How to leverage the power of deed records in Family History research

How to leverage the power of deed records in Family History research

This post takes a little journey to get to the point…but we think it’s worth the trip, and it should help demonstrate the power of old property records. In case you missed it, we’re building off of last week’s review of DeedMapper (Product Review: DeedMapper 4.2 – An essential tool to bring land purchases/sales into your Family History research)

Deed Books are a great tool to move forward some of your most stubborn research questions, and there is a great deal of data in them, but without a tool like DeedMapper you’re likely not going to get the full picture of what’s found in them!

On Michael’s paternal line, the Tradewell’s are one of the two brickwalls left on that side of the tree…which is all the more ironic because the matriarch of family history research on that line was Myra (Tradewell) Morse (1870-1962). In all of her genealogy notes, and DAR applications, and family history presentations she never recorded the name of her Great Grandfather…and thus we have a brick wall.

About a year and a half ago we wrote about discovering formal genealogical “Research Reports” (Elizabeth Shown Mills has just the right guidance at just the right time!) and started drafting them for our toughest cases. Of course, the Tradewell line was the first subject. We knew that James B Tradewell is our 4x GGF and that he arrived in Racine County, Wisconsin Territory ca. 1844, where he and his wife Catherine lived until their deaths. We also knew that there was an Ephraim Tradewell, and his wife Marina, also arrived in Racine County around 1844, and that both men listed New York as their birth location. A little research showed that there were a James B and Ephraim Tradewell in Schoharie County, New York for the 1820, 1830, and 1840 U.S. Census but each disappeared after that and no further records were found for them there.

We wrote an “Analysis and Research Plan” for them, and it laid out the following questions we’d hoped to answer:

  • Were the James B and Ephraim Tradewell in Wisconsin from after 1844 the same men as those listed in the 1820-1840 U.S. Census in Schoharie County, New York?
  • Were they related, and/or did they even know each other?
  • Who was each of their fathers, and was either of those persons the brickwall 5x GGF?

Reviewing the Schoharie County Deed Books for 1797-1850 gave us some of the answers, and DeedMapper filled in a major piece of the puzzle.

Were the Wisconsin Tradewells the same as the New York Tradewells?

The answer is now a proven yes! Deeds were usually recorded with the Husband as the only purchaser, but almost always the wife is listed when a property is sold. In fact, every Deed we reviewed where we know we had an ancestor selling property, the wife isn’t just listed, there’s a statement from the County Clerk that recorded the deed that the wife was taken aside out of the presence of her husband to confirm she was willingly agreeing to the transaction. Besides making us wonder if any wife EVER felt empowered enough to say “no”, several sales gave us the names of the New York Tradewell’s wives: James B Tradewell was married to Catherine (Edwards) Tradewell, and Ephraim was married to Marina Tradewell. A perfect match!

We also saw a clean break in New York, with the last Tradewell land transaction completed in the summer of 1842, and the first Wisconsin transaction being conducted in 1844.

Were James and Ephraim related, and/or did they even know each other?

We still do not know if they were related, but we know they were likely very close and in fact lived next to each other…and we never would have known that without DeedMaker. Just reviewing the Deed Books, we learned that they were involved in one land transaction that indicates they were likely in a close relationship. On 7 April 1838 James sold Lot #7 of “Tradewell’s Tavern Stand” in Gilboa, NY to Ephraim for $200. Two weeks later, on 21 April 1838 Ephraim sold the same property to Sidney Tuttle for $200. We’re not sure exactly what was going on there, but it’s very likely there was coordination between the men for this to occur.

But what really sold us on DeedMapper, was what happened when we mapped all the plots we discovered in the 1797-1845 Deed Books. The biggest breakthrough came when we first mapped two properties, with no common points in their Legal Description, and they clearly fit together. Without sharing Metes & Bounds points in the description (like a Willow Tree), there’s no easy way to determine how they relate, but when you map them visually you can see them like jigsaw puzzle pieces and get a great feeling of location for the land.

