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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Working on Merging the Impossible in the FamilySearch Family Tree

As I work on my ancestral lines on the Family Tree, I am finding that the further I go back on my family lines, the more duplicates there are. As I think about it, this is logical because for any given ancestor, the number of potential descendants increases over time. With more descendants there is a potential for multiple copies of the ancestors to be created. What is somewhat discouraging is that as I work at "cleaning up" the data and entries in the Family Tree, more and more duplicates emerge.

The most difficult challenges involve entries that seem to be potential duplicates but contain little or no distinguishing information. Mr. and Mrs. Jones may be a duplicate of your ancestors but without enough information to properly make the match, you have to pass them by as "Not a Match."

One notable thing about spending a lot of my time involved with helping others with their genealogy is the extremely small impact a monumental change such as the upgrade of the website has on most of the people. I am not talking about those who have no interest in genealogy. I mean the volunteers and missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. This observation is not a criticism, I merely observed that very, very few of the people I talked to last night at the library were even interested in the change over enough to look at the program.

Part of the challenge of working through the duplicates and conflicting information on the Family Tree is that relatively few people are actually working on correcting the entries. For example, I am watching 126 people right now. I find that 21 of those on my watch list have been "deleted," probably through merges. But on any given report from FamilySearch on the changes, I have made the vast majority of all the changes.

What happens as I do research into any given family line is that by adding sources and correcting the information displayed in the Family Tree, such as standardizing dates and places, the results produced are more potential duplicates. The piles of things to do just got bigger.

How do we approach this potential task? Well, we can ignore it like most of our relatives or we can start digging in and making the corrections, doing the merges and cleaning up the entries. I suggest methodically working your way back through your ancestral lines, just as you would systematically weed a garden or water your plants. I have been saying for years that I would be working on the Tanner line once the Family Tree program was fixed and now I have started. Of course, the Tanner line contains Parkinsons, Stapleys, Bryants, Shepherds, Stewarts, Rays and huge number of additional lines so it will probably take me a while to get around to all of them.


  1. Well, I'm glad you're happily merging away - all my IOUS relatives are still on lock down, read only files and unable to merge. I have yet to find one that I'm able to do any kind of merging and can still see the obvious duplicates. I guess all I can hope for right now with the 27th fixes is that FamilySearch is speedier!

    1. If you decide to try and work on one of the read only people, let me know the outcome. I don't have any I plan on working on right now. I think that FamilySearch will do the merges however.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Even without IOUS relatives the number of duplicates you can run into can still be pretty big. The problem in that case is the IGI-created entries. For every christening and for every marriage in the IGI a person was created corresponding to those referenced in the entry. So for England there is person christened, father and mother for a christening, and with a marriage there will always be bride and groom, and with post-1837 marriages often the father of bride and father of groom as well.

    With that in mind consider a married male person with a dozen children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood and 8 of those married. Prior to merging that male person will have one entry for their christening, one for their marriage, a dozen for the christenings of their children and 8 for the marriages of their children, making one entry and 21 duplicates! That doesn't even take into account other duplicates that have been manually created by researchers either due to incomplete information or carelessness.

    Cleaning up all of those IGI duplictes is job-and-a-half to put it mildly!