Put Your Genealogy on the Web
Dick Eastman June 2002
One of the best
methods of obtaining assistance with your genealogy research is to place
your database on the World Wide Web where everyone can see it. Other Web
users will use search engines or other techniques to find their ancestors.
If they find matching information in your database, many of them will
contact you for further details. In this manner, you can find distant
cousins, most of whom are willing to share data and research efforts with
data on the Web is easy. In fact, there are so many ways of doing it that
perhaps the toughest part of the job is deciding which method to use. You
can add your data to one of the large shared databases operated by major
genealogy information providers. Another method is to place your
information on a personal Web page that you have available. You will also
want to decide which information to place online, as not everything in
your personal database is appropriate for public viewing.
consider the several large databases that collect information from
thousands of people and then share the data. The more popular services
include Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, OneGreatFamily.com, Genealogy.com,
MyTrees.com and, to some extent, FamilySearch.org.
(the sponsor of this newsletter) operates the Ancestry World Tree. This
online database contains more than 200 million names in family trees
submitted by Ancestry.com users. The Ancestry World Tree is free of
charge; you do not need to be a paid subscriber to use it. In addition,
anyone on the Internet can search all the information on the Ancestry
World Tree without
There are three
methods of entering data into the Ancestry World Tree:
the data into an entry form at:
GEDCOM file that you created with your genealogy program. Almost all
modern genealogy programs will create GEDCOM files, so you can use any of
these programs on your PC or Macintosh with the Ancestry Family Tree. See
my explanation of GEDCOM files at:
Ancestry.com's own Windows genealogy program, Ancestry Family Tree. You
can enter your data into this free, full-featured program, and it will
automatically upload your data to the Ancestry Family Tree with just a few
mouseclicks. See my reviews of this free program at
point is that you always own your data on Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com
allows you to update or delete your family tree at any time. Also note
that you will never find your data included on CD-ROMs or on any other
form of data sold by Ancestry.com for a fee. Next, anyone who views your
data will also see your e-mail address so that they can contact you
information about the Ancestry World Tree, look at:
is a separate service that is also owned by Ancestry.com. RootsWeb
operates the WorldConnect Project, which is somewhat similar to the
Ancestry World Tree. The WorldConnect Project is free of charge to all
users. Information from the WorldConnect Project is never sold on CD-ROM,
and no subscription fees are ever charged for the online service.
WorldConnect Project there is only one method of adding your data to the
database: uploading a GEDCOM file. Almost all modern genealogy programs
will create GEDCOM files, so you can use any of these programs on your PC
or Macintosh with the
Your data is
not merged into one big file. Instead, your data remains in a separate
GEDCOM file bearing your name. Anyone else who searches the site looking
for ancestors is actually searching
thousands of GEDCOM files.
The data you
contribute to the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project remains under your
control. You can add, modify, or delete the information ay any time. To
update or correct information for a
GEDCOM that you
have previously submitted to WorldConnect, you simply revise the data in
your genealogy file and create a new GEDCOM file. By using the same user
code and password that you used originally to upload the new file, you
overwrite the old file with the new one. Here, too, anyone who views your
data will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you
directly for additional information.
information about RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project, look
OneGreatFamily.com is a somewhat different service from those
described previously. Data that you contribute to OneGreatFamily.com is
merged into "one great database." This collaborative effort then becomes
visible to all other OneGreatFamily.com subscribers. The software on
OneGreatFamily.com attempts to identify people in your database that are
already listed online and merge those individuals together, all under your
control. As a result, your data is added to that of thousands of others,
resulting in one huge database.
OneGreatFamily.com, you can enter the data manually on their Web pages or
you can upload a GEDCOM file created by your present Windows or Macintosh
genealogy program. OneGreatFamily.com then becomes, in effect, your
genealogy program. You can navigate through your data and the data of
other people in much the same manner as you navigate through any genealogy
program. The only significant difference is that you are online and
looking at data
in a remote
database, not data on your own hard drive.
OneGreatFamily.com allows you to control your own data. You can add more
information, edit existing individuals, or delete information at any time.
Your data is never sold to others on CD-
However, access to your online data is restricted to paid subscribers of
OneGreatFamily.com. Once again, anyone who views your data on this site
will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you directly
for additional information.
