Review: Family Tree Builder for the Mac

In January, I attended a meeting of the Greater PortlandChapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.  During the meeting, there were some questions about software to use to manage genealogical information. I had several suggestions for PC Users, but told folks there were not any free products for the Mac.  What do you know, a week later MyHeritage announced free download for Family Tree Builder (FTB) for the Mac.  I thought I’d give it a try, sort of kick the tires and check the engine for leaks.
Over the years I’ve used many products, Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac (Orig, 2, & 3), Heredis, Mac Family Tree, also Reunion, so I have experience with several genealogy programs.
My Heritage Logo
By myheritage.com
[CC BY-SA 2.5]
via Wikimedia Commons
I already had an account with MyHeritage so downloading and installation was easy. I would have had to register with MyHeritage if I had not already done so; registration is very easy. The installation followed typical Mac installation processes – download DMG, execute the DMG, drag the icon to your applications directory and then launch the program.
I was disappointed that the file system and the interface was very (Microsoft) Windows like.  It took me a bit to figure out how to find my GED file, which I had created earlier, in order to import it.  I am so out of practice using Microsoft Windows. Likewise, the software interface with its buttons was very Windows-like and not at all Mac-like. I finally imported the file and learned that I had quite a few errors occurred in the import process. Nothing told me how important the errors were — Oh well. 
I was unhappy with the constant and regular nagging to purchase the upgrade. It seemed like everything I tried to look at was available in the Premium package.  I learn quickly and learned how to keep away from those features.
My real shock was when I tried to edit one of the entries.  It reminded me about why I hate Microsoft Windows. The message confirmed that the program is actually a Windows program running on a Mac by using Wine and probably some enhancements by Codeweavers’ Crossover. I had several more “Program Errors” during my use of the program.  I restarted my computer, which seemed to mitigate the issues and I haven’t had as many “Program Errors” since the computer restart. 
I really liked many of the features in FTB. The data managed for living people was exceptionally good. In addition, because of MyHeritage’s Smart Matches, the program makes it very easy to contact other researchers.  The photo management also seemed very good and included a feature for adding the reverse side of a photo, something that I liked seeing.  The reports were okay but didn’t have the visual impact of some other programs I’ve used. 
Sources and citations were nice and easy to manage, however, associating them to facts in a person’s profile seemed difficult.  Maybe with time I would figure out a better way to do it but my way was difficult. I will say that few programs make the process easy and FTB isn’t alone in making it cumbersome.  What I would like to see is a method to easily enter a source and citation then from that screen create facts associated with a person and or a group of people. (Rant off.) 
MyHeritage has a really nice website creation process and includes many tools to increase genealogical awareness, including genealogy games for kids to get them interested in your family tree.  It also handles writing stories and activities really well to make it more interesting to tell your story.
23 & Me now has a relationship with MyHeritage.  23 & Me is a DNA testing company. They used to have customers enter their tree on the 23 & Me site.  They recently partnered with MyHeritage so that MyHeritage now maintains your family tree information and makes connecting with genetic cousins much easier.  That feature could be a reason to use MyHeritage and/or FTB.
The real issue with the software is that it is a marketing/sales product.  The free version of the software, like the free version of the web interface on MyHeritage is limited to 250 individuals and 250 MB of storage. You need to upgrade to Premium to expand to 2500 individuals and to Premium Plus to go above 2500 individuals.  
If you are a Windows user of MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder and are moving to the Mac, it is definite that the Mac version will ease your migration. If you are a MyHeritage subscriber, then Family Tree Builder will make many of the tasks and research easier to use.  Its integration into MyHeritage research options is excellent.  I haven’t figured out exactly what will happen if you drop your MyHeritage subscription and have more than 250 individuals in your tree.  If you are a Mac user that really likes the Mac interface to programs, you will not like FTB.  
The bottom line is that FTB is a desktop application that improves interaction with your MyHeritage account and online trees.  If you do not have a MyHeritage subscription, you probably do not want to use Family Tree Builder.

