Gramps Glossary

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This glossary gives an overview of terms that appear in Gramps, with a short description, and a link to relevant articles.

For a glossary of genealogical terms, see Genealogy Glossary.

 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


Active Person
(core concept) - The person designated (or 'selected') as the momentary center of focus in the open Gramps database. The perspective of this person defines the context for actions and for displaying all the surrounding information. Changing this focus is done by navigating the Active Person selection to another person.
The Active Person's relationship to the Home Person defines the scope of the perspective.
(aka add-on) an optional third-party expansion to Gramps that leverages Gramps plugin customization framework to add a specific feature. Addons may not conform to design or code quality standards. Use at your own risk!
Optional parts built into the core project (but which can be enabling or disabled leveraging this framework) are called by the more generic name: plugins.
(sec. obj.) - The Gramps concept of an Address is a particular location with an associated time frame. Think of it as a mailing address. It is intended to represent where a person lived and when the person lived there. The Address consists:
  • Date
  • Street Address
  • Locality
  • City
  • County
  • State/Province
  • Postal/Zip code
  • Country
  • Phone
Not to be confused with a Place which has a fixed position (its location). Use this with care. For genealogical research you can also use the residence event coupled with a Place. For mailing (email, postal), add an address to a Person or Repository.
administrative division
a unit of a layered system subdividing a geopolitical (geographic or political) region. Such divisions are recorded as Place Types in Gramps. Meanwhile the structure of a Place Tree is built by layering via the 'Enclosed by' tab in the Place Editor. The subdivisions are sometimes categorized as an entity, locality, area, or region. The terms of subnational entity, constituent unit, or country subdivision tend to imply divisions that are more related to political representation than administrative.
See wikipedia's Administrative division for a conceptional definition or List of administrative divisions by country for specific countries.
(event role) A term to refer to the role of an assistant.
process of making something English. If an immigrant (or their descendant) adopts a naturalized variation of their birth name, that preferred alias can be added with an Also Known As name type in the Names tab. All aliases can be categorized by type and surname variants may be grouped with the in the Name Editor.
(sec. obj.) - Attributes are for something permanent, or at least somewhat permanent: eye color, blood type, etc. Usually you would have not more than one of each attribute type for a Person/Family/etc. Attributes are managed from an Attributes tab in each primary Object Editor. There are no built-in Attributes, only custom types.


Books Report

A Reports menu feature of Gramps that allows the design or generation of a repeatable custom genealogy Book. A Book consists of an ordered collation of Gramps textual and graphical reports in a single document.

(event role) A term to refer to the woman a marriage ceremony who will have the role of wife in the marriage. See also: mother.
(database backend) The Berkeley Software Distribution database (also known as BSDDB) was the default database engine used by the 2.0 through the 5.0 versions of Gramps. The default changed to SQLite in the 5.1 version via the DB-API Database Backend. (Manual updates to the BSDDB engine for the 5.1.3 version may be advisable.)


(core concept) Gramps divides and organizes the information about each Primary Object into a series of different descriptive schemas called Categories, each with their own View. Each Category is a smaller, more digestible portion of the total information that comprises a Genealogical Tree. The View categories are: Dashboard Dashboard, People People, Relationships Relationships, Family Families, Charts Charts, Events Events, Places Places, Geography Geography, Sources (v3.4.x) Sources, Citations Citations, Repositories Repositories, Media Media, Notes Notes
(event role) A term describing a role of the person who performs a rite, especially referring to a priest at the Eucharist.
(Citations prim. obj.) - Contains the information that enables you or others to locate your source document. An isolated Citation can be created without first creating separate Source object. But, should the same source be referenced repeatedly in a Tree, a separate Source simplifies the Citation and eliminates redundant information that must be harmonized.
(event role) A term applied to a religious person regardless of religion. For example, a monk or priest. See also: celebrant.
Religious terminology is often subject to dispute, see the Merriam-Webster for an independent definition.
custom Types
This indicates a user defined type, as opposed to types that came pre-defined in Gramps. When none of the pre-defined Types are suitable, add a new custom Type by typewriting directly into the selector combo box. If the value doesn't precisely match any of the existing menu items, a new custom Type will be created when the OK button is clicked.
Any added custom Type will remain available in that expanded menu... unless the Tree is exported & re-imported or via a 3rd party addon Utility like Type Cleanup.
custom Types can be defined for: Event Attributes, Family Attributes, media Attributes, Person Attributes, Event Roles, Event types, Family Relation types, Child Reference Types, Name Origin Types, Names Types, Note Types, Place Types, Repository Types, Source Attributes, source Media Types, URL Types.


