Top critical review
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Nicely integrated, but with annoyances
on 19 January 2010
I'll get my first annoyance out of the way right from the start, then I can get on with what's good about this software.
During installation I was asked for credit card details in order to activate the free trial subscription to Ancestry.co.uk. I really do not like this approach to free trials - if its free, then sign me up and ask for my details at the end of the trial (6 months in this case). This is a bad enough practice when the entire package is being offered for free (and I fully understand why companies do it), but when this is a free trial offered with a piece of paid for software I think this is particularly cheeky.
I did sign up for the free trial though, and this is where this review turns positive.
Although this software can be run stand alone and you can build your family tree without an Ancestry .co.uk subscription, the power of this software really is in the integration with the aforementioned website. The search facility from within the software works pretty well, and the merge wizards for incorporating that information within your tree work very well - most of the time. This allows you to build your family tree very quickly with a lot of information.
It's not without its problems though. I have foudn that I have sometimes ended up with duplicate people, or sibling children of a couple split between 'mother and unknown father' and 'father and unknown mother'. This can be a nightmare to correct in the software, and I still haven't got to the bottom of when and why I get into this mess.
Th ereporting features are pretty extensive, but pretty standard for genealogy software. The family tree that I always imagined to be a standard in this type of software, but obviously isn't, is missing as usual - that being a tree showing everyone that you have input into the system, ie all ancestors and all decendants of everyone. I know this is an unweildy tree, but it's something I'd like to see nonetheless (it could be printed as a zoomable pdf or something!)
I agree to an extent with what some reviewers have said regarding this software vs the website. The Ancestry.co.uk website does seem to have all of the search functionality that the software has and so I do wonder whether the software is needed at all. Aside from being able to build a tree manually without an Ancestry.co.uk subscription I guess there really isn;t much need for the software - it just comes down to personal preference about whether you want to store the data locally (with this software) or online (on the website). One feature that is sadly lacking in both is the ability to synchronise a tree between the two - that would make this a brilliant application.
Another thing that appears to be missing from the software is the 'leaves' function of the website. The Ancestry.co.uk website will display a leaf alongside any person that it thinks it has found possible matches for in its database. You then click the leaf and work out whether or noth is person is a relation and add them to your tree if appropriate. With this software it would appear that you have to proactively search for people yourself rather than being prompted with leaves.
A word of caution as well. You need to be realistic about what this software will do for you. It will not automatically build a family tree for you. It will search census data, birth, marriage and death registers, newspaper and magazine articles etc for information that you select from your family tree (names, DoBs, residences etc) and present you with possible matches. As with any genealogy search it is down to you to work out whether a particular match is part of your family. There may be dead ends and there may be multiple possibilities and false leads - but that's half the fun of a genealogy search!
The platinum Ancestry.co.uk subscription included with the software for 6 months won't get you all of the information you will need, though. There are certain data sources that require a further subscription (if you tree ventures outside of the UK for example), but it should get you a long way.
I'm certainly enjoying using this software, but I don't think I'll be stumping up a further forty odd pounds every six months to continue the Ancestry subscription. You can integrate other search facilities with the software (such as FreeBMD) but the integration with the merge wizards is unlikely to be as useful. So once the free subscription is up it'll be back to manual searches and manual input.
The software did manage to import a GEDcom file (the standard genealogy file format) created from other software that I had used in the past, so I didn't have to start my tree creation from scratch. The software does export back to GEDcom files as well, so if this software proves a lot less useful when the free subscription runs out then I can always revert to other software as well.
One final negative point. The software is branded Ancestry.co.uk (and to an extent, although useful and fun to use, it does seem almost an advert and lure to their website subscription sefvices) it's actually written by a company called Avaquest. Once you register thsi software, even if you select NOT to be informed of their other services Avanquest will bombard you with almost daily emails advertising their wares!