Computing with Bifocals - MacFamilyTree: Recommended Genealogy Software
by - December 29th, 2004

Anyone interested in serious genealogy research, or anyone who just wants to create a good family tree, may be interested in checking out an application called MacFamilyTree. This particular application has three things going for it:  It was created for the Mac platform, it is relatively inexpensive, and it is fairly easy for a beginner to use.  It is also available in nine different languages  (English, German, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch Swedish, Dansk, and Italian).  Here are the specs.

Review Version:
4.0.9 (Released 11/28/2004)

OnlyMac Software

US$49 (OS X)
$30 (Classic)  This column only looks at the OS X version.

System Requirements for OS X
At least a PowerMac G3 with 128 MB RAM
At least 1024x768 Pixel resolution
Mac OS X 10.2.6 or newer

Product Description:
It is fast once you get the hang of it.  The finished product is attractive and there are several presentation options. There is a built-in option to publish your family tree on the Internet or burn it directly to a CD. MacFamilyTree is fully based on the Gedcom-standard for international exchange of genealogical data and includes the ability to identify people using the Kekulé numbering system.  These are important components for serious genealogy researchers and both are explained in the tutorial for the benefited of the uninitiated. You can easily import photos from iPhoto using drag-and-drop.  For those who have .Mac accounts, there is a built-in option for uploading your family tree to the internet with one click.  There is no option for including movies as part of your presentation.

For the brave at heart, it is also possible to simultaneously edit several trees.  

I have two recommendations related to using MacFamilyTree.  The first is to get your ducks in a row before you start.  Otherwise you may find yourself starting over or getting frustrated quickly, particularly if you have to fit in more than one husband or wife with children from multiple marriages, etc.  If you have a large family to diagram, it wouldn't hurt to roughly draw it out as a guide.  I didn't and I should have.

The second recommendation is to follow the advice of the developers and start with yourself.  You have to start somewhere and the easiest way to start is with what you know best.  You can build out in all directions from there.  It really did make the process easier.

Although I worked up a family tree that goes back a few generations (I did one a few years ago so I had ready access to the information to experiment), I am using the illustrations included with the MacFamilyTree tutorial.  I really don't think my family would be too happy with me if I put all the information I included in my own families tree as part of this column.

A new family tree creation window looks like this.  Note that because you are beginning with a blank slate it will automatically open in the Family option as the choice in the left column.  In the center column you will start with either a Male or a Female by clicking on the active button featuring a head with green color.  As soon as you begin with your first entry, that name will also appear in the list in the right column.  Names from the right column can be moved into Family or Relationship windows at any time using drag-and-drop.

Blank New Family Window
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The very first step you should take is to set the preferences because that will determine what kinds of data you want to include in your records.  To get to the preferences choose MacFamilyTree > Preferences.

Preferences Window
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You will want to pay attention to the Dates category because there are style options suitable for what is common in different countries. 

The Family Card category allows you to determine what kinds of information you want to record.  There are 45 choices (called Events).  This allows you to develop a detailed record of any information to which you have access, such as social security numbers, emigration dates, religious dates, educational achievements and dates, etc. 

There is even a category for nobility titles. 

There is a generic event category called "Other Event" that you can customize to fit the needs of your particular family.  For instance to note instances of multiple births or birth defects, or incidents of a particular disease that seems to crop up over and over.  There are like options to be set in the bottom box (called Information for Events) concerning what event information you want included.

One titled "Description" will lend itself to the unusual information that may be pertinent to your particular family tree and tie in to the "Other Event" categories you create in the upper section.   Once you have determined all of this then you are ready to go.

Sample Family Card
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One more start up hint though, if you accidentally create blank cards, and you probably will, don't worry about it.  There is a quick way to clean it all up.  Choose  Special > Database Management.  There you can click on "Remove unused family entries" and/or "Remove unused events" to take care of it.

After you have entered the basic data about an individual you may add a photo by clicking on the square button from the center column featuring a head with yellow coloring.  It is located below and to the right of the add a person button you used to create the person in the first place.  Clicking on that button opens a window that has a media option that lets you identify the location and identity of a specific photo.  To make it easier on yourself you should probably store your pictures in iPhoto.

Once you have started your first family card by entering that person, the application will allow you to click on the "Partner" button and the "Children" categories until you have taken care of the first of the family units to your satisfaction.  Remember to always click on the buttons with the head shapes on them to add or delete names. 

Concerning "partners", there is a way to signify relationships other than marriages.  Once a partner has been initially identified you can click on the family card that contains the names of the two people in question.  Then select Relationships and then Edit.  This is the window where you indicate marriages, divorces, dates, etc.  There is also an Event category called "other relation" which provides the opportunity to address any one of those myriad of other relationships that we humans create in our search for happiness.

When you get ready to add those pesky first spouses or first relationships that for whatever historical reason (like children) need to be included,  do so by going back to the primary family member you are dealing with and click on that person name in the card where you first entered them.  Then once again click on add partner.  Enter information on the second spouse.  That will link all the pertinent people.  

To add parents, once again go back to the original entry, click on go to parents button (head button with two heads on it) and start entering data once again.  The son or daughter will automatically be entered under the children category and any additional children can also be added.  And on, and on, and on.  The application has good directions and is logically laid out.  When I made a misstep it did not take more than a minute to backtrack and figure out what to do next.

Once you get at least three generations in place, you can take full advantage of the various charting options.  First choose a name from the far right column, then change from Family to Relationship in the far left column, and them from Edit to View in the top bar options. 

The reason I suggest you have at least three generations in place is this - Say you have person A.  Person A has been married to person B and to person C.  Person A has children with both person B and person C.  If you ask for a Heritage Chart or a Descendant Chart with just the data concerning the person, the marriages, and the children, you can get charts for person A and person B and their children and another for person A and person C and their children, but nothing showing person A with two marriages and all his or her children. 

You may think you have done something wrong or that the program is flawed.  In fact, you just have not provided enough data.  Once you add another piece of information - person A's parents, the program will have what it needs and suddenly when you ask for a Heritage Chart or a Descendant Chart you will find person A's life all tied together on one page.

What I like best about MacFamilyTree is the presentation options which are demonstrated as follows.

Example of the Heritage Chart View, Including Images
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Example of a Descendant Chart, Including Images
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Example of a Genogram Chart
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Example of a Timeline Chart
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Example of a Listing of All Information Included In a MacFamilyTree Database
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Example of a Summary Page For One Individual, Including Image
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You will need to give yourself a little time to become familiar with this particular application, but it is organized in a logical manner and I was comfortable using it after about half an hour.  I recommend it to even casual family tree makers who want a nice product without spending a lot of money.