Family Tree Maker Tip: Merging Duplicate Facts

Have you ever noticed a situation in your Family Tree Maker database where you have several different or duplicate versions of a particular fact?  This situation most often occurs when you have merged information into your tree that doesn’t exactly match what you already have on record, so the software creates an alternate version of the fact.  The variation in information can be as subtle as an extra space or punctuation between words, or perhaps spelling out the state instead of using the state abbreviation, as in Texas vs. TX.  Sometimes duplication can occur even if the information is exactly the same, such as in cases where you perform a duplicate download of a record from that is merged into your tree.  Whatever the cause of the duplication, luckily the information can be easily combined to create a cleaner list of facts and citations in your database.

FTM 20130704 Fig1In the example above, I have two scenarios that need to be corrected.  There are three different name facts, with two being exact duplicates of “Emma Lucille Freeman” and one being a name variant where the middle and first name were reversed as “Lucille Emma Freeman.”  There are 7 source citations linked to the “Lucille” name variant, and 1 citation linked to each of the “Emma” name variants.  Regardless of how I may want to resolve the duplication, I will certainly want to keep my source citations intact, so deleting a duplicate fact is never a good option, as it will also delete the linkage to the citation.

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I also have exact duplication of the residence fact for 1920, which came from the 1920 census record.  I likely erroneously merged two copies of this census record into Lucille’s record from, even though I had already documented the residence fact.  In this case I want to merge the two duplicate facts and the duplicate source citations.

It is fairly easy to correct both of these problems.  Begin by right clicking on one of the duplicate facts and selecting Merge Duplicate Facts.


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A dialog box will appear that lists all the different variations or duplications of the fact you selected.  Simply check the facts you wish to merge, and leave unchecked the facts you wish to remain separate.  In my case, I want to keep the Emma vs. Lucille names as separate facts, with Lucille as preferred and Emma as alternate, so I will only check the two duplicate Emma name facts to merge.




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Once I click Next, I am given more options that allow me to specify which version of each fact’s date, place and description element I want to become the preferred fact.  Because I am only combining two identical Emma name facts, there’s really no impact to this decision, but if I had opted to also combine the Lucille name fact, I would then be able to choose whether I wanted Lucille or Emma to be the preferred fact after the merge.  The note at the bottom of the dialog box reassures me that all my source citations that are not in duplicate will be retained after the merge.

Once I click Finish, I see that the duplicate Emma facts have been combined into one fact.  Because there is now only one source citation associated with the Emma fact, I know that the duplicate citation was also combined.

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FTM 20130704 Fig6In the 1920 residence example, I also right click on one of the residence facts to begin the Merge Duplicate Facts process.  I am only concerned with merging the duplicate 1920 residences, but I notice that a 1930 residence also appears as a choice to potentially combine.  This is because the 1930 fact is also a residence fact.  I do not want to accidentally combine 1920 and 1930 information, because the information was recorded at distinct times and places!  I take care to only check the boxes to combine the 1920 information.


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This residence fact only contained the date and place element, so there is nothing in the description for me to select to keep.  Because the facts were exact duplicates, the software automatically removes the duplicate choices (for date and place, not for description), so all I have to do is click Finish and the process will be done.

After the merge completes, I notice that I now only have one residence fact for 1920 and my 1930 fact was also left as is.

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I do notice that the 1920 fact now has 2 source citations, meaning the citations differed and were not automatically combined.  I must investigate why the citations were different, since the obvious source of the information would have been the one and only 1920 census.  By clicking on the 1920 residence fact, I see the fact sources in the right screen panel.

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The mystery is solved!  At one time I must have downloaded information from a personal member tree on, and then later downloaded the 1920 census directly.  It is important to note that downloading information from a personal member tree on will always generate a source citation to the personal member tree, even if the tree had the 1920 census attached as its original source for the residence fact.  Stated another way, the citation will contain information about where you got the information (the personal member tree), not the source of your source (the 1920 census). Because of this knowledge, I make yet another decision to further clean up this source citation.  I don’t need a lesser quality source of a personal member tree when I have already documented the original source of the 1920 census.  I simply click on the citation to the personal member tree and click the broken chain link icon to unlink the citation.

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After confirming that I indeed to want to unlink the citation, I see that I now only have one source citation for the 1920 residence, so my work is done.

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Word of caution:  If you plan to do a lot of merging of facts, it’s always a good idea to back up your database before you start working, and then periodically as you work so you have recovery points along the way, should you need them.