Family Historian – Software for the Genealogist

Picking a computer program to record your Family History is like buying a car, there are a myriad of choices and everyone you ask will have their own favourite,  mine is Family Historian.

Originally released in 2004, over the last fourteen years it has grown into a powerful, flexible system.  Key features include the ability to record full details of your research, including comprehensive source recording and unrivalled media handling.

It also has an active and extremely knowledgeable user group web site with a raft of helpful documents and a forum where you can ask questions about anything Family Historian related. 

Getting Started

For most people starting out with Family Historian,  you will either be importing from an existing program or web site,  or keying your information direct into Family Historian,  from miscellaneous paper sources.

Family Historian has direct imports from both Roots Magic and The Master Genealogist, along with a gedcom import which understands a variety of "dialects" used by programs like Family Tree Maker and many others.  

The user group has instructions for import from many different programs in their knowledge base. Which contain the "condensed" knowledge of group members who have converted to Family Historian.


To import you simply click on the New button on the Project Window (which opens when you start the program) and then select what you want to import.

If you are starting from scratch,  just select "Start a New Project" and on the next screen enter the Name of the Person who will be the start of your tree.  If you are importing from TMG,  select "Import from other Family Tree File" and then use the Browse button to find your TMG Proj file,  although FH will import from older versions of TMG, it works best when importing from V9.

Family Historian also provides a handy "Sample" project which you can easily use to experiment with the options.  It's also used extensively in the highly regarded optional guide "Getting the most from Family Historian 6" which is available from Amazon.

The Focus Window

Once you have a Project open you will arrive on the Focus window.   One of several windows which you can work with your information.   In the default configuration the Property Box,  which is used for all information entry,  is shown on the right. but you can "float" it and move it around or to another screen if you have the luxury of more than one screen on your computer.

The four tabs on the Focus window allow you to see different views of the currently selected person, so you can see them with their spouse and children or their parents and siblings.   As you can see there are little magnifying glasses next to each person to move the Focus to that person,   you can also click on any name to move the Property box to that person, with out moving the Focus window.

The Records List

The other window where you will probably spend time is the Records window,  this allows you to see and filter all the people,families,sources or media records.  For people you can enter just a surname or just a first name and it will show all the records which match.   The property box can then be used the edit the information or you can drill down using the + boxes next to the names.  This is also a good place to select two records to merge.  You can click on any column heading to sort by that column or hold down the ALT key and click  to sort in the reverse order, e.g Sort Z-A rather than A-Z.  The columns can easily be customised to add any data you need.

Hint:  When you install the program to go the Options button and tick the husbands surnames so you can easily search for Women using their married names.

The Property Box

The property box is where most information is entered and updated.  it has a main tab which gives you a quick overview of a person and their immediate family as well as tabs for media and facts.

  For entering any facts, the Fact tab is recommend as it shows all the fields available for entry making it easier to add information correctly.   Witnesses, notes and sources can also be entered and additional facts can be viewed in the "time line" from other members of the family.

The Media Window

One of the most powerful areas of Family Historian is it's Media window,  you can add any sort of media from images to sound or video files, and media can be added in a variety of locations including against Facts, Places, Sources or Source Citations.   You can also add a single image with multiple people in the image and easily highlight each face in the image and attach it to am individual.  In the image below all 5 people in the image have been identified.  You can also add notes to areas of the image,  for example to name a pet or put details against a vehicle and there is a handy multimedia report which can show all the details about the people in the image,  very handy to store with any original images you have,  and more useful than writing "Great Aunt Mabel's wedding" on the back.


Maps, Queries, Reports, Plugins etc

There is so much more to Family Historian that this article could go on forever,  in fact the "Getting the Most" book is 243 pages and even that does not cover every single thing you can do with Family Historian.

Luckily Calico Pie, who write Family Historian,  offer a free 30 day trial, and you don't even need to enter a credit card to get it.  Just download the program from and install it.   Don't worry if you have tried it before, just email the support desk and they will send you a trial extension. 

Handy Links & Resources

Family Historian Site

The Family Historian User Group

Getting The Most From Family Historian (book)

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