Clock is Ticking: In 28 Days, Ancestry CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT With Every Image In Your Tree

See all these photos I’ve uploaded to Ancestry?

According to Ancestry’s new updated Terms of Service dated August 3, 2021, Ancestry will be able to use these photos, and anything else I’ve ever uploaded or saved, in any way they want, for any purpose, forever. And there’s nothing I can do about it except:

  • Don’t upload anything beginning now
  • Delete anything previously uploaded or saved during the next 28 days (before September 2, 2021)

This Means

  • Ancestry can now do whatever they want with anything you upload to your ancestry tree beginning August 3, 2021.
  • This includes anything you’ve shared with anyone else and THEY’VE uploaded to Ancestry trees too.
  • Or, if Ancestry has offered one of your images/photos as hints to someone and they have accepted that hint and added your image to someone in their tree.
  • This includes any image or information that you have saved that was associated with anyone else’s tree.

Yes, if you haven’t guessed, I’m gritting my teeth…and that’s putting it mildly.

In the past, I’ve ENCOURAGED people to upload photos because it makes your tree more attractive – as cousin bait.

I wanted to encourage other people to upload photos of my ancestors, because I want to find photos that I’ve never seen. Furthermore, I want to share photos and family history with my cousins.

However, that does NOT, DOES NOT, extend to Ancestry claiming my photos for their own use – regardless of whatever that use is – forever. Once uploaded, there’s no taking this decision back and there’s no revoking that permission at Ancestry.

Judy Russell’s Blog Article

I’m not a lawyer, but Judy Russell* certainly is and she has addressed this new information in her blog, here, titled “One big change at Ancestry.”

I reached out to Judy with a couple questions which she was kind enough to answer:

Q1: What about photos and stories I’ve already uploaded, before this new change in Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions?

A1: Judy says that relative to materials previously uploaded, Ancestry says the new terms take effect 30 days from the date you’re informed – which was August 3. Judy presumes, and therefore I do too, that this means that customers (or anyone who has uploaded anything) to trees have 30 days to remove anything they don’t want to give Ancestry the right to use in any way they wish.

I’m using the word “give” very loosely here. Ancestry is taking that right by modifying the terms and conditions and notifying you – which started the clock. That 30 days began on August 3rd which means that if you do NOT remove something already uploaded or saved, Ancestry retains the right to use it any way they see fit, forever.

Q2: What about external web links I’ve posted in the profiles of each of my ancestors?

A2: Ancestry can’t utilize anything from the link itself.

I’ve added web links to the stories I’ve written about each ancestor to that ancestor’s Ancestry profile card.

I was pretty sure that since I only posted the link that Ancestry CANNOT take anything contained within these stories so long as NO ONE ACTUALLY COPIES THE ARTICE, PHOTOS OR IMAGES AND POSTS THEM TO THEIR TREE at Ancestry.

So, please, PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD anyone’s work except your own and only then if you intend to grant Ancestry perpetual (forever) rights to do anything they want with everything you upload.

As for me, I’m deleting every single one of the images I’ve ever uploaded. I will leave the links to my articles, but I will add a note to each of those articles asking people to NOT copy, paste and/or upload anything from my articles to Ancestry – and I’ll explain why. I WANT my cousins to use these articles for their own research, and to share with others – but I have absolutely NO INTENTION, EVER of “giving” this information to Ancestry to use unrestricted as they see fit.

Read, Read, Read

As always, Judy encourages everyone to thoroughly read any new terms of service or modifications issued by ANY vendor because these documents change the contract you have with that vendor.

The vendors do NOT have to notify you via email or message. I did NOT receive any email and found out about the Ancestry change via Judy’s blog.

Where does Ancestry post these notifications? You can find this one on the top of your page when you sign in which is typical. If you don’t sign in, don’t specifically look for these notifications, and don’t READ what they say – you’re not protecting your rights!

By the way, Judy notes that you still OWN the actual content, so you can still continue to use it in any way you see fit that doesn’t violate someone else’s copyright. However, by uploading, you have granted Ancestry the contract right to do anything they want with anything you upload and you cannot do anything about that after the fact. This change is already in effect as of August 3rd for anything newly uploaded.

However, right now, you still have time to delete images you uploaded previously.


If you want to remove anything currently uploaded, do it BEFORE September 2nd and DO NOT UPLOAD ANYTHING ELSE if you are not willing to allow Ancestry permanent unfettered ability to utilize your documents and images.

