“If My Ancestry Subscription Expires, What Happens to My Tree?”

Are you worried about access to your online tree if you let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse? The tree should still be there. But take these steps to be sure your Ancestry family tree remains accessible and secure–along with the records you’ve attached to it.

What happens to my ancestry tree if my ancestry subscription expires?

 

What Happens if Your Ancestry Subscription Expires

Many people start researching their genealogy with an Ancestry subscription. They build their family tree on the web site, adding details about their relatives. 

Then they sift through Ancestry’s billions of historical records and add hundreds or even thousands of new names, dates, relationships and other facts to their family trees. Along the way, they attach records to each ancestor as evidence of what they’ve learned.

All of this adds up to a unique family tree that is precious to your family. 

However, it is very common for the busyness of life to call them away from their genealogy research for a while. This is what happened to Genealogy Gems reader Beverly. She wrote to me, concerned about what will happen to all her hard work on that Ancestry tree:

“I have been a member of Ancestry.com for a long time and have worked on several trees. I love to work on my genealogy but lately have not had time. Can I drop my membership and still retain my trees? I plan to get my membership back at a later day. Right now I am wasting $20 a month.”

Beverly, I hear your pain!

We all go through busy seasons. It’s easy to cringe at the thought of paying for genealogy website subscriptions we aren’t currently using. 

But the idea of losing all our progress on those web sites if we let our subscription lapse is worse. Your Ancestry subscription has not only included your online family tree, but also all of the records that you found and attached to that tree. 

I did a little research along with Sunny Morton, Genealogy Gems Editor and our resident expert on the Genealogy Giants” websites” (Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage). Here’s what we can tell Beverly and everyone else who is wondering what will happen to their family tree and all that research if their Ancestry account expires:

According to Ancestry, the answer is yes, you can still access your trees with your login credentials after your subscription lapses. The most important thing is that you don’t delete the tree or the account altogether. 

Ancestry continues to host people’s trees because they want our tree data to share with others, and to give people a reason to come back!

But be aware that if you do not renew your Ancestry subscription, your account will revert to a free guest account. (Your user name and password will remain the same.) This means that you will not be able to access most of Ancestry’s historical records, including the ones you’ve already attached to your trees. And I say “trees” because many people have multiple family trees on Ancestry to be concerned about. 

To see the historical genealogy records that you have attached to an ancestor in your online tree, click on a person in your family tree, and then click Profile:

How to find genealogy records attached to a person in your Ancestry tree

How to find genealogy records attached to a person in your Ancestry tree.

You will be taken to their profile page where you will see the genealogical sources you have attached. 

 

If your Ancestry account expires you can't access records attached to your tree.

If your Ancestry account expires you can’t access records attached to your tree.

These are records that you will not be able to access when your subscription expires.

If Your Ancestry Subscription Expires: Tree Preservation Strategy 

If you plan to let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse for a while, but you want to continue to work with your online trees, consider taking these steps:

1. Download a copy of every record.

The first thing to do is download a copy of every record that you’ve attached to your ancestors’ individual files on Ancestry.com.

You can do this by opening the image of the record, clicking on the Save/Saved button at the upper right, and clicking Save to your computer. I suggest doing this even if you don’t foresee letting your subscription go in the near future.

Saving document from Ancestry before subscription expires

Saving a document to your computer from Ancestry before your subscription expires

2. Save each record in an organized way on your computer.

I recommend using a consistent system to organize these, which I explain in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, in episodes 32-33. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members have access to a 2-part video tutorial on organizing their hard drives.)

If you don’t have a consistent way to organize these document images, you’ll soon become overwhelmed with files that all sort of look the same and you won’t be sure what year they are or which ancestors they pertain to without opening each one!

You may be wondering “What about cloud storage options, such as Google Drive or Dropbox?” These type of cloud storage solutions are ok too. However, I recommend using these platforms more as temporary or backup storage or to share with relatives, rather than as your primary storage.

