April 2012 Toolkit: Family Tree Maker 2012 Review

By Rick Crume Premium

* NOTE: Ancestry.com has announced that Family Tree Maker will no longer be available after 2015, and support will end Jan. 1, 2017.

  • Price: $39.99; includes two-week subscription to Ancestry.com US Deluxe collection. You can install two copies of the program on computers within the same household.
  • Manufacturer: Ancestry.com, (800) 262-3787
  • System requirements: Windows XP or newer. A Mac version has similar features.
  • Demo/trial version: None
  • Biggest draws: Wall charts, searching Ancestry.com, synchronizing online and offline family trees
  • Drawbacks: GEDCOM file sharing, documenting sources, book publishing

Ease of use

Family Tree Maker 2012 comes with a 397-page PDF guide. The online Learning Center has tutorials, a quick-start guide and a knowledge base. Free tech support is available via email and a toll-free phone number. The program is generally easy to use, though chart templates are hard to find and documenting sources is easier in other programs.

File management

TreeSync, the most important new feature, synchronizes your tree between Family Tree Maker and an Ancestry Member Tree. Syncing lets you take advantage of all Family Tree Maker’s features, such as charting and reporting, while making your updated tree accessible online.

To create a linked tree, upload a file from Family Tree Maker 2012 to Ancestry.com, or download a Member Tree from Ancestry.com to the software. You can’t link an existing tree in Family Tree Maker 2012 with an existing Member Tree. You can set up file syncing to occur manually or automatically.

Once you’ve created a linked tree, you can edit your family file in Family Tree Maker 2012 or in your Ancestry Member Tree. Changes made in either tree are reflected in the other one.

Sharing your Family Tree Maker family file with other researchers is problematic. Family Tree Maker-created GEDCOM files don’t include links to pictures. When exporting your tree, it’s hard to specify the number of generations of a person’s descendants to include. (Click here for instructions.)

Charts and multimedia

Family Tree Maker 2012 creates outstanding wall charts, including customizable hourglass, bow-tie and fan charts. It brings back options last seen in Family Tree Maker 16 (released in 2006), including direct-line descendant charts. They’re useful, but each person’s box is only 1 inch wide in Book layout. Charts can again include generation labels, such as Parents or Grandparents.

Documentation and publication

Family Tree Maker 2012 has templates for documenting many source types, with some shortcomings. You can’t italicize titles; citations in files imported from other programs have extra characters around words that should be italicized. Citations for data downloaded from a Member Tree credit Ancestry.com, not the tree owner.

Research reports could be improved. Facts on a family group sheet would be more useful listed chronologically instead of alphabetically. An Ancestral Family Book saved as a PDF or RTF file can’t include source references. Once you save a book-format report (a “Genealogy Report”) as an RTF, you can’t edit it in a word processor without messing up the index. It’s easy to publish your tree on Ancestry.com, where it’s accessible to Ancestry subscribers and people you invite, but you can’t create reports for your own website.


You can search your family file for a term anywhere in facts, notes, sources, media and tasks. Family Tree Maker simplifies searching records on Ancestry.com. (You need a subscription to access most databases.) The program automatically searches Ancestry.com, and a waving leaf beside a name in your tree indicates a match.

The verdict

Family Tree Maker 2012 offers cutting-edge features, such as online syncing and searching, and it’s useful for searching Ancestry.com and creating wall charts. Yet the program still lacks many mundane, but important, capabilities that have been standard in other programs for years.


From the March/April 2012 Family Tree Magazine