Start with Genealogy

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How do I start with Genealogy using Gramps?


If you never did genealogy, the best is to begin with yourself, and adding other people as they connect with you. The most important thing in genealogy is that you record how you found/deduced the information. This is needed as you want

  1. to remember in the future how you found information
  2. create trust with other researchers

So, if you begin with yourself, you are interviewing yourself, which is a primary source on the subject. From this primary source you obtain events such as birth day, baptize day, graduation, ... . The source of the events allows you to deduce a person existed, as part of a family. With this, we have our main terms for genealogy: sources, events, persons and families. Apart from these, Gramps allows you to store Notes, Places, Media (pictures, movies, documents), and Repositories.

So, let's now start with adding information into Gramps.

Create a Family Tree

As a first step, in the toolbar click on the family tree icon to open the family tree manager. Create here a new Family Tree, and click on Load to open the family tree. The window of Gramps contains of a menu, a toolbar, a left sidebar allowing you to navigate different view categories into your data, and a view area showing the data. Using the View menu, you can activate in most views a bottom pane and a right sidebar. Let's leave that for later.

Create a Source

As you start with yourself, and the source is the interview with yourself, in the left sidebar called Navigator click on the source icon. In the toolbar click on Add (or CTRL+INSERT on the keyboard) to open the source editor.

Assuming your name is John Doe, you now make a source for the interview with yourself! So enter:

  • Title: Interview with John Doe
  • Author: John Doe

And click on OK.

That is it, your first source. In the source view you will see Gramps added an ID to your source. You can change the format of this ID in Edit->Preferences->ID Formats.

Before continuing, let's show how to change the interface. In the toolbar of Gramps, the last icon is the Configure View, so click it to see how you can adapt the view. Activate the 'Last Changed' Column and by dragging, change eg Author to be the second column. Most views have this configuration option, so change these to your liking!

Add data to the source

Continue with adding some more data to the source, so double click it (or press ENTER) to open the source 'Interview with John Doe', and have a look at the tab pages at the bottom of the source editor: Notes, Gallery, Data, Repositories, References. Surely you have a picture of yourself? Let's add it to the Gallery of this source.

Before you begin, know that Gramps does not store your media, it only stores a link to where the media is on your hard disk. So decide where you will store your pictures, documents, and in the menu Edit->Preferences->General set the value of Base path for relative media paths to this directory. Keep your media documents well structured in this directory.

So, once this directory is set well, in the source editor, click on the Gallery tab, and then on the little Add icon. This opens a selection dialog to select the image of yourself. At the bottom of this dialog, set a nice title 'Picture of John Doe', and make sure you select 'Convert to a relative path'. Press OK. You will now see the Media Reference Editor. The top of this dialog allows to select a region of the picture, eg when you have a selected a group photo, it makes sense to indicate who on the photo is John Doe. You can use the mouse in the preview picture to select the part of the picture of interest (click down is corner 1 and click for release is corner 2). Click OK to save the image and go back to the source editor you where working on.

Suppose you have a typed out text of the interview. In that case you can add the word document in the Gallery, but you can also store the text as a Note in Gramps. The good thing of a note is that Gramps can search the text of notes with filters. So, click on the Notes tab, click the add icon, and you see you are presented with a basic editor to type text.

When finished, press OK on the source editor, and your source 'Interview with John Doe' now has also a note and picture.

To see these, you would have to open the editor again. However, Gramps has a bottom pane that can show you information on the selected entry in the source view. For that, activate in the menu View the Bottombar. You will see a number of tabs which allow to show information. The elements showing information are called Gramplets in Gramps. They are small plugins that can perform all kinds of tasks. You can add one to the bottombar by using left-click with the mouse on the bottombar top part.

Time for your first Person

So much done, and not yet one single person is present in your family tree! Time to change that. Let's add yourself. As all information you will add comes from the source 'Interview with John Doe', we first store this in an easy to reach place. In the toolbar click on the Clipboard icon to open the clipboard. Select in the source view the source 'Interview with John Doe', and drop it in the Clipboard.

In the navigator, click on the Person icon to see the person view. Note that in the toolbar there is pressed in button indicating the type of person view you have activated. Try the other possibility once to see what changes. Many Categories in the navigator have more than one view!

Click now on the Add button to add your first person. You now see the person editor, and the top part of this should be what you expect: all information about the name of this person. So, type in your given name, and your surname. If you are eg. Spanish and have a very long surname, then click on the 'Add' icon after the surname to enter multiple surnames. See the manual for more details.

As you enter data, you need to add where you obtained this data. For this, drag the source you stored in the clipboard, to the Sources tab of the Person Editor. This will open up the 'Source Reference Editor'. The bottom part of this editor is the same source as already entered, but the top part is new, and contains the data on how the information of the person was found in this source and how certain you are of it. For this interview you can set Confidence to Very High.

You already have a picture of yourself, as you added it to the source. You can now add this same picture to this Person record you are creating. For this, click on the Gallery tab of the person editor, and click on the Share button. This will open a list of all media objects. Select the one you made earlier and click OK to store everything. You could also have used the clipboard: or by adding the picture there from the media view, or by adding the media reference in the clipboard by dragging it from the gallery of an object to the clipboard, and then using it from there where you need it.

Save everything by clicking OK until you see the main Gramps view again.


Next, you will want to add your birthday. For this, open the person editor of yourself, and note that in the bottom the Events tab is open. Click on the Add icon to add an event. Gramps preselects birth event for the first event that you want to add. Enter the required information, and if you know the place where you where born, click on the Add icon after the Place entry to create this place. For places, try to add latitude and longitude as that allows to show information on a map later.

Note that the editor that has opened is the Event Reference Editor. This means that there is a global part that you can share with other people (the bottom of the editor), and a top part which is unique to the person. This top part is used to enter the Role of the person in the event. In your own birth, you have the primary role. If you know the name of people helping in the birth, and you want to store these people also, you can share this event with them, with a Role of Aide. You can type a custom role in the Role field if you are not happy with the predefined possibilities.

Again, add a source to the event via the Sources tab, like you did before. As you have no real recollection of your own birth, the interview should not have confidence 'Very High'! You would need to add a birth document as source for that.

When done, click OK to save the event, and then again to safe the person, and you have your first full person record.


You now have entered yourself, time to add your parents. You could add your father and mother as you added yourself, and then connect them in a family, but most people will do things in one go via the Relationship View or one of the Pedigree View. Let's go to the Relationship view: select yourself in the person view, and then in the navigator, select the relationship view. This view has a toolbar that allows to add parents or to add a spouse. Click on the Add parents icon to open the family editor.

In the family editor you will see that you are present in the Template:Man labels tab. Use the Add icon next to father and mother to add them as you have added yourself. Use the Add icon in the Children tab to add your siblings. You need to use drag and drop to sort siblings in the order as you want them to appear in reports (normally oldest to youngest I suppose).

In the family editor you can also add events. We call these family events as they are shared by the two parents. Typically this is Engagement, Marriage, .... In these the Role is 'Family'. It is not needed to add these events also individually to the two parents!

When done, click OK to safe the family, and you will return to the relationship view with all the extra information visible. From within this view you can navigate to other people and keep enlarging your family tree.

A report

Now that you have a first small family tree, make a report. Go to the oldest grandparent you have in the relationship view or the person view (you can set bookmarks on people and set a home person!). With this person selected, go in the menu Reports->Text Reports->Detailed descendant report, to create a nice textual descendant report.

What next?

Gramps has many features, as you improve, take the time to go over the manual and learn more. Use the mailing list to discuss issues.

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