Like almost all genealogists, I have my family tree on Ancestry.com. My tree profiles contain Photos (mainly for recent ancestors), Documents (some I paid for) and Notes (mainly general notes and fact notes for ancestors). I have over 65,000 profiles in my Ancestry Member Tree which I synchronize every week with my master family tree kept in RootsMagic. The purpose of the Photos, Documents and Notes is to encourage sharing with other researchers and I will continue to do so.
1) Ancestry.com just changed their Terms and Conditions as of 3 August for user-created content (i.e., names, relationships, dates, places, facts, media, notes, etc.) - you can read them at https://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/termsandconditions.
2) As is her wont and self-assigned task, The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, was on the ball and has analyzed the changes in https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2021/08/04/one-big-change-at-ancestry/. Judy points out that as of 2 September, Ancestry.com can use ANY information you provide for any purpose they choose. Her summary paragraph is:
"In plain English, the rights to use that family photo you posted, that story you wrote and uploaded, that snippet of family history you’ve shared basically now belong to Ancestry. You can continue to use it elsewhere if you wish, since you’re still technically the owner, but you can’t do anything to stop Ancestry from using it any way it wants, forever."
3) Roberta Estes, on her DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy blog, has more comments and recommendations for researchers concerned about this in https://dna-explained.com/2021/08/04/clock-is-ticking-in-28-days-ancestry-can-do-anything-they-want-with-every-image-in-your-tree/. Roberta's takeaway is:
"If you want to remove anything currently uploaded, do it and DO NOT UPLOAD ANYTHING ELSE if you are not willing to allow Ancestry permanent unfettered ability to utilize your documents and images."
She also provides explicit directions on how to do this.
4) My take on this is:
* This is a BIG DOG in the genea-kennel move on the part of Ancestry.com. They have a lot invested in all of the public and private Ancestry Member Trees.
* It would be impossible for me to delete photos, documents and notes for my ancestral profiles and frankly would waste my time. There are no priceless works of art or deathless prose in my tree, only Photos that I have in my family collections, Documents from my family collections, and Notes that I've written, transcribed or summarized based on my own research and what I've found in out-of-copyright works. I am too old and there's too much water over the falls for me to butcher my Ancestry family tree. I'm not going to waste my time on deleting anything.
* Notes on tree profiles in my tree are hidden from viewing by other researchers (unless they are editors on my tree). So be it, but they are still on the profiles and Ancestry.com can access it and use it if they wish to. They are also in my RootsMagic database, and many are in my Genea-Musings blog posts.
* Rather than delete photos and stories one-by-one, a determined Ancestry Member Tree user could delete their entire Ancestry Member Tree before 2 September. Before they do that, they could create a GEDCOM file of their tree in their genealogy software - without photos and notes - and upload it as a NEW Ancestry tree. The genealogy content (names, dates, relationships, places, events, facts, sources, etc.) would still be there but the content that users might want to protect will not be there. The Hints would still be generated by Ancestry randomly, but the record attachments would have to be generated again.
* Why would Ancestry.com do this? What are they planning to use all of our data for? Is there a BIG Ancestry World Family Tree (remember that?) in their future? A BIG Ancestry World Family Tree would be a "NEW" public database that they could "sell" to subscribers. The major challenge would be making a BIG tree editable with sources, and somehow moderating content for each profile. We know that they use everybody's Ancestry Member Trees to find DNA "Common Ancestors," to suggest "Potential Ancestors" on trees and ThruLines, and they used some sort of BIG tree to support the "We're Related" mobile app in the past. I wrote about this in https://www.geneamusings.com/2019/02/a-readers-take-on-ancestrycom-problems_13.html in February 2019 with help from a reader.
* I think that this is a major unforced error on Ancestry.com's part. This will antagonize some Ancestry subscribers and cost them subscriptions. A significant number of photos, stories and notes will be deleted by users in the next month. But it's their company and they can do what they want within legal and contract limits, including changing their Terms and Conditions.
5) What do you think? What will you do?
Disclosure: I have a complimentary all-access subscription from Ancestry.com, for which I am thankful. Ancestry.com has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.
The URL for this post is: https://www.geneamusings.com/2021/08/ancestrycom-and-your-ancestry-member.html
Copyright (c) 2021, Randall J. Seaver
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