Monday, August 29, 2011

Thinking About Software, Online Trees and Syncing

There were several comments and blog posts referencing my GEDCOM, Software, Online Trees and Syncing post last week, including:

*  Tamura Jones commented:

"What you want is AncestorSync Ultimate :-).  They have no plans to produce that yet, but if more genealogists tell them they want it, who knows..."

I had forgotten that Tamura wrote this back in May 2011.

*  Louis Kessler commented:

"Sounds like what you really want is to do all your adding and editing of your familytree data in one program (in your case, RootsMagic).

"Then in an ideal world, you’d like that one program to do all the functionality needed so that you do not have to load it into other programs. (In your case, you are helping others, but if one program did everything - remember this is an “ideal” world, then you’d simply recommend to others to use this ideal program.)

"Finally, the ideal program would have one button syncing to the one ideal all-inclusive online database that (and this is important) keeps everybody’s data separate - no one but the author can update the author’s data!!! What this ideal online system has is another database of linkages, which allows people to “conclude” that a person in their tree is the same as a person in another tree. Then this online database will “virtually merge” the data for the same people together when displaying it for you (maybe showing your data in one color and other people’s data in another).

"Sadly, I don’t see the industry going this way … yet."

Louis wrote The Ideal Genealogy System on the Louis Kessler Behold Blog shortly after my post, including: 

"First, I’ve written before about my strong feelings against merging data. No matter how well it is sourced, you’ll still lose the context of the original researcher and the work they did. You’ll dilute the work. You’ll incorporate errors made by others (and others may incorporate errors made by you) that may never get detected but get supported by the fact that multiple works of research support them."

*  DearMYRTLE wrote Syncing and GEDCOMing - can someone press the fast forward button? and noted:

"I have no interest in syncing my data in a "borg tree" as Tamura Jones calls them, where another researcher can independently modify my previously uploaded data without my knowledge or permission. (This model is currently expressed by and among others.) Such a sync would effectively wipe away the integrity of my personal database.

" trees currently supports a better model for syncing - sorta. There I can accept or ignore suggestions from the trees of other researchers, yet my tree is out there for collaborative purposes. I would like to sync my tree and attached image files with my pc-based data. I do not however, want to be forced to use Family Tree Maker. In fact I use several genealogy management programs for the variety of views, report layouts, etc."

As a result of these shared thoughts, I think I've crystallized my thinking a bit as to what it is I want, informed by the wisdom of my colleagues noted above.  Here are my ideals:

1) The "I-Own-My-Tree" program: 

In my ideal world (I know, we've wandered through this before!), I want to have one master database, with one set of names, relationships, places, sources, facts, media, notes, etc. that I control. But then I want to share that master database with any number of online unconnected family trees and with other software programs.  I want to be able to press one "synchronize" button and everything gets updated.

This ideal synchronization program can read my "master" database, whether in native software format (e.g., RootsMagic, Legacy, Family Tree Maker, Reunion, etc.) or in an online family tree database with unconnected, contributed family trees (e.g.,, Rootsweb WorldConnect,, GeneaNet, FindMyPast, etc.). 

I can tell the program where the "master" database is, and the software file types and names I want to sync to, and the online tree file names I want to sync to, and it will synchronize the file in the different software programs and the online trees so that they are all the same.

For example, if my "master" database is in RootsMagic, and I want to sync with my tree on Ancestry Member Trees or MyHeritage, it would do that.  And vice versa.  At present, we only have the FTM 2012 Beta/Ancestry Member Trees sync that works both ways.  Family Tree Builder will sync "up" to MyHeritage, but not down from MyHeritage.

2)  The "Our Shared Tree" program:

This is a program that will synchronize data from my "master" database with one online inter-connected (shared) family tree (e.g.,,,, new FamilySearch Family Tree).

The program could be a stand-alone program (that reads the online tree or software database), or be embedded in genealogy software, like the RootsMagic (and other programs) interface with new FamilySearch Family Tree (that works really well, except for the limitations on sources in nFSFT). Using this feature, the user would select what information to add or change on the Shared Tree, or to download from the Shared Tree to the "master" database, wherever it is. 

Ancestor Sync promises to do this one "source" and one "target" at a time, with a user's choice of each.  But my understanding is that they will do it by creating a whole file in native format (or GEDCOM), not synchronizing person-by-person or fact-by-fact. 

Ancestor Sync also promises to sync with shared trees like and new FamilySearch Family Tree, possibly using techniques developed to interface FamilyInsight software with new FamilySearch one person at a time. 

I look forward to seeing how all of this works out!

What say you?  How would you make these ideas work?  Are these ideals even possible? 

1 comment:

DearMYRTLE said...

Randy, when Syncing FTM2012 to Ancestry Trees and back, does it upload and download the attached document files? THAT would really be wonderful, even if you had to take a break from the computer for the task to be accomplished.