Today I alternated between 😭 and 😡 as I tried to figure out the best way to export my family tree from FamilySearch to Ancestry and MyHeritage, two sites where I have DNA matches and want trees with all my ancestors’ descendant lines. This is what I learned.
How to Export a GEDCOM File from FamilySearch Family Tree
The Short Answer: You can’t. FamilySearch doesn’t support exporting data as a GEDCOM file.
The Better Answer: You can, in a roundabout way. You can Import your way to an Export.
The Short Answer – A little background info
GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunications and is a standard file structure for genealogical information. It’s the most popular file type used to exchange & share family tree information. If you want a copy of someone’s family tree, you ask for a GEDCOM file.
FamilySearch Family Tree is a “one tree” site where they own the family tree and everyone adds to it and grows the tree. Because it’s a communal tree, others can make changes to your family lines and you may want to have your own copy of the entire tree on a separate site where no one else can make changes.
But FamilySearch doesn’t allow you to create GEDCOM files from their tree. Google to your heart’s content and you’ll get:
“Currently we are not able to export data from Family Tree to a GEDCOM file. Use one of the Family Tree certified programs, i.e. Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree, or RootsMagic to import data from Family Tree into one of the programs and then create a GEDCOM.”
The Better Answer – How to Import your way to an Export
I employ the driving rule my husband taught me in San Francisco. When you desperately need a left turn but left turns are illegal, you use the “three rights equals a left” technique to get going the direction you need to be going.
In this situation, you use one of the three legal FamilySearch import options to get to a place where you can create a GEDCOM file
if you’re LDS, you allow a partnering site to import an incomplete tree & create a GEDCOM file from the partner.
Option 1 – Simple & incomplete tree (and only if you’re LDS)
If you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), you can use the Partner Access option to Import a free tree to one of the partnering sites including:
Then you can create a GEDCOM on any of these sites and use it on any other site. The drawback with these GEDCOM files is FamilySearch limits the amount of tree information it will let these sites import. You have no control over how many ancestors or descendants are imported to a new tree.
Option 2 – Complex & more complete tree (for anyone with a tree at FamilySearch)
If you want more complete tree information (or don’t qualify for the free LDS partnering option),
FamilySearch allows you to Import complete trees to these three family tree programs:
- Ancestral Quest, free & fee versions, Windows & Mac, Instructions for the import and GEDCOM file
- Legacy Family Tree, free & fee version, Windows only
- RootsMagic, free & fee versions, Windows & Mac, Instructions for the import and GEDCOM file
Each of these programs has a free version and you can compare the free vs. fee versions at their sites. I own & used a paid version of RootsMagic for Mac OS. These programs were all initially written for Windows operating systems. Ancestral Quest & RootsMagic have Mac OS versions which work but aren’t as functional as most products written specifically for Macs.
These are the only programs you can use to Import a tree from FamilySearch and control the information you want to Import. After you’ve imported your tree from FamilySearch, each of these sites can create a GEDCOM file you can then use on any other site.
I’ll write a separate post showing how to import to each of these programs but just to give you a quick idea, below is a window where I have the option to import my tree from FamilySearch with as many generations of ancestors and descendants as I choose. In theory, this is great. In practice, the program will crash if you try to import too many names in one batch. 4,000 names is fine; 40,000, hmmm, probably not.
After you’ve imported the family tree from FamilySearch, then you use the import site to create a GEDCOM file to transfer the data to any other person/site.
Here are directions for how to create a GEDCOM file at:
- Ancestral Quest
- Legacy Family Tree
If you have a large tree, as I do, you will most likely have to
- First, import the information in multiple batches,
- Then, stitch it together into one GEDCOM file,
- Then, export that GEDCOM file to your final destination site (Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc.)
Now you can understand why I alternate between 😭 and 😡. The final product will be worth the effort but I’ll probably spend 12 hours accomplishing a task that should have been one simple export. I’ve spent 6 hours so far (and it’s 1 a.m.) and I have only imported half of the information I want. I’ll share instructions for stitching together multiple imports once I’ve completed the task. Currently, I’m still importing sections of my family tree!
