Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Web Searching Using Family Tree Maker 2012

My current blog series for software is on Web Searching.  I generally don't do this from within the software - I much prefer searching from the search fields on the web site (e.g., Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.) because I can control the search criteria easier and the screen for the search results is larger.

However, I know that many researchers use the Web Search feature in their genealogy software program, so I was curious to see which websites are available, and how the search is done, in the software programs.

My first example was RootsMagic 5.

In this post, I'm going to do Web Searching using Family Tree Maker 2012.  With Charles Auble (1849-1916) chosen on the "People" workspace,  I chose the "Web Search" workspace link, and saw:

There are six searchable databases from within this Web Search environment:


I'm going to look at the first three that actually have genealogy databases:

1)  The Web Search screen opens with the selected person in the search box, with the information from the person's FTM 2012 profile - birth date and place, death date and place, father's name, mother's name and spouse's name - already put into the search fields.  When I clicked on the "Search" button (at the bottom of the fields - off the screen), I received two matches:

The only matches for the search above was to Public Member Trees (both mine!).

Someone not tuned in to how all of this works would say to themselves "Shoot, there are no records for my great-grandfather!"

Of course, the parameters automatically inserted into the search fields were too narrow.  The user can modify the search parameters by clicking on the green "Edit Search" button on the left-hand side of the screen above.  I did that, eliminated the birthplace, death and relationship information, and changed the birth information to 1854 plus/minus 5 years:

When I clicked the "Search" button, I received 48 matches:

I chose one of the matches, and looked at the record image:

From that screen, I could use the "Save" button to save the image to an Ancestry Member Tree, or to a file folder on my computer.

In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, I could Merge the record information and the image into my FTM 2012 database.  I clicked the "Merge" link and saw:

On the screen above, I could choose the Facts to enter into my FTM 2012 database.  When I clicked on "Next" I could add the information to other persons in the record (e.g., the mother and father) and eventually added the record with an Ancestry supplied source citation to three persons in my tree.

2)  The second online database searched by Family Tree Maker 2012 is  Here is the search screen:

The search fields are auto-filled with the name, birth year and death year.  I clicked on "Search" and there was one match:

The one match was not useful (it was for someone who died in 1847, not in 1916).

I don't know which databases are searched in the Rootsweb Web Search.  I would have thoguht that the WorldConnect database (there are some matches there) and the Rootsweb/Ancestry message boards (I didn't see any matches there) would be searched, but I guess they were not.

A novice user would assume that there are no matches on Rootsweb other than the one found (which was useless).  A seasoned researcher would know to modify the search parameters to try to obtain useful matches.

3)  The third genealogy database search offered in Family Tree Maker 2012 is  Here is the search screen when is selected:

In the screen above, the name fields, the birth date and place fields, and the death date and place fields are auto-filled in by FTM 2012.  Clicking on the "Search" button provided 22 matches in historical records:

The Historical Records included 10 matches in Family Home Pages, 5 Matches in US Census, 4 matches in Family and Local Histories, 2 matches in World Family Tree, and 1 match on Genealogy Web Sites.

When I clicked on any one of these items, I was asked to register in

I finally found the sign in for people who already have a username and password - it's up at the top.   Apparently, I've forgotten my username and password, and so I clicked to retrieve them and am waiting for it to arrive.  I will finish this post when it does.

In summary:

*  FTM 2012 searches only three genealogy databases, all owned by  I think that they should add several more - especially since it is free and not a commercial competitor to

*  The search fields for all of the databases are auto-filled with parameters that narrows the search too much - typically, the result in Ancestry will be Member Trees.  It is a real pain to clear all of the fields and enter what I want to search, or it is a pain to delete the search field entries one at a time.  

*  A real benefit to using FTM 2012 Web Search is that historical records on Ancestry can be attached to a person, and events with sources can be created.  The drawback is that the source is not in an Evidence! Explained format.

*  The search is very limited.  This search should be expanded to include Rootsweb WorldConnect and the Rootsweb/Ancestry message boards.

*  The search finds useful information, but requires a registration to view it.  It does include the GenForum Message Boards.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver  


Elizabeth Handler said...
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Elizabeth Handler said...

Randy, you note that FTM 2012 searches only three databases. Note at the bottom of that box with the list of websites are two buttons NEW and MANAGE FAVORITES. This is where you can add your favorite searchable databases, such as or

That being said, I, like you, prefer to do my searches on the website directly in my web browser (and it's often faster that way).

Cousin Russ said...


I'll have to post a coupe of examples of Web Searching from within FTM2012. I don't search any other way. I'll show you the reason(s). I am sure I have posted about it before, but will post some updates.

The biggest reason for searching from within FTM2012 are at least 3 fold: 1) the ability to have a View Online Source, from within FTM2012, 2) the Web Clipping tool, when searching other websites, and 3) the ability to look at my database, while still in the Web Search Workspace.

Like Elizabeth, I have a number of other Websites, where I have other 'favorite' websites at my finger tips.

What I do, totally, agree with you, is the Citation information that is provided by Ancestry. They do NOT conform to Evidence Explained!. Having said that, it doesn't take long to make the non-conforming Citations into the Template format.

I do have to say, that it may be easier for me, because I use the Web Search workspace daily.

Great Article. Thank you.


Jim said...

I love FTM web search BUT I am unable to get to from within FTM2012. Yes, I can add it as a "Personal Favorites" but when I try to open from within FTM2012, I get script errors that make the site unusable. Has anybody else had this problem?????

Cousin Russ said...


Is your MSIE up to date?