As many of you know, last December Ancestry announced that they would no longer support or sell their downloadable family tree software, Family Tree Maker (FTM). This was a great shock to many researchers who had invested in the program. A lot of confusion about Family Tree Maker has ensued since.
Family History Daily uses a variety of software programs for testing and hosting trees. When we attempted to update our outdated version of FTM recently, we found the process of upgrading to be less than ideal. And, it seems that we are not the only ones who have found the change to be a bit messy. We hope this article will help make the process a bit clearer for those looking to update or upgrade their FTM programs, or for those who are looking for a way out.
Where Family Tree Maker (FTM) Stands Now
Shortly after their original announcement, Ancestry stated that Software MacKiev, the producers of the Mac version of FTM, would take over the program and continue to update and sell it for Mac and Windows. They promised a free update to users of the current version (FTM 2014 for Windows or Mac3 for Mac users).
They also noted at the time that they had formed a partnership with long running genealogy program RootsMagic that would allow an easy transfer of a FTM file, as well as Ancestry syncing sometime in late 2016.
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This was great news for those who have current versions of FTM, but it leaves some decision making for those who have older versions. Should you leave and try RootsMagic? Or should you stay and pay the upgrade price? What is the upgrade price? Will your program still work if you decide not to upgrade at all?
Here are some answers and a look at the options for those who still haven’t tackled this change.
Option 1: Stay with Family Tree Maker and Update or Upgrade
Early last month, Ancestry made another announcement letting their readers know that Software MacKiev had made a minor update to FTM 2014 and a free upgrade would be available from within the program to current users. If you have a current version of FTM 2014 you will need to update your software using the update link in your copy of the program if you have not already. This update provides some important bug fixes and a couple of minor feature upgrades.
However, it appears that this update was made available only for Windows users and that Mac users are still waiting. A number of other issues have also been reported by users on the Ancestry blog regarding the available update.
At the time of the last announcement, discounted upgrades to FTM 2014/Mac3 also became available to those who own any previous version of the program (pre 2014 or Mac3) and an introductory offer was announced for those who wanted to move to FTM from another program.
However, the blog post only instructed readers to sign up for Software MacKiev’s mailing list to find out about the discounts and did not provide a direct link to either deal. A visit to Software MacKiev’s site also seemed to simply prompt users to sign up for the mailing list rather than providing direct links to discounts. When visiting this page and trying to get the discount, it appears that the only price that is available is $69.95.
It turns out that the discounted price for upgrading ($29.95) is applied after you select which version you already own on the order page here, but the current set up could easily cause confusion among previous users looking to upgrade at the reduced rate. As for the introductory offer to new users, it seems the only way to find it is by subscribing to the mailing list. No discounts seems to be available on the main order page.
We were able to locate direct links to these discount pages, however, and they can be found below.
Please note that Family History Daily is NOT associated with Ancestry, Software MacKiev or Family Tree Maker and we receive NO payment if you use these links. We are simply providing them to assist our readers who may have trouble finding the discounts.
If you own a previous version of FTM, you can upgrade for $29.95 here. A CD is available for $10 more.
You can grab the $49.95 discount for new users here. Again, a CD is available for an additional $10.
Remember, if you already have FTM 2014 the update (for Windows at least) is free from within your current program.
Of course, you could choose to use your old FTM version for a while longer. It will continue to work — but new updates will not be available and bugs and incompatibility issues are bound to develop over time. It might be a good idea to upgrade while this deal is still valid.
Option 2: Move to RootsMagic or Another Tree Program
Of course, there is another great option, and that’s RootsMagic. For those who are ready to leave FTM behind this respected and powerful family tree program is a great alternative.
RootsMagic 7 (the paid version) will eventually be able to sync up with Ancestry’s records and their online tree. This change is expected to happen in late 2016. You can read all about that here.
But there is also another great reason to try this option instead of staying with FTM. Cost. RootsMagic is currently offering their full program for $20 to FTM users. That’s a great offer for such a powerful program. Find the deal here.
Plus, RootsMagic offers a free version of the program, RootsMagic Essentials, that you can use exclusively or as a way to check out the full program before buying it. The free version is not limited by time or individuals in your tree, but rather by features. Downloading the free version will let you play around with it and decide if you like it before making the switch. You can see a comparison between the free and paid versions here.
RootsMagic Essentials will work on Windows or Mac. If you want to give it a try, go to this link and hit the “Free Download” button. You will then be prompted to enter your name and email before being presented with a download link for Windows and one for Macs. The file is fairly small compared to FTM (about 30mb vs 600), so you will want to be on a high speed connection if possible.
Installing the program is fairly straightforward. Simply click on the program and follow the prompts. Skip the database download option as the free program does not support it. Once installed you will need to choose the free or paid version from the selection screen, select free and continue. The Essentials program will now present you will an opportunity to create a new file or open a current file. It will import a variety of formats, including (of course) FTM files and GEDCOMs.
We found the interface to be clean and fairly intuitive to figure out. There are a variety of features, including easing sourcing, good charting and helpful reports. Although you may find the difference in layout a bit startling if you are used to Family Tree Maker and you will need the full version to get all of the features.
Other good, respected programs on the market include Legacy Family Tree, which also has a free version, Brother’s Keeper and Reunion (for Mac). Dick Eastman also did a breakdown of free options back in Dec. Check that out for more information.
Options 3: Skip the Downloads and Go Online
Of course, you could just skip the downloads all together. Ancestry offers a free tree online, as does FamilySearch and a variety of other websites. Many offer powerful features and an attractive design. Just make sure to find one that you can trust to be around tomorrow.
We also suggest that you take the time to understand the terms and conditions of your chosen site/program before committing to uploading your data online. Online programs are not the only ones that potentially pose privacy concerns, Family Tree Maker and MyHeritage’s free family tree program, Family Tree Builder, both sync with their respective online sites (as do many other downloadable programs) so it is important to understand what you are signing up for before choosing to connect to an online site. We encourage sharing, but it is good to be informed before allowing your data (especially as it concerns living individuals) online. We recently wrote about that here.
A Note About Backing Up
Any tree, online or off, should always be backed up to avoid loss from computer crashes or website hacks/fails. If you’re using a downloadable program, back up your GEDCOM and files with an online service you trust, or on an external hard drive or thumb drive, at least once a week.If you’re hosting online, find out how to back your tree up (each site has different options) and store that backup on your computer.
You may also want to read this article about backing up your online Ancestry records if you are using their online tree to do research and store data.
Are you still using Family Tree Maker? What option will/did you choose?
By: Melanie Mayo | Editor, Family History Daily
Image: Flickr Commons