My Search for a Family Tree Maker Replacement – Part 1

My Search for a Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 Replacement

Part 1 of 2

Legacy Family Tree

I have long recommended Legacy Family Tree to my friends that have Windows. Their product only operates in a Windows environment. On a Mac that means you need to run Parallels, CrossOver, VMWare, or something similar that allows you to run Windows programs on a Mac. I used VMWare for a year or two when I switched to Mac. It allowed me to run all of my legacy Windows programs on my new Mac while I converted to using Mac programs. That way I didn’t have to replace all of my software all at once. I upgraded my Mac to a newer OS (operating system) a couple years later and found that my version of VMWare didn’t run on that updated OS. I had to do a paid upgrade of VMWare to continue using it or drop it. I only had one Windows based program remaining and buying a new Mac version of that program was less expensive than upgrading VMWare. If you have a Mac, have a Windows running program, and are used to Windows programs, I still recommend Legacy Family Tree as a solid solution to your Family Tree Maker for Mac dilemma.

Roots Magic 7

The president of my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society posted a sales notice regarding Roots Magic. I have long heard good things about Roots Magic. I went to their site and saw it was on sale for $20 instead of the regular $44.90 price – A sale too good to pass up. They also indicated they have a new Mac Version. I’m not big on “free” versions of software, so I bought the full version, installed it, and ran it. I quickly found out it isn’t an actual Mac version; rather it uses CrossOver as a Windows environment emulator. As such, it works like Windows software and not like Mac software.
I opened one of my smaller trees in Family Tree Maker for Mac and exported to a GED file. I then imported it into RootsMagic 7. Then I walked through each of the menu options and looked at what my options were. Some of the options I really liked, such as identifying the married name for a woman. Some of the options I didn’t understand, such as “general source, an individual source, and a family source. Some of my work didn’t import as I expected, for example my “to do” tasks, but I expected that. Those minor shortages were overcome by the some of the really cool features, such as generating the files for a website and creating a shareable CD.
As I expected much of my data was all over the place. I had descriptions in locations and many other problems. All in all, it will take a long time for me to clean up all of my files, sources, places, and individuals — A very long time.

I was looking at the Media gallery and under tools, found “fix broken media links.” I found the disconcerting Windows type of file system. The prompt didn’t allow me to select any directories so search so I had to search an entire drive.  Not cool. I let it run for several hours and it seemed to have locked up. I gave up and hit cancel. It did give me the option to import what it had found thus far. Therefore, I was able to import 80 of the 133 media items that I had in Family Tree Maker for Mac. That said, I’m not positive if the 53 missing items were because of RootsMagic or because my Family Tree Maker file had already started corrupting – Probably the latter.
I adjusted the fonts and other settings to make it better for me and used it for a couple days. Roots Magic is a complicated program and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. There were times I felt like the tail was wagging the dog. That is to say, it seemed that the software was driving what I needed to do rather than my workflow being able to be documented easily by the software. Using Roots Magic really helped me understand how I like to work.
Painting by Henry Thomas Alken
[Public domain]
As I mentioned in a previous blog posting (Jump Hunting and the Maine Register), it is like jump-hunting ducks. I decide where I’m going to go hunting, go there, and “bag” the available information. Then I clean it, cook it and eat it – analyze the information, extract the information, and incorporate it into my family history. I don’t like to eat things I don’t know where they came from. Likewise, I try to have every fact, event, and story in my family history clearly documented as to the source.
The bottom line is that after a couple days of working with Roots Magic 7, I just could not learn to love it. I can definitely see why many others use it, but I just couldn’t fit my jump shooting stratagy into it’s use. Between the complexity of the software and the Windows interface, I decided to abandon my Roots Magic test and begin my search for a Family Tree Maker for Mac replacement once again.

To be continued….

[By the way, if you are interested in converting from Family Tree Maker to Roots Magic 7 , now is the time to do it with their special FTM to RM offer of only $20.]

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

Search Military Records - Fold3 Search Military Records - Fold3

I Switched to Heredis

Frustration strikes again…

My continuing problems with Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac 3.0 occurred again. I saw that my synchronization to my on-line tree was broken once again. In addition, I found that several of my sources were corrupted. Therefore, I decided to give up. Interestingly, the same morning I made that decision I received an email from Heredis letting me know that their new 2015 product for the Mac was now available. It is also on sale for 50% off until July 19th. It seemed like a sign, so I purchased it.

Heredis Installation & Import

Heredis give you to option to purchase from their site or purchase through the App Store. I purchased from the App Store. It downloaded and installed automatically. I used Time Machine to restore my FTM to a version before it corrupted. Then opened up FTM and exported my file in GED 5.5 format. 

Next, in Heredis, I opened a GEDCOM file, selected the file I had exported and it imported successfully. Then Heredis asked if I wanted to import my media. I said yes and selected the appropriate Media folder. It pulled in all the media that it knew about. Very easy to do.

Heredis Features

I then began looking at some of the features of Heredis. I was immediately impressed with the way it handles sources. When you open a source, besides the expected basic information that you would expect, a huge note area allows you to format the text you write nicely. I like using the “vertical display” which puts the image on the left and the note text on the right. I found usage to be smooth and easy. For example, I went to Family Search, found a record I was looking for. On Family Search, I selected copy and I downloaded the image. When I went back to Heredis, I just pasted the copied information into the note, and then dragged and dropped the image into Heredis. I added the header information based upon what I had copied — Just a series of copy & pastes.

