Sunday, October 27, 2013

QFHS Family Tree Maker™ Seminar with John Donaldson

Yesterday I went to the QFHS Family Tree Maker™  seminar held at the Queensland Baptists Conference Centre at 53 Prospect Road Gaythorne.  For those of you who have lived in Brisbane a lot longer than me or a long time ago - it's the old ACU campus.

This was my first visit to the Conference Centre which is just around the corner from QFHS in Bellevue Avenue Gaythorne.

There was a welcoming email sent out a few days before the event asking us to get there in plenty of time and advising us what landmarks to look out for on the way there and what facilities would be available when we got there in terms of catering, the QFHS bookshop, EFTPOS etc.  A small flaw was the identification of a fast food outlet near the turn off to the Centre.  It's Big Rooster rather than Hungry Jacks which is near Prospect Road.

There was clear signage on approach and plenty of parking as well as lots of smiling faces to greet me as I arrived.  The tempting bookshop was set up as always with a form to fill out if you wanted to be notified when the new version of FTM would be available.

There was a lucky door prize and I was given a bag of goodies including the agenda, the March 2013 Victorian G.U.M. Inc News, VicGUM ® membership form, bookmark and flyer, an AFFHO/FFSH Australasian really useful information leaflet, flyers for upcoming seminars, a pedigree chart, a family group sheet and some cheat sheets from QFHS about the library's holdings, suggested websites for family historians and advice on how to start tracing your family history.  The seminar cost $25 and ran from 9am-3pm including a light lunch.

We were in the smaller Lecture Theatre or Auditorium which was not too cold and well designed in terms of acoustics and everyone being able to see the screen.  The chairs had those little flip up tables which threatened on several occasions to upset my travel mug but I weighed it down firmly with my iPad.

The seminar was ably introduced by Kerri Kleidon who is the Co-convenor of the FTM Special Interest Group at QFHS which meets on the first Friday of each month (not January) and the last Saturday of even-numbered months (except December) at the QFHS at 10am.  

John Donaldson was the presenter.  John is an alpha tester for Family Tree Maker™ 
and the Secretary of Victorian G.U.M Inc. The seminar was promoted as covering the use of Family Tree Makerand providing ample opportunity for questions and answers.  He also wrote the book published this year by Unlock the Past, So You Are Totally New to Family Tree Maker™ .  The number of places was restricted to 75 and they sold out tickets months ago!

John is a confident speaker and quickly established his credentials with us.  It's not easy wrangling a group of nearly 100 people all with varying levels of expertise with questions ranging from "What's a Gedcom?" to "What is the ontology of Family Tree Maker™ ?".  There was plenty of time for questions and yet he managed to stick to his program covering the seven work-spaces in Family Tree Maker™ . The topics were Places and Media, Charting, Linking & Syncing and Online trees and Sources and Reports.

John told us that there are 410 Family Tree Maker™  users in VicGUM® and that it is by far the most popular family tree program - others being Legacy, Reunion, The Master Genealogist and Brothers Keeper.  

Most people at the seminar were using the 2012 version though there were some die-hard users of Version 6 who were willing to admit it.

I have been using Family Tree Maker™ for longer than I can remember.

Look !  I have the book to prove it.

Book that came with Version 2.0 dated 1996

Being an alpha tester means John is up to speed with developments in the pipeline and he was very enthusiastic on behalf of Mac users advising them that FTP 3 for Mac is great.  It's three months away and 64 bit.

So what does the new version coming in 2014 have?  Well - it loads in seconds apparently which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.  

The layout is a bit different with a new family view which I think I'm going to like better than the current view.

One of the tricks John showed us that it is now possible to "Export a branch" of your family tree from the new wizard with one right click.  

There is also a magnifying glass tool which is useful for viewing scanned census records etc.  

2014 Tools also sorts all children by birth order.  

Most importantly John emphasized that the 2014 version has a snip tool which enables web clipping.

If you want to check out the official version of "What's new?" look here or here at this video.

