Family Tree Maker and Ancestry

iPad screenLike 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?

Barbara Elsmore

20 February 2016

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15 Responses to Family Tree Maker and Ancestry

  1. Pingback: Recent Update to Family Tree Maker  | Somerset & Dorset Family History Society

  2. Robin Ansell says:

    Dear Barbara, Many thanks for your most illuminating and thought-provoking blog post. As you well-know, I am a great advocate of the iPad, having it permanently running in “voice-over” mode due to my visual disability. Like you, I have had a long-standing and mostly trouble-free relationship with FTM on my desk-top PC. Though I am running version 5 .0 (pre-Stone Age – it has never heard of photographs!) it can still churn-out those wonderful reports that you mention. However, with the impending parting-of-the-ways between FTM and Ancestry, as described by you, The exciting prospect of running FTM on my “voice-over”-activated iPad is now probably dead-in-the-water!

    Robin Ansell

    From Robin Ansell. Dictated to my iPad- so please forgive any typos!


    • onlineatdt9 says:

      Hello Robin – l will keep in touch with you and let you know what I come up with – we must find a way for you to achieve your ambition as I feel positive there will be one out there somewhere soon.

  3. Prevaricat says:

    With my main family of interest having been hatched, matched and despatched in Dorset, although having expanded to London and elsewhere I personally find Ancestry to be outstanding for their comprehensive record collections – for those areas. Unlike most people I do not have any recent connections other than in the UK and so have UK subscription only.

    I do have a tree on Ancestry but it is private and I may well delete it at some point – I use the iPad app so that I still receive ‘hints’ (although I rarely find time to look at them!). All of my various Ridout lines (and other family trees) are, and have been for several years, on my desktop copy of Family Historian V. I keep backups of GEDcoms and media on an external hard drive and on a memory stick, as well as to the cloud (I use Dropbox, which syncs between my PC and iPad).

    I wouldn’t dream of relying on the nebulous nature of online storage alone and certainly not on a tree connected with a commercial site, who could delete on a whim or,by error. But then I am a VERY cautious person when it comes to my ‘life work’, which is why I also put a lot of it in a book and printed it out 😀

    • Thank you for your helpful comments – I may well contact you for some further in depth observations in due course if I may.

      • Geoff Dimmick says:

        You are welcome Barbara. Any way that I can help. I am going to stick with my version of FTM (with all its faults) for the time being as I have complete control of it, although I may cancel my subscription to Ancestry.



      • Prevaricat says:

        Barbara… I don’t know about ‘in depth’ but it would be lovely to have another genealogical chat over coffee 🙂

  4. Geoff Dimmick says:

    I have been using Ancestry for getting on for 15 years now. I originally bought a membership and also a CD with family tree maker on it. I initially loaded it on my tower (now defunct) that was running XP I believe, then onto a laptop with Vista and now onto W7. Every time I open it, it comes up with “this program has compatibility problems” and do I want to find a solution or continue…I always continue. I have never uploaded my tree to Ancestry and do all the work and storage on my PC. All the files are stored there and on a backup computer and also a separate hard drive. I wouldn’t trust Ancestry with my data as not only could you lose it but you also lose copyright to your research.
    Like others here I am disappointed with Ancestry support. I requested simple changes like being able to use different fonts and colours in order to be able to hi-light “questionable” data but they flatly refused. If I could find the equivalent but more modern program that would run on my computer without storing my data “up in the sky” and could use my FTM data files I would convert.

    • Thank you for your comments Geoff – I plan to investigate any possible alternatives and report back again through the blog. I have just heard back from S&N genealogy supplies that their new programme TreeView does produce the very useful descendent reports that can be turned into a PDF and they are offering a three month free trail which, although not entirely comfortable with making such a big change I will have to bite the bullet and give it a go!

  5. billesley says:

    I used another program since the early 90’s but moved it all to FTM & Ancestry because of the ease in adding finds/people to my family tree. This was even more important after using AncestryDNA. It appears they want us to keep all our information in the Ancestry Cloud not on our own computers.

    Mike Fisher, Droitwich, England

  6. Karen Boxall says:

    Hi Barbara Elsmore

    I have read your post to the end and was interested in the information within it. I understand where your coming from, but unlike you when I first started researching and putting my family tree together I didn’t pay for the Family Tree Maker software in 2005 I paid for a monthly subscription as at first I thought it was only going to be a hobby not lasting long, how wrong was I since then I have daily been researching and trying hard to find more on my family feel it took over my life in the early years now I’m more in control of the time I spend on it. Also, I am a member of Findmypast and Ancestry since 2005, and have a large family tree on Ancestry, I have compiled the information, various records downloaded from Findmypast and uploaded to Ancestry and connected up with various members with the same ancestor and their relevant documents and information working forwards to gain new relatives descended from these same ancestors. I also have a gedcom uploaded from Ancestry to Rootsweb where I am able to get a descendancy but have yet to print one off but Rootsweb is still connected to Ancestry.

    Well recently I read somewhere that Ancestry were redesigning their tree that I monthly subscribe to which made me think about uploading my tree to Findmypast as I was finding plenty of relevant family records and images on FMP that I couldn’t find on Ancestry and around the same time I read about other Ancestry members mentioning about Family Tree Maker software they could buy like you and compile their tree on this wasn’t going to be supported by Ancestry anymore. So like you I was in a dilema where to put my tree and store it securely separately.

    So I was interested to read your post, like you I am keen to compile my Family Tree separately from Ancestry and also Findmypast, in case anything goes wrong and their systems crash and I lose any information. I have manually compiled and documented various files on several family lines on a manual system at home in various ring binders, but am now looking for a more permanent secure home to transfer it all to and add to it. You mentioned TreeView I hope this is a good way forward its the first time I have heard of this software, and hopefully reports can be printed off. It will be interesting to hear from other family historians that have used the TreeView software already and are experienced using it, for their input. I am keen to find out more about the TreeView Software package, to see if it will help me as well and appreciate your post very much.

    • onlineatdt9 says:

      Hi Karen – thank you for your comments. I am no expert in these matters but it seems that you are one of very many people who have built their computerised tree on line and had your own personal system of record keeping and perhaps not had a desktop program of your own as well. There are alternative desktop programs to FTM but there is no guarantee that they will stay that way forever so we have to make a careful choice if we want to download a tree onto our home computers. The reason I have decided to investigate TreeView is because it has been in development for sometime and has only just been launched and it also has an app to use on tablet computers – my interest stems from the fact it is new so I hope they will be around for sometime to come. All this may not be necessary as the new company taking over FTM may well be its saviour and Ancestry is also in discussion with RootsMagic so as far as many of us are concerned I think it is a watch and wait situation at the moment with perhaps an investigation on the side for a viable program to act as a backup and make some of us less beholden to Ancestry should we choose to be.

  7. onlineatdt9 says:

    I agree Fay – I think there will be a mass walkout once we have all found an alternative.

  8. Fay Marsh says:

    You have described perfectly my experiences with FTM Barbara. I am extremely disappointed with Ancestrys’ proposed changes, and have told them so via their blog and web sites, as have many others. I think they have thumbed their noses at all us users of their product and I feel very let down! If the change goes ahead Ancestry won’t get another penny out of me. I will use the coming year to make a careful decision about my next step. From what I have read it seems they have been experiencing long term issues with the FTM product, and they do not want to “waste” any more time and money on it. From my point of view it seemed to work fine and I found it easy to use and it kept my work in an easy to understand format. I believe there will be a mass exodus from Ancestry in 12 months time, and it serves them right!

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