Pruning and Grafting Branches of Your Family Tree with Advanced
Have you ever had the situation where youve imported a GEDCOM file, only to find
that several branches of the tree were extraneous? Or you started with some data from an
unreliable source, and now know where a new, more reliable source is, so you want to trade
in your old data for new, more correct data? Or perhaps you are coordinating research
efforts with a relative, where you have taken on the research of one branch of your family
tree and your associate is researching another branch, and you want to keep each other
Using the Advanced Filtering capabilities of Ancestral Quest, you can clean up these types of
problems. Heres how:
Lets say you received a lot of data from your aunt Mae, which includes three
generations of descendants for your second-cousin, Robert. You dont want to track
the descendancy of your distant relatives so closely, and would like to remove
Roberts descendants .
- Make a backup of your database, in case you make a mistake.
- Go into the Search for Individual/Browse screen:
Click the Advanced button to open up the Advanced Filtering portion of the
Select the root person of the branch you wish to work with. In this case, Robert is the
root of this branch of your family tree, so select Robert (highlight his name in the
Set the relationship type. In this example, you are trying to remove Roberts
descendants, so set the relationship type to Descendants.
Click the Select button: you will be given the chance to indicate the number of
generations and whether spouses should be included. When complete, you will have all
direct descendants of Robert selected, along with Robert himself, and optionally their
Check the Show results only box to view the list of selected individuals and
scroll up and down the list to verify that those marked are the ones you want.
Now click the Delete button and indicate that you want to remove all selected
individuals. Ta da! You have successfully cleaned out, or pruned, an unwanted branch of
your family tree.
- In AQ versions 2.1 - 3: From the Menu bar choose Tools > Browse List, or click the Browse toolbar button (the icon that looks
sort of like a pair of Rolodex cards)
- In AQ versions 2002 (version 10), 11, and 12: From the Menu bar choose Search > Individual Search or choose the Search for Individual toolbar button (the same icon that looks
sort of like a pair of Rolodex cards), or press Ctrl+s on the keyboard
There are two potential problems with the above procedure:
- If Roberts descendant branch contained side branches, such as the parents and
siblings of some of the spouses, they will still be in the database, but be disconnected
from the main tree. To remove these side branches you would change step E
above to set the relationship type to All Descendant Related. When you click
the Select button in step F, you will not be asked for information such as
number of generations or spouses. Instead, ALL descendants of Robert will be selected, and
additionally their spouses, parents of spouses, siblings of spouses, spouses of these
siblings, and on and on. Anyone connected in any way to the descendants of Robert will be
selected so that the ENTIRE branch of the tree every little leaf will be
- You probably intend to keep Robert and perhaps his spouse(s) while removing their
descendants. To do this, once you have the descendant branch selected you need to DESELECT
Robert and his spouse(s). Since Roberts record is already highlighted, just change
the relationship type to Individual or Couple, then click the
Deselect button. You will notice that Robert and his spouse(s) are no longer on the list
of selected individuals.
You can use this technique of selecting and deselecting SETS of people to isolate just
those you want. You can delete the set as described above, or export the set to a GEDCOM
By defining field filters, you can refine these sets based on information in
individuals records. For example, you could specify that you want only those
descendants who were born in Germany between 1820 and 1860 and who died of cancer. The
definition of field filters is beyond the scope of this article, but is fully described in
Ancestral Quests online help, along with several examples in the Online Tutorial.
There are some powerful uses of this technique, whether you are selecting ancestral or
- Split your database. Do this by copying your database (use the File > Copy menu function),
then select yourself and your ancestral related to remove from one database, and select
your spouse and his/her ancestral related to remove from the other database.
- Export the selected branch to send to a relative as a GEDCOM file.
- Prior to importing a more correct branch from a relative, purge the outdated branch from
the tree in your database. Once you import the more correct branch, all you have to do is
link an appropriate person from the imported set to the appropriate relative in your
database and you have completed the grafting of the new branch. You wont have to
spend hundreds of hours merging duplicates and hoping you dont make any mistakes.
One note of caution. When you use All Descendant Related or All
Ancestral Related, certain types of intermarrying in your lines can cause the
selection process to wrap around and give the same results as All
Related. If your intent is to use this list in a non-destructive way (ie: print a
custom report for the selected people, generate a birthday/anniversary calendar, export
them to a GEDCOM file, etc.) you would have to locate the intermarriage link that causes
the wrap around and temporarily unlink in order to get the results you want
remember to relink after you are done. If you are trying to prune the branch of the
tree, you can first select just direct ancestors or descendants of the branchs root
person and delete them, then find all people that are no longer connected to the main tree
and delete them (you do this by first selecting All, then deselecting
All Related to anybody you know should be on the main tree.)
Proper use of these advanced capabilities can save you hours and hours of time, effort
and frustration when coordinating research efforts with others.