Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another FTM Issue - Unattached Family Records in My Tree

As I reported here and here I am separating my Family Tree into multiple branches. I have discovered that there are thousands of unattached family records in each of my new branch files.

Reviewing my original Family Tree I also found over a hundred similar unattached family records in it.

I discovered this by reviewing the GEDCOM created by FTM when I export some or all of a tree. These unattached records have no HUSB or WIFE records associated with them and float around the database. For example:

0 @F408@ FAM
2 DATE 12 DEC 1700
2 PLAC Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut


I just discovered unattached family records with nothing but the level 0 GEDCOM record. Here is a section of the GEDCOM. These are also NOT removed by compacting.

0 @F18656@ FAM
2 DATE 27 FEB 1707/08
2 PLAC Newton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
0 @F18659@ FAM
0 @F18660@ FAM
0 @F18662@ FAM
2 DATE 26 NOV 1919
2 PLAC Proctor, St Louis, Minnesota, USA
0 @F18667@ FAM
0 @F18670@ FAM
0 @F18671@ FAM                            
Updated 6/3/2015

Because they are not attached to an individual, I can find no way to manually delete them from the database from inside FTM.

I have tried several tricks to fix this but to no avail. Compacting the file does not fix the problem. Nor does the export of the Tree to a different FTM file rather than directly to a GEDCOM file.  Years ago there was a workaround for repairing a tree, But this no long works.

At this point in my project, I  think my only choices are; live with the problem, edit the GEDCOM file and manually delete each GEDCOM entry, or I could write a program to do those deletions.

Those two latter options would require a load of new databases with the corrected GEDCOM and a manual reload all of the associated media. None of this is to my liking. I hope that this post will result in someone offering a much better solution.

How is this caused? In my case and in this recent project I often used several of the reports that allow selection and deletion of groups of individuals. I suspect that one or all of these deletions are done without regard to the family and/or marriage records of those individuals. If this is true it demonstrates some very lax testing on their part. This seems to be a continuing theme.

I cannot explain the presence of the unattached records in my original file. This file has been in effect for nearly 15 years and has undergone various updates as I have implemented new releases. It could stem from data entry errors I have made in entering new information, deleting miss-entered individuals, or as the result of merging GEDCOM files, with these errors in them, into my tree. But they do exist and, in my mind, FTM should not allow them to exist.

But, perhaps I am wrong and FTM did intensive testing and discovered this and other errors and they made a conscious business decision to ignore the issues.

Is this specific issue a major problem? Not really. The tree will still be processed, reports and charts will not be affected. However, processing time will be longer as a result and, more importantly, the errors will be perpetuated as we generate GEDCOM.

What this issue does demonstrate, once again, is the lack of attention to detail that we repeated see in the product. This software is not free and many of us repeatedly purchase upgrades in the hopes that the new release will be an improvement over previous releases.

I continue to be disappointed and frustrated.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Family Tree Maker Issue – Ignores Sex for determining Husband / Wife

Notice! The issue discussed and documented below has gotten more complex. Please refer to my reply below in the comments section. Ron - 5/29/2015

While working on my project to break my tree into separate branches I encountered this gem.

Two individuals in a family tree as shown in Family Tree Maker.  The female Sarah Reynolds is shown on the left side of the relationship (below the pedigree panel) and the male David H Woods is shown on the right side.  Please note that their sex is correctly reflected in the details panel for each and that here David is correctly identified as the Husband in the relationship.

The output GEDCOM from this tree for these two individuals.

0 @I58356@ INDI
1 NAME Sarah /Reynolds/
2 SOUR @S1495@
2 DATE 1806
2 PLAC Fairfield, South Carolina, USA
1 FAMS @F19079@
1 FAMC @F18842@
0 @I58357@ INDI   

0 @I58606@ INDI
1 NAME David H /Woods/
2 SOUR @S1495@
1 FAMS @F19079@           

Here is the problem! The output GEDCOM for the Family of these two individuals.  The INDI of the female Sarah Reynolds is linked as the Husband and the INDI of the male David H. Woods is linked as the Wife.   

