An Open Letter on RootsMagic’s Sync with Ancestry

Years ago (back in the Family Origins days) I got burned giving a date for a feature we were adding, and I promised myself I would never do that again.  But users dislike uncertainty and like to press us for an estimated release date.  Usually, I just say something like “it will be done when it is ready” and leave it at that.  When Ancestry and RootsMagic announced our agreement to create a version of RootsMagic which would be able to sync with Ancestry trees and display WebHints from Ancestry, we were bombarded with the question of “when?”  We usually don’t pre-announce upcoming features, but with this being a joint public announcement, the questions just kept coming.

So, apparently not having learned my lesson, we picked the end of the year as a safe guess, even though we had no idea what the brand new API (the system that lets RootsMagic and Ancestry talk with each other) would be like, what problems we might encounter along the way, or what other non-related issues might temporarily take us away.  We’ve worked with API’s before, and have gotten pretty dang good at it.  We’ve even written code to sync with online trees (FamilySearch), so we’re experienced there as well.  And up until very recently, it still looked like we could meet that deadline.

But to be honest, I underestimated the amount of time necessary to finish and properly test this awesome new feature.

  • I did take into account that we needed to wait for the new API, and we were able to use that time to work on some underlying code needed for syncing and hints.
  • I didn’t take into account that is was a brand new API, one that no other company had ever worked with before.  It’s easy to work with an existing API… there’s tons of documentation, and other programmers write about the pitfalls they encountered working with it.  With a new API, there is limited documentation, and you get to spend a lot of time doing trial and error to find out what the API expects.
  • I didn’t take into account that the API might be missing functions which we needed.  When this happened, Ancestry has been great about providing those missing functions, but it still takes time.
  • I didn’t take into account how often programmers would need to be pulled-off to put out fires in other areas of the program or with other APIs.
  • I didn’t take into account the fact that we would tear out and rewrite large amounts of code several times when we found a faster or better way to do something.

So the bad news is that the Ancestry sync features won’t be released by the end of the year. But the good news is that it is close, it looks amazing, and we aren’t talking about a huge 6-month delay or anything like that.  We know many of you are excited to share your data between RootsMagic and your Ancestry tree, and we are excited to be working to offer it.  We just want to make sure that when we release these new features, you can depend on them working right, and keeping your data safe.

So where are we now?  We have early testers working with it and still have some more code to write .  Since even a small bug in sync code can cause tremendous damage to a data file or online tree, we want to make sure it is stable before turning more testers loose on it.  Once we’re confident it is stable, we will turn it over to even more testers.

If you are interested in being one of those beta testers, please fill out this application.

And for everyone wanting to know the new exact release date… it will be done when it is ready.  I’ve learned my lesson (again).

170 thoughts to “An Open Letter on RootsMagic’s Sync with Ancestry”

  1. I have already downloaded my tree to Ancestry and get hints and useful comparisons there with other users and websites. Will your new service be any different?

  2. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and for posting this update! It will be super when all is good to go!

  3. Considering the complexity of the task, and the relatively minor cost for the program, I applaud your daring and willingness to even try this exercise. Good luck, and I look forward to the results.

  4. Thanks for keeping FTM users up to date because many us are ready to transfer to Roots Magic as soon as sync is ready. Do it once, do it right.

  5. Type your comment here.Thank you for that update, I appreciate it. Though I was looking forward to the release date sometime soon, I have waited this long, I at present using Famly tree maker 3 with ancestry link but i am told this will stop soon so your link would be a replacement
    regards geoff street

  6. One of the main reasons I’m I’m waiting for th feature is that currently I use FTM and it’s always had crashes so I’d rather wait and get something that’s more stable.
    BTW One feature I’d like to see is the ability to exclude certain trees. I have my tree all over the place and it’s annoying to get a yellow bulb only to find out that it’s my own tree, after all If I’ve done things right the I will get 16,000 light bulbs. I also know that on Ancestry there is a tree that has a LOT of errors, so I don’t want light bulbs from his tree, so the ability to go to a tree and add it to a junk list would be really great. I can’t wait for the time that I scrap FTM. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the update. I am sorry that it is taking so long, but I would rather you take enough time to get it working correctly than rushing out something to meet a certain deadline.

