Thanks a Lot, Ancestry.com

No, really. 

I guess it’s time for me to rework my entire research process. If you’re a genealogist, you already know about this. If you’re not, you probably don’t care. 

On Tuesday, 8 Dec 2015, Kendall Hulet of Ancestry.com announced via email and the Ancestry blog that they would be retiring their desktop software package known as Family Tree Maker:

“…we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.”

What?!?!

He then goes on to say,

“Our subscription business and website, on the other hand, continue to grow and we are doubling down our efforts to make that experience even better for our Ancestry community.”

Wrong. 

The next day on 9 Dec 2015, after a deluge of outraged customers hit the Comments box, he made another blog post to “clarify” the issue. Here’s the key portion of that: 

After January 1, 2017, features that require connectivity to Ancestry, such as TreeSync, uploading and downloading trees and media, and Web Search, may no longer be supported. Most Family Tree Maker features are designed to work offline, and should continue to function unless a change on your computer, such as an operating system update, causes the functionality to break.

Oh, you mean those operating system updates that we perform say, about twice a year on average

In other words, Ancestry.com decided to rock the genealogical world 17 days before Christmas, pulling out from under our feet the single most useful feature present in any genealogy software on the market: TreeSync™. 

You see, the software in question, Family Tree Maker (or FTM), isn’t really that great. It’s clunky, doesn’t have good charting or reporting capabilities, is nearly useless for source citation* and refuses to export a gedcom that comes complete with media. 

*BUT

FTM syncs your desktop tree with your online tree at Ancestry.com. In other words, every source record and EVERY ASSOCIATED IMAGE is present on your desktop computer. Without TreeSync™, if you perform a lot of research on Ancestry (and who doesn’t?), the process to attach image copies to records is about ten steps long. 

Some genealogists, the smart ones, already use other (BETTER except for the sync) software programs, and already include this ten-step process in their Method. But those of us who are lazy, or slaves to convenience, or who simply never thought the day would come when ANCESTRY WOULD PULL THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER OUR FEET, simply relied on TreeSync™ to import our data. The lack of a comprehensive export feature never really bothered me unless I wanted to try out new software. And once I realized the export didn’t work, I just grinned and bore it: went back to FTM. It’s just easier that way, despite FTM’s foibles. 

Instead of figuring out a workaround for the media issue, I developed workarounds for the citation issues. For the charting. For the database maintenance. 

And now I realize that I must go back and start all over in order to have my entire tree in another program. 

You see, here’s the problem: Ancestry refuses to release the TreeSync™ function to other software developers. 

So now, the slaves to convenience like me, must force ourselves to adapt, to access our online trees and download every single image, rename it, attach it to the source citations, then to the people, then to their respective events. Some people have tens of thousands of these images in their tree. 

This. Is. Going. To. Take. Forever. 

The good news: 

In the upcoming nightmare of redoing my whole tree, I actually may learn something. I may figure out a better process. I may find that some of my attached records, which I haven’t needed to revisit since I added them, are incorrect. I will be forced to analyze each and every piece of evidence for each and every person. The result will ultimately be a better tree. Better research. Better citations. 

Better genealogy. 

Ancestry.com, most of your customers are horrified. You’re going to lose a LOT of business among the online subscribers. 

But THIS customer? This customer is glad. 

Thank you, Ancestry.com, for forcing me to become a better genealogist. 

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