I have my family tree stored on a 3 1/2 floppy disk. The disk contains 3 files with the suffixes .FBK, .FTW and .FTM. I can access the files just fine. The dates on the files show that they were written in 1994 and I remember writing them on my Mac computer running the Banner Blue genealogy software.

I have unsuccessfully tried opening the files using the current Mac as well as Windows versions of Family Tree Maker. I also tried using the 2005 version of Family Tree Maker to convert these files to the current versions as was instructed by Ancestry.com but this did not work.

Does anyone know how I can recover my family tree data from these files?

I am a computer programmer and could write a program to convert these files into something more useful if I had their file format.


3 Answers 3


It is possible that the GenBridge technology, developed by WhollyGenes - the maker of The Master Genealogist can read those files. The reason why I believe so is that Wholly Genes developed GenBridge quite a number of years ago to read in the formats available at the time, but haven't updated it.

Tamura Jones writes that GenBridge supports FTW, FTM and FBK files. FBK files are Family Tree Maker for Windows backup files, i.e. backups of FTW fies, so if you can read the FTW file, you won't have to worry about the FBK file.

GenBridge was first made available in The Master Genealogist version 3.5 in 1998 and was updated in 2004. GenBridge is still available in the current version of The Master Genealogist and you can download a 30-day free trial.

GenBridge is also available in My Heritage's Family Tree Builder which is free, without support of the FBK backup file format.

So you could try loading those files directly from The Master Genealogist or Family Tree Builder. From either of those, you can then export to GEDCOM and then have the data in a format most programs can read.

The program AncestorSync that Tamura Jones compared with GenBridge might also have worked, but the program no longer appears to be available.


The file extension *.FTW indicates that the files was created by FTM for Windows (FTW). As you have experienced, New Family Tree Maker has limited support for import from Family Tree Maker Classic; it will not import files created by FTM 4.0 or earlier versions.

I believe FTW 16 will read all older versions of FTM for DOS, FTM (for Windows), even *.FBK and *.FBC files (backup and compressed files respectively). Alas, FTM 16 is commercial product, for which there is no free trial, and it is no longer available from Ancestry.com.

Both Legacy and RootsMagic will read FTM Classic files, and have a free edition you can download. Whether they support *.FTW files as old as yours, you'll have to find out.

Various free editions of programs using Wholly Genes' GenBridge seem worth trying, but do not get your hopes up. New Family Tree Maker relies on GenBridge to import other formats, including FTM Classic, so if New FTM cannot import it, it is not very likely that TMG or Family Tree Builder will.

The best solution is to use a relatively recent version of FTM Classic, such as FTM 16, to import the data into. Not only is the more recent file format supported by various third parties, once you've imported the data, you can also export it to GEDCOM for import into most genealogy applications.

It is a little known fact that Ancestry.com provides a Lite Edition of FTM Classic free of charge for just that purpose, to wit Family Tree Maker 2005 Starter Edition. It even provides the full edition for 14 days. You should be able to import your data into this. When exporting to GEDCOM, make sure you export to GEDCOM and not to FTW TEXT; the erroneously named option "Abbreviate tags" must be checked.

  • 1
    That's very interesting, Tamura, about the FTM 2005 SE, which I did not know about. In addition to your link to the download, there is a page about it with some additional instructions. However, the person asking the question did indicate that FTM 2005 SE did not work on their data.
    – lkessler
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 21:35

The Wikipedia article Ancestry.com has a table under the section heading "FTM version history" which lists the Banner Blue software as the earliest versions from 1989-1994 (pre-Broderbund), running under DOS and Windows 3.1 (FTM on the DOS version, FTW on the Windows version). (Note that the authors of the Wikipedia article are unaware of a Mac version from Banner Blue; the earliest listed is 3.02 Mac for PowerPCs under OS9 from Broderbund. So no clues there.)

One of the references in that article points to a post on alt.genealogy from October 1996 which says that

Exporting from Family Tree Maker for DOS uses the Data Exchange Utility. The DEU ships with Family Tree Maker version 3 and 4 for DOS. It had to be purchased separately for earlier versions.

WorldCat.org has an entry for the Family tree maker : data exchange utility version 2.0 : reference manual. (2nd ed. published in 1991) which is in the collection at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN. Perhaps the librarians could tell you whether the specs for the FTM file format are in the manual.

There was also a utility for reading the older files from the Family Archive CDs and downloaded World Family Tree files, called the Family Archive Viewer, which later versions of FTM can't read. But the pages on Genealogy.com don't say what file format those files were in, so it's not clear whether that reader would also open your old Banner Blue files.

Another option, depending on whether you have access to an emulator or an older computer, is to search eBay, Amazon, or other sites on the net for the older versions of the software. As of this writing, I can find listings for copies of the Broderbund version of FTM (for Win3.1/Win95 and (apparently) for Mac OS 7.0. Copies of FTM that were closer in time to your 2005 edition might be able to read or convert your old files.

Since you've been able to recover some of your data from your uploaded copy of your tree with the Family Archive Viewer, you now have a list of some of the names that appeared on your tree. If you enter these names into the 2005 version of FTM, you'll have a copy of your tree in the modern FTW format. Could you then use a Hex editor to compare the files side-by-side? If the names are in the clear (a big assumption, I know), it might yield some clues about the file format of the old version.

Edited to add this section for GenBridge users:

On 29 July 2014, the developer of The Master Genealogist announced that he has decided to discontinue the Master Genealogist. He says:

In the interest of preserving users’ data, I have released a document that details TMG’s internal file structure and I will make GenBridge available for free to developers who wish to produce a direct import from TMG insofar as their programs support the same features.

Support forums will continue, but official support for TMG will end at the end of 2014.

Since many sections of the site Genealogy.com have been retired by Ancestry, the link to the page about the File Archive Viewer has been changed to an archived version on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (snapshot taken 31 Aug 2014). This allows us to read the instructions and notes showing the names of the executables, but the link to download the executables is broken.

Family Archive Viewer update

Download Family Archive Viewer from the Wayback Machine here. Be sure to read the tips on the download page. (This appears to be the most recent screen capture from February 27, 2015.)

Download Family Archive Viewer from S&N Genealogy Supplies (the retail sister site for TheGenealogist.co.uk).

  • I suspect GenBridge is the better way to go, but am posting about the Data Exchange Utility for completeness' sake.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 5:59
  • 2
    Thanks for all of the suggestions. I did find a partial solution and here's what I found out. GenBridge didn't work with Family Tree Builder. I also tried Legacy and RootsMagic which didn't open any of my files. However, what did work was Family Archive Viewer. In 1994 I submitted my tree to Banner Blue and my family was on the CDs that I still have but couldn't read until I found out about Family Archive Viewer. I was able to export a GED file and import everything into Family Tree Maker. I'm missing some details but the tree looks fine. I'll continue to see if I can access my original data.
    – user1308
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 22:50
  • 1
    @user1308 - Excellent! You found the solution. You should accept Jan Murphy's as the best answer.
    – lkessler
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 14:08

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