After testing a few desktop genealogy applications for how well they handled GEDCOM files, it occurred to me that I should write an article about my testing philosophy and methodology, as well as some of the problems with complying with the GEDCOM standard. Take a moment to ponder that: this series was motivated by the problem of genealogy software like Family Tree Maker (FTM) not complying with the GEDCOM standard. But there may be unintended consequences, both for users and software publishers, of following the standard. [Read more…]
We’ve all heard the news by now: Ancestry.com is retiring Family Tree Maker (FTM) after 26 years, at least 6 different owners, and 22 major versions for Windows (plus 4 for Mac). No, the sky isn’t falling. This is a business decision on Ancestry’s part, and in the long run, I think it will be a win-win situation for both Ancestry and genealogists. Let’s face it: FTM has travelled a rocky road since the major update in 2008, and then again in 2012 when they added the TreeSync feature. TreeSync was in fact the only reason I stuck with FTM, despite the bugs and constant crashes until it finally stabilized with version 3 for Mac. I’ve read with envy the glowing reviews for some of the Windows apps like RootsMagic and Family Historian, but using Windows apps on a Mac is just not convenient, ideal, or Mac-like. And besides, while some of them can sync with FamilySearch.org or MyHeritage.com, they can’t sync with Ancestry.com. Up until now.
The change log states the following:
- Dynamic family tree that shows more family members.
- See grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews & cousins in your family tree.
- Ability to change your tree to display direct ancestors only.
- Purchase monthly memberships via In App Purchase.
- An updated look and feel that’s both beautiful and functional.
That seems like a good list for a 4.0 version! The dynamic family tree is pictured to the left. Handy buttons at the top enable you to switch on or off the direct ancestors only feature.
Today I finished methodically testing which source and citation information reliably survives GEDCOM import and export. It’s not a pretty picture! A mere five of fourteen key GEDCOM tags are safe across the nine leading genealogy software packages I tested. Fortunately, the ones I previously identified as essential to source citations are among them.
Why You Should Care
The ability to move your family history data from one application to another is important. Even if you have no intention of changing software or sharing your research you ought to be concerned. It’s entirely possible that the person or people that inherit your research will choose a different package. They may load your data and probably won’t even know they lost anything in the transfer. Well, that fate needn’t be yours if you know where you can safely store information.
What You Can Do
This research is part of the work I’ve been doing to create the very first GenealogyTools ebook and video course: Practical Citation. After completing the course, you will be able to safely and confidently record sources, citations, and quality in your genealogy software without having to consult a book or quick sheet. Say “goodbye” to uncertainty about citation templates and formats.
 I tested Family Historian 5, Family Tree Maker 2012, Family Tree Maker for Mac 2, GEDitCOM II, Legacy 7.5, MacFamilyTree 6, Reunion 10, RootsMagic 5, and The Master Genealogist 7.