Saturday, March 19, 2016


As I mentioned on Wednesday, the genetic genealogy community has been in a tizzy over the exchange of notices from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and, is a site that has tools to allow users to compare DNA results, and uploaded GEDCOM files, from users of the three major DNA testing companies,,, and FTDNA.

The commotion rose to a fervant pitch, with some threatening boycotts of FTDNA and others urging calm over what was coined "GEDMATCHAGEDDON."

This was heightened when announced that they might have to discontinue sharing matches with data submitted by FTDNA users.

This afternoon, the two organizations issued the following joint announcement:

Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch jointly announce that we are in serious conversations regarding issues that have resulted in GEDmatch discontinuing uploads of FTDNA data. Both companies recognize the importance of these talks to their customers and are committed to quickly resolve differences. We regret any inconvenience that may have been caused and assure our users that our primary focus and efforts are geared toward your benefit. 

Hopefully, this will put the whole matter to rest for a while.

Throughout this entire exchange, data uploaded from kits from the other two companies were only to be affected by the ability to compare to FTDNA users.

It is still important for all of us to remember that data privacy is an important issue to many people, and that we should respect the wishes of our family and friends who share this information with us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

FamilyTreeDNA Asks to Freeze Uploads of User Data From Their Tests

One of the best, largely free, resources available to genetic genealogists are the tools on This site allows users to upload raw data from all three major testing companies -, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. This is the only way to compare tests from the three companies.

Today, users noticed a strange notice on GEDMatch:

NOTICE: We are no longer accepting FTDNA DNA kit uploads. We have been asked not to say why. Please Contact FTDNA if you have any questions.

Well, users noticed, and they did contact FTDNA. In droves. And droves.

This isn't surprising, as the statement was mysterious and yet direct in its instruction.

Genetic genealogy online groups, message lists, etc. blew up with speculation, some of it quite fanciful.

FTDNA responded on their Facebook Page with the following message:

We have reached out to GEDMatch expressing our concern that their website could potentially lead to a breach in privacy of our customers. Given this, we proposed to discuss the subject with them, but in parallel we suggested that until further clarification and assurances that the privacy of our customers' records are protected, Family Tree DNA uploads should be suspended. We hope that with the cooperation of GEDMatch we can reestablish the uploads in the near future.

Well, that didn't sit well with many users. Dozens of folk have used one of Facebook's emoji-like statuses to express anger.  Many users feel that they have the right to upload their DNA data files wherever they darned well please, and they are frustrated that FTDNA disagrees.

Other users have noted that from GEDmatch, one can determine the test ID number for the sample, which FTDNA surprisingly uses as a username. This gives basically the easiest half of the two pieces of information needed to log into an account.  Of course, most other websites use an e-mail address as a user name, which is not exactly rocket science to locate.

It appears likely that FTDNA is concerned about litigation. I cannot comment on that, since as a judge, I cannot publicly opine about potential cases or controversies.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Roots Magic Claims Direct Family Tree Maker File Import

I haven't had a chance to test this, but Roots Magic has announced that the new version can directly import Family Tree Maker files

Here is what they say on the Roots Magic blog:

Family Tree Maker users have a new home

Direct Family Tree Maker Import is Here!

Since Ancestry’s announcement that they were parting ways with their Family Tree Maker software, thousands of FTM users have found a new home in RootsMagic. One of the first questions they have is, “How do I get my data from FTM into RootsMagic?”
Until today, the answer has always been through a GEDCOM file. But GEDCOM files from Family Tree Maker, while mostly effective, were often lacking data and details only found in the original file. Plus it added an extra step in the conversion process.
That’s why we’re excited to announce today’s release of RootsMagic 7.1. In addition to various tweaks and fixes, this update adds the ability to directly import any Family Tree Maker file.
And by “any” Family Tree Maker file, we really mean it. RootsMagic can directly import:
  • Family Tree Maker 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 for Windows (*.ftm, *.ftmb)
  • Family Tree Maker 3 for Mac (*.ftm, *.ftmb)
  • Family Tree Maker 2010 and 2012 for Mac (*.ftmm, *.ftmd)
  • Classic Family Tree Maker Files (*.ftw)
In fact, RootsMagic can import a bigger variety of Family Tree Maker files than any single version of Family Tree Maker itself.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Wrapping Up a Genealogy Road Trip

I have had the pleasure to take a vacation week mostly for genealogy.

