Family Tree Maker Secrets

By Melanie Rigney Premium

The more you learn about your family tree, the harder it is to keep the roots straight. Be thankful we live in an age where you can use software to track what you find in vital records, hear from Great-Aunt Julia, and need to search on your next trip online or to the Family History Center. The Microsoft of genealogy software is Family Tree Maker <>, which upgraded to version 6.0 for Windows in early 1999. The Learning Company, which now owns FTM, says more than 2 million people have bought the software. Major improvements with the latest revision include an expanded toolbar, a tree format capable of displaying everyone in your file, and a side toolbar for more convenient formatting. It’s a powerful program-especially if you know the tips and tricks to get the most out of it.


1. Design your own Toolbar — The first change FTM veterans will notice is that the Toolbar buttons are smaller, but that there are more of them. Play around with them; decide which you want and which you don’t. To change the order or remove buttons, go to FILE>PREFERENCES>TOOLBAR. To add or remove a button, highlight it with your cursor, then hit the appropriate arrow in the center. To change the order, highlight a button, then click MOVE UP or MOVE DOWN until the button is where you want it. Hit OK to save your changes, or CANCEL to say “never mind”; DEFAULT puts everything back the way it was right out of the box.

2. Browse by buttons — The new Go FORWARD and Go BACK buttons in version 6.0 work just like in your Web browser. You can navigate with these whether you’re working within a single area (Index of Individuals, for example) or across several functions (Index to Ancestor Tree to Outline Descendant Tree, for example).

3. Discover disk goodies — FTM 6.0 includes an updated FamilyFinder Index of about 200 million names. It’s a virtual certainty you’ve got a relative on these disks (surnames A-F are on the program and ClickArt disk, G-N on disk two and O-Z on disk three). Start typing on the SCROLL TO NAME line; it helps to check the estimated date range and location. When you find someone who might be a match, note the archive type in which the person is listed. The Learning Company sells CDs carrying all information on the listings, which can be ordered by phone (800-315-0672) or online.

4. Display everybody — If you ever feel stuck, running your own All-in-One Tree (with the new ALL-IN-ONE toolbar key) can make you realize how far you’ve come. When my sister and I began researching our family in 1990, we didn’t know the names of most of our grandparents’ siblings. Today, we have more than 900 people in our tree representing 17 generations, and All-in-One lets us display all of them. You can pick the background color, the information displayed, the font and type size, the border presentation, number of generations displayed and more with the Side Toolbar (see tip #7) or the Contents and Format menus. With limited generations selected, this display differs from the Hourglass Tree (tip #14) in that everyone who links into any ancestor or descendant included will be shown.

5. Get a vertical view — With the new Vertical Ancestor Tree (ANCESTOR TREE KEY>VERTICAL), the idea is that your family tree looks more like, well, a tree, with ancestors branching out above you rather than the traditional chart that runs ancestors to your right. The Side Toolbar or Contents and Format menus let you control type, background color and other preferences.

6. Protect your privacy — New in FTM 6.0, Privatize (FILE> PREFERENCES> PRIVATIZE) lets you hide the information of living family members before you put it on the Web, contribute to FTM’s World Family Tree or pass on files to shirt-tail relatives. The yellow background of FTM turns green, and data on living relatives is replaced with the word “private.” To switch back, go to FILE>PREFERENCES>PRIVATIZE and uncheck the box.

7. Tap the Side Toolbar — This 6.0 feature appears when you press one of the many tree or report-generating keys. The Side Toolbar lets you specify information to be included such as number of generations to be displayed; box, border and line preferences; and font size, color and typeface. You can zoom in or out, or select other format and information options. You can do these things elsewhere in FTM (generally under the CONTENTS, FORMAT or FILE menu), but it’s nice to have them all in one place.

8. List names your way – The new Index of Individuals Options (TOOLBAR) lets you choose to display a person’s nickname either as an additional entry or after the middle name. Or you can display the women in your tree by their husbands’ last names, using maiden names as middle names.

9. Play it by ear — FTM 6.0’s Soundex Calculator (PEOPLE>SOUNDEX CALCULATOR) assigns numbers to names based on their sounds. For example, Smith, Smythe and Schmidt all are S530 in the Soundex system. Figuring out your Soundex numbers in advance gives you that much more time to concentrate on your research.

10. Keep cousins clear – Yes, the day will come when you can’t remember whether someone is your first cousin twice removed or your second cousin once removed (and there is a difference). Version 6.0’s Relationship Calculator (PEOPLE>RELATIONSHIP CALCULATOR) will tell you what, if any, direct relationship there is between any two people in your records.

11. Highlight specific relationships — If you want to be clear on the relationship between two people and knowing that they’re third cousins doesn’t explain it, FTM 6.0 can highlight their link on any tree (FORMAT>BOX, LINE AND BORDER STYLES>LINES). Check the appropriate box, then select the people in the tree. Pick a color that will contrast from your basic line color (tip #18).

12. Track the time The Date and Time Stamp option (when generating reports, family group sheets and genealogy reports, CONTENTS>TITLE & FOOTNOTE) numbers pages and adds the date and time the report was printed.


13. Personalize how you work – Under Preferences (FILE>PREFERENCES), Startup lets you decide whether you want to be in insert or overtype mode, and whether you want to automatically back up your files. Other options here let you pick how you want dates and measures displayed, error checking preferences (tip #31) and more.

14. Get an hourglass figure – Just as the sand goes to the bottom of the hourglass, so the Hourglass Tree option (HOURGLASS TREE KEY) emphasizes descendants rather than ancestors. You’ll get only parents, grandparents, etc. as ancestors, not their siblings, whereas everyone in future generations will be listed.

15. Focus on descendants– The DescendantTree (DESCENDANT TREE KEY) displays no ancestors, but all cousins and their kids.

16. Table it – The Outline Descendant Tree (OUTLINE DESCENDANT TREE KEY) is similar to Descendant Tree, but the results are produced in tabular rather than tree form.

17. Tell a story– The Genealogy Report (GENEALOGY REPORT KEY) presentation gives you more of a narrative. The selected individual is generation No. 1; the narrative begins with his or her birth and death information, followed by that of the spouse. Their children’s birth and death information follows, then information about each child’s spouse and children in generation No. 2 and so on. Further information can be added by going to CONTENTS>OPTIONS.

18. Pick your colors — Get rid of the default deep blue-green background for your trees, which makes text difficult to read, by hitting the STYLES key on the Side Toolbar (in FTM 6.0; it looks like a pencil). Go to Borders, then tab down on Background Colors. Otherwise, go to FORMAT>BOX, LINE AND BORDER STYLES>BORDERS. Another FTM 6.0 upgrade: You now have 40 rather than 16 colors to pick from.


19. Make the most of the FamilyFinder Index — When you use the index, you’ll see a button labeled SEARCH EXPERT. If the name you’re researching is relatively common, this is a good way to find likely matches. You then select whether to search for someone in your Family File. Search Expert puts a magnifying glass on your best matches. (With or without Search Expert, be sure to also check for the person’s last name and first initial, not just the complete first name.)

20. Track to-dos — The Research Journal (TOOLBAR) lets you make to-do lists of questions that occur to you as you go, and rank them by importance. Sure beats having a pile of paper to decipher before your next day at the library or Family History Center.

21. Learn how-to — To tap FTM’s Genealogy How-To Guide, you’ll need to have a CD from the latest version of your software loaded (the documentation says it must be the installation program CD, but that’s not the case with 6.0). It includes advice and tips on how to collect information, how to organize it, and how to find missing data. Even if you don’t have the program, you can access this guide on the FTM Web site under Genealogy Help.

22. Discover resources — The Genealogy Research Directory (in FTM 6.0, HELP>GENEALOGY HOW-TO GUIDE >GENEALOCY RESEARCH DIRECTORY) is a collection of national, local, international, religious and ethnic resources; information about computer-assisted genealogy; plus a bibliography.

23. Translate terms — Not sure what an Ahnentafel number is, or the difference between banns and marriage bonds? Define your terms with the How-To Guide’s Dictionary section (in FTM 6.0, HELP>CENEALOCY How-To GUIDE>DICTIONARY).

