Ancestry has announced that it will only support Family Tree Maker through 1 Jan 2017. While it attempted to sugarcoat the news so it would sound like a good thing, most people are reacting as if their favorite toy just got taken away.
But really, folks, those of us who have used this product long enough know that we lost our favorite toy a loooong time ago. Support for Family Tree Maker is not what it used to be. The program itself is not what it used to be. There are a number of things it used to do that it no longer does, because their target audience is the general public, not genealogists who want greater control over their data and the extraction of information from that data.
For a time in my life, my career and family took priority and I stopped working on the family tree. When I got back in the game, the upgrade from my older version of Family Tree Maker to the then-current version caused my images and sources to disappear. So while the information about a census record would appear as a fact with all the pertinent information, there was no image, nor source, for that fact. While upsetting (at the time, VERY upsetting), I figured over time I could get these added back in. Boy, did I underestimate the amount of work I had already done on this! But I could do it from home, so in the end, a small price to pay.
Fast forward. Syncing has created issues. While I enjoyed having an online tree, approximately every 2-3 months, it had a problem and the ONLY way to fix it was to unlink the trees, delete the online tree, and re-upload the Family Tree Maker tree. This takes HOURS. But, if that's what I have to do...
I began noticing that some people who had the 1870 Census as a (Residence) Fact, would have the image of that Census attached to most, if not all, of their OTHER Facts. Hmmm... Fix, fix, fix.
Then, I noticed that some people had every single thing about them duplicated. They had two Names, two Sexes, two Births, etc. Exactly the same. Merge, merge, merge. Delete, delete, delete.
Then I noticed that random Census images were attached to other Census Facts. Fix, fix, fix.
I ran a Data Errors Report and came up with 38 PAGES of things needing fixed. Yes, some were my error, either from a typo or from something that needed further research. But 38 PAGES! A good number of these were from duplicated events, and yep, you guessed it, a lot of the duplicated line items that still needed correcting.
But the final two were, in my opinion, indicative of the future. In a random online search, I found information about living people on another member's tree. Without making this already long rant even longer, it made me realize that in spite of their reassurance about protecting the privacy of living people, it didn't always happen. In addition, images that were on my online tree and marked private were not. My experience with customer service and tech support about these issues convinced me that their focus has shifted more towards growing the company and less on satisfying the customers.
This coincided with me realizing that I was spending more time dealing with problems and issues with my database than actually researching. It was time to look for a new program.
There were several features I liked about Legacy, and it has a faithful following of users that LOVE it. My initial impression is that it is an easy program to learn and use. Loading a GEDCOM was a piece of cake and navigating through the tree to different people took no effort. Actually, the only thing that didn't sit well with me was the amount of time and effort it took to do basic data entry. I work extremely quickly and prefer to have my fields set up so I am working exclusively through the keyboard, alternating between keying and tabbing between the fields. I don't like to have to stop and use the mouse to get to where I need to enter more information. So while I liked it, I didn't love it.
I jumped into RootsMagic and not only bought the entire setup, but signed up for a couple of classes on it at the same time AND had the opportunity to hear Bruce Buzbee in person at a RootsMagic Users Group! It is a great program that gives you incredible control over your data. If you take the time to enter things correctly and consistently, and don't mind moving between different windows for your data entry, this is the program for you. But, you have to either get the book or take a class because this program has many things that are not obvious to the inexperienced user. A perfect example of a program that is as good as you make it. Importing a GEDCOM was extremely quick and easy and within minutes I was playing with color-coding my different lines. Again, the holdup for me was that I could enter a person's basic information in FTM much quicker and did not have to switch between different windows to do so. Still an amazing program geared towards genealogists.
A new one for me, I heard about this through Thomas MacEntee's blog and decided to give it a try. Again, easy enough to import a GEDCOM and begin playing with it. One of the things I liked was the layout and tabs in the main work screen. While data entry is not as quick as in FTM due to the multiple areas and tabs that need to be accessed with a mouse, it wasn't bad. Check out the reviews on this one; some people did not like certain features that are standard with it and that it is limited in language availability. Another feature I did like is the arrow buttons allowing you to move up and down your line quickly - always handy when trying to stay on task.
Family Tree Maker 2014
Yep, I'm gonna talk about it. Believe it or not, after playing with everything, I came back to FTM. I've been using Family Tree Maker since before Banner Blue was purchased by Broderbund in 1995. And I have to say, I LOVE ancestry.com and I LOVE Family Tree Maker. Yes, you heard me correctly. I am probably considered an expert on databases and definitely an expert on Family Tree Maker. In that respect, I can work in it and maneuver around it extremely quickly, and that makes it easy for me.
Ancestry.com is everything I ever wanted in one neat package. While people may complain about it, I have memories of the way we use to do research, and it wasn't from the comfort of my own home, with my family around me and my dog at my feet. I thank them every time I jump on their website (and it is several times a day) that I don't have to fight the weather, parking, dim lighting, bad microfiche / microfilm readers, printers that are out of order, freezing to death or burning up in facilities that aren't adequately heated or cooled - well, you get the picture. Does it have everything I want or need? No. Do I still have to run out to cemeteries, courthouses, libraries, etc.? Yes. But I can do a lot from this desk. When you add in the fabulous online resources of FamilySearch, it's a pretty good place to start.
But (you knew there had to be a but!), I don't love them TOGETHER.
That seems to be where I, and many others, were running into trouble. While it was really neat to add records to individuals either online or from within the program, it's still pretty easy to do the same thing with a few extra steps and you get the benefit of keeping your file uncorrupted and your records, sources, and citations accurate and neatly organized. It can be done!
So, for now, I'm sticking with Family Tree Maker. I imagine I'll continue to explore other programs and if I happen to find one that convinces me to make the switch, I'll be sure to let you know.