Only the owners of Ancestry family trees can use the standard feature to download the tree from the website.
But what if you want to download someone else’s Ancestry tree? Unfortunately, this isn’t straightforward.
There are several ways to go about this and some are more laborious than others. This article walks through five methods.
1. Ask The Tree Owner To Send You A GEDCOM File
Ancestry gives tree owners a feature to download their family tree to a file known as a GEDCOM file.
However, only tree owners can do this. Even if you have been given editing or viewing access, you can’t download the tree.
You can send a message to the tree owner to request a copy of a downloaded file.
If they don’t know how to do this, here is a link to the full steps on downloading from Ancestry to GEDCOM format.
If you aren’t already in communication with the tree owner, I don’t recommend that your first interaction is to ask for a copy of the file. It’s quite a favor.
I advise that you establish a cordial relationship around mutual genealogy interests. We have an article that gives tips on getting replies to Ancestry messages.
2. Sign In As The Tree Owner And Download To GEDCOM
I explained that only tree owners can download trees to GEDCOM.
If you know the owner’s login and password, you can go ahead and download the tree.
I don’t recommend that people share their logins. However, family members and other close relatives may choose to do so.
3. Use The “Save to tree” Feature To Copy The Tree For Download
Ancestry provides a feature to save a single tree profile from someone else’s tree to one of your own.
To access the feature, open a tree profile and expand the Tools menu at the top right. Choose the “Save to tree” link.
This means that you can work through the target tree and save each profile to a tree that you own and can download to a GEDCOM file.
I recommend that you create a new tree for this.
Unfortunately, you can only copy one person at a time. But remember, Ancestry will provide hints when you create a new entry in your copy.
This speeds everything up as you can accept the hints to generate parents and children etc that you then don’t need to manually copy from the original.
We have a full video walkthrough of using the feature to copy full branches:
4. Copy Lists Of People In The Tree To A Spreadsheet
This method is also tedious with large trees but it’s a nice way of getting tree contents into a spreadsheet.
The trick is to use the “List of People” feature. Follow these steps.
- Open the family tree and click the “Tree Search” button at the top right of the page.
- Choose “List of all People” from the filters.
This opens an alphabetic list of people in the family tree.
Be sure that you are seeing the maximum number of people on the page, which is one hundred. The toggle is at the bottom left of the page.
To copy the data to a spreadsheet, use ctrl-A to select the entire contents.
If you are using Microsoft Excel, follow these steps:
- Right-click in the first cell of an empty worksheet.
- Pick the paste option called “match destination formatting”
- Clean up the copied contents by deleting some rows at the top and bottom
You can use features in Excel to separate the contents. For example, you can split the single name field into a last and first name.
We have a video walkthrough that copies a page and shows you how to do extra formatting.
The main drawback of this method is that you can only copy one hundred people at a time.
You then have to click on the next page to copy the next lot. That is going to be tedious with a large tree.
The other drawback is that you lose the family relationships.
5. Print Parts Of Ancestry Trees To PDF, Word, Or Excel
Ancestry provides a print feature in the top right of any family tree.
You can use the feature to print to a PDF document, which in turn can be converted to a Word or Excel document.
Before you get too excited, I have to tell you that this method has severe limitations.
The first drawback is that the print feature doesn’t let you work with the entire family tree. Instead, you can only print what you can fit in a single web page view.
My main tip is to toggle the display format of the tree to Pedigree View. This fits more of the tree into a single display.
You can get the print feature to get the tree entries into a Microsoft Word or Excel document.
Before you follow the steps that I describe below, I’ll describe you what you get in these formats. The output can certainly be awkward to use.
Converting the PDF tree to Word
When you convert the PDF to a Word document, it is transformed into boxes that contain each person.
That isn’t easy to work with, but you can copy the contents of each box elsewhere.
Converting the PDF tree to Excel
The tree shows up in Excel as a big table that is also awkward to work with.
What I like to do is copy the entire contents of the worksheet and use “paste special” to paste into a new sheet.
This gives you just the text of each entry. Here is an example of an entry with birth, marriage, and death details:
Elizabeth Laura (Bessie) Smith B: 10 MAR 1885 Wisconsin, USA
M: 16 NOV 1905 Wisconsin, USA
D: 16 DEC 1968 Wisconsin, USA
Steps to download parts of trees to PDF, Word, or Excel
- Open the family tree and navigate to the part that you most want.
- Expand the Print menu in the top right of the screen.
- Select the “Print” menu item.
- Change the “Destination” option in the right pane to “Save as PDF”.
- Click the Save button.
This will save a PDF to your local drive.
That may be what you want, but it can be awkward to copy details from a PDF to somewhere else. So, you may want to convert the document to Word or Excel.
There are plenty of online services that will do this. But you may not want to upload files to an unknown service.
Perhaps the safest option is to use Adobe.com. You can create a free account on their website follow these steps:
- Use this link to go to the Adobe online tools dashboard.
- Expand the Convert menu at the top of the page.
- Choose the option to convert to Word or convert to Excel.
- Download the new file.