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I have been involved with researching my family history for around 5 years now. My mother spearheads the whole thing and when I'm home we go to record offices, BMD registrars and of course, rooting around the grave yards to confirm and instil the memories of family members past and present. We have 5 main names - 4 from my mother's side and our surname given from my father. Despite not wanting to delve as much into his history (as we have no sources to speak with due to family disputes) my mother figured we wouldn't get far. His side is hugely extensive as they are a huge number of people piecing together that tree and publishing their findings online. So is borne the art of family tree finding!
In order to document these findings, cite the correct sources so you're talking about the right person and to consolidate information in an easy to view and searchable format, a large selection of books becomes available - their problem? They are not designed for the avid researcher wanting to go beyond their grandparents. You need some proper kit - and this is where the Family Tree Maker 2009 comes in. How else are you going to document the 1353 members of one side of our family (not including my father's ancestors!)
***Family Tree Maker 2009***
This software is specifically designed to collate data gathered about your family tree. This is done through a number of ways. If you are just starting out you can begin from the scratch with an entirely new tree, where you are the centralised person and everyone added is recorded in relation to you. However far back you manage to get, the programme will indentify the links for you.
My mother owned one of the predecessors to this version, 2005, and the advances in terms of simplifying the interface and making it more user friendly is a huge advantage to those just starting out with the programme and their research.
When you select 'New Tree' you can either load an existing tree from a gedcom or family tree file, or else you can begin with yourself. Once you put in the basics you simply create a new tree, labelled appropriately and your tree begins.
- The simple interface allows you to see all the information relating to your person, and by selecting 'add mother', 'add father' , 'add spouse' etc...you simply begin to develop your tree. Haven't got the info? You click the 'Web Search' tab, family tree maker hooks up to Ancestry.com and you can begin raiding the online resources to find all the evidence you need.
- Basic search engine. Under the people tab, you can search your whole family tree for individuals. This is done by alphabetically listing surnames. I found the ability to sort and add different and additional columns of information very useful especially when finding potential WW1 causalities/participants (a morbid fascination and curiosity of mine). I could list all males and look at birthdates so I can assume people of a certain age would of been called up. With the use of ancestry I can then look up births, marriages, deaths as well as medal rolls and attempt to discover what happened - what medals they were entitled to, which regiment were they with and what position and rank they reached.
- Adding media - you can also bring together all the images you have for your family. My granddad for example, is very interesting because we have photo's scanned in from his childhood, his time in the war through to being 88 years old riding the motorbikes he loved all his life. It's a way of documenting someone's life and paying tribute to the moments that defined them.
There are a large number of ways to research your family tree, but none of them are free if you want to get anywhere. Ancestry.com is the link with this programme and has a humungous library of information - census records up to 1901 (findmypast.com holds the 1911 and charges you per record), medal rolls, immigration records, ships records etc.. all of which can be purchased via an annual fee and only includes UK related records. If your family moves to the USA and sets at home, you will need to alter your subscription to access increased types of records.
As well as Ancestry.com you have findmypast.com which holds the 1911 census and some military records. They are currently holding RMLI records (royal marine light infantry) which means they hold information on a soldier that I really want but don't want to keep throwing money at it.
Otherwise there is genesreunited.com. Everyone uploads their trees but you have to allow access to your tree. People email with enquiries about apparent matches between trees and you can either allow them access or reply with the information they are after. My mother has such an extensive tree that she is very protective over the data - understandable with amount of time (a number of years) and money (yearly subscription costs), you may not want to hand out your data willy nilly. However I found my mother's long lost cousin who disappeared on the death of her uncle when he was 25. The cousin was about 5 years old and my nan searched for him until her death. Not all reunions turn out great - we filled in the gaps in the last 50 years and then he wanted the original photo's (not copies) of him, the same photo's my nan held on to all those years - then he never replied. He received copies though, not the originals!
Lastly the National Archives are an excellent resource (also pay per record/subscription) but also they are really interesting if you want to find out more generalised information. My mother's cousin spent time in a convalescent home which has since closed; the website offers information on the nature of activities in such institutions - hospitals, schools etc...helping you to more informed on how people lived 'back in them days'
The programme is an excellent piece of software. It is simple and straightforward to use with a pleasant looking interface and clear tabs to allow you to scroll through your data. It is simpler to use than previous versions and allows you to search and organise your information clearly, which as you progressively add more and more people, becomes increasingly important.
It ties in your sources (from online places such as ancestry) and adds links to your information to confirm when you have made a connection i.e. finding the birth record or death record of someone. It quickly links with the online resources of ancestry allowing you to search within the software's browser or conduct your search on the website. Your tree can be started online and downloaded to the software or vice versa allowing you to keep up to date as you progress both online and offline.
The downfall is that this is a pricey bit of kit and although you usually get offers (3 months free subscription to ancestry.com for example) this is not an inexpensive hobby. If you're happy to use your local records office with their microfiche machines and records, that is fine. But if your family stray from home, without extensive travelling, going online may be your only way of knowing what happened to them. The records are sometimes spoiled or badly scanned making them hard to read. Often the records are incorrect leading you to believe you've got the wrong person (before certain dates ages were rounded up or down). Sometimes the scanner who has re-typed the names to make them searchable has mistaken the spelling and it's a completely different name. At other times you will chase back as far as you can go and you start to wonder how far out you should go (especially when females marry and adopt an array of surnames) or doubt whether the family line you have is the right one because a number of families with the same surname live in the same area. If you're paying - pay-per-view, getting the wrong record is costly. If you don't get how the system works, you'll be using your free 2 weeks/months subscription getting to grips with the records.
