is another screenshot for the same person illustrating another aspect of the same problem.

Although FamilySearch has made significant progress in overcoming many of the problems of the Family Tree and added a number of very useful features, the core problem with the program still persists. Almost without fail, every time I teach a class and mention using the Family Tree, I get a question about merging. 

The two screenshots illustrate two different aspects of the same problem: the inability to merge certain obviously duplicative records and the overwhelming number of duplicates for some individual ancestors. Unfortunately, if I go back in my ancestral line to this particular ancestor, there is nothing in the pedigree that indicates that this multiple duplicate situation exists. Here is a screenshot of the pedigree and the individual entry for this ancestor that comes from clicking back in my family line.

You might also note the proliferation of green Temple icons. In fact, it is very likely that every one of the people shown in this view have the multiple duplicate problem. Going out one more generation finally gets us to the "real" Nathaniel Potter as opposed to his son Nathanial Potter Jr. and the other line's Nathanial Potter Sr. If you know how to read a pedigree chart, you will note that Martha Hazard is apparently the daughter of Nathaniel Potter, Jr. and Elizabeth Stokes. To say that this line is messed up would be a gross understatement.

The basic issue is can this situation be "fixed?" If it can be fixed, when will that happen? Obviously, I have no incentive to dive into this mess until the "Cannot be merged at this time" issue is resolved. It is my perception that the issue is being resolved slowly, but any estimates on the time it might take to wade through this issue are highly speculative. It is interesting to go out one more generation on these lines. Here is another screenshot.

According to my own pedigree as opposed to the one illustrated here, I am a descendant of Nathaniel Potter, but none of my records agree with what is shown on the Family Tree. In fact, in looking at this particular family in my own records, I note that I have several obvious problems. This is back so many generations, I may never get all the corrections made that far into the past.

As far as users of the Family Tree program, getting into this type of situation is similar to trying to negotiate a fire swamp. As far as the green Temple icons go, if you click on any of them you get the same response, "Possible Duplicates Exist" and you are not allowed to proceed with reserving any names until this is resolved.

Is there hope that this type of situation can ultimately be resolved? Yes. The Family Tree is the solution not the problem. This is only an extreme example of the data problems created over the last 100 years or so. Meanwhile, we are still out here waiting for a resolution of the merge issue so we can start untangling this mess.

As a final note, I might mention that Portsmouth, Rhode Island was settled 1638 and wasn't named Portsmouth until 1639. Just in case you are tempted to try and sort out all this stuff.


  1. My understanding is that volunteers are working on these IOUS ancestors, looking at temple work, straightening it out, and putting the earliest work done on a read-only record they are creating for the person, pulling all the verifiable data from the dups and putting it on that record. When this is completed, all dups will be deleted. Now if there aren't enough volunteers, we as user/relatives might have to continue to wrestle with this issue. (but not the temple stuff) Once again, the messed up temple stuff resides on nFS, which really must die. So patience is required still.

  2. If I remember correctly, nFS was rolled out in 2007. If the links between nFS and Family Tree are indeed finally severed some time next year and the IOUS problem is finally solved, it will have taken nearly a decade to get to a workable (v. 1.0?) version of the application.