MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder – Not Ready For Primetime

Not to continue to rain on the MyHeritage parade, but I discovered something today about their home-computer-hosted front end, otherwise known as “Family Tree Builder” (FTB), (which is a not-priced download from MyHeritage), that I think is important to highlight.

On 22 Dec 2014 I downloaded the latest OSX version of FTB.  The software claims to be version “.20”.  The other day I discussed my opinions of this software in conjunction with MyHeritage as an online genealogy service and I won’t rehash those ideas here, but in that post I mentioned how displeased I was with FTB and why I won’t use it.

However, on DearMyrtle’s genealogy community it was suggested to me that I download the latest version and try it.

But… I thought I had the latest version.   Why did I think that?  Well, in FTB, accessing the Help ->Check for Updates…  menu item brings up the Update Wizard, which I had run the other day.   I ran it again, and it assured me I was up to date:

 

FTB Update Wizard

FTB Update Wizard in version .20

 

So everything is copacetic, no?   No.    I went back to the MyHeritage FTB download page (linked above) and decided to download the disk image today, three weeks after I last did this.    I renamed the old app (so OSX wouldn’t overwrite the file) and installed the new download.   And guess what, after installing FTB from this latest download, the newly reinstalled FTB now claims to be version “.21” , which I take to be the next increment after the version I previously had (“.20”).

So, if this is a new version, then why just a couple of hours earlier when I did the Update Wizard in version .20 was version .21 not downloaded?  And, why was I told that my old version was “fully up-to-date”???

Sure enough, the latest version (.21) also has an Update Wizard, and it tells me (within minutes after running the .20 Update Wizard):

FTB Update Wizard version .21

FTB Update Wizard version .21, run at same time as the .20 Update Wizard

 

Clearly the Update Wizard did not previously update me to the latest version that was in fact available.

[Aside – One further thing I noticed which puzzled me – in OSX one can view from the operating system when the creation date of file was, and it turns out that my FTB version .20 and the newly-downloaded FTB version .21 both have (in the downloaded disk image) the same (very old) creation date, suggesting to me that the FTB developers need a better way to track and manage software releases.)  Version .21 has a last modified date of 12 Jan 2015, which implies my current version is only 5 days old. ]

I wonder (and this is speculation) if whoever is managing the download software at MyHeritage had multiple versions of the FTB software builds available on the same date, and only released version .21 after .20 was out into the community.

If so, then that is telling me (what ought to be already obvious from using any FTB version) that MyHeritage is using their customers as the beta testers for their FTB software.

But no where on the FTB download splash page is it explained that FTB is an early (at least for the Mac) beta version.

BEWARE EARLY BETA SOFTWARE!

I think this is important to stress here.   My impression is that many people who are into genealogy are older, and some large set of these family historians are not computer savvy, at least to the point to be able to navigate among various beta versions of software, and it is impractical to require these historians  to continually manage the version of the software they are (perhaps unwarily) testing.

So this is just one more reason why I can’t recommend MyHeritage/FTB for those of us who have other options.

 

Reasons Why I’m Not Picking MyHeritage Even Though 23andMe Tried

Over the past year I’ve played with a few items on MyHeritage, always looking for online resources besides ancestry.com by which I can make progress on my difficult branches of my family tree.

As a customer of 23andMe, as part of a new promotion they are doing with MyHeritage I get a “free” account at MyHeritage to post a family tree, that can be linked with my 23andMe profile for my matches to view.

However, as I wrote on a 23andMe Communities thread earlier, in response to the roll out on 15 Jan of the integrated MyHeritage family tree capability for 23andMe customers:

 I find MyHeritage way too frustrating to use.   I did the transfer thing, but when I wanted to delete someone it wouldn’t let me do it.   And there are no instructions for disconnecting people.   When I wanted to delete the person I had intended, the warning box said I had to delete his relatives first, which I didn’t want to do.

And for us Mac users, MyHeritage’s downloadable tree management software is like a trip back to the bad old days of Windows, complete with “C:” in filenames?!

So I deleted the whole tree.   I will just change my public profile here to state that if anybody is interested they can visit my trees at ancestry.com .

