February 6, 2016

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly update of new genealogy records online, designed for you to scan them quickly and click to the ones that matter for your family history. Thumbs up for free access to the Irish censuses of 1901 and 1911!

ENGLAND MARRIAGES. An enormous collection of about 2.3 million names from over 1,500 parishes across 29 English counties is in Findmypast’s new database, England, Phillimore Marriage Registers, 1531-1913

IRELAND CENSUS. MyHeritage.com has posted over 8.7 million indexed records (with images) from the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses to its UK and Ireland Census Collection. These collections are FREE to search. According to the collection description, “The 1901 census lists – for every member of the household – name, age, gender, relationship to the head of the household, religion, occupation, marital status, county of birth (except for foreign births, which give country only), whether the individual spoke Irish (Gaelic), and whether the individual could read or write.” The 1911 census adds the numbers of years a woman had been married to her current husband; children born to them and children living.

KANSAS CENSUS. Ancestry.com has updated its   Kansas, City and County Census Records, 1919-1961. “This collection contains various city and county census records and population schedules from Kansas. They include information about inhabitants of a town, enumeration of livestock, and agriculture. Prior to 1953 the population schedules list the address, name of the head of household, and the number of individuals living in the household. Beginning in 1953 the schedules list all the members of the household and their ages.”

MISSOURI CHURCH. Ancestry.com subscribers can now search Missouri, Methodist Church Records, 1856-1970 a new database of indexed images from various United Methodist churches in Missouri. Baptisms, marriages, memberships, burials and lists of clergy are included.

SCOTLAND. A new collection of Scottish parish and other records is now searchable at Findmypast. Scotland Registers & Records dates back to the early 1600s. Record types “range from monumental inscriptions to a novel on rural life in 18th century Scotland.”

google search strategies for the family historianLooking for ancestors online? Turn to Genealogy Gems for ongoing education in using Google for genealogy (and everything else). Sign up for our FREE weekly e-mail newsletter for a free Google e-book and ongoing tips from our blog. Consider becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium website member so you get unlimited annual access to on-demand videos like Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian and many others.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly roundup of cool new genealogy records online. Should you search any of these: an 1831 England census substitute; parish records for Hertfordshire; images of French forts in North America; Michigan death records; outgoing passenger lists for the US and War of 1812 pension records?

ENGLAND 1831 CENSUS SUBSTITUTE. There’s a new 1831 census substitute database at Findmypast!  England, Pollbooks and Directories 1830-1837  allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, how they earned a living and how they voted. This collection of assorted documents also plugs the important gap left by the lack of a complete 1831 census.”

ENGLAND PARISH REGISTERS. Findmypast now has a browsable collection of parish records for Hertfordshire. The collection spans 1538-1988: that’s 450 years and 1.9 million pages of baptisms, marriages and burials.

NEW FRANCE. Library & Archives Canada has published a new Flickr photo collection with images of North American forts built or captured by the French during the era of New France. It’s free to explore and the history is fascinating!

MICHIGAN DEATHS. A new collection of  Michigan Death Records, 1857-1960 is available to Ancestry.com subscribers. Death registers and certificates contain varying amounts of genealogical information.

US TRAVELERS ABROAD. Ancestry.com has a new database of departing passengers and crew from various U.S. locations (1916-1962) by ship and air. These include military transports. “Details requested on the forms varied, but they typically include the name of the vessel, departure date, ports of departure and destination, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence.” Later documents may include visa or passport information.

WAR OF 1812 PENSIONS (US). Images of pension records for US soldiers with surnames beginning A-M have been posted on Fold3, where they are available to view for FREE. This is part of the ongoing Preserve the Pensions project led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Click here to learn more and contribute to funding for this crowd-sourced effort.

google for genealogy quoteLooking for a specific type of record about your ancestor? Want to find more new genealogy records online yourself? Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Google to search for specific records.

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 187: Judy Russell on Law and More

GGP 187 genealogy gems podcast episode 187Listen to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 187! The Legal Genealogist Judy Russell answers a fabulous listener question and MORE.

