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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop -- The Demise of

The Family Tree has made fantastic progress over the past years of its existence. The future of the program looks bright and promising except for the one overriding fact of its existence; the Family Tree is still connected to the old program and its limitations. Conspicuously absent from any of the changes and plans proposed by FamilySearch is any reference to the resolution of this major limitation to the existing program. The main symptom of the limitation is the inability of the program to deal with duplicate entries.

As a user of the Family Tree, you may never see any evidence of the underlying problem that is still haunting the entire program. Whether or not you see the issue depends on the extent your "pedigree" encounters people with duplicates that cannot yet be resolved. Here is an example of a screenshot showing the current (and longstanding) error message:

I have written about this issue now for years. The fact is that until this particular issue is resolved, the program is not fully functional. But, as I mentioned above, this only appears as an issue if you can see this error message for a particular individual. The other symptoms of the problem are more subtile. One of the most common occurrences is a notice from the Family Tree that someone has changed information about one of your watched ancestors and you find that the entity making the change is identified as "FamilySearch." This occurs because the reality of the problem with the duplicates is that there is still some residual information that is being loaded into the Family Tree and corrected by FamilySearch and other entities. Until this process is complete, we will still see the limitation on resolving duplicate entries and we will still see changes being made by FamilySearch that often look arbitrary.

I have been discussing this issue since was introduced years ago. Presently, many of the more obvious duplicates can be resolved by merging. But there still remains the unresolved core of individuals who fit in the category of the limitations on combining individuals. There is and always has been an explanation for this situation. You can read the latest iteration of the explanation in a Help Center document entitled, "Cannot merge duplicate records in Family Tree." This article outlines several reasons for the limitations on merging. The part of the explanation that refers to the issue is as follows:
One of the records for the individual is too large
  • These records are often referred to as IOUS, meaning "Individuals of Unusual Size."
  • Presently, other records cannot be merged with an IOUS record, nor can IOUS records be unmerged.
  • This is a known issue, and there is no estimated time for a fix.
What I have found is that any line where there is not an IOUS with the merge problem seems to work just fine. If you encounter an error when attempting to merge two or more obvious duplicates, then it is unwise to continue to work on that particular line until the problem is fixed. This is also a very good reason for not jumping back into an extended pedigree and doing work on a remote ancestor. You may not even be related to this person and all your work may be lost when some other ancestor is finally merged. This is a real, not a hypothetical problem. But as I say, you can work on lines that do not have this problem, unless all four of your grandparents happen to fall into the IOUS category.


  1. The solution really is coming with a real time frame in months. I won't give a specific date even though we have one because of the amount of work involved to get there. I hope to give a presentation at the BYU Family History Conference this summer about this and what things you'll be able to do when new.familysearch is really dead including what you mention here.

    1. Thanks for the comment and update. Nevertheless, I will not hold my breath.