Person and Relationship Lifecycles

This document is intended to clarify the effects and nuances of changing, creating, deleting, and restoring Person and Relationship entities in the FamilySearch system.

Deleting Persons and Relationships

When a Person or Relationship entity is deleted, FamilySearch maintains a reference to it to enable support for restoring (i.e., "undeleting") it at a later time. A request for a Person or Relationship that has been deleted will result in an "HTTP 410 Gone" status code. View an example of a request for a Person that has been deleted.

Note A request for a person that has been merged results in an "HTTP 301 Moved Permanently" status code. For more information, see the Merging guide and the example request for a Person that has been merged.

Restoring Deleted Persons and Relationships

Restoring a person is done by making a POST request to the Restore Person resource, as shown in the Restore Person example request.

The Side Effects

The following side effects of deleting and recovering entities should be noted:

  • Deleting a person also deletes all relationships that reference that person.
  • Recovering a person also recovers any relationships to that person except for those that link to person(s) that are still deleted.
  • A relationship cannot be recovered if any person being referenced by the relationship is deleted.

Living/Deceased State

The living status of a person is based on the living property of that person. You can explicitly set the value of the person's living status. If you don't, the value of the living status will be set according to an algorithm. The value is set according to a wide variety of assertion values used to calculate the death state of a person. These include a death or death-like events such as burial, cremation, funeral, or stillborn.

Living persons can only be seen by the user that created them. When a new person is created in Family Tree, the user determines the living or deceased state of a person by selecting either living or deceased. Once the deceased state has been declared, the API supports editing (writing) the death events. If a death fact (date) or event is deleted, the deceased state is not changed. A person can be deceased without a death event.

Changing a Person's Status from Deceased to Living

The API cannot be used to change the status of a person from deceased to living. Users will need to log in to Family Tree and submit a request for admin intervention.