Was the seminar value for money?  Absolutely!  I challenge you to find a 5-hour workshop anywhere that you can do for $25.  

What did I get out of it?  Lots.

John encouraged us to experiment with features in a sandbox/dummy file rather than the "real" tree.

He also encouraged us to watch the free tutorials available in the software which don't require the internet to play or view webinars online - he particularly recommended Duff Wilson.  

Looking to follow a blog about Family Tree Maker™? John recommended Russ Worthingon's blog here.

Want accurate data?  John identified many reports which you can run on your program to check for things like undocumented sources or individuals marrying at the age of 13 or less.

He also gave hints and tips for other companies/plugins that might help with charting.  For example for really big family tree charts for reunions (e.g. ones that are 50 metres long), he recommended the Family Tree Factory.

Interested in publishing your own book?  John talked about a Plugin called Family Book Creator to make your Family History book really schmick.

I'm into mapping at the moment which you've probably guessed if you've been looking at my blog lately.  Whilst it's still annoying that you have to use Bingmaps in FTM rather than say Google maps, John did show us how you can sort places in hierarchically and encouraged us to use the place name authority to make sure our data was consistent.  Unfortunately you can't print maps that you generate but John suggested taking a screen shot if you wanted a map with pins in it of where your ancestors lived.  

John also encouraged us to remember that media is not just photos or scans of certificates, census et al but can be audio and movies.  

I am by no means a super-user of Family Tree Maker™ despite having bought every update since 1996.  John's seminar reminded me there is no excuse for not knowing how to do things with all the marvelous support available now via the software tutorials available in the package (although we agreed that the American accent is a tad annoying - my apologies to dear American blogging compatriots - we just like hearing our own accents I'm afraid) and the wonderful groups and individuals in our community who give so much of their time to support us in our quest.

Here are some links to pages that John has drawn up for Family Tree Maker™ users - one is links for Help and one is the link to Source Templates.  If you are looking for technical support from users you could do no better than to join VicGUM®.  Membership is $65 per year which includes a joining fee of $15.  John was proud to report that queries are often answered within hours.  

Thanks for coming to Brisbane John - it was nice to meet you.  

And thank you to QFHS for being the hosts with the most! 

And yes they are thinking of running this seminar again next year - perhaps twice if they get the numbers so if you are interested do let them know.


Jill Ball said...

Sounds like a fab event, Alex. It was great value at $25 compared with what SAG in Sydney charge for similar events.

Alex Daw said...

Yes Jill. I think so. Doubtless we don't have to contend with the high cost of rent/parking that Sydneysiders do but I still think it was great value. If you'd asked me yesterday I would have said the workshop was perhaps a bit too long. Today, however, on reflection I think it was just right. A smaller group would always be better but the reality is that it wasn't that sort of event. If I want a smaller group I need to be more diligent about attending the Special Interest Groups on offer by QFHS.

Karen S. said...

I think I have that same program, or one very much like it, and I got it back in the 90's as well, My box is tan and maroon. This really sounds like a really exciting, and fact filled event, thanks for sharing.

Kerri K said...

Wow Alex - very well written & the day described perfectly - felt I was back there in the room again. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm certainly looking forward to purchasing the latest version to see what they have done with the Reports & Charts. My thoughts for next year - maybe two half day Seminars with John (one in the first half of the year, the other later on) & maybe more detail & just to stick to 2 or 3 topics.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Karen. It was good to write about it...helped cement what I learned if you know what I mean.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Kerri - particularly for organising it. I think "bite-size" seminars would work well next year.

Sharon said...

I got a lot out of this Alex. Thank you. I have been a long term user of FTM and also upgrade when available. I would like to go to something like this. However working full time and living in a regional area makes it difficult.

Thanks again for the information and links.

Alex Daw said...

Hi Sharon - I'm glad you found it useful. I was surprised that I needed to be reminded about the video tutorials. We all lead such busy lives that we forget about all the virtual support out there as well. Like all programs I think it's about having the time to play with it and making a sandpit space where we're not terrified of mucking things up when we do play.

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