Posted by Ancestry Team on October 9, 2012 in Site Features, Website

We are excited to announce the release of a new feature that allows Ancestry members to use Facebook to add information and new people to family trees quickly and easily. When you attach Facebook information to someone in your tree you’ll get the following:

  • Photos: We’ll pull the most recent profile photo from Facebook into your tree. When your cousin Jen updates her Facebook profile photo, it’s automatically updated in your tree.
  • Find Long Lost Relatives:We’ll use Facebook to suggest people who might be family members–
     just click to accept. As relatives grow their trees you’ll get even more hints about people to add.
  • Birthdays:If your relative includes their birth date in Facebook, we’ll grab it for you and insert it into your tree.
  • Quick Contact: Remember that cool photo of Grandma that your uncle has hanging on his wall? When he is added to your family tree from Facebook you have instant access to his Facebook profile right from your tree. Just click through and send him a message on Facebook asking for a copy of that cool photo.
  • Simple Sourcing: When we pull data from Facebook, we’ll create Source citations so you know where the data came from.

Getting started is easy, here is how it is done:

Step 1: In your family tree, hover the mouse over a living person, then click her or her name to go to the person’s profile page.


Step 2: Now click the “Facebook” link. Follow the prompts to authorize the Ancestry Facebook Application.

Step 3: You will be asked if has correctly matched you in your tree with you on Facebook. Click the green “Match button if it is correct, or click the “Not you?” link if this is incorrect.

Step 4: Now the app will compare your tree with your connections in Facebook. When there are matches, you can accept or reject them. To accept a suggested match click on the “Match button, to reject a potential match click on the “Not a match” link.

Step 5: After going through this list you will see your tree with a list of all the people that may be related to you on the left side. If they are related to you, click the “+Add” button and follow the prompts to add them to the proper spot in your tree.

Step 6: When you are finished adding relatives to your tree, click the “I’m Finished” button at the bottom of the tree.


Here are some answers to questions you might have about this new feature.

Facebook is all about living people, why would I put living people in my family tree?

Let’s start off with a common family history scenario and a bit of simple math. Let’s say that I am doing research on my great-great grandmother who had three children. Let’s further assume that each of successive generation in turn had three children. By the time I come along there will be 81 descendants of this great-great grandmother. Surviving photographs, journals, vital records, and stories about her will likely be spread among this group of 81 descendants. As I am able to connect with more and more of these individuals, the odds of great family history discoveries about my great-great grandmother increase. For this reason we at Ancestry have long believed that a strong network of living relatives is key to opening the possibilities of family history. Facebook represents just such a network of living individuals.

Facebook is all about “friends.” What do my friends have to do with my family tree?

While much of the focus of Facebook is on “friend” relationships, our research has shown that the average Facebook user has created “friend” connections with more than 20 relatives. In addition, Facebook now enables users to designate relatives as well as describe how an individual person is related (example: Jane Smith is my mother). This information really excited us and started us on the path of figuring out how we could empower Ancestry members to tap into this rich network of family relationships available on Facebook.

Why should I use Facebook to build this living network instead of doing it by hand?

Building out a living network of relatives by hand certainly is an option. With the latest release, however, Ancestry members can now take advantage of their Facebook network to add information and new people to family trees. It’s quick and easy – forget manually typing names or selecting a gender – let us do that for you. A couple of clicks and a new person is added to your tree.

I’ve already added living relatives to my Ancestry family tree, is this new Facebook feature useful for me?

Yes, in addition to adding new people to a tree, this feature can be used to add Facebook information to existing individuals. All of the benefits described at the beginning of this post apply to existing individuals. Of note, when information is added from Facebook, it will never replace what you have added to your tree already. For example, if you already have a birth date and photo for your brother, this info will not be replaced with Facebook profile information.

I’m concerned about privacy of my personal information on both Facebook and Ancestry. How is privacy treated?

Rest assured that the rules regarding living persons are not impacted in any way when you add Facebook information to a person within your tree. For example, a private tree remains private when Facebook information is added and all our existing privacy rules apply. Only those with permission to view living persons in the tree will see any information that has been added from Facebook.

