My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Friday, April 11, 2014

FTM, where have you been all my life?

I switched over from PC to Macs about five years ago, and the only thing I was unhappy about in the change was the stunning lack of choice in Mac-based family tree software.  Using Parallels to run my old Legacy family tree program was a complete non-starter because it was too awkward and slow, so the only choice was to plunk down the cash for Reunion.  Reunion was quite a bit more expensive than the (practically nonexistent) alternatives, but all the reviews said it was the only choice for the serious researcher who wanted to thoroughly document sources.  

Well, that experience was less than stellar... in fact, the difficulties I faced working with sources and documenting ongoing research in Reunion led me to set up my research templates for the Bento database program.  Although Bento was not a genealogy program, it worked well and allowed me to relate my data in useful ways.  Unfortunately File Maker stopped supporting it last year so I knew it was time to move on.  I tried Zotero, which is a wonderful tool for managing your research, but the problem is getting your data out of the program (it doesn't export readily into any format other than academic bibliographies).  Evernote is good, too, but I just can't integrate it easily into my routine.  It also feels too much like a big photo album -- and I like to see my data as text, too!

Another complicating issue for me is the staggering number of data management tools I've used in my time -- beginning with pencils and paper files back in the 1970s, and moving through several different iterations of software as computers came onto the scene.  The difficulties migrating my data over the years, compounded by changing standards in my data collection methodology (to put it politely), have resulted in a rather messy database.  So I have been using Bento to record my new sources (hoping that it will continue to work) and trying to clean up my Reunion files in my spare time.  

By chance I read a message about Family Tree Maker on an message board the other day, and on a whim I downloaded it to see if it was any good.  FTM was cheap -- a fraction of the cost of Reunion -- so I figured I could toss it if it wasn't useful.  

OMG (to quote my children)!!!!!  In the two days I've been playing with FTM, I've made major inroads on cleaning up my sources, places, and people; I've added masses of photos; and I am starting to integrate my Bento data.  This program is just so much more intuitive and easy to use than Reunion.  I love how I can include active web links directly in my source citations and easily link my saved document images to the citations as well.  It may seem like a small detail, but having one central location where I can see an individual's entire status -- facts, sources, and images -- is critical to my sense of control over my data.
And did I say it was intuitive and easy to use?  There's a lot to be said for simplicity -- it is highly correlated to actual use!


  1. I've been wondering about a good method to save and share the data that you and my uncle have helped compile over the years. I wanted to preserve it all as a printed family tree book/album and can already see where there will be some limits (or very high costs) to printing such a book. I like the idea of a digital record/book where links could help someone jump to data they wanted to see at that moment. Thanks for sharing your experiences with various programs for someone like me who's just now jumping into the family ancestry waters!

    1. Hi Kim, and thanks for commenting! There are so many different ways to preserve your family stories in ways that are easily accessible. Digital publishing is one, whether on a blog or as an e-book. I also love Google Earth because it allows your reader to interact with the data... and all stories take place somewhere, so maps lend themselves easily to sharing those stories. Tammy Hepps' website,, is another elegant platform for writing and sharing your stories that I highly recommend. To tell you the truth, I think we are just scratching the surface now in terms of innovative ways to do this.