In the forest of family tree software, new saplings sprout fairly often — but few are as ambitious as Family Tree Legends. Rather than branching out from the structure that many popular genealogy programs share, this newcomer from Pearl Street Software has different — Web-based — roots. It’s “the first genealogy application with true Internet integration,” says Cliff Shaw, one of its developers.
What that means, technically speaking, is that Family Tree Legends weaves many Web-powered options into its interface — ones its creators developed to give genealogists a better Internet experience. (You don’t have to be online to use the software, though.) What it means, practically speaking, is that you can benefit from four unique features:
• Real-Time Internet Backup — This prevents every wired researcher’s greatest fear: losing oodles of newly entered data — or worse, your entire family file — to a computer crash. Instead of having to back up to a floppy disk, CD or Zip disk, you can do it online. Real-Time Internet Backup allows you to automatically save your file on a secure server that’s protected with 128-bit encryption (the same technology used for online purchasing and billing). As you work, the software sends your changes to the server every few minutes; if you crash, it restores your file from within the program. Users who aren’t comfortable saving their data online can turn the feature off and back up traditionally.
• Real-Time Internet Publishing — Posting your file to an online “pedigree database” (a collection of electronic family trees submitted by fellow genealogists) is a great way to connect with other researchers, and this feature in Family Tree Legends automates the process. Real-Time Internet Publishing will periodically post data that you select to the 42-million-name Global Tree at Shaw’s GenCircles Web site <www.gencircles.com>. You don’t have to create a GEDCOM file, and you don’t have to resubmit your work when you change or add information because the software continually updates your file. You can keep any data you want private: Exclude living people or publish only a certain branch of the family, for example. Initially, however, Family Tree Legends will upload data only to GenCircles — it won’t publish your tree on your own Web site.
• SmartMatching — If you publish your work online, Family Tree Legends also lets you take advantage of some nifty search technology from GenCircles. Similar to some programs, such as Ancestry Family Tree, Family Tree Legends scans other GenCircles and Family Tree Legends users’ published trees to find matches for your ancestor. What sets SmartMatching apart is that it doesn’t give you useless hits on “potential” ancestors — instead, it weeds out other people whose data doesn’t fit and returns only matches that are definitely your ancestor. It looks for other identifiers (such as spouse, children, places and dates) that single out your ancestor, but doesn’t require everything to match. So you can easily find researchers who have more data on an ancestor or family line than you do.
When you have a match, Family Tree Legends will line up all data side by side and let you choose which items to import, add as “alternate” data or ignore. For every fact you decide to adopt, the software automatically cites the submitter as the source.
• WebFacts — Want to know more about a place, date, surname or genealogical event? This feature scopes out background information for you online. Simply right-click any fact in your file and select WebFacts; Family Tree Legends searches its server and the Web for relevant resources and creates a list of links in a new window. For instance, ask for WebFacts on Marietta, Ohio, and you’ll get related sites and topographic maps; request WebFacts on Nov. 12, 1889, and the software will send you as much historical information as it can find on both the day Nov. 12 and the year 1889. Family Tree Legends will also convert dates to other formats, including the Julian, Gregorian, Hebrew and French Revolution calendars.
You have control over all these Internet-integrated features, so users who are worried about Web privacy issues can turn them off. These unique features are the program’s real appeal, though; if you’re really uncomfortable with having data online, this program probably isn’t for you.
But online-genealogy enthusiasts may find Family Tree Legends a smart choice: Its Web integration complements an array of “standard” Windows genealogy-software features. You can download Family Tree Legends for $49.95 from <www.familytreelegends.com>.