FAMILY TREE MAKER
2005 DELUXE, Encore/
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___Personal Tech E-letter___ Washington Post personal technology columnist Rob Pegoraro answers reader e-mail and expands on themes he touches on in his weekly newspaper column. The e-mail version of this weekly feature includes links to the latest gadget and software reviews.
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The 12th edition of this genealogy program comes in three editions -- Standard, Deluxe and Collector's -- but the core program is identical in all. The only difference is how much access you get to normally subscription-only online databases with each one.
Keeping track of what comes with which version can be confusing: Both Standard ($50) and Collector's ($100), but not Deluxe ($70), include a one-year subscription to Ancestry.com's OneWorld collection of family trees. The Deluxe and Collector's editions, meanwhile, bundle a year of free access to Ancestry.com's U.S. Records Collection. Collector's also tosses in the Social Security Death Index, a massive 12-CD database.
The underlying software makes it simple to create a family tree by searching for ancestors online, thanks to its new integration with Ancestry.com. This lets people search this popular genealogy site from within the program, then pull in relevant records and attach them to a family tree with a "Web merge" function.
Genealogy novices, however, may find this Web integration confusing -- partly because Ancestry.com contains so many different sources of information, not all of which provide the same solid accuracy as government records. These users and others may also be turned off at the start by the way Family Tree Maker doesn't automatically grant access to these bundled subscriptions. The program doesn't explain the sign-up process, you still have to enter a credit card number, and if you forget to cancel within the first year you'll be hit with renewal charges. Equally frustrating, Ancestry.com often charges extra for access to details of the records it carries.
If you can navigate those obstacles and begin to build out your records of who came from where, Family Tree Maker offers sophisticated viewing and publishing options to make sense of large collections of extended families. A new "pedigree view," for example, displays from three to seven generations on one page, and a different shortcut automatically calculates your family's average lifespan. You can also create heritage charts and cobble together multimedia scrapbooks with notes, photographs, audio and video. Where the program really shines, though, is the more traditional kind of genealogy output, the fancy charts that it can burn to CDs or publish as Web pages.
-- Leslie Walker
Win 98 or newer, $70