A better alternative would be to invest in cloud-based backup for your home computer. I use Backblaze personally and for my business.

Backblaze lisa louise cooke

3. Download copies of your Ancestry.com trees

Click here for instructions; it’s really easy.

Yes, Ancestry does continue to maintain your trees, but what guarantees do you have?

Data loss does happen even on big websites, and sites change their practices and policies sometimes. If that happens, you could lose all the information you’ve carefully added to your tree.

4. Start using computer software for your “master family tree.”

Don’t just keep your family tree online where you don’t have complete control.

A “master family tree” is your most complete, up-to-date version of your tree (or trees, if you build separate ones for separate family lines).

master family tree

Keeping your master tree on your own computer keeps all your tree data at your fingertips without any subscription required. Having one master file matters even more once you start sharing your tree on other websites or with relatives.

I use RootsMagic, and that is why I happily agreed to them sponsoring my Genealogy Gems Podcast. It works for Mac and the PC.

RootsMagic the Master Genealogist

I like its affordability: there’s a free version you can try for as long as you like, and the full software will cost you the same as about 90 days of access to Ancestry.com.

RootsMagic also has solid relationships with the major genealogy sites: it now syncs with your trees on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, and you can research records on MyHeritage.com and Findmypast.com.

RootsMagic has tons of advanced features to help you create family history charts, books, and reports, and a great user support community online.

Learn More about Ancestry and the Other Genealogy Giants

Keep up with news and changes on the “genealogy giants” websites with our ongoing coverage of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com here.

Disclosure: this post recommends carefully-chosen products and services for which we receive compensation. Click here to read my full disclosure statement, and thank you for supporting the free content we provide at Genealogy Gems.

NEW Genealogy Book Club: Here’s a Gem Inspired by You!

genealogy book club genealogy gemsWe’ve heard from you, our readers and listeners that you LOVE to read! Well, we’ve just launched a great new FREE program for you: the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

This is an idea we have been percolating on for quite a while with your encouragement. You regularly send me the names of books you love. I also hear from publishers and the authors themselves. Now we can all come together as a genealogy book club community!

The Genealogy Gems Book Club is a virtual, no-commitment option that features a book every three months that I consider a genealogy gem. We will focus on mainstream nonfiction and fiction titles that explore themes you care about, like family ties, heritage and history. These are books you will want to read for pleasure and recommend to anyone, not just other genealogy lovers.

My favorite part of the Genealogy Gems Book Club is the exclusive author interviews that will appear on the Genealogy Gems free and Premium podcasts in the third month of the featured book (after people have had time to read it). After all, podcasts are all about conversation! I’ve learned in the past that you love interviews with authors, whether you have read the book or not.

genealogy book club

She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by award-winning U.K. journalist Emma Brockes. It recounts the author’s discovery of her mother’s traumatic childhood in South Africa. Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor and Book Club Guru Sunny Morton loves this book: This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done.”

Here’s how the three-month cycle works for this new genealogy book club:

  • In the first month, Sunny Morton, our Genealogy Book Club Guru will introduce us to a new title on the Genealogy Gems free podcast, the Premium Podcast and on the Genealogy Gems blog. She will share a quick run-down on the book and why she recommends it.
  • In the second month, Sunny and I will discuss a gem from the book, and recommend additional titles in case you are looking for something more to read.
  • In the third month, our featured author will join the Genealogy Gems podcast for an exclusive interview. Excerpts from the interview will run on the free podcast and the entire interview will air on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast.

To follow the Genealogy Gems Book Club, go to our home page and sign up to receive our FREE monthly newsletter (you’ll receive my Google Search ebook too as a welcome gift!) Then check in periodically at the Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage, which summarizes all books covered to date and includes additional recommendations. And of course, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems Podcast in iTunes.

Ready to become a Premium member so you’ll catch the full author interviews as well as all the other in-depth coverage on the Genealogy Gems Premium Genealogy Gems book clubpodcast? Click here to learn more.

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 172 for more details.

See you at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

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