PROS / Family Tree Maker is one of the few programs with stylish pre-made backgrounds to make your family charts look their best.
CONS / You'll have to pay extra for a full membership with Ancestry.com.
VERDICT / Although membership costs extra, this software is great for conducting research because it gives you access to a massive genealogy database.
Editor’s Note: The developer of this software has decided to discontinue selling it as of December 31, 2015. They will continue to support current owners of the software through January 1, 2017 as they transfer their files out of the program. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The best genealogy software helps beginners understand and research like pros. Family Tree Maker for Mac is the best across the board because it's easy enough for novices, but provides tools strong enough for pros to use. The program guides you through important steps from importing and exporting GEDCOM files to creating charts of your family history. Beginners can quickly learn the best methods for organization, citation and charting. Family Tree Maker for Mac wins our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for its flexible guidance that assists rather than simply instructs.
Reporting & Publishing
Family Tree Maker for Mac connects to Ancestry.com's extensive database and community. One of its star features, TreeSync, synchronizes the trees you create in Family Tree Maker with your Ancestry.com account. When you make changes in the software, the changes carry over to your online profile. This is especially useful if you're a member of Ancestry.com's active community. This feature is optional if you want to keep your information private or hide sections of your family tree.
You can also export and import entire GEDCOM files, single branches and reports directly into Family Tree Maker or Ancestry.com. We like the sharing capabilities, especially with reports and charts, because you can quickly sift through other people's work and get ideas for your own projects. When you share your work, you have more opportunities to get tips and tricks from experienced users.
Within this genealogy software, you can create keepsakes and records from any of the 19 publication options. Each type of chart or report comes with a different menu for customizing fonts, colors and background themes. The skeleton of the chart is adjustable as well. You can change the spacing between names and number of generations and you can add family photos to the chart. The backgrounds and embellishments come standard with Family Tree maker. Add images and backgrounds from a series of themes like seasons, symbols or words. Backgrounds include images centered on occupation, military, ethnicity, outdoor images and tapestry patterns.
Listing & Notes
It only takes a click to bring up a family member's profile and enter their data such as remarriages, divorces and annulments. You can even link people to multiple or intermarriages with this program. Child entry options include step, adoptive and foster children.
When Family Tree Maker finds a match on Ancestry.com that corresponds with your family tree, a small leaf icon appears on the person's name. You can access any records if you have a membership with Ancestry. Although you get a free trial to Ancestry's database when you purchase Family Tree Maker, some files have members-only access. It costs more, but you'll get the most out of this software by subscribing to a full membership with Ancestry.com.
Across a country or across an ocean, families migrate over generations. When you link locations to individuals, Family Tree Maker can map out your family's entire history. You can create a map report based on an individual or a group. As you move down your family line, you can see how your family got you where you are today. This feature offers options to view your mapped locations in 2D, 3D, aerial or road view. A virtual map like this fits well with ancestor narratives and provides a clear demonstration of a family member's travels.
Citation & Organization
Recording and citing sources can be intimidating, but the software gives you standard fields to enter about your source and creates a citation for you. This saves time and teaches beginners how to cite sources properly. Family Tree Maker provides templates for common sources like cemetery, census, state or church records. For example, a report card from your grandmother's elementary school fits the "school records" template. From there, the data-entry fields prompt you for related information like class year, institution, record holder names and comments.
Family Tree Maker for Mac has practical tools like the to-do list. This feature is best for the ambitious genealogist in need of a virtual assistant. Within this feature, you can create a task, such as, "Find Jane Smith's birth certificate." From there, you can assign a priority level to each task and keep track of the tasks you've completed and the kinds of tasks you need to complete. This task list is also a helpful tool if you plan to collaborate with other genealogists. They can access this list in the GEDCOM file and help with tasks or add suggestions for further work.
Help & Support
Because this program is so intuitive, it's easy to breeze through tasks without consulting the help section. Though the help section has some useful information, all the in-depth info is online, with a FAQs page, phone number and email to contact customer support. Training tutorials for Family Tree Maker for Mac are available online or through the help menu. If you order the software on disc instead of direct download, you also get a printed companion guide to help with extra tips and tricks. Family Tree Maker for Mac is compatible with other types of genealogy software, so even if your family on the other side of the country uses a different program, you can send them your work and collaborate.
Family Tree Maker for Mac has extensive sourcing, reporting and research features accessible through the clearly marked tabs. Data entry is easy and flexible, and if you still have a lot of research to do, this genealogy software connects with the data powerhouse Ancestry.com. FTM works best through Ancestry, but you'll need a full membership to the site to get the most out of this software because many documents are for members only.