Tracing Your Family History With MacFamilyTree

Family trees are a great way to visualize the trajectory of your own family, but most people relate them to “that thing they used to do in elementary school for homework”. They are actually a great way to find out more about your own heritage, and they can make you appreciate your family history to a greater extent.

Today, we are reviewing MacFamilyTree, an app that can help you make family trees as in-depth as possible. In fact, it goes beyond the family tree maker description, to become a full fledged family history record app.

Let’s find out how it works!

Getting Started



MacFamilyTree is quite a veteran app, it has been developed for more than 12 years, and it is still receiving regular updates. Version 6 is a pretty hefty app and it might take you a while to download it. After opening it for the first time you’ll be presented with a “Welcome!” window, where you’ll be shown a few tips and features of the app in a section called “Tutorials and News”.

From this window you can also open new, old or recent trees, as well as import GEDCOM files (Genealogical Data Communication), the official format for genealogical information or family trees.

The Interface

The Interface

The Interface

MacFamilyTree has a very colorful, fun interface, but it doesn’t go that well with the Mac theme. While it seems simple, there are way too many features and the app can get confusing if you are just getting started with it.

The layout itself is very Mac-like: there is a sidebar column where you can navigate the different tabs, and above are four sections that you can click through; “Edit”, “Views”, “Reports” and “Exports”. There’s also the main window, where you can see your trees and edit information.

Finally, a small toolbar across the bottom of the main window performs basic functions like saving and printing and there’s also access to other functions, depending on the tab where you are located.

The “Edit” Tab

Under “Edit” you can view and edit information such as a person, family, or place. Once you get your family, or your person set up, you’ll be able to organize them into families and even add places to them, like their place of residence and/or birth.

The places work through maps and they are a pretty cool feature to have, as you can see visually where your family is located around the globe. You can also see other things here, like the sources that you use to get the information from your family, the media that you use to identify people, and your family tree to do’s.

There are also some web-connected features here, like searching for your family on the internet and uploading your tree to Of course, your tree can’t work without actually having people in it, so we’ll get to that next.

Adding New Members

Adding New Members

Adding New Members

Under the “Edit” section, you can add new members through the “Persons” tab in the sidebar, or directly in your family tree. I find it easier to do in the tree, because you can just click one person and the app will show you all the relatives you could add.

The description of every person can get very specific, as you can add everything from suffixes, events, media, facts, places (you can even add them on a map), and “to-do’s”, which are basically reminders of expanding someone’s info.

Under “Events” you can set up pretty much anything you can think of; birth and death dates, baptisms, adoptions, illnesses, etc. The personalization doesn’t stop there, you can also add facts (like skin and eye color), labels, notes, additional names and sources to anyone in your tree. These features are especially useful for the reports, which we’ll get to next.

The Other Sections

There’s a section called “Views” in the app where you can print your family tree in any of the nine different views available. Most of these are simple “map” views, but there’s also a 3D one, a timeline one and a few others.

Once you select a view, you can edit it through an assistant, but it’s not that great. Afterwards, you can print or save views, although a sharing feature through email or social networks would be great.

The "Views" Tab

The "Views" Tab

Another helpful section is called “Reports”, and here you can view a complete history of any person or family in your tree in a very neat manner. In the Person Reports, you see a page full of useful information like date and place of birth, events, a small tree, relatives and every other piece of information you’ve collected for that person.

There’s also a bunch of other reports that aren’t very useful, but the one that I liked the most is called the “Birthdays Report”. This essentially gives you a list of all the people in your family along with their birth dates. Just like with the Views, you can save or print these.

The last section is the “Export” one, and in it you can export “websites” to your hard disk, a CD or DVD, MobileMe, MacFamilyTree’s website, or their iOS app. There are a lot of options that you can choose before exporting, like the theme and specific charts.


MacFamilyTree is much more than just a genealogical tree builder; it can be the ultimate chronologic book of everything in your family, from events to places. MacFamilyTree also makes sure that you’re able to perform useful operations and work with the data after entering it all (reports, exporting to a website etc). It can be a bit confusing when you start using it, but it becomes familiar quickly.

I have mixed feelings about this application. The app is very well done and I like it, but I am never planning on using it, and I can’t imagine there are many people that really “need” this app, especially for its price.

That said, there must be some people that would invest time into building their full family log. I don’t think that I’m one of them at the moment – Are you?


MacFamilyTree is much more than just a simple genealogical tree builder; it's a full historic log of your family. But of course, it can get a bit confusing as it's filled with features - some useful, and some not so much.