Posted by jhodnett on April 28, 2011 in Website

Family merge is a great feature that we’ve had on the site for a number of years. This feature makes it easy to save family trees and certain census records to multiple people in your tree—without having to save the record separately for each person. However, the merge has had one particular limitation that we have now corrected.  In the past, the merge hasn’t let you control who the record gets saved to. If you were saving a record and someone was suggested as a “new person,” and you knew the person wasn’t new, there was no way to correctly match up the person in the record to the person in your tree. Now, the family merge has been upgraded to give you some control over who the record gets saved to.  


If the merge incorrectly suggests that a person is new or matches the record to the wrong person in your tree, you can choose the person that the record should be merged to.  

To try out this feature, I looked for my grandfather’s 1930 census record because I knew it would likely have additional family members.  When I got to the merge page, sure enough, I saw his parents and siblings included in the family portion of the page. As I scrolled down, I noticed a sibling named Wilber, who was listed as a “New person”.  I looked at the mini-tree at the top of the page to make sure Wilber was really a new person.  There wasn’t a Wilber, but I did have a William, who was born the same year.  Since my grandfather only had one brother, I knew Wilber was really William (who was known as Bill, which is apparently short for Wilber, not William. Oops.) 

I clicked the “Not a new person?” link to fix the merge.   


Once I clicked the “Not a new person?” link a window appeared. Wilber’s information was on the left and a list of all the children in my grandfather’s family were on the right.    


After selecting William from the list of individuals, I was able to select which individual facts I wanted to save from the record, such as the name Wilber.    


Another scenario you may come across is when two people with very similar names are incorrectly matched in the family record merge. If that happens, you can also select the “Not a match?” link and correctly match the right individual to the record.

In the 1930 census below, Jean Curry is listed as a match to Jen Curry. I knew that Jean is really Jeanette, who is already in my tree, so I selected the “Not a match?” link.



By selecting the link I was shown the same window as before that allowed me to choose the right Jean in my tree.   


After selecting Jeanette as the match for Jean, I was reassured that the record was now being saved to the correct person in my tree.  

I love that I now have some control over how people in records are matched to people in my family tree It’s been really great being able to merge a record to people that I previously would have had to skip over because they were either mismatched or incorrectly listed as “new.”  I hope this new addition to the record merging feature helps you as much as it has helped me.


  1. It would be nice to be able to view a list of possible duplicates in order to decide which facts are correct for the person, keep some and delete the rest. Of course if the information is from a document, it would be wise to accept the whole document.
    The information taken from another family tree could show up in a highlight color until it is verified, then accepted to merge.

  2. Mary Beth Marchant

    It’s a good feature but in my opinion this option needs to be placed differently. I just went to a census to link a person and had to get rid of this new wrinkle before I could add this person. It just adds one more extra click to the addition of data. There have been enough added extra clicks in the last few rollouts.

  3. Jade

    Very good change. The computer often matches to wrong persons or does not recognize existing ones.

    However, your blog post is mistitled; this feature has nothing to do with merging, only with saving citations (not the records) to the correct persons.

  4. Karen

    I am very glad to have this improvement, and will be even more thrilled when it comes to implementing. IMHO, I would rather have a few extra clicks at this stage of saving a source that having to manually go back to the individuals and start from step 1. Thanks!

  5. Teresa

    Appreciate your efforts with this! I will most definitely give it a try – as it’s got to be better than it was before!

    Again, thank you for making things much easier!

  6. Carol A. H.

    I had a hint for a 1910 census source for my great-grandmother. That was good, but it did not recognize that the 1910 census was ALREADY attached to her husband and children. Now that really would be an enhancement!

    It’s a good start. Back to the drawing board….

  7. Nancy Arnold

    This is a great improvement for me and the way I work with I needed to add “Voltaire Loving Mallory” and “Looing Mallory” was offered but when I clicked “not a new person” it didn’t give me enough options to find the correct name. Can you bring up possible names with spelling that’s off that much? How about just taking us back to the entire list or letting that “No matching name” take us there. Thanks for continuing improvements.

  8. Trish

    This is a GREAT new feature! Now, is there any way to go back and FIX all the duplicate people I have in my tree that I added before this feature was available? My online tree is a big mess because of these duplicates.

  9. Brklyn Bridge

    This is a terrific improvement and a “well-done” to the programmer(s) responsible.

    Now, if only the “merge” feature could be made available to ALL census records you’d have this thing running on all 8 cylinders.

  10. Jade

    One other recent improvement that has not been noted on the message boards is that when uploading an image, “make primary photo” for the person is no longer the default! No more dreary unchecking the “primary photo” box! Yayyy and thank you!

    Now, if connecting the same image to another person could also make it ~not~ automatically “primary photo” for that 2nd, 3rd (etc.), the setup would be really excellent.


  11. Brklyn Bridge


    I am near bewilderment that the odious default “make primary photo” option has been, at long last, changed…and let me echo your observation that it should also apply to multiple instances of attachments as well.

  12. Rich

    It looked nice, but it has yet to do anything other then tell me it found the best match. The only option I get is cancel. I have two people that were cousins that married. Instead of merging them or their children, it just tell me they are new persons. When I click it and I’ve clicked all over it, it gives me the message above and all I can do then is cancel it and put in all the information for each person. Now I have them listed twice.
    You said there has been a merge here for years, but I have yet to find it. I know it’s on Family Tree, but that would mean I’d have to download my tree and then upload it to Family Tree and then again download it and upload it to ancestery again. That’s a lot of work to mearge. I guess I’ll just have to fill up my tree with a lot of cross referances.

  13. Michel Bryson

    If the ‘real’ person isn’t suggested, is it possible to search for them or select them? One of my grand-uncles lived with his sister and her husband for a while, so he’s listed on a census. But not being a ‘typical’ member of the family, and not being on any other census records, I’d have to manually add his record to him. He would not be a suggested family member to attach the record to. It would help if we can navigate to the correct family member.

    Love the site – thanks for all the hard work!

  14. Jack

    Thank you for a great improvement. This will stop adding duplicate individuals with different spellings and/or information to our trees.
    Now, as Arlene, Trish and Rosalie suggested, can you add a way to merge duplicate individuals similar to what’s available in Family Tree Maker?

  15. Paul Wagner

    This is a great addition. I requested it a while back when Ancestry asked for feedback on the interface, and am glad to see it implemented exactly as envisioned.

  16. BEE

    This is a great help, so thank you very much.
    Now I hope someone is working on that problem with the enhanced viewer and Firefox.

  17. Bee Re: #22

    I guess you missed the following post on the message boards:

    As many of you are aware, there are issues with the Advanced Image Viewer and Firefox 4. For many, the image viewer plugin will not install. For all, the Magnify option causes problems with the mouse cursor. There may be other issues as well.

    Each time Firefox is upgraded, we have run into issues with the image viewer plugin. Rather than continuing to chase that problem, we are building out a new image viewer that will work regardless of changes that are made to Firefox (or any other browser). The new image viewer will also allow users on other browsers and operating systems to use the advanced image viewer capabilities.

    Starting on Thursday, April 14, all NEW users who view an image on Ancestry in Firefox 4 will be directed to the basic image viewer. Please note that we are not disabling the advanced image viewer plugin; current users with Firefox 4 can continue to use it.

    On Thursday, we will also remove the Magnify option from the advanced image viewer for all Firefox 4 users.

    In summary:
    * We are creating a new cross-browser, cross-platform image viewer
    * Rather than spending time fixing issues with the old viewer, we are investing resources into creating the new viewer, which will benefit all of our users
    * Firefox 4 will no longer offer the prompt to download the advanced image viewer
    * Firefox 4 will no longer offer the magnify option
    * No changes will be made to other versions of Firefox or Internet Explorer
    * The posted work-arounds for getting the advanced image viewer to “install” on Firefox 4 are still valid

    We believe that these changes will benefit our community in the long run. We recognize that there are short-term challenges for our current Firefox 4 users. We also believe that the time we could spend fixing the current plugin is better spent on fixing the broader advanced image viewer issues.

    -Jim Mosher
    Search Product Management
    [End Quote]

  18. Kathryn Susbauer

    Great improvement but now if only I could merge the duplicates I have and not lose the information I have sourced with them if I just deleted the duplicate I did not need as at the moment is the only other option.

  19. Jade

    #18 Jack said “This will stop adding duplicate individuals with different spellings and/or information to our trees.”

    The duplicates are created when ~you~ check the box to add a new person. The duplicates would not have been created if you had first checked your Tree List to make sure there was not already a similar person in your tree, and then did *not* click on the box to re-create her/him.

    The user-created problem of duplicated individuals in trees has no easy solution at present. There are threads on the message boards for topic that give procedural suggestions (search for keyword “merge” without quotes).

    The Ancestry Member Trees program is meant mainly as a way to display trees, not as a comprehensive genealogical program.

