Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Best Open Source Genealogy Software?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the well-son-I-was-on-the-roof-with-your-mother dept.

Open Source 292

An anonymous reader writes "I'm looking to build a family tree for a holiday gift. Do the Slashdotters of the world have any recommendations on open source genealogy software? I did try a 14-day free trial of What a scam! I submitted the personal information for my parents, grandparents, and me. Then, I received a pop-up telling me that if I would like to get information on my family, I would have to upgrade my subscription for $29.95 US. So, I took the chance. Turns out that the only information they had was my previous addresses for the past 20 years." The venerable GRAMPS is still actively developed, and its site lists several other possibilities, too. Any favorites, or anti-favorites, out there?

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.


dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610830)

GRAMPS is my favourite, though I haven't needed to go trying any of the other options as yet.

Re:GRAMPS (3, Informative)

dm1407 (1385811) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611744)

Same here. Anyone wanting to try Gramps on windows should download the version so you don't have to bother with installing the dependencies. []

webtrees (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610848)

If you want it online or even locally, webtrees is the most current open package. active development team and community based forums will assist you where required.

does everything you need and more!

Re:webtrees (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611016)

you should try 'webtrees', a php and MySQL-driven web-based collaborative software package that forked off phpGedView. It is up-to-date, fast and has no compromises. It protects privacy better than any other online program I know, and is quite flexible in configuration. There is an easy to use test demonstration installation where you can review its many features, both as a user and as an admin.

Re:webtrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611282)

Mod parent -1 Redundant with a +/-1 Advertising modifier?

Re:webtrees (1)

ocdscouter (1922930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611416)

To be fair, I appreciate that it told me a little about itself amid the fluff.

Re:webtrees (0)

dingfelder (819778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611358)

Instead I reccomed using PHPGEDview.

Free, full featured, web based, and gedcom compliant. []

I would post a link to my online family tree but dont feel like gettiing slashdotted :)

Geneweb (4, Informative)

Imabug (2259) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610856)

I've used GeneWeb and really liked it. Written in OCaml, but appears to be dormant. Nothing much has happened with it for a few years now. Still a pretty good program though.

Why is OSS A Criteria? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610858)

I can't find in your question just why you require the software to be open source.

Are you planning on modifying the code or examining the source somehow? If not, then why would you want it to be open source?

This type of requirement on any ask slashdot question just seems silly and needless unless there is a real need for it.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610944)

And also, what OS?
When my uncle did our family tree a few years ago, he did it in PAF [] , which is free (as in beer), and seems to have every option that was needed.
It's a Windows program, but it does work under Wine. It can export to ceveral standard formats.
Some people may take issue with the fact that it was created by the Mormons, but they do make it freely available to anyone to download and use free of change.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (4, Interesting)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611400)

PAF is obsolete, but still viable.

If research is what you need, don't overlook Family Search [] . It works best if you can start with someone long dead. If you want one-on-one assistance (for free), stop by an LDS Family History Center [] . Yeah, we're "Mormon's", but the family history advisers must not be overtly preachy (if they are, they're not following instructions). Just bring everything you've got.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (2)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610972)

Maybe the poster wants to be able to freely distribute the software and resulting files to family members?

It sounds pretty reasonable to me, especially after being boned paying for something.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611092)


Why the fuck does it matter?

I swear to god you stupid motherfucker, if you your bullshit drivel even one more motherfucking time I am going to climb through this tube and smack the shit out of you. I'll kick your dog while I'm there, and piss on your flowers.

No one wants to read what you write. It is lame. You are lame by extension. Your whole family is very likely equally lame. Lick my sack.

In short, fuck you and the packets you rode in one.

You are a waste of carbon and water.

Yuo == fuckface

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611410)

Meds, dude, meds.

Sounds like you forgot to take 'em this morning ... and a chill pill while you're at it ...

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611346)

You are just lame.

Maybe he is running Linux? Maybe he doesn't want his computer loaded with crapware? WHO CARES?

He is asking for a legitimate question which deserves a legitimate answer.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (0)

supertrinko (1396985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611508)

Was his question not just as legitimate as OP's? Does he not deserve the same respect you expect of him? Is this how everyone that questions open-source gets treated?

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611798)

Is this how everyone that questions open-source gets treated?

Wow, you must be new here.

