I have found three separate family trees on Ancestry.com that include my ancestor. Each covers branches that the others don't. I would like to incorporate that data into my own database (RootsMagic). Ancestry.com doesn't let you download exports of other people's family trees, only your own. So I made a personal family tree on Ancestry.com and tried to merge the information from the other trees into it. But as far as I can tell, this can only be done one individual at a time and is much more time consuming than I expected. There is no way that I've found to say "Add this person and all his/her ancestors." Surely lots of people have had this situation. What can I do?

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! While waiting for an answer, you may want to review this earlier Q&A with a similar question focussed on GEDCOM rather than Ancestry.com: genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… – PolyGeo Nov 15 '15 at 7:11
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    I would say this is a very rare instance of Ancestry actually encouraging good practice! Reviewing the information about each individual one at a time to determine how reliable it is is a much better practice that importing willy-nilly the mistakes accumulated by somebody else. – user104 Nov 15 '15 at 9:27
  • I would also like to do this, because it more efficient to start with larger tree and all potential information and then start pruning incorrect information rather than research every link one at a time – Paul Taylor Jan 5 '16 at 15:41

Fortunately it is not possible to incorporate large amounts of data from someone else's tree on Ancestry.com without going through it individual by individual.

This slows – but far from eliminates – the rate of:

  • plagiarism: taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own
  • perpetuating false information: many public trees on Ancestry are poorly researched

So how can you proceed if you do not wish to manually go through all the information, but you are certain(!) it is correct? All you can do is:

  • Contact the tree owner and ask if they would provide the tree to you in GEDCOM format. You can then incorporate the GEDCOM into your tree. If they will not do this, it is unlikely they would have wanted you to download the tree wholesale anyway.

However, I strongly advise against this approach. Genealogy is much more fulfilling if you do the work yourself.

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  • If you take this advice and go slowly through corresponding trees , it can take time, but there are a some big benefits: a) you end up including only the people that are relevant to you, b) the evidence/facts/citations from those trees is COPIED into your tree, and thus then available to you to scrutinze, reuse, and duplicate offline. – HDave Oct 5 '16 at 12:56

To complement the previous answer -- sites do exist where people have shared their GEDCOM files for download. Here are some things to consider if you could download the entire tree. 'Best practice' is to NOT merge their entire tree with yours, but to keep it separate and to use it as a reference because:

  • Some sites which allow users to upload trees don't have good mechanisms to allow the tree owners to update their tree. So the same person may have uploaded their tree multiple times (or on multiple sites). It isn't always obvious which of these trees is the most recent, and without talking to the owner, you can't know if they still agree with what they 'published' previously.
  • Trees made with the aid of Hints may have errors because a bad identification was suggested by the hint algorithm -- and on a site like Ancestry that generates hints, you don't know whether the tree was made for 'hint bait'. A person may attach a hint without doing any research at all, simply to see what other hints may show up if that speculative hint is 'correct'. Since Ancestry doesn't have a flag to indicate the tree owner is not sure about a particular source or fact, unless the owner leaves a comment to alert other readers, there is no way to tell which part of the tree may be soundly researched and which parts are speculative, except by guessing that the outermost bits of the tree are likely to be the most 'iffy'. Now consider that any part of the tree could have been, at one time or another, one of those 'speculative' bits -- or could have been copied from someone else's "hint bait" tree. (2020 Update: since Ancestry has introduced MyTreeTags, users can mark an individual's entire profile with "hypothesis", "unverified" etc., but there is no standard flag for marking a single item on the profile as unverified -- the only thing users can do is leave notes in the event's description.)

Some of the best professional genealogists I know warn people not to trust their work blindly, but to evaluate the work yourself. You can learn far more by examining and evaluating any sources used, and asking why someone might have decided a fact was correct, than you can by simply plugging the raw facts from their tree into your own.

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I disagree with some of Harry Vervet's answer with regard to Ancestry.com I agree is not possible to bring large amounts of data from another's Family Tree to yours. There are basically two ways to bring another's Tree into your Ancestry Tree. #1 merge a Gedcom (ged) file to your Tree. All that does is brings names and dates into your Tree. It is no fun editing for duplicates, wrong dates and misaligned branches. Also you do not get any underlying support from from the merged Tree. #2 The other way is to use an "Ancestry Member Tree" and link what you choose as "Select trees with relevant information". All that does is reference your person to the Tree where you got that information. No supporting detail comes across to your Tree. I don't think incorporating information has anything to do with plagiarism. False information comes over when you choose "relevant information" that is wrong. I agree the only way to get another's Tree directly into Ancestry other than linking with "relevant information" is ask and receive. The idea of merging through Roots Magic is worth consideration, since you can bring all your Tree including support into Roots Magic from Ancestry. Also since you can print your Roots Magic Tree, it may be possible to pre-merge edit the other tree to prevent most problems (you will always have a few errors). So if you can get the Roots Magic download of another's Tree it might be possible to merge and keep support. I think it is worth a try.

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  • It would be nice if those who down voted knew as much about Ancestry as I do. Maybe a comment where I am wrong should be considered with your down vote. – Learned Man Apr 13 at 23:50
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    Well aside from the poor formatting which makes your answer quite hard read I think the main issue is one of whether merging in other people's tree like this is actually a good idea in the first place - the existing answers make clear that this is something which needs to be approached with extreme caution. – TomH Apr 14 at 7:09

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