Family Tree Maker reportedly is the best-selling genealogy program in the world and for very good reasons: it is easy to use and is well marketed. Even though it has been higher-priced than most of its competitors, millions of people use Family Tree Maker to record the results of their genealogy searches. A new update to the program has just been released, and I had a chance to use it for a bit. I would have expected this to be called "Version 12," but the new owners apparently wish to start a new naming convention. This one is referred to by date. Like the automobile manufacturers, new versions are introduced in late summer before the actual model year.
Family Tree Maker has a long and convoluted "ancestry." This program has been owned by more companies than I can remember. In the early summer of 2004, it was acquired by MyFamily.com, the owners of Ancestry.com. A new version of the program was released a few months later, but I know that version was already in the works before the acquisition. It was created by the same programming group that had created earlier versions. This year's release of Family Tree Maker 2005 is the first to be completely designed by the new owners and with many new programmers on the project. Ancestry.com has long had a reputation for being more serious about genealogy research methodologies than the previous owners. I was interested to see what the new features would be, especially if they are features demanded by serious genealogists.
Installation was simple: insert the Family Tree Maker CD-ROM into the computer, and then answer a number of questions that appear on the screen. About two minutes later, the installation is complete.
During installation, the user is asked whether or not to copy the "ClickArt," maps, and user manuals to the hard drive. A minimal installation without those three items will require more than 27 megabytes of disk space for the program. Including ClickArt, maps, and user manuals will increase the disk space requirement to about 54 megabytes. This is a big program! Those numbers are for the program alone and do not include the space required for your database, stored reports, or generated Web pages.
The first time the program is launched, the user is asked to choose from three different options: create a new database, open an existing database, or take an online tour. I elected to take the tour.
After completing the tour, I created a new database. The next screen that appeared is called the Family View. Data always revolves around a couple; one man and one woman, labeled as Husband and Wife. Apparently, the developers assume that all couples who have biological children are married. However, the program also allows additional parental relationships: adopted, foster, step, family member, private, or unknown.
In Family View, you can see three generations within the same page – a primary couple, the couple's parents, and the couple's children – and edit two of those generations from the same page (the primary couple and the children). Integrated navigation controls also let you quickly move up or down the family tree by clicking on one of the navigation arrows or using your keyboard arrow keys.
I was immediately struck by the fact that the main Family View screen is all new; it does not even resemble the earlier versions of Family Tree Maker with their "tabbed interface." This is a good thing, in my mind. I never liked the "dummied down" user interface of earlier versions of this program. The earlier screens seemed to waste a lot of space, a major factor when using 800-by-600 pixel screen displays. The new look packs a lot more information into one screen and yet does not look crowded. However, I also must concede that the earlier interface was very easy to use, and this probably contributed to the program's popularity among newcomers. It should be interesting to see if the new interface still attracts newcomers. I suspect that experienced genealogists will prefer the Family Tree Maker 2005 interface, but I am not so sure about the newbies.
The original announcement of Family Tree Maker 2005 stated, "Add your immediate family members and up to eight children." This would insinuate that only eight children could be shown in one family. Luckily, this is not the case. Family Tree Maker has always allowed for much larger families, but past versions would only display the first four children in the Family View screen. With the new and improved interface, the 2005 edition will show a maximum of eight children in the same space. Still, it would be nice to be able to show all of my grandparents' sixteen children at once.
I entered data about a few individuals into the database and found that data entry was simple. Best of all, beside every entry field for name, birth place, and death place, there is an icon for a source citation. Click on that icon, and a pop-up window appears for entering the title of the source, the citation page, and text, author, publication facts, call number, source quality, researcher's comments about this source, and even a capability for inserting an image of the source citation. Do you have a scanned image of a marriage record or a census entry? If so, you can enter that image as part of the source citation. That is an excellent method of citing one's sources!
