Thursday, September 29, 2011

Syncing with online trees and other researchers

DearREADERS,
Today's announcement Ancestry.com Releases Family Tree Maker 2012 with TreeSync™ deals with the concept of syncing between a desktop computer's genealogy program and a genealogy web site. We have previously seen some activity of this sort with the "newFamilySearch" trees, where some FamilySearch Certified software can sync to update data one or both ways. This past May we saw the emergence of AncestorSync in beta-test mode which is reportedly planning to release several additional versions hopefully by RootsTech 2012.

But where's the beef?

More succinctly, I should say "here's MY beef" with the syncing scenarios thus far:

From a marketing standpoint, Ancestry.com is doing its best to keep members involved both on and off the net by offering a sync that will work only between Ancestry's Family Tree Maker 2012 desktop software and Ancestry's online family trees. There are conflicting reports in the FTM users' message board leading me to question the reliability of the syncing option in FTM 2012. In it's favor, Ancestry.com trees still provides what I consider the best mix of security/access options for online collaboration on top of the "shaky leaf" option to have Ancestry's computers search within context for indexes and scanned images that may match ancestors on your tree.

I believe the FTM2012/Ancestry.com Sync is limited, not taking into account the other genealogy software programs in use, including a big contingent of FTM16 users who refuse to switch because of problems with later versions.

Syncing to "newFamilySearch" trees at FamilySearch.org is limited as well. It has more to do with clearing names for temple work (avoiding duplication), than for sharing of well-documented genealogy research among genealogists. FamilySearch removed the option to dispute, concerning me greatly. (Remember the case of my Uncle Jack being listed in NewFamilySearch as a deceased female. He is had no unusual operations, nor did he pass away. He and his wife winter in Arizona and maintains his home in Washington state.) FamilySearch's attempt to make one family tree won't work for serious genealogists because of a perpetual source citation problem and the fact that the current digital record citation details exist in a fully-editable wiki format. I wouldn't want any Tom, Dick or Harry messing up my source citations.

AncestorSync is limited to a few beta testers at this point. But AncestorSync still has the best suggestion of future syncing scenarios. The website states it "currently supports: Ancestral Quest, Legacy, Mac Family Tree, PAF, RootsMagic, The Master Genealogist and more on the way." But where's the product? Still in the pipeline.

I've heard a subsequent version of AncestorSync will permit syncing one geni.com database (admittendly skinny in the citation and attached images department) with not one but multiple desktop software programs simultaneously. Wouldn't THAT be useful to those using multiple genealogy programs?

The website also explains Ancestor Sync will work with "Your Favorite Online Pedigree". Does this mean Geni, MyHeritage, WikiTree, FamilySearch and other online tree sites? What about syncing with Ancestry.com? We just don't know, as AncestorSync is available only in beta for downloading from Geni to it's testers' genealogy program of choice. Though additional syncing options may be in the pipeline, we've not yet seen a testable product to work with that goes across the board.

OPINIONATED, AREN'T I?
I don't like syncing with a genealogy website as the only method of sharing data with another researcher with common ancestors.
  • I don't know what info that website will aggregate, sift through or rearrange
  • What if the other researcher has more information than permitted by the brokering website's number and length of fields permitted for each ancestor? That information will be lost to me. 
IF a service like AncestorSync were to introduce an end-user to end-user file syncing service, I'd go for it. But I am getting the cart before the horse. AncestorSync has got to get out of beta and get on with the show.
Hopefully all genealogy entities will "beef up" their file syncing capabilities making it easier for researchers to share info.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.