Details about Family Historian 6*
Application: Family Historian
Current Version: 6
Supported OS: Windows
Mobile Apps: None
Price: $46.50 (US)
Publisher: Calico Pie
GenSoftReviews:4.84 stars out of 5
Update 4 Mar 2016: Calico Pie released a major update to Family Historian, version 6.1, that claims to improve GEDCOM import from Family Tree Maker (FTM) and Ancestry.com. I’ve updated this review to cover the changes; my updates are marked “Update” so you can find them easily.
Importing a GEDCOM file from FTM or any other app or website into Family Historian (FH) is fairly straightforward if you stick with the default options, but if you need help, FH has a “Quick Start Guide” on their website. The first page in the guide on “The Project Window” shows where to import a GEDCOM file.
Users of Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker would do well to take some additional steps to ensure a larger portion of their data are imported. These steps are also on the Family Historian User Group website in an article titled, “Import from Family Tree Maker (FTM).” A step missing from the FH article is to open the sample project first so you can modify the preferences, as suggested. Also be sure to follow the steps in the article, “Handling Uncategorised Data Fields.” Finally, FH user Barnowl has posted a plugin on their FHUG Form Post, “Plugin to sort problems with FTM Imports,” which purports to correct many problems with FTM GEDCOM files. I could not test the plugin, as the trial version of FH does not allow plugins to be used, so use it with caution and keep a back-up copy of your original GEDCOM. (Updated 28 Jan 2016)
Version Tested: Family Historian 6.1.4 trial version on Mac OS X using CrossOver 15. Note: portions of text in all capital letters are GEDCOM tags, with the rest of the plain text field name in lowercase.
+ Has good tools and tips for importing FTM GEDCOMs in the two articles referenced above. One such tool is the “Find Uncategorised Data” list from within FH itself, which is useful for viewing what FH considers Uncategorised Data Fields (UDF), but see Cons below.
+ Checks GEDCOMs not created by FH for errors, produces an import error log, and offers to open it for you; be sure you do.
+ Preserves almost all data from an FTM GEDCOM, with the failures noted in the Cons section below.
The only item it didn’t import was FTM’s non-standard ALIA tag used for the Also Known As field. It even imported the following:
⋅ FTM’s non-compliant CONC tags occurring after PAGE tags in source citations. They are visible on the “All” tab of the Property Box.
⋅ FTM’s non-compliant event descriptions by moving them to the custom tag _UNCAT subordinate to the same event.
⋅ FTM’s custom tags for adopted relationships (but not natural birth relationships).
⋅ Several of FTM’s custom tags (see the GEDCOM Crosswalk table).
- Update: As of FH 6.1, all of FTM’s custom fields like Arrival, Circumcision, Degree, etc., are imported using what is called the Extended Set of Fact Types (as opposed to the standard set). The fact definitions for this set are hidden by default (“to avoid cluttering up the fact types list”) but can be accessed and modified if needed. However, note that standard GEDCOM tags EMAIL, PHONE, and WWW are included in this extended list—FH still doesn’t recognize them as the standard tags they are (see the Cons section).
- FH “now supports all date formats that Family Tree Maker saves dates in, even if not valid GEDCOM (e.g. ‘BET MAY AND JUNE 1914’).” This is a nice feature to preserve more of FTM’s data. It even imports FTM’s illegal ALIA tag by changing it to the custom tag _ALIA.
– It doesn’t fully comply with the GEDCOM standard 5.5.1, which is the latest standard, even though it supports the UTF-8 character set, which was not added until 5.5.1. Consequently, it doesn’t support new tags like EMAIL and WWW, details on individual EVENt lines, and multimedia records formatted according to 5.5.1. While it still imported most unrecognized data, it put them on the All tab of the Property Box, where they’re less visible.
- Update: One of the touted improvements of FH 6.1 is that it can “recover hidden data in existing Family Historian projects that were previously created by imports from Family Tree Maker or Ancestry” (What’s New in Version 6.1). I tested this feature and apparently had only one Uncategorised Data Field (UDF) that could be recovered, an EMAIL tag in a REPO record. FH changed this to an _EMAIL tag, which is a custom GEDCOM tag, even though EMAIL is a valid GEDCOM tag for an address structure in a repository record.
- I again ran the Find Uncategorised Data tool that I discussed below, and there were still four UDFs found: _PHOTO, FACT, WAC, and FORM tags. There were two other UDF fields that this tool didn’t find, the EMAIL and WWW tags (see below).
– Stripped a valid “Y” on an event detail that had no date or place, essentially leaving it a blank event. Update: FH 6.1 still does this, even though it shouldn’t.
