I think that in the past almost all of my postings on Ancestry member hints have been negative. Well in the interest of fairness and sharing, I think this posting is perhaps a bit past due. I have to admit that as with most observations, there are many perspectives possible. So here is a personal tidbit offering a counter-point to my earlier Ancestry Member Tree Hint observations.
Like most genealogists, I make mistakes. I think it is safe to say that my mistakes are almost always simple accidents. At least, I can not think of a single situation where I have made an error on purpose. I don’t like admitting that I make errors but in all honesty, I do. Maybe others are more highly thorough and skilled than I and have a differing view. However, I digress.
Back to my story… today I found myself looking at my Senger family tree; and as you may already know almost none of my Senger data has been sourced from Ancestry (almost all of it has been obtained by my reading of West Prussian church records and my maintaining a photographic log of findings). I do, however, keep an FTM version of my family archive on Ancestry both on the chance that I might get a Historical Record clue as well as for redundancy and backup purposes. Although in all honesty, I never seriously thought I might actually find someone else in the Ancestry universe rummaging for information on my family members who lived in what was once West Prussia.
Well, I was wrong. I not only found one person, but, I found two. The second person was researching the Baarenhof Evangelische (Lutheran) Kirche (Church) and had found a second Anna Ziemen. Yes, it turns out there were two Anna Ziemen’s alive and attending the Baarenhof ev. Kirche in the late 1700s. Who’d a thunk! Not only were there two Anna Ziemens, but I had mistakenly used the data from the second Anna Ziemen for my Anna Ziemen (wrong husband, wrong death date). Oops!
Needless to say I have removed my error from my files. And, tomorrow, I intend to plow through the church records once again, page by page. This time I hope to find the correct version of my Anna Ziemen’s death record. Whether I do or not is, as yet, undetermined. But what I know for certain is, if I had not received this Ancestry Hint from another member’s tree, it might have been years before I ever stumbled on my mistake.
I guess it pays to read those hints. They can be helpful. But tread carefully and analyze thoroughly!
After about 2 weeks of work, I have found what seems to be a solution. Yay! Perhaps that means I am tenacious… I rather prefer to think I am not stubborn, but maybe I am that, too!?? Nevertheless, here is what I have come up with for a solution to build a clean, safe, pristine environment within which FTM2012 ‘seems‘ to be able to run, with greatly reduced breakage and much improved stability.
This solution may not necessarily be well suited for the feint of heart, but it is worth consideration given the frustration involved in having non-functional software, which you want to work.
First and foremost, I created a single function Windows 7 Virtual PC running in isolation on a guest host (see Wikipedia for more information on this); my guest host happens to be a Debian Linux PC running Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 201204. You could do this just as easily on a Windows or Apple Machine. My FTM-exclusive Virtual PC is run within an Open Source Oracle application called VirtualBox. It is essential to note that this creates an isolated Virtual PC, not a PC application emulator environment (like WINE or CrossOver). All applications within the Virtual PC are run in native mode, not in emulation or compatibility or simulation modes. (For more you can read what VirtualBox offers on the topic.)
To begin with, I decided I needed to create and then backup a complete, clean, fresh install of Win7Pro (running as a Virtual Machine under Linux). My Windows 7 Pro Virtual Machine environment included the following:
1.768 MB of RAM (memory)
64MB of Video RAM
20 GB of dynamically expandable Disk space
Once I built my Virtual PC, with Win7Pro, I performed a full Windows set of updates; this took 4+ hours. It should be noted:
I only allowed for Win7Pro default security settings.
No third party firewalls, anti-virus or the like were used or set; none were required because the entire environment was run within the control and protection of my Linux host. I also wanted to avoid these as they often will conflict with unstable applications like FTM2012.
After the OS was built and current, I created/ built an initial install of FTM 2012 (no FTM updates were allowed, yet.)
As the FTM install began, FTM requested/ required the installation of Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0. This set of installs also turned out to be a leisurely event; taking several hours to accomplish.
After my basic FTM install completed, I performed three rounds of updates, getting all the “necessary” MS .NET environment updates.
