A Diamond in the Rough
9/28/2009

Embla Family Treasures is a genealogical software gem—but it still needs polishing.

American genealogy software, like our movies and music, has garnered many fans overseas. But foreign programs remain popular abroad, and it's useful to see how they stack up to our homegrown products. One of those foreign programs, Embla Family Treasures, was originally developed in the United States, but later sold to a Norwegian company. Now the top-selling genealogy software in Norway, Family Treasures will run and print reports in English and Norwegian; Danish and Swedish versions are in the works. Aside from its multilingual capabilities, Family Treasures stands out for its novel user interface and an unusual pricing plan.

Sparkling setting
Navigating through your family's generations, editing data and documenting sources work differently in Family Treasures than in most other genealogy software. A large panel on the left side of the screen displays information in the Tree Editor, Member Editor and Family Editor (called pedigree, individual and family views in other programs). In the Tree Editor, you can view dates and places of birth and death for each person; the Member Editor has a handy chronological listing of all the events in a person's life.

Instead of the pull-down menus typical of most Windows programs, Family Treasures makes functions easily accessible in a small panel on the right side of the screen. The program also uses an unusual—but handy—drag-and-drop system. To link a source to an event, just drag the source to the event listing with your mouse. You'll need the Power Pack add-on (see below) to easily reuse source citations.

GEM dandy
Family Treasures' unusual pricing plan also sets it apart from other genealogy software. You can download the core program with all the basic functions for free at www.embla.us, or order it on a $10 CD-ROM (visit the Web site or call 716-792-9679). Embla packages special features separately in Genealogy Extension Modules (GEMs), priced from $5 to $15. GEMs provide tools for producing colorful photo family trees, birthday and wedding "plaques" suitable for framing, and a genealogy Web site. Instead of buying a bloated program with multiple features you'll never use, you pay for only what you really want.

The $9 Power Pack, an essential GEM for most users, lets you attach more than one photo to individual and family records, and add to-do notes. The Family Treasures Gift Pack CD-ROM includes the main program as well as the Power Pack, Hourglass Charts, Calendar and Colorful Reports GEMs, all for $29. Or you can opt for a one-year membership that gives you $100 worth of GEM points to spend on the GEMs of your choice. At $49 a year ($35 for existing users), a membership saves you 50 percent or more off the normal GEM prices. Updates to the core program are always free.

Rough around the edges
With the GEM add-ons, Family Treasures provides all the basic functions you need in genealogy software. But some features need improvement. The most-recent version, 5.1, lacks call-number and actual-text fields, so if you import a GEDCOM file (the universal family tree file format) created with another program, you'll lose that source information. In the next update, however, Embla plans to include a transcript field to hold the actual text of a source document.

Family Treasures' attractive Ancestor Tree Chart shows four generations with pictures, and you can customize it with your choice of colors and fonts. GEM add-on programs expand the range of graphical charts, but family group sheets sometimes don't include all events and sources. Book-format reports use the Henry numbering system instead of the more popular New England Historical and Genealogical Register and Modified Register formats. And the program improperly formats footnotes, which remain unnumbered.

Although Family Treasures has some rough edges, Embla's continually improving the free core program and developing new add-ons. The unique user interface and unconventional pricing plan give you a real alternative to American programs. And if you'd like to print charts for relatives in Scandinavia, Family Treasures makes it easy. The program requires Windows 98 or higher.


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