Links to Media on Ancestry Appear to be Dead

+15 votes
On many profiles, there are direct links to pictures and perhaps other media at  It appears that there may have been a change at Ancestry, as those links now go nowhere. (I am not talking about trees but media.)  Look at the "Outside Links" section of the profile for Francis Fincher.

Even as an Ancestry member, I can't get to the linked info, although I can get to the info by going directly through Ancestry and not through the link.  However, that is very cumbersome, and it isn't always possible to determine what was actually linked. What should we do?
WikiTree profile: Francis Fincher
in WikiTree Tech by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (331k points)

7 Answers

+15 votes
Best answer
My suggestion is to not use a pay site at all. If these are pictures that Ancestry members have made public I try to get permission to use them here. If it is census images, for example, I use FamilySearch.

Ancestry collections are not static. It depends on the contract they have with the owner and they may be withdrawn at any time.
by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (237k points)
selected by Jan Terink
Rosemary, This appears to have nothing to do with whether the Ancestry member has made a tree public or private.  It looks like a change to the Ancestry website (program) that has made previously viewable images impossible to see.  The image is there, in Ancestry, but the link that was input with the profile is now dead.  The image may be  great stuff, but we just don't know.
I wonder if it has to do with the old Ancestry becoming new Ancestry.
That is possible.  I just got forcibly switched over a couple of days ago.
That happened to me too.  Right while I was in the middle of doing something, of course!
Ignore most of what follows. Yes the media is broken. And I'm on the New Ancestry.

My big problem with this profile is that everything refers to a tree on Ancestry which may be there this week but not next week.

And the rest of this doesn't apply to the media - I misread the original question.

I wasn't talking about member trees. I was only talking about the collections.

These appear to be references in an Ancestry Member Tree and they all are references to Index-Only Collections.
"The Millennium File is a database created by the Institute of Family Research to track the records of its clients and the results of its professional research. It contains more than 880,000 linked family records, with lineages from throughout the world, including colonial America, the British Isles, Switzerland, and Germany. Many of these lineages extend back to nobility and renowned historical figures. In fact, one of the things the Millennium File focuses on is linking to European nobility and royalty."

The US and International Marriage Records are derivatives of other files all put together in one place. "Original data: This unique collection of records was extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases. Originally, the information was derived from an array of materials including pedigree charts, family history articles, querie. "

I've never used the Quaker records so can't comment about these.

N.B. I would only use those 2 collections as a clue for further research, myself.
I certainly understand, and I don't use Ancestry trees for anything but hints.  I do use the actual source documents, either as hints to find other accessible sources on a free site, or, if the source is not available elsewhere, as a source.  There may be pictures of book pages or gravestones, memorials, obituaries, etc., on Ancestry, with links here on Wikitree.  If I can't even see the image, I can't try to find it elsewhere.
I know what you mean, Vic, as things have changed in accessing media at Ancestry in the past couple weeks. I do have an account and always click on their links when I am trying to solve an old mystery profile when looking for dupes or just plain old clean-up.

Although I do not encourage pay sites on profiles for sources, there are many that link to Ancestry anyway. It is too bad and now, I am wondering about the practice of putting any links to sources on profiles. Will they all become obsolete soon?
I'ld discourage any links to a user tree, no matter what the site. That said, I have links to FamilySearch's Family Tree in some of my profiles so I'll need to re-think this. FamilySearch is probably less likely to get removed or lost. I also have links to Find-A-Grave. I've had to remove some because one F-A-G contributor removed 10,000 profiles when Ancestry bought them.
+7 votes
Try "rebuilding" the links.
by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
As I find them, I will try to rebuild them.  But, this is an big problem, as there are thousands of links to Ancestry images on Wikitree. In trying to rebuild the links, I have found that it is very time consuming and, and some are virtually impossible to rebuild, as you can't tell what they are for.  I think I am proposing that those links that can't be rebuild should be deleted.
I never saw the point of adding someone's picture of a ship to our profiles anyway, although sometimes I will say I have found good stuff in those media links, so I've always checked them before.
Agreed.  Those I delete, even if they work.  It is the picture of the book page that has a reference that helps that we may lose.
It looks like Ancestry has completely changed its internal URL references for images. In the last few days, when an Ancestry search leads to an image (including gravestone photos, pages from books, and those useless generic pictures of ships), the url starts (this is new) and the title that displays in the browser is "Media Experience."

Presumably this means that all old Ancestry URLs pointing to images are now broken. As Vic notes, some WikiTree profiles include URLs that point to images on Ancestry of a page from a book that the profile's creator cited as a reference, typically without any information on the title or author of the book. Often when I can see the image, I can use the information in the page as clues to search for the actual source, but that's going to be harder to do if we can't see the image. BOO!!!

