Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Website

A lot of people have asked over the years how to clean up duplicates in their Ancestry Member Tree.  If you are one of the people who discovered that your mysterious distant cousin Mary was really the same person as Uncle George’s wife Mary, then you’ll be happy to learn that we have a solution that makes it simple to merge two duplicate people without losing any of the relationships, facts, photos, or stories you’ve entered.

How does it work?

Select one of the duplicate people in your tree

Go to the person’s overview or profile page and from the “More options” menu, select “Merge with duplicate.”

Select the other duplicate person

On the left side of the page, you’ll see the person you’ve already selected. On the right side of the page, you can select the person’s duplicate in a few ways.

  • Select a possible duplicate. We’ll suggest people who might be duplicates (for example if they have the same first and last names and their birth years and birthplaces are similar).
  • Type the person’s name.  If you know the duplicate’s name, simply type it in the field and select the person from a list of individuals who match the name you’ve typed.
  • Select from a list of people. You can browse a list of everyone in your tree and select the correct individual.

Select the facts you want to display

After you’ve chosen the duplicate individuals, they’ll be displayed side-by-side so you can compare the two and choose which facts you want to display for the merged individual.

  • If facts are identical. A same label shows which facts are the same; they’ll be merged into one fact.
  • If facts are different. Both facts will be included in the merge, but you can choose which fact is preferred (the default fact that displays). The other fact will be added as an alternate.
  • If you’re not sure what to do. You can click the Compare button to see more details about the two individuals.

Already, I’ve been able to clean up some of the messiness that existed in my own tree by using this new feature and hope it helps those of you who have been looking for a solution for merging duplicate people in your own tree.




  1. scwbcm

    I have not tried this since I’ll have to go see if I can find a duplicate, however, I am glad that you have worked on this. I have long considered duplicates to be one of the main reasons people give up doing this. Newbies would try saving and then pile up a bunch of duplicates leading to hours of work to fix. I do have an immediate question which is are you still going to allow multiple tree merges at one save? This has caused a lot of problems, particularly since the odd item is sometimes that one that prevails in the save. For example, one issue I have seen was that several people had a man named Perez in their tree but one only listed him as Son of Robert. Oddly, the Son of Robert is the name that came through after a group merge. This happens with locations a lot as well. Hopefully that will be addressed if it hasn’t already been but I am very pleased to see the duplicate issue addressed.

  2. palomino16

    Thank you so much for this! For me personally I’ve found that my aunts and uncles were often recorded in censuses by their middle, shortened first name, or a nickname and it was very time consuming to have to go back through lists of siblings and make sure all facts and sources were attached to individuals before I deleted their duplicates.

  3. John

    It appears you also just added a totally new format for merging information from one family tree into your family tree. I just tried to use it twice and both times it has failed.

    I think you need to put this back into Beta testing immediately and restore the prior version of the software until you have completed a much more through beta testing.

    • jhodnett

      The feature you are talking about is in a “preview” state. You can toggle out of it by selecting the “switch back” link at the top of the page. If you are having trouble with it not working, I’m interested to know why, so please feel free to send me an email at Thanks

  4. Kay

    What I want is an UNMERGE! I have successive generations of ancestors with the same name and they have been merged in error [seemingly by FamilySearch itself since no one’s name is attached to these merges] creating multiple wives and multiplying and duplicating children. In some case three generations have been merged and each of the generations shows all the wives and all the children – up to as many as 18-20 children, most of whom are not that couple’s children at all because they were not a couple in the first place. Just impossible to fix. In one situation, I have two brothers named Jonathan and John and they have both been attached to each other’s wife as well as their own and both appear as the father of the children of both unions. What a mess!

  5. Have just got done trying this feature.
    This is the most fantastic update that has been done to!!!!!
    It even compares all family members!
    Absolutely love it!!!!!
    Going to email my friends!!
    You deserve 10 gold stars!!!

  6. Jade

    The suggested-person-to-merge needs a lot of improvement. I just tried a sample from one of my repeated-same-name groups and the suggested person to merge had completely different vital dates: birth dates different by 10 years, death dates different by 23 years.

    In another group of similarly named persons (same first name, different middle names), there were three suggested matches with different very specific birth dates and places, and very different death dates.

    I think this needs work, and for the time being in the “Person 2” area there should be a statement that the date-match is chosen by the program if it is within X (a definite) number of years.

    Please also explain in your summary what happens with attached spouses.

