Code Quality Rank: L2
Programming language: PHP
License: GNU General Public License v3.0 only
Tags: Misc/Other     genealogy     webtrees    
Latest version: v2.0.10

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webtrees - online collaborative genealogy



  • webtrees: online genealogy
  • Copyright 2022 webtrees development team

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see https://www.gnu.org/licenses/.

Coding styles and standards

webtrees follows the PHP Standards Recommendations.

  • PSR-1 - Basic Coding Standard
  • PSR-2 - Coding Style Guide
  • PSR-4 - Autoloading Stardard
  • PSR-6 - Cache
  • PSR-7 - HTTP Message Interface
  • PSR-11 - Container Interface
  • PSR-12 - Extended Coding Style Guide
  • PSR-15 - HTTP Handlers
  • PSR-17 - HTTP Factories

We do not currently use PSR-3 (logging) - but we plan to do so in the future.

For JavaScript, we use semistandard.


webtrees is the web's leading online collaborative genealogy application.

  • It works from standard GEDCOM files, and is therefore compatible with every major desktop application.
  • It aims to to be efficient and effective by using the right combination of third-party tools, design techniques and open standards.

webtrees allows you to view and edit your genealogy on your website. It has full editing capabilities, full privacy functions, and supports imedia such as photos and document images. As an online program, it fosters extended family participation and good ancestral recording habits, as it simplifies the process of collaborating with others working on your family lines. Your latest information is always on your web site and available for others to see, defined by viewing rules you set. For more information and to see working demos, visit webtrees.net.

webtrees is Open Source software that has been produced by people from many countries freely donating their time and talents to the project. All service, support, and future development is dependent on the time developers are willing to donate to the project, often at the expense of work, recreation, and family. Beyond the few donations received from users, developers receive no compensation for the time they spend working on the project. There is also no outside source of revenue to support the project. Please consider these circumstances when making support requests and consider volunteering your own time and skills to make the project even stronger and better.

System requirements

To install webtrees, you need:

  • A webserver. Apache, NGINX and IIS are the most common types. To use “Pretty URLs”, you will need to configure URL rewriting"
  • A database. MySQL is recommended, although PostgreSQL, SQL-Server and SQLite can be used. Some features rely on MySQL for collation. Other database might not sort names according to local rules. webtrees uses a prefix for its table names, so you can install several instances of webtrees in the same database.
  • Approximately 100MB of disk space for the application files, plus whatever is needed for your media files, GEDCOM files and database.
  • PHP 7.1 - 7.4. Servers with PHP 5.3 - 7.0 can use webtrees 1.7.
    • PHP should be configured to allow sufficient server resources (memory and execution time) for the size of your system. Typical requirements are:
      • Small systems (500 individuals): 16–32 MB, 10–20 seconds
      • Medium systems (5,000 individuals): 32–64 MB, 20–40 seconds
      • Large systems (50,000 individuals): 64–128 MB, 40–80 seconds

Browser compatibility

webtrees is tested on recent versions of popular browsers such as Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Support for other browsers and older versions is on a case-by-case basis.


  1. Download the .ZIP file for latest stable version from github.com.
  2. Unzip the files and then upload them to an empty folder on your web server.
  3. Open your web browser and type the URL for your webtrees site (for example, https://www.yourserver.com/webtrees into the address bar.
  4. The webtrees setup wizard will start automatically.

Your first task will be to create a family tree.

If you have a GEDCOM file, you can import it into the tree. If not, just start entering your family tree.

There are lots of configuration options. You'll probably want to review the privacy settings first. Don't worry too much about all the other options - the defaults are good for most people. If you get stuck, you can get friendly help and advice from the help forum.


Upgrading webtrees is quick and easy. It is strongly recommended that you upgrade your installation whenever a new version is made available. Even minor webtrees version updates usually contain a significant number of bug fixes as well as interface improvements and program enhancements.

  • Automatic upgrade

webtrees has an automatic upgrade facility. An administrator upon logging in will receive notification when a new version is available and an option to start the automatic upgrade. If for some reason the automatic upgrade should fail then a manual upgrade should be performed.

  • Manual upgrade
  1. Now would be a good time to make a backup.
  2. Download the latest version of webtrees available from webtrees.net
  3. While you are in the middle of uploading the new files, a visitor to your site would encounter a mixture of new and old files. This could cause unpredictable behavior or errors. To prevent this, create the file data/offline.txt. While this file exists, visitors will see a “site unavailable - come back later” message.
  4. Unzip the .ZIP file, and upload the files to your web server, overwriting the existing files.
  5. Delete the file data/offline.txt.

Note for Macintosh users

Step 4 assumes you are using a copy tool that merges directories rather than replaces them. (Merge is standard behavior on Windows and Linux.) If you use the Macintosh Finder or other similar tool to perform step 3, it will replace your configuration, media and other directories with the empty/default ones from the installation. This would be very bad (but you did take a backup in step 1, didn't you!). Further details and recommendations for suitable tools can be found by searching google.com.

