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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Multiple Duplicate Person Problem in FamilySearch Family Tree

Blogger Randy Seaver recently had a post entitled, "The Problem with FamilySearch Family Tree - For Example: Thomas Dudley (1576-1653)." The answer to the question posed by Randy is not simple. In fact, there is currently no solution. For example, here is an error message I get when I try to merge two individuals in Family Tree:
These records cannot be merged because the corresponding combined record in would be too large. To merge these records, please wait until shuts down.Contact FamilySearch.
The explanation lies in the fact the Family Tree and the older program, are sharing the same data base. As long as is still active, there is a limit in on the number of individuals that can be combined that prevents Family Tree from merging the two individuals. In addition, Family Tree presently may not even see an obvious duplicate. Here is a quote from "Using the FamilySearch Family Tree:  A Reference Guide (29 May 2013) LDS Version" that explains a bit more about the subject from page 146:
Records That Cannot Be MergedSome records in Family Tree cannot be merged.
You cannot merge records in the following situations:
• The gender on one record is male, and the other is female.
• One record indicates the person is alive; the other is deceased.
• Both records come from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints.
• One of the records came from, where it has been combined
with too many other records.
• The duplicate record has already been deleted due to another merge.
• One of the records has restrictions that would prevent it from being changed.
If Family Tree has already identified possible duplicates that cannot be merged, they appear beneath the list of possible duplicates:
The same explanation is in the general version of the Reference Guide at page 142 is you have signed in with a FamilySearch Account.

The second problem raised by Randy and some of his commentators, is the issue of improperly combined individuals. Presently, there is no way in the program to split an improperly combined ancestor.  You must note the problem, including the identifier numbers of any mis-combined people and FamilySearch will separate the individuals if appropriate. I have been told that this process is presently overloaded and it may take a considerable time for the separation to be completed.

The simple answer to the dilemma posed by Randy is to wait until the programs are separated before doing any extensive editing. Changes are still being made in the program and until the two programs are separated, the multiple people (also called IOUSs or Individuals of Unusual Size) that have resulted from inaccurate combining in, cannot be fixed. I suggest waiting until there is a formal announcement that the two programs are no longer sharing the same database and that changes can then be made.

The real problem is that the duplicates are not just individuals but can be entire pedigrees. So merging and the mess carried over from can be extremely complicated.


  1. Thanks. That's helpful, I think. The answer seems to be "wait until FSFT is the only bird flying..."

    I think I'll go back to the easy ones to fix and work my way back in time. There are enough of them to do for years, I think.

  2. James, you are certainly correct that merging can be "extremely complicated" but there is a way to restore a person after they have been deleted through a merge in Family Tree. The trick is to get to the Person Page for the deleted person:
    1. Go to the surviving person's "Person Page".
    2. Click the "Show All" link at the bottom of the "Latest Changes" box on the right side of the page.
    3. Find the merge in the list of changes. All the changes made as part of the merge are surrounded by a big green "Merge" box.
    4. Click on the name of the "Deleted Person". The Person Card that comes up has a link to the "Person Page" for the deleted person. Click it.
    5. The resulting Person Page for the deleted person has a big banner that says the person is deleted and who did it. Click the "Restore Person" link on the righthand side of the box.

    Hope that helps.