Monday, December 14, 2015

Reader Comments About and Family Tree Maker Retirement - Post 1

I wrote three posts last week about the announcement that Family Tree Maker genealogy software retiring, closing sales on 31 December 2015, and ending support on 1 January 2017; they include:

* Announces Retirement of Family Tree Maker Software (8 December 2015)

*  What Do Family Tree Maker Users Do Now? (9 December 2015)

*  Other Genealogy Software Options to Replace Family Tree Maker - UPDATED (9 December 2015)

There are many comments on each post, and they ask many questions, which I want to try to answer.  I won't answer all of the comments on the posts!

1)  Dave Lyon said:  "One thing I'd love for them to do is license TreeSync as an API. For example, if they'd let RootsMagic incorporate TreeSync so you could sync your RootsMagic db with Ancestry-- awesome. "

My response: said in More Information About Family Tree Maker Desktop Software (posted 9 December 2015) that "... are exploring possible relationships with other desktop software solutions that would make it possible for their products to integrate with Ancestry."

"Integration" could mean using the TreeSync API (but I sincerely doubt it because of all the problems they have had making TreeSync work well with their own software).  Since they have an API that enables LDS members to exchange information in an Ancestry Member Tree with FamilySearch Family Tree, it may take that form which would enable exchange of information with other desktop software or online family trees.  

2)  Pam noted:  " I do not want to rely on a family tree on a commercial site - where it is out of my control.  I really like the flexibility of FTM report functions, allowing me to tailor reports for different purposes and do different checks, and maintain a task list, etc."

My response:  I agree with you about control - you still have it when the website disappears, the Internet goes down, etc.  Desktop software has many more features than online trees - especially in the reports, charts, planning, error checks, etc. functions.   

Ancestry's second blog post did say "We are exploring options to bring more reports and related functionality from Family Tree Maker into the online service. Stay tuned for updates on this over the coming year."

How nice - a promise to add more functionality to the Ancestry Member Tree.  They haven't been able to create a Family Group Report yet to New Ancestry.  I sincerely doubt that an Ancestry Member Tree will ever have the capability to create To-Do Lists, Research Logs, Evidence Explained quality source citations, Genealogical Proof Standard measures, standardize place names, ancestor or descendant narrative reports with source citations, individual reports, relationship reports, useful lists, duplicate checks, data error reports, true research reports, etc.  All of those are standard in most of the most popular desktop programs now.  

3)  Claire commented:  "I have been waiting to buy a desktop software and have a lot of records and notes saved online in Can anyone give me some advice: do I need to spend the $$ to buy FTM to download all that I have saved in ancestry. If I export a GEDCOM, the info will be limited, right? Is there any other software I can download from into that would preserve some of my work?"

My response:  The names, places, dates, relationships, events, source citations, notes, etc. will download in a GEDCOM from your Ancestry Member Tree.  At this time you have two choices to capture the attached records from your Ancestry Member Tree.  a)  Go to each person, save the record image to your computer file folders, and then attach them to persons or events in your alternative desktop software; b)  Obtain Family Tree Maker 2014 before 31 December 2015, and download the AMT to it using the TreeSync feature.  The media items you have uploaded or attached to persons in your AMT will be downloaded, along with all of the other items mentioned in a).  

As you stated, if you export a GEDCOM from your Ancestry Member Tree, the attached or uploaded media items will not download.  At this time, there is no other desktop software that will download the attached or uploaded media.

4)  John McCall asked:  " first thought was to ask you how best to work with it,, FamilySearch and Rootsmagic (which has been my main program for years). Is it worth scooping Ancestry hints into FTM while we can and then exporting individuals or clusters back into RM with the attached sources?"

My response:  I think it would be a waste of time to add Ancestry Hints to your AMT and then sync it to Family Tree Maker so that you could have them in RootsMagic.  My reasons are twofold:  a)  The file names for the attached Ancestry Hints are generic - you can't figure out who they apply to without clicking each one in the FTM Media file folder.  b)  Ancestry's source citations for the Ancestry Hints are poor - they identify the database, the original source, and not much more.  FTM downloads them in a sync, and in order to have quality source citations the user has to edit them - meaning  you have to find them again online and figure out the citation details.  

You would be better off following the Ancestry Hints, downloading the record image, attach the image to your RootsMagic person profiles and events, and creating quality source citations in the process.  You would touch the record image once, and add real value to your RootsMagic database.  This applies to other desktop software programs that have quality source citation templates.  You won't have to do this by a deadline either as long as you have an Ancestry subscription.

5)  mbm1311 queried:  "...I have a question on notes. Do they transfer from FTM to RootsMagic with out a problem?"

My response:  Yes, General Notes transfer from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic without a problem.  Fact Notes transfer also.  I'm not sure where Research Notes in FTM go in a GEDCOM transfer to RootsMagic.  

6)  Keith Riggle offered:  "Great point about most desktop apps mangling source citations in their GEDCOM files. That's not all they mangle, unfortunately. Family Tree Maker and other apps don't comply with the GEDCOM standard perfectly. You can lose data when you export to a GEDCOM file without even realizing it. I recommend people use a GEDCOM validator like or to see where the problems are in their files before they import them into a new app or the cloud. Fix the problems you can first. For example, FTM improperly exports AKAs using the ALIA tag. Some other apps know this and will nicely import the AKAs for you, but others will just drop them. Therefore, I don't use the "Also Known As" field in FTM. The following fields are also not recognized in the GEDCOM standard: arrival, civil, degree, elected, employment, organization; there are probably others. Also, the only thing allowed in the Description field for most events (birth, death, marriage, etc.) is the letter Y if the date and place fields are blank; otherwise, the Description should be left blank, and anything you might want to put there should go into a note field. The bottom line is that you shouldn't just export your FTM file to GEDCOM and import it into another app or website without checking it first."

My response:  I wasn't aware of all of that - thanks for the information.  The GEDCOM issue with source citations is why I try to craft free-form source citations (a "master source" portion and a "citation detail" portion) in my family tree.  Those transfer using the SOUR and PAGE GEDCOM tags.

7)  Bill Boyd noted: "A couple other points from a long-time FTM/Ancestry user. There is a function to check the validity of media files and to re-download all of them to FTM. Simply go to the Media browser screen and press -F5. I have used this to fix errors and "missing" media files in FTM. Ancestry also allows media, identified as a document, to have a description and transcription comment added. BOTH are not synchronized with FTM."

My response:  More information I didn't know.  Thanks!

8)  RebeccaRoss stated:  "I still have Family Tree Maker 2012, and never upgraded to 2014. Do you think there is a reason to upgrade now? Is it better to have the most up to date software before they stop selling it? Would this help increase my chances of having better GEDCOMs that I could import to other programs in the future?"

My response:  Are you syncing your FTM database with an Ancestry Member Tree?  If so, you might want to upgrade to FTM 2014 if you are going to download media and such from the AMT.  Maybe Russ Worthington has an opinion.  If not, your FTM 2012 should work until a computer operating system change, or a desktop/laptop computer change, causes it to fail.  Be sure to make a GEDCOM file in FTM before you change your computer or operating system.   I don't think that FTM 2014 will make a better GEDCOM that FTM 2012, but there may be other opinions.

9)  Sandra Mitsler asked:  "Is still going to exist? I actually use the web-based Ancestry because I like the way it functions better than the software.  I do use the PC-based Ancestry to sync, of course, and for reports, even though I haven't done that for a while since I can't find a report I actually like.  OR, am I going t need to switch to another ancestry web site? Thank you..."

My response:  My guess is that will continue to exist for years if not decades with all of the current services and perhaps more.  It's almost too big to fail at this point, and is still profitable. 

That's enough for now - it's my nap time.  I will probably write several more of these notes trying to answer reader questions.

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Louis Kessler said...


My guess is that will continue to exist until either they no longer are profitable and go bankrupt, or until some bigger fish buys them out.


Enno Borgsteede said...


In one of their blogs, Ancestry mentioned that they would make attached media (pictures, sources) available for download. They didn't say when or how, and until then, anyone can use the free FTM World Edition to download images. There is one hurdle there: This free edition only exists in German and Swedish, so you need to understand enough of either language to download and operate the software.


T said...

"My response: My guess is that will continue to exist for years if not decades with all of the current services and perhaps more. "

I disagree. They will add and drop anything depending on their bottom line. They are very interested in "health" info for resale. Ditto DNA info for resale. They'll go wherever the most money is. IF, and it's a BIG IF, If they will allow another company to interact with their trees, it will be like all their partnerships. Available until the lease is up and then not available. It will NOT be permanent. That option will go to the highest bidder.

Keith Riggle said...

I should clarify what I said about certain fields in Family Tree Maker. While there are no GEDCOM tags for Arrival, etc., FTM does export them in a way that most other apps should be able to read using either the EVENt tag or a custom tag. However, there are other fields besides Also Known As that are not exported properly. If you're interested in the details of this, I've begun a series of articles at on getting your data out of FTM and choosing a replacement..

Jan Murphy said...

I purchased FTM2014 after the announcement in order to use TreeSync while it is still available. It hasn't arrived, so I haven't been able to test and confirm this, but from reading the questions in Ancestry's support center, my understanding is that if you have a source which is a multi-page document attached to your tree, only the first page is downloaded to FTM when you do a TreeSync.

Notice what happens when you have a two-page document and want to attach it to your tree. Generally the first page attaches to the tree because it is indexed for your person. Depending on what record it is, the following page often has the beginning of someone else's record, so it will be indexed for that person instead. Or you might get a message saying you can't attach a page to your tree because it isn't indexed. If it won't attach to your tree online in the usual way, it makes sense that TreeSync won't be able to fetch it either. So be prepared to go in and get those extra pages manually.

I don't know what will happen to the pages which have been attached by means of Web Links -- I'll find out once the software arrives, and I get a chance to install it.

The other big question I have is whether TreeSync or the online GEDCOM export ignores comments. If TreeSync doesn't pull the comments down, those too will have to be captured by hand.

RHolmes said...

Randy, I think this whole mess about FTM and the "new" Ancestry gives us the opportunity to re-address an old question - - what will we do to preserve our research for future generations. For me, I am probably similar to many others - my family is not interested at this point; FamilySearch doesn't work for me long term since older generations can't be merged and there is too much risk of change; isn't the answer primarily because Notes don't show up (and for other reasons); and there's just too much to print. My naive solution had been to say (when the time comes) "here's my computer, look at FTM". That won't work any more (and probably wouldn't have anyway). I went back to review some of your posts from last year on this subject, and I am frustrated with trying to come up with the right answer. Since the recent developments put some things in a new light, I would like to ask if you would revisit the subject to see if there are new ideas out there. Love your blog and read it religiously.