Wholly Genes – The Master Genealogist Gold UK Edition v7 review

genealogy and family history
Photo of Wholly Genes – The Master Genealogist Gold UK Edition v7
$69.95 (about £36) plus shipping

The title gives it away. This is genealogical or, more accurately, family history software. It’s eminently capable of recording every scrap of information you collect while researching your family history, and storing it in minute detail and nuance.

It comes with a facility for importing files directly from other programs, although it can import GEDCOM too. You will probably spend a lot of time tidying up after either import, including taking advantage of The Master Genealogist’s more versatile data recording facilities. Or, of course, you can start from scratch manually.

The Master Genealogist is not as other software in the genre. It doesn’t maintain a database of persons, whilst almost incidentally noting life’s events. Instead, it maintains a collection of individual events – it calls them tags – that almost incidentally note the people involved.

Here a marriage is an event, whose components are a date, a place, the principals and, optionally, all the other people involved, including the witnesses and the minister. Similarly for births, deaths, occupations, residences, military service; all slices of time in a person’s life. Collected together and listed in chronological order, they form a biography.

A typical tag will have fields for principal person(s), date, place, ‘witnesses’ (anyone else associated with the event), and sources, as well as a free-form text ‘memo’. All this information, including memo text, can be incorporated into customisable sentences, which you can edit.

Memo text can be divided into sections and incorporated into different sentences or parts of a sentence, giving you total control over sentence form. You can annotate tags with any number of your sources of information. Each tag can be dated and even if there’s no associated date, it can be placed in chronological sequence using a non-printing sort date.

Dependent on context, there may be buttons to search the Web for digital books to buy, maps to examine, or exhibits (pictures or other media) to incorporate. Main menu options can call up a gazetteer of places including Canada, USA and Great Britain (where, curiously, Scotland, part of Great Britain, gets its own entry while England and Wales don’t). You can also interrogate various genealogy search sites.

New people are added via a separate screen but further editing is through individual tags. The Master Genealogist can form the relationship links necessary for genealogy. An integrated auxiliary program, Visual Chartform, provides the usual chart- and tree-drawing facilities, including British-standard drop-line trees.

The Master Genealogist’s interface is a series of separate windows, showing different types of information: details (personal biographical information), an image, children, siblings, ‘focus’ groups, associates, and ‘flags’. There’s also an explorer-like window that can double as a person navigator. You can arrange all of these together on your computer screen, putting most available information for a person on view.

The Master Genealogist is generally regarded as the most comprehensive family tree software you can get and it’s a well-deserved reputation – up to a point. That point is narrative reports, probably the most useful of all, but not The Master Genealogist’s forté. The default printer/print preview option is inadequately formatted, with poor paragraph control and unnerving variations in line spacing. There’s an option to output instead to one of several word-processor files so that you can reformat as required. This gives better final appearance but it’s a fag having to do it again every time.

Company: Wholly Genes

Contact: 01709 873747

Undoubtedly the most comprehensive software available to document your family history research, The Master Genealogist is essential for serious family historians with high standards of record-keeping. But it's not a program for beginners to either genealogy or computing. And whilst it can produce heirloom-quality output, it doesn't do it without extra word-processing software and a lot of polishing afterwards. Since TMG's competitors can format print output automatically, acceptably and repeatedly, this seems an avoidable failing. Also compared with its competitors, text preparation seems primitive: you need to enter a six-character code to get a carriage return.