Once we had those two properties mapped (both were owned by James B Tradewell and recorded in 1806), we drew another plot owned by Ephraim (recorded 1834) and we immediately knew they lived together as neighbors with an adjoining property line.

Here is the first Legal Description for James’ largest plot:

Beginning at a Willow tree near the Schoharie Creek marked on the east side with the Letters C.E. and runs thence south 15 degrees east 10 chains and 60 links, thence East 25 chains, thence north 21 degrees 30 minutes east 32 Chains, thence north 10 chains 50 links, thence west 17 chains and 50 links to the Schoharie creek, thence along said creek to the place of beginning containing 117 acres of land be the same more or less.

And here is the Legal Description for Ephraim’s plot:

Beginning at a hemlock sapling on the East side of Schoharie Creek marked on 4 sides with 3 notches and a blaze on the North side B.H, on the South side I.D. and runs thence North 30 degrees East 8 chains, thence, North 24 degrees West 12 chains, thence, due West 25 chains, thence, North 15 West 10 chains 60 links, thence, South 41 degrees West 12 chains to the west side of said creek, thence, South 2 degrees West 5 chains 75 links, hence, North 52 degrees East 2 chains, thence South 62 degrees East 6 chains to the North East side of said creek, thence, up said creek to the place of beginning.

These two plots, recorded almost 30 years apart, and showing no common marker other than Schoharie Creek, when drawn, revealed just how closely these men lived:

Tradewell Map
The pink lines are the boundries of Ephraim Tradewell’s property, the black lines are James B Tradewell’s two plots. (Note: The maps don’t fit perfectly the boundary lines, because they specifically reference the edge of a creek that no longer exists and likely changed frequently after floods, etc.)

The beauty of DeedMapper is that this is first time we worked with Metes & Bounds land descriptions, the first time we’d recorded large amounts of deed information, and this was the 3rd time we’d ever entered information into the software. We literally knew almost nothing about what we were doing, and DeedMapper brought home how closely these men lived.

Now, it doesn’t prove James and Ephraim were related, and it’s likely only DNA will ever do that, but there is now no question these men had a close relationship. They weren’t distant cousins that lived miles apart in the same County, their families lived right next to each other.

Who was their father?

We still don’t know. This creek that’s referenced in so many of the deeds was dammed up in the 1920’s to provide drinking water to New York City, and all of this land is under a reservoir. However, that project caused the local Gilboa cemetery to be relocated, which gave us strong evidence that our 5x GGP were Reuben and Esther Tradewell, and if we can ever prove that James and Ephraim were brothers, we’ll then likely know Ephraim’s father too.

So, Deed Books are a great tool to move forward some of your most stubborn research questions, and there is a great deal of data in them, but without a tool like DeedMapper you’re likely not going to get the full picture of what’s found in them!

 

Product Review: DeedMapper 4.2 – An essential tool to bring land purchases/sales into your Family History research

Product Review: DeedMapper 4.2 – An essential tool to bring land purchases/sales into your Family History research
(Note: As always, we receive no financial benefit or consideration for any product or service we review/recommend/discuss here. Everything we discuss is our opinion alone, and we talk about it because we use it.)

Our Ahab-like quest to build links between a group of Tradewell residents of upstate NY in the early 1800’s got a big boost with the discovery of a great new tool: DeedMapper (Direct Line Software)

About two months ago we came across a call to help index exactly the set of records we’d hoped to find, as we tried to build past one of our largest brick walls:  FamilySearch’s New York Land Records, 1630-1975 (Link). This is a collection of all of the NY Deed/Mortgage/Grantor/Grantee books including Schoharie, Albany and Delaware counties from the 1790’s onward. In advance of any Index, we went through every deed in Schoharie county from 1797 through 1845 (when we know our brick wall relatives moved to Wisconsin Territory) and found a gold mine of data.

