Friday, February 27, 2015

Trying Out the Famberry Family Tree

Famberry, a United Kingdom based collaborative family tree website, announced that they are now accepting GEDCOM uploads and a search capability - see Famberry Launches "Famberry Search" and GEDCOM Uploads on Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

The press release says: “Famberry Search is for people who want to connect to more than a name, they want to connect to a whole family tree.”

The concept looks promising, so I decided to register for free and see what a family tree on Famberry might appear.  On the home page ( or I could start adding information for myself and my parents.  I didn't want to do that - after all, I have over 44,000 persons in my database and I can add them using a GEDCOM file.

On the home page, I found "Upload GEDCOM File" on the "Admin" tab:

I made a GEDCOM file in RootsMagic and included all of my ancestral families - about 9,000 persons.  When I tried to upload it, I got a message that the file was not properly formatted.  There was a message on the screen that said:

"Please ensure that you have no data in this family tree that you wish to keep. Create a new family tree in Family Tree->Show Family Trees, if you are unsure. Famberry accepts valid GEDCOM files which meet the latest specification, however the information in the tree must be from one family bloodline only. If you have a GEDCOM file with multiple families, please spilt the information into separate GEDCOM files and import into separate family trees lines in Famberry.

"If you have any issues importing your GEDCOM file please email where we will be happy to assist."

I sent an email to Famberry about it and was told that the limit was 3,000 persons and only one "family bloodline," whatever that means.  I created a smaller GEDCOM file with 500 persons (5 generations of ancestors and 5 generations of descendants of Thomas Richmond (1848-1917), my great-grandfather, without Notes, Sources, or Images) and tried to upload that, and got another message similar to the first:

In another email, Steve told me that the RootsMagic "export is creating a file with a character set of UTF with byte ordering, this is non-standard."  He corrected it somehow and sent it back to me.

I tried to import the modified file and it uploaded, and I used the Family Tree > Rename Tree tab in Famberry to change the tree name:

I added a description, and clicked on "Save."

The tree opened with a descendants chart tree view, and I could use the right-left scroll bar on the bottom and the up-down scroll bar on the right of the screen to move around the tree.

I rolled my mouse over my father's profile on the screen above, and options to "Upload Photo," "Modify Details," "Add Child" or "Remove Person" appeared.  I didn't do any of those things - I clicked on my father's profile icon and saw a profile card with a summary of his life:

The "Family information" area of the profile card has a summary of his life - birth, marriage and death.  Further down the profile card is sibling information and children information.  At the bottom of the profile card are icons for "Messages, "Photos," "Timeline," "Chart," and "Modify Details."

I clicked on the "Timeline" icon and saw a list of events in my father's life (obtained from the information in the tree):

I could add/edit information by clicking the "Modify" icon on the right side.

Then I ran into a problem.  I noticed that only profile cards on the direct "bloodline" (apparently from the earliest generation ancestor to the latest generation relatives) had the "Family information" on the card included  For example, here is the Profile card for my second great-grandfather, James Richman (1821-1912), father of my starting person, Thomas Richmond:

His parents are not named, although they were in the GEDCOM file.  There are no links to parents, siblings or children on the profile card, and the parents are not shown on the family tree, even though they were included in the tree.  This is the case for any of the persons not in the "direct bloodline."

There are complete profile cards for persons on the tree with the last name capitalized.  For the persons not on the "direct bloodline," the Timeline icon does show the events included in the GEDCOM file, and those events can be edited from within the Timeline

I pointed those things out to Steve, and he said they are on their list for the next update.

To me, a family tree program like this, intended for family stories, photos and collaboration, should be for an initial person, and include their ancestors (say three generations back) and the descendants of those ancestors (siblings of the ancestors, their spouses, and their children - the cousins that we hope to connect to and share stories and photos with).  At this time, Famberry doesn't provide information about all of those persons.   For example, I have a complete profile card, but my wife doesn't.  That isn't very inviting for my grandchildren or my grand nephews and grand-niece who I might want to invite to Famberry so they can learn about their family members.

Frankly, when a website makes a public announcement about new features, the website and those new features should work at least to a basic expectation level.  My basic expectation level for Famberry was that my GEDCOM file would upload, that all persons in the tree would show relationships and the same basic information (birth, marriage, death, parents, siblings, spouses, children), that all of the features shown would work, etc.  That didn't happen in this case with Famberry today.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.

I will review Famberry again when all of the "family" members are included and meaningful collaboration can occur.  I hope that it is soon.

Steve was very responsive to my emails about the problems, and I appreciate that his responses were helpful and correct.

I think that Famberry has an excellent potential to be useful, especially if  the problems are fixed and family members can be invited and induced to contribute information, stories and photographs of their family members.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


RootsMagic said...

>>In another email, Steve told me that the RootsMagic "export is creating a file with a character set of UTF with byte ordering, this is non-standard."<<

Saying that the RM GEDCOM is "non-standard" because it has a BOM is baloney. RootsMagic, PAF and other programs all use a BOM for their UTF-8 GEDCOM files. Here's a little more info about the byte order mark, courtesy of Tamura Jones...

T said...

"Everybody" is jumping into the genealogy craze. I've tried a couple of the "new" and/or "improved" services lately and I've decided none are ready for prime time. None give me anything I don't already have other than the ability to choose timeline historical events to include in my own story. The story they offer is boiler plate covering 100 years. If I'm going to go to the effort to write a family history, I will do it right. I am going to give them all a pass.

Geolover said...

Tamura Jones cautions that the Famberry site's GEDCOM coding is faulty as well as being genealogically limited: