Customer Reviews: Family Tree Maker Platinum [OLD VERSION]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 2, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ok, so why would I rate this only two stars ("I don't like this") and still recommend to purchase? Despite all the flaws of the software (some discussed below) when the cost of the Platinum version of the software is equal to, or less than, the cost of a 6 month subscription to this is still a good deal. The main reason is that's genealogy resources and databases are so extensive and outstanding you'll still benefit from having access. For me, being able to retrieve's scanned images of primary documents is paramount as it allows for an offline archive of primary sources. In the end, the software generally does what it purports to do and is a nice platform for me when I either don't have internet access, or no longer have an active subscription.

Family Tree Maker (FTM) continues to have the feel of a platform that is annually tweaked, modified, appended, and upgraded in bits and pieces. FTM is due for a total rewrite from the ground up. Without that, the entire interface feels confusing and inconsistent. After six months of steady use of the 2011 version, and about 3 weeks using this 2012 version, I'm still constantly fumbling to figure out where I am, where my documents are, and just generally navigating around. You do eventually figure things out, but with a better and more consistently designed interface new users will have much less grief. I.e., if you are going to be a new user, you will have grief.

Good design would allow a user to search for documents for an individual, then quickly save an image to your local PC and automatically link the image to that individual. Makes sense to me. Anyway, this is the SIMPLIFIED AND ABBREVIATED version of how this actually happens:

The documents you retrieve will continue to reside on FTM servers, so when your subscription expires, you will be able to see the citations to the documents, but you will not be able to retrieve the images. If you want to save local copies of images of documents existing independent of an ongoing subscription, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. Say you use the web search feature and pull up an image of a 1900 census page from Wichita, KS. Looking at the scanned image, you click on "Save" and you get a box that gives you several options, one of which is "Save to your computer." You click on that radio button to save and . . . you get a popup that tells you HOW to save an image by "right clicking" and such (I already KNEW how to do that - why doesn't "save" just "save?") Ok, you mouse over the image, right click, "Save as ..." and save the image to your hard drive. You THEN have to find the option to "Add media" and point to the location of your newly downloaded image. You THEN have to click on the Media tab and link the image to an individual (you can link same image to multiple people). If you succeed, when you next go to that individual person's record and click on the Media tab, you should see the document image. You click on the thumbnail to view and WHAT? IT'S BLURRY? ILLEGIBLE? They don't tell you that to get a legible version of the image you had to blow it up inside the image viewer BEFORE saving in the first place. Viewing the image at 50% size, you'll have saved a 50% downsized image that when sized up appears blurry.

I like a locally based PC version of my family tree(s), including supporting imagery files. FTM doesn't make this easy so be aware of this before purchasing. In the end, I'd STILL recommend purchasing the Platinum version for the access to the sources, but I'd replace "learning curve" with "frustration curve." You CAN do it (I do), but stay calm (I don't).

A couple of other nit picks:

The "Shoebox" only stores stuff on the web. There is no similar "Shoebox" offline. No amount of synchronizing PC and online trees will put Shoebox items on your PC.

The auxilliary software wouldn't cleanly install and was unable to find a certain .cab file in an expected directory. I found the file on the CD and put it in the expected directory and all went fine. End users shouldn't have to have the ability to hack a defective install script.

UPDATE 12 DEC 2011: I was doing my research at using the web interface (not the installed FTM software) on a workstation where FTM was not installed and was attaching images of census pages, World War I draft records, etc. to various family members. I went home and synchronized with the desktop software and, lo and behold, copies of the images were automatically downloaded! Now, the media doesn't appear to be attached to individuals, but this is still a good thing. Though, You have to continue to explicitly link each of these downloaded images to individuals. My overall review stands since the interface doesn't make these kind of interactions seamless. The software is STILL 2 stars in my book because images should be downloaded and linked automatically in my opinion.
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on November 22, 2011
I have been a genealogist for over 20 years. Family Tree Maker was the program I used for most of that time. About 4 or 5 years ago, I decided to try out some other genealogy software applications. I recently came back to Family Tree Maker's current version.

Family Tree Maker is easy to use. You can go back and forth between an overview of the family and detail on an individual. I've used many custom fields, and include some in my reports.

One big plus for Family Tree Maker is that you can easily customize reports. This was a big challenge I had with RootsMagic. At a recent genealogy fair, both RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker had booths. I showed both companies the report I needed (descendant tree with certain fields). RootsMagic's staff said that they could not create this report. Family Tree Maker's staff showed me how to create the report (and I use this report regularly).