————- DISCLAIMER ————-


newspapers.com 

Maine Genealogical Society – 2014 Annual Conference

Maine Genealogical Society – Annual Conference – Review

Maine Genealogical Society
Logo
I had the opportunity to attend my first Maine Genealogical
Society (MGS) event last Saturday.  I
joined the MGS about a month after moving to Maine but hadn’t had the
opportunity to attend any of the local events. 
So, I registered to attend the Annual Conference on September 13, 2014 in
Brewer, Maine, as my first event.
I needed to get up early as Brewer is just over two hours
away driving and I wanted to make registration before 8:30 so I wasn’t rushed
for the opening session. I made it there with no problems.  Because it was my first long trip in the new
Jeep, I had the opportunity to try out the Adaptive Cruise Control.  Love it!
MGS Pin
After registering, I wandered around the vendor’s area.  Picked up one of the Society’s pins.  You can order them from their website also.  
I was kind of taken aback by the attitude of
a couple of the DAR representatives that were there.  I got the sense that if my wife were to apply
for DAR all the documents and work needed to be done by her and that I couldn’t
do it for her.  Someone, please tell me
I’m wrong in that feeling. I am yet to apply to any lineage society and figured that the DAR, on behalf of my wife, would be one of the first I attempted.  I guess it might be the SAR instead. 
The opening, Keynote address, was by Thomas Jones, PhD,
author of Mastering Genealogical Proof
published by the National Genealogical Society (NGS). I’m a member of the NGS
so I’ve been seeing their promotions for the book and it has been on my list of
“books I’d like to get,” so I purchased a copy at the MGS Annual Conference. 
Thomas Jones, PhD,
CG, CGI, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
The keynote address was “Can a Complex Research Problem be
Solved Solely Online?” The bottom line answer is, as you might expect, “Well,
maybe.”  That said, Dr. Jones’ delivery
was excellent.  He was very personable
and very good at his presentation, being engaging, humorous, and clearly
knowledgeable.  He was clear that not
everything can be found on line but in some cases enough might be findable to
answer the question you have.  He had a
number of really good online resources, some of which I didn’t have
before.  I loved the presentation.
After the keynote address, the conference split into two
tracks. I went next door to listen to Nancy Lecompte speak about Genetic
Genealogy.  The conference technical
folks had some problems isolating the speakers that each of the presenters
would be talking only to their room of attendees. They finally got it
straightened out after a few minutes and the presentations began.
Nancy did a very good job with her presentation. In the fast
changing field of genetic genealogy, she appeared to be up to date, which is a
task in itself, and provided a smooth presentation with information that
supported both individuals with both novice and intermediate level understanding of
DNA Testing.  She provided a link to her slides, which is
something I really appreciate because it means I can pay closer attention to
the speaker and not spend as much time taking notes.  Although I did take quite a few notes at her presentation.
After an okay lunch I had a chance to talk with some folks and make a couple friends.  Then the two training tracks started again.
In both of the sessions I attended presentations by Dr. Thomas Jones.  The first was “Debunking Misleading Records.”
He did an excellent job of showing how to detect, compare, and disprove
misleading or erroneous records.  In my
personal practice, I have taken to keeping all records, even if misleading. I
generally then identify one of the same items as “preferred.” If “prove”
something as misleading, I enter a note concerning why the information is in
error and I mark it private so I don’t accidentally share the error with
others.
The last presentation I attended was “Proved? – Five Ways to
Prove Who Your Ancestor Was (Some Reliable and Others Not Reliable).”  As you might expect three of the ways were
unacceptable, one might be close to okay, but really only one was fully
acceptable because it was the only one that met The Genealogical Proof
Standard.  The approach is to weigh
conflicting evidence and resolve the conflicts using the five cornerstones to
“The Genealogical Proof Standard,”

reasonably exhaustive search,
complete, accurate source citations,
skilled analysis and correlation of the data
resolution of contradictory evidence, and 
a soundly reasoned conclusion.

There was a fairly quick wrap up of the day’s activities, a
short business meeting, and drawings for door prizes.  Needless to say, I didn’t win anything, I
never do, but I stayed to the end.
It looks like the next big thing with the MGS is the Southern Maine Genealogy
Conference
to be held May 30th, 2015 in Portland.  I’m looking forward to it. I’m also looking
forward to attending some of my local (Greater Portland) chapter’s meetings
over the next few months.

