- The current site contains 40 million, 5 million more than the previous website.
- Information is not displayed for living individuals, including submitters.
- Pedigree charts will soon be supported.
When to Use It
Use Ancestral File when more current information is not available in the new FamilySearch Tree or Pedigree Resource File (PRF). Ancestral File has significant limitations (see below), so better information is often available in these other resources.
Use Ancestral File when researching pre-1500 European royal and noble families. Ancestral File contains 100,000 individuals comprising about 25,000 families. Pre-1500 information was carefully scrutinized prior to inclusion in Ancestral File.
User submitted trees such as Ancestral File, the new FamilySearch Tree, and Pedigree Resource File contain second hand information. Use the information from user submitted trees to guide searches to authoritative records like birth certificates, church records, and other eye-witness accounts.
The current version of of Ancestral File is available online as part of FamilySearch Genealogies. Previous editions of Ancestral File have been available as computer databases on compact disc, and online. In addition, the paper family group records submissions 1983-1996 were made available on microfilms arranged by AF submission number. The AF submission numbers are only visible on older editions of Ancestral File. The family group record submission films may show sources not visible to computerized database users, but the source citations on these films are usually sparse.
The Ancestral File has several key limitations.
- It contains no notes or sources.
- Submitters are responsible for the accuracy of the information. FamilySearch did not check the accuracy of any submission.
- Submitter information, previously available, is now hidden for privacy reasons.
- Ancestral File contains many errors and corrections are not accepted.
- Ancestral File also contains duplicates which were not identified and merged (often due to inconsistent or scanty data).
- Unlike the new FamilySearch Tree and Pedigree Resource File (PRF), Ancestral File is static.
- As previously mentioned, information in Ancestral File is second-hand. Verify the information before accepting it.
Tips for Searching Ancestral File
If you have not been able to find what you are looking for, consider the following:
- The name of the person you want may not have been contributed to the file, or the person may have been living when submitted.
- The person you want may have been submitted to another program, such as the new FamilySearch Tree, or the Pedigree Resource File (PRF).
- The person may be listed more than once, each time with different information. Look at the information available for each search result.
- The name may be listed in a different way in the file.
- The spelling of the person’s name may be unexpected. Perform the search with Exact matching turned off.
- There may be other unexpected information. Look for variations in names, dates, and places.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I contribute to Ancestral File?
Submissions are no longer accepted for Ancestral File. New family history databases should be submitted to the Pedigree Resource File.
How do I correct errors in Ancestral File?
Corrections are no longer accepted for Ancestral File. Corrections should be made to the new FamilySearch Tree.
How accurate is Ancestral File?
The information in Ancestral File is a composite of information from many different contributors which may include some discrepancies and duplication. Some people may have contributed incorrect or incomplete information. Errors may have been introduced when paper submissions were typed into the computer. FamilySearch does not verify the accuracy of information in Ancestral File.
Are living people included in Ancestral File?
Ancestral File does not display information about living people. People born less than 95 years ago who do not have a death date in the file are considered living.
How do I contact submitters to Ancestral File?
For privacy reasons, the online version of Ancestral File does not display personal information about submitters. Instead, Ancestral File displays an identifier composed of parts of submitters' names followed by 7-digit numbers. The CD-ROM version and previous online versions of the Ancestral File displayed submitter names and contact information.
The DOS version of Ancestral File, where available, includes contact information for submitters. The DOS version is currently available on four computers on the 3rd floor of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and in FamilySearch centers.
|Many people who submitted information to Ancestral File are now deceased.|
What is an Ancestral File Number (AFN)?
An Ancestral File Number was assigned to every record that was published in Ancestral File. Ancestral File Numbers are in this format: XYZ1-2A. If you know the Ancestral File Number, you can use it to search the Ancestral File for the individual.
|1 July 1979||Began accepting paper submissions. The Ancestral File replaces the 4-generation program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.|
|April 1988||Ancestral File first deployed in the Family History Library with 4 million names.|
|2 April 1990||FamilySearch DOS published on CD-ROM. Includes Ancestral File with 7 million names. Submissions by diskette began in 1990.|
|1993||Ancestral File has grown to 15 million names.|
|1996||Last paper submissions accepted and filmed. Diskette submissions continue.|
|24 May 1999||FamilySearch.org debuts, including Ancestral File, which has 35 million names.|
|4 January 2003||Submissions to the Ancestral File are no longer accepted. Contributors told to submit to the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) instead.|
|November 2011||New edition with 40 million individuals published on a redesigned www.familysearch.org website.|
Videos and Online lessons
- If I’d Only Known! Beginner Genealogy Mistakes (Section: Collecting Answers)
- Ancestors Season 2: Compiled Records
- Researching for Pre-1500 Ancestors In Ancestral File
- Family Trees: An Online Research Tool
- A Checklist of Compiled Sources & Where to Find Them
- Use the Internet for Family History Research (section Online Family Trees)
Sources of Information
Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1995.
"Church Developing New Ancestral File System," Church News, 4 January 2003, 15.
Family History Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch: Using Ancestral File. Brochure. Salt Lake City, Utah: 2000.
Fidel, Steve. “Genealogy Site is a Hit—7 Million Times a Day.” Deseret News, 22 May 1999, p. E-1.
“News of the Church.” Ensign, February 2000.