I get this question all the time, about how to download your family tree. Alternatively, I get the question… How can you download your family tree and upload it to another service?

Lastly, why should you download your family tree from Ancestry or any other service?


Technically it stands for (Genealogical Data Communications) Boring! 

The short answer.. It’s family history file format containing the data from your family tree and has been around forever it seems..  

It’s the data (not the records or images) from your family tree… when exported to a Gedcom file.  It saves you a ton of typing if you want to transfer your tree to another service.


Let’s start with why you should download your tree.

Regardless whether you have a free tree on Ancestry or a paid subscription, it’s always a good idea to have a backup of your data.  While I believe whole-heartedly in Ancestry’s ability to keep our data safe, I like to be assured that my decades of research is backed up somewhere, even if it is my own computer as a Gedcom file. 

Note: This is not really the ideal way to back up your data, but more of a way to transfer your data to some other service or software. See the video for more about this.

On the flip side of that, if your research is only on your own computer, you should have a backup of your tree somewhere.  You can do this by making a backup from your family tree software and share it with a family member, keep a copy in the cloud, or set up a free tree somewhere else like Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast or others.

I have an episode called “Ancestry.com: How to Share Your Tree With Another” if you want to share or add someone to your account.

I have other episodes on how to set up a free tree on Ancestry and or MyHeritage to learn how to do that.  You can also check out the episode called “Trace Your Family Tree for Free Online: 5 Step Process (2020)”  

The quick answer is to download a Gedcom file. The problem with downloading a Gedcom file is it does not download the images and documents. The good news is it does download all the data so that you don’t have to type it again. 

So how can you download your family tree from Ancestry.com and keep all of your images and documents? 

First you’ll need to download a Gedcom file, then you’ll need to download the images and documents that are important to you separately and individually. Sorry there is no easy way to download all of the documents and images.  I have suggestions about that in the video.

I would start with your primary lines, the ancestors that are most important to you.

Here are the steps to Downloading a Gedcom file from Ancestry.com

  1. Open your Tree on Ancestry so you’re in the tree view.
  2. Click the down arrow next to your tree name… and select Tree Settings (has a gear icon)
  3. Scroll down, in the right hand column look for “Manage Your Tree” and click the button to “Export Tree.”
  4. Once complete click the green button that says “Download your GEDCOM file.”

That’s it.  You will now be able to upload that same Gedcom file to any other genealogy service that accepts Gedcom files.  For example, you can upload to FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage, FindMyPast and more.

Keep in mind that you don’t really want to open this Gedcom file.  It’s just a bunch of data and will not make a lot of sense, but uploading to another service not only provides a backup somewhere else, but also allows for research on the other services without having to retype everything.

PRO TIP: Keep one tree as your primary “go to” tree.  I use Ancestry as my primary tree… and update the others as I need to for searching for new hints and such.


? Ancestry.com’s New StoryScout™ Feature (June 2020)

? Ancestry.com: ThruLines Explained (2020)

? Ancestry.com: How to Share Your Tree With Another

? Ancestry.com Playlist of All Videos by Genealogy TV


? Get Started with an Ancestry Subscription

? AncestryDNA Kits

? Ancestry Free Trial 

? AncestryDNA with Traits

? AncestryHealth