Ancestry, FamilyTreeMaker and RootsMagic

10,000 people can’t be wrong! Or so has decided.

While this post isn’t revealing anything new .. Ancestry announced that it sold FamilyTreeMaker at least a month ago. But the big news in that announcement was that both FamilyTreeMaker and RootsMagic will have the ability to sync with the online Ancestry trees users have created. That functionality is to come online by the end of 2016.

I’m glad that Ancestry listened to subscribers. It was a poor decision that they have now somewhat ameliorated.

And thanks to it, I have begun exploring the bigger world of online subscriptions to resources. My first decision was to say goodbye to FamilyTreeMaker. I’ve switched to RootsMagic7 and am looking forward to the sync function being available.

But I’ve also decided to end my annual subscription to

I’ve already begun trying I will give them a shot for awhile, with the plan to subscribe to online family history record sites for no more than a year at a time. I will likely use Ancestry again, but for a few months only. Previously I had saved all year to be able to afford a World Membership with Ancestry. But their decision opened my eyes to a new approach, which I had never thought of before — because of my loyalty to and tie-in with my computer based tree.

It should be a fun adventure!

A New Year Has Arrived!

Greetings everyone! In what came as a surprise to me, 2016 has snuck up on me and arrived unexpectedly!

With the new year, I’m launching the occasional (very occasional!) newsletter to keep in touch with all my readers here, and with our Ottawa Family Tree Reunion friends and cousins, to talk about future reunions, to share ideas on researching the tree and to share new information about the various branches of our tree.

I expect that I will also chronicle in the newsletter and here, in the blog, my journey from FamilyTreeMaker software and the websites to RootsMagic7 and some new online subscription sites I’ll be exploring.

Here in the blog I’ll be continuing to explore what has become the single most popular topic among all posts: the free online resources for Canadian genealogy. (The all-time most popular post is about how to access and navigate the free Google newspaper archive to discover the Ottawa Citizen and other newspapers online.)

And I’ll continue to share the best of what I learn from online genealogy folks and my travels here are there for events and research. (Post Animal Kingdom in January, I’m looking forward to an Irish genealogy workshop at the New York Public Library at the end of February, provided the weather allows.)

For more pithy insights, links and helps to genealogy research (and updates on news and local weather too!), you can follow me on Twitter where you’ll find me @ottawafamtree

This past year we had 5,700 visits to the blog. I’m told that a New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. So if the blog were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people! But no tokens required to enjoy this ride!

Thanks to everyone who has visited, commented and connected at reunions! Wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy and joyous 2016!

Check in again soon!

Ancestry says Goodbye to Family Tree Maker

In what was a surprising email to subscribers, announced today that it will no longer be selling Family Tree Maker software after December 31, and will no longer offer any support or functionality to its TreeLink after 2017.

Everyone I know who uses FTM in tandem with the online Ancestry site is angry and upset. I am, too. What will we do with our computer-based trees?

Most folks prefer to have a copy of their family tree on their own computer, not just “in the cloud.” Plus, when you are going to do research somewhere that has no wifi or internet access, you need a printout — something the Ancestry online site just can’t do in any helpful way. has been moving in this online-only direction for awhile: Full-on “business model.” Run by people who don’t seem to do genealogy, and aren’t familiar with people who do, and don’t seem to know what those who use the website, are asking for from the website. (See the 6,500 and counting comments on the blog, and the reaction to the New version of the site.)

I’m not saying this just because I’m disappointed (I am!) .. but because that’s how described it to us in their email and blog post. The market for genealogy software is “declining” and it takes a lot of resources to keep up the software and handle problems. And they’ve added wonderful things to the online site.

From the point of view of those of us who have been advocates for Ancestry up til now, Ancestry stood as the best organization to be the “Last Man Standing” as far as desktop ancestry software goes .. to “own” that market.

But I’ve come to understand that that would require a commitment to genealogy and individual family historians, and not just to the bottom line. The online service, in a genius approach, takes the material individuals put online, and uses software to make it into the product they sell.

That simply isn’t the case with the desktop software. If you don’t link and update to the online tree … the information, documents, photos — and their connections — on your computer, don’t become part of the Ancestry product. And software has to be updated, re-written when the site changes, updated with new features. That costs money.

You’d have to want to keep the software, just for the love of genealogy and genealogy researchers. Not to make a bigger profit.

That disappeared somewhere in the various sales of the company, or parts of it, in the last few years.

RIP Family Tree Maker.


2015 Reunion on Sunday September 27

Can you join us this coming September 27?

We’ve scheduled our reunion at our usual meeting place, the Kanata Country Inn & Suites on Terry Fox Drive.

We’ll gather from 2pm to 5pm. (They are renovating the first floor, so the exact location on that floor will be announced later.)

If you’ve stopped in before, do join us again and bring us up to date on your research!

If you’ve never joined us before, please do! Even if it turns out there’s not a connection, we do love helping people with research and ideas!

And of course, there’ll be coffee, tea, and … our reunion cake!

Sounds like fun, eh?

Finding Obituaries Online

How to locate an obituary online?

The place to start is with a quick online search for FirstName MiddleName BirthSurname [MarriedSurname] along with a city .. city of birth, suspected place of death, or a city you know the person lived in. (Any search engine will give you most of the possible variants in the search results, I myself prefer the Google format.) Then it’s just a matter of trudging through the returns. You eliminate most of the useless results by adding the city. Don’t stop looking at results after you check the first page (unless they stop showing your search names). The gem you’re hunting for may be on the second, third or fourth page!

