Demise of Family Tree Maker – Implement a Plan Now

As most know by now, Ancestry rather suddenly and abruptly announced the end of Family Tree Maker, its “#1 Selling Genealogy Software Product,” as of 31 December 2015. It will continue to support the program until 1 January 2017 so genealogists have a year to implement a plan to switch over to another program.

Like many, I am a Family Tree Maker user and was quite surprised that the sale of the program will end in just three weeks. That was probably my biggest surprise. However, I have been more and more disenchanted with Family Tree Maker since Ancestry had its DDos attack in June 2014. From that time onwards, the program seemed to become more and more quirky even when I took it offlline and it was then that I began looking for a stand-alone program that would have no interference in the event of another outside attack.

There are several options out there with RootsMagic, Legacy and perhaps Heredis being among the best known. Heredis is more widely used in Europe, but it is similar to other genealogy software.

How much of a nuisance is it to switch over? I am in the midst of migrating to RootsMagic, but am also dabbling with Legacy and Heredis. Let’s face it, using genealogy software isn’t exactly rocket science and I’m certainly not the most tech-oriented person out there. There is a learning curve, but it’s not difficult. Many local libraries and genealogy/historical societies also have user groups so it isn’t difficult to find support if there is something you can’t figure out.

The important part of this message is to


Just think of it as an unexpected 2016 New Year’s resolution.

My first suggestion isn’t directly related to the end of Family Tree Maker, but instead for those who only have online trees. First – and I’ve told this to many people – I have no clue why anyone would build a family tree online with no software on their own computer. If you only have a tree online, you are at the mercy of the company that owns the website.

Here is the first really important step that website-only tree owners need to do. Did you know that if and when you create a GEDCOM to export your tree to a software program or another site that, in the case of Ancestry, none of the images that you attached directly to that tree will be exported? That means if you used the handy little prompt “attach to your tree,” those images will remain on Ancestry.

Furthermore, if you choose to end your subscription to Ancestry, you will have guest rights to your own tree. That means that you will be able to add to the tree and view all the people and facts, but the images will NOT be viewable.

Step 1 should be to immediately begin right clicking on each image to save it to your own computer. Rename the image and set up folders on your computer, using surnames or some other system of your choosing, to save those images.

The other reason to save the images yourself is that if Ancestry or any other subscription site ends their contract or loses the rights to a particular database and you have only attached those images to your tree, when the database access ends, so will your ability to view the image UNLESS you have saved it on your computer.

Occasionally, I find that there is no ability to save an image. In that case, use a web clipper such as Irfanview (free, downloadable and used by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City) to clip the image and save it that way.

If you have lots of images attached online, but not saved, begin now and you will be avoiding a disaster somewhere down the line if you drop your subscription or a website goes belly up.

Step 2 is for those who are current Family Tree Maker users. First, refer to Step 1 because everyone should be doing that anyway. Next, although the sale of Family Tree Maker ends in three weeks, that doesn’t mean the program will stop working on 1 January.  What it does mean is that the main draw of FTM – its ability to sync with Ancestry – will likely end some time inthe fairly near future since it won’t be supported after 1 January 2017. To me, that is a signal to begin looking at other programs. I know there are PAF and TMG users who have never switched to new software when support for those ended. Think about what works best for you.

Step 3 is checking out other options if you decide that a new program is in the cards for you. The benefit of doing this now is that there are great sales being offered both for the holidays and by companies taking advantage of the sudden mass of FTM users who just became instant shoppers.

I am not recommending one program over the others, but options include Heredis, Legacy and RootsMagic in ABC order. There are a few more lesser known programs that include Mac versions, but I don’t know much about those. The three named above are available in both PC and Mac versions. There are also some free, limited use versions of these programs so you can try them out before buying them, but sales right now mean that even if you bought a full program that you didn’t end up using, you won’t have a huge amount of money invested in the product.

GEDCOMs are the most efficient way to export your trees from FTM and import them into your new program. I have already done this, but am also considering building a new tree from scratch. I have 15,000 people and 10,000+ images in my trees, so that is no small task.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to panic. The genealogy world will not disappear and your brain will create all kinds of new synapses to keep it young and healthy.

Use this as a learning opportunity to keep control of your research and your work, but start now!





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