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 Research Help tool. To find duplicates this way, do the following:

  1. Go to an ancestor’s person page. (Click the person’s name on your family tree, and then, in the pop-up window, click Person.)
  2. On the person page, you will see in the far right column a Research Help box. From this Research Help menu, click the Possible Duplicate option, if it is available. You will be brought to the merge duplicates page. (Note: Not every ancestor will have duplicates.)
possible duplicates familysearch

This tool 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.

Now that you’ve found possible duplicates, you are ready to review the information for a potential merge.

Step 1: Are these people a possible match?

merging step 1 familysearch

After clicking the Possible Duplicate option under Research Help, you will be taken to a page that compares the primary record with the duplicate record. Text at the top of the screen will show you which step you are on in the merging process.

Below that text, you will see the overview of the two records being compared, with the possible duplicate on the left and the surviving person (primary record—the person who is in your tree) on the right. After reviewing the information, click either Not a Match or Yes Continue.

Step 2: Select the information you want to save.

merging step 2 familysearch

If you indicate a match, you will be brought to the next step in the process, where you can merge the record on the left into the record on the right. If you would like to use the record on the left as the primary record, simply click Switch. This switch will treat the duplicate as the primary record and the original record as a duplicate that will be deleted at the end of merging.

switch positions merging

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 replace the information? As you compare both records, you will be given the option to replace any of the information for the surviving person with the duplicate person’s information.

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

If you don’t want that information saved, in the Sources box, click Undo. 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 3: Confirm your changes by finishing the merge.

merging step 3 familysearch

When you have finished choosing which information to replace, at the bottom of the screen, click Continue. Before you can complete the process, you will be asked to fill in a box labeled Reason for Merge.

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

When you are finished giving a reason statement, click Finish Merge!

When You Can’t Merge

There are a few reasons FamilySearch does not allow you to merge:

  • The records are of one living person and one deceased person. If needed, change the information on the living person’s record to indicate that he or she is deceased, and then merge the two records.
  • The people are of different sexes.
  • One or both of them have been merged too many times or have too many relationships.
  • The two individuals have already been merged.
  • Both of the people have a relationship with a read-only person (a person whose profile cannot be changed).
  • A parent cannot be merged with his or her child.
  • A spouse cannot be merged with his or her spouse.

When Not to Merge

Continue Merge and Not a Merge screenshot familysearch

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 that a family name survived and would give more than one child the same name to increase the chances of the name continuing.

In some regions, it is also common for multiple people with the same name to live in the same area and be born around the same time. Pay close attention to dates and names that may not match exactly—these records may require further research.

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

How to Unmerge

If you merge two records and then later learn that 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’ 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. When I found a husband and wife that are duplicate and need to each be merged separately, I was unable to do either one. When I tried the merge the woman with her duplicate, i received a warning that they must be the same sex. They ARE the same sex! When I attempted the man’s merge I received the same message. Again, the two ID numbers were both for this man, male.
    Is it the software? or is it me?

      1. Yes, thanks. I haven’t been able to get back to it yet. I appreciate your willingness to help. Will take you up on it as soon as I can!

  2. When I have been working through the family tree I can see that there is information for a whole family (father, mother and children). When clicking on the father or mother I can see that there are many duplicates for them because the birth of each child has created a unique set of Person IDs. Also census records can create additional Person IDs. I understand that, but when I merge, say the father, with one of these duplicates, the process attempts to add the spouse and child in a separate family grouping, instead of attempting to merge the spouse with the spouse and the child with the child (even when in some cases the “duplicate” child has the same Peron Id as the main record). So, effectively I have to carry out up to three merges, one for the father (and undo the extra family records), then the mother (again undoing any additional family records), and finally the child (if they have a different Person ID). If there are 10 children this is very laborious!!!
    Is there a quicker/better way to do these kinds of merges?

    1. Hi David! Thank you for your feedback and question. Each person needs to be merged individually. There is not a way to merge an entire family in one merge. I know how laborious the process is. I worked on a family with 13 children who were duplicated with their parents 3 times. For each parent I merged them 39 times in order to get rid of all the duplicates. That was 4 years ago and the family is still intact and no new duplicates have been added to the Tree. Good luck with the merging you are working on.

      1. Thanks for your reply Amy. That is a lot of merging! Now that I know that there is no other way I feel happier that I am not doing this using wrong methods.

  3. My Birth name was Raymond Arthur Daw, born 30 October 19xx,my mom passed away when I was a few months old and I was adopted by her sister,Mary Ann Weston.When I started my Family Tree it was under the name of Weston but I cannot get the Weston side of the family on screen now.Why?.

  4. Hi

    I have come across another profile of myself which says that I am deceased. I was told that I cant merge the two profiles as the other shows me as deceased. In the article above, it states the I must change the current profile (mine) to deceased, then merge and correct the deceased to living but I am not allowed to do this either as I am LIVING. Any help in this regard is welcome.

    Details of the ID of the incorrect profile can be supplied if required.

    Regards

    Kevin Fraser