RM9 Bug: Private notes may not be private

I’ve found a scary bug in RM9 that can potentially show your private notes when you use TreeShare to Ancestry. I logged a request to RM support but not sure if that’s the best way to get traction on high-pri issues, so also posting here for visibility.


  1. Create a Couple
  2. Create a Marriage Event
  3. Add a note to the Marriage Event with this text: Some public note. {Some private note}
  4. Sync to Ancestry via TreeShare (with private notes/facts unchecked)

Private note is listed on Ancestry (as typed above).

The exact same text is treated correctly as a birth note or death note. But as a marriage note, the private information is uploaded.


This apparently isn’t a bug. It is known about and has fairly recently been hashed over. I believe Renee’s reasoning for it had something to do with the Ancestry API didn’t support private notes. The response from @thejerrybryan suggested that the needed to filter the notes BEFORE sending to Treeshare. Right now, what it boils down too is if you don’t want your notes on Ancestry, don’t include them in the Treeshare…however I do believe that this doesn’t matter if you later edit and push the changes to Ancestry…not fully sure on that but I am sure someone has researched.

Thanks. Private notes should definitely be stripped before calling the Ancestry API. If that’s not the case, and RM is relying on Ancestry to strip private information, can someone please confirm that? I am not comfortable with Ancestry having access to that information.

BTW, I originally thought this didn’t repro on RM7 but now I’ve been able to repro there as well. So not RM9 specific.

It has been confirmed many times over the lifetime of RootsMagic TreeShare, as recently as this:

by a member of staff.

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I was trying to understand why this involved the Ancestry API at all (e.g. should be stripped before sending to them), but I guess it has to do with the bi-directional nature of TreeShare. In other words, if I want to keep the note in sync, both sides have to keep passing the {private text} back and forth. Is that correct?

I have only been using TreeShare to push snapshots from RM → Ancestry so missed that before. Now I’ve done a bit of testing of various scenarios and I think I understand more of what @kfunk mentioned as well.

  • The initial (first) upload generally does the right thing. {Private text} in birth, death, etc. always seems to work as expected.
  • But after any subsequent syncs/pushes to Ancestry, {private text} becomes visible where it previously was not (e.g. updating a birth note now makes the {private text} in that birth note show up on Ancestry).
  • Marriage (and Divorce) notes always seem to show {private text} on the initial sync. I suspect that’s because those events get “touched” twice (e.g. 1x for bride, 1x for groom) during the initial upload or something like that.

In summary:

  • {Private text} is being sent to Ancestry (but possibly by design).
  • {Private text} has a high chance of showing up visibly on Ancestry.
  • Reading between the lines, it sounds like Ancestry likely doesn’t support this {private text} feature, so unclear if there’s any willingness to address this.
  • I feel like if RM knows this, then RM has a responsibility to fix the current TreeShare screen and put a disclaimer that private notes aren’t necessarily private. The current design makes the user feel like if they don’t check the “Upload private notes…” box, that they in fact remain private and not shared with Ancestry.

I use {private text} extensively - maybe this isn’t a popular feature. I guess I’ll be using some of the great work from @TomH to fix this via db updates in the interim.

I don’t have any {Private text} in my tree. If it happened then it happened and I document it. I would be interested to know what people use this feature for.

I use {} for a few specific reasons. I have three cases where the father is not really the father due to some dalliances by the individual’s mother. In all three cases, this is information known to the immediate family of the individual but they would prefer that the other close relatives not know about it, such as if I were to exchange data with extended family members. All of the people in this scenario are living.

I also use it when I have multiple birthdates or other such facts. I put a private note in to remind myself where that information was found so that I can go back and find proper sources. I also due this when I am working on someone using Ancestry and FamilySearch and I happen to find something that pertains to multiple persons. I generally copy and paste the database name and whatever information I am shown and paste it into a priavte note. This way I don’t sidetrack too far from my original task. Later, I will go back and work on the private note people and clean things up, entering proper sources and such. It is a quick and easy way of keeping myself on task.


I use it everywhere and similarly to @kfunk. I think I got in the habit of doing it from the PAF days (regular brackets if I remember correctly - e.g. [[ private text ]] ). Definitely for sensitive things that could offend living people (affairs, death details, etc.) but frequently as a lightweight way to store research notes when I don’t want heavy handed process stuff. Adding some extra text to a note is a lot more convenient and easily accessible later. Some random examples:

  • Birth Note where I only have a year: {Someone has her birth date as 23 Sept on FamilySearch but without any sources; needs more investigation}
  • Marriage: Note: Marriage records from 1820 - 1860 were lost due to a fire.{maybe I can find the date from the central registry?}
  • Death: {Aunt Jane suggested it may not have been an accident}
  • Person Note: {TODO: has a different surname; she must have been married before} ← I tend to put a ton of random stuff in person notes… often things that would only make sense to me.
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That is a succinct way of putting it that sums up my usage quite nicely. I just wasn’t putting the words together so gracefully.