Sunday, September 20, 2015

Features of a Web-Based Family Tree Visualization Tool

The purpose of this note is to serve as a central location for features of a web-based family tree visualization tool I have been playing with.

The tool itself is still a work-in-progress, and feature requests/comments are appreciated - just shoot me a note at

Location of the Family Tree Tool

There are currently two different ways to load the tool. One way will show the lifespans for three generations from the root person in an ancestor tree, the other will not. It is planned that this option will be moved to a configuration menu, and only one url will be necessary.

In both cases, by default it will load a random family tree from a number of "Famous People" sample trees. You can then choose to upload your own family tree that is in a gedcom file, or simply explore the samples.

You can pan and zoom in the tree - drag for pan, mousewheel for zoom.

Moving Mouse over Nodes for More Information

Moving your mouse over the nodes will bring up a informational popup for that person.If you click the node, the popup will stay open and can be dragged around with your mouse, and there will be a few more options available in the popup.

In addition, the path from the root person to that person is highlighted, and the nodes for all other ancestors at the same level are highlighted by enlarging the nodes slightly.

Basic Button Functionality

The figure below highlights the main functionality available via the buttons.

What do the lifespan indicators show?

If the person is deceased, the "lifespan" displayed will show a rectangle indicating the lifespan of the individual. As you move the mouse over the rectangle, it will display how old that person was in the year that reflects where the mouse is (there is a long horizontal line that moves with the mouse). The estimated lifespans are based on mortality tables.

As you move the mouse
over the rectangle for the lifespan, the viz will display how old that
person was in the year that reflects where the mouse is

If the person is still alive, then as you move the mouse
over the rectangle in the future, the viz will display how old that
person will be in that year, as well as
the probability that the person will live that long.
What are those green lines on the right?

The green lines on the right indicate family events. Moving your mouse over these will show the events as well as any historical events for that year as well.

Moving your mouse over the green bars
will reveal family and historical events
Cousin Calculator

How is one person in the tree related to another person in the tree? For descendant trees, you can see. The steps to do this are shown in the screenshot below. For trees with lots of pedigree collapse, two people can be related in various ways, and these will be shown with the tool.

Step 1 for viewing relationship between any two people in the tree

Now when you mouseover anyone else in the tree, the popup will include the relationship to the "Relationship Relative" chosen in Step 1
Collapsing a Specific Path

You can "collapse" a specific path in the full tree (ancestor or descendant tree) to a straight path showing all the people in that particular path.

Example of "Collapsing" a Tree to a Particular Path
Navigating the Currently Displayed Tree

The video below demonstrates how to easily navigate the people in the current tree.

How to navigate the currently displayed tree
Navigating the Currently Loaded GEDCOM File

The video below demonstrates how to easily navigate ANY of the people in the currently loaded GEDCOM file (including searching by name). You can also quickly change to the ancestor/descendant tree for people that are in the GEDCOM file but not in the currently displayed ancestor/descendant treethis way.

How to navigate the currently loaded GEDCOM file
Miscellaneous Notes
Why can't I see all of the people in the tree at one time?

While it is planned to have options to show full trees, the tool currently shows only ancestor or descendant trees starting at a particular person.

How do I create a GEDCOM file for my own tree?

As far as I know, you can export a GEDCOM file of your tree from any of the common family tree software and web sites (e.g., The details on how to do this will depend on which tool you are using. Please feel free to contact me at if you are having problems with that step, and I will see if I can help.


  1. Does the way of privatizing living people done by changing the birth year? I am root person and my birth year is out by 6 years even though it is correct in my tree. Also the Family Tree Viz said there were birth years for only 187 of the 7000 people in my tree. Whereas there are actually far more. Is this because of US date format or something like that? I use UK/ Australian format dd MMM YYYY

    1. Hi Jenni

      No additional privatization is done- the info doesn't leave your device.

      Does it indicate that your birth year was approximated? It would be noted in the popup you see when you mouse over the node.

      There might be some issue with parsing the date. If you have an anonymized version of the tree I will take a look in case there's something I haven't seen before and need to make sure and be able to address.

      My email is


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  2. Brad,
    Great tool :) Thanks! I saw it demonstrated at the recent I4GG conference in San Diego and when I tried it on my own family, found some issues with Family Tree Maker GED file exports that I have fixed so that it works correctly now.
    Very helpful and fascinating display that shows what I already knew and a few things I had not caught before :)
    Barbara Taylor: Instructor, DNA Adoption
    Finding your family through DNA: Many resources and online classes at
    How to Use the AncestryDNA Helper -

    1. Hi Barbara

      Thanks for taking a look at it!

      btw, just today I added some additional stuff for data validation checking you might find useful sometime. The validation will be done and be available when you load your GEDCOM (or at any other time under the Options menu). Please feel free to let me know of other validation additional checks that might be useful.

  3. Love this visualization tool, and your data validation is a very nice bonus, catching errors I hadn't. Thank you for making it available.

    1. Hi Cheryl! Thanks for taking a look and for the note. Please feel free to let me know of other validation checks you think that might be useful.

  4. I can't believe I found this tool (quite by accident). This is a great visualization and gave me an instant view of families that crossed family lines. Fantastic work.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Please feel free to spread the word!

  5. Is there a download/purchase option?

  6. Hi Jen

    The site is online and you can just go to the web site and use it. When/if you load your own gedcom file to view, that file stays on your machine.

    1. the web address is: