New editions of genealogy software have been sprouting up all over lately, and they’re no longer your grandma’s family tree programs. They’ve turned their objectives from simply recording your family history to creating better charts and reports, and power-searching online databases. Here’s a look at two upgraded programs-Family Tree Maker 2006 and Legacy Family Tree 6.0.
Expanding your search
Once just a tool to help novice genealogists create pretty family tree charts, Family Tree Maker <www.familytreemaker.com> has beefed up its offerings. Its most recent owner, My Family.com, incorporated a sophisticated tool for searching the company’s databases, plus added more charting options and an online file-backup service.
Family Tree Maker (FTM) 2006 makes it even easier to search Ancestry.com <Ancestry.com > for people in your FTM files. I clicked on the search button beside a name in my file-Henry J. Hall, born in 1839 in New York-and FTM scoured the subscription Web site for information based on his name, and his birth and death dates and places. Quite impressively, Henry’s listings in the 1850 and 1860 federal censuses of Cuba, NY, appeared in the top three matches. FTM also created facts for both census records and linked the facts to the census page images saved on my computer-no more scrounging for a lost document in my paper files.
The new Charting Companion, an add-on program from Progeny Software <www.progenysoftware.com> that’s included with FTM, produces attractive hourglass, fan and bow-tie charts without a lot of tinkering, as well as numbered pedigree charts-a key report otherwise unavailable in FTM. To print family group sheets with events listed chronologically (much more useful than FTM’s old alphabetical listing), click on Print and then on Standard Family Group. Under Events, select Check All.
Charting Companion’s book reports also improve upon FTM’s “Genealogy Reports.” You can edit the documents, add photos and charts and create an index. It indexes women by both their maiden and married names, and lists sources as footnotes, rather than endnotes.
Another perk of FTM 2006 is its 90-day free trial to a new online backup service, which lets you store a copy of your family tree data in a password-protected location. (Renewal costs $9.95 a year.)
Family Tree Maker 2006
Price: $29.99 to $99.99 ($19.95 for upgrade)
Biggest draws: Online searching, charting companion, Internet backup
Drawbacks: Exaggerates number of records you can access for free
Additional improvements include bookmarks, an enhanced facts view, support for longer notes and an easy and efficient system for copying and pasting source citations, similar to the feature in Personal Ancestral File <www.familysearch.org>.
FTM 2006 comes in four retail versions. All of them feature Charting Companion, the FTM Basic Training DVD and a trial subscription to Ancestry.com. Current FTM 2005 users can download the upgrade.
Misleading package labeling on the Deluxe version promises “Exclusive Access to More Than 5 Billion Records,” making it sound like you get an all-access pass to Ancestry.com’s databases. In fact, the trial subscriptions include only the US Records Collection and One World Tree, a tool that searches Ancestry.com’s pedigree databases. You can subscribe annually to other databases, such as the US Census Collection and the US Immigration Collection, for $39.95 each. (All online subscriptions renew automatically.)
The marketing hyperbole aside, FTM’s recent upgrades have transformed it into a much more useful and comprehensive program, well worth the investment.
Taking you by the hand
Outstanding printed reports, strong multimedia support and user friendliness make Legacy Family Tree <www.legacyfamilytree.com> one of the best all-around genealogy programs. Its new version, 6.0, adds innovative research help and lets you combine several reports into a family history book.
The nifty Research Guidance feature identifies resources you should check and keeps track of your progress. The four-step guide begins by giving you a chance to review an ancestor’s timeline and add events you might’ve missed. My relative Henry J. Hall’s timeline from his birth in 1839 to his 1924 death in Allegany County, NY, includes two marriages, several censuses and his Civil War service.
Legacy Family Tree 6.0
Price: $29.95 to $59.95 ($21.95 to $54.95 for upgrades)
Biggest draws: Research assistance, outstanding printable family history books, ease-of-use
Drawbacks: The Charting Companion is sold separately
The second step suggests you check resources with broad coverage, such as pedigree databases, message boards, mailing lists, published genealogies and local histories. In Henry J. Hall’s case, it also provides references to specific histories of Allegany County. Select an item, such as Roots Web’s World Connect Project <worldconnect.rootsweb.com>, and hit the globe icon or the Web site button to visit the site. Or if you’re short on research time, click on “Plan to search,” and the item will be added to your to-do list. As you consult those resources, the program automatically notes the last time you searched for a name in the pedigree database and other regularly updated resources.
Next, Legacy recommends checking census, church, military and other records. It includes links to Internet sites, such as the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System <www.itd.nps.gov/cwss>, and information on where to find resources only available offline. Suggestions for Henry J. Hall include New York state census records.
Finally, the research guide shows you a handy to-do list with all the resources you marked as “Plan to search.” You can add more items, print all tasks or just those for a specific individual, and set up reminders.
Although Legacy’s research suggestions include links to online databases, you’ll need to retype your ancestor’s name and other criteria to search them. In contrast, FTM 2006 automatically searches databases on Ancestry.com, shows you the results and links document images to your family file. But Legacy’s research guidance covers a wider variety of sites-both free and commercial-and makes it easy to keep track of your research.
Legacy, which is known for its outstanding narrative family histories and well-designed family group sheets and pedigree charts, also offers a new Publishing Center that helps you easily combine several reports into a book. The program automatically generates a table of contents, source list and index; you can add title and copyright pages.
Other new features include birthday and anniversary reminders, customizable timelines and support for recording DNA information. But if you want to create fancy charts like those in FTM 2006, you’ll have to download Legacy Charting Companion ($19.95) from <www.legacyfamilytree.com/lccomp.asp> or buy the CD ($24.95) at <www.progenysoftware.com/chartingcompanion.html>.
You can download Millennia Corp.’s Legacy Family Tree software or buy the CD and user manual online. Whether you’re a beginning or advanced genealogist, Legacy offers you plenty of tools for researching, recording and sharing your family history.
From the February 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.