Monday, May 19, 2014

Dear Randy: How Can I Avoid Updating My Tree in 5 Different Places?

Genea-Musings reader Linda asked me this question in email recently:

"I have my family tree on my computer in PAF and Legacy 8.  I also have my tree on  Whenever I add something from the records to my tree, I also update my PAF and Legacy files.

"I've just subscribed to Mocavo and MyHeritage and see that if I upload my tree I will probably find some more matches.  

"The problem is I don't want to start updating my tree in 5 different places: PAF, Legacy 8, Ancestry, and both Mocavo & MyHeritage.

"Do you have any recommendations?"

Dear Linda:  I wish that there was a really simple answer to your question, but I don't have one. Here are my thoughts:

1)  I would do ALL of my family tree work in one application - say, in your case, Legacy Family Tree 8, because that is the more capable of the three programs you use the most.  That means, of course, that you need to download document images to your computer, and add them to Legacy as Media, add sources, add events, add Notes, etc.  That may be inconvenient for you as far as goes.  

Then I would create a GEDCOM file of my Legacy 8 file and upload it occasionally to PAF,, and  You would use, Mocavo and MyHeritage as "cousin bait" and as resources to find online records to add to your database (through Ancestry Hints, MyHeritage Record Matches, and Mocavo alerts).  However, you would not be able to upload your Media to the other online trees using the GEDCOM file.

This is what I do with RootsMagic - I save document images from many web sites to my computer, add them to my database, and create a GEDCOM to import to Legacy 8, Family Tree Maker 2014, Family Tree Builder, etc.  I then use FTM 2014 to add a new tree to (with the media) and use Family Tree Builder to add a new tree to (with the media).  

2)  If you absolutely cannot give up doing most of your research, including adding media and sources, in your Member Tree, then you could purchase Family Tree Maker 2014 and sync your Ancestry Member Tree with FTM 2014 on a regular basis.  That would download the record images and sources to your FTM 2014 database.  Then you could create a GEDCOM file, including the images, and import them into the other programs and online trees.  But you would have to add data, including media, from other websites to FTM 2014 or by hand.  

3)  The ideal would be, I think, something like what Ancestor Sync promised:  The ability to synchronize my family tree database with another family tree program or an online family tree.  Unfortunately, AncestorSync's home page is crashed now (I just checked!) so I don't know the status of the program.  The idea was similar to what does syncing with Family Tree Maker 2014, or MyHeritage does syncing with Family Tree Builder.  

My ideal family tree would be the capability to automatically sync any of my family trees (say, once a day) with the others.  If I attached some hints and sources to my Ancestry Member Tree, then it would appear on my RootsMagic database once a day.  And with my MyHeritage online tree, my tree, my WikiTree tree, my FamilySearch Family Tree, my Legacy Family Tree 8 database, and my Family Tree Maker 2014 database.  I would like the ability to choose which ones to automate automatically, and the ability to pick and choose specific data from one or more of the other websites.  

4)  One projection of the "future of genealogy" is that genealogy software will be in the cloud and not on your desktop.  Then you could have one database of your own on a website, and sync to the other websites.  Another "future of genealogy" projection is that we will have one "Mother of all Genealogy Databases (MOAGD)" where each historical person has a profile, and all researchers can contribute to that database; this is the FamilySearch Family Tree vision, which has real potential, I think.  However, many researchers are not comfortable with an interconnected, or universal, family tree like this, and fret about duplicate profiles, ancestor flame wars, privacy, etc. 

In short - a Genea-Web (no slight to other websites or programs intended - the image got way too busy!) - I think this shows my ideal:

Of course, we have a few of those links now - some software can read files from other software, some websites can sync with some software programs, and GEDCOM can be used on all of them except and familySearch.

5)  I hope this helps!   Perhaps my readers can make more or better suggestions. 

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Diane Gould Hall said...

Excellent answer to that question Randy. I agree with your advice and your synopsis of the whole situation.
I'm one of those who doesn't like the "mother of all trees" and I don't contribute to the tree on Family Search.
I do use Legacy 8 as my primary database and Ancestry as a place to find hints and connect with others.


Robbhaas said...

I had much the same concern as Linda. I like your approach to the problem Randy. My concern I guess is after you have uploaded the new trees to Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc. that will start the process of hints, Record Matches all over again - Then I will have to wade through all them all over again and with a very large tree this can be quite time-consuming. With that said, I still like your approach.

Kelly said...

I am wondering the same thing lately. I like the FamilySearch idea and something that sticks with me all the time is the RootsTech 2013 comment "80% of all research is a duplication of effort". I currently use Family Tree Maker, Legacy, Reunion, and have subscriptions to Ancestry, Fold 3, and use NEHGS for research. Getting it all updated is not happening. Each product and website has it's benefits but I want more communication. The place I find the most cousins is Find A Grave.

Cousin Russ said...


I did a blog post, based on your blog post

Great blog post,


Jay at 1FamilyTree said...

Darn, is already taken!

Peter G said...

I'm going to partially disagree with you Randy.

Yes, agreed, us Legacy as the primary program (or what ever desk top program a person likes)

Yes, export a gedcom to PAF.

No, don't upload a new gedcom to Ancestry, etc

I suggest create trees on Ancestry, My Heritage, etc. Us the gedcom to initially create, but one there do something else with it.

To use an example from Ancestry. Be a paying member, and use that service to get records to download and enter into Legacy. while you are on Ancestry attach the records to the Ancestry tree.

Now, when you get records from say FamilySearch (it's free) or from your other membership with MyHeritage you add them to Legacy, but you don't bother with updating Ancestry.

Advantage is that you can invite family to your ancestry tree, you can get hints and either accept or ignore them. If you upload a new gedcom you are starting the ancestry tree hint cycle, invitations, et all over again. I suspect that My Heritage does the same thing, but I'm not a paid user so I don't know.