Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Transgender Family Member

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In his original blog post, George showed that Family Tree Maker 2012 could show a couple with the same gender.

Represent Transgender Family Member in Family Tree Maker 2012

Then, George mentioned trying to represent a transgender family  member. This is a challenge since Family Tree Maker does not allow us to associate a date with either the “Name” or  “Gender” facts. I have often found people using different names at different times in their lives, It would be very handy to have a date associated with the “name” fact for all kinds of individuals.

Since both “name” and “gender” facts change for a transgender person, I would represent the person with two different profiles: one for the birth name and gender and another for the transgendered name and new gender.  Both individuals would have the same birth date, birth place, and parents. On their parents family group sheet this one person would look like two people: boy and girl twins, but the birth identity would contain only the facts documented for the birth identity, so that timeline would end when the person began using the transgendered identity. After that, documents will show the new identity and facts would be recorded under the new identity, so when the timeline for the birth identity ended, the  timeline for the transgender identity would begin.

Review: Family Tree Maker could document separate timelines for the two different profiles of a Transgendered  Individual, but not a single unified timeline

I was able to document timelines for the two different name and gender profiles to represent a transgendered individual, but that representation made the person appear to be twin siblings. Additional text will be needed to clarify the situation. Because Family Tree Maker 2012 does not allow users to change the properties of the name and gender facts, I could not use just a single profile and have the name and gender change with time. It worked, but it was clunky.

This is just one of many instances when I have wished I could add a date property to the name fact. Many people throughout history have used different names at different periods in their lives. Allowing users to add a date to the name fact would make it much easier to see name use patterns.

Allowing users to add date properties to both name and gender will allow them the flexibility to represent every one in their family tree. So I’d like to see Family Tree Maker add these two options to future versions:

  1. Allow users to  modify the properties of the name fact to include a date.
  2. Allow users to  modify the properties of the gender fact to include a date.

Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Showing Complex Relationships

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Showing Complex Relationships in Family Tree Maker 2012

Next, I checked whether the relationship options available in Family Tree Maker 2012 covered all the parent-child type and spouse-partner type of relationships I could imagine.  Indeed, when we add a parent or spouse and then go to the relationship page a dizzying array of options are available. To get to the “Relationship” page, select “People” from the top menu, then click the “Person” tab and finally click the “Relationship” button (upper right). From the list of relationships, highlight the one you want to change, and the details will be displayed in the right pane.

Showing Parent-Child Type Relationships

The parent-child relationship defaults to “biological”, but the drop down menu gives options to change it to: adopted, step, foster, related, guardian, sealed, private or unknown. Since we can attach new parents to the child or attach the child to new sets of parents (or parent-like people), we can imagine a child with two biological parents, some step-parents, a guardian, some foster families, and a set of adoptive parents. One of my ancestors had two biological parents and a five step-parents. The only relationship that I could not easily represent was god-parents, baptism sponsors, or other ceremonial “parent”-type figures.

Showing Spouse-Partner type Relationships

The same screen allows us to modify both the level of relationship and the current status of a spouse-partner relationship. The default level is “spouse” and the default status is “ongoing”, but these can both be changed to reflect a diversity of relationship levels and statuses. Relationship levels include:spouse, partner, friend, single, private, and unknown. In George’s original blog post, he showed that Family Tree Maker 2012 did allow him to represent a couple where both partners had the same gender.  Relationship status options include: ongoing, annulled, deceased, divorced, none, private, separated, or unknown. And we can attach as many of these relationships as we need to describe the situation.  In my own tree I have a man who had five wives and (as his first wife put it) “numerous sweethearts”.

The only marriage-partnership situation that I had trouble describing was when one spouse abandoned the other.  I have worked around this by adding a shared relationship fact “abandoned” in my file, and I put that fact/event with an approximate date, and left the relationship status at separated or  divorced. However, for the people in my file, there is no indication that the couples actually filed papers for legal separation, so it would have been useful to have a status of either “abandoned” or the less judgemental “disappeared” to explain the situation.