(sec. obj.) - Dates in Gramps are much more complex than just a month, day, and year. Dates are always in a particular calendar, can span a time frame, the Date Quality can be approximate, and have support for many other subtleties specific to genealogy data.
  1. acronym: deoxyribonucleic acid
  2. a nucleic acid that carries genetic information.
acronym: Document Type Definition. A document that defines the tagging structure which identifies the individual components of an SGML or XML document.
See the reference documentation for the versions of Gramps RELAX NG (REgular LAnguage for XML Next Generation)(.rng) schema XML and DTD


(Events prim. obj.) - Contains the information related to an happening. Adding an Event record provides the context of an interaction of the roles of People/Families, dates & places in activities.
An Event is a defining moment in a person's life. See events for the use in genealogy, for predefined events in Gramps and suggested naming for common events.
event role
The role a Person plays in an Event. In Gramps, an Event can be linked to as many participants as desired. Each Person may participate in different roles but more than one Person might play the same role. The Event Role captures this. Some common Roles are pre-defined but the user can add other custom Roles by just typing in an appropriate new Role Type in the Event Reference Editor.
Pre-defined Types of Event Role: Aide, Bride, Celebrant, Clergy, Family, Groom, Informant, Primary, Witness, Unknown, custom
event type
The general denominator to which an event belongs, e.g., a christian, civil, tibetan, ... marriage, are all denoted by the event type marriage. See events in Gramps for an overview.


  1. Gramps-family.png
    Family (Family prim. obj.) - Contains the information specific to relationships between people. This traditionally contains one or two parents and zero or more children. A family unit is created in Gramps by adding Parents to an individual, by adding a partner/spouse to an individual, or by adding a family first then adding the people.
    The Family relationship is a core concept in Gramps. It depicts the basic relations between people. Commonly this will contain a father, a mother and some children, however, it can also contain only parts of this (e.g., two brothers, a mother and child). People can be part of several families (adoption, remarried, ...)
  2. Family (event role) An event can be coupled to a family, denoting that the entire family was involved in the event. Typically the Marriage event will be coupled to a family with event role family
A filter in a database finds (or hides by 'filtering out') records, displaying only those records that match certain criteria. (The criteria are comparison rules describing some attribute of a record.) Layers of criteria can be applied but each layer requires additional processing and slows performance of the interface.
The basic Search is a single criteria filter. The search value is compares only one attribute of a record that has been selected from a pop-up menu.
The Filter Gramplets will compare several predefined common attributes simultaneously with simplified access to changing the search value. The default is for exact matching but Regular Expressions (RegEx) can be used for pattern matching. A Custom Filter may be also layered in.
A Custom Filter adds richly complex Rules-based comparison with layers of intersection options for those rules. Custom Filters allow repeatable filters to be created with pre-defined rules and values to be matched. Beyond interactively hiding (or revealing) records in views, Custom Filters are used to set limits for exporting, setting scopes for reports, and targeting tool actions.
In addition to the built-in rules for filtering, addon rules are available for Custom Filters.


