Gramps 4.1 Wiki Manual - Getting started

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In this chapter, we'll begin with the basics. First, we'll describe the basic concepts in Gramps. Then, we'll show you how to start Gramps and how to get help when you need it.

Overview of Gramps

Gramps is designed to be a flexible and powerful genealogy tool. Because of this power and flexibility, it helps to get an idea of how Gramps works before jumping into how to use the Gramps program.

Gramps breaks all genealogy information into 9 primary items:

  • People
  • Families
  • Events
  • Notes
  • Media
  • Citations
  • Sources
  • Places
  • Repositories

Each of these is composed of stand-alone items. That means that you can enter into your family tree one item at a time, and in any order that you want. For example, you might want to enter each Person item first, and then connect them together by creating Family items later. Or, you might start with Source items, and only create a Person item as your research warrants it. Or, you can mix these styles of entering data by adding some Note and Source items, then Family items, then later return to Notes and Sources. In a word, you do your genealogical research however you wish.


These 9 primary items are connected in a number of ways. Some of these connections are maintained implicitly. For example, adding a Person item to a Family item as a parent, or child, automatically creates a special connection, called a Reference. You can see the Families a Person is connected to in the References tab on the main Person window. There are many other ways that these connections are also visualized in Gramps, including the Relationship View.

To keep from repeating information, Gramps allows you to reuse, or share, items. These are also special connections, called links. For example, a Person item can be linked to any number of Note items. If a note mentions two separate people, then it might make sense to share that single note with both of the person items.

Some links have information themselves. For example, you can link a person to another couple's marriage event, say, because the person was a witness at their wedding. However, the husband and wife are linked to the marriage event in a primary role, whereas a witness fills a different role, e.g. as a witness. This type of information is kept on the link itself, in the role property.


Gramps supports two different methods to protect the privacy of sensitive data in your family tree. These methods are used when sharing your data with others, either through the creation of a report, exporting of data, or through the creation of a website. The first method protects information on people who Gramps believes are alive. If you have not specifically indicated that a person is dead (by adding a Death Event to a Person item), then Gramps has a sophisticated, automatic function for determining if someone is alive. Living people have their sensitive data redacted when using this method. For example, a person named "Smith, John" could appear as "Smith, [Living]".

The second privacy method is an explicit "private" flag which you can set on each item. For example, you might have sensitive, personal information in a note. If you mark such a note as private, then that note will not be shown in textual and narrative reports or exports. Also be aware that some links themselves can be marked private. This is useful when you want to mark the connection from, say, a person to an event as private, but still have the person and the event available in the report, export, or website.

In order to activate these two methods of privacy, you will need to indicate their use when creating some reports or exporting your data.


Gramps derives its core structure of items from a standard called GEDCOM. However, Gramps extends this standard where it has been deemed necessary. If you plan on using your family data with another system which uses GEDCOM, then you probably will want to be try to restrict your use of features that are Gramps-only extensions. On the other hand, if you are not limited by other genealogical software, then you can enter your data in whatever ways make sense to you.

You can read more details about this issue in the section on Gramps and GEDCOM.


Gramps is a powerful, flexible, free, open source program. One can largely use Gramps anyway you wish. There is no one, correct method of working or recording your data. However, if you wish to interact with other researchers or programs, you may have to consider alternative methods.

If you have additional questions, Gramps has a vibrant community of users and developers. There is a FAQ (frequently asked question list); a mailing list; a bug, feature request, and issue tracker; and an on-line chat room.

However, probably the best way to learn Gramps is by working with your data. Let's get started!

Start Gramps

The way you start Gramps depends on the operating system you are using.

As well as starting Gramps using the normal graphical user interface (GUI) as described below, it is also possible to start Gramps using a command line interface (CLI). CLI use can produce reports that are not available via the GUI, it can be used to create reports, do conversions etc. without opening a window, and can provide extra information in the event of problems. For more information, see the Command Line appendix.


