What are the benefits of genealogy

Family tree public or private - a decision aid

Should I make my family tree visible to other users or not? This is a question many Ancestry members ask, and it is often difficult to answer. We would like to support you in your decision-making. That is why we deal in detail here with the advantages of a private and a public family tree and when which variant is more suitable.

We also go into what the words “public” and “private” actually mean in relation to your family tree and why “public” does not mean that everyone can see everything.

From completely private to public - you have these setting options

In order to set who can view your family tree, go to your “Family tree settings” in your profile and then to “Privacy settings”. You have three options here:

  1. Public family tree: Other members can view the information in your family tree and contact you directly, for example to help you with your research. This does not include information on living people. Only you can still see them.
  2. Private family tree: Limited information about no longer living people in your family tree will still be displayed in the search function (place of birth, year of birth and name). However, others will not see your family tree itself - unless you allow them to.
  3. Private and not in the search index: If you tick the box next to “You can also prevent your family tree from being found in the search index”, all information from your family tree will only be visible to you. They will then also not appear in the search.

Are you worried that you will change your mind later? No problem. Once you have decided on a variant, you can reverse this decision at any time. If you make your tree public, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to make it private again at some point, and vice versa.

Private family tree - full control

There are two main reasons why some Ancestry members choose to make their tree private:

  • You don't want other members to see information from your family history.
  • You don't want others to use the hard work they put into your family tree for their own research.

In fact, having a private family tree has one major advantage: you are in full control. No matter what you find out about your ancestors, no one else will find out. This is especially important when information about deceased relatives may have an impact on the living. In this fortunately rare case, it may be better to keep the results of your research a secret first so as not to offend anyone.

But always remember: Information about living people will never be seen by others, even if your family tree is public.

Even if you want to prevent others from using the information you have gathered under any circumstances, a private family tree is the right choice. However, this hiding has some serious disadvantages.

Public family tree - be successful together

You have probably already had this experience when you have searched for something: as soon as several people help with the search, the chances of success are much higher. It is the same with genealogy.

With a public tree, you give other Ancestry members a better opportunity to provide you with important pointers and resources. Perhaps underneath it is the needle in the haystack that you have been looking for for a long time, or a valuable contact that you have always missed. Perhaps other members will help you correct mistakes and spot wrong turns. Or there is just an exciting exchange with other explorers. After all, genealogy is always a bit of a detective work and what would Sherlock Holmes be without his Watson? It is no coincidence that professional genealogists seek exchange with others.

If you want to discover new relatives, you can also benefit from a public family tree. A relative who is not so distant may already have research that you can benefit from. Perhaps that relative has valuable family documents or photos. It becomes particularly interesting when you link the results of your DNA test to your family tree. With a private family tree, it is much more difficult to find new relatives or to be found by them. Because whoever is not seen will not be found either.

How your family tree continues to grow when you can no longer maintain it

Maintaining a family tree and letting it grow piece by piece into the past is a fascinating journey of discovery to the roots of your family history. But it takes time. At some point there will come a moment for many of us when we can no longer research.

Then the question arises, what happens to all of the work and passion that you have put into your family tree? With a public family tree, you give others an opportunity to continue doing it, and not just that. You also give them an opportunity to recognize what they have achieved. In this way your family tree will stay alive, and with it the history of your family to a certain extent. Actually a good feeling, right?

The advantages of both variants at a glance

Lots of input at once? Then again briefly and concisely the arguments for and against a public tree.


Your decision remains public or private

As you can see, there are arguments for setting your family tree to “private”. But there are good reasons why many Ancestry members choose to make their tree public and, with the help of others, learn more about the roots of their family and distant relatives.

By the way, you still have a third option: you use a private family tree to collect new information and a public tree on which you can continue your family history with the help of verified and approved information. This is how you make the most of both options.