Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 Update Issues

If you follow this blog, you know that we do not currently recommend Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 (FTMM2). However, I still use it personally and keep hoping that Ancestry and the developer will fix it. I recently installed the Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 (FTMM2) update, version According to the release notes:

This update will resolve a number of reported issues from the community.
Fixes include:
Performance and stability improvements
Improvements to resolve sync errors
Improvements for handling downloaded media in synced trees

After I installed the update, I experienced even more hangs, crashes, and sync errors than before. Several other people have reported issues on the Family Tree Maker message board at One person suggested that the sync errors might be due to server overload from all the people trying to access the 1940 census, so I went offline and timed some basic actions:

Update Previous Diff.
Start Family Tree Maker & open tree 0:17 0:20 -0:03
Click on current person from Plan 0:41 0:03 +0:38
Click from Family to Person tab 0:04 0:01 +0:03
Click from Person to Family tab 0:41 0:01 +0:40
Click from Places to Family tab 0:41 0:01 +0:40
Click from Family to Media 0:04 0:05 -0:01
Click from Media to Family tab 0:41 0:01 +0:40
Click from Sources to Family 0:41 0:01 +0:40
Click from any tab to Person 0:01 0:01 0:00
Run Extended Family Chart 22,342 people 2:09 1:29 +0:40
Export from Chart to GEDCOM 2:35 2:37 -0:02
Export to FTM for Mac 2 15:33 17:14 -1:41
Quit FTM without auto-backup 1:07 1:30 -0:23

(Note: All times are in min:sec. I timed these actions on a MacBook Pro with a 2.5 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM running OS X Lion. My FTM file has 22, 342 people.)

Obviously I was not able to test the sync function in offline mode. I did not experience any crashes with the update during my tests, while the previous version crashed running the Extended Family Chart and exporting a FTM for Mac 2 file.

The update was significantly slower whenever the Family tab was clicked or running the Extended Family Chart. Clearly there’s an issue with the Family tab that has nothing to do with Ancestry’s servers being swamped; it should not take 41 seconds to load, when the Person tab takes only a second.

I recommend that, if you haven’t already installed the update–don’t. If you have, hopefully you have a backup of the previous version, such as a TimeMachine backup, in case you need to restore it. If you don’t have an automatic backup system but would like to try the update, here’s what you can do:

  1. Make sure FTMM2 is closed.
  2. Find the app in Finder (usually in Applications).
  3. Right- or Control-click on the app and click “Compress Family Tree Maker 2.” You will now have the original app and a zipped file of it.
  4. Start FTMM2, click on “Family Tree Maker 2” on the menu bar and “Check for updates”
  5. Update FTMM2 normally.
  6. If you don’t like the update, close FTMM2 and trash it. This does not delete your FTMM2 family tree files, including media.
  7. Double-click the Family Tree Maker file, and the previous version will be extracted.
  8. Keep the zip file as a backup for the next update!

Please let us know your experiences with the update in the comments. Also, if you have problems, be sure to report them to Ancestry Support.


  1. Bill Wilson says

    I have not done timings of various actions, but overall, the update is much slower. However, so far I have not had problems syncing with, whereas I had lots of them before the update, leading to enormous frustration, several calls to Ancestry’s help desk, and finally reliance on Time Machine backups that I knew to be good. I found I could not rely on FTMM2’s backups, at least the recent ones, which had the same errors that had led to the sync problems. If the price I have to pay for no problems with backups is slow performance, I’ll pay it–for now. I hope Ancestry will correct the slow performance soon.

    • Margaret Murdock says

      I agree that stability is more important than speed. It’s encouraging that you are finding that syncing is going well, nonetheless I think I will wait a while before I try it again.

    • Bill Wilson says

      Here’s an update on my remarks of 6 Apr 2012: FTMM2 continues to work well, with no disruptions or failures to sync. It also seems to have speeded up somewhat, although I have not actually timed it.

    • says

      What I really do not like is how documents attached to an event show up as “Stories” in the online version. For instance… I attached an official Baptism record to an event. In the online version, it reads “This story is a PDF document. To read this story, you will need to download it to your computer.” It provided none of the detail associated with the Desktop record.

      • Keith says

        Philip, I agree with you, but all I can say is to send your feedback to Ancestry. This issue mainly applies to PDF, DOC, RTF, and TXT files. I avoid using them if at all possible. If I have a PDF, I convert it to a JPG first before adding it to a person in FTMM2. That way, all the media details are visible in the linked Ancestry Member Tree, and I can view the file without having to download it and open it up in something like Preview.

