Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What kind of family tree - Online or off? It Depends


Jessica Jozwiak, a member of The Organized Genealogist [TOG] Facebook Group, writes "What is the best way to keep your tree online? I currently have Ancestry, and I've used FTM [Family Tree Maker] before, but I would like to save my tree and info to my computer."

TOG Co-Administrator Diane Gould Hall writes "I use Legacy. Love it! I also have a couple of trees on Ancestry, but they are not my primary records. I use them for the hints and to share with family. My "real" tree is in Legacy."

Without being snarky, Ol' Myrt here says "It depends."  What are your genealogical goals?
  • organizing your paper and digital files
  • documenting information gathered on living generations in addition to ancestors
  • "cousin bait"
  • researching online record collections
  • a place to "park" online records records until you're sure you've got the correct ancestor?
 Consider these alternatives.
  • Have at least one of several genealogy database programs (for Mac or PC) to keep your "own" copy of your current thinking on family relationships. This includes living generations as well as ancestors. 
  • Check out genealogy programs at Cyndi's List - Software.
  • Placing an online tree at Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast (basically British records) and MyHeritage (very large outside the US, recognizing 40+ languages) to permit each site's record matching technology point to documents possibly matching your ancestors' profiles.
  • Adding an online tree at WikiTree, in addition to those above, strictly for "cousin bait."
  • Family Tree Maker syncs with Ancestry Member Trees.
  • Family Tree Builder syncs with MyHeritage.
  • RootsMagic can import FTM files directly now, also works with FamilySearch, and points to hints from MyHeritage. Will sync with Ancestry Member Trees by Dec 2016.
  • Create a separate, private online tree at say Ancestry to keep track of note and records on a "suspected" kinship relationship during your research process.
  • RootsMagic can automatically create a website, hosted on their site or yours.
  • AncestryDNA works best when attached to a public tree at It's easy from most any genealogy program to create a GEDCOM file to upload to an Ancestry Member Tree.
  • That same GEDCOM file can be uploaded to FtDNA when you are ready.
  • A website, blog and online presence of public trees can serve you well as "cousin bait."
  • Use (easy) or WordPress (sharper learning curve) as your blogging platform, telling one ancestral anecdote per post. You could include a post with each ancestral photo or document you discover, etc. If you choose, remember it's owned by Google, so within minutes of your post, Google will spider your blog, making every word or phrase "findable" by those distant cousins you haven't yet met.
  • Facebook is a place to connect with the younger generations, so you might set up a private FB Group just for posting family pics and cross-posting your blog. 
  • Avoid heartbreak when your hard drive crashes. You know it will sometime. Keep your offline images, documents and genealogy database backed up to the cloud, using something like Dropbox and BackBlaze. I've set both to sync automatically, so I never have to worry about this. 


Create a digital calendar, say with Cozi (desktop, iOS and Droid tablets and phones) or Google Calendar (all platforms) to send you reminders like these:
  • 1st of the month - check backup services for current subscriptions.
  • Every Tuesday - write an ancestral blog post.
  • Every Thursday - confirm that your online trees are matched to your "best thinking" genealogy database on your Mac or PC. This includes recently proved kinship determinations with proof arguments and accompanying photos and source documents.
  • Reminders of upcoming genealogy webinars and conferences.
  • Every year on your birthday - change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
  • An occasional reminder to cook dinner and do the laundry.

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