Merging People in FamilySearch’s Family Tree

July 11, 2019  - by 

It might be exciting to find your great-grandmother in FamilySearch Family Tree. But what about finding her four times—each record with a little different information?

These multiple entries and records for the same individual are called duplicates. Duplicates happen because information in the Tree comes from a variety of sources and because users can enter their own information directly into the Tree.

What Do I Do If I See a Duplicate?

Merging people graphic

While looking at multiple versions of your great-grandma can be confusing, there is a solution to the duplication problem: merging the duplicated records.

Merging, although not difficult, can feel intimidating—particularly if you are new to it! But no worries, finding and merging duplicates can be a relatively easy process. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

How to Merge

The most straightforward way to locate duplicates on your tree is from a person’s details page using the Possible Duplicates tool. To find duplicates this way, do the following:

Step One: Find Possible Duplicates

Screenshot of the tool box on FamilySearch person page.
  1. Go to an ancestor’s person page. (You can do this by clicking on the person’s name on your family tree and then, in the pop-up window, clicking Person.)
  2. On the person page, you will see on the far right column a Tools box. From this Tools menu, click the Possible Duplicates option.
    1. Note: Not every ancestor will have duplicates. There will be a number beside Possible Duplicates that represents the number of potential duplicates for this ancestor. Click through different ancestors until you find one where the Possible Duplicates number is above 0.

A new page will open. If there are possible duplicates, you will see a red bar labeled “Data Problems” and below it a red exclamation point icon that signals each possible duplicate.

Data Problems page.

Possible Duplicates search doesn’t catch everything. If you suspect an ancestor has duplicates, try searching from the Find option located in the Family Tree menu at the top of the screen. If you find possible duplicates, you can use Person IDs and the Merge by ID tool to resolve duplicates.

Step Two: Review Merge

Now that you’ve found possible duplicates, you are ready to review the information for a potential merge. Click on the blue Review Merge button to the right of the possible duplicate. A Merge Persons screen will open.

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

On the top of the screen, you will see the overview of the two records being compared. You will merge the record on the right into the record on the left. If you would like to use the record on the right as the primary record, simply click Switch Positions

Scroll down the screen, comparing each piece of information as you consider the following questions:

  1. Is this person a match? If you do not think the person is a match, scroll down to the bottom of the screen, and click Not a Match. If you are unsure, don’t merge the two records! Simply cancel the process.
  2. For each field, do you want to add, replace, or reject the information? Arrows offer you choices for each field. You have three options to choose for each item of information:
    1.  Replace—The information on the right will replace the information in that category on the left.
    1. Reject—The information on the right will be deleted when the records are merged.
    1. Add—If there is no information in the corresponding field on the left, you can choose Add to add the information.
Screenshot of replace and reject options on merging page.

Some pieces of information are automatically merged into the preserved person, and both sets of information are kept. This information includes sources that are shown at the bottom of the comparison.

 If you don’t want that information saved, in the Sources box, click Undo. Also, although anything stored in Memories (including photos, audio files, and stories) is not displayed on the Review Merge screen, this information is automatically stored with the preserved record.

Step Three: Merge Duplicates, and Provide a Reason

When you have finished choosing which information to accept, reject, or add, from the bottom of the screen, click Continue Merge. Before you can complete the process, you will be required to fill in a box labeled “Reason This Merge Is Correct.”

 Although it may be tempting to simply type “Same person” or something similar, take a moment to give a more thorough explanation. For example, Including the Person IDs of both records can be helpful.

Reason to merge screenshot.

When You Can’t Merge

FamilySearch does not allow you to merge:

  • Records of two living people.
  • Records of one living person and one deceased person. If needed, change the information on the living person’s record to indicated that he or she is deceased, and then merge the two records.
  • Records of two people whose information came from Latter-day Saint membership records.
  • Records of people of different sexes.

When Not to Merge

Continue Merge and Not a Merge screenshot from the Merge page.

Not all records can or should be merged! For example, be wary of merging children of the same parents who have different birth dates. Sometimes the family wanted to ensure a family name survived and would give more than one child the same name to increase the chances of the name continuing.

It’s important to check each possible match carefully. If there are records you aren’t sure about, do some more investigation before moving forward.

How to Unmerge

If you merge two records and then later learn you shouldn’t have merged them, all is not lost! You can undo merges.

Now that you know how to merge, visit your family tree, and click through your ancestors’ person pages to find possible duplicates!


Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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Comments

  1. When I tried to merge duplicates of my grandfather the same wife and children had different id’s left and right so did not line up (appeared as he facts). If you merge you get duplicate wife and children so are we expected to “remove” the ones on the right and deal with merging the wife and children individually later? The process could go on for some time! It is good that a merge can be reversed!

    1. Do you have to Replace, Reject or add for each item on the right about the person on the right.

      I only move things over when they are good, of course people who are the same with a different ID, I do move over and later merge.

  2. ***warning*** If you merge an ancestor who hasn’t had any temple ordinances with an older established duplicate who has had their work done, YOU WILL ERASE ALL RECORD OF THEIR TEMPLE WORK. Before merging be sure that the Person ID of the person with their temple work completed is on the left side, if not click “⟲switch positions” so that the one with work done is on the left before merging.

    1. Happily, this no longer happens — ordinances are always brought over. Sometimes you ‘ll need to wait before they appear (up to 2 days). This was a problem quite some time ago, but has been resolved. Hooray for the developers!

        1. Let me restate: It can take up to 2 days to show up. It’s usually pretty quick. It depends on how complex the merge was, and how much information the system has to process that we don’t see. I’ve never seen it take longer than 30 minutes, but we’ve been asked to wait a day or two before reporting a problem with ordinances not coming over.

          1. Thanks for the response. I guess my question is more regarding merges in general and not necessarily the temple ordinances info. When I merge two records on the website sometimes it takes days for the merge to show on the app. It will still show the deleted person not the surviving merged records. Any idea why or how I can speed up the change on the app? Thanks.

  3. How to merge duplicates is to first go to the possible duplicate’s Person Page. Examine all relationships, sources, dates and places of the Possible Duplicate.

  4. Thanks for this improved set of instructions. I feel that the section which says ” Although it may be tempting to simply type “Same person” or something similar, take a moment to give a more thorough explanation. For example, Including the Person IDs of both records can be helpful” needs to be clearer and more comprehensive. Users do not understand how or why to include PIDs in their Reason. Users also need to be instructed to state specifically which items on the right are a match with items on the left. When such a clear Reason is given, it enables other users to easily see why the merge was made. It also benefits the person doing the merge – by requiring them to think clearly as they do the merge; and by later being able to see why they did that merge.

  5. I am so excited for the streamlined merge process. I have ancestors from Baden Germany, where information was entered from public baptism records. A record was created for each of the participants: the child baptized and each of the parents. This results in a father with eight baptized children having eight different ID numbers in the tree.