There’s been a lot of questions and concerns raised about our announcement that the Online Family Tree system is being retired. Here’s some answers to the question you may have.
What is the Online Family Tree system?
The Online Family Tree system was started back in about 1999. It was a great tool to build a family tree and share it with others. In the last 8 years the Online Family Tree system has aged–gracefully, but is now unquestionably old and ready for retirement.
Here is a sample screen from Online Family Tree:
We have two key principal motives for transitioning everyone from the Online Family Tree system to the new Ancestry Member Tree system:
First, we are concerned about the long-term stability of the product, and are anxious to get everyone and their files situated on the newer platform and technology that we can maintain and support. The product is eight year old, which is a very long time in internet years, and we are not comfortable that the system is capable of living much longer.
Second, we believe the new Ancestry Member Tree system is a far superior experience, and believe you will find much to appreciate about it. We want to focus all our available resources on this one system, and make it the best it can be.
What is the Ancestry Member Tree system?
The Ancestry Member Tree system is a great tool for:
- Building your family tree
- Backing up your family tree online (if you use Family Tree Maker, PAF, etc.)
- Uploading a copy of your family tree for others to search
- Finding more information about your ancestors in historical records and other family trees with the help of Ancestry Hints™
- Seeking out other members researching branches of your family tree
- Preserving online photographs and stories about your ancestors
- Preparing a family history book for publishing
- And much more
Here’s a sample screen from an Ancestry Member Tree:
Why is the Online Family Tree system going away?
After eight years of service, the Online Family Tree system has become outdated to the point that we can no longer maintain it. So we’re helping you transition your family tree file to our Ancestry Member Tree system before the Online Family Tree system is no longer available.
How can I be sure my data won’t be lost?
The transfer is safe, because it is non-destructive, meaning your existing Online Family Tree file remains unchanged and unmoved and essentially untouched in this process.
When you request the transfer, our system triggers an “export GEDCOM” request on the Online Family Tree file. The original file is untouched, and a separate, new copy of your file is created in GEDCOM format. We then take this new GEDCOM file and import it into the Ancesty Member Trees system.
When this is complete, you now have two files. Your original Online Family Tree file remains exactly as it was. And you also have a new Ancestry Member Tree file.
GEDCOM is the standard format for transferring family tree data. If for some reason your tree contains information that doesn’t work with this standard, we may have difficulty transitioning your tree. However, that would be a rare situation. We’ll also transfer your list of invited guests into the new Ancestry Member Tree system.
Does an Ancestry Member Tree cost money?
Your family tree in the Ancestry Member Tree system is FREE for you and all your invited guests. Some related Ancestry.com features, such as viewing and attaching historical records to your tree, require a paid subscription. But you are free to ignore all paid features on the site.
Do others have to pay to search my Ancestry Member Tree file?
Yes. While building and viewing your Ancestry Member Tree file is free for you and your invited family guests, others who want to search your tree must have a paid subscription in order to do so. Important note: Even paid members must ask your permission before viewing details in your tree.
Will it be difficult moving to the Ancestry Member Tree system?
No. We will transition your tree automatically. You only need to make some simple decisions about how much access you want to give other members. We do the rest.
Will you continue protecting the privacy of living people in my tree?
Yes — as long as we can tell a person is living. We never display information about people we think are living in any search results from your tree. We look at dates (birth, marriage, death), and relationship information to determine if a person is living. However, our determination is only as good as the details in your tree.
Can other Ancestry members view my Ancestry Member Tree file?
This is your decision. Trees designated “Public” can be searched and viewed. Trees marked “Personal” will allow other members to discover if someone they’re seeking is in your tree, but they won’t be able to see any personal details or relationships without contacting you for further permission.
How can I keep my tree completely private?
Total privacy isn’t an option. However, making your tree “Personal” allows you to limit the information others can access and decide if anyone gets to see more.
Can anyone else edit my Ancestry Member Tree file?
No — not unless you specifically invite someone (a family member, trusted fellow researcher, etc.) to view your tree and specifically give them permission to edit it.
Will the Ancestry Family Tree system be difficult to learn?
We’ve done a lot of work to make the Ancestry Member Tree system as simple as possible for you. We hope you’ll like it, and encourage you to let us know if you have any problems.
How can I create a backup copy of my tree?
Create a backup copy using the GEDCOM export feature in the Online Family Tree system before your transition or in the Ancestry Member Tree system afterward.
What’s happening with the “descendant view” feature?
This is one feature from Online Family Trees we’ve not yet duplicated in Ancestry Member Trees. Know that it’s on our list and we’re working to make it possible.
What are the basic differences between the Ancestry Member Tree system and the old Online Family Tree system?
What are the top five features in Ancestry Member Trees not available in Online Family Trees?
1. Ancestry Hints™, or links to records and family trees that may contain information about your ancestors
2. Automatic creation of source citations when you save a record to a person
3. The ability to add photos and stories for individuals in your tree
4. The ability to publish a book about your family history from your tree
5. Timeline showcasing your ancestors’ lives
Who can I contact to make comments about this change?
Again, we’ve put a tremendous amount of energy into helping you make a smooth transition from your Online Family Tree to an Ancestry Member Tree. If we’ve missed something or you have other feedback to share, make a comment on our blog post or if you prefer, send me an email: kfreestone at tgn.com.