To delete an image at Ancestry, click on the profile card of the person in your tree. Then click on Gallery where you’ll see all of the images you’ve saved or uploaded. To delete, click on the trash can and then SELECT “DELETE FROM TREE.

If you just click on “Remove from Gallery,” it’s not deleted entirely from your tree, just disconnected from that person.

According to Ancestry:

Removing/detaching a photo from someone’s Gallery disconnects the photo from that person, but leaves it connected to the tree. Deleting a photo, on the other hand, permanently removes the photo from both the person and the tree.

Delete each image separately.


Judy mentioned that in 2013 she previously wrote that Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever too*. The difference being, of course, that FamilySearch is entirely free, available to everyone, and benefits only genealogists. In other words, FamilySearch doesn’t charge and is not profiting off of utilizing our images.

It’s still something you should be aware of so you can make an informed decision.

What About MyHeritage?

I felt sure this was NOT the case at MyHeritage. Just to be positive, I reached out to Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage to confirm that MyHeritage does NOT in fact retain any rights to their customer’s work or images. I asked Gilad to differentiate between Ancestry’s new terms and conditions and MyHeritage’s terms and conditions.

Here’s what Gilad said:

The differentiation is that Ancestry is now apparently availing themselves irrevocably to content uploaded by users. Not just photos, but also family tree data.

On MyHeritage, I confirm this is not the case. On MyHeritage, the user can delete any content, including family tree data and photos, and MyHeritage will then destroy it permanently (and cease to hold on to it, nor assert any rights whatsoever to it).

Regarding the use of images: as part of the informed consent on MyHeritage, which is used mainly in the context of DNA testing, users may grant MyHeritage permission to also use photos for MyHeritage’s internal research (for example, to develop an algorithm that guesses when a photo was taken, or to learn how to repair scratches in photos). That informed consent can be withdrawn.

In the past, MyHeritage has asked permission to use one of my images and reference one of my ancestor articles (by using a link) in their blog – a courtesy that I much appreciated. This is exactly how a customer relationship SHOULD work.

Special Thanks

I want to say a special thank you to Judy Russell for answering my questions in addition to writing her blog article(s) keeping us all informed about legal matters.

Also a special thanks to Gilad Japhet for getting back to me so quickly and for establishing and maintaining customer-friendly and respectful policies at MyHeritage.


*Judy G. Russell, “One big change at Ancestry,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 4 Aug 2021).

*Judy G. Russell, “Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 13 May 2013).



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214 thoughts on “Clock is Ticking: In 28 Days, Ancestry CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT With Every Image In Your Tree

  1. I know it is a lot of work either way, but you could replace those images with images that are of such low resolution that they are only useful in the context of the tree that was visible above.

    • Doug, I have no idea what you mean. When I’ve used lower quality images, people complain that they can’t see the detail so I intentionally use high quality. I’ve never had anyone complain. Do you mean in the email or on the webpage and using what kind of device and browser?

      • “When I’ve used lower quality images, people complain that they can’t see the details . . .”

        I think that is what Doug is actually recommending. IF you/we use lower resolution (poor quality) images to upload they will be rendered useless to Ancestry. However, others will know that we have something of “value” to their research and family history and can reach out to us if they want a better, higher quality, image.

        If we do as Doug suggests, we could add a comment to what we’ve uploaded indicating that should a researcher/family historian be desirous of a higher quality image, to please contact us directly.

    • Doug, I misunderstood your comment as a comment about the blog itself. I’m trying to answer these from my phone.

  2. Gilad’s statement of understanding of Ancestry’s new terms bothers me even more than the photos. “The differentiation is that Ancestry is now apparently availing themselves irrevocably to content uploaded by users. Not just photos, but also family tree data.”

    If I create a private tree for research, Ancestey can then do whatever they want with that data? Even if I delete it?

    • Please read the terms. That’s what I understood too but I’m not a lawyer and I don’t read or interpret these things routinely. I’m also in a place that is experiencing internet issues right now and can’t easily read the entire document again.

      • I have the same question re private/unsearchable trees for sensitive projects. Will Ancestry be able to use notes, for example? Can’t imagine they’d be interested in speculative fathers of adoptees, but just having the right to share that information publicly, should they choose to, is outrageous.

  3. And for the record, Judy Russell wishes to make it clear: I am a genealogist with a law degree. I’m not in active practice as a lawyer, don’t maintain a current law license and don’t give legal advice. 🙂

  4. Thanks, Roberta! This doesn’t affect me directly … but may I post a link to this on some fb genie (surname and place-specific) groups?

