How to open family tree maker file

12 Tips for Using Family Tree Maker 2019

12 Tips for Using Family Tree Maker 2019

By Family Tree Editors

Family Tree Maker has long been the standard-bearer for desktop genealogy software programs. Indeed, our very first issue—January 2000—included an article on using Family Tree Maker 6.0. But when announced it was discontinuing the software in 2015, some genealogists left it for dead.

But the program has experienced a renaissance since being bought by Software MacKiev. Family Tree Maker 2017 was the first version of the software to allow for syncing between it and a family tree on And subsequent updates have incorporated even more functionality while maintaining the same features that attracted genealogists in the first place.

To help you make the most of the program, we’ve put together these tips for using Family Tree Maker.

The tips and screenshots in this article reflect Family Tree Maker 2019 (the most recent version at time of writing), but much of the advice will also apply to earlier iterations of the software.

Note: Despite the somewhat similar names, Family Tree Magazine is not affiliated with Family Tree Maker. The software program is created by a separate company.

1. Import Your Family Tree.

Import tree screen

If you’ve already built a digital family tree, you can save valuable research time by importing it into Family Tree Maker. You can either upload a GEDCOM file (under Plan > New Tree, click Import an Existing Tree) or download a tree from or FamilySearch. (Just make sure the data imports correctly!) Don’t worry if you’re new to family-tree-building or want to start fresh—you can also create a new tree manually, adding one person at a time.

2. Change Your Date Preferences.

Family Tree Maker formats dates consistently across your tree, making it easier for you to review them at a glance. To change how dates are formatted, select Tools from the dropdown menu, then choose Options. From this window, select Names/Dates/Places and a format (such as “Day Month Year”) for both display and input formats. (Mac users: Select Preferences, then Dates/Names/Places.)

3. Add Life Events.

Facts > Customize View screen

You can select preformatted key life events (“facts”) to add to a person in your family tree. While in the People > Tree window, select a person and click Customize View. From there, you can add individual facts (baptism, birth, burial, etc.) as well as shared facts (marriage license, divorce, etc.) You can also add a custom fact and specify what fields you want associated with its entry (such as date or place).

4. Take Advantage of Descriptions.

Each fact has a description field where you can add more information, perfect for including details that don’t fit neatly elsewhere. If you don’t see the Description field, go to the Person view, then select a fact. Under Options, select Fact Properties. Then make sure Description is included under Fact Elements.

5. Sort through Conflicting Data.

If your ancestor has multiple details associated with a fact (such as conflicting dates of birth), select which will be “preferred. ” Preferred facts will generally be displayed in reports and other exported versions of your tree, but Family Tree Maker will still maintain this alternate information (useful if you’re still determining which data is correct).

6. Clean Up Your Names and Places.

You can change how your ancestors’ names are formatted in bulk under Tools > Convert Names, handy if they’ve been capitalized inconsistently. Likewise, Family Tree Maker can help standardize your place names. Under Tools > Resolve All Place Names, you’ll see all locations that Family Tree Maker doesn’t recognize. The tool provides a suggested standardized place name, and you can either accept the suggested alternative or ignore it altogether. Click Other to search for another spelling of the place name.

7. Document Censuses.

Use the Census fact to indicate if your ancestor appeared in an enumeration. In the Date field, use the full date—including the official day and month the census was taken that year. (See our list.) Likewise, type the full address in the Place field. You can also upload and attach an image of the census return (or any record image, for that matter).

8. Copy Facts from One Person to Another.

Adding events that affected multiple people—such as residence data from censuses—can be tedious. Save time by copying such facts to others’ profiles.

Go to the People window, then the Person tab. Make sure Facts is selected in the menu, then right-click the target fact and select Copy. Click away, then right-click the fact again and select Paste. This will open a new window in whcih you can click the checkmark next to the profile(s) you want to add the fact to.

9. Record Addresses.

Family Tree Maker has three separate place-related fact types:

  • Address (the contemporary place someone lived or worked, generally used for postal purposes)
  • Property (related to real estate)
  • Residence (where someone mentioned in a record lived)

Select which fact best applies to the event you want to record, and be consistent in how you use that fact type. You can also consider indicating some of the address in the Place field of other facts, then including the rest in the Description or Note fields.