    It is likely that a “merge individuals” capability has not been added to the program because the process is memory-intensive. While other internet tree-hosting sites use software that permit system administrators (not users) to do this (such as The Next Generation, or TNG), I have seen the procedure make servers crash if more than a couple of merges are done within a short time period.

  20. Betty

    While the ability to merge more intelligently is a welcome addition, it will not really correct the problem. Am I alone in wishing ancestry would figure out who it wants to be? Are you a serious reservoir of documents for primary source or are you trying to be a social media site. I don’t think you can truly be both.
    If you want to be a social media site, then perhaps you need to put your resources in your sister site Mundia. You market that as access to a billion names but is it escaping you that many of your better sourced trees are going private because you fail to address concerns that you took public trees to this site without permission or notice and made them available to all and possibly being edited without your permission. Are you recruiting new members with false promises and treating the backbone of your consumer base as disposable? I think you are making short sighted decisions and failing to address the concerns of ACOM community about Mundia and then failing to address the ACOM Community concerns about the issues here that you deem to be advanced requests. If it is all about clicking hints and leaves and building a humongous number of fake ancestors then sell your records to someone who cares about serious genealogy. Members if you wish to review the concerns check the member tree board at message boards.

  21. rosejp2

    Thank you so much for this feature. I’ve tried it a number of times and it works beautifully. Thanks for all of your hard work!

  22. BEE

    Andy, I guess my message was more of a plea to get it done as soon as possible, as the “download” message flashes momentarily every time I open a document. Sorry, there is no way I’m going to fool with Firefox to go back to an earlier version, or use Internet Explorer, which I haven’t done in years.
    As far as cleaning up duplicates on a tree, I did that a few years ago, going through my whole long list name by name. It’s tedious, but it can be done using the “select someone already on your tree feature”, although I did it so long ago, I don’t remember the exact process. If I recall, it was easier working with a child’s name rather then the parent? or vice versa.

  23. Now that I realize what I should have done, how can I clean up what I did do
    that has made my tree pedigree/family quit a lot of duplicates? I am afraid to use edit for them on my iMac for fear it might edit all the ones with that name and not just the one that is the duplicate outline of a head with name and dates.
    No mom has 4 Danny’s born the same year. And all have leaves on them with hints which means I keep getting the same records for 4 people. And that is not the only mistake I have on it. Help help, will edit get rid of just one or all four?

  24. Rich

    I was just reading in the help section. This fix doesn’t do anything for duplicates. It just allows you to take a misspelled name and allows you to add it to your tree.
    ie: Robert Smith aka Bob Smith or Bobby Smith, is not a new person, but an exesting person. Big deal I could do that before.
    It seem that to merge duplicates you must first download your tree to one of their other programs in the family tree line. Then merge them there and then download it again and again upload back to ancestry.

  25. Lorraine

    This is a fantastic improvement. Thank you so much! I’ve already had the opportunity to use it and it’s such a RELIEF! LOL Keep up the good work!

  26. Rich Pea

    I…LOVE…THIS…UPDATE. I manually had to NOT include the mismatches and add the individuals and records for them later if they didn’t link correctly(using many many tabs in my browser), taking s much time to make sure i never got duplicates and the correct children were matched with correct parents, etc. i wish this update was one of the first ones done. ^^

  27. long time user

    I think the word “merge” is not used correctly in this instance. People are taking it as a way to combine two or more people in their tree who are the same person, but got duplicated.

    Ancestry is telling us that “merge” means adding a record to an existing person in one’s tree, even if the spelling is different, without adding a new individual.

    There is no easy fix if you have a huge number of duplicates. If you have only a few, you must delete one or both and redo your work. I’ve ”been there” only a few times, fortunately. It is tedious and you have to be extra careful. See #25 Jade.


  28. Bailey

    Thank you so much! I look forward to using this feature. Now if only all the censuses would have ALL the household linked together (ie, older US and Canadian censuses.) Thanks again!

  29. dklart

    The reason the older US Census, 1870 and before, will probably never have this capability is because the relationships of members to the household head aren’t included in the census itself.

    The early Canadian census are transcribed by individuals, not by households.

  30. Sharon

    On my Recent Member Connect Activity it shows May 1 and May 3 but whole day of May 2 is gone. This happens many times on the recent member connect. I know this is off the subject but sometimes this is the only way I get an answer, is to put it on here.

