Like many family historians I wanted a computer program where I could keep all the information I was finding out about my family. When a friend emailed me a report she had produced I realised I wanted to be able do the same and so I turned to Family Tree Maker, paid for the ‘package’ and loaded it onto my home computer. I loved it from the start. A lot of my information had been gleaned by my cousin and she would send me bits of paper with hand written notes on them or copies of censuses and I would transcribe everything to somewhere in FTM. I loved the facility to add notes and sometimes I would copy and paste transcribed letters or anecdotal information – anything at all relevant to the particular member of my family and when I printed a Descendant Report it was all there printed out in full. I could also convert reports into a PDF and email them back to my cousin.
I also loved finding out how to put a little photo for each person, as far as I could, as I really felt this brought the person back to life for me. I was delighted when I tracked down photographs for seven of my eight great grandparents which enabled me to print a very satisfactory Pedigree Chart. I could also prepare these for the next generations down from me and email them off where they might kindle an interest – oh the power of a handy little chart with photos to ignite a spark! FTM was always ‘attached’ to Ancestry but this meant nothing to me as with FTM on my home computer I was able to keep information in the way that I wanted to and where I wanted to and that suited me just fine. Then we fast forward ten years and I now have an iPad which I also have really taken to and it uses ‘apps’ and, huge advance here, I can now carry my family tree around with me or sit on my sofa searching through records on Ancestry and building family trees at the drop of a hat. I was thrilled that the tree I had built up so painstakingly over the years could now be viewed on a lovely little screen that I held in my hand instead of sitting at a desk at a computer (the photo of the display on the iPad at the top of this article will give you an indication of just why I became so easily ‘hooked in’). Anything I added on my desktop version would automatically ‘sync’ to the iPad and vice versa.
I noticed that more and more of our visitors from Australia, Canada or the US coming to the SDFHS Family History Centre in Sherborne were bringing their family trees with them and I shared the joy of this new and exciting experience with them. I was so keen to share in the fun that I arranged to give a presentation at the Family History Centre. Then came the first bombshell as Ancestry announced it will no longer support FTM and therefore the wonderful sync system from computer to iPad and back would discontinue in a year’s time. I also got the bill for my next year’s subscription to Ancestry a ‘special offer’ of £179 for the year. This amount of money to shell out was quite a serious undertaking considering the many years enjoyment I had had for such a low initial outlay but I weighed it up and decided to go with it as no fee, no iPad app. I was also reading that lots of things that we have used on our computers were now being ‘sent up into the cloud’ where we would have to pay to keep them there and use them and that the world of family history was no different so it was a case of pay up or shut up – hmmm this did not feel good. In addition I noticed that the other big player Findmypast was taking all sorts of strides ahead, having old newspapers available, releasing the 1939 register and constantly informing us of its latest offers but I could not justify two subscriptions and I couldn’t jump ship to Findmypast as they did not have the tree making app. I have started to follow Eastman’s Online Newsletter as the writer, Dick Eastman, has been reporting on developments in this area and he points out that Ancestry has not launched any new record collections recently, unlike their competitor Findmypast, and that they seem to be moving towards getting us to build our family trees with them on line and keep them there. This has been something I had always avoided until the app came along. He has also suggested we do not keep all our eggs in one basket and get another system going as well for storing our valuable family trees – a daunting prospect for me and many others I am sure – plus we are informed that another company, Software MacKiev, have now taken over FTM.
What does this conflicting advice tell us about the safety of our hard won family tree? Should we trust that everything will be alright or should we try another system altogether? I originally bought FTM through a British Supplier S&N Genealogy Supplies of Chilmark, Salisbury and Dick Eastman tells us they have brought out TreeView, a program held on a computer and linked to The Genealogist, that can be synced to an iPad – so far so good. Does it have the ability to still print out the written reports that I and many others really like? I will have to find out. At the moment I am very seriously considering going over to TreeView where I can continue to control my own tree from my own computer with the added bonus of it being portable via the iPad rather than continue with Ancestry where they want me only to build my tree with them on line and keep it there forever at ever increasing subscription rates.
What do other users of Family Tree Maker think of all this I wonder?
20 February 2016