MyHeritage.com – Family Tree Builder V4 review

Windows lineage-linked database software including free tree-building web space
Photo of MyHeritage.com – Family Tree Builder V4
$75 (about £47) for Premium version

The basic Family Tree Builder (FTB) program is free, including optional free membership of the MyHeritage basic website, where you can publish (or upload) your own family history of up 250 individuals and 250MB of photos.

The commercial Premium program, reviewed here, adds Smart Research, Smart Match merging, All-in-One charts that show everyone related to a selected person by blood or marriage, the ability to publish documents and videos, and an optional first year’s subscription to the MyHeritage Premium family site. Subsequent years need to be bought, although the upgraded FTB Premium software program edition is for life. Published family trees cannot be edited online, but watch this space.

The main view in FTB is the graphical, interactive and customisable Tree View which is colourful without being Toytown and can display from three to seven generations without overcrowding. You can display and edit from here as well as navigating by clicking names. There’s also a navigational side bar. Other views are the self-explanatory Photo View, Smart Matches View and Smart Research View.

One of the key new features is mapping, showing your family’s origins and current locations, displaying all places mentioned in your family tree interactively on maps. You can map all or display specific events – like birth places or wedding locations – following your family’s footprints across the globe. Maps are not infallible, misplacing several of our test locations, although you can move them yourself afterwards.

You can now organize your photos into albums; as many as you like. Publishing your tree to a family site on MyHeritage.com maintains your photo album structure online.

There are also minor new features, including a screen saver and slideshow using your family photos. You can also download the free MyHeritage Family Toolbar, offering the facility to chat with similarly-equipped family members whenever they are online. You also get one-click access to your MyHeritage web pages, as well as family birthday reminders and genealogy-oriented searches, although the latter are more blunderbuss than rifle.

All version 3′s features are carried over, including its multiple language capability (including proper English) and Face Recognition technology. All photos, videos, audio files, as well as documents (like DOC and PDF) can be associated with individual people or facts.

You can assemble your family file manually or, if you have a GEDCOM file, you can import that. You can also export a GEDCOM file, while preserving your photos and their references. Family Tree Builder handles multiple parents (natural, adopted, step-), multiple spouses and same-sex relationships. There’s no conventional Help system, although there is an extensive PDF user guide.

Reports can include a family group sheet, ancestor and descendants, a timeline (no external events) and a list of everyone’s relationship to a specified person. The PDF book report has been upgraded under licence from The Complete Genealogy Reporter – though with fewer options – immediately elevating FTB several points for those for whom presentation of their research is important.

Book contents include lists of direct and indirect relations, pages of family trees, your notes and sources, plus indexes of places, dates and people, although there’s no room to add existing material and you can’t edit sentence construction. Stand-alone charts, some crediting The Complete Genealogy Builder, include drop-line, waterfall and fan versions of ancestor and descendants trees, plus a ‘close relatives’ tree and an all-in-one tree.

Company: MyHeritage.com

Website: http://MyHeritage.com


Verdict
Family Tree Builder is now a viable competitor to many desktop programs and worth your consideration, letting you build a family tree with apparently unlimited numbers of people and photos, including face detection and tagging. FTB has one intrinsic irritation: insinuating MyHeritage into your web browser, making it the default search engine, not obviously superior to Google - another with a limpet-like grip - or Yahoo. It seems that the only way to avoid this is to uninstall FTB completely, which some will undoubtedly do.