Review: Family Tree Maker Met Complex Relationship Challenges

Thanks, Family Tree Maker! I was very happy with the variety of complex relationships that I was able to model using Family Tree Maker 2012. I think it successfully met George’s complex relationship challenge and I found the options for customizing relationships and adding additional facts to meet almost all my needs. The two things I would like to see changed in future versions to better describe complex relationships are:

  1. Add an option for “godparent”-“godchild” or “religious sponsor”-“religious sponsee” (awkward)  in the options for parent-child type relationships.
  2. Add “abandoned” or “disappeared”  to the spouse-partner type relationship status.

Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Add a Custom Fact

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a recent blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

George challenged genealogy software developers to ensure that their products could represent all the diverse types of families that we have in the modern world. He mentioned alternatives including adoptive families, foster families, blended-families, and families with bi-racial children, and gay or transgendered family members.  He showed an example using Family Tree Maker 2012 to represent a gay couple and wondered whether race could be shown on the pedigree tree.  He asked if others had been able to customize Family Tree Maker 2012.

As a long-time user of Family Tree Maker, I’ve used several versions and had occasion to use it to represent some pretty unusual family relationships.  I’ve found that our ancestors’ relationships could be as complex as those of the modern world.  But since I’ve just recently installed the latest version (Family Tree Maker 2012) at Rootfinders Genealogy Research, I decided to see if this newest version could meet George’s challenge.

Displaying Race (or any custom fact) in Family Tree Maker 2012

I started with the easiest part, adding a “Race” fact.  I discovered that my oldest Family Tree Maker file, one that’s been imported through all the versions of Family Tree Maker since 1999, already had a fact for “Race”, probably a relict of an older version of FTM.  If your file has been imported through several versions check to see if the fact you want (or something similar) already exists. However, new files created in Family Tree Maker 2012 do not include race in the default fact list.

To add race (or any new fact), first go to the fact screen. To get there, click “People” on the top menu, Click the “Person” tab, Click the button for “Facts” (usually the default display on that tab). Next, click the “+” button to add a fact and when the list of facts appears, check to see if your fact is there and if not, click the “new” button to add a new type of fact. You can now add “shared” facts which appear on the fact list for both members of a marriage/partnership.

I have not found a way to display the race fact on the pedigree charts that you post to, but you can certainly select that fact to be printed in the box on pedigree charts generated from the Family Tree Maker program.


I thought Family Tree Maker met the challenge of displaying Race (or any custom fact) on the pedigree tree. What do you think?

In my next blog entry, I’ll show how to customize relationship descriptions to accurately describe real modern and historic relationships situations.


Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Review

Review of the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner – I am very happy with mine and continue to find new uses for it. I learned that Flip-Pal is currently offering free standard shipping for orders over $50 through June 16 (after items are in your cart enter Promotion Code: 2father12). That could include a scanner or a set of accessories. So I decided to share with you my experience using my scanner for genealogy research and family photos.

Several months ago, I finally purchased a flip-pal mobile scanner. I had had my eye on them for a while. The idea of taking a portable, high-quality scanner to libraries, archives, and the homes of other family members seemed almost too good to be true.

I had spent so much time and effort trying to photograph documents or paintings to get good light without getting a glare spot from the flash. I had spent time copying books and documents on flat copy machines that stressed the bindings of old books or made copies that cut off some critical part of the article. And then I had to spend time and effort to scan those paper copies to make digital copies to attach to my genealogy database.

I was delighted with the idea of being able to turn the flip-pal over and look through the back to line up exactly the text or picture I wanted to scan. And I was equally thrillled that the included software would stitch together images so that I could copy texts, pictures and maps that are larger than the portable size scanner, even images that would have been too large for regular flat bed scanners. Quilters can even use flip-pal to scan whole quilts.

I was delighted to learn that the flip-pal comes complete and ready to use right out of the box, including the 4 AA batteries needed to run it, a 2GB SD card to store your scans that also contains the software your computer needs to stitch multiple photos into one big photo, and a USB adaptor to allow any computer to read the SD card. They really thought of everything!

