Family Tree Maker for Mac
Victorian GUM Inc, www.vicgum.asn.au/software
Ease of use; better price than Mac App Store
Ancestry.com.au automatic renewal
RRP $99.95 (book $40)
I’m a great believer in finding out where we came from, as I think that everything our ancestors did sends ripples into our own lives. As I kid I loved being regaled by stories from my family history – Scottish warriors, architects to the king of Siam, Boer War soldiers and even one mob declaring themselves kings of the Cocos Islands.
Now my daughters are finding themselves fascinated by these stories – and we’re finding even more out through the excellent Family Tree Maker for Mac genealogy software.
It’s a database program that you use to enter your own family records as far as you can stretch and that integrates with extensive online databases such as parish records to help you get even further back.
When you first launch the software, it will ask to create an Ancestry.com.au account, if you don’t have one already, to activate the free six-month Australian Plus membership and to enable access to the website’s online databases through Family Tree Maker. (The software tells you you’re getting UK Heritage Plus, but this changed to Australian Plus when I signed up.)
As part of the process you’re obliged to provide your credit card details. This is because Ancestry.com. au has an automatic renewal system which it’s up to you to cancel. This is the opposite of what it should be.
The interface is intuitive to use. You begin by creating a Home Person (yourself, though this can be changed), entering your name, and date and place of birth.
This begins your tree, with ancestral branches stretching out to the right. Clicking Add Father or Add Mother brings up a dialogue box for the name and sex of the person. This creates an editing panel for that person, where you enter dates and places of birth and death, add media such as photographs, videos and documents, write notes on him or her, and add tasks for yourself. This is also where you add spouses and children, which add new branches of their own.
When you enter a name that Ancestry.com.au has records of, a small green leaf appears in the corner of the nameplate. Clicking on this brings up a list of possible matches. If any of these match your ancestor, you can choose to merge the information with the family tree you’re creating. The program also integrates with rootsweb.com and genealogy.com.
It really is straightforward … but you’re only scratching the surface at this stage. From here you can refine your information, invite other family members to participate, view existing trees, print charts, see your family’s migration on a map and more.
The learning curve gets steeper at this stage, but Ancestry.com also publishes the Companion Guide to Family Tree Maker for Mac, a book which tells you all you need to know in an easy-to-understand format. It’s well worth buying for $40 if you want to make the most of the software.
If you need more help or advice on genealogy, the distributors of this software, Victorian GUM (Genealogists Using Microcomputers) Inc is an association of family history researchers with members around Australia. See www.vicgum.asn.au.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
This is an excellent genealogy application. It’s geared towards those with Anglo-Saxon and Irish heritage, but there are plenty of options in the 30,140 online databases, including records from Italy, Russia and the US. Vic GUM is selling it for $99.95, which is $20 cheaper than the Mac App Store’s $119.99.