Tips for Family Tree Maker
9/25/2009
Need a tuneup for your genealogy software skills? Use these tips and tricks to harness your program's power.

Most users of genealogy software programs are more interested in begats and burials than bits and bytes, so their time spent in front of the computer screen recording research results is just dutiful drudgery. They'd much rather be combing a cemetery or squinting at microfilm than doing data entry. Who has time to poke around "under the hood" of these programs, anyway?

That's a shame, because your genealogy software can be a powerful tool not only to preserve your family tree findings, but also to point you toward your next discoveries. Not making the most of your software is like owning a race car without taking it out on the track: You're stuck in a 15-mph school zone, never seeing what this baby can do. Digging a little deeper into your program's toolbars, commands and hidden tricks—becoming a genealogy-software "power user"—can maximize your software investment. At the very least, you can learn to speed up that data entry and get back to the cemetery or microfilm reader.

We've assembled 30 tips and tricks to help you soup up your software and unlock its hidden power. Most, including the ones sampled here, apply to version 11 of Family Tree Maker (FTM), the latest edition of what's by far the best-selling genealogy program. (And no, there's no connection between that software and this similarly titled magazine!) In the June 2004 Family Tree Magazine, we've also noted tips and tricks in other popular programs.

Ready to take your software into the fast lane? Buckle up, boot up and let's go.

How-to help
Get guidance. There's a genealogy teacher—one who'll never get impatient with "stupid" questions—programmed right into FTM. Look under Help to begin the Getting Started Tutorial. Move on to Learn About Genealogical Records, then graduate to the Genealogy How-To Guide.

Define your terms. Puzzled by some of the genealogical terms, such as dower, that you've come across during your research? Perplexed by those mystifying Ahnentafel numbers (or just need to know how to spell Ahnentafel)? Go to Help>Genealogy How-To Guide in FTM and click on the icon for Genealogy Dictionary.

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