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When we’re kids, we learn stories of the past from our grandparents, often involving their parents and grandparents. How many of you remember those stories? What about the names of the people involved? Those of you with your hands up, are you into genealogy?

I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, and I just love this program, GRAMPS. GRAMPS stands for “Genealogical Research & Analysis Management Programming System.” That’s a mouthful, though, so it’s GRAMPS. GRAMPS is available for Linux, Windows, OSX, BSD, and Solaris, but the Linux versions are generally the most up-to-date. If you’re using one of the other OSes, there is a live CD Put your Linux Distro on a Live CD Put your Linux Distro on a Live CD Read More available.

If you’re a genealogy enthusiast and you’ve used software to track your records before, you’re probably familiar with the GEDCOM format. The thing I loved about GRAMPS to begin with was that it worked directly with the GEDCOM. Nowadays it does have its own format available, but it can still use the GEDCOM directly. It also automatically backs up the file when you save, so if you screw up royally, you have a checkpoint.

As with any genealogy program, you can enter names, dates, places, etc. One of the features I like is that you can set the quality of the dates to regular, estimated, or calculated and also include that it was before, after, or about a certain time. I find this useful when I’m going through census records and figuring out “So she was 20 in May 1873, meaning she was either born in early 1853 or late 1852″¦” since I can’t really be properly accurate without something like a birth certificate. You can also create an event, like a ship arriving at port, just once and link multiple people to it. The list of events you can choose is extensive. There are definitely more options than what I recall Personal Ancestry File having and if you find yourself thinking, “wow James and Joseph sure named their kids a lot of similar na””oh”¦they’re the same person”¦crap,” there’s a tool to merge people as well.

Of course, GRAMPS allows you to store media attached to the people and events. By “media,” I do not simply mean photos. Videos, audio clips, and scanned documents are all options. So, even if you do spend a lot of time transcribing some old form, you can have the original there. Many people take issue with using just transcriptions because of the possibility for error in transcribing. If a scan of the original document is attached, however, you have a verifiable record available and yes, one photo of many people can be attached to all of them.

Speaking of verifiability, it is extremely important to cite your sources when doing genealogical research. GRAMPS provides for this, as well. There are two tabs on the left marked ‘Sources’ and ‘Repositories’. These two are meant to work together. Everything you reference goes into a source. The sources then go in a repository. If you looked at a bunch of old newspaper clippings and records in the library, the library would be your data repository. A church’s collection of family records would be another repository, with each baptism certificate they’ve got on hand being a source. Since headstones are great sources for birth and death dates, cemeteries also qualify as repositories.


Henry VIII Relationship view

Shown above is part of Henry VIII’s relationship view. As you can see, one generation backwards and forwards is displayed for the person in focus (Henry VIII). The person can be removed from any of the families listed by clicking the minus sign, and the families can be edited with the pencil & paper button. Clicking any of the people brings them into focus in that view. Each person’s birth date and location, death date and location, and gender is shown with their name if it is available.

full list of available reports

There is a vast array of reports available to be generated by GRAMPS. By far my favorite is the fan chart. I once showed one of my family to a professional genealogist friend, and she said she’d need to check out Linux again. This was before I knew about GRAMPS for Windows, if it even existed at the time. Ahnentafel reports are highly-detailed reports of a person and his or her descendants. Large, multi-page charts are possible as well. The option to create a full book out of the data is a nice one, for example as something to give out at a family reunion. Plus as we are in a web-based world, I figure I ought to mention that it can generate websites.

Example fan chart

It’d be impossible to cover all of the features found in GRAMPS, or show examples of the many charts it can generate, so just give it a try yourself. If you’ve used GRAMPS before, what did you think? Got any other open source genealogy apps to recommend?

GEDCOM for Tudor family found here.

(By) Mackenzie is a college student who likes to promote Linux and Free/Libre Software. Most of her free time is spent on the computer, helping new users, or hanging out with some of the friends she’s made in the Linux community. Check out her blog, Ubuntu Linux Tips & Tricks.

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