Splitting a Tree with Family Tree Maker for Mac 2

I just sent the following in an email to a GenealogyTools reader who asked me how to split a Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 (FTMM2) tree. This person had purchased the genealogy software, downloaded a 13,000 person tree from Ancestry.com, and found it too cumbersome to manage.

I’ve tried every which way to develop a method for cleanly splitting trees in FTMM2. After putting several hours into it I can say unequivocally, that it cannot be done. There are three principle problems:

1. The steps are many and complicated.
2. Collateral people remain in the file with no way to automatically detect and remove them.
3. The software is extremely unstable, crashing often—so much so that I do not recommend you use FTMM2 for any purpose.

My recommendation for moving forward is to do one of two things:

1. Buy Reunion 9 for Mac and load your Ancestry.com GEDCOM into it.
2. Buy Family Tree Maker 2012 (FTM 2012) and Windows 7, install them in a virtual PC on your Mac (I use VirtualBox), then download your Ancestry.com tree.

Which one is best for you depends on your willingness and ability to run Windows 7 on your Mac and your desire to keep your tree synchronized with Ancestry.com. If you absolutely must keep your tree in sync with Ancestry you’ll have to go with FTM 2012 on Windows. If not, go with Reunion 9.

I have read that Reunion will easily handle very large trees so there should be no need to split yours if you go with that option.

Prior to this exercise my experiences with FTMM2 have been limited to exploring features in preparation for reviewing the software (no longer necessary thanks to Keith who recently wrote a Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 review and agreed to publish it on GenealogyTools.com). Having invested several hours in using FTMM2 for what ought to be a routine genealogical task I have made up my mind about its fitness. My opinion is summed up in this excerpt from the email: “I do not recommend you use FTMM2 for any purpose.”


  1. Bill Wilson says

    I too have had “issues” with FTMM2, but continue to use it because of its reciprocal linking to Ancestry.com. My most recent tussle grew out of what were apparently corrupted links between the program and the Media (photos, pdfs, etc). After spending a couple of hours on the phone with very nice and helpful representatives at Ancestry trying to resolve the linkage problems, I thought about just going to Time Machine backups to find a version of the Media folder that had not been corrupted and replacing the damaged folder. Time Machine gave me problems too, telling me that I didn’t have permission to do anything with some files. I searched for answers and got to the Pondini website , which gave me a way to get around this. The uncorrupted Media items linked up with the appropriate individuals in FTMM2 and the lot transferred to Ancestry without a hitch. But I should not have had to go through such a convoluted process.

    I have to agree with Keith’s and Ben’s summation of FTMM2: it’s not ready for prime time. However, because of the ease of integrating what’s on my computer with what’s on Ancestry and the “hints” that Ancestry put up that have given me valuable information, I’m sticking with it. But I also add whatever I glean from Ancestry to iFamily for Leopard, which is the biggest bargain in genealogy software for the Mac at present. I have never had a problem with it.

  2. Shirley A Smith says

    I have been reading your newsletter for a little while but notice you do not write about Family Tree Maker on a desktop using Windows 7, which is what I have. Do you only write about FTM using a Mac? If so, I will unsubscribe. Thank you. Shirley Smith

  3. Ben says

    In retrospect I went too far in my statement about FTMM2 being unsuitable for any purpose. I think it’s still a reasonable choice for those who like to tinker and understand and mitigate the inherent risks.

  4. Betty Stokes says

    Do you have an article about splitting trees in FTM for the PC (Windows 7). I use Roots Magic 5 and use FTM 2012 synched to Ancestry. I probably could download the Ancestry file to a ged file and import it into RM. Then split it and upload it/them again. I’m concerned about losing pictures and items I have uploaded. My goal in splitting my mother’s parent’s line is because the tree/trees would likely work better if they were smaller. I had a couple of occasions where I had to relink FTM 2012 to Ancestry. In one instance, I fixed something and in the other one, I just reattached 2012 to the on line tree. There have been a couple of updates which I think helps but I don’t really know what they fixed.

  5. Linda Wilson says

    I use Reunion on my Mac, but it lacks some features. I was interested if I could transfer my Reunion GEDCOM to FTMM2, and if FTMM2 could then create a family book with stories and pictures and charts? And can it create immigration maps to include in the book? I wouldn’t be using FTMM2 otherwise. Thanks for help.

    • Ben says

      Hi Linda. You can import a GEDCOM created by Reunion into FTMM2 and create a book from the resulting family tree file. Books created in FTMM2 can contain reports, charts, images, and text items. You would have to create the text on your own; FTMM2 doesn’t have the “Smart Story” feature like FTM 2012. FTMM2 can create a map showing the places associated with a person including connecting lines; however, it doesn’t provide a way to put those maps in a book. I can think of a work around though. Let me know if you want the details. Maybe it would make a good video topic… —-Ben >@<

  6. wladdr says

    Ben, do you still feel the same about FTMM2 in Sep. 2013 as you did in March? I have been using MacFamilyTree 7 for the past several months. MFT7 crashes so often when saving that I long ago turned off Auto-Save because I had no control when it would crash. Even now I have to Force Quit probably 75% of the time that I save a change. I searched for the “best” Mac genealogy programs and a couple sites liked FTMM2. I happened across your site just before I sprung for it.

    I’m not a heavy user; just a few hundred people in my tree and I was also looking for an easy way to get it on-line so the rest of my family could weigh in.

    So, do you still not like this program?


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