Family tree research can become a costly affair but to me it is hugely rewarding. From this venture I have found a forgotten great uncle killed in WW1 and never mentioned again for whatever reason, a long lost cousin for my mother...the realisation that we were all agricultural labourers and that's what you get for living in the country. It's fascinating and being able to reflect on those discoveries, finally gets it down in one place and not flung far and wide in old records, with ease is what makes parting with that money worth it. A versatile, easy to use and functional programme which I highly recommend.
The funniest thing is - after years of research my mother's found out her maiden name comes from a child born out of wedlock and fobbed off to the rest of the family whilst she remarried and took a new surname. Spawned from him retaining his mother's maiden name, if his mother had wed the man to which he was conceived we would have a different name althogether...it's amazing what you find...and you wouldn't know it unless you dug in and got started!
Family Tree Maker is a series of packages designed to help you build and enrich your family tree, originally designed by Broderbund and then sold to become part of Ancestry.com's line of products. As of writing, the 2010 version has just been released, but prior versions are still very popular within the genealogy community and I personally still use 2009.
The main feature of building your family tree is straightforward to use and will work with as little or as much information as you can provide. The tree builder utilizes two screens - the family screen and the person screen. On the family screen you can see all the connections between family members, although one drawback is that children and siblings of ancestors are not shown until that person is clicked upon. Either double clicking or selecting the person and clicking "Person" brings up the person screen, where you can see expanded facts from their life. On my tree this includes census details, baptisms and burial details, but there are around 50 standard fact types, and the ability to add your own. All facts can be linked to sources which are then listed under the sources tab. A nice feature is that facts linked to places can be plotted on a map (provided by Google) found under the "places" tab, but that is only if Google recognises them. I've found problems with church names, specific addresses and some small villages, especially if in the intervening years they have been absorbed by the urban sprawl and no longer exist. For this reason I tend to use registration districts in the "place" field and add actual addresses in the "description" field. Each fact can also be linked to any sort of media on your computer (although it will only display image files within the program itself) and these linked media will be listed under the "Media" tab.
The program ties in with the Ancestry.com website and will automatically (provided you are connected to the internet) search it's databases for matches to the people in your tree. Depending on whether you have an Ancestry.com subscription you will get more or less information.
There are a number of options for sharing your in-progress family tree (family trees are never finished!). It is possible to export the tree from one computer to another (or one program to another) using three different file formats. FTM 2009 supports GEDCOM 5.5, which is a universal file format that most genealogy programs support. It will also export to a FTM 16 compatible file, and thirdly to a file compatible to all following FTM versions.
Another option is of course to print your tree, and Family Tree maker 2009 has a number of different charts and reports to show various details of your tree. The two most popular are Descendant and Pedigree charts, which come in a variety of different layouts including one which looks like an actual tree!
Now that Family Tree Maker 20010 has been released, prices have dropped a little for the 2009 version, but in my opinion the two versions are not that different, so why pay more than you have to? At http://www.ancestryshop.co.uk, FTM will set you back around £39.99, whilst at Amazon a Platinum edition will cost you £29.99 and includes a 6 month Ancestry Essentials subscription and 30% off it's DNA testing service.
For a while now, I've wanted to research my family history and create my own family tree. Only two things have been stopping me from doing so. The first is that I had no idea how to even get started. My Dad's adopted, there is a disowned family member on my mother's side, my sister has two children but is unmarried with her partner, and that's just for starters. The idea of entering all this information on to a family tree and then work backwards from it seem daunting. The second reason is that I didn't have the time to spend on it. But recently I've found myself with a great deal of time on my hands, and when I saw this Family Tree Maker Deluxe 2009, I thought to myself - why not, it's always something I've wanted to do, so I decided to give it a try.
The software packing allows you to create your family tree, and research your family history from the comfort of your own computer. You can include photographs, videos, and other information about family members. You can also create charts, reports, and timelines to share with others. Entering information into the software is easy and painless. Included in the packaging is a very comprehensive and useful manual as well as a "Tips, Tools, and Extras" book. The installation of the software was reasonably quick and easy to do, and soon I was diving into the deep end of history and heritage. It not as difficult to do as I initially thought, thanks mainly to the comprehensive software.
There are only a few things I can find to fault. Opening and even running the software seems a bit slow and clumsy. There seems to be more than one way to do certain things, such as entering facts, and that can seem a bit confusing.
It will take some time to get use to the software, work out how to do everything, and begin researching, so don't expect to have your family tree created and family history researched over night. But in the end, regardless of how much time it takes - it will be well worth the effort. Having everything contained in a single program such as this is a great idea.
(I'm a reviewer on Amazon, and some my reviews are copied from there to dooyoo. Please feel free to check out my Amazon profile under my real name of Mr Andrew M Kerr.)