10 August 2021

Which Part of Your Ancestry Needs to Be Private?

The genealogy world is up in arms due to an extreme overreach by Ancestry.com. No one ever pays attention to a website's policy updates. And they were counting on us to ignore this latest change.

But the Legal Genealogist Judy Russell sounded the alarm for us all. Ancestry says they're claiming full rights to the photos in our online family trees. Your favorite family photo of Grandma might wind up in Ancestry's advertisements. And you would have no legal right to stop them.

What were they thinking? They thought they'd get away with it, that's for sure. Can you imagine the corporate meeting where they decided to own our photos?

Before the September 2, 2021 deadline, people are removing photos from their Ancestry trees. From now on, the discoveries we make in other people's family trees will be a lot more bland. No more finding photos of the 3rd great aunt you just discovered.

I do all my family tree work on my desktop in Family Tree Maker. I didn't have to "delete" my photos. I went through them in the FTM Media Library and clicked a checkbox to make them all private. Then I synchronized my tree with Ancestry.com, which removed 444 photos from the website—not from my tree.

This works fine for me. The vast majority of my people have no photos anyway. They have vital records from the 1800s. I don't own those records, so I'm happy to share them along with their URLs.

Today I remembered the large family tree I created for my sister-in-law. I don't update it anymore. I went to the tree on Ancestry and went to the Media Library. I removed every photo (not cemetery photos or documents). These photos were mostly given to me by a distant cousin of my sister-in-law, so they are not mine. I have a duty to protect their property as well as mine.

Removing or making images private in the Media Library is faster than viewing profiles one at a time. That goes for your family tree on Ancestry or your desktop tree.

Take the time right now to safeguard your family tree photos from other uses.
Take the time right now to safeguard your family tree photos from other uses.

Does It Matter to You?

What do you think needs to be private? I'm always surprised by people who won't take a DNA test because of a perceived threat to their identity. It isn't your bank account PIN. How would someone profit off knowing you're 55% Irish? And if I have a serial-killer cousin, I want them to get caught.

I've never had a problem with my family tree being "out there," and I still don't. But I did take back my photos.

After doing that, I realized I did have my family tree in one place I'm very unhappy about. Geni.com is a free-for-all, "one world tree" type of site. People can merge your family members with theirs. They can edit your people. When I uploaded my large GEDCOM file in 2008, I thought it was MY family tree.

I wanted to delete my tree long ago, but strangers have put their hooks into it. They have made themselves managers of my closest family members—with no rhyme or reason.

I decided to delete as many people as I could from my geni.com family tree. I had to do it one at a time, which took lots of clicks and was murder on my right arm. It took me hours. You cannot delete someone if they will break your tree. For instance, someone has added to the family of my other sister-in-law's ex-husband. I can't delete his family without breaking the tree someone else built onto him. So I can't delete my sister-in-law, and I can't delete my husband. I have this type of situation in a few places.

Since I can't delete some of my closest relatives, I made sure their profiles are private. I deleted two men who made themselves "managers" of MY people. I found that one of these mystery men had a relationship to a branch of my ex-husband's tree on his English/Irish side. But why glom onto my whole family (all Italian) and my current husband's family (all Japanese)? That's insane and as much of an overreach as Ancestry.com is making.

I'm glad my photos are private. And I'm very glad I reined in my geni.com tree. But I need my Ancestry family tree to be public. It's of great value to anyone with ancestors from a handful of Southern Italian towns.

If you have a family tree on Ancestry.com, you've got a decision to make. Don't wait until the September 2 deadline. It's time to take action.

Follow me wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Bloglovin.

Let Me Build Your Italian Family Tree

If you want to find all your Italian ancestors but you need help, let's talk! Find out more at Italian Ancestry Services.

13 comments:

  1. It is my understanding that Ancestry has claimed the right to use our content all along, that this is nothing new. We still own our photos, they are just exercising their "rights" to use them, which we apparently all granted when we signed up for their services (whether we read the fine print or not).

    Personally, I think if they are going to use our content, then they should have to pay us, just as we have to pay to use their content (we can't see the records without paying, for example). I think it is most upsetting that people are removing their photos, though I understand some feel a need to do so.

    There is no reason to ever hope to see a photo of my biological grandmother (who I was robbed of ever knowing because deceit was at play concerning my paternity) if people remove all the photos from their trees.

    Because other people had images on their trees, I have been able to see 2nd and 3rd great-grandparents, long dead by the time I was born. Fear over Ancestry doing what they've been doing all along is going to make it impossible to "meet" these ancestors through photos on trees.

    This is a sad thought indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely understand your point of view. My first reaction was about the same; that this is nothing new. It is my hope that collective action will force them to restate their policy in a way that vanquishes our fears. I think a lot of people have been expecting Ancestry to be up to no good ever since a larger corporation swallowed them up.

      Delete
    2. I agree. I often wonder what is going to happen next with each new buyout or merger of these companies.

      I'm not really sure that Ancestry values the thoughts and needs of its customers. If they did, they would be offering a chromosome browser in conjunction with AncestryDNA. MyHeritage and FTDNA have them, so there's no reason that AncestryDNA couldn't offer it, too. But, they don't listen to the needs of their customers nor care about our fears or concerns.

      We can only hope that, if enough of us give them feedback, they will listen finally, at least in regards to their image policies.

      Delete
  2. Ugh, my computer isn’t working right now so I can’t make the pictures private. Grrrr

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have until Sept. 2, and maybe by then things will be clearer or the policy will change under public pressure.

      Delete
  3. Like you, I've deleted photos from my Ancestry trees, including from trees that I made for others in my family. But I left photos that originated on Ancestry: passport photos and yearbook photos, as well as newspaper photos from Newspapers.com. Bland to look at but still valuable to relatives and future researchers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm holding out a bit of hope that we may be able to put them back some day.

      Delete
  4. Heather A Skoda12 August, 2021 18:32

    For the time being I've removed all of my personal photos from Ancestry until their policy changes, but I am considering uploading a "stock" photo for each individual that says I have personal photos of the individual and if you would like to see them to contact me through Ancestry messaging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that was a suggestion I heard from Amy Johnson Crow, too. My ancestors came to America so late in the game, I don't have photos of older ancestors. So anyone who would want what I've got is already in contact with me.

      Delete
  5. If I make my tree private will people I share with still see tree

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the people you share with can see your private tree.

      Delete
  6. Does anyone know if there's a way to privatize photos in Rootsmagic 7 or 8 beta?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks like you can't, but it is on their enhancement list. http://forums.rootsmagic.com/index.php?/topic/19768-media-privacy-settings/

      Delete