Judy RussellGenealogy Gems Podcast Episode 187 has just been published! In this episode, Lisa welcomes Judy Russell, AKA “The Legal Genealogist,” who specializes in researching laws that applied to our ancestors. She takes on a Genealogy Gems listener’s fantastic question about the bounty land his War of 1812 ancestor never claimed. Can he still claim it? Find out in this episode.

More highlights from this episode include:

  • The latest on life after Family Tree Maker software and a fresh look at why family history software is still relevant today;
  • New strategies for using Google to answer your genealogical research questions;
  • Our new Genealogy Gems Book Club announcement. (Get ready to read!);
  • Why you will definitely want to stop by our booth at RootsTech 2016; and
  • New records online and up-to-the-moment emails with questions, tips and inspiring successes.

Click here to access the newest free episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast. (Or click here first to learn how to listen to the Genealogy Gems podcast.) Happy listening!

How to use Google for Genealogy

Get Lisa’s Google Methodology:

For more step-by-step strategies on one of the podcast topics–using Google to answer your genealogical research questions–turn to Lisa Louise Cooke’s book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. It’s your ultimate guide to learning to use Google and its many free tools (Google Books, YouTube, Google Scholar, etc) for genealogy and for everything else! Use it to master Google searching in 2016!

Keeping up with Online and Master Family Trees: Family Tree Maker Questions Answered

sync treesWant tips to keep your online trees current with the master version in your family tree software? I’ve fielded several questions recently from Family Tree Maker users that might be useful to everyone.

In the wake of the announced retirement of Family Tree Maker software, questions continue to pour in about how to use family history software along with online trees. I’ve also taken a couple of questions from people wondering whether to continue their subscriptions at Ancestry.com if they’re not using Family Tree Maker. Find my answers below–and thanks to Gladys, Charles, Lisa and others for sending in these great questions!

Q: “Why switch from Family Tree Maker if it still “works” even after it’s retired? Ancestry.com and its tree system can be continually updated via GEDCOMs (click here to learn more about GEDCOMs) from one’s current Family Tree Maker for as long as one desires. The key problem is that support for FTM will soon disappear.”

A: Yes, you’re right, the key probably is that support will be gone. Into the future, as operating systems and hardware change, FTM users will likely eventually experience problems and ultimately be unable to continue reinstalling it onto new computers. (As I mentioned in this article, this happened to me with my first database.) While it isn’t an emergency, there is an advantage to migrating now. Other companies are offering great specials, and are currently knowledgeable and focused on assisting FTM users in making the move and ensuring that all of their data migrates successfully. Click here to learn about some of these specials.

RootsMagic is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the software that I use personally. The following question came from a listener who wanted to know more about it and how to move their data:

Q: “Can you explain more about RootsMagic and what it can do? Will it allow a transfer of data from the old Family Tree Maker files where I have already stored significant amounts of information?”

A: You can download your content from Ancestry and then load that into RootstMagic. This article on the RootsMagic blog will guide you.  And they have an entire “Help” page here devoted specifically to assisting Family Tree Maker users. (Click here to learn why I recommend RootsMagic, which is a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast.)

Q: “Should I just resign myself to having to upload a new GEDCOM to RootsMagic every month to add any new people/content I’ve found on Ancestry.com?”

A: Rather than adding info to my Ancestry tree and then duplicating it in RootsMagic, I look at it the other way around. I enter new found data directly into RootsMagic as I work. I may go ahead and add it to my Ancestry tree as well, but it really depends on what it is. You see, I view my Ancestry.com tree as a drafting table or a work space, not the final resting place for my family tree. For me, a little extra effort is worth keeping control of my data.

I really don’t foresee Ancestry.com resurrecting Family Tree Maker or selling it to another company. This article explains some of the business reasons why.

Q: “If I continue to use Ancestry.com and add content to my online tree, what is the best way to get that content into my RootsMagic tree?”

