Blog post

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting technical with Family Historian software

I’m feeling rather chuffed with myself tonight.

My genealogy software, Family Historian, is very customisable. Even more so now that version 5 has introduced “plugins”, which allow users to download or write their own code to act on their data.

I’m not a programmer and coding looked daunting - really not something I wanted to commit time to learning - but a comment on Geniaus’ post Fresh Eyes gave me an idea. I borrowed heavily from the sample plugins and ones other users have created and had a go at creating my own plugin. To my delight, it works!

The plugin creates a source record for an Australian electoral roll entry. When I run the plugin I get a pop-up box like this:


The box prompts for all the changing parts of the source record. I have set the State “Victoria” to appear as a default, as 99% of the entries I make will be for Victoria. The plugin then adds a new source record to my file like this:

Australian Electoral Commission. Electoral roll. State of Victoria, Division of Bourke, Subdivision Mitchell, Black entries for 1931; digital images, Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, ( accessed 29 October 2011).

It also adds some bits and pieces in other parts of the source record. It’s probably not technically perfect, but it’s so easy and perfectly consistent from record to record.

Then I got greedy. I wanted my plugin to do more. I managed to find what I needed in the help file and now after I see the initial box, a prompt for multimedia files comes up. It only works for multimedia items that have already been added to Family Historian, but that suits me fine. I have a lot of unlinked images of electoral roll pages attached to my file that I need to make my way through. This speeds the process up considerably.

I’ve also set up a custom query that lists the electoral roll images that haven’t been linked to sources, so I know what I still have left to enter. In Family Historian the query results are usually live, clickable links to records. I can use this to my advantage in my data entry process as well.

Now my process for setting up a source record for an electoral roll page/pages is:

  • Run the query to identify unlinked electoral roll entries.
  • Highlight the multimedia items I want to use in the query results.
  • Run the plugin – complete the boxes show above.
  • Click “OK” when the multimedia box pops up (the records I highlighted are preloaded).

And that’s it. The source record is created with the image(s) attached.

I should just say, you don’t have to do this kind of thing to get good use out of Family Historian, but it’s rather nice that you can.


  1. Totally cool ... you almost tempt me, software junkie that I am.

    1. Don't ask me to count how many trials, demos and even paid version of things I have on my computer...

  2. OMG Shelley, you put me to shame. I am still getting my head around the most basic functions in the package.

    I am enjoying fiddling with it and hope one day to be a whizz kid like you.

    1. Well, I do have an almost nine month head start on you! I'm still learning about the features and ways of doing things.

  3. Rockstar!
    I've been checking it out and after reading your opinion and Jill's, I think I'll take the plunge.

    1. Looks like I should be on commission! I hope you're as happy with it as I am.