Saving Your Gedcom

Spring is just around the corner and at the top of your “to do” list, make sure you backup a copy of your gedcom. Yesterday, while hubby and I were painting away as the home renovations continue, I got a call from a former Client I had done some consulting work regarding his Irish ancestry. He called to thank me for making this year’s St. Patrick’s Day even more memorable as I had pointed him in directions that saved him time and money.

I had also recommended that he always save his Ancestry.com tree in another location and we had discussed several options. Why do I recommend that? I’m definitely not trying to start a malicious rumor here as I believe there is no problem at all with Ancestry.com but in this crazy world, you just never know. I’m a planner (and a little paranoid) so I think about the what ifs in life – what if I can’t pay for the service any longer, what if they get hacked and I can’t access my lifelong work, what if they get sold and the service becomes deplorable? (On a side note, my hubby thinks this is a little irrational and he’s probably right. I say some people fear immigrants and I fear losing mine!) So my concern led me to find alternatives for my trees.

My Client decided to download the free standard edition of Legacy Family Tree but he had difficulty following my Ancestry.com download instructions. I talked him through it remotely and understand why he had a problem which you, dear reader, may also encounter.

If you’re new to this process it’s quite simple, just follow these steps:
Log on to Ancestry.com
Click “Trees” on the Ribbon and scroll and click on “Create & Manage Trees”
Click “Manage Tree”
Under “Manage Tree” in the green box on the left, click “Download your gedcom file”

Be patient, it may take some time, depending on the size of your tree.
Once downloaded, if you open the file it will be gibberish so you must install a program that can read a gedcom. You have several options; I’ve listed those that I’ve used that allow you to save the program to your own computer and/or place in your own Cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) so you have complete control over the data:
Legacy Family Tree – free with the standard edition; small cost for a program that does more.
Rootsmagic – small cost and by mid-April it will sink with Ancestry.com
Family Tree Maker – small cost, used to synch with Ancestry.com but I experienced problems; supposedly works now.

Or, you can join another organization like Ancestry.com and save your tree there. I’ve used My Heritage as an alternative.

There are lots more options that I’m not familiar with – for a review of the opinion based Top 10 click here.

I haven’t done this but am exploring these as other options some day:
Familysearch – free, however, you are donating your tree to their genealogical community and although it is a backup, you don’t control it any longer. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and follow the directions under “Contribute Your Research”
Wiki Tree – free, however, when I tried to upload several years ago my tree was too large for them. Haven’t checked back to see if their system will take it.

Whatever you choose is your personal decision but you have to select one so you can access your data.

Here’s where my Client got stuck – on Ancestry.com, step 4 above, he clicked “Download Tips” and got information on deleting his tree so he panicked and stopped. That was wise as you DON’T WANT TO DELETE THE TREE!!!! Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

When I click on download instructions I get the following:

“If the “File Download” window does not appear and Windows automatically downloads a text file:
Right click on the “Download your GEDCOM file” button.
Select “Save Target As…”
A “Save As” dialog box will display. Select a location for the file that you will be able to find later, such as “Desktop.” Then give the file a name and click on Save.”

He didn’t need to follow the 3 steps above. Once he clicked “Download your gedcom file” he was able to successfully save it to his hard drive. He selected to install the free Legacy Family Tree program and I listened as he followed the Legacy prompts and uploaded the gedcom. He was quite happy when it was finished.

You’ll be really happy, too, when you know you’re hard work is safe and accessible. Personally, I think sitting on my derriere to download and upload a gedcom is the easiest spring cleanup to do!

Family Tree Maker’s Fall Newsletter Makes Me Feel Vindicated!

Well, well,  I’m feeling pretty righteous!  I recently received the Fall Newsletter (which, BTW, is the ONLY newsletter that Family Tree Maker has emailed to me this year so it correctly should be labeled as the “First Fall Newsletter” since Software MacKiev bought the rights for the Microsoft version which is what I formerly used.)

The newsletter was designed to notify the public that they are running behind and don’t have the synch ready as they had earlier stated would occur before the end of 2016.  Okay, glitches happen and I am pleased that the organization is taking ownership that they will not be able to meet their self imposed deadline.

