Export Your Tree From Family Tree Maker in 5 Steps

By Rick Crume
Family Tree Maker on a laptop computer.

One of the most important advantages of using genealogy software is that once you’ve entered information on your family into a program, it’s easy to share your family file. You might want to email a branch of your family tree to a cousin. Even if she uses different genealogy software, she can still open your file and view your tree. Or maybe you’d like to submit your family tree file to GEDmatch along with your DNA test results, so your matches on the site can figure out how you’re related. If you want to switch to a different genealogy program, you can make a copy of your family file to upload to the other program. 

Document names and birth, death and marriage details for five generations of your family with this type-in genealogy chart.

Users of the popular Family Tree Maker genealogy software were left wondering what to do with their family files in December 2015, when announced plans to discontinue the program. Although the company later reversed its decision and instead sold Family Tree Maker to Software MacKiev, researchers were reminded of the potential for obsolescence when using any third-party data-storage tool.

Whether you need to transfer your family tree to new software or you just want to share it with relatives, you’ll need to know how to export a family file. Here’s how to do this in Family Tree Maker.

Family Tree Maker screenshot

1. If you maintain a Member Tree on, first synchronize it with your Family Tree Maker software.

This is so your exported file will contain the most up-to-date information. To do this, open the linked tree in Family Tree Maker and click on the green leaf with the up and down arrows, located in the upper right corner of your screen. Then click on Sync Now. 

2. You might want your exported family file to contain only part of your tree.

Maybe you want to send just your shared branch to a cousin, for example. We’ll suggest two ways to do this: 

  • One method is to create a chart to select people to include in the file. This is the only way that lets you specify how many generations of a relative’s descendants you want to share. First, in Family Tree Maker, click the People tab and select the person whose descendants you want in the file. Then click the Publish tab, select a chart (such as the Descendant Chart) under the Collection tab, and click on Create Chart. Specify how many generations of descendants to include. If you don’t want to include all the descendants, select just the ones you want. Right-click on the chart, click on Export and choose either Selected Persons or Entire Chart.
  • Another way to select whom to include in your new file is to select Export from the File menu (shown). Highlight a name and click Include to select just that person. Click Ancestors and you can specify the number of generations to include. Click Descendants to include all of a selected person’s descendants. You can make multiple selections, such as someone’s ancestors and then that person’s descendants. To start over again, click the Exclude All button.
Family Tree Maker screenshot.

3. Choose an output file format.

The Family Tree Maker output option generates a backup file (.FTMB) that works only with the version you used to create it. Usually, you’ll select another option, either another version of Family Tree Maker (2008/2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012) or a GEDCOM 5.5 file. The former type of file has the extension .FTM; a GEDCOM file ends in .GED. 

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Master the Family Tree Maker™ software with this four-week course. You’ll learn how to upload a tree, sync it with your online trees, create charts and reports, and more.

In general, if you’ll share the file with someone who uses Family Tree Maker, select the version that person has. Otherwise, choose a GEDCOM 5.5 file, a format compatible with most genealogy software and websites, such as GEDmatch. But if you’re sharing with someone who uses RootsMagic software version or higher, it’s better to share a Family Tree Maker file. RootsMagic can now import all versions of Family Tree Maker for Windows and Mac, and it does a better job importing a Family Tree Maker file than a Family Tree Maker-generated GEDCOM file.

4. Specify what data to include in the file.

If you opt to privatize living people, only their names will be part of the file. You can optionally include private facts and notes, as well as a research to-do list. If you include media files, such as photographs and document images, Family Tree Maker files will include them, but GEDCOM files will have only links to them. (Note that GEDCOM files created with Family Tree Maker 2011 and earlier versions won’t have links to media files, either.) If you’re sharing your tree as a GEDCOM file, you’ll need to send image files and other media separately.

Family Tree Maker screenshot.

5. Select the folder on your computer where you want to save the file.

Give the folder a name such as “jones-genealogy” and click OK. When the export is finished, click OK again. 

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