Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Site, Ask Ancestry Anne

Question: We’ve found a couple of potential cousins and would like to share our family tree.  We’d like to know how to do this.

Many thanks,

Allan Davidson

Answer:  Great question!  Sharing your tree, either private or public, with relatives who are not on allows you to share your finds and maybe it will be a great trigger for others to help you uncover my stories and information.

You can find the link to share your tree when you are on the tree viewer.  Click on the link Tree pages and then on Share you tree on the bottom of the drop down.


You will see a dialog pop up allowing you to share your tree either by their username on or to their email address.  Let’s share to an email address.



Notice that you can choose 3 roles for your invitee:

  • Guest – this allows the invitee to view your tree, but not add to it or change it.
  • Contributor – this allows the invitee to view and add to your tree.
  • Editor – this allows the invitee to view, add and change your tree.

Choose carefully!  If someone changes your tree and you aren’t happy with it, there is no undo button.  The default roll is Guest.


Your invitee will receive an email that allows them to click through to your tree:


Your new collaborator will be asked to create a new free account.  Make sure you tell them to use the address you sent it to!


They will then have a free account:



And when they are on, they will see the tree you shared in their family tree list:


As they examine your tree, they will see your name and their role at the top of the page:


If you would like to change the role you initially gave them, under Tree pages, choose Tree Settings:


You can change their role, allow them to see living people (not the default) or just remove permissions all together.

So if you find that new distant cousin through AncestryDNA or some other means, share what you have and maybe you’ll learn something new!

Happy Searching!

About Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.



This article does not address the fact that you can attempt to share a tree and it doesn’t work. In the past 3 years I attempted to share my tree with two people in France. They did NOT receive the invitations. We went round and round with Ancestry about this by phone and e-mail but it was never resolved. They could contact me through Ancestry but couldn’t receive the invitations through Ancestry. WTH!!!??? No more bull about deleting cookies or changing browsers. Something is broken on the Ancestry website. At these prices, Ancestry should provide better service. The Customer Reps that answer calls don’t seem to know anything about how the site functions, and the public calling in don’t get to talk with the techs.

May 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm
donna campbell goodwin 

Bethie G: I had this problem and found (worked for me anyway) only to use your guest email address not a user name if they have one. Then have them make sure they add to their contacts.. It may work for you. Best luck

May 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm
Judy Moore Hill 

I have invited several people as “guests” and have checked & re-checked my settings. Somehow, one of them was able to make changes in my tree without my knowledge. Unfortunately, their changes contained incorrect information so now I’m having to try to figure out what is from me and what is from them & correct things. I sure would like to know how this happened. It has about kept me from sending out any more invites. After over 30 yrs of research, to have someone mess it up in just a few days is exasperating. I know it wasn’t malicious, they thought they had the right info but how did this happen?

May 12, 2014 at 6:20 am
John Klinger 

I also had problems with this feature, and after a number of tries, I finally gave up. It needs to be improved so that you don’t have to play guessing games trying to come up with work-arounds.

May 12, 2014 at 6:33 am
Jennifer Fritsch 

I decided to contact possible relatives by email first to see if they were even interested in my information. Once I confirmed their interest and desire to collaborate, then I would share in the format they were most comfortable-print, online, etc. I always include a copyright symbol, date, and my contact information in case someone decided to distribute my work without my permission. I had one instance where I went to visit a possible relative, and she had been given a 4 year old copy of my work by a co-worker. I did the backtracking and reminded the original person that legally she needed my permission to distribute my work. This process has worked well for me.

May 12, 2014 at 7:03 am
Daniel Goodson 

To Anne Gillespie Mitchell (Senior Product Manager)
Anne I have Goodson Gillespie connection in Virginia (Fluvania County). My only connection is my Grandmother was a Gillespie before marriage.
Thought maybe you might have her in your chart.

Dan Goodson

May 12, 2014 at 7:28 am
Debbie Boyd 

Trial run- send to immediate family member (you live with or are in frequent contact with) or even yourself (use an alternate email address) to test and see how options work. I haven’t had any problems in sharing other than people I’ve shared with complain that they get emails whenever I update my tree in any branch (which may be a high volume of activity at times) and not necessarily a branch related to them and other ancestry emails (which they may not be so enthusiastic about receiving). Hate to alienate them by subjecting them to marketing.

May 12, 2014 at 8:59 am
Vincent Prichard 

I agree that the alerts Ancestry sends to all invitees to a tree from time to time and marketing messages can be intrusive. Each invitee can manage receipt of the “New Content” alerts for Family Trees by going to while logged on. There, to the right of the name of each tree for which the invitee has viewing rights, is a button to “Change delivery options”. Clicking that opens a box to specify receipt of new content notifications daily, weekly or not at all. Daily is the default.

Receipt of marketing messages can be managed separately by going to while logged on. There, “Ancestry Monthly Update” and “Ancestry Special Offers” can be selected or de-selected. The latter says it includes “announcements about new content”, but I assume that refers to something other than the “New Content” managed at the other preference page under Family Tree Alerts.

May 12, 2014 at 11:52 am
Thomas Bell 

Remember that emails could be blocked by the settings in someone’s browser or email program, so if they didn’t get the invitation you sent them, ask them to check their spam filter. Anne’s article also points out that there are several settings that are not obvious, and can lead to ‘mistakes’ that may be hard to correct, so we should become familiar with them before we send out the invitation.

May 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

Just wondering how long the free account lasts for the people I invite. I have had very mixed results when I invite people. It seems to only work well if they are already an Ancestry member! I am going to try one more time, but I can’t believe my tech savvy sister missed the fact that it was a FREE account she had to set up. And someone else said they only had access through the free account for a period of time.
I have been very frustrated with this feature, as others have been.

May 14, 2014 at 8:14 am