I am in Boston, Massachusetts along with a group from the California Genealogical Society visiting the grand dame of American genealogy, the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

(It really didn't look like that today - we had snow!)

The trip is an opportunity to focus on the family of my wife, Cynthia Laird, and particularly that of her mother, whose American roots go deep and long - lots of them were here before this was a country.

My own family has only minimal ties to New England. Thomas and Margaret Brady moved with their son James to Tiverton, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts around 1880 and were in New York by 1900.

I looked high and low for new records about the family here, but they remain remarkably evasive (they are part of the inspiration for this blog's title).

I expect nothing less from those crafty Bradys!

I've been very careful with Cynthia's family. It is fairly easy to trace her mother's roots back to the beginning of the 1800s, but I am skeptical of many things on the Interwebs about older New England families.

So I sat down for several hours this afternoon with the great genealogy expert, Gary Boyd Roberts, to discuss what I know of her family. Gary is the author of a number of genealogy books, including Ancestors of American Presidents, a copy of which he used in going over her pedigree (due to some linkages that I am going to investigate before spreading them around online).

My head is still spinning, and I am trying to decipher his frenzied notes before I lose all memory of what he told me.

I have one more day at the library, and then a one-day conference on Irish genealogy, before zipping back to California late on Sunday.

I hope to get back into the whole blogging thing. My new assignment at work has been keeping me working harder, and my prep work for coming out here took up most of my free time.

Excuses, excuses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Family Tree Maker to Live On, and RootsMagic to Get Syncing.

Back in December I reported that was discontinuing its support for Family Tree Maker.

Well, I should have realized that all sorts of things get announced in early February in connection with the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, and this year is no different, and yesterday they sent the following announcement to their users:


Dear Family Tree Maker™ community,

Since our Family Tree Maker announcement last December, we have continued to actively explore ways to develop and support Family Tree Maker and ensure you have choices to preserve your work in ways that matter to you.

Today, we are pleased to announce two options for desktop software that will work with Ancestry.

Software MacKiev

Software MacKiev, with whom we have a long-standing relationship, is acquiring the Family Tree Maker software line as publisher for both Mac and Windows versions. Software MacKiev has been the developer of Family Tree Maker for Mac for more than six years and is thrilled at the opportunity to publish future versions of Family Tree Maker for Mac and Windows.

This new agreement means you will receive software updates and new versions from Software MacKiev, and have the ability to purchase new versions of Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev as they are released. You will have continued access to Ancestry Hints, Ancestry searches, and be able to save your tree on Ancestry with Family Tree Maker moving forward.


We have made an agreement with RootsMagic, a leading genealogy desktop software program publisher, to connect Ancestry with the RootsMagic software by the end of 2016. With this new relationship, RootsMagic can serve as your desktop family tree software, while having access to Ancestry hints, Ancestry searches, and the ability to save your tree on Ancestry.

We have heard your concerns and are working to provide the solutions you requested. These new agreements will make it possible to preserve your work on Ancestry and Family Tree Maker and enable future features and benefits to help you discover your family history. Be assured that Ancestry, in cooperation with Software MacKiev and RootsMagic, will continue to support you as you discover your family history.

We ask for your patience as we work diligently through all the details to make these solutions available. You can find additional details about these Family Tree Maker partnerships on our blog. We also encourage you to continue to check back on our blog for future updates in the coming months.

RootsMagic was not going to be left out, so they posted more on their own blog:

Search, Sync & Download from Ancestry
Recently, the genealogy world was rocked with the news that Ancestry would be parting with their “Family Tree Maker” (FTM) genealogy software. Thousands of FTM users have since made the switch to RootsMagic. But the question everyone has been asking has been, “Will any other software be able to search and synchronize with Ancestry the same way that Family Tree Maker did?”
Today, we finally have an answer to that question- “Yes!” We’re pleased to announce that we will be working with Ancestry to bring these features to RootsMagic in the near future.

What does this mean for you?

Search, Sync, Import
  1. Search – RootsMagic will be the only software besides FTM to search Ancestry’s extensive collections of historical records from around the world and let you download those records into your own file.
  2. Sync – RootsMagic will be the only software besides FTM to let you share data between your RootsMagic files on your computer with your personal Ancestry online trees. You’ll also be able to download people, events, and even pictures from Ancestry onto your computer through RootsMagic.
  3. Import – RootsMagic will be able to directly import your Family Tree Maker files, without having to go through an intermediate GEDCOM file, giving you the cleanest, most complete transfer of your data. RootsMagic will also be able to download your online trees from Ancestry.
Yes, this is big news and we’re sure you have many questions about it.


Does this mean that Ancestry bought RootsMagic?
No. RootsMagic is still the same independent software maker that we’ve always been. We’ve simply arranged to work with our friends at Ancestry to make this happen; just as we work with FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and other genealogy companies.
Why are RootsMagic and Ancestry working together?
This really is a win-win for both companies and their users. RootsMagic users will have convenient access to Ancestry’s vast collections of trees and records, as well as synchronizing with private online trees. Former Family Tree Maker users will have a path forward, importing their original FTM files while using the Ancestry hints and trees that they’ve come to depend on.
When will these features be available?
As is to be expected with something this big, it will not happen overnight. Both Ancestry and RootsMagic are dedicating considerable time and resources to make this happen. We anticipate having many of these features available later this year in an update to our RootsMagic 7 software.
Are you the only other genealogy software working with Ancestry?
Besides Family Tree Maker, yes.
What if I don’t want to upload my data to Ancestry?
Like all of our integrations with other companies, these features are completely optional. You’re free to use or ignore them as you like.
Will I need an Ancestry subscription to use these features?
Use of Ancestry features will require an Ancestry account, even if only as a free Registered Guest. The features and records available to you will depend on your subscription level.
Will I still be able to use RootsMagic to work with FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and other companies?
Of course. This will not affect any existing functionality in the RootsMagic software including sharing data with FamilySearch Family Tree and WebHints. In fact, these relationships give RootsMagic users the ability to access more records from more sources than any other software.
I’m a Family Tree Maker user. Do I have to buy RootsMagic now?
We certainly wouldn’t mind if you did :) But seriously, Ancestry has stated that current versions of Family Tree Maker will work with their services through 2016. So you don’t have to make the switch immediately.
We invite you to look at RootsMagic and its features and, if you like what you see, you’re welcome to make the transition whenever you feel ready. You may be willing to wait until the new Ancestry features are available or you may wish to get started right away. Whenever that time comes, please for a special discount and instructions to help you make the change.
Please visit for more information.
This is all very exciting news for the genealogy community, and probably puts RootsMagic on track to be the premiere genealogy software, with its upcoming syncing along with its current ability to interact with and

My only quibble with RootsMagic is that it is difficult to merge identical events, but that is really minor. I am probably switching over this spring.

I'm on the California Genealogical Society Board!

I cannot believe that I did this: I wrote this post on Saturday, January 23, 2016 but I never published it.

I really need to get back to blogging more regularly!


Today I was elected to the board of directors of the California Genealogical Society.

This is my first genealogical leadership activity, and the first board that I've served on just for fun (i.e., not for professional, political, or social justice reasons).

I'm honored and excited. I will be formalizing my life role on the board over the next month, but I know that this will be a lot of fun. The people are great and the opportunities are many.

More details will follow over the next few weeks.