Posted by Tana L. Pedersen on April 5, 2010 in Family Tree Maker

I learned an important lesson early on when I was researching my Danish ancestors: Novling is not the same as Nøvling. In fact, there is no place called Novling in all of Denmark. You may be wondering how I made this mistake. Perhaps it was inexperience. Or maybe good old arrogance. I just assumed that an Americanized version of a location or name was just as good as the native version. Turns out I was wrong.

Once I figured out my mistake (turns out the “slashed o” is its own letter in the Danish alphabet) and entered the name correctly, I was able to find Nøvling on a map and even view it virtually through Bing maps. Now you won’t catch me ignoring foreign characters. And hopefully you don’t either.

In Family Tree Maker 2009 and 2010, it’s easy to enter foreign characters. Simply place your cursor in the field where you want the character to appear. Then in the Edit menu, choose Insert Symbol. The Symbol window appears. Highlight the character you want and click Insert.

TIP   And if you find you need a character that isn’t on the Family Tree Maker symbol list, don’t worry. You can use the Character Map utility that comes with Windows. You can access it in your Accessories folder under System Tools.


  1. Peter Stuebing

    What a great tip Tana, thank you!

    I hope I can use your start here to slip in a question of my own. My german origin last name is Stübing. Variations in english of Stuebing, Stubing, Steubing; for starters.

    In my Family Tree Maker database it gets complicated and I end up with three versions of some people.

    I worry that I am going to miss some facts or people. I can’t find, on the internet, any sage advice as how to store these people. Any suggestions?

  2. Reneé

    I hate to do this, but I couldn’t find a way to comment on of your older posts I had a question about.
    The post about Source Templates included a PDF link. I’ve tried several times but can’t seem to access that PDF it says the file is corrupted when I try. Where can I download that file?

    Also, I was planning to read the file to answer this question:

    How do you recommend sourcing information obtained from someone via a Phone Call or Email? None of the new templates seem to cover those or even direct Interviews.


  3. dklart

    Genealogists know to not use foreign characters and accent marks, they will not translate to other formats. If you intend on uploading a Gedcom somewhere on the internet and want it to be searched and found, skip this tip.

  4. Virginia

    Thanks for that clarification…I gather this means I need to do some “search and replace” with my German names and places which have “characters” in them? I was wanting to create and send a Gedcom to my brother?????

  5. Monika

    I have one of my ancestry trees on, since I have the “Deluxe” membership and many living German relatives interested in that tree. I have added the “Umlaut” to the names that have it. The funny thing is that, as you know–when you add something to your tree– and/or informs you that you have added somthing to your tree!! You should read the German version of how they notify you! They clearly are totally unable to make any “Umlauts” with their computer software, so the notification in German equivalent to the English “data has been added to your tree” message, is so comical, with “Umlauts” showing up long after the word is said and done, that I always laugh until I have tears in my eyes. I guess it takes little to humor me! 🙂 But I do LOVE you, even if you do not always follow your own advice! 🙂

  6. Bromaelor

    Remember that both FTM and Ancestry Trees allow you to add ‘alternative names’ to individuals.So you could include the accented version as an alternative name.

  7. dklart’s comment is more a reflection on the inability of some software to handle UTF-8 encoding in the GEDCOM. One reason why I haven’t used many of the “big name” packages that can’t handle my GEDCOM of mixed Chinese and English characters.

  8. Tana L. Pedersen

    #1 Peter

    I don’t know that I have the perfect answer for recording multiple surnames. I record each individual under the name they were recorded with at birth (or the record I can find closest to that). Then I record each surname variation as a different Name fact for an individual. That way I can display the alternate names in reports and charts if I want.

    # 2 Renee

    I’m sorry you weren’t able to download the PDF. If you’d like to send me an email at, I’d be happy to forward you a copy.

    There is a source template you can use for phone calls, emails, interviews it’s just a little difficult to find. Go to the source group Archives and Artifacts, then choose Private Holdings as the Category. In the Template drop-down list you’ll see personal correspondence, person e-mail, and interview.

    # 3

    Thanks for the information on how characters are used in GEDCOMs. I’ll have to do some experimenting with this.

  9. Tanya,

    The last GEDCOM standard released and approved for public use had no provision for using UFT-8.

    There was a subsequent draft proposal (5.5.1 I think it was) but that draft was neither officially approved nor officially implemented.

    GEDCOMs are, by definition, ascii text. Use of anything else will always cause problems of one type or another with the import routines of several other programs.

  10. Brian Scheick

    Good to know. I’ve been using the VERY old Ancestry Family Tree program (it was free to download back ~2005). I bought FTM10 but hated the look, with big text and only 3 tabs (most of my ancestors seemed to have 10+ kids). I’m just now looking to upgrade to FTM-2010 and bet my old program only does GEDCOM 5.0, so I’ll lose or have to correct my Swedish ancestors.
    I use the windows keys (ALT+num keys) because I mostly use the same 2 and it’s easier once I’ve memorized those than all that clicking.

  11. Charles

    i agree with dklart. if you use symbols they will not be recognized on or internet search engines. also, this cute feature is not available at, just the FTM product on your PC.

  12. Carel

    I realy enjoy using the Ancestry program, but I do have difficulty checking the european history, how can I contact and obtain that information?

  13. Julie

    @Brian Scheick- FTM10 does have issues but maybe not the ones you think. Yes, it only shows 3 tabs for children but when you fill in the third spot it automatically creates a spot for the fourth, and so on. Theres a button to sort multiple children by birthdate. It won’t be as difficult as you believe.

    The only ‘real’ problem with FTM is that as you enter in your supporting documentation and upload to Ancestry, your documentation (which should go under ‘Stories’ it seems to me) goes under ‘Notes’ and therefore is only accessible to people you deem as ‘Editors’. This means your documentation is not available to the masses. (Note: Ancestry’s Help wrote back and acknowledged the bug and their solution was to type all my documentation into a word processing program, then attach it as files in the ‘Media’ section. NOT a good working solution at all. Why use FTM then?) I’m hoping Ancestry/FTM repairs this issue- and SOON.

  14. Julie,

    There is another way to handle it.
    Create a custom source- call it something like “Research Annotations” and then whatever you were going to enter that gets converted to Notes on the member trees enter that in the “Actual Text” part of your custom source.

    Granted, people will have to click on that source link beside the person’s name on the member tree overview page to actually read it – but it will at least be available.

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