10. Don’t Confuse Will and Probate.

Some genealogists think these two “events” are the same, but Family Tree Maker has separate fact types for a reason. Wills are written documents prepared before a person’s death, while “probate” refers to legal proceedings after a person’s death. So the Date and Place fields of Probate facts should refer to when and where the court ruled on the deceased’s case, while those fields in the Wills fact should indicate when and where that document was prepared.

11. Create Reports.

Publish options for Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker offers several options for reports that you can generate and export. These are great to share with family, friends and other researchers. In addition, reports can help you look at your work with fresh eyes. Access reports under the Publish window.

12. Back Up Your Data.

In some ways, desktop software is a safer repository for your family tree than an online service like You can access your tree in Family Tree Maker without internet, and your tree isn’t tied to an online subscription that could theoretically disappear. (And, unlike the FamilySearch Family Tree, no one can edit your tree in Family Tree Maker without your permission.) Still, be sure to export your family tree as a GEDCOM and store on an external hard drive or in cloud-based storage. You never know when your hard drive could crash, wiping away years of hard work.

How to export a tree from Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Make Export screen

Whether you need to transfer your family tree to new software or you just want to share it with relatives, you’ll need to know how to export a family file. Here’s how to do this in Family Tree Maker:

1. Determine what part of your tree to export

You don’t need to export your whole tree. Family Tree Maker allows you to include only certain individuals. Click File > Export, then select either Entire File or Selected Individuals. This is a good option if you want to send a shared branch to a relative, or want to import just part of your tree onto a family tree-building website.

2. Choose an output file format.

By default, Family Tree Maker saves family trees as a proprietary FTMB file. But the Export function allows you to save a tree in a different format, perhaps one that can be used by other programs.

Firstly, the software can save a file to be compatible with other versions of Family Tree Maker: 2019, 2017, and 3.1. These are saved in the FTMB version; this isn’t compatible with earlier versions of the software, which use the extension .FTM.

You can also save trees as a GEDCOM file. This is the universal file format for family trees, and can be uploaded to other desktop software programs as well as sites like FamilySearch and Note that GEDCOM files are text-only; they will not include any media, even if you tell Family Tree Maker to include them.

3. Specify what data to include in the file.

If you opt to privatize living people, only their names will be part of the file. You can optionally include private facts and notes. If you include media files, such as photographs and document images, Family Tree Maker files will include them, but GEDCOM files will have only links to them. If you’re sharing your tree as a GEDCOM file, you’ll need to send image files and other media separately.

4. Consider password protection

This feature, new to Family Tree Maker 2019, allows you to add a password to your file. The software recommends doing this whenever the file will be “outside of your direct control,” such as being posted to public sites or attached to an email. You might also consider sending the password separately from the file so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

5. Select where on your computer where you want to save the file.

Give the folder a name such as jones-genealogy and click Save. When the export is finished, click OK.

Information in this article appeared in the July/August 2016 (by Rick Crume) and July/August 2020 issues of Family Tree Magazine. An earlier version of this article (by Melanie Rigney) appeared in the January 2000 issue of Family Tree, and covered tips for Family Tree Maker 6.0.



Family Tree Editors

Synium » Switch from Family Tree Maker to MacFamilyTree and import your family tree

You are looking for a native and powerful Mac genealogy app which is why you want to turn your back on ported Windows software like FamilyTreeMaker? This tutorial explains how to easily switch from Ancestry Family Tree Maker to Synium MacFamilyTree and how to migrate your data from Family Tree Maker to MacFamilyTree

There are two easy steps to perform

Step 1: Export your family tree to the GEDCOM file format. GEDCOM is a genealogical file format designed to exchange data between genealogy apps.
Step 2: Import this GEDCOM file with MacFamilyTree or MobileFamilyTree.

1. How to export your family tree as GEDCOM file with Family Tree Maker

– Open your family tree in Family Tree Maker for Mac
– Chose „Export…“ in the file menu

– Change the output format to GEDCOM 5.5. It’s mandatory to select „Include media files“ – Chose UTF-8 encoding in the next dialogue
– Chose where to store your tree and save it
(If you are using media items in your family tree, please have a look at the section „Attention: Media file import“ at the bottom of this article

