webtrees online genealogy

2.0.0-beta.5 2019-11-10 17:16 UTC


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webtrees - online collaborative genealogy

The project’s website is Further documentation is available at and



  • webtrees: online genealogy
  • Copyright 2019 webtrees development team

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see

Coding styles and standards

webtrees follows the PHP Standards Recommendations.

  • PSR-1 - Basic Coding Standard
  • PSR-2 - Coding Style Guide
  • PSR-4 - Autoloading Stardard
  • PSR-7 - HTTP Message Interface
  • PSR-11 - Container Interface
  • PSR-12 - Extended Coding Style Guide
  • PSR-15 - HTTP Handlers
  • PSR-16 - Simple Cache
  • PSR-17 - HTTP Factories

We do not currently use PSR-3 (logging) - but we plan to do so in the future.


webtrees is the web's leading online collaborative genealogy application.

  • It works from standard GEDCOM files, and is therefore compatible with every major desktop application.
  • It aims to to be efficient and effective by using the right combination of third-party tools, design techniques and open standards.

webtrees allows you to view and edit your genealogy on your website. It has full editing capabilities, full privacy functions, and supports imedia such as photos and document images. As an online program, it fosters extended family participation and good ancestral recording habits, as it simplifies the process of collaborating with others working on your family lines. Your latest information is always on your web site and available for others to see, defined by viewing rules you set. For more information and to see working demos, visit

webtrees is Open Source software that has been produced by people from many countries freely donating their time and talents to the project. All service, support, and future development is dependent on the time developers are willing to donate to the project, often at the expense of work, recreation, and family. Beyond the few donations received from users, developers receive no compensation for the time they spend working on the project. There is also no outside source of revenue to support the project. Please consider these circumstances when making support requests and consider volunteering your own time and skills to make the project even stronger and better.

System requirements

To install webtrees, you need:

  • A webserver. Apache, NGINX and IIS are the most common types. There are no requirements to use a specific type or version.

  • Approximately 65MB of disk space for the application files, plus whatever is needed for your media files, GEDCOM files and database.

  • PHP 7.0 or later. Servers with PHP 5.3 - 5.6 should use webtrees 1.7. Servers with PHP 5.2 should use webtrees 1.4.

    • PHP should be configured with the following libraries:
      • PDO and pdo_mysql to enable access to MySQL. These are enabled by default on most hosts. See,
      • php_gd(2) for images
      • PHP_XML for reports.
    • PHP should be configured to allow sufficient server resources (memory and execution time) for the size of your system. Typical requirements are:
      • Small systems (500 individuals): 16–32 MB, 10–20 seconds
      • Medium systems (5,000 individuals): 32–64 MB, 20–40 seconds
      • Large systems (50,000 individuals): 64–128 MB, 40–80 seconds
  • MySQL or MariaDB. Note that webtrees can share a single database with other applications, by choosing a unique table prefix during setup. If the number of databases is not restricted, you can set up a database purely for use by webtrees and create a separate user and password for only your genealogy.

    Internet browser compatibility

    webtrees supports the use of most current browsers such as Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. We will do our best to support the current versions of others such as Opera and Internet Explorer, however note that versions of Internet Explorer prior to IE11 do not work with webtrees. We strongly recommend anyone using an obsolete browser to upgrade as soon as possible. We are also aware that Internet Explorer provides poor RTL language support generally, so cannot recommend it for sites requiring RTL languages.

  • To view sites that contain both left-to-right and right-to-left text (e.g. English data on Hebrew pages), you will need to use a browser that provides support for the HTML5 dir="auto" attribute. At present, neither Edge nor Internet Explorer support this.


Once the system requirements are met, perform the following steps

  1. Download the latest stable version from
  2. Unzip the files and upload them to an empty folder on your web server.
  3. Open your web browser and type the URL for your webtrees site (for example, into the address bar.
  4. The webtrees setup wizard will start automatically. Simply follow the steps, answering each question as you proceed.

That's it!

However, before you can use webtrees, you need at least one GEDCOM (family tree) file. If you have been doing your research using a desktop program such as Family Tree Maker, you can use it's “save as GEDCOM” function to create a GEDCOM file. If you are starting from scratch, then webtrees can create a GEDCOM file for you.

On successful installation you will be taken to the Control panel -> Manage family trees page where you can:

  • UPLOAD a GEDCOM file from your local machine
  • ADD a GEDCOM file from your server, (if your GEDCOM file is too large to upload, you can copy it to the webtrees/data folder, and load it from there)
  • CREATE a new, empty GEDCOM file

There are lots of configuration options. You'll probably want to review the privacy settings first. Don't worry too much about all the other options - the defaults are good for most people. If you get stuck, there's lots of built-in help and you can get friendly advice from the help forum.


Upgrading webtrees is quick and easy. It is strongly recommended that you upgrade your installation whenever a new version is made available. Even minor webtrees version updates usually contain a significant number of bug fixes as well as interface improvements and program enhancements.

  • Automatic upgrade

    webtrees has an automatic upgrade facility. An administrator upon logging in will receive notification when a new version is available and an option to start the automatic upgrade. If for some reason the automatic upgrade should fail then a manual upgrade should be performed.