A big plus for this version is 6 months of This is a great service, and I use this for much of my research. This was my primary reason for purchasing the Platinum version. I also like the free copy of Family Tree Maker that you can give to someone else.

In short, if you are a genealogist or just want to create a family tree, this program is a great choice.
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VINE VOICEon December 2, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Genealogy has come a long way since home computers and then the internet sparked the genealogy bug in many people. Before these inventions, genealogy was all about visiting relatives and visiting historical archives and sites to gather your family information. The information was then recorded on paper, sometimes on standard forms like Family Group Sheets, Charts, etc.

Now, you can do most of your genealogy research from the chair in front of your PC, thanks to all of the research others have done before you that's available online. Family Tree Maker leverages that online access by partnering with to effortlessly link pertinent online information into your own family tree on your computer. You can have FTM automatically check names and dates in the background for you while you type in the people you know about. Within a couple hours, you could have a genealogy tree filled back into the 1700s or earlier!

However, as a serious amateur genealogist with about 30 years experience, I can tell you that not everything you find online (or even some books) is true or accurate, even on One of the benefits of the old way of actually visiting relatives and sites was that you knew first-hand what your source was and how accurate it is. Much of the information on the internet is undocumented, and so must still be verified by you personally. Of course, you don't have to verify everything yourself if you are just casually gathering information for your immediate family. But if you plan to publish or distribute your data to others (including and other online sites) then please verify and cite your sources.

OK, enough of the soapbox. :-) I think this software would be great for a new or casual genealogist. It's user-friendly and helps you find and enter the important information about each person. You can also store media like audio, video, photos, document scans, etc. to back up your written data. You can keep multiple trees for different people, like one for your father's ancestry and one for your mother's. Once your data is in the program, you can then publish it by printing it out in book format, in charts, spreadsheets, or upload it to It's fun to share this way with family members!

A couple things, however, keep me from using this program. 1) It appears that it cannot output a web site from your data. You can output its reports in HTML format, but it will not create a web site with indexes, source listing, etc. 2) All of my data is in a discontinued program called Ultimate Family Tree. Though FTM does accept some data directly from other programs (like PAF and older FTM versions), it will only accept my data by importing a GEDCOM file. This will leave out much of my data and media that cannot be transferred in the GEDCOM format.

I will be considering instead The Master Genealogist Gold Edition, since it will import all of my UFT data intact (still though, with several days of work transferring and checking the data). Choose your genealogy program carefully before you commit the time and effort needed to compile your genealogy tree. Once you commit to a program, it's usually not easy to switch to another one later.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'd never been one to explore genealogy because with my family background there were few records to explore. Many who immigrated through Ellis Island lament that names were changed and in the process their heritage was lost by the stroke of a pen. Similarly those of mixed American Indian backgrounds, as in my case, rely on oral family history. This past year I decided to explore Family Tree Maker Deluxe and was very pleased with what I discovered. My husband's family, unlike mine, was clearly "out there" so to speak and a wealth of information was there for the taking.

We were excited at the family history we were uncovering and deservedly my review was deemed "not helpful" by everyone reading it. I clearly remember stating that it was the best thing I'd ever gotten on Amazon, until of course, I received the Platinum edition. I played with the new edition for hours and my husband was not only thrilled, but amazed as he watched records merge with what we already knew. Before I even began, I opted not to merge what I already had from the Deluxe edition with this one. I did however, back up all my work so I wouldn't lose it. This is up to the individual, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I also printed out several records (pedigree charts) beforehand.

Now, if you simply want to get a taste of's software I'd recommend that you try Family Tree Maker Essentials 2012. It will be an easy and inexpensive way for you to get an idea of how these programs work and either decide to upgrade to a more expansive software such as this one. Before I get into the specifics of the Family Tree Maker, Platinum (and be a bit more helpful than last time) there are a few things I should make clear. Yes, some of you may receive defective discs because it does happen. Amazon has a simple, clear, and easy return policy. If you are experiencing any problems, there is a "convenient, built-in Help program". Last go around I simply called Ancestry (1-800-ANCESTRY) and was guided through an issue. Yes, in order to register you will need your credit card handy. I wrote my cancellation information on the back of the installation envelope.