        • Margaret Murdock says

          Using jpgs instead of pdfs etc is a great idea! It seems so obvious now that you say it.

          I have not tried syncing again either. Outside of the sync issues, I am okay with FTMM2 in general, but one thing I really wish FTMM2 had is “Find Missing Media Files” en masse a la FTM. However, this may be a blessing in disguise, because of the generic names of the media files downloaded from

          I started my trees over 3 years ago on ancestry. I add captions gradually in FTMM2 as I work with files, but the vast majority do not have individualized names yet. After the mess created by the sync problems earlier this year, unlinking/restoring/reuploading/redownloading/relinking/restoring/uninstalling/reinstalling etc, I ended up with a lot of duplicate media files on my hard drive, but a lot of “missing media files” within the program itself.

          I discovered that FTMM2 was pulling media files with the same name (e.g. 1790 United States Federal Census_1-1.jpg) from a different family tree file than the one I was in! In other words, if I’m in a person in my mother’s tree file and I ask FTMM2 to find a media file, it may attach a totally unrelated file of the same name from my father’s tree file to the person in my mother’s tree.

          Once you do this, it’s hard to straighten out – you have to follow the link to the file, open it up, compare it to the record you are in, look in spotlight for another file of the same name, open it up, figure out what record it belongs to, and so on. I had already attached a number of the wrong files before I realized it was happening, and it was quite time-consuming to figure it out and correct it.

          I wish FTMM2 used aliases for the media links, so that once they were linked to a record you didn’t have to worry about moving/renaming them. It would make sense to make use of this feature for FTMM2, since it is built into the Mac OS. (Thank you to Ben for helping me understand the function of aliases)


          • Keith says

            Margaret, sounds like you’ve found some more bugs in FTMM2. There’s no way media files from one tree should get linked to another tree, unless you manually link them. I recommend you report the problem to Ancestry Support. To avoid this and other problems, my best practice is to rename all media files added from to a unique and meaningful file name. For example, if the media file pertains to the 1790 United States Federal Census, I rename it as follows: US Census 1790 Person County State.jpeg. For census years that have more information, you could include the locality, enumeration district, household number, roll number, page number, etc. You must rename the file from FTMM2, not Finder, or you’ll break the link. To do this, right- or control-click on the media file and select “Rename Media File.”

            If you do this every time you add historical records, photos, etc., from Ancestry, I think you’ll avoid the problem you described. It also makes finding media much easier, both in FTMM and Finder. Also, if you’ve ever added historical records using FTMM’s web merge, you know that media files get added with a meaningless file name, like 120510082947968.jpeg, so immediately renaming them makes the files names meaningful and easy to find.

  2. says

    You know…. as I make the rounds to various archives and Family History Libraries, I can’t help but notice the prevalence of Macs in the Genealogy field. Its clear to me that the majority of genealogists (actually researching) are Mac users. So why does the Mac genealogy software lag so far behind. There is clearly a market there. I am incredibly disappointed with Reunion. I started emailing them over three years ago. Their official comment is no comment, but “they are always looking to update their software”. I still hope that Ancestry will get their act together and/or the folks at Roots Magic will come out with something for Mac.

    • Keith says

      It’s good to hear that there are so many family history researchers who are Mac users. We all need to keep sending feedback to the developers. They’ll have to listen, or they won’t stay in business.

  3. Pat Shannon says

    Syncing was no problem before upgrading FTM for Mac 2. Since then, sync errors occur. My file is only 424 persons! After sync error I close for 24 hours and lo and behold it then says it is not linked and to perform sync, as though it had never been synced. It creates a brand new tree in Then I had to delete original tree on Ancestry. This has happened twice so far, creating new tree on Ancestry and having to delete older tree! Here’s hoping this behavior will stop – I want to get on with my researching!

  4. says

    I use family tree maker 2 for MAC but after sync errors with Ancestry, I have unlinked the trees and upload a new gedcom file to Ancestry after working on my local version. It’s more work but my Ancestry copy is used as a backup, along with backups on external drives. Syncing the trees worked for a while but one day, something happened and it cost me hours in fixing the mess.

    • Bill Wilson says

      The current version of FTTM2 is Since downloading and installing it about a week ago, I have had no problems with syncing, and it runs faster than the previous update. If you have an older version you need to update to this version.

      • Keith says

        Thanks for the info, Bill. Glad to hear the latest update is working well for you. I still recommend to others that they archive the previous version of FTMM2 before updating, just in case it doesn’t work for them.

