Unloading Pictures, Documents and Sharing Information (GEDcoms)

By Sydney F. Cruice Dixon

Presented December 13, 2016

We all use, but how many of us use it to its’ full potential? Uploading photographs and personal family documents to can make your family tree come to life. However, it can be confusing when you have not done it before. We will discuss the ways you can enhance your family tree on so it will be more personal and interesting to you and other family members. We will go through the Media uploading process step by step. Also, we will discuss how to use GEDcoms so you can share your family tree with other people. 



 Start with a simple search in all the categories:

o NAME (try all spelling variations)

o BIRTHDATE (use ranges)

o BIRTHPLACE (use dropdown locations)

 Don’t use death dates unless you are searching for death records. Death dates will exclude some records.

 See what records appear for your ancestor at the top of your search.

 Rotate pieces of information about your ancestor in and out of your search

 A good start for reconstructing the foundation of an ancestor’s life will include the following records:





 See where your gaps are and do a more focused search.

o Category Search

o Location Search

o Search for other family members

 Very often vital records are not digitized or made available online by government offices.

 Be sure to read the record information and the source information on the record.

 Don’t confuse the indices with the actual records.

 Always print out, record, or download the source information for the record.

 Make note of what search criteria you used to find the record.

 If you have changed the Collection Priority/Focus settings remember to reset them for your next search.  These settings remain the same from search to search.

Advanced Searching Techniques has over 10 billion records in its database and 20 million family trees.  You must target your searches so your ancestor’s records rise to the top of the results list.  

Spelling and Indexing Issues

 Consider all spelling variations for your ancestor’s surname and given name.  Use for ideas for additional variations.

 Remember to use the country of origin spelling for both your ancestor’s surname and given name.  (e.g. Carpenter = Zimmerman, Joseph = Giuseppe).  Many people kept the original spelling of their names for 10 years or more, before changing it to sound or appear more American/English.  Use Google Translate or  for help.

 Use Wild Cards to finds multiple spelling variations within one search.

The “?” symbol replaces 1 character.

The “*” symbol replaces 0 to 5 characters (but the name must have at least 3 other letters in it for this to work).  

Under the default settings, you must select “Exact Spelling” to activate the wildcards.

Expand or Contract the Focus of Your Search  


 Topically - Record type

 By time period (sometimes you need to broaden your search – use time ranges)

 By record collection - using the Card Catalogue

 You can also use the sort function for categories v. records

Location Search

 Do a location search to eliminate records and record collections that are not applicable to your ancestor – found at the bottom of the main Search page (example: country, state, county).

 While in the Advanced Search mode, adjusting the default settings to “exact” under the Location box will eliminate records that do not have your ancestor’s exact location. (Be careful using this method).

Adjust the Time Period of the Search

 Use ranges for dates.

 While in the Advanced Search mode, adjusting the default settings to “exact” under the year box will eliminate records that do not have your ancestor’s exact year of birth/marriage/etc. (Be careful using this method).

Special Collection Search

 Do a search by special collection on the lower right side of the main Search page to target a particular record collection group (Military, Immigration, etc.).

Search Filters

 Allow you to narrow the results of your search by type of record and sometimes time period within that record type.

Card Catalogue for Record Collections/Databases

 Search the record collection/databases by title or keyword.

 If you search in the title box, you need to use a word that would appear in the title of the record collection/database.

 If you search in the keyword box, you need to use a word that would appear in the description of the record collection/database.

 Find a record collection/database by geographic location, time period or record type.

 The results of your record collection/database search can be sorted by popularity, database title, date updated, date added to collection and record count.


 This sort function allows you look at the results of your search sorted either by record relevance or by the category of the record.

Searching for Ancestors with a Common Name

 Consider what is unique about your ancestor and incorporate those elements into your search (e.g. occupation, address, family composition).

 Search without the surname.

 Search another family member that might be living with or near your relative.

Family Tree Building and Organizing Records

Family Tree Views

 The Pedigree View allows you to see more generations on one page, but it only shows the parent-to-child relationships and does not include any siblings.

 The Family Group View allows you to see all the members of a family but takes up much more screen space. This is the best view to use when you are checking your work after adding individuals to your tree, or after you have attached documents (particularly census records) to your tree.

Tree Pages

 Tree Overview has headers that allow you to see a collective view of the number of people, photographs, hints, records, media images, videos, etc. in your tree.  It also shows you the people you have invited to see your tree.  This is also the place where you can manage the people you have invited to share your tree.

 Media Gallery shows you all the media (pictures/records) you have uploaded to your tree.

 Tree Settings is where you can set and adjust the privacy settings for your particular tree.

 Facebook Import is the Facebook portal.

 Tree Sharing is where you can invite family and friends to share your tree.

 Adding and Deleting Information to and from Your Tree

 Almost all of the information (records, pictures, etc.) you will be adding to or deleting from your tree will happen through a family member’s Profile page while in the Facts, Gallery or Hints sections. The other major area where you will add information is in the Search mode when you are looking for new records.

