Do i need more than one tree for this?

[Gramps 5.1.3 on Xubuntu 18.04.5]

do i need more than one tree to create multiple varieties of ancestries for one person?

Matthew Arundell Howard (1609-1659) has uncertain ancestry. this has been written about by and debated among major genealogists since 1939. while i have no hope of resolving this, it is an area i want to research more.

i have seen about 5 different possible stories of his ancestry. what i want to do is set up all that i find (at least 2 major ones, for sure) so i have some perspective to look at the results of each differing source. i want to keep track of every source and be able to see just what kind of tree i get. then i hope to establish some probabilities for each distinct story, and its sources.

what i want to know is if Gramps can do this within one tree or if i will need more than one tree. i want to know this because i want to set up multiple trees now if i will need them, or just 1 or 2 if that is all i need. right now all i have is a gedcom from Ancestry and all my initial research notes.

You can add multiple parents for a person. Normally, I do this for biological and adoptive parents. But I also have one where the possibilities for who the parents of my second great grandmother (Mary Hein) are multiple. At the moment, I have both sets of parents entered.

However, I don’t really do much analysis to try to figure out which is correct inside Gramps. I’m doing the analysis outside, in word processor docs. I just use Gramps for storing the possibilities and the specific sources for each.

Ancestry has a feature like this. does Gramps identify these parents in a different way or are they as identical as siblings or children? if i have 2 sets of parents and disconnect or delete one set, the result inn both cases is identical as the other? how easy is this to do?

In the family edit window, edit the child in the Children tab. You can change the relationship of the child to one or both parents.

but that would be doing it in the context of one set of parents. suppose you set it up that way with parents switched? instead if adding child C to parent set A then adding parent set B to that child, you start in parent set B, create the child, then add parent set A to it?

You get to pick the relationship each child has to the parents. The following screenshot shows the default relationship between a child and parents. Where it says “Birth” you can pick from a dropdown to pick “Foster” or “Stepchild”, or you can type something completely different in.

So for one family, you can list the relationship is “Birth” and another as “Possible Birth”. Or the relationship in both as “Birth”. Reports such as “Pedigree” will pick the first listed set of parents for reports. You can re-order to make the one you think is more likely first. I don’t think any reports really show multiple sets of parents. As I noted, Gramps isn’t really set up at the moment to do reports that are helpful for analysis. But you can do the data storage.


Anytime you add a child to a set of parents or add parents to a child, Gramps will always set the Relationship to “Birth”. If this relationship is anything other than “Birth” you must manually edit the record.

In the Relationship view, you can also set the order of the parents. ie setting the Birth parents in the Top position in the same way you can set the order of a person’s multiple marriage and spouses. You can set the order of these second or more families; oldest first, recent first, etc. I just suggest you do it consistently across your tree.

When you need to analyze multiple relations, there are better tools around than a genealogy software…
Gramps are great for storing an visualizing lot of things, but you should take a look at one of the network graph tools in addition…
Cytoscape, Gephi, yEd are the most known, but Constellation also have map function and timeline…
Or, if you are a little technical, install Palladio…

A timeline software can be of great help for what you are about to analyze, The Timeline Project is free open source, but there are many more that cost money and that can export to different formats…
Personally I use Aoen Timeline as one of the tools when I am trying to figure out this kind of things, in addition to a network graph

Of you already have some of the data in Gramps, Cytoscape can import graphviz files, so you will have a start point.

You should also add Events, Places and Documents (Write down all people mentioned in any document and link them through the document and Events mentioned in it…
reason for that is that you will be able to see if one or multiple people are tied to an event or a place, or if one of them couldn’t have been at that place at that moment in time…
Timelines and network graphs are great for that… much better than a hierarchical tree without places and events…

The data can of course be registered in Gramps, and the easiest way to separate the branches is to use tags, one for each branch. And as you find connections or lack of those in your graph or timeline, you can add or remove connections and relations in Gramps…

I really think it is easier to do that type of research and analyzing outside Gramps, and that is one of the reasons why I have asked multiple times for two more export formats, or a full database dump of users data to CSV.

I would set that up in one tree, especially to compare the different possible stories, but I wouldn’t do it with multiple parents for him. I’d prefer duplicates of Matthew Arundell Howard, each with the suggested parents/ancestry and sources. It’s important to mark them as duplicates e.g. a tag and I’d also share a person note among them explaining each one and their stories.

The descendants can be the same. If you want to create reports you can switch the Matthew Arundell Howards in their family and create reports for each one.

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Interesting ideas, I’d never considered using project management apps for analysing genealogical data.
I’ve been using Excel with a macro for handling pre 1900 dates.
I had considered networks, but got put off by effort needed to build the data set. I get the data export issue, but have not decided on what data and format, which the programmers are going to want.
I’ve just installed Cytoscape per your comment above and tried to import a graphvis file, but get a message saying only one column…and if I ignore it get a scrambled visual.
Could you be more prescriptive on how you get it to display something useful?

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