24. Write letters — This is a very neat addition online (from FTM 6.0, INTERNET>-CREATE A LETTER or HELP>GENEALOCY HOW-TO GUIDE>FORM LETTERS AND OTHER AIDS): form letters in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian for seeking information from a relative or an agency.

25. Search the Web — FTM will search the Internet along with its CDs for information on any or all of the individuals in your file. To create a FamilyFinder Report, go to VIEW>RE-SEARCH JOURNAL; under the Edit menu, select CREATE NEW FAMILYFINDER REPORT (or, if you already have one, select UPDATE FAMILYFINDER REPORT). While the report is being compiled, you can use your browser for other purposes. Matches are ranked from one to five stars; your best bet is five stars, and you have the option of viewing only four- and five-star matches (CONTENTS>ITEMS TO DISPLAY). The Individuals in Your Family Tree lines will list one person’s name and indicate how many others appear at the Internet site or on the CD; click on the envelope to see the names of the others. To connect to the site, click on the appropriate line under POSSIBLE MATCHES.

26. Eliminate false high matches — If you’re doing a FamilyFinder Report for ancestors on your mother’s side and you previously searched for people on your father’s side and there’s no way those particular individuals could be related until your parents married, you’ll get false high marks. That happens even if you haven’t specified that those in the previous search be included this time. To eliminate previous matches, you must exit the Research Journal and press CONTROL + ALT + SHIFT + DOWN ARROW.

27. Contact a World Family Tree contributor – If you’ve bought a CD or 20 from the Learning Company and it seems someone else is working your line, the Learning Company will put you in touch with that person (INTERNET>CONTACT A WFT CONTRIBUTOR). The connection to this Web site asks for the file number on the CD and other information.


28. Master the Family Page Any time you enter data on an individual, you must go to his or her Family Page (TOOLBAR), the nerve center for each person in your database. Here’s where you’ll enter birth, death and marriage dates and locations; the spouse or spouses’ birth and death dates; and any children from any kind of relationship, their gender and birth dates. The SPOUSES button for each person will tell you whether they had one or more marriage or significant relationship, and you can select which will be the primary relationship. Relevant photos and objects can be included in individual scrapbooks accessible from this page.

29. Add info on individuals — Clicking MORE on an individual’s Family Page gives you five options for recording additional information. The Facts area has a pulldown menu for everything from the date of adoption to the will. The Address option probably has more application for your living relatives; enter their mailing address and phone number. The Medical area has space for height, weight, cause of death and other information. Lineage lets you enter titles, nicknames and, if necessary, correct the relationship between the individual and the people you’ve listed as his or her parents (see #34). The Notes space is for anything you want.

30. Reveal your sources — If you’re at all serious about this hobby, you’ll want to keep track of sources, even for information as simple as a birth or record date. To show the Sources dialog box, press CONTROL + S. Enter the title of the source, be it a book, official record, tombstone, magazine, interview or map. It’s possible you’ll use a single document many times — records of Revolutionary War or Civil War veterans, for example. Just be sure you always cite the appropriate page for this particular fact. In such a case, you may wish to add the source to your list of Master Sources (EDIT>MASTER SOURCES) first, then select it for each appropriate person and add the relevant page number.

31. Avoid errors – Go to FILE>PREFERENCES>ERROR CHECKING. Depending on what you select, FTM will let you know if it appears you’re making an error as you enter names or birth, marriage or death dates. For example, it’s unlikely that one of your ancestors married before the age of 10 or died at 125. Double-check your data, and if it does indeed appear correct a female ancestor had a child at 51, go ahead and enter it. However, you may want to enter a note in the Lineage field (see #29) about this, or add it to your list in your Research Journal (#20).

32. Check for errors already entered – From any Family Page, go to EDIT and click FIND ERROR. You can choose to Ignore Error; correct it, or move on to the next item. For more checking, select the Report Toolbar button, then use FORMAT>DATA ERROR via either the Menu bar or the Side Toolbar. If you entered people’s nicknames as part of the name field in pre-FTM 5.0, they will show up as errors here. (Fix by moving the information to the Lineage field.) You also may turn up some mysteries: Running such a check was the first time I realized my ancestry contained two John Brooks, both born about 1628. One is the father of Sarah Brooks, born in 1661 in New Haven, Conn., one of my eighth-great-grandmothers; the other is the father of Mary Brooks, born in 1654 in New Haven and one of my ninth-great-grandmothers. Are Sarah and Mary sisters? That’s now a task in my Research Journal.

