A few days ago, I talked about Face Recognition that was available from this site. On that same date, I downloaded their free genealogy software, called Family Tree Builder (FTB). And in subsequent days I’ve gone through their 56-page tutorial, an optional but useful exercise that helped me understand the software and maybe avoid some decisions that might adversely affect my options further along. (I’m probably one of the few people in the world who bothers to read the documentation for a program, particularly if it is good as it is in this case, almost as soon as I pick it up. I know many others, most people in fact, who just jump in and turn to the documentation only when they hit a wall and don’t know how to do something. But the difference in these two strategies is possibly the topic of a worthwhile discussion in another post, so I’ll save any further observations about that for then.)
Now back to my story. After reading the tutorial I decided to install the software and see what entering information into it was like. I found it easy to use, pretty intuitive (though this is where the tutorial was extremely helpful), and surprisingly fun. I began with myself as the center of the universe, naturally, in what the software calls the “home” position. The low hanging fruit, information about myself, my spouse, my children and my parents, is entered quickly and by the time you’ve entered all that, the process of entering information is almost second nature.
With this program, you can import photographs and scans of old photographs, of which I have many on my system, into the database and associate those pictures with the individuals you’ve entered. Once you’ve done that, you can search the data by individual and see all the pictures in the database in which that person appears. That’s where the face recognition that first attracted me to the site comes in. You can save the searches you’ve conducted so that the next time you want to see an updated display of newly-entered information it is easy to do.
At this point in using FTB the task turns to entering more information, and if you are fortunate as I was, you may have a family member who has already done much of the work for you. My cousin, Alfred O. Baxter, Jr. (my mother’s brother’s son), has done some extensive research on that branch of my family, dating back to about 1646, in Partney, Lincolnshire, England, and he shared a copy of that report with me back in 2004. So it is just a matter of entering those data into the program, and as I’ve said, that entry process is both easy and fun, though I admit it does take some time sitting at the computer and doing the task. Anytime you are doing anything on the computer, it is useful to remember to save early and save often and that is particularly true on a project like this. However, FTB does have a “recovery” mode, similar to MS Word, where if the computer freezes (as it did on me last night) while you are entering information, it will offer to recover that record of where you were when it froze.
Last night I spent about an hour on the phone with Carole, my ex-wife, having her help me fill in information on her side of our family. So in two sessions of data entry with this program, I’ve accumulated information on 67 members of my family going backward toward my ancestors and forward toward my children and grandchildren. I am surprised by how little time it has taken to get this far into the project and by how much I am enjoying doing it. I didn’t come to this project because I had any driving passion to amass a genealogy of my family. I came to it because I wanted to explore the software. (It’s a geek thing, I guess.) But in using the software I’ve found this project is much more fun than I ever imagined it would be.
My paternal grandfather, also known as Perry Nelson, accumulated a genealogy of the Nelson side of the family that I have read and have given (I’ve just remembered) to my son Jeff, who has some interest in this sort of thing. So now my task is to get that information back from him and use it to push my family tree back up the Nelson branch. And I still have only gone back one generation in the Baxter branch of my family, so ahead of me lies entering those data.
Family Tree Builder’s come on, if you will, is that while the software is free, they charge if you choose to store a very large family history on their website, where you can upload the data you’ve entered. While having it on the Internet is very convenient, of course, it is unnecessary in my opinion. If you merely want a tool that will allow you to accumulate the records, then you can do that for no cost (in money) and only minimal cost in effort that, as it turns out, is very rewarding. I’d give this tool a big thumbs up.