Posted by Tana L. Pedersen on June 1, 2010 in Family Tree Maker

It’s easy to get in the habit of opening Family Tree Maker, entering data, and closing the program without really thinking. But if you take a few minutes to change your preferences or tweak settings that are compatible with how you work, you might be surprised at how much more efficiently your data entry goes.

The Index panel in the People workspace is your key to displaying the individuals and family lines you want to focus on. You can determine how names are displayed, add dates, and sort by a variety of options.

If—like me—you have a tree full of Benjamins, Elizabeths, and Marys (all with the same surname, of course) you might want to add birth, death, or marriage dates to the Index panel display so that it’s easier to distinguish between them.

To display dates in the Index:

  1. Go to the Family tab on the People workspace.
  2. Click the Show additional data button in the upper-right corner of the panel.
  3. From the drop-down list, choose to add birth, marriage, or death dates to the Index.
Show data options button and drop-down
Birth dates shown in Index

You can also change your name preferences for the Index panel. You can include titles, alternate names, and married names for females.

To change name displays in the Index:

  1. Click Tools>Options.
  2. Click the Dates/Names tab.
  3. If you have entered names in the Also Known As fact, click the Use AKA if available after middle name checkbox to have these alternate names included with the preferred name (for example, Bobbitt, Mary Eliza “Mollie”); click the Use AKA if available as an additional entry checkbox to have these alternate names appear as their own entries in the Index panel (for example, Hannah “Anna” Willis and Anna Willis).
  4. If you have entered information in the Title fact, click the Use titles if available checkbox to have the titles included with the preferred name (for example, Hait, Captain Samuel).
  5. If you want a woman’s married name included—in addition to her maiden name—click the Use married names for females checkbox (for example, Hoyt, Maria Hitchcock).
  6. Click OK.

Also Known As names and Titles show in the Index

You can also sort the Index alphabetically by name (given or surname) and by date (birth, marriage, and death).

To sort the Index:

  1. Go to the Family tab on the People workspace.
  2. From the Sort drop-down list, choose how you want to sort the names. If you choose to sort by date, you will see sub-headings grouping the names together.
The Index sorted by birth date


  1. This is all very well (and thank you), I knew all of it anyway. What would be really clever was if the sort sequence defaulted to sort by date of birth WITHIN surname, forename so that it made it easier to find the person I am looking for. I have instances where I have over 20 people with the same forename and surname.

  2. Patricia Mae Connor/Howard

    I hope in the future you will have box in SERCH to chose just one instead of all 3 catagores,
    #1.A. Birth
    B. City
    C. State

    #2. Marriage

    #3. Childern

    #4. Death

    #5. Occupation

  3. Ken,

    I also wish that a two level sort in the index was available- It sure would save time trying to locate the correct John Jones out of the 37 in the index.

  4. Ronald Chambers

    I’ve requested that females be listed by BOTH their surname and their married name since about version 11 or so of FTM.

    Please add as option. Probably good to add males also as in some places mothers name is surname.

    RON C

  5. Sally Brown

    This looks informative but where do you find the box to write all this information? I just happen to find this page I’m not sure what your talking about.Give me A HINT PLEASE. t.y

  6. Donna

    I appreciate this brief tutorial. It is easier for me to read one a day rather than reading the book. We learn in different ways. Thanks!

  7. Gerald

    Michel, The search isn’t working. Either gives the “behind fire wall” message, or a blank page. Seems like if I search for the female side of a family it gives search results occassionally. Never on the Male side. Strange that, I know, but that is what seems to be happening. I dumped the temp files and restarted FTM. Didn’t help.

  8. Anne Huffman

    Hi Michel,
    It is not your computer…. mine is not working either.

    Last time it was down over 14 hours !!!

    Go now and back up your Trees by downloading them to your computer.


  9. Tana L. Pedersen

    Thanks for the suggestions on how you’d change the index. There is always room for improvement.

    #4 Ronald

    In Family Tree Maker 2010 (and I think 2008 and 2009), you can include females by their maiden name and married name in the Index. Click the Tools menu and choose Options. In the Options window click the Dates/Names tab. At the bottom of the window you’ll see the Name index options seciton. Click the Use married names for females checkbox. I hope this helps.

  10. Gerald

    And it seems to be not working again.
    this is getting tiresome. Every day lately seems like.

  11. Bob Esch

    I too am experiencing intermittent problems with the search feature. I also notice you changed the search feature slightly – smaller print, and slightly different format. The CONFLICTING message is very specific. But when I want to save a census to an individual in my tree, the possible individuals’ drop down list interferes with (lies on top of) the name of my tree, so it is difficult to see the name of the individual I want to select. I hope you see fit to correct this (I’m sure unintended) change.

  12. Jennifer Jones

    When will blog comments be allowed for the blog supporting the June 16th Webinar on Advanced Family Tree Maker? The registration said to leave questions on the blog but the blog has been closed for comments and I have had no luck with the correspondence with customer support in getting the blog re-opened for comments. I would really like to be able to send questions in advance prior to the Webinar, as you requested. Thanks for any help with this. (P.S. This is the only way I have found to get in touch with you.)