It is worth noting that after the initial .NET install, FTM2012 died while attempting to connect to the FTM site for its own updates, but, that happened only after I had completed all the Microsoft required .NET updates. In the end, FTM made its way to its home base for the update package(s); and those updates were completed, as well.
Once FTM was installed and current, I rebooted my FTM2012 Win7Pro Virtual PC… and “surprise!” on exiting the Win7Pro system wanted to install 13 critical updates, mostly involved with .NET. This process added 1.25 hours to my journey (according to a Microsoft download message). This was not a quick reboot!
Much to my chagrin, the first set of Microsoft Win 7 updates was followed by yet another huge update set, mostly involving .NET. In total there were nearly 2 hours of .NET security updates. I rebooted the Win7Pro PC after each major update set.
Because I run Win7Pro in a Virtual Machine as a guest Operating System – I was able to back up my “newly created, updated and as yet unused” Windows environment after each major update. I think this is much better then relying on a simple Microsoft Restore point, however, these backups ate a lot of disk space at about 11GB per Virtual Machine Backup…
Once I had my environment built and up-to-date, I opened a ‘live’ session of FTM2012.
I ran a restore from a recent backup of my previous FTM2012 data (media included).
The entire ‘restored’ database was about 3GB in size.
Following the successful creation of a clean ‘new’ database in my Win7Pro Guest PC, I linked my database to Ancestry.com.
The initial phase of the update was fairly fast, under 10 minutes.
The media upload to Ancestry.com was slow, although much faster than in my previous environment. Sadly in the middle of my large media synch, Ancestry.com logged me out. I restarted the synch after logging into Ancestry.com once again, and things ran cleanly.
I ran this environment for two days without difficulty.
In the end I decided to rebuild the whole thing yet once again, this time using a copy of Windows 7 Home Edition (rather than WIn7Pro). I followed the same process and thus far have received the same positive results.
My conclusion is that FTM 2012 is generally not well tested. There appear to be some serious conflicts with either applications or dlls that are neither identified nor reported to mere mortals like me, the FTM 2012 customer/ user. Running FTM 2012 in its own isolated PC environment seems to avoid most of the more serious ‘unidentified and unacknowledged’ conflicts and allows for more successful use of the application at little financial cost; but at considerable time expense, in terms of setup (this took a long time to figure out and build). In the end, I am almost comfortable in recommending this approach, if you encounter problems resembling those I reported earlier and have read about elsewhere… but, your mileage may vary.
There are no guarantees, warranties expressed or implied…
Well it has been a bit more than a month, now. I am still using Family Tree Maker 2012; but I must admit that a LOT of the luster and shine has worn off. My initial enthusiasm and excitement has been significantly enhanced with personal experience and tribulations.
As you may or may not know, in my day job I am a engineering process improvement consultant. And, my greatest area of involvement, dare I say strength, is software engineering, design and implementation. Simply stated, I worry about making it possible for engineering endeavors to be implemented successfully, reliably and predictably.
Enough for the advert (you may read more on another site of mine if you like)– now back to Family Tree Maker 2012.
Sadly I must report to you that the 2012 version of FTM software is astonishingly buggy and unstable. The most bizarre encounter I have experienced thus far involves a required upgrade patch, one without any identifier, that causes the software to become totally non-functional even “invisible”. No error messages, no warnings. The patched version of FTM2012 simply ceases to function without leaving a trace; the desktop icons are there, you simply click and nothing. If this were open source software, a solution would be discoverable; but sadly such is not the case with FTM. I have scoured ancestry.com and the web only to find that others have experienced similar joys and similar success to mine in finding answers. In other words, there’s a lot of web ranting about FTM 2012 to be found but not much else.
In an effort to stabilize my environment, I have installed and patched FTM on a standalone Windows XP PC. I also have built installations in Windows 7 and Windows XP on Virtual PCs running under Linux in Oracle VirtualBox and the problem is always the same. All I ever get is a disappearing release of FTM. Although happily, I have figured out some interesting and fast ways to build Windows Virtual PCs on my Linux hosts. The only viable solution I have discovered with FTM, however, is to ignore the FTM 2012 required patch. Now every time I run FTM 2012 I watch the dire warnings as I select the unacceptable options, by FTM’s report, all of this in an effort to keep FTM moderately functional.