Maryland State Archives Website – How Frustrating

Maryland State Archives Website – How Frustrating
Some websites can be confusing and difficult to use, but I don’t expect state archive sites to be that way.  Maryland is the exception to that rule.  It was the most frustrating state archive site I’ve used, so far.  
My task was simple, find out death information on an ancestor of my wife.  The Social Security Death Index indicated that he died in December 1964. No specific date and no location other than Maryland.  Looking up the specifics should be easy, peasy. 
In my list of websites for Maryland I had first, http://www.aomol.net/html/index.html,  I thought when I went there, “how odd, a dot net address.”  Nothing about death records in their menu. Maybe under other records….  No such luck.
In my list of websites for Maryland I had another URL, http://msa.maryland.gov/ — much better. A bit more modern looking site. “How to order copies” provided a link to a pdf order form. The form wanted month, day and year.  Humm.  I didn’t have the day. I figured, maybe they have an index. A look at “What We Have” brought me to page that included a link to “Maryland Vital Records.” Again, I thought it odd that the writeup for “Vital Records” only spoke of death records. I was only interested in death records so I was good with that, for now.  That link which brought me to “Vital Records Indexing Project”  The writeup talked about the indexing project but nowhere in the text of the page was a link to the index.  Then I saw it in the menu on the left, “Search MD Vital Records”  The page that it brought me to was only death records also.  Select County Deaths in two indexes to 1944 and Select Baltimore City deaths 1875 to 1972 in two indexes also.  I’m always scared when someone says, “Select” because I always figure that that means it is just some data we put out there, we know it isn’t complete, but it is what we can provide easily.  Well, maybe he died in Baltimore and all will be well. A click on “MSA CE 42” brought me to a long death record index. Down the list to 1963-1964. A look at the naming pattern at the three files associated with ’63-64 led me to the second file, G000-M663. Then select a letter – I picked “H”.
OMG – The records are PDFs, each page is an individual file, and it is by soundex.  Aarrgh.  
I don’t use soundex and I am often frustrated by it.  However, some time ago I found Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. On his website he has a soundex converter. http://www.eogn.com/soundex/  Totally awesome.  Just enter the Surname and it provides the Soundex. Entered the name and received back, H-400. Thank you Dick Eastman for the utility!
Back to the website, I’m on page 1 of who knows how many, I click on Page 10, only H200 – sigh, click on page 19, the 28.  Almost there, pages 29 & 30 were the right pages for my search.  Nope, the ancestor wasn’t there. He must not have died in Baltimore – although I really didn’t know.  I hate the word “select.”
Not looking good for the home team.  I found the Special Collections site, http://speccol.mdarchives.state.md.us/ – another totally different URL scheme.  It indicates photos, newspapers, maps, biographies, and church records.  Oh cool, maybe a search for “Archives Building” will yield a photo of the archives for this blog.  No such luck.  The search yielded 90 photos of people in and around the building, but none of the building itself. Anyway, despite my  inability to find a good photo of the building on the site, there was a fuzzy image in the banner of the Photos search page that is usable. 