Re:Why is OSS A Criteria? (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611682)

I think it's an issue of OP not understanding the difference between free and open source.

How about ? (5, Informative)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610874) is an online service, not open source software per se, but it's free to use, useful, and there's a lot of data there already. I found my ancestors going back to the 17th century after matching up my own tree back to my grandparents. []

Re:How about ? (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610894)

Any site that asks for my email address right away, forget it.

Go ask the Mormons. They maintain the most extensive set of genealogical records on pretty much everyone.

Re:How about ? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610922)

Any site that asks for my email address right away, forget it. .

Damn straight. They should provide the service for free and there should be no quid pro quo. Who do those arrogant f*****rs think they are - asking for an email address? Do they have any idea how hard it is to get an email address in the first place?

Re:How about ? (4, Informative)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611008)

You mean like this?

Re:How about ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611142)

Re:How about ? (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611466)

Any site that asks for my email address right away, forget it.

You are tracing your ancestry - on sites where others are trying to pin you and your folks into place - and you are worried about an e-mail address?

Re:How about ? (1)

Phoobarnvaz (1030274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611596)

Go ask the Mormons. They maintain the most extensive set of genealogical records on pretty much everyone.

Not only that...but if there's a Mormon temple in your area...they will also have one of their genealogical center in the vicinity.

Re:How about ? (2)

hendrikboom (1001110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611696)

The Mormons' specific interest in genealogy is that they believe a Mormon can save his deceased ancestors by baptizing them posthumously. That's why they build the data base. Your main risk is that one of your remote descendants might become a Mormon and baptize you after you're dead.

Re:How about ? (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611830)

Thereby running the risk of someday suddenly being yanked away from Hell? ;)

Re:How about ? (2)

jonathonjones (844293) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611670) is barely free. Once you get to even moderately useful functions like being able to match members of your tree to other trees, they start charging.

Re:How about ? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610908)

Stay away from Geni. Once you give them information, you can't cancel it or retract it. It's not for anybody with any desire of any privacy.

Re:How about ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611000)


A relative of mine signed up and started adding our whole family - I refused to sign up, but my parents still get "spam" from telling them about anniversaries of people they've never even met...

Re:How about ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611032)

"not open source per se"... is not even slightly related to open source and their privacy policies leave a lot to be desired...

Re:How about ? (1)

Zamphatta (1760346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611072)

Love ....easy & makes it quick to set things up and share it with other family members. Also, you can export GEDCOM files from it, to use in other genealogy software, or import GEDCOM files you've already got or made.

First, try the living if possible (5, Informative)

novar21 (1694492) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610896)

My grandma has givin me sooooo much skini on the family its not funny. Didn't cost me a dime other than my time. Trust me... they don't hold back and will give you info can not find anywhere. They are the source.. if they aren't available, talk with the gossip of the family. Each family has one. Find them, then prepare yourself for A LOT of bad news.

Re:First, try the living if possible (1)

lisany (700361) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611386)

You insensitive clod! My grandparents have died.

Re:First, try the living if possible (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611590)

Novar21 is right though. I didn't get interested in the genealogy thing until my dad passed away, years after the grandfolks left this world. Obviously I couldn't talk with them (barring a seance, for those of that mind), but as Novar21 said, there is always someone. I DID still have a living Aunt (paternal) who came to dad's funeral, and she did know a lot of the information that the grandparents might be mind for. I also wrote letters to several older cousins and others who added to the basic information.

Yes, I did try using various online sources to add to my tree. I think I found one record that I could add, but I provided a whole lot more information than I got. Since it might help the next person who was doing research, I was happy to provide it.

How far did I go back? I think my tree goes back at most 6 generations, although I only have a name or two for the last generation. Undoubtedly, there is more information available somewhere if I really got interested in it, but as with many things, it was a passing interest. I'll hold on to the chart I developed, just in case my kids/grand kids ever want to know.

GEDCOM (4, Informative)

Okind (556066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610898)

For basic usage, any program that supports GEDCOM (the de facto file format all good genealogy software support) will do, and your choice should be on your personal preference. So try them out first, of find your local genealogy association and ask around. Personally, I have good experience with Gramps (you already found that one) and ProGen (a dutch commercial program). The latter not being open source, it'll probably not be interesting to you.

