In a world where even Microsoft Word finally looks like someone bothered to design it, family tree programs have suffered under sinfully ugly interfaces. This, combined with the fact that they typically shipped with CDs stuffed full of irrelevant records (if you’re researching your Scottish father, all that American Civil War info isn’t much use), led to the rise of Internet-only offerings which have a lighter footprint and access to more useful records.
It’s a small pleasure to report, then, that Family Tree Maker 2010 Platinum Edition (hereafter just plain FTM) takes considerable strides to join the rest of us in the 21st century courtesy of a modern interface with subtle graphics, bright, purposeful icons and far better integration with Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) a key player in the online genealogy stakes which has access to 820 million records and counting. It turns out that the combination of a proper, modern desktop app and an ever-growing online database is a winning one.
Amateur genealogists tend to be gung-ho, but that enthusiasm can dim quickly when faced with the enormity of the task ahead; good job then that the first thing FTM does is ask for your name and the names of your parents before offering to search the Ancestry web site for relevant records. Naturally, this requires a subscription but the software includes a free six-month ‘Essentials’ membership so you can try it out. Just remember to cancel the credit card subscription if you don’t want to continue after that.
There are several significant new features in version 10 that will make a difference to family tree makers, including: tighter integration with the Ancestry web site (including the ability to download trees created using the web service) and much better all-round performance, direct support for scanners (hard to believe it’s taken this long) genealogy ‘books’ (PDFs which mimic the presentation of a real book) the ability to create slideshows based on tree information, and a new ‘person’ view which makes it easier to see where an individual fits in the context of the entire family tree.
There’s also a snazzy ‘source template’ feature which lets you load a specific layout for different kinds of source material – for example church records or national government records – and a spell checker that looks across the whole tree, including notes and tasks; and we loved the migration paths feature which lets you track the movements of family members over time using an annotated map.
Make no mistake, though: despite all the online information and some surprisingly helpful written documentation (we especially like the Little Book of Answers which is spot-on for perennial bugbears like adoption, divorce and multiple spouses), researching your family tree is like nothing you’ve ever done before, and nothing like the TV shows which have teams of researchers to do all the work. It’s frustrating, time-consuming and complicated but there are currently few ways to do it more comfortably than with Family Tree Maker.
Contact: 01962 835053