Posted by Tana L. Pedersen on March 7, 2011 in Family Tree Maker

The Family tab on the People workspace provides a comprehensive view of your tree. In previous weeks we’ve learned how to navigate your tree using the pedigree view on the Family tab and also how to add individuals on the family group view. This week I’ll show you the tools and features available on the editing panel on the Family tab. The editing panel lets you enter basic information for the currently selected person, such as birth and death dates and places. You can also add sources, media items, notes, to-do tasks, and relationship information.

The editing panel

At the top of the editing panel you’ll see the name of the individual and his or her relationship to the home person. To the right of that is a green leaf that indicates Family Tree Maker has found possible matches for the person on; you can click the leaf to see the search results. The Facts button lets you enter or edit vital facts for an individual. When you enter information in a field, a source icon appears to the right of the field; click the icon to add a citation for the fact.

In the toolbar, you’ll notice three other buttons. The Media button lets you view, add, edit, or link to media items.

The Notes button lets you view or add research or person notes for an individual.

The Tasks button lets you view or add to-do tasks for the individual.

Above the marriage facts, you’ll see a Marriage to button. You can click this button to record additional information about a couple. You can entered shared facts (such as marriage or divorce), notes, and media items (such as family photos).

At the bottom of the panel you’ll notice a Customize View button. If you click this button, you can choose which facts appear on the editing panel (and in which order they appear). This is one of my favorite features in Family Tree Maker. Because I often enter christening and burial information for my family, I have customized the editing panel so that these two additional facts are always displayed. This simple modification speeds up my data entry; and best of all, I can change which facts appear as often as I like.


  1. Hello Tana
    Nice and informative blog, will definitley take a longer look on my own system.

    As you are obviously an ‘expert’ on FTM I need to know if the following is a common problem.

    It seems that in 2011 (no longer have 2010 on my system) there can be confusion as to which person is selected on the main family screen.

    I may need to generate a screen shot to better explain this however, coming back from entering a task to the main screen, the parent may have a dark green border and the child entry be all dark green. Here I first assumed that the child information would be on the right hand side, not true – it may be the parent that has a dark green border.

    Do I need a screen shot? Or is this a known ‘issue’?


  2. Richard H.

    Yes, Tony, it is easily verified and I agree that it can be confusing.

    In the People workspace, Family tab, click on any person in the Pedigree View. Then that person will appear in the Editing Panel at the right, their box in the Pedigree view will be filled with ‘green’ and the corresponding parent box in the Family Group View below will be outlined in bold – and no child will be highlighted.

    Now navigate away from the Family tab by clicking on any other workspace – or even simply clicking on the Person tab – and then click back into the People workspace, Family tab.

    Check the Family Group View. In addition to highlighting the properly selected person, the first line in the children portion now shows the highlight color ‘green’ – even if there are no children!

    It seems that the program incorrectly highlights this child record line EVERY TIME the Family tab page is loaded (including when the People workspace screen is accessed for the first time). At first glance, one is not sure where the focus is and who is being displayed in the Editing Panel.

  3. Nick Loeser

    Hello, are your folks aware of the registration activation server being down? This is VERY frustrating. I bought FTM 2011 on Friday and have not been able to activate my three month membership because it cannot connect to the server.

    There are dozens of postings about it on your message boards, I am just wondering if someone is paying attention? I tried calling support but they didn’t know a thing about it.

  4. Richard H.
    And I thought I was the only one going crazy…

    I wish there was a simple way to attach a screen shot. I was trying to duplicate what both of us are aware of and came across a really strange one so took a screenshot.

    In the family tab, first child of 6 highlighted in dark green, pedigree view shows his father outlined in green, no parents showing (just ‘Add Spouse’ in each box) and the edit panel lists his father’s information. And yes I did validate my tree and compress it and all the other things that have been suggested in the past.

    You used a phrase/word I was searching for – focus; there is a lack or disparity of focus in this area of the program.


  5. BCarol

    Luddite here. I started using FTM when it first came out. I upgraded every time until I purchased FTM Version 16. I’ve been using that ever since.

    I hesitate to upgrade to the newest version because from what I’ve read it is bound to the internet. In other words, it is hard to use as a stand alone program. Also, since I missed several upgrades, I am afraid that I would be terribly lost.

    I would appreciate hearing any comments from someone who used FTM Version 16 and happily upgraded to the latest version. Is it as complicated as it sounds?

    Also, I have not entered my entire tree onto ancestry just yet. If I do, is there an application in ancestry that will turn my family tree into a book that would be complete with all the images that I have collected?

    Thanks for any help.

