The Highs and (Mainly) Lows of Family Tree Maker

Today has been an incredibly frustrating day. I made the decision to finally move my Family Tree Maker software from the old PC to the new PC which we have had sitting by the side of the desk for several months now. Most of our stuff is on external drives so other than the forthcoming prospect of sorting out our iTunes files to work on the new PC – the main thing was my family tree files.


Family Tree Maker 2012 (Image from

As well as my two large main trees (mine and my husband’s) I have many other smaller trees which I often upload to Ancestry and share with my clients so they can have the interactive experience of navigating the tree I have researched for them.

I wasn’t overly sure what the best thing to do was, I’ve had issues in the past when the sync and link to Ancestry stopped working and I either had to re-upload and then re-send invites to family members – and after having only recently sent the invites at that time I didn’t want to be a pain to people, so thought I would just get the link back by downloading the tree from Ancestry back into FTM. However it then renamed all my media files to Media Item-1.jpg for example. Imagine my distress at having to rename thousands of media files to make them all right again – just so I didn’t annoy some family members with another tree invite!

So I thought I better email Ancestry support to ask them what the best course of action was – this was the other week – they told me that I had to sever the link and download from Ancestry, or to just upload a new tree and send out new invites. I was a bit irked by that and so put it off for another couple of weeks.

So today came and I thought I would give it a go. After some faffing about with installing it on the new PC and downloading updates I tried with a couple of smaller trees with downloading them from Ancestry and they worked a treat but then I did one of the older trees and all 437 media files were renamed. So I was a bit annoyed about that. One tree seemed OK but about 50 odd files were renamed.

I was then nervous about doing my two main trees, so I thought I would try to download from Ancestry without linking to see what it would do with the media files before I committed myself. Imagine my surprise when downloading them through FTM I got error messages with both trees saying the files were either corrupt or not valid FTM backup files. Considering they were from Ancestry itself they should have been correct backup files.

Instead I resigned myself to just do backup files from the old PC and then do a restore and just send out new invites. That too was a trial! After numerous attempts where it would get to the end of the backup creation and then tell me it had failed, crash – try again – crash halfway through – I finally managed to create the files and went onto the new PC and did the restore. There was an option to restore sync – so I clicked that…. and it all worked fine. No need to send out any new invites, no file renaming, no major hassle.


My face after all the faffery!

I was elated but so very fed up that I had spent so much time today faffing about because of the incorrect advice from Ancestry Support. No-one there has ever been able to answer my query as to why it renames my media files. Part of me is wondering if it is something to do with items added to my tree when I was using FTM 2009 – then I upgraded to 2012 a couple of years ago and it may be that files added after that are ok. Anyway, I can now use my trees on my new PC which is quicker and swishier, which is a good thing. Hopefully it will also be more stable in terms of less crashing too.

Plus after discovering the speakers had stopped working on the old PC this morning – but that they still work on the new PC – gives me more reason to use the new PC (and to sort out iTunes) as I love listening to music while I work!

I’m sure there are probably some really good family tree software packages out there. I did used to use FamilyHistorian but I didn’t like the layout and I like the way FTM links to Ancestry and the hint options and the good ability to share with relatives etc. Plus packages come with free months subscription to Ancestry which is always handy.

I am not a big fan of the reports available in FTM and often use a programme called Ancestral Author to pull off reports from a Gedcom file but often find this doesn’t always show the sort of info I want.

However, despite all my moans and frustrations I find FTM easy to use on a day to day basis, it has many good points including maps.

What packages do you use? Love it or hate it?


6 thoughts on “The Highs and (Mainly) Lows of Family Tree Maker

  1. I have wondered about FTM. I use the tree on ancestry as my main tool and then when I need reports it can’t generate I download it as a gedcom and open it in a program on one of the computers at the FamilySearch Center. I have been feeling lately that it would be handy to choose a program and dive in. My problem is that I am a Mac girl and Family History is a PC world. Your post doesn’t make me want to dive in anymore. 🙂 Sounds like a frustrating day. Glad it worked out in the end.

    • Well I know you can get FTM for Mac – I have a client who uses it and loves it. I have a file converter to be able to send FTM Mac files so it’s quite handy.

      I think it would just be good if the support people actually knew what they were talking about. I had to call them yesterday about install stuff with some issue with an update not working, the woman had no idea what I was talking about and had to ask someone else…

  2. Oh…My…Goodness I am exhausted just reading about your experience. I can’t imagine how you must have felt. Thankfully you got it back in working order eventually.

    What I use? Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you! 🙂 Started out with a free program called Family Tree Genius. Worked great to enter a tree I got from my Aunt. But once I started my own research, I found I couldn’t print easily, plus it was hard to put in the more complicated relationships.

    Switched Ancestry online for a couple years. Eventually it seemed logical to get Family Tree Maker. There are pros and cons about it but all I can say about it after using it for, hmm, 4 years I think? It’s awkward. Like you say, it doesn’t print reports I want. It’s still not intuitive for me after using it for 4 years (maybe that’s just my brain!).

    Last year I got so fed up with FTM, I downloaded the standard edition Legacy Family Tree. Much better for my brain! Plus it did just about everything I wanted. After researching their deluxe edition late last year, I bought it and haven’t looked back.

    Yes, I like how FTM syncs Ancestry with my computer. But frankly after using Legacy’s program, I no longer use FTM. I do use Ancestry’s app to sync with my phone and tablet, especially when I am out and about doing research. So much better than carrying around a briefcase full of paper trees! But I don’t need FTM to do that. I think I’ve only opened it on my computer twice since last Fall. It was just too frustrating.

    And for the record? I don’t know where or who Ancestry’s help is, but the department is misnamed. In my 7+ years of using their service, and trying to get help, not once have they helped me. Maybe a more appropriate name would be, “The Frustration Dept.”

    But I digress. What I love about Legacy Family Tree:
    ~Training. They offer weekly webinars, all sorts of webinars, to explain the ins and outs of research. Geoff Rasmussen also does occasional webinars about Legacy Family Tree. Some are lectures, some are watching him work in it, some are like a case study. All very good and useful.
    ~Help actually works. Appears as tho the people there actually use the program, and aren’t reading from a big “Answer Book.” Granted I’ve only needed to use it twice. But isn’t that a sign of a good program? Things are intuitive?
    ~Books. Geoff has written a couple books about the program. I purchased his last one called Family Legacy Tree unlocked, and it’s great. Lots of photos, and detailed instructions. If you attend a webinar, or are on their mailing lists, they share discount codes.
    ~Research aids. This may not be as helpful to you as it is to me (you’re more experienced) but there are all sorts of other items offered at their website. Like:
    1. Video Training
    2. Add-ons
    3. Quick Guides
    4. Software & books
    5. Useful genealogy products, like Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. Love mine!
    6. Free webinars, love ’em so much, had to mention them again.

    So…you asked – now you know! Have you ever gotten a longer comment?! *lol*

    • Ha! I am usually the queen of long comments! Thanks for the info about Legacy, I am definitely considering some other options, even if just to use to import files and do better reports!

  3. I also am bound to FTM.2011. I had a much older version which I loved. I had to “up grade” when it would not work on my new computer. It has some very good points like its link to leaf hints but other wise I find it not user friendly. I have a free copy of My Heritage Family Tree Builder 2013 that I have thought about giving it a try. Your picture is how I look when I try anything new on a computer. Well to be honest I look much worse. 🙂

    • I really ought to try some others, I subscribe to a genealogy magazine that often gives free trials or even full versions of programmes so I should really give some others a go.
      I probably actually looked a bit more angry than that photo suggests!

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