I continued searching for sites and finally found another site. http://guide.mdsa.net/. Maryland State Archives Guide to Government Records. Choose your Display type by Series gave me a very confusing search box. Clearly designed for someone who has intimate knowledge of the agency names and other particulars of Maryland’s government. 
Then I clicked on a Reference and Research tab. There was a section on “How to Find Specific Records” and a section of “Indices Found at MSA.”  The link for Death Record Indices had the link showing that I had visited it before, however, there was a link for Death Records. That page had a section on “County Death Records 1898-1972.”  Maybe…. Most of the records listed had paper or microfilm listings but there were a couple that indicated “Electronic”.  There was an Index Series and a Record Series.  I tried the Index series SE8. Getting closer.  Fairly well organized. In the date range I was looking for and the name letter, I clicked on “Detail” and found nothing that wasn’t on the preceding page. Click “back” and then on “Link.”  A PDF file that consisted of thousands of names, one name on a card and a photo copy of it. A search of the document found nothing, it wasn’t a text enable PDF. Scrolling down I finally found the ancestor on page 11,000 something and it had the information I was looking for.  The date of his death. 
The Maryland State Archives sites were exasperating and inconsistent. Sites don’t link to each other in a simple meaningful way.  It is like several different departments put their materials wherever (dot net, dot gov, dot us) they wanted without coordinating with other departments.  They also don’t appear to have single style or single content management points.
The bottom line for genealogists is that I believe I have found two pages that I found useful.
REFERENCE & RESEARCH AT THE MARYLAND STATE ARCHIVES  http://guide.mdsa.net/viewer.cfm?page=topviewed
and 
Maryland State Archives Guide to Special Collections  
I recommend putting them in your browser’s bookmarks for the Maryland State Archives.  I’d skip the other ones.
By the way, they have a feedback page at: http://census.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/homepage/feedback/cfm/dsp_feedback.cfm. I spent quite a while providing feedback that I thought would be meaningful.  A click of “submit” yielded an error.  
Again, I found the Maryland State Archives site to be the most frustrating State Archive site I’ve ever encountered. 
          Begins with          Equals          Contains          Ends with    Sounds like     

Webinar Review: Your Civil War Ancestors

I’ve been enjoying the free webinars put on
by Legacy Family Tree.  Last week I
watched my third one and was quite pleased. 
Michael Hait’s webinar was, “Your Civil War Ancestors:
Beginning Your Research.” I thought I knew quite about my civil war ancestors,
but Michael’s webinar added some new areas of research for me.  Of course I knew about the indexes of the
Civil War Pension indexes, but I had no idea of the depth of information that
might be available when a pensioner applied. 
Although ordering the information may be expensive, the wealth of
information surpasses what I might have thought possible. 
Certainly Mr. Hait
reminded me of the vast number of photos and drawings available at the Library of Congress Civil War site. Adding photos of related events can and will
make some of the boring bits of story come alive. His talk also reminded me
that Google has a vast number of books that are indexed and searchable.  Many of those books include detailed
descriptions of specific Civil War Regiments. 
My wife’s G-Grandfather fought with Lee’s Army from near the beginning
of the war through to Appomattox and my side fought for both the Union and the
Confederates in Kentucky regiments.
He did mention a site
that I hadn’t thought of for civil war records, the National Park Service Civil War Records.  Certainly
an excellent source for information on various regiments, battles, and letters.
Mr. Hait’s delivery style was a bit uninspiring but his material and his understanding of the material was excellent.  Would I buy the CD? Maybe
not at $12.95 (regular price), but certainly I would love to see it combined in
a package with some other Webinars.  I
highly recommend listening to the webinar before the 5th  of November (while it is still free). The Legacy Family Tree Webinars are well worth following and keeping an eye out for topics that fit your needs.  I’ve even put a couple of their items onto my Yuletide wish list, so, hopefully, I’ll be getting some of them.

RootsTech: YouTube Your Family History

It seems that I left the best for last of the RootsTech videos (of those I intend to watch).

YouTube Your Family History By Devin Ashby was extremely good.  He spent a short time with background information about You Tube and then gave three ideas for ways to use You Tube.  First was an Ancestor Video.  Creating a life story for an individual can be wonderful.  He does a great job of showing that a video might be much more interesting to family members than the boring trees and charts I love so much.  He suggests some possible software applications that can be used to produce your video.  He has great ideas, some of which will may the “Aunties Project” I’m working on much better.  I think I can also use some of his ideas on some church videos.  So his material was very useful.
He talks some about creating a website tour, where you provide sort of a guide to your website.  I don’t think that is useful to me right now, but I’ll keep the idea in the back of my mind in the event it does become necessary.
Finally, he talked about creating a channel.  He mentioned that having a channel can provide a way to make money from your videos. Of course, he mentions his channel, The Google Genealogist which looks very good.  I’ve subscribed and am looking forward to seeing more of his materials. 
As a side note, in the background portion of his talk he mentions the YouTube Symphony. I had vaguely heard of it but had never seen it. His mention spurred me to looking it up.  It is really good.  I’m playing it as background as I work and am enjoying it immensely.