The family tree maker is one of the core ways for you to explore your heritage on Ancestry. Enter the family details that you know, and let Ancestry find you “Hints” of records that may point you towards more ancestors. You can also just search for extra information on your own, based on what you know, and even invite other people to help you with your search!
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To build a family tree on Ancestry.com
Go to www.ancestry.com in your web browser and log in.
Move your mouse cursor over Family Trees in the menu across the top, and click Start a New Tree.
To start your family tree, the first person you’re going to want to enter information about is yourself, of course! Click Add Yourself.
A window will pop up that will allow you to enter details about yourself. The only thing you are required to input is your gender and whether you are living or deceased (we should hope that you’re still alive, or else you wouldn’t be doing this right now!). However, you can also add your name, your birth date, and your birthplace. (If you marked yourself as “deceased”, you would also have the opportunity to enter a death date and death location.)
Click the check box beside “I’m Starting with Myself” if you are the youngest generation in your immediate family. Otherwise, you will be able to add information about your descendants around yourself in the family tree. (Note: for this tutorial, I happen to be the youngest generation, so I will be starting with myself.) When you’re done entering information, click Continue.
If you have (or had) a spouse, click Add Spouse, and you will be able to enter information about them. Otherwise, the next step is to add information about your parents. Click either Add Father or Add Mother.
The process for adding information about your father or mother is pretty much the same as it was for entering information about yourself (see step 4).
After entering information about your father or mother, you will be asked to save your family tree.
Click in the box labelled “Name Your Tree” and type in a name (if you don’t like the one that’s already there). You can also click the check box beside “Allow Others to View This Tree” to unmark it if you don’t want to show your family tree to others.
If you do allow others to view your family tree, they can help you search for missing relatives in your family tree. However, to protect your privacy, they won’t be able to see your name or email address, they won’t be able to see anyone in your family tree marked as “living”, and they won’t be able to edit your family tree unless you give them permission to do so. If you choose not to show your family tree, other people may still be able to search for someone in your family tree, but they will have to ask you for permission to see more information.
Once you’ve made your decisions, click Save.
You will now be taken to the main view of your family tree. You can click and hold the mouse button down at any point, then drag the mouse around to move your view of your family tree. Release the mouse button to stop moving your tree.
You can also use the toolbar on the far right to control your family tree. Click the “+” button to zoom in, or click the “-” button to zoom out. You can also click and hold the mouse button down on the bar in the middle of this scale, and then move the mouse up or down to adjust the zoom to your liking. Release the mouse button when you’re done.
You can also click the reset button () to re-center your family tree on its starting point (which, in most cases, will be you), or click the home button () to re-center the family tree on you if you have temporarily made someone else the root of your family tree (more on that below). Click the print button () to print a copy of your family tree.
Finally, you can click either Pedigree or Family to switch your family tree view. Pedigree View displays your tree horizontally, making it easier to see ancestors. Family View displays your tree vertically, making it easier to see descendants.
From here, adding more members to your family tree is the same as in steps 3 and 5: click on an empty tree space, fill in the person’s details (as far as you know), and then click Save. That’s pretty much all there is to it!
How to add more information to your Ancestry.com family tree
If you’ve added a few people to your family tree, but the details on some of them are a bit fuzzy, Ancestry may be able to help out. You will see a small leaf beside a person’s entry if Ancestry has a “Hint” for you (i.e. it has found a historical document in its databases that might tell you who this person is). Move your mouse cursor over their entry, and then click [X] Ancestry Hint(s) to see all historical documents that it has found that might tell you more information about that person.
For each option in the list, you can click Review to have a closer look at the record that Ancestry has found to see if it points to one of your relatives, or click Ignore if you don’t think this hint will be very helpful. In this case, those are close to my grandparents’ names, but I don’t recall them ever living in the United States, so this “Hint” is probably a dead end. However, I’ll check it out anyway.
On the next screen, you can click View to see the actual record for yourself. Then, where Ancestry asks you if the person in this record is your relative, you can click Yes, No, or Maybe. In this case, it says that my grandfather was a warehouseman, but I recall him being a carpenter for most of his life, so I’m going to say that this isn’t a good hint and click No.
Click Return to Your Tree in the top-right corner when you’re ready to return.
Adding and searching for more information on your own
If you strike out with your “Hints” (don’t worry; it happens more often than you’d think), you can always check out new information on your own.
If you move your mouse cursor over an entry that you’ve already filled in, you will see several options for that person:
Profile: See all information you’ve collected or added about this person, edit it, or add more.
Quick Edit: Quickly edit this person’s basic facts, like their name, birthday, gender, etc.
View His/Her Family Tree: Make this person (instead of you) the root of the current family tree
Add Relative: Add a sibling, spouse, parent, or child, and enter their relevant information
Search: Search for historical documents that might have to do with this person
For now, let’s click Search.
A new page will open where it will automatically enter all information you’ve provided about a person into their search engine. (See our Ancestry.com search tutorial for more information on how to use it.)
After searching through some phone records, I found a place that I used to live under someone with a similar name to my father. Alright! Now we have a real hint! Click View Record to have a closer look.
Like when viewing a “Hint”, you can view the actual record by clicking View (if it’s available, which in this case it unfortunately isn’t). But that’s okay, because all of the information matches up! Score! Now, we can click Save, where we’ll have the option to save this information to the profile of the person we’re currently searching for. You can also save this information to the profile of someone else in your family tree, or save it to look at later. Let’s go ahead and save it to my father’s entry.
On the left-hand side, you can click the check boxes to decide what information you do or do not want to change in your current family tree record. When everything’s set up, click Save to Your Tree.
Continue on doing this, and you may be able to find some more “Hints” as to who your ancestors are!
How to share your tree
If you want to show someone else your tree, either to show it off to your friends and family, or to get another user help you piece it together, click Tree Pages next to the name of your family tree, and then click Share Your Tree.
From there, click Email or Username to decide whether you want to send your share invite to someone outside or inside Ancestry. Then click in the appropriate box and type in their email address or username, and select their role in your tree (click Role to see what a person of each role can or cannot do to your tree). Click Add another Email/User and repeat for as many people as you want to invite. Then, you can click in the box on the right side and add a personal message. When you’re done, click Send Invites.
Those are pretty much all the major ways to use the family tree maker on Ancestry.com!