I've found that Ancestry provides electronic access to many microfilm images of records that I can't access anywhere else. I try to identify and document the actual source of the record (for example, "Records of Brunswick Separate Church, Scotland, Connecticut, 1746-1846, published by the Connecticut State Library in 1943"; instead of "Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920 by"), which should make future retrieval easier if Ancestry changes its URLs for records. However, sometimes it's all but impossible to identify the original name of a record or figure out where it came from.
Way to go Ellen. I like what you're trying to do.
+9 votes
It would be great if there was a "bot" on wikitree that could scan the links in profiles for "bad" URLs and generate some sort of list with profiles where links need to be fixed or removed.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (781k points)
Great idea!

The bot would need an Ancestry subscription. The bot would need a subscription good for all "national" versions of Ancestry (e.g., .com, .ca, .au, etc.) or else the ability to edit URLs before testing. I've run across Ancestry links on WikiTree profiles that I couldn't access without editing the address, because I didn't have an account on the same national version that the person who posted the link had cited.
+7 votes
Even on my own ancestry trees, I never use a photo by link. I always copy the photo (if I haven't previously put it in my photos) to my own photo file and then use it (with permission if it isn't in my possession).
by Darlene Kerr G2G6 Mach 3 (31.1k points)
+10 votes

I think the main problem is that if one uses a link to another site anywhere on the web, the potential for its viability over the long term is pretty close to nil. Shouldn't we be looking at those links in the same terms as we look at physical repositories? The repository could very well move, burn down, go financially defunct. Shouldn't we be transferring the *data* and the *source* and citation to WikiTree profiles so that it won't disappear if a repository disappears, or decides to change its filing system (think in terms of Dewey Decimal vs. LCC)? If we have the source & citation information, and the data, we don't need to go elsewhere normally. And if we need to find it again, we have enough information to do so, even if the original repository is no more.

by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (209k points)
+6 votes
Links to anything (other than FORUM questions & replies), will never work for non-paying members & non-members.  Their program is designed as such.  Their notion: "No pay, NO play!"  And I can guarantee that all the "sources" found on are available elsewhere (and far more accurate) - members are Welcome to join the "Project", which allows members access to source IMAGES, that they then transcribe into the database, that then sends out "hints".  Because we known we are all human - there are typos, transpositions, & omissions - (even when double & triple checked).

by Debra Allison G2G6 Mach 2 (22.5k points)
Debra, The problem here was that Ancestry changed its system, so, even for paid members of Ancestry, many image links don't work.
Vic, Which is all the more reason to NOT rely on them, ever. Reformatting sites, is much like upgrading software; it will happen, you just don't know when.
I agree. That is why I asked the question about what do do with the dead links.

Not using any pay site, as Rosemary suggested, is not an option.  Although you state that "all the "sources" found on are available elsewhere (and far more accurate)," I am not sure that is the case. And many people wouldn't know how to find the sources, if they do exist elsewhere. Expediency wins out, most of the time.

We should try to find the source at a free site, which I do, but seeing a cite to a book in a library somewhere is no more useful to me than an Ancestry cite is to you.  The best we can do is to encourage everyone to cite their sources.  If that source is behind a pay wall, we can try to find it elsewhere.
Or we could *advertise* OUR things like

and ... just those two helped me tremendously.

I wish I had read this sooner. I use the FREE Ancestry which is provided at the nearest library. It seemed that today, for the first time after many unsuccessful efforts, my links were working. Then I came home and looked at what I had done today. The only link which works is to Find-a-Grave. I am grateful for that, however.

Any suggestions as to what I should do next time? Copy and paste?

+6 votes
I am running into a bunch of bad Ancestry links lately.  Many of these come from GEDCOM imports and are not reviewed by the PM.  I have a bunch from my GEDCOM imports as well and as I rework the lines, I completely delete them from the profiles in my line.

I am trying to give a written source and include a link to the document referenced just for the very reason talked about elsewhere in this question about websites changing.  I like Ellen's suggestion for finding Ancestry's "True" source.  Ancestry is very bad about this.

But now I am running into a lot of sources to trees that are dead links, so I can not even find what the source may have been.  In many of these cases, it was the only source.  I am considering, deleting these and adding Unsourced to the profile.  

by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (402k points)
Personal opinion only ... since the link goes nowhere and there's not enough information with the link to help find the source, it can't be called a source. I'd say do as you suggested, deleting the bad link and added the unsourced template. The original link will be in the Changes file if anyone ever wants to find it.
go for it
Yes, absolutely.
Concur. Delete them.

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