top of page
  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Find and Delete Floating Trees on Ancestry

Do you have strange people floating around in your family tree? Are you having trouble finding them on Ancestry and getting rid of them?

If you have a family tree with more than a few hundred people in it, chances are you have unconnected twigs and branches that you might want to remove, but you’re not sure how.

What is a floating tree?

A viewer named Ed McFadden from Oregon sent in this email,

“I have recently had several contacts with people who have accidentally created floating tree branches on their family tree. They do not even know what a floating tree is or how it got onto their tree. Several have even gotten angry with me thinking I am some kind of scammer when I have told them they have hidden profiles.”

Oh, dear Ed!

Before we continue, let’s define a specific term.

A floating tree is like a family tree within a family tree. Meaning you have a cluster of people that are connected to each other, but they are not connected to anyone else in your family tree.

While Connie Knox from Genealogy TV says, “it's primary purpose is to trace other clans that somehow are associated with your ancestors.” There are times when people are in our family trees by mistake.

Ed continues, “In checking for tutorials I found many tutorials that explain how to "intentionally" create a floating tree. I found no tutorials on how to properly remove a mistaken branch in that it has to be done from the bottom up so it does not create a hidden floating tree.”

Ed is correct. There were no tutorials on deleting floating trees until now.

Can you find a floating tree on Ancestry?

Ancestry offers no easy way to find disconnected family branches and twigs in your overall family tree. You will need to download your family tree to a genealogy software program.

The two I am familiar with are Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic.

Find Floating Trees in Family Tree Maker

After downloading your family tree from Ancestry to Family Tree Maker, there are two ways to find unattached individuals.

Run a Data Errors report

  1. Open a family tree.

  2. Navigate to the home person in your family tree.

  3. Click 'Publish.'

  4. Choose 'Person Reports.'

  5. Choose 'Data Errors Report.'

  6. Click 'Create a report.'

  7. Ensure 'All individuals' is selected.

  8. Click on this first icon below the menu title of "Data Errors Report Options."

  9. In the "Errors to Include" screen, click 'Exclude All.'

  10. The check the box beside the person errors that say "Person is unattached."

You can either delete this person in Family Tree Maker and sync your Ancestry tree, or you can delete the person from Ancestry manually. (More on that later.)

Create a Relationships Report

  • Open a family tree.

  • Navigate to the home person in your family tree.

  • Click 'Publish.'

  • Choose 'Relationship Reports.'

  • Choose 'Kinship Report.'

  • Click 'Create Report.'

  • Select the 'All individuals' option.

  • Check the box for

    • 'Show unrelated individuals.'

    • 'Sort individuals by kinship.'

  • Click "Generate Report."

  • Scroll down the kinship section that says "Unrelated."

Be very careful when deleting this list. While you might not be directly related to these persons, they may be indirect kin.

For instance, Magdalena is the second wife of a man who traveled to the US from Hanover with my ancestors. That family married into my family later. Having this person in my tree is for the specific purpose of researching my ancestors in Gillershiem.

In short, I do not want to delete Magdalena from this tree even though she’s unrelated.

Find Floating Trees in RootsMagic

RootsMagic has an easy button to find floating trees in their program. First, you need to download your Ancestry family tree into RootsMagic, if you haven’t already.

  • Open a family tree file.

  • On the "People" tab, click the wrench and screwdriver icon in the top right menu area.

  • Choose the "Count trees" option.

RootsMagic will show you how many floating trees you have on Ancestry. Then you can decide what to do with them.

Honestly, it’s easier to find floating trees using RootsMagic than any other service I found.

Deleting Floating Trees on Ancestry

Once you have found your floating trees on Ancestry that you do not need, how do you remove them?

Ancestry says, “To prevent accidental deletions, it's not possible to delete an entire branch of a tree at once.”

This is a great policy because you can really mess up a large family tree if you could delete someone rapidly.

Deleting a person on Ancestry

  • Navigate to the person you want to delete.

  • Click on 'Edit.'

  • Click on 'Delete person.'

When the person is deleted, Ancestry will take you to the next logically available profile. The next likely profile could be a parent, spouse, or child.

Since deleting a floating tree can be challenging, follow these additional steps. Watch the video linked in this post to see this in action.

  • Start with a profile at the 'bottom' of a tree and work your way to the top. Be careful to make note of any tangent branches that you will need to remove later.

  • In this example, the bottom of the tree is Thomas Petty, but you want to ensure you delete his step-brother, who is also on this lower level.

  • Since Thomas’s brother has a wife, you will delete her profile first.

  • Then Ancestry brings you back to Thomas's brother Bruce’s profile.

  • Now you can delete him.

  • This action brings you back to Thomas's father Earl's profile.

  • Now you will want to finish deleting any other siblings and then Thomas and his wife.

  • Navigate to Thomas.

  • Since his wife and children aren't listed, delete Thomas.

  • Ancestry takes you back to Thomas's father Earl’s profile.

  • Continue you working your way up the unlinked family tree in this fashion.

When you're working with Family Tree Maker, sync your family tree with Ancestry, and these persons SHOULD disappear from that program.

Deleting a Person on Ancestry Using RootsMagic

The advantage of deleting a person using RootsMagic, even though it requires a few more steps, is that you can ensure you are deleting floating trees by constantly running the ‘Count Trees’ tool.

  • Use the Count tree tools mentioned above to access the floating tree.

  • Click on the "Descendants" view.

  • Use the arrows to expand the floating tree to the top generation.

  • Right-click on a person you wish to delete.

  • Choose the 'Delete' option.

  • You can then choose to 'Delete person' or 'Delete family.' (This is the only rapid person deletion tool, but it only impacts RootsMagic’s database.)

  • Either one will work. So choose 'Delete family' when you can.

  • When finished, run the count trees tool again to confirm you have deleted unwanted floating trees.

Once you have removed the unwanted unlinked trees, compare your RootsMagic Tree to the Ancestry tree using the TreeShare tool.

  • Search for one of the names from the floating tree.

  • Notice that the RootsMagic panel is blank, but the Ancestry panel has a profile.

  • Choose the "Delete" button.

  • Confirm your decision to delete that profile.

  • Ancestry will then run a syncing process and delete that process.

  • Continue working through the TreeShare tool to find persons that were in the unlinked tree that should be removed.

Ed, I hope that answers your question. Thanks for sending it in. If you have a question about Ancestry, FamilySearch, or MyHeritage that you would like answered, send it to me using the contact form on our website.

Note: To leave a comment, you will be asked to sign in with your Facebook or Google Account. This action will help reduce spam comments on our site. I hope you'll understand.

bottom of page