Originally a genealogy program geared toward beginners who were content to make pretty family tree charts, Family Tree Maker underwent a dramatic overhaul in its 2005 and 2006 versions. This year’s upgrade, the befuddingly numbered version 16 (the last two upgrades succeeded version 11), offers only minor fixes and enhancements. For example, the program now makes files exported from Family Tree Maker 2006 more compatible with previous versions of the software.
Family Tree Maker 2006 users can download version 16 for free: From the program’s home page, just click Help Center and select Check for Program Updates to automatically download and install it. New users and owners of earlier versions can buy Family Tree Maker 16 bundled with two bonus programs: GenSmarts analyzes your Family Tree Maker files, identifies where you lack information and creates a list of sources you might check to fill in the missing branches. Our History in Images contains more than 3,000 wartime pictures from the American Revolution to Vietnam, as well as more than 1,500 historical maps of all 50 states.
Progeny Software’s Charting Companion, an add-on program for printing charts and reports that came with Family Tree Maker 2006, isn’t included this time. You still can purchase it separately on CD or as a download from <www.progenygenealogy.com>.
The Family Tree Maker 16-GenSmarts combo gives you plenty of tools for researching, recording and sharing your family history. But should you bother upgrading? If you have one of the inferior pre-2005 editions, absolutely. Same goes for 2006 users who get the update free. If you have 2005, wait for the next major upgrade. (No word yet on whether that’ll be called version 17 or 2008.)
Family Tree Maker 16
<www.familytreemaker.com> (800) 262-3787
Price: Full version $39.95, free upgrade from Family Tree Maker 2006
Biggest draws: Nice wall charts, inclusion of GenSmarts, automatic searching of Ancestry.com
Drawbacks: Still has poor family group sheets and pedigree charts, and doesn’t let you save reports in HTML format for your Web site