February 14, 2016

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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Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #10 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy blog posts Coundown #10I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!

Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3  of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!

I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.

genealogy blog posts countdownWhen I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.AncestryDNA common matches tool

In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…

A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #9 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #9In our continuing series counting down the 10 most popular genealogy blog posts here at Genealogy Gems in the last year, we come to #9 that strives to answer the eternal question: “how are we related?”

I  love getting email and voicemail questions from Genealogy Gems readers and listeners. When you take the time to write, you represent all of the people who didn’t hit “Send.” Our genealogy blog is the perfect vehicle for answering your questions and getting the word about the tools we like best.

A while back Shirley in Austin Texas wrote in to say that she had determined that her great grandmother Caroline’s great grandfather Franz Joseph  was the also the grandfather of her great grandfather Eduard. She wondered if there is a way Genealogy relationship cousin calculatorto easily identify their relationship in relative terms.

Genealogy post #9 in our countdown offered the answer. Read How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator  and discover a simple, easy online tool that I offered up.

Do You Have These 5 Free Family History Apps? You Should!

custom_app_icon_15153Looking for family history apps? Check out these recent recommendations.

Recently Diane Haddad over at Family Tree Magazine featured 5 fun family history apps on the Genealogy Insider blog. She kindly shared them with us. (Thanks, Diane!)

1. Today In History provides headlines, quotes and images of important historical events from today’s date in history. It’s available for iPad and Android (Diane had to keyword-search its creator, Downshift LLC, to find it in the Android App Store).

2. Streetmuseum from the Museum of London lets you see the streets of your London ancestors. Select a destination from a London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location from years ago on your screen. Information buttons give you historical facts. It’s available for iPad and Android.

Battle app3. Civil War Battle Apps from the Civil War Trust are GPS-enabled guides to 17 well-known Civil War battles. Use them at the battlefield for a self-guided tour or remotely for a virtual tour. The battle maps show your location on the battlefield, and many have time-phased maps that show where Union and Confederate units were located at key moments. You also can see videos with experts and hear accounts from those who fought. These are available for iPad and Android.

4. Biblion: The Boundless Library from the New York Public Library draws on the library’s records, photos, ephemera and other archival collections to take you on a tour of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. (A second edition of Biblion covers the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)  Available for iPad.

5. History Here, a location-based app from the History Channel, lets you learn about thousands of historical places all over the United States. You can let your GPS set your location to learn about nearby historic sites, or choose any location in the app. Available for iPad and Android.

ipad for genealogy FTM kitWe love these family history app recommendations! Family Tree Magazine sells a great Maximize your iPad for Genealogy Kit on their website, which includes a webinar I did for them called “iPad: Your Ultimate Genealogy Tool” and an e-book version of my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

More Resources from Genealogy Gems on Mobile Genealogy:

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueTurn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse (print book)

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

Video: Genealogy on the Go with the iPad (Premium website subscription required)

Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015

Register Now for the TSGS 2015
Family History Conference

Take advantage of the early-bird discount!

Registration is now open for the TSGS 2015 Family History Conference scheduled for Oct 31-Nov 1 in Austin, Texas. This jam-packed event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Austin located in Austin, Texas, and is for genealogists and family historians of all skill levels!

keynotes Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015
Take advantage of the special early-bird price of $130 for a full 3-day pass including lunches on both Saturday and Sunday. This price is only available through October 10, 2015. Attend only Friday for $50 or only Saturday or Sunday for $80. Become a TSGS member and enjoy a further savings of $20 off the early-bird pricing. (New members will receive their personal discount code via email within 24 hours of paying membership online.) Don’t have your membership discount code? Email memberinfo@txsgs.org.

Register now at: http://www.txsgs.org/conference/conference-registration/.

TSGS 2015 by the Numbers

See what’s in store for you at this 3-day genealogy extravaganza!

  • TSGS is pleased to welcome not 1, but 2 keynote speakers — national-level speakers Lisa Louise Cooke and J. Mark Lowe — who will be giving a total of 6 keynote presentations!
  • Attendees will enjoy learning from the 14 different tracks including Genealogy for Beginners, DNA, African-American Research, Courthouse Records & Records Loss, Adoption, Hispanic Research, Methodology, Libraries & Repositories, Historical Context, Societies & Communities, and Digital Genealogy.
  • This year’s 27 breakout session speakers from 7 states bring a breadth of genealogy research experience to share with you in a total of 43 breakout sessions!
  • Exchange ideas and ask questions in the the 2 scheduled panelsBoth Sides of the Reference Desk and Society Projects A-plenty.
  • The TSGS 2015 program features a total of 7 add-on workshops on topics including DNA, technology, Southern research, and court records facilitated by speakers Debbie Parker-Wayne, Lisa Louise Cooke, and J. Mark Lowe.

Entertainment

  • Be entertained during dinner by J. Mark Lowe and celebrate with the TSGS Award winners Saturday evening at the Annual TSGS Awards Banquet.
  • Enjoy meeting other family historians who share your passion for ancestors at various social events including a Welcome Reception on Friday evening and lunch on both Saturday and Sunday (included with your registration). See the full schedule of events for this 3-day genealogy extravaganza: http://www.txsgs.org/conference/schedule/!

