You’ve probably heard by now: Ancestry.com announced on Tuesday that it will discontinue its Family Tree Maker software. (I feel compelled to mention here that Family Tree Magazine isn’t related to the software or to Ancestry.com.)
In a post on the Ancestry blog, Senior Vice President of Product Management Kendall Hulet said Family Tree Maker will no longer be sold as of Dec. 31, 2015. Ancestry.com will continue to provide support and fix bugs “at least through Jan. 1, 2017.” During that time, Tree Sync, the feature that syncs your Ancestry Member Tree with Family Tree Maker software, will continue to work.
Why retire a popular program? “We’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need,” Hulet writes.
Software in other fields is moving to versions available only via the cloud by subscription, such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign software. Advantages include the ability to automatically roll out updates, access from multiple devices, and online data storage.
But switching can be a pain, especially when you’re using older desktop software that’s not compatible with the cloud version, and you need to find new tools or create a new workflow, and you feel forced to keep information in the cloud, where you have less control over it (remember the Ancestry.com DDoS attack last year, when the site was inaccessible for several days?).
My guess is that Ancestry.com will try to move Family Tree Maker users to Ancestry Member Trees—hopefully, by enhancing the online trees (at least for subscribers) with features such as reporting and easier source citation.
If you do go with a member tree (or you already have one), make sure you download the records you find to your computer. Otherwise, if ever you let your subscription lapse, you’ll lose access to them.
If you want to stick with a desktop application, look for offers from other software companies who want to acquire former Family Tree Maker customers.
Update: Several other genealogy software companies have set up special pricing and information for Family Tree Maker users looking to find another desktop program. Here are links to those we know of:
Update: Here’s another helpful post from Genea-Musings, on short-term and long-term options for what to do with your data.