Ancestry.com recently announced it will discontinue making its acclaimed FTM (Family Tree Maker) software, and there are a lot of angry customers. Their blog is full of comments from displeased people. Ancestry has not offered any suggestions for alternate solutions. The only explanation the company has offered is that it does not see any profit in desktop software going forward, and so will focus on online offerings. This means people who have used Ancestry.com solely to build their family tree will have to keep up an annual membership to the site to be able to access all the work they have done on their family tree. The information on the site will also be stored in the cloud, so if the cloud or Ancestry ever goes down or out of business, people stand to lose their family trees. This can sometimes represent decades of work.
There are others who use the online feature of the FTM desktop software to connect with Ancestry.com and automatically find records and download them to their family tree. It saves a lot of time in collecting and cataloging research. Since FTM will not be available for purchase after the end of the year, this means no more upgrades to the software, and Ancestry.com will stop supporting it after January of 2017. This is a big deal in the genealogy world, since FTM has been around since the mid-1990’s, and was one of the first family tree software programs available. It was made by a company called Broderbund back then; it was only later that Ancestry.com purchased it and added it to their company. Some customers have been using this one program for nearly twenty years to record their family history and genealogy information.
Locating an alternative is going to be a priority for FTM users, and a dramatic change for many of them, especially the ones who have been using it since the beginning. Without support from Ancestry.com anymore, and with many people being uncomfortable with the idea of putting their genealogy information in the cloud, with a third-party company, alternatives are the only answer, and getting used to a new way of recording information on their family tree will be a necessary evil.
The tough part of finding an alternative to FTM is that no other family tree software is compatible with it. Ancestry.com, and Broderbund before it, made certain of this, to ensure they kept customers. The idea of manually transferring what may be tens of thousands of names and thousands of pages of notes from FTM to another genealogy software program is daunting at best. Here are some ways to make transferring your information easier, as well as alternative software programs that are just as good as FTM, and, according to many genealogists who use them, even better.
Make a GEDCOM File
While FTM files are not compatible with any other genealogy software, you can convert those files to GEDCOM files. GEDCOM files are compatible with many different family tree software programs. Being able to transfer your information, including photos and media files, without having to copy it all over by hand, which could take months or longer to do, depending on the size of your family tree, is a big deal, regardless of what software you choose to transfer them to.
To make a GEDCOM file with FTM, you open your family file in FTM, then use the main menu to select “File>Export File>Entire File.” You’ll get a “Save as Type” popup menu. Select GEDCOM from this menu. Click “OK,” and the GEDCOM version of your FTM family tree will go onto your desktop. When you install a new family tree software on your computer, you can just drag the file to the new program’s desktop icon and deposit it there. You should then be able to access your family tree information in the new program when you open it. All you need to do then is learn how to use the new program.
Good FTM Alternatives
While no other software will be able to connect to Ancestry.com and automatically grab copies of records from it for your family tree (you’ll have to do it by hand), there are a few other programs with the in-program capabilities of FTM. In fact, some message boards where this issue is being discussed say some programs are actually better than FTM when it comes to in-program functions.
Some programs you may want to try, that have high ratings and excellent user satisfaction, include Legacy (by far the most popular alternative choice being discussed online), Reunion, and RootsMagic. You may want to try more than one before deciding on the program you will use in place of FTM from now on. It’s important to get a program you will enjoy using, and that does what you need it to do. Most programs offer a refund if you return it within a certain period of time, so this gives you an ideal way to try alternatives to FTM and discover the new one you like best. Just be sure the software supports GEDCOM files, then start exploring to find your new favorite family tree desktop software.