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License term change

The date on the newly-updated terms and conditions at still reads 3 August 2021.

But there was a change made after that date.

According to Ancestry now, users who upload content to Ancestry still give Ancestry a perpetual and non-revocable license to use the content.

But, it says now, “perpetual and non-revocable” doesn’t mean “perpetual and non-revocable.”

Ancestry TOS

Those last two sentences in the image above have been added to the end of section 2.2.3 now:

Notwithstanding the non-revocable and perpetual nature of this license, it terminates when your User Provided Content is deleted from our systems. Be aware that to the extent you elected to make your User Provided Content public and other users copied or saved it to the Services, this license continues until the content has been deleted both by you and the other users.1

So as of now you can change your mind and delete your content and Ancestry will respect your decision. But if you delete something you shared publicly, Ancestry gets to keep using it until anyone who copied or saved it on Ancestry also deletes it. Ancestry will not take down all other copies of whatever you uploaded that other users are using.

This clarifies the biggest question that people had as reflected in questions posed to this blog: what about materials attached to private trees? As long as the materials are not public and shared, deleting the content terminates the license granted to Ancestry.

A retreat, yes, in part. And a caution: read terms of service. Don’t just click through. And use caution in choosing what to share online — and how.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Ancestry retreats,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 6 Aug 2021).


  1. ¶ 2.2.3, “Ownership of Your Content” in “Ancestry Terms and Conditions,” effective 3 Aug 2021, ( : accessed 6 Aug 2021).
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