But very quickly, we ran into the dreaded “Metes & Bounds” problem which we’d read about. Most of our land research has been in areas settled after Western migration when the US Government laid out a grid system that is much easier to determine where land was. Metes & Bounds (Wikipedia) describes land based on landmarks on the property itself, like this:

“Beginning at a Willow tree near the Schoharie Creek marked on the east side with the Letters C.E. and runs thence south fifteen degrees east ten chains and sixty links, thence East twenty five chains, thence north twenty one degrees thirty minutes east thirty two Chains, thence north ten chains fifty links, thence west seventeen chains and fifty links to the Schoharie creek, thence along said creek to the place of beginning”

This makes it nearly impossible to map out what a piece of property looked like, or where it might have been located. But DeedMapper was created to draw a plot based on these property descriptions, and it allows you to overlay the properties on a map. We’re here to tell you, it works well and it’s now a key tool in our tool kit.

The tool has an easy “wizard” like entry window for new deeds, and we had the hang of it the first deed we entered. Essentially, we just had to breakdown the original deed description at each use of “thence”, like this:

  • Beginning at a Willow tree near the Schoharie Creek marked on the east side with the Letters C.E.
  • thence south fifteen degrees east ten chains and sixty links,
  • thence East twenty five chains,
  • thence north twenty one degrees thirty minutes east thirty two Chains,
  • thence north ten chains fifty links,
  • thence west seventeen chains and fifty links to the Schoharie creek,
  • thence along said creek to the place of beginning

The Deed entry screen walked us through each of those lines, until we had our first plot!

DeedMapper - One plotThe next thing we wanted to do was see this on a map, and while DeedMapper has many local maps for purchase, they suggested we download free USGS Topographical maps instead…which worked perfectly because the Schoharie Creek was dammed up in the late 1920’s and no longer runs where any of these property descriptions ran 100 years earlier. The USGS Topo map we downloaded was from 1903, so we were able to get much closer to where the creek ran in 1806.

We found it very easy to move the plots to fit marks on the maps, the feature called “meandering” was especially useful times when the boundary line is described as “along said creek”.

The software is of an older vintage, and it reminds us of a time before ribbons and web interfaces, but it’s more importantly rock solid, well coded, and it does exactly what’s needed. It doesn’t need to be fancy, or modern, it just needs to work and it does.

Just as importantly, DeedMapper support is exemplary! When we first emailed about how we could buy the product without a CD/DVD drive, we had an almost instant reply from a human who is clearly deeply involved in the product. He solved that issue, and then gave us the great info on the USGS maps instead of trying to sell us their own maps. Combined with the great community that’s grown up around this product, with customers sharing their own plotted deeds to the extent that some counties in several states are full mapped, and available for free, it’s clear that one way or another we’re going to get what we need going forward for this software to help us in our genealogical quest.

About the only thing we didn’t like was that DeedMapper is Windows-only, and we do all of our family history on a Mac. Luckily we’re multi-OS, and we’ve been running the program on a MS Surface tablet with no issues.

So, what can you do with DeepMaper and these old Deed books? Next week we’ll give you an example of how we used it to attack some of the questions we’ve been hunting since we first posted about the Tradewell family over a year ago, but here’s what we immediately saw when we drew our first 3 plots…that we thought were just random, unrelated properties:

DeedMapper - Plots

The story of how DeedMapper helped prove a family relationship for us continues here: How to leverage the power of deed records in Family History research

There’s no other way to put it – MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker is garbage

There’s no other way to put it – MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker is garbage

One quick point, as always, we receive no financial benefit or consideration for any product or service we review/recommend/discuss here. Everything we discuss is our opinion alone, and we talk about it because we use it.

It’s been a year since MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker dominated this blog, as they struggled to deliver their first version since they took over from Ancestry, and this is what we’ve learned: MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker is garbage.

It’s strong language, but their product continues to be literally dangerous to your data. FamilySync has been a COMPLETE disaster since the moment it was promised (then delivered 4 months late), with MacKiev choosing a synchronization strategy that creates data corruption. Companies like RootMagic have delivered sync without issue, and without risk. But nearly a year since MacKiev finally delivered their FamilySync, it’s still buggy and unreliable. It’s dangerous to your work. It’s garbage.

We’re starting to think that it would have been better to let Ancestry kill the product off. It would have been a hard year, but at least we wouldn’t have wasted that year hoping that MacKiev could actually create/support software.

