Duplicates in FamilySearch’s Family Tree: Why They’re There, How to Find Them, and How to Resolve Them

August 6, 2014  - by 

Kathryn Grant, a recent presenter at the 2014 BYU Family History Conference, said there are two important concepts to remember for researchers and contributors to FamilySearch’s Family Tree. The first point to remember is that a goal of Family Tree is to provide “one complete, accurate record for each person who has lived on the earth, linked to other records by correct relationships (parents, spouses, children) [emphasis added].” The second important concept to remember is that the records that have been submitted to Family Tree have been contributed to FamilySearch and its predecessor organizations over at least 100 years by many people and by many different means, bringing errors into the system and confusion for some researchers.

The goal for perfection or “one complete, accurate record for each person” is attainable, little by little, but we need to keep in mind that those who organized their records using older forms, the records from grandma or Uncle Joe, FamilySearch, New FamilySearch, and finally into FamilySearch’s Family Tree, are fallible, and mistakes were made (And mistakes are continually made today by beginners and “experts” alike). The engineers who have brilliantly built the FamilySearch system are working to make everything as easy as possible. They respond quickly to the concerns of the users and fix problems as they arise.

Grant says, “A duplicate in Family Tree is any record that represents the same person as another record in Family Tree.” These duplicates cause confusion, erroneous research, duplicate ordinances, and lost time that could be used in other research. Grant explained that the records in Family Tree come from three main sources: (1) New FamilySearch, the first foray of TempleReady online, which included the IGI, extracted vital records, and LDS member submissions, such as the three 3- and 4-generation sheets, and GEDCOMS; (2) LDS Church Membership Records, and (3) other user submissions.

Grant emphasized, “Family Tree was never meant to be an ongoing source of family names so we don’t have to do our own research; rather, it’s a collection of data gathered over many generations which needs to be validated and corrected so that we can find and add additional names.”

She goes on to explain how to find and correct the duplicates in your common ancestors in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Her free training video explains how to take care of duplicates and gives examples and forms that can be used by researchers. The website is http://www.usabledesignmatters.com/fh/index.html.

Grant’s concluding advice is to know our families, be accurate and reasonably complete as possible in our research and contributions to the online Family Tree. “With care, attention, and the help, we can resolve duplicates. Then we can do work for those who really need it, and we can be confident we are creating a record ‘worthy of all acceptation.”

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    1. Debra,

      So sorry for the confusion, and sorry for the delay responding–I just saw your post today. The URL in your post just goes to a list of presentations, not directly to the duplicates presentation.

      You can see the slide deck here:

      If you’d rather view the information by webinar, here are links:
      Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PnCS1HCA4o&t=43s
      Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkSMHNFGNVY&t=27s

      Hope that helps! Please post back if you have questions, or feel free to contact me by email (my email is at the end of the slide deck).


  1. Why is it not required that original records be the ultimate resource for any individual entered into familysearch? A birth Certificate, a death certificate, LDS membership records, census and the like are all now extremely easy to access on the internet. I find it laughable that there are so many people who see on familysearch a record listed as ready for temple ordinances, but there are no sources that verify that the people are who they really are. Over the years back in the day of the 4 generation projects, the quest for Original Records to back up the findings was the most important, and almost a necessity to get temple names done. Why have we lost that perspective that the ultimate proof is derived from an original record. Now that we can attach copies of such records in familysearch, it should be at least required to have a copy of the original record as the church has spent countless time, effort and money to acquire and make available such records.

    1. This is excessive zeal. There are multiple records which have not been found yet. The search continues. Many of these records have NOT been digitized and so are unavailable to the public. Further, there are as many inaccuracies in published material as private records (even on headstones!!??). Much of the information is personal in nature. For example, I know when most of my close relatives died and I keep records of same; however, I do not have the time (or funds) to order legal documents and post them. The concept is good and should be emphasized; however, particularly in Latin America, many records do not exist. Then there are the birth records that list the wrong father – what? 6-9%. How do records help in this case when there is unrecorded but accurate information? All of this means that, try as we might, family history tends to be an art rather than a science. Your sleuthing cousin David in Holbrook.

      1. When it comes to eternal salvation and eternal families, we are taught to do genealogy using original records, even this is emphasized on the familysearch training videos, however it seems just because a name is in the database, even without sources anyone can claim it and do the work, just to say they did the work, without verification that they are infact ancestors and the information is correct. That makes the old PAF program much better for ordinance work than this familysearch.

  2. I am astounded at the number of actual errors in my extended family trees. I have seen records – by relatives – that my grandmother died when I was 8 but I lived only 4 doors away from her and drove myself to her funeral which I bought when I was 26! the whole set up is littered with errors and some way must be found to prevent erroneous info from being published as fact!

