NORTH POLE—9 December 2015—Representatives for Santa Claus announced today that they’ve signed an agreement with Ancestry.com to ruin Christmas for genealogists this year. “Ancestry.com approached us last week about gaining access to the homes of genealogists around the world,” said Santa’s spokeself. “At first, we weren’t really interested. But then Ancestry.com offered to pay us in DNA tests. Santa has always wondered whether he’s descended from a Cherokee princess, and this is his chance to find out.”
The agreement calls for Ancestry.com employees to accompany Santa down the chimney. Once inside the home of the genealogist, they’ll sneak off to the computer, and immediately delete both Family Tree Maker from the hard drive. People who don’t have chimneys or don’t normally celebrate Christmas are asked to facilitate this process by leaving a key under the mat.
Santa’s spokeself asked that children leave out extra cookies, so Santa doesn’t have to share with the Ancestry.com employees.
Reality Check: Ancestry.com is retiring Family Tree Maker, but this isn’t an immediate panic situation. First, while it will stop syncing to Ancestry trees in 2017, it won’t actually stop working altogether. You could still use it beyond that date if you really wanted to. There are still people out there using Windows XP. Nobody is going to come to your house and delete your software.
Second, my guess is that you won’t want to use Family Tree Maker once you try another family tree program. I use and love RootsMagic, which works great on both PCs and Macs, has excellent customer service, and has already created a special deal for Family Tree Maker customers. Many of my Windows-based friends use and love Legacy Family Tree. There are other options out there as well, and there might even be more of them by 2017. While I like Ancestry.com generally, I never had any warm feelings for Family Tree Maker, so I really do think you’ll find that there are better programs out there.
Third, if you’re upset that you won’t have a program that syncs with Ancestry Trees, you’re not alone. I agree with you 100%. In fact, while RootsMagic is my program of choice, I finally broke down and bought Family Tree Maker a few months ago, because I need to be able to run reports, do surgery, and perform other tasks with Ancestry Trees that you can’t do on online. If you’re upset that you won’t be able to back your tree up to your hard drive anymore, you’re not alone there (and exporting a tree as a GEDCOM is NOT a backup—you lose a ton of stuff that way). I love working in the cloud. In fact, I wrote a book on a cloud app called Evernote, because I love it that much. But I’d never in a million years use or recommend a cloud-based product that didn’t allow me to back up my work elsewhere. I fervently hope that this move means that Ancestry.com will begin to allow third-party software makers to work with their API, so that programs like RootsMagic and Legacy can sync with those online trees, and back them up for offline work. If you agree, I encourage you to make your voice heard (nicely).
Fourth, I do think it’s important to remember that while all of this is inconvenient for us, it probably sucks a whole lot more for the people who are likely losing their jobs in this move. In the grand scheme of things, having a year’s notice that your genealogy software program will change is probably not the worst thing that could happen to us, and we might want to keep that in mind as we choose our response.
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