The long anticipated Family Tree Maker for Mac is now available. I received my copy yesterday and have now spent several hours using the new program on a 27-inch iMac. In that time, I have learned a lot but still am not fully familiar with all the available features. This is a robust program with many features; I think it will require several weeks to become an expert in this product. Even so, it is already obvious that Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 is an excellent genealogy program. Not perfect, but darned good.
Family Tree Maker has long been the most popular genealogy program for Windows. The software has been through a long list of owners, although present owner Ancestry.com seems to have finally provided a stable home for the product. Ancestry.com has now been the producing company for Family Tree Maker for Windows for several years. Many years ago, there was a Macintosh version of the product as well. However, the Mac version was dropped some years before the program was acquired by Ancestry.com.
After surveying the growing Macintosh market (more than 10% of all home computers are now Macs, according to the most recent reports), Ancestry.com executives apparently decided to create a new version of Family Tree Maker for Macintosh. In fact, it is all new. The old Macintosh version was long out of date. I suspect was easier and better to start off with a clean sheet of paper and create a brand-new Macintosh version. The result is called Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 and is shipping now.
Upon opening the box, the first thing I noticed is the thick users' manual. When was the last time you purchased a software product and found a 300+ page users manual included? That was standard procedure 15 or 20 years ago but printed manuals have almost disappeared since then. The 311-page Companion Guide to Family Tree Maker for Mac by Tana L. Pedersen is included in the box and is also available separately as a stand-alone book.
The book appears to be an excellent users manual. I referred to it several times yesterday and today and always found the information I wanted quickly and easily.
The box also contained two CD disks: (1.) Family Tree Maker for Mac and (2.) Family History Toolkit for Family Tree Maker for Mac. I'll describe the second disk separately later in this article.
I inserted the Family Tree Maker for Mac disk into my iMac, opened Finder, clicked on the CD, and then clicked on Family Tree Maker.pkg. The installation routine went through a number of screens and, about five minutes later, the program was installed and ready for use. The process was very simple, roughly the same as installing any other Mac software except that it took longer than most other Mac programs I have installed.
Upon launching the program the first time, a series of "welcome screens" appear, asking for name, email address, and similar information. Once completed, the program connects to the Internet and sends the registration information to Ancestry.com. The process also allows you to create a new online account to access information stored on www.Ancestry.com. I already had an account and the registration process allowed me to enter my existing account information. I soon was looking at the program's main data entry screen.
Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 then offered three options:
- "Enter what you know." In other words, create a brand new family tree database by manually entering information about each individual.
- "Import a tree from an existing file." This option allows using an existing a Family Tree Maker file created on a Windows system or from another installation of Family Tree Maker for Macintosh or from a GEDCOM file created on any computer.
- "Download a tree from Ancestry."
I chose the second option: "Import a tree from an existing file" as I already had a GEDCOM file containing information about more than 3,000 people. The import process required about 30 seconds and listed two errors upon completion. One error said "unrecognized birth year: EITHER 1899 OR 1900" and was caused because the program that generated the GEDCOM file allows that format for dates while Family Tree Maker for Mac does not. The second error was caused by my typo error: "18Z49" is not a valid year. My error. I obviously hit the wrong key when entering a date in the previous program but it was not flagged as an error by that program.
Family Tree Maker for Macintosh also displayed a notice that "Even though some place names match a spelling in the place authority, all places are flagged as 'unrecognized' until you run 'Resolve All Place Names' from the 'Tools' menu." In other words, Family Tree Maker insists on verifying every place name in the database. That strikes me as a good idea although I also later found it to be a tedious process.
Family Tree Maker then offered to automatically search Ancestry.com for information about the people in my family tree. If relevant records are found, a leaf icon will appear that will allow me to view and save related records found on the online service. I accepted the offer to compare my database with that of Ancestry.com.
At first, nothing appeared to be happening. However, glancing at the lights on my cable modem did show that data was being transferred back and forth online. Soon, new items appeared on the screen, such as "2 Ancestry hints found" and similar messages. There were a lot of them!
Clicking on a hint displays more information, such as the following example:
When searching Ancestry, results are presented as separate rows that can be selected. When you click on a row, the facts associated with the selected row are displayed in the right side of the lower pane, ready to be merged.
You can merge the facts into your tree by clicking the Merge button. Along with the facts, Family Tree Maker links source information to each fact. If the record has an associated image, such as a census image, it is linked to the source and merged into the Media Collection.
The very first suggested match turned out to be a winner although perhaps not exactly what the software developers envisioned. It provided a "match" for my mother's name only the so-called "match" was for a Canadian border crossing made five years before my mother was born. Admittedly, my mother was born in Maine, only a few miles from the Canadian border, but she certainly didn't cross the border five years before her birth! In fact, the crossing record turned out to be for her aunt, the woman for whom she was named!
The woman's married name was the same as my mother's maiden name. This was a record for my great-aunt. I had never seen that record before. I hadn't previously thought about searching for a border crossing record. Even though the match was for the wrong person, it turned out to be a valuable find.
The same search also produced a transcription of my mother's application for a Social Security Number, which I had seen before. For that record, I clicked on MERGE to combine the existing record in my database with the online record in Ancestry.com's online database. Both records are for the same person.
In the case of the border crossing for my great-aunt, I did not click MERGE as the two records are for different individuals. However, I later went to view the information for my great-aunt that I had imported via the GEDCOM file. Again, the same online Ancestry.com information appeared for the border crossing record. This time I clicked on MERGE to indicate that the two records were for the same person: my great-aunt.
When you merge information in Family Tree Maker, you are presented with four options. You can:
- Make the new information a "preferred" fact (the version of the facts you wish to display in views, charts, and reports)
- Make the new information an "alternate" fact (usually a conflicting or slightly different version of the same fact that you wish to maintain for reference)
- Choose to only add a source-citation (if the information is the same as your existing information and you wish to just add the source as supporting evidence - no alternate fact will be created)
- Choose to ignore the new information
Merging of data detected by any software program is never perfect and Family Tree Maker is no exception. For instance, the program examined my mother's death information as listed in the Social Security Death Index. It listed her place of death as the town and county in which she lived at the time. After all, that's where the Social Security Administration mailed the payment checks. However, I know that the town has no hospital. My mother actually died in a hospital 14 miles away, in another town, across the county line. I had entered the correct information into the genealogy program that later created the GEDCOM file used to created the Family Tree Maker database. Now Family Tree Maker displayed both "facts" on the screen and asked which one I wished to select. Obviously, I selected the record that I knew to be correct.
I also was pleasantly surprised that Family Tree Maker automatically appends a source citation to each record obtained from the Ancestry.com web site. In the case of the Social Security Death Index listing (which I elected to not use), the citation is as follows:
Ancestry.com, Social Security Death Index (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Number: 006-20-8928; Issue State: Maine; Issue Date: Before 1951. Record for Sadie Eastman.
Adding source citations to every imported record is a great feature. Unlike a couple of Windows genealogy programs, Family Tree Maker for Mac does not format its citations in the well-known formats defined by Elizabeth Shown Mills or even the by Chicago Manual of Style. The above example is for an online citation without a call number or shelf number or even a name of a repository, other than Ancestry.com, so I would expect the citation to be brief. However, even manually entering source citations does not provide any database fields for that information nor for "date examined" or even a street address for the repository. A knowledgeable genealogist can add all that information as free-form text but novice to intermediate users typically are not aware of the standards. The formatting and available database fields for source citations in Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 will not suffice for the experts.
Family Tree Maker also created a Source Citation Database that contains every source citation listed in my original GEDCOM file as well as all the new ones that I added from Ancestry.com. Not only can I search or browse all the source citations, I also can see where each citation is used.
Billions of historical records on Ancestry.com can be found, viewed and optionally imported directly into Family Tree Maker for Mac. Obviously, you will want to import information only after you have either (1.) verified it for accuracy or (2.) have labeled it as "a potential fact, needs to be proven" within the database. The program also provides Ancestry Hints linking you to historical records that might contain more information about people in your tree, such as census records, pension application files, and other records well-known to genealogists.
You can also upload your tree to Ancestry.com and connect with millions of other family historians across the world or import a tree you've created on Ancestry.com to Family Tree Maker for Mac.
Family Tree Maker for Macintosh will also search for information about any individual in the local database on Rootsweb.com, Genealogy.com, Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Bing.com. Each search must be performed individually; you cannot click just once to search all the web sites. However, each search requires only a few seconds to conduct so the process is completed quickly.
Next, I went looking for the elusive great-great-grandfather whose birth information I have never found. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com didn't have the information either. That was no surprise, as I check Ancestry.com every few months in the hope that something new has been added. In this case, the area showing potential records for great-great-granddad was blank. Oh well, maybe next year.