33. Save on typing – Fastfields (FILE>PREFERENCES>FASTFIELDS) is especially helpful when you’re beginning research or adding a significant amount of data from another source. Fastfields remembers the last 50 words entered in a variety of fields, and helps you by completing the word.

34. Enter adopted children, stepchildren and others — The era of blended families means it’s harder to keep track of relationships. You can define each child’s relationships with individuals by clicking on the MORE tab on their page, then selecting the Lineage field. Parental relationships can be defined as natural, adoptive, step, unknown, foster, family member or private. The same individual can be entered on pages where he or she is a natural child and where he or she is a stepchild. You can exclude the relationship from Trees and Kinship reports — just check the box. When printing trees, FTM 6.0 gives you the option of putting a dotted line around non-natural parent/child relationships (FORMAT>BOX, LINE AND BORDER STYLES>LINES; check the box).

35. Handle spouseless relationships — FTM’s recommendation is that you leave blank the space where the spouse’s name would be. Children still can be entered. The name of the person in the relationship can be added in the Notes or Lineage field (click MORE) on the individual’s Family Page.

36. Start a Scrapbook — You can create a Scrapbook (TOOLBAR or SCRAPBOOK keys on Family Pages) of photos, sounds or documents for anyone in your tree, or a special marriage scrapbook for any couple. Hit the SCRAPBOOK toolbar key after entering the Family Page for your selected person or hit SCRAPBOOK by his or her name on the Family Page. The icon will be a closed scrapbook with an S on the cover if you haven’t created one; if one exists, the icon will appear slightly open. To add a picture or object, click on the desired spot, then indicate what you’re adding — a picture, sound clip, video clip, word processing document, etc. — and other relevant information, such as a caption. Then go to the PICTURE/OBJECT menu and select PhotoCD picture, regular picture or object. Under each of those selections, you’ll have a number of options. For example, under PICTURE, you’ll select one of several ways you saved your scanned photo. (I suggest saving as a bitmap, or .bmp; FTM doesn’t support photos saved as GIF files, though it’s simple to open such a photo, hit SAVE As and save as a bitmap.) For photos, FTM lets you crop, rotate, mirror or flip the image. Once a photo is in a Scrapbook, simply double-click on the image to enlarge the view.

37. Use LDS labels — FTM is sensitive to the special records needs of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members. Under FILE>PREFERENCES>LABELS, you can choose to use LDS labels on Family Group Sheets. If you do so, some field labels and the Family Group Sheet change to conform to LDS standards. For example, the group sheet’s name changes to Family Group Record; five of the comment/location fields in the Facts box change to Baptism, Endowment, Christened, Buried and Seal to Parents.


38. Print a batch — If you’re going to do research without access to FTM, Family Pages are a handy way to mark up what you’re seeking on the trip — a marriage date here, a birth location there. Printing those pages in a batch (FILE>BATCH PRINT FAMILY PAGE) for two or three consecutive generations provides a road map and a place to record what you’ve found. Jot down on the back any intriguing comments in the records or questions that arise, then enter them into the Family Page or your Research Journal when you get home.

39. Select what you share – Being the unofficial genealogist for your far-flung family inevitably will result in relatives’ requests for a list of their ancestors. Unless those relatives are your brothers and sisters, not all of your ancestors will be theirs. The Book function (TOOLBAR) provides a classy way to meet those requests: Select the ancestor/descendant tree types you desire along with other reports, groups, work sheets and calendars you want. New with FTM 6.0 is the ability to leave blank numbered pages for the addition of other items (perhaps a wedding invitation or birth announcement). FTM 6.0 also lets you control where pages will break.

40. Create a calendar – Rather than transferring birthday notes from your address book or other file every year, generate a birthday and/or anniversary calendar (TOOLBAR>CALENDAR) for selected relatives.

