Using Family Tree Maker Software

family tree

If you're trying to find a way to organize all of your genealogy data on your computer, a software program like Family Tree Maker is a very helpful tool for both Mac and PC. Billed as the "number one selling family history software," this program has been around since the late 1980s and has undergone many revisions to become the popular and useful product it is today. You can use this software to create a family tree, integrate your online research, and organize files on thousands of different individuals. Like any program, using Family Tree Maker has its benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits to Using Family Tree Maker

There are many great genealogy software programs on the market, but there are a few things that make Family Tree Maker stand out from the pack. According to reviewers on Amazon.com and PC Magazine, there are some important benefits to using this software.

Good Interface

Reviewers praised Family Tree Maker's great interface, which is easy for beginners to use right out of the box. Your research is displayed clearly, and help widgets and tutorials can walk you through learning about the more advanced features of this product.

Integration with Ancestry.com

Family Tree Maker is the official software program of online genealogy giant Ancestry.com. This means that if you have an Ancestry subscription, you can take full advantage of the following handy features:

  • With the click of a button, you can access your Ancestry account and automatically save files and information to the tree on your computer. There's no need to go line by line, updating your files to match what you find online.
  • You can instantly share your tree with other researchers who may have overlapping branches, since your home research is the same as the tree you have online.
  • You can update your family tree, both online and on your computer or mobile device, using the TreeSync aspect of this program. That means that if you're doing research at a library or cemetery, you can instantly record the information you find using any Internet connection.

Easy Uploading

If you have a scanner, you can easily add media to your tree. This means you can scan priceless family photos and original documents, upload them, and attach them to individuals in the tree. Those photos will be there when you create family tree charts and other documents and when you share your research with others online. You can even use the software to create a slideshow of the photographs for a family reunion or other event. Additionally, you can add audio and video clips to your files. This is great for making an interactive presentation or e-book of your family history.

Integrated Document Creation Features

One of the most important benefits of Family Tree Maker is that you can use it to create a multitude of different documents and templates to display your research:

  • Photo slideshows
  • Timelines of important events
  • Family trees of any size
  • Interactive maps of ancestors' immigration
  • Smart Stories, which automatically turn your research into a narrative about your ancestor
  • Individual and family data charts
  • Descendency and pedigree charts
  • Indexes and reports about your research
  • Full family history books

Efficient Organization

Organization is a key element for any genealogical software, and according to reviewers, Family Tree Maker offers new and improved ways to organize all your notes. Cataloging thousands of records, the software offers enhanced statistical abilities. View at a glance the new statistical information about your tree, including the following:

  • The average life span of all individuals in your tree
  • The earliest birth date
  • The most recent birth date

You can also use it to see how any two individuals are related to one another or how any person in your tree is related to you.

Drawbacks to Using Family Tree Maker

No software program is perfect, even one that's been around for more than 20 years. According to reviewers at PC Magazine and Amazon.com, there are a number of drawbacks to using Family Tree Maker.

Problems with Syncing Trees

Although its integration with Ancestry.com is a major benefit, it can also be a huge drawback - especially when syncing your tree destroys some of your research. Reviewers report that if you sync your computer files to your online tree, you may inadvertently overwrite your hard work online. You can also accidentally create confusing duplicate files for individuals or even entire branches.

Additionally, it's possible to accidentally share private information about living individuals in your tree. While this information is hidden in online trees on Ancestry.com, it can become public when you add the information from your computer tree.

Difficulty Sharing Work Through Other Services

Although it's easy to share your research on Ancestry.com, this program doesn't easily convert your work for sharing on other genealogy sites. You can't convert your work to an HTML format to make your own family history website either.

Ancestry Subscription Required for Research

If you already subscribe to Ancestry.com, adding Family Tree Maker to back up your files makes sense. However, if you're not an Ancestry subscriber, you won't be able to use the automated research features of this software program without starting a subscription. A U.S.-only membership costs about $20 per month, and a world membership runs about $35 per month. This means that on top of the purchase price of the software, typically between $40 and $80, you'll need to budget for these additional costs.

System Requirements

Family Tree Maker has versions for both Mac and PC. Your computer will need to meet certain system requirements to run the latest versions.

Requirements for PC

To run Family Tree Maker 2012, you'll need the following:

  • Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Vista, 7, or 8
  • 500 Mhz Pentium II processor
  • 639 MB of hard drive capacity
  • 512 MB of available RAM
  • CD drive for installation
  • Internet connection for syncing with online files

Requirements for Mac

If you have a Mac, you'll need the following:

  • Mac OX X, 10.5 or later with Mac processor
  • 500 MB of hard drive capacity
  • 512 MB of available RAM
  • CD drive for installation
  • Internet connection for syncing with online files

Tips for Using Family Tree Maker Software

You can make the most of Family Tree Maker without losing data if you keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always back up your files before syncing your tree. Keep a hard copy or a separate data file of all important information.
  • Never sync your computer file to the online file. Always sync the online file to your computer.
  • Never update both online and offline files at the same time, since you may lose research from one or both of them when you sync.
  • Take advantage of the help features and customer support if you run into problems.

Organize and Integrate Your Research

Whether you decide to use Family Tree Maker or another genealogy software program, it's helpful to have a way to organize and integrate your research. The features of this program make it worth a look if you're in the market for new software; however, it's always important to back up your work with any program you use.

Using Family Tree Maker Software