Building and developing

If you want to build webtrees from source, or modify the code, you'll need to install a couple of tools first.

You will need composer to install the PHP dependencies. Then run this command::

  • php composer.phar install

You will need npm to install the Javascript dependencies. Then run the commands:

  • npm install
  • npm run production

You will need to re-run the second of these any time you modify the file webtrees.js.

Gedcom (family tree) files

When you import a family tree (GEDCOM) file in webtrees the data from the file is transferred to the database tables. The file itself remains in the webtrees/data folder and is no longer used or required by webtrees. Any subsequent editing of the webtrees data will not change this file

When or if you change your genealogy data outside of webtrees, it is not necessary to delete your GEDCOM file or database from webtrees and start over. Follow these steps to update a GEDCOM that has already been imported:

  • Go to Control panel -> Manage family trees On the line relating to this particular family tree (GEDCOM) file (or a new one) select IMPORT.
  • Take careful note of the media items option (“If you have created media objects in webtrees, and have edited your data off-line using software that deletes media objects, then tick this box to merge the current media objects with the new GEDCOM.”) In most cases you should leave this box UNCHECKED.
  • Click “SAVE”. webtrees will validate the GEDCOM again before importing. During this process, webtrees copies your entire family tree (GEDCOM file) to a 'chunk' table within your database. Depending on the coding of your file, its file size and the capabilities of your server and the supporting software, this may take some time. No progress bar will show while the data is being copied and should you navigate away from this page, the process is suspended. It will start again when you return to the Family Tree management page.

Gedcom file Formats

Every Family History program has its own method of creating GEDCOM files, and differing output format options to select from. webtrees' import routines can read many different formats, but not necessarily all. If your software has a “UTF8” option you should always use that. However, webtrees has been tested with these alternative formats:

  • ANSI
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
  • MAC
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
  • DOS
    • imports OK, but is slow due to the translation into UTF8 as part of the import process.
    • currently will not import. Gives warning Error: cannot convert GEDCOM file from ANSEL encoding to UTF-8 encoding. Later releases of webtrees may include the facility to translate from ANSEL to UTF8, but for now a standalone utility is available here and should be used to convert the format to UTF-8 prior to importing.


Security in webtrees means ensuring your site is safe from unwanted intrusions, hacking, or access to data and configuration files. The developers of webtrees regard security as an extremely important part of its development and have made every attempt to ensure your data is safe.

The area most at risk of intrusion would be the /data folder that contains your config.ini.php file, and various temporary files. If you are concerned there may be a risk there is a very simple test you can do: try to fetch the file config.ini.php by typing url_to_your_server/data/config.ini.php in your web browser.

The most likely result is an “access denied” message like this:


You don't have permission to access /data/config.ini.php on this server.

This indicates that the protection built into webtrees is working, and no further action is required.

In the unlikely event you do fetch the file (you will just see a semicolon), then that protection is not working on your site and you should take some further action.

If your server runs PHP in CGI mode, then change the permission of the /data folder to 700 instead of 777. This will block access to the httpd process, while still allowing access to PHP scripts.

This will work for perhaps 99% of all users. Only the remaining 1% should consider the most complex solution, moving the /data folder out of accessible web space. (Note: In many shared hosting environments this is not an option anyway.)

If you do find it necessary, following is an example of the process required:

If your home folder is something like /home/username, and the root folder for your web site is /home/username/public_html, and you have installed webtrees in the public_html/webtrees folder, then you would create a new data folder in your home folder at the same level as your public_html folder, such as /home/username/private/data, and place your GEDCOM (family tree) file there.

Then change the Data folder setting on the Control panel -> Website -> Website preferences page from the default data/ to the new location /home/username/private/data

You will have two data directories:

  • [path to webtrees]/data - just needs to contain config.ini.php
  • /home/username/private/data - contains everything else


Backups are good. Whatever problem you have, it can always be fixed from a good backup.

To make a backup of webtrees, you need to make a copy of the following

  1. The files in the webtrees/data folder.
  2. The tables in the database. Freely available tools such as phpMyAdmin allow you to do this in one click. Alternatively, You can also make a backup running a mysqldump command (just replace the words [localhost], [username], [password] and [databasename] with your own):

    mysqldump --host=[localhost] -u [username] -p[password] --databases [databasename] > dump_file.sql

    Note that '-p[password]' goes together with no space in between.

Remember that most web hosting services do NOT backup your data, and this is your responsibility.

Restore from backup

To restore a backup on a new server:

  1. Follow the steps in Installation to get a clean new installation.

  2. Replace the data folder with backup copy.

  3. Restore your mysql database using phpmyadmin or running the following command line on your database server using your mysqldumpfile (just replace the words [username], [password] and [databasename] with your own):

    mysql -u [username] -p[password] [database_name] < [dump_file.sql]

  4. Confirm the file data/config.ini.php contains to correct information to connect to the database and update it if needed.

*Note that all licence references and agreements mentioned in the webtrees README section above are relevant to that project's source code only.