How to Protect Your Genealogy When Its Software Is Discontinued

protect your databaseYesterday, announced that they will be retiring their Family Tree Maker genealogy software. I ached for the many upset Ancestry customers who commented on the announcement, because they spent countless hours entering all of their family history data into that program, yet they will no longer have support for the program after next year. How heartbreaking!

I saw that same agony among similarly upset customers just last year when The Master Genealogist genealogy software was discontinued. I saw it a few years before that, when Personal Ancestral File was discontinued, too. Is anybody noticing a pattern?

From these discontinued programs, we are learning that: Genealogy software is not the most reliable product in which to entrust your precious family data!

Michael Hait wrote an excellent article for us career researchers in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, entitled “Why I Do Not Use Genealogy Database Software” (September 2012 issue, pp. 153-155). I highly recommend it for those who are APG members and have access to the APGQ.

For the more family-based genealogists, here are my recommendations–

~ My Favorite Software for Your Genealogy Data

The most trustworthy, lasting product I know of is Microsoft Word. I prefer to use Word to organize my family history data, then I use genealogy software to make charts only AFTER I have first put everything in Word. But everything gets entered Word before it goes anywhere else. Word is home base. Word is command central. Then it can be pasted elsewhere. Here is why:

  • Word is the program that is the most trustworthy, has the most engineers working on it, has the most support, and has been around the longest.
  • Unlike other genealogy software, it gets along better with other operating systems and opens more often in other programs (doesn’t lose my citations or images during GEDCOM transfers, for example!).
  • Microsoft is the most stable, powerful ownership/company I know of, among all other companies offering software to genealogists.
  • And I can format my citations and family tree the way I want to in Word, then cut and paste that data into any other spreadsheets, charts, or funkier database any time I want, without the data becoming harmed in any way. It is safe as houses in Word at all times!

Then as genealogy software companies shut down, I still have my main family history collection in Word (and hard copy), so I am not adversely affected by these changes. So I strongly recommend using Word to organize and protect one’s family history data.

~ To Get Started Using This Software

To begin putting your family history data into Word, you first have to learn how to organize your ancestors onto paper without the use of a database. You can learn how to do this with a small guide published by the National Genealogical Society, entitled Numbering Your GenealogyIt takes mere minutes to read, and you would keep it handy and refer to it often as you begin moving your family history from the software database into Word:

Your resulting family history would then be a narrative lineage instead of a database–it will look like those pages that your genealogy software printed out for you whenever you chose the “book” or “report” options for your scrapbook.

And you can still make pedigree charts in Word afterwards, too–Word’s Smart Art comes with ready-made pedigree templates, PowerPoint’s flowchart diagrams can be used as pedigrees, too, and Mac users have many stunning pedigree replacements in Keynote and iWork tools that are far superior to anything I’ve ever seen in family history software anyway (design-wise).

~ Side Note About Software

My mom is a die-hard Legacy Family Tree user who is having the last laugh–she swore her favorite company’s product would last longer than Ancestry’s, even though it is smaller, and she turned out to be right. But I am still begging her to move her data over to Word. It makes me nervous to see how many thousands of names, dates, places, and sources she has entrusted to a program that is younger than even my baby brother. Will it last? We shall see!

I will confess, I own Family Tree Maker as one of my post-Word chart-makers for myself and for clients. I also own Reunion. I prefer Reunion because it lets me make my own citations, but I used Family Tree Maker for projects where the client had a lot of ancestral photos, because it played nicer with photos than Reunion. For clients with fewer photos, I stick with Reunion.

Looks like I get to just stick with Reunion from here on out. And when the day comes that they have all fallen and Word is all I have, I will be fine with that, too, because Word is the overall superior product. And we will always have the Chart Chick to help us with all of our future charting needs whenever we need her! 🙂

UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST: blog readers came to me after I published this post and asked me more about how to export their databases to Word, so I posted a more detailed tutorial at this link:

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3 thoughts on “How to Protect Your Genealogy When Its Software Is Discontinued

  1. TMG was discontinued because Microsoft (that Large “Stable” Company that you mention) was discontinuing Visual FoxPro (the base database for TMG). If you’ve used TMG, you’d know that the user interface still the default 1994 icon system, etc. TMG was probably the most powerful genealogy program as it was tied to FoxPro’s professional database engine.


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