0 @F19079@ FAM
1 HUSB @I58356@
1 WIFE @I58606@
1 MARR           

It appears that for its GEDCOM output Family Tree Maker uses the positional placement of individuals to determine the husband and wife designations of individuals rather than the sex of people.  Thanks FTM for remaining firmly planted in the dark ages.

This will now require another major project to identify and correct any others in my tree like this. 

How Family Tree Maker Reporting Slows Your System.

First, my disclaimer. I don't know for a fact that what I say here is absolutely true.  However, my years in data processing and database management lead me to these conclusions. 

When you run a report in Family Tree Maker that software clogs your database with links and generated data and it remains there until you purge all that "crap". 

Because my database has grown large and unwieldy, I am in the process of separating my family tree into multiple lineages. I copied my existing tree into a separate tree and began deleting branches. After deleting several thousand individuals I attempted to run the Extended Family Chart and it did not successfully complete. So I compacted that new tree and received this message.

Wonderful, I thought, problem solved. So I again clicked Publish and selected the Extended Family Report. Immediately FTM began running the report. It  does that every time and does not allow you, the user, the opportunity to tailor that report for this specific run. No you don't need to do a thing because FTM knows better than its users and it just takes off running. Eventually it came to a stop and I clicked on the little box on the right that says Include All Individuals.

That is all you need to do because again FTM does what it wants, regardless of your needs.  FTM again immediately began processing. So I again allowed FTM to do what it wants and waited. Coffee, a tv show and many games of solitary later I got this message.  

How disappointing! Yes, good old FTM failed me - again! This is getting to be a habit with this software. So I thought that the only thing that has happened is that the database is corrupted. So I will compact it, once more.

 And the result is that I am now in a wild loop. Compact, run a report, have the software blow up, and do it all over again. Because as one can see the running of the report reloads the database with debris when the report fails. 


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Almost A Meaningless Cancel Button

For splitting files or deleting unwanted individuals, families, or branches the report I see recommended most often is the Extended Family Chart. The various forums of FTM and Ancestry repeatedly refer to this as the best tool available.  

So one would think that this report would be one of the easiest for users to run. Certainly not this user and I have been complaining about it for a very long time. 

Admittedly I am probably not a typical user.  I have been using FTM for nearly 20 years and my approach to genealogy is not that of a real genealogist. I do the vast majority of my research online and am not rigorous about who I put into my database. If the data for an individual, a family or a longer lineage looks as if it fits into my tree that is usually sufficient for me to add as much as I can capture to my tree. Consequently my database is approaching 60,000 individuals.

FTM  has proven to be horrid at managing a database of this size and 2014 is no exception.  Reports take a very long time, often hours to produce, and it is not uncommon for internal errors to occur and for the system to automatically abort. When it does work, I can literally sit in front of my computer and visualize the system slowly walking the paths of the database to collect data or even to reposition the database following a request I made. 

When I was working for a living I was a computer consultant and database manager so I am quite familiar with the inner workings of databases. Especially databases that manage files with millions of records. For some of my clients and users 60,000 records was too small of a file to even test with. 

When I request a report from FTM it immediately starts running that report using the last settings of that report. If those settings are not what I want this time around that means I must wait for the report to run so I can change the setting to the way I want them this time. There is NO alternative. So I have learned that once I have successfully run a report I carefully reset the setting to use the smallest amount of data the next time the report is opened. That way I do not have to wait an extended amount of time for a meaningless report to finish. However, if I happen to be running a major report like the Extended Family Chart using all of my data and the system fails and automatically aborts the problem does not end there.  Once there is an abort, when I return to the reports system, the Publish option, it immediately returns to the failed report and begins processing automatically. 

