Exporting from Ancestry.com to NFS

One of the biggest drawbacks to using New Family Search (NFS) for me has always been documenting information with sources. It is, without a doubt, the clunkiest part of the user interface in NFS. I started using NFS in 2008 when it became available in my area. At first I made a half-hearted attempt to document my info, but it was so cumbersome that, eventually, I just gave up.

This really bothered me because I am, to a fault, very insistent about documenting my info. Anything in the last 300 years didn’t happen if I can’t document it. Even if it’s an obituary or a family bible, there’s almost always some way to get sourced information.

About 4 months ago I started using Ancestry.com for the first time thanks to a gift subscription. As a big proponent of free online access to genealogical information and public records, I’ve always tried to search out that type of information. I’ve got to say that the amount of records consolidated into one site was extremely convenient. I started congregating the documents/records I found into the online family tree. I really liked how the records and images were immediately connected to the individuals in the tree. Very quickly I began to wonder how I could get all of this goodness into my NFS records.

After a little poking around and thought, I’ve come up with a process to get Ancestry’s very complete source information imported into my NFS records. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d like this to be simpler, but as I’ll explain, the difficulty comes from Ancestry’s limited ability to export.

Exporting the Ancestry Tree

The first steps involve getting your info out of Ancestry.  From your personal tree, choose the ‘Tree Settings’ option from the drop down menu at the top of the screen. After clicking this option you’ll be taken to a new screen where you can edit many different settings for your family tree.  You’ll also be able to prepare and export a GEDCOM file of all your Ancestry data to be used in NFS or another program of your choosing.

The next step will be to look to the right side of the screen under ‘Manage Tree’ for the button that says ‘Export Tree’.  Clicking on this button will begin to prepare your Ancestry data into a downloadable GEDCOM file.  Once it completes the button will change to say Download your Gedcom file. Right click on this button and choose to save the file somewhere easy, like your desktop. We’ll use this file again in our next step.


Selecting Families

This step requires some family history software.  If you don’t already have one you use,

Creating new GEDCOM in PAF

you can download PAF for free from here.  The process for this step will vary slightly depending on your software.  The main points are to 1) Import the GEDCOM file we just took out of Ancestry.com into your personal family history software; 2) Decide which families you want to get into NFS; 3) Use the export command in your software to create a new GEDCOM file containing only the desired family/families. This file will contain all of the sources and other information connected with your families from Ancestry.com, with the exception of pictures or other media.  Now we’re ready to jump over the NFS.

Importing into NFS

This step is the payoff.  First, go to New.FamilySearch.org (obvious, I know, but I’ve taken this step for granted with folks one too many times).  After logging in, click on ‘Add Information’, then ‘Contribute a GEDCOM file’. This will launch a pop-up window that asks you to agree to not clutter up the tree with records that might already be in there. Although we’re adding info that’s likely in there already, we’re definitely not making more clutter.  After clicking the ‘I Agree’ box we’ll be able to select our new GEDCOM file.  To be very clear, you should NOT choose the original GEDCOM we exported from Ancestry.  We are using the newer, smaller file we created with our personal software.

Once uploaded, click on ‘Review the Results’.  This will display a list of each individual you’ve uploaded to NFS–Print this list. The unique person indentifier from this list will help you in the process of combining the new records you’ve uploaded with your existing records.  Once combining is complete, you’ll have all the info from Ancestry successfully into your NFS records.


This is definitely a process for advanced users.  It is more complicated than it should be because Ancestry.com does not allow for exporting only a portion of your tree.  I strongly recommend uploading small family groups into NFS the first few times.  The process of combining records can be unruly if you import a large GEDCOM file into NFS.  This is why I print the list.  I’ve found it vital to ensuring I combine all of the necessary records.  Do not rely on the ‘Possible Duplicates’ tabs alone.  In my opinion, this feature is not dependable enough to use in this process alone.


About Kevin

I'm a husband, father of 4, amateur genealogist, technophile, homeschooler, gardener, and boy scout leader.
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3 Responses to Exporting from Ancestry.com to NFS

  1. Nancy says:

    I agree with you about “clunkiness” of having to type the source information into NewFamilySearch. But I thought some of the newer gen. programs like RootsMagic were able to upload the sources into newfamilysearch. Am I wrong? I’ve been typing in the barest minimum when I’ve added people in NFS.

  2. RCantrell says:

    Good info. Thanks.

  3. Wendy Davis says:

    Do you know of any way to move data from NFS to Ancestry? I’m with you on documenting sources. I wish there were a better partnership between the two systems so we could have the best of all worlds. I recognize that the primary purpose of NFS is to support temple ordinances, but I like to use it as a defacto repository of my genealogy information. Unfortunately, it is not designed for that.

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