It's not often that I get a chance to use a major new genealogy program, much less a major new Macintosh program. Indeed, it is rare to find any major new Macintosh genealogy products. Luckily, I did have such an opportunity this week. I spent several hours using iFamily for Tiger, a program developed by Keith Wilson in Australia. I am impressed. As Keith wrote on the program's web site, "iFamily for Tiger is a family tree program with a difference because Apple users think differently."
The other leading Macintosh genealogy programs of today typically focus on couples. These programs usually display on-screen information about one man and one woman, showing their children as well as the ancestry of the couple. This concept of a "family unit" works well for individuals who had only one spouse during their lifetime. However, that method of displaying information becomes a bit awkward when attempting to show other spouses, step-children, and various other relationships. These "extra" relationships do not display well within the concept of a traditional family unit. To be sure, modern genealogy programs show such relationships; but, the "extra individuals" normally appear as extra icons that you must click in order to find details. In genealogy program based on family units, it is usually difficult or impossible to show an entire extended family on one screen.
NOTE: My definition of a display of "an entire extended family" is one that includes all spouses as well as all children, step-children, and adopted children, all displayed on the same screen.
These extra individuals are not considered to be a part of the family unit. In the case of other spouses, especially if the second couple also produced children, these have to be shown as additional "family units." One individual may have been a part of two, three, or even more family units, but some Macintosh genealogy programs will not display all of that person's relationships on one screen.
In contrast, iFamily for Tiger focuses on one person at a time and then displays ALL of his or her relationships, both traditional and non-traditional. In iFamily for Tiger you can see at a glance whether an individual has more than 2 parents or more than 1 spouse. Parent-child relationships may be natural (the default), step, adopted, or foster relationships. All individuals are shown as equals, never listed as "other spouse" or with similar terminology.
To see or change the relationship between two people within iFamily for Macintosh, you simply left-click on a person in the diagram, then hold down the mouse button, drag the mouse pointer to the other person, and release it. You may also add relationships to the focal person by right-clicking on that person and then selecting an option from the pop-up menu. (Right-clicking may be a new concept for many Mac owners! However, iFamily for Tiger uses the right mouse button for many functions. Mac owners with a single button mouse can accomplish the same functions by using the pulldown menus. The right mouse button is simply a shortcut to frequently-used functions.)
I decided to put iFamily for Tiger through its paces. I loaded the program on my MacBook laptop computer and then imported a GEDCOM file of about 3,000 of my relatives, their spouses, and other associated individuals. Both the software installation and the GEDCOM import were quick, easy, and intuitive. (iFamily for Tiger will also export GEDCOM files.)
iFamily for Tiger has a very intuitive method of displaying data on the screen. The default shows the individual of interest with spouses below, children to the left, and ancestors to the right. It also displays a timeline across the top of the screen. Such a display is obvious even to non-genealogists the first time they glance at the screen.
I don't have enough words to describe the visual display of information. Instead, I would invite you to look at the display of Queen Elizabeth II, along with her husband, children and ancestors, at http://www.ifamilyfortiger.com/images/screenshots/Elizabeth_II.gif.
The relationships of the focal person appear in the upper half of the screen, as shown in the example with Queen Elizabeth II. You have your choice of information to display in the bottom half: pictures, family group sheet, a list of family relationships, a list of events associated with the person of focus, notes for that person, comments for that person, a list of source citations for that person, a story of that person's life, a list of ancestors of that person, or a list of descendants. You can switch the bottom half of the screen from one selection to another almost instantly.
You can also show all the known descendants of an individual by clicking on "Descendants Diagram." That will show children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on for as many generations as you care to show and as will fit on your screen. The software will show as many generations as you wish, but the text may become tiny and unreadable when you attempt to cram too much information onto one page.
Likewise, you can create a display of ancestors by clicking on "Ancestors Diagram." Again, you may display as many generations as you wish but with the same caveat: compressing too many generations onto one screen results in unreadable text. I found that five generations of data was easily readable on the 13.3-inch display of my MacBook. Any more than five generations was difficult to read. If you have a bigger screen, especially one of Apple's giant displays on a desktop computer, you should be able to display much more information.
iFamily for Tiger tightly integrates images within its database. Most types of images (pictures), including PDF and RTFD files, can be dragged-and-dropped or copied-and-pasted onto a person in the context diagram or into the pictures panel. You can copy multiple pictures at once. If you select a whole web page (Select All + Copy) and paste it onto a person in iFamily, the program will "rip" the images from the web page and add them to its database.
As you can see in the earlier example of Queen Elizabeth II, you can associate multiple pictures with any one person. You can also associate multiple people with any one image. iFamily for Tiger also includes its own photo cropping/editing function. Of course, you can use any Macintosh photo editing program you may own to perform even more sophisticated functions.
