For a while there, I used Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker. Then I switched to Family Search’s Legacy, and spent quite a bit of time getting that organized. Then, a couple of years ago, I bought a desktop Mac, and realized too late that I couldn’t use Legacy on it. (But I still love the Mac).
I thought that I would keep up my genealogy on my old Windows laptop. But no, I didn’t much like working on the small screen, and of course I was lazy, and defaulted to working on the Ancestry website instead, occasionally downloading files to an “inbox” folder on my computer to be organized later. Much later. Like, never.
Well, the old Windows laptop was having issues, so a couple of weeks ago, I bought a MacBook Air to replace it. Legacy STILL doesn’t have a Mac version for some reason. Something had to be done.
I found out that Family Tree Maker does have a Mac version! A completely new program from a new (Ukrainian?) company. And it works pretty well. Mostly. Until it met my big, messy tree, I guess.
Cue the Reckoning.
I didn’t understand that the second copy of FTM that I paid for would be a sort of satellite copy of the main program. So, first I worked for a while on my desktop and that synced just fine. Then, I put in several hours of work on my laptop, but couldn’t sync it to the site. Crap.
I asked tech support about this, and was told that the only solution to my problem would be to download the laptop copy, merge it with the desktop copy, then sync it to the site. Then use the laptop just for working online from that point forward. (Later, I learned about a cloud solution that will allow me to work offline on both computers, but I’m not going there yet.)
It sounds pretty simple. But of course it wasn’t. I ended up with a gazillion duplicate (and triplicate and quadruplicate) media files and sources, just for a start. I’ll skip the rest of the story, but let’s just say MacKiev tech support was less than helpful. And now I’m past the point where anyone else could solve the problem, anyway.
Deep breath. I still have my basic data, it’s just messy. I still have all my files. And I still have my untouched, if outdated, copy of the Legacy family tree on the old Windows laptop, and those files are also backed up to the cloud.
This is not all Family Tree Maker’s fault (though they didn’t give me very good advice). I realize that what I SHOULD have done was clean up my online tree FIRST then import the tree into the program. Actually, I should have been keeping everything more organized for the last two or three years! But here I am.
History has shown that I am not going to keep up a manual-entry program. I need to be able to sync with Ancestry, and I need to be able to use my desktop Mac. So, I’m going to stick with Family Tree Maker. But, I will be a lot more careful from now on.
I’m just going to take this step by step. I had cleaned up all the Places on my laptop, and fortunately, that change stuck when I merged the files. So, that’s something. Now, I am working on cleaning up Sources and Media. I got a little help from a Mac app that detects duplicate files, but clearly, there is a lot more left to do.
I also “pruned” my tree. I had a couple of dozen as-yet unrelated “mini trees” on there just to keep track of neighbors, African-American Bembrys, and other possible relatives. All those mini-trees have been exported, filed for safekeeping, and deleted from the main tree. There will be more pruning as I go along, to make the project more focused and manageable.
Here’s my resolution: from now on, I’m going to take it slow, one person and one family at a time. Who cares how long it takes, anyway? I’m going to focus primarily on my direct ancestors, getting all the documentation in order, putting all my Legacy and offline notes into the program, labeling and linking all the sources and media files correctly, deleting duplicates, and backing up frequently to the cloud.
When this project is done, months from now, THEN–and only then!–I will upload the cleaned-up tree to Ancestry and start researching and syncing again. And no more adding people “just in case!” If I find a person of interest in my research, I’ll start a separate mini-tree for them, without loading down my core tree with more likely unrelated content.
Who knows? Maybe I will find some good stories for the blog along the way.