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Computer Users' Group

January 17, 2002
Updated October 24, 2010

The Computer Users' Group meeting on Jan 17, 2002 covered the following subjects:

  • Creating an index in Family Tree Maker

  • GEDCOM files; what they are, how to create them and what the tags mean

  • Submitting your GEDCOM to a Genealogy Service

  • Creating your own Home Page

Creating an Index: To create an index in Family Tree Maker you have to create a book. Click on BOOK, NEW and then click on the items in the left pane that you want added to your book. We chose Title Page (you can't get out of it), Ancestor Chart and Index and we filled in a title and author for the Title Page. There is some formatting that can be done by highlighting the Ancestor Chart and then CONTENTS to include the data that you want and the Index can be also formatted to be 1,2 or 3 columns. Then go to FILE, PRINT BOOK and you have a chart with an index.

There is another type of index that will list all members of your database and you can select what is shown about them. Go to VIEW, REPORTS and select CUSTOM. Choose items from the left column and press the arrow to send them to your report. Choosing much more than NAME, BIRTH and DATE, DEATH and DATE and SPOUSE will run off the page. Choose an item and MOVE UP or MOVE DOWN to locate it where you want. It's a great way to show what basic information you have on your ancestors and can serve as a guide to "filling in the holes".

GEDCOM: A GEDCOM file is a text only file that serves to transmit genealogical data or translate it between different programs. The standard is promulgated by the Church of Latter Day Saints and version 5.5 is the latest. The link to the specification in Envoy format is on this page:

You are cautioned that the specification is 106 pages long.

A GEDCOM file can be opened in any word processor but they are usually too long for Notepad but can be opened in Wordpad. Remember that it's text only so if you look at it in a Word Processor be sure to save it as TEXT (txt). Note that a GEDCOM for a 10 page Ancestor Chart could run to nearly 60 pages.

Reading one is not difficult except for the search through all of the text to find the appropriate identification numbers. Basically, the number in front of each line is the indent number so 0 starts a section, 1 is the first indented or subserviant line, 2 is the next sub-line and so on. Most tags are easily read; NAME, BIRT, DEAT, INDI are Name, Birth, Death and Individual. FAMS is Spouse in a Family and FAMC is Child in a Family where the Individual's Number will appear in the identified family.

See this site for the TAGs from GEDCOM 5.5:

Submitting Your GEDCOM: Sharing your family history not only helps others searching the same line but often puts you in contact with people who can be helpful in "filling in the blanks". There are several places where you can submit your genealogy but we'll only consider RootsWeb (which is also the World Connect site and the site) but the process is similar and merely involves sending your GEDCOM to them in the manner they describe.

First, you have to create a GEDCOM file. In Family Tree Maker, Click on FILE, COPY/EXPORT FAMILY FILE and change the SAVE AS FILE TYPE box to GED. Save the file and remember what it is named and what folder it's in.

The details on how to proceed can be found on this site which leads you step by step:

This site has the Standard Submission Form which you can also get to from the site above:

You have to fill in a user name and create a password. You can accept all of the defaults or you can change certain items if you prefer. The easiest way, of course, is to accept the defaults. The preferences you can change involve letting others have permission to download part of your GEDCOM and you can limit how many generations they can have but not more than 10 and you have control over how you want to treat living people. The default is to consider anyone without a death date and born within 100 years to be living and thus no data is shown. Then you have to enter where on your hard drive the GEDCOM file is located. (You did write down the name and location, didn't you?) Your file will be up immediately but it will not be searchable for about 24 hours.

Read through all of the on-line instructions, decide how you want to handle all of the options, create a user name and password that you'll remember and then jump in and get your feet wet. But don't forget where you put your genealogy and if you put it in more than one place, make a list so you'll know where you have everything.

One last word--if your genealogy has more blanks then data, disregard all of the above and spend your time filling in the holes. That doesn't mean to wait until it's finished--it never will be-- but some genealogies on the Internet are lists of names with no dates or places. We don't need more of those.

Creating Your Own Home Page: This is a five part process involving the following steps:

  • Locating a place to host your home page; your own ISP or other places such as Geocities or RootsWeb and making application.

  • Finding a web creation program. Front Page Express comes with Windows versions through Win98 but not Win98 ME or SE.

  • Obtaining the software to transmit your web page to your ISP. WS_FTP95LE is free and it works great.

  • Getting the software necessary to create a web page from your GEDCOM.

  • Sending it all up to your ISP.

Check with your own ISP for starters. Most allow the creation and hosting of user Home Pages, usually with a limit of 5 or 6 MegaBytes. Find out how to obtain a password and what the first (index) page has to be called. There is usually a step by step procedure to get a page started.

Web pages are pure text and can be generated with nothing more than Notepad. The hitch is that you have to know HTML (HyperText Markup Language) coding to do it. Front Page and Front Page Express Express allow creation of web pages without knowing any HTML as do Word, Wordperfect and Open Office Writer. You'll want to create an Index page as the first page of your web site on which you should identify yourself and the reason for your page and include a link to your genealogy page and links to any other pages that you create. When you see a page on the Internet that you like, click VIEW and SOURCE and you'll see what goes into making a page that you like. Don't be afraid to copy.

Getting it there requires an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. The Internet is not just WWW. It includes other protocols such as telnet and ftp. Windows includes a web publishing program that will send data to your ISP but there is also a free FTP program that you can download here: . If you have Firefox there is a free addon for Firefox called Fireftp. You can get it here.

You'll need to enter your ISP's ftp address and your password one time and the program will remember it for future use. You need only to tell it what folder your home page is in and it will list it and you can send it to your ISP by highlighting it and clicking on the send arrow.

Creating HTML from a GEDCOM. There are several programs that will do this, One free program is GED2web and it can be downloaded from:

You just tell it where your GEDCOM file is and it spits out HTML in a directory that can be sent to your home page. Be sure to link to the page from your Index page.

Before you send it all up make sure all of the parts know where the other parts are. If you have graphics in a sub-folder, make sure the links to them include the sub-folder. Front Page Express allows you to check out all of your links before you send everything to your ISP.

You send it up by starting your ftp program and sign in with your ISP. Select the files and folders you want to send and then click "send" or the appropriate arrow. verify that all of the link work by starting your browser and going to your Home Page and check out all of the links. If any don't work, right click on the link in your browser the click on PROPERTIES and write down the link that is presented. It may take some thought to figure out why it doesn't work but it should not list "file:///". It should list the actual Home Page address an extension to the sub page in question. Also check for capitalization. Windows is not "case sensitive" but Unix is and many servers can't read "S" for s. It's best to keep all file names and all links as lower case. WS_FTP95LE can force all file names to lower case but you have to make sure all links are also lower case. When a link doesn't work "think case".

Once you've sent it up, try accessing it from another computer such as the the library's. You may be fooled into thinking everything works when you are actually reading data from own your hard drive and not the Internet. Been there; done that.

While all of this may seem complicated, it's just a series of small steps that have to be mastered in order. Experiment. Create a page that says "Under Contruction" and see if you can get that up. Major accomplishment. Add a little personal stuff or an introduction. Send that up. You don't have to take down what's up there--you just send up new stuff to overwrite it. Add a link to another page and send both pages up. Check out the link. If it doesn't work, check out why and correct it. Take one small step at a time.