We respect Facebook profile settings and will only access the information from your Facebook account that you have expressly given us permission to access.  We also won’t post anything to your Facebook wall or contact any of your Facebook friends unless you ask us.  When you add Facebook information to your tree, you must explicitly grant permission to retain and use that information in accordance with the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement.

What about those of us who don’t have a Facebook account or are not interested in this feature?

This feature is completely optional. We understand that not all Ancestry members have interest in connecting people in their family trees to information from Facebook. As such we are not requiring members to utilize this feature if they feel it is not to their own benefit. If you do not use the feature, your tree data will not be impacted in any way.

Can I remove Facebook information for a person in my tree? 

Absolutely.  At any time you can disconnect a person from their Facebook account.  Simply go to the person’s profile page, click the arrow next to the “Facebook profile” link, and select Disconnect.  The change takes place immediately.

Watch this video on how to use the new Facebook feature:


  1. Debbie

    So many tree owners already blindly accept incorrect hints to their trees. Now they can blindly accept wrong Facebook profiles.

  2. Valerie

    Although I’ve extremely cautious about using this feature and not sure if it is in any way a good idea, I am willing to try it. But when I click the facebook link it just sits there with a little spinning icon saying “Ancestry is matching your Facebook friends to people in your family tree.” It went for at least 20 minutes and hasn’t done anything.

  3. Madolyn Hayne

    I am missing something. Many, many of my names on are listed as Living Surname. How does this help me?

  4. Phil

    “If you do not use the feature, your tree data will not be impacted in any way.”

    But does Ancestry give Facebook any information if I don’t use the feature? I looked at the page requests from my browser, and Ancestry was certainly hitting Facebook URLs even though I’ve never used the feature. And now Facebook knows exactly which profiles I am researching because of the referrer URL.

    How’s about letting us turn the feature off completely so that information doesn’t get sent to Facebook first?

  5. Monika

    It never ceases to amaze me what considers a valuable improvement! When there are so many REAL improvements that should be made!


    I discovered all minor children have this feature. If someone has edit privileges and starts linking Facebook accounts they could expose children to god know what.
    My 1 year old goddaughter has a “Is on Facebook?
    I notified our local sheriff’s anti-internet pervs department of this new way into children’s information.

  7. Susan

    Who was the idiot who thought adding Facebook was an improvement? I want to know how to remove the link which was added without my permission. I do not even want to see this abomination on any of my profile pages. Disappointed in this breach of professionalism.

  8. Mitzi

    I, for one, think this is a GREAT addition to my genealogy research. Perhaps it’s a generational thing? Or lack of knowledge as to how Ancestry/Facebook access really works?
    I’ve actually verified distant relatives BECAUSE of information found on their Facebook pages; relatives I’m not even “friends” with but have public pages. And no, I’m not one of those people who “blindly accept incorrect hints to their tree”. I take my research very seriously and Facebook has allowed me to get in contact with relatives I would not have otherwise known existed!

    @RAFIII, does your 1 year old goddaughter even have a Facebook page? If not, then there’s nothing to worry about. If so, I’d be having a SERIOUS talk with her parents as, in my opinion, no child under the age of 13 should have a FB page. But also, I believe it’s against FB policy to allow access to any page that belongs to someone under the age of 13 unless that individual specifically allows it.

    Perhaps those of you who think this new Facebook option is such a horrible thing ought to go back and re-read just exactly how it works. It’s an OPTION! You aren’t REQUIRED to use it. In fact, if you decide NOT to use it NOTHING HAPPENS! Man, the fear due to the unknown/lack of knowledge with this blog post borders on insanity. Let’s chill out a little, folks!

  9. Rick

    I started using Facebook itself just to build my tree and have found it useful in researching connections – I do not use FB for any other purpose than genealogy.

    Once I had a solid base of FB “friends” – all relatives – I initiated this feature – but then turned it off. Primarily I do not want Ancestry tree information being stored on Facebook’s servers where I have little or no control over how it is used or distributed. Facebook is under tremendous pressure to commercialize their user’s information.