Best in your research!
Here’s a pinnable image to save for future reference.
8 responses to “How to Export a GEDCOM File from FamilySearch Family Tree”
Thanks so much for this valuable information! I plan on completing this in the near future. As I understand it, GEDCOM format does not transfer photos. Thankfully, that’s not a big deal as I dont have many in FamilySearch. However, can you tell me if the GEDCOM format transfer Sources? My tree does have a lot of Sources that I would prefer to preserve in the transfer from FamilySearch to Ancestry.com. Any info you can share would be helpful!
Unfortunately, when you import a FamilySearch tree to RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, or Legacy Family Tree you can’t automatically import all the source citations. Once you have your FamilySearch tree imported you need to go to each individual person on the tree and manually tell the program to import sources for that person. I’ve only tried this with RootsMagic and I’ve had to add each source one at a time (but I may have overlooked a faster method).
You can import your FamilySearch tree into Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc and that import WILL include sources & photos but it won’t allow you to import as many generations & all the descendancy info you may want from FamilySearch.
If your final goal is to get a good descendancy tree into Ancestry, with source citations, I can think of two options.
FIRST, it may be simplest to import two trees to Ancestry. One directly from FamilySearch with sources & the SECOND from RootsMagic (or AQ or LFT) with descendancy but no sources. THEN, check out any Ancestry options for merging trees or just manually accept hints from your Descendancy tree to your Well-sourced tree.
SECOND, import two trees to RootsMagic (or AQ or LegacyFT), ONE from FamilySearch with descendancy but no sources, the SECOND from Ancestry (via FamilySearch) with some ancestry and all sources. Then use the RootsMagic option to merge the trees. RM suggests you don’t just merge trees, instead you use Drag and Drop to compare each person (merging trees eventually requires you to compare each person). Drag and Drop video from RM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dLBU_Tx9t8
I’m sorry there’s not a simpler answer or method. I’ll be doing the same thing!!! Best with your research!
Hi, thanks for the post. I’ve used RootsMagic in the past to do this exact thing. The one big thing missing for me was latitude/longitude data in the Gedcom. When I asked RootsMagic they said the FamilyTree API didn’t provide it, but when I checked the API documentation I think it is an option (in beta at least). Just wondering if any of the other softwares are pulling the lat/long for places on the FamilySearch import?
I’m sorry I don’t know that answer. If you try the free versions (of RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, and LegacyFamilyTree) and find you can’t get the latitude/longitude data you want, you may want to check with Family Tree Maker (fee site) https://www.mackiev.com/ftm/index.html and see if their GEDCOM download includes lat/long data. They have a support line that can answer your questions before you purchase. Again, this is subscription software, but it also has the ability to download a tree from FamilySearch and the user experience is very nice. Best with your research!
No options for those who use a Linux OS?
I don’t believe Ancestral Quest, RootsMagic, or Legacy are compiled for Linux. You could use virtualization software on your Linux OS, such as VirtualBox, which allows you to install a guest operating system, such as Windows 7, 8, or 10, etc, under which you could then install RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, etc.
My husband uses virtualization software that allows him to run Windows and/or Linux on his Mac. Hope this helps. Best with your research!
There are a couple of Linux Genealogy Softwares. I have only tried GRAMPS. I don’t think it’s able to sink with FamilySearch, but it does handle GEDCOMS well. It is a tuff one to learn as well. I had a hard time figuring out how to add children to individuals. Especially those people with multiple spouses. Perhaps it was because I started with a tree of over 4,000 people. Another potential option is to use a program like WINE that is suppose to allow Windows programs on Linux devices. I have not tried this option. At the moment I have 3 operating systems on my computer so I can use Windows if need be.
I use GRAMPS program on Linux. I was just searching for if there were export options for FamilySearch – not wanting to have data trapped in a website – and found this query and a few potential resources
GetMyAncestors is a standalone Python script recommended for this problem on GRAMPS discussion.
See also https://gramps.discourse.group/t/exporting-data-from-familysearch/1659