A: You can download your content from Ancestry and then load that into RootsMagic. This article on the RootsMagic blog will guide you. I think after reading all my answers here you will see that I use Ancestry and MyHeritage as research tools, and RootsMagic as my master complete genealogy database. So I leave RootsMagic open on my computer in the background, and pop over to that window to enter confirmed data as I am working on the various websites.

BONUS QUESTIONS! Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com Subscriptions

Here are my responses to Family Tree Maker user questions about where to invest their subscription dollars and efforts.

Q: “Do you recommend not using Ancestry.com for research anymore?”

A: I think Ancestry is a treasure trove of genealogical data and documents, and I absolutely will continue to use it. However, as I mentioned in my article, I’m a believer in housing my master family tree on my own computer, and backing up that computer to the cloud (I use BackBlaze. I like the service so much they have become a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast.) That way I control the data and know it is protected. I don’t use Ancestry trees for my master tree. Rather, I upload a GEDCOM of the branches I want to generate leads for (shaky leaves). When I find new information I may or may not add it to my Ancestry tree (based on my research needs) but I always add it to RootsMagic master database.

Q: “Should I switch to MyHeritage?”

A: MyHeritage is a great website as well. I use it in much the same way I use Ancestry (above). It has been invaluable for my international research. (Click here to learn why I recommend MyHeritage.com, which is also a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast.)

Final thoughts: In the end, it’s your data and your decision. I hope you’ve found these conversations helpful as you do your own homework on what is right for your family tree.

More Gems on Family History Software and Online Trees

FTMaker expiration dateFamily Tree Maker Alternatives and What I Do With My Online Tree

How to Download and Backup Your Ancestry Data

Is that Software Expired? Why I Wouldn’t Use Obsolete Family Tree Maker Software

 

How to Save Time and Actually FIND the Ancestors You’re Looking For

save time and find your ancestorsA recent experience reminded me how important it is to invest time getting to know the things we work with–whether they’re genealogy databases or a new piece of technology.

The other day I was trying to do something I thought was very simple: hear myself through my new high-quality gamer headset. However try as I did, I could only hear the person I was calling, and not myself. With the headset on with its big padded ear covers I felt like I was talking while holding a pillow over my head.

We tried everything so that I could hear myself: plugging the headset into different jacks and a number of computers, changing the settings in Skype and in my computer’s Control Panel. Nothing was working.

And then I heard my own voice in my head. It was repeating something I say repeatedly in my genealogy presentations: “Invest time getting to know your record collection so that you don’t waste mountains of time searching for what doesn’t exist.”

We had made an assumption that the headphone should allow me to hear myself while talking, and assumed that somehow they weren’t working correctly, even though everything else about them was working perfectly. And it was frustrating, a feeling eerily like searching the census for a family or an old newspaper for an obituary and not finding them when you’re convinced they should be there like everyone else!assume

Had I made an error to assume that I should be able to hear my voice through the headset? (You know the old saying about ASSUME) Were they actually working perfectly and never meant to broadcast the user’s voice through the headphones?

That’s when I turned the corner and turned to Google. (There’s something else I’m always lecturing people about: Just Google It!) In the Google search box I typed in the words in what I thought was the order of importance: Sennheiser headphone hear yourself while talking and immediately I found two answers:

  • A YouTube video quickly showed how you can set your microphone to broadcast through your headset, but it creates just the slightest delay which can obviously be very distracting.
  • An article deep on the Sennheiser website that explained there is something called “side tone.” It’s when the sound of you speaking in to the microphone and sound coming from the person you are talking to mix together and are fed to you through your headset. When side tone occurs it dramatically diminishes the quality of the sound you hear (think about how a telephone call sounds.) High-end gamer headsets are purposefully built NOT to feed your voice into your ear. That way you receive much higher quality sound from all the other players (or the person you have called in my case). The solution? Tilt one of the headphone earpieces off your opposite ear so you can hear yourself better. Simple and not high tech at all.

