Indexing Parents and Childrenedit

Indexing parent documents is no different from any other document. Parents don’t need to know anything about their children:

POST /company/branch/_bulk
{ "index": { "_id": "london" }}
{ "name": "London Westminster", "city": "London", "country": "UK" }
{ "index": { "_id": "liverpool" }}
{ "name": "Liverpool Central", "city": "Liverpool", "country": "UK" }
{ "index": { "_id": "paris" }}
{ "name": "Champs Élysées", "city": "Paris", "country": "France" }

When indexing child documents, you must specify the ID of the associated parent document:

PUT /company/employee/1?parent=london 
  "name":  "Alice Smith",
  "dob":   "1970-10-24",
  "hobby": "hiking"

This employee document is a child of the london branch.

This parent ID serves two purposes: it creates the link between the parent and the child, and it ensures that the child document is stored on the same shard as the parent.

In Routing a Document to a Shard, we explained how Elasticsearch uses a routing value, which defaults to the _id of the document, to decide which shard a document should belong to. The routing value is plugged into this simple formula:

shard = hash(routing) % number_of_primary_shards

However, if a parent ID is specified, it is used as the routing value instead of the _id. In other words, both the parent and the child use the same routing value—​the _id of the parent—​and so they are both stored on the same shard.

The parent ID needs to be specified on all single-document requests: when retrieving a child document with a GET request, or when indexing, updating, or deleting a child document. Unlike a search request, which is forwarded to all shards in an index, these single-document requests are forwarded only to the shard that holds the document—​if the parent ID is not specified, the request will probably be forwarded to the wrong shard.

The parent ID should also be specified when using the bulk API:

POST /company/employee/_bulk
{ "index": { "_id": 2, "parent": "london" }}
{ "name": "Mark Thomas", "dob": "1982-05-16", "hobby": "diving" }
{ "index": { "_id": 3, "parent": "liverpool" }}
{ "name": "Barry Smith", "dob": "1979-04-01", "hobby": "hiking" }
{ "index": { "_id": 4, "parent": "paris" }}
{ "name": "Adrien Grand", "dob": "1987-05-11", "hobby": "horses" }

If you want to change the parent value of a child document, it is not sufficient to just reindex or update the child document—​the new parent document may be on a different shard. Instead, you must first delete the old child, and then index the new child.