Ancestral File

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Ancestral File is a computerized collection of genealogies that links families into pedigrees, showing ancestors and descendants. It contains information about 40 million people from throughout the world. It shows individuals’ names; family relationships; and dates and places of birth, marriage, and death. Ancestral File was created from thousands of user submitted pedigree charts, family group sheets, and GEDCOM files. Submissions were merged to eliminate duplication and submitted corrections were applied to eliminate errors.

  • 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 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.
  • 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 do I contact submitters to Ancestral File?

How accurate is Ancestral File?

Are living people included in Ancestral File?

What is the Ancestral File Number (AFN)?

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.


1 July 1979   Began accepting 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.
1993   Ancestral File has grown to 15 million names.
1994   Version 2.31.
24 May 1999 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 website.


Videos and Online lessons


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.