Application: Family Tree Builder
Current Version: 8
Supported OS: Windows, Mac (bundled with CrossOver)
Mobile Apps: iPad/iPhone/Android (MyHeritage for mobile)
Price: Free (basic edition), $6.88 – $14.59 per month (Premium MyHeritage account), Free mobile apps
Publisher: MyHeritage Ltd.
GenSoftReviews:4.29 stars out of 5
Version tested: Family Tree Builder 7.2 (build 7149) for Mac using the CrossOver bridge provided by MyHeritage (note: FTM 8 is not yet available for Mac)
Portions of text in all capital letters that are not acronyms are GEDCOM tags, with the rest of the plain text field name in lowercase. References to the GEDCOM standard are to version 5.5.1 unless stated otherwise.
Importing a GEDCOM file into FTB is straightforward, but MyHeritage has a web page, “FTM Users: Join MyHeritage and get Family Tree Builder with an Unlimited Size Family Site for Free.” However, here are a few tips I’d like to highlight:
- After beginning the GEDCOM import, make sure “Convert to Notes” is selected for “Handling of Unrecognized Tags” (Fig 1).
- Leaving the encoding set to Auto-detect is probably a good idea, since a file might be marked one thing but actually encoded another, and applications can often detect the actual encoding.
- The option to “Write import execution log file” merely creates a copy of the GEDCOM file rather than the log file I expected. The actual log file is created in a later step.
Once the GEDCOM is imported, a summary is presented; click the View Issues button (Fig 2).
- A list of issues is opened; this is the log that I was expecting. I suggest you click the View Report button, which will open the list in Notepad, and save the list for future reference.
+ It’s good that FTB produces a list of issues encountered during GEDCOM import; a genealogy app should always produce a GEDCOM import log listing any data that could not be imported. It would be better if all of the issues encountered were actual problems (see Cons).
+ The basic edition is fully functional. The main limitations are:
- The size limit of a tree that can be synced with the MyHeritage.com website is 250 people, but MyHeritage might still upgrade former FTM users to an unlimited size family tree, per the article mentioned above.
- No mapping functions
- No merging of Smart Matches at MyHeritage
- No All-in-One Chart containing all relatives of a given person
- No timeline of events for a person
- No Timebook, which is a chronological, digital album of dated photos for a person and his/her family
- No searching all MyHeritage family trees
+ Imported and stored most data, even if it wasn’t displayed in FTB, which was apparent from the fact that data that weren’t displayed were still exported to GEDCOM.
+ Imported FTM’s illegal ALIA tag as an Alias and exported it using a valid custom tag.
+ Displayed adoptive parents’ relationships correctly.
+ For photos, places, sources, and repositories, has usage lists showing all their associations.
+ Has a pleasing, easy-to-use interface.
+ Has mobile apps for Android and iOS (although I did not test them)
— GEDCOM import log:
- Labelled some events as non-standard, even though they were correctly structured. Notwithstanding, FTB imported all of the fields except DNA Markers.
- Contained the cryptic statement, “Indexes Referenced but not Defined” and then listed what appeared to be some note cross-references. However, none of the references even existed in my GEDCOM file so they were neither defined nor referenced.
— Failed to display an ADDRess tag, even though it imported the other elements of the address structure, including the city, state, and postal code. However, it was exported to GEDCOM.
— Failed to parse the valid GEDCOM 5.5.1 tag FACT.
— Failed to display LDS ordinance fields, even though all of them use standard GEDCOM tags except for Initiatory. This is a serious omission for members of the LDS Church. However, all the LDS ordinance fields were exported to GEDCOM.
— Failed to import the exact text from the TYPE tag on some EVENt structures. For example, it imported EVEN.TYPE Namesake as “Named after” and “Employment” as “Occupation.” Apps must import the TYPE tag verbatim.
— Imported the words “Height” and “Weight” from EVEN.TYPE structures into the Description field, but failed to import the accompanying descriptions.
