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Your Ancestor is Not a Flower or Tree on Ancestry

6 Photos to Stop Adding to Ancestry

Online genealogy is a wonderful way to collaborate, and I highly encourage you to put your trees online and take advantage of the research hints that many database services provide. I love receiving clues about new-to-me records about my ancestors. I am especially ecstatic when there is a newly discovered photo of my ancestor in my hint queue.

What I cringe at are pictures of trees, flowers, and flags!

STOP posting these unnecessary graphics on Ancestry.com. You're wasting the hinting feature resources and causing a lot of eye-rolling over here.

Hints for Grandmother on Ancestry.com
How exciting! New Hints for my 5th great-grandmother
Notice this profile of my 5th great-grandmother Amelia Mathews born 1741 in Pennsylvania and died about 1816 in Virginia. Truthfully, Amelia is on TOO MANY family trees, in conjunction with her husband, Robert Dickey. Many of the trees are poorly researched and conflicting. I don't know if I'll ever be interested in investigating this headache of a line. But, Ancestry likes to send me hints for Amelia, so I peek every so often.

Stop Using Flowers on Ancestry.com for Your Ancestor
The hints for my grandmother on Ancestry.com
Oh, joy! Look at these fabulous suggestions. Let the sighs and eye-rolling commence. Seriously, why are these images put on the profiles of our ancestors at Ancestry.com?

State Flower of Pennsylvania at Ancestry.com
State Flower of Pennsylvania
Every profile before the rise of photography does not need a picture. Adding the state flower Pennsylvania to an ancestor's profile is meaningless. The state flower for this state wasn't discussed until the 1930s! That's over 180 years after Amelia was born! And, she was living in Virginia when she died. Wouldn't the Virginia flower be an appropriate choice as well? Do we know that Amelia liked said flower?

Stop using flowers for your Ancestry.com ancestor profile
Random flower for Amelia
Oh, look! Now she has a random flower that the person uploading the flower did not share why they used the flower. At least the 'state flower of Pennsylvania' caption has some reasonable sense. But this?

When I prepared to share this post counseling you to not share unrelated photos of your ancestors on Ancestry.com, I hadn't expected the third graphic hint for Amelia.

Photos to not post to Ancestry.com
I'm so confused why this is on Ancestry.com for Amelia

What do you mean "The End"? The end of the line? The end of the discussion of her lineage? The end of what? If this is a note to yourself in your research, why is this photo public? Erg. Poor Amelia, she's "The End" but yet only the beginning.

Photos to stop putting on Ancestry.com
So my ancestors are now flags and seals?

Where do I start with flags and seals? This ancestor lived in Virginia, but guess what! The flag shown here was not adopted at the state flag until 1860. Good thing because the state would be entering the Civil War a few years later and would need a banner to hold aloft to rally the troops. But my ancestor with this images? Yeah. He didn't live during the Civil War. So, why are these flags used? He didn't hold Virginia public office. He didn't create the seal or the flag. Therefore, my ancestor should not have these images in his media gallery. They do nothing to tell his story because it's a symbol not seen during his lifetime.

Please avoid adding or uploading flags for your ancestor's profile unless they have a story that directly relates to its creation. I mean, if your ancestor raised the banner of Iwo Jima, then maybe that flag should appear in their media gallery. But for most people, they don't have a direct connection to the state flags so, don't post them!

Unspecified Ship Images on Ancestry.com

While I'm talking about my ancestors not being flowers, trees, or flags, let's discuss the ships people attach to their profiles. A random boat as a graphic in the media gallery on Ancestry.com is pointless if there is no ship name connected to the said image. And it's also visually misleading to add a ship graphic that likely did not resemble the ship your ancestor rode on across the ocean. Tell the visual truth, please.

Sure ship photos are added to suggest to the profile creator/viewer that the person in question was an immigrant. In fact, some people make it clear that the ship graphic has that message.