  5. I’m feeling overwhelmed – I uploaded photos and wrote profile stories about ancestors as a way of preserving information about them in online public trees. If I delete them, they won’t be available in the future. But I don’t like this move by Ancestry, and all the implications. I guess I could work on my MyHeritage tree, which is not very advanced. I confess I rarely read any privacy policy updates, which Ancestry sent to me on August 3.

  6. Grrrr. This doesn’t make me happy about the images on Ancestry. Is there a way to download all the images, rather than delete?

    Does this also apply to “Private” tree images?

      • I have a lot of legally obtained images of copyrighted documents in a private tree. Will Ancestry not have to respect the copyright? The images are marked as copyrighted.

        • Judy addresses that this is contract law, not copyright law. It’s still owned by the original owner, but through these terms, by uploading, you give Ancestry permission to use this any way they want. You can ask Judy questions on her blog too and this would be a good follow up for her.

      • If you have the latest (2019) version of Family Tree Maker, you can download your complete tree and all media to your computer in just a few minutes.

        • That’s true. But . . .

          1. That doesn’t REMOVE the media from your online Ancestry tree. You still must delete the media one-by-one. And,

          2. Once you’ve download your entire tree do NOT EVER sync it with Ancestry. If you do, back to Ancestry goes everything . . . including your media.

          • Once you’ve downloaded everything to your computer you can delete the tree to remove all the media in one go. I was simply offering an alternative to downloading the media one item at a time.

        • You can then go into Family Tree Maker and mark whichever pictures you want as private and sync again with Ancestry and it will remove all the media you marked as private and keep it just in your own tree. Of course, it’s just removing it from your own tree, not the many others that may have also used the same picture.

  7. Is there no way to stop this? Every year they do something that really p*ssses me off. A few years ago I was so mad I deleted all the DNA kits I controlled and then had to pay for them all over again when I needed them for a specific brick wall. I don’t want to learn a new web site. MyHeritage uses married names and I have no idea how many times a family member was married and to whom. Ditto for DNA matches. If you are a female named Susie and married a Jones I can look forever for a Susie Jones. Will I find her? Probably several. Will I find her parents?
    I won’t use familysearch trees and I won’t make one there. Roots magic seems to have the next best sofware but it won’t be as easy as ancestry web site. The ancestry 2017 version stinks and I won’t buy or upgrade again.
    I could go on and on.

    • MyHeritage allows you to choose birth or married surnames. The new terms are in effect already at Ancestry. They have yet to listen to customers.

  8. Apart from al specific details about the change in service, 30 days is not nearly enough to work with this. I can only speak for my own circumstances, but some health issues and disabilities are such that everything takes much longer that might usually be expected. As a result, more and more tasks pile up although the speed of completion does not increase. There is absolutely no way for me to make decisions about all that is there and deal with it in 30 days. I suppose I can write to them about this if I am willing to add yet one more task to my list. This timeline is not workable at all for me.

    • Thirty days is the norm. Honestly it is the norm, and has been for my entire 50+ years of life, to comply with “legal” notification and to provide what most (I realize not you or I) consider sufficient time.

      You can write to Ancestry but it will do you no good. The clock is ticking and they will not reset it.

  9. Many images I have uploaded have been saved by distant relatives to their trees. Does deleting my images affect what they’ve copied? It doesn’t seem likely (esp for those who have reposted under their own name).

  10. I’m questioning what Ancestry means by using the photos for any reason they want. Especially in regards to copyright laws. While i agree that the copyright owner of the photo gives up some rights (like sharing and viewing) when posting them on a public site, however, I don’t believe that Ancestry would legally be able to use the photo in order to make money – like for a marketing campaign. Can you or someone clarify if this is true or not?

    • “While I agree that the copyright owner of the photo gives up some rights when posting them on a public site . . .”

      Umm, no they do not. Copyright holders retain their copyright unless and until the copyright holder grants license to another to use their image, article or what have you. But, that “license” only gives them permissions to do so within the “restrictions” that the copyright holder places on it. And, the copyright holder still retains their copyright.

      Judy Russell explains this so much better in a number of blog posts on her site. I highly recommend your taking the time to read them, as what you posted here is incorrect. To find Judy’s blog, “The Legal Genealogist,” visit and in the search field type key words such as copyright.

  11. Collectively, as a genealogical community, has anyone raised the point of a class action lawsuit yet ? It would be in everyone’s best interest to show how outraged and offended Ancestry members are by this maneuver! Has anyone reached out to Blaine and some of our activists in the field !

