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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Correcting Relationships in the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part One

This is a several part series about the process of resolving unsupported family relationships in the Family Tree. I am attempting to illustrate both the problems and the solutions to the problems that exist in the Family Tree. Because some of these issues with questionable relationships crop up frequently, I am taking the time to explain my research process in detail. I will be using actual situations that are found in the Family Tree. In reading this series, please bear in mind that my intent is not to show how to resolve one problem (the example) but the process used to resolve all such problems. 

There are only two types of basic family relationships in the Family Tree; parent/child and couples. All other relationships in the Family Tree are built on these two basic building blocks. Many of the questions I respond to from people using the Family Tree a based in incorrect or inaccurately represented family relationships.

The image shown above has two children in the family with the same name born two years apart. This raises a question about the accuracy of one or both of the entries. Is this simply an instance of a duplicate entry or is there something else going on? One possibility is that the first daughter born died in infancy and then the next child born with the same sex was given the name of the deceased child. In some countries and cultures and during some time periods this was a common occurrence. You have to be careful and research the first child with the name to see if that child died before the second child was born. It this is the case, then the presumption is that there are two different children.

If we look at each of the two children represented above, we see the following:

A comparison of these two entries shows a different problem the children were born in the different states. The first step in correcting the problem is simple: look at where all of the other family members were born. Both of the parents in this family were born in Massachusetts, however, all of the children except the Sarah Sanderson born in 1774 were born in Vermont. In addition, looking a little further, I find that the 1774 Sarah Sanderson was supposedly married in Kentucky and died in Indiana. It should be apparent that this Sarah Sanderson has been added to the wrong family. But how do we know?

RESEARCH NOTE: Checking the consistency of entries in the Family Tree (or any family tree) is essential to making any real progress in identifying the family. The key ingredient in this process is based on looking at the places identified for the events in the lives of the extended family members. Additionally, every attached source should be carefully reviewed to see if the sources support the information in the Family Tree. 

In all these situations there is an easy solution; you can delete the child/parent relationship. Normally, you would have to do some extensive research to resolve the issue. But here, if I go back to the entry for the 1774 Sarah Sanderson, I find she has two sets of parents in the Family Tree.

The top set of parents are from North Carolina. The second set are from Vermont. This particular family line has been documented back to Indiana and Kentucky (which was originally a part of Virginia). The only source showing that Sarah Sanderson came from Vermont is a record extracted from the International Genealogy Index (IGI).

RESEARCH NOTE: IGI entries have been automatically assigned by the program. Any IGI attributed entry should be carefully examined to see if the information is consistent with existing records and sources. If the IGI sources are found to be invalid, they should be detached. 

However the birth date does not match and the Vermont location is inconsistent with other records showing the family in Kentucky. The first set of parents, John Sanderson and Sarah Foscue, are shown to be from North Carolina. There are definitely some problems with this entire family.

The long list of children has individuals born in South Carolina with one child in Kentucky and one child with no birthplace information. There is not one source showing where or when Sarah Sanderson was born. There is further no information explaining how the parents, who were born in North Carolina, had children born in South Carolina. There is further no information as to how the family got to Kentucky. John Sanderson, shown in the screenshot above, is shown to have duplicate wives.

In addition, the IGI sources have added several children to the North Carolina John Sanderson that are from Vermont. No wonder that people can become confused with who is and who is not a family member.  See the RESEARCH NOTE above regarding the IGI entries.

At this point we have several options. It would seem expedient to remove the relationship between Sarah Sanderson and the Vermont Sandersons. On the other hand, my examination of all of the records does not necessarily support a conclusion that she was a member of the North Carolina parents' family either. It may well be that all of the children born in South Carolina are not correct. The status of the sources only shows a Sarah Sanderson in Kentucky, so right now here origin is pure speculation. If I make any changes involving removing relationships, I will be acting on supposition rather than sources.

My tentative conclusion is that we do not have any valid supporting information that identifies Sarah Sanderson's parents. Additionally, the relationship of Sarah Sanderson and the person who married Garrard Morgan is also in doubt.

Stay tuned for more analysis.


  1. “RESEARCH NOTE: IGI entries have been automatically assigned by the program. Any IGI attributed entry should be carefully examined to see if the information is consistent with existing records and sources. If the IGI sources are found to be invalid, they should be detached.”

    If I may be a bit presumptuous, this needs expansion, clarification, and correction:

    Research Note: IGI sources were automatically attached to the record in Family Tree that was created using that source. The original IGI derived record for a birth would have contained just the child’s name, birth and/or christening data and place, and just the parents names, in other words, exactly the information that can be seen in the source. The original IGI derived record for a marriage, would have contained at a minimum the couples names and the marriage date. It might contain some birth information and sometimes parents names. Again, it would look just like the source.

    Many of these original records have been merged, correctly and incorrectly, with other records. Any IGI attributed entry should be carefully examined to see if the information is consistent with the existing records and sources.

    If the IGI source is found to be invalid, this is almost certainly to be due to an incorrect merge. If this merge was done in Family Tree, the merge should be present in the Change Log where the original IGI derived record can be restored. To find it, scan through the Change Log to find a merge in which the IGI source was moved to the existing record. All IGI derived records have associated temple ordinances completed. Restoring the record which was lost should restore the proper ordinances to that record and removed them from the incorrect record.

    If a merge cannot be found in the Change Log, it most likely took place in New Family Search. In this case, do not simply detach the invalid IGI source. Use the IGI source to recreate the original IGI derived record using all the information found in the source. Move the IGI source to this new record. Then contact Family Search support, giving them both the PID for the new person you created and the PID for the person to which the source was originally attached. Support will then be able to move the temple ordnances which were incorrectly placed on the existing person due to the incorrect merge and place them correctly on the new individual you created from the IGI record.

    1. Very good point, but the process of creating a new entry and then transferring the IGI source and then contacting FamilySearch is far beyond the average user's ability and this process is nowhere explained in connection to the attached IGI sources. There may be instructions for all this somewhere on the website but there is nothing telling anyone that this process is needed or required or whatever.

  2. If you click on Get Help and type "IGI Sources" in the search box, the first result is "Extracted International Genealogical Index (IGI) records attached as sources in Family Tree" which states, "Sometimes an extracted record seems to be attached to the wrong person in Family Tree. The details on the extracted record are different from the details in Family Tree.
    This error happened because the Family Tree record is the result of an incorrectly merged record. If you find one of these errors, follow these steps:.."

    Unfortunately, the steps are out of date because they do not mention the Source Linker as the best way to move sources. Also, the help article states that support "does not have the tools required to move the ordinances from one person to another." This must also be out of date because they have corrected ordinances for me several times.

    I wish this point was more obviously explained on FamilySearch.

  3. You can jump directly to the Help Center article by clicking on "Lear More..." in the yellow bar found in the source.