For more advanced usage, you should know that some programs assigns a different meaning to some standard fields, and most programs have their own way of filling in custom fields. If you find yourself using such features, please consider who you'd be sharing your GEDCOM files with, and use the same. Note though, that it'll likely not be open source.

hum... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610900) is not by any means a scam. Like any thing else you have to know what your doing in order to research your family history. Genealogy research is time consuming and often leads to a dead end after years of research. However the fact that you paid to use is amazing to me :-) Check out your local library and see if they have a subscription. Also take a look at or even the LDS Family search centers for more resources (to find your local center). Good luck at finding your roots.

Re:hum... (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611136)

Another Library possibility is a database called HeritageQuest. My local library doesn't have, though I've requested it, but they DO have HeritageQuest which sometimes has better document images, sometimes not.

PAF (3, Informative)

greg.collver (1500645) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610914)

not open source, but the mormon's offer a nice little program for free: []

Re:PAF (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610998)

The Mormon's what? You see, the apostrophe denotes possession. I know, I know, it's complicated, right? You've got your medicine, your nuclear physics, and then there's the apostrophe. So, so complicated.

Longevity Award Re:PAF (2)

AJ Mexico (732501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611026)

PAF aka Personal Ancestral File.
Weirdly, this software, developed by a church, wins my award for the very BEST Macintosh software ever, in the category of Compatible With The Most Versions of Mac OS.

Originally, this program cost money, but not very much. I bought it for the Mac 512 or thereabouts. It came on floppy disk, probably about 1985. Years later, when Macs had color, low and behold, the PAF screens were in color. They had followed the compatibility guidelines, and put in simple color years before anyone could see color on a Mac. The SAME version of software continued to work for decades, through major system and processor revisions that broke almost everything else. I think it finally stopped working with System X, (about 5 computers later, for me) when it wouldn't work under Classic for some reason.

Pretty much everything else became incompatible once or more during that time, including Microsoft and Apple. Amazing!

Re:Longevity Award Re:PAF (1)

Macgrrl (762836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611076)

My mother uses Reunion, and has been doing so for 10+ years now. I've migrated it across mutiple machines and OS architectures without issue. I think she started on a LCII and is now on an PPC iMac, I will be moving her to an Intel iMac sometime soon.

Re:Longevity Award Re:PAF (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611502)

You just sold me on it, family tree software won't amount for shit if it isn't available in 5 years.

Re:PAF (1)

ve3oat (884827) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611294)

I have used PAF for many years. Tried other programs too but always came back to PAF - straightforward, bugfree, and free. Like all the good programs, it can import and export data in the standard GEDCOM format. There is also a companion program (also available free from the LDS) called 'PAF Companion' that will print all the basic charts that you might need to display your family tree. But in the end it doesn't matter much which software you use. Good genealogy comes from carefully collecting and evaluating your information. Getting there is more than half the fun.

Re:PAF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611392)

um... PAF is actually not recommended anymore because it is so old. It is available but the family history gurus at my church (yes I am Mormon) say to stay away from it. RootsMagic ( is a very popular program. It is not open source but there is a free version. They do have an upsell paid version if you want some fancy features that are not necessary.

- 'Nony. Coward

Re:PAF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611412)

I use PAF ( a free program for windows) to gather my genealogy info. Then I export the data from PAF as a GEDCOM file ( a genealogy standard file format) and import it into PHPGEDVIEW ( an open source project) to publish as a website.

PAF (2)

toddwashere (1310193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610916)

I remember my parents doing some genealogy stuff, they used a program called PAF (Personal Ancestor File), I think it was free. There's also [] , where you can look people up for free as well. These are both free even if you are not an LDS member. Not sure what exactly you need the software to do for you, but I remember with PAF my parents printed out a big ol' pedigree chart, found out we were related to some kings back in the dark ages, pretty crazy stuff.

I use this (2)

zellfaze (1884982) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610950)

I personally use PHPGEDview. If you need something web-based, this is a great piece of software. It lets my whole family, all around the country, work on the tree. []

Re:I use this (1)

barneyzang (750775) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610994)

+1 for phpgedview. I've used it extensively for my family as well. The interface is a little quirky but once you get it up and running, it's pretty powerful. is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610968) is great if you know what you are doing. : ) I use it regularly.

Also try which provides a lot of the same data but for free.

Also try Genweb which is free.