  12. I might just add a “Ancestry, do not steal my image” watermark over the image so it’s comtent is visable but useless to Ancestry, hopefully.

    • As Roberta recommends, please read Judy Russell’s post, but here is what she has said about this, it was in answer to a comment left on her post about the new change at Ancestry.

      “ The Ancestry terms expressly provide: “Any User Provided Content that you have shared publicly (e.g. by including such User Provided Content in a public Ancestry family tree, as part of your public profile in one of the Services or in a public posting on one of our Services) may be used by other users as part of, or in conjunction with, the Services.” The Services are defined as “Ancestry®, AncestryDNA®,™, Find a Grave®, Fold3®, Archives®, and WeRemember®—as well as other related brands”.”

      Again, I recommend that you read Judy’s post in its entirety to include the comments, questions, and answers following, as they are equally informative. The post can be found here . . .

  13. Thank you, Roberta, I’m concerned also about Notes that are in my Ancestry tree profiles. They are hidden to other Ancestry users unless they are an editor of my tree. I routinely add Notes to RootsMagic and then TreeShare up into the Ancestry tree for many of my profiles. I don’t have time or energy to delete all of them one profile at a time (over 65,000 profiles).

    Perhaps the best thing for concerned users to do is to create a new GEDCOM file in RootsMagic (or other program) without images and notes, and upload it as a new Ancestry Member Tree, then delete the current tree with the photos and notes.

    I’m wondering if Ancestry is thinking of putting their BIG tree with over 800 million profiles into public view.

    • Roberta provided instructions on how to do this above in her post. However, if you clicked “remove from tree” then you are golden as that removes it from everywhere including the gallery. Per the instructions that Roberta provided above.

  14. Panic! I just figured it out. The Tree Overview | Media Gallery gives you a chance to permanently remove everything. Whew!

  15. It will be interesting to see how this turns out as many of the photos that people have posted on Ancestry were already copyright infringements, in that they were a not the true owners and did not have permission to post other person’s copyrighted photos without permission. Once a famous photo surfaces and Ancestry uses it for commercial purposes without the true owners permission, that may be the end of this policy and the Courts and true copyright owners may be unforgiving.

  16. I don’t know if you can answer this but I figured I’d try: so does one need to stop linking ones tree in FamilyTreeMaker to ancestry ? Does this impact receiving shaking leaf hints? Can one link a tree to ancestry without having all the notes and media linked?

    • I don’t use that software, but if anything gets uploaded to Ancestry, it’s under their terms and conditions.

    • 1. You can just have your tree in Family Tree Maker 2019 and still receive shaky leaf hints as long as you are logged into Ancestry within your Family Tree Maker program.

      2. There is, in FTM 2019, a way to mark individual facts and media items as private so that IF you choose to sync to Ancestry those facts/media items marked private will not sync up to Ancestry.

    • Kathie, I use that software too. You can mark individual items such as notes and other items as Private by using the lock function(see the little icon of a padlock) When you sync a tree with ancestry these are not uploaded

  17. Does this include The Family Tree Maker App sponsored by Ancestry. ( probably obviously yes, but just wanted to check)

      • Note if using Family Tree Maker 2019 and you’ve chosen to sync with Ancestry, as Roberta said, yes this is included as by it very nature syncing with Ancestry means that anything you uploaded to Family Tree Maker will be uploaded to Ancestry as well.

        However . . . In Family Tree Maker 2019 you have the ability to choose to mark individual items – facts or media – as private. This means that when you sync with Ancestry those items tic’d as private will not sync up to Ancestry.

  18. So can the Ancestry tree we have be totally transferred to My Heritage? Abs how do you transfer a very large tree? I’m kind of flabbergasted with all this. Thank you.

    • You can download your tree from Ancestry and upload to MyHeritage. Trees larger than 250 people require a subscription. You have to save images from Ancestry separately. They don’t download with your tree. I believe Family Tree Maker software syncs.

  19. Is there some way to download all the information I have on Ancestry to my computer then delete my whole Ancestry account?

  20. What do you recommend for an ancestry tree linked with FTM? If I delete from Ancestry, then I assume that when I sync my trees (FTM/Ancestry), I will lose the content on FTM.

    • Sync your tree with Ancestry one last time to make sure you have all the media downloaded to your computer, then unlink the tree in FTM (click on Plan to do this) and delete the tree on Ancestry.

    • 1. Turn off Sync to Ancestry.

