Sunday, July 8, 2007

Ancestry Member Trees - Terms and Conditions

I posted the other day about uploading my Seaver database with over 6,900 persons into an Ancestry Personal Member Tree. I did it to test out their system and thought that if it worked well that I could make it public at some time in order to share the information to my family and the genealogy world (I have already put it in text format at as long with other databases).

I decided to check the Ancestry Terms and Conditions at

Hmm, there is an interesting paragraph there:

"User provided content

"Portions of the Service will contain user provided content, to which you may contribute appropriate content. For this content, Ancestry is a distributor only. By submitting content to Ancestry, you grant, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a license to the content to use, host, distribute that Content and allow hosting and distribution of that Content, to the extent and in that form or context we deem appropriate. Should you contribute content to the site, you understand that it will be seen and used by others under the license described herein. You should submit only content which belongs to you and will not violate the property or other rights of other people or organizations., Inc. is sensitive to the copyright of others. For more concerning copyright issues, view our corporate policy. We will not edit or monitor user provided content, with the exception that, to promote privacy, an automated filtering tool will be used to suppress, and omit from display, information submitted to the tree areas of the site which appears to pertain to a living person. We also reserves the right to remove any user provided content that comes to our attention and that we believe, in our sole discretion, is illegal, obscene, indecent, defamatory, incites racial or ethnic hatred or violates the rights of others, or is in any other way objectionable."

The way I read that is - if I submit a Member Tree, they can distribute it however and wherever they want. They can put it on a CDROM or other media and sell the media. They could allow other subscribers to download it as a GEDCOM file. But they will protect my privacy, for which I am grateful.

So far, I've submitted only a Personal Member Tree. Reading the T&Cs, it appears that they can use it and distribute it even though it is Personal. If I delete it from their system, will they still be able to use it or distribute it? I think so.
I also think that I can still submit this database to another service, which will probably have a similar set of Terms and Conditions.

Interesting, no? What a tangled web woven by corporate giants, even in genealogy.

By the way, note that Inc. is still the corporate entity. Did you know that there is a blog? It is for users of the "old" - the private family web sites.

UPDATED 9 July: I erred in referring to a Hugh Watkins post about Family Tree Builder at, and Elaine Collins called me on it in the Comments. My apologies to Elaine and I deleted the erroneous line from this post so that it won't be archived online.

It took me a while to go through my Bloglines list of over 150 genealogy blogs to find what I was referring to. I found it, but the T&Cs referred to in the blog post were modified by the software company. I must have read the two posts the same day and linked to the wrong one. My error. Thanks, Elaine, for calling it to my attention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Randy,

I couldn't see an explicit reference in Hugh's text to's terms and conditions, so it is hard for me to comment, but I just wanted to put on record that findmypast has no intention to reuse, resell or otherwise redistribute any of the information that customers choose to store within our family tree builder software. Not all genealogy companies should be tarred with the same brush.

The privacy of our customers' data is paramount, and we believe strongly that it should be up to the customer how this is used and with whom it's shared.

Anyone who has a specific query about any aspect of our service or terms and conditions, or any other feedback, should feel free to contact us at

Kind regards,

Elaine Collins
Commercial Director