If I upload an image to my family tree on Ancestry.com/.ca/.uk, etc. and someone shares/downloads it into their own tree - then if I later delete the image from my tree, does the other person still get to keep their copy of it? Have I lost the opportunity to claim ownership of the image and control its use?

For example, if I upload a scanned photo and then relatives request that I remove it... I can delete it from my own profile, but if some one else has already attached it to a member of their family tree, then I can't get it back or block others from using it, can I?

4 Answers 4


If you upload a family picture to a public Ancestry Member Tree you have already lost control. Read the Terms of Service. When you sign up with Ancestry.com etc... you agree to give them a license to use your info in almost any way they wish.

If someone downloads your photo and then uploads it to their tree there is practically nothing you can do about it.

Best rule of thumb to follow is... If you don't want it copied then don't put it on the net-period.

  • 2
    At the same time I believe one of the best memorials we can have to our ancestors is their photograph (assuming the photo is not one that the person or their descendants would not want surfaced) copied into the trees of as many of their descendants and other family members as possible. In other words I encourage people to post as much as they are comfortable with because I have shared and copied some great photos using Ancestry.com.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 0:18
  • Thanks, good answer. I'm of the opinion that sharing is caring, but it's my relatives that sometimes have their butts in knots. I think that some of them enjoy hoarding photos and get a thrill knowing that they have something 'exclusive' that all their other relatives want. I find this way of thinking baffling. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 21:44
  • To prevent stealing, all my trees are private. The only automatic entry to the Tree is if you are a relative in or going into the Tree. I let others into the Tree if they have a valid reason to do so. The only links I have to my Tree is that which is already in Ancestry. All the rest I give references to the support as a comment. I also rate the information if it is "UNCONFIRMED". I keep all the actual support in my files and will give it another upon request. I have 6000+ documents in jpg or pdf in my files. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 23:34


  • if you own the copyright in the photograph (and whether you do is a geography-specific legal question that I'm not qualified to address, but the chances are basically low unless it's a photograph you took yourself)
  • and if the terms of service of the website in question don't involve you giving them a licence to distribute the photograph as they see fit (and all the websites will have this clause because they couldn't operate without it)

in practice there's nothing you can do to prevent others using a copy that they already have. There's no harm in trying a polite request, if you know where the copies are. However, if you publish it on a site like Ancestry, you'll never be able to keep track of who has it.

If you do own the copyright, you still can't do much if you originally uploaded the photo under Ancestry's terms of service. If somebody else uploaded it without your permission, you can ask Ancestry to take the material down (but you still have to tell them exactly where it is!)

  • Hi, yes, I debated using the word 'ownership', but decided to in order to get my main question across without clouding it with copyright-doIordon'tIownit qualifiers. Thanks for posting this though. Good answer. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 20:07

If the objective is to see the that photograph is removed, consider using copyright protection (if it applies) rather than side step the issue.

Ancestry will work to remove content if its posting somehow violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and a properly compiled DMCA notice has been filed. See "What is your copyright policy?" This policy statement was dated 05 Oct 2012; it opens

Content which has been contributed to public area of the Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. sites by users remain the property of the submitter or the original creator and we are a licensed distributor of such content ...

AncestryInsider blogged about a case about one such case involving Ancestry. See "Monday Mailbox: Ancestry Removing Find A Grave Photos?"


A few years ago a distant cousin uploaded a picture of our family to Ancestry.com after agreeing not to as it belonged to me and was copyrighted.

Despite many emails and phone calls to Ancestry it is still there today. As previously stated

If you don't want it copied then don't put it on the net-period.

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