Family Group Sheet Form

Family Group Sheet

A Family Group Sheet is one of the "fun" things you can add to your web site. Er, well, let me rephrase that. It's fun to receive one -- they often come unexpectedly and may contain a new treasure of information about your family. What is not so much fun is creating the form and setting it up so you actually receive the information.

Forms require a CGI script to process the data that has been input to the FORM. RootsWeb offers a resident CGI script called Mailmerge. But Mailmerge can be confusing to beginners, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. Most of us have had to tinker a bit before we can get it to work. Mailmerge will work with any form, but genealogy webmasters often want a Family Group Sheet that their site visitors can use to contribute data. So here is the HTML code for a ready made FGS form, and the accompanying Mailmerge template that will send the FORM INPUT to you via email. You will need to upload both to your website. Follow these instructions carefully, and you may get it to work on the first try. <grin> You can view and test this Family Group Sheet Form. Enter your email address on the test form to receive a copy of the email.

The Form

Copy and paste the HTML code for the Family Group Sheet FORM between the <body>...</body> tags of your page. You can add the form to an existing page, or create a new one. This page may be formatted any way you like -- add a background and graphics, change colors, add your own introductory text, and a link to your home page. There are 3 places where the code is highlighted in red. These must be changed to match your information. I have suggested the file name groupsheet.tmp for your template. If you choose a different file name for your template, you must change it in the <form action=> tag.

NOTE: If you are using this form (or any Mailmerge form) on a RootsWeb server other than Freepages, you may need to change the PATH in the <form action=> tag. Paths for Homespages, Virts, and WWW accounts are explained here.

The Template

The template tells Mailmerge where to send the data that has been input to the form, and how to format it. Copy and paste the code for the template to a new, blank page in your Text Editor. Do NOT use a word processor to create or edit your template. A Word Processor adds its own internal formatting to the saved file which will make the template unusable. The template must be formatted and saved as a plain, ASCII TEXT file.

Save the file as groupsheet.tmp, or whatever name you have used in the <form action=> tag. Using TMP as your file extension makes it easy to identify a template in your directory listing.

There are seven highlighted items in the template code. Again, the ones highlighted in red must be changed to match your information. The ones highlighted in blue are optional changes. I have used double forward slashes to separate date // location // source in the output email. The separator is optional, but I think it makes the resulting email easier to read. You can eliminate them entirely, or you can change them to whatever character(s) you prefer.


Upload both the form and the template to the same directory. For example, upload both to your root directory, genealogy_html. The template must be uploaded in ASCII mode. Set this option in your FTP utility before beginning the upload. You can use File Manager to create your template and save it; but you can not use File Manager to upload a template from your computer, as it transfers all files in binary mode.


Test your Form! If everything is working correctly, you will see a confirmation screen like the one you saw when you tested the sample form. Arriving at the confirmation screen means that the email has been sent to the address you have indicated in the template. You should receive the email almost immediately.  Since this email is computer (script) generated, you may need to instruct your ISP's sp*m filters that it is okay to deliver this mail to your inbox.

I have tried to make these instructions relatively goofproof, but they are not intended to answer every question about Mailmerge. I stongly recommend you review Elsi's FreePages Mailmerge Instructions before attempting this, or any Mailmerge form at Freepages.

Basic documentation on how to use Mailmerge is available in the RootsWeb Wizards pages at

Detailed documentation is provided at

If you have further questions about using Mailmerge on the FreePages server, please post your question to the Freepages-Help mailing list. All those who were assigned web space on the Freepages server were automatically subscribed to the digest version of this list (Freepages-Help-D). If you have unsubscribed, you will need to subscribe again before you can post to the list. You can subscribe now using the buttons in the list graphic at the bottom of the Home Page.


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