FamilySearch Update for Tagging Photos and Editing Portraits

November 17, 2018  - by 
FamilySearch Memories photo tagging

There’s something special about family photos. Recently, I came across a picture on FamilySearch of a Thanksgiving dinner at my great-grandparents’ home with family members seated around a long table. As I studied that photo taken sixty years ago, the past felt very close.

Photos bring out our ancestors’ personalities, paint a vivid picture of their lives and help us connect with them in deeper ways. Now with FamilySearch’s updates to choosing and tagging family photos, making photos part of your family tree in meaningful ways just got easier.

Choosing Your Ancestor’s Portrait Photo

In the upper left-hand corner of each ancestor’s FamilySearch person page is a place for a photo—known as a “portrait.” Until recently, each person saw a different portrait, possibly one she chose by selecting from hundreds of photos that had been tagged with that ancestor’s name. FamilySearch has now streamlined this process, connecting only one portrait to each ancestor.

FamilySearch portrait update

To see how it works, click on your ancestor’s portrait on his person page. A new menu will appear with options to Edit, Replace or Remove the portrait. If you choose Replace Portrait, a box will pop up with the question: “How would this person like to be remembered?” and a group of photos to choose from. This important question encourages researchers to choose a flattering photo that is representative of an ancestor’s life. The edit option enables you to drag the frame to the correct person or the correct spot in a photo. The menu that appears when you click on a portrait will note when the portrait was last modified and by whom so that if you have a concern or question, you are able to click on that person’s name to contact her directly.

Tagging Photos

Anyone who has done family history knows that adding labels to family photos adds a great deal of value. Tagging photos on your family tree ensures that other users and future generations will know who each of the people in the photos are. FamilySearch’s tagging updates make this process easy.

To tag a person in a photo, access the photo from the “Memories” tab on their person page and click on the photo of interest. As you hover over the photo, other tags might appear. Click on an untagged person and begin typing to create a new tag. You will probably notice that instead of a circular tagging tool, a square box now appears, making tagging people near the edge of photos easier. Square tags also make it easier to tag things besides faces like documents or photos of tombstones.  

FamilySearch improves taggings the edge of photos

As you create new tags, FamilySearch will encourage you to attach the tags to people on your Family Tree. Tagging a person in a photo  won’t create a portrait for them, but if you think the photo you just tagged would make a good portrait, check their person page to view and edit their portrait from there. (You’ll only be able to view their portrait if they are connected to your family tree.) 

You can see all these changes right now on your computer. In a few months, you will be able to see them on your phone in the Family Tree app as well.

Try This in Your Own Family Tree

Family photos are central to our understanding of our ancestors. With these changes, now is a great time to head over to your family tree and take a peek. Take a minute to look at which portraits are connected to your ancestors and, if necessary, replace them with photos that represent who your ancestors really were. You can also update your family’s photos by uploading more. Be sure to add tags so that future generations can get to know their family members.

More Information on Portraits and Tagging

If you have questions about changing FamilySearch portraits and tagging photos, try these simple help articles:

Other New Updates to the FamilySearch Family Tree

Person Page Changes

Changes in Family Tree shed light on your ancestors’ lives.

Changes in FamilySearch person pages

New Discovery Fan Chart

Explore your family tree in depth with the new fan chart.

FamilySearch new fan chart


Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I’m quite concerned about this. My grandparents have 70 grandchildren. I spent my lifetime in their home. Others visited a half dozen times a year or less. How they remember grandpa will be different from how I remember him. It seems to me like the portraits are going to constantly be changing. I have some photos dear to my heart that others won’t care to have as their portrait. Is there a way to keep the photo I want without my cousins changing it constantly?

    1. I have the same concerns. The portrait of my grandparents that I prefer may not be the same one my cousins prefer. If only one can be chosen for display to everyone, it could ignite a famiky feud.

      1. Hello
        What can I say! You reject my true genology and choose blast me out when I offer you troth followed by doccumentation! TRUTH IS JESUS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD , I AM THROUGH ADOPTION BY JESUS HIS! I Belong to NO ONE ELSE !In this life we are given One Father and Mother both turned their backs on me! Now through the merical of D.N.A. I have found The people who rejected me are My True and Natural. Parents!
        I have just lost Hil’Ard Percy Morgan Ellis even though I am His first born Grandson from his daughter Susannah Ellis married Rush,Married Dantzler!
        She brough Grandmother Matty to America and SHE WAS NOT EVEN CONCIEVED IN AMERICA BUT WAS THE DAUGHTER AND SISTER TO WILLIAN HENRY RUSH AND HENRY RUSH OF THE WOLF VIGINAGER FAMILY . SHE MARRIED HENRY RUSH IN 18 47 AND STAYED MARRIED TO HIM TILL HIS DEATH IN 1850! She had the two children William the heir and Matty ,Martha Anne Dantzler who’s birth recorded is in LONDON England. I honestly do Not think your research is greater than theirs!
        I am the true heir of Grandmother and Grandfather especially when I am left with a will nameing me Heir ?
        Put your belief into records other than our mutually shared Grandmother who only strenghens my Claim if I wereto Press it!
        Either remove me from competition with the liers of my both family and O’Beras lies or leave me alone! Frankly it hurts way too much!

    2. The preferred photo that you have for an ancestor will not change if a cousin selects another ohoto for this same ancestor, the photo displayed may be different for each persons account. You have your favorite and other cousins have theirs, a brilliant option built into FamilySearch.
      I so appreciate everything FamilySearch offers us!

  2. I look at this as another example of computer programmers doing things which they find easy to do and not doing those things which are extremely important for the program to work properly. Programmers always have to keep changing things instead of leaving things that are working well alone. I suppose this is to justify their existance. In my opinion there are much more important things to be done than this such as improving the way sources are added, seeing that a page is updated after a change is made rather than having to go to another person and then go back to get the ordinances available==there are many, many things in the program iitself which needs tweaks. As a daily user of the family search program I can tell you that these things should be fixed and could be; hoever they do not have the flashy appearance as this does….I wish that when something is working well they would leav it alone…..

    1. I like to follow Family History Ron on Facebook. Ron is the Project Mgr for almost everything in FamilySearch. Usually twice a month he has a Live meeting on Facebook, where he introduces new or coming changes, explains how to use them, and why changes are made. Sometimes those changes are necessary in order to get things to work smoothly behind the scenes, sometimes to pave the way for planned additional features and capabilities, sometimes to handle the growth of the system or even when updated developer tools make it necessary to change the way something has always been done. On his Live meetings, viewers can enter their questions in chat to be added to the evenings discussions – either in advance or during the meeting.
      I find that my understanding and acceptance of new changes has been much easier since I started hearing the inside story.

  3. weve always read about “projects” we would like to start with your help our”Underwood project” England to canada england to USA

  4. FamilySearch

    Re: Choosing Your Ancestor’s Portrait Photo

    Why would you, consider; or, even suggest, that … “FamilySearch has now streamlined this process” … with regard to the “Portrait Photo” of an individual/person!!!???

    If anything the “New” process of ‘allowing’ or ‘connecting’ ONLY One “Portrait” to each individual/person is a backwards and detrimental step.

    And, the “New” process will unfortunately promote contention between Users/Patrons.

    Please reconsider allowing each User/Patron to choose a different “Portrait Photo” for an individual/person, if they so desire.

    ‘Thank You’ in advance.


    1. Gail, May I suggest that you go to “Help” in the upper right corner of FamilySearch and click on “Contact Us.” Then call, send a message, or chat with a Family Tree Support agent who can help you with this issue.

      1. They can help you right on the phone, if you call 1-866-406-1830, sit by your computer, they will talk you through it

  5. This is not like a cousin comming into my house and changing a picture on my wall. The pictures I love will still be in my loved one’s Memories on Family Search. Only a couple of keystrokes would enable me to view the pictures most precious to me. I for one would not want to meet my grandmother who might be standing arm in arm with the very cousin with whom I had bad feelings over the choice of the picture representing grandmother in Family Search. My dear grandmother influenced me to be better than that. Also, I have to immagine there is quite a data issue to letting EACH account have unlimited choice of the picture of EVERY person in their HUGE family line. I want to assume that the manipulations of the FS program are reviewed, evaluated, AND INSPIRED. If you ever had to do family research without the advantage of the FS program, the issue of which picture is displayed would seem like a small issue.

  6. I have entered pictures for my family members. They were all there at one point and now when I logged out and log back in it says processing picture. What does this mean? Will they show back up?

  7. In the past I have had no problems adding a portrait to a name, NOW I tag and don’t seen to be able to make it appear in circle near name, what am I doing wrong?

  8. We are enjoying the new Family Tree App!!! We are able to tag photos, and apply the photo to that individual’s memories. This is so easy and quite wonderful! Thank you!

  9. I want to remove some photos that ended up in one of my ancestor’s “memories”, but the system won’t let me remove photos unless I delete them’ “Moving them to my archive” doesn’t do anything either. Help!