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MacFamilyTree

Article Date: 
17 September, 2010 - 06:00

As more people have begun using Macs (Apple’s personal computer) over the past few years I have often been asked if I could recommend a record manager for the Mac.  I have consistently replied that there are no good record managers for the Mac and that I run one of the Windows record managers in Parallels on my Mac.  Today I will change my reply.
For the first time today I used a product called MacFamilyTree and so far it is the first record manager for the Mac that I would recommend.  It is a very Apple Mac application, which means that it takes a different approach to displaying information.  Rather than the traditional pedigree view, it has a very graphical representation that shows the pedigree relationships.  It has an extremely cool view of family information called a virtual tree.  This virtual tree provides a three dimensional view of your entire tree.  This is particularly helpful to visualize family information and find end of lines.
The product has a good selection of reports.  There are not as many reports as some of the competitive products, but a there is a good cross section of the key reports that are needed.  As I have mentioned, I am a fan of fan charts (pun intended).  The fan chart implementation in MacFamilyTree is one of the best I have seen.  There is also a very useful chart called a “Kinship Chart.”  I have never seen a report quite like this one.  It lists the names and vital stats about the relatives of any given person.  It includes multiple generations of grandparents and grandchildren, uncles, aunts, children, parents, etc.  On one report it is easy to see the key relationships of an individual and where there is missing information.
In typical Mac fashion most of the screens can be manipulated by zooming in and out and changing the view.  This zooming feature creates an experience with genealogical data that is visually rich, and very helpful to isolate the information needed.  I have rarely been able to see my information in a way that so quickly communicated its structure and areas that need additional research.
The integration with FamilySearch is straightforward.  Unlike some of the other software, there is no mass update process.  At first, this seemed annoying to me, but as I used it further, I decided that it was as flexible and functional as most of the other software.  I actually added individuals into my tree with the approach of MacFamilyTree (which is to click on one person at a time) nearly as quickly as the mass update from other record managers.
The one thing that annoyed me about the synchronization with new FamilySearch is that when the person is added from new FamilySearch none of the facts about that person is added.  Most of the other record managers with new FamilySearch integration add the summary facts about a person when that person is added.  I would prefer that the software at least asked me if that is what I want to do.  With this in mind, it was easy to add the facts once the person was adding, and this one by one approach made me more conscious of what I was adding than a mass update would.
The main drawback of MacFamilyTree for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that it does not have fields to track ordinances.  It could be that I am so excited to have a record manager for the Mac, that I like, that my judgment is clouded , but I also did not find this as problematic as I might have supposed.  My conclusion was that I would use MacFamilyTree to track my genealogical information and synchronize with new FamilySearch and that I would use new FamilySearch to do ordinances.  The ordinance portions of new FamilySearch are some of its best features, so I think for me this is very manageable.
The sourcing is good.  It allows for digital documents to be attached to sources and for source records to be attached to multiple individuals.  It also has a lightweight source grading system (not consistent with the genealogical proof standard or the citation system in Evidence Explained) that is useful in indicating at a glance whether the source entered was evaluated as reliable.
Lastly, and perhaps one of the best features for those who have an iPhone is that it has a companion product for iPhone.  The tree can be automatically synched with the Mac version and can be edited in either on the Mac or the iPhone.  This makes it incredibly convenient to always have my ancestor information at hand.
Overall, with the LDS ordinance missing features aside, I really like MacFamilyTree.  I like its approach, its screens, its reporting, and the visual representations of my genealogical data that helps me to see the information in ways I have never visualized before.  If you have a Mac, I will say for the first time, that here is a product you can use.