Genealogy programs are essentially databases – except instead of filling in electronic forms that describe customers or inventory items, you’re filling in the details of your extended family.
Form filling is the most tedious part of genealogy so Family Tree Maker works hard to make it easy by integrating the program with the 850m records on the Ancestry website.
It also makes the results attractive with maps, timelines and charts.
The 2021 version has an improved interface making it easier to add media files such as documents, photos and videos to your tree, by widening the number of available chart types for tracking factors such as location, migration and more.
It’s also made the page designs and templates used by the ‘smart stories’ feature much slicker, so any kind of information can be pulled from anywhere in the tree and used to create the tale of someone’s life.
How to synchronise this family tree with stories?
This tree information is also synchronised with all the stories, so on amending a fact in the tree – perhaps a date of birth or marriage – the change ripples out automatically to every story that uses the date.
The other major new feature that reflects the changing way modern families work is the ‘blended view’ which makes it easier to visualise and work with combined, step- and adopted families.
Just as significantly, the 2021 edition marks the first time users can create family trees, upload them to the Ancestry website and synchronise them so that any changes made in the program are reflected on the site and vice versa.
Then there are the free apps for the iPhone and iPad, so at last you can make some simple changes on the fly while you’re out and about (for example when researching in a library or county records office) and have them synchronise across all your devices.
These are the sorts of additions that will make a real difference (an Android version is being ‘considered’).
The new version also includes the kind of extras that Family Tree Maker has always done well, including a 370-page printed companion that talks good sense about genealogy in general and walks users through the program’s main features.
An included six-month premium subscription to Ancestry.co.uk is worth about £80 and if you already have a subscription, the additional months will be tacked onto the end.
Family Tree Maker made its name by being approachable enough for casual users but powerful enough for people who wanted to dig deeper.
By managing the complexities of modern family life and synchronising with the Ancestry website and popular mobile devices it continues to be fit both bills and is recommended. At the time of writing it’s available online for a bargain £30.