Genealogists lose two key tools

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Master Genealogist


2015 was a rather unfortunate year for genealogists. Although a lot of new data was made available on and, two major genealogy software programs were “retired.”

In the middle of 2014, Wholly Genes Co. announced that they were discontinuing their flagship program “Master Genealogist.” They ceased support Dec. 31, 2014.

In December 2015, announced that they would no longer sell Family Tree Maker software as of Dec. 31, 2015. They also announced that they would cease all support for Family Tree Maker on Dec. 31, 2016. This announcement came rather suddenly and caught the genealogical community by surprise.

Those users, myself included, still are able to run Family Tree Maker on their current desktops, laptops and tablets. However, there are two serious risks in doing so. The first risk is that if a Microsoft update runs on your computer, and happens to change something that affects Family Tree Maker, there is a good chance that no one can fix the problem, once support stops. The second risk is that if your computer crashes, and you need to reinstall Windows or Family Tree Maker, you will not be able to recreate what you had. This is just as true if you have to buy a brand new computer to replace the one that crashed.

Which brings me to my Christmas holiday story. The week after Christmas, my laptop died. I had been using it since 2007, running old Family Tree Maker 16 on Windows XP. (The number 16 has nothing to do with the year 2016. It was the 16th revision of Family Tree Maker.) Was I behind the times? Absolutely. My software was stable and ran well. The newer Family Tree Maker, known then as “FTM 2009”, ran very slowly when processing anything in my large database. So I stayed with the old one, knowing full well that the day would come when I would have to upgrade. That day came December 27th.

I had to deal with two separate issues. First I had to save my data and then buy a new laptop and begin the process of installing software on it. Fortunately, I was able to remove the hard drive from the laptop by taking it apart, then connecting it to my desktop, and I was able to copy all my data, including my family tree file. I bought a new laptop running Windows 10, with three times as much memory and three times as much hard drive space as the old laptop.

The old Family Tree Maker that I had been using up to now was not able to run on Windows 10. Remember that my old laptop was XP, and I had to leapfrog over Vista, Windows 7 and 8 to get to 10. So I had to make a snap decision which software I could use. I was not sure if any of the other programs would be able to import my Family Tree Maker file and include everything in it, including my photos. So I took the safe approach and purchased the latest Family Tree Maker 2014, just two days before they stopped selling it. I knew that a newer Family Tree Maker would be able to import all my existing data from an older Family Tree Maker, and I would be able to use it until I had more time to evaluate other software programs.

So for the time being, I will continue to use Family Tree Maker 2014 on my Windows 10 laptop, knowing it should be supported through the end of 2016. After that, I may need to make the leap to another program just to make sure that I won’t lose my data due to some change in Microsoft Windows.

There is a group that meets in Schaumburg and Bloomingdale known as “CAGG-NI”, aka “Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois”. They have been active for many years and they talk more about the technological aspects of genealogy (computers, cameras, scanners, software) than about genealogy methods. They have a special interest group devoted to Family Tree Maker that up until now, was devoted to teaching each other how to do different things with that software. The group has now refocused on helping its members choose which software to migrate to.

Choosing a new program is not a quick or easy decision. There is a comfort level with the features of the program you already use, and you may find that you are not able to create the reports or enter data on the screens in the same way with a different program written by a different design team. For me, I will have to purchase several different programs based on the recommendations of others who have used them for a longer period of time. In some cases, you can download a free version of these programs to evaluate them. But I will have to continue to use Family Tree Maker as my primary software and then repeat the same data entry in each of the other programs in order to test whether they work the same way, or at least that I can get comfortable with the way they work. So I will need to run them “in parallel” as they say in the software industry.

When I learn more about any of the other programs, I’ll be happy to pass along what I discover to all of you!

If you have any questions, send me an e-mail at and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line. Have fun!


About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.

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