The lesson: Investing time up front getting to know the item you are using – whether a headset or a genealogy database – can save loads of time in the long run. We lost a lot of time (and experienced a lot of frustration!) searching for something that simply didn’t exist.

The descriptions of online record collections, and card catalog information for offline collections, are the “instruction manual” and contents list for the records we use to find ancestors. Take time to read them and understand what does (and does not) exist so that you know where to spend your precious research time.

California death index screenshotFor example, to the left is a screenshot of an Ancestry.com index of California death records (click the image to view that database, if you’re a subscriber). This is what you will see if you click on a database title discovered while checking out a search result, or if you search from an individual database from the Card Catalog. In every collection you search, scroll down and read more about the collection. On Ancestry.com, you’ll find:

  • Source information. This tells you where the index and/or images came from: what library, archive, publication, etc. Some indexes have been digitized from previously-published books. Sometimes you’ll be looking at an index-only and you’ll want to track down the original records to view or order. This information is what you want to know to cite your source!
  • About the record collection. This is a description of the general content of the records. Read this section to find out what records are missing from the overall collection. For example, maybe only half the counties in the statewide collection have been added to this collection so far, or maybe two years are missing from a vital records index. This is where you discover whether you are searching this collection for a record that may not be there!

alarm_clock_going_off_300_wht_13940Look for similar information when you’re reading through original, microfilmed and published records.

Remember, don’t make yourself crazy, wasting time trying to find ancestors who aren’t there! Read the instructions, whether you’re doing genealogy or working with anything else that’s new to you. I myself will be reading a lot more instruction manuals from now on, too!

 

More Time-Savers and Organizing Tips from Genealogy Gems

organized videoHow to Organize Digital Pictures

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope

Hard Drive Organization, Parts 1 and 2 Video Series for Genealogy Gems Premium website members (you can find some of this content in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, episodes 32 and 33.

 

DNA Circles – Here’s when they DON’T mean connections on AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA circles not connectionsDNA Circles at AncestryDNA can get problematic when participants’ trees are unverified. This is why.

Adding people to a family tree without verifying the connection is a fairly common genealogical practice. This happens a lot when people “graft” information from another online tree.

In addition to the problems this can create in your tree, it can create problems when you start looking at genetic connections. We have received a few inquiries about this topic here at Genealogy Gems, and I chatted with a fellow genealogist about this at a recent conference.

The practice of copying online trees factors most heavily in the DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discoveries (NAD) at AncestryDNA. You will remember from our previous conversations that these tools are like parties that your DNA has secured you tickets to attend. Each of these parties is “hosted” by one of your ancestors, in the case of the DNA circle, and a presumed ancestor, in the case of a NAD. Sometimes we catch ourselves declaring that our membership in the DNA circle “proves” our connection to the party host.

But we must be careful. Because it does not.

DNACircleExample“Proves” is too strong of a word. All your membership in the DNA circle can really tell you is that you have  a genetic connection to those marked with the orange line. Those with the grey connecting lines have a DNA connection to some of the circle members, but not to you. Placing the name of an ancestor on the cover of this gathering does not guarantee that the named person is your common ancestor. It is just a suggestion; a hint.

Think about this for just a second. Let’s say that Joan does a bit of research and decides that her immigrant ancestor’s father is Marcus Reese, born in 1823 in Wales. She adds this to her pedigree chart. She sees on a census record that he had four children, one of whom shared the name of her ancestor, William, and adds those to her chart as well.

Months later, Charlotte is researching her Mary Reese and sees Mary listed on Joan’s pedigree chart as the child of Marcus. She knows Mary’s father was born in Wales, and adds Marcus to her pedigree chart telling herself that she will go back later and double check. And so on.

After a while, we have 7 people all connected back through Marcus and his four children, and they all independently decided to get their DNA tested through Ancestry.com.

Ancestry sees their shared DNA and that they have all listed Marcus Reese as their common ancestor. So they create a DNA circle for the seven of them, with Marcus Reese at the head.

