Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Removal of Personal Data from Ancestry.com

Some time ago, I had shared my family tree files with a distant cousin researching the same lines. I made a rookie mistake and shared my entire tree with her with the request that she not publish it. The tree contained my notes, speculations, and information on living members of my family, including myself.

I was quite surprised when I did a search on Ancestry.com's trees and my own data came up! Not only was my personal information online, but somehow the data included two of my email addresses. I contacted my cousin and she said she had answered "yes" when her family tree software asked her if she wanted to publish the tree. She said she made an attempt to remove the data, but was unsuccessful.

I sent Ancestry.com an email about removing the data and received this response:

All requests to have information or data removed from our website are handled by our Executive Office department. These requests should be sent to by email to customersolutions@ancestry.com requesting that the information be removed.

Note: Please include in the following information so we can better serve your request.

Your email address
The URL address to the page in which the information appears
Specify which portion of the page you would like to have removed

I provided my information as requested and then received a response that I needed to provide a scanned copy of my driver's license:

In order to complete the verification process for record removal, we ask that you provide the following information:
·         A copy of your driver’s license, passport, or another government issued document.  (Note: you may cross out your Driver’s License number or Social Security number. We will shred the provided identification after the verification process has been completed.)

The information on my driver's license (name, address, birth date) was already online in the family tree, so I went ahead and provided a copy of my driver's license with the number blacked out. I received a quick response that said my information had been removed. I searched Ancestry's trees to be sure and the information was gone.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Ancestry.com responded to my request. This won't prevent me from sharing family tree data with others in the future, but I will certainly be more cautious with personal data!


  1. You're lucky! I've been trying to get Ancestry to remove a tree that I published when I was a new is that had all kinds of mistakes in it no saw that people were using information in it that was wrong and wanted it removed in an effort to keep misinformation at bay. They never removed it and I've tried three separate times over the years. This last time they completely ignored me. Thanks for the post because hopefully I can get someone to talk to me!

  2. Cheryl, That's so frustrating! I had tried when I first noticed the tree up there and didn't get anywhere with Ancestry either. That was a couple of years ago, so maybe they've improved their process. I was really surprised at how quickly they responded, so I hope you have better luck this time.