Inserting Parent and Child Tables with SSIS

A relatively frequent occurrence in data integration is the need to insert data into a parent table (like Order Header) and insert related records into a child table (Order Details). If the data is already populated with appropriate keys, and you are just copying it, this isn’t too complex – just copy the parent table first, then the child. What if the new tables use identity keys, though? You need to get the new identity key for each header row before you can insert the child row. This post is going to walk through one pattern for doing this, and I’ll show an alternate approach in my next post.

The first approach assumes that you have some common piece of information to link the data. In this case, often the simplest approach is to use two Data Flow tasks, run in sequence. This is my preferred solution to this problem, because it’s fast and it’s usually straightforward to implement.

The first Data Flow loads the parent records, and the second loads the child records. Note that the second Data Flow can’t run until the first succeeds.


The first Data Flow is pretty straight forward, and simply retrieves the parent (order header) data and inserts it into the parent table. The most important item here is that the source component retrieves the right data – that is, one row per order header, and that it includes some information that can be used to uniquely identify the order. In the sample package I’ve linked to below, you’ll see that the source of the order records is a single table, where a given row includes both header information and the detail. The source query for the data flow selects and groups on customer ID, as that uniquely identifies the order in this scenario (one order per customer, per day).

The second data flow retrieves the order detail for the same source table. It then uses a Lookup transform to retrieve the correct order ID (the identity key) from the parent table. The Lookup just needs enough data to make a unique match – in this case, that’s the current date and the customer id.


That’s really all there is to the simple pattern. You can find a sample package that illustrates this on my SkyDrive. But there can be more complex scenarios where you still need to handle a Parent / Child insert. For example, what if there is no reliable key to tie the order detail rows to the order header? In this case you can’t use the lookup. Stay tuned for the next post, where I’ll discuss a different pattern that can handle this scenario, but involves some tradeoffs.

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