First off, let me say that I have a LOT of experience working with software delivery…with both commercial products and deploying/supporting in-house developed software. I’ve been doing it for 25 years. And if this was product was deployed in the large corporate environment I currently manage for a Fortune 50 company, we’d pull it out. At all costs. We’d never support this horrible effort, with so little partnership from the vendor.

And, for you loyal readers, you might be asking why we’re using FTM anyways. Didn’t we give away free copies of RootMagic to readers who’d paid for the FTM upgrade last August when MacKiev couldn’t get their act together? We did. And we still use/love RootsMagic…but…

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 10.23.36 PM
“Thank you for stopping your work and spending an hour backing up your data, but our TreeSync is so fragile it’s best you put off more research for another 2 hours or so because we don’t know how to design state-aware data synchronization”

The way RM manages citations just isn’t workable for how we support facts in our trees. For example, we created a custom citation in RootsMagic for the 1900 US Census for Roman and Mary Jones and copied the source to each of the 3 Roman’s facts supported by the citation (Name, Birth, and Residence). When we run a TreeSync with Ancestry, everything went off as expected, but it created 3 separate copies of the same citations…one for each fact. Additionally, there’s no central place to manage/edit/view all sources for a tree, which makes it VERY hard to update citations, etc.

So, we still use RootsMagic for our 60+ speculative trees, but we went back to using FTM for our main, public tree.

Since going back to Family Tree Maker, it’s been one disaster after another. First, there was the months of “Orange” sync status late in 2017 (which we missed, luckily, because we’d kicked them to the curb). About 6 months ago we had to start over and re-download the tree from Ancestry, which destroyed all of our source citations. After two months of work, the database corrupted, and we started a cycle of restoring databases, and getting about a month’s use of Family Tree Maker, and then hitting corruption. We have to restore, and repeat the process.

It really seems that this corruption is happening during FamilySync, and if that’s completely inexcusable. Their sync process HAS to be robust enough to not commit records until the system has no risk of corruption. I’ve worked with data replication since 1997 and every tool has a non-destructive method of committing data, and backing out changes if there’s failure/corruption. Plus, RootsMagic has figured this all out…we sync constantly, and there’s never red/orange/green OR corruption. Just repeated success.

The issue is just with MacKiev.

We’ve figured out how to mitigate the risk of FTM corrupting our data by doing constant syncs (change a record, sync, change another record, sync, etc.) and by reviewing the sync reports each time. For example, the last time we had sync stop working, we noticed that the marriage record for Felice’s side of the family was causing changes in the birth record attached to Rick’s grandmother. By deleting both facts we were able to sync successfully and then re-add the facts, and not have to resort to a restore…but I’m only comfortable doing this because I have 20+ years working with/troubleshooting database issues.

Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 2.10.45 PM
Five easy steps to have your data corrupted anyways!!

But the real nail in the coffin is how MacKiev has chosen to deal with their corruption issues. Instead of architecting a proper deployment, or fixing their code, or building in better error trapping, they turn it back on the users of their product to protect themselves from Family Tree Maker’s failures. They are insisting that you add the following steps to every FamilySync:

  • Backup your database (32 minutes for our 3700 person tree)
  • Compress your database (6 min.)
  • Wait for Green conditions (0-240 min.)

Recently, we did a day’s worth of tree building and citing/sourcing (6 hours) and then we had to stop our work and take nearly an hour to sync. Then, we waited for 2 hours for MacKiev’s FamilySync  to go back to Green. Then, the database corrupted anyways, and we lost all 6 hours of work and had to repeat it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 9.40.26 AM
When you see this, you’re screwed…they corrupted your database and you lost everything you did since your last backup!!

If we back up every hour, we risk less data, but we cut our productivity in half (work an hour, back up for an hour)…assuming we don’t have to wait for Green.

In the mean time, I switch over the RootsMagic and work on some speculative side project, with regular FamilySync’s, while FTM is dead in the water waiting to “Go Green”.