My ancestor is an immigrant 'generic' media graphic
However, such graphics are not unique. If I had added this photo to FamilySearch and then had my children play LittleFamilyTree's matching game or the similar game at AncestorGuru, we would have a lot of matches that don't match even though the images are the same. Additionally, when I view a portrait family tree and find these generic ship symbols as photos, it is redundant and wastes printed ink to the published trees.

If you do discover a visual representation of the ship on which your ancestor sailed, then, by all means, add that photo and then use the caption feature to explain the connection. Otherwise, please stop adding these images.

Finally, if you come across images such as these, please don't add them to your tree.

What if your lineage changes based on new information
now you have a misleading image

You thought I was kidding when I said my
ancestor wasn't a tree!
The relationships created by linking your ancestors together is the family tree. There is no need to upload an unidentified graphic of a tree for your relative's profile. If the media image is a piece of art they created, then please share and tell us the story of their arboreal masterpiece. If you can't stand that the portrait spot for your ancestor is blank, get over it. They lived pre-photography days, or their portraits were never created or were destroyed. A tree or silhouette is not a representation of your ancestor.

To sum up, don't turn our ancestors into trees, flowers, and flags on Ancestry.com. You're wasting hinting resources and creating a lot of grumblings for researchers on the other end. Makes those Ancestry.com family trees less appealing which defeats the purpose of sharing your tree online - to collaborate with potential cousins!

Instead, share photos that genuinely connect your relative with a place or time. FYI: Most of those images will be modern.


  1. Replies
    1. Hallelujah! Glad I can get the choir going!

  2. Totally agree! Thanks for expressing what many of us feel!

    1. You're very welcome. Glad I can say what others are begging to be shouted from rooftops.

  3. Replies
    1. You're very welcome. Anything else bugging you that I can articulate?

  4. Thank you!!! I hate the fill in pictures.

    1. You're very welcome. They clutter up my hint feed at bit too much.

  5. I totally agree and now that MyHeritage is sending photo hints, I find that 99% of them are these silly graphics. They were already all over Ancestry.

    1. Oh Linda. Please say it isn't so. I haven't noticed photo hints on MyHeritage yet. Perhaps my tree is one the wee side. But I will seriously need hair implants if I pull out too many follicles with flags and flowers over there.

  6. Agree! I usually deselect "photos" when I do searches on Ancestry because of this very reason!

    1. Elizabeth. I hear you. Deselect photos would be a great solution. However, that's how I find out folks are stealing my father's photo and are so remotely related. I need to write that post as well.

  7. I soooo agree! While I like a state or a flag once in awhile, flowers???? For what purpose? Plus, when one is researching, those take up valuable time ( wasted!). I am looking for facts, not "cute'.

    1. Well said Glammareet. I wish folks didn't always feel the need to fill in every box. Some boxes just can't be filled in and 'cute' is a kind way of referring to the nonsense.

  8. What do you think of using their cemetery headstone as their Ancestry image? For many of my "greats," that is all I have.

    1. Gravestones are not a problem because they are genealogical documents and are often the only photo a person has of an ancestor from 'time before cameras'. The only caveat is if the headstone is posted multiple times. Just tag the common photo. That makes me smile.

  9. What do you think of using their cemetery headstone as their Ancestry image? For many of my "greats," that is all I have.

  10. I have not come across this yet. Maybe because I'm still working on documentation for our grandparents' generation. Or maybe I have not checked the "photos" box. There is so much I don't know.

    1. It happens a lot when you're in the Civil War, American Revolution, or Immigrant generations. However, some people do strange things in any generation. Be warned. It's really frustrating.

  11. Thank you for sharing this! Yes, it is an extremely annoying waste of time rejecting all those useless photos of flags, flowers, family crests, etc. They are not hints and are not helpful!

    1. You're welcome. I know folks use them as visual clues for their tree climbing efforts. But yes, they're not clues. They're clutter.


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