Family Tree Maker 2009 Review (Part 1) (Guest Author Bob Larson)

February 14, 2009 at 10:49 am 6 comments

Family Tree Maker 2009© (FTM 2009) has many new features over the previous versions. Even though it’s the nation’s most popular genealogy software, it’s amazing how many features are included in this software package for a low price. FTM 2009 offers three packages: Essentials, Deluxe, and Platinum, which gives 1, 3, or 6 months of Ancestry subscription databases.

All three FTM 2009 versions include two instruction booklets (something new) and their website ( includes a free downloadable 105 page illustrated Getting Started Guide. Users can also purchase Tana Pedersen’s popular illustrated 420 page book, Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2009 for more detailed information. The software disk includes a tutorial video of their many features or users can see the same video on the FTM website.

In my opinion with their latest free upgrade, FTM 2009 is even better than their popular version 16 (2007) software. With that being said, I’m going to give the highlights of this user friendly software in three parts. Part one will cover Plan and People. Part two will cover Web Search, Places and Media and part three will cover Sources and Publishing. Most of the features from previous versions have been included in this version with the latest upgrades.

Because of the many new features, the FTM developers revised the software code and decided to give it a new look. New users won’t notice the change and past users even liked the new layout per my FTM 2009 class students. I know some past users didn’t like the new look, but they love the new features. So what’s different about FTM 2009? Similar to FTM 2008, the software uses seven different workspaces tabs common for all screens that are rather unique.
Instead of the familiar pull down menus used in the older FTM versions (8 to 16), most of the FTM 2009 features have been grouped into seven workspace tabs at the top of the screen.

The workspace tabs divide the software into seven major categories seen at the top of the screen: Plan (build your tree), People (add individuals to your tree), Places (locate ancestors using many detailed worldwide maps), Media (add document images, photos, videos, and audio clips of your ancestors), Sources (organize your master sources and source citations), Publish (create genealogy reports or a book), and Web Search (search many different databases on the Internet). Several pull down menus are still used for saving, importing or exporting family files, editing functions, and getting help.

Part 1: Plan and People Workspaces

Planning your family tree is easy and simple. New genealogists can start building their family tree by adding their current relatives and their vital statistics on both sides of the family, then expand their tree with their ancestors. Past users of previous FTM versions can import their family file(s) very easy using the FTM install wizard or import the file from the File menu. The software backs up the main family file automatically upon closing the software, but you can also backup your family file to a secondary hard drive, CD, memory stick, or external Internet storage. Users can easily restore damaged family files using the backup copy.

Once you have your family file established, users will be using the People and Web Search tabs most of the time. Users have access to four different panels in the People screen as shown below in Figure 1. The left panel shows the collapsible Index of individuals in your family tree, the middle panel using the Family view tab shows the relationship in a pedigree format with the family information below and the movable editing panel on the right, whereas the Person view tab shows detailed facts, media, notes, and tasks on the selected individual, and the editing panel on the far right allows users to add all the vital stats and new facts for any ancestor.

Figure One. People View

Several new features in the Person view allow expanded relationships for any individual, ie, natural born, adopted, step, foster, etc., expanded sources plus a better tracking journal. I’ll discuss the Sources in part three. The tracking journal is a great feature as it helps to plan your research trips to any library or courthouse using a printable task list. Or you can bring your laptop to add the family information and check off the tasks. How simple is that?

About the author: Bob teaches monthly FTM classes for Larimer County Genealogical Society ( in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he is also president of his society. He is an author of a family history book, speaker at many workshops, regional societies and regional conferences, and a family historian. Bob’s email is


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Building For Others Family Tree Maker 2009 Features (Guest Author Bob Larson)

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  February 15, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Great review, thank you. If you already subscribe to ancestry and you don’t need the start guide or Tana Pederson’s book, is it sitll worth it? I debated and still bought it which I do like. Producing reports are an excellent function and something I find very useful in sending to customers whose trees I research.

  • 2. Gertrude  |  March 6, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I just installed FTM 2009 and wish I would never have upgraded. Unfortunately, my previous version 2005 is not compatible with Windows Vista 64 bit so I had no choice. I find many of the customizing features I liked about 2005 have been removed. For instance, “include marriage notes, include more about marriage facts” etc. My preference is the registry genealogy report but the published report in 2009 combines all the facts in the same paragraph rather than listing them under notes below. Also, the generation designation is no longer in superscript. Unless, there’s something I’m not aware of, it appears I will have to save my report as a RFT and manually make my changes. What a bummer for so much money.

  • 3. Matthew Butcher  |  May 28, 2009 at 12:32 am

    I was excited by getting FTM 2009 but have ended up being rather dissappointed in a variety of key areas. I think my major grumbles come from how my data and research can be printed out. Having spent many long hours adding information against each marriage record I now find that this only appears on reports under direct ancestors. This exlcudes a major chunk of information I had collected for all individuals. Now I will have to copy out of the notes section into the main notes area. As I also transferred my file from FTM 2006 to FTM 2009 any instance of an apostrophe in the notes section was translated into a blank space. This means that I have to run a spell check on every individual note section. The genealogy reports also appear much less refined that those on my previous version. I want to print and publish my work without having to export everything to word and then completely re-edit. I want to have the opportunity to print all of my research, not such some of it. More freedom for customisation in these reports is required.

  • 4. Barry Speth  |  May 29, 2009 at 6:13 am

    I’ve been active in genealogy since 1998, when I purchased my first FTM software. Those were the fun days. Last year, I purchased the 2008 version of FTM and genealogy is no longer a pleasure. I’ve been considering the purchase of the 2009 FTM but doubt that I will. I feel that I can no longer trust the FTM product. I feel betrayed by this company.

  • 5. Edith  |  June 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Iam not buying anything.I do need is a example of how to put 105 people on a family tree.Iam going to do it in cross stitch.I just need help with getting everyone on it.I have the names and dates,but how to fit everybody on the fabric so it looks nice.I do good with a very big pictures because i have bad eyes,but yes i can read.Please write me back.Thank you.

  • 6. Katherine Dimacale  |  February 7, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Great article. Thanks for the info, it’s easy to understand. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a family information form, I found a blank form here


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