Correct Mistakes on the FamilySearch Family Tree

October 29, 2019  - by 
A girl looks at a dog who made a mess

Our goal at FamilySearch is not only to connect individual families, but to connect the human family. In order to accomplish that goal, we need everyone’s help. For this reason, FamilySearch Family Tree is a shared tree, which means that it is open for users to contribute what information they have.

Why Are There Changes That I Didn’t Make in My Family Tree?

Using a public or shared tree means that other people can add to or even modify information about the ancestors or relatives that they have in common with you.

We believe that the more people work on FamilySearch Family Tree, the faster it will grow—and the more accurate it will become. However, sometimes well-meaning users make changes in the tree that are incorrect. Thankfully, you can correct mistakes that you see in your tree.

What If There Is a Mistake in My Family Tree?

Mistakes in your tree might include incorrect relationships, an incorrect record attachment, or—one of the more tedious issues—an incorrect merge. Thankfully, every change made in the family tree is archived, and mistakes made in the tree are reversible.

What If a Mistake Keeps Popping Up after I Fix It?

There are a few ways you can prevent individuals from creating these errors in the information once it has been corrected. FamilySearch provides tools that can help you clarify information and collaborate with others. These include the notes section, discussions, and FamilySearch Messaging.

Give Good Reason Statements

When you make a change, you can write a reason statement that lets people know why you’ve corrected the information. For example, the FamilySearch user below explained why she removed a mother relationship from one of her ancestors. She also explained why she merged this person with another.

Screenshot of good reason statements on FamilySearch that can help you correct mistakes

You can find the history of an ancestor’s changes and corrections on his or her person page by navigating to the right of the page and clicking Show All under the Latest Changes column. When making changes to the person yourself, you have the option to write a reason statement for making the change. This reason statement will appear in the Latest Changes list for others to see.

A history of changes and reasons for these changes can help others see why you made the corrections that you did and prevent future mistakes.

Write a Life Sketch

Sometimes, writing a life sketch for your ancestor can help prevent any future errors or misconceptions about your ancestor. In this life sketch, you can paste in the person’s obituary or any other quick outline of the person’s life, explaining details that could prevent future incorrect changes.

Screenshot of life sketch on FamilySearch

For example, you could explain in your great-great-grandfather’s life sketch that he married a woman with the same name as his previous spouse. This explanation might prevent others from accidentally assuming that the two wives with the same names were the same woman and merging them.

How to Correct Mistakes

As for how to smooth out the wrinkles you’ve come across in Family Tree, here are some tools, tips, and tricks to help you maintain accuracy in the information about your ancestors.

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  1. I found a mistake in translation while researching census data for one of my ancestors. The original document clearly gives the number of years married as 25, but the translator transcribed 35. Also, for the same family, the last name in the original document clearly says, “Iams” yet the translator transcribed it as “James”. Looking at the original recorder’s handwriting in the original document and comparing it with other names and information, I can certifiably prove that I am correct in identifying these mistakes. However, I am unable to edit or change these grievous errors and set the record straight, What do I do?

  2. I can’t get James Mc Creary off my tree. It’s the wrong James. I have clicked details. I have removed all children even my great grandmother. Next I’m going to remove all his information. I’ve been 2 hrs trying to correct this.

  3. I recently was contacted by a cousin in Italy. His mother’s information has been duplicated with only a date of birth. How do I delete or merge the two into one person.

    1. Hi Lori! Thank you for your question. You can enter each parent separately so they are not connected as a couple. Or you can show them as a couple and then delete the relationship between them.