As much as I have invested in Family Tree Maker, and as much as it is the tool that really meets my reporting needs the best, We’re starting to think that it would have been better to let Ancestry kill the product off. It would have been a hard year, but at least we wouldn’t have wasted that year hoping that MacKiev could actually create/support software.

RootsMagic is so good, we’ll buy it for you. Seriously.

RootsMagic is so good, we’ll buy it for you. Seriously.

It’s official…we’ve converted all my trees to RootsMagic, synced them up to Ancestry.com without issue, and I’m done with Family Tree Maker. My only regret is that we wasted as much time (and blog posts!) waiting for FTM 2017 as we did. Months after we paid $29.99 to pre-order the version of Family Tree Maker, and four months after we were promised the product, we still can’t sync my main tree with Ancestry.com (Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software). I tried RootsMagic as a test, and it’s synced first time/every time, and migration was nearly painless (Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker).

In order to pull people from FTM, RootsMagic is offering those of us who have an Ancestry.com subscription the full version of RM 7.5 (which includes TreeSync) and an E-Book with tips/tricks for using RootsMagic for $20 until July 31st!! That’s less than we paid for the FTM pre-order than never worked!!

We’re not sure you can get your money back from Software MacKiev for their failed product, but we’re happy to give you a reason to get out from underneath Family Tree Maker and on to a product that works and is supported, without having to spend more to do so.

So, here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to buy you RootsMagic 7.5. The first 100 readers that made the mistake of pre-ordering Family Tree Maker 2017 who take advantage of the RootsMagic special (RootsMagic Special Offer) which gives you RootsMagic for $20, by July 31, 2017 will get a check from us for $20. Send us a copy of your pre-order email, and your RootsMagic confirmation email (send to: rick@anamericangenealogy.com), and we’ll mail you check for $20. It’s that easy.

Order Emails
Send us these two emails, and we’ll cut you a check for $20!

We’re not sure you can get your money back from Software MacKiev for their failed product, but we’re happy to give you a reason to get out from underneath Family Tree Maker and on to a product that works and is supported, without having to spend more to do so. As always we are sponsored by no one, and we aren’t affiliated with RootsMagic in any way, this is just an incentive to help others who love this hobby to get back to using the tools they need.

Speaking of which, we’ll have one more deep dive into migrating from FTM to RootsMagic in the next week or so, and then enough talking about software, and back to talking about our person journey!

Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker

Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker

Two quick points. First, as always, we receive no financial benefit or consideration for any product or service we review/recommend here. Everything we discuss is our opinion alone, and we talk about it because we use it. Second, this is a quick review with only about 24 hours with the product. We’ll follow up with more detail, and possibly a more complete opinion shortly, but we’re pretty confident in the what we’ve found in the time we’ve spent with this product.

Quick take on moving to RootsMagic 7.5: This migration was easy, and just over 24 hours after we put a test tree into see how the product looks/works, we’re hooked, and Family Tree Maker is soon dead to us.

The bottom line is this: RootsMagic does everything that Family Tree Maker used to do, and does now, moving over was not painful, and it resolved our issues immediately. Additionally, it does some things much better than FTM, and the switch was painless. We’ll never go back.

To add a little more detail, to test we migrated a Family Tree Maker 3.1 tree that was synced to Ancestry.com (before Software MacKiev missed it’s April 1 shipping deadline, and broke FamilySync) that had both custom data elements and extensive home-grown citations attached to facts. The test was to get the tree into RM, get it synced to Ancestry.com, and after confirming that the data migrated properly, use RootsMagic to attach new sources and facts to the tree, to see how it works vs. Family Tree Maker.

