Family Historian 3.1

Family Historian 3.1

The Basics Price: $49.99 at Target (but not online at <>), and $69.99 at Fry’s and Micro Center. Version 4 was slated for release in February 2009. Purchasers of version 3.1 on or after Nov. 26, 2008, qualify for a free upgrade.  ...

The Basics
Price: $49.99 at Target (but not online at <>), and $69.99 at Fry’s and Micro Center. Version 4 was slated for release in February 2009. Purchasers of version 3.1 on or after Nov. 26, 2008, qualify for a free upgrade.

Manufacturer: Calico Pie (UK)
System requirements: Windows 98 or later, 20MB hard drive space, 64MB RAM (128MB recommended)
Demo/trial version: free 30-day trial
Biggest draws: navigation by graphical family tree, automated source citations, customizable charts
Drawbacks: price, no letter-size pedigree charts, awkward steps for documenting sources and creating Web reports
Ease of Use

You’ll need to read the three chapters in the printed manual to learn the program’s basic operation. A detailed manual on the CD explains other features. Press F1 anywhere in the program to get context-sensitive help.

Interface and Navigation

Version 3.1 forgoes the usual individual, family and pedigree views in favor of its own Property Dialog and MDI Windows, so it takes some getting used to. The Diagram Window, a graphical family tree, is the primary method of navigating through your family tree—you can add parents, spouses and children from this view. Smart Trees are a clever innovation that let you click on buttons to show or hide branches of your family tree on the fly. Version 4 introduces the Focus Window with views for spouses and children, parents and siblings, ancestors and descendants, making it easier to move around your family tree and add relatives.

Gedcom Handling

Family Historian uses GEDCOM as its native file format, so unlike other programs, you don’t need to convert files to and from GEDCOM to swap data. But exporting only part of your file in GEDCOM format is cumbersome: You have to make a copy of your Family Historian file and delete records you want to exclude.

File Management

Children’s and fathers’ surnames are populated automatically. Type the first few letters of place names, and the program completes them. The match/merge finds and combines duplicates in two separate files. To open more than one family file at a time, you need to run multiple instances of the program—not as convenient as opening two or more files within one instance of the program. You can search your family file on many criteria. The software doesn’t offer to-do lists or date calculators.


You can copy and paste source citations to save time. Family Historian has the most efficient system of any genealogy software for entering a lot of information from the same source. When you initiate Automatic Source Citations, it assigns the same citation for everything you add until you turn off the feature. On the downside, as you enter source information, the program doesn’t show you how it will look as a footnote, nor can you simultaneously view all the citations attached to a person and his events.

Charts and Reports

Family Historian produces an excellent family group sheet, but no letter-size pedigree chart. Narrative reports are nicely worded and can include pictures, but not an index of names. Wall charts are attractive and highly customizable. Version 4 lets you save charts and reports in PDF format. You can save reports in HTML format for a Web site or Family Tree CD; the steps could be simplified and are supposed to be improved in version 4.

Additional Features

You can link a person to an individual face in a group picture. Version 4 makes it easier to browse pictures, adds a multimedia report and lets you link pictures to events. For US customers, the program includes six months of access to World Vital Records, which has many records, family histories and newspapers.

The Verdict

Despite some appealing innovations, Family Historian still lacks the full range of practical features that users of popular US programs are used to.

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