Merging People in FamilySearch Family Tree
Ben Baker –
To view the presentation slides this handou...
vi) A myriad of less common reasons. You can get a semi-understandable reason by going to the
following URL after logging ...
Best practices
1) Merge the person with less data into the person with more data
a) Will result in less changes in the cha...
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why can’t you give an indicator as to whether there are any possible duplicates on a person?...
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Merging People in FamilySearch Family Tree - Syllabus


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This is the syllabus materials for a presentation I gave at the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. This presentation helps users become more familiar with and successful using the merge-related features of FamilySearch's Family Tree. It discusses the differences and similarities between “new” FamilySearch combines and separates and Family Tree merges, unmerges and person restores.

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Merging People in FamilySearch Family Tree - Syllabus

  1. 1. Merging People in FamilySearch Family Tree Ben Baker – To view the presentation slides this handout accompanies, please go to: Why do duplicate people exist in Family Tree and why is merging people necessary? Duplicate people exist in Family Tree for several reasons. Family Tree is the latest system from FamilySearch for managing data about persons and completing LDS temple ordinances. It builds upon previous systems, so data from Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, GEDCOM uploads, record extraction, new FamilySearch and more has been imported into Family Tree. Because of this as well as patrons inadvertently re-adding duplicate persons, more than one instance of the same real person may exist in Family Tree. To resolve this issue, the merge feature is used to help reach the goal of a single active record for each real person. What Merge Is What Merge Is Not Removal of a duplicate copy of the same real person An all-purpose clean up tool to get rid of data you don’t like A way to choose the best conclusions to improve the data on the resulting merged person. The same as a new.familysearch combine. Data not selected to be copied will be archived with the deleted person. The same as deleting a person. Merging provides the opportunity to bring data from a duplicate person, automatically copies all LDS temple ordinances and preserves a link from the deleted person to the surviving merged person. Merge Process Overview 1) Begin by opening the person page for a person 2) Click on the Possible Duplicates link in the Tools menu on the right of the person page 3) Review the persons in the list and take an appropriate action a) If there are people in the list that look like they may be the same real person, click on the Review Merge button to see more details b) If you’re pretty sure a possible duplicate is not the same real person, click on the Not a Match link and enter a reason why you believe this is not the same real person. c) If a person shows up in the “Can’t Be Merged at This Time” list, a constraint is preventing the merge. Usually there isn’t much that can be done to fix this, except calling support in some cases. Common reasons persons cannot be merged include: i) The resulting record in would have more than 250 combined records. This is sometimes called an Individual of Unusual Size (IOUS). There isn’t anything that can be done to merge these persons until synchronization with new.familysearch is turned off. ii) One of the persons is locked (i.e. read only) or is in a relationship with a locked person iii) Both of the persons have LDS church membership records iv) The genders of the persons do not match, including Unknown with Male or Female. Gender can be changed if no LDS temple ordinances have been done. v) One of the persons is living and the other is not
  2. 2. vi) A myriad of less common reasons. You can get a semi-understandable reason by going to the following URL after logging in, substituting person IDs of the persons you want to merge.{personId1}/merge/{personId2}/constraint 4) Determine which data should be added (copied) and replaced on the merged person. Each value will display two of the following options. a) Add – Will add data unique to the duplicate person being deleted to the merged person. Not clicking this will result in this data being archived on the deleted person and no record of it on the merged person. b) Replace – Will replace the data on the surviving merged person with the value on the duplicate person. Not clicking this will result in the value from the left hand side remaining on the merged person. c) Reject – Reject the data on the duplicate person so it will not be a part of the person after the merge. Note that not doing anything with a value on the right (Add or Replace) is the same as rejecting it. 5) Examine the record to see if the values you expect to be on the person after the merge is completed will be there. If you’re satisfied these are really the same person and want to proceed, enter a justification reason for why you are merging and click the Finish Merge button. 6) Iterate through each person in the possible duplicates list until all mergeable persons have either been merged, marked as Not a Match or remain in the Can’t Be Merged at This Time list. Preventing Incorrect Merges via the Not A Match Feature One of the key improvements of the Family Tree merge feature over the combine feature is the ability to mark persons known to not be the same person as “not a match”. 1) This can be done from the Possible Duplicates page or from the Merge Persons page. 2) Not a Match declarations are bi-directional 3) Persons marked as Not a Match will not appear in the Possible Duplicates list 4) To view persons marked as Not a Match, click on Possible Duplicates and then select the Not a Match tab 5) To clear a Not a Match, click on the May Be a Match link from the Not a Match tab How do I undo an incorrect merge? There are two ways to restore persons deleted during a merge 1) Unmerge a) Undoes all merge changes, restoring both persons to the pre-merge state b) Can currently only be done if no changes have taken place on either person since the merge c) To unmerge, click on the Show All link in the Latest Changes box to the right of a person who was merged into. Then click on the Unmerge button and enter a reason for the unmerge. 2) Restore Person a) Restores the person who was deleted to the pre-merge state, but leaves the merged person alone b) Is only option if changes have taken place since the original merge c) To restore a person, bring up the deleted person page and click on the Restore Person link.