Visit the TSGS Conference page at  http://www.txsgs.org/conference/ for details including a link to the conference hotel. Be sure to register now at http://www.txsgs.org/conference/conference-registration/ to take advantage of the special early-bird discount which is only available through October 10, 2015.

U.S. Passport Applications for Genealogy: Find Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

passport applicationsHave you ever thought to use passport applications for genealogy–to search for your immigrant or traveling ancestors?

Passports were issued in the U.S. beginning in the late 1700s, but weren’t required except during times of war until 1941. These records can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival, the arrival ship and date of naturalization (if naturalized).

Two Quick Tips for Researching U.S. Passports for Genealogy

  • Passports expired every few years, so people reapplied. You may find multiple applications for those who traveled abroad more than once. Subsequent applications will refer back to a prior one.
  • In earlier years, look for married women and minor children in group passports issued under the name of the head of household.

Where to Find Passport Applications

Passports Genealogy

Resources

A Page of History: Passport Applications  by Phil Golfarb

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124 interview with author Phil Goldfarb on the history of passport applications and celebrity passport stories. Available to Genealogy Gems Premium members.

Family History Made Easy podcast for free, step-by-step beginner and back-to-basics genealogy education

Share BoldThanks for sharing this post with your genealogy buddies and on your local society social media channels.

Find Your Family History for FREE this Labor Day Weekend: NEHGS and Ancestry

labor day weekend free genealogy family history

Both Ancestry and the New England Historic Genealogical Society are offering free access to selected U.S. databases in celebration of the Labor Day holiday.

Through next Wednesday, September 9, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is offering free access to several of its census, tax and voter databases on AmericanAncestors.org.

“The Census, Tax, and Voter Lists category is a collection of 40 separate databases containing a range of resources to provide information about the families who resided in the New England states between the 18th and 20th centuries,” says a press release.

Labor Day - NEHGS - art for social media“Other broader databases help to trace families as they moved to other areas of the United States. And a handful of European databases within the collection can assist researchers attempting to further document their family’s heritage.” Transcripts of U.S. federal censuses through 1880 and several state and town tax records are also included.

Registration is required at AmericanAncestors.org as a free guest user to take advantage of this offer.

As we reported yesterday, Ancestry is also offering free access to selected U.S. records over the Labor Day holidays. Their access includes (and celebrates the release of) an enormous new collection of U.S. wills and probate records. That collection alone is worth a fresh round of Ancestry searches–more than 10 million people are indexed from 170 million digitized pages of estate records from across all 50 states!

Do you know anyone with U.S.–and especially New England–roots who would want to know about these offers? Please share this post!

Resources

Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com by Nancy Hendrickson. WATCH OUR BLOG POST TOMORROW, SEPT 5, FOR A ONE-DAY DISCOUNT OFFER ON THIS BOOK!

Do Your New England Genealogy: Church Records Online–and More are Coming!

Find Your Family History in New York: Sept 2015 Conference

World’s Oldest Message in a Bottle: Why Not Make Your Own?

world oldest message in a bottleMSN recently reported the surfacing of perhaps the oldest known message in a bottle. If YOU sent one, what would it say? Warning: craft idea ahead!

British scientist George Parker Bidder set afloat a flotilla of 1,000 bottles in 1906. According to MSN, the vessels were “designed to float above the sea floor in attempts to study ocean currents. All of the bottles contained a postcard that listed instructions in English, German and Dutch to return the note to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, in exchange for a shilling. When most of the bottles–not all–were found a few months later, Bidder was able to confirm his theory that the deep sea current flowed west in the North Sea, a body of water that borders Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.”

Then recently, a newly-discovered bottle came ashore on the beaches of Amrum, a German island in the North Sea. The woman who recovered it did get her shilling–which had to be purchased from eBay.

My Message in a Bottle Experience
A few months ago, I discovered for myself that the tradition of sending out messages in bottles was still alive. While participating in a local Lake Erie beach cleanup near my home on the east side of Cleveland, a member of our group discovered a bottle. Someone gave it to me. Inside were several letters written fairly recently. As I scanned them, I gradually realized they were all love letters to a baby who had passed away. We gently put the letters back in the bottle and the bottle back in the water. But I haven’t forgotten it.

Does the idea of sending a message in a bottle appeal to you?
It doesn’t have to be a pain-filled message cast on the waters, though that might be a therapeutic way to say goodbye or “I miss you” to loved ones. Another option is a happy letter, placed in a cute bottle and given right to a loved one (I suppose you could float it in their sink at home!).

I found this cute how-to craft on YouTube that could inspire YOUR message in a bottle. What would you say? To whom would you send it? Where would you launch it, and how would you hope it would be found?

For more craft ideas, check out our Pinterest page on Family History Crafts & Displays or click to read the blog posts below.

Resources

My Name is Jane: Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Old Objects Become New Again: Heritage Jewelry with Found Objects

Family History Photo Display with Mementos

www.geneaogygems.comThank you for sharing this post with someone special!

Write Your Family History: A Printed Book or Digital Archive?

print v digital archive write your family historyIt’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?

Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:

“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.

 

A Combination Approach

I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.

Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation!  (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!

Resources

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Life

Recommended File Formats for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Why I Use and Recommend Backblaze Cloud-based Computer Backup Service

email thisReady to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!

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