Web (connected) versus stand-alone (isolated) genealogy application

Today Big Data (maybe that’s an old buzzword by now), cloud computing, and data analytics are hot topics (equals lots of money going toward those technologies). The Genealogy use case fits those technologies perfectly. I think Ancestry.com has led in this, and maybe owns the market share.

Based on my limited research, I would say GRAMPS is one of the best stand-alone (maintained) genealogy software out there. At times it does take a certain patience to navigate based on what the developer intended. And there are some quirks that new users will eventually find out from tribal knowledge. However, GRAMPS is one the best, last standing, stand-alone genealogy apps.

But, I would say that there’s more advantages to a web based genealogy program that will eventually even kill GRAMPS. A web based program just works on multiple platforms without a need for multiple distributions per Operating System (and would also work on mobile devices). Web based programs are becoming more responsive, and inherently backs up your data to the cloud.

My initial interest in GRAMPS was to find a base open-source project I could move into the cloud/web sphere. And after digging into GRAMPS a bit, I have seen several attempts of people doing just that. (using various technologies). A web based genealogy would allow multiple users to interface the same GUI, would allow users to share databases (read only, or r/w), and from a development point of view, would allow more directed focus on the features rather than worrying about the devices, operating systems, ect…

Either with an open source stand-alone program or web-based program, it definitely takes a dedicated effort to move these forward, with a few leading the way. So there has to be individual needs to drive projects like these. For a web-based solution, the individual need may be that I just want to be able to share my data easily with family members (therefore I would be the single web master), an individual may want to compete with Ancestry (but more of an open-source, freemium model), or the individual likes the idea of being able to access his program from multiple places (accessing the same database), and on, and on.

So for a web based program, the user would be first the web-master (is that an old, outdated term?), and second the user. Perhaps a web-master would require more knowledge to setup than a stand-alone app on a linux or windows machine. Therefore the barrier to entry for a stand alone app is less, but serves less people. And a web based app is maybe higher barrier to entry, but can serve lots of people.

So, my initial drive to create a web-based app (perhaps using GRAMPS as the base), was to put my own data on a web site, to be shared to anyone who was interested. But, maybe I can do that with Ancestry or any other online existing service. Unless I think I could create a freemium (ad based) version of Ancestry so people could share data without having to pay a service fee?!?

Genealogists create lots of data which needs to be backed-up and shared.

Not quite what you want but see the following already in progress:

and several other abandoned attempts:

By the way the project name is in sentence case eg: Gramps not GRAMPS.

what about using a local app with a database in the cloud? i guess there would be issues with sharing the database.

A variation on the web-based solutions is the ‘One-Tree-To-Rule-Them-All’ approach like WikiTree

The local researcher may have no local data store, at all. One contributes, along with any other interested users, to the single family tree stored in the cloud.

IMHO, there is much to like about WikitTree. That said, I have contributed very little and I maintain my information locally. Mostly because I have never wrapped my head around their process for adding sources. It seems very tedious but maybe I’m missing something obvious. I played with their Gedcom import but it appeared to drop much of the interesting information. It is also a one-shot process. After that, one would have to enter information both locally and into WikiTree strictly manually.


You’re right the WikiTree source citation is tedious. And it doesn’t make pretty citation output.

I’ve experimented with creation of a WikiTree source page that includes clipboardable inline & footnote citation snips.


It is FAR too much work.

On the Gramps front, Source metadata creation is still too manual as well. It is the reason that I (& @StoltHD ) have expressed hopes we will eventually have an interface to a Document Management System (like Zotero)

Gramps doesn’t collect anywhere near the necessary metadata for sources. Distinctly separated metadata is needed for a proper organization system for dynamically delivering various Citation styles. Eventually, we’re going to need to flip between inline, footnote & endnote citations in Chicago/MLA/APA/Turabian/IEEE: Home styles.

We can do that ourselves and have it evolve from a 3rd rate system over a period of years. Or we can interface into a tool that already has world-class features.

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You may be interested in Betty (https://pypi.org/project/betty/), which can turn your Gramps family trees into websites. Its purpose is to publish data, but not to collaborate on it. However, this restriction allows to sites to be fast, secure, and you can host them on literally any web host without additional requirements.


Some interesting items about Betty - (Betty is a static site generator for Gramps and GEDCOM family trees)

  • Betty is oriented towards building touch-friendly websites for browsing with mobile tech
  • The generated website structures are designed for responsiveness
  • the importer/reader recognizes both the compressed & uncompressed versions of the .gramps XML file format. So you don’t need to do a separate export. It will read your automatic backup files.
  • It lets you set a custom attribute to persistently mark objects that will not be written to the generated website.
  • Outputs Dockerfile for webhosting solutions like NGINX and Docker

Ah, interesting, will have to look in to that one and compare it to the web one that is already in gramps.

Is there a list of all interactive (web based or not, but must be interactive) ways to pulish trees?