Review – Family Tree Maker Mac 3

Review – Family Tree Maker Mac 3

I should know better.  Paying good money to purchase Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker for Mac 3.0 was a bad, bad idea.  Again they released what I would think of as beta software and they hope that many people won’t notice.  Had I not had existing files, I might not have.
I purchased the upgrade version. Installation is a bit different than most Mac software. Download the file, then executing the DMG file doesn’t open and execute the installation, rather, it puts a device on your desktop.  You then need to execute it from your desktop to install the product.  If you aren’t a big desktop user, you might not notice the additional icon.  I didn’t because my desktop was already full and double stacking icons. There is not message that it has done so.
Once installed, and program key entered, the initial screen is like the 2.x version except some things are moved from the right side of the screen to the left.  It is still focused on “getting started” and doesn’t have an option to open your last file.  
Once you import a file from version 2, or otherwise have a file you will enter the “Plan” view.  It contains the same information that version 2 provided, but again, it is shuffled around like they think if they move it we’ll think it is new.  “Trees” moved from this page to the menu which was very good. However the space dedicated to the “Ancestry Web Dashboard” was expanded from what was about 1/6 of the screen to a good 1/3 of the screen. Like the previous edition, you can’t change the size of any of the “Plan” window elements.  It is obvious they think that what my activities are are at least 1/3 of all that is important to me.  Sorry, not true.
I will again say they attend a Trees selection to the menu bar so it is available on any page.  That is one of the few changes that I think are good. 
Their advertising mentions they added an “Export Branch” feature.  It is okay. It allow you to select a person from your tree and then export just the ancestors & descendants of that tree.  In actuality it just creates a backup file of that line.  It would be nice if you could export a branch then delete that branch from your existing tree, but that is only a hope for me.  If you export a branch you will need to delete the individuals from your old tree individually or have duplicate entries in two different trees.  Once exported, you will need to effectively restore that backup and then export that branch in another format if you so desire. 
In the Media section it is now possible to select more than one media at a time.  This is great because it makes it much easier to apply categories and do other actions to media in bulk.  There is also a new utility to “find missing media” which is a great addition.  It allows you to much more easily reconnect media that has become disconnected.  For example, I renamed a directory that had media in it to support some other actions I was doing with the media.  This utility will help clean up that type of action more easily.  
Family View Report
New in FTM-Mac-3
Reports look about the same. There is a new “Family View Report.” It is a simplified family sheet, showing couple and children with a pedigree chart above. I like it and may use it in the future, but otherwise, the reports appear to be the same as in Version 2.x. 
Now the reason I’m unhappy with FTM-Mac-3.  Sources.  The import process just trashed the sources.  It sometimes moved source citations to another source title.  Some sources appeared to vanish. However, when I created a new Source Title with the same name as before, they magically reappeared.  Sometime the citation detail was now blank but the citation text was still good. All in all, it appeared to trash the database. 

I use different files for my various projects.  I converted two of my projects to FTM-Mac-3 and am very unhappy with the results with the sources becoming corrupt.  I am so glad I have paper copies of most everything important so I can reconstruct the sources and source citations as I com across them.  In the meantime, I will continue using FTM-Mac-2 for all my other work and projects until they do an upgrade that fixes the problems.  Maybe, I’ll just return to Reunion or Mac Family Tree next time.  Maybe even Heredis if they have fixed the name issue
I recommend saving your money and continue using FTM-Mac-2 until they, at least, correct the sources import issues. If you are new to FTM and aren’t converting files, FTM-Mac-3 is great software and I recommend it.

– Don Taylor

Review: The Family Tree Problem Solver


   The Family Tree Problem Solver:
       Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors 

Review by Don Taylor

There are very few “brick walls.” I don’t have any.  Don’t get me wrong, I have elusive ancestors whose information I am still searching for.  To me, and I believe Ms Rising would have agreed, to think something is behind a “brick wall” you must be able to say you have “tried everything.”  Until you really have tried everything they are just elusive ancestors.  The Family Tree Problem Solver provides tactics and ideas about how to track down those elusive ancestors.  It gives you so many ideas that you will have a hard time ever saying again that you have “tried everything.” 

There are a few structural problems with the book. Sometimes MS Rising uses clear, concise, numbered, steps to follow and sometime not. I would have preferred a little more consistency in her approach. I also think that on a couple of occasions, she, like many genealogical writers, dives deeper into her specific tree research than is necessary to the answer a question or explain the process.  

