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?

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. It is great to see FSFT trying to educate patrons on how to merge. However, i was disappointed to see the almost total lack of instruction on how to write a Reason statement. Yes, it’s excellent to state the PIDs in the Reason because that helps other relatives to quickly know exactly which persons were merged.

    In addition, it greatly helps others if a patron states in the reason precisely WHICH matching data there is for the two ancestors. (e.g. “same birth date and place; both have same son, David, with same christening details.)
    Likewise, if ‘Not a Match’ is selected, state some of the non-matching data that brought about that choice.

    Reason statements written like this give tremendous help to other relatives who are checking the merges and non-merges. It also increases the trustworthiness of FSFT entries. Also, those clear reason statement can later help the person who did the entry to remember why they did it.

  2. “Not A Match” should NOT be used unless you are POSITIVE the people are two different persons. It will do away with suggestions of a possible match for people searching in the future who may have more information that you have.

    1. In the OLD Family Search one had the Option of “I cannot tell.” I liked that option as sometimes that is exactly the situation one is faced with when considering a merge. Perhaps that could be re-introduced so that one doesn’t get the same name coming up all the time as a possible duplicate, but won’t rule out the possibility altogether. A place to explain one’s decision would be nice too.

  3. I’m still unsure how to “add” a fact while proceeding through a merge. I always thought that only 2 options existed: reject or replace; so how do you “add” as a 3rd option?

  4. This is the best and most complete explanation of the merging process, which most people are afraid of, that I have read. Thank you so much.

  5. I learned more info on merging from the message above. I have been putting for reason “Same Person”. I will add both ID #’s in the future. Thank you!

  6. Ka rácsony Kálmán születési anyakönyvét keresem ,valószínű ,hogy Kracsun néven született.1883 május 26.Budapest .Valamint Ullmann Magdolna Sóki Mihályné halotti anyakönyvét 1887 02.03

  7. Necesito ayuda para ubicar a mi bisabuelo Daniel Dilagosto nacido en Italia en 1835 y no tengo mas datos documentados hasta 1865 con su casamiento en Mercedes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

  8. Excellent description and commentary. One small addition: I frequently find it helpful to go to the person pages of the potential merge individuals, to decide if the two persons are indeed candidates for a merge. On the person pages, for instance, you can note similar relationships with parents and siblings, and other data which do not appear in the merge tables.

  9. This is excellent although I would love to know how to deal with the situation where parents have been duplicated for each child. So that they look like multiple families but they are all one family. What I have been doing is going in, entering the child’s name under the parents that have the most information (which means that we now have children with two sets of parents) and THEN going in and merging the parents’ records that have less information, i.e., rejecting the information on the right and rejecting the children on the right. The result for me has been that the children, whose records are now NOT duplicated, will end up with one set of parents instead of two. Is that the right way to do this?

  10. What if the “possible duplicates” prompt says “0” but I know of a specific duplicate. FS used to let me type in the ID number manually

    1. You can still do this. 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.

  11. have just read how to merge people but why do they have different ID numbers,I have been trying to find my father’s father’s family when I put in his ID number nothing is coming up about he’s parent’s my great grandparent’s can you help me please thank you.

  12. There is one kind of merge/delete which I just cannot fathom out how to do. That is how to remove an unknown person eg a parent.
    For example: I have a father and a mother with a child.. Then below I have the same father (same ID) with an unknown mother and the same child (same ID). The unknown mother is definitely the same person as the mother. How do I remove the second parent-child combination?