Stop Stealing Photos on Ancestry

Are you ever frustrated when there are multiple copies of your relatives on, but they’re variations of what you put online?

Frequently on Ancestry, you’ll find a hint which you initially want to be excited about. Many people love photos, so a photo hint is especially exciting, that is until you see what it is.

You discover the clue is a photo of your relative, perhaps your father, grandfather, or aunt, but it’s an exact copy of what you already posted to your Ancestry tree. What is going on?

Though innocently done in most cases, you have a case of thievery. Someone has ‘stolen’ your relative’s photo and put it on their tree without linking the source back to you. The reason this is thievery is that you are usually the most closely related relative to the person whose photo you posted. As such, potential new-to-you relatives should contact you to learn more about the person in the photo.

When someone else has a duplicate copy, rather than a link to your photo, on their tree, the relationships are often extremely distant and thereby unhelpful for building deeper connections between researchers and family members.

If you’re an unknowing thief, I created a video to help you know the best practice for connecting media files to your tree. It does not involve downloading or uploading photos. It’s rather simple, but you do need to be mindful.  

In short, don’t be an ancestor thief.

Link to the photos that are already on If you download a picture from, credit where you originally obtained the photo.

Do not upload a picture to if you downloaded the photo from in the first place!

If you’re experiencing thievery, you have two options:

  1. Share this video with others so they can learn how to link rather steal your ancestors.
  2. Don’t share media files online.

Personally, I’d rather we follow option one. Teach people the better way to incorporate and share media files. Otherwise, we’re back to the stone ages of genealogy where people hoard their collections because others steal their ancestors. That would be terrible.

Now there is a potential additional reason why multiple variations of media files appear on Perhaps it’s those third party programs that sync to Ancestry and will upload and download attached media files. If that’s the case, contact your third party program and ask them to stop the practice. Linking is better than cluttering up with duplicate copies of the same photos.

Are you experiencing any other frustrating practices with users of online trees?

Photos are great on online family trees. Be sure you maintain the citation of who originally shared the photos. It helps with collaboration. #genealogy #ancestry #onlinegenealogy
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

One thought on “Stop Stealing Photos on Ancestry”

  1. When I find a photo of a relative on Ancestry, I use the "Add" button, so when it opens from my gallery, it's correctly attributed to the Ancestry profile where I found it. I also keep my tree private, mostly because it's a work in progress, so I don't want to steer anyone wrong. I add notes about my certainty when adding people, but worry people won't read those and will add without careful consideration. As you say, most likely done in innocence, but I feel better safe than sorry. This also prevents people from stealing the photos I've added.

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