Earlier this month (December 2015) Ancestry announced they would not be producing new versions of their Family Tree Maker (FTM) programme, and will stop supporting current software at the end of next year.  So what does this mean to current users?

The main effects will be losing the link to the Ancestry website with regards to online data and synchronising your online trees – the latter being a relatively new enhancement. However despite many apparent misconceptions found on various forums this does not mean that FTM will disappear or stop working.  Like all independent software it will continue to work well into the future.  In fact I know one person who still uses a 10 year old version of FTM, with no problem at all.  As Microsoft have also decided not to produce new versions of their Operating System after Windows 10, there is no reason why FTM2014 should become incompatible in the future.

Although losing the option to merge documents and trees with FTM may seem harsh, it could be a blessing in disguise.  Yes it will mean extra work manually adding census data etc., but it will mean that greater care can be taken to ensure that the correct information is added and decrease the chance of duplicated data/people or transcription errors messing up our beloved trees.  It may also encourage the use of other websites rather than simply relying on Ancestry for all of our searches. Sadly there are people out there who seem to believe that Ancestry holds all the data they need, when although they have a large holding, there are many more sources available online, with the vast majority of data being offline in archives offices around the country.

Not relying on having our trees online is also a good thing.  Ancestry state in their Terms and Conditions that “you grant Ancestry and its Group Companies a non-exclusive, transferable, sublicenseable, world-wide, royalty-free license for the maximum amount of time permitted by applicable law to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to and otherwise use User Provided Content uploaded or otherwise submitted by you to the Websites…” , which some suggest that this allows Ancestry to use any of the images/documents you have uploaded onto your own tree, for their own purposes.

In addition there is a question regarding security.  Online trees can be easily used for identity fraud, as many people leave their trees accessible to anyone (public rather than private), and can contain information about themselves and their close family members.  Remember that one of the popular security questions asks for your mothers’ maiden name.

Online trees may have their advantages in that you can share them with other family members, but if you rely 100% on them, what would happen if the website disappears, or you lose your internet connection?  All of your hard work over several years could become inaccessible.  Also how can your descendants access it if you die or become seriously ill?  By having all of your family history stored on your computer (and backed up in a separate location), you can ensure that they can access it once you have gone.  Personally I only use partial online trees if I need to share the data with someone else, or if I have a brickwall that I need help with.  In both cases only the relevant people and data is displayed, not the whole tree.

So rather than Ancestry spoiling our research fun by retiring FTM, perhaps we should view the positives of this action – better checks on the data we include, enhanced security by keeping our trees offline and private, as well as providing a means of passing our trees onto the next generation.

One day Ancestry may disappear – do not allow your ancestry to follow it – keep it safe, keep it offline.


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