Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Family Chartmasters

This post is LONG overdue!

When I attended the Texas State Genealogical Society annual conference almost a year ago, I won a door prize from Family Chartmasters.  It included a $25-off gift certificate for any of their products or services.

I forgot about the gift certificate for a while (as I tend to do) until I started planning my parents' 60th wedding anniversary party, to be held in early September, 2014.  I wanted something to give them as a gift, as well as to use as a decoration at the party.

On the Family Chartmasters user-friendly website (lots of helpful info and FAQs), I was intrigued by some of the custom decorative charts shown there.  I decided it would be nice to have a bowtie chart, with a photo from my parents' wedding at the center, and their ancestors (back four generations) to each side, as well as their descendants (fortunately, a small group - five children with three spouses, six grandchildren with one spouse and one great-grandchild).

The process started with sending a consulting request.  You can either have them extract the data from a FamilySearch family tree or submit a GEDCOM file (a standard genealogy file format) or a file from any of a number of popular genealogy software packages.  I had them use my family tree on originally, but later submitted a GEDCOM file I downloaded from my tree on

Immediately after submitting the consulting request, I received an acknowledgement that it had been received, which I appreciated.  Within a couple days, I heard back from company owner Janet Hovorka, aka The Chart Chick.  I had submitted my request just three days before the gift certificate expired, but she assured me they would honor it through the end of the month.  Whew!  Big points right there to Family Chartmasters!

About a week later, Janet assigned designer Erin Roudabush to work with me.  Here is the very first draft of the chart, based on the initial GEDCOM file and single photograph I submitted:

This began an exchange of 39 e-mails over the next month and a half, with Erin sending me .JPG attachments of the progress on the chart.  Erin was very patient with me as I added info I'd forgotten to include in the GEDCOM file.  She also suggested changes to the layout and to the cropping of photos to create the best possible product.

I was pleased to learn that the cost of the chart included up to 20 photographs, so I decided to include all the photos of ancestors that I had (some of which were also wedding photos), as well as photos of  the descendants, as extra photos only added $1 each to the total cost of the first chart.

I ordered two 24" by 36" copies (one for me!) of the chart on 40-pound professional-grade paper, which is about as heavy as cardstock, archival, bright white, and UV coated, as recommended by Erin.  These arrived in plenty of time for my parents' anniversary.  I put one in a simple poster frame and Truluck's Arboretum, the Austin restaurant where we had the party, put it on an easel in the corner of the party room.  You can see it in the background of this picture from the party (of the table with my siblings, sisters-in-law, and a first cousin and his wife):
photo courtesy Katie Streff Lyke - Live Love Lyke Photography

Erin even shared the names of the fonts she used for the decorative text on the chart, so that Truluck's could match them for the printed menus for the anniversary luncheon.  After the party, I hung up the picture in my parents' home.

Now, here is where Family Chartmasters' outstanding customer service really comes into play.  Once you order the first chart, additional charts of equal or smaller size (even if more expensive) are half-off if ordered within 30 days.  Three of my four siblings decided they wanted charts of their own, and they opted for the more expensive artist grade canvas giclee.

However - just after I ordered the chart for my parents and myself, I heard from a distant cousin in my Dienes line.  She had located a baptismal record in Germany for our mutual ancestor Fred Dienes (a great-great-grandfather on my father's side).  We now had his exact given name and exact date and place of birth, as well as the names of his parents and the date and place of their marriage.  All of this was new information which was not on the original chart.

When I contacted Erin about getting the charts for my siblings, I asked if it was possible to make the revisions to the original chart, as I wanted to order new copies for my parents and myself.  Not only did she graciously agree to make the changes, Family Chartmasters also kindly let me purchase both replacement charts at half-price, rather than one at full price and one at half-price as I expected.

Now is that great customer service, or what?

Here is the final product - click on it to open a new window and see it in larger format.  [I have revised this image to remove the dates of birth for everyone who is still living.]  The first 24" x 36" chart on professional paper was priced at $121.95 and the second at $60.98 (half off).  Those and the generation map were all shipped together for $11.95 (standard shipping fee for up to three charts).  The 24" by 36" canvas charts for my three siblings were also half-off, at $88.48 each, and all three were shipped to one of the siblings in Austin for another $11.95.

I cannot recommend Family Chartmasters highly enough.  They are a joy to work with, and their products are top-notch quality.  I got to meet Erin Roudabush at the Federation of Genealogical Society's 2014 conference in San Antonio at the end of August, and thank her in person for all her hard work.  (And this was before she made the changes described just above!)

I also ordered a working "generation map" chart to help me identify missing information and gaps in my research, for the very reasonable price of $39.95.  I hope I can find a few of those missing ancestors, and order yet another chart in the future--perhaps with some more descendants on it as well!

© Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.


  1. This is great information. I've been wanting to print charts for family members for some time now. But, I didn't want to just create one myself and print it at Kinko's or someplace similar.

    1. Diane, we would be so happy to take care of you! :)

    2. Diane, please contact them! Wonderful service and very reasonable prices.

  2. Thank you so much for the love! We are so happy to know how pleased you are with your chart. Thanks for letting us work with you to create something special for your family! It was such a joy.

    1. You're welcome, Janet! Be sure to share the love with Erin, she's a keeper!

  3. Oh Wow! I have been working on my Family genealogy. I can't wait to get enough information to have a chart made. Great information.

    1. You'll get to that point Tracy! You already have some great pictures to go on a chart!

  4. Excellent experience and testimonial. I love the charts. Now I'm wondering if my daughters are through having children...

  5. Amanda,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  6. Amanda, thanks for sharing your experience. The chart is beautiful, a wonderful family keepsake.