Howto: Make a relationship chart

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Revision as of 23:00, 8 July 2008 by Erikdr (Talk | contribs) (What are filters?)

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This is a Howto on how to make a relationship chart (can be ancestors, descendants, ...) with GRAMPS 2.2.x. and the Relationship plugin.
An example chart

The report is made with the graphviz backend, so you need to install graphviz (on linux, use your package manager).

Before you start

GRAMPS can produce charts, but to view them, you need other programs. We recommend that you install the following:

Filters: what persons to print ?

What are filters?

In GRAMPS you can define filters to make a selection of individuals, see Examples of filters. In the relationship chart all custom person filters you made will be available, as well as the standard descendants and ancestors filters. These last start from the active person.


You can add to a family stepchildren by setting the relationship of the child to the mother to step child. In doing so, these children will be part of a descendant report without the need to create a custom filter to include them.

How many people ?

Your filter can contain as many people as you want. Note however that printing or viewing of large charts can be very problematic.

Example 1-A: a descendant chart

A descendant chart, click for details

Download example.gramps, on this page use the Download link, create a new database in GRAMPS called example.grdb, and import the example.gramps data into it.

If not the case, set the active person to Garner, Lewis Anderson.

To make a descendant chart with the relationship report, choose the menu item Reports -> Graphical reports -> Relationship graph...

In the dialog, set the format to .png and chose the following in the tabs available:

  1. Paper Options -> Size : Custom Size (Set width and height to 10000 cm, or some other large value)
  2. Report Options -> Filter: Ancestors of Garner, Lewis Andersson
  3. Layout optons -> Aspect ratio: minimal size

(I sometimes experience problems setting the sizes in the Paper options dialog. A workaround is to use the example using graphviz code in example 3 below.)

The result (using gramps 2.2.7) can be seen to the right. You can use print this on a dedicated printer (check dpi of png!), or you can use this image on a website to share. In the last case, you can use the trick explained in Make flash plugin from a png, to make the resulting graph easier to navigate.

In the image you see males in blue, females in pink and the yellow balloons indicate a family node in which a marriage date is printed (if known). You can select not to see this family node by deselecting in the Graphviz Options tab the option Show family nodes.

Example 1-B: a chart with ancestors

An ancestor chart. For the detailed image, click here (853kb!)

Download and open the example.gramps file as in Example 1 Set Warner, Carl Thomas to be the active person.

Repeat the process in Example 1-a, but choose the filter Ancestors of Warner, Carl Thomas this time.

You can see the result to the right. This is already an extremely large graph. It can only be readily viewed in a good image viewer. For printing you need to resort to printing on several pages, or you need access to a large plotter.

Example 2: A chart with ancestors, descendants and their families

Note: This example uses filters. See Example filters for an introductory example. Open the file example.gramps and select Cristiansen, Frances as the active person.

First we create a helper filter: Open the filter editor and create a new filter, called Frances1. The filter should contain the rules

  • Ancestors of <person> choose Christiansen, Frances and check inclusive.
  • Descendants of <person> chose Christiansen, Frances

Make sure that "At least one rule must be fulfilled" is chosen, so that we get both ancestors and descendants!

A large chart. For the detailed image, click here (363kb!)

Now we create the filter we will actually use for the report. It will be based on the previous filter: Create a new filter, called Frances2. This filter should contain the rules:

  • People matching the filter, choose Frances1
  • Parents of filter Frances1
  • Siblings of filter Frances1
  • Spouses of filter Frances1

Now close the filter editor, and follow the instructions given in Examples 1a and 1b, but this time choosing the filter Frances2 in the Report Options tab. The result is visible to the right (363kb, large file !)

Example 3, Generating the graph by using the Graphviz command line tool

Note: The current stable version of Graphviz (v2.12) has a bug. In order to correctly display the family nodes (yellow balloons), all occurrences of the word ellipse should be changed to egg (see bug report 1078).

Preparation with GRAMPS

Use this only as a way to work around problems like setting the paper size.

In the menu, select Reports -> Code Generators -> Relationship graph.

Choose the filter you want to use, and set also as many of the other options as possible to the desired values (as explained in Example 1-A), but the format should be "Graphviz (dot)". Click Ok. You should now have a file of type ".dot". This file is a text file, so it can be opened in any text-editor.

Manual changes

The dot file is a text file with a well explained structure, for extra info:

You can optimize the layout by making changes in the file.

  • For paper size, look around line 36-37 for two lines that define the "page" (paper size) and "size" (area of paper to use), and change these to some large values. This is important as otherwise the figure will be wrongly scaled giving bad picture quality (eg unreadable text).
  • You can also change the font by adding a font family. Look for the lines
node [style=filled fontsize="12"];
and change that into eg
node [style=filled fontsize="12" fontname="Sans"];
to use the Sans font. On the command line you will see which ttf font Graphviz finds on your PC (using the verbose flag, see below).

Generation of the Image

Save the modified file under the name, and run the command

dot -Tpng -oreport.png

This should use the graphviz "dot" tool to generate the .png file containing the report.

To see information messages (like font) use the -v flag. You can also output other image formats, eg, for jpeg with verbose output:

dot -Tjpg -oreport.jpg -v


  • If you encounter bad fonts (missing characters) or wrong fontsizes, see Example 3 on how you can set the font yourself.
  • If you have a bad resolution of png, eg unreadable text, this is probably because you have set a paper size which is to small. See Exampe 1-A: set the papersize of number of pages to a high number, but select in Layout Options, in Aspect ratio: automatically use optimal number pages, or use minimal size

Further cool things to do

  • You can make descendant charts and add them to the media gallery of the person. Like that, the chart is available from the website.
  • offer a chart on your website as a flash relationship graph, enabling zooming, moving, ... over your data or just use SVG for Firefox and Opera, see DenominoViso

Want to help developing ?

If you go through the dot specifications, you will note that more can be done with graphics. If you have programming skills you can add some functionality:

  • add the default picture (planned for GRAMPS 3.0 based on ideas of the Familylines plugin)
  • more/better text in the boxes: what text and how to organize it?
  • coloring. See the Familylines plugin: a color per family, for specific relations, for the central person, ...