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.
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.