I was pleased to find that this program has a rather good method of recording source citations. Each fact within the program's database can be linked to a source. The sources might include census records, town clerks' records, church records, newspaper articles, pension applications, and so forth. Each source has spaces to record its title, a short title, author, publisher, publication date, location of the copy that you examined, and more. The source citation database includes a large text field where you can enter lengthy notes describing the source or even a transcription of the source. In fact, you may even include a picture of the source! I can envision both scanned images of original records as well as pictures of tombstones. What better source citation of a date of death than a picture of the tombstone as well as a scanned image of the town clerk's record showing the same information?
I found another feature that I do not recall ever seeing in any other genealogy program. iFamily has a transcribe function for transcribing old certificates and photos of tombstones. You can select the transcribed text and hyper-link it to a rectangle that has been drawn on the photo. When you later click on the hyper-linked text, the rectangle is redrawn to show where the original text was found. I wish all genealogy programs had that feature!
iFamily for Tiger will create various printed reports. Actually, it often creates "print files" and then automatically loads them into TextEdit, Microsoft Word for Mac, or any other word processor or text editor of your choice. You may then use that program to print the results. For this review, I used the free NeoOffice word processor and found that it worked well.
The reports available in iFamily for Tiger seem to be a bit simplistic: pedigree charts, lists of ancestors, lists of descendants, family group sheets, and so forth. I did not find any of the "create a book" reports that can be used to publish in Register format or similar sophisticated reports. I also did not find a capability to create wall charts although I suspect you could do so by first creating a report as a print file and then using a sophisticated word processor to print the report on large format paper.
I was a bit disappointed in the program's inability to record conflicting information. For instance, I have found records claiming three different dates and four different locations for my great-great-grandfather's place of birth. Which one should I believe? Most of today's genealogy programs allow you to enter all four different places of birth, creating four different records within the database. Some programs will require you to enter a "preferred" place of birth, which is difficult for me. I have no idea which place listed is more likely to be accurate.
In contrast, iFamily for Tiger only allows one field for each event. To be sure, you can enter actual dates or simply a bit of text. In the place for date of birth, I could write that he was born "about 1810" or "after 1 April 1810 but before 30 June 1811" or some other such text. However, it still remains as one record in the database. It would be especially awkward to write his place of birth as "Portland, Maine as claimed by his son or New Hampshire as claimed by the 1840 U.S. Census or Maine as claimed by the 1860 U.S. Census or Nashua, New Hampshire as claimed in the private notes of Carrie Pearson." In short, my wish list for this program would include multiple fields per event.
I also found that this new program lacks some of the extra tools that one finds in other genealogy programs. While it will list relatives, I could not find a separate relationship calculator. It also does not seem to have a date calculator, useful for tombstones that state, "Died August 24, 1888 at the age of 93 years, 0 months and 23 days." In addition, there is no capability to create web pages with this program, nor does it create multimedia scrapbooks.
As its name implies, iFamily for Tiger only operates on Macintosh Tiger (OS X.4 and the later updates). As the program's web site states:
iFamily for Tiger is for Apple Mac users who like to use the latest hardware and the latest operating system. It will not run on systems earlier than Mac OSX 10.4 (Tiger). Although it works well on smaller machines it is best used with one of the larger displays (17"+) that is set to its maximum resolution and a mouse that has more that one button.
For this review, I used a computer that does not meet the company's recommendations. I used a MacBook with a 2-gigahertz Intel Duo processor, one gigabyte of RAM memory, and a 13.3-inch display screen. I did not use a two-button mouse, so I could not right-click. Even so, I found iFamily for Tiger to be a delight to use.
In short, iFamily for Tiger is a basic genealogy program and a darned good one at that. It does not compete with a $90 or $100 Macintosh genealogy program. Then again, iFamily for Tiger doesn't sell for $90 or $100. iFamily for Tiger sells for a modest $29.95 US (approximately $39.95 Australian + GST, approximately £16.50 GB Pounds and approximately 24.00 Euros).
Even with the minor shortcomings I mentioned, I'd suggest that iFamily for Tiger is perhaps the most cost-effective Macintosh genealogy program of today. I would strongly recommend iFamily for Tiger to any Macintosh owner who doesn't want to spend a lot of money for a genealogy program. I would also recommend this program to anyone who is already using a more expensive product but wants to be able to display additional graphics and have more options for printing charts. It is easy to export data in GEDCOM format from the other program and then import that data into iFamily for Tiger.
You can even download a free trial version of iFamily for Tiger right now. The demo is fully functional but any changes you make cannot be saved to a file. If you decide you would like to keep the program and use it on a regular basis, you simply buy a license key (a small file that adds your unique serial number) and the program will work again. That is an excellent method of seeing if the program meets your needs. To download the free trial, to purchase a full version, or to learn more about this great new genealogy program, go to http://www.ifamilyfortiger.com.
Keep an eye on this program. It's a good one right now but I bet it will become even more popular in the future. I suspect future versions will add more reports, more database fields and more features as they are requested by users. I do expect the name will change, however. The present name of iFamily for Tiger obviously refers to Apple's current OS X.4 operating system that is code named "Tiger." Apple has already announced that the next release will be called "Leopard." Will we see an iFamily for Leopard? Stay tuned.