Sharing Genealogy | Legacy Family Tree

Legacy Family TreeI have another idea about sharing genealogy.

I’ve had a few members of my immediate family express interest in the ‘family history’. Now, that may seem simple to them but I’m not sure what they mean and I get a brain twist going on every time.

I sent my home-grown version of JLiki around a few places. No-one knew what to do with that. It’s pretty simple. Just open it in your browser. I could swear I wrote that into the ‘Here Are The Instructions’ text file. It just makes you want to pound your head on a desk.

My sense of overwhelm stems from the following:

  1. They don’t know anything about genealogy; the jargon, the software, the research.
  2. I don’t feel like more scrapbooking projects to try to make it cuter and simpler for them.
  3. Parts of it are private while certain people are still living.

So, here’s an alternate plan because I’m trying to take their ‘interest’ seriously. Send them a stripped down family file.

This involves 3 simple steps, one disc and a total of 15 minutes if you do it slowly.

  1. Export a basic gedcom. (Vital events only.)
  2. Import said gedcom into a new family file.
  3. Burn the family file and free version of Legacy (or something else) to disc.

The reason behind this, and this is the most important point of all, is to see if they’re really interested. They might think they’re interested but they don’t have a clue what they’re asking for.

I asked one of my nephews after he expressed interest what he meant by ‘interested’. I didn’t hear from him again.

There’s no point handing your entire life’s work to someone who’s interested but can’t define the word. The rest of the world may be stuck at various forms of instant gratification but we know better.

Tell them they’re getting the bare-bones outline but there’s more and to contact you if they have any questions.

Either they will or they won’t.

If they do, let them take the lead. Don’t trip over yourself to give them more than they ask for or more than they can handle. You’re the one in control so keep your cool. If I recall correctly, there’s a point at which a pilot light becomes a raging inferno and there’s no turning back. You’ll know if they get there.

If they don’t ask, at least that’s clear and you’re not throwing pearls to swine and you’re not begging someone to inherit your work.

Having only database software and a skeletal view of the ancestors gives them time to find their way around the database, get familiar with the software and how to use it, add some data of their own (!) and see how complex this really is.

I figure if they have to work for it one question at a time they’ll appreciate it.

Export a Basic Gedcom

Open your regular family file. Go to Export To/GEDCOM File. (This is how it works in Legacy Family Tree. Adapt accordingly for other software.)

Here’s a few things to watch out for:

  • Pick ANSI under Character Set.
  • Click the ‘Customize’ button and then ‘Basic’. This will choose some basic fields to export. Names, dates and places essentially.

Items to Include in GEDCOM for Legacy

  • Then add Source to that list from the list that’s called Items available for export, because it’s always good to beat newbies over the head about sources right off the bat. Get ’em used to it.
  • Then click OK on that screen and return to the first screen.
  • Click on the Privacy tab and change anything you need to.

Then click the big button in the upper-right to start the export. Name it whatever you want to.

An alternative to this is to limit the gedcom to a particular family line or two. In which case, use the ‘Record Selection’ button to narrow it down.

Import Gedcom into a New Family File

Click on File/New Family File. It will ask you if you want to use the Wizard. Say No.

A window will open that says .fdb. It’s waiting for you to type in a name so do that and make note of where you’re saving it.

And then a blank Family File will open before your eyes.

Go to File/Import From/GEDCOM File and browse to where you saved your GEDCOM. Click on your GED file and click ‘Open’.

The ‘GEDCOM Import’ window will open and a progress bar will go racing across. Don’t worry. It’s still going to give you time to choose options.


Since this is a stripped down gedcom you don’t have to think about much. You can add yourself under ‘AutoSource’ if you want to. There’s nothing to do under the ‘Customize’ button.

The only thing I change is that I untick the box next to Fill all existing abandoned RINs/MRINs. Since I file by MRIN I don’t want my MRINs fooled around with. It’s probably fine but I’m not taking any chances.

Then click the Start the Import button.

When it’s done, you might want to add some niceties, like setting the recipient as the Starting Person so they can see their direct lines.

Burn Family File to Disc

On the Legacy site under ‘Tips‘ is an article called ‘Share Legacy Family Tree and Your Family File on a CD‘.

It tells you everything you need to do. Basically:

Download the latest version of Legacy. Rename it to LegacySetup.exe.

Since you’re not going to include any pictures (unless you are – I’ll probably include the little portraits that show in the Family and Pedigree views), audio or video, you only need to create a folder called FamilyData.

From the family file you created above you’ll probably have 3 files; FDB, FG and TC. Put all of those into the FamilyData folder.

So, you’ve got FamilyData and LegacySetup.exe. Burn them to disc and mail it to someone who’s ‘interested’ in the family history. They can install the free version of Legacy straight from the disc and have the family file open automatically.

In fact, save yourself a disc and a stamp. Just invite them to a shared Dropbox folder and put the whole thing in there.

4 thoughts on “Sharing Genealogy | Legacy Family Tree

  1. Alfred F Schwilk

    I like this approach. Now I need some family member who is interested in genealogy.
    San Jose, California

    1. JL Post author


      Tomorrow may be the day!

      We’re all on the sliding scale somewhere when it comes to family being interested. Or not. If I didn’t have even a nibble I’d just keep sharing it with my main 3rd/4th Cuz because we both get a kick out of it, or I’d be on my own leaving it in my Will to The Great Unknown.

  2. Teresa

    Not sure I understand the point of this. Lots of people would be interested in hearing about their ancestors who aren’t interested in researching them. Some will find hearing about them sufficiently interesting to be inspired to do their own reserach. A lot have been interested by programmes like “Who do you think you are?” – where lives are looked at, the background explained, places visited. Quite a few seem prompted to research after coming across old photos etc when clearing a house following a parent’s death.
    But the barebones – names and dates and places and no more? – isn’t this just going to bore most people, to convince the potentially interested that this is boring? Unless by telling them that more is intriguing you provide a list -tabloid type headlines, maybe.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Life and writing about it is a series of changing points of view. If you read my entire blog you’ll see some other ones.

      A lot of genealogists seem to work and work and work in a world of near desperation about getting other people interested.

      Have you ever asked someone a question wanting a simple answer and what you got instead was an encyclopedia? After the first 30 seconds you’re itching to move on and the encyclopedia keeps coming.

      I start this post by talking about JLiki, a way of putting together family history stories, photos and everything else which I’ve done in the past and sent to family members. I literally got no response.

      So, in this post, I question the veracity of the casual phrase ‘I’m interested’ and suggest a way of testing it.


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