In December, Ancestry caused shock and consternation to Family Tree Maker users by announcing that the software was to be discontinued. On 2 February, Ancestry announced that they had sold Family Tree Maker to Software Mackiev, who have been developing the Mac version for the last 6 years. However, if you think you can relax and concerns can be dismissed, I suggest you think again.
The big issue, that of getting of your hard won data, complete and intact, out of Family Tree Maker, remains unresolved. The release of unspecified updates have been announced, due on 1 March, but I do not hold out hope that a compliant GEDCOM export will be included.
Much has been written about the shortcomings of GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communication), which is a dead standard because it has not been developed or supported since the late 1990s. Despite years of agitation by independent developers, the formation of interest groups like BetterGedcom and FHISO, and many proposals for improvements, the major players in the genealogy industry have failed to co-operate in the development of a new genealogical data standard.
A feeding frenzy of offers from other genealogy software vendors to FTM users followed the December announcement. Sadly the widely touted idea that a GEDCOM file from FTM will perfectly transfer your data to another program is just not true. Apart from the inadequacies of the GEDCOM standard, practically universal non-compliance with the standard further complicate data transfer. In a series of 13 posts entitled Replacing Family Tree Maker, Keith Riggle is examining how to correct the faulty export and import processes for a range of genealogy software. The comparison is presented as a crosswalk table.
The take home message for the non-technical reader is that there should be no red or yellow blocks in this table.
A program that does not comply is a shoddy product. Customers, please demand better quality.
Developers and vendors, please take a hard look at your product and ensure compliance, and work co-operatively to develop a new genealogical data standard.
A new functional genealogy data standard also needs to interact with other data standards. Genealogists use archives, digital files and images, and geographic data all the time. Well established standards exist for archival (e.g. ISAD(G)), digital curation (e.g. OAIS),
digital image metadata (e.g. Metadata Working Group) and geographic information (e.g. Open Geospatial Consortium).
Standards underpin many things we take for granted in daily life, including kitchen appliances that fit under the worktop. Standards matter for genealogy.