Friday, 11 December 2015

More on Ancestry's planned cull of Family Tree Maker

I think it is fair to say that mankind has not looked favourably on Ancestry's decision yesterday to kill off its highly popular Family Tree Maker programme (see

Ancestry ( has put out a follow-up blog post to answer some queries concerning its decision and some of the ramifications for current users - this is available at

Here are its three key points:

1. We are fully committed to supporting Family Tree Maker through at least the end of 2016 with all available support from member services, including technical issues, product issues, updates and attention to the product. You will be able to use the software, exactly as you do now, including TreeSync, for at least the next year.

2. We are exploring possible relationships with other desktop software solutions that would make it possible for their products to integrate with Ancestry.

3. We are exploring options to bring more reports and related functionality from Family Tree Maker into the online service. Stay tuned for updates on this over the coming year.

Note the phrase at least the end of 2016. In a follow on comment it adds that Towards the end of 2016, we will assess our progress toward a smooth transition for our customers and review our support commitment at that time, and 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 (my emphasis). The company has at present committed to support the product at present for a further year, until January 1st 2017, but theoretically, if the response is so overwhelming that it becomes detrimental to Ancestry's relationship with its customer base, it may well extend that. Theoretically - but we can't really rely on that.

In another point, responding to the question What happens to the family tree I’ve created using Family Tree Maker? Will it continue to be accessible? it responds You will continue to be able to access your data through the desktop software beyond Jan. 1, 2017, however over time there will be a gradual degradation of features. You can always export your tree and save it.

The company has also confirmed that it is not planning to sell off Family Tree Maker.

I've read a lot of comments online from the genealogical commentariat suggesting that this was inevitable, and that this is the way the world is moving, but I've never really been a big fan of self-fulfilling prophecies i.e. it was always going to happen, so it's going to happen. I've seen the Terminator films enough times to know that the future is not set, there is no fate but that which we make, etc...! Ancestry believes it is in its interest to kill off the programme, but Ancestry is nothing without its subscribers. I'd be inclined to watch this space for a bit - there seems to be a lot of genuine anger out there. Is it really so necessary to alienate a huge chunk of that subscriber base on something that seems actually to be so unnecessary? One to watch...


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  1. For a technical reason I've remounted this post online - the following comment from Patrick Lobardi accompanied the original post:

    I find it interesting that Ancestry does not plan to sell off Family Tree Maker. Isn't that curious? I would think it would be considered an asset (like our DNA samples) that could be sold to the highest bidder, thus increasing Ancestry's profits. The fact they don't plan to sell it should be considered a clue. Without FTM, folks will need a subscription to access their databases and family trees will need to be stored on their website since there is no ability to sync information. I'm not sure what their intent is but it does seem there is something more to this than we are being told. Anyone else care to speculate?

  2. Who would buy it? Certainly none of the existing genealogy software suppliers.They may very well have conducted informal soundings. I am dubious about how many people use FTM, synch their trees to Ancestry and didn't have an Ancestry data subs for at least some of the time. Are these people really going to stop their Ancestry data subs in protest? Where else are they going to get the non-census data from?

  3. Seeing as the majority of Ancestry subscribers only ever access the service using a mobile device, the % of customers using FTM is a minority. This number will continue to decrease over time. Considering that the current version is likely to continue to run on existing computers for many years and no doubt will work on the next version of windows, it seems a sensible decision to stop upgrading and enhancing FTM. I doubt that is is a saleable product - but one never knows someone might make Ancestry an offer they cant refuse. (being in the never say never camp - I would however liken it to pigs flying and snowballs surviving in warmer climes)

  4. I purchased a copy of FTM & run it on my laptop. My FTM database is therefore on my laptop, and also backed up to multiple remote devices, at least one of which is stored offsite. I also Sync with FTM. I use my database offline; I do not need to be logged onto I produce reports etc offline. I only rarely purchase a monthly subscription from Ancestry. All other investigation is from other sources. My issue will when Microsoft upgrade Windows to a release level which will no longer support my copy of FTM. Until that time I will continue to use FTM whilst investigating a fallback / alternative. But I will not recommend Ancestry to anyone from now on.