      2. If you wish to remove all from Ancestry, I recommend downloading your tree from Ancestry to FTM 2019 giving it an entirely new tree name from the one that you might already have on FTM.

      3. Choose not to sync with Ancestry. As long as you are logged into Ancestry within your FTM 2019 software you will still receive shaky leaf hints and have the ability of searching Ancestry using the card catalog and all of the other benefits of being logged into Ancestry. You simply will not syncing your tree and information to Ancestry.

      4. Should you wish to sync with Ancestry after doing the above. Take the time to mark individual facts and media in FTM as private. Any fact or media tic’d as private will not sync up to Ancestry.

  21. OK, this has me riled up. I want to download all my family trees before I delete photos. I have only used for my trees,a nd do not have any software to open the trees I download from Ancestry. What do I need?
    Irritating to go to Ancestry site and read: “All the information in your Ancestry account belongs to you and you can request your data at any time.”
    Guess not after September 2!
    My plan is to download my trees, then delete photos and stories I wrote up.
    My Ancestry membership renews Nov. , 2021. But I think I will be leaving Ancestry and switching to Family Search or My Heritage. Will have to research the options.
    Thanks, Roberta.

  22. This is unconscionable! Ancestry owns Find A Grave as well, are my ancestors photos etc included in this sweep up too.
    I’m really disappointed.

    • In short, yes.

      Here is what Judy Russell said in response to a similar question on her blog about this new update . . .

      “ The Ancestry terms expressly provide: “Any User Provided Content that you have shared publicly (e.g. by including such User Provided Content in a public Ancestry family tree, as part of your public profile in one of the Services or in a public posting on one of our Services) may be used by other users as part of, or in conjunction with, the Services.” The Services are defined as “Ancestry®, AncestryDNA®,™, Find a Grave®, Fold3®, Archives®, and WeRemember®—as well as other related brands”.”

      I recommend you reading Judy’s entire blog post on this here, to include the comments and Judy’s answers.

  23. Wikitree is a free and honor code driven genealogy website that uses links/sources as a preference so eventually anyone can get the information without having an account at Ancestry.

  24. 1 – First hundreds of hours wasted with the cM debacle a year ago.
    2 – Then they are sold. I asked them ( through their evasion and dishonesty to delete my DNA sample. THey never did. I have not persued it anymore, they had time months and months ago to send it around the world a dozen times or whatever they did with my DNA sample.As they say, the cow was out of the barn)
    3 – Now this. More wasted hours.
    4 – I noticed a few weeks ago they sent me a collage of MY PHOTOS. I never gave them permission to make a collage using MY PHOTOS.
    5- I don’t have pockets deep enough to take on Ancestry. Who does?

    Ancestry is so keen for people to “SHARE”, what they really mean is, give me your stuff so I can leach off it.

    What a disreputable company.

    • In answer to your questions about Find-a-Grave and Fold3 here is what Judy Russell said in response to a similar question on her blog.

      “ The Ancestry terms expressly provide: “Any User Provided Content that you have shared publicly (e.g. by including such User Provided Content in a public Ancestry family tree, as part of your public profile in one of the Services or in a public posting on one of our Services) may be used by other users as part of, or in conjunction with, the Services.” The Services are defined as “Ancestry®, AncestryDNA®,™, Find a Grave®, Fold3®, Archives®, and WeRemember®—as well as other related brands”.”

      I recommend your taking the time to read Judy’s blog post on this new change in its entirety, to include comments and her response. Very informative. Here is the link to Judy’s post.

  25. Looks like Ancestry has found another way to treat their customers like products. And if costumers flee with their photos, Ancestry saves on data storage expenses! So short-sighted. Too many eggs in that basket anyway. We need better options.

  26. Since Ancestry now owns Find A Grave should I remove personal photos attached to family on that site? Also, family photos I’ve added to Find a Grave memorials have later shown up on Ancestry as added by people I don’t know. Sometimes they’ve actually uploaded my photo and attached it to the wrong person. Is there anything I can I do about those?

    • I don’t know for sure but I would delete those too. I personally would leave photos if the stone. But that’s a personal choice.

    • Here is what Judy has said in a response to a similar question on her blog post about this new change.

      “ The Ancestry terms expressly provide: “Any User Provided Content that you have shared publicly (e.g. by including such User Provided Content in a public Ancestry family tree, as part of your public profile in one of the Services or in a public posting on one of our Services) may be used by other users as part of, or in conjunction with, the Services.” The Services are defined as “Ancestry®, AncestryDNA®,™, Find a Grave®, Fold3®, Archives®, and WeRemember®—as well as other related brands”.”

