I have been using a Macintosh genealogy program for the past few days. MacFamilyTree has the best display of family relationships I have ever seen. It is sort of a three-dimensional, fully interactive pedigree chart. You can see it in operation at http://www.synium.de/products/macfamilytree/index.html#Demo%20Movie. But I am getting ahead of myself.
MacFamilyTree by Synium Software GmbH is a modern and highly popular genealogy application. It will install and operate on any Macintosh manufactured in the last few years. It performs all the functions you expect of a modern genealogy program: you can enter your data and then display family trees in multiple ways, including ancestor and fan charts, printed text reports, multimedia "scrapbooks," statistics, timelines, and more. The program imports and exports GEDCOM files as well. The program's "Virtual Globe" is also noteworthy: it plots your ancestors' locations on maps or on a globe. Best of all, a huge Internet-based library of geographic places provides MacFamilyTree with over 1.5 million names and coordinates for locations worldwide.
MacFamilyTree is available online. I was able to download it and install it within a minute or so. It installs in the same manner as most other Macintosh programs: the process is so simple that you don't really need to read any instructions. I went to the MacFamilyTree web site, clicked on DOWNLOAD, waited for the download to complete, and then double-clicked on the newly-downloaded file. I then followed the instructions that appeared on the screen, and, about twenty seconds later, the program was installed and ready for use.
A user guide in PDF format and a sample database were also included within the downloaded file. I must admit that I never looked at the user guide but I did use the sample database for a few minutes to become acquainted with the program. However, I soon grew impatient and wanted to look at my own data. I imported a GEDCOM file of about 3,000 individuals that I had earlier created with a Windows genealogy program. The import process went smoothly and required about a minute to complete.
MacFamilyTree generated a report of “errors” at the end of the GEDCOM import. Most of the errors listed dates that the program could not handle. In fact, it looked like the problem was generated by the old genealogy program I had used to create the GEDCOM file; it didn't handle old style dates in the manner that MacFamilyTree expected. For instance, the date of 12 February 1618/9 was written by the old program as “12 FEB 1618/19” instead of the more common “12 FEB 1618/9” as you normally see listed. The human eye can decode either format but computer programs are not as forgiving. That extra “1” in front of the 9 apparently confused MacFamilyTree. I believe that is a problem with the originating program, not with MacFamilyTree. I had a list of a dozen or so such occurrences that I could now go in and correct manually.
I first searched the database, looking for myself, my parents, and my children. When I clicked on any of the names, a screen appeared with that person's vital information. However, I immediately noticed a graphic that appeared just to the right of the facts: it was unlike any genealogy chart I had seen before. It was much more than a pedigree chart: it shows the individual who is listed to the left as the “focus individual” and then has connecting lines to images of his or her parents, siblings, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, spouse(s), children, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law.
Most genealogy programs display pedigree charts and family group sheets in a flat, two-dimensional manner that look as it they were printed on paper in genealogy books a hundred years ago or more. In fact, this is deliberate: most programmers have emulated the printed charts that have become the standard of genealogy work. MacFamilyTree has broken that tradition and created new charts that are obviously computer-generated, not printed on paper. These charts are very difficult to explain in text, so I would ask you to look at the example screenshots included with this article. Click on any screenshot to see a larger image. (The chart to the left has been modified with different colors, some boxes rotated 180 degrees, etc.)
When the charts are displayed, you can click on any individual in that chart to move the “focus” to that person. That is, the person's data is now displayed in the text screen to the left and he or she becomes the central figure in the chart to the right. His or her parents, siblings, children, etc. are now displayed in the chart.
I also like the idea that MacFamilyTree focuses on individuals, not couples. All text boxes will show the information of one person at a time, not two. This works well, especially when a person has more than one spouse during a lifetime. However, the charts always display all related individuals, including all spouses.
Synium Software describes MacFamilyTree's interface as “user-centric.” The entire GUI (Graphic User Interface) can be adjusted to fit your needs. Features can be hidden to help focus on the most important functions. Text boxes and other items you'll frequently use may be resized to allow for easier handling and editing.
I found that data entry was simple and somewhat like most other genealogy programs. Well, I “found” it after I discovered the icons along the bottom of the screen. I overlooked them at first. I suspect the required information was in the users manual that I didn't read.
The charting capability of MacFamilyTree is very good. It draws all sorts of pedigree and descendancy charts that are very attractive. Each person's information is shown in a box with blue boxes for the boys and pink for the girls. You can change those colors, if you wish. You can also include thumbnail-sized pictures in the boxes, if available. The charts can be viewed onscreen, printed to a local printer, or saved as a PDF or PNG image. Saved files could then be taken to a commercial printing service to be reproduced on plotters or other wide-format printers, making for wall charts.
One new feature available only in the latest version of MacFamilyTree is the history database. Ever want to know who governed a country at the time of your great great grandmother? MacFamilyTree's new History Database allows you to view every person or family event in a greater historical context: Browse hundreds of predefined entries; or add your own data of global and regional relevance. The History Database even includes full integration with Wikipedia, providing details on every historical event that is included in the preloaded database.
Reports can be interactively customized: Person, Kinship and Distinctive Persons Reports, Lists for Places, Events and Birthdays. You define which information you require. The Reports also offer flexibility of font styles and sizes. As with charts, edited Reports can be stored within the family tree for your reference at any time.
MacFamilyTree has hundreds of other features, far too many for me to describe in detail. However, the more noticeable features include :
- Bookmarks that allow you to return to a particular individual quickly and easily at any time.
- You may publish your family tree online, either onto a web page provided by the Synium Software GmbH, a free service to all MacFamilyTree 5 customers, or via MobileMe, Apple's webhosting service, or to any website that you own and control.
- Charts can be included within the HTML web pages you create.
- MacFamilyTree handles source citations well, although not in the pre-defined formats recommended by some of the recognized experts. In most cases, the user is provided a free-text data entry form and may then fill in the information in whatever format he or she prefers.
One thing that impressed me is the capability to generate genogram charts. These are almost unknown to genealogists but are very popular in the medical community, primarily for studying inherited medical conditions. MacFamilyTree creates genograms that you can print out and take to your doctor or to other medical professionals.
When you first download MacFamilyTree, it operates in the free “Demo Mode.” All functions are available to you with the exception of Save, Export, and Print. That is a good method of taking the program for a “test drive.” If you then pay for the program, you receive a registration key in the mail a few minutes later. Entering that key into MacFamilyTree removes all restrictions and you can save or print as much as you like.
- Macintosh OS X 10.4 Tiger or Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
- ATI Radeon 7500 or GeForce 4 MX Graphics Card or Intel GMA 950 or better
MacFamilyTree is produced in Germany by Synium Software GmbH. The program will display its screens in English, Danish, German, Finnish, French, Dutch, Italian, Swedish or Spanish. The program also has an iPhone version that allows you to carry your genealogy database with you at all times. I will describe the iPhone version in a future newsletter article.
MacFamilyTree sells for $49 in U.S. Funds. However, you should first download the program and allow it to run in Demo Mode. After you have obtained some familiarity with the program, you can better make a decision as to purchasing the program
You can learn more about MacFamilyTree at: http://www.synium.de/products/macfamilytree. I would also suggest that you watch the online movie at http://www.synium.de/products/macfamilytree/index.html#Demo%20Movie.