Monday, December 14, 2015

A Genealogy Decision - Post 1 ... Family Tree Maker And What I Need to Know

Note: This article was originally posted at 7:40 p.m. ET on December 13, 2015.

Now that our last meetings of the year are done, we can turn to what is on the genealogy minds of most of our members: What Do I Need to Know about the Family Tree Maker Software Retirement?

First, let us review the facts: will stop selling Family Tree Maker 2014 software download (FTM 2014) on December 31, 2015. ( stopped selling the boxed CD version of the software earlier this year.) will continue to support FTM at least through January 1, 2017. In a follow-up blog post to the retirement announcement, said, "After January 1, 2017, features that require connectivity to Ancestry, such as TreeSync, uploading and downloading trees and media, and Web Search, may no longer be supported. Most Family Tree Maker features are designed to work offline, and should continue to function unless a change on your computer, such as an operating system update, causes the functionality to break." continued on to day, "You will continue to be able to access your data through the desktop software beyond Jan. 2, 2017, however over time there will be a gradual degradation of features. You can always export your tree and save it."
So what does this mean for me?

1. This means you have just 19 days to decide if you need the last version (FTM 2014) or not. (Note: stopped selling boxed CDs of the program months ago so this would be the digital download software.) The cost $69.99 but if you own a previous version then upgrade cost is $48.99 for the software download.

Why would you buy FTM 2014? Well, if you plan to use FTM for as long as possible (despite no customer support after Jan. 1, 2017) you will probably want the latest version which runs on Windows 10. Earlier FTM versions may not work on more recent operating systems.

Please note that if you have an older FTM version (2006 or 16 or earlier) you may have as many issues upgrading to FTM 2014 as you would changing software programs. As you research alternative software, keep an eye out for GEDCOM/import issues found when moving from earlier versions of FTM to a particular program.

If you currently have just an online tree at and you decide at some point you want to move your tree to your computer or elsewhere, FTM's TreeSync feature makes this easier. Without using the online Ancestry tree/FTM TreeSync capability, your only alternative is to create a GEDCOM from your online tree. Unfortunately a GEDCOM does NOT export/move your tree's attached images. These attached images would have to be manually downloaded one by one.

2. If you purchased Family Tree Maker 2014 (or any prior version of the software), make sure you know where your software CD or downloaded installation file is and do not misplace it. If you purchased it as a download (meaning no CD) make sure you have a copy of the installation file you downloaded saved to somewhere other than your computer's hard drive. This means burn it to a CD, store it on an external hard drive or a USB/flash drive. For either case (CD or download) this is a precaution in case you ever need to reinstall the program on your computer.

3. If your only genealogy tree is currently online and you are fine with that, then your genealogy decision is a lot lighter. We do strongly suggest that you have a backup plan of some sort ... just in case.

4. If you like having your family tree in a genealogy database software program on your computer under your own personal control (regardless of whether you have a version of it online somewhere or not), you more than likely will need to eventually find another genealogy database program to replace FTM. 

How do I decide which software is right for me? First, don't panic. Do some research and learn about your alternative genealogy database software options.

Though you have about a year to make this decision, there are some holiday and "because FTM is retiring" sales going on right now that might make it worthwhile to do some investigating now rather than later. We will continue this discussion in, "A Genealogy Decision - Post 2 ... Current Sales on Alternative Genealogy Software," which will be posted next.

In the meantime (which won't be very long) here are some blog articles on the FTM retirement that may help you.

Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems blog post shortly after's initial announcement gives us her opinion of what to do and reminds us that we are the CEO of our own genealogy and that our information has value.

At the Week of Genealogy blog, the author Margaret MacMahon gives her understanding of the situation.

The Nutfield Genealogy is one of the many blogs out there whose authors are themselves writing about how the FTM retirement is effecting them. The author has two posts so far and plans to write more. Here is a link to Post 1 and Post 2 at Nutfield Genealogy.

And, of course, don't forget the more mainstream blogs, Geneabloggers, Genea-Musings, The Legal Genealogist, Dick Eastman and Dear Myrtle's video discussion for their thoughts and opinions. And don't forget to read some of the comments to these various blogs too.

See you soon at Mt. Clemens Public Library!

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