You don’t have to learn a lot of geek speak to share your family history on the Internet. Publishing your pedigree is a snap using GEDCOM-to-HTML converters. These inexpensive computer programs automatically pull the information from your GEDCOM file (the universal family tree file format) and turn it into attractive Web pages—and you don’t have to learn a single line of programming code.
You’ve probably run across pages online created by converter software—they usually contain an index of people, a surname index and links from each person to a pedigree chart and/or family group sheet. The pages are well-organized and easy for visitors to search.
Try it out
Although the control you have over your site’s setup varies from program to program, the basic page-creation process is the same. First, you open your genealogy software and convert your family file to a GEDCOM. If your genealogy program lets you exclude details about living people, select that option so you can protect relatives’ privacy. Next, open the converter software and follow the directions. You may be able to select how many generations to display on a page, which event types (births, deaths and naturalizations, for example) to show and whether to include your notes. Some converters will even let you choose a pedigree-chart style and background color for your Web pages. You might also have the option to display thumbnail images.
After you’ve made all your choices, just click a button, and the software will instantly create your Web pages and save them in a separate directory. The number of pages created depends on the size of your GEDCOM: One of my files, which contained 723 people, 210 surnames and 283 family groups, became 90 Web pages—all in less than a minute.
Why conversion software?
Of course, most family tree programs come with Web-publishing capabilities. So why use conversion software? The same reason you may own more than one genealogy program—because you like certain features better in one program than another. Your genealogy software may give you more options for Web-page content, but you may not like the output. Conversion software may have fewer options but generate great-looking pages. Deciding which way to go is really a matter of personal preference.
And you don’t have much to lose by giving converters a whirl. Prices ranges from free to $20, with the option to try before you buy. If you’re not sure which program you’ll like, download them all and spend an afternoon playing. Your choice may depend on price or bells and whistles. One of my favorite extras is GedHTree’s ability to create US and European maps that show the geographic distribution and density of a family name in a specific time and place. I also like how Ged2Web lets you pick which events to include on your pages.
Once your family file is converted to Web pages, upload them to your Web site using a file transfer protocol (FTP) program or following your Web host’s procedures. Let other researchers know about your site by posting a brief notice on the appropriate surname mailing lists and forums. Then get ready for your next family tree transformation—the new branches you’ll add when other researchers discover your site.