Family Tree Maker, Platinum comes with a very comprehensive book with an easily accessible index. For example, I plugged in an incorrect name. Right spot, wrong name. I found the information I wanted under "deleting individuals from trees." The information was clearly outlined and I had no problems. A few other glitches of my own making were corrected by checking the index. Years ago I tediously worked through information I needed for the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution. The work took months and information I had entered onto forms was tedious. All that information came up in just a couple of hours. And there was documentation and access to photographs and things such as actual census recordings. Amazing.

For those who are already familiar with the program and have used it for years, you can simply bypass the rest of the review. Those who really want to know what you can do with Family Tree Maker Platinum, you may wish to read on. Personally, with my previous experience, I was more than happy to visit this program. Even if I only dabble in it one or two days a week, the six months access will be worth the price, especially with the Companion Guide to help me. There are instruction for installation, registration, activating your subscription, a help program, tutorials, and many other informative vignettes to help you on your way to discovering your ancestry.

Family Tree Maker Platinum

* Tutorials

* Six month membership

* The Companion Guide to Family Tree Maker, 2012 (370 pp) or it can be viewed in a PDF file from the Help menu

* Photo Retouching Software

* Gift copy of Family Tree Maker (this was a very pleasant surprise)

* Tooltips (if you put your mouse over a button the name and usage of it will show up)

* Built-in Help program (search, content, and index tabs)

* Training tutorials (accessed from the Help menu)

* Online or telephone technical support (1-800-ANCESTRY). I found them very supportive when I called earlier this year when using another version of Family Tree.

* Your work is automatically saved when you close the program (I still recommend backing up your work if it is extensive).

* Tutorials on how to navigate the interface and toolbars in the Companion Guide.

* A Plan workspace or "control center" where you can access new information coming out from other researchers.

* Information on your People workplace (where you actually build your tree and watch it grow). Members are listed and you can click on them to review or add information and notes. Your People workplace has a Pedigree view, family group view, editing panel, and a Person tab.

* A Places workspace has a map where you can visualize where your ancestors were born, lived, and died.

* A Media workspace has thumbnails of pictures, records, and other information you might add. For example, a copy of a census record would be seen there.

* A sources workplace. This is where you'd find the sources that are linked to individuals such as actual census records.

* The Publish workspace shows the different types of charts you can arrange your work in. I printed out one and it was easy to see the family tree in a manner I could appreciate.

* The Web Search workspace allows you to search the Ancestry records. You can also add your own. For example, if I wanted to I could add information I had from birth certificates or other information found on the Internet.

* You will be able to read about detailed information on how you can create a tree. Read this one carefully, because I did enter incorrect information and had to delete.

* You'll learn how to enter family information. Once you get the hang of it, it can be great fun. This is where I've spent a lot of time. There are lots of dates to be entered and many related individuals. Sometimes you'll see a tiny leaf next to a name where there is already information about the individual. Click it and if it is "your" person, you can easily merge the existing information (you will be guided through this as you work). You can even add photographs and stories about your relatives.

* You will learn how to document your research. If you are a newbie to genealogy this is an important chapter to read. When you are working in the program you may see several undocumented resources. You will learn how to cite them and enter them. Reliability is an important factor.

* You will read about how you can store your multimedia in the program ("photos, images, sound files, videos, scanned documents).

* You'll learn how to use the maps. Every time a location is added it will go to your "master list" where you can view it. If you are connected to the Internet you can zoom in and take a close look at the town Grandma lived in. You can even take a look at a migration map and enter GPS coordinates.

* You can also go online and access & add information you find on such genealogy places as and I've found a few simply by Googling names. Finding well documented ones online now can be very helpful. You will received instructions on how to merge and/or copy information and images.

* Once you are well-versed in working the program you'll also get detailed instructions on how to created your family tree, run reports, and even create a book. It will take a while to get to this point, but when you are ready you won't have to do it on your own.

* The last part of the Companion Guide helps you to manage your trees, discusses tools (things like Soundex), and has a troubleshooting section.

There are numerous informative sidebars interspersed throughout the book. For example, one discusses the privacy options you have when you begin to set up your family tree. Do you want others to freely see information you enter or do you want it to remain private? In the back of the book is a very comprehensive and easy to use index, something that I really appreciate. Whether you are a seasoned genealogist or just want to dabble in it, there are advantages for both in Family Tree Maker Platinum. The six months you get to explore your family background is worth much, much more than the asking price of the software itself!
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VINE VOICEon December 12, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have a long running "Love Hate" relationship with I love their online databases (when they work), but I hate how they have taken Family Tree Maker and made into the mess that they have.

I've been a genealogist for 30+ years and have been using FTM since version 6.

