Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Using Branches Genealogy Software - Post 1: Navigating an Existing Tree

I finally got a chance to use the Branches genealogy software program tonight. After my first post - First Look at Branches - Genealogy Software - which ended in my 39,000 person GEDCOM (created from Family Tree Maker 16) unsuccessfully loading into the program, I received an email from Mike Miller stating that they had fixed some bugs relatred to imports from FTM, and he asked me to try it again. So I tried again tonight, and the file uploaded in about five minutes.

The Branches program download can be obtained at for a 30-day free trial. After 30 days, the program costs $39.95 retail. Has anyone else blogged about this software yet? [Reader Finn noted that Dick Eastman reviewed it in osme detail in Branches - A Major New Windows Genealogy Program.]

I have not read the Help screens or the FAQs for this program, so I'm going to explore it as a new user. I may consult the Help screens later.

In this post, I will discuss Navigation and investigate the Individual editing options.

The program took about 20 seconds to open my 39,000 person database, and opened to a screen with a list of 376 different unconnected "trees" in my database (I guess that's how many "loose ends" I have!). I clicked on the biggest one, and worked my way to myself in the tree and made myself the "Root Person."

Navigation in the tree is by holding down the left mouse button and moving the cursor. Zooming in and out is performed using the mouse wheel. This is very easy to perform and becomes natural very quickly.

As the "Root person," I show up on the screen on the left, with my ancestors to the right, and my descendants to the left of me, as shown below:

In the screen above, siblings of my ancestors show up to the left of the vertical line connecting parents. If a person has more than one spouse, then all spouses and their children show up on the screen. The screen above shows ten generations of ancestors.

I scrolled back to my great-grandfather, Frank Walton Seaver and zoomed in on him a bit - you can see the tree below, including the inset box which shows the portion of the tree outlined in green:

To add content to a person in the tree, you right mouse click the person's name. In the screen below, I clicked on Frank Walton Seaver and saw:

The "Individual Options" box has the following capabilities:

* Add Parents
* Add Spouse
* Add Event to individual
* Add Source citation to individual
* Add Note to individual
* Add Address to individual
* Add Multimedia item to individual
* Edit Individual
* DELETE Individual
* Unlink this person from parents
* Unlink this person from spouse
* Reorder Parents
* Reorder Spouses
* Reorder Events
* Merge Individuals
* Link this person as a child to an existing family
* Link this person as a spouse to an existing person
* Change this person to the permanent Root Person
* Change this person to a temporary Root Person with Descendants
* Change this person to a temporary Root Person without Descendants
* Print Records

That list looked fairly complete until I started doing some of the actions and trying to do others. Since I uploaded a GEDCOM file, the names, dates, places and events were all uploaded into the tree. I clicked on the "Edit Individual" link in the box above:

I fully expected that the box above would show me the Name, Birth date and location, and Death date and location, with source options, plus the notes for the person. It only showed the Name, Gender, Title and the Notes. The Notes can be edited in the box above (or in the "Add Notes" option), but there are no word processing capabilities - it's strictly plain text.

My problem is this: if I wanted to edit or delete the birth date or location (or death date or location) there is no means to do that. I don't believe that I can delete those items individually, but I could Add a new Event like a birth or death. My preference would be to Edit the Birth and Death information for a person in the Edit Individual screen.

I tested most of the available options and they worked. I have not tried to add a family to the database by hand yet, but will soon.

To Add an Event, I clicked on the "Add Event" link in the Individual Options box, and selected "Burial" from the long list of possible Events. I inserted the date, then clicked on the "Select" button which opened a dropdown menu for the place names. I selected Leominster, Worcester County, MA, as shown in the screen below and clicked "OK:"

That added a burial location as an Event to Frank Walton Seaver's list of Events.
[I know that I have those crazy green lines in the screen above, but just ignore them for now. We'll get to them in a later post.]

My initial impression is that the program works fairly quickly with my medium sized database with many "loose ends." The navigation is simple to understand and use, although much different from all of the other available genealogy software.

However, more work needs to be done with the "Edit Individual" information - namely to add the ability to edit the birth date, birth location, death date and death location.

I thought that perhaps the editing of birth and death information could be done by clicking on the "Add Event" and it would show the Event information, but it does not.

While trying to do all of the above, I managed to mess up the database somehow and now it will open to one of the one person trees in the database, even though it lists all 376 trees in the database. When I select the tree I want, it gives me an error message (System:OutOfMemoryException) - I show that BranchesCE.exe is using 209,948 K of memory and I have only 179,000 K available. I will have to open it again after I reboot tonight.

In the next post, I will try to add persons by hand and then try to connect that "loose tree" to the larger database. Wish me luck!

UPDATED 10 p.m. Added note and link to Dick Eastman's review.

1 comment:

Finn said...


I believe it was Dick Eastman who did a review of Branches.