    Honestly, I am just glad it isn’t MY responsibility to figure out how to make it work. I am glad to let you guys take the time needed. Most of my family is dead anyway, they aren’t going to mind waiting a bit longer.

  8. Bruce, thank you for the update and honest communication. I too come from a programming background and know the difficulties of what you speak. Having been burned by some of the issues in the Ancestry/FTM sync process, I am most certainly willing to wait until you get it right, even if it takes another year or two. Thank you and thank your team for your hard work and integrity in customer service. I love RootsMagic!!!!

  9. Thank you for the update. I know you will get it right.
    Wishing you and the team a merry Christmas and a great new year

  10. Bruce,
    I will agree with the others. The quality of the software will be remembered long after the speed of delivery is forgotten. Keep up the good work.

  11. A program released on time but with numerous errors would be a great disappointment. Thank you for taking the time to get it as close to correct as possible on the first release. Thanks also for the clear description of the problems you are facing.

  12. Type your comment her I’m excited to see this come through. It would make things a lot easier all the way around. Hopefully this will get done soon.

  13. Thanks for the update. Looking forward to the completed project. I agree, address as many bugs as possible before the release.Better safe than sorry.

  14. Looking forward to it, but to be honest, I don’t have time to use it right now so the delay’s not bothering me. I appreciate making sure it’s right before it’s released. This will be a great New Year’s present! Thanks for your hard work.

  15. I thank you for your candor and fully understand the pitfalls of coding, as well as adapting to very new code. I also appreciate that you want it to work and work well before releasing it, unlike other software companies who rush it all so that the public can find the problems. Looking forward to it, but not going to panic that it is taking longer.

  16. Thanks for the update. I truly appreciate you and your teams hard work and dedication. The ability to sync will make both programs better.

  17. As a fellow software developer I feel your pain and can imagine only too well the challenges you’ve been facing. Appreciate the update, and looking forward to trying the new features when they’re ready.

  18. Thanks for the candid and frank update. My experience working on IT projects allows me to easily see the challenges that you are facing. It is far better to get a good product slow than a poor product fast. You have my full support and patience.

  19. You have previously given us a date of the anticipated release. You did not say ON 31 Dec 2016. If I find a persons DOB as 1952 that is an approximate year and possibly not even the actual year. It might be 1 Jan 1953. You are now providing an update to the anticipated release date and again it is not a hard date but an anticipated date.

    I agree with the comments which seem to say: If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to find time to fix it later? I agree wholeheartedly with this statement and your decision to wait. Do I want it now, of course I do. But, do I want it full of bugs? Absolutely NOT!!

    I started my genealogy using the free download of Personal Ancestral File – PAF. I downloaded most of my data from Family Search which changed to New Family Search – FS. I heard a rumor that PAF was not going to be supported in the future so I looked for a program that would sync with my data on FS and I found RootsMagic – RM and I’ve been using it ever since. So I have synced all my data FS and then I compare it with Ancestry and update information accordingly. This process also works in reverse. It will be so much faster once RM syncs directly with Ancestry. It would be fantastic if I could download the documents into RM media file when I sync. And lastly, You would be landing on the moon if I would be able to sync all three at the same time with documents. I know I’m really pushing it here. Perhaps that last one will be sync version 2, or 3.

    In the meantime, keep communicating with RM users who would rather hear that it is going to be late than wondering if it is ever going to happen.

  20. Take your time. As an IT professional myself I am also loath to over promise. This stuff takes time and lots and lots of testing. I’ll wait patiently.

  21. I have been with your company since the Family Origins days and I am also looking forward to the Sync with Ancestry which I am a member.

  22. I have been in software for a long time, a life time ago, and like I always told the team I worked with test test test. Thank you for that and I understand. But, no thanks for the opportunity to beta test and not be their. Done that do not care to do it again

  23. Bruce and Team. Thanks for the status update and all the work you have, and are putting into this. I know well the quality of what goes into Roots Magic from many years of use and your previous work with other programs, specifically “The Master Genealogist”. The wait will be worth it so take your time and know that you have a solid base waiting for the outcome. I don’t see anyone stepping up to this daunting task so my hat’s off to you. Good Luck, Merry Christmas a Happy New Year (for all of us)

  24. Bruce, you work so very hard to keep RM in the forefront of technology and user needs. No shame in missing an estimated date. Thanks for letting us know. Thanks for taking the time to “get it right” before you roll it out. Relax and enjoy the challenge 🙂

  25. Thank you, for being honest and stating this. Having worked in computer field – long ago, I appreciate your not “shoving the code out the door”.
    I crashed with FTM, several times. So, want you to make sure the sync works.
    Thank you!!!