IMHO, this is a major step forward.  I’ve been blogging for quite a while about my frustration with FTM not syching with my large Ancestry.com tree.  Every time I called customer service they would blame Ancestry.  I’d call Ancestry and they’d tell me to call FTM.  I’d wait a day or two and try again as I was hoping whoever was on duty would have the knowledge to assist me.  I posted for help, too but no one seemed to know what the problem was.  The only “help” I ever received was twice when I was emailed a useless pdf that supposedly would get the synch back but that never worked, either. The final time I called, the rep tried to tell me I couldn’t follow instructions.   So much for service! That was the day I switched to Legacy Family Tree’s standard edition.

But back to the newsletter… I quote, “…So, should you get the latest build right now then? Well, it depends. The improvements are mostly in stability and performance. So if FTM is crashing or has slowed to a crawl with large trees, then have at it. ” Finally, they admit that the product doesn’t work well with large trees!  Now it’s official who owned the problem and I don’t blame Ancestry.com one bit for cutting the prior company owners’ off last December.  What a nightmare it must have been for Ancestry staff to have to take all those calls from unhappy FTM users!  I also give kudos to Ancestry’s staff for handling the calls I made to them in a professional manner.

I tried to link to the newsletter but I don’t see it posted on their website so I’m providing the link to sign up to their Mailing List instead.

I would like to see FTM offer a goodwill gesture by providing the new version for free to anyone with a large tree to make up for the wasted time and lack of support.  FTM could determine the size of the tree for the offer.  For now, that’s the only way I’d be back.

Random Genealogy News

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 9 June 2016.

Maybe due to the recent passing of Tropical Storm Colin through my area my thoughts are fairly random today! Several days of heavy rain and wind is pushing me to get outside and do some cleanup yard work so this will be brief!

First up – did you know that Family Tree Maker is back.  They have a newsletter that will keep you updated as to when they are going to start synching again with Ancestry.com.  If you’re a faithful reader you know I gave up on them about two years ago but now I’m thinking that maybe the problem was that I had the 2012 version and when they moved to the 2014 version it interfered with the synch. Neither FTM or Ancestry ever asked me what version I was using when I repeatedly called which says a lot about their customer support.  Anyway, the software is now owned by mackiev which used to make really good products, like Kidspics that my own children loved back in the day.   For $29.95 they’ll sell you their latest version of FTM at a discount if you had a previous one and I may do that as another backup.  To sign up for their newsletter click here.

Update to my last three blogs about frugality in genealogy – Should have definitely mentioned Linkedin and Facebook.  I use both and they are free!  Did you know that there are over 8,000 genealogy sites on Facebook?!  To view the list of them click here.

Two more reason to DO IT NOW! – Had a colleague from my educational job thank me for giving her the “Mean Momma” look when she told me two weeks ago that she had 14 boxes of family documents stored in an unair conditioned shed near a major river that floods.  I told her to move them in her house pronto but she insisted that she was going to spend the summer going through the boxes, one a week.  She had gone through 3 of the boxes when the flood advisory hit the area and she wasted no time in getting the boxes relocated in her home.  With the storm, she had time to go through them and found some wonderful genealogical stories that I’m encouraging her to write about and publish.  She’s an awesome writer so in the near future, look for a guest blog from her.

Another colleague asked me about how to go about collecting family history information.  I pointed her to my website that houses all of my blogs (www.genealogyatheart.com) and strongly encouraged her to talk with her parents when she went home for Memorial Day weekend.  When she returned the following Tuesday she told me that she relaxed all weekend and never got around to talking to her parents about the past.  Five days later one of her parents had a stroke and has lost the ability to speak.  Understandably, she is devastated on so many levels.  If that isn’t a wake up call for all of us, I don’t know what is!  Don’t delay – send that email, make that phone call, take the older relative to lunch and get the info today!

Those are my three random thoughts for the day – got to go get on the garden gloves and start picking up Spanish moss.

Genealogical Software and Identifying Family Relationships

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 6 Apr 2016.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an all day conference hosted by The Villages, Florida Genealogy Society for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS).   I’m a member of NEHGS and I was interested in the topics, especially migration patterns .  Although I found all the workshops fairly basic I always take something away from any workshop I attend so I did get some new info to use when I revisit my tree AFTER I submit my portfolio.