  31. scwbcm

    This seems like a good improvement. One caution to users-the word different doesn’t always appear for the name even when the name is very different. Easy to get to looking at the other info and fail to notice that the actual name isn’t correct. Also, the format where the only part shown is what is different isn’t always the only part that is different. See above second set of images for what I mean by that format. That format (with empry areas and different) has only come up for me a couple times.Overall seems to be a positive step.

  32. Miltiades

    Assuming that the NAME is correct I would like to be able to attach a “link – e.g. US Census, etc.) that appears under Connections (to other users). Perhaps a check off box by each entry would move that to the person on my tree.

  33. long time user

    #38 Sharon:

    You are not the only one who has had member connect notices disappear and then come back and disappear again. Last February I contacted customer support by phone three times and talked to three different people. One said they were having some problems with member connect, and the other two didn’t know anything about it.

    I don’t have an answer but I make a Word document of the whole list so I can go back and find the person who “added a record” and check it out for myself.

  34. Jann Webb

    This is a great improvement! It is going to give a better result for the newbies, for sure! Now please come up with a way that a record cannot be saved to a person more than once! Keep up the good work!

  35. Carolyn Kwiatkowski

    Thank you for this new feature.
    I stumbled on it a while ago and have been using it ever since. It has save me many time from duplicating indiviauals. Thanks again.

  36. Alvin Osborne

    The added feature will make merging much easier and faster (it has already).
    Now for another merge feature that is sorely needed. There are thousands of trees that have duplicated records already in trees. Some times I find children duplicated three and more times. In my trees there are records like this and there is no way to merge these duplicates. I have tested almost every genealogy program that is available and all of them have the merge featurs in them even your family tree maker 2011 program.

  37. Bruce

    Nice add on, thank you! What is an easy way to find all the duplicates I now have on my tree? Once found I can delete them one at a time, hopefully picking the correct one.

  38. Susan Whitten

    The new feature works well. Good Start! Now give us a merge feature as in Family Tree Maker. I have tried to delete duplicates as my tree is a MESS. Sometimes, this creates a disaster as an entire family may be deleted, and I have to start over. Please consider. Susan

  39. edna

    I agree with trish. Also I think that there should be a way that we can tell if we put the information in our tree or copied it. I have duplicats in mine also. But to delete one you have to go and check it out to find the duplicate.
    Also I think it would be helpful to have the answers to questions posted with the questions so we all can learn from it.

  40. Jessie Fyfe

    I would like to know where I can find the answer to the questions about how to clean up the duplicates in my tree? I’ve read where many others have the same problem I have, but I’ve not seen an answer.

  41. BEE

    I swear there are gremlins at work on these trees!
    I thought I could give some advice on cleaning up duplicates, as I painstakingly did that with my trees when I realized this was a problem, but it was so long ago, I’ve forgotten how I did it.
    While checking some names on my husband’s tree, I’m again finding duplicates, and I have no idea how they got there, as I am very careful when adding anything. I don’t “click” names from “hints”, and if a name sounds familiar, I check my list to see if I already have that person, besides cross-checking names census to census.
    Also, I’m puzzled how a census can be attached to the father and children but not the mother, as she would have been needed to add the children in the first place, or the mother would have been listed as “unknown” {which is another pain in the neck, having to go to the “family tree” and add all children to both parents with the “someone already on tree” feature!} which means I must have added it, so why wasn’t it there?
    I do realize that it’s just a “link” to the document, since I didn’t down-load/up-load it as I did for a direct ancestor.
    So like the other posts about cleaning up duplicates – help!

  42. Karen B

    This is a nice feature, but one that would be even beter, is a way to combine duplicate people. I have the same couple listed 3 times, as I found 3 of their daughters married to other members of my family, but no way to combine once they were already listed.

  43. long time user

    #51 Bee:

    It is possible to add a census as a source to part of a family; one or many in a family. You don’t always need BOTH parents. It depends what boxes were checked. Personally, I usually don’t check any other boxes until I take a look-see or I know I’m adding a totally new person. It is tricky.

    And you can add children to one parent without the other being named.

    Adding a missing parent’s name to a family with children; you will be asked to confirm/check that the new parent is the mother/father of existing children.

  44. Bee Re: #53

    Here is where I differ from most people. I never check any of the boxes to add anyone from a census to create a new person in my tree.

    The name, DOB,etc. is already entered by hand before clicking search records- then I just attach the census as a source for the birth and it adds the residence event.

    Yes- it takes longer; but I get to enter it the way I want it-including the word “County” after the county name.


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