– Doesn’t display numerical citation quality ratings, although it displays shortened versions of their their interpretation from the GEDCOM standard. For example, instead of displaying “0,” it displays “Unreliable.” (Updated 28 Jan 2016)
– Update: Source citation media
are not visible from the source citation window immediately after importing a GEDCOM file. Even though there’s a Show Media button, it only seems to work if the media are attached directly to the source. Media attached to citations are not readily visible in context. The are visible in the All tab of the Property box, and while they are also visible in the Media List, it’s very difficult to determine which citations the are attached to. One must scroll through the entire list of events, expanding each one, to find where the media are used.. After importing a GEDCOM file, you would have to go back through all your citations that have media and reattach them as follows: in the Records Window, right-click the source under the event of interest, then hover over the Add Multimedia Object entry on the context menu and select how you want to link the object (Fig 1). But even then, the media don’t show up on the citations in the Property Box (Fig 2). is an area where FH 6.1 makes significant improvements over its predecessor. Fig 2 shows that previously, media were not visible in the citations pane of the property box. As Fig 2a shows, Source citation media are now readily visible from the source citation pane in an improved Media Viewer window (formerly called the Show Media dialog). They are also visible from the Media List and the Sources Records List, to include lists of what they’re attached to. See “What’s New in Version 6.1” for full details.
I suspect that some former FTM users will be unhappy about this extra work. FH is not the only application with this limitation, so FTM users will have to decide how important it is to have media attached to citations upon importing a GEDCOM. If they decide they like FH well enough, they’ll have to decide what to do about their citations. One option is to create a source for each citation prior to exporting a FTM tree to GEDCOM. FH user Barnowl suggests four options in their FHUG Form Post, “Plugin to sort problems with FTM Imports.” Personally, I’d rather spend my time doing genealogy research than tweaking my GEDCOM file to fit the limitations of an application. Update: According to FH user Mike Tate, “Most of the UDF tag changes to valid FH tags, and the Citation Media change to use separate Sources you mention, are perfomed automatically by the Plugins you also mention. So no time is wasted ‘tweaking my GEDCOM file to fit’. One of the major benefits of Plugins is that they can be quickly adapted to cope with new challenges, and published in the FHUG or the FH Plugin Store, without needing a new release of the FH program itself.” Since the trial version of FH does not include the use of plugins, I am unable to confirm that the two plugins mentioned in the articles listed at the beginning of this review fix all the problems with importing a GEDCOM into FH.
– Fails to recognize the valid GEDCOM tag
s FORM , TITLe, and NOTE in multimedia object records, probably because it was looking for them to be in GEDCOM 5.5 format (the format changed in 5.5.1) ; consequently, all multimedia titles were lost, as were all descriptions (although they’re still visible from the All tab of the Property Box. Update: As of FH 6.1, multimedia TITL and NOTE tags are now recognized. However, the mandatory FORM tag still is not. Additionally, I overlooked the fact that FH failed to recognize a valid CHAN.DATE structure in a multimedia record, and FH 6.1 still doesn’t.
– Incorrectly exported an adoption relationship to a GEDCOM file, even though it was displayed correctly in the application. It showed the birth mother of a child as being the adoptive parent, when it was actually the father who was adoptive.
– It offered to fix FTM’s improper CONC tags but ended up adding extra spaces when I followed the instructions in the “Check for word-wrapping errors” window, i.e., when I selected the option, “Each row contains 2 words separated by a hyphen” (Fig 3). The instructions in the article, “Import from Family Tree Maker (FTM),” actually contradict these instructions. The article says, “in the Check for word-wrapping errors window, select Each row contains 1 word with a hyphen in the middle,” and when I followed this instruction, word-wrapping was done correctly. Update: FH 6.1 did not prompt me to check for word-wrapping errors; instead it correctly fixed them and reported that it did so in the import error log.
– The only place that imported LDS ordinances are displayed seems to be the All tab. They can also be edited on the All tab, and it’s possible to add new ones by right-clicking on a person’s primary name and selecting Add Miscellaneous > LDS. Since they are standard GEDCOM events (with the possible exception of Initiatory), they should be included in the Facts tab of the Property box.
– Changed some valid EVEN tags to the custom _ATTR tag because they contained line details, which wasn’t allowed under GEDCOM 5.5 but is under 5.5.1. Custom tags should generally be avoided and the EVEN.TYPE structure used instead, which is what my GEDCOM file used.
– Preserved FTM’s _PHOTO tag for the primary photo of a person but since FH changed all the multimedia cross-references, this tag is no longer useful.
– The utility of the “Find Uncategorised Data” list is limited to viewing or deleting UDF; you can’t really change them from there. For that, you must use the Fact Types Tool, the Change Any Fact Tag Plugin, or the dedicated plugin for the application that produced the GEDCOM (the latter two are mentioned in the FHUG articles linked to above). Additionally, the UDF list displays all fields for a person, not just the UDF; the UDF are indicated with a * star bullet point next to them. For some fields, you must expand the structure by clicking on the + sign to see what the UDF are (see Fig 4). Note that the EMAIL and WWW fields are considered UDF, even though they’re valid GEDCOM 5.5.1 tags. I suppose it might be possible to copy some UDF to a different field, such as an existing note (if there’s room), but I think this unlikely. It would be better if the UDF list displayed only UDF. Other tools can be used to correct the UDF, such as the Change Any Fact Tag Plugin.
