Trace your family history with your PC

Trace your family history with your PC

Meet your ancestors, find out where they once lived, and bring your family tree to life with Family Tree Maker 2012

As our Explained guide [link to explained guide] demonstrates, researching your family history has never been easier with the help of your PC and the internet. The best program for organising all your findings is the AVANQUEST Family Tree Maker 2012 Platinum Edition (£59.99, PC World).

This program includes a complementary six-month subscription to all of’s UK records, allowing you to research your tree as you build it. In this guide we’ll introduce you to the main components of the program, allowing you to get up and running quickly.

1. Get started

After installing and registering with Avanquest, tick Run Family Tree Maker 2012 Now and click Finish. Let any updates install if prompted, then follow the prompts to register the program by logging into (or creating) your account. Doing so will allow you to activate the six month’s subscription and access Ancestry records through Family Tree Maker.

2. Start building your tree

Family Tree Maker helps you get started with your tree-building quickly: just enter your name, sex, birth date and place, plus your parents’ names (use your mother’s maiden name instead of her married name). Click the File Location button only if you want to store your family tree somewhere other than your Documents folder. Finally, click Continue, leave the ‘Yes’ option selected when prompted and click OK.

3. Navigating your tree

You’ll be taken to the People view, where your family tree can be viewed. The currently selected person – you by default – appears in the right-hand pane. Start by adding a photo of yourself – right-click the silhouette next to your name in the top-right of the screen and select Add New Picture. Browse to and select a suitable headshot and click Open. Leave the default option – which creates copies of all imported photos in a central folder – selected and click OK.

4. Add facts about yourself

The Person tab lets you view more detail about the current individual. Add facts by clicking the blue + button next to Relationships. Select the type of fact you wish to add or click New to create a new type. Enter a date and place for the fact in question under your profile photo. To add a source for this fact, click New under Source, then click New again. Enter as much detail as you can, then switch to the Media tab to attach a scanned image of any associated documents if you have them.

5. Add more photos

You can add notes about the individual under their facts – switch to the Media tab underneath their list of facts to add more photos you have. Select each photo in turn, then double-click them to add extra details like captions, dates and notes to the photo.

6. Add spouse

Once you’ve fleshed out the individual as much as you can, switch back to the Family tab. Click Add Spouse to enter details of your partner following the same techniques already outlined. Once done, click Add Child to add any children’s details.

7. Enter your parents’ details

Select yourself by clicking your name on the tree to make your parents visible. Select one by clicking their name, and start adding facts and photos to their entry in the same way you did with your own. When you’re done, click Add Father or Add Mother on the tree to enter their parents’ details in turn.

8. Build your tree

Continue to develop your tree, adding from the research you’ve already done. Eventually, small green leaves will start appearing next to names. This means Family Tree Maker has identified possible matching records at Click a leaf to see how many hints have been found, then click the link to find out more.

9. Find online matches

A list of possible matches will be displayed. Select one and compare its findings in the Search Results box with your ancestor. If it’s a match, click Merge Now, then follow the wizard. If other family members are found in the same record, you can incorporate them too. If no suitable matches are found, click More Results to search from within the program itself. The advantage of this is that you can easily merge any records you do find directly into your Family Tree Maker file.

10. Organise media

Click the Media button to see all the images you’ve imported so far. Select a picture to see its date and caption; select the Details tab to see who the photo is currently linked to; click New to add a link to another person – perfect for group shots like wedding photos.

11. Locate ancestor addresses

The Places button lets you link addresses to actual places on modern maps. Many addresses may require resolving, in which case select the address and click the icon next to its entry in the right-hand pane to choose the closest match. Once resolved (or ignored if Family Tree Maker doesn’t make any suggestions), you can zoom into the map and – if supported – view a bird’s-eye photo of how it looks today, so you can see if the original building or street still exists.

12. Print a chart

It’s easy to create charts and reports for anyone in your family tree. Make sure they’re selected in Person, then click the Publish button. You’ll see a number of options appear on the left – click one to see what’s available. When you see something you like, double-click it. A preview of your report will appear in the left-hand pane. Experiment with the settings in the right-hand pane until the report or chart appears to your satisfaction. Right-click the preview to print it, send it via email or export it to a particular type of file.