Oh how nice, the little box that showing the system is processing has a Cancel Button. The problem is, it does not cancel immediately. As near as I can tell it continues to walk the database collecting all the data, another hour or more, and only when it begins to format that data for printing does it accept the cancel button.   It certainly does NOT immediately cancel the process. 

No corporate user would long tolerate this from their system and they would demand that it be fixed. I have been at corporations that when the vendor of the software failed to do that management switched to a different vendor and different software.

The problem that we FTM users have is that Ancestry has been very successful at cornering the genealogy market to the point where there is little or no competition. So we have to take what the Advertising Department is willing to provide us. And it is a very small bone that they throw at us. 

I say Advertising Department because no Chief Information Officer would ignore the technical and user issues I and so many others encounter. But since FTM is not for internal use but is for the public to purchase and use there is no need for a CIO to manage and decide on technical priorities. The priorities of Ancestry and Family Tree Maker are entirely different that those of users like myself and others.  

I want a functional, efficient and working database with all of the associated tools that one finds with a database.

Their priority is to make lots of money.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A bit more about Export of a Branch

My Family Tree database has grown far too big, processing takes forever and often ends in errors that result in the automatic closing of the file. So I am now trying to figure out how to separate it into multiple and meaningful trees. I was hoping that the export of a branch would simplify that process. Sadly, that is not the case.

When you export a branch of your family tree FTM the Export Branch Wizard automatically filters the project to relatives (ancestors and  descendents) of the selected person and does not include the ancestors of spouses

Initially I was frustrated by that restriction, but after testing I finally understand why that is necessary.

I am NOT a genealogist and my Family Tree is probably an excellent example of what a real genealogist would NOT do. So please avoid making some of my mistakes. The size and content of my tree is an prime example of not planning ahead.

I have built my Family Tree with one of my grandchildren in mind. He is the root person on that tree and I have diligently located and included in his tree everyone I can find that is some how related to him. Consequently over the years I have created a monster that I am having extreme difficulty in managing.

He has deep family roots connecting him to ancient times on multiple sides of the family. He is connected to princes and  kings from several different family lines. As a result his tree is not at all shaped like a tree but instead is more wheel shaped and the spokes of that wheel connect him multiple times to individuals and back around a different path back to himself.

This is exactly why the branch export does not include the ancestors of spouses. For if it did, any export of a branch would likely result in the export of the entire database. That would hardly be helpful.

Exporting a branch does not remove those individuals from the source database and having that capability would allow me to pare off some branches into separate files and begin to whittle the large database down to size.

At the moment I am stymied and seem to be faced with only one alternative; the brute force solution. What I mean is to duplicate the monster and then family by family delete those individuals I do not want in that new tree. I have done this with one branch and the pain level I experienced was not pleasant and because I am human and make mistakes I am quite sure that I removed familys that I should not have. So my new tree is probably already corrupted by my errors.

At this point I am unsure of how to proceed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Issue with Exporting a Branch

Following the export of a branch of my family tree with FTM 2014 I have found issues with the resulting file.

I have corrected several families where the parents are both connected and disconnected from each of their children. The only way I have found these issues is that I have stumbled upon them. I assume I will continue to stumble upon them as time passes. 

This post documents an example of that issue and my procedure for correcting it.

The parents shown below do correctly reflect their children.     

However, their children do not reflect that relationship as the parents of Patsy are missing.

The details about a child also correctly reflect the relationship with her parents.

The way I corrected these is tedious!  I tried several approaches and finally settled on the following because it works.  I click the Person tab for the child with the issue

Then I click Attach/Detach Person and then Detach Selected Person.

I select both Fathers and Mothers and click OK and once that quickly processes I immediately click the Person tab again and select Add Person and then Add Father.

and then I select the appropriate father and then click ok.

 Then I select Existing family and click ok.

 The final results now reflect the relationship of Patsy to her parents.

         This procedure must be done for each child in the family!