Tag Archives: reunion

Managing the FTM transition

FTM TRANSITIONIt’s certainly an interesting story about Ancestry dropping their desktop genealogy software Family Tree Maker (FTM). Ancestry themselves claimed the software was “The #1 Selling Family Tree Program”. It would seem unusual that the #1 selling program would be discontinued. It’s possible FTM was some kind of loss-leader to get people to sign up to Ancestry.com, although it seems odd that they would need to lose money on the program. Other genealogy programs seem to make money. It would seem logical then that the transition is strategic, in order to get more people to use their online family tree product, which as part of their overall service, generates much more revenue for them. As a strategic decision, however, I think they made a mistake in not transitioning the features many genealogists rely on in desktop software to their online offering first, features like charts and reports, as well as better backups of data than the GEDCOM available from Ancestry’s online service.

Their initial blog post announcing the ‘retirement’ of FTM has so far generated over 8500 comments. A second follow-up post has generated another 950 comments so far. Cleary, people have concerns about how Ancestry is handling the transition.

Other companies, of course, are not sitting still. Pretty much every other major desktop genealogy software company has made announcements trying to get disaffected FTM users to switch over to their software. Here are the announcements I found:

Ancestral Quest (Win & Mac*): Ancestral Quest competitive upgrade for Family Tree Maker
Family Historian (Win): Family Historian Welcomes Family Tree Maker Users
Heredis (Win & Mac): Important information about genealogy
Legacy (Win): How to import Family Tree Maker into Legacy PLUS your questions answered
MacFamilyTree (Mac): Family Tree Maker discontinued – Switch to MacFamilyTree and Switch from Family Tree Maker to MacFamilyTree and import your family tree
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder (Win & Mac*): FTM Users: Join MyHeritage and get Family Tree Builder with an Unlimited Size Family Site for Free
Reunion (Mac): Moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion
RootsMagic (Win & Mac*): Family Tree Maker Upgrade
* These Mac versions run in Emulation using CrossOver or similar technology. This means they are essentially the Windows versions running on the Mac, with no special adaptation made to the user interface to fit Macintosh interface guidelines.

My impression was that RootsMagic was the first to come out and announce a transition plan, even launching the site ftmupgrade.com with instructional videos within a day of the announcements. Most companies have offered financial incentives to switch now as well. Ancestral Quest is offering $10 off their normal price, Family Historian is offering 20% off, Heredis is offering 50% off, MacFamilyTree is offering 50% off, MyHeritage is offering an unlimited size family tree (normally their free tree is limited to 250 people), and RootsMagic is offering their full version for $20 (instead of $44.90). Most of these deals are limited in time, so if you’re interested in taking advantage, definitely check out the programs soon.

It seems everyone suggests exporting a GEDCOM from FTM and then importing that GEDCOM. Only FTM 2012 and later support exporting media with the GEDCOM file.

One problem that seems to be common among those transitioning is how FTM handles source citations. FTM allows media to be linked to source citations, which are in turn linked to a master source. Many genealogy programs use a single master source, but not individual source citations for media. This is confusing some imports, and is not being ignored by the other software companies. I’ve noticed Reunion mentioning that they are working on a fix for this in their forum. I’m sure others are also working on this problem.

Do you use FTM? What are your plans for transitioning? Are you planning to switch to Ancestry’s online site, or moving to a different desktop program? Have you already switched? What has been your experience so far?

Genealogy Software for the Mac

This week I’m attending the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Boston. Last night I attended the Mac BOF (Birds-Of-a-Feather) meeting. It was packed from one of the room to the other, thanks to the hard work of Doris Loeb Nabel and other volunteers.

I first attended a Mac BOF meeting back in 2011 in DC. Like two years ago, both Duff Wilson from Ancestry and Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage spoke briefly about their future Mac offerings. Both, by the way, are planning new Mac offerings by the end of the calendar year. Ancestry is planning a new Mac version of FTM that is closer in feature-parity to the Windows version than previous versions. Wilson also noted that the price of the Mac version, which is currently higher than the Windows version, would likely come into line with the Windows version. MyHeritage is working on the first Mac version of FTB, which will also not have all the features of their Windows version. MyHeritage wants to get a version out, but doesn’t want to wait until all the features they have built over the years in their Windows version, have been coded for the Mac. Hopefully both companies will bring their Mac version into sync with their Windows versions over time.

One of the things I noticed at the meeting was that many of the people did not know about all the Mac genealogy software available. Most knew about Reunion, and Family Tree Maker, but many did not know about others. I thought it would be useful to take a quick look at the genealogy applications available for Mac. Most of these I’ve discussed in the past to differing degrees, but this is probably the first time I’ve listed them all together. The list consists of most Mac genealogy software (in alphabetical order) that have been updated in the past year (and I’ll point out a few that have not been recently updated recently at the end). If I miss any that you use, post in the comments.



Not a traditional genealogy program based on people – Evidentia is based on recording sources and building a case to prove claims. Costs $24.99 on the web site (although currently on sale, 20% off through August at $21.25).


