Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Downloading Ancestry.com Media

Ancestry.com has never created a good system to back up the data that is on their site. The only option people have is to download the GEDCOM file, which is often a mere fraction of the data they have invested in the site.

For years now my family has been investing time in building a well documented family tree on ancestry.com, and I have made sure to frequently backup the GEDCOM file so we didn't lose the data.  With thousands of media files on the site I have become increasingly concerned about the loss of a major portion of our research if I was unable to download them.

To combat this problem I finally wrote a small Chrome extension that allows you to screen scrape your media files in an automated fashion.  It is not perfect, but considering it is the only way to get your data, it is nice to have.

The extension downloads the files in mass and dumps them all into your default downloads folder.  So, you should clear all files out of your default downloads folder before using this extension so you know that all downloaded files belong to Ancestry.

After installing this extension, you need to:
- log into your ancestry.com account
- open up your tree
- open up the Media page, which is one of the items on the menu inside the tree
- click on either the Photos or Stories tab, currently the All, Audio, and Video tabs are not supported
- OPTIONAL: click on the page you want to resume downloading at.  This is useful if you need to stop downloading for a period of time, say if you only want to run the downloads during the night.  You will likely end up with a few duplicate files if you attempt this.
- click on the Extension icon in your Chrome browser upper right corner, and click the Download Media button

If the downloads are occurring too quickly and swamping your computer then let me know.  I am planning on allowing the download speed to be adjusted in the future.  Currently a file is downloaded every 2 seconds, which works well for me, but for people who upload lots of large files it will not work as well for.

NOTE: There is a small chance that using this is against Ancestry's terms of use.  Their terms of use forbid scraping tools, however the language seems directed at automated scripts that run in the background.  This tool is simply a browsing aid performing clicks for you, but your browser is still open and doing all the browsing and preventing you from doing other browsing simultaneously.