A newsletter reader wrote to me today expressing dissatisfaction with the recent “retirement” of Family Tree Maker. He wants to switch to a different genealogy program but is concerned that the next program he uses also might be “retired” before long. He asked, “Which genealogy software will stand the test of endurance?”
I decided to publish my answer in this newsletter in case others have similar concerns.
Family Tree Maker certainly did not “stand the test of endurance.” Since it was supported by the largest commercial company in the genealogy marketplace and reportedly was the most popular genealogy program in the world, many of us assumed it would be a viable product forever. We were wrong, as the recent announcement about “retirement” of the program shows. Obviously, support by a multimillion dollar corporation is no guarantee that a program will be available in the future.
Several other major genealogy programs have also disappeared over the years, including Personal Ancestral File, Roots 4, The Ultimate Genealogist, The Master Genealogist, The Family Edge, and a few others I cannot remember right now. All of these were leading genealogy programs at one time but have since faded into oblivion.
Of course, the risk also extends to all of today’s genealogy programs: RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Mac Family Tree, Family Tree Builder, Reunion, RootsTrust, Heredis, Family Historian, The Next Generation, WebTrees, Ancestral Quest, and every other genealogy program I can think of. I wouldn’t bet on any of them surviving forever. That is especially true as the trend of the computer industry these days is to move away from programs installed in personal computers and toward cloud-based solutions.
This is not a “genealogy problem.” The same is true for non-genealogy software as well. We have lost Lotus 1-2-3, VisiCalc, dBase, WordStar, and a few hundred other excellent programs over the years.
There are no guarantees with anything in this world.
My advice: When looking for a new program for any purpose, find one you like and use it. However, never lock yourself in. Always have an exit plan in mind in case your favorite program suddenly becomes non-functioning for any reason and cannot be replaced. This is true for genealogy and non-genealogy programs alike.