Unmissable and Free Family Tree Software for Linux

Christian Cawley 28-04-2016

You’re researching your family tree, but you need somewhere to log all of your research data. You’ve heard about family tree software, such as Family Tree Maker, but are unsure if it is available for Linux. Well, it’s not – but plenty of alternatives are! If you’re looking for a genealogy program for Linux, start with these suggestions.


Desktop vs Online

Now it’s possible that you know a bit about genealogy research, and believe that desktop software for managing family tree data is becoming slightly anachronistic. In a world where the most famous genealogy website,, recently gave up development of the popular, 27-year-old Family Tree Maker to Software MacKiev, it seems likely that Windows and Mac users have a few more years of this desktop app yet.

So while it might be easier to manage your family tree online with Ancestry’s web-based interface or its mobile apps, having a desktop suite that is easily updateable and always accessible is a massive advantage.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at what genealogy apps are available for Linux.

GRAMPS – Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System

Probably the most widely-used genealogy tool for Linux, GRAMPS has affine reputation and a wide set of features. It features GEDCOM import support and reports can be created in AbiWord Abiword Is the Best Free Lightweight Word Processor Get a lightweight but not underpowered word processor. If you need a program compatible with a wide variety of file formats, Abiword might be the right fit for you. It's not as powerful as Microsoft... Read More and OpenOffice/LibreOffice Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More formats. Various custom features can also be applied, from focusing on specific details to omitting details of living individuals.

Family trees can be navigated via nine views, and the database features revision control. Barely a family tree has been created that didn’t feature a few errors, so this helps to manage errors.


With multiple language support, GRAMPS also has support for conversion between Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew, French republican, Persian and Islamic calendars.

In short, this is a great piece of software that you won’t look back from. Add it to your system with:

sudo apt-get install gramps

GRAMPS can be launched from the GUI, or by entering:


in the command line. GRAMPS is also available for Mac OS X and Windows.



A popular alternative to GRAMPS, LifeLines dates back to the 1990s, and true to its legacy, is a text-based family genealogical database application, which runs in Terminal. It’s always a good thing to learn how to use the Terminal 4 Ways to Teach Yourself Terminal Commands in Linux If you want to become a true Linux master, having some terminal knowledge is a good idea. Here methods you can use to start teaching yourself. Read More more!


With no realistic limits on the number of records (up to 100,000), or information that can be stored within, LifeLine is a more hands-on approach to genealogy software, with a programming subsystem provided for the development of reports and charts, and database queries.

Everything created in LifeLines is natively in GEDCOM format, which makes LifeLines a great secondary tool if the reports in your existing family tree software aren’t delivering the information you want. You can install LifeLines with:

sudo apt-get install lifelines

Run it with:


Versions of LifeLines are also available for FreeBSD, as well as Windows and Mac OS X.

The Importance of GEDCOM Files

You’ll have noticed a few mentions of “GEDCOM” above. This is an acronym (Genealogical Data Communication) for a plain-text database specification developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As it is plain-text, it can be opened in text editors Making The Best Text Editor Better: 7 Great Sublime Text Packages Read More .

If the genealogy software you’re using has GEDCOM support, it means that the application can import and export data from other genealogy suites that have saved data in GEDCOM format. This can prove extremely useful in the event of migrating from one computing platform to another (such as from Windows to Linux), as it means that your family tree research will remain available on your new operating system.


You’ll find more information about GEDCOM in our guide to researching your family tree online Research Your Family Tree Online Various specialist software tools are available to help you to map your family tree and there are websites available that can help you out with everything from census results to finding graves. Read More .

Web-Based Genealogy Tools

It’s possible that you’re happier using web-based genealogy tools than a dedicated suite. Fortunately, several are available, and because they’re online, they’re also cross-platform, which means you can employ the same tools that you might use on a Windows or Mac PC.

Probably the most obvious place to start, the browser-based genealogy research experience offered by this site is unparalleled.

Unmissable and Free Family Tree Software for Linux Family Tree image1

You’ve probably used it in your research, hoping to find evidence of your lineage from wartime records, travel manifests, or simply census results. Alongside this vast archive of searchable data, however, is a browser-based family tree database tool. If you don’t need your data to be stored on your PC, and are spending a lot of time using Ancestry’s archive, it makes sense to use their web-based family tree software too.

Family Echo

As an alternative to Ancestry, why not consider Family Echo, a web-based family tree database management tool? After creating an account, you can import a GEDCOM file, and begin managing the family tree in your browser window.

While this isn’t as powerful as Ancestry’s family tree management option, biographical data can be added and there is also a sharing facility. If the bells and whistles of the feature-packed Ancestry prove distracting, Family Echo is a welcome antidote.

Looking for a simpler way of generating a family tree? Try one of these family tree templates for Word and Excel The Best Free Family Tree Templates for Microsoft Word and Excel Researching your family tree can be an interesting project. Start with these family tree templates for Microsoft Word and Excel. Read More .

Image Credit: family tree by tomertu via Shutterstock

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  1. David
    May 1, 2016 at 3:40 am


    There is also a tool called ancestris which is cross platform

    • Christian Cawley
      May 1, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Good suggestion, thanks David!

  2. Clint Norwood
    April 28, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I have found wikitree to be the most accurate genealogy website. And it's free.
    The moderators and volunteers at wikitree are very diligent about keeping the records clean and verifiable.
    Ancestry is good for research and document retrieval but the accuracy of a lot of the family trees leave a lot to be desired.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks Clint, I'll take a look at that.

      Do you get the feeling that many Ancestry trees are "thrown" together with little research beyond part read census data?

      • Philip G. Parker
        April 25, 2017 at 5:52 pm

        Christian, Too many people on Ancestry use it as a quick and dirty way to grow their tree. I much prefer documentation. I do look for more people, but I also discern if it's possible or not. Basically, I just use it for the documents that I can't get otherwise. Just because you grab someone else's people, does not mean that it is correct, you still have to do your OWN research.
        Okay, I'm off my soap box. LOL

        • Christian Cawley
          April 25, 2017 at 8:48 pm

          I agree. I preferred the old days when people would find connections via the rootsweb BB.

          Of course, when I first started researching my family tree, the internet only existed in universities and research institutions... very different back then!

        • Suzanne
          June 6, 2017 at 5:02 am

          Those who don't like seeing inaccurate trees just have to stick with hunting for facts in Ancestry's databases of facts and ignore the trees altogether.
          If however you are willing to network with tree owners then you can find out amazing stories and educate each other along the way. Make a friend of tree owners ad you will find they will in turn send you information when you least expect it even if you are not actually related. They just like to help out a friend.
          Rootsweb was a brilliant site but there was just as much poor information posted there, its just that folk could write that they thought it was right/dubious/challenging whereas family trees do not allow you that grace.
          Good to read of LInux family history programs. I like learning about various OS and how they can be used for family history so I can share with others. Thanks for comments too.

        • Christian Cawley
          June 8, 2017 at 8:41 am

          Thanks Suzanne, pleased you found it useful!