 

My frustration at times with exploring MyHeritage stem from more than just a few issues, but I thought it worth noting a handful here:

  1. Awkward Tree Management;
  2. Lack of novel records for my ancestors;
  3. Overpriced for what I get;
  4. Mac-unfriendly computer tool Family Tree Builder and poor web tree controls;

Let’s take these one by one:

1.   I find tree management at MyHeritage to be quite awkward.   As I complained on a 23andMe community post, MyHeritage’s online software will not allow me to delete someone, without deleting others who I do not want to delete.   This is just unacceptable.   I have not been able to discover how to selectively edit relationships of individuals, thought that capability might be lurking somewhere under the obscuring user interface.    I couldn’t even find a way to add a mother for someone, as the pop-up (transparent) window wouldn’t give me that option for some people, without telling me why.

Add to that no pedigree view and too-sparsely spaced nodes in the family view and one ends up with a most uncomfortable viewing and climbing experience to get around the tree.

2.  As a test for Record Matching and “Smart Matching” I uploaded a 289 person tree of a relative of mine, and let the computers do their thing over night.   When I finally got the Record Matches and Smart Matches, what was found by the algorithms were few and not very enlightening.   There was nothing that I had not already found elsewhere.   And the few matching trees that were found were of no real use and had less information that I had.    A review of the MyHeritage records database – something not quickly obvious – revealed a very limited set of records for my (American colonial) use.

3.  Here’s the deal on pricing at MyHeritage – no one with a decent size tree can get away from paying extra.    23andMe is advertising that its customers get a free tree, but it is really not different than the usual 250 node-limited trees that MyHeritage lets anyone creates.   However, one cannot practically include descendants with that limited of a tree, even though a well documented family trees should include the nuclear family, at a minimum, of your direct line ancestors.   A serious researcher will need the “PremiumPlus” package, and the regular price for that is $13.27/month, or $9.95/mo if bought in annual increments.   While not exhorbitantly priced, that is not significantly different than my AARP-discount price at ancestry.com, which has much more of what I need to research my American family tree.

4.   Not only is MyHeritage’s  “Family Tree Builder” a knock-off name of ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker, but for a Mac user like myself the program Family Tree Builder (FTB) is painful to use.    It is  simply the Windows version ported with some underlying bridging software, so the program is very much not following the user paradigm of OSX that all Mac programs ought to use.   For example, the menu bar is floating with the window, and not anchored at the top of the screen.  File names and file operations are highly reminiscent of DOS  ( “C:\” does not belong on a Mac!)   Here, for example, is what the file browser looks like when one chooses to open a file using the file menu of the native program:

FTB_filebrowser1

Native file browser in FTB

 

… which is decidedly not what one wants to see in OSX.   Even more on point than the poor aesthetics is the loss of functionality that native Mac programs provide, even in file browsers.

But wait, there’s more.

You see, there is a second menu bar after all, the standard Mac menu bar, but it only has very limited functionality, such as opening and closing a FTB tree.   But let’s look at what that file browser looks like:

 

FTB_filebrowser2_crop

Second file browser in FTB

 

Read carefully the text at the top of the file browser.

FTB as a family tree database management tool is woefully lacking in capability, and that is why clearly it is “free”.   It is intended for a hook to get people to use MyHeritage, but the inability to view and manipulate trees, etc., means that it cannot replace a full featured software like FTM.


 

The Bottom Line:

Though 23andMe has sold their connection with MyHeritage as a new capability, it is really nothing than a mutual marketing gimmick.   MyHeritage now adds an advertisement (featured above the FTDNA tests) for 23andMe on their DNA page.   Meanwhile, over at 23andMe, their roughly 750 thousand customers will be directed to MyHeritage to buy online family tree services.   There is no indication that there will be integrated tree-matching with the DNA matching (such as at AncestryDNA), which will require integrating the 23andMe DNA Relatives (or the Countries of Ancestry .csv file) with a MyHeritage tree.  So, a 23andMe user will have to hope that their DNA Relative (1) has a public profile, and (2) has put a tree on MyHeritage, and (3) made that link visible and then the user can manually click on that link to be sent to the MyHeritage site.

So for all the above reasons and more, I say to MyHeritage and 23andMe … No Thanks.