That said, the book provides information important for both hobbyists and seasoned genealogists.  She has a nice section on land records, one of my personal weaknesses, and provides some excellent tactics for sorting out same name challenges. She postulates “Rising’s Rule” which reminds us to, “Always assume that there is at least one other person with the same name as they individual you are searching living in that community.” She follows up with some great examples and how to sort them out. 
It is the kind of book that will help the beginner remind the experienced genealogist of things that may have been forgotten to be done. I’ll keep this one with a reminder to read it again in a couple years.
Chapter Titles include:

The First Step – Analyzing the Problem and Planning a Strategy for Success
Finding Births, Marriages, and Deaths Before Civil Registration
Why Does the Census Taker Always Miss My Ancestor?
Consider the Collateral Kin
Your Day in Court
What to Do When the Courthouse Burned
Give Me Land – Lots of Land
Sorting Individuals of the Same Name
Finding Ancestors Who Lived Before 1850
Ten Mistakes Not to Make
Analysis of Evidence

I’ll add, The Family Tree Problem Solver is rated #4 in the Amazon Best Seller’s for Genealogy, Education and Reference books.  For a book that is an update of a previously published book and one that is over a year old in this publication run, being #4 is excellent. Also the average customer rating on Amazon is 4.5 our of 5 which is also excellent.

Definitely worth purchasing, keeping, and rereading. Many thanks to my son for gifting the book to me for Christmas.  I liked it and highly recommend it for others who want to add some tried and true tactics for tracing those elusive ancestors to their tool bag.

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Family Tree Books; Revised edition (April 19, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1440311935
ISBN-13: 978-1440311932
Retail Price: $24.99
Amazon Price: $18.99

Review: Heredis 2.1.0 (Mac)

Software Review

Heredis 2.1.0 (Mac Version)

My first, quick, look at Heredis for the Mac was awesome. The free trial
version allows tracking of 50 individuals in your tree but otherwise is full
featured. I downloaded their sample tree, of forty-six individuals and was
impressed. The integration of photos, sources, and places with the people is
extremely slick. The interface was incredibly user friendly and followed Mac
methodology. Data is well organized into four major areas: 

Under Persons are four tabs, 

Immediate Family, grandparents, parents, spouse,
and children, are displayed. There is a great feature where you can link
variants of a surname together. In my family tree, I have Manning, Mannin,
Mannon, and Mannen, which spellings used changes constantly.
Personal Data, which includes key info on the
individual, (names, notes, etc.) events, (birth, marriage, death, etc.) and a
family section. One cool thing about the section is what they call “sundry
links” which is a place you can link an individual to another based upon a
non-direct relationship. For example, when a niece is living with a family and
you don’t know who the parent is or even which side of the family the to whom
the niece is related. Events allow you enter many different event types. A
marriage event does not show who the marriage was to. You have to display the
families tab and the events tab simultaneously and figure out which is the
correct one. Adding a new marriage event is cumbersome, as the input screen does
not display all the info for the marriage. They also put unusual emphasis upon
people’s occupation and even have a separate index for that. The software seems
to put too much importance on a child’s status (illegitimate, natural, etc.)
and if a person can sign their name (verses uses an “X”). It is rare that I
have cared about status and have never paid attention to a person’s signature
Family Group Data provides easy access to key
information on parents, partners, and children. The display is cluttered, trying
to put too much on the screen.
Ancestors tab gives a quick pedigree chart,
which is easily selectable as four, five, or six generations.
The Places section is likewise very clean. It uses little icons
to indicate if you have a picture of a place or if it has notes. Accessing
Places via the “Tools” menu gives access to you to see which individuals have
an entry to a particular place. Locations link to “Open Street Map.” I had
never seen them before and really like their maps.  I may use them for other things in the future. 
The Sources section is more flexible than some other
programs I have seen. You can add images and notes. The notes have complete formatting
capabilities, font, font size, bold, italic, etc. 
The Media section links photographs to the individuals and
is very clear and concise in its use.
The Reports are standard and what one might expect. It will
create a biographical report for an individual and then launch your preferred
word processor for you to finish it off. I thought that was very cool. Throughout
the reports you have the option to include private data or not.
There are Heredis iPad and iPhone applications (free) that can allow you to sync your desktop to your iPad or iPhone and take it with you.  Also, the sync function allows you to sync to remote computers, external hard drives (cloud), and USB Flash Drives.  
I thought, “Wow,
I can’t wait to see how it does with my tree.”
I encountered my first disappointment. It only imports
GEDCOM and Heredis files. It would be nice if it imported some of the other
popular genealogical software. I imported a GED file knowing that GED imports do
not support media. I would have to reconnect my media to my sources. A time consuming process.
Then I found the showstopper. I noticed that the import
stripped off the name if I had more than one name for an individual. I then
found there is no way for an individual to have more than one name. (Their support forum confirmed this problem.)  I have
several ancestors who changed their name for no apparent reason and there is no
way to accommodate those different names in the software. 
There are several other issues, for example no web
publishing capability, although their website says they are working on it;
however, most of the other problems are minor and can be worked around.
At $59.90, normal retail price, the cost is in the same
range as other genealogy programs for the Mac such as Family Tree Maker,
Reunion, and MacFamily Tree. Heredis’ use of indexes and their search
capability are second to none and really a plus. If they fix their names issue,
simplify some of the screens that try to show too much data, and improve their
import file format capability, I think it will be a desirable product. In its
current form, I do not recommend it.