— Imported the field label “Ancestral File Number” but failed to import the field contents (the description).
— Failed to display reference numbers (tag REFN) on relationships, although it exported them.
— Failed to import a residence field, even though it imported part of the address and date attached to it. However, it exported the field correctly.
— Multimedia: Failed to import media titles, dates, and notes. I suspect this is because FTB expects multimedia records to be in GEDCOM 5.5 format, which was different from 5.5.1.
— Source citations: Failed to display media attached to citations. In fact, there is no way to attach media to citations in FTB, at least in the basic edition. Media can only be attached to sources. This could be a significant problem for users coming from applications like FTM, which allow users to attach media to citations. The GEDCOM standard also allows media to be attached to citations. However, citation media in a GEDCOM are apparently imported and stored because when a family tree is exported, the media are attached to citations.
— Exported GEDCOM was labelled version 5.5, even though it used several features of 5.5.1, including the UTF-8 character set, multimedia records with cross-references, and the tags EMAIL, FAX, and WWW. GEDCOMs must be labelled according to the features and structures they use so they can be imported correctly.
— Exported the Ancestral File Number field as EVEN.TYPE instead of the standard tag AFN.
— Exported each element of address structures (address, phone numbers, email addresses, web addresses, etc.) to separate events using the same date as the original event. While technically valid, it’s akin to exporting the place, media, and notes for a single event to separate events. I suspect that most, if not all, other applications would treat them as separate events, which would be undesirable for most users.
— Adds invalid RIN (automated record ID number) tags to all event structures. RINs are allowed in record structures (individuals, families, media, sources, notes, etc.), but not events, according to the GEDCOM standard. However, other apps and websites would probably just ignore them.
— Problems with exporting multimedia:
- Most media were exported incorrectly. They were exported using cross-references to the multimedia records, but the actual records were missing the required FORM and BLOB tags. The BLOB tag for embedded binary objects is required because FTB uses GEDCOM 5.5, and in GEDCOM 5.5, if cross-references are used, then the embedded form method of handling multimedia must be used (p. 33). The linked form method does not use cross-references in version 5.5. It would be better if FTM used GEDCOM 5.5.1, which allows for both cross-references and file links (doing away with embedded files), but the mandatory FORM and FILE tags must also be included.
- Changed media file names from what they were when imported to a seemingly random number. For example, file name “Mary Larko about 1960.jpg” was changed to “P1_2012_2012.jpg.” Some users might prefer that the files keep their descriptive names.
- It is not possible to attach media to citations, only to sources.
- Media attached to residences are not displayed on the Contact tab. However, the media are stored internally and exported to GEDCOM.
- Does not seem to have a built-in fact for Residence, even though it has a Residence category containing Census, Move, Settlement, etc. However, it imported and exported a RESIdence event to and from GEDCOM.
- In the Edit Citation window, the Page or URL field box isn’t as tall as it could be (Fig 3).
Technically, the Page field is not just for page numbers; GEDCOM defines it as “Where Within Source,” and it could be up to 248 characters long. As you can see from the example, working with this field in FTB would be a little annoying for long Page entries. It would be better if the Page box were tall enough to accommodate a reasonable amount of text, similar to the “Text from source” box below it.
- On the Facts tab of the Edit Details window, there’s a button to rearrange facts by date, but every time you leave the tab and return to it, you have to click the button again, which is an annoyance. The events ought to be sorted by date by default.
I added the FTB 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.
FTB has a nice, easy-to-navigate user interface. I could usually find what I needed without consulting the help file, which was fairly complete. While this review focused on GEDCOM handling, FTB has many useful features that I’ll explore in more detail in a future update if FTB ever supports GEDCOM 5.5.1. It’s unfortunate that FTB doesn’t fully comply with GEDCOM 5.5.1 or allow media to be attached to citations.
GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test: FTB 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.
29 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