I started merging many records from Ancestry.com with records in my database created earlier from the GEDCOM file for all the records that matched information I already knew to be correct. Actually, I STARTED that process. It will require several evenings to complete the merging of the thousands of records found.
Next, I decided to let Family Tree Maker verify the place names in the database created from the GEDCOM file. The process turned out to be simple, although it will be a bit tedious to verify each and every one of the several thousand locations I already have in the database. To verify, I first click on PLACES to display a list of all the unique places in the database. If a particular place is used in five different records of individuals, that place is only displayed once. A small thumbnail from Microsoft Bing Maps is displayed, along with all the associated text information from the database and a list of all the individuals in the database that are attached to that location. I experimented by clicking on AERIAL to display an aerial photograph of the same location, apparently taken from a satellite. I wish I could go back in time and explain THAT feature to some of my ancestors!
Even more fun can be had by clicking on BIRDS EYE which displays a closeup of the neighborhood. The Bird's Eye view even displays automobiles traveling along the street at the time the satellite took the photo. Gee, I wish it would show horses and buggies from 100 years ago! Well, I suppose technology can't do everything.
I found that when I click on EXPAND, a list of all events in my local database that occurred at that location are displayed. I can also create my own place names, such as "Uncle Bob's Farm." I can also enter GPS coordinates.
Family Tree Maker will also display migration maps, including maps for individuals as well as maps for families. My family didn't seem to move around much, so the family maps didn't show much. However, I clicked on my own record and displayed the individual migration map for myself. Apparently I suffer from a major case of wanderlust, as shown on that map. I have records in the local database of having lived in six different states as well as in four different countries. The Migration Map shows the full story.
Family Tree Maker excels at multimedia items and at reports of all sorts. Of course, my new database created from a GEDCOM file didn't contain much in the way of multimedia, as GEDCOM doesn't support multimedia items very well. A couple of text files of obituaries were automatically imported but not much else. Of course, that's not a problem created by Family Tree Maker but by the lack of data fed to it by the GEDCOM file. Family Tree Maker cannot import information that is missing from the originating GEDCOM!
In fact, it is easy to add photographs, historical records and audio and video files to the database which can later be displayed on-screen with audio being played through the computer's speakers. The multimedia items can also be used in printed reports and books.
The tools built into Family Tree Maker for Mac allow to you scan images directly into your tree without leaving the program, assuming you have a scanner attached to the computer. You can even create slideshows.
Perhaps the greatest feature of all within Family Tree Maker for Mac is the variety of colorful family tree charts, including pedigree, descendant, bowtie and fan charts, among others. Many of the reports have custom templates to allow the user to customize layouts, fonts, picture sizes, colors, and more. You can add family pictures and backgrounds. One of my favorite features is a "To-Do List;" a report to help you plan what to research next. You can also combine charts, reports, timelines, photos and stories in a custom book.
The program will print to any printer supported by the Macintosh operating system. You can also print to PDF files, a great feature for "printing" large charts or specialized books. You can take the PDF file(s) to a commercial print shop for printing on their expensive printers.
I cannot begin to describe all the colorful reports available in this text. Instead, I will refer you to the program's web site for further information.
You can import existing genealogy data files directly into Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 from Family Tree Maker (for Windows) version 4 through Family Tree Maker 2006. To import files from Family Tree Maker 2008 or a newer version, you will need to use a Windows-based conversion tool included on the Family Tree Maker for Mac disk. It may seem strange to use a Windows-based tool to create a Macintosh database but I suspect that will not be a problem for anyone who has a Windows database. That person probably also has access to a Windows system.
Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 will also directly import GEDCOM files from other genealogy programs, whether they are Windows or Mac-based. No windows utilities are required for importing GEDCOM files. The following formats can be imported:
- Family Tree Maker for Mac – .ftmm
- Family Tree Maker versions 5-16 for Windows – .ftw or .fbk
- GEDCOM files from any genealogy program – usually .ged
The new Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 is based upon Family Tree Maker 2010 for Windows. The list of features in the Mac version is almost identical to that of the Windows version for 2010.
Notice that the new Mac version is based on 2010 for Windows, not the newer version 2011 for Windows. In other words, the new Mac version does not contain the new features added to the 2011 version of the Windows program. I am guessing that is because the new 2011 features were not defined and developed at the time that the new Macintosh version was being created. The Windows version obviously sells more copies, so I would expect Ancestry.com to add new features to the Windows version first, then add them to the Macintosh version six to twelve months later. Mac users may not appreciate being up to a year behind in the features list, but if I was managing the software development teams at Ancestry.com, I would probably do the same. Staggered development efforts appears to be the most logical manner of running the business.