      I recommend your taking a few minutes to read Judy’s blog post in its entirety, to include comments and Judy’s responses. Very informative.

      Here is the link to her post . . .

    • Here is what Judy Russell has said in response to a similar question on her post about this new change.

      “ The Ancestry terms expressly provide: “Any User Provided Content that you have shared publicly (e.g. by including such User Provided Content in a public Ancestry family tree, as part of your public profile in one of the Services or in a public posting on one of our Services) may be used by other users as part of, or in conjunction with, the Services.” The Services are defined as “Ancestry®, AncestryDNA®,™, Find a Grave®, Fold3®, Archives®, and WeRemember®—as well as other related brands”.”

      I recommend taking a few minutes to read Judy’s blog post on this new change, to include the comments and her responses. Very informative. The blog post can be found here . . .

  27. I’m not sure my question posted, so sorry if this is a duplicate. Thank you for clarifying Judy Russell’s post with information that I have a limited amount of time to delete my uploaded photos. I’ve already started deleting.

    I’ve also added family photos to Find a Grave memorials. Since Find a Grave is now under Ancestry, should I remove those photos as well?

    Also, family photos I’ve uploaded to Find a Grave have appeared as hints on Ancestry submitted by persons who have taken my images from Find a Grave and uploaded them to Ancestry as theirs. Is there anyway to get my photos removed to avoid ownership by Ancestry when someone else uploaded my photos from Find a Grave?

  28. While you’re getting all tied up in knots, you might want to think forward as to what harm it can do, when you’re more than happy to have a public tree that any scavenging plagarising Tom, Dick or Harry can upload as their own wherever they like anyway.

    Those of us with private trees should be concerned… (but I have no photos loaded except a few of interesting people that I save from their trees) because we do not want to share, without contact with genuine relatives.

    i.e. What are ancestry going to do, that you haven’t already abrogated responsibility for keeping safe from nefarious purposes????

    MyHeritage are far worse with their suggestions and ability to anyone to click a button and add umpteen dozen family members, without one iota of independent research! They refuse to answer my questions as to why anyone can match to my private tree on there. Oh, and despite complaints they wont remove living people (me) from trees that should never have been uploaded complete with living people, who most certainly have not given permission to be on there.

    And while I’m putting the boot in about MyHeritage, *NOT ONE SINGLE PIECE OF INFORMATION THAT THEY HAVE EVER OFFERED ME IS NEW AND NOT AVAILABLE SOMEWERE ELSE” (including my own searches). Ne’er mind thinking “anywhere” in England for a common name is worth my going through 20 odd-ball no possible relationship scenarios they send me! My ancestor’s place and date of birth are entered… but they don’t even begin to understand *where* that is, and offer innumerable WRONG options to add to my tree… when what is right is already there, for heaven’s sake. *rant over*.

    Only Find-My-Past actually, currently, stand by privacy obligations for trees uploaded.

  29. I’m not sure I understand what all the consternation is about. Once you’ve uploaded a photo or story, you’ve already lost control of it. People make copies to their trees, they see the photographs and read the stories. If they wanted they could publish the information and you might never know. My point is once you upload something; you’ve essentially given up control over it. I’d recommend you not upload anything which you want to keep private, but what’s the big deal over most of it. Do you really care that someone might copy a picture or story about your great grandfather?

    • I care that Ancestry has claimed the right to do anything they want. And that includes my photos and maybe those if my children in a private tree. That’s NOT OK.

    • It’s the private trees that I’m concerned with mostly. Private photos, family secrets which is why I made it private so I could research for more info on some people I didn’t have enough data on yet but not for anyone else to see what was in that tree. It was not searchable and private. That was a slap in the face to me.

  30. I have tried to read the email from Ancestry regarding the changes, Would it be possible for you to direct me to where it talks about our photos becoming the property of Ancestry and that they can do what they want to with them? Thanks!

    • Please see Judy’s article. I never received an email. This is in the terms and conditions document.

    • I didn’t receive an email from Ancestry either. But, Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, post a blog on this new change and goes through it very thoroughly, What the change is, paraphrased, is that ANYTHING you upload – that means exactly what it says ANYTHING – will be owned by Ancestry into perpetuity (hopefully I spelled that right), meaning FOREVER.

