Posted by Ancestry Team on July 20, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

Are you making it easy for cousins and fellow genealogists to find your family photos in an Ancestry online photo gallery? Genealogy bloggers often use “cousin bait” to catch relatives searching the internet for family names, but did you know that Ancestry Public Member Trees can help catch cousins too?

What is “cousin bait” and how does it work? As early as 2010, genealogy bloggers were excited about posting online family trees, photos, and biographical sketches on their family history blogs as a way to connect with other genealogists researching the same names. Often, these newfound cousins turned out to have photos, stories, and answers to big brick wall questions.

But, you don’t have to be a blogger to take advantage of fishing for cousins in the big genealogy pond on Ancestry. All you need is a Public Family Tree and your own digitized photos or documents ready to attach to your ancestors.

Preparing Cousin Bait

  1. Select photos from your own collection; if you aren’t sure about copyright, check The Legal Genealogist’s article Copyright and the Old Family Photo.
  2. Scan your photo at 300 dpi for print quality, or 72 dpi for internet only.
  3. Add a watermark to the photo using your photo editing software by adding a text box with your name and email address in a contrasting font color. This identification will stay with the photo if it is copied to other trees — not a bad thing if you want to find cousins.
  4. Use a simple file name beginning with the name, date, and event. Keep it short and avoid special characters. Use a dash or underscore instead of a space, and begin dates with the year. For file naming ideas, see The Family Curator’s Tips for E-A-S-Y Digital File-naming to Organize Digital Files.
  5. Upload images to your public family tree Gallery with the Add > Upload Media feature. For image title, use the person’s name followed by the year and event. This puts your ancestor in front, where cousins are most likely to see it while skimming file names. Add other details to give your image more search options. Remember, date, place, and description are all searchable fields that can help you connect with relatives. See this Ancestry support article on Uploading Media for screenshots and more photos
  6. Keep track of which files you’ve uploaded by placing a copy or file alias inside a folder marked “Ancestry Uploads” or keep a list in a word processing document or spreadsheet.

Setting out cousin bait is as simple as uploading media to an individual in your Ancestry Public Family Tree, but the best cousin bait takes advantage of file names and descriptions to make them more searchable.

To Find Posted Images:

Select Public Member Trees from the Search menu and choose the Related Data Collection: Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents. You’ll get the best results when you use fewer search terms. Start with the surname, or surname and first initial to find photos or files that include the name you are looking for.

Happy Fishing!




    As an avid user, I find the latest Family Trees Hint display to be a step backward. The previous one ranked related Family Trees from high-to-low based upon the number of attached records, photos, sources, etc., and the current one has eliminated all of that very useful information that I used to decide which (if any) other related Family Tree I would review. Why change for no apparent gain what has worked well for years?

  2. Tommy L Jones

    Where is my dna test results. I sent them in early May 2017 and have not heard from the results. It is July 21, 2017 and I expected results before now.

  3. RonNasty64

    “Cousin Bait” would make a great horror movie set in a swampy area in the southern USA. ps. thanks for the link on file naming.

  4. Edward Arnold

    I just received my DNA results and I was disappointed as I expected more. To me, the results did not go far enough. Just to state I am 90% from Europe is common knowledge. I expected the results to include what percent from ethnic groups. A friend, who used a different DNA service, received results showing he had Neanderthal DNA. I was expecting more detailed results. Also, I submitted a family tree and I am receiving notices related to people I submitted and I am requested to pay money to view my own tree.

  5. DT

    I’m removing all my cousin bait from ancestry. It’s so hard to communicate with others. All first contacts are about how they aren’t paying members and we exchange email and a link to another ancestry site that actually helps its members. With the recent DNA policy change, its become pointless to have a public tree on ancestry in the forest of fake trees. Start listening to your customers.

  6. tricia minter

    I think Ancestry is being a bit unfair to their DNA testers. You purchase the kit, send it in, get your results. then you want to see everything possible about the results. You can’t see certain things, such as the DNA circles, unless you are constantly paying a monthly fee. I feel all the DNA results should be available to testers without having to be paying a fee all the time. Many of us, including myself, cannot afford to be paying every month to Ancestry. I understand the need for fees for certain features, but your DNA results should be free to view at any given time without buying a membership.

  7. Janice

    I viewed that link concerning copyright issues. I have to say that someone almost has to be a lawyer to understand what photos they actually “own” – even if they are in your personal possession. Or what newspaper clippings they can use (maybe put in a book for family) – even when it’s an obituary for a relative. I can see that if someone wanted to make money off of someone else’s work, e.g., commercial purposes, that would be one thing. But do we need to protect a photographic studio that’s been out of business for 100 years? Anyway, Ancestry, I don’t know who owns my photos now. Is it me? Is it you? Someone else? And if you pick up a photo from another public tree, can you use it or not? Just had to vent as I feel frustrated. It seems to me that if I have a picture of a relative (especially if they’re no longer living), I should be able to do what I want with it. Right now, I’m thinking the safest – albeit the least fun – is to not post or use any photos for any purpose other than to keep in a photo album at home.

