Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker Announcement: The Sky is Not Falling

Yesterday announced that it will no longer sell its popular Family Tree Maker software,[1. Kendall Julet, “Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software,” Ancestry blog, posted 8 December 2015 ( : accessed 8 December 2015).] and the Internet lit up. Genealogists everywhere began blasting Ancestry’s decision and wringing their hands about what to do.

Amid the chaos bloggers began to speak up. Among the first was Dave McDonald, who commented, “Newsflash: the loss of one program isn’t going to bring your genealogical research work to a screeching halt.”[2. Dave McDonald, “Databases and Software,” Thinking Genealogically blog, posted 8 December 2015 ( : accessed 8 December 2015).]

Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, and Thomas MacEntee followed up today. Judy’s post, called “Check Our the Alternatives”[3. Judy G. Russell, “Check Out the Alternatives,” The Legal Genealogist blog, posted 9 December 2015 ( : accessed 9 December 2015).] pointed out two Family Tree Maker competitors–Legacy 8.0 and RootsMagic 7–that are already providing information on their products and how Family Tree Maker users can transition.

Thomas took a slightly different tack, pointing out that “Genealogy is all about change,” and relating Ancestry’s apparent move away from selling desktop software to overall technology trends toward web-only subscriptions.[4. Thomas MacEntee, “Blame the Millennials: the End of Family Tree Maker Genealogy Software,” GeneaBloggers blog, posted 9 December 2015 ( : accessed 9 December 2015).]

Last but not least, Kerry Scott weighed in with her usual blend of humor and common sense: “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.”[5. Kerry Scott, “Santa Claus Signs Agreement with to Ruin Christmas,” Clue Wagon blog, posted 9 December 2015 ( : accessed 9 December 2015).]

My own reaction: this is a great opportunity for Family Tree Maker users to assess what they want family tree software to do and examine their options. Here are some key questions for database software users:

  1. What did you want to do with the information you are storing in Family Tree Maker? For example, organize data about individuals, keep track of sources? Provide tools for analyzing data, generate and print reports, create charts?
  2. Has what you want to do changed since you chose Family Tree Maker?
  3. Is a desktop database the best option for doing what you want to do?
  4. Can you do what you want to do without a desktop database?
  5. Do one or more of Family Tree Maker’s competitors do what you want to do better?

At this point, you have a year to consider your answers to these questions.

My answers are

  1. Organize data and keep track of sources, print simple reports, generate charts.
  2. I have never been a committed Family Tree User.
  3. Not necessarily. Most of what I want to do can be done using a combination of an online tree (I use a private tree on Ancestry), Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets.
  4. See answer 3.
  5. In the native Mac universe, in my opinion, Family Tree Maker trails its competitors Reunion, Heredis, and MacFamilyTree 7 in generating reports and charts.

So the sky is not falling after all.