Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series

I received an email with the news that Ancestry was retiring Family Tree Maker Software in three short weeks ( by December 31, 2015).  You can read a version of this announcement by Kendall Hulet at the Ancestry blog  http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/12/08/ancestry-to-retire-family-tree-maker-software/?o_iid=9972&o_lid=9972&o_sch

My thoughts:

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s I was a pioneer in educational computing and technology.  I was going to college in Cambridge, Massachusetts near many start educational technology companies, teaching teachers how to use software in the classroom and experimenting with lots of new technology.  One of these companies was Brøderbund Software.  They produced Family Tree Maker and lots of CDs for genealogy research. (As well as lots of other classroom software you might remember if you were in school in the 1980s- remember Carmen Sandiego? Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? Reader Rabbit?)

Ever since then I’ve been a Family Tree Maker User.  Even after FTM was purchased by Ancestry.  Even through all the good and bad revisions, poor patches and wonderful updates.  I’ve used it at home, in classrooms, in lectures and shown hundreds of people how to use it for their own research.  Even after online trees became popular I maintained a very large personal file, and dozens of other trees on my own desktop that DO NOT SYNC with my private and public online trees.

These genealogy trees that reside on my hard drive and my own storage media are large trees for other people and for lineage societies.  They are not mine to share, or they are my own research with lots of media and source material that I like to keep separate.  I use them for printing reports that I can only do with the FTM software, and for sharing privately.   There are no apps or online services that can duplicate this.

However, there is probably a piece of software out there that can replace FTM for me.  This is part 1 of an ongoing series that will document my search for this new software, and also document how I move all my trees, media and sources to that new software for my desktop.

It’s nice to have an app for when I am on the road, or a tree to pull up on the internet, but right now I have not found an online service that can do what I need to do at home.  Or is there?  Part of this series will also document the reports, charts and forms that I use the most, and what software or apps can replace what I do with FTM.  Will I need multiple platforms to pull this off?  Or is there one easy package out there for me?  And how easy will it be to migrate my files to this new form?

Lots of questions!  Lots of problems!  Lots of ideas to rethink!  I have until January 1, 2017 when Ancestry will cease supporting current users of Family Tree Maker.  Dear Santa Claus, please buy me Legacy and/or RootsMagic this year so I can experiment! 

Now is my chance to review what I do, what I need, and what I can find out there for help.  I’ve been doing genealogy research since the 1970s and I know I can do this even without my computer.  No software is permanent.  No website is permanent. I’ve seen online databases come and go.  I’ve learned to be agile and flexible in my thinking, through lots of changes in hardware, software, browsers, operating systems and storage options.  I still freak out at the changes, but I’ve haven’t crashed and burned (yet).

Boy, I wish I was going to RootsTech 2016…


Some new things I investigated tonight (you might find these useful, too!) :

Amy Johnson Crow’s Periscope video of “Let’s discuss Ancestry Retiring Family Tree Maker”  https://www.periscope.tv/AmyJohnsonCrow/1ypKdVdQRAgJW

2016 Best Genealogy Software Review (reviews and comparisons of the top 10 genealogy software packages, including Family Tree Maker)  http://genealogy-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

Randy Seaver’s first thoughts on the announcement at his blog “Genea-Musings”  http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/12/ancestrycom-announces-retirement-of.html

Tune into Dear Myrtle today for “Wacky Wednesday: Is there life beyond Family Tree Maker?” https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DearmyrtlePage/posts/fHK2H3MFV6z   or at the Dear Myrtle blog http://blog.dearmyrtle.com/2015/12/wacky-wednesday-is-there-life-beyond.html

RootsMagic Blog “Family Tree Maker Users have a new home at RootsMagic: Upgrade offer with Free Book and Magic Guides”  http://blog.rootsmagic.com/?p=2546

And from Lisa Louise Cooke "What Ancestry's Retirement of Family Tree Maker software means for you"

Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series", Nutfield Genealogy, posted December 8, 2015 ( http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2015/12/plan-ahead-for-research-without-family.html: accessed [access date]). 


  1. Bless you! I have been spinning since I found out...about a half hour ago...yeah I'm late to the announcement! Oh boy oh boy! Thank you so much for the info so far! I look forward to following your journey! :)

  2. Thanks! I heard the news about three hours ago and it made me sick. I have been using ancestry.com for 20+ years and the reason I went to it was FTM software.

  3. Thanks Heather, you are an anchor when we are all whipping in the wind. I've been using FTM since it first came out and use it the way you do. It's private research, for the most part, and I don't really want it mixed up with Ancestry's on-line trees. I didn't teach people how to use it, but I did teach other applications for business, like Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3 etc. We have parallel histories, lol. I've flirted with the free Legacy and found it user friendly. Not sure it has all the bells and whistles I need though. Thank you for doing this for so many of us.

  4. Heather, I love your idea of documenting your search to find another genealogy software package. I had already thought about doing the same thing and will carve out some time to begin blogging my journey.