In this week's Kith and Kin, Peter Munro from the Borders Family History Society, shares his struggles of building his family tree while protecting his identity on Ancestry...


Last week, I told you about an email from Ancestry, inviting me to explore a DNA match.

I noted that I hadn’t uploaded my family tree because I was still trying to work out how to exclude living people from my family tree without deleting them. I’ve concluded that that is impossible. I use Family Tree Maker app (admittedly an old version).

Ancestry says that living people on family trees won’t be shown, however the details about them will still be there and if Ancestry were to be hacked, that information might be useful to a criminal wishing to steal my identity or the identity of one of my relatives. The banks routinely ask for your mother’s maiden name and your date of birth on application forms and they use this information as a sort of password if you need to access your account, without using a bank card.

I’ve always thought that that’s very stupid because it’s relatively easy to find out either of those facts. I could ask the app export function to “privatize living people” but the way the app decides who is living is crude.

I’ve no idea when my three greats grandmother died but I would want my DNA matches to find her in my family tree.

So I decided to create a copy of my family tree where that information isn’t on the tree; if it’s not on the tree that I upload to Ancestry, it can’t be stolen.

Just creating that second tree was quite difficult because I used the app to create a backup file but when I went to get it, it wasn’t there!

Actually, it was there but the app hides the backup files it creates; how crazy is that?

I backed up several times, thinking I had made a mistake, but instead I had wasted a lot of disk space.

So, I unhid the files, renamed one of the backups and used this as my family tree (the one that I will upload to Ancestry).

Then, I deleted all the living people including myself.

I’ve left my parents in but changed some of the details because if a criminal does hack the data, it’ll make it difficult to find me.

Ancestry expects a GEDCOM type file, so I needed to export it as this type. It was more difficult than I expected to load my family tree.

That “Explore my match” button logged me into Ancestry but then allowed me only to add each person in my family tree manually.

I discovered that in order to upload my family tree, I had to sign out of Ancestry, sign in again and then click on the menu.

From that point, I clicked on Family Trees, Create & Manage Trees, then Upload a GEDCOM file, chose the file on my computer, named the family tree, chose whether to make the tree public and accepted the conditions.

The first time I tried, it didn’t work but on the second try; after waiting five minutes, Ancestry told me it had loaded my family tree successfully.