RootsMagic is better than Family Tree Maker at:

  • Adding new family members – Very simple and intuitive, with fewer clicks and easier to run through a page of newly discovered ancestors in an old book.
  • Creating new sources – The kludgy, and totally inaccurate (as it relates to the Elizabeth Shown Mills Evidence Explained format), source/fact process in Family Tree maker is completely blown away by RootsMagic. We were amazed at how quickly and easily we were able to use the Free Form template to enter the Source List Entry, Full Reference Note, and Short Note entries for a source. Quick, easy, obvious, simple.
  • Citing sources to multiple ancestors – Again, MUCH simpler and easier. Two clicks and quick search each time…we were amazed at how easy it was to take a page from a book and source it to everyone listed on that page.
  • Citing multiple pages of a source book – I don’t know why we’ve all suffered for so Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 11.18.52 PMlong with the way FTM approached this, but RootsMagic uses a “Master Source” model that includes the 3 types of source citations you’d use (if you’re making an EE citation), but it allows you to enter a page number each time (if you’re using a book) without additional clicks. So when you turn a page, and add the name and birthdate of a new ancestor, you merely click the Sources… button, click on Cite Source… and enter the page number.
  • Nicknames – Wow!!!! How have we ever lived without this feature in Family Tree Maker? My 2x Great grandfather William Ephraim Tradewell was always referred
    Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 10.49.13 PM.png
    It makes so much more sense than FTM, why have we been struggling with it for so long?

    to as Wesley though out his life, including in his Civil War service records. It’s WAY better to now be able to enter that as his nickname and have it show in quotes than it was to deal with it in FTM.

RootsMagic is the same as Family Tree Maker at:

  • Syncing with Ancestry.com – It worked first time for us, no effort, and we were back using sync just like we did last on May 30! It was a piece of cake, and it has worked perfectly each time/every time.
  • Web searching with Ancestry.com – Neither of them do it very well, both have really bad interfaces to search and merge, but RM worked just as well as FTM.
  • Basic Tree entry/management – You can enter person notes, fact notes, data elements (e.g. Birth, Death, Marriage, etc.), custom data elements (we use 3 different ones for DNA matches), and all of the day-to-day data/management you do in your tool, is the same for both FTM and RM.

Areas RootsMagic needs to work on:

  • Syncing new users from RootsMagic to Ancestry.com via TreeSync – RootsMagic is really bad at adding new users to your Ancestry.com tree. Each one requires you select the user, click the Add… button, and then a progress screen pops up until it completes. You have to repeat the process for each new users added in RootsMagic,

    and so when we went through two pages of an old book, entering the ~15 ancestors listed in those, it took WAY too long to sync with Ancestry. FTM is way better at this.

  • Navigating between parts of your family tree – Let’s be clear right away: The main User Interface in both products is not good. They are both old, dated, and look like they have largely been unchanged since the early 2000’s. Both need to look at the Ancestry.com interface and copy it, while they work to build and improve off of that. But, Family Tree Maker is much better at letting you move up and down your tree, and to expand and select different branches of the family on the fly. RootsMagic essentially only gives you a pedigree view, and limits you into only working on the ancestor you select initially. So, for example if you select your 2x GGF, and you have selected his oldest son, and now you want to select his next child to add a new marriage…good luck. It seems impossible. We still haven’t figured out how to select children from the main Pedigree view.  FTM is not good at this either, but it’s way better than RM.

Quick take on moving to RootsMagic 7.5: This migration was easy, and just over 24 hours after we put a test tree into see how the product looks/works, we’re hooked, and Family Tree Maker is soon dead to us. It’s been 8 days since we opened our issue with their “swamped” support desk (their words, not ours) and we haven’t heard a word from Software MacKiev. In-fact, we’ve never even received an acknowledgement of receipt of the issue. But in 24 hours, those trees are synced in RootsMagic, and we’re back using our tool to further our research.

 

Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software

Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software

On April 1, 2017 Ancestry discontinued support for TreeSync, rendering the software largely unusable for many FTM users. Software Mackiev was unready for that change, even though they had not only known it was coming, but they had gotten a 4 month extension from the original target date from Ancestry. Three-and-a half months later Jack is cheerfully trumpeting that we’re at the finish line…but for a large chunk of FTM users, we’re not closer to getting back to the basic functionality we enjoyed on March 30.