2. Import this GEDCOM file with MacFamilyTree or MobileFamilyTree.

In case you were using Family Tree Maker on your Windows PC, please copy the GEDCOM file and the media folder to you Mac (for example by using an USB stick with the FAT32 format)

a) Import in MacFamilyTree

– Open MacFamilyTree
– Click on „Import GEDCOM file…“

– Select the GEDCOM file you exported
– Chose a name for your family tree
– You are asked for the directory where your media folder is stored. Please click on this folder ONCE – just select it, do not open it by double-clicking
b) Import in MobileFamilyTree

– Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using an USB/Lightning cable
– Open iTunes
– Select your iPhone or iPad
– Click on „File Sharing“

– Select „Family Tree“
– Copy your family tree and the media folder to „FamilyTree“ as displayed on the picture above
– After your finished, sever the connection
– Launch MobileFamilyTree
– Chose the GEDCOM file you wish to import in MobileFamilyTree’s start window.

Attention: Media file import

Media files are images, audio recordings or videos connected to persons, families or events in your family tree.

Not every version of Family Tree Maker allows you to export links to your media files. You can see if your version of Family Tree Maker allows you to do so, please check the export dialogue for „include media files“.
Unfortunately the developers of Family Tree Maker made the very poor choice of not importing media files but just linking them. Just Family Tree Maker knows where these files are and there are just links to those media files. Therefore, your media files might be distributed to multiple locations on your computer.

It’s mandatory for MacFamilyTree to import these files from a folder containing all media files like pictures, videos and audio files- and without any sub-folders. Create such a folder by:

1. Create a new folder called media folder on your desktop
2. Open your family tree in Family Tree Maker
3. Go to Media
4. Select all media items by clicking into the Media Window, then hit Command-A (or CTRL-A on Windows keyboards)

5. Now copy all those files into your new media folder on your desktop (Command-C or CTRL-C on Windows keyboards)
6. Open your new media folder and paste all media items into this folder (Command-V or CTRL-V on Windows keyboards)
7. All your media items are now stored in your new media folder. Choose this media folder when you import your GEDCOM file or copy this folder onto your iPhone or iPad using the iTunes file transfer.

How to open a GEDCOM file in a genealogy program

Home » Tips

Author Timokhin Alexander For reading 3 min. Views 90 Posted by

If you've spent a lot of time on the Internet researching your family tree, you've probably either downloaded file GEDCOM (.ged extension) from the Internet or received from fellow researchers. Or you may have an old GEDCOM file on your computer from research you did many years ago in a defunct family history program. In other words, you have a great family tree file that might contain important clues to your ancestors, and your computer can't open it. What to do?

These instructions will work for opening GEDCOM files in most family tree programs. For more detailed instructions, see your program's help file.

  1. Start the family tree program and close any open genealogy files.
  2. In the upper left corner of the screen, click the menu File .
  3. Select either Open . , Import or Import GEDCOM .
  4. If .ged is not already highlighted in the File Type field, then scroll down and select GEDCOM or .ged.
  5. Navigate to the folder on your computer where you save GEDCOM files and select the file you want to open.
  6. The program will create a new genealogical database containing information from GEDCOM. Enter a filename for this new database, making sure it can be distinguished from your own files. Example: 'powellgedcom'
  7. Press Save or Import .
  8. The program may then ask you to make several import options for your GEDCOM file. Just follow the instructions. If you're not sure what to choose, just leave the default options.
  9. Press OK .
  10. A confirmation window may appear indicating that the import was successful.
  11. You should now be able to read the GEDCOM file in your genealogy program as a normal family tree file.

Download the GEDCOM file to create an online family tree

If you don't have family tree software or prefer to work online, you can also use the GEDCOM file to create an online family tree, allowing you to easily view the data. However, if you received the GEDCOM file from someone else, you should make sure you get their permission before using this option, as they may not want the information they have shared with you to be available online. Most online family trees offer the option to create a completely private tree (see below).

Some online family tree programs, most notably Ancestry Member Trees and MyHeritage, include the ability to start a new family tree by importing a GEDCOM file.

  1. On the Download Family Tree page in Ancestry, click the Browse button on the right. from "Select File". In the window that opens, navigate to the appropriate GEDCOM file on your hard drive. Select the file and click the Open button. Enter your family tree name and accept the shipping agreement (read it first!).
  2. On the MyHeritage home page, select Import Tree (GEDCOM) under the Start button. Navigate to the file on your computer and click Open. Then select Start to import the GEDCOM file and create your family tree (don't forget to read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy!).