I want to mention two points that I think were most interesting.  The first was during the workshop titled “Choosing a Genealogical Software Program” by Rhonda McClure.  I enjoyed Rhonda’s talk even though I’m not shopping for a new software program.  What was interesting to me was the number of attendees that couldn’t understand why someone would want to have their tree information on their own program.  Maybe I’m just old and remember the first genealogical software program I used which was on a cassette that was inserted into a TI-84 computer.  When we upgraded to Windows 3.0, I downloaded PAF from Familysearch.org and had to re-enter all of my tree info.  I didn’t have a lot, about 100 individuals, but it was time consuming and a duplication of efforts.

I moved to Family Tree Maker (FTM) because it was supposed to synch with Ancestry.com but as I’ve written in previous blogs, mine stopped synching and between the two organizations I could never get it working.  I then downloaded the Standard (Free) edition of Legacy in which to save my Ancestry.com Gedcom  and about once a month, I update Legacy by re-downloading the Gedcom.  I know Ancestry.com is in the works with synching with Roots Magic and maybe a resurrection of FTM.  I really would like a feature that synchs and I would go with that.  I do love the reports Legacy generates as I ended up purchasing the Deluxe version so I’d keep that, too.  The problem with not synching is one gets updated and the other doesn’t.  I have a lot of pdf’s and photos saved on Ancestry.com that’s not on Legacy so we’re back to time consuming and storage saving issues unless something is available to synch.

But back to why anyone would want to have their own software.  I live in Florida where we have many storms, often severe, which means that our power is off and therefore, no internet.  Even when there isn’t a storm we sometimes have no internet.  Like yesterday, with our wonderful new internet provider, Frontier, who can’t figure out how to provide the service we’re paying for (but that’s another story!)  With a backup generator I could still access my desktop, though it would be unlikely in severe weather that I would use a generator to do that.  I’d rather save the food in the fridge but I like options and if I would be so inclined, I could get to my information.  Although it’s also unlikely that Ancestry.com will cease to exist, one never knows.  Companies come and go.  I’m not trying to start a rumor – I think that is remote but in case, I want to have a backup.  I also like to have my tree available when I research away from home on my Kindle or laptop as in some facilities that I’ve visited, the wireless goes down when you’re in the stacks and it’s a problem.

The next interesting observation from the conference was how the Ancestry.com relationship feature doesn’t work.  I was surprised how many people rely on it.  Mine comes and goes and sometimes is so convoluted it’s hysterical. I’m not blaming Ancestry for that; it’s my twisted family tree where I relate to my husband back in the day.  It can’t figure out the connection and seems to take the long route.  I think I figured out why it does that.  Simply because of who I set at the home person.  If you’re having that problem just go to settings and change the home person to someone else and it may correct the problem.  If it doesn’t, then you’re going to have to figure out the relationship the old fashioned way.  I’d recommend bringing up the family tree view from the person you are trying to determine the relationship from and look and see where you recognize a common ancestor.

In a pinch you may find these links helpful:

Who Knew? Two Genealogy Tips I Just Learned

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Mar 2016.

Tip 1:  Did you know that Fold3 has lots more than just military records?  If you have the premium or you get a free trial offer you need to explore the site by doing the following-

  1. Click BROWSE at the top of the page
  2. Click CATEGORY on the right side
  3. Click ALL TITLES
  4. Take a look at what they have!

I have found the Pennsylvania Archives most helpful.  Scroll down to the bottom of the selected volume to check out the index.

I never knew Fold3 had FBI Case Files, slave auctions from the West Indies, orphan records and more.  Why in the world don’t they advertise this?!  I would have probably bought the premium membership years ago had I known.

Tip 2:  Just learned this from the Pinellas County Genealogical Society and I quote, “Family Tree Maker users can now do a direct import including all media files (without GEDCOM) to RootsMagic. This works with FTM versions 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 and classic (version 16 with file extension.ftw) for Windows. Also works for FTM 3 for Mac. Read the details at http://goo.gl/VkKrUJ. They also offer a special low price for FTM users to buy the RootsMagic program.”  Pretty cool if my Family Tree Maker hadn’t stopped synching with my Ancestry.com tree.  Hope this helps you out!