  6. Mary Beth Marchant

    I added each new FTM program as it came out, even the latest one, FTM 2011. I HATE it. It is very complicated and falls very short of what I want my program to do. Besides all the bells & whistles, one thing that has irked me from the beginning is this. With the older versions of FTM, if I installed a new version, the files I had would open in the new version. Not so with this new stuff. You have to upload each file and the majority of the time, it tells me there was an error that prevents me from doing just that. In my opinion, that is just nuts. I keep up with the new ones but still rely on my FTM version 16. I still do not know why an easier program has not been presented. Just call me a Luddite too. I do not need the fancy, schmancy bells & whistles. I just need a clear, uncomplicted genealogy program where I can create and print books. In my opinion, FTM version 16 has a good book creator but the new ones are just junk in my opinion. And no, I don’t do Facebook or Twitter either. I do have 4 Ancestry member trees that I add to nearly every day but I keep up with my files on my own hard drive too.

  7. carolyn kuns

    thank you for your help. It is very involved this researching. I would like to know how to delete too many “trees” and how to keep what I have. The one that I did have has disappeared. Is that because I downloaded it? Also, I do I make myself part of the family tree? It keeps saying to do that but I am not getting how? Thanks so much. CK

  8. BEE

    Carolyn, I’m not sure what you mean about deleting “trees”, or why what you created disappeared, but I’m sure someone else will offer some advice.
    I don’t know what others do, but I made my deceased father the “Home Person”, adding my deceased mother as “spouse”. I then added their parents and siblings, started my search of documents with the 1930 census, then the 1920, going back as far as you can, also searching for birth/death, etc. – as I found new names, I would add them and search out every possible document, as it adds to our family history, and helps to locate information.
    However, adding a document to you “tree” just creates a link – you have to download it to your computer if you want to keep it, and then upload it to your tree {I think I have the computer “jargon” right?}.
    As others have written, I find “old search” much more user friendly, but since ancestry isn’t supporting it any longer, it’s not as easy as it used to be, but I see no benefit with “new search”. Good luck – it’s worth the effort.

  9. Richard H.

    #7, Mary Beth and others.

    TAKE A DEEP BREATH! (and let it out slowly)

    Why does computer software always get more complex (complicated)?

    The addition of more features is part of life today. Look at automobiles. When I learned to drive, the gear shift was located on the steering column. Today, there are three levers sticking out and none of them changes gears – and they are covered with symbols! Televisions initially came only with an on-off/volume control and channel selecting dial. Now when I visit at a friend’s home, often I can’t figure out how to turn on the TV and change the channel! Frustrating and annoying – you bet! But I don’t think that expressing my dislike publicly over “feature creep” will influence the direction of future development. Remember that some features are absolutely wonderful – TV remote controls, DVR recording, online program guides, automobile cruise control and automatic transmissions, etc.

    Genealogical activities and interests range far and wide – way beyond the basic tracking of parents and children. As a former software architect for many years, I was constantly thinking of ways to extend the usefulness of my systems. It’s no different for those behind Family Tree Maker. Hence the newer versions have more tabs and present more on the screen. If you made a list of all the additional features suggested in these blogs, I’m sure it would be very long! Believe me, if you add one thing, someone will say “now if you could only show this or make this part in color”, etc., etc. Also what appeals to one user may be unimportant to another. For example, personally, I am interested in the use of images and photos. The improvements over FTM16 in this area are invaluable to me.

    What’s a person to do? Here are some options.

    1. Continue using FTM16. You don’t have to use the newer software versions. Your tube TV may still work. But keep in mind that repairs, parts and support may be difficult to obtain. Also, technology advances and old software may not function well or at all on new computer systems. Consider the fairly recent change to digital television broadcasting, for example. One time, my boss liked a particular software suite so much (“newer systems just didn’t connect things as well”, he said) that the office continued to use it several years after new versions stopped and support ceased. Then one day, the system crashed and folks lost all their information! Of course, we switched to current software and continued to update ever after that.

    2. Use the new software but Ignore aspects and features that you don’t wish to use (or don’t understand!) – just like with cars and TVs and phones. I imagine most folks, myself included, do this.

    Take time to read and listen to presentations; you might find something useful or a feature to try out. Use the help file to lookup how to do or where to find things. Consider involving another person with your learning experience – perhaps a grandchild could help and get hooked on genealogy at the same time.

    Incidentally, FTM 2011 is customizable so that on the Family tab it is possible to arrange the screen to be very similar in appearance to FTM16’s Family View or Pedigree View. To do this, hide the left Index panel, collapse the right Editing panel and drag the top edge of the Family Group View up to the top or bottom of the screen. These settings will stay from one session to the next. Look up individuals by pressing F2 for the index, just like in FTM16.

    3. Try other genealogy software. It’s very difficult for one program to be all things to all people – even though they might wish to.

    But the new software has bugs, you say! Yes, there are “bugs” in the new software. Computer software code is much longer today than before. Many more things take place internally to create a view on the screen. Hence the bug noted above in this blog. (Note that this is a REASON, NOT an EXCUSE.) Things happen in cars, too, which require later tweaking as well (auto recalls, etc.).