Both and offer options to create a completely private family tree online, viewable only by you or people you invite. However, these are not the default settings, so if you want to create a private family tree, you will need to take a few extra steps. See What are the privacy settings for my family site? See MyHeritage or Privacy for Your Family Tree on Ancestry. com for step-by-step instructions.

How do I open a GED file? File extension .GED

GEDCOM Genealogy Data Format
  • Developer

    The LDS Church

  • Category

    Data files

  • Popularity

    2.8 (11 votes)

What is a GED file?

GED is a text file used to store genealogical data generated by software compliant with the GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communications) standard. The GED format is commonly used by various family history software tools. The current version of the GEDCOM specification is GEDCOM 5.5. the next version 6.0 will introduce support for the XML standard. The Mormon Church was actively involved in the development of the GEDCOM standard, mainly for religious reasons, which involve extensive genealogical research.

Family history

GED files are used to store information about relationships between families and family members, as well as family history data. GED files can be used as the basis for recreating a family history or family tree.

Programs that support GED file extension

The following list contains programs that are compatible with GED files, divided into 3 categories based on the operating system on which they are available. Files with GED extension, just like any other file formats, can be found on any operating system. These files can be transferred to other devices, whether mobile or stationary, but not all systems may be able to properly handle such files.

Programs that support the GED file


  • Ages
  • Aldfaer
  • Ancestral Author
  • Behold
  • Family Historian
  • lifelines
  • RootsMagic
  • yEd


  • Gene Web
  • Reunion


  • Gramps
  • lifelines

Updated: 05/05/2022

How do I open a GED file?

Problems accessing the GED can be due to various reasons. What is important, all common issues related to files with GED extension, can be decided by the users themselves. The process is fast and does not require the participation of an IT specialist. Below is a list of recommendations to help you identify and resolve file-related issues.

Step 1 Install Ages software

The most common reason for such problems is the lack of proper applications that supports GED files installed on the system. This issue can be resolved by downloading and installing # RECOMMENDED # or another compatible program such as RootsMagic, Ancestral Author, LifeLines. Above you will find a complete listing of programs that support GED files, classified according to system platforms for which they are available. If you want to download the Ages installer in the most secure way, we recommend that you visit the site and download it from the official repositories.

Step 2: Update Ages to the latest version

Are you still unable to access GED files even though Ages is installed on your system? Make sure the software is up to date. It may also happen that software developers update their applications to add compatibility with other, newer file formats. The reason that Ages cannot handle files with GED may be that the software is outdated. The most recent version of Ages is backwards compatible and can work with file formats supported by older versions of the software.

Step 3. Set the default application to open GED files to Ages

After installing Ages (the latest version), make sure that it is set as the default application to open GED files. The process for associating file formats with a default application may vary in detail depending on the platform, but the basic procedure is very similar.

Selecting the first choice application in Windows

  • Clicking the right mouse button on GED will bring up a menu from which you should select the option Open with
  • Next, select the option Choose another application and then use More applications to open the list of available applications.
  • To complete the process, select Find another app on this... and use the explorer to navigate to the Ages folder. Confirm Always use this app to open GED files box and clicking OK button.

Selecting the first choice application in Mac OS

  • By clicking right mouse button on the selected GED file open the file menu and choose Information
  • Find the Open with option - click the title if it is hidden
  • Select Ages and click Change for all...
  • Finally this change will be applied to all files with GED extension a message should appear. Click the Forward button to confirm your choice.
Step 4: Verify that the GED is not defective

If you followed the previous steps and the issue is still not solved, you should verify the GED file in question. The file is probably corrupted and therefore inaccessible.

1. Make sure the GED is not infected with a computer virus

If the GED is indeed infected, malware may be blocking it from opening. Scan the file immediately with an antivirus tool or go through the entire system to make sure the entire system is safe. If the GED file is indeed infected follow the instructions below.

2. Make sure the GED file is complete and free of errors

If you received the problematic GED file from a third party, ask them to provide you with another copy. It is possible that the file was copied by mistake, and the data has lost its integrity, which precludes access to the file. When downloading a file with the GED extension from the Internet, an error may occur resulting in an incomplete file. Try uploading the file again.

3. Check if your account has administrative rights

Some files require elevated permissions to open them. Log in using an administrator account and see if that solves the problem.

4. Check if your system can handle Ages

The operating systems may note enough free resources to run the application that support GED files.

Learn more