  1. acronym: Genealogy Data Communication
  2. a format for importing and exporting genealogical data. The open specification for the GEDCOM format was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as an aid to genealogical research. The long standing standard release was version 5.5 in 1996 with a 5.5.1 draft update presented for comment in 1999. (Belatedly, the 'draft' label was officially removed in the annotated 2019 release. After 20 years as the de facto standard format, it remained unimproved excepting for 2 tags and the copyright.) As an Open Standard, there are extensive and constantly changing incompatibilities between implementations and data loss when transferring GEDCOM formatted data between competing software tools is common.
GEDCOM X proposed in 2012 and 5.5.5 proposed in 2019 are improvements that have not gained the approval of the copyright holder. As of June 2021, these proposals have been superseded by the GEDCOM 7.0.1 version.
Gramps is an open-source genealogy program, a free software project and community.
The GRAMPS in all capital letters and the "Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System" backronym were both invented around 2001 by Don Allingham's father but were phased out around March 2010 in favor of Gramps as the official name of the software. All upper-case acronym-based names have become unfashionable for software.
a Gramplet is a plug-in (aka widget) that can be docked in the sidebar or bottombar of a standard view to extend the functionality of that view. Gramplets dynamically update as the different records are selected in the main display area of a view. Gramplets typically create an alternate interface to your Family Tree data. Collections of built-in and 3rd party add-on gramplets are available for installation and download with the Plug-in Manager. The Plug-in Manager also regulates a wide variety of other built-in and add-ons which can expand functionality unrelated to the interface.
See the Gramplets for Python Developers for independent development information.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
a visual way of indicating interactive features of a computer operating system or application/program. Gramps uses a "windows, icons, menus, pointer" (WIMP) based GUI with post-WIMP elements like hyperlinked redirection and custom interface objects.
The appearance and interaction may vary by conventions dictated by the Operating System (OS), installation option (such as language localization support or add-on/plug-in), theme (at the OS or internal levels), and/or user preferences customization.
The specific interface elements are identified by customary name, general appearance & behavior in the Visual Guide to Gramps. Expansion interface elements are described in the user documention for each specific add-on.
(event role) A term to refer to the man at a marriage who will be referred to as husband after the marriage. See also: father.
An acronym. see Graphical User Interface.


Gramps Go-Home48x48 win.png
Home Person
(core concept) - The persistently designated Home Person is the foundational Person in the Tree (the currently open Gramps database). This Person is the central target of genealogical research and family references extend from this center. Ideally, every person, event and source in the Tree will (however directly or indirectly) relate back to the Home Person.
By default, the database reports describe everything else in contextual relation to this person. The Status Bar, the Quick View called "Relation to Home Person", and the Third party addon Gramplet called "Deep Connections" all describe different aspects of the relationship of the Active Person to the Home Person.
You (or your client) are customarily designated (set) as the Home Person. And this Home designation serves as a persistent point of reference for the rest of the the Tree in Reports generally and for the Active Person in detail. But a different Home Person might be temporarily set when generating reports or when researching a complex biography or obituary.
Fascinating tidbits often lure Gramps researchers into wandering off-course. When the Active Person has become lost, the bearings can be instantly regained by navigating the Active Person selection back to the Home Person.
Navigate to Home Person - keyboard shortcut Alt+Home or press the toolbar Gramps Go-Home48x48 win.pngHome button.
The custom filter rule for finding the Home Person is in a People category filter under the General filters and was named 'Default person' until the 5.1 version.


(event role) A term to refer to the Role of Person who reports an Event.





(origin Name attrib.) - personal name based on the name of one's mother
(Media prim. obj.) - Contains the information related to a media object. Media objects include images, videos, audio recordings, documents, webpages or any other type of related files.
see View mode


Name Origin
An optional attribute (characteristic) identifying how a name was derived for a Person. Pre-defined items of the origin selection menu include: inherited, patrilineal, matrilineal, given, taken, patronymic, matronymic, feudal, pseudonym, occupation.
Available as a standard attribute of Names in Gramps.
(Notes prim. obj.) - Contains the information representing a textual brief record of facts and how it references other objects in the Tree. Notes can be added to any object at any any level of the Tree and are often used to detail the context of that record in the Tree.
Records in the Note Category contain free-form text with basic formatting and linking features. Notes can be categorized by Tag and Type in addition to the object to which it is attached. That information is created and modified using the Notes Editor.


(event role) A term to refer to the role of a person authorized to conduct an official duty or function. (Such as performing a marriage or funeral ceremony or conferring a vocational degree.) Jurisdiction may be derived from a from holding a position of civil or religious authority. Use 'OFFICIATOR' rather than 'Officiant' for GEDCOM compatibility.