Title: 1940 Census – Document: [Head of Household’s Name] – Repository: Family Search – Author: NARA – Date: [Today’s date] (‘cause I found it today), Website: I entered the exact URL. I was done. I did add the address of the individual, which the person rented, and a couple other items but it was good to go.

Although the source page does show what events are associated with it there isn’t a way to add an event through that page, however, I went to the Head of the household in my people entry form and input a Census record for 1 Apr 1940 with the key information for the head. A really cool feature is to share that event with other individuals. That feature keeps you from needing to reenter the same information on the records for everyone in the household. In a comment line, it is easy add the information that is different from the head, such as wife, son, daughter, or mother-in-law as appropriate. I like the system.

Heredis default on-line
search locations.

Another very cool feature is the Search. They populate several popular web search engines, Ancestry.Com,, Find-a-Grave, etc. You can add more or disable them as you wish. On the next tab over from the Search is “Research Note.” It is a great place to enter notes regarding what you have searched already. I like it.

I found the selection criterion for finding people is flexible. For example, you can select by surname individuals whose parents are unknown.

Another awesome feature is to work on a branch. Select a person then you can select ancestors or descendants of that individual. It is kind of like an automatic filter system. You can also show just the treetops, which can give you a visual look at individuals you may want to spend more time researching. Reports are everything you would expect or want. It is very impressive software.

It is perfect, no. There isn’t a way for an individual to have multiple surnames. In my family, there are several (male) individuals who had multiple surnames and for whom the surname wasn’t related. Using a “nickname” or considering it an alias doesn’t work well. My grandfather was born Clifford Brown, Married and had children as Richard Durand, and went by Richard Brown in his later years. I’ve never encountered a reasonable explanation for the name changes. In addition, of course, he did have the nickname of “Dick,” as do many Richards.

The bottom line is I’m really happy (so far) that I made the switch to Heredis.

————-  DISCLAIMER  ————-


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
[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 ————- 

Review: Heredis 2.1.0 (Mac)

Software Review

Heredis 2.1.0 (Mac Version)

My first, quick, look at Heredis for the Mac was awesome. The free trial
version allows tracking of 50 individuals in your tree but otherwise is full
featured. I downloaded their sample tree, of forty-six individuals and was
impressed. The integration of photos, sources, and places with the people is
extremely slick. The interface was incredibly user friendly and followed Mac
methodology. Data is well organized into four major areas: 

Under Persons are four tabs, 

Immediate Family, grandparents, parents, spouse,
and children, are displayed. There is a great feature where you can link
variants of a surname together. In my family tree, I have Manning, Mannin,
Mannon, and Mannen, which spellings used changes constantly.
Personal Data, which includes key info on the
individual, (names, notes, etc.) events, (birth, marriage, death, etc.) and a
family section. One cool thing about the section is what they call “sundry
links” which is a place you can link an individual to another based upon a
non-direct relationship. For example, when a niece is living with a family and
you don’t know who the parent is or even which side of the family the to whom
the niece is related. Events allow you enter many different event types. A
marriage event does not show who the marriage was to. You have to display the
families tab and the events tab simultaneously and figure out which is the
correct one. Adding a new marriage event is cumbersome, as the input screen does
not display all the info for the marriage. They also put unusual emphasis upon
people’s occupation and even have a separate index for that. The software seems
to put too much importance on a child’s status (illegitimate, natural, etc.)
and if a person can sign their name (verses uses an “X”). It is rare that I
have cared about status and have never paid attention to a person’s signature
Family Group Data provides easy access to key
information on parents, partners, and children. The display is cluttered, trying
to put too much on the screen.
Ancestors tab gives a quick pedigree chart,
which is easily selectable as four, five, or six generations.
The Places section is likewise very clean. It uses little icons
to indicate if you have a picture of a place or if it has notes. Accessing
Places via the “Tools” menu gives access to you to see which individuals have
an entry to a particular place. Locations link to “Open Street Map.” I had
never seen them before and really like their maps.  I may use them for other things in the future. 
The Sources section is more flexible than some other
programs I have seen. You can add images and notes. The notes have complete formatting
capabilities, font, font size, bold, italic, etc. 
The Media section links photographs to the individuals and
is very clear and concise in its use.
The Reports are standard and what one might expect. It will
create a biographical report for an individual and then launch your preferred
word processor for you to finish it off. I thought that was very cool. Throughout
the reports you have the option to include private data or not.
There are Heredis iPad and iPhone applications (free) that can allow you to sync your desktop to your iPad or iPhone and take it with you.  Also, the sync function allows you to sync to remote computers, external hard drives (cloud), and USB Flash Drives.  
I thought, “Wow,
I can’t wait to see how it does with my tree.”
I encountered my first disappointment. It only imports
GEDCOM and Heredis files. It would be nice if it imported some of the other
popular genealogical software. I imported a GED file knowing that GED imports do
not support media. I would have to reconnect my media to my sources. A time consuming process.
Then I found the showstopper. I noticed that the import
stripped off the name if I had more than one name for an individual. I then
found there is no way for an individual to have more than one name. (Their support forum confirmed this problem.)  I have
several ancestors who changed their name for no apparent reason and there is no
way to accommodate those different names in the software. 
There are several other issues, for example no web
publishing capability, although their website says they are working on it;
however, most of the other problems are minor and can be worked around.
At $59.90, normal retail price, the cost is in the same
range as other genealogy programs for the Mac such as Family Tree Maker,
Reunion, and MacFamily Tree. Heredis’ use of indexes and their search
capability are second to none and really a plus. If they fix their names issue,
simplify some of the screens that try to show too much data, and improve their
import file format capability, I think it will be a desirable product. In its
current form, I do not recommend it.