LDS Church, Personal Ancesteral File software (1)

SubComdTaco (1199449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610982) [] "The LDS Church offers free genealogy software that you can use as you do your genealogy research. It is called Personal Ancestral File (PAF) and is one of the best software programs for genealogy. It helps users organize their family history records. It can produce, either on screen or on paper, family histories, pedigree charts, family group records, and other reports to help users in their search for missing ancestors."

Re:LDS Church, Personal Ancesteral File software (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611114)

Yeah, they offer it. But PAF is about the worst software out there now for this sort of work, in my opinion. LDS is great for collecting and hosting the data, don't get me wrong, but they really need to ditch PAF and make a modern software.

Re:LDS Church, Personal Ancesteral File software (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611720)

The LDS Church probably won't make new software because there are a lot of other good alternatives now and it's not worth the effort to recreate what's already being done commercially. There are some really nice alternatives to PAF now.

Ahnenblat (2)

Loscha (1961908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610988) [] Ahnenblatt is free, but I don't recall it having the source available. My housemate has used this program solidly for 3 years and has found it good and easy to use.Hasn't been updated for about a year on the website, but I think a newer version on their forums is available.

You probably need more info to start with. (2)

Rhalin (791665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611022)

For sites like, you really need to have a good few generations (4-5, minimum) to start getting good results back, since quite a bit of it is crowd-sourced links from distant relatives. Even at that point, there are a few points in history where the records / links just suck, and it usually takes quite a bit of digging to find another link. Over the course of roughly a month, and with some good spots of luck, we were able to trace back several lines of my family through, and other sources for several hundred years.

Fortunately, there's a standard file format for genealogy data, and Ancestry (and other sites) usually support exporting to it.

Unfortunately, my data yielded a genealogy chart that most of the current open source or free software couldn't render very well. I've been considering writing one myself, that at the very least could render out multiple pages at once for printing, rather than manually forcing the user to set things up correctly for each sub-branch...

Very simple one (2)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611044)

Make directories with all the names and use `tree`


br00tus (528477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611052)

I use GRAMPS mainly, as all I want at this point is a GED file and an application to manipulate it. There are a bunch of web-based packages like PhpGedView out there as well but I haven't had much need for them at this point.

As far as research, Social Security Death Index, Ellis Island Records, US Censuses up until 1930 (1940 will be released on April 2, 2012), European censuses and so forth have all been useful. has scanned ship manifests on it, with the names OCR'd, which was useful for me. It also had draft cards, passport applications and other things.

Records don't tell everything. I told my mother I found her mother's birth on a European census form, which said 1 month old or something. She told me that her mother's mother had a girl that died shortly after she was born, soon after which she became pregnant and had my grandmother, who got the same name as the baby who died. I had never heard about this before. If I hadn't been told that, I would assume a girl born in that year with that name would be my grandmother for sure. So family memory can often trump records. In the "Godfather Part II" the immigration officer is in a hurry and mixes up the last name and town of origin, in a few seconds with a stroke of the pen the family's name is changed. All kinds of things happen - birthdays are changed by purpose or accident, people flee Europe to avoid military draft, family memory often trumps official records.


ddillman (267710) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611094) also has loads of military records from colonial times to WWII and later, and lots of records from overseas censuses and such as well. Overseas data requires the pricier World Subscription. If you keep an eye out, they occasionally offer free access to some databases for limited periods of time. This year they had free access to all military records for about a week around Veterans Day.


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611556)

Also, a lot of times your local public library will have a subscription to, and other databases as well, and as long as you're on their network, you get free access.

Many Good programs are free (1)

cachemagic (731128) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611054) [] Most of the better genealogy programs (Legacy, Ancestral Quest, Roots Magic) have a free version that lets you do everything you need as a beginning genealogist. (2)

DERoss (1919496) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611056)

My daughter is using to create a great genealogy. Through it, she has accessed old immigration and census records and more recent death records. Although all her grandparents are dead, she has been able to extend the genealogy back to her great-great-great grandparents and include many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins. By granting read-only access to cousins, my daughter has also been able to get details from them about current and past relatives.

BYOB (3, Insightful)

moehoward (668736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611060)

Do it yourself. There is no substitute for creating your own database/worksheet. Why in the hell would you even trust what was given to you by a subscription fee? Just because you pay you trust it? In my experience, it is much more rewarding and valuable if you do the work yourself. We took a ton of time and effort, but our family has the real truth with real documents (copies) and contacts thousands of miles away.

If your ancestry is important to you, do it yourself. Don't take shortcuts. The risk of being misled/wrong are too great. Even doing this ourselves, we were taken down false leads. Imagine someone who does not have a stake doing something so important for you.


Sadly (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611066)

My interest in genealogy has gone from "cool trying to trace your ancestors" to mostly creepy genetic profiling possibilities, with the ever increasing trend of wanting DNA records to larger and more DNA registries, and every so often someone wants to do DNA records of everyone in a national database. With sufficiently many records and the family relations - which are a lot easier to get hold of - it might not matter that they don't have your DNA sample. You're pretty well defined by your family's lineage anyway. We have some family records but I actually prefer they'd stay family records. (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611074)

Hey OP, if all you found was addresses on, then you're not making any effort to find information. They do have metric boatloads of data of all sorts for your money, but you do have to have a clue about finding it, and make the effort.

That said, I do agree is a pricey service. Check out You can do a free 250-person tree, or add more with payment. The software is a free download and use, and is pretty thorough. The online piece includes the ability to match to other people's trees and import their data to your tree. (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611122)

250 sounds a bit limiting, especially when you populate your databases with cousins. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611166)

And the family tree becomes very complicated when you've had children with many of your cousins (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611182)

Frankly, it is, but for a rank beginner it lets them get in and figure out if the software and system will work for them for free. The first paid level ups that to 2500 people.

I started with MyHeritage back when it first came out. It was completely free for several years, and I got a pretty large database going before they moved to fee-based. So I'm stuck. I like their software, and the services they have are worthwhile in my experience. When I can afford it, I'll pony up the money to keep going. My data is still there, just no one can access any more than 250 people. The software on my PC still works fine and I have local access to the full database, in fact I can keep adding to it.

I would recommend it even though the service is now fee-based. (1)

ben_kelley (234423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611196)

Probably the advantage of something like (or its counterparts in other countries) is the easy access to source records. Depending on how serious you are with this, this can be much bigger factor than the cost for the service storing the data.

Of course what source data you can get depends on where your ancestors came from, and when.

If you are concerned with accuracy, how much you use the ability to link with trees from others will depend on how accurate you think their trees are.

Holiday gift? (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611118)

I'm looking to build a family tree for a holiday gift.

To be presented in what year?

The Master Genealogist (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611130)

I've been deeply involved in my family genealogy for over 20 years. At one time or another I've used every software package that was available as well as a system that I designed myself. One of the biggest flaws with a lot of the software I've used is that are far too simple and don't take into consideration that not all the data you get is accurate. I ended up using a software package called The Master Genealogist (TMG for short), its available at [] TMG is by far the best software package for tracking genealogy. It is fully GEDCOM compliant but is able to track much more information than is supported by GEDCOM. One of the most key features is the support for multiple tags such as, somebody says that Uncle Ted was born in July, 1940 but somebody else says he was born in July 1941. You are able to have both Birth tags with one flagged as primary and have surety flags (to indicate how sure you are that something is true, a birth certificate would have a pretty high surety rating.) The software is currently at version 7 but V 8 is due out. I would try to steer away from online repositories because you really have no idea what they are doing with your data and if they go belly up what happens to all your research.

There are some nice add on tools to TMG to generate web sites (Second Site is the best one). You really should check out TMG before you make any decisions.

Re:The Master Genealogist (1)

Hrdina (781504) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611774)

I have to agree with the praise for TMG. I've been using it for several years now (version 4 then version 6). I have found it to be incredibly flexible in handling conflicting evidence, and it also generates some nice reports. I had moved my data from Family Tree Maker, so it did take me quite a while to "clean up" my database to change from a fact-based system to an evidence-based system, but I think the results have been worth it.

To be clear to the OP, it is definitely not an Open Source program in that it costs money and the file formats are (IIRC) proprietary as well (but there are plenty of export options so you are not locked-in).

My experience with (2, Interesting)

f00zbll (526151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611162)

I don't work for, and they don't pay me. I recently signed up to research our family geneology. My biggest complaint is the search functionality often returns way too much data. Their search/matching algorithm is quite eager. The service isn't cheap, but then again how much would it cost to manually do the research yourself? How much time would you have to spent going through dusty census records? How much time do you have to spent tracking down the geneology going back up the tree? It took me a few days to understand how their search works, but once I got a hang of it, it was easier to find records for people in our family tree. It's not perfect, but it does quite a bit. If I had to search census records going back to 1910, it sure as heck would cost more than a monthly subscription.

Re:My experience with (1)

mrcheesyfart (923434) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611810)

I agree with the other posters that is a bit pricey, but sometimes it can be worth it. They have a lot of information that you can search through all in one place. Its good to try out for a month or two, then cancel your subscription and load all the information you got into one of the open source solutions that people have mentioned. I their search is pretty good actually. It does return a lot of irrelevant information sometimes, but it will also do some guessing if their is someone with a similar name or birth date. It is nice if someone made a mistake and misspelled the name on a census report, the search will probably still return it. Sometimes you get a connection that you never would have found otherwise.

GRAMPS, and maybe PhpGedView (3, Informative)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611176)

GRAMPS is the best OSS piece of software I've found so far. You can also export it to PhpGedView (a very nice OSS web-based application)

Pro tip: *Always* record your sources, for every scrap of info (GRAMPS lets you do this), that way when (Not "If") you have conflicting pieces of information, you can figure out which one to trust. GRAMPS also lets you assign a 'reliability' to each piece of information.

The only problem is that exporting to GEDCOM format loses a lot of this kind of 'extra' data. (IE, exporting is a lossy process, so use GRAMPS as a master, and if you want to put your tree online, use that as a secondary source for family members to add to.)

As far as resources go, has a bad habit of suggesting that they have a ton of matches in all these different databases, when in fact most of the matches returned don't have any relation to the names you entered. Don't base your decision to subscribe solely on that.
That being said, many public libraries offer free access to some, or many, census records and other public databases.

If you have Swedish ancestors, GenLine [] is EPIC: Digitized church records (Swedes often had data recorded annually instead of every 5 or 10 years, and also recorded moves into and out of parish districts.) (1)

dw_g (627284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611178)

In addition to offering PAF, the Family History Library runs the web site The library is in the process of digitizing their over 2 million microfilms and making the data available on-line and for free. There's a long way to go, but it's worth looking at. If you decide to use PAF, the add-on program PAF Companion produces nicer looking reports of your data that the built-in PAF functions, and the cost is quite low. And since PAF will export a gedcom (a genealogy data transfer protocol that all genealogy database programs recognize), if you decide later to try a different program, you can easily move your data.

Emacs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611186)


GRAMPS, PHPGedView and Legacy (2)

c41rn (880778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611188)

I've been researching my family tree for over 10 years now and I've tried very many genealogy software programs. Choosing an open source genealogy program was extremely important to me since all the research I've done could be lost if it were locked up in a proprietary file format that is inaccessible 20 years from now. However, it is equally important that my genealogy database be easily accessible by as many family members as possible - family members who may not be very computer literate.

GRAMPS is an outstanding piece of software. When I first began using it a few years ago, it was a little rough and it was difficult to install on Windows. This made it great for me while running Ubuntu, but difficult for me to recommend to family members. It seems to have much better support now under Linux, Windows and Mac. It also uses an open XML-based file format that at least one working group [] is looking at as the basis for an updated standard to replace the aging GEDCOM format. I think this is definitely the candidate for best OSS Genealogy.

PHPGedView [] is another good, open-source, web-based genealogy package. This is a good one to use if you're planning to build your family tree collaboratively among several family members. My biggest complaint about it is that it's a little clunky looking and some family members seem a bit intimidated by it, so they don't make changes or additions when they could. I began building a new theme and layout for it, but I put it on hold when I felt like it was taking time from working on the family history itself. Of course, it also requires that you have a server to host it on.

A similar online family tree is It looks promising, but I haven't yet found a good way to sync changes between it and my local genealogy software. It's still in its infancy though.

All that said, my favorite genealogy software is the closed-source Legacy Family Tree. The standard edition is free and the full "deluxe" version is inexpensive. Unfortunately, it's Windows only (I've had mixed luck running it through WINE). It's advantage though is that it's very easy to install and use and has some powerful tools for sourcing and merging trees. It also creates some very impressive, customizable family tree charts that can be saved in a variety of formats or printed through their mail-order service. It also saves your genealogy database in several formats including GEDCOM. is the necessary evil of the genealogy world. They have many records on their site that aren't available elsewhere on line, but they have made quite a few business decisions over the years that don't sit well with many family historians. They also produce the "Family Tree Maker" software which I recommend avoiding.

TNG Is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611216)

One that I have used is called TNG. It is a PHP/MySQL web based site. It is very nice and fairly simple to use. It allows you to manage your own site.

Lifelines (3)

catsidhe (454589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611246)

Lifelines []

It's console based, but it's fairly powerful for that. Once you learn the navigation keys (and there's a help window at the bottom of the screen), then you can walk up and down your family tree with ease. It reads in GEDCOM, allows you to edit those records as GEDCOM (so you have a lot -- perhaps too much -- freedom in record structure and normalisation), and it exports in GEDCOM as well, as well as a scripting language which allows for all sorts of reports and outputs. You can even tell it to keep records in UTF8.

It is a record/database manipulation program: you will need to gather your data yourself, and enter it by hand. While the actual entry process is tedious (which, to be frank, will always be the case, flashy GUI or not), it is a good opportunity to go over the data and discover incongruities and patterns.)

Library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611248) has a few good resources, but you have to go to your public library to get to them.

only 20 years (1)

hydromike2 (1457879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611304)

I use from time to time, it is best used for researching your ancestors, by which I mean those non living. The US census data is delayed by ~70 years so very little info on anything in the past 70 years will come up. I have been able to track back to 1500 AD on several ancestors on both sides of my family in ancestry. In my experience census data is key, and maiden names, you will notice that it will quickly become impossible to determine maternal ancestry past a certain point.

Why are you so obsessed with genealogy ? (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611314)

i dont get why americans are so obsessed with genealogy, ancestry and so on. maybe it is because it is a country of immigrants, and everyone is trying to have an identity extending to their past ?

where i live, in anatolia (turkey), history goes thousands of years past into 8-9000 BC. actually, it was discovered that, the villagers living near the site of a recently discovered mummy that is dated 6500 BC or so (8500 years ago) had 100% exact dna with the mummy. (western anatolia) basically, those people lived there since that time, seasoning all that has happened around those parts.

yet, ordinary people dont give 2 flying shizz about their past. people just live on.

Re:Why are you so obsessed with genealogy ? (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611396)

Yes, you have grasped a big part of it. Nearly everyone in America is descended from immigrants at some point, and on top of that, we have been the most "mobile" society on Earth; families moving from home to home on the average of every few years.

This makes keeping track of genealogy a particular problem.

Re:Why are you so obsessed with genealogy ? (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611540)

the thing is 'keeping track' part. the people here, dont know their genealogy. they dont care about it either. i dont see that in many other countries either, except britain, and somewhat in france.

Re:Why are you so obsessed with genealogy ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611692)

It's obvious that people in Turkey don't give a rat's ass about genealogy or history. After all, you murdered millions of Armenians in an attempt to wipe out an entire culture.

phpGEDview (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611320)

It's web-based and written in PHP, obviously, which doesn't suit everyone. It's also a latecomer to the ajax stuff and (while it does dynamically load content) still considers pop-up windows a valid part of a web UI. Not pretty. However, I've had great experiences managing a genealogy database with it, as well as printing some nice charts.

@ellogan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611322)

Have you tried here in mexico it doesnt find a lot of info about family related for me, but maybe in the us you can get a better approaching to a real crowd sourcing family tree

Software or data? (1)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611326)

I've been researching my genealogy for almost a decade at this point. It's a lot of work, but I find it fun and enlightening.

Now, there are really two questions here. First, software. There are many different programs out there, the one that I have the most experience with is Legacy. The free version is quite powerful, even if it's closed source.

The second question that wasn't really asked though is regarding the data. You could have the best genealogy software in the world, but it's useless without the data. I'm afraid that simply adding you, your parents, and your grandparents isn't going to do much for you, no matter the website or software. Part of the problem is that the most useful source of information for ancestry, census records, isn't available for any census later than 1930 in the U.S. due to privacy concerns. Most likely, you'll have to find some great-grandparents (ask your parents or grandparents about them) and from there it's relatively easy to bootstrap your family tree back to the 1850s. Unfortunately, the most complete census records are found on, which is a pay site of course, but there are so many other records that they have that it can be worth it to pay the monthly fee (I do). In addition to that, you can also piggyback on other peoples' research through their community.

If you don't feel like paying, there are plenty of other sites out there with free data and the number grows constantly. is probably the best. Rootsweb (owned by Ancestry) is also free and has the World Connect function that will show you family trees (secondary sources). Be persistent. There are plenty of sources out there.

WebTrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611332)

I started doing genealogy in the mid to late 90's. First it was with Famly TreeMaker, which served me well for many years. However, when I wanted to publish some of my data on the web I was left in a bind and had to manually do some indexes and the like. When I switch off of Windows to Linux, I tried Gramps and a VM version of PAF -- both fine desktop products. However, along the way I decided that i wanted others to contribute and the only way to do that was to move fully to the web. I dove into PhpGedView about two years ago and really liked it. I have now switched to WebTrees, another 100% eb based solution that draws it heritage from PhpGedView. A web based solution takes some getting use to. However, the security -- in Webtrees is great and its sophistication is top notch.

gedcom.el (1)

AntEater (16627) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611340)

Don't forget Emacs with gedcom.el. I haven't used it but if it runs in GNU/Emacs it must be great.

Definitely check out the Mormons (2)

Clomer (644284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611418)

Any software you find is likely just going to be a database entry/maintenance type software tool for storing your genealogical information, but itself will not give you any information; it just provides a place for you to keep track of information you do find from other sources.

If you are stuck on open-source, I'm not sure how to help you, but if all you really care about is that it is free, I can strongly recommend Personal Ancestral File from here [] . While it has some fields for Mormon ordinances, you don't have to use those features and it will do nicely to maintain your records.

As for doing the actual research, again I recommend looking into the Mormons - they maintain branches of their main family history library at various church buildings around the world. The volunteers who staff those branches are instructed to not proselyte, they simply are there to help you do the research. The only time you'll have to pay for something is for obvious things like using the copy machine, or if you want to have records shipped in from Salt Lake City you'll have to pay postage, but that's it.

Disclaimer: yes, I am a Mormon, so I may be biased on this matter, but as far as I've seen, the Mormons are the premier experts in the world when it comes to family history research.

try this (1)

jrkotrla (690946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611550)

simple family tree []

Ancestry is actually a good database service (1)

Lemuel (2370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611604)

The question covers two things. Ancestry is both a genealogy database service and a genealogy program in the cloud. It is actually a pretty good database service, and the best single repository out there, but you have to get back to WW II for veterans or 1930 for people in the US to start getting good info. If you have younger grandparents you might ask to find out about their parents and search for them. This will be an issue whatever source you use, as 1930 is the most recent Census released.

As a cloud-based genealogy program Ancestry is just average, and not something you would normally use unless you want the service behind it.

Ancestry is for dead people... (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611650)

The FIRST problem with your post (regarding the availability of your information) is that YOU ARE STILL ALIVE! The Ancestry database contains data on dead people - otherwise it would be a database to facilitate identity theft. The ancestry databases contain birth and death records, including Social Security Number. Census records do NOT include data for the most recent 70 years... so today you can search the census records from 1930 and prior.

Same sex marriages (1, Insightful)

gringer (252588) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611652)

Just something to take into account, many programs don't allow for same-sex marriages (or partnerships) -- a child *has* to have a male parent who is partnered with a female parent. This is a problem for my wife, who has one parent in a male/female partnership and the other parent in a same-sex partnership, and makes finding appropriate family tree programs difficult. The most common "hack" is to make one or both partners of the same sex marriage unknown gender, but often you need to enforce the male/female parts of marriages.

Gramps is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34611660)

I have used several programs over the years, commercial and free and open source, and I will say that I find Gramps to be the best of what is out there. Personal Ancestral File is also really good, but the development seems to have stalled and it is Windoze only. I also used Lifelines for a while but find I prefer the GUI of Gramps.

A better question is "where are all the free online resources for researching?" Many sites have some info, but a great deal require some sort of payment and their data is usually not worth the price. The Mormons seem to have the largest repository BTW, and regardless of what you think of their beliefs or principles they are providing this service to everyone.

phpGedView (1)

MrWin2kMan (918702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34611666)

Helps you organize everything and put it on the web.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?