      There is no parsing or mincing the word ANYTHING, it means just that. EVERYTHING you upload photos, stories, etc., etc. the names, dates, and other information are all, effective immediately, as of 3 August, owned by by Ancestry

  31. What Ancestry is doing is shocking and disturbing. I have 12 trees, and one is very private. I have researched and written many papers on some of my ancestors to explain family relationships and in some cases the many challenges they faced. Some of this is private and painful information and not for prying eyes. These papers were written by me with attribution given to me at the end of the papers. Guess they will just delete the attribution. And, I have attached many links that I have researched in depth. What about the personal info we have put in the Comments section? Are they going to scavenge and mine and blab that also?

    It is really disappointing that Ancestry has that much control over us, our lives and our trees!

  32. I always thought that once a photo was uploaded to a tree, it was in Ancestry’s database forever – ESPECIALLY if it has been copied to another tree. You can delete all you want, but the photos will still be Ancestry’s database. Was I wrong?

  33. Can you clarify what happens to photos that I delete from my tree but others have previously saved to their own. Presumably the photo remains on their tree which means that Ancestry can still use my photos despite the fact that I’ve decided to remove them from my own tree. Is there a way around this happening?
    Similarly, if I’ve copied a photo from another user and they have chosen to delete their photo from their tree, if it remains on my tree how do I know the original owner has made this decision?

    • This IS the huge problem. I don’t know any way around this. I’m simply deleting every image not from Ancestry, meaning pictures uploaded by me or other people, and never uploading there again.

  34. I have uploaded and saved photos to FamilyTree Maker which in turn I sync to Ancestry. Will Ancestry be able to use those photos? Thank you in advance for your help. Susan

    • In FTM you have the ability of marking any one event, photo or other media as private. When you sync these items will not go over to Ancestry.

      You change your mind at any time. So, go through your FTM 2019 tree and determine which events and photos, etc you want to mark private, mark them as such and sync your tree.

      The down side here is, if anyone has saved these events, photos, etc. to their tree, they are still out there and you are SOL for reeling them in. So, even if you go through today and mark everything private on your FTM 2019 software, what has been saved and used by others still remains.

  35. I don’t have time to remove all the images I have online so I will take down all my trees after I sync them again and be done with them. This is the lowest of low things for them to do. Will this be enough though?

      • Thanks Roberta. I have deleted all but my two largest trees already and those I made for testing or for people to have a startup tree were deleted too since they were working on their gedcom copy I sent them.

        This is what it says above the delete your tree option:

        “Delete your tree from Ancestry. This includes deleting all people, photos, stories, etc. in your tree”

        I hope they hold to those words, I saved a copy of that page today in case they don’t.

        • They’ll (Ancestry) will hold true to those words. But . . . IF anyone saved or copied information or media from your tree, you’re SOL as those are still out there and nothing prevents them from having saved them to their tree. So, Ancestry still has them.

          • I’ve also thought about this. There is one big difference, if you are the original poster of the photo of family, then you are the one authenticating that the family photo is real and belongs to your family.

            However, if you pull your image ( and maybe even your tree ), then the photo has no authenticity ( under the current rules). In about 30 days, Ancestry can authenticate the photo even though you pull out.

            For example, I was thrilled to find a photo of a Great Aunt. Later, I went back to contact the original poster of the photo. That person had pulled out. In checking others who had linked to the photo, I found that it was attributed to all sorts of people, not just my aunt. I had to remove the lovely photo because I had no way to authenticate the photo. The image did say that someone was the original poster, but when I contacted that person, they said they were not the original poster and had just downloaded it on ancestry. This just proves the point. Without the original tree and poster, the family image becomes garbage.

            So, even though others have copied the image, I think the commercial and genealogical value of the image is “Not Much”.

          • Depends on what the photo is. Since I read Roberta’s post I’ve had a mental image of a photo of my granny as a little girl being used to advertise soap. They can sell it or use it for *any* purpose.

          • Yes, and I can think of worse but I don’t want to be “that person,” if you know what I mean.

          • True enough for my public tree. My private tree wasn’t searchable so nobody but me should have access to it. The private tree is gone now so I have no trees at all there. I lost ThruLines and other features but they are not worth losing my photos and family data to a untrustworthy company. Even the people answering support questions were caught off-guard by this change. They didn’t think much of it either. It’s just wrong in so many ways.

          • It seems the easiest thing to do might be to download the tree from ancestry into one’s computer program or sync it whichever is easiest then delete ones tree completely in ancestry, then upload it again as a Gedcom-which will not include any photos or stories. Will this work -rather than deleting photos/stories one by one?

