How to share an Ancestry family tree

How do you share your tree on Ancestry.com? Can you give access to non-members, or do they need to pay for membership? Why don’t people receive your invites to share an Ancestry family tree, and what’s the most sure-fire way to ensure success?

How to share an Ancestry family tree

To share your Ancestry tree, click on the Sharing option in the tree drop-down menu. The dialog box offers several ways to invite someone to access this tree. If you provide the person’s email or Ancestry username, Ancestry will send the invite from its messaging system. Alternatively, you can create a unique shareable link that you can send to the person any way you choose e.g. from your personal email or via a Facebook private message. With every way of sharing, you also choose the level of access to your tree. The role can be a guest, a contributor, or an editor. The only edit a guest can make is to add a comment, while a contributor can upload photos and stories. An editor can add or update people in your tree.

You use the Tree Settings administration page to define whether your invitees can see living people in the tree. You can also change people’s roles from this page.

Would a pictorial guide help you share an Ancestry family tree?

There are two quick ways to launch the invitation dialog box from within your tree. A Share button is up at the top right of the tree.

Alternatively, there’s a Share option in the drop-down menu underneath the tree name. Oddly enough, it has a different icon – but both links open the same dialog box.

You can also invite people from the Sharing tab of the Tree Settings administration page, but it takes a few more clicks to get there. You may as well use the direct buttons.

The invitation dialog box gives you three options for sending invitations. I’ll give my recommendations for the better choice of options in a later section.

Each option leads you to set the role of the invitee: Guest, Contributor or Editor. If you change your mind, it’s important to know that you can change the setting from the moment you send the invitation. You make those later changes from the Tree Settings administration page.

The Shareable Link will also give you a checkbox to allow the invitee to see living people in your tree. By default, it is deselected. You’re not offered this option when sending to an email or username, and this permission is turned off when the invitation is sent. To turn it on for these invitees, you will need to go to the Tree Settings page after you’ve made the invitation.

Email, username or shareable link: which option is best?

This is my opinion based on experience over several years of problems with invitations not being received or not working properly. My preference is to use the shareable link option. Read on for the reasons why.

First of all, avoid the username option unless you are confident you can nail down the correct details. We have two names on Ancestry, our account name and our username. They may not be the same, so you may not be seeing what you need when you’re looking at a match or a tree owner. This can get confusing for your potential invitee too, as they may not be sure of the difference.

I’d always prefer the email option over the username, but both these options have the drawback that the invitations are sent from the Ancestry messaging system. These messages may get caught in spam filters. If you’re already in email communication with the person, it’s more likely your own emails will get through. If you do want to use the email option, my advice is to send a separate communication asking the target to watch out for the Ancestry message.

The advantage of the shareable link is that you get to send the link any which way you choose. That may be from your own email. But you can use any other messaging system, such as a private message through Facebook, Instagram or other social media.

Using a Shareable Link to share an Ancestry family tree

Ancestry announced the new Shareable Link feature in October 2018. At time of writing in 2020, it’s still showing as a “New” feature in the display. When I was testing the feature for this article, a survey popped up with questions about my usage. So maybe the option is still under review. But it certainly worked end-to-end for me.

It’s important to understand is that each link you generate can only be used once. You can’t just send the same link to other targest, as it will no longer work. This is for your own benefit: it avoids the first recipient passing it on to others outside your control.

What is the difference between the roles of guest, contributor, and editor?

The different permissions are best explained in this Ancestry graphic:

To summarize, all roles can view and leave comments. Contributors and editors can add stories and photos, while an editor can add and edit person profiles.

Managing invited people

You can always rescind or change the access to the people you’ve invited. This allows you to provide temporary access to your tree. You can’t set a schedule and have Ancestry remove access, you do have to do it yourself.

To manage invited people, open the Tree Settings page and click on the Sharing tab (the third tab).

From here, you can remove the sharing, or change the role of the person. You can also give the person access to see living people in the tree.

Can you share a tree with someone without a subscription?

Yes, you can! To share an Ancestry family tree with a non-member, you will use either the email option or the shareable link.

If the recipient is not an Ancestry member, the shareable link takes them to a sign-up page for a free guest account. This page does not ask for credit-card details. But to see the tree, the recipient must sign up to Ancestry at this basic level.

What can guest members see without a subscription on Ancestry?

A free guest account can browse person profiles, and view images that you uploaded as a source. They can’t view the images from Ancestry sources, although they can see the text descriptions.

If the free guest account has been assigned an editor role, they will not be able to use Ancestry’s paid search features to research the tree.

Accepting a tree invitation

What happens if your the recipient? Regardless of the way the sharer has chosen to deliver the invitation, you will receive a clickable link. If you’re not logged into an Ancestry account, you will be taken to a page where you can either log in or sign up. If you’re logged in, you’ll be taken straight to the tree on Ancestry.com.

How to download or export your tree as a gedcom file for sharing

We’ve discussed what Ancestry see as sharing your tree i.e. through their website. You can also distribute your tree as a gedcom file that you export out of Ancestry. We’ll provide a walkthrough in another post.

Troubleshooting issues with sharing trees

If the person you’ve invited says they did not receive an email, ask them to check their spam or promotions folder.

Looking for a full guide to building your Ancestry tree?

Check out our e-book on building your family tree with Ancestry.com. It’s available on Amazon now! Content includes:

  • Setting up your DNA-linked tree
  • Using your tree to find connections with DNA matches
  • Best practices for entering names, dates, and locations
  • Strategies for getting the most benefit from Hints
  • Tips for using powerful Search features

If you would like to watch some short video tutorials that walk through using Ancestry features step-by-step, browse through the DataMiningDNA YouTube channel.

Watch a walkthrough of sharing a tree on Ancestry.com

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