Family Historian 5 full review

Many of us are keen to delve into the past and find out where we came from. There may not be a royal connection or a notorious rogue in your ancestry, but it’s still fascinating to unearth details of forebears’ lives and what life was like for them. Family Historian 5 is a genealogy program that makes the process easier.

The internet is great for research, but less useful for storing and managing the details uncovered. Having visited important family sites to view parish records or confirm birth dates it makes sense to catalogue your findings properly and log how you were able to verify and crosscheck details. Read more reference software reviews.

Some family tree programs offer the chance to present your findings on an ‘antiqued’ background with sepia vignettes of ancestors peering out. Family Historian avoids mawkish effects and instead focuses on helping you document and manage your research. 

If you’re serious about researching and documenting your ancestry, Family Historian 5 is one of the best options for UK users. It has a powerful database and querying tool that helps you fill in the knowledge gaps and make useful associations.  

In almost any field you can flesh out details with free text. In the sample database provided, for example, people have a one-line description of something unique about them that gives an instant flavour of what they were like. 

You can build up trees of people just as quickly as with more visual-based genealogy programs, but you have more control over the views and associations. A useful set of shortcuts and tips is provided, as is a detailed PDF manual of how to get the most from the program. 

The latter manual ‘Getting the Most From Family Historian 5’ is also available to buy as a printed book for £18.95. 

People within a tree are immediately identified by terms such as grandparent, great-grandchild and so on (though we found ourselves missing a sister-in-law). People can be viewed as ancestors or descendents or by their relationship to the ‘root’ member of the tree – as with almost everything here, an instantly editable aspect.

Family Historian 5 also applies logic to what you enter, so when we entered the same birth date for two people, it alerted me that the dates couldn’t tally given the father-son relationship we’d indicated. 

Research materials can easily be added to the database via a multimedia import screen or by adding a photo or document to a person’s entry.

When importing photos into Family Historian 5, the filename is automatically included, but the image is simply listed as ‘picture’ (rather than ‘video’). You can edit this and add detailed notes about when and where the photo was taken. 

If you insert a photo directly to a person’s record, adding a date automatically prompts Family Historian to list their age at the time. A face-tagging feature means people in group shots can be automatically recognised and their names suggested. Mapping is also now supported by a separate plug-in. 

Family Historian 5 goes to great lengths to ensure what you can enter is as accurate as possible, allowing entries for multiple marriages and sets of children from the same parents; divorce, cohabiting and same-sex relationships. 

Other family tree software we’ve tried would not cater for some of these details or would assume a wife took the husband’s name. An overview of a person’s immediate family is provided in a focus window on the right of the screen where you can add more detail about each of them without changing the ‘root’ person and reordering the database. 

When you’ve gathered enough detail and have photos, dates and brief biographies of a family branch, you can create a photo book of them by exporting the file as a booklet. 

Alternatively, if you started your research in another genealogy program, you can import a GEDCOM file – GEnealogical Data COMmunication, a popular plain-text format for family databases – that you created, and merge it with the research you add to your Family Historian 5 database. 


Family Historian 5: Specs

  • Windows XP/Vista/7/8
  • DVD drive, 40MB hard drive space