Sync trees between Ancestry and your computer TreeSync, FamilySync, TreeShare, other options

This page is a sub-section of the main Family Tree Maker notes.

Also see: ‘Tackling TreeSync issues with MacKiev relying on Ancestry for answers‘ for a run down of the problems encountered around the first sync after converting to the ‘finished’ version of FTM2014.1, January 2017.

TreeSync is no more

TreeSync has stopped working, as announced (see next section).

Until early May, hovering over the error icon when trying to sync would show a rather long message, liable to disappear before you’ve read it. Here’s a MacKiev image they posted on Facebook:

You need FTM 2017 to sync!

More info below.

The material below was largely written back in 2011, but has been updated to reflect the changes in FTM 2012 and FTM 2014 (some links need further review, but those pre-FTM 2017 are essentially redundant anyway). It will be updated as info and experience comes through on the new FamilySync, available in FTM 2017. TreeShare from Roots Magic is worth investigating too.

Old Ancestry connection ends

The Family Tree Maker program, which had TreeSync connectivity with Ancestry trees, is now owned by Software MacKiev. Ancestry was originally due to stop support for TreeSync at the end of 2016, but the final announcement came on 20th March 2017, when Ancestry and Software MacKiev said that it would stop functioning on 29th March (which it did).

The long-standing Ancestry search, record merge, and hints functions have also stopped working for versions before FTM 2017 – see bullet point 4 of the MacKiev announcement. (Originally this was to be 29th March as well, but at the last minute Ancestry agreed not to switch off these ‘non-sync’ items until the new FamilySync/FTM 2017 became operational.)

Re version 2014.1 changes, MacKiev’s boss says (in a Facebook post 9th Jan 2017): “We have not actually touched anything to do with syncing itself in our update work. Syncing algorithms remain exactly as they were in Ancestry times. … The update is almost entirely about improvements in stability, performance and security.”

First option: FamilySync from Family Tree Maker

Software MacKiev’s replacement FamilySync facility is a key feature of the FTM 2017 edition, due for release 31/3/17 and finally out in July 2017. See our FTM 2017 page for what else is new to this version, and differences in how FTM works with Ancestry.

Alternative: RootsMagic TreeShare

Alternative genealogy software RootsMagic has its own take on Ancestry sync – TreeShare – as a new feature in version 7.5, released 28th June 2017 (a free upgrade from version 7).

A blog post (28th March) gives some info on their approach, a bit different to FTM’s as, after the initial down/upload, sync is per person rather than whole tree. Also see their release blog, or initial announcement.

RootsMagic has a free ‘Essentials’ version: they say

If you have an account with Ancestry, RootsMagic Essentials includes the ability to upload your file to Ancestry or download your existing online trees from Ancestry. If you are a subscriber to Ancestry, RootsMagic Essentials also allows you to search and view all of the content in your subscription.

You can get Ancestry hints, too, but no ability to “compare and transfer individual records between RootsMagic and Ancestry” in the freebie. RM Essentials also can get hints for FamilySearch, FindMyPast, but the ‘WebSearch’ facility requires the full edition.

Written for Windows (version 7 can run on Win 2000, XP, Vista as well as newer), it can also work on Mac (via an included Windows emulator). Full UK version available from S&N Genealogy (£34-95 for v7) and other suppliers, or get ‘FTM upgrade’ download direct from their US site for $20 (about £16 at March 2017) – Ancestry subscribers can get this offer too, until 31st July 2017.

Will an app work for you?

Ancestry has Android and iOS apps if you just want to view and do basic edits to your tree on your smartphone or tablet. Many other genealogy sites offer apps too.

RootsMagic includes a ‘To-Go’ variation, designed to fit onto a USB stick. Limited functionality but may be worth checking.

Preliminary notes for FTM 2017 and FamilySync

While the mechanism and name of the sync process has changed, it appears to be the intention that most of what users experience is close to how things were with TreeSync. Most of the material marked FTM 2012/14 should therefore still be relevant, but there may be subtle differences.

FTM 2012/14: Starting with TreeSync

The 2012 version of Family Tree Maker was the first to feature TreeSync, which allows a tree on FTM to stay in step with a corresponding one on the Ancestry website. In earlier editions, you needed to add/amend/delete data and records twice if you wanted them to be the same.

The key thing when setting up TreeSync is that this feature doesn’t connect up two existing trees – you have to start with one on either Ancestry or FTM and create/link to a new tree on the other. The following is adapted from an Ancestry forum post by the Family Tree Maker Product Manager, 13th Oct:

From an existing Family Tree Maker tree, create a new one on Ancestry by clicking Upload and Link to Ancestry from the Plan workspace. If this is a duplicate of one that is already online, delete (or for safety/backup rename) the old one.

