Posted in Conferences and workshops, Institutes, Software, Technology

A Firsthand Look at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG): Day 1 – Tech Day

SLIG 2018 logo

Curious about what it’s like to attend a genealogy institute?  Follow along as I share observations and experiences during my week at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I touched down in Salt Lake City International Airport two days ago and have already begun my adventure.

Genealogy institutes are different than other kinds of genealogy conferences.  See why in my previous post 4 Genealogy Institutes You Should Know About.  SLIG is a 5-day institute preceded by a welcome reception tonight, and this year they added a SLIG Tech Day which I attended all day yesterday.  I am enrolled in the course titled, “Advanced Genealogical Methods” taught by Dr. Thomas W. Jones and am pretty excited about it! It should be a pretty intense week, and I figure by Friday night’s closing banquet my head should be spinning and my feet dragging.  But hey, that’s what chocolate is for and I intend to take heavy doses.

At yesterday’s Tech Day I signed up for three workshops: Evernote for Genealogists (by Gena Philibert Ortega, AG®), Using Google’s My Maps as a Research and Analysis Tool (by Cari Taplin, CG®), and PowerPoint Tips and Tricks – Not Just for Speakers (by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG®, CGL).  All were excellent and I came away with good ideas which will help me in my own research, as well as in the classes I present.  All three of my workshops were held in the Hilton’s seminar theater, which is well-suited for larger classes.  The desktops all had power outlets, which was great because we all had laptops and many of us also had tablets.

Here are the gear and apps I am packing for this week:

  1. Lenovo Thinkpad with a 13-hour battery, plus a 5-hour spare.  You never know what the power outlet situation will be in a classroom full of laptop-users and it’s best to not have to worry about it! Same goes for researching at the Family History Library or other repositories.
  2. iPad Pro with 10.5 inch screen
  3. iPhone 7
  4. Apple Pencil for note-taking and annotating records
  5. I use Evernote extensively to organize my research trips, research sessions, and life in general.  I use the Penultimate app which is integrated with Evernote to take handwritten notes using my Apple Pencil.  Each page of notes is automatically saved to Evernote, making my life easier.  I have Evernote on my iPad, iPhone, and laptop, and the content I add is synced across all three platforms, as well as my online account.
  6. Scannable app.  There are a number of scanner apps out there which are good.  I’ve been using Scannable because it is integrated with Evernote and automatically saves my scans to the Evernote notebook I choose.  I have it on both my tablet and phone.
  7. I upload PDFs and syllabus material provided by instructors, reference books, and blank pedigree charts and family group charts to the iBooks app that came with my iPad.  This allows me to highlight and make notes on the the pages using my Apple Pencil.  I also like having blank pedigree and family group forms to organize my thoughts as I research.  I can easily erase the names and dates and re-use the charts.
  8. RavPower power pack (21,000mh) to charge my iPhone and iPad. It can simultaneously charge both multiple times according to what I’ve read, but I haven’t used it yet to test it out.  I hope it’s true!  Again, you never know what the power outlet situation will be in a classroom, but I also like having it as I travel to use in airports and on the plane, so I can work or watch movies.

So how did my tech gear do on Tech Day?  I felt like it was pretty functional.  I was able to use my laptop to practice what was being taught about Evernote, Google My Maps, and PowerPoint, and at the same time was able to take handwritten notes using the iPad and Apple pencil.  Things could get dicier when I have to use my iPad to annotate the syllabus material while also trying to take handwritten notes, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

After my Tech Day classes I was able to hit a nearby grocery store and stock up on snacks to get me through the week, and a few meals to see me through the weekend. Time to cram for tomorrow’s classes!


Posted in Software

Ancestry Announces Family Tree Maker Solution


Here’s today’s announcement from–sure to make all the Family Tree Maker users out there happy:

Software MacKiev

Software MacKiev, with whom we have a long-standing relationship, is acquiring the Family Tree Maker software line as publisher for both Mac and Windows versions. Software MacKiev has been the developer of Family Tree Maker for Mac for more than six years and is thrilled at the opportunity to publish future versions of Family Tree Maker for Mac and Windows.

This new agreement means you will receive software updates and new versions from Software MacKiev, and have the ability to purchase new versions of Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev as they are released. You will have continued access to Ancestry Hints, Ancestry searches, and be able to save your tree on Ancestry with Family Tree Maker moving forward.


We have made an agreement with RootsMagic, a leading genealogy desktop software program publisher, to connect Ancestry with the RootsMagic software by the end of 2016. 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.

We have heard your concerns and are working to provide the solutions you requested. These new agreements will make it possible to preserve your work on Ancestry and Family Tree Maker and enable future features and benefits to help you discover your family history. Be assured that Ancestry, in cooperation with Software MacKiev and RootsMagic, will continue to support you as you discover your family history.

We ask for your patience as we work diligently through all the details to make these solutions available. You can find additional details about these Family Tree Maker partnerships on our blog. We also encourage you to continue to check back on our blog for future updates in the coming months.”

Posted in Software

Life After Family Tree Maker

CaptureOn 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.

Overall considerations:

  • 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 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 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:

Posted in Software, Websites

Desktop Genealogy Program or Online Family Tree?

Have you wondered whether you should bother to use a desktop genealogy program now that online family trees are popular and feature-filled?  Folks ask me this all the time.

Donald Duck Family Tree
Donald Duck Family Tree

In today’s edition of the RootsMagic News (RootsMagic is a popular desktop program) an article by Renee Zamora appeared which discusses this and sums up the reasons why both are useful for genealogists.  She gave her permission to reprint the article in the RootsMagic News, and provided a PDF version that is shareable.  I liked it enough to share here.   Check it out for yourself.

For the question of which desktop genealogy program is best, I always tell folks to download the trial version of programs they are interested in.  Most of the major programs, such as RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, and Family Tree Maker, have a free trial or basic version.  The best program will be the one that feels most intuitive to you.

Simpsons Family Tree
Simpsons Family Tree

They all are powerful and are likely to have everything you could hope for, but it comes down to which one you will actually feel comfortable using.  It doesn’t matter how robust a program is if you are overwhelmed or confused by it.  So give them all a test-drive like I did, and settle on the one that feels best.  I happen to use Legacy Family Tree because it suits the way I research and organize myself, but you may prefer one of the other excellent choices.