Family Tree Maker’s New Life and RootsMagic Partnership with Ancestry

My last RootsTech 2016-related post is about announcements made by Ancestry and RootsMagic. Both caught everyone pretty much by surprise. Software MacKiev is the new owner of Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic is partnering with Ancestry to allow some sort of access and sharing capabilities.

I view both of these announcements as positive developments because more choices are always a good thing. I am a long-time (since Broderbund days) user of Family Tree Maker, but I began to migrate away from it in 2014. RootsMagic was the first alternative which I tried out and I like it. Having said that, I am also still seriously looking at other programs – two, to be exact, that remain on my short list of potential replacements for FTM.

When the Expo Hall opened on Thursday morning, I made a beeline for the Software MacKiev booth because I had a very specific question that I wanted answered. Ancestry did not use the word “sync” anywhere in its news release. Kendall Hulett’s article said, “You will have continued access to Ancestry Hints, Ancestry searches, and be able to save your tree on Ancestry” with Family Tree Maker.

In the RootsMagic part of the announcement, the exact wording is “With this new relationship, RootsMagic can serve as your desktop family tree software, while having access to Ancestry hints, Ancestry searches, and the ability to save your tree on Ancestry.”

Almost the exact same wording. RootsMagic’s same-day (2 Feb 2016) announcement actually included the word “sync.”

The representative for Software MacKiev answered my question – Will Family Tree Maker continue to sync with Ancestry in the way that we know it? The answer was a nebulous statement about syncing in the way it has been would be going away and a new format would be developed.

My view about this situation is two-fold. First, we will have to wait and see what happens to the syncing process. Based on Ancestry’s wording, I tend to think users will be able to continue to share to an Ancestry tree, but there won’t be a full sync option as we know it today.

In spite of RootsMagic actually saying it will “sync” with Ancestry, it appears to me that both programs will offer the same capability in terms of “access to Ancestry Hints, Ancestry searches, and be able to save your tree on Ancestry (Ancestry’s words.)”

Second, I am much more concerned about the reaction of many to this announcement, based on comments that have been posted in various online groups to which I belong. There has been a small group of kickers and screamers who didn’t want to have to learn a new program. Their reaction has been that all is now well again.

Wrong response, in my opinion. This whole situation with the demise and rebirth of Family Tree Maker is a clear demonstration of the speed with which changes arrive in the technological world.

I stand by my blog post on 9 December 2015 to implement a plan now.

One or more companies, including the one that sells your favorite genealogy software program, could easily announce tomorrow that they are dropping your product or going out of business. Right now, I am thinking with the ease of creating GEDCOMS, my new software choice might well be the use of two programs, based on features that each offers, and it is very possible that neither of them will be Family Tree Maker.

I would continue to urge everyone to NOT maintain a single online family tree, but to keep control of your work AND the future of your family tree through the use of a genealogy software program. Sharing a tree online is great cousin bait, but that should never be your ONLY tree.

Be an informed consumer. Stay on top of the press releases and DON’T read anything into a message that isn’t explicitly stated, particularly when two or more companies are involved. If the exact wording doesn’t match (e.g. the recent use of the word sync), take a wait and see attitude.

Lastly, change will come whether we are prepared for it or not. It’s a lot easier to adjust when we have a plan.


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