(origin Name attrib.) - personal name based on the name of one's father.
(People prim. obj.) - Contains the information specific to an individual person in the People category.
(Places prim. obj.) - The Gramps concept of a Place is a particular location independent of time. Over time, the same Place may have different address information due to changing borders and political situation. For example, Leningrad and St. Petersburg represent the same place, but with different names. Places in Gramps are stored in a hierarchy and are direct accessed via the Places category view. A Place consists of:
  • Descriptive Title
  • Name
  • Type (administrative divisions such as country, state, county ...)
  • Longitude/Latitude
  • Code (such as a country code or postal code)
  • A list of alternative names for the place
  • A list of regions which enclose the place
(aka plug-in)
1) a type of expansion framework that allows Gramps customization by providing interface hooks to recognize and use external code.
2) customized module of code built to provide a specific feature or functionality that is not part of the core program. Gramps plugin code modules can be enabled or disabled via a plugin manager.
Portable Operating System Interface: a family of OS standards specified by the IEEE Computer Society for maintaining compatibility with variants of Unix (such as Linux) and other operating systems. Although the MacOS is "POSIX-certified", the term is used in this manual to generically refer to just the "Mostly POSIX-compliant" Linux and BSD distributions with verified Gramps downloads and which use the POSIX-style environment.
primary object
Primary objects are the data structures at the top level of a hierarchical collection of records. Beside the main structure of data, they can contain a hierarchy of secondary objects, and can be referenced by other primary or secondary objects. In the Gramps database, primary objects and the secondary objects that they contain are stored as separate records. Each primary object type is stored in a separate table. See Using database API, Primary Objects (see also secondary object)
The primary objects are:
Citations Citation, Events Event, Family Family, Media Media, Notes Note, People Person, Places Place, Repositories Repository, Sources (v3.4.x) Source, 16x16-gramps-tag.png Tag.
Primary role
(event role) A term to refer to the role of the focal participant of an Event.
Private tag
The Private option tags information that should be redacted when sharing data or printing reports. Records are shown with: a locked padlock when private; and, an unlocked padlock when public. Clicking the padlock icon toggles between Public & Private flags. This manual override supplements the automated Probably Alive and custom Filter features which help Gramps to respect Personal Privacy.
Gramps is a single user database and omits the typical security features of a multi-user system. So even Private data will be accessible from within Gramps. However, generating reports and exporting data default to redacting information flagged as Private.



the basic a system of linking relationships between objects in Gramps. When when an object is added in the Editor for record, a Reference (link) is created in the object that was added.
References tab
a system of linking between objects in Gramps. When objects of Gramps are linked, the References tab lists the objects to link toward it.
(Repositories prim. obj.) - Contains the information related to a physical or virtual structure where genealogical and family history sources are stored. Once a Repository is added to a Gramps Tree, it can used to organize Sources.
function performed or part played by a person (or other Gramps object) in a particular situation. When objects of Gramps are linked, a Reference is created where the Role disambiguates the relative nature of the reference. see event role
linguistic representation of a word in the Roman (Latin) alphabet


secondary object
Secondary objects are contained within other objects, and cannot be referenced directly. They can contain other secondary objects. Examples include: Name, Date and Address. See Using database API, Secondary Objects (see also primary object)
Shared objects
Sharing allows Objects to be linked to other objects to establish a relationship or maintain single set of characteristics (or secondary objects) that they hold in common. This allows updates to a shared object to be reflected in all instances mentioning (referencing) that shared object. Redundantly creating object with the same information should be avoided. (So, refining a City to include the enclosing county instead of the less specific enclosing state will be seen for all Events referencing that City and Places enclosed by it.)
Object descriptions are grouped in two distinct sections:
 • The Reference Information section contains information unique to one instance.
 • The Shared Information of an object will be seen in all instances that are linked to it.
(Sources (v3.4.x) prim. obj.) - A person (family, friend, another researcher), thing (book, magazine newspaper, census), or place (courthouse, church, library, genealogical/historical society) from which information comes, arises, or is obtained. After adding a Source to a Gramps Tree, the Source can be referenced in Citations and organized with Repositories.
(database backend) The SQLite project's in-process library (also known simply as SQLite) is the default database engine used since the 5.1 version of Gramps. The support was extended from BSDDB in the 5.0 version via the DB-API Database Backend.