Ancestry did not look at the number of cited sources or the myriad of other genealogical possibilities about how these seven individuals could all be related to each other. It saw a genetic connection, and a genealogical hypothesis, and it presented them to you in the form of a DNA circle.

The genetic evidence supports a single common ancestor for these 7 people, but it certainly does not have to be Marcus Reese.  You can become more certain as you gather the traditional genealogical evidence that you would in any other case. As your documentation mounts, so will your confidence, with the DNA acting like an invitation to keep searching for further evidence of your connection.

DNA quick guides super bundle of 7If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my series of DNA for genealogy quick guides. Each laminated guide–with quick, clear text that helps you act on what you learn–is targeted to a specific DNA topic, from “Getting Started” to the three types of DNA tests you can take to understanding your results with testing companies AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Why not grab the “super bundle” of all 7 guides? Or shop for them individually here.


“Is That Software Expired?” Why I Wouldn’t Use Obsolete Family Tree Maker Software

FTMaker expiration dateAs Family Tree Maker software nears the end of its product lifecycle, many may wonder how far past the “expiration date” they should use it. Here’s my take.

Ancestry.com recently announced that they will stop supporting Family Tree Maker, the popular desktop software that syncs with Ancestry.com trees online. Sales will end on December 31, 2015. Product support and major fixes for current users will end a year later. (Click here for full details.)

This means the clock is ticking for Family Tree Maker users to decide where to put their family trees. Or is it? Can you continue to use software after it’s officially “expired?” For how long? What risks do you take if you do?

Consider the “Best If Used By” dates we see on the food products we buy. There is currently still some life in this product, and will be for a year after they stop selling it. According to Ancestry, during 2016 “all features of the software, including TreeSync™, will continue to work, and Member Services will be available to assist with user questions. We will also address major software bugs that may occur, as well as compatibility updates.” So technically, the “Best if Used By” date is the end of 2016. But then what?

What Happens with Family Tree Maker after 2016?

The software will still function on your computer. But it won’t sync to your Ancestry online tree anymore, and there will be no upgrades to make it compatible with future computer hardware or software. So eventually, you’ll need to transfer everything out of Family Tree Maker software anyway to be able to keep up with evolving technology. That’s what happened to me with my first favorite genealogy software. When it was discontinued, I hung on to it for a long time, and honestly, I had no problem.

Eventually, however, the old software was no longer fully compatible with new operating systems and I had to upgrade. I took a risk in continuing to enter information into an obsolete system–and  wouldn’t take it again in retrospect. When it finally did come time to transfer, I was gambling with whether my system had gotten so far behind the times that it would be too difficult or even impossible to transfer everything. (Think how much our data transfer technology has changed in recent years: from floppy disks, CD-ROMs, CDs and DVDs to flash drives and now cloud-based transfers.) And I also ran the risk that there might be license limitations to how many computers my old software could be loaded onto.

Our genealogy software contains thousands of pieces of linked pieces of data: names, dates, relationships, source citation information, digitized photos and documents and more. This is not something we could easily re-create and I for one would not want to have to redo all that research (or even just key it in). Even if GEDCOM files continue as a universal file type for genealogy software, the ability to export every piece of information exactly as you want it in GEDCOMs is not guaranteed. For example, consider that when you download a tree from Ancestry, according to their customer support pages,”Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.”

Why continue to load your Family Tree Maker software with data you might not be able to fully retrieve when you want to?

If you’re a Family Tree Maker user, I’m not saying you should panic. You have time to do your homework and carefully consider the best next step for you. You could start using new family history software with a reliable cloud-based back-up service for your computer, so your files are fully protected. You could migrate to another cloud-and-software-sync model over at MyHeritage (their desktop software is free). Click here to read more about those options and see current offers by RootsMagic and MyHeritage.com for Family Tree Maker users.

Bottom line: “Best if Used By” usually indicates that the sooner you finish consuming a product and move on, the healthier and better your experience will be. That is an applicable analogy for Family Tree Maker users. Research your options and move on to another product so your family tree will continue to grow and be healthy!

More Gems for Family Tree Maker Users

Here at Genealogy Gems we care about you and your data. Here are more resources for you:

custom_software_box_12041What Ancestry’s Retirement of Family Tree Maker Software Means for You

Best Genealogy Software: Which You Should Choose and Why

How to Download and Backup Your Ancestry Data

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online that caught our eye. This week there are a lot of US records: Alabama Episcopal church registers, Connecticut sourt records, Kansas probate records and New York Evening Post death notices. Immigration records for Brazil and Italian civil registrations are also on the list!

Note: This weekly post will be “off duty” next Friday, December 25 in observance of Christmas Day. Happy holidays!

ALABAMA CHURCH. The Birmingham Public Library’s index to Alabama Episcopal Church registers (1832-1972) is now also searchable on Ancestry as a Web Index (click here to learn about Ancestry Web Indexes).  The index includes “confirmations, baptisms, marriages and burials for more than 14,000 people in sixteen Alabama parishes for the period of the 1830s to the 1970s.”

BRAZIL IMMIGRATION. Over 2.2 million indexed records have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of Brazil Rio de Janeiro Immigration Cards (1900-1965). These records, in Portuguese, “contains immigration cards issued by Brazilian consulates around the world. These cards were then presented at the port of entry by foreigners visiting or immigrating to Brazil through the port of Rio de Janeiro from 1900-1965.”

CONNECTICUT COURT. Over a quarter million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free index to Connecticut District Court naturalizations (1851-1992) 

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. Nearly a quarter million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection of Italian civil registrations for Taranto, 1809-1926.

KANSAS PROBATE. Ancestry’s collection of Kansas wills and probate records has been freshly updated. Kansas wills and probate records  The current database covers nearly two centuries (1803-1987) and covers at least some time periods in nearly half of Kansas’ 105 counties.

NEW YORK DEATHS. An index to over 100,000 death notices from the New York Evening Post (1801-1890) is now available to subscribers at AmericanAncestors.org. “Page images and an index searchable by first and last name, location, and year are included.”

Genealogy Gems Podcast Christmas Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Family Tree Maker Alternatives: Great Offers, and What I Do With My Tree

FTMaker options transplant tree family tree maker alternativesAre you a Family Tree Maker user looking for place to transplant your master family tree? Here are some great offers and my personal strategy.

With the imminent demise of Family Tree Maker software, many users find themselves preparing to transplant their trees elsewhere. But many are still trying to decide upon the ideal spot. RootsMagic and MyHeritage.com have both responded with attractive Family Tree Maker alternatives. Both companies are sponsors of the free Genealogy Gems podcast and both offer excellent products. It just depends on what works best for you. While you’re doing your homework, consider these offers:

RootsMagic Family History Software: Discount on Software, with Special Add-Ons and Training

RootsMagic 7 family tree maker alternatives“If you’re a Family Tree Maker user, we understand that change isn’t easy,” states a recent RootsMagic press release. “But with a little of your time and a little help from us, you’ll be just as comfortable with RootsMagic as you were with Family Tree Maker.”

“For a limited time, we are offering Family Tree Maker users the full-version of RootsMagic for the amazing low price of only $20We will also include the printed book, “Getting the Most out of RootsMagic” absolutely free (a $14.95 value).  To make the transition as painless as possible, we’ve set-up a special website at www.FTMUpgrade.com that includes training videos, testimonials, and more. You must visit www.FTMUpgrade.com to receive the discount.”

I am a RootsMagic user myself, as I’ve stated in the past (click here to read why). I particularly love the wide range of support for learning to use RootsMagic. RootsMagic  offers a recently-updated Mac version of its software, too. If you’re still not sure, you could try RootsMagic Essentials first for free, then easily upgrade in the future.

MyHeritage.com Family History Website: Free Unlimited Tree Hosting

myheritage logo new family tree maker alternatives“At MyHeritage, we believe there is still a place in the world for genealogy software,” says an email I received from MyHeritage’s Chief Genealogical Officer, Daniel Horowitz. “There is value in the ability to work offline, and enjoy more powerful functionality that many websites cannot offer. We also believe that people should be able to discover and preserve their family history on whatever platform they are comfortable with. That’s why we are constantly innovating new technologies and enhancing our website, mobile apps and our Family Tree Builder genealogy software.

We are delighted to offer FTM users who move to MyHeritage, and who choose to sync their family tree with their MyHeritage family site, unlimited tree size capacity on their online family site, which is normally limited to 250 individuals on a free account.”

MyHeritage.com started as a family tree and family networking website, so its roots for tree-hosting are deep. The site hosts the most geographically diverse trees in the world, which is a great reason for anyone searching for international relatives to have a family tree there. Their Family Tree Builder software is free, so there is no financial risk for downloading and using it. Having a tree on the site that syncs to your home tree will provide you with a degree of convenient, free security: your tree will be backed up in two physical locations at all times (one on the software on your computer and one on the site).

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyFor me, the bottom line continues to be control over my master family tree–and all the other files on my computer. So for me, the answer is to

1) Use RootsMagic as my master database on my desktop computer and download the app to my mobile devices;

2) Upload sections of my trees periodically to genealogy websites as I’m researching those lines in order to generate new leads and connections. (Doing this on MyHeritage led to my first ever connection with a distant German cousin!);

3) Use a cloud-based computer backup system that automatically backs up my entire computer (including RootsMagic files) on an ongoing basis. This protects me from losing files due to theft, disaster at my home, computer crashes, and anything else that threatens my data. I use Backblaze as the official backup service for Genealogy Gems, and I love it. It’s super easy, reliable and affordable (about $5 a month!). Click here to read more posts on cloud-based computer backup services.

More Gems About Caring for Your Family Tree

Online tree out of controlDon’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Best Genealogy Software: Which Should You Choose and Why

How to Approach an Error on Someone Else’s Tree

 

What Ancestry’s Retirement of Family Tree Maker Software Means for You

I think this is a long post, but this is an extremely important topic. I hope you will invest the time to read it through to the end.

Family Tree Maker Discontinued

I travel the world presenting sessions on a wide range of genealogy topics. One of the presentations that is most near and dear to my heart is called  Future Technology and Genealogy – 5 Strategies You Need. In it I not only outline 5 strategies that genealogists can use to cope and thrive in an ever-changing technological world, but I share 3 major areas that I believe genealogists should be aware of as we move into the future. One of those is the desktop moving to the Cloud.

Certainly Adobe and Microsoft have already moved that direction by discontinuing physical software sales and moving to a Cloud based subscription service. But the desktop moving to the Cloud has been a more subtle transition in the genealogy space. Today, however, our industry was hit between the eyes with this new reality.

retirement pocket watchAncestry has announced the “retirement” of one of the cornerstone products in genealogy, the Family Tree Maker desktop software. 

I couldn’t help but think that Ancestry was striving to paint a picture of Family Tree Maker as Charles Coburn (in black and white of course) in his classic double-breasted suit, gold watch in hand, walking off into the sunset in a Jean Arthur movie. Perhaps it would be more accurate to visualize him being pushed out. Let’s start with the announcment that Ancestry released on their blog late Tuesday December 8, 2015, and then we’ll probe deeper:

Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software
By Kendall Hulet

Ancestry is proud to have made a significant investment this year to bring valuable new content and records to the Ancestry site. In 2015, we’ve made 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico available, more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of U.S. will and probate records, among others. We’ve also introduced new features such as Ancestry Academy and major advancements for AncestryDNA.

We remain dedicated to helping people gain new levels of understanding about their lives, and who and what led to them, harnessing the information found in family trees, historical records and genetics. As a company, we’re also continually evaluating ways to focus our efforts to provide the most impact and best product experience for our users through our core offerings.

True to this focus, we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.

Our subscription business and website, on the other hand, continue to grow and we are doubling down our efforts to make that experience even better for our Ancestry community.

