Hints when merging people in an online family tree

I am currently developing my family tree on-line, after deciding to get it into a more manageable format than the old crinkly sheets of paper I found when back home. The website I use is Ancestry.

When working through census records I quite often find that the women “disappear” at around the age of 25. Of course, they don’t actually disappear, it’s just that they have got married and I don’t yet know their married name because I haven’t looked up their marriage details yet. Later when I do get to looking up their marriage details, I discover that they are already in my tree elsewhere under their married name. So now I have to merge them. Until a month ago, I was doing this manually, but Ancestry have just added an excellent new feature allowing you to merge two people in the same tree. I’ve already used this feature a number of times and it is so much easier than manual merging. I have some hints when using it which are described in this post.

Single entry facts

Before doing the merge of two people that you have decided are actually the same person, edit them manually to ensure the following facts are identical

  • Name: For example, you have the maiden surname in one and the married surname in the other.
  • Birth: For example, you have “abt 1850” in one and the exact birthdate in the other
  • Birth place
  • Death
  • Death place

The reason for doing this first is because, when the facts differ, Ancestry will add both in, one (which you choose) as the primary fact and the other as an alternative fact. I personally don’t like alternative facts, especially in the above cases where they are easily resolved, and find it less time consuming to deal with them before the merge rather than afterwards. It also has the benefit of making it much easier for Ancestry to present you with the correct person to merge with since the names and birth dates are identical! You know you’ve got it correct when the merge window shows that these facts are the same.

Ancestry Merge Duplicate

When everything matches, this is indicated by the tag “same”

Left over hints

When you have two people that need to be merged, it is almost certain that the hints you have applied to each will differ (or you would have noticed the need to merge them sooner). When merging two people, the hints that are remaining will be carried over. This means that you will end up with a person who has an “Unreviewed hint” that is actually already applied. You can reduce the number of these hints that you have by carefully selecting which of the two people you are merging to actually run the merge option from.

Merge Menu

Running the merge operation from the “more options” menu for one person

I have found that running the merge option from the person with the most remaining hints leaves you with the least tidying up to do. or in other words, the hints that are carried over even though they are already applied to the combined person, come from the person that you selected to match with, rather than the one you ran the merge option from.

N.B. I have reported the issue to Ancestry and it has been passed on to their developers.

More hints to come later.


Morag would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment here.

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