Monday, October 5, 2009

My Review of Family Tree Builder

Family Tree Builder 4.0, the new and free genealogy program from is good choice for genealogists looking for a free program.

Every genealogy program has it's pros and cons - just like every genealogist has their preference on genealogy programs. Personally, I don't believe that there is a "one program fits all". So keep that in mind for this review.

The first thing that stands out in using this program is the easy navigation. On the left side is an individual list of everyone in the tree, making it easy to move from one person to another. That list also includes a tab called "Tree", which shows individuals in relation to their parents, siblings, children, and spouses. This is a convenient way to navigate to other families. These lists are also collapsible, which allows for you to have as much work space as needed.

When viewing the tree, you also have some options, such as number of generations visible. What is unusual (at least to me) is that you don't have different "views" of your tree (such as family, pedigree, etc.), instead you vary the number of generations visible.

What I really like about this, is the chance to link pictures to each person. This is a great way to show the link between your tree and the pictures that you've collected. This is also good because you can attach .jpg files of census and other records. These photos can then be easily organized into photo albums.

However, one of my absolute favorite feature of this program is the automatic face tagging (for all of you Facebook users out there, it is very similar to tagging people on Facebook). This is a great feature for identifying who is who in each picture. This program also has the capabilities to recognize faces (although, I must admit as a disclaimer that I don't have a lot of pictures loaded into the program and it has not recognized any faces for me - yet!).

Another thing I really like about this program, is the mapping capabilities. While this certainly is not a requirement, it can put your ancestors locations into perspectives of one another. It is also nice to have a visual representation of where your ancestors are from.

The program also has the ability to create websites (that can be private) - and it is relatively easy to do. This feature is a very useful feature for some, but not exactly required for myself.

Something that I find super important when using a genealogy program is lots and lots of tutorials - and this program has plenty of easy, step-by-step wizards that walk you through creating your family tree.

The only thing I would say that would improve the program is a cleaner feel - the screen can easily get to filled. For someone like me, I find it distracting from the task at hand.

My one major complaint is that this program does not have a good source wizard. I feel that for so many beginning genealogists (and just genealogists in general) this is not properly explained. We've all heard of citing our sources, but as a beginning genealogist it is so easy to get overwhelmed when there is an absence of a wizard that walks you through it. The reason I am particularly hard on this program for this feature is because generally beginning genealogists turn to free programs to experiment with the hobby (or obsession!). But I must admit, I am a huge believer in sources.

All in all, this is a good program choice for those who have small budgets. While it isn't my preference (I use Roots Magic 4), it is certainly a program that is beginning to rival many of the other free programs out there.


The Professional Descendant said...

Hi Elyse,

I originally downloaded Family Tree Builder 3.0, mostly just from curiosity as I had recently paid to upgrade my usual family tree software.

I just chose the standard installation options without taking the time to understand what these were. I was then annoyed to discover that the program had added an icon to my task bar, changed my browser homepage and added a toolbar to my browser.

This is obviously reversible and could have been avoided if I'd taken the time to read properly what I was downloading. However, it irritated me enough that I haven't bothered to really use the program since.

I would suggest anyone who wants to try Family Tree Builder read the Setup options carefully before downloading!

Abba-Dad said...

I really like FTB4, but mostly for the paid services they have as part of MyHeritage premium accounts. Esepcially the smart matching and smart research.

Smart Matching will go through your family tree and find matching people in other trees on the site. And since they have millions of sites that means you may get a lot of hits.

Anyway, for a free software tool, I don't think it can be beat.

Cindy said...

Elyse - congrats on your Top 40 nomination!!!

dikiy said...

Hi! Did you try Gramps? I tried many programs when I started my research and choose this one. It is free (open source, so you can make it better if you can) and allow to enter any tiny bit of data.