          • It should. There are other comments suggesting the same approach. Scan the other comments for input.

  36. I haven’t been using Family Tree Maker that often or as much as I should. It’s looking like I’ll use it more. I’m now curious about the “sync” feature. If I have photos and some stories in Ancestry I can decide whether to delete them. If they are in FTM, will Ancestry be able to acquire them and put back in my Gallery?

    • If you upload anything to your tree there, they have the right to them. I don’t use that software, so you’ll need to check your software settings and be sure nothing is uploaded that you’re not OK with.

      • If you use FTM 2019 and sync with Ancestry, anything you upload to FTM will also be on Ancestry. Once on Ancestry it is their’s.

        Note, in FTM you have the ability to mark individual facts/events and media; photos, etc. as private. Those items tic’d as private will not, when you sync, go over to Ancestry.

  37. Roberta, thanks for always being on top of this. I also wish there was another place to put my family tree – but nobody as yet has all the bells and whistles that Ancestry has in the way I work. Is there nothing that can be done to change Ancestry’s mind?

    • They have never listened to our input and this is already in place. Feel free to provide your feedback to Ancestry.

  38. Roberta, I understand that you are not an authority with regard to this new direction that Ancestry has taken. After reading your post of today, I like many others saw red. I have gone to Ancestry to delete all my many thousand of photographs and documents (one by one) and got so frustrated that I looked for an alternative.

    I went to my ‘tree settings’ page and compiled and downloaded a GEDCOM of my personal tree. NB: It is my understanding that a GEDCOM only contains the actual tree and not any pictures etc.

    Also NB: the following message is posted where you hit the delete your entire tree button (Delete your tree from Ancestry: This includes deleting all people, photos, stories, etc. in your tree).

    My thinking is that I would delete my entire tree as a quick way of deleting everything that I didn’t want Ancestry to have access to, and then re-upload the GEDCOM as a ‘clean’ tree.

    So after that rather convoluted intro, my question to pose to you or perhaps another reader is when Ancestry states that everything in your tree including the actual tree itself is going to be deleted, does that mean just from my and everyone else’s view but remain in Ancestry’s servers for their eternal use or deleted actually really means deleted, gone, kapoot etc??..

    • I don’t know. Great question. I’m not deleting the actual tree because I have images that I’ve saved from Ancestry like census records and I don’t want those gone. I just want my personal images gone.

    • They can still do whatever they want with the photo. Judy addresses the difference between contract law and copyright law.

  39. Thank you for sharing this. We just moved and I haven’t even set my computer up yet. I would like to download my info back to my computer and delete the pictures on ancestry.

    • If you download, be aware that you need to download images individually. They don’t download with your tree. I think there is some software that syncs but I don’t use it.

  40. I have a different take on this issue. Decades ago I kept all of my research pretty much to myself, only sharing in specific circumstances. As I grew older I realised that no one else left in my family, apart from my wife, is into family history. So, why am I spending all this time carefully researching, verifying, and recording what I have discovered to keep it only to myself. That is not a good long term policy. So, I am not too bothered about these new Ancestry terms and conditions. The more I share the more progress I make.

    • I feel the same way, but this isn’t about sharing. It’s about Ancestry changing the terms and imposing these rules that benefit only Ancestry on their customers.

      • As I only upload from Family Historian to Ancestry periodically, without images, this change does not bother me much. Overall, looking at the big picture, Ancestry are way out in front as the market leader in providing original source images, advanced tree facilities, and great DNA tools (apart from no chromosone browser) and interface, that have helped me so much that I can’t keep up. So in my case I don’t mind this change.

  41. For those that are concerned about this change, and use Ancestry as their primary family tree, consider using a program that is only on your computer instead, so that you are always 100% in control. I use and recommend Family Historian for this purpose.

  42. Thank you for the heads up, Roberta!

    Here’s an easy way to find photos uploaded to each of your trees:

    1. Log into Ancestry
    2. Under the Trees tab, pick one of your trees and click on it
    3. When the tree opens, click on the Home tab
    4. It will take you to facts about the tree including how many photos are uploaded
    5. Click on the link that has the number of photos uploaded
    6. It will show you thumbnails of all the photos in your Media Gallery and you can delete them by clicking on each one and delete and remove permanently

  43. I have removed all of my personal photos and changed my profile photo to one of myself overlaid with the words “Ancestry does NOT own my likeness”. They are free to use that photo in any way they wish.

    • Interesting. They could still use this for identifying you if they sold those photos to another entity. Food for thought.

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