Software Review: Family Tree Builder 5.0

By Rick Crume Premium

Ease of Use

Well-designed screens and menus make Family Tree Builder easy to navigate. We like the innovative slider that lets you adjust the number of generations displayed between 3 (like a family view) and 4 or 5 (like a pedigree view). Hover your cursor over a name, and a window pops up with details on that person.

Take advantage of a Quick-Start Wizard and PDF user guide for help.

File Management

To make it easier to transfer photos and multimedia when you share a GEDCOM file (the standard format all genealogy software can read), Family Tree Builder helpfully puts copies of associated multimedia files in a separate folder.

Family Tree Builder 5.0
Price: free basic version (unlimited offline family file plus up to 250-person, 250MB online tree), $75 to $119.40 a year for premium versions
Manufacturer: MyHeritage
System requirements: Windows 98 or newer; online family tree works on Macs using Safari or Firefox browsers
Demo/trial version:
Biggest draws: ease of use, photo management, charts, online family tree publishing, web searching, support for 35 languages
Drawbacks: reports, source documentation

You can’t specify how many generations of ancestors or descendants to include in a GEDCOM, and you can have only one family file open at a time.

A new tool finds duplicates in your family tree, but you have to merge them manually. The software does warn you, though, if you add a new person who apparently already exists in the file.

Version 5.0 adds features for keeping your data complete and accurate. A Tree Consistency Checker finds possible problems in your file, such as a child born before a parent or inconsistent place name spellings. The new search and replace function helps you correct and standardize spellings. You also can record DNA test results and keep to-do lists (though they’re not easy to print).

Charts and Multimedia

Family Tree Builder’s photo manager rivals Family Tree Maker’s. You can drag and drop photos, documents, audio and video within and between albums. If you have a group photo, you can associate faces with specific names.

MyHeritage partnered with Generations Maps for improved charts and poster printing. Choose from 12 chart types and 18 styles with your choice of size, color and font, plus new borders and backgrounds. On my computer, navigating charts was slow but tolerable.

You can save a chart as a low-resolution PDF for e-mailing or a high-resolution PDF for printing. Through the new MyHeritage poster printing service, you can get your chart printed on one large sheet with your choice of size, quality and optional lamination.

Documentation and Publication

Version 5.0 adds two new functions to Family Tree Builder’s no-frills source documentation: You now can search your sources and link images, such as scanned records, to a citation.

Citations in family group sheets and narrative reports don’t include page numbers. You can’t print numbered, letter-size pedigree charts.

It’s easy to publish your family tree, pictures, videos and documents on, and you can restore an online tree to your computer, so it serves as a backup. Trees exceeding 250 people incur an annual fee. You can’t save reports in HTML format for publishing to your own website.


Similar to the free MyHeritage Research, Family Tree Builder’s Smart Research searches 100-plus genealogy databases for names in your tree. Smart Matches compares people in your online tree with the 680 million people in 17 million other family trees on the site—a great way to find others researching the same families. The new results layout makes matches easier to browse.

The Verdict

Family Tree Builder 5.0 expands on two of the program’s major strengths, online searching and charting. Even if it’s not your main genealogy program, its ability to match your tree with millions of others makes it a handy tool for any genealogist.

From the July 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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