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 Research Help tool. To find duplicates this way, do the following:
- 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.)
- 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.)
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?
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.
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.
Scroll down the screen, comparing each piece of information as you consider the following questions:
- 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.
- 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.
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
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!
More about How to Use the Family Tree
Find Your Family Using the Family Tree