After I got my scanner I took it on a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and was delighted to find that it more than fulfilled my expectations. I was able to scan book sources instead of making paper copies. I felt better about scanning from an antique leather bound volume because I could carefully lay the scanner on top and avoid stressing the binding. I was able to make color copies and choose between 300dpi or 600dpi resolution. And all my copies were together in one place without the possiblity of losing a single sheet.

There are accessories for the flip pal that can come in handy: a custom padded carrying case, a transparent protector sheet for the back window, or a sketch kit that allows you to make arrows and labels for your scans.


Too Many Daves: Methods to Tell Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name – Program for the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society

Genealogist, Anna Hopkins-Arnold of Rootfinders Genealogy Research spoke to the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society at their meeting on May 12, 2013.

The program was entitled “Too Many Daves: Methods for Telling Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name”.   It taught society members how to “differentiate” between several candidates for a particular ancestor. For more info on this class, click here.

“Too Many Daves” was very well received by the members of the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society and will be repeated at the Colorado Family History Expo, June 1-2, in Colorado Springs.  Anna is a member of the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society and the coordinator for the Society’s participation in the nationwide “1940 Census Community Indexing Project”. The Society website posted the following comments about this program, other classes that Anna has offered through the Durango Public Library, and her work on the 1940 census indexing project.

The Society would like to sincerely thank Anna Hopkins-Arnold for her contributions to the the genealogical community through her very informative trainings. From “Too Many Daves” to the Family Search Indexing training, Anna has shared from the wealth of her knowledge and experience and has helped many of us learn new methods of research and encouraged us to give back and pay forward through being a part of the Indexing project.” – Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society website (  May 25, 2012)

Genealogy Classes – Albuquerque Family History Expo

I really enjoyed the Albuquerque Family History Expo last weekend (April 13th and 14th) at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  About 200 participants attended  the two day event. It offered an impressive variety of interesting and informative genealogy classes.  There was an exhibit area with representatives from several genealogical societies, a variety of family history search companies, and a company that prints large genealogy charts from your family history.  A book seller offered with an impressive collection of genealogy instructional and reference books.

Genealogist Anna Hopkins-Arnold of Rootfinders Genealogy Research taught four classes at this expo: Ancestry for Experienced Users, Evernote for Genealogy, Family Search, and Finding Your Ancestors in the 1940 Census. For more information on other genealogy classes offered by Rootfinders Genealogy Research, click here.

This was the first time that Family History Expos have come to Albuquerque and I hope they will be making it a regular stop in the future.


Bring Your Family Tree Home for the Holidays!

Bringing The Family Tree Home for the Holidays
© A. Hopkins Arnold 2011

Give a Gift Certificate for family history research, oral history interviews, and or a legacy book complete with a family tree, stories, and photos.

Your loved ones will appreciate letting Rootfinders Genealogy Research handle tedious organization and production tasks while family members focus on the fun of recalling old times and favorite stories.


Solving Your Family History Mysteries

Performing genealogical and family history research to explore family legends and solve family history mysteries.

Let us help you explore and celebrate your family history.

Genealogist, Anna Hopkins-Arnold, PhD., has been researching genealogy and family history for 16 years. She has performed online genealogical research in 19 states and 5 foreign countries. She has performed in-person genealogical research in 8 states and 3 foreign countries.  She has helped locate missing relatives, traced the owners and makers of antique objects, and followed the military career of soldiers who served in WWI, the US Civil War and of patriots, loyalists, and redcoats who served in the Revolutionary War.

Let our genealogist use her experience to solve of your Family History Mystery.

From short term help locating hard to find records and breaking down “brick walls” to organizing family documents and photos to complex research problems or writing a family history she can help you preserve and pass on your unique family history.

Bring your Family Tree home for the holidays!!! – Research Gift Certificates Available.



Professional Genealogist providing family history research, one-on-one genealogy tutoring, brick wall breaking, and family history writing, preservation and presentation services.

What’s your family history mystery?

Let Rootfinders Genealogical Research help you discover and celebrate the special moments in your family’s past. Gift Certificates available.