  5. Margaret Murdock says

    Keith, thanks for the info re renaming files. I do what you are suggesting when downloading files via web merge now, but the problem is that many many files were downloaded all at once when I first tried tree sync. It will take years for me to go through and rename them all. I think the problem is that the links got broken, which is why I wish they were aliases instead of links. The media files got duplicated when I did backups including media, and when restoring tree files after my files got corrupted in the sync process. It was filling up my hard drive and I had to somehow sort out and eliminate duplicates. I couldn’t tell which ones were linked to what etc and while I went to great effort using another application to avoid trashing all copies of the same media file, the thing was such a tangled mess that I had to clean it up somehow, and ended up moving, renaming, deleting media files and folders. So I think once the links were broken, then FTMM2 looked for and found files of the same name wherever it could. I’m not sure this is a bug as much as a design flaw – if the program created aliases instead of links a lot of these problems would be avoided.

  6. Edith Torbay says

    Now it’s September…and I’m thinking of downloading FTMM2 for the first time. Is it any better these days? Any words of wisdom for a newbie?

    • Keith says

      Edith, as I explained in my post at, the TreeSync errors in FTMM2 have mostly been resolved, along with a few other minor bugs. However, FTMM2 still has fewer features but costs more than the Windows version, FTM 2012. If you have have an Ancestry Member Tree (AMT) and want to be able to sync your desktop file with it, then purchasing FTMM2 may be worthwhile to you. If you do not have an AMT, then you might want to explore the alternatives. But first you need to decide what your criteria are. Then you can look for an application that meets most of your important ones. Ben has some great info in his Feature Comparison table to help you decide (

    • Bill Wilson says

      I’ve been using FTMM2 for quite a while. Despite its bugs, I like it because of the ease of finding “hints” on and merging of information from Ancestry. But be prepared to break the link between a corrupted file (family tree) and Ancestry, delete the corrupted tree, and download everything from Ancestry into FTMM2 from time to time. With a reasonably fast Internet connection you can do this fairly quickly, unless your tree has 50,000 people in it (mine has something over 4000). This corruption happens unpredictably and is frustrating. One thing that may help prevent it is compacting the file before syncing (the Tools menu has that option). If you need to talk to a person at Ancestry, you can do it pretty easily, and I’ve always found them to be interested in the problem, courteous, and helpful.

    • Margaret Murdock says

      I agree with Keith. FTMM2 does have its limitations and annoyances, and Treesync was a disaster before this summer, but at this point I think the sync feature is a strong selling point.

      I have been syncing FTMM2 with my ancestry trees for several months now with very few problems. I haven’t had to break the link and re-download or restore from a backup for a long time. A nice feature of FTMM2 is that you can clip/merge information not just from Ancestry, but from any website (This is not the same as syncing – it’s basically copy and paste).

      Remember that all software has a learning curve, and syncing is always tricky, no matter what program you are in. I actually think Ancestry-FTMM2 is doing better with it now than most sync functions I have used.

      I want to offer a description of how I have been doing things, perhaps it will be helpful.

      I don’t compact it every time I sync, in fact I think it works better if I sync it frequently, like every half hour or less, and compact it less often. Ancestry support suggested more frequent syncs a while back, and it does seem to work better. I do compact it at least once a day, more often if I am making a lot of changes, significant changes, or if it crashes or starts acting goofy.

      By “acting goofy” I mean things not showing up the way you know you have put them in. For instance, Tom Swearingen shows up as Mary Swearingen’s father when you are on Mary’s page, but Mary doesn’t show up as Tom’s daughter when you are on Tom’s page. There isn’t any other Tom or Mary Swearingen in your index, so you know it isn’t possible you have attached them to a duplicate name. This kind of thing seems to happen when you make significant changes.

      By significant changes I mean things that can “confuse” the database, for instance, detaching a person from a parent or spouse and attaching them to another line, or merging two individuals. This can specially be a problem if they have a lot of ancestors or descendants attached, or if you discover that you have attached someone as a spouse when they are actually a child, parent, or sibling (easy to do back when you had multiple relatives in multiple generations with the same names).

      I have also learned to avoid certain functions that are allowed in the program but problematic. For instance, changing properties of a fact type or deleting a fact type when they have facts already attached to them is not a good idea. If you really feel you need to do this, delete all those facts first. I have also found the automated find duplicate people/merge process to be a mess – I merge specific individuals as I become aware of them instead, then compact and sync afterwards.

