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Open source genealogy with Gramps

Genealogy is a fun hobby for many people around the globe. While there are lots of programs for Windows, Linux options have been lacking. Gramps helps fill this gap


Genealogy is a very popular hobby with people all around the world. If you pick up any of the genealogy magazines at your local bookstore, they will cover Windows programs that are available. But no one seems to have realised that people who use Linux are also interested in researching their family trees. While there have been text-based programs to work with GEDCOM files, there hasn’t been a really complete GUI program until Gramps came onto the scene. With Gramps, you have all of the functionality available that Windows users have enjoyed for some time. Gramps is written in Python and is designed with a plug-in architecture. This means that you can rather easily write your own plug-in to add any specialised functionality that isn’t provided through a base installation. In this article, you’ll see how to get started on your family tree, analyse the data that you have collected, and generate reports that you can print and share with others. You’ll also learn how to share the data you have collected through GEDCOM files.

Gramps Main Window



Step by Step

Step 01

Getting Gramps

Gramps should be available in most Linux distributions. For Debian-based ones, you would install with ‘sudo apt-get install gramps’. There are Windows binaries available, if you want to get your friends hooked on Gramps, too. As always, the source is available if you would rather compile your own copy.

Step 02

Create a new tree

The first step, once you have Gramps, is to create a new family tree. This can be considered almost like a project, for the software developers out there. A family tree will contain all of the information relevant to a single lineage going back in time.

Step 03

Add a new person

A family tree is of little use without people. So, the next step is to add your first person. If you are doing your own family tree, you may as well start with yourself. Clicking on the plus sign in the icon bar will bring up a dialog box where you can enter all of the relevant information.

Step 04

Setting the home person

To generate charts and reports from all of this data, you will need to set a ‘home person’ who will act as the root of the family tree. Again, if you are doing your own family tree, it would make sense to select yourself. To do so, you will need to select the People entry on left-hand side of the screen. Then select the person from the list, and click on Edit>Set Home Person from the main menu.

Step 05

Adding birth Information

Double-clicking a person from the list will reopen the Edit dialog. At the bottom, you can add events to the person’s record. Arguably the most important event is their birth. To add an event, click on the plus icon in the event section.

Step 06

Adding parents

Click on the Relationships entry on the left-hand side. This will open the relationship section for the selected person. You can add parents to this person by clicking on the plus icon in the top bar. You can either add existing people or create new people, for the father and mother.

Step 07

Adding a spouse

Staying in the Relationships section, you can click on the ‘Add a new family’ icon to create a new family with this person as a parent. You can then either add an existing person or create a new person as the spouse.

Step 08

Setting marriage Information

While the New Family dialog is open, you will need to click on the Event tab in the bottom section. Click on the plus icon to add a new event, selecting Marriage as the type. You can then set the date and location.

Step 09

Adding children

Before closing the New Family dialog, you can also add any children. Clicking on the Children tab in the bottom section will allow you to add either existing people or new ones as children of this family unit.

Adding children

Step 10

Editing events

You have used events to add information, like births and marriages. There are many built- in event types when you install Gramps, covering most areas of life. You can edit the details of any of these events by clicking on the Events link on the left-hand side.

Step 11

Adding and editing places

Events take place somewhere in the real world. When you add a new event, you can select a place where it happened. After you have added a place to an event, you can edit the details by clicking on the Places link on the left-hand side and selecting the place of interest.