  13. Lynn

    #17 Jennifer

    There is a May 17, 2010 blog about the June 16th webinar, posted by Michelle Pfister. You can submit questions via that blog.

    Currently, is planning to share tips on FTM features such as:

    * Publishing charts and reports
    * Working with Web Search
    * Merging
    * Exporting different branches of your tree
    * Using keyboard shortcuts
    * Attaching and detaching people
    * Choosing relationship types (for spouses and children)
    * Resolving unrecognized place names

    You can see more information and register for the webinar via:

  14. Lynn

    #17 Jennifer

    Just realized that you cannot add comments to the May 17th blog, I initially thought you were speaking about an earlier blog entry. However, during the last FTM webinar they had some of the developers available online to answer submitted questions, which I believe is the plan for this webinar as well. In other words, during the last webinar I submitted a question real-time and received and received an answer directly from one of the developers (which I was quite impressed by — not only that my question was answered, but I was most impressed by’s preparation for the webinar.)

  15. Jennifer Jones

    Thanks for the quick response!

    So, the question remains, when will the blog be re-opened to comments to be made in advance of the Webinar? The registration page still asks for us registrants to post questions in advance…

  16. Jennifer,

    Odds are that the Blog won’t be re-opened for comments or questions. I’ve never seen that done for a blog entry- once they time out that’s it) and the registration page hasn’t and probably won’t be updated.

    I believe that any questions from this point on will have to be submitted during the live webinar.

  17. Karis

    I have added Paternity as a custom event. Is there a standard (not opinion) on whether this goes 1)with the father indicating the children or 2)the child indicating the father. Would appreciate feedback?

  18. Karis,

    To the best of my knowledge there is no “standard” as such.

    I think it is pretty much your call as to which way to use it.

    Were I to use it, I would reason that since paternity tests are done to establish a child’s parent(s) that it would go with the child.

  19. Karis

    That was my thought also. Thanks Andy. If anyone else has something different, let me know. If I don’t hear different, I will forge ahead.

  20. Lynn

    #23 Karis

    A good source for standards is “Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace” by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Although the book does not directly address your above question (or at least I did not locate a specific reference), based upon your above question this may be a reference source you would value.

  21. Karis

    Thank you both. I have seen the Paternity and Maternity on other trees and it meets a need for the level of documentation that would help in my particular situation. I could just keep it to myself, but I know others will need the same items for the same purpose. This is probably why some of the other trees have this also. Thanks again.

  22. Ann Victoria Paras

    I found this most helpful in that I am able to add marriage names to my females. Thank you for this tutoral.

  23. Deena Coutant

    Tana, My question is related to Ron’s post #4 and your response #13. Like Ron, I wanted the index to show BOTH the maiden and married name for females. I tested your instructions to check the box to use the married name for females, and it does NOT produce the desired result. By checking the box, the index will ONLY display the married name, and not the maiden name, for all females, so this is not an acceptable option. The only other way I found to get both the maiden and married names to display, is to manually enter the married name in the AKA fact; however, with 1300+ people in my tree, that is not something I want to have to do manually. Are there any other ways to accomplish having both maiden & married names in the index – both in the tree view and also on printed custom reports for a name index? If this functionality is not currently available, then I would highly suggest it be included in future patches or updates!

  24. Deena Coutant

    Tana, I have another few questions related to how names display in the index: Because FTM does not have separate fields for entry of first name and last name, things can get a little weird with the sorting in the index when you only know the first name and are missing the last name of an individual. Instead of having a person with a blank surname rise to the top of the index, they are sorted alphabetically with the first name intermingled amongst other people’s surnames. For example, I may have a Jane in my tree whose maiden name I do not know. She would be alphabetized between James, Mary and Johnson, Walt. One option is for me to put Jane’s husband’s surname in parenthesis if it is known, i.e. Jane (Smith); however, this doesn’t work if there was no known husband or if his surname was also unknown, so in these cases I have put Jane . Similarly, if the last name is known but the first name isn’t, I have put where the first name should go. I really don’t like the way this looks on reports, but feel it is necessary to maintain consistency so that I will know which part of the name—first or last—is missing, especially in cases where the one known name could double for either a first or last name. What is your recommendation on best practice for displaying names in FTM 2010 when part of the name is unknown? Specifically related to both finding people easily in the index and having consistent, readable reports?

  25. Robert Klein

    Why is it that I cannot show birth and death and marriage on the index at the same time?
    Bob Klein

  26. Lynn

    #32 Deena

    When I do not know a first or last name, I use “Unknown” (e.g., Unknown Smith, Anne Unknown). This approach might assist you to locate/order individuals in the FTM index.

    For me, this approach helps to locate individuals in the index as well as assists me to quickly understand if I know the individuals’ first or last name. For example, if I solely listed “Lynn” I would have to review my FTM notes to understand if that was the individuals’ first or last name.

  27. Kathy Marie

    33 Robert Klein

    June 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Why is it that I cannot show birth and death and marriage on the index at the same time?

    Bob Klein

    You can see this if you use the F2 (Keyboard) short cut key –

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