and its historic faults and its historic faults

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A technology review of and Family Tree Maker software. They don’t work

By Ray Hanania online display (photos not displayed because the system is incapable of syncing) online display (photos not displayed because the system is incapable of syncing)

Everyone has an interest in tracing their family tree, which is why and their software robber barons Family Tree Maker have come up with a way to fleece you of a lot of money each year and prevent you from actually using the data that you collect from your family archives and history.

Yes, is a multi-million scam designed to generate huge profits at your naive expense. You think you are creating something that you can share with your relatives and family, but you’re not. What you are doing is helping to build up its own database, at your expense, and then build up its profits.

Here’s what’s wrong with

First of all, it costs about $350 a year to subscribe to the system. And if you don’t continue your subscription (like a heroin or crack cocaine addiction) you can’t keep it. But they can.

Once you have built up your data on, there is absolutely no possible way for you to download that data directly to your computer to create a complete Ancestry Tree with photographs and records. All that data that you are uploading to is filling up’s database. And even if you designate your tree as “Private,” as many do, your data can be mined by others, boosting their profits at your expense.

The only way they allow you to download the data you collect online is to spend more money and purchase a truly inefficient and flawed software program called “Family Tree.” I have one for the Apple MAC system and it is so useless I wonder how they can even convince the public to pay $39 to download it.

It is really that bad.

For example, the problem is that the system is setup backwards. In other words, the only way to use the system to your advantage is to download the software first, create a family tree on your computer, and THEN upload it to

If you do like I did, and spent two years worth of subscriptions ($700) and built up a family tree online using, what you have done is to make the software useless. The software doesn’t work.

Family Tree Maker Display. Photos not synced and documents are not synced either.

Family Tree Maker Display. Photos not synced and documents are not synced either.

The stumbling block is an algorithm of code in the software that prevents you from linking the software file to the online file and then unlinking it. Once you have done that, you are screwed. No matter what you do, you CAN’T re-link your online database with your now worthless software.

You can manually start from scratch, and I literally mean scratch because the documents you thought you owned online really are not movable objects that you can share with the software program manually. So you have to go through each of the people and mine the data one item at a time. I have more than 431 people in my private online database and thousands of photos and documents tied to the tree. To correct the problem, I have to select the person in the software and then download the materials from the online system (or copy and capture from online display and then save to my computer). And then, I have to attached the now captured file to the person in the software.

In my database, that would be about 4,000 individual actions requiring 3 keystrokes each, or 12,000 actual processes in order to duplicate the online file and enter it into the worthless Family Tree software program.

Save your money.

Don’t buy the software.

Use to build your online database. Each time you make an entry, make sure to put the photo or document in a directory on your computer. When you are ready to bail out on their money narcotic addiction, you’ll have everything together. Then, find a new software program unrelated to or Family Tree Maker and input it. Use to find those old documents and newspaper articles, and collect them.

Go someplace else.

To Serve Man (The Twilight Zone)

To Serve Man (The Twilight Zone) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like that guy in the Twilight Zone episode called “To Serve Man” where the Aliens land on Earth promising to bring Earthlings to their futuristic world, leaving behind a book that is titled “To Serve Man” and only discover, too late, that the meaning of the title is literal and has to do with the Alien’s dinner diet.

“It’s a cookbook,” the woman researcher yells to her scientist boss who is blocked by the Alien from climbing down from the spaceship ramp to freedom. “It’s a cookbook.”

Well, fellow Human Beings, “ is a CrookBook. It’s a CrookBook, folks. Don’t go there.”

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and managing editor of Illinois News Network online news website. He spends his money on crappy software so you won’t have to make the same mistake. Reach him at

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Columnist, blogger at Illinois News Network
Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley).

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992).

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.