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
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.