I keep seeing Jack (and his wife apparently) complain about how much “free” software they’ve “given away”, and how hard they are hawking $20 hats and other trinkets to recoup their expenses

That’s bad enough, but the kicker is this: once the software works as it once did, you’re likely to be disappointed about how it’s essentially the same software you’ve used for

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.52.09 AM
 I’m not allowed to release screen caps of FTM 2017, but to get an idea of what the “People” tab looks like, imagine the colors are reversed, the boxes are little more square, and the pictures are smaller and hard to see

years. This “update” is nothing more than restoring lost functionality, and a photo feature that has almost no controls and you’ll never use. We’ve waited all this time, paid our money and waited, suffered through not being able to effectively use the tool that is central to our work…for essentially nothing new.

It’s the same interface, with the colors reversed. The SUPER ugly/kludgy Ancestry Hint merge screens? Same. The People/Facts screen? Same. Places, Media, Sources? Same. It look EXACTLY the same. Maybe color coding will be helpful down the road…but I promise you I wouldn’t have taken my trees offline for 4 months for color coding. Or a photo tool that does next to nothing, and doesn’t do what it claims to do very well.

Going back several months, I said my worry was that this software company was over their head with this package (Mackiev’s latest update engenders even less confidence, puts 2017 release 3 weeks behind with no firm date for release). Mackiev is a company that has focused on smaller, offline, products. This was a huge step into a product that had a large, passionate, knowledgeable and that was connected to a 3rd-party, online vendor, and they clearly weren’t ready.

In my support sessions they have indicated that they are “overwhelmed” by the issues related to this “finish line” release, and they can’t deliver ETA’s for either resolution or even response. It’s clear to me that they overestimated how “done” this release was, so they are understaffed to deal with the volume of issues they’re facing.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.07.55 AM.png
Only 24th in line this time…better than 38th last time! No help either time, regardless of the wait

This continues a long line of underestimations by this company, from thinking a handful of beta testers would suffice, then 1,000, then 25,000 to thinking they would release the first beta in November of 2016 when they couldn’t release it until well after April 1st.

I have no confidence this product will survive. Given my decades of software deployment and support, it seems likely they completed this release at GREAT cost to the company, sell the release as long as there is demand, and then sunset the product before they have to do another release. I keep seeing Jack (and his wife apparently) complain about how much “free” software they’ve “given away”, and how hard they are hawking $20 hats and other trinkets to recoup their expenses. Not a good sign…but there’s not a good sign anywhere with this company…

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 9.42.26 AM.png

 

Mackiev’s latest update engenders even less confidence, puts 2017 release 3 weeks behind with no firm date for release

Mackiev’s latest update engenders even less confidence, puts 2017 release 3 weeks behind with no firm date for release

I’m not even sure where to start with this to be honest…I’ve never been a part of anything like this. Looking back a week ago (MacKiev 2 weeks late with Family Tree Maker 2017 release, still “getting close”) I think everyone expected a quick release, as Mackiev got closer. Instead we had a week of silence, followed by a new plan to use pre-release purchasers to expand the Beta test process, in the hope that they finally have enough resources to finish their software Mackiev FTM Update.

I could write about ridiculous it is to only allow 48-hours of Beta testing, and how poorly prepared for this they were (example: they scramble to create a test plan/group/protocol a week after their target go-live, cheer that they were able have 5,000 Beta testers a week after that, but another week later they need 25,000 Beta testers to finish the effort), but I’m just about beyond words. This is not normal, it’s not to be expected, this is NOT how commercial/enterprise software is developed/deployed, this is not the mark of a company you can trust to continue to manage, support, and grow a product. This is as close to a disaster as I can envision.

In my post last week I prefaced it by saying that I felt confident we’d eventually be satisfied with the product, that they would release it, and it would all be ok. Most of that is gone today, and I have little confidence that Mackiev will be able to deliver a viable commercial software product going forward. Even if they eventually complete this release, there should be no faith they can do it again in the future. I will be test driving the product when they finally release it Monday (and Monday?!?!?! why release an update on Thursday, but not release the product until 4 days later??), and blogging about it, and Family Tree Maker will continue to be my genealogy software for the short term…but the clock is ticking before it’s time to migrate to the next product.