Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker

Yesterday, like many of you have received the shocking news that Ancestry is retiring the Family Tree Maker Software program. For the few who haven’t seen the news here is the link to the blog page;

Most of the posts on that blog page are just as upset as me; however a few people don’t understand why we are so upset. So I am going to try to explain what I am feeling. Image your spouse saying out of the blue “I want a divorce”. It’s like what? Am I hearing this correct? I didn’t think there was any problem, why are you leaving me. Okay, you are correct a spouse saying out of the blue they want a divorce is worst, but you understand how it takes you by surprise.

So let me backtrack and tell you a little about my genealogy history. In junior high (middle school) I was introduced to a genealogy assignment and it was very interesting and sparked my curiosity. I graduated in 1981 and then personal computers started hitting the market. By 1986, I knew nothing about computers and decided to go back to school and get my computer degree, in spite of having two small children at home.  I purchased my first computer in 1987. When taking a BASIC programming computer class, I started thinking how computers would make doing my genealogy so much easier. I hated my handwriting and having to record the piece of information on so many forms seemed redundant to me.  Mind you, I totally understand why I had to record that information so many times, but each time I record something was another chance for me to record it incorrectly. So my search started for the ideal genealogy software package.

Windows hadn’t quite come on the scene yet and the first program I used was not very user friendly. I didn’t know anything about GEDCOM’s and not even sure if it was around quite yet. Anyway, when I decided that first program was not going to hack it, I found out I could not export the information into a new program. I had to start over with my 300 plus names.

I had seen Family Tree Maker was starting to make an appearance. It was a very costly program, and I wanted to be absolutely sure this was something I really wanted. I remembering biting the bullet and purchasing the software package and I can’t even remember what version but I remember using version 3 at some point.

About this time, the internet was starting to come on the scene. I still wasn’t sure if FTM was what I really wanted and some other programs allowed you to download evaluation versions of the software however I kept with FTM. As my skills increased, so did FTM capabilities. I don’t remember if FTM allowed you to record your sources in those early versions but I started realizing I needed to record my sources around 1997. However, copying the same source was not an easy task. I end up using notepad to save the detail I wanted in my source and then copying and pasting the parts of the citation into where I thought they should go. Then came my dream function, being able to copy the same source over and over again. I was in heaven.

About this time I had exhausted all my free options for getting leads from the internet and decided to join I saw I could import my tree to Ancestry and it would be there as “cousin bait”. However, I found that I wasn’t on top of keeping my tree current on Ancestry and then came another dream function, treesync. It was like FTM read my mind and knew exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want to update my tree on Ancestry’s side but on FTM’s side and with a press of a button, my tree changes went to Ancestry. Now my “cousin bait” was up to date. Before, I updated my tree once or twice a year (if I remembered). Now FTM told me when I needed to update. The programmer side of me loved the treesync logs that showed me all the changes I made to my tree. Now when a cousin asked if I made any new finds, I could quickly review my logs and answer the question.

But the real strength lies deep inside of the FTM software. I can do so much more with FTM than what was being offered by Ancestry Trees. If I want to run a report that shows me all the people buried in one town, I can run that report. If I want to create a custom field called FindAGrave and record the memorial number in that field I can do that too. If I want to run a report for all the people buried in that town that doesn’t have a FindAGrave memorial, I can do that too. From that report I can create a to-do-list that states to visit those cemeteries and take pictures and create FindAGrave memorials. Or as I am recording my citations, if I find I am missing a source, I can create a to-do-list item to get that source. I do this often for vital records, I create a to-do-list item for that person and write a little note such as “Obtain death certificate” and then tag the to-do-list item and place it into a category titled “whatever the county is”. I also create a to-do-list item with the county courthouse information, location, phone number, hours of operation, address and place it into the same county category. Now I run a to-do-list for that category and quickly have a list of vital records I need to look up at that county courthouse. When I get enough on that list, I make a road trip. Why? Because everything is not on-line.

So does Ancestry Tree offer all these options? To be honest I don’t know because I find moving around my tree on Ancestry is slow and cumbersome. Moving around my tree on FTM is quick and easy. 

If Ancestry is retiring FTM, how long before they change other things? When I first started on Ancestry, one could and still can create a tree for free. Will they still allow this in the future? In the past, with a free “guest” account you could look at other public trees, but not anymore. You must have a paid subscription to see public trees. Do you know that Ancestry never announced that changed. I thought if I made my tree public, then anyone could see it. NOPE, only those paid subscribers can see my tree. So much for “cousin bait”. I know a lot of people who aren’t as dedicated to genealogy or research as I am who only have a tree on Ancestry as a free “guest” account. They don’t understand my shock at the news of FTM being retired. But then again, they don’t totally understand how to do exhaustive genealogy research. They think if they don’t find it on-line then the record doesn’t exist.

I do know that even though Ancestry is retiring FTM and after 2017 our tree sync function will no longer work, but perhaps I will retire all my Trees on Ancestry by that time too. Why should Ancestry benefit financially from my tree by advertising how many trees are on their site that is part of their paid subscription? Yes, I know I might be punishing myself, but if my tree is going to be out of date, because now I have to go back and import my tree regularly, why bother.
I also know that since FTM is on my computer, I can keep using it. However, I am going to start exploring other options because I don’t want all my eggs in one basket.

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