I recently inherited a large (paper-based) set of records pertaining to my family history. I spent about three days converting one branch of the family to GEDCOM format, using a free software package. So far there are twelve generations and about 300 entries in the tree. The entire package I was given is an inch and a half thick, but I anticipate a lot of duplication and estimate that the complete tree will have around 1000 entries.

At a family gathering today I was asked about sharing the data, and I am at a bit of a loss what to do. I can't just give the GEDCOM source to this person, and asking them to download and install software just to see the tree is a bit much to ask. Unfortunately the software I am using does not seem to allow me to convert the family tree to pdf format. (I am not even sure that a tree drawing is the best way to represent the links.) As you can see I am a newbie, and internet searches have not gotten me very far. I do not even know what search parameters I should use.

Are there (free) solutions out there that would allow me to easily convert the GEDCOM source into something my relatives could look at either on-line (hyperlinked HTML for instance) or on paper? At this point it is hard to gauge how much interest there would be in this tree, but I anticipate further requests and want to design the system up front with easy, user-friendly access in mind.

I have read Publishing family tree online?, but I found the answer not very enlightening. What does it mean/involve to set my "own domain and site"? How would that help with my goal of distributing the data so that my relatives (probably just a small number of people) can have a look at the family tree? Are there software packages or other resources that can help? Where would I start?)

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    Hi, welcome to G&FH.SE! Could you add to your question some idea of the scope of your file (number of people, how many generations)? Are you thinking about distributing your entire file to anyone who asks, or would you like to split it up so that each person gets information about their part of the family? Knowing the current size of your project will help us write better answers about what options exist. What was the volume of materials in your original paper files?
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 23:46
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    Would you mind terribly if we edited out the reference to your relative's age? The fact that your relative is an octogenarian doesn't tell us anything about their technical abilities. A question that addresses the needs of non-technical relatives (of any age) will be useful to everyone.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


You can upload your GEDCOM to a free Ancestry.com account. Simply enter your name, email address and password. On the next page click the "get started" link under "Build a family tree." This takes you to the "Start your family tree for free" page. In the top bar, click "TREES" and then choose "Upload a GEDCOM." You can set the tree to public (non-living people can be viewed by paying users) or private (only you and your guests can view) , and also upload photos.

Once you have a GEDCOM uploaded, click "TREES" again and choose "Create & Manage Trees" to invite family members (by email address) to view the tree online for free. Click "Invite Family" on the right side under the "Role" column. Then click "Invite People" and choose to invite them by either "Email" or "Username" (for other Ancestry members).

Next you can control which invitees can see living people and/or make changes to the tree. Go back to "Create & Manage Trees" and click on the link to "people/person" invited on the right side under the "Role" column. You can give each invitee a role as "Guest, Contributor, or Editor" and decide which can and cannot see living information.

Also, you can continue to type more entries into Ancestry.com, and export the entire tree as a new GEDCOM at any time.

  • Are you sure about the monetary aspect? If so, they hide it very well. All I can see is a 14 day free trial and subscription prices ranging from 200 to 400 dollars per year. That's a bit too rich for my blood. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 15:01
  • Rusty, I'd appreciate it if you could flesh out your answer to make it more useful to complete newbies who don't know how the Ancestry tree system works. New users don't know about Ancestry's Registered User (free) accounts, nor will they understand the privacy concerns. Could you expand on both the advantages and disadvantages of using the tree system there? Thanks!
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 19:00
  • It is totally free. Expanded my answer. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 13:24
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    Thanks for all the help. I downloaded GenealogyJ (free) which helped me with the data entry (ran to 1088 names in the end), and then proceeded to get a free account on ancestry to upload the tree there. Things went very smoothly. I am pleased. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 15:13

I would suggest Tribal Pages.

This has a number of pricing tiers, the basic level is free and seems adequate for your requirements. For more people, photos and notes, charges start to apply.

You receive a site with your own subdomain name of the form [user].tribalpages.com.

You can upload a Gedcom file to create your tree. Then, add notes and photos to the family members.

Access is password protected. You set a password that you can give to family members to access your site. They do not have to be members of Tribal Pages to access your site. There is also a range of privacy options to control if your family members show up on other people's searches.

Once logged onto your site, your family can browse and search the tree. Calling up displays of individuals, their families and ancestors.

I've been using this site to share my tree for several years and have received useful information and corrections from relatives who have looked at it.

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