  3. How does this system handle cousins with the SAME FIRST, MIDDLE & LAST NAMES, born only a few months apart, in the same year & living in the same small towns??
    That very situation has happened on a least 2 different ethnic groups in my own tree!!

  4. Pleace don’t look on the spelling, I’m a norwegian, but..

    Please look on PID: 9ZZS-QBH

    I took me nealy 2 ours to merge this duplicates in that spesific family and all came from the same sources that FamilySearch did add into the database 31. may 2012.

    And further more, every time I merge a duplicate, a JavaScript look fore more sources and a Script ask me if I wanne stop the script becouse it slow down the Internet prosess and this question jump up and down on the top of the screen while I try to hit it with a mouse click. I took a 8Kb screenmovie on this, but I don’t know where to send it.
    By the way, the FeedBack function on FS does not work eather.

    I do know the importante of sources and find dublicates. I do find them with the funny spelling in data in FamilySearch, in parish books and in Censuses. I just hoped that it could be a button on the website where I by my self could deside when I would like to get help from a JavaScript that lokk fore sources inside the FamilySearch.

  5. You have some Duplicate Files on your computer which hampers your memory space.
    Just use “DuplicateFilesDeleter”.If you use this software you will be get comfortable.

  6. If you know the personal identifier number of two people how can you merge them? One has a name and the other a “?”

  7. Old information, but still helpful. Now in 2020 as the designers or engineers have now found a way to lose information. There are records lost from data in 1930’s, 40’s 50’s 60’s. I have seen it in the BC being done for work that was done in 1930 etc., where in the initiatory date is showing, but the B and C are not, etc. I have kept record of work that I have done in the 1980s, that somehow has disappeared. These issues are becoming endemic.

  8. a lot of words to explain how duplication occur, but nowhere does it tell me HOW to merge them with the software.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      You’re absolutely right! This article was just meant to be a summary of a presentation I gave a few years ago at a conference. It wasn’t meant to include full instructions for merging duplicates.

      You can see the whole presentation here, which includes a lot more detail on merging.


      Also, here are two webinars that cover the same material:
      Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PnCS1HCA4o&t=43s
      Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkSMHNFGNVY&t=27s

      One caveat: FamilySearch just changed their merge process in the last couple of weeks. While these presentations still have helpful information, a lot has changed. I will be redoing the slide deck and webinars.

      I hope that’s helpful. Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Thanks!


  9. Hi Family Search staff/volunteers, Attempting to cleanup the duplicate individual people in FamilySearch database is defeating. I do find the duplicate and erroneous info irritating enough, but why the web designers/masters of FamilySearch make it impossible for me to delete/disconnect a hollow/blank profile that someone no only created but connected to another record is maddening. That I have to even contact or write about this is wasting time better spent on productive research, scanning and record citing. How the FamilySearch program could even allow for a record that has no first or last name, no data whatsoever to be created and get as far as the point where the System complains that the record has all these problems and therefore a sealing can’t be done, causes me to shake my head in wonder. Furthermore, whoever ‘controls’ the program doesn’t provide the option to delete the ERRANT individual/ID person-record as though a BLANK ID record is somehow sacrosanct— a RECORD that’s void of any information. There’s one of ‘These’ attached to my 2nd great grandfather. The ‘Delete Entry ‘option is “Unavailable” to me to delete record: HQCY-K34 (despite being totally blank, useless person/profile). My 2nd great grandfather (Peter Balz, Sr. LHDC-XNB has all his ordinances complete including sealing to his wife (one and only wife and my widowed 2nd g-grandmother) Caroline (maiden name: Kolb) Balz (LHDC-XLW). I can ignore the multiple duplicates created in the FamilySearch database, but when volunteer FamilySearch staffers attach them or worse– attach profiles that are devoid of any data including no name whatsoever, its maddening. At least when ordinary users make changes and edit the tree, it records their user contact info link and they typically enter notes justifying the edits or entry. Your volunteer staff changes simply list: ‘FamilySearch’ as though that entity name is correct no matter what it enters, edits or decides the rest of us can do in editing or deleting bogus empty records. If someone on your staff or volunteer team will visit and delete ID: HQCY-K34, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

    1. Hi Veronica! Thank you for your feedback. The “?” profiles came over from the initial data load from older systems; this is why it has FamilySearch listed as the creator. The “?” used to say “unknown”. If you know who the “?” should be, then you can edit the profile to make it that person. If that person already exists, you can merge the “?” into the correct profile. Thank you for reading the blog!