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. keep up the hard work
    We know it will take time and the important issue is that it works when youcomplete the projecth

  2. Thanks so much for this wonderful change/update!! It will be better than Christmas and Birthday rolled into one!!

  3. Although I am late to using this software for my family tree, I am more than willing to wait for the finished segments of the API code up-date before attempting the sync with my existing Ancestry file. I have used Family Tree Maker exclusively since I started in the early 1990’s, but, due to the announcement and fall-out of who would have ownership of that software base, I did take steps to insure my tree was on the other two biggies in the family tree software arena.
    I agree with several of your other users (Peter Curtice, as one example) about the need for an additional entry or two in the new advanced API code that will allow the software to be used from and synch’d to several different devices, i.e., laptops, smart phones, desktop computers, IPad/tablets, and all using the same ancestry or master file name, as a high percentage of us use more than one device. Currently, I get frustrated when I travel because I am only using my tablet or laptop as my “home reference file” and have my husband opening my desktop version to make my software do a synch with whatever data I am adding to my or files while I am gone.
    Thank you for taking the time to make sure as many of the components as possible are working accurately and as intended before releasing for general public useage!

  4. Thank you for the update. I am so excited about this you wouldn’t believe it. Here’s hoping all works well. Rather have it work so I can jump right in when availabe.

  5. I can’t wait. And, I don’t mind waiting for it to be done correctly. Nothing worse that getting a program and then constant updates fly for a few months BECAUSE it was released prematurely. I don’t know how much time is wasted by me pulling information I glean from Ancestry into my RootsMagic file. Thank you thank you thank you. Love your product.

  6. I am totally impressed with your time to explain to us why and when!!! I to have worked with software development that had to talk to other data sources and transfer data back. It can be a mess if not handled with care. And as you know, us ANCESTRY/GENEALOGY types protect our years of work and appreciate that you are taking the time to make sure it doesn’t corrupt while passing over!!! Thanks.

  7. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not sync with FamilySearch. Well intentioned but misinformed relatives have totally messed up our FamilySearch family with false connections to royalty, etc. It would be a travesty to see those errors leak into Ancestry and RootsMagic.

  8. Thank you! I really appreciate your thoroughness in making things right with the interface (if that’s the right word)before release!
    I was a beta tester for Family Search before their first release and their first major upgrade. LOTS of bugs!
    NO one can think of everything. You’re doing great!

  9. thanks for the update. i’m looking forward to it. better to have it right the 1st time

  10. Thank you so much for the update. On another subject, I want to thank Jason of Tech Support for helping me out of a jam earlier today.

  11. I’ really curious about the prospective mechanics of “syncing” with Ancestry Family Trees. I expect that “syncing” will only work with a tree that has been established on the site. Yes/No/Maybe?

    In my case, that probably means that syncing won’t work since it has been shown that their family tree software cannot process a GEDCOM file larger than ~50 MB [it goes catatonic and never finishes]. And so, even though I would like to be a beta tester, it sounds like it would be out of the question.

  12. Thank you for this important update.I understand that when you’re dealing with IT, guaranteeing a deadline for any upgrade can be dangerous. Best to be sure it’s right when we RM users get hold of it. Take your time. I am looking forward to this new phase in using RM.

  13. Hi Mr Buzbee,
    I just wanted to let you know that you are doing an incredible job with all of this, it is hard to ignore public pressure and I personally think that you have done and are doing a fantastic job with what has been given to you to do. So thank you for everything you’ve for us all over this past year.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and a bright and happy Chanukah!!

    Best regards
    Jeanne Meyer-Chauval :o)

  14. Thanks for the update and explanation for the delay. I would much rather wait for a program that works right than have the promised features but have a program full of really troublesome bugs. Take the time to get it right. As with any software it is still likely to have some bugs when released, because it’s impossible to prevent or find and eliminate them all, but hopefully they will be few, minor and easily and quickly fixable.

  15. Thanks. We should all know that patience is the name of the game when we are talking genealogy research! While to do seem to get impatient because of the thought of breakthroughs we all know those “breakthroughs” are amazing when they happen. Sooo, to all of us I just add my “Wait for it, Wait for it….”

  16. I am on old user of old Family Origins and it appears to be on Windows 3.5 or Windows 5. I found the old discs still in my case. That was a long time ago. I really have enjoyed the new Roots Magic and everything thing they you have done and still are doing. The update is really nice to read but I have no problem waiting until you finish.
    Thank you for your wonderful support.

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