A very powerful genealogy program, GEDitCOM II‘s main drawback is its antiquated interface. GEDitCOM II has a few power features that no other genealogy program has, such as scripting with Applescript, Python or Ruby, and outputting a book in LaTeX format. These are not features most genealogists will ever use, but for some advanced users, these features definitely set it apart. Costs $64.99 on the web site.


GRAMPS is a free and open-source genealogy application originally developed for Linux, but now also available for Windows and Mac. I’ve discussed GRAMPS in the past (here and here), and now there’s a new version out, version 4. Free from the web site.


Developed in France, Heredis is popular in Europe and is available for both Mac and Windows. I’ve mentioned Heredis in the past but have not done a full review. Two interesting features Heredis has are its illustrated charts and book publishing. Free companion app for iPhone. Available on the web site, and via the Mac App Store, for $59.99.


Recently updated to version 7, MacFamilyTree has a very modern user interface, and lots of options for charts and reports, and can integrate with FamilySearch family trees (the only Mac software that can that I am aware of). Syncs with MobileFamilyTree, a paid app, on iPhone and iPad. Normally costs $59.99 on the Mac App Store (only), but currently on sale for 50% off for a few more days (until Aug 11).



Reunion is a very popular genealogy program for the Mac, with advanced reporting and charting capabilities. Relatively easy navigation through your tree. A very active support forum. Paid separate companion apps for iPhone and iPad. Costs $99 on their web site, and from some retailers including Amazon.

There are also some other genealogy programs like iFamily for Leopard, myBlood, ohmiGene, and PA Writer II. Not all of these are updated frequently, and I’m not as familiar with them. I also took a look at the various genealogy applications available through the Mac App Store back in February. This includes a few I don’t mention here, including the app Memory Miner, which is not strictly speaking a genealogy program, but a ‘digital storytelling’ application, and can import GEDCOMs to help assign names to people.

What program do you use? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it. Have you been thinking about using one of these programs, but not started?

MacFamilyTree 7 Released – upgrade pricing for everyone

A Fan Chart in MacFamilyTree 7

I’ve been using the same genealogy program for about twenty years (Reunion), but that doesn’t mean I don’t look at what else is available. I’m always looking at what other genealogy programs are available for the Mac, and although I haven’t switched, I am open to it if I found a program that really fit my needs better. I’ve written in the past about genealogy programs available through the Mac App Store (and others that are not), so I’ve mentioned MacFamilyTree before.


Yesterday MacFamilyTree received a major update, to version 7, so I thought it was worth mentioning again. It’s also worth mentioning because they are offering upgrade pricing ($29.95 instead of $59.99) to everyone who buys it in the Mac App Store through July 31. It’s a strange quirk of the Mac App Store that in essence companies cannot really offer upgrade pricing to their existing users. When you buy an application from the App Store, you own it forever. To get around this problem, some software companies release a new version of their program on the App Store as a separate program, and then reduce the price for everyone for a limited time. In this case, Synium Software, the makers of MacFamilyTree, are allowing anyone to get the upgrade pricing for the first two months, which I think is quite generous (sometimes companies only offer the upgrade pricing for a week).

Research Assistant feature in MacFamilyTree 7

There are a lots of nice features of MacFamilyTree. In the past, my biggest problem in switching programs was the handling of images. Reunion has a very nice feature that allows you have one image, and cut out the faces of multiple people for use in your family tree. For example, if you have a family portrait with ten family members in it, and it is the only photo you have for all the people, you can select out the faces from the one photo for each family member. This might not seem like a major feature, but when you use it extensively to attach photos of people to their records, it’s hard to switch to a program that doesn’t offer that (and doesn’t import the cropped images I’ve already set up). I don’t know if MacFamilyTree 7 has a similar feature or not, but that’s one of the things I will be taking a look at when I look at the software.

Here’s a look at the new version of MacFamilyTree in a video that Synium released:




When I find the time to take a look in depth at MacFamilyTree 7, I will try to post a review here. If I do end up switching, I’ll try to explain how I moved everything over.

I should just add that I’m very happy that there are now several good options for genealogy software for the Mac. Besides Reunion and MacFamilyTree (Mac App Store), there’s Heredis (which is 35% off through June 9 – $38.99 instead of $59.99 – on their site and in the Mac App Store) and GEDitCOM II (software which has some very unique features that I like, but needs a major overhaul to make it competitive with these others). One of the nice features of most of these programs (not GEDitCOM II) is the availability of a companion app that runs on the iPhone and/or iPad. Reunion has separate apps for iPhone/iPod Touch ($14.99) and iPad ($14.99), MacFamilyTree offers MobileFamilyTree which can run independently of MacFamilyTree (normally $15.99 – now also 50% off through July 31 at $7.99), but can also share data with it, and Heredis offers Heredis for iOS (which is free).

Also of note is that MyHeritage, which offers their free Family Tree Builder software for Windows (a $75 Premium version is also available), has said that the next version (Version 8) will be available on the Mac. It will be interesting to see how that software compares with these other programs. I hope they will offer the app through the Mac App Store, and offer the premium features and subscriptions through in-app purchasing.

Update: Synium Software responded via Twitter that they do support cropping multiple images out of a single photo, as well as importing and exporting that information. Always happy to see companies that respond quickly and directly to customers.