  7. Claudia

    This is a very nice improvement. Now if you would just find a way to merge different trees. The fact that you can do it in Family Tree Maker has no bearing. We need to be able to do it on Ancestry.

  8. scwbcm

    What happened? All of the DNA matches went to initials, member connect is gone, message board gone and it took forever to log in.

  9. Thanks so much for this. I had looked for this functionality when I first started and didn’t see it available, so I’ve done all my merging manually. Please keep creating great tools like this! I love

  10. Karen

    I have quite a few ancestors who appear 2, even 3 times in my tree. I was many years into my tree before I realized you could choose from someone already in the tree to add again. Last week I decided to clean up the duplicates and began to merge them individually – the hard way. In 4 days I had only made it about half way through those individuals. Then I discovered you had just added the “Merge Duplicate Individuals” function. Including the time it took to read the instructions, I finished the job in about 20 minutes. Thank you so much! That was a much needed function. It worked great!

  11. Donna Goodwin

    Well this is nice to have. Fortunately I have been very careful when adding info from census’ here at ancestry and use FTM duplicates which work great. Now what are you doing that will not allow marriages to be added. It keeps saying try back again. Also, why does a wife and all children get included when saving a census on time and not the next? The only think I can find is the spelling may be off between the tree and the census. It is a pain to add the same census to 4-10 people in the same household.

  12. The merge duplicates is a great addition to the site. I just started doing the deletion the hard way a week ago, and it took forever. I noticed the merge ability 2 days ago and I completed my list of over 850 family members in just a few hours(family interruptions included). I love it and am glad it was added.

  13. Teresa

    Oh boy! I can hardly wait to try this, duplicates are something I try very hard to avoid but it is impossible to remember everyone’s name when you have nearly 11,000 people in your tree 🙂 I can be very tedious and time consuming and to me at least disheartening to do it the way we had to before. Thank you!!!!

  14. scwbcm

    “Also, why does a wife and all children get included when saving a census on time and not the next?”

    Donna, some census records were specific about asking for relationships and some weren’t. Ancestry has apparently tried to give what the actual evidence gives.

    There are many cases where someone on a census page is not related, such as employees, apprentices, etc. Also, sometimes the relationship is not clear. It may not be a parent with a child but rather a grandparent and a grandchild, etc.

  15. BEE

    Thank you! I worked very hard to eliminate duplicates the hard way, and while I’m very careful when I add any new names, I found that I did have a duplicate, and this worked!

  16. This feature has been a long time coming. I have spent a lot of research and edit time, only to find that I was working on an alternate iteration of a great aunt or uncle.

    One problem: this seems to add an extra entry for the person in Family view, and seems to sever some of the previously linked connections. Am I doing something wrong?

  17. This is long overdue, thanks. But merging is giving me 2 duplicate individuals in some family views. When I delete one, the whole line is gone and must be rebuilt! What am I doing wrong?

  18. Cyndie Tidwell

    Duplicates are the worst part of my trees. I don’t know how it happens. But, perhaps this is the fix I need. I have tens of thousands of records and have been so dismayed by the task of eliminating the duplicates. I’ll get back to you after I try it. Holding my breath!

  19. Bill

    This is worse than the torture of the Spanish Inquisition.

    I have over fifty two thousand direct ancestors and there are quite few married cousins.

    I had been avoiding synchronizing with tree maker.

    Now that I have my hard work on ancestry is contaminated.

    This repair is an impossible task for me.


    Your site is slowing down and locking up.


    Get some chinese or indian computer guys to come up with a fix.

  20. Patricia Childs

    After merging duplicates in my grandfather’s tree I looked at relationships in his edit space only to find all the information I gleaned from merging is repeated over and over. I have no clue as to which of these I should remove. I am trying to associate the families of my nearest relatives with my own family. Is there a guide to this process that I could download?

  21. jhodnett

    Patricia, when you merge two duplicate people, the system doesn’t continue to merge other duplicate people. Without looking at your tree, I can’t say for certain, but I think you can just go to the people who have duplicate relationships and merge them as well and that should clean it up. If you’re still having problems, feel free to email me and we can take a look at it.

  22. Sinta

    I’m sorry if this is off-topic but I’m looking for a way to list all people in my tree (in ftm or on ancestry) that are listed as living. I have quite a few that are obviously deceased (born in 1780’s,etc) but listed as living because there is no death date shown. How can I isolate the “living” on to reflect their death?

