05 March 2007

Improving Family Tree Maker

Do you use Family Tree Maker (FTM) to store and display your genealogical information? I do. I especially like FTM's easy interface with ancestry.com. When I last asked Global Genealogy Supply informed that FTM is still their best seller. They also sell Legacy and RootsMagic, both of which are gaining ground in the race for the hearts and minds of genealogists.

Some folks get quite passionate about the virtues of their chosen software. Others, while seeing things they like elsewhere, have a lot invested in the product they use and don't want to have to climb the learning curve that comes with a new product, or lose some of the data and attachments in their existing files. The concern, along with that of privacy, is equally valid for folks thinking of moving to the online environment with services such as My Ancestry.

If Family Tree Maker wants to maintain leadership here are my recommendations for improvements, some of which likely apply to the competitor products.

First, improve mapping capability. For the last several versions FTM has had a pathetic mapping capability. The company should look at Family Atlas, a product of RootsMagic. I'm a happy user. Dick Eastman has recently done a thorough review.

Second, improve the way of entering source citations. Early versions of FTM had no citation capability, and although recent versions have, I find the format impenetrable. What is needed is built in fill-in-the-box type citation formats for common genealogy sources, especially the censuses and civil registration records for the jurisdictions most FTM users are likely to encounter.

Third, capture the growing field of genetic genealogy by incorporating provision for DNA information. At present Legacy does, but with FTM the only option is to enter such data is in the free format notes section under the edit tab. It would be simple to include another element to record the various types of DNA data under the facts tab or in the medical section. Even better would be a provision to show "derived" DNA information for maternal ancestors and their descendants for mitrochrondrial DNA, and Y-DNA through paternal line ancestors and their male line descendants.

FTM usually releases a new version or update in the summer, in time of the BIFHSGO September conference, although I doubt that's their driving force! It will be interesting to see whether the company has a commitment to keeping their product up to date.

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