  • Manual upgrade

    1. Now would be a good time to make a backup.
    2. Download the latest version of webtrees available from
    3. While you are in the middle of uploading the new files, a visitor to your site would encounter a mixture of new and old files. This could cause unpredictable behavior or errors. To prevent this, create the file data/offline.txt. While this file exists, visitors will see a “site unavailable - come back later” message.
    4. Unzip the .ZIP file, and upload the files to your web server, overwriting the existing files.
    5. Delete the file data/offline.txt

Note for Macintosh users

Step 4 assumes you are using a copy tool that merges directories rather than replaces them. (Merge is standard behavior on Windows and Linux.) If you use the Macintosh Finder or other similar tool to perform step 3, it will replace your configuration, media and other directories with the empty/default ones from the installation. This would be very bad (but you did take a backup in step 1, didn't you!). Further details and recommendations for suitable tools can be found by searching

Note for anyone using custom code (modules, themes, etc.).

It is very likely that your custom code will not work when you upgrade webtrees.

We recommend that you disable all custom code before you apply the upgrade.

Disable custom modules, switch over to a standard theme, and remove any code “hacks”. Once the upgrade is complete and you are satisfied that your site is fully operational contact the source of those modules or themes for a new version.

General note

Depending on the changes in the new files, your browser configuration and possibly other factors, it is always wise to clear both the webtrees cache and your browser cache immediately after the upgrade is completed. The webtrees cache can be cleared simply by going to Control Panel -> Family Trees -> Clean-up data folder and deleting the cache.

If you have any problems or questions, help is available on the webtrees forum.

Building and developing

If you want to build webtrees from source, or modify the code, you'll need to install a couple of tools first.

You will need composer to install the PHP dependencies. Then run this command::

  • php composer.phar install

You will need npm to install the Javascript dependencies. Then run the commands:

  • npm install
  • npm run production

You will need to re-run the second of these any time you modify the file webtrees.js.

Gedcom (family tree) files

When you ADD or IMPORT a family tree (GEDCOM) file in webtrees the data from the file is transferred to the database tables. The file itself remains in the webtrees/data folder and is no longer used or required by webtrees. Any subsequent editing of the webtrees data will not change this file

When or if you change your genealogy data outside of webtrees, it is not necessary to delete your GEDCOM file or database from webtrees and start over. Follow these steps to update a GEDCOM that has already been imported:

  • Go to Control panel -> Manage family trees On the line relating to this particular family tree (GEDCOM) file (or a new one) select IMPORT.
  • Take careful note of the media items option (“If you have created media objects in webtrees, and have edited your data off-line using software that deletes media objects, then tick this box to merge the current media objects with the new GEDCOM.”) In most cases you should leave this box UNCHECKED.
  • Click “SAVE”. webtrees will validate the GEDCOM again before importing. During this process, webtrees copies your entire family tree (GEDCOM file) to a 'chunk' table within your database. Depending on the coding of your file, its file size and the capabilities of your server and the supporting software, this may take some time. No progress bar will show while the data is being copied and should you navigate away from this page, the process is suspended. It will start again when you return to the Family Tree management page.

Gedcom file Formats

Every Family History program has its own method of creating GEDCOM files, and differing output format options to select from. webtrees' import routines can read many different formats, but not necessarily all. If your software has a “UTF8” option you should always use that. However, webtrees has been tested with these alternative formats:

  • ANSI
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
  • MAC
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
  • DOS
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
    • currently will not import. Gives warning Error: cannot convert GEDCOM file from ANSEL encoding to UTF-8 encoding. Later releases of webtrees may include the facility to translate from ANSEL to UTF8, but for now a standalone utility is available here and should be used to convert the format to UTF-8 prior to importing.


Security in webtrees means ensuring your site is safe from unwanted intrusions, hacking, or access to data and configuration files. The developers of webtrees regard security as an extremely important part of its development and have made every attempt to ensure your data is safe.

The area most at risk of intrusion would be the /data folder that contains your config.ini.php file, and various temporary files. If you are concerned there may be a risk there is a very simple test you can do: try to fetch the file config.ini.php by typing url_to_your_server/data/config.ini.php in your web browser.

The most likely result is an “access denied” message like this:


You don't have permission to access /data/config.ini.php on this server.

This indicates that the protection built into webtrees is working, and no further action is required.

In the unlikely event you do fetch the file (you will just see a semicolon), then that protection is not working on your site and you should take some further action.

If your server runs PHP in CGI mode, then change the permission of the /data folder to 700 instead of 777. This will block access to the httpd process, while still allowing access to PHP scripts.

This will work for perhaps 99% of all users. Only the remaining 1% should consider the most complex solution, moving the /data folder out of accessible web space. (Note: In many shared hosting environments this is not an option anyway.)

If you do find it necessary, following is an example of the process required:

If your home folder is something like /home/username, and the root folder for your web site is /home/username/public_html, and you have installed webtrees in the public_html/webtrees folder, then you would create a new data folder in your home folder at the same level as your public_html folder, such as /home/username/private/data, and place your GEDCOM (family tree) file there.

Then change the Data folder setting on the Control panel -> Website -> Website preferences page from the default data/ to the new location /home/username/private/data

You will have two data directories:

  • [path to webtrees]/data - just needs to contain config.ini.php
  • /home/username/private/data - contains everything else


Backups are good. Whatever problem you have, it can always be fixed from a good backup.

To make a backup of webtrees, you need to make a copy of the following

  1. The files in the webtrees/data folder.
  2. The files in the webtrees/media folder.
  3. The tables in the database. Freely available tools such as phpMyAdmin allow you to do this in one click.

Remember that most web hosting services do NOT backup your data, and this is your responsibility.