Or start with a tree on Ancestry and get it to/linked it to a new tree in FTM by clicking Download from Ancestry on the New Tree tab in the Plan workspace.

How I sync

The TreeSync has been working well for me since patch 466 (FTM 2012), but note that I always compact the FTM file before running a manual sync (the default is automatic sync). I also prefer to only work from one direction at a time, making additions/changes to the data from the web or the FTM program not both, which removes the risk of  sync clashes. The section on sync failures and approaches to tackling them is at the end of this web page.

FTM 2012/14: What doesn’t sync

The FTM help screen doesn’t give much help on what types of media files actually get sync’d between Ancestry and FTM. Online help article 5356 gave more detail, including:

  • Audio and video items are not transferred between Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.
  • Documents in Family Tree Maker will be uploaded to an Ancestry tree only for these formats: .pdf, .doc, .txt, .rtf, and .htm. However, the last item is wrong (htm = web page) – it contradicts FTM’s own help screen and such files indeed don’t get transferred from FTM. It is possible that stories created on Ancestry turn into web pages – not something I do.
  • Photos uploaded to Ancestry Member Trees cannot exceed 15MB. Supported format .jpeg/.jpg, .bmp, .png, .gif, and .tiff.

More from the support pages

The defunct Family Tree Maker customer help web page on what does and doesn’t get sync’d was for FTM 2012 and out of date for 2014/.1. Instead, see the section below which is based on an update sent to me by MacKiev in December 2016, or see MacKiev support page.

Differences using FTM 2017 will be added to this list soon, hopefully.

What doesn’t transfer from FTM to Ancestry

  • Source media
  • Short place names
  • Place locations
  • Person and relationship ID facts
  • Saved charts & reports
  • For FTM 2012: Some types of notes (research, fact, citation, relationship, media); relationship media; media categories

Data transferred but not synchronised

  • Stories created in Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com are transferred to the other, but cannot be edited and transferred back.
  • Family Tree Maker sources that use the templates based on the book Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills are transferred online, but can only be edited in Family Tree Maker.

What is synchronised

FTM 2014/.1 list – see FTM 2012 exceptions above.

People

  • Names
  • Facts (dates, places, descriptions)
  • Relationships

Notes

  • Person notes (Only viewable by tree editors)
  • Research notes
  • Citation notes
  • Fact notes
  • Media notes
  • Relationship notes

Web Links

  • Person web links

Sources

  • Sources
  • Citations
  • Repositories

Source templates

Media categories

Media file names

Media

  • Person media
  • Fact media
  • Citation media
  • Relationship media

Note: Media files are updated in the background after your tree data is finished synchronizing.

Private data and media

If uploading from FTM to Ancestry, rather than the other way round, strongly consider what images and documents could end up online which are either sensitive (e.g. photo includes living person) or copyright (pages from a reference book perhaps). This is one reason to keep uploaded trees private.

Another tactic is to make individual facts private. There’s padlock button for Media and Notes tabs (for Facts but also for the Notes section at the bottom of the screen). To keep the whole fact private see the Options drop-down (just above the fact details). For example, I keep email addresses private, and use the padlock for selected images, such as where I don’t have permission to share. For emails, it makes sense for me to set the Fact type to ‘Private by default‘ in Manage Facts>Properties, rather than one by one.

See FTM support page Making facts private in Family Tree Maker 2014.

FTM 2012/14: Sharing a sync’d tree

Sync (before FTM 2017) is a one-to-one process – one online tree to one FTM data file. But you can have multiple Ancestry trees all connecting to their own FTM database.

You can always invite people to see your tree on Ancestry, whether it is set to private or public. If you let others edit on Ancestry, this will of course sync back to FTM. The Ancestry app (Android, iOS, Amazon) can also link to the online version.

One suggestion on Facebook: share and sync a tree by using OneDrive – FTM local copy in computer’s OneDrive folder, which is automatically backed-up/copied to the OneDrive cloud. Someone else can then be allowed to access the OneDrive cloud version.

FTM 2012/14 Installation tips

The initial load on Ancestry’s servers in the release period (Sept/Oct 2011) was inevitably high, making the initial process very slow. There may still be peak periods when the sync shouldn’t fail but you may think it has. An Ancestry tech note (17th Oct 2011) said: “the sync queue could become backed up, making it appear that the dialog in the program for syncing is hanging. In reality, the tree will eventually sync when the member’s tree is up next in the queue”. Try early morning, UK time, while America is asleep?

Images are likely to be sync’d “in the background”. This can slow down internet access for other uses, such as web browsing, considerably. (May depend on how your broadband is set up/how fast.) Exiting Family Tree Maker should cause the sync to stop, after a few seconds, resuming when you load it up again.

