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Family Tree Maker Review

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PROS / The multiple web-enabled features keep you connected to popular genealogy search sites like Ancestry and MyHeritage.

CONS / It does not support in-program searches of FamilySearch.

 VERDICT / Family Tree Maker has a clean and easy-to-use interface with enough features to help you find and store thousands of family members in one place.

The developer of Family Tree Maker announced that it would discontinue selling its genealogy software in 2015. However, The Software MacKiev Company recently picked up this family tree software. MacKiev has maintained Family Tree Maker’s web-enabled features and classic tools while adding a cool, modern look with an interface that is easy to navigate. Family Tree Maker is still among the best genealogy software available and our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner.

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Web Capabilities

When we charted a family using Family Tree Maker, the software generated hints for over half the people in our database. These web hints appear whenever the software finds matching or similar data on Ancestry.com. Available records include census, military and marriage documents, and you can also access yearbooks and old school photos. However, you won’t be able to dig into all of these resources without connecting to a genealogy search database such as Ancestry or MyHeritage. Family Tree Maker is not compatible with FamilySearch, so you can't search that site directly from within the software, but it does allow you designate when it is a source of information and cite it within the program.

As we tested this family history software, we created GEDCOM files to import into the program. This is the most common genealogy file format that software and online family tree databases create for easily sharing information between programs. The GEDCOM test files we created had 68 different individuals, all connected as a family. When we imported these files into Family Tree Maker, all the information correctly transferred, and each text field was correctly auto-populated; we didn’t have to edit any of the information. The one issue we had was that the primary individual – the first person we entered in the GEDCOM file for the family tree that all other family members connected to – wasn’t displayed as the primary individual when we opened the file in Family Tree Maker. Instead, that person’s father was made the default primary individual.

Creating Connections

For data entry, Family Tree Maker lets you enter information directly in your family tree. You complete standard pedigree charts with family information, including birth, death and marriage dates, as well as extra information like notes and medical records. The list maintains your family tree in a pedigree format to make it easy to enter information and follow through the generations. You can customize the required data for each person. For example, you can focus on a certain feature of your family like immigration or military service. Additionally, you can list complex relationships, such as remarriages and stepchildren, in your family tree.

Family Tree Maker gives you access to a physical map of your ancestors’ migrations and origins. The more information you complete on your pedigree charts, the more places are pinpointed on the map. This is a great tool to show your family’s migration over the years. It’s also a handy visual for multiple families and a good way to see how new branches of your family developed.

This program alerts you if you enter any information that may be wrong. For example, we added a child with a birthdate very close to his mother's. Family Tree Maker notified us that the mother would have been under 13 years old at the time she had the child, prompting us to recheck the date.

You can also add same-sex marriages in the program. However, it is a tricky process to connect same-sex couples, since the program adds a spouse of the opposite sex by default. In order to correct this, we needed to add individuals separately and then connect them as spouses.

Charting Capabilities

Family Tree Maker has 10 types of printable charts and 27 reports. You can combine these publications to create full books about your ancestry. Whether your genealogical research is personal or academic, publishing features are an important component to good genealogy software. Books, reports and charts are the best ways to help others with family history research overlapping yours and leave keepsakes for your own family. This genealogy software is also capable of displaying PDF images and simplified exports.

Citation & Organization

This software sorts children automatically by birth order and allows you to view people by country, state, county and city. Adding facts to your family tree is as simple as copying and pasting. You can add facts like source citations, media items and notes.

The sources tab serves as a repository for all of your sources. The fields in the dialogue windows ask you for information about the sources, and the software formats them into formal citations. This is especially convenient if you’re doing professional or academic genealogical research. If you provide source data like title, author and publishing info, Family Tree Maker can create a full bibliography for you.

When you add multimedia to Family Tree Maker, you can tag each entry with a caption, date and description. All of the videos, images, stories and other bits of information collect in the media tab, which keeps your documents and other files organized and accessible.

You can create a task list and keep your research strategized in this family history software, filtering tasks by type, priority or individual. This section also shows statistics about your family, including the number of people listed, surnames, average life span, earliest birthdate, and the number of places, sources and media you have linked to your tree.

Help & Support

Family Tree Maker includes the most important support features, phone and email. It also includes additional resources that you can tap into on your own. Video tutorials on the MacKiev website are helpful for seeing exactly how to navigate or use the search tools within Family Tree Maker. Both online and printed articles and user guides are available to suit your preference. The FAQs section is helpful for finding quick answers to the most common issues users tend to need help with

Summary

Family Tree Maker has enough features to satisfy both advanced and beginning genealogists. It also allows you to search genealogy databases, such as Ancestry.com, using its in-app browser. It doesn’t allow in-program searching of FamilySearch, but it acknowledges when you use FamilySearch as a source. The tools and features allow you to easily collect, store and organize thousands of family members' information.

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