Beyond Writing, Research Challenges

So long, Family Tree Maker…

HeaderLogoAs millions of revelers celebrated the beginning of 2016 with fireworks and a toast at midnight,’s Family Tree Maker software was placed on life support. The company has decided to stop selling this popular software in lieu of its online, cloud-based system. While they will continue to support the legacy application for the balance of the year, Family Tree Maker will “give up the ghost” by the time we celebrate New Years again.

I’d be hard pressed to give my immediate opinion on whether this is good or bad but I do understand why they’d want to terminate the software. I’ve had experience at a software development center and I know firsthand that keeping software current is not cheap. Every change, modification, or enhancement to an existing application can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even adding something as simple as a field to a dialog box requires substantial design, development, and testing. All this takes time and time, of course, equals money.

So I get it. Why spend millions of dollars to support something that many people only use as a front door to their accounts anyway? What do I mean by “front door”? The software was designed to connect to Ancestry’s expansive records system via the Internet and provide those little green “hint” leaves (“What? My ancestor was a dentist just like me?”). Further, Family Tree Maker was designed to take all that work you did and “push” it to the Internet. Once there, you share and connect with others.


My family tree in Family Tree Maker. Notice the little green leaves.


We are one big social media family, right?

Unfortunately I’m a bit self-centered. If I’m going to spend hundreds of hours tracking down facts, the last thing I want to do is give it away. I worked hard for it so it’s mine. I’m greedy. On the other hand, what good is information if it’s not shared? What if by doing so I provide that one single piece of information that would allow my third cousin, eight times removed, to connect with me? Wouldn’t that be worth all the countless research hours?

It depends. Is he a member of the San Quentin basketball team?

I’ve yet to take the plunge and push my data to the cloud but I may need to. As I mentioned, Family Tree Maker will be supported for the duration of the year but the time will come when my operating system will no longer support the software. It happens all the time.

Despite my greedy nature and reservations about putting my data online, the biggest advantage of having locally installed software is portability. I’ve used my Family Tree software on airplanes, in hotel rooms, while on vacation, and in other places where Internet was either cost prohibitive or not available. How do I access my data?

I haven’t a clue. I suppose downloading copies periodically?


Cloud-based version of a family tree on


All this notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that if I don’t change my ways, I’ll be left behind. While there are alternatives to Family Tree Maker – and I’ve tried a few over the years –most are not nearly as easy to use and would require I substantially “fix” my data during the transition process (not all software fields are alike across software products and this leads to weird results). My real concern is this: I’ve nearly 10,000 people in my family tree. That’s an awful lot of fixing!

2016 will definitely prove to be an interesting year for me on the genealogical front as I decide how I want to move forward. In the meantime, I would be interested in hearing your opinions on the subject. Are you a hardcore cloud-based customer or do you prefer the traditional locally installed software approach? What are your experiences? Please share!

Happy New Years!




2 thoughts on “So long, Family Tree Maker…

  1. For me, a key feature of FTM is being able to customise and print reports. I have yet to see the cloud version being able to do that.

    Posted by andrewsarch | January 3, 2016, 1:38 am
    • And that’s our challenge. I prefer to research and print – like through Not having a robust method for pulling our hard work makes life difficult since we’ll undoubtedly have to retype everything! Thanks for commenting!

      Posted by jrobertcole | January 3, 2016, 10:18 am

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