    I still use Facebook for connecting, sharing photos, documents, etc but I see significant benefit from the intergration itself into Ancestry trees, to me it is just more clutter (and besides many FB pages do not have entirely accurate information because users don’t want to or have haphazardly disclosed personal details).

    From a tree integrity issue I would not recommend using the direct integration of the software feature but certainly find Facebook as a useful tool for research.

  10. scwbcm

    I am reserving my opinion on these because there are still unanswered questions. Can someone link to your facebook page without your knowledge? Is friending somehow considered tacit approval for someone to link to you on your facebook page? In other words do both sides of the equation have to explicitly agree to this or only one party.

    I still do not understand how searches are carried out and what information is provided to the searcher?

    Can photos be carried over from facebook to ancestry other than the profile photo? It sounds like this could only happen by request. Is this request specific to each photo and each copying activity or a one time all inclusive request?

  11. Rick

    Correction to previous post (#11)
    “but I see significant benefit from the intergration itself into Ancestry trees”

    should read “but I see NO significant benefit from the intergration itself into Ancestry trees

  12. Monika

    #9 – I have already shot off an e-mail to asking them how I can remove that prompting message that is now placed on everyone who shows as “living” on my trees. Have not heard back from them yet! #10 – You have to consider all the possible ramifications involved in sharing data on Facebook. If I wanted to be on Facebook I would be there, and I do not want to be placed on there “per proxy” by someone who copied data from my trees. A few months ago, I got a misleading e-mail from Facebook (who obtained my e-mail address Lord knows how!) telling me that I had “seven friends” on Facebook that were trying to reach me! After ignoring that message–which came in daily in my “spam” section for a while–for weeks, I finally broke down and decided “Okay, I’ll go and look”. When I tried to get into Facebook it asked me for my password. So, I created one and got the response “No, no! We mean the password you use for your e-mail” and, like an idiot I typed that in and got into Facebook. There I discovered that I did not know any of these seven people and that I did not have the slightest interest in being involved with so much shallowness. So, I immediately got out of Facebook, angry with myself for having been so stupid as to give them my password. I called my internet service provider to change my password and while we were both online to change the password we noticed that Facebook was copying every address in my address book. My service provider told me that this was common practice with Facebook. I have no desire to be associated with Facebook in any shape or form!

  13. rosejp2

    While I usually love and am grateful for Ancestry improvements, I hate the Facebook links. I couldn’t care less about using Facebook for genealogy work — would never use it for serious, accurate genealogy work — and the link on the profile page makes it look ugly and too cluttered.

    It would be wonderful and much appreciated if you would provide a means to opt out of the whole Facebook thing like you can with the Ancestry Member Tree Hints and New Hint Notifications in the Site Preferences.

  14. Jennifer

    I have a large tree (30K+) and when I try to link my tree to my FB friends it hangs with the message “Ancestry is matching your Facebook friends to people in your family tree”…right now, it’s been churning for over one hour. I would really love to use this feature. Please advise. Thanks!

  15. Mary

    I do a workshop on how to use family trees effectively, and I specifically show people the private versus public features (as well as’s Terms & Conditions and Privacy statements). Most people adding their family trees to have no idea how “public” their trees are, who has access to them, and how little control they have once they are in the public domain. Now it looks like I’ll have to add a feature on the facebook ap….pronto! People are right to be concerned about facebook’s motivations.

  16. Juan

    I think this is a good idea, well for me it might just work. I have two Facebook accounts, one for gaming and all other stuff, and one Personal one strictly for family and very close friends only. I just used this new feature and it seems OK for now. My family likes their privacy. That is the reason I have two accounts, My family is very large my tree currently has 311 people in it and 98% of them are alive (This is cousins and their children etc.) We use it for sharing pictures and family info at all times because we live in different parts of the world now as our families have grown. So as far as know it seems to be good, I can access current pictures from their profiles right from

    Now here is the question.

    I don’t want the app to retrieve pictures from the profiles, as many of us change these pictures not with our own but of orgs. and other kinds that I don’t want in my tree files.
    Can this feature be turned off? If not, Will the app be updated to allow us to change which features we would like to use?

    This is my only problem with this app for now, I will be looking for any changes or i will have to remove it.