  26. Take your time! I am 81 years old and started writing code for my engineering work in 1961, all binary and genealogy about 1965. You have done marvels. I can wait.

  27. Cheers for the update. Would sooner wait knowing we going to get something that is stable. Been a Roots user for years so another few months won’t hurt.

  28. I began with the DOS Family Origins and then moved on to RootMagic when it became available. I had the Family Tree Maker but grew very tired of the constant updates that were costly and made the old data unusable. I have been syncing the FTM and then exporting a GEDCOM to get my info and then it wasn’t 100% compatible. I am very much looking forward to the syncing option when it is 100% viable, however I would love to be a Beta Tester on a back up computer (won’t loose any data if there is a code error) and send those results in.

    My Email above is correct…it just looks bogus!

    Martin Fenimore

  29. Thank you for providing a product like Roots Magic. I have done research for entire counties that have several hundred thousand individuals. When Broderbund sold out to Ancestry they changed the way the data in my files was indexed. It made my work next to impossible. I have been using your product for several months now and am finding it be excellent. I look forward to your new API and appreciate the time it takes. It took 12 years to do my last area from 1814 to 1930. I am very protective of my data, so I now the importance of getting it right. Thank you Bruce!!!

  30. Bruce, I first started with FTM and then graduated Roots Magic. I had the opportunity of putting my tree on Ancestry. When I was unable to do that, I downloaded my tree to RM. The errors and mistakes are unbelievable. No quality control by some people who use the Ancestry family tree site. Most of all I find the lack of consistency very bad. I joined a genealogy group in Victoria BC and I have fond memories of the word CONSISTENCY (at least 10 times per class) by my teacher. His method of entering data is possiblyy used by the majority of my fellow class members. I hope that the Ancestry sync is not automatic. Like many of your company’s subscribers, it has taken many hours and a few years to get everything right to our knowledge in our tree. My friend Judy would agree with me. Please take your time with this change – we will all appreciate it.
    Thanks for providing the best private genealogy programme available.
    Seasons greetings to all

  31. No Worries Bruce, us genealogy types are used to waiting for updates and trying to solve mysteries without reinventing the wheel, so whenever it comes out, I’ll be thrilled to test it out. Take your time….do it right the first time.

  32. Better late than never!
    “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Robert Burns)

  33. Thank you for your honesty, and for including the truth rather than just a flip answer. As a customer, I am much more forgiving and applying grace when explanations are sincere.
    That….and I’m a person that is tenaciously patient.

  34. Been there done that. I have two words of advice: documentation, documentation, documentation. And testing even after you think there can not possibly be anything wrong anymore. I look forward eagerly to the new product

  35. Thanks for the update. Hopefully features of then RM will add to the richness of the ancestry database and RM will not be stripped to the base database set of Ancestry. Looking forward to getting a chance to try it out.

  36. As a retired programmer/analyst, I understand. I appreciate the news update and can hardly wait to get my hands on the program update. I hope people don’t give you too much grief about missing the estimated date. They have no idea how complex it is. I would compare it to getting the ex in-laws that speak Chinese together with the English-speaking current in-laws and planning details about event involving the grandkids of each..

  37. Thank you very much; information on future plans and timelines are always much appreciated.
    My wife and I are in the Rapid City, SD family history center and the ability to sync with Ancestry trees will be helpful to some of our patrons.
    Keep up the good work and stay ahead of the competition

  38. Thank you for the update. I’ve been patiently waiting to hear how things are going with the new code. Can’t wait to give it a try. But am reassured by your caution and attention to all the details. Recently I did the Ancestry DNA and had to up date my trees. I’ve been using RootsMagic for the last few years so had a lot of updating to do in my FTM program so it could sync with Ancestry. It was a bit of a job but it helped me catch some of my own mistakes.

  39. Thank you for the update. I have used Family Origins/Rootsmagic from the beginning and I love it. Don’t rush! Get it right before it is released.

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