The folks at Ancestry.com have finally ported their much-improved Family Tree Maker package to Mac OS X. This new release is tailored for UK users, and comes with a six-month UK Premium subscription to Ancestry, which gives you unlimited access to its UK records.

This bumps up the asking price, but also provides exceptional value (it would cost £54 if bought separately).

Why is it here? To showcase Family Tree Maker's best feature: its ability to quickly and easily merge records from Ancestry's archives into your tree. As your tree is built, flashing green leaves appear next to individuals' names, indicating possible matches on Ancestry; click to view these in the Web Search window.

If you find a definite match, click Merge and follow the simple wizard through to integrate the record, its source and an image of the original document into your file. Better still, if other family members are listed on the same record, you can incorporate those details too.

It's possible to build an entire tree this way, although the program does include all the tools you need to manually add individuals. This handy feature showcases Family Tree Maker's major advantage over its rivals: user-friendliness.

It boasts a similar feature set to MacFamilyTree, for example, but everything is presented in a more logical, easy-to-navigate interface. The program lays its features out as a series of buttons: Plan, People, Places, Media, Sources, Publish and Web Search. In other words, everything you need to put together your family tree.

Family tree maker places

Getting started is simple. Start from scratch, convert a file from the PC version of Family Tree Maker using the migration tool supplied, or import from a GEDCOM file or existing tree hosted on Ancestry. You can also merge another file or incorporate records from other trees hosted on Ancestry via the Web Search tool.

You'll spend most of your time in the People section, which is divided into two tabs: Family and Person. The Family tab is designed for getting around your tree – it's split into four panes providing tools for navigation and selecting of individuals, which can then be viewed and edited in detail from the Person tab.

Explore the other sections and you'll see more evidence of Family Tree Maker's blend of useful features and accessibility: the Media and Sources sections don't just provide a decent overview of your images and sources, for example, they also make it easy to view and enter precise details about individual entries.

The Places component is also superior to MacFamilyTree, making it easy to pin even unrecognised locations (such as typically precise addresses such as house numbers and street names) precisely on the map.

Rounding things off is the Publish section, where you'll find a bigger selection of reports and charts than offered by other package on the market, and again it's all easy to set up and implement.

One year behind

There is one irritation with Family Tree Maker for Mac: it's based on last year's PC release, so lots of subtle improvements and one or two major features (specifically the Smart Stories component for quickly and easily generating narrative histories of selected family members) aren't present.

But even without these tweaks, the program still manages to effortlessly take the Mac genealogy crown and set a new benchmark for others to follow.

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