Your online family trees are valuable. Often you’ve invested untold hours of work and plenty of genealogy website subscription dollars to build them. Keeping a backup or master copy of your tree can give you peace of mind—and the opportunity to do other things with the data.
Downloading a GEDCOM file in 7 Steps
1. Log in to your Ancestry.com account.
2. Under the Trees tab, select Create and Manage Trees.
3. You’ll see a list of your Ancestry.com trees. (You know you can create as many trees as you like, right?) Under the Tools column, select Manage Tree for the tree you’d like to download.
4. Scroll down on the page to where it says Manage Your Tree: click the button that says Export Tree, as shown here.
5. Be patient while Ancestry.com generates a GEDCOM file from your tree data. GEDCOM files are universal file types that can be read by any family tree software or web platform. (Reunion software requires a little extra work.)
6. Once your GEDCOM file is ready, a green button will appear labeled Download Your GEDCOM file. Click to start downloading. (You can also click on the Download Tips text if you need some help.)
7. Once the file is downloaded to your computer, right-click on it to see it in your Downloads folder. Rename it with a more useful name (“Johnson family tree from Ancestry”) and move it to your genealogy files on your computer so you can easily find it again.
What to do with your GEDCOM file
Some people will continue to use their online Ancestry.com tree as their “master” tree. This tree contains their latest research on it, even after downloading a copy. If you choose to do this, be sure you download GEDCOM files after every major research session so you always have a current backup copy.
Others enjoy the security, privacy and flexibility of working with a master tree in family history software on their own computers.
Our video download class Beyond Family Tree Maker: Preserve Your Family Tree, taught by genealogy technology guru Lisa Louise Cooke, walks you through the whys and wherefores of creating a master tree in your own software and then how that works moving forward when you continue to research online.
Downloading a GEDCOM file means so people can share their trees with relatives, begin researching on a new site such as Findmypast, or post a copy with their DNA results on another website such as MyHeritage. Some family history software allows you to carve “limbs” from larger trees into smaller GEDCOM files. These are easy to share with those who may only need to see some of your tree.
Learn how to upload a copy of your GEDCOM file to FamilySearch, and how that GEDCOM file will be preserved on the site, in my new FamilySearch Genealogies class, which will be part of Family Tree University’s Virtual Spring 2019 Conference.