My overall opinion of versions of FTM issued since 2006 is that it is designed for people who want to "collect" information from online databases, but necessarily understand the information that they are downloading, and they don't look much further than what spits out after a search. This phenomena is what makes many of the family trees uploaded by a number of people absolutly worthless because these folks just add information without parsing it out.

As for this version:

What's Great: For the price of this version of Family Tree Maker, you get the program, and you get 6 months FREE access to You also get a FREE CD-ROM with the basic program on it that you can give to a friend, or give to a family member. Ancestry's databases are extraordinary in their usefulness. AND if you get this for yourself (or someone else) who already has an Ancestry subscription, they will take the six months access and build it onto the end of their current subscription period - and thats a VERY nice gift indeed.

What's NOT So Great: The program itself has become clunky and bogged down in graphics, while its user friendly aspect has declined. I often times find myself lost in the program because their design logic doesn't make sense, and jumping between people (married couples, for example) is cumbersome. FTM's message boards have been long clogged with users asking for something that is simple in its design, and useful for people who don't need things like photo retouching, or "presentation" styled trees. However the developers have decided on their path, and it seldom includes customer feedback.

The other thing that I have an issue with is FTM has become so integrated with Ancestry online, that when you save documents online, and if you let the subscription lapse, the citation remains, but you can't access the document. So if you decide to go that route, either a long subscription period is in your future or you need to develop an escape plan. Saving things "to the cloud" is great, as long as you have the finances to support it.

One very IMPORTANT warning to users of older versions of Family Tree Maker - Before installing this program, back-up every family file you have and save it someplace safe. While this program will convert your family files to the current version, you can not save your files back to the older format if you decide against using this newer version. While this program can convert them to GEDCOM files, you'll lose a lot of information when you go to open up the file in the earlier version.

My final word is one of caution - whatever genealogical program you decide to buy, if you don't take the time to read through the transcribed information on any genealogical web site (and compare it to the original to VERIFY that it is correct) or take the time to understand the document, you'll come away from this hobby with very little that useful. You'll accumate a lot of names, but you won't understand what you have.
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on January 26, 2012
I have always had the older versions of Family Tree Maker and loved them, but I really hate this version. It is too difficult to manuver compared to the older versions. Perhaps if you are new to geneology, and have not used any of the older versions, it would be fine. I would not recommend this version to anyone. Except for the free 6 mo. subscription to, as far as I am concerned, I wasted my money.
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VINE VOICEon January 19, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've struggled with exactly how to review this product. I had the deluxe version for a while and reviewed that, and then received this upgrade for review. Here's why I struggled: The software itself has some issues and it can be confusing. In fact, when I reviewed it before, I made the mistake of thinking some features were part of the software, when they were really part of the features of the subscription to Ancestry dot com and I ranked it higher than I ought to have. I'll attempt here to explain the difference between the two.

Family Tree Maker Software

With the software alone, you can create a family tree using information you have obtained from research. You can add names of family members, add branches to the tree, and at information about people (where born, places they lived, dates of key events, etc. You can customize branches too. For example if your great grandfather had a second wife after his first wife died, you can add them both.

You can add media by uploading photos and scanned documents and you can link those with a particular family member, as well. Once you've created your family tree and added photos and documents, you can organize it all into a book or you can create specific documents for printing such as a genealogy report, a chart, a report about a branch of the family, and more. If you decide to create book, you'll be able to print pages at home, or upload them to have a book professionally printed (costs of this unknown as I haven't tried it).

The software itself has quite a learning curve. And there are times when it just stops working and restarts itself. I'm not sure why this happens, but it auto-saves often enough that I didn't lose data. I'm giving the software 3 stars because it's just not all that easy to navigate, mostly because it goes back and forth between the internet version on Ancestry dot com(I have to write it that way or Amazon will flag this review because of the hyperlink) and the software on your computer. It's easy to get lost and I'm a tech savvy person! Changing facts and adding people looks different in the software than it does on the net, so I got confused and looped around a lot looking for stuff.

To their benefit, though, the software has improved since the last version. Now, it's easier to sync the saved version on your computer and the online version. It has added some new chart options and report options and the platinum version includes a full printed help book that's an inch thick.

Unfortunately, the gift copy of the software included in the box did not work. The disk is corrupted and I was unable to give it to my son to use on his computer. Also, the free photo editing software would not install and I had to follow instructions given in another review for how to get a missing file from the CD and drag it into the downloads folder on my computer. Those without tech ability won't be able to use the photo software.