OneGreatFamily.com is a commercial service that costs $74.95 (U.S.funds)
per year to use. The company offers a 7-day free trial at
information about OneGreatFamily.com, look at:
Genealogy.com is the company that creates and sells Family Tree Maker,
one of the most popular genealogy programs in the world. The same company
also operates the World Family Tree, another huge database contributed by
users. This database currently contains more than 138 million names and
200,000 family trees, according to information currently on their Web
site. The information can be accessed online as well as on CD-ROM disks
that Genealogy.com sells separately for $19.99 each. Whenever subscribers
submit enough new data to fill a CD-ROM disk, Genealogy.com creates a new
"collection" and offers it on a new CD-ROM. At the time this article was
written, the Genealogy.com Web site listed 94 CD-ROM disks of World Family
World Family Tree is open to subscribers only. Non-subscribers can search
the database, but the only information supplied to a non-subscriber is
that a given name does appear in
the database or
on CD-ROM. To obtain all the details, one must either subscribe to the
site or purchase the CD-ROM (or CD-ROMs) that contain the sought-after
name. A monthly subscription costs $9.99, and an annual subscription is
$49.99 (U.S. funds). Given the likelihood of a name appearing on multiple
CD-ROMs, the subscription would seem to be the more cost-effective choice
for those who wish to use the World Family Tree.
Family Tree has a couple of subtle differences from some of the other
databases. Unlike the other online databases, the contact information of
the submitter is not easily available online or on CD. If you wish to
contact the person who submitted the information, you must send a request
to Genealogy.com asking for the name and contact information of submitter.
The easy method of doing this is to use the online World Family Tree
Contributor Contact Information Service. This free service is provided for
those who have purchased a World Family Tree CD or an online subscription.
The Contributor Contact Information Service will then send you the name
and address of a submitter.
difference is that erroneous information is not easily corrected. To be
sure, you can submit a new file with corrected information; however, this
file does not automatically replace the earlier file. As stated on the
Genealogy.com Web site, "So that we may efficiently update the entire
World Family Tree at once, we encourage you to wait to send us your
updates until we send you an update request letter. If you don't want to
wait to send in an update, we will store it for you, but you will still
have to wait for the update to appear in an upcoming volume."
information about the World Family Tree, look at:
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/wftonline/. You probably
will also want to read the legal language at
submitting your data.
is the online database operated by Kindred Konnections. It is similar to
the other databases already described but with a few significant
differences. While the bulk of the material available online is derived
from information submitted by customers, MyTrees also contains 10 million
extracted records from a variety of sources.
You upload your
data to MyTrees.com via a GEDCOM file. The contributor controls
information on the service and can upload corrections at any time. Almost
all the data at MyTrees.com is
displayed in a
single pedigree-linked format. This allows you to quickly cut and paste
this data into your personal family history database. You just select the
download button on any pedigree screen, and the data can be merged
directly into your personal database, both on-line and on your home
also a subscription database. Again, a non- subscriber can check to see if
a name exists. However, to obtain the details, a user ID and password is
required. The company does,
free access to the MyTrees.com subscription services to those who help
with an on-line data extraction project. Volunteers who extract birth,
marriage, death, census, and other records are paid in free time on the
The data you
enter on MyTrees.com remains under your control. You can add, edit, or
delete data later if you wish. Access to your data is restricted to online
subscribers; it is never sold on CD- ROM disks. Finally, anyone who views
your data will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you
directly for additional information.
information about the many services of MyTrees.com, look at:
FamilySearch.org is the well-known genealogy Web site operated by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the
Mormons. The Family History Department of the Church maintains a number of
genealogy databases. The different databases contain information obtained
from different sources. The database that contains information contributed
by users is called the Pedigree Resource File.
encouraged to submit a GEDCOM file for inclusion in a future Pedigree
Resource File. In fact, you can upload the GEDCOM file directly on the
FamilySearch.org Web site. A copy of your GEDCOM file will be placed in
the Granite Mountain Records Vault, located near Salt Lake City, Utah, for
preservation. Unlike some of the other services, your data is not
instantly added to an online database. Instead, it is scheduled for
inclusion in the next update, which might be several months in the future.
A copy of your
GEDCOM file may be published in a CD-ROM product called Pedigree Resource
File. Pedigree Resource File is now available for purchase at near cost.
An index of the current
Resource File may be made available for searching on FamilySearch
Internet. However, note that the online version is only an index. The full
content of the GEDCOM files (pedigrees,
and so on) is not available on FamilySearch.org at the current time. For
full information, you must use the CD-ROM version.
The above is a
list of the more popular genealogy database sites. However, some people
will prefer to place their information on personal Web pages, either in
lieu of the above services or in addition to the above. It is not unusual
for someone to upload data onto multiple online data services as well as
onto his or her own personal Web site.
You can obtain
your own personal Web site from a number of places at little to no cost.
Many Internet service providers allow their customers space on Web servers
at no additional charge. AOL is obviously the largest such provider; every
AOL member can create a free personal Web page on AOL's servers. Many
other Internet providers do the same.
possibility, you can find a number of free Web page providers. These
services will allow you to upload your Web pages onto their site at no
charge. These companies derive revenue from selling advertising space on
your Web pages, often in the form of obnoxious "pop-up ads." Free Web
space providers include Angelfire, GeoCities, Graffiti, Netscape and
Tripod. You can find
list of free Web space providers at
exception to the obnoxious advertising is RootsWeb. RootsWeb will provide
free website space to users who request an account and whose intended use
fits within the company's mission (no personal photo albums, games, fan
sites, video files of any type, music files, etc.) While commercial
advertising banners will appear at the top and at the bottom of each Web
page, there are no pop-up ads or other intrusive advertising on RootsWeb.
