Visual Family Tree Maker is a freeware application for building, researching and presenting your family tree.

Unusually, the program arrives as both a Windows executable and Java file, neither of which requires installation. Just unzip the download and run VisFamTree.exe (or VisFamTree.jar).

Open the sample GEDCOM file RoyalPets.ged and Visual Family Tree Maker appears. It's very cluttered, buttons and boxes everywhere, but the basic principles aren't difficult to understand. There are various graphical views of your tree (regular, pedigree, ancestors, more), clicking any individual displays their details, and you can view these, edit them or add others as required.

The Verify tool examines your tree and reports on a host of possible problems: names are all upper/ lower case, people were married after they died, children have been assigned their mother's maiden name, and so on. (If examples like the last one aren't an issue for you, that's not a problem - you can tell Visual Family Tree Maker exactly what to check.)

The Organizer is another plus, helping you merge individuals, change and resequence family relationships (move a child forward or backwards in the sequence of children, for instance).

The program has a range of reports on offer, and it can even build a basic website to share your data online, or via a disc or other local storage device.

Verdict

The interface is intimidating and Visual Family Tree Maker's reports aren't impressive, but there are some useful tools here and you might want to run it alongside your regular genealogy software. If you're an experienced researcher with an hour to spare, give the program a try, see what it can do for you.