(16x16-gramps-tag.png prim. obj.) - A label that can be attached to a Citations Citation, Events Event, Family Family, Media Media, Notes Note, People Person, Places Place, Repositories Repository or Sources (v3.4.x) Source for the purpose of easy identification and filtering.
A keyword or phrase used to group the collection to produce a report.
(graphical user interface terminology) - The Toolbar is a ribbon (located below the application menubar) with button shortcuts for the most widely needed functions associated with the current view. The selection of buttons changes in response to the context of the current view. (e.g., toolbar buttons for switching mapping view modes will only appear for the Geography view.)
Typographical conventions
The customary formatting having special (and possibly peculiar) meaning when used throughout the MediaWiki driven Gramps manual and documentation. The different typeface accents, highlighting and enclosures indicate specific parts of the Gramps Graphical User Interface (GUI) or prompt a User activity.


(event role) A placeholder for when the role of a participant in an Event has not yet been defined. Gramps sets an appropriate default Role as each new Event type is created. But when a new participant is associated with an existing Event via Share or drag'n'drop, the Role isn't as predictable. In such a case, an Unknown placeholder is inserted.
Any Unknown Event Role type causes a variety of reporting problems. Persons and Families with Unknown Roles should be found and the Roles manually replaced as soon as is practical.
User Directory
(core concept) An alias for the file folder (directory) location where customizations (e.g.: preferences files, add-ons, plug-ins) are stored for the Gramps family of genealogy tools. Since this folder location varies by which Gramps fork has been installed, the User Directory is an 'alias' (a.k.a. placeholder) used in instructions about re-configuring Gramps.
This alias allows instructions for locating your specific User Directory file location to be consolidated in the documentation.


View category
(graphical user interface terminology) - a View category (or simply 'View') is a Gramps-specific name for the collection of View modes (display layouts) presenting information in a structured and predictable manner. Different Views are selected from the Navigator (left sidebar),
Layouts are in table, outline or graphical formats; depending on the preferred way to represent how the data elements relate to on another.
Gramps divides and organizes the information about each Primary Object into a series of Categories, each with their own View. Each of the Category Views displays a smaller, more digestible portion of the total information that comprises a Genealogical Tree. The View categories are: Dashboard Dashboard, People People, Relationships Relationships, Family Families, Charts Charts, Events Events, Places Places, Geography Geography, Sources (v3.4.x) Sources, Citations Citations, Repositories Repositories, Media Media, Notes Notes
View mode
(graphical user interface terminology) - a View mode is a Gramps-specific name for the display layouts presenting Category View information in a structured and predictable manner. A Category View may have alternate view modes (subcategories) of display layout. (e.g., Views with Table layouts might have flat listed or hierarchically grouped modes.) Navigating between View modes is from the toolbar and Navigator.
Each mode of a category can be independently Gramps-config.png configured. Each mode may maintain a separate object selection, filtering, and organization for its Gramplet bars.
View data may be further subdivided with tabbed pages of layouts.


(Hawaiian loanword) meaning 'quick'; or 'wikiwiki' meaning 'very quick'. For Gramps users, the wiki refers to the collaborative website of educational material which is organized using the MediaWiki content management system. The core pages of that website being the structured Gramps software user's operating guide, a.k.a. 'Wiki Manual'.
For most internet users, the word is most often an inadvertent alusion to the 1995 WikiWikiWeb, the first website that built-in tools encouraging users to quickly & easily collaborate to expand the content of the site. See wiki in Wiktionary
(event role) The term that applies to the people asked to be present at an event so as to be able to testify to its having taken place


acronym: Extensible Markup Language. A schema used to define the expected structure of data in a text format. The system annotates a document in a way that data elements are syntactically distinguishable from identifying tags. A markup language defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a fault tolerant format that is both (marginally) human-readable and machine-readable.
Gramps will generate XML format natively in compressed and uncompressed forms identified with a .gramps or .gpkg file extension. It is the format that definitively supports every piece of genealogical data stored by Gramps.
See the reference documentation for the versions of Gramps RELAX NG (REgular LAnguage for XML Next Generation)(.rng) schema XML and DTD



Wiki manual

Please enhance the Wiki - create new glossary terms and add them to the wiki manual. Glossary term IDs are more memorable & predictable if kept to all lower-case and use underscores (_) for spaces.

inserting a "Glossary Term" into the Glossary list
;<span id="glossary_term">Glossary Term</span>: Definition of the term.

inserting the term into the Gramps wiki manual
[[Gramps_Glossary#glossary_term|Glossary Term]]

for more information about WikiMedia sections, see: