Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Look at Branches - Genealogy Software

One of the most interesting exhibits at the NGS 2010 Conference in the GenTech Zone was a new genealogy software offering called Branches - Genealogy Software for the 21st Century. I was provided a 15 minute exploration of the software and was fairly impressed by its concept and capabilities.

I think that the two biggest positives I saw were:

* The entire family tree database was exhibited on the screen - it could go back hundreds of generations. Navigation was accomplished using this large graphical family tree. A user could select a portion of the tree and zoom it in or select a specific person to see that person's information.

* Doing tasks in the software seemed to be very fast - perhaps it was because of a small number of persons in the database, but I'm not sure. It looked like there were several thousand persons in the sample database.

Branches has a retail price of $39.95, but offers a free download for a 31-day free trial.

The home page of the Branches website -- -- looks like this:

If you run your mouse over the colored boxes at the bottom of the Lincoln image above, the graphic changes to reflect the colored box theme - Zoom, Events, Merging, Pruning, Adding, Map, Search, Trees, and Views.

There are several tabs across the top of the screen - Home, About, Buy, Contact Information, Download FAQs and Privacy. I clicked on the FAQs page and there are 22 questions answered there, including the note that a GEDCOM file with over 30,000 persons might slow down the program due to its graphical nature.

Being the adventurous sort, I decided to Download the program to my desktop computer and start my 31-day free trial. The download went very quickly and smoothly on my Windows XP machine, and the files downloaded included Microsoft SQL Server Compacvt Edition and Microsoft Synchronization Services, but I cannot find the actual executable Branches code in my computer files (I'm not an expert at this stuff!).

After the program is downloaded and run, the Initial Startup Instructions appear:

In the screen above, the user has the choice of Transferring data from another genealogy program (via a GEDCOM file upload), Setting up a new file manually, or bypassing this process for the time being. If you choose the latter, you have a blank gray screen with the Branches menu across the top.

I chose to import an existing GEDCOM file made recently by Family Tree Maker 16 with almost 40,000 persons and about 16 megabytes in size. The GEDCOM upload stalled after about ten minutes and eventually a warning message appeared, as show below:

The message was the "Unhandled exception has occurredin your application" in the Microsoft .NET Framework and my choices were to Continue or Quit. I chose Continue and the Upload never ended, resulting in this screen:

After 60 minutes, I ended the Branches program session and tried again. The GEDCOM upload didn't finish again.

So now I'm stuck on Day 1 of my free trial without any idea of what to do next. Perhaps I should make a smaller GEDCOM and try again? Perhaps I should try the Branches free help support line.

Comments are welcome here!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Randy. I am glad you used FTM 16 for the demo. As with all other transfers the problem from FTM is that gedcom does not transfer ANY of your image links. Thus the new Branches has several minus from your description. I appreciate the heads up.