      In all those situations double check to make sure you’ve got it right before you change it! Back up first, compact, sync, and as an extra precaution quit and restart the program and check to make sure everything’s copacetic. Sometimes I need to clear caches/temp files etc on my computer to totally get rid of messes I have tried to clean up – this is not unique to FTMM2.

      Having put in my two cents, knock on wood that things keep going smoothly with FTMM2 for me!

  7. Patricia Shannon says

    I read an article on this website that described a Bypass for the Registration of the FTM for Mac 2012. I cannot use WebSearch in my program because is “is not registered” even though I have used it on all versions before. I have searched on this website but cannot find the article, and archives are not on the site any more. Can you help? I have tried 3 times the bypass suggestions by by replacing the .plist in the Library/PreferencePane and it does add the “2” to the program name but still does not allow registering.
    Whew! What a frustrating problem. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Margaret Murdock says

      I haven’t had this particular issue, but several things have been helpful with other issues that might apply here:
      1) With FTMM2 closed: In your user/Library/Saved Applications State folder, rename and then move the Family Tree Maker file (com.ancestry.FamilyTreeMaker2.savedState) to your desktop. When you restart the program, it will create a new file.
      2) Make sure you have removed the old versions from your documents folder or wherever you keep them. Make your backups on an external drive, and weed them out regularly.
      3) Just wondering – maybe it’s just a typo, but you are calling it FTM for Mac 2012 – only the Windows version has 2012 in the name, the Mac version is Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 – not trying to be picky, but sometimes if the name is put in wrong somewhere, the program won’t be able to find what it needs to.
      4) Sometimes you need to clean house in your Mac for programs to work properly. Nowadays, there can be a lot of junk that builds up on a Mac. There are various ways to deal with it. There is a free program you can download called Onyx, to repair permissions, clear caches etc that can be really helpful. I use this every day now, but have had to find other solutions on forums as well.

  8. Danielle says

    The update crashed my software. I have been unable to fix it since – what is it now, 8 weeks maybe? The ancestry techs have been unable to help – although we have been on the phone 10-15 times. I love my new Mac (recent convert from PC), but have had SOOOO many issues with FTM2 , am definitely considering leaving (after 10+ years) for Reunion 10. one thing that I used to love about FTM was the support, but I find the articles for Mac are incorrect or outdated and the phone techs really know next to nothing about Macs and Mac software. Sincerely disappointed.

    • Stephen says

      I also have been using FTM for about 4 years and bought FTMM when I changed to a Mac. One year in and I was frustrated by many FTM crashes until finally the entire Mac crashed so badly that it would not start again. With Apple’s help I recovered the computer staring with a blank hard drive, reloaded the operating system, updates and finally my files and some other programs. Apple said that the crash could have been caused by FTM so I did not reload it. No more crashes! However, after 3 months I finally did reload FTM and after one week my Mac started crashing again. That’s it, I’m moving to another family history program. The stress of a completely empty Mac is too much to suffer again.

  9. Lynda Currie says

    I am having problems with FTMM2 saving a new version every time I quit using it. It backs up to my desktop with a new ftmd. Is there a way to stop this from happening? Thanks!!

    • says

      In FTMM2 Preferences/General, UNcheck “Backup Tree File Automatically”.

      When you want to create a backup, go to File/Backup. In the window that opens, FTMM2 will automatically name your backup file with the tree name plus the current date. It will automatically save it to the “Working directory” unless you otherwise specify. This is the location you chose for your FTMM2 file when you first set up the program.

      If you want to save it elsewhere, you have to remember to choose that each time you back up. I always save mine to an external hard drive, so I have to select “Custom Directory” each time. FTMM2 does seem to remember where I saved it the last time, once I select Custom Directory, but there does not seem to be a way to set this as the default backup location.

    • Bill Wilson says

      I’m not sure this is the correct answer to your problem, but try opening Preferences under the menubar item “Family Tree Maker 2” and see if the Default Location for New Tree File is your desktop instead of the folder Family Tree Maker. If it is, change it to the factory default, the folder Family Tree Maker. Normally you never look inside that folder, so you wouldn’t notice if it made a new file on quitting.

  10. Jerry says

    I am using FTMM3 and used FTMM2 for from it’s beginning. One the taped session discussions suggested before syncing, to back-up; then use “Compact” in the Tool Menu; then sync. NEVER had another problem. Still finding my way around “3”; but it seems good. I read somewhere about Ben’s course on Sources. Would be interested when available.

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