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.

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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.