A maverick, solid, and modestly priced Macintosh genealogy application.
iFamily for Leopard is one of the most popular genealogy data management applications for Macintosh. With it one can store, update, explore, and report on family history data. The data can consist of names, events, sources, notes, and links to image files. There is something different, interesting, and wonderful about this program. The focus of iFamily is the individual rather than the family. This perspective enables the program to present data about people in a context diagram that is well suited to visually representing connections between people.
There are several elegantly designed features that make using iFamily very efficient. A minimal selection of charts and reports can be exported to other popular applications and printed. Minimal support for collecting, managing, and displaying source citations is a shortcoming that, combined with insufficient built-in help, hinders greater adoption.
iFamily for Leopard is compatible with Intel and PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X versions 10.4 (tiger) to 10.5 (leopard). It costs a mere $29.95 USD. A demo is available for download with the following limitations:
- Trial use is limited to 10 days
- Exporting data in GEDCOM format is disabled
A comprehensive table of features is provided in the Macintosh Genealogy Software Feature Comparison. This section describes remarkable functionality and behaviors observed or found lacking during my evaluation. Each application reviewed in this series was subjected to the same set of scenarios designed to represent normal usage.
Adding people to an iFamily database is a simple matter. Click on the ghost box that represents their position in the context diagram, fill in the name and gender in the ghost box, then enter the details in the dialog box that follows.
The majority of the data entry mechanisms are smooth and well thought out resulting in more efficient data entry than I am accustomed to in other genealogy applications. iFamily is not without its quirks though.
Parent relationships are set automatically. Sometimes the application can’t anticipate the nature of the relationship, so you’ll want to check it and adjust it if appropriate. For example, I entered data for a person–let’s call her Pebbles. I entered her natural mother, Wilma, then the natural father, Fred. The data on the natural parents included their marriage and death dates. I then added Wilma’s first husband, Barney (how’s that for starting a Flintstones urban legend?). Let’s say Wilma and Barney were married and divorced before Pebbles was born. Those dates were also entered. Pebbles was born during Fred and Wilma’s marriage. Got that prehistoric family tree in your mind’s eye? Better yet, here’s what I expected to see:
iFamily for Leopard took that information and connected the natural parents appropriately. Unexpectedly, it connected Pebbles and Barney even though Barney was divorced from Wilma before Pebbles was born. It showed Barney as a step-parent of Pebbles. This is the diagram that I actually got:
This makes sense, given that the divorce information for Barney and Wilma hadn’t been entered yet. In fact, my expectation was very high as a result of my experience with iFamily for Leopard regularly exceeding my other expectations. The mechanism for avoiding this problem is provided in the dialog box (see the image below) for adding a parent; change the relationship of the parent to the child before the parent addition is complete.
A feature appearing in the latest version was adding a “Marriage Status” field to the family pane that displays the last known marriage event for each union. It works well except that the status does not change to “Divorced” after adding a divorce event without a date.
iFamily regularly anticipated my next step in manually entering data. For instance, adding the second parent automatically brought up the family dialog in preparation for adding marriage events and data about children.
Clicking the “Edit” button on the events pane opens a sheet for the selected event. There is only one button on the sheet to allow exit, “Close & Save” so changes cannot be abandoned. There should be a “Cancel” button.
I expected to be able to add the divorce event via the “+” button of the “events pane,” but divorce is not in the list of events. After a couple minutes of poking around I discovered how to enter the event in the “Family Details Dialog.” This is accessed through the “family pane” (using either the little up arrow in the upper middle of the pane or the plus sign at the right end of the “Marriage Notes” field).
The active source feature rocks!
Source management does not extend to picture files. There is a notes field for pictures that could be populated with source information.
Sources are cited at a high level. For example, birth date and birth place are cited together in a “topic” called “birth.” The topic can be changed in the “Sources” pane. This capability would suggest that changing the topic would be a solution to recording the specific data cited; unfortunately, the topic is not consistently displayed. They are not included at all in reports containing citations. Changes to the topic are displayed in the citation information displayed by the “Review Source and References” feature, but not when using the “Edit Source” feature or generating a “Source Report.”
The “Family Group” report does not list sources.
Sources can contain pictures. iFamily can be configured to save space by using aliases for files with your home folder or sub-folders. It defaults to always copying the file to prevent problems should the original be moved or deleted. The drag and drop feature doesn’t work when the image being dragged from the finder is an alias. Viewing the picture is problematic. The difficulty I had with it is that the pictures aren’t accessible directly from the sources pane. To access them one must select the source record in the sources pane, click the “Edit Source” button, right-click on the image, then use the “Open With” context menu item to choose the application with which to open the file.
Source record flexibility is where iFamily may not meet your needs.
