Saturday, January 14, 2017

Family Tree Maker: To update or not to update?

In this age of computers and digital information, software to keep track of ancestors and their history has become a must-have for the armchair genealogist and professionals alike.  Each software program has its advantages and disadvantages as well as strengths and weaknesses.  Essentially, the software you choose is what works for you -- from complicated charts and electronic filing to simple, easy to use trees.

I have been using Family Tree Maker ("FTM") since the 1990s.  It has always been simple to use and flexible; so much so that I never felt the urge or the need to change.  The software developer also made annual updates and upgrades to the program that helped it keep up with the times as genealogy research began to migrate from paper to online resources.  

The rights and developers for FTM changed hands a number of times, until they were eventually purchased by, the online giant that has a reputation for snapping up smaller genealogy sites and programs and turning them into vehicles for the company's profit.  While Ancestry maintained the software for a number of years, in December 2016 it announced that it would no longer support Family Tree Maker, leaving long-time users to fret (again) over what would happen to their years of research and data.  

Ancestry has since announced that the rights to Family Tree Maker have been acquired by MacKiev Software.   Last week, MacKiev began selling an updated version of Family Tree Maker on their website for both MAC and Windows platforms.  According to both Ancestry and MacKiev, the software will continue to be able to access Ancestry's 'leaf hints' in addition to incorporating new features.  

MacKiev has provided an FAQ for long-time users of FTM.  For those with significantly older versions of the program (mine is the 2009 edition), MacKiev is offering an upgrade for purchase.

Having invested more than 15 years in FTM, I am personally torn between upgrading this popular software with yet another "owner/developer" or whether it's time to explore other genealogy software avenues.  Especially since either option requires my spending hard-earned $$.

Decisions, decisions ...


  1. thanks for sharing this information Carolyn. I just purchased Legacy v8 and it is not very user friendly. I may consider dumping Legacy and going with FTMaker. My husband used an older version but when he upgraded his computer, his version couldn't be read by the new operating system. How are you dealing with that issue?

    1. Hi Kathy. My apologies for the late response to your comment. I've heard various pros and cons about Legacy and it seems that the biggest complaint is exactly the one that you've mentioned -- it's not very user friendly. I contacted MacKiev's user support and they advised that ?We do not sell older editions of Family Tree Maker. You can get our new FTM 2014.1 at the discounted price - $39.95 (vs regular $69.95) ... To get the latest version of Family Tree Maker, please sign up for our mailing list at and you will get an email with the upgrade offer."

      Since I recently had to invest in a new computer, I've decided to go ahead and purchase the "new" FTM and give it a go. Hopefully it will allow me to seamlessly import my previous FTM file with all of my research and data. I'll definitely report back once I do!