Also see item on initial experiences with FTM 2012.

Unlinked trees

If you want to download a tree from Ancestry without linking, in FTM under New Tree there is a ‘Download from Ancestry’ option with a Link to Ancestry tick box. If you untick, the system will request a Gedcom file from Ancestry. Standard Gedcom files don’t contain everything, although the Ancestry/FTM version has more I believe. So you might want to do a linked download then unlink (for example to merge data from a branch)?

FTM 2012/14: Sync failures and oddities

Note: this section is partly for own reference but some useful tips for resolving problems are buried here too.

The TreeSync has proved remarkably resilient, given how complex syncing updates from two rather different pieces of software can be to implement. The December 2011 update for the program (FTM 2012) pretty much fixed things for me, although not everybody apparently. The May 2012 patch (580) seems to have made further  improvements.

Odd changes on Ancestry

As I work in FTM rather than Ancestry for everything apart from  bringing in photos from other trees (and checking, not merging, new hints), there usually shouldn’t be anything to sync from Ancestry to FTM, only the other way round. However, other people can add comments, and viewing both comments and notes online can also seem to trigger a sync item.

Others have reported FTM notes being changed after sync, and I have witnessed removal or addition of line breaks and change of type size in Person Notes. Fingers crossed that the MacKiev’s FTM 2014.1 update has fixed this – first sync after installing this appeared to include a Notes update from FTM to Ancestry (see Tackling TreeSync issues with MacKiev ... ) and making a test change and online view didn’t produce any format issues.

Time outs

Family Tree Maker  2014 version has performed the sync well (used Feb 2015 to Dec 2016). There have been a few times when the sync has taken a very long time or failed on first attempt but went second go. Almost certainly a log jam somewhere – as I use manual sync and avoid peak times the blockage was probably some glitch in the Ancestry network/database system.

It is worth finding the ‘fault’

When a tree sync continues to fail, on the face of it you have to “start afresh”, with a new linkage, downloading/uploading either from Ancestry or FTM. However, it appears to be worth a rather painful tracking down of the cause of the failure. Eventual deletion of the offending item does seem to work, but don’t over do it. Here is my own experience (all with FTM 2012):

First case The count of individuals diverged by one between Ancestry/FTM, but the sync was still going without fuss. I worked backwards from the individual last added when I spotted this (having previously created an FTM report by Person ID – obviously you need to have this feature switched on). I tracked down the duplicate, fortunately a mother added with little detail to one child. I added an ‘AKA’ entry to identify the person on Ancestry who was connected from the child. Sync still worked at this point but once a different AKA was added to the duplicate, the sync failed. I deleted the person on FTM, then the duplicate on Ancestry, and the trees were able to sync again (with the ‘non-duplicate’ Ancestry record gone too). The number of individuals matched again.

UPDATE: a further occurrence of this issue, 8th April 2012, but I had made a mess of adding the offending new individual (changing my mind on who was the correct spouse). I had to give the sync a kick after deleting the duplicate on Ancestry (by making a minor change to a note) – a failure message appeared, but on closing and reopening FTM things seem to be in order and has worked fine since.

Second case Connecting with a distant relation threw up some new records on her tree from Canada and USA, not directly accessible with a UK Premium sub. My intention is to only work from one “side” of the sync at a time, usually from FTM and only for rare occasions from Ancestry. This time I managed to do both, and on sync I got a conflict message, requiring either a manual or automatic resolution. Attempted both types without success. Two of the three conflicts appeared to have been created by the sync itself, for Notes which I hadn’t touched on Ancestry. The other item, Residence, appeared identical at both ends. So deleted that residence fact on Ancestry, and the sync worked.

Sync failure 22nd December 2011. I am suspicious about this one, occurring about the time of the release of the .466 patch, although the sync failed before the update was received at my end. Three citations were showing needing syncing from Ancestry when I hadn’t touched anything there for ages. This is the first failure I haven’t been able to fix since the initial set up, requiring a fresh start at TreeSync by uploading a new tree to Ancestry from FTM. Note: the final sync failure, after trying several times, crashed out of FTM and seemingly deleted the tree – after poking around it was found relabelled with ‘SyncBackup_17digitnumber’.

Sync failure 29th December 2011. First time adding new individuals since  last reload (following 22nd Dec failure). The sync hesitated part way through, then I notice that the 2 new people (siblings) have both been added twice on Ancestry, but FTM reports trees as being in sync. Put a marker change on the FTM records, re-sync and delete the two without the marker on Ancestry. Nope, now have sync failure and can’t find a way round. Perhaps I should have waited until FTM spotted that Ancestry version had 2 extra people, but when would that have been? Another reload, then, taking about 4.5 hours with media, from the FTM tree.

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