The Sky Is (Not) Falling

Ancestry succeeded in rocking the world of a large number of genealogists today with their surprise announcement that they would be retiring Family Tree Maker genealogy software at the end of 2015.  Cue Chicken Little and hoards of unhappy genealogists bearing pitchforks and flaming torches.

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

But hold fair citizens of Genealogy-land!  All is not lost and, nay, the sky dost not fall today!

First dear reader, I strongly encourage you to go read Ancestry’s blog post here.  Knowledge is power and Ancestry spells out exactly what their short-term plans are for Family Tree Maker software.  If you didn’t run off to read their much-discussed blog post and are still with me, dear reader, here’s a short recap of what Ancestry said:

  • Ancestry will stop selling Family Tree Maker software as of 31 December 2015.
  • Ancestry will continue to support the Family Tree Maker software at least through 1 January 2017.
  • All software features (including TreeSyncTM) will continue to function and Ancestry will offer support, bug fixes and compatibility updates at least through 1 January 2017.

So take a breath, dear reader, your Family Tree Maker software will not turn into a pumpkin at the end of December.  As a user of Family Tree Maker myself I freely admit that losing FTM sucks.  A few years ago I reconsidered whether I wanted to continue using FTM, tried out some other programs and discovered I was still happy with FTM so I dove into learning to utilize all available features in FTM.  I recently had started going through and making sure I had all my sources attached and properly cited (a project that I’m still currently working on).  Having put all that effort into my FTM file I was initially devastated when I read about Ancestry’s intention to discontinue FTM.  Genealogy isn’t just a hobby for many of us.  It’s a very personal crusade to find and remember our ancestors.  When we partner with organizations and allow them to be a part of our genealogical passion it becomes the ultimate betrayal when said organization doesn’t behave as genealogists feel it should.  But no matter how personal of a relationship we believe we have, these organizations are still businesses in the end and must do what they can to survive and thrive.  And there’s always another side to every story, though we may never know what it is.

At this point you may be grabbing your pitchfork or flaming torch and asking yourself what the point of this post is.  Quite simply the post is merely my opinions and intentions as a user of Family Tree Maker.  Change is never easy, but sometimes it’s for the best.  There are several other programs and apps on the market to try and choose between.  And here we arrive at my first opinion: there is plenty of time to research, review and choose new software.  There’s no need to dive headfirst into purchasing new software right away.  Many of the companies that are still offering genealogical software provide a free trial of their software.  Go download the trial versions and use them to the fullest capacity allowed by the trial version.  Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy is writing an ongoing series called “Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series” that I highly recommend following along with.  She lists several good resources that have already been posted on the WWW.

Which brings us to my second opinion: look at this as an opportunity…an opportunity to wrangle those loose ends and clean up your genealogy.  Thomas MacEntee started a great, free program called the Genealogy Do-Over.  There are different ways to participate in this program and it’s an excellent way to check your research, make sure everything fits the way it’s supposed to, cite your sources and (in general) clean up your genealogy.  Besides the Do-Over website, Thomas has created a Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group which is a great location for discussion and resources (even if you don’t plan to participate in the Do-Over!)

And for the trifecta, my third opinion: continue learning and trying new things.  Sometimes as genealogists we get stuck in a rut.  Running the same searches, looking at the same databases, checking the same sources over and over hoping to find some new information.  We must be careful to avoid becoming stagnant and try hard to remain flexible.

Also keep in mind, Ancestry hasn’t really made mention of long-term plans.  While they may be choosing to discontinue FTM at this point in time, there may be another idea currently in development.  Or they may choose to focus on other things instead.  New technology isn’t an overnight creation.  It takes time, effort and manpower.

So, dear reader, take a breath and look to the future.  It has a bright and beautiful sky.

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The event shocked the population of a nation who had been enjoying a typical American Sunday…until they received news of the attack that damaged or sank the entire U.S. fleet which resided in Pearl Harbor.  The devastation that occurred wasn’t contained to property or the immediate aftermath of the attack.  Many military personnel were injured or died and collateral damage was widespread, stretching from the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans to the tragedy of years of war.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view (Wikipedia)
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view1

Among those military personnel serving in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack was my husband’s grand uncle, James M. Newell.  Uncle Jimmy served as a “lookout man in the crow’s nest on one of the American warships.”2  He was on board one of the fleet ships when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.  Soon after news of the attack was published, his death was reported on 12 December 1941 in The Wichita Eagle3 and also in The Emporia Gazette.4  But unlike many military personnel, Jimmy’s story doesn’t end there.  He was not one of the many casualties of Pearl Harbor, though for at least five days his family thought he was.  On 3 January 1942, The Emporia Gazette reported: “Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newell, Wichita, have official word their son, James M. Newell, 18, was not killed in the Pearl Harbor attack as they previously had been notified.  Five days after being notified the soldier had been killed, the Newells received a card from him.”5

What an emotional roller coaster that must have been for the family.  It must have been devastating to receive the news of his death.  And how joyous it must have been to receive Jimmy’s subsequent card.  And what an experience for young Jimmy.  Newspapers say he was 18 when Pearl Harbor occurred.  He couldn’t have been in the Navy for very long and must have just finished his training not long before December 1941.

An original copy of the newspaper containing the front page article announcing young Jimmy’s death hangs, framed, in the hallway of my in-laws’ house.  It was quite an eye-catching piece for a confirmed genealogy-addict like myself and I couldn’t resist asking for details about it.  My most-wonderful-father-in-law very much enjoys telling a good story and was happy to share Jimmy’s tale with me.  What perseverance it took for the men and women of that time period to gather the shattered pieces of the world they knew and move forward.

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain6

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve7

Please take a moment to remember all military personnel today.  If you see one, thank them for their service.  “All gave some and some gave all.”8

American Flag from Unsplash by Jake Ingle
Photo by Jake Ingle9


1 “Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view” by Unknown – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg#/media/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg

2 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

3 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

4 Unknown Author, “Wichita Sailor Killed at Sea,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10245496/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.8, col. 5.

5 Unknown Author, “Good News,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10248545/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.1, col. 2, para. 1.

6 Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Albert Bigelow Paine, The Mark Twain Autobiography + 3 Biographies (e-Art Now Editions, 2014); digital images, Google Books, https://books.google.com (https://books.google.com/books?id=fmlCBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=isbn:8026804643&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA6Jag38vJAhVHtoMKHcyIBO8Q6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false: acccessed 7 December 2015).

7 Christopher Reeve, Still Me, (New York, The Random House Publishing Group, 1999), p. 267.

8 Cyrus, Billy Ray. Some Gave All. S.n, 1992. CD.

9 Untitled Photo of American Flag, Unsplash, digital images, https://unsplash.com (https://unsplash.com/photos/-rTqa1F_FaU: accessed 7 December 2015).