Ancestral File

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What is Ancestral File

a. Ancestral File is a computerized collection of genealogies that links families into pedigrees, showing ancestors and descendants.
b. It contains information about 40 million people from throughout the world.
c. It shows individuals’ names; family relationships; and dates and places of birth, marriage, and death.
d. Ancestral File was created from thousands of user submitted pedigree charts, family group sheets, and GEDCOM files.
e. Submissions were merged to eliminate duplication and submitted corrections were applied to eliminate errors.
f. Bullets
i. The current site contains 40 million, 5 million more than the previous website.
ii. Information is not displayed for living individuals, including submitters.

When to Use It

a. Use the Ancestral File when more current information is not available in the new FamilySearch Tree or the Pedigree Resource File (PRF).
b. Ancestral File has significant limitations (see below),
c. So better information is often available in these other resources.
d. User submitted trees such as Ancestral File, the new FamilySearch Tree, and the Pedigree Resource File contain second hand information.
e. Use the information from user submitted trees to guide searches to authoritative records like birth certificates, church records, and other eye-witness accounts.
f. Also, use the 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 closely scrutinized prior to inclusion in the Ancestral File.


a. The Ancestral File has several key limitations.
b. It contains no notes or sources.
c. Submitters are responsible for the accuracy of the information.
d. Submitter information, previously available, is now hidden for privacy reasons.
e. It contains many errors and corrections are no longer accepted.
f. Unlike the new FamilySearch Tree and Pedigree Resource File (PRF), Ancestral File is static.
g. As previously mentioned, information in Ancestral File is second-hand. Verify the information before accepting it.

Tips for Searching Ancestral File

a. If you have not been able to find what you are looking for, consider the following:
i. The name of the person you want may not have been contributed to the file, or the person may have been living when submitted.
ii. The person you want may have been submitted to another program, such as the new FamilySearch Tree, or the Pedigree Resource File (PRF).
iii. The person may be listed more than once, each time with different information. Look at the information available for each search result.
iv. The name may be listed in a different way in the file.
v. The spelling of the person’s name may be unexpected. Perform the search with Exact matching turned off.
vi. Look for variations in names, dates, and places.

Frequently Asked Questions

a. How do I contribution to Ancestral File?
i. Submissions are no longer accepted for Ancestral File. New family history databases should be submitted to the Pedigree Resource File.
b. How do I correct errors in Ancestral File?
i. Corrections are no longer accepted for Ancestral File. Corrections should be made to the new FamilySearch Tree.
c. How do I contact submitters to Ancestral File?
d. How accurate is Ancestral File?
e. Are living people included in Ancestral File?
f. What is the Ancestral File Number (AFN)?
i. An Ancestral File Number was assigned to every record that was published in Ancestral File. If you know the Ancestral File Number, you can use it to search the Ancestral File for the individual. You can also search the new FamilySearch Tree using the Ancestral File Number.


a. 1 July 1979 – Began accepting submissions. The Ancestral File replaces the 4-generation program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
b. April 1988 – Ancestral File first deployed in the Family History Library with 4 million names.
c. 2 April 1990 - FamilySearch DOS published on CD-ROM. Includes Ancestral File with 7 million names.
d. 1993 – Ancestral File has grown to 15 million names.
e. 1994 – Version 2.31.
f. 24 May 1999 – debuts, including Ancestral File, which has 35 million names.
g. Feb 2000 – GEDCOM download added. (No longer supported.)
h. 4 Jan 2003 – Submissions to the Ancestral File are no longer accepted. Contributors told to submit to the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) instead.
i. 2011 – New edition with 40 million individuals published on a redesigned website.


Online lessons

c. If I’d Only Known! Beginner Genealogy Mistakes (Section: Collecting Answers)


e. Ancestors Season 2: Compiled Records


g. Researching for Pre-1500 Ancestors In Ancestral File
h. Family Trees: An Online Research Tool
i. A Checklist of Compiled Sources & Where to Find Them
j. Use the Internet for Family History Research (section Online Family Trees )

Sources of Information

Family History Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch: Using Ancestral File. Brochure. Salt Lake City, Utah: 2000.
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.
Fidel, Steve. “Genealogy Site is a Hit—7 Million Times a Day.” The Deseret News, 22 May 1999, p. E-1.
“News of the Church.” Ensign, February 2000.
Church News, week ending 4 January 2003, 15.

Old Contents of This Article

History of the Ancestral File

The Ancestral File contains lineage-linked names and other genealogically important information, such as the dates and place names for the births, marriages, and deaths of millions of individuals. Ancestral File data consists of member-submitted information from around the world. Names are organized into family groups and pedigrees. Because of privacy laws, personal information about living individuals is not displayed.

Records in the Ancestral File were submitted by members who often provided contact information. Most of these records were submitted before 1991, so the contact information for many submitters may be out of date or the person who submitted the original information may no longer be living.

Data in Ancestral File does not include notes and source information. Submissions have been merged with other data files and data from other submitters. Additions and corrections to the data from the orginal Ancestral File are no longer possible. Data in the File has not been verified and should only be used as a starting point for additional research.

Each record in Ancestral File is given a unique Ancestral File Number (AFN). The existence of an AFN in the source field of a FamilySearch record indicates that some or all of the information came from the Ancestral File. The AFN number is often useful when merging duplicate records, because a matching AFN indicates a high probability that the record is a duplicate. Some genealogy programs, such as Personal Ancestral File (PAF), can automatically merge duplicate AFNs.

To enable AFN editing in your PAF database, follow these steps:

  1.  Open PAF 5.2.18 and select Tools from the top menu 
  2.  From the Tools drop down menu, select preferences 
  3.  On the General Tab select: Allow AFN edit by placing a check mark in the box.  Press OK

To access Ancestral File, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the Trees link 
  3. Enter your query - the results will include Ancestral File results