- Update: As I said above, I reran the Find Uncategorised Data tool, and it found only four UDFs, _PHOTO, FACT, WAC, and FORM. It did not list EMAIL and WWW as UDFs, even though FH 6.1 still considers them to be so. Does the fact that they are part of the Extended Fact Set change anything other than how they’re displayed in reports?
– Renumbers Record ID Numbers (RINs). This will be a problem for people who need to preserve RINs for other purposes.
– After nearly completing my testing of FH, I found a FHUG Forum post by a user who goes by Barnowl: “What is wrong with the FH import from FTM.” Rather than repeat their findings, especially since I did not replicate all of them, I will refer you to that forum post for additional possible problems with importing a FTM GEDCOM into FH.
– Character Set: FH provides the option of the character set ANSI, which is not a valid option in GEDCOM 5.5 or 5.5.1. In fact, GEDCOM 5.5.1 specifically states, “Systems using code pages to support diacritical characters, such as the windows ANSI 1252 code page, must convert all characters above character code 0x7F to its ANSEL representation for that code page” (p. 77). So the ANSI option should be removed from FH, since it already offers the option of ANSEL (as well as ASCII and UTF-8). (Added 9 Apr 2016)
I added the FH fields to the GEDCOM Crosswalk at Family Tree Maker to GEDCOM to Other Apps Crosswalk. This table shows at a glance how the major genealogy apps name their fields within the app and how they are exported to GEDCOM. The color coding indicates areas of concern: fields in red are not imported and/or exported correctly, while fields in yellow use custom tags that may not be recognized by other apps or websites. The major problems with FH are that it doesn’t support GEDCOM 5.5.1
or import media attached to citations in such a way as to be easily visible. The other problems with media files in the table are due to its lack of 5.5.1 support.
I think former FTM users will find FH to be fairly easy to transition to, especially Windows users. Almost all data are imported, even FTM’s custom tags.
However, the lack of media on citations after importing a GEDCOM will be a roadblock for many. The user interface is easy to navigate. I found the buttons and menu items fairly intuitive, and I could generally find what I needed without resorting to the Help file, which seemed comprehensive. FH has many features that I’ll explore in more detail in a future update, if Calico Pie ever fully support GEDCOM 5.5.1 import and export.
GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test: FH fails the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test. It incorrectly labels files exported using UTF-8 encoding as version 5.5; UFT-8 wasn’t allowed in 5.5.
25 Jan 2016: Changed the paragraph about importing a GEDCOM into FH. Corrected a reference to the Family Historian User Group. Edited the paragraph on GEDCOM 5.5.1 support. Deleted the line about email addresses. Deleted the paragraph about UTF-8 support. Changed the paragraphs about LDS ordinances and the _PHOTO tag. Thanks to reader Mike Tate for pointing these out.
28 Jan 2016: Edited the first paragraph’s statement about how to download the “Import from Family Tree Maker (FTM)” plugin. Edited the paragraph about source citation quality ratings. Added information about the two plugins that supposedly fix most problems when importing a GEDCOM. Updated the First Impressions paragraph with information about running FH on a Mac.
24 Feb 2016: Family Historian has released version 6.1, a free update for users of FH 6.0. The changes include “Improved GEDCOM Import, especially from Family Tree Maker and Ancestry GEDCOM files.” For full details, see the release notes. I will test the changes when I have time.
4 Mar 2016: Updated the review based on FH 6.1.
9 Apr 2016: Added a point about the ANSI character set.
30 Apr 2016: Added a statement about the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test.
The Family Tree Software Alternatives Series
Part 1: How to Scrub Your Data
Part 2: How to Get Your Tree out of FTM
Part 3: RootsMagic 7
Part 4: Reunion 11
Part 5: MacFamilyTree 7
Part 6: Family Tree Builder 8
Part 7: Heredis 2015
Part 8: Gramps 4
Part 9: iFamily for Mac
Part 10: GEDitCOM II
Part 11: Legacy Family Tree 8
Part 12: Ancestral Quest 14
Part 13: Family Historian 6
Part 14: Should You Stick with Family Tree Maker?
Part 15: Brother’s Keeper 7
How Well Does Ancestry.com Handle GEDCOM?
Family Tree Maker to GEDCOM to Other Apps Crosswalk
The Perils of Following the GEDCOM Standard
Why All Genealogy Apps Should Support GEDCOM 5.5.1
*Information current as of the date of this post