Making a family tree website for your family is a rewarding and worthwhile project. Your family will love being able to browse through the family tree in an organized manner, seeing photos and reading about the lives of different family members through the generations. Making this type of website isn’t difficult, even if you’ve never made a website before. Follow these simple steps to create a professional website for your family tree that your family and you can cherish for years to come.
Finding Hosting and Selecting A CMS
The first thing you’ll need when creating a family tree website is a solid web hosting plan. You can find web hosting for family tree sites for about $10 per month, depending on how much media and data you intend to store on the site. Look for hosting plans with unlimited storage space and speedy servers to ensure the best performance for your site.
After finding a hosting provider that complements your budget and required storage space, you’ll need to select a Content Management System (CMS.) Drupal is a favorite among web designers and developers who want professional websites with ultimate flexibility. WordPress is a great choice if you’re new to creating websites or want to rely on plugins to automate some of the tasks ahead. Both CMSs were written in PHP, are free to use, and have a host of templates and plugins that work great with family tree websites. You don’t need to know any coding to build with either platform.
Upload your chosen CMS to your host and install the package file. You can do this with one click of the mouse if you’ve chosen hosting with “one-click” installations of your selected CMS. Create your administrator account and any user accounts after installing the CMS to your new server. These accounts will be used by yourself and whomever you allow to modify and view content, if you’re working with other family members to build your family tree.
Gathering and Digitizing Family Tree Data
With professional web hosting in place, and a CMS installed, you can begin to gather the data for your family tree. This should include photos, generational data like maternity and paternity, legal records like marriage, death, and divorce certificates, and biographies for each family member. You may want to start with a one-line biography and allow family members to fill in more information about each person after you share the website.
Use a desktop scanner or scanning service to digitize any photos you want to upload to your site. Make sure your scanner is set to save the photos in a web-friendly file format like JPG or PNG. Some scanners use TIFF format by default, which isn’t compressed well enough to load quickly on most websites. Consider making repairs to any old photos, or hiring a service to do so, using Photoshop or a free tool like GIMP. This can add value and quality to your family tree website and serve to engage readers.
You can also download family tree information from DNA and family tree archive websites, but these sites often charge fees and limit access to records for non-paying members. Don’t forget to search publicly-available patent records, libraries, and other resources for interesting additions to your family tree information.
Using Themes and Templates for Family Tree Websites
With all your family photos and information digitized and ready to be uploaded, you should start looking for a theme or template for your new website. To make a website look function on mobile devices and desktops alike, you’ll want to use a responsive layout. Search the repositories associated with your CMS or browse premium template sites for layouts that would suit your family tree site. The WordPress theme repository has plenty of free themes that can get you started.
After choosing your new theme or template, install it to the CMS you’ve setup. If using WordPress, you can go to the Administrator Dashboard and activate your theme from the Appearance menu. Drupal users can perform a similar process, selecting the “enable” option from the theme selection panel on the Drupal Appearance menu.
Modify your theme using the customization panel to fill in your site’s title, tagline, logo, and other basic information. You can usually change the colors of your website and other basic design features in this panel, as well. Further customization options can be found in the “Theme Options” menu in WordPress’ Administrator Dashboard.
Plugins for Family Tree Websites
Now that your theme is setup and customized, it’s time to upload your media and organize it on the frontend of your site and make a website that functions as well as it looks. There are several ways to go about this, from laying the data out in blog posts, to making graphical family trees with visual branches.
The simplest option is to simply make blog posts with images, text, and graphics describing your family tree. This can be done by manually adding posts from the Posts menu on the administrator dashboard of your CMS.
For a more advanced and high-tech display of your family tree, consider downloading and installing a family tree plugin for WordPress or Drupal. There are dozens of plugins to choose from which each CMS, but most generally work by simply selecting them for installation and activating them. Once activated, follow the steps in your plugin’s documentation to add your media to the visual family tree.
The WP Family Tree plugin, for example, works by allowing you to set each family member’s photo as a featured image in an isolated blog post, and adding the biography or text content within the body of the post. The plugin then automatically joins the images and content into an organized tree-like structure with impressive visualizations.
There’s not too much behind making a great family tree website and the process is one of the most rewarding of any site you could create. Find a hosting package that works for your favorite CMS and browse themes until you find one that reflects the tone of your particular family. Customize your template and use a family tree plugin to get your information sorted and displayed in a way that makes it easy for other family members to browse. Don’t forget to get a memorable domain name for your website to make it easier to share or find on the web.