Saturday, April 28, 2012

The family tree & me

At roughly 5 p.m. Friday, the "Family Tree Maker 2012" icon  popped up on my desktop after an hour-long download --- much longer than anticipated --- and I was linked to the genealogical mainstream again, sort of.

FTM 2012 is a family history bookkeeping program so complex it will, if provided with the right audio clip, whistle "Dixie" --- or sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic." That was why the download took so long. Frankly, it's given me a headache.

Family Tree Maker and I have a long history, going back to the Old Testament version. For some reason, the authors of that tome neglected to mention that when Moses descended from the mount with the Ten Commandments on his shoulder, he had a laptop under his arm upon which Family Tree Maker Version "0" had been installed. That's why we know about all those begats.

Until a computer collapse more than a year ago, I was operating Version 2009 --- but the tech who did a motherboard transplant removed all my programs and I couldn't find the disk needed to put it back. Although the data was still here, I couldn't access it. The disk for Version 2005 turned up, but it wouldn't open files created in Version 2009 so, faced by the urgent need yesterday to know in which Washington County, Pennsylvania, cemetery I'd determined that Uncle W.H.H. Greer was buried, I had to buy Version 2012 --- or do all that research again.

Actually, I could have used Version 2005 and gone online to download my RootsWeb GEDCOM, free-floating out there in cyberspace for anyone interested to use, into it --- but the GEDCOM hadn't been updated for months before the crash and I still wouldn't have known where Uncle Greer was buried. It's all very complicated.

I've been dabbling in family history since high school and much of the accumulated data still is recorded only on paper, but about 9,000 people roam around in the digital family history file. Armed with Version 2012, maybe I'll start transferring data again. But that's more complicated that it used to be.

Back in the good old days, Family Tree Maker was a paragon of elegant simplicity. Then it was acquired by my friends at --- a part of the vast Mormon genealogical conspiracy to which I have been a long-time subscriber. is wonderful --- I'd have a hard time coping without my subscription --- access in an instant to all those census records, books and records useful for both genealogical and general research. But it is a business and there's money to be made when new and increasingly complex versions of Family Tree Maker are introduced every year.

There's also money to be made in integrating FTM so thoroughly into Ancestry that the two can't be pulled apart. I'm not necessarily complaining about that, just about the fact that integration further complicates processes that once were relatively simple.

I'm even thinking of up uploading my FTM files to Ancestry, thus creating linked databases that automatically update each other. Wow.

 I've resisted that urge previously because of old-fogyish disapproval of instant genealogy. It is entirely possible, for example, by using linked Family Tree Maker-Ancestry to trace your ancestry back to Adam in under an hour merely by hitting "merge" every time you run into someone else's family file that kind of matches yours. I resent being merged.

But maybe I need to rethink that. It is the brave new world, after all, genealogically and otherwise.

1 comment:

Norm Prince said...

Oh No Frank, don't give in yet as those of us still keeping our files 'safely hidden' on our own machines is quickly shrinking. My thoughts about FTM parallel yours most of the way but I will not forget the first version which came with a neat users guide which had family photos in each chapter from the folks who worked on the program. Once I felt it become 'big business' and no longer answered much to the little user I found another program. BUT like you I will not kick Ancestry to hard as it has so much to offer on the web and it keeps acquiring the competition. Keep resisting, we old jar heads need to stick together!!