Ancestry will continue to support current owners of Family Tree Maker through January 1, 2017. During this time, all features of the software, including TreeSync™, will continue to work, and Member Services will be available to assist with user questions. We will also address major software bugs that may occur, as well as compatibility updates.

These changes are never easy, but by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on continuing to build great products for our loyal Ancestry community.

If you have inquiries regarding Family Tree Maker, please reach out to our Member Services team. We’ll also provide updates on our blog as needed leading up to January 1, 2017.”

What this Means for Genealogists

In reality, I would wager to guess that this move is a cold, calculated business strategy, not a warm and sentimental retirement. And that’s OK. Business is good. If Ancestry didn’t do well in business, we wouldn’t have such easy and convenient access to all those records.

Discontinuing Family Tree Maker is a strategic move. The goal is it to get everyone from family history “dabblers” to seasoned genealogists to enter their family tree data directly onto a family tree housed on the Ancestry website. This puts them in the drivers seat.

It is keenly important to understand what is really happening so that you can make the wisest decisions possible for the life of your genealogical research. Our family trees are not Ancestry’s responsibility, or anyone elses for that matter. They are our responsibilities, and we need to be as calculated and ruthless in protecting them as any savvy CEO.

We must understand that it is more profitable for Ancestry to quit producing software CDs, and all that packaging to put the CDs in. It’s more profitable to stop employing and paying employees to ship all those CDs. Digital content is more profitable and easier for a company to control. But is that the whole story?

Absolutely not. Information is King, and it is valuable. Your genealogical information is financially valuable to genealogy companies. (Read Ancestry’s Terms of Service to refresh yourself on what they can do with your information.) Think AncestryDNA is only about your ancestry? You must understand that it is not. Aggregated data is sold in the marketplace to other companies. (Read this article at Wired.com about one partnership Ancestry has with the Google-owned biotech company Calico.)

Not to say it is not a worthwhile effort on your part to get your DNA tested – it certainly may be. But that DNA data has dollar signs written all over it. It is valuable. But today isn’t about DNA, so let’s get back to Family Tree Maker and your tree. How do you, the genealogist, retain control in this environment? Take on a “genealogist-protected approach” to your data.

The Genealogist-Protected Approach

Step 1: Purchase a new genealogy software database program and load it on your computer. I recommend and use RootstMagic software. RootsMagic is excellent, reliable and extremely well supported. Click here to read how they are ready to help you in our transition.

Step 2: Back up your entire computer with a Cloud-based backup service. This is critical to protecting and retaining control of your data. I recommend and use Backblaze. (Here’s an article I wrote that will give you a compelling reason not to skip this step.)

Full disclosure: RootsMagic and Backblaze are sponsors  of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. This is primarily because I use the products myself and have been impressed and satisfied with their products. Regardless of which products you choose, just be sure you put the Genealogist-Protected Approach into action.

I have stated numerous times in presentations, on the podcast, and here on the blog that I view family trees on Ancestry and other websites as “cousin bait” not primary family tree storage. Rather than upload my entire tree, I upload that for which I want to generate “genealogical leads.” My master tree and master database file is on my computer in RootsMagic, backed up by Backblaze.

You might be one of the many genealogists who has thoroughly enjoyed having your entire tree on Ancestry, and wonder now how you can get a software program that fully synchronizes with Ancestry. To address this issue, first go back and read the section above under “What this means for genealogists.” Remember, data is BIG business. The truth is that it is not financially beneficial to Ancestry to allow that to happen. They want to be where you house your master family tree. I don’t blame them. But, in my opinion, that’s not in my family tree’s best interest. Therefore, I follow the steps outlined above, and upload a gedcom of what I want circulating publicly in order to generate “leads”: hints and cousin connections.

whining genealogist protected approach paperI believe it is generally going to get harder and harder to retain control over our privacy and our data. We don’t know what the future holds for computer software. But no matter what happens, we as genealogists will still be 100% responsible for what happens to our family trees and our data. There’s no whining in papergenealogy. And last I heard they still produce paper and pencils.

 

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