  3. 3. Best practices 1) Merge the person with less data into the person with more data a) Will result in less changes in the change history b) Copying data from the deleted person won’t result in many changes attributed to you c) Is much more likely to execute quickly and less likely to have an error because there are fewer operations being performed. There will also be less problems if the merge is later unmerged or restored. 2) Resist the impulse to simply remove data you don’t like (during merge and otherwise) a) Completely different alternate names and additional spouses, parents and children that don’t seem to belong are usually indicators of an improperly combined person in new.familysearch. b) Because it is no longer possible to perform uncombines in new.familysearch and support is no longer doing them, the current best course of action is to clean up the person as best as possible to represent a single real person. When synchronization with new.familysearch is no longer taking place, improper legacy combines will no longer be an issue. Making these changes outside of a merge allows for better documenting of the reasons why changes are taking place. c) Features to ensure LDS temple ordinances are in the right place are coming in the future. 3) Copy all data unique to right hand side, unless you know it is not correct a) My opinion is that relationships and sources should always be added (copied) on a merge b) Not copying data will result in it no longer being active in the tree c) Not bringing relationships over can make holes in other patron’s trees and reduce the likelihood of true matches showing in Possible Duplicates. d) I believe if you really don’t want a relationship or source on the resulting merged person, you should delete it before or after the merge with its own justification reason. 4) Collaborate with other users a) If you see people doing merges that don’t make sense, help them understand what they did wrong in a kind way Specific examples of what should I do in certain situations The core question to always ask is “Are these two persons the same real person?” 1) I see some children belonging to two parents and others belonging to a single parent with the same ID as one of the coupled parents a) This is actually not a case for merging b) The first thing to do is make sure all of the correct children appear under the couple. If any don’t, you need to add a relationship from the child to both parents. c) Then go and delete the single parent relationships to each child 2) The same spouse, child or parents a person already has appears on the right on a different line of the merge page when I’m choosing what to Add/Replace/Reject. a) Make sure you add (copy) the relationship to the merged person - remember Best Practice #3 b) This is likely another duplicate that also needs to be merged 3) See Family Tree User’s Guide for some other scenarios – link at bottom
  4. 4. Frequently Asked Questions Q: Why can’t you give an indicator as to whether there are any possible duplicates on a person? A: The call to check for possible duplicates uses a fair amount of system resources, so we don’t want to do this every time a person page is opened. We are looking into ways to speed this up and/or provide better mechanisms to let patrons know when possible duplicates exist. Q: Should I mark a person as Not a Match if I’m not sure they are the same person or not? A: It depends. If you’re worried about other people merging them and want to do more research it may be a good option, but remember Not a Matches will not appear as Possible Duplicates. Q: What if I know a person matches, but doesn’t show up in the possible duplicates list? A: After clicking the Possible Duplicates link from the person page, click on the Merge by ID tab. Copy the ID you would like to merge into the text box and proceed with the merge as usual. Q: What happened if I went through all the steps to merge, clicked Finish Merge and I get a pink message that these persons can’t be merged? A: Most likely you have encountered a bug. Please call support to report it or send an e-mail to The only legitimate reason this message should appear after initiating a merge is that it took more than 5 minutes. This is another constraint of the system that will be resolved when synchronization with is off and merging will be much quicker. Q: What if I get a pink message after trying to unmerge or restore a person? Is that an error too? A: Yes, most likely. Please follow the same steps as listed in the previous question. Q: What happens to LDS temple ordinances during a merge? A: Any ordinances on the person deleted by the merge are automatically copied to the resulting person Q: What happens to photos and stories attached to a person during a merge? A: Any photos and stories on the person deleted during the merge will be copied to the resulting merged person. Q: Why don’t merges show up in the watch list even though they do show up in the watch e-mails? A: They do now. Significant changes to the watch list have been made recently to improve the watch list and changes to people you are watching. Additional References to Learn More – Family Tree User’s Guide – Chapter 9 is all about merge-related features - 11 hands-on lessons on various aspects of Family Tree, including several merge-related concepts. These lessons were produced by Elder Leland Moon, a family history missionary, and were updated in October 2013. The merge-related portions are in the intermediate and advanced sections. – Lots of training resources (videos, manuals, guides, lessons, etc)