In the case of those truly common surnames (and my tree has lots of them!) I start with the full names of husband and wife along with a place. It narrows things down considerably .. (though it is surprising just how many John Doe’s married Jane Roe’s).

This approach will sometimes turn up both individual obits plus a marriage record .. for both of them .. or a child! (Another variant is an ancestor’s full name, followed by a comma, and then the full name of a child — the married last name for a female child — and a place.)

Know your search engine: Do you need quotes around full names? is a key question to find out at the outset. (For example, Google doesn’t need quotes around names, and will return the name Robert Wilson as a full name, before listing Robert only matches. But to prevent finding hundreds of Robert matches right up front, needs Robert Wilson)

No luck? Time to move along to a free newspaper site. If you haven’t found your way to the Google newspaper archive (not that they make finding it easy!), it’s the place to start.

Read an updated post on using the Ottawa Journal on, and on using the Google newspaper archive here.

Check the newspaper archive list by town and title. If you don’t know the names of the historic local papers for the period you’re researching, do a quick online search for Historic Newspapers In.. and add a city, county or region. You’ll want all of those variant names to see if they’re in the free archive. In some areas, and in some eras, papers changed names frequently, and disappeared, then re-appeared. When the county or town changed its name .. so did the papers .. viz. Bytown becomes Ottawa.

Hunting for obituaries can also end up teaching you some valuable regional naming history that you’ll find really useful in later research!

Hopefully you’ve struck gold! But if not there are two other strategies left: a pay for use newspaper archive, and researching microfilms in a library or archives.

1. Among the pay for use sites, there are 2 that I have found most helpful for my Canada research: and

Before choosing any pay site to spend your hard-earned money on, a little prep work is called for. Always check the list of available papers first thing. (Here for papers on and Make sure there are materials that can be of help.

Then check the subscription options. For newspaper research, because it can be conducted at specific periods of times, you might want to consider a month at a time plan, or a few months only — subscribing only at those times when you’ll have time to use the site and so get your money’s worth. Always turn off the auto-renew feature! Time really does fly when auto-renew is at work. You might have finished your research, but your credit card will still be at work! (I have a cousin who subscribes to family history research sites only in winter months when she knows she’ll have time to spend lots of evenings researching.) is owned by, which offers combination subscriptions to both sites plus a military record site called

2. Sometimes the only way to an obituary (or any information at all) is through a library or archives in the area your ancestor lived. Don’t think of this as a last resort. It is for certain your best source! I am a great fan of local archives and libraries. The folks you’ll find to help you there are your best resources! In many, many local libraries or genealogy/local history society archives, you’ll find obituary indexes for local papers that will take you to the exact page and column of an obituary .. and much more. Local histories, family histories, and such things as tax rolls and property valuations are a few of the other things you can find too. See my posts on local archives and big city library research trips for more on local library and archives resources





The Value of Obituaries

WilliamWilsonObitSometimes, when you’re wondering where that ancestor disappeared, an obituary will provide the answer. But not their obituary!

Relatives doing family history have asked why I have spent time researching branches of the family tree that are not my direct ancestors.

The answer is a bit convoluted .. just like the route to finding my direct ancestors.

Sometimes the trail for my family tree goes nowhere. But tracking the siblings of my ancestors may be a route around the roadblock that will lead right to my ancestor .. or to a cousin who may know other details I’m looking for about our common ancestors.

Case in point: the Wilsons of Aylwin, QC.

That’s the family of my great grandmother, Eliza Wilson. They are from Scotland, all the earliest records show this. But where in Scotland?

Her father, Robert Wilson, first appears in Huntley (near Carp, where Eliza is born), then Nepean, and finally Aylwin QC. Robert was a tanner, the likely reason for his early death.

When his wife, Annie Graham, remarries and ends up in Gloucester with her younger children and new husband, Eliza meets a next door neighbour .. and eventually marries John ‘Jake’ McEwan.

Some of her siblings seems to disappear. An obituary finally puts her brother William Wilson in Eastview (Ottawa). And her brother Robert?

Listed among the survivors is Robert .. of “Hokim, Wash.” That would explain why Robert disappeared completely. He was among those who headed to the United States during the logging boom of the early 1900s. US Census records subsequently show him first living in Wisconsin (where he marries) and then in Washington State, near Seattle. Thanks to a Google search, it was easy to find that he had lived in Hoquiam, Washington.

Obituaries prove the point that much of what appears in historic newspapers was really hearsay .. it was what the reporter heard them say! Important then not to get hung up on the mistakes, like Eliza McEwan becoming L (for Liza) McEwan .. but at the right address!

Are we a little closer to finding someone who knows the family origins in Scotland? Hopefully! I’m working on a Hoquiam Family Reunion for the Wilson descendants of Robert in May 2016 .. along with another group of Wilsons in the Hoquiam area .. possibly Robert’s uncle’s family?

To be continued.

The Story of Dundas, 1784 to 1904

A little gem found in one of my favourite sites, is The Story of Dundas: imageBeing a History of the. County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 by J. Smith Carter, published in 1905. Especially useful are the mini biographies found in the appendixes, and a nice plus are the many photographs of early settlers and of the professionals — doctors, dentists etc, in the county. If you’ve got Dundas ancestors, take a look here and download a copy in a variety of formats.