How To Make Your Mac The Root Of A Family Tree

My family is large. No, it’s huge. Half of the family is from Scotland, and the other half from Puerto Rico. Needless to say, the only place that both families get together is on my Mac. My family project for the 21st century is to create a family tree. My Mac utility of choice? MacFamilyTree.

Toot the Roots

Mac users have half a dozen or so family tree or genealogy applications from which to choose. MacFamilyTree gets my nod because of two critical factors.

Ease of use. I like what I can understand. Eye candy. All that glitters isn’t gold, but it’s a start. MacFamilyTree is ease to set up and use, and looks great. Oh, it’s affordable. Make that three factors.

MacFamilyTree 5 may be regarded as the most advanced genealogy application for the Mac and is fully compatible with GEDCOM for reliable exchange of genealogy information across OS boundaries. MacFamilyTree offers easy web page creation and is smoothly integrated into Apple’s .Mac and our own exclusive Internet service on

Getting started is easier than you think. Click the button that says Create New Tree. That gets you the MacFamilyTree window. Even if you’ve never done genealogy or a family tree, you’ll be out on a branch in no time.


Click the Family Assistant button. Think of this as a wizard to enter information on your family members. Enter the name, sex, and attach the member to another member. Add father, add mother, add child.

Interface Me

MacFamilyTree is ultra easy navigation, considering the application has so many features. The left column contains menu items; the Family Assistant, Persons, FAmilies, a Media Browser, all under the heading of Edit.

This is where you go to Edit information you’ve entered. Remember, all you’re doing is entering information about family members, then linking them together. As opposed to stringing them up. I have a few family members that I’d like to…


The left column also contains Views—Ancestor Chart, Descendant Chart, Timeline, Statistics, Virtual Globe, and more. Reports can also be generated as a List of Persons, a single Person Report, as well as Places and Events.

Our Family Assistant guides you through genealogy data and lets you graphically create your own family tree. MacFamilyTree 5 intuitively visualizes your relations and the fully animated Editor allows for quick navigation from one person’s familiar context to another.

In addition to adding a single person to the family tree, you can also Add a Family with a single click. Enter the basic family information and save.

MacFamilyTree stores your family information in a database using Apple’s Core Data technology which is built in to Mac OS X Leopard.


The Fun Begins

Creating a family tree requires some effort, but you can watch the tree grow with just a few entries.

For example, enter you and/or your spouse, or your parents. Then, begin to branch out, so to speak, by entering the next nearest relatives. After you have a dozen family members stored, click on items in the Views and Reports section of the left hand menu.

Detailed, handy charts for Ancestors, Descendants and your entire Family, Genogramm, Timeline and Statistics have been significantly enhanced to match the state-of-the-art performance and flexibility of MacFamilyTree 5.

Charts on a family tree can be a little confusing after a few dozen family members and three or four generations have been entered. Thanks to MacFamilyTree’s Charts and Reports, what doesn’t bore you will excite you.

You can create customized charts and print them out, or save them as PDF files that you can send to family members.

Reports are more detailed, database-looking documents which list detail after detail after nauseum. What better way to impress your rich aunt who hasn’t signed her will.

Output options are numerous, including saving reports as HTML files which can be hosted on your family web site, or a site provided to MacFamilyTree users by the publisher. Even better are the options from the left column menu to publish your reports to .Mac or burned to a CD or DVD.


We all have preferences. There’s that uncle with the hair growing out of his ear. Oh, sorry. Wrong kind of preferences. MacFamilyTree’s Preferences are numerous.


General preferences let you show hints in the entry screens and so on. You can also modify date formats to choose one that matches your locale. Even the name format can be adjusted, as can Events and associated icons (which begins to make MacFamilyTree something of a digital scrapbook without the scraps).

Frankly, I didn’t expect setting up a family tree to be as much fun as it is. Something else worked out well. I managed to get both my father and mother in on the data entering. It became something of a competition between them.

That alone was worth the $50 entry fee. MacFamilyTree can export and import GEDCOM data. Think of it as a language common to family tree and genealogy applications, Mac or Windows.

GEDCOM is an abbreviation that stands for GEnealogy Data COMmunications. In short, GEDCOM is the language by which different genealogy software programs talk to one another. The purpose is to exchange data between dissimilar programs without having to manually re-enter all the data on a keyboard.

I enjoy MacFamilyTree. My complaints are minor. The non-standard buttons and odd interface seem to clash a bit with modern applications and utilities for OS X Leopard, but the interface is simple and understandable.

Still, growing a family tree on your Mac is an adventure and just plain fun. Growing the family tree backwards (instead of forwards, as with ‘children’) is the only way.