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? This duplication can feel bewildering and frustrating. And yet finding an ancestor more than once in Family Tree is a fairly common occurrence. The reason for these duplicates (the term used when there are multiple records for the same individual) is because information in the tree comes from a variety of sources and because users can enter their own information directly into the tree. Although FamilySearch has put safeguards in place to prevent creating more duplicates, with the various points of information entry, it’s still possible for an ancestor to end up in Family Tree more than once.
Duplicate records make your tree messy, cause confusion, and can lead to wasted time. They often divide the known information about an ancestor into the separate records. One record might have accurate and thorough information about a person’s birth while another record has information and sources about his death. Duplicate records also complicate relationships since in one version of the record, your great-grandmother might be married to your great-grandfather but not have any parents while in another version, she might be listed her with her parents but not with a spouse.
While looking at multiple versions of your great-grandma can be confusing, there is a solution to the duplication problem—merging the duplicated records. Because most people will encounter duplicates in their tree at one time or another, merging is an important skill for anyone to master.
Merging, although not difficult, can feel intimidating—particularly if you are new to it! The most common error people make is attempting to complete the process too quickly. Take your time as you merge to make sure you are coming to the right conclusions, retaining the most accurate information, and documenting your conclusions. Also, the more you know about your ancestor when you start the merging process, the easier the process will be and the more confident you will feel that you are making the right judgment calls.
Here are a few simple steps to help you in the process.
Find Possible Duplicates
The most straightforward way to locate duplicates on your tree is from a person’s details page. In the Tools box at the bottom of the right column, click Possible Duplicates.
A new page will open. In the example below, I selected “Possible Duplicates” on Jens Christian Thustrup’s page and learned he had a possible duplicate
Another place you might encounter possible duplicates is when adding a new person to your tree. FamilySearch will automatically search existing records to see if the person might already be in the tree. Similarly, when you add a historical record, FamilySearch will automatically find people who might be a match, which could include more than one version of the same person.