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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Color Coding Ancestors in Family Tree Maker

It’s easy to get lost in your family tree as it grows. Who is related to whom? What is the status of your research? Are these people DNA matches? All those answers can be tracked in Family Tree Maker, especially since you can add more than one color to a person.

How to Color Code Your Family Tree Maker Tree

  • Select the person you wish to color code in the index or tree view.

  • Click the “Color coding” icon in the top bar in the right corner.

Family Tree Makers offers several options from which to choose. This feature is rather exciting.

Color Current Person

To add color for one person, in the row marked “Current Person,” click on one of eight colors. Notice changes in the tree view and the index.

  • A colored bar appears under the person’s name in the tree.

  • A colored dot appears in the index.

But wait! You can add multiple colors to any person in the tree.

  • Again, select the person you wish to color code in the index or tree view.

  • Click the “Color coding” icon in the top bar in the right corner.

  • Select the colors you wish that person to have in the row marked “Current Person.

To remove a color, uncheck the colors in the row marked “Current Person.”

Color Code Multiple Persons at Once

Family Tree Maker allows you to color direct lines from a specific person. For example, you can choose ancestors from a starting person or descendants. This action will quickly highlight genetic relatives apart from genealogical kin.

While you can color

  • All Ancestors (1 color)

  • All Ancestors (4 colors)

  • All Descendants

Let’s discuss a few strategies to make this work for you.

  • You can start by choosing your home person.

  • Choose the All Ancestors (4 colors) option.

You have three color palette options.

  • Blue, green, red, and yellow- this is Mary Hill’s Color-Coding System.

  • Pink, purple, blue, green

  • Red, orange, yellow, green

  • Light blue, dark blue, purple, pink - this one is similar to the color coding I recommended for coloring your Ancestry DNA Matches.

Choose the palette that makes the most visual sense to you.

Index of Family Tree Maker with multiple colored dots

Next, you can click the option to color code descendants of these ancestors.

I love this option because those who share an ancestral line will have more than one colored dot.

The best way to view these dots is in the index. What these multiple dots mean depends entirely on how you use the colors in your family tree.

Watch this video.

Use Color Coding Methods

With the ability to apply multiple colors to your family tree, you can layer meaning into the colored dots and bar lines. The following includes several ideas:

4 Grandparents + 4 Additional Great-Grandparents

Suppose you feel generationally limited by only color-coding four great-grandparents. In that case, you can expand the colors to mean your eight great-grandparents (assuming no adoption or other splits in your family tree).

Ensure you have no color coding applied to your family tree.

  • Expand your family tree until you see your eight great-grandparents.

  • Click on the first one, which will likely be your father’s father’s father.

  • Click on the Color Coding icon.

  • In the row “All Ancestors (1 color)” and clicking on include descendants, click on a color for the first ancestor.

  • You can use the following color choices:

    • Red, orange, green, dark blue, light blue, purple, and pink from top to bottom in the pedigree view.

    • Dark blue, green, red, and yellow (for the great grandfathers) and light blue, purple, pink, and orange (for the grandmothers)

    • Or some other combination that makes the most sense to you.

After you click the color for the first great-grandparent, navigate to the next great-grandparent in the chart and repeat the process above.

Family Tree Maker Color-coding can indicate tree collapse
Color-coding can indicate tree collapse.

If your ancestor has a color split (like Robert Zumstein, Adeline Snyder, Alonzo Comfort, and Clementina Comfort), you’ll find tree collapse (or endogamy) somewhere further up their family trees.

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4 Grandparents + Research Status

Next, you may like the coloring of four grandparental lines, but you also want to highlight the status of your research. In that case, you’ll do the following.

  • First, color code the four grandparent lines using the “All Ancestors (4 colors)” with the descendant option checked.

  • Then, as you’re researching individuals within your database, assign colors for

    • Validated - ancestors' facts and sources that you’ve verified all of their supporting evidence and confirmed their relationships to others. In short, you completed research on this individual.

    • In progress - individuals in your database that you’re actively working to validate.

    • Problem - individuals with unresolved relationships or details that you are currently unable to resolve.

Anyone in your database with the research status or relationship colors is likely a higher-priority person to research.

You can also use the indicated related but not yet connected or F.A.N. Club members.

Color coding validation, in process, problem, related, or FAN Club members will require a manual assignment of colors to persons in the index after the Indian relationship assignments.

4 Grandparents + DNA

Those using Family Tree Maker to manage a family tree with genetic genealogy research as well might do the following:

  • First, color code the four grandparent lines using the “All Ancestors (4 colors)” with the descendant option checked.

  • Then, using the extra colors, they may assign colored dots for:

    • DNA Confirmed - relatives where you’ve triangulated DNA to a common ancestor and confirmed the relationship.

    • DNA Match - Another color would represent individuals within a tree that have taken DNA tests.

If you have a database with several possible answers for a DNA mystery, you can color code those theories after color-coding genealogical lines.

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4 Grandparents + Biographical Elements

Many relatives share something in common that you want to highlight. Then, you can highlight those items using Family Tree Maker search filters or manually add the colors as you research.

You wish to highlight any of the following:

  • Military

  • Immigrant ancestors

  • Enslaved

  • Native Tribes

  • Royalty

  • Same Birth Place

  • Burial Location

Again, color code the four grandparent lines using the “All Ancestors (4 colors)” with the descendant option checked.

  • Next, click on the “Filter” button below the name index.

  • On the pop-up window, create a filter by clicking the “Filter In” option in the middle of the upper section.

  • Chose either: Vital, All facts, or Other

    • Vital facts is an easy-to-understand option, focusing on the name, sex, birth, marriage, and death.

    • All facts are standard and custom fields ranging from annulment to height.

    • Other filters are a little more complex, so I’ll leave that for others to explain or for you to explore.

  • After selecting the type of facts to filter, then create your filter.

    • For instance, select burial.

    • Then, place.

    • Then, it Contains,

    • Then add a value, such as “Ohio.”

    • Then click “Okay.”

Now you’ll see the list of names that meet that criterion.

Click "Apply. "

Now, the only names showing in the index meet those criteria.

  • Then you can click on a person listed in the list.

  • Click on Color Coding.

  • Add the color for the burial location in Ohio.

Be aware that you must remember which colors you’re using for what.

Now, I'm curious. How do you keep track of your color coding system? Let's discuss that in the comments.

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