On December 8, 2015 Ancestry announced it would no longer sell Family Tree Maker desktop genealogy software as of December 31, 2015, and would support current owners only until January 1, 2017. This caused an outcry among FTM users, who are all wondering what to do next. This has also raised questions among genealogy software users, in general, regarding the pros and cons of genealogy software and online trees. Here are some of the issues FTM and genealogy software users are facing, along with possible options going forward:
First, there is no need for FTM users to panic or take action immediately. FTM will continue to be fully functional and supported until January 1, 2017, provided your computer operating system does not have any drastic updates that conflict with it. You have eleven months to consider your options, although other makers of genealogy software are currently offering special deals for FTM users.
FTM issues as of January 2017:
- FTM will not sync with an online Ancestry Tree.
- FTM will continue to work, but only as long as your operating system upgrades do not outgrow it.
- The product will not be supported. No customer service, upgrades, or fixes.
- GEDCOM is the language used by genealogy programs that enables data to be shared between them. A GEDCOM file created in one program can be imported into another program.
- Exporting files from one genealogy software program to another via GEDCOM will result in the loss of some data, depending on the programs.
- Some programs will import files from certain other programs directly, without the need for a GEDCOM.
- If you keep your files only on Ancestry or any other subscription site, you will not have access to it if you cancel your subscription or do not have internet access.
- Media files will not download from Ancestry or other online trees if you export a tree via GEDCOM. Media files must be saved to your hard drive and then added to your desktop program individually.
- Software companies that do not also have online database services are going to be committed to the success of their desktop software. This is no guarantee they will be around forever, but is something to consider.
- Maintaining your family tree in a desktop (not online) genealogy software program allows you to have control over the content, and provides you with far more features for research, recording and reporting.
The options for FTM users:
- Export FTM data into another desktop software
- Most companies have free versions, and some of the free versions are quite full-featured. Download several products and import your tree into each one to see which one works best for you
- Read “Replacing Family Tree Maker, Part 1: How to Scrub Your Data” found on Genealogytools.com. Also see instructions on that blog for moving FTM files to specific software products. The link is below.
- Many companies are offering special deals to FTM users right now
- There are some that will already sync with FamilySearch Family Tree and MyHeritage, and Ancestry is exploring possible relationships with other companies for syncing
- Other software will continue to be supported as long as their companies are in business
- You will continue to have control over the content in your tree
- Keep your tree on your desktop in FTM and use it as long as you can.
- If you have created an extensive tree on Ancestry.com but do not have FTM, buy it before December 31, 2015 and synch your online tree to your desktop, including all media files.
- Manually add content from Ancestry to your tree (no syncing) after January 1, 2015.
- It will likely be usable until you upgrade your operating system, and before doing that you can then import it to another software program
Popular desktop genealogy software:
- Rootsmagic – Windows and Macintosh. Imports FTM directly.
- Legacy Family Tree – Windows, but reportedly works well with Macintosh.
- Family Tree Builder – By MyHeritage. Windows and Macintosh
- Ancestral Quest – Windows and Macintosh
- Reunion – Macintosh
- Mac Family Tree – Macintosh
- Gramps – Linux and Windows
For reviews of genealogy software and discussions on the retirement of FTM see: