Basic HTML: Your Genealogy Web Site

Your Genealogy Web Site

You've been collecting data on your family for years, and want to share what you've found. Or maybe you've just started researching your family and hope to find new cousins by putting your names on line. But where do you start?

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of programs and help for beginning web authors. Unfortunately, there is so much to choose from, it can be confusing. This brief guide will get you started. It is impossible for me to be familiar with all of the many programs available and I don't claim that the ones listed here are the only ones you should consider. My criterion is simply that they are user friendly for beginners and preferably (as of this writing), are freeware or shareware.

You need the same three things for a genealogy website as you do for any website:

  1. A server to host your webpages.
  2. A way to convert your genealogy data and/or other pages to HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).
  3. A program to upload (copy) your files from your computer to your server.

If you're reading this, you may have already reserved your web space. If not, you can Request a FreePages account at RootsWeb. However, the following suggestions and software will work with most servers and websites.


WorldConnect on RootsWeb

Absolutely the easiest, hassle-free, and most effective way to put your genealogy data on line is to submit your GEDCOM to the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project. You don't have to learn HTML or File Transfer Protocols. Your data can be viewed as a variety of reports: Pedigree, Descendant, Register, etc., and is fully searchable. You can add a search box to your Freepages site so your visitors can search your database directly from there. You can choose what information you want to display using the wonderfully flexible WorldConnect filters; but you can retrieve your unfiltered GEDCOM, should your own database be lost or corrupted. You can change it as often as you like, or even remove it completely. It is easy to do, and reaches a large, and genealogy-focused audience. The only thing you need is a genealogy program that will export a GEDCOM file. It's as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Export a GEDCOM from your genealogy program.
  2. Create your free account at WorldConnect User Setup/Edit
  3. Follow the instructions to upload your GEDCOM. 
Note: You will need to login to your RootsWeb username before creating a WorldConnect treename for your GEDCOM ( Step 2 ).  You may link multiple treenames to a single username and manage them all with a single login..

Your WorldConnect database can be linked to your Freepages website where you can be as creative as you like in uploading additional information -- family stories, photographs, documentation, etc. Here are some examples:

Ambrose Genealogy by Pat Asher
Family Genealogy - Geary or Gary Family Genealogy - by Pat Geary
Hedley Genealogy Page by David Hedley
The Williamsons by Anita Palmer

If you like this approach, you can go directly to Getting started with HTML to learn how you can easily create your supporting pages.

Instructions for the search box shown above are here
Instructions for the search box on the Ambrose Genealogy page are here

Convert a GEDCOM to HTML

If you want to create your own web pages from your database, you'll need to convert your genealogy data to HTML, so it can be read by a browser. The right software can simplify this. But you might as well hear the bad news now. Each type of conversion program has its quirks. Most write less than perfect HTML and you'll probably have to tinker a bit to make the output work on the server. Translation: you will probably have to learn some HTML.

There are several programs which will convert a GEDCOM to HTML pages that can be uploaded to your website. Their output is similar to the display at WorldConnect and is usually based on a Family Group Sheet. Most allow you to use your own page background and/or graphics. Some include pedigrees or descendent trees. They vary in their ability to handle notes and sources.

Ged2HTML - Shareware for Windows and Unix. Individual data pages and an index for quickly locating an individual by name.  A program called Sparrowhawk, based on Ged2HTML v2.5a is still available for older versions of Mac; but it has some serious limitations.

GedHTree - Freeware or registered version for Windows 95 through XP, Vista, and Windows7. Ancestor trees and family group sheets with notes and sources. Optional thumbnail photos. Will privatize data for living persons. Some additional reports in registered version.

GedPage - Inexpensive software for Windows.. Based on Family Group Sheet. Options for Pedigree Charts and photos.  

GedScape - for Windows and Mac.  A multi-function utility for browsing, manipulating, and extracting, as well as converting gedcom files to HTML.

My genealogy program will create a web site

Many genealogy programs say they will create a website for you. While this may sound like the easiest way of all to put your genealogy on line, it can be the most difficult, depending on how well your program writes HTML. A genealogy program is, after all, designed to organize your data, and creating web pages is often an afterthought. Before you upload pages generated by a genealogy program, check them out on your own computer. Here are some things to look for:

  1. To work correctly at FreePages, your entry page should be named index.htm or index.html. If your program uses a different file name for the entry page, you will have to rename it, which will require changing all the links back to it from any other page.

    Here is a trick that can save you some work. Make a copy of the program generated entry page and "save as" index.html. Upload this page to your site too. This page will be delivered when your URL is called. When your visitor follows a link to another page, the "Home" link on that page will send him back to the program generated entry page. He'll probably never notice the difference, and none of your links will have to be changed.

  2. In your browser, open two or three different pages that your program has created. View the source code for the page to be sure the links are not written to files on your C:\ drive. These links will not work once you upload to the server. If your program writes these kind of links, you will have to change each and every one manually.

  3. Some programs have trouble with consistency of capitalization between links and file names. The link must match the file name eXacTLy for the browser to be able to find the file online. See Naming Web Page Files.

  4. Some genealogy programs are designed so their output can only be uploaded to the manufacturer's proprietary server. To create your own genealogy website, the program must save the files it creates to your hard drive so you can upload to the server of your choice.

Uploading your files


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