    Now the old software was not perfect either. FTM16 compressed photos and required importing a photo multiple times to be applicable to a group of individuals. FTM16 did not have a master place table and so it was difficult to refer to a place the same way all the time. You couldn’t remove misspelled or unwanted Fastfield items and the main Facts list required two clicks just to get to see it.

    Neither is FTM2011 perfect. One small issue is noted above in this blog by Tony Cousins and myself. I have submitted over 50 suggestions for enhancements which would make my genealogical work smoother and more effective. Most of them have yet to be implemented. Yet the current series of FTM (2008-2011) has significant improvements over FTM16. Images are no longer compressed (yea!) and glory be – one image can be linked to multiple individuals!! Obviously this facet is huge for me and may not be for you or others. Now that I have made the effort to standardize (“resolve”) the place names with FTM2011, I can easily find all the events that happened at a particular place, not just marriages or deaths, etc. Features such as the master place name table, necessitate changes to the data tables in which our information is stored. Therefore the newer versions cannot simply open and use the previous data file. The contents must be copied into tables utilizing the new structures. So, yes, I am a user of FTM 2011 and look forward to improved designs in the future.

  10. Carol A. H.

    #8 Carolyn Kuns:

    Deleting a tree is very easy but the danger is it is “undo-able.” When you delete a tree it is really gone!

    I strongly recommend you make a GEDCOM back up and save it to your home computer just in case you delete the wrong tree, or change your mind. The GEDCOM can be re-uploaded to Ancestry with everything except, I think, pictures and scanned documents.

    To delete a tree: (Go slowly)

    1. Click on “Family Trees”
    2. Choose the tree name in the drop down (you might get the family view or the pedigree view)
    3. Roll cursor on “Tree pages” (drop down appears)
    4. Click on “Tree Settings”
    5. On the lower right side will be IN RED “Delete your tree”
    6. Click “Delete your tree”
    7. Next screen requires you to enter your password
    8. Enter password and click “Delete”

    You can change you mind up until # 8, so be careful.

    Just making a GEDCOM file (which basically is a copy in a different format) will NOT delete your tree. You don’t have to add yourself in any tree but it may ask you to select a “home person.” That can be anyone, and can be changed whenever you wish.

    Good luck.

  11. BCarol

    Richard H.: Thank you for your addition to this thread. I learned to drive with the stick shift on the column too 🙂

    I’ve been using computers since they were big enough to fill rooms with less storage space than a flash drive. I humbly say that I am pretty good when it comes to assessing programs. At one time, I was exclusively a Mac user – owned one of the first ones to roll out. As time went on, I switched back and forth between PC and Mac depending on the project. Always saying, geez, if only PCs could be as intuitive to use as Macs.

    Well, now fortunately PCs have just about caught up in the intuitive category. I stick with PCs just like I knit right handed despite the fact that I am left handed – it’s just easier to navigate projects. I hate the PC viruses and malware and spyware but I can look past those.

    It’s interesting to see that there are other folks who are also very happy to continue to use FTM 16. Several of my friends upgraded to the newer versions and are/were extremely disappointed in them. Yes, I might have to click an extra time or two for some things but going forward from FTM 16 it just seems like FTM tries to be all things to all people.

    With the popularity of going through the roof, I am more apt to be concerned about all the incorrect family trees being put up on ancestry. My entire tree, back to the 1400s is thoroughly sourced and cited. I attempt to kindly contact folks who have my grandparents being born into entirely different family line and give them the correct info and supply the necessary items to back up the research. Time after time, I see those same trees with the same mistakes and nothing is corrected.

    I’ll step off my soapbox now. I agree that one program can’t be all things to all people, FTM included. It just seems like it stepped forward into old fashioned PC gobbledy gook similar to what kept a lot of Mac folks from even touching a PC.

  12. long time user

    #12 BCarol:

    I agree with you with regard to an abundance of bad trees on Ancestry. In some cases, not all, I think folks just don’t know how the programs works, especaialy when I see an uncle of mine in a person’s tree 10 TIMES! I also think they don’t know how to fix mistakes, which can be sometimes very difficult to do, so they just leave things as they are. Also I have seen many of my ancestors connected to the wrong people. It’s each person responsibility to do a good job but the easy way is to just copy other’s trees and that is another way the mistakes get added.

    I owned the Banner Blue versions of FTM and kept upgrading to 2009. Finally I found something else and don’t use FTM except for Version 16 occasionally. But I keep up with the blogs so I know what is happening.

    I never was a Mac person but I have been using the PC since 1986.

  13. JimM

    I searched this thread and did not see a response to BCarol’s (#6) last question regarding the inclusion of photos and documents into FTM 2011 books. Is it possible? If so, could you give the steps necessary to do so?
    Thanks in advance.

  14. Tony Knight


    On the subject of Ancestry Trees.

    I was tidying up someone the other day and found him in a tree married to someone born 100 years before him and with a string of children that belonged to that wife. What was worse there were a dozen other trees with the same data.

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