  8. Joyce

    I use COPIOUS bait–my tree is heavily documented, my DNA is on GEDmatch, FTDNA, 23andme and ancestry.

    I also load Find a Graves that include copious info about family. I do tons of stories, photo’s etc.

    Let me tell you–I have found a LOT of cousins.

    My “pet peeve” is people who have info in their filing cabinet and don’t load it to their trees. Making connections is how you find answers…

    There is always someone out there who got more info handed down than you did, but if you don’t put your docs etc on ancestry and other sites you will never find whoever is the “keeper of the ancestral gold”.

    Connections and commnication is how to make progress.

    • HOlly

      Joyce, I have never heard of FTDNA! Thanks for the insight! I hear what you are saying, nothing is more frustrating than those that don’t share!!

  9. Joyce

    Holly FTDNA has a free upload-but $19 for extra functions such as ethnicity reports. See this link to transfer your DNA from other sites to FTDNA–

    FTDNA has a great triangulation tool.

  10. Joyce Halvorsen

    Looking for the BIRTH parents of Catherine Marie Mc Kenery born Nov 1868 in Newfoundland. She married twice: First to Charles Keene, they had one child, Carl Howard Keene. They divorced sometime before 1900. Catherine is known as Catherine Keene in 1900 census, listed as a housekeeper for Prudence L Merrom age 69 and her son Edward B Merrom age 36 in Lebanantown, Maine. Her 12 year old son Carl Keene lives with her. There is no Charles Keene. Family says he may have gone back to England, where he was from. Meanwhile Catherine divorced Charles Keene. In 1903 Catherine Marie Keene remarried to Hervey Wingate Dorr. They remained married for the rest of their lives. Family feels that Catherine lived until 1958 as the grand-children remember her at that time. However I cannot go back before Catherine, to her parents because the parents listed on her second marriage license to Hervey Wingate Dorr are their “friends” James J McKenzie and possibly his wife Annie who lived near them. They were witnesses to the marriage, not parents, as listed on the license. Can anyone tell me who Catherine Marie Mc Kenery (Keene-Dorr) blood parents were? Family thinks the mother died and the father was unable to take care of Catherine so she wound up in a Newfoundland orphanage where she stayed until she married Charles Keene. Note there are many Charles Keene, including a jeweler by that name….I feel confident that the Jeweler Charles Keene is NOT the Charles Keene this Catherine was married to. Any information would be helpful, even the parents of Charles Keene would be a start. I have a later photo of Catherine Marie Mc Kenery (Keene-Dorr) with her second husband Hervey Wingate Dorr taken at their 35the wedding anniversary. Thank you so much.

  11. Donald Sovine

    Now that I have did it all wrong (naming pictures), how do I correct it without deleting all my pictures on Ancestry and starting all over again? Also, I had scans of letters arranged so that they could be read in alphabetical order. Ancestry software don’t cooperate too well with this as it keeps reverting back to date order (but what date). The dates on my scan files have nothing to do with the dates that the pictures of letters were written or what time I uploaded them to Ancestry!

  12. Patricia C' Brown

    I hate the new format! I have been with Ancestry for over ten years and am about to ditch you. When items come up, I have no choice about correcting things on my tree that I know from personal experience are wrong. My family boarded young people at the beginning of the century and taught them as apprentices. They also took in children and raised them. These folks are on the census records but are not family members as many people are listing them. I can’t fix these errors with this new format. It is also impossible to view my family trees because of a pop up grid that covers all the names. I have phoned Ancestry about this more than once and still have the problem. Why did you make this stupid change?

  13. David Rohne

    I have had messages from distant relatives but I can’t get back to them. Why? Maybe being too old & computer illiterate?

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @David Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. What exactly is happening when you are trying to respond to the message? Are you receiving any error messages?

  14. Paula Sutton

    I have had strange messages on occasion from individual who appear to be members but they are odd. My most recent message was from someone who wanted assistance with their research and mentioned we were connected through “Dolly”. This person quickly provided a phone number and name. After I looked at my tree and tried to look at his tree then I decided we had no relatives in common and when he contacted me again, I asked for a confirmation of the “Dolly” he was researching. I haven’t heard back but I think this person is trying to contact Ancestry members to get personal information. Could someone’s account have been hacked into and have an individual trying to contact various members? I am not calling the individual because I don’t want them to have my phone number. Does Ancestry investigate members who send out strange messages to members?

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