Genealogy sites like Ancestry are great for presenting family trees, taking all that raw data and presenting it in a straightforward graphical form.
But if you want to really understand your tree, to spot problems, links, patterns you might have missed, then you’ll need to delve a little deeper.
FTAnalyzer is an open source tool for Windows which imports your data in the form of a GEDCOM file, then analyzes it across a host of useful reports, providing details you might not have uncovered any other way.
If you don’t already have your tree in GEDCOM format then you’ll need to create that first. On Ancestry, go to Tree Pages > Tree Settings > Export Tree; in applications, look for a relevant Save or Export option. Open that file in FTAnalyzer and you’re ready to go.
The program’s tabbed interface starts with tables of data, listing individuals, families, surnames, locations, occupations and more. While this sounds basic, just being able to see all this data at once can be helpful, especially as you’re able to sort it by any field. Just click the column header and you can sort a list by birth location, say, maybe surname, perhaps helping you spot new links.
If your tree has thousands of people then this might not help you much, but more detailed reports are also on hand. The “Data Errors” tab looks for possible mistakes in the data (birth date after the mother’s death, married before the age of 13, and 20+ others), while the “Duplicates” report intelligently checks your tree for people who appear more than once.
The “Census” tab takes this a step further with a choice of 16 reports highlighting issues with US, UK, Canadian, Irish and other census data. To take a single example, one click will show you everyone you’ve not located for a given census year, very helpful in understanding where to research next. (If your ancestor wasn’t where they should have been in 1880, then finding their actual location could tell you a lot.)
All this focus on tables of raw text can be tiring, but FTAnalyzer does have some excellent graphical touches. The Maps feature takes your GEDCOM locations, geocodes them, and presents the results on Google-sourced maps. The Timeline tool highlights your ancestor’s locations on a map, for instance, then graphically shows how they’ve moved around over the years. It’s an excellent feature which justifies the download all on its own.
The “Colour Reports” module is another plus, using colour coding to highlight the census data you have (or don’t have) on an individual. But this isn’t just about passive reviews. If you spot a red (“no information entered”) year, then double-clicking it will open a browser window with the results of an Ancestry search (as long as you’re an Ancestry member, anyway).
And there’s much, much more. Treetops reports, World War analyses. An “On This Day” page which lists family tree and world events for any given day. Options to export various parts of your tree to CSV files.
FTAnalyzer is being very actively developed, too, with new features arriving all the time. If you have – or can get – your family tree in GEDCOM form then go grab a copy immediately, find out what the program can do for you.