How To Add Step Parents And Adopted Parents To Your Ancestry Tree

The default relationships in an Ancestry tree are biological father, mother, brother,  and sister. But families are more complicated than that!

You can add step-parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents to your Ancestry tree. There are also some other less common relationships available. It’s not obvious how to do this, so we’ll give you a pictorial guide.

How To Add Step Parents and Adoptive Parents To Your Ancestry Tree

The “Edit Relationships” screen on an Ancestry tree profile lets you pick from a list of non-biological relationships.

You start from the person to whom you wish to add a parental relationship. Follow these steps. Open the tree profile page.

The “Edit” drop-down menu is at the top right hand side of the page. Choose the “Edit Relationships” menu item.

Changing an Existing Parent Relationship

If you added a parent through the usual edit screens, you’ll see it listed as biological. Use the drop-down list to choose another option.

Ancestry lists “Adopted” for the adoptive parent. Some adoptees will find the terminology a bit odd – you don’t adopt a parent, it’s the other way round. I used “Adopted Parent” in the title of this post, in case that is what people are searching for.

Adding a Step, Foster or Adoptive Parent – As First Parent

If there is no parent, the “Edit Relationship” screen gives you the option to add a father or mother. This expands the page to allow you assign someone already in your tree or to create a new person.

Creating a new person from here simply launches the usual Basic Edit screen where you enter the details. But when you save the new person, you are returned to the Edit Relationship screen where you can immediately change the category from Biological to one of the other chioces.

Adding Step, Foster or Adoptive Parents – Alongside An Existing Parent

If you’ve already added a parent, you’ll see the option to add an alternative parent.

This takes you to the Basic Edit screen to add the new parent. You will be returned to the Edit Relationship screen where you can change the default category from Biologocal to another status.

In the example picture below, I had already added an Adoptive father. I’ve just added an Alternative Father who I’ve set to Biological. At this point, you can set the Preferred status.

I think Ancestry might have used different terminology here. I know that they’re simply repeating the “Preferred” status that is on Alternative facts, and it is to control the display. But it’s a little jarring in the contect of biological versus adoptive parent! But I digress. Back to the instructions…

When you click on the “Make Preferred” box, it moves the position of the chosen parent above the other one.

In the example shown above, I’m just about to set Wayne Jones to preferred status. That will move his position on the page.  This means that Wayne will be displayed as the father in the tree views.

Showing Multiple Sets Of Parents In Your Ancestry Tree

The full tree views will show the parent you set as preferred status.

However, the person profile page can display multiple parents. There is a link under the family column that toggles the display of additional parent relationships.

In the example below, I’ve added an adoptive parent and a step parent to this person. The expanded display lists them under separate categories.

Should You Add Step Parents To Your Ancestry Tree?

Whatever you decide is the correct choice for you. But I’d like to address some advantages to adding step parents.

In general, you may wish to represent the social and familial influences in your tree.

You also may find that the additional entries in your tree provide information about genetic relatives. Obituaries and newspaper articles may provide details about spouses and step-children. And by having these additional entries in your tree, Ancestry can do the work of serving up hints to you. is a newspaper archive owned by Ancestry, but run as a separate website. This link gives you a free week trial (sponsored link).

Adopted Adults: Should You Include Biological and Adoptive Parents?

As we’ve shown, you can add both biological and adoptive parents in your Ancestry tree. Whatever you decide is the correct choice for you.

Ancestry ThruLines and Adopted Adults

If your DNA is linked to an Ancestry tree, you may wish to make a strategic choice of only representing your genetic family in that tree. There are reports in genealogy forums that Ancestry erroneously shows ThruLines based on adoptive family – even when the correct category of “Adopted” has been chosen for the parent.

If you are researching your genetic line, I suggest that you start your Ancestry DNA-linked tree without entries for adoptive parents. If you wish to create a separate unlinked tree for your adoptive family, that will have no impact at all on your DNA-linked tree.

More Relationships?

Puzzled about how to add some other less common relationships? Here are some more tutorials:

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Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

5 thoughts on “How To Add Step Parents And Adopted Parents To Your Ancestry Tree”

  1. How would you record the situation where Adoptive Parents who raised the the child as their own are in reality the Grand Parents of the child. ie Biological Mother is Daughter of Grand Parents.

    • I would do the steps below (which I tried out). In the tree view, you’ll see the child twice (daugher to both women) – but the profile entry only exists once (you can test this by editing one profile, the changes appear visually in both).
      The tree is displaying several relationship configurations including that adoption makes the biological mother a legal sister to her child.

      1. Create three entries as child, mother, grandmother
      2. Edit Relationships: change the relationship of “mother” from biological to adopted
      3. Edit Relationships: add alternative mother (use the input box to find the grandmother here)
      You have a choice of which to “make preferred”.


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