Ancestry.com, FTM, and Treesync Update

Published July 29, 2013 by Steve Watts #

Julie’s tree was problematically large - around 50,000 people or so - when we purchased FTM 2012 with Treesync in October of 2011. That is precisely why we bought the software. As it turns out, we didn’t quite realize just how problematic it was going to be. When we finally convinced Ancestry that this wasn’t a problem with our computers, internet connection, etc., they made a copy of her tree - approximately 20Feb2013 (yes, you are reading that right - more than a year). It contained 72,215 people at that point. I finally got that file - through a circuitous process - and got it loaded up in Family Tree Maker around the middle of July.

What they ended up doing - and I fully understand this is extraordinary and above-and-beyond on their part - was to let me send them a 32 GB Thumb Drive. All electronic transfer methods failed due to the fact that at that point the zipped file set was ~ 16 GB. There were several attempts using Dropbox and other credible file transfer services, including attempts to break up the large .zip into smaller pieces. I suspect if we had stayed on that track we would have found a way, but with “life going on” here and at Ancestry, each attempt tended to take several weeks.

Now that we’ve had a success, my thinking is I’m ready to try it with the new file set, which has advanced to 87,739 people. Unfortunately, when asking the question I am reminded why Ancestry assigned someone to work with us through this process - things like “we don’t send out files on thumb drives” and “we don’t recommend…”. I’m sort of surprised they didn’t tell me to clear my browser cache and cookies - wait, that’s a new problem and new set of responses. I’ve resent the request - hopefully with the proper secret decoder ring settings - suggesting perhaps that in addition to the possibility that we try the new file set, we might even try to sync there on their “mainlined” computer using Julie’s account, and then copy/send those files to me to see if this might result in a synchronized tree on my computer. Given the amount of time we (well, mostly Julie) have invested in this family history, my next suggestion is going to be for me to buy a new laptop and send it to them so they can “mainline” it to the data center, get it synchronized, send it back, and maybe we can then keep it sync’ed. We can hope, can’t we?

For the record, Ancestry has STRONGLY recommended that we break the tree up into smaller pieces. This is a valid suggestion certainly - at least from a synchronization manageability perspective. Sorry - I can’t seem to avoid digressing - this particular discussion with the support folks ended up being particularly ridiculous - “Sir, you really need to break this tree up.” “How are we supposed to do that - there are no tools on Ancestry to make it happen.” “Well sir, we’ll send you some articles that will explain how to do it on Family Tree Maker.” “WHAT?! Isn’t this entire discussion centered around getting this tree into FTM in the first place…” Sorry, but some of my interactions with their support have contained some real classics (end of digression). In any case, while we wouldn’t mind having smaller trees for specific purposes, the large tree shared fairly openly is really what we are looking for. It’s pretty surprising how many people approach Julie to collaborate and to offer/request help, information and records. Julie can manage it, and it likely avoids a quite a bit of duplicate effort trying to figure out overlaps and such.

Yet again, I am dangerously close to sounding like I’m Ancestry bashing. I guess I am a bit at least. BUT, their tools are so powerful and useful for our purposes - the sharing platform being one of the biggest - that we really don’t see why we need another tool for maintaining our tree. Not having a backup on our own computer, however, is a non-starter which is why I’ve focused so much of my time on making that happen (and intend to continue until we’re satisfied).

Ancestry tackled a monster problem and are doing a respectable job at it!