Perhaps the best thing about Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 is also the most difficult to describe: ease of use. This program is super easy to use, even though I did refer to the printed users manual a number times to read about some of the more advanced features. Even when searching in the users manual, I was able to answer all questions within a minute or two by myself. This is an excellent program for genealogy novices as well as computer novices. The more advanced genealogists will appreciate the many available features.
Another feature that I like is strictly a personal preference: Family Tree Maker for Macintosh focuses on one person at a time. Some competitive programs insist on displaying information about couples, not about individuals. Want to add a sibling or a military record or a residence for one of the individuals? In some competitive programs, you need to start at a screen that shows both the male and female (who may or may not be married), then add a record to one of them. That process strikes me as non-intuitive.
When researching ancestry, I always think in terms of individuals. I research people, not couples. Therefore, I prefer a data entry screen that focuses on individuals, such as that used by Family Tree Maker for Macintosh. However, I recognize that not everyone will agree with me; some people prefer the display of couples on the screen.
The second CD-ROM disk contained in the box, Family History Toolkit for Family Tree Maker for Mac, contains a number of "ebooks," books in electronic format. You can read them on the computer's screen. The books include:
- Abbreviations and Acronyms: A Guide for Family Historians - a list and explanation of abbreviations and acronyms found in census schedules, soundex indexes, mortality schedules, court records, etc.
- Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary - Definitions of unusual terms, especially in cemetery, probate, court, medical, etc.
- Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places - An overview of sources that are often overlooked, where and how they can be found, etc.
- Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records - A guide to printed sources such as vital records, definitions and explanations ofÂ how to use them.
- The Official Guide to Ancestry.com - Become more proficient with searching the site. Explore obscure databases you didn't know existed. Create and develop your own family tree.
- The Official Guide to RootsWeb - How to use RootsWeb, and success stories of the RootsWeb Community
If you went out and purchased each of these books printed on paper, the total cost would probably be over $200. This bonus is not well advertised but I think it makes the purchase of Family Tree Maker very attractive for many genealogists.
Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OSX 10.5 or later. It also requires a CD-ROM drive for installation although that drive is not required after the installation is finished. If your Mac does not have a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, such as the MacBook Air, you should be able to copy the CD to a jump drive on some other computer and then install from that. Another possibility is to connect across your in-home network to the CD-ROM drive on some other computer, mount that CD to the Mac, and then install from the remote system.
Obviously, an Internet connection is required if you wish to use the online features. However, Family Tree Maker for Macintosh works independently of Ancestry.com's online databases. That is, you can use this program without online access although obviously you will not be able to import the data available online.
A complementary six-month subscription is included with the retail version of Family Tree Maker for Macintosh. After the complementary subscription has expired, subscriptions run $20 per month or $155 per year for US-based records, $30 per month or $300 per year for worldwide records. A 14-day free trial is also available with or without Family Tree Maker.
The Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 pricing is a bit complex as there are two different versions. The retail version is available from Amazon.com, Apple Stores, Office Depot, and Office Max and includes a 6-month subscription to parts of Ancestry.com. It also comes with the Family History Toolkit, which is a bonus disk with some ebooks and resources to read. The retail version has a retail price of $99.95 in the U.S., £59.99 in the U.K. Each retailer is free to discount the retail price so you might want to shop around.
In addition, Ancestry.com sells the program without the Family History Toolkit for $66.95.
I am impressed with Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010 and I plan to keep it and use it. In the past, I have used a Windows genealogy program running under VirtualBox, a virtual computer for Macintosh that can run Windows, Linux, UNIX and other operating systems on a Macintosh. While it worked well, I must say that it is nice to have a native Macintosh program that fully utilizes the Mac interface.
No program is perfect. There are individual bits and pieces of other genealogy programs that I like better than those of Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010. However, the new program includes most of the items I want:
- Source citations with tools to let you document and rate each citation.
- Photos, documents, audio, video and other media files organized in one location.
- Family books, charts and reports to share with friends and family.
- Timelines and interactive maps with family migration paths.
- Ease of use.
If you use a Mac, I suspect you will like Family Tree Maker for Macintosh Version 2010.
Many more details can be found on the Family Tree Maker web site at http://store.ancestry.com/ProductDetail.aspx?P=P-4845