Home > FTM 2014.1, 3.1 and Older > The difference between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker

The difference between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker

The difference between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker

Answer ID 5504
What is the difference between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker?

This article discusses the following:

Website vs. Program

The biggest difference between Ancestry and Family Tree Maker is that Ancestry is a website and Family Tree Maker is a program. A website, like Ancestry, is on the Internet, and you use a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox to get to the website. Other examples of web sites you may use are google.com or yahoo.com.


A program like Family Tree Maker is software that is installed on your computer’s hard drive. A program is usually on a disc that you put into your computer and install, or download from the internet and then install. Other examples of programs you might have are Microsoft Office or Norton Security.


Subscribe vs. Purchase

Ancestry is a website you can subscribe to. Your Ancestry subscription, like a magazine or cable subscription, is a recurring charge that occurs at a specified interval until cancelled. Your subscription gives you access to the records on the website and other features such as contacting other members.


Family Tree Maker is a program that you purchase, like you would purchase a television or a DVD. You do not have to keep paying for Family Tree Maker. You can, however, choose to use Family Tree Maker with your Ancestry subscription to get the most use out of the program.


Online vs. Offline

Because Ancestry is a website, you must be online, or have an internet connection to use it. If you do not have an internet connection, you will not be able to visit Ancestry or any other website. The trees and pictures you upload to Ancestry are stored on our website.

Family Tree Maker is stored on your computer, so you will be able to use the program without an internet connection. There are some features that will be unavailable without the internet, such as syncing or hints or Web Search. But you will be able to add people and other information to Family Tree Maker without an internet connection.

Books and Charts - MyCanvas vs. Publish

Ancestry has limited abilities for printing your family tree. You can print up to 4 generations of the chart you are looking at, a profile page, or a family group sheet from your home printer. You also have the option to print most of the records on Ancestry. You can order a professional print of your tree or a record through Ancestry as well. MyCanvas will take the information in your tree and generate a book or poster according to the layout you choose, which you can then customize. Click here to go MyCanvas if you would like to see more.



Family Tree Maker has many publishing options, with 37 different charts and reports with a wide range of customization abilities. You can include these charts and reports in a book. Family Tree Maker books are not automatically generated, and so are much more customizable. Once you have created the book, chart or report you want, you have the option to print it on your home printer, or export your project to a variety of formats you can take to a print shop and have printed professionally. You can click here for help creating a book in Family Tree Maker.



Sync Differences

There are a few differences between your tree on Ancestry and your tree in Family Tree Maker when you have a synced tree. We have another article detailing all these differences here.

Unique Features of Family Tree Maker

There are also some powerful features that are available only in Family Tree Maker: 

1. Backing up trees 

Your family trees are important; not only do they contain your family’s history, they represent hours of hard work. And creating regular backups to preserve the fruits of your labors is one of the things you can do only in Family Tree Maker. Here you can find out more about how to make a backup in Family Tree Maker. Then, if your original tree is damaged or you want to revert to a previous copy, you can easily restore it from the backup file. Click here to see how to restore a tree from a backup. 

For even greater peace of mind, you can choose to have Family Tree Maker back up your tree automatically every time you exit the program. 

2. Map creation and places management 

While Ancestry lets you view maps you have created using other software, with Family Tree Maker you can create you own maps within the program itself, showing all the events that took place at a certain location and the people associated with each event. What's more, you can create maps by plotting the migration routes of your ancestors, revealing the journey your family has made over land and sea through the ages. To find out more about creating Migration Maps, click here

And only in Family Tree Maker can you print maps directly from the software, whether it’s an aerial shot of your ancestor’s farm or the migration path your great-grandfather took across the country.

Another feature found only in Family Tree Maker is the ability to view locations either in alphabetical order or grouped together by country, county, city, and so on in the Places workspace. When you have hundreds of places in your tree, groups make it much easier to quickly find the one you’re interested in. An added benefit is that you can see all people who are associated with a specific country or city with just one click.  

Finally, if you have the latest Windows version of Family Tree Maker, you can enjoy amazing 3D views from Bing™ Maps. This brings your ancestral homelands to life by letting you virtually visit each place in your tree. For example, you can see satellite images and maps of the town in Denmark where your grandfather was born, the apartment in Chicago where your great-grandparents lived, or even the lake where you went swimming with your cousins every summer.  

3. Organization of source citations

Family Tree Maker and Ancestry handle source citations differently. Whereas the online tree system restricts a single citation to a single person, Family Tree Maker allows a single citation to be linked to facts for multiple people. 

Furthermore, while you can view a source citation on Ancestry only when it is included in a currently open fact, the Sources tab of Family Tree Maker allows you to view and manage all the source citations in the entire tree in a single workspace.

4. Tools for cleaning up duplicate facts and sources

There are special tools you can use to search for and remove duplicate individuals both on Ancestry and in Family Tree Maker, but duplicate facts, sources, and source citations can be found and merged automatically only in FTM. You can find more information here:




5. Notes creation  

On Ancestry you can add person notes. In Family Tree Maker you can create a variety of notes: person, research, fact, relationship, media, and source citation. When you upload a tree to Ancestry, only person notes will be included; and they can only be seen by people you have invited to view your online tree. 

6. More export options

If you want to share your family tree with someone or open it in different software, Ancestry.com offers you the possibility to export the whole tree in one GEDCOM format. 

With Family Tree Maker, on the other hand, you can export all or just a part of your tree in a choice of FTM and GEDCOM formats. This means you can tailor what you export more closely to the needs of the person you are sharing with. Exporting a specific branch of your family tree is easy: just go to the People workspace, select the person whose family you want to export, right-click (Control-click on Mac), and choose Export Branch.  

7. Merging of trees and branches

One of the unique Family Tree Maker features is the ability to merge one tree, or branch of a tree, with another. To find out how to merge trees in Family Tree Maker, click here (https://support.mackiev.com/401567-Merging-two-files-in-Family-Tree-Maker).

8. More printing options

Only Family Tree Maker has a direct link to Family ChartMasters for printing professional-quality, large format charts. You can find out more here. Family Tree Maker for Windows is also integrated with Charting Companion and Family BookCreator plug-in, giving you additional access to high-quality printing of different types of charts, reports, and books. 

9. Unique set of tools 

Family Tree Maker comes with a range of handy, practical tools that will make management of your tree even easier, including three different types of calculator (Date, Relationship, and Soundex), options to compact files, convert names, sort children by birthdate, and more. 

10. Organization of work

With the help of the Plan workspace you can organize your work by creating and managing tasks, making the family tree building process even simpler and more efficient. 

Couldn’t find the answer you needed? Click here for further assistance.