Collecting Family Trees with Automation

Did you know that there are chrome add-ons that can collect pedigree trees from many genealogy sites and DNA testing sites? These tools can collect a tree of ancestors as an ahnentafel list which is a very useful and compact format to scan for common ancestors and locations.

Click here for my post explaining an Ahnentafel list and the tool DNArboretum to create one from a tree at Family Tree DNA. [UPDATE:: DNArboretum is no longer working but Pedigree Thief works on most sites, just not Ancestry.]

The pedigree view of a family tree on MyHeritage can also be collected into an ahnentafel list with another chrome add-on, a tool called Pedigree Thief (click here to download it).

Saving a new cousin to my tree

When it is just a few new relatives at Ancestry, you don’t need those add-ons. After all, it is easy to use the Tools menu on the Profile Page of the ancestor you want from a tree at to copy over a few people. In fact, if you copy one person over, you can click back to the original tree and copy them again in order to get their whole family group, just like in an Ancestry hint. I do recommend that you check sources and make sure that this is good information. Even if you are making a Quick & Dirty tree (Q&D) for an adoptee, it is best to check it over, as some trees on are quite unrealistic with parents born after their children and other such errors.

The collaborative world tree, WIKItree, has a useful compact pedigree view which includes the Ahnentafel numbers and can be linked to from the GEDmatch one-to-many (requires adding GEDmatch id at WIKItree). I have written a special new version of my Ahentafel to GEDcom tool to make a GEDcom from a text version of that page. You have to cut and paste the information from that page into a text file and then submit it to my new tool, which is still in Beta test –

The ahnentafel lists from the chrome add-ons discussed above can be turned into gedcoms with another tool of mine- – and then uploaded to Ancestry or merged with an existing tree on your computer. When I need to merge GEDcoms, I use my Family Tree Maker program on my PC, but most desktop genealogy programs can do that.

Most often I use these tools to build trees for new DNA relatives who either do not respond to me or clearly know nothing about their ancestors. I add what few ancestors they have listed to my tree or a research tree and then work the hints for them. Plus I look at obituaries, Find a Grave, the Norwegian online archives, and many other sources.

If you are coming to my workshop this weekend please add both pedigree thief and DNArboretum to your chrome browser. If you do not have Chrome, click here to download it.

Please be careful copying trees. When I am working on a speculative tree, I always make it private and unsearchable. I recommend you do the same. [UPDATE 27 Oct 2019: I now make them searchable once I attach the DNA so that Ancestry can do the work of finding common ancestors, see ] Enjoy!

My own Ahnentafel list up to my great grandparents (not including 2 and 3 my parents)

9 thoughts on “Collecting Family Trees with Automation

Click here to add your thoughts at the end of the comments
  1. You are much too fancy for me at my age. LOL

    When I am working at Ancestry and I find a tree I want to research and do not want to lose access to it, I copy and paste it into the Web link behind a profile. That works for me.

  2. Hello Kitty – I have been a keen user of this tool for many years. Recently it seems to have stopped working on my mac. Is there a problem?

    When to click on the pedigree icon in the toolbar, DNArboretum opens up OK, it has the list of the 4 options, but no pedigree is produced?

    • Actually Pedigree Thief now works on Family Tree DNA so I have stopped using DNArboretum.
      You need to be looking at the peidgree view of the tree you want to copy and then it works fine, at least on my PC.

  3. Just my 2 cents, but I am relieved to hear this app is no longer available. I think tools like this should be banned. Good research isn’t about the size of the database. It is about accuracy. That means at the very least checking and confirming sources and making sure the people are true connections to your genealogy. Otherwise you have compromized the accuracy and validity of your database, and even worse making it availabe to contaminate the databases of others who download it.

    • Doc –
      This tool is incredibly helpful for unknown parentage cases where we build quick and dirty trees to find common ancestors and triangulate the pedigrees to the parent(s). Not to be used otherwise… and pedigree thief still works on some sites just not on Ancestry

      Of course, for building family trees, accuracy is important, so this would not be a tool I use for my own tree or regular genealogy, as I like to look at each person and check sources when copying information.

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