The challenge of translating old family tree data files with current software happens in all digital areas of interest and for do-it-yourselfers this problem can be particularly vexing— or exhilarating depending on how you feel about being your own IT person. Before getting into a few tips on file format translation for family tree applications I will note that my best practice method for having files stay accessible is to always invest in the latest and most flexible application that you can find and afford to do the original job. Subsequently, I try to convert files as technology changes rather than many years later as there may be nothing available to open your original files.

Pursuit of genealogy, family history and archives is time consuming. The tasks of scanning, labeling & organizing files and entering information into a family tree database can be endless. I do lots of photo scanning, repair and file organization for clients

but I do not offer any data entry services. Most people do their own research and data entry. Once the time investment is made it can be really frustrating to find that your family tree is in a file format generated by software your computer no longer supports and that virtually no other application can open.

Most family tree applications create files in the GEDCOM format or .ged. Virtually all family tree applications can import a GEDCOM (.ged) file. For some older, proprietary applications there were versions that created proprietary file extensions. One such is the .FTW from Family Tree Maker®. Your choices are to buy the application or find a translator.

One versatile application for translating old family tree data files is Family Tree Builder from the My Heritage website. You can download and use Family Tree Builder for free and run it on either Windows and Mac. However, Family Tree Builder seems to only open .FTW files on a computer running a Windows OS.

To translate a .FTW file try the following steps:

Download and install Family Tree Builder to a computer running Windows.

Open Family Tree Builder.

Create an account as directed. (If you think you might want to try the My Heritage service make it real user name, etc. information. Otherwise make something up. You can always try the service later).

Uncheck any request to sync to their online database. (You do not know how you will be using this data yet so DO NOT sync).

Create a new Project. File>New Project. Or use the Quick Start Wizard.

translating old files

Browse to select your .FTW file. File>Import GEDCOM…>

translating old family tree data files

Notice the choices of file extension you can import.

All data will be converted to a format that can be saved/exported to .ged file. File>Export.

File > Import GEDCOM….>Browse to select your .FTW file

Now you will be able to use the application of your choice. Searching online for family tree software is easy. There are several well known names to choose from as well as reviews and feature comparisons to help you decide which is best for you. The one I use on my Mac is Reunion®. It has great features and is a well maintained product. Family Tree Maker has a great following and has been around a long time. It runs on Windows. My preference is again to always buy the most current and feature rich application that my budget can handle. Whatever you choose save back up exports in a .ged version and maybe a few others such as .xml. If you do this when you back up you will have options for sharing your data with family and having access in the future.

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