It's supposed to allow for merging of data from multiple versions you've created of your own tree, but I couldn't get it to work. The program crashed in the middle of the process every time. I created two trees so my son could research without messing up what I had created, but now I can't merge his research with mine.

So now, to get to the best part of the whole thing...

Subscription to Ancestry Dot Com

The 6 month subscription to Ancestry dot com, a $89 value is awesome. Why? Because you don't have to do all the research that you would have to if you had only the software. The database contains heaps of info and links to immigration and census records and you'll likely find your family on there. If other relatives have added info, you can merge it into your family tree and still add more info as you find it. My son was able to trace one of our roots all the way back to the King of England in the 1100's and even further back!

Once the subscription expires, you won't be able to access anything except for the family tree you've saved to your computer, so use it while you have it. You'll have to give them your credit card number to activate the subscription, so remember to cancel it before the 6 months is up or you'll be charged another $89 for 6 more months.

If I could rate this based solely on the web membership, I'd give it 5 stars. But the software still needs some improving and the features need to integrate better between the web and the software.
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VINE VOICEon December 11, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let me preface this review by saying that I have owned Family Tree Maker software of some version for about 14 years. I have always been happy with the ease of use. With the 2012 version I was happy to see the data would sync with, one of the best genealogy websites available -- even with its rather hefty subscription fees. Happily, the Platinum version comes with a six-month subscription to Ancestry -- another positive. If you need to research records in Europe, the subscription cost is so high to be almost prohibitive. I understand genealogy centers in libraries, the Mormon church, and private centers usually have a subscription to the worldwide records so I'd recommend making use of one of these centers, if available. Additionally, if you have and iPhone or iPad, there is a really great Ancestry app which will definitely enhance your research experience.

I recently started research again after a several-year break. So when the 2012 Platinum version of FTM was made available, i jumped at the opportunity to review it, not believing my luck, realizing that especially with the new features, it could help my search immensely.

I installed the software as soon as it arrived in the mail. I was adding info left and right, and very excited at all that was available online. After about an hour, the system crashed. To make a long story short, I had to perform a system restore to the point before I installed FTM and then when I tried to re-install, I got error messages saying critical components were missing. I was so disappointed. My laptop is less than two years old, so it isn't as if I was trying to install on a dinosaur of some type. I also lost all the data I'd entered during those two hours as there is no automatic backup feature -- something I didn't discover until it was too late.

Technical support via phone hasn't been available as they close by the time I get home from work. Should I get help and am able to re-install the software I will amend this review. Until then, my recommendation remains in limbo.
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on January 25, 2012
I cannot recommend this product due to sync issues. It worked ok initially but at the first sync, I noticed media in my Ancestry Member Tree (AMT) had changed. I.E., all pictures set as profile were no longer profile. I was shocked that the syncing could change my on line tree! I worked for several days with a volunteer to correct this and other issues to no avail. The volunteer was assisting as emails to were totally ignored. I finally this week received a response, but their "fixes" don't work, nor do updates from them on FTM; now after spending many frustrating days and nights trying different "solutions", they say they are aware of the issues and are working on them.. Other issues: all of the shaking leaves (hints) were reset with syncing. I do not have time to rework these hints, as I have over 1,700 people in my tree. An update said it corrected this but that didn't happen for me. At a subsequent sync, media in my AMT are replaced with "placeholder icons". After near a month of not being able to do my work, I am switching to Reunion. FTM for Mac2 may be ok on its own without syncing, but I have not tried that. I am so worried about my tree destructing, that I am going to have to start all over with Reunion, as I have lost all confidence in this product. Read posts on before purchasing.
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on May 23, 2012
I bought Family Tree Maker in February 2012. I decided to take them up on their research service free trial. I didn't find it particularly useful, so I canceled the service at the end of the trial period. I know that I canceled because I vividly remember selecting an option in "Why are you leaving us?"

They have no record of the cancellation, which means that their own form didn't go through to them. It also means that they renewed the subscription contrary to my instructions, charging me $77.70 for a service I had canceled.

It took over a month for the renewal to show up on my credit card bill. When I called to get the charge reversed, they hid behind the policy of no cancellations over a month. This is obviously an ongoing problem for them because when you go to cancel, they have a link to "Why don't I qualify for a refund?"

The trial is a scam! You may find it useful, but when you go to cancel it, make sure that the cancellation goes through. It must be a real money maker for them to "accidentally" lose cancellation e-mails and continue subscriptions when people try to quit the service.
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