 Attach a record to an individual in your tree as soon as you have verified it is applicable to your family.  If you are not sure of the record validity put it in your Shoebox. You can review it later when you have more time or additional information.

 When you attach a record/document to a family member in your tree, Ancestry’s algorithm is not always able to include all the valuable pieces of information from a Source to your ancestor’s Facts box.  But later you can add valuable information to your ancestor’s Facts by using the edit button in the upper right corner of the Facts box.  This can really add clarity to an ancestor’s Facts timeline. (For example: including the house number and street name in a Residence Fact or the ancestor’s occupation from a city directory Source).

 Change or edit family members in the Family add box or the Edit box in top right corner of the Profile Fact page.

Uploading or Importing Photographs and Documents to Your Tree

 You can add media to a person’s Profile page through any Facts box, or through the Gallery section.

 First. you have to get the document or photograph into your computer’s Pictures folder. You can achieve this by scanning the photo/document into your computer or downloading a picture from your email or smart phone and placing it in your Pictures folder.

 Next go to the person’s profile page to whom you wish to add the photo/document in your tree.

 You can upload the photo/document through the person’s Gallery section or you can upload the photo/document through a Fact box by uploading and attaching it to an existing Fact.

 If you use the Gallery section, just choose the upload media button. will take you to your pictures folder on your computer and you can just select the image you want to upload.

 If you want to attach a photo/document to an existing Fact, just go to that Fact and hit the edit button in the upper right hand corner of that Fact box. Then click on Media in the list on the left hand side of the pop up box. will take you to a box that will allow you to attach media that you already have in that person’s Gallery or you can choose the “upload media” button in the upper right hand corner. If you choose this “upload media” button, will take you to your computer’s Pictures folder and you can then select the image you want to upload.

 When you upload pictures or other media, don’t forget to include their Source citation information.  


Learning and Support

For every hour you spend actively learning how to better use, you will save yourself  3 to 5 hours in wasted search time. Support Center (found under the Help menu box)

The Support Center has areas of interest to browse for help articles to use If you don’t see your topic, you can use a keyword or ask a question in the search box. Also, you can submit a question to the Ancestry Support Community.

 Getting Started – click the “Visit Now” box to access the lessons that will help you learn to use and help you to become a better researcher.

 Free downloadable charts and forms - These forms are available in the Support Center under Lesson 1, Building Your Family Tree, Gathering Information.

 Research Guides – There are research guides for different ethnic groups.

Ancestry Wiki 

 You should always start here before you start researching in a new geographic location or a new record group.  It tells you what records are available and where.

Ancestry Academy (found under the Extras menu bar)

Contains different genealogy courses you can take.  However, most of these classes come with an additional charge. I would recommend you take advantage of all the free instructional videos, webinars and tutorials first.  You can also track the courses you have already taken.

YouTube (found on the Internet) Free videos are on YouTube.


Collaborating and Sharing

Community (found under the Help Menu Bar)

 Member Connect allows you to find other members who are also researching your ancestor.

 Public Member Trees puts you in contact with other members researching your ancestors.  Never believe anything you see in someone else’s tree until you verify the information.

 Member Directory lets you look up other members, but you must have their exact user name or email address.

 Message Boards allow you to post brief messages requesting information on a person, family or a specific topic.

Sharing Family Trees (found under Tree Pages)

 You can share your tree with anyone. They do not have to be a subscriber to Go to Tree Pages and click on the last drop down menu item - Sharing Your Tree. You can invite people through email or through This allows them to view your tree, or if you allow it, they can even add to or edit your tree. However, please be careful allowing other people to edit and add to your tree. You really need to know the quality of their research.

 You can give someone a copy of your tree in the form of a GEDCOM file. They can then upload this file to or to other genealogy software. GEDCOM stands for a Genealogical Data Communication. You can download your tree on to a GEDCOM file by going to the Tree Setting page on and clicking the “Export Tree” button under Managing Your Tree. If you have more than one tree on, however, make sure you are in the tree you want to share before you go to the Tree Settings page. Ancestry will then create a GEDCOM file of your tree. The GEDCOM file will then appear in downloads folder of your computer. You can rename this GEDCOM file and save it to where you want it on your computer. You can then email this file to the people you want to have a copy of your tree.

 You can also upload other people’s trees by getting a GEDCOM of their tree and uploading it to Once they have sent you their GEDCOM and you have loaded it on to your computer, go to the Trees menu on and select the last item on the pull down menu “Create and Manage Trees”. At the very bottom of the My Trees page, there are two buttons: Create a New Tree and Upload a GEDCOM File. Select Upload a GEDCOM File. will take you to the “Upload a Family Tree” page. It will ask you to choose a name for your new tree; write a description of the new tree; and choose a file to upload. It will then add this file as a new tree to your account. Unfortunately, you cannot merge a GEDCOM file with an existing tree. You could do this on FamilyTree Maker, but you cannot do this on


When all else fails, call the Ancestry toll free number: 1 800 262 3787.