So if you are considering buying FTM 2012 consider my small tale of woe. If it were not for the ancestry.com media synch functionality, I would have placed FTM 2012 along with my $40 in the dust bin of failed software a few weeks ago. But for now I’ll run it minus its critical and required updates, in hopes that the folks behind the development of this software stumble upon a workable and stable solution.
On the other hand, maybe Ancestry.com will release its database API (Application Programming Interface) and allow other software groups an opportunity to provide a reliable solution… I can hope.
Update #1: 15 May 2012
Well I added 2 GB more memory to my Win7 install to see if FTM2012 (after the ‘patch’) might simply be hung up due to lack of memory. I guess it still might need more memory; but with 3GB of memory, the situation remains the same. FTM (updated) continues to hang and freeze without any notification as to why or what is wrong. Oh well…
Update #2: 15 May 2012
I tried upgrading to a more “robust” version of Win7, Win7 Pro. Aside from using up 5 additional hours for upgrade and testing, nothing changed. FTM2012 still hangs up without any report or notice after I run their ‘required’ update. I know several folks say that the software works for them; well, I certainly wish I were in the ‘working’ group and not in my special user category.
I have put this little reminder checklist together to help me and others quickly examine our obvious options when we either are stuck or just getting started.
This list is hardly exhaustive and if you try everything here without success you should not feel like you have to throw your hands up in despair, there are still many avenues to examine. Hopefully though, using these tools will prove useful and productive and fun.
Have you checked?
For basic name searches try these out. Not all of these tools are genealogy focused but they are all quite robust and helpful.
Ancestry files require a lot of clean-up before they are really useful or accurate. As I noted earlier, the files themselves need to be scrubbed of duplicates, overlapping records and more.
In order to accomplish these repairs, I use numerous tools to address the requisite tasks including:
GRAMPS (a Linux Genealogical Toolset)- I like this tool a lot because it provides wonderful facilities for performing the following functions:
Merging duplicate Sources
Merging Duplicate Places
Identifying and Merging duplicate People
RootsMagic 4 provides nice facilities for:
Pruning branches and limbs
TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding): (Note: I no longer use TNG- 28 Jul 2010)
Merging duplicate Sources
Merging Duplicate Places
Identifying and Merging duplicate People
Web Presentation of Information (see our Genealogy page)
Gedit (a Linux Text Editor):
for building quick Gedcom files to import into the various tools
Geany (a programming editor):
to modify TNG for blending with WordPress
to edit files and text off-line
The clean-up of a 500 person tree took me about three days (25 hours) of effort. Each of the tools alone would not have done the job by themselves. Numerous tools were required to repair the problems both introduced and allowed by Ancestry.com.
In a subsequent article, I’ll cover additional pointers to watch-out for when you embark on a conversion and clean-up effort.
I don’t know how many of you, like me, use Ancestry.com as their data collection and ‘easy analysis’ site. I suspect quite a few.
As you may be aware I have been pouring through a significant section of my father’s family- the Deyos. This research effort has generated a set of over 500 people. Also because the research is about 90% in Quebec, that means there is a lot of overlap in that portion of my family tree. People are cross-related numerous times over; in my case there are about 5 junctions. This brings me to my point… Ancestry.com does not deal with overlapping, repeating family lines very well at all; or if it does, I don’t know or understand how.
For my purposes, this means I need to perform the following tasks before I even can consider publication or archiving my data:
Merging repeating family lines
Merging and simplifying ‘Places’
Merging and simplifying Sources
Merging duplicate People, yes Ancestry allows people to be duplicated, triplicated, quadruplicated…
Downloading Ancestry “Media”- images, documents, etc.
Each of these ‘essential’ tasks appear to be either unsupported or not offered by the standard Ancestry.com online system; perhaps these features are offered by their commercial Windows based PC application, I don’t know.
The bottom line is that users of Ancestry.com are in for a significant manual and off-line effort when attempting to clean-up their files.
In my next post, I’ll cover the tools I used to address these issues. If you have ways of dealing with these problems and wish to share them, please post a comment or use or Contact form to let me know, and I’ll publish your ideas.