  17. Wren

    What information is Facebook getting in return? Because I know neither side is doing this through any sense of altruism.

    Let me be clear: I loathe Facebook. I loathe clutter. I not only don’t want to USE this “feature,” I don’t even want the FB button appearing on my tree or FB having any access to even one nanobyte of my data, anonymous or not.

    We won’t even get into the potential for perverts to get data about children, who are “living persons” in some trees. In fact, I trust FB so little that my first action after sending this will be to strip all living people under age 21 out of my tree. We just found one dismembered missing child in our area whose abductor tracked her on Facebook via some tie-in page. I won’t give another freak a chance to copycat that crime.

  18. Joe

    It is very annoying when trying to log in to Ancestry and have to close the FB log in box then click on the Ancestry box just to get log in. I had a FB account years ago and closed it and do not want another.

    This should be an optional feature. However, I suspect that FB pays Ancestry for this feature just as companies pay PC makers to put a lot of junk software on computers that they sell.

  19. Michel Bryson

    At first, I thought this might be a neat tool. I wanted to get my family members’ approval before I synch’d them with Ancestry, since it seems rather “big brother” to me. As I was typing that up – it occurred to me that I may not need the info Facebook has.

    If I see a nice profile photo, I can ask them for it. I already know most of their birthdays and other major life events (I take a notebook to our reunions and ask questions to fill in my blanks). If I see a cousin has another cousin with the same last name, I can ask about the relationship to see if they’re in my tree.

    I have a hard time agreeing to any Facebook app, primarily because I don’t trust Facebook 100% with sensitive or personal information. It’s great for me to share my inane thoughts with my friends & family, but that’s really the extent of Facebook’s purpose for me.

    I’ve decided not to use the Facebook / Ancestry link-up after all. It would be nice to turn it off, if only to speed up page load times. doesn’t have to spend time trying to see if 1) they’re living and 2) if they’re synched yet, particularly if I specifically state I don’t want to synch.

  20. Vincent Murdock

    So up front I understand the numerous privacy issues as well as the potential for click happy users to blindly accept a proposed connection to a source or relative without prudent substaniating information. I am more comfortable with granting access to my facebook friends than I am with granting other facebook apps: My Birthdays; FarmVille; Casino something; and my favorite Mafia Wars. At least the Ancestry facebook app is assisting me with something production that is near and dear to my heart. My current issue with this app is that its not 100% functional. It does nothing after I confirm/deny its last proposed connection but report that this feature is currently broken. I haven’t given up the cause yet… will await futher developments from the Ancestry software geeks before making an decision to use or not use this feature.

  21. Lorie

    I am having trouble using this feature. I can add one person & then it says this feature is having trouble, sorry. Is their some kind of “glich” with this right now?

  22. It won’t work for me, following your steps. On the final step, where it says its “Building Your Tree”, it begins the process, but ends up giving me the error message, “We’re sorry, this feature is not working properly.” I have tried it with Chrome, IE, and Firefox, on various computers, in various locations. I asked another (paying) member to try it, and he also had the same experience. Is the service currently down?

  23. Bill

    I’ve been using FB with great success finding living relatives that I’ve never knew existed except through Ancestry. Now, we are talking weekly. I’ve also reconnected with family back east, where the last time we seen each other was 1968 at a funeral.

    I’ve tried twice using the Ancestry to FB connection, but each time it did nothing, so I’ve dropped trying.


  24. Caroline Kershaw

    I just used this feature and really liked the way it imported pictures into my existing tree. The only problem I have now is that one of my cousins has a picture of his pet dog as his profile picture, and I cant find a way to unlink this picture in ancestry now!

  25. David Nelson

    As someone who has connected with many previously unknown relatives through FaceBook, I am intregued.

    Unfortunately, about a minute after it says “Building your tree…”, I get an error message “We’re sorry, this feature is not working properly.” I’ve sent of a message to Customer Service.

  26. scwbcm

    After viewing your tutorial on the ancestry facebook page, I would say that I will need to wait on this. You need to notify both sides who are included, which includes the facebook side of this equation. My family on facebook would never forgive me for participating in this without their consent so until that is in place I will have to wait. It is a shame. I could see some value in this. Keep us posted if you make that change.

