I joined ancestry.com before the holidays and started accepting every shaky leaf in a race to get my tree back as far as possible. That was a mistake. The point of looking at your family history is to understand where you came from and who your ancestors were. This requires careful review and thought, not blind collection. I watched Anne Gillespie Mitchell’s course Your Family History Online: Laying the Foundation, and started over with a new focus.
Starting with myself, I documented the information for the living people that I knew, and then went back documenting the names of the deceased people that I knew of.
Then I focused on the hints for each person in the most recent generation. I thoroughly reviewed each document, and if it fit in with everything else I knew, I saved a copy and accepted the facts in ancestry.
I started to realize that there was typically more information in a record’s image than ancestry recorded as a fact. For example, various documents listed a street address, but ancestry would only record the city, county, and state. This information was valuable and needed to be saved, so I started a spreadsheet for each person of the tree and began logging all of these little details there. It didn’t take me long to realize that my spreadsheet was going to quickly become so big and need so much information entered multiple times that it wouldn’t be manageable.
As I began to research alternatives to my spreadsheet, it became clear that serious genealogists do not keep the sole copy of their tree on ancestry. The maintain their tree in software on their own computers and then upload to ancestry and other sites using a GEDCOM file that can be exported and imported by genealogy software. Some of these software programs would even integrate directly with ancestry, which was a key feature for me as I’m currently focusing my research there.
Several people recommended RootsMagic as the most serious piece of software with ancestry integration. I was impressed with the walkthrough videos demonstrating the features, even if it did look like a dated piece of software. I downloaded the demo version to try. I liked what I could see, but it froze and crashed multiple times on my Mac in less than hour, so I moved on. If your using Windows I would recommend you try it.
Next, I downloaded the trial of Mac Family Tree, and was impressed with the look and feel of the program. It is clearly a professional Mac app, ran smoothly, and had several nice features. Unfortunately, it did not have the type of ancestry integration that RootsMagic did, and that was important to me.
In the end I decided to go with Family Tree Maker 2017 from MacKiev. They did the Mac version of Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker, and got the rights to continue development when ancestry chose to abandon it. I chose it primarily for the syncing with ancestry and the Familysearch and ancestry hints, but have also been impressed with the charts, reports & media tools. You may find some earlier reviews talking about issues or lack of features, but I have not had a problem with it, and recommend you try it out if you are using a Mac and ancestry.