Source record types cannot be customized. The source fields are limited to source type (from a pre-populated drop-down list), short title, title, author, publisher, publication date, and location/repository. There is a notes box and the ability to create a simple list of fields to be saved as a format and recalled for use in other source records. Unfortunately, the custom format is not saved when one exits the application.
Comparing and Merging Trees
One is given the choice of matching solely on id or the combination of name, gender, birth year, and death year.
Comparing and Merging people from another database automatically prompts one to backup the target database.
I was not able to discover how to add one database to another even after adding the connection person to the target database. A quick email to the developer and a very short wait for a reply yielded the answer. There is a context menu item available when right-clicking on a ghost box if another database is open. It will copy the selected person from the other database, into the ghost box that was control-clicked. This must be done for each person at that level (spouses). Ancestors and their descendants can be copied automatically or excluded.
Be careful to check your citations when merging trees!
Citations in the other file were not applied in the target file as expected; the test source was copied, but not cited in the residence event.
Pruning a tree is a matter of using the “Disconnect person“ feature then “prune minor dynasties“ to remove them from the database if desired.
The search bar is very conveniently located on the main screen. Searches are filtered via a drop-down. This is used to pinpoint the results by limiting the data searched to specific data.
Data Import and Export
Empty commas are stripped from records upon import.
A service number “fact” in the test data did not import.
The iFamily way of merging GEDCOM data into an existing database is to load the data into a separate database then merge the two databases.
The GEDCOM export feature has several ways to choose what people are included in the export. It can export:
- all people in the database
- all the people in the current diagram
- all the people in the current diagram including their spouses
- the focal person and everyone related
- the focal person and their ancestors
- the focal person and their descendants
These selections will satisfy the needs of many people. iFamily for Leopard does not support overriding the selections by adding or excluding individuals. The need for this is likely rare, but it is a limitation if one needs this capability.
The only view in iFamily for Leopard is the context diagram. It is a subtly powerful, multipurpose view, so don’t write the application off on account of a perceived lack of views.
The context diagram portion of the main screen serves as a multi-purpose chart as well as being a tool for navigating one’s database. With it one can see up to six generations of ancestors and descendants. This virtually eliminates the need for ancestor, descendant, and fan charts for analysis. The contents of the boxes on the diagram can be quickly changed by positioning the mouse cursor over a box and scrolling with the scroll wheel on the mouse or the scroll feature of the trackpad on a MacBook. The context diagram can be saved as a jpeg file for times when you want to print a diagram. The context diagram cannot replace, nor can the application create, relative charts or timeline charts.
iFamily for Leopard can generate some standard reports; see the Macintosh Genealogy Software Comparison for details. Additionally, it produces reports for “Filtered People,” “Dynasties,” “Pictures—Where Used,” and “Data Inconsistencies.” The filtered people report contains birth, marriage, and death information by person as well as listing children and parents. As the name suggests, all people in the database are included in the report except those excluded by any of the ten criteria specified. The dynasties report lists people separated into two different groups: those related to the focal person and those not related to the focal person. The data inconsistency report will list people meeting one or more selected criteria. The inconsistencies checked for are specific conditions in five categories: birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, parent-child relationships, and unconnected people.
Some reports can be generated in various applications depending on what one has installed—for me that is TextEdit, DEVONagent, OmniOutliner, and Pages. Oddly, some reports do not have the option of what application to use.
Printing and Publishing
The job of printing and publishing is almost entirely relegated to other, external applications.
Photos can be dragged and dropped onto the “pictures pane” and into source records from an application or loaded from a folder. iPhoto can be launched from within iFamily, but the iPhoto library is not directly browsable.
Birth, death, and marriage events can be exported to iCal. There are several useful options provided such as whether to show the full name on the calendar or just the given and surnames.
Help and Support
The informational dialog boxes that pop up for some menu items (e.g. People | Promote to Focal Person…) interrupt workflow. I’m sure it’s intended to be helpful. I found it annoying. It’s a temporary problem because the application stops displaying the dialog boxes after a few uses. A better solution would be to populate the help system to which Mac users are accustomed.
The built-in help file is an extremely brief text, covering only a few of the application’s features. This program has some nice features that differentiate it from the rest. Unfortunately they are not adequately covered, if at all. I suspect many people try iFamily only to go elsewhere because they are unaware of the elegant workflow solutions or are deterred by the unexplained symbols and features.
The developer makes himself highly available through his forums. He also releases new versions more frequently than any other Mac genealogy software developer. Releases include new and improved features as well as fixes. If you’ve decided that professional level source citation is not for you, iFamily for Leopard is an excellent choice.
iFamily for Leopard is a promising genealogy database application that is particularly suited to family historians who don’t fully document sources. If you’re in that group I recommend you consider the benefits and costs of citation before choosing any genealogy database application. iFamily is a good choice if you’ve decided that the benefits of citing sources like a professional are unimportant to you.