  23. marilyn

    I have a 3 cousin that has been working on the family tree and has much more information than I do. How do I merge her family tree with mine..
    a newbie at this. Thanks for the help

  24. FalconEddy

    Before attempting to merge duplicate names, you need to be absolutely sure that you haven’t created a different lineage off from both names. This could have a disastrous outcome on your Family Tree. Especially if one is the “correct” one, and THAT one ends up getting deleted as a result of the merge. NOTHING is bulletproof my friends. Be sure to backup FIRST at least in three places before attempting the merge. I believe in a belt AND suspenders as far as backups are concerned. Be fully aware this merge means that you’ll need to check ALL OF THE LINEAGE all the way down the tree on every branch to see what may be affected by merging each of these names. Fun, huh? When the people at write these great updates, they inadvertently forget that sometimes people (and the old software) make errors, and making new features sometimes compounds these errors which may be unseen until it’s too late. The larger your tree is, the bigger the nightmare.

  25. Jacqueline

    HALLELUJAH!!!! This is the BEST Xmas present I’ve gotten in years. Thank you all sooooo much for this merge dups feature, makes my biggest buggaboo a minor problem now. Wow, thanks!

  26. Judy

    I was shown this merge key from a relative and began using it. The problem is that it merges the main persons info but when you look at relationships it has not merged the info of the spouse and children or siblings it duplicates it under the one name. So then I have to merge all of these people as well – very time consuming. Why can’t there be a list of all the relationship people (siblings, kids, spouses etc) and then let us check which to merge and which to add as an additional. Was really enjoying ancestry, but this duplicating problem has caused be hours of work – I’ve reduced my tree from 6,000+ people to 4,000+ but I still haven’t finished the duplication. HELP!!!

  27. Carl Eastvold

    How do you “Un-Merge” two people – when you’ve made a huge error (the name was the same – for one, there were no dates – but they now appear to be decades apart). Backing out on either of them will loose me a large group of ancestors.

  28. David

    A useful feature, however my tree is showing my mother and her father twice, but when trying to merge them, it states the second person is already selected as person 1.

    What can I do? Am I safe to delete one of them, or will both, and the whole tree go too?

  29. scott

    I have the same issue as in post 39 by David. It shows people several times, but doesnt not let me merge them, telling me they are already selected.

  30. Amy

    This DOESN’T WORK for merging people in DIFFERENT TREES. It only allows you to choose from people in the same tree. What are the chances of that?

  31. Barb

    I am having the same problem as David (39) and Scott (40). I just added some basic info to a person in my tree and for some reason, I now have that person’s info showing up in duplicate, but with now with three wives repeated and 7 children repeated x 3! I tried the merge option (which I have used successfully many, many times), but when I try to use ‘John Doe’ over again as my duplicate, it says that he has already been selected and won’t allow me to do that. Isn’t the duplicate person that you select quite often one and the same person, just inadvertently repeated?

  32. Bill #28: Yes … this very same thing has/had been happening to me, especially since the first of the year! kept on freezing up, lost my ability to log on to me web page/tree, lost ALL my DNA information – could not log into my DNA page/results, etc.

    So … I CANCELLED my subscription to I had/have read many blogs that are complimentary, and when Ancestry works, it works very, very well. But, lately, most especially since I have upgraded to Ancestry version 2014 – you have described my dilemma and aggravation just fine. Ancestry’s support person confirmed that they were cancelling my subscription within 5-7 days, well over three (3) weeks ago – and they did not cancel it! I have a confirmation number and put a credit ‘freeze’ on my charge account (see below)*

    Must say, I do miss Ancestry and the ‘leaves’ with all the wonderful information provided, the sync ability between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker, etc. But, as stated above, the hassles I had/have gone through for at least three months just weren’t worth it to me.

    One of the ‘excuses’ Ancestry gave me is that Internet Explorer upgraded my (and others) program with them to version 11! They sent me an email stating I should use Google Chrome with instructions on how to bypass IE 11; however, I had already tried this so-called solution many times already. I did attempt the fix spelled out in their email – didn’t work (again)!

    In other words, my subscription was not working! So, the only option left to me was to unsubscribe.

    *One other point – if anyone does unsubscribe, check your credit card bill – I did – and have placed a credit ‘hold’ on They have/had been charging my account $19.99 each month since my upgrade; an upgrade I had paid $99.80 for in late September/early October – they have no explanation as to why I was being charged this monthly fee!! Heads up …

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