Ancestry download issues?? Like the rest of you, I need to download my Ancestry work files. Also like many of you, maybe all of you, I encounter problems.
Here’s how things don’t work for me. To perform a download of a gedcom file is not difficult, although the function is pretty well hidden. To access the function you need to go to the Main page of a Family Tree (one of yours); select Tree Settings (in the nearly invisible tiny green font just on top of the Tree Settings Box- cleverly placed outside the Tree Settings box). Once you select that option, a new view will open and to the right is an Export tree button. Push the button and your ONLY option (without any settings by the way) takes place. They generate a GEDCOM file for you which is easily downloaded to your PC. Having that file you can now input data to your PC or Internet based genealogy software.
Did you notice I did not say you can input all of your Ancestry data? The GEDCOM file you have in your hands will seem to be missing the following:
NO links to any Ancestry documents
NO links to photos
NO links to Stories
just no links
I also have noted that the Ancestry files themselves are not checked for internal integrity. Problems abound, duplicate people, bad dates, etc.. You will need to fix those in your other genealogical software. Oh well.
I know this article doesn’t provide much help but I thought you might like to be forewarned…
<warning>People seem to rarely examine the information “behind” a record name or label. I find very little evidence of people having struggled to read the actual record content. Often they don’t even bother to get the dates from the records!
This lack of analysis presents a huge problem. As you probably know, many genealogical records list parents, but I frequently find that suggested family trees (hints) have parents that vary from those referred to in a birth, death or marriage record. As I noted earlier, frequently the recorded dates themselves are not even used. Dates provide wonderful clues and they’re not even documented in many of the hints I see!?!
When I have completed my examination of the actual source content suggested by the hints through squinting and deciphering, often I find I have identified all manner of additional disconnects.
How can anyone be so casual and lax? Sadly they must be. Otherwise why would I see countless mismatches between the source record and tree content?</warning>
Ah well. I really should not complain, I guess. I should just look at these suggestions, assume they are wrong and see what hides behind them, in the content. That’s what I do; and frequently, I find gems. However, my trees rarely agree with those of the majority. But then these are my family members I’m trying to find. I’d like to be as close as I can be to finding my real relatives.
Genealogical research always presents dilemmas. These dilemmas almost always have significant impact and represent important family history decisions. I will try to provide some examples.
First every family historian or genealogist needs to decide their role and its potential impact:
Are you simply trying to gather bunches of names and places -or- are you doing your best to identify the path of your family through history?
Do you expect that others might wish to leverage off of your work -or- are you planning on keeping everything closely held and secret?
Is this a serious effort -or- are you involved in a ‘flight of fancy’.
Obviously I can’t answer these questions for you but hopefully you are able to answer them for yourself. It is important to have answers to questions like these because the responses will inform you of the best approach to and handling of your genealogy.
If genealogy is a ‘light weight’ casual activity for you, you should make every effort to keep your information private and away for accidental public use. Remember there are many out in the world who believe accurate and serious information is essential to identifying their roots and history. If you do not the chances are your information is also casually gathered analyzed and managed. What that means is that the data is potentially fraught with errors.
As a user of public systems like OneWorldTree, Rootsweb, Familysearch, Ancestry.com you need to be aware of the huge number of casual genealogists… and corrupt data. I think I may have mentioned examples of these problems in other posts but perhaps they bear restating:
I have encountered family trees that show Quebec peasants in the mid-1700′s being born in Quebec, dying in Quebec and being married at 18 in China; should you trust or even consider using information like that?
Yesterday I found a family tree labeled with the names of one of my forebears that indicated he was born in Maine in 1640? If you remember your your American History, there was no Maine in 1640. Massachusetts was established by the pilgrims in 1620 and Maine was part of the original Massachusetts. Again, shoddy work by someone.
So what does this all mean? Well it means I have encountered at least two people who should never have shared their information… plus it means I should never entertain using their information. In all likelihood almost everything with the fingerprints of these folks is corrupted.
So if you are casual and just want to play around… by all means do so. However, please have the courtesy to NOT share your data and efforts.