10 December 2013

The Problem with Ancestry.com's "Public" Member Trees

     Over the past few weeks, I've seen an uptick in the number of emails I've received regarding DNA matches.  This is great, but it's reminded me of a problem with Ancestry.com's "Public" Member Trees: they are behind a pay-wall.

     Three of the recent emails I've received have sent me to Ancestry.com to find their trees.  None of the sent me a link to those trees, which makes the trees difficult or impossible to find.  But then, even if I do find the tree, I can't access it.  The only people who can access the "Public" trees on Ancestry.com are people with subscriptions.  Right now, that's not me.

     I then ask that the DNA match send me an invite to their tree and usually have to send them step-by-step instructions on how to do so.

     I strongly suggest that if you are doing DNA testing (with a non-Ancestry.com company) that you post your tree on your DNA profile.  So much easier for your matches to review your shared match!  If you are with Ancestry.com, please make your family tree Public.

     Now, DNA testing sites don't have the best family tree functions, so you could also upload your tree to another website.  If you aren't up for really maintaining a second tree, I recommend RootsWeb.  You can simply download a GedCom of your Ancestry.com tree and upload it to RootsWeb.  Every now and then you can update your RootsWeb tree by doing the same thing.  Then, you can send a link to your RootsWeb tree to your match.  Easy for everyone.


Pat Richley-Erickson said...

Well said. An alternative would be for Ancestry.com to permit public Ancestry Member Trees to be just that - PUBLIC.

We don't need to see notes or links to Ancestry.com images. We just need to see if there is glimmer of hope.

Susan Sabia said...

I agree Pat.

Russ Worthington said...


I am trying to understand this statement that you made:

"problem with Ancestry.com's "Public" Member Trees: they are behind a pay-wall.

Ancestry Member Trees are Not behind any Pay Wall. The Tree's are public, its that when you dig into the AMT, to the Sources information linked to the facts or events, that you may not be able to see those Ancestry.com images.

What am I missing?

Thank you,


Anna Caulfield said...

You can see these trees at most public libraries, family history centers, etc. Some libraries even allow you to log in remotely.

Valerie Craft said...

Russ: If you do not have a current subscription your account becomes a "guest registration." You can still access your own family tree, though like you said, you cannot access the attached records. However, you cannot access any family trees that you have not been invited to. These trees are behind the pay-wall. Check out the FAQ page regarding Guest Registrations, which includes a list of things you can and cannot do, such as the fact that you can "View another user's Family Tree if you received an invitation from that tree's owner."

Anna: Yes, that's true. Ancestry's Library edition is available. However, since you have to be signed into the library account, it is very difficult to work on your own family tree.

Russ Worthington said...


Thank you for that link. I would not have seen that, but I did a test, where I logged out, saw the screen you shared (thank you), but when I logged back in, I got to the Public AMT. So, I wouldn't know about the Registered Guest aspect and your point.

Something doesn't make sense here. So, I agree with you and DearMYRTLE.

What doesn't make sense is that you can CREATE an AMT, manually or by a GEDCOM file as a Registered Guest. But what doesn't make sense is the inability to View other PUBLIC AMT's.

I understand the records part, where without a subscription you can't see those records, but no access to other AMTs ????

That is not how I understood AMTs to work.

Thanks for the clarification.


bgwiehle said...

Another alternative is Mundia [http://www.mundia.com]. There are problems - some people in public trees at ancestry don't appear in mundia searches (delayed synchronization?), the tree name is not shown (although the tree owner is identified and can be contacted), searching within a tree is tricky, and some entry errors result in page loading paralysis, especially tree views. But source pages can be accessed and uploaded pictures and documents viewed. And I like how search results show similar individuals grouped together. I use it between active subscription periods.

Russ Worthington said...


I think that you will find that Mundia [http://www.mundia.com] is a mirror of your AMT. Check it out if you have an AMT on Ancestry.

I would suspect that is an Ancestry.com property, so the same rules would apply on Mundia.


bgwiehle said...

The question was how to access _other_ ancestry public trees without an active subscription. Basic account at Mundia is free. Some Terms of Use are different than regular ancestry.
As for missing people: total persons in the tree (shown beside the "View Family Tree" icon) at Mundia do not always match the count seen when viewing the same tree on the ancestry.com side.

Jana Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/12/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-december-13.html

Have a great weekend!

Unknown said...

This is a problem both for you with the guest account and for the person with the paid account. As a guest you can not see the member tree and the member sees your tree as locked. I don't think that as a guest you can share your tree so that the member can see the match. I have asked and been told that the tree is shared but it has not worked.

Anonymous said...

Love your post about Ancestry. I only use Ancestry as a data base now. Yes they are a membership site. I have been with them since the beginning! The site has privacy issues. ie: #1 My locked down PRIVATE trees that I worked on for over 10 years, are now public! I have new software now and deleted everything possible I can from Ancestry. #2 Issues keeping your information on your tree that you have built and pay to use on the site. Open it up and half of the pictures you just spent loading over the past month, have just disappeared! UGH!
To get around the membership thing, one may look around in their community and find a Family History Center. I do not belong to the church. I have found that the FREE computer access to multiple paid membership sites is great! Free Genealogy classes and the volunteers are wonderful to chat with! The new site is great too! Family search . org
Ancestry has got to do something with all of the information that people have put on the site. Then walked away from after the free time is up. We now have someone's private information on the internet for life!
It would be smart of them to just offer a free Public site!
Happy Holidays!

Roy Stockdill said...

I am a professional genealogist in England and I am horrified by some of the basic errors I have found in some of the Ancestry public member trees! A couple I came across had a great great grandfather of mine dying in 1877 and apparently making as miraculous recovery to appear in the 1881 census! I have found so many fatuous errors I gave up trying to post corrections because you rarely ever seem to hear back or get so much as a thank-you. It seems to many posters seem to copy from one another because I often see "Ancestry tree" as a sourceA NOTE: Somnebody else's family tree is NOT a primary or even a secondary source and should never be cited as such.

With the greatest respect to American researchers, I find that the knowledge of geography of anywhere outside the US is often abysmal. I saw a tree in which the submitter has the subject being born, marrying and living in the county of Somerset, England, but dying in Somerset, Maine, USA - which was utter nonsense, the subject died in Somerset England and her death is in the General Register Office indexes for England & Wales. When I challenged the submitter she said she'd just followed an Ancestry hint that told her there was a Somerset in Maine - beyond belief!!!

Unknown said...

Really it's insane that people pay subscriptions to Ancestry in order to produce content that Ancestry turns around and demands payment for.

It's completely beyond me while anyone continues with this model when there are so many other great alternatives.


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