  27. jean

    I hate the very thought that FACEBOOK even has one bit of my tree so i have took steps to stop it.

    i am using fire fox so i used add on features as follows

    1) facebook disconnect
    2) adblock plus
    3) DO NOT TRACK (try it 1 had over 1,000 social networks including FB, trackers and ad companies try to connect to me each of them thankfully were blocked in just 1 week!)

    now if only i could figure out a way to remove that hideous banner that ancestry insist on place at the top of our overview page each time we add a record/hint i would be as happy as larry!

  28. Carol Preece

    This sounds like a terrible intrusion on my privacy and other. How do you dare to call it a benefit. There are many other things you could do but don’t. No, thanks, I will not be signing up right now until this is fixed.

  29. Bill Robinson

    I have been trying to do this for several days with no luck. I first used my primary tree from my iMac, but with 58,000 people, maybe it really takes more than 2 days. I tried a very small tree, both from the iPad and the web, but still getting the “matching” message. No indication if one has to stay on that page or if it is hung, except the circle of leaves is still moving.
    Has anyone actually succeeded in this? Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Bill

  30. Diane

    I’ve noticed this feature popping up in my family tree on ancestry. I am not interested in any type of program that automatically searches through FB records looking for any name in my family tree. If I come across a person that is a close relative, I can do the search myself. I also don’t use apps associated with FB. Once you sign up, they have access to all your information on FB. I like to feel like I have some element of control over who has access to my FB information. This is becoming harder and harder as time goes by.

  31. Mary Hardin

    I do not like the Facebook feature and hope you will make it an optional feature. I have ways to connect to living people if I want to be connected and do not need Ancestry to help me. Not every person’s life revolves around FB. I encourage Ancestry to continue to help us with records from the past. The present takes care of itself.

  32. Connie Stenhjem

    I will not utilize the Facebook feature and was not particularly pleased when it was added along with other social media. As I see it there are different types of family history researchers. Many are looking to generate a family tree that is as accurate as it can be and look for source records and proofs to back up what they have. Ancestry in the past has been invaluable in this regard and has resulted in new found relatives all working toward the same goal. Others may simply want to gather information and make new social contacts. One size does not fit all. I hope moving ancestry toward a social media site doesn’t have negative consequences. It would be a shame.

  33. Andras Tim

    When I follow above steps (I click on “Is XXX on Facebook” and after I validate of mach my profile) I get the next error at every time:

    We’re sorry, this feature is not working properly.

    Why? I could connect some friend with the suggested members (the list after I mach myself), but not anyone after it.

    Please Help.
    Best regards,
    Andras Tim

  34. Teresa

    Well, I never have gotten facebook to connect with my own tree. It still continues to say it is not working correctly. But I did finally see how it works, in my boyfriends tree. From what I have seen it is not all that helpful. Unless there is more to come, such as adding pictures from facebook directly, and adding info such as birth dates and other timeline events, automatically (which btw was what I was expecting) I can do what this does without this app the way it is, anyway.

  35. David Nelson

    Unfortunately, it is clear that this impossible to use feature was not ready for prime time and has been removed.

  36. erin

    My settings show that I am “Not Connected” to Facebook yet I get the spinning wheel under Facebook Import. I use a Mac and already have enough issues trying to do the site with Safari & Firefox; my page load time takes even longer now. How can I prevent it from trying to connect? Frustrating!

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  38. tina

    I only use Facebook for family and friends I know in real life-there is nobody on my page that is a “virtual” friend. However, contrary to all the naysaying about the Facebook app being bad and such, I have found that using it helped me tremendously. I found an entire branch of my family tree, only one generation back, that I never knew existed. Now all of us communicate and share info freely.
    I do think, however, that once I have added all the people I can add from FB, I will “unsync” the two so that my info is not inadvertently shared in a way I havent thought of yet. My FB profile is private, and I have not seen any misuse of it thus far, but it is better to be careful in the event that you don’t know everything about what you are doing, which would be my case lol.

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