There may also be a psychological advantage to having your genealogy home
page hosted on a major genealogy provider's servers. You can learn more
about the RootsWeb free hosting service at
can always purchase space on any of hundreds of Web hosting services. By
spending a few dollars, you can purchase Web space that does not contain
advertising. Prices for your own hosted Web pages without advertising
start at about $8.00 a month and go upward, depending upon the options
selected. Most genealogy Web pages have no need for the extra-cost
Of course, if
you have a personal home page hosted on either a free or a commercial
service, you need to place information on that page in HTML format. HTML,
or Hypertext Markup Language, is the language of Web pages. You will need
to create your Web pages using an HTML editor of some sort. Not everyone
is a Web guru and conversant with HTML programming.
every modern genealogy program is capable of directly generating HTML
files. You can use your present program to create HTML files and then
upload the results to your personal home page. Of course, you could also
modify the HTML files with almost any HTML editor in order to
"personalize" the files before uploading. The popular genealogy programs
that will create HTML files for you include: Legacy (a free Windows
program), Personal Ancestral File (a free Windows program), Family
Origins, The Master Genealogist, Ancestral Quest, and more. Family Tree
Maker will also create Web publishing files but only in a format that is
suitable for uploading to Genealogy.com's Web site. Family Tree Maker
users who wish to place data on another Web server can use one of the
GEDCOM-to_HTML utilities listed later, however.
For those who
either can't use the above programs or choose not to use them, there are
several utilities that will convert your GEDCOM file to HTML. If your
present genealogy program will not generate HTML files or if you do not
care for the "look and feel" of the files generated, you can always create
a GEDCOM file and then use one of the GEDCOM-to-HTML file converters. You
can use the resultant HTML file as is or even modify it a bit as you wish.
You then upload the HTML files to your personal Web page. Here is a
partial list of the GEDCOM-to-HTML converters:
http://home.nordnet.fr/~jbfahy/ged2wwwe.htm (free program)
* GED2WWW at
http://www.lesandchris.com/ged2www (a free program)
at http://www.misbach.org (a
* GEDpage at
* GenoPro at
Sparrowhawk for Macintosh at
program for Macintosh)
consideration is perhaps the most important of all: What information do
you want to place on the Web?
You need to
protect the privacy of living individuals. In some countries there are
laws about publishing private information that is less than 100 years old.
In addition, there may be other information that you want to keep
confidential. Perhaps some of your relatives do not want their personal
information or even information about their immediate ancestors placed on
of people will have easy access. You need to respect the concerns of
that the information that you place online is available to everyone. That
is both a good thing and a bad thing. While you want to reach others who
can help, keep in mind that others can use your information themselves. It
is common for people to download data from the Web, insert it into their
own genealogy work, and then upload the results elsewhere without
attributing the sources of their information. Some people may claim that
such plagiarism is a violation of copyrights. However, even if true,
enforcing your claim of copyright is almost impossible.
If you do not
want others to use your data as they see fit, you might not want to place
it online. Then again, the data you have collected probably came from
public domain sources anyway, so I would suggest that there is no reason
to keep it private. The choice is yours to make.
I will tell you
what I do. I do not place any information online that is less than one
hundred years old. I don't even mention the names of anyone born in the
past one hundred years. I also deleted one birth record that involved an
unwed mother about 125 years ago. Somehow, I don't feel "right" publishing
that information for the entire world to see. The simple fact that my
great-aunt was an unwed mother doesn't bother me, but I suspect that some
of the other descendants in this staunchly Catholic family might not
I also accept
the fact that others may copy my information and use it in ways that I do
not approve of. Since 99.9% of my information was obtained from public
domain sources, I don't worry about whether or not someone obtained data
from me or from some other source. Sure, it would be nice if they first
asked my permission, but I recognize that not everyone will.
The method of
"filtering" your information to keep some information private is easy.
First, make a copy of the family tree that you plan to publish online.
Then delete the information from that copy that you don't want to share
with others. Most modern genealogy programs have the capability to
automatically exclude information about living individuals when creating
GEDCOM files or HTML files. Make sure that your program has such an
option, and then make sure that you use it. Next, manually go into the
database copy, and delete any information that might be of concern to you
or to others. Once you are sure you have deleted all the information that
you do not want published, upload that copy to the online service or
personal home page.
I hope this
gives you some ideas about publishing your genealogy information on the
Web. Even with the minor concerns about privacy, publishing 100-year-old
or older information about your ancestors can contribute to someone else's
research efforts. Best of all, they may contact you and offer information
that you do not yet have.
The previous article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is
copyright 2002 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the
permission of the author.