41. Make labels — FTM’s labels feature (VIEW> LABELS/CARDS) is a great way to make sure you mail everyone information about that big family reunion you want them to help organize. FTM takes the address information you’ve entered on Family Pages and converts it to address-label format. You can select just part of the family or everyone for whom you have an address.

42. Build a timeline — The Timeline tool (TOOLBAR) helps you understand what influenced your ancestors’ worlds. Using the Side Toolbar or the Contents and Format menus, select whom you want in the timeline — everyone in your tree, one individual or somewhere in-between. You can select the number of years per inch, amount of information to list on individuals, and the type of historical data to use as reference points. Using either the SIDE TOOLBAR>FORMAT or the menu FORMAT>TIMELINE FORMAT, click on CHOOSE under DISPLAY: Options include Art, Asia, Economics, Europe, Military, Politics, Religion, Technology, United States and World. You can also omit historical events, to easily see how several individuals’ lives overlapped.


43. Check on kin — The Kinship Report (VIEW>KINSHIP REPORT; FORMAT>REPORT FORMAT>KINSHIP — CANON AND CIVIL OR KINSHIP — RELATIONSHIP ONLY; also accessible via SIDE TOOLBAR FORMAT key) displays the relationship of everyone else in your records to a single person.

44. Celebrate birthdays — With the Birthday report (FORMAT>REPORT FORMAT>BIRTH-DAYS OF LIVING INDIVIDUALS), not only do you get birthdays, FTM tells you how old the people will be on their next birthdays. This is also a good way to see for which individuals you’ve failed to enter death dates (those people who are going to turn, say, 119).

45. Get a check-up — The Medical information report (FORMAT>REPORT FORMAT> MEDICAL INFORMATION) is a sobering look at your future. The report includes all information you’ve indicated in individuals’ medical files. You can select individuals or include everyone in the database. Both sides of my family have histories of diabetes and cancer, so I track this carefully. I also enter “no diabetes” or “no cancer” if someone dies and an autopsy shows no sign of the diseases.

46. Focus on family — The Family Group Sheet (TOOLBAR) provides a detailed snapshot of a particular husband, wife and their children. You can select addresses, medical data, basic lineage, pictures and more.


47. Go faster with function keys — Like most Windows software, you can safely shut down FTM by pressing ALT + F4 (FILE>EXIT or clicking on the X in the upper right corner works, too). Here are other FTM function-key shortcuts: Fl brings up the relevant Help topic for where you are; F2 returns to the Index of Individuals, with the person on whom you’ve been working highlighted; F3 from the Family Page brings up the Other Spouses dialog box for the person; F4, parents of the wife on the current Family Page; F5, the husband’s parents; F6, the Family Page for the first child listed or the child highlighted; F8, the next sibling for the individual listed; ALT + F8, the previous sibling of the individual; ALT + Fl, your Family File Status (file name, size, number of individuals and number of text records); CONTROL + Fl, system information.

48. Get a screen grab — If you want a copy of your Family Page or some other FTM screen, display the screen you want to copy. Make sure the cursor isn’t obstructing the material you want to view, then hit the PRINT SCREEN button on your keyboard. (For Macs, it’s COMMAND-SHIFT-3.) Open your word processing program and paste, or use a graphics program.

49. Contribute to World Family Tree – When you’re ready to share your data with the world, you can contribute your tree for publication on one of the Learning Company’s CDs or elsewhere (FILE>CONTRIBUTE TO WORLD FAMILY TREE or INTERNET>CONTRIBUTE TO WORLD FAMILY TREE). Trees may be contributed online or via disk. The contributor agreement includes statements that you won’t be paid for sharing your information, that other genealogists interested in your data may contact you, and that you may publish your information elsewhere.

50. Go wayyy back — Despite all the improvements, even FTM 6.0 will not allow the user to enter dates before 100 AD. We can only assume it’s with tongue held firmly in cheek that FTM’s troubleshooting page advises users to use Before, After or About when entering such years in a Date field, with the ability to also enter an exact date in a Location field.

From the January 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine.