Gramps 3.4 Wiki Manual - Getting started

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In this chapter, we'll begin with the basics. First, we'll describe the basic concepts in Gramps. Then, we'll show you how to start Gramps and how to get help when you need it.

Overview of Gramps

Gramps is designed to be a flexible and powerful genealogy tool. Because of this power and flexibility, it helps to get an idea of how Gramps works before jumping into how to use the Gramps program.

Gramps breaks all genealogy information into 9 primary items:

  • People
  • Families
  • Events
  • Notes
  • Media
  • Citations
  • Sources
  • Places
  • Repositories

Each of these is composed of stand-alone items. That means that you can enter into your family tree one item at a time, and in any order that you want. For example, you might want to enter each Person item first, and then connect them together by creating Family items later. Or, you might start with Source items, and only create a Person item as your research warrants it. Or, you can mix these styles of entering data by adding some Note and Source items, then Family items, then later return to Notes and Sources. In a word, you do your genealogical research however you wish.


These 9 primary items are connected in a number of ways. Some of these connections are maintained implicitly. For example, adding a Person item to a Family item as a parent, or child, automatically creates a special connection, called a Reference. You can see the Families a Person is connected to in the References tab on the main Person window. There are many other ways that these connections are also visualized in Gramps, including the Relationship View.

To keep from repeating information, Gramps allows you to reuse, or share, items. These are also special connections, called links. For example, a Person item can be linked to any number of Note items. If a note mentions two separate people, then it might make sense to share that single note with both of the person items.

Some links have information themselves. For example, you can link a person to another couple's marriage event, say, because the person was a witness at their wedding. However, the husband and wife are linked to the marriage event in a primary role, whereas a witness fills a different role, e.g. as a witness. This type of information is kept on the link itself, in the role property.


Gramps supports two different methods to protect the privacy of sensitive data in your family tree. These methods are used when sharing your data with others, either through the creation of a report, exporting of data, or through the creation of a website. The first method protects information on people who Gramps believes are alive. If you have not specifically indicated that a person is dead (by adding a Death Event to a Person item), then Gramps has a sophisticated, automatic function for determining if someone is alive. Living people have their sensitive data redacted when using this method. For example, a person named "Smith, John" could appear as "Smith, [Living]".

The second privacy method is an explicit "private" flag which you can set on each item. For example, you might have sensitive, personal information in a note. If you mark such a note as private, then that note will not be shown in textual and narrative reports or exports. Also be aware that some links themselves can be marked private. This is useful when you want to mark the connection from, say, a person to an event as private, but still have the person and the event available in the report, export, or website.

In order to activate these two methods of privacy, you will need to indicate their use when creating some reports or exporting your data.


Gramps derives its core structure of items from a standard called GEDCOM. However, Gramps extends this standard where it has been deemed necessary. If you plan on using your family data with another system which uses GEDCOM, then you probably will want to be try to restrict your use of features that are Gramps-only extensions. On the other hand, if you are not limited by other genealogical software, then you can enter your data in whatever ways make sense to you.

You can read more details about this issue in the section on Gramps and GEDCOM.


Gramps is a powerful, flexible, free, open source program. One can largely use Gramps anyway you wish. There is no one, correct method of working or recording your data. However, if you wish to interact with other researchers or programs, you may have to consider alternative methods.

If you have additional questions, Gramps has a vibrant community of users and developers. There is a FAQ (frequently asked question list); a mailing list; a bug, feature request, and issue tracker; and an on-line chat room.

However, probably the best way to learn Gramps is by working with your data. Let's get started!

Start Gramps

If you installed Gramps via one of the installation packages, an entry for Gramps will have been created in the Application menu. In Linux Gramps is normally installed in the Office section.

Command line use

Like many applications that started on Linux, Gramps allows command line operation, allowing you to create reports, do conversion, ..., without opening a window. Command line use of Gramps can also help to fix problems, as extra information is printed in the terminal window. To start Gramps like this, type in a terminal:

gramps and then pressing Enter.

For more information, see the Command Line appendix.

Choosing a Family Tree

Fig 2.1 Initial window

If Gramps is started without a family tree selected, the initial screen will have little functionality. Most operations will not be available. To load a family tree (also referred to as database), select in the menu Family Trees->Manage Family Trees to open the family tree manager, or click the AncestryFamily Tree icon in the toolbar. Gramps keeps track of your recently opened Family Trees, and these can be selected by clicking on the arrow next to the AncestryFamily Tree button and choosing from the drop down menu.

For more detailed information on the Family Tree manager and the Family Trees menu, see the chapter dedicated to this: Manage Family Trees.

Tell me how to start right now!

We advise everyone to read/go over the manual to learn all the details of Gramps. Genealogy takes time, so learning the tools; is not wasted time.

However, if you really want the bare minimum to start, then read this How-To start with Genealogy using Gramps.

Obtaining Help

Gramps has a Help menu that you can consult at any time. It includes the following menu items:

  • User Manual: Direct link to the online Gramps manual you are viewing right now. Yes, you need an internet connection to consult the Gramps Manual.
  • Tip of the day: Displays the "Tip of the day" dialog.
  • Plugin Manager: From this menu you can manage the plugins you may have added.
  • Gramps Home Page: This item opens your web browser and connects to the Gramps project web site.
  • Gramps Mailing Lists: This item opens your web browser to the Gramps mailing list page. On this page, you can browse the mailing list archives and join the gramps-users mailing list so you can share your experiences with other Gramps user's.
  • Report a Bug: Choose this item to file a bug report in the Gramps bug tracking system. (Remember, Gramps is a living project. We want to know about any problems you encounter so we can work to solve them for you and everyone elses benefit.)
  • About: This item displays a dialog with general information about the Gramps version you are running.

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