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Family Tree Maker 10.0 Review

Family Tree Maker 10.0
by Dick Eastman

Family Tree Maker for Windows has long been one of the most popular genealogy programs in the world. The program’s popularity is the result of several factors, including an excellent, easy-to-use interface. Genealogy novices and computer novices alike can start using this program almost immediately after installation. Family Tree Maker, often referred to as FTM, has always been intuitive as it leads the user through the process of searching for, finding, recording, and publishing one’s ancestry. The producing company, Genealogy.com, has also done a great job at marketing this program as it can be found on the shelves of almost every computer store and in mass market retail stores, such as BJ’s and CostCo. Earlier this year, Family Tree Maker received one of the Editors’ Choice awards from PC Magazine.

This week I had a chance to use the recently-released version 10.0 of Family Tree Maker, and I found that Genealogy.com has not tinkered with their formula for success. The program remains very easy to use. The latest version seems to be a modest upgrade from version 9.0. There are no radical changes. Instead, the programmers have "tweaked" and modified the program here and there to add several nice touches.

Installation of FTM 10 was as easy as the earlier versions: insert the CD-ROM disk into your computer, and then follow the on-screen instructions. The amount of disk space required is considerable. The user can select whether or not to install clip art, maps, or user’s manuals. If none of these options are installed, FTM 10 will require about 50 megabytes of disk space. If all of the options are installed, an additional 23 megabytes will be required. Those numbers do not include the database space required to store your data.

Only a few years ago, a requirement for 73 megabytes of disk space would have been outrageous. However, today you can buy brand-new PCs with 10 gigabyte hard drives for $199 plus monitor and operating system (from Wal-Mart’s Web site), less than the price of a 10 gigabyte drive alone just a few years ago. Today’s $500 desktop computers typically contain a 30-gigabye drive, and capacities increase with higher price tags. As a result, a requirement for 73 megabytes of storage space now sounds modest.

Once installed, FTM takes the user through an optional online registration process, then suggests entering 3 generations of data. I entered information about myself, my parents, and my grandparents. Family Tree Maker then suggested running a FamilyFinder search, which looks for matching information on the company’s Web site. That search found a number of possible matching entries and rated them by a series of "stars." Five stars indicated a very high probability of being the same person, while a lesser number of stars indicted less likely matches. In my case, I didn’t have any five-star matches, but the names of both my parents were shown with four stars each. In this case, the online records appeared to be my parents’ entries in the Social Security Death Index. When I clicked on either of their names, an advertisement appeared on the screen. The ad was for Genealogy.com’s CD-ROM version of the U.S. Social Security Death Index with a purchase price of $39.99.

Having manually entered information for a few people, I elected to import the remainder of my known ancestors from a GEDCOM file that I had created with another genealogy program. Family Tree Maker offers a number of options in the GEDCOM import. For this exercise I elected to import only direct ancestors and descendants, leaving out all the cousins, aunts, uncles, additional spouses, and so forth. However, there are numerous other options available, including the most obvious one of simply importing everyone. The import required less than a minute on my aging Windows 2000 system to complete.

With a couple thousand people in the database, I found that navigation of Family Tree Maker is easy and logical. All information about individuals is displayed on the screen as a "tabbed notebook." Information about one couple is displayed on the screen, with tabs to the right listing parents and children. Clicking on a named tab results in that person’s data being displayed on the screen. The primary screen shows one couple, including dates and places of birth, marriage, death, and burial. Other icons on the screen provide quick access to additional data, including any other spouses, biographical information entered into the database, mailing and e-mail addresses for living individuals, medical information, additional lineage information (adopted, step child, etc.), a multimedia scrapbook, and more. Other screens available display pedigree charts in a number of formats as well as several versions of descendant charts.

I doubt if the newcomer will have any difficulty using these features. Genealogy.com obviously has spent a lot of time and effort in making each screen as intuitive as possible. The user’s manual is on disk, not printed, but I bet most users will not refer to the manual often. The program seems to work quickly. Information seemed to be displayed almost instantly on my 600 MHz. Pentium III system.

One of Family Tree Maker’s major strengths has always been the nice-looking printed reports and charts. One that I like is the "All In One Tree." This shows all the ancestors and descendants of any one individual as a large chart. Most people will print these charts on a regular printer and then tape the pages together. Depending upon how many people are in your database, this could cover a very large wall! In my case, the output would fill 378 pages of paper. Luckily, this report may be customized in many different ways by selecting various options available. When I elected to only show five generations of ancestors, the amount of paper required dropped to 45 pages. Specifying three generations reduced the requirement to 12 printed pages. I could have selected smaller fonts or other options to compress it still further. You can view an example of an "All In One Tree," as well as examples of other printed reports and charts.

I went back and ran the online FamilyFinder search again, this time looking for information about all of my known ancestors, not just the last two generations as I had done earlier. This time I received many "hits." The list included many rated as "Five Stars," very high likelihood of being the same person as the one in my database. The data came from Genealogy.com’s World Family Tree project of data submitted by other customers, U.S. Census records, passenger and immigration list indexes on CD-ROM and other sources. Many of these items are available for an extra fee. However, Genealogy.com also offers optional "bundles" that include the Family Tree Maker software as well as 3-month subscriptions to Genealogy Library, International and Passenger Records, World Family Tree, and the 1900 Census. Pricing information for these bundles is given later in this article.

Family Tree Maker is tightly integrated with Genealogy.com’s Web site and CD-ROM disks. In many cases, the program will either go to the Web to find information or display references to CD-ROM disks. The user can purchase Web access or the appropriate CD. The data will then be read and displayed within Family Tree Maker.

Family Tree Maker users will enjoy the ease of publishing their genealogy information on the Web. The software has numerous options to control the data made available and the formatting. One option is to hide any information on living individuals. Another is to include pictures. You can see many examples of how others have done this by looking at Family Home Pages.

The information is then uploaded to Genealogy.com’s Web servers. In fact, there is no option to create Web pages for your personal Web page on another server; you can only upload to Genealogy.com. The program will not create standard HTML pages to be uploaded to any other Web site.

Before uploading, a screen appears with a lot of legal boilerplate information. Among other things, it says:

By creating a User Home Page, whether through the Family Tree Maker software or through the Family Tree Maker Web site, you acknowledge and agree that all or part of a User Home Page you put together, including any family tree information, may become part of an online archive that other users of Genealogy.com’s products or services can access, view and search. Such content may also become part of a database that may be reproduced by Genealogy.com in any format, in whole or in part, including without limitation in an electronic storage format, such as CD-ROM or DVD or an online subscription, for distribution, sale, or any other purpose.

I will skip a few lines, but near the end of the user agreement I did note the following:

By creating a User Home Page, you grant Genealogy.com and its affiliated companies a royalty free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, transferable, worldwide license to use, copy, sublicense, adapt, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, archive, and display any such User Home Page (or part thereof) in any medium now known or hereafter developed.

In other words, when you agree to the user agreement, you expressly give the company permission to repackage your information and to sell it as they wish. If you are not comfortable with the legal stipulations, I would suggest that you not upload your data. I did not upload mine.

Users of the earlier version 9 of Family Tree Maker will want to note the new additions found in version 10:

  • Output to PDF - You can create reports in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format and then send them to your family via email, to a printing service, or upload them to your personal home page. PDF reports could be uploaded to any home page; they are not restricted to Genealogy.com’s servers. PDF allows anyone who uses Adobe’s free Acrobat Viewer to view your family trees and read the family reports that you have created.
  • Output your report to RTF - this new feature allows you to customize your reports. You export them to RTF format files and make all the changes that you want by using your favorite word processor. Most modern word processors can read and write RTF files.
  • Standard Pedigree Tree - print a blank copy and take it with you to your next family gathering or to the library so you can fill in the family facts that you discover.
  • Family Tree Templates - create printouts using pre-defined formats for your trees and reports. These professionally designed templates add elegance for those of us who are "graphically challenged." Select the template you want and Family Tree Maker applies it automatically to your tree. You can see one example of these templates here. Notice the tree in the background. Printed reports on your color printer will look essentially the same as this screenshot.
  • Date Calculator - easily calculate your ancestor’s birth date. Simply enter the information you know, such as marriage, death, or other event, and Family Tree Maker automatically calculates the date for you. Plus, you can calculate the age of your family members at any given event, such as age at death if birth and death date are known, see the day of the week at any given date, or view an individual’s age in years, months, and days.
  • Enhanced photo editing - preserve your valuable family photos and images with additional photo enhancing capabilities, from removing red eye to adjusting color.
  • Family File Statistics - view information on your family file at a glance, such as the number of generations or the average life span within your file.

Family Tree maker has one feature that I especially like: a Family Map that shows the locations of significant events in your ancestry. The end result is an excellent representation of the migration patterns of one’s ancestors. Actually, the maps have been in the program for a while, but I always use this feature every time I get to review a new release. The default is to show the places of birth of all the individuals in the database. However, there are a number of options, including the ability to include places of marriage or death or any of the other event types available in the database. The user also can select only specific individuals’ data to be displayed. FTM includes maps of North America, Europe, and the world. In my case, my ancestors for the past few generations all lived within a few hundred miles of one another. I was able to "zoom in" and show a map of just that area with the appropriate datapoints displayed. To the left of the map is a list of the people whose information is displayed. The maps can be printed in color or black and white, as well as saved as a PDF file. You can see a small image of one such map here: Family Map.

Describing all of the other features available in this easy-to-use program would require several newsletters. Instead, I will refer you to Genealogy.com’s list of Family Tree Maker features.

Family Tree Maker has been America's #1-selling family tree program for a number of years. I suspect that Version 10 will continue to earn that popularity. It is easy to use, produces gorgeous charts, and is tightly integrated with the Web.

Family Tree Maker version 10 is available in a number of "bundles":

  • The program alone has a retail price of $29.99.
  • The Family Tree Maker Data Sampler includes the software program plus a 3-month subscription to Genealogy Library for $49.99.
  • The Family Tree Maker Basics Bundle includes the software program and Genealogy.com’s official how-to book and video for $59.99.
  • The Family Tree Maker Researcher's Kit includes the software program plus 3-month subscriptions to both the Genealogy Library and the World Family Tree for $69.99.
  • The Family Tree Maker Ultimate Data Kit includes the software program plus 3-month subscriptions to Genealogy Library, International & Passenger Records, World Family Tree, and the 1900 Census for $99.99.
  • The program is also available in retail stores with several "bundles" of CD-ROM data disks at various prices.

All prices are in U.S. dollars. Many retail outlets will sell the program at a discount from the above prices. Family Tree Maker also has a money back guarantee in case you are not satisfied with this user-friendly software.

Family Tree Maker 10.0

 Related Reviews    Related Resources
• Ancestral Quest
• Generations
• Legacy Family Tree
• RootsMagic
• The Master Genealogist - TMG

• One Stop Guide to Genealogy Software
• GEDCOM 101
• Top Five Genealogy Programs for Beginners
• Genealogy Software Reviews & Ratings
• The Humble Beginnings of Genealogy Software

URL: http://genealogy.about.com/library/reviews/aafpr_ftm.htm
Article from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is ©2002 by Richard W. Eastman.
 Re-published here with the permission of the author.

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