Family Tree Maker 2005 also seems to have a true sources database. That is, if you use the same source citation in the records of 75 people, you do not need to enter the source citations 75 times. Even better, if you ever want to change or add more information about a particular source, you do not need to do that 75 times. Instead, you find the single source citation and edit that one item. All 75 entries that point to that single citation will then reflect the updated information.
I have complained many times over the years about Family Tree Maker's weak source citation capabilities. The program was one of the last in the marketplace to even add the capability of recording source citations. Even then, it had a very anemic method of recording citations that was little more than free-form notes attached to each record. Successive releases occasionally added improvements to source citations, but the program has never equaled the source citation capabilities of its lower-priced competitors. I am pleased to see the 2005 version has a very good source citation capability.
One of the first tests of any genealogy program is its ease of recording conflicting data. For instance, I have found three different dates and four different locations for the birth of one of my great-great-grandfathers. He even gave conflicting information to the census takers in different years. I have multiple source citations from various census records, town records, and other documents; I do not know which "fact" is correct. Conflicting data is very common in genealogy. Anyone who has been researching the family tree for a while will find similar conflicts.
Family Tree Maker 2005 allows for "alternate facts" or "alternate events," as well as "preferred facts" that should take care of this problem. This capability allows for recording of all the data for my great-great-grandfather. To add an alternate fact or event, you do the following:
1. Open the Edit Individual dialog box for the individual.
2. Just as you would add a new fact, choose the Add Fact button and enter the alternate fact. Family Tree Maker will allow you to add conflicting facts.
3. If the Make Preferred button is grayed out (so that you cannot click on it) this means that the displayed fact is the current preferred fact for the individual. If you would like another fact to be the preferred fact, click on that fact and click the Make Preferred button. The previous Make Preferred fact will be grayed out.
I was disappointed that the program requires one of the facts to be the "preferred fact." It defaults to the first fact that is entered although that can later be changed. In the case of my great-great-grandfather, I have no clue as to which fact is more likely to be correct. Which one do I select as "preferred?"
The preferred fact is also the only one that shows up on the screens and reports. Most other modern genealogy programs allow the user to enter multiple dates and locations and do not require any guess as to which is the more likely correct fact.
Family Tree Maker 2005 offers the capability to include extensive notes about each individual, as well as height, weight, cause of death, and medical information.
Family Tree Maker 2005 also requires the person's entire name to be entered into one field. Other genealogy programs typically have a single data entry field for first and middle names and a second field for the surname. That usually allows for easier editing, sorting, and searching of surnames.
Family Tree Maker 2005 assumes that the last single word entered into its single name field is the surname. This is often not true, such Peter Van Der Voort or Pierre Bourbeau dit Lacourse or John Smith Jr. In such instances, it is necessary to identify the surname for Family Tree Maker. This is done by surrounding the surname with backward slashes (\), such as:
Peter \Van Der Voort\
Pierre \Bourbeau dit Lacourse\
John \Smith\ Jr.
Another instance in which you might need to use backward slashes is when entering someone who does not have a last name, such as a person of Native American descent. For instance, your ancestor might have been known as Running Bear. This name would be entered in Family Tree Maker as Running Bear\\. The same would be true when the surname of an ancestor is not known, a common occurrence when trying to identify female ancestors. You will need to enter Mary's name as Mary \\.
In addition to the Family View, a Pedigree View is available that shows from three to seven generations at a time. The Pedigree View is fully interactive; you can click on a field and edit it directly. Navigating around the Pedigree View seemed easier than with most other genealogy programs of today.
Of course, there are capabilities to search for individuals within the database. All searches seemed to be simple and intuitive.
One of Family Tree Maker's strongest capabilities over the years has been its multimedia scrapbook. The 2005 edition is no exception; it continues the tradition and even improves on it. Each individual and each marriage in your Family File has a Scrapbook where you can store virtually any type of information about your family, including Kodak Photo CD Pictures, sound files, video files, text files, picture files, and more. You can then use these images to enhance reports and family books, play slide shows, and more.
Family Tree Maker 2005 offers a new Web Search tool to help you find information about your ancestors. Web Search is always running in the background while you are using Family Tree Maker (unless you have turned this option off or unless you are not connected to the Internet). It will search Ancestry.com for more information about the people in your tree. When it finds a match that meets your designated criteria (i.e. 4 stars and higher, 3 stars and higher, etc.), the Web Search button changes to a new button that shows you have possible additional information available. To view the Web Search results on any individual, click on the Web Search button next to his/her information. You will be brought to the first page of results.
The Web Search report is divided into three sections:
1. The top half of the report lists the Web search results found for the person in your tree. The Source column tells you the name of the Ancestry.com collection in which Family Tree Maker found the information.
2. When you select a result, the bottom left box displays the information found in that Ancestry.com record. Of course, if you do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, you will see only header information for any information within their subscription databases.
3. The bottom right box shows you the information you already have in your file about this person. This makes it easier for you to compare your information with the information found online.
Keep in mind that many of the records on Ancestry.com require a paid subscription before you can view them.
Family Tree Maker 2005 has an excellent system of merging individuals. This is useful when you obtain a database from a distant cousin and want to add it to yours. You and your cousin may have the same individuals listed in each database; so, you need to merge them together to avoid duplicates. The program also has a Web Merge feature that can merge records found online on Ancestry.com into your existing database. With both the database merge and the Web merge, you can merge either one person at a time or as a one-time effort to allow the program to automatically merge all the duplicates.
WARNING: Never, ever merge anyone's database into your own until you are completely sure that you want to. The other database may contain data errors or other problems. Also, make sure you make a complete backup of all your data before merging new information into your database so that you can backtrack if you later discover a problem. I frequently receive sad e-mails from people who did not do that!
Family Tree Maker 2005 includes a wide variety of printed reports, such as:
Family Group Sheet: A detailed report about a single nuclear family (parents and their children).
Outline Descendant: List shows where everyone fits in the family, starting with a distant relative and moving to the present.
Genealogy Report: Detailed listing of family information, presented in a narrative, book-like format.
Kinship Report: Lists the relationship of every individual to a selected primary individual.
Alternate Facts: Lists all alternate facts you have entered for each individual, such as two potential birth dates for the same individual.
Address: Lists all the addresses you have entered into your Family File for each individual.
Medical Information: Lists a family's health history.
Birthdays of Living Individuals: Lists all birthdays of living individuals.
Marriage: Lists all marriages with marriage dates and the status of the relationship.
Parentage: Lists the parents of each individual and their relationship to the child (natural, adopted, etc.)
Bibliography: Creates a bibliography based on source information you have entered.
Data Errors: Lists all potential errors, for example, all fields that have been left blanked and discrepancies with ages.
Documented Events: Lists all events in your file for which you have source information.
Maps - Family maps can help you trace your family's journey across the country or across the seas.
Labels/Cards - You can create address labels or name tags for the next family reunion.
Timeline - View your family's important events against the backdrop of history.
Calendar - Create a calendar with birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events.
You can also create a Family History book that includes trees, reports, pictures, and more. With Family Tree Maker, you can create your own personal family home page, even if you have no previous experience creating a Web page.
You can share trees, books, and reports with friends and relatives who don't have Family Tree Maker by either publishing your information to your homepage or by using the Export feature. Depending on what you are exporting, you will have the option to save your document as a PDF file, plain text file (TXT), rich text file (RTF), or as a spreadsheet (CSV). It is worth noting that CSV files can easily be imported into Excel or other spreadsheets or database programs for further data manipulation and analysis.
Once you have exported the tree, book, or report, you can then save it to a CD-ROM, or you can e-mail it if the file is not too large. A PDF file can be viewed or printed by anyone with the Adobe Acrobat Reader program (available free at http://www.adobe.com).
Family Tree Maker will allow the user to automatically create a genealogy Web site containing data about individuals within the database. However, it is limited to a maximum of 2,000 individuals. The Web pages may even include pictures from the multimedia scrapbook. As you might expect, you can delete dates and locations of birth and other facts for living individuals. However, I did not see any option to delete the individuals' names.
I should note that this capability to create Web pages only works for pages stored on one of Ancestry.com's services. If you have your genealogy pages hosted elsewhere, there is no method of directly creating Web pages from Family Tree Maker 2005. This seems to be a serious omission, as almost all of the competitive programs do allow for the creation of "generic" Web pages that can be uploaded to almost any Web hosting service, including the free services. If you want to export data from Family Tree Maker 2005's database to Web pages of your own choosing, you will need to export your data as a GEDCOM file and then use a competitive program or one of the third-party GEDCOM-to-HTML utilities to convert the data to HTML format.
Earlier versions of Family Tree Maker had problems with certain tags when exporting data in GEDCOM format. Specifically, it would swap the occupation and place tags in the GEDCOM file. The 2005 edition seems to have corrected this problem. Here is an excerpt from a GEDCOM file that I created:
2 DATE ABT 1960
2 PLAC Electrician, Dexter, Penobscot, Maine, USA
2 SOUR @S02853@
2 DATE 1934
2 PLAC Milkman, Sanford, York, Maine
2 SOUR @S02853@
In the above case, two different occupations are correctly listed for one individual.
Previous releases of Family Tree Maker usually were bundled with collections of data CD-ROM disks. Prices have varied from about $30.00 without any bundled disks up to as much as $100 when 20 or more disks were in the box. Admittedly, the cheaper $30 version without disks often was difficult to find; all I ever saw on the shelf at the local software stores were those versions with multiple disks. Those "in the know" figured out how to purchase the program alone at the lower price directly from the Family Tree Maker Web site or from select mail order dealers. In looking at the promotional literature for Family Tree Maker 2005, both printed and online at the program's Web site, I see no mention of bundled deals. Everything I have seen so far only mentions the basic program being sold for $29.95 (U.S. funds).
Family Tree Maker 2005 should operate well on any Windows PC purchased within the past two or three years. System requirements include:
• Windows 98, ME, or XP (while not mentioned, I suspect it will also operate well on Windows 2000.)o For Windows 98/ME; a 300 MHz Pentium, or compatible, processor and 32 MB of memory (RAM)
o For Windows XP; a 333 MHz Pentium, or compatible processor, and 128 MB of memory (RAM)
• Super VGA (800 x 600) video adapter (1024x768 recommended) with 16-bit or better color quality
• A CD-ROM drive (for installation only; to use the CD back up features, a CDR/CDRW is required.)
• 150 MB disk space
• Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later. (A full install package for IE 6 is provided if your system does not already have it.)
• To take advantage of the online features, a 56 Kbps modem and an Internet connection.
• Printer Support: Works with most popular printers (monochrome and color) supported by windows
Keep in mind that the above are minimums; the program may operate slowly on a 300-MHz processor and 32 megabytes of memory. As with all Windows programs, higher processor speeds and especially more memory will greatly increase system performance.
This article should give you an overview of Family Tree Maker 2005. However, I have not described all the features and capabilities of this program. Such an article would fill several newsletters! For further information, look at the program's Web site at http://www.familytreemaker.com. I would especially encourage you to take the Product Tour at http://www.familytreemaker.com/help/tutorials/tour/ (a broadband connection is encouraged) as well as the online tutorial (which works well on dial-up access) at http://www.familytreemaker.com/help/tutorials/gettingstarted/getting_started_tutorial.htm.
If you have any comments or questions about Family Tree Maker 2005, or any corrections to the information listed here, please enter them at the end of this article. That way, everyone else can benefit from your words. Present users of Family Tree Maker 2005 are especially encouraged to post comments about your experiences with the program.