Only the Linux platform is officially supported as Gramps developers use and test the source code on that platform, fixing any problems that arise due to upgrades.

Assuming you have used the standard Package Manager (either through a CLI or a GUI) for your Linux distribution, you will start Gramps in the normal way for your distribution. For example in Ubuntu 12.10, an icon is placed in the launcher, or the program can be started from Dash. For other distributions, an entry may be created in the Application menu (normally in the Office section).

Starting Gramps through the CLI on Linux is covered here.

MS Windows

MS Windows is a community supported platform. If you install the Windows AIO GrampsAIO32 or GrampsAIO64 executable, then this will place an icon on the desktop as well as a menu iten in the 'Start' menu, and you click on that to start Gramps.

Why are there two icons and two (or more - uninstall??) items in the start menu. Which group are the gramps menu items in the start menu? What is the difference between the two different Gramps icons? When would you use one or the other?

Starting Gramps through the CLI on MS Windows is covered here.

There are other ways to install Gramps for MS Windows, but these are much more complicated and are not covered here.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X is a community supported platform. If you download the Mac OS X disk image (.dmg), then you simply drag the application to your application folder (or anywhere else you want to store it) and start Gramps by double clicking on the application in the normal way.

Starting Gramps through the CLI on Mac OS X is covered here.

There are other ways to install Gramps for Mac OS X, but these are much more complicated and are not covered here.


Gramps has been translated into a number of languages. Usually Gramps automatically starts in your local language, as chosen for other applications, but sometimes this may not be right for you.


Describe for each main platform how the normal language is determined and how the user can choose a different language.



If you want to choose a locale 'variant' for sorting that is not the default variant, then you can start Gramps from the terminal (or console) with a different LC_COLLATE environment. For example, the default sorting (collation) variant for Swedish is "reformed", but you can instead choose "standard" by typing:

export LC_COLLATE="[email protected]=standard"

MS Windows


Mac OS X

For Mac OS X see Advanced setup for details on how the language is normally chosen, and how to choose a special, non-default setting for the language, the sorting order or the format of such things as day and month names and number separators.

Choosing a Family Tree

Fig 2.1 Dashboard Category View - First open of Gramps with no family tree loaded(Gramps 4.1.0; MS-Windows 7)

If Gramps is started without a family tree selected, the initial screen will have little functionality. Most operations will not be available. To load a family tree (also referred to as database), select in the menu Family Trees->Manage Family Trees to open the family tree manager, or click the ChartsFamily Tree icon in the toolbar. Gramps keeps track of your recently opened Family Trees, and these can be selected by clicking on the arrow next to the ChartsFamily Tree button and choosing from the drop down menu.

For more detailed information on the Family Tree manager and the Family Trees menu, see the chapter dedicated to this: Manage Family Trees.

Tell me how to start right now!

We advise everyone to read/go over the manual to learn all the details of Gramps. Genealogy takes time, so learning the tools is not wasted time.

However, if you really want the bare minimum to start, then read this How-To start with Genealogy using Gramps.

Obtaining Help

Gramps has a Help menu that you can consult at any time. It includes the following menu items:

  • User Manual: Direct link to the online Gramps manual you are viewing right now. Yes, you need an internet connection to consult the Gramps Manual.
  • Tip of the day: Displays the "Tip of the day" dialog.
  • Plugin Manager: From this menu you can manage the plugins you may have added.
  • Gramps Home Page: This item opens your web browser and connects to the Gramps project web site.
  • Gramps Mailing Lists: This item opens your web browser to the Gramps mailing list page. On this page, you can browse the mailing list archives and join the gramps-users mailing list so you can share your experiences with other Gramps user's.
  • Report a Bug: Choose this item to file a bug report in the Gramps bug tracking system. (Remember, Gramps is a living project. We want to know about any problems you encounter so we can work to solve them for you and everyone elses benefit.)
  • About: This item displays a dialog with general information about the Gramps version you are running.

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