Data capture with GeneWeb

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Person and family forms allow to enter data into a GeneWeb genealogy base through your web browser. If the owner/manager of the base has granted you permission to do so (through a generic or a personal wizard password), the welcome page will offer the possibility to add a new family, and each individual page will propose many personal and family related actions. Internally, a GeneWeb base is structured around families and persons:

  • Family records identify parents and children regrouped into a family, each spouse being possibly child of a family, and being possibly engaged with one or more other spouse.
  • Personal records keep information specific to an individual (first name, last name, dates and locations of birth and death, events, etc.).
  • Both records can also link to other persons such as witness, godparents, etc.

Before creating any records, it is important to fully understand the notion of homonyms.

All the data entered in a base is captured through either Modify person or Modify family forms. Other forms may change the links between persons (delete, merge).

Update forms and other commands

This section lists all possible update opportunities, but be aware that GeneWeb will not display commands that are not meaningful. For instance, if someone has parents, the command to add parents will not be shown.

Forms and commands on default template

  • On the welcome page:
Individual button with its drop-down menu and Family button on a personnal page.


  • There is no command to directly add a new person in GeneWeb. In GeneWeb a new person is created through four mechanisms:
    • as parents of an existing person, or in a new family being created;
    • as children in a family at creation or modification times;
    • as spouse of some existing person;
    • as witness of an event, or relation of a person (godparents, adoptive parents, etc.).
  • All the choices above lead you to a form, and ultimately to a confirmation page. Nothing is definitive until you hit the last Ok on this confirmation page.
This validation step may trigger two king of reports:
  • A summary report of your action and the new family or person you have updated, and possibly some comments about remaining issues (missing sex indication, wrong order, parent too young, age at death too large, etc.)
  • An error report
The error page will inform you of its exact nature. You can back-track with the browser, edit a correction and validate again. You can also quit. This leaves the base in the state it was before you started this update.
One typical error is name conflict. At this point you can either back-track and edit appropriately the names and occurrence, or create a new person with the new available occurrence number supplied by GeneWeb.
  • While entering data in most fields, hitting the Return key is equivalent to hitting the Ok button. This is not the case in fields where the key is meaningful such as the various notes fields.
  • In all forms, some fields may be pre-recorded. This is just a convenience, and you are allowed to change that information, but this is valid only for persons being created. For instance, when you add a child into a family, the names and data of the other children appear in the form, but editing these data has no effect at all on the base!!

Creating and linking

  • When exploring the various update forms, you will see that for each person zone, a pull-down menu offers the possibility to create or to link:
    • the first case creates a new person bearing the specified first-name last-name. If an homonym exists you will be warned
    • the second case links to an existing person for which you must know the first-name, occurrence and last-name. If you mistype any of these information, and you happen to hit an existing person, GeneWeb cannot detect your error!!
Templm offers a different mechanism to achieve the same goal:
  • create is achieved by providing a sex value in the first field,
  • link is achieved by providing an occurence number in that same field.

Updating persons

Modify a person

This form will appear after selecting "Update" on the personal page of a person, then "Modify person". This form contains the following data capture zones:

  • Names
  • Birth
  • Baptism
  • Death
  • Burial
  • Profession
  • Relations
  • Titles
  • Events
  • Notes
  • Sources

The Relations, Titles and Events zones have a checkbox allowing the addition of a new zone for additional data of this type. Inside some zones, several fields propose also a checkbox next to labels such as "Insert alias", "Insert nickname", etc. to require addition of another field of the same type. Any data capture will not be final until the last confirmation Ok.

All the data known about this person will be pre-recorded in the form, and can be edited or suppressed.

Clicking the Ok button at the end of the form is the only way to trigger the confirmation page and record permanently any changes.

Description of the various fields

Read carefully the meaning of each of these fields as they are not treated in the same fashion in the various reports proposed by GeneWeb.

  • First-name and last-name have their usual meaning. Coupled with the occurrence number, this constitutes a unique identifier for the person, which can be replaced by an equivalent (internal to GeneWeb and non stable across save/restore) numerical number.
One should enter the "usual" first-name in the first-name zone, and report all other first-names, public first-names in the appropriate zone described below.
This will render effective the maintenance of a first-names list in the base, showing which first-name is most frequent, all bearers of the same first-name, etc.
Warning: The first name/surname "?" is "reserved" in GeneWeb. You can't name persons to "?", if you want them to be linkable to the rest of the database. Also if you want to attach notes or relations, (godparents, adoptive parents or children, etc.), to the persons, you can't name them "?". The solution is to edit these persons and change their surname or their first name to something else: put "N", "Ne", "N...", "x", or what you want but not just "?" (avoid "??").
These persons are considered by GeneWeb as "dead-ends": if they are children, they cannot be spouses, if they are spouses, they cannot have parents. And they cannot have associated notes.
Moreover, they are not exported in the .gw or GEDCOM files and their personal information (if any), is consequently lost.
It is sometimes possible, by hacking, to be able to give them notes and to make links, but a warning: at the first cleaning up of the data base, these notes and links are going to disappear: it is therefore advised not to do that.
  • Public name is the name by which a person is usually known. Kings, actors and celebrities fall in this category. For instance "Louis the XIV th", while having "Louis as first name" has "de Bourbon" as last-name.
Public names are a valid search criteria for a person, and is displayed first as title on the personal page, the first-name last-name being positioned below.
  • Image refers to a .gif, .jpg or .png file associated with the person, that will be display at the head of its personal page. It can be a URL ("http://servername/folder/filename.jpg"), or a simple file that the gwd server will search for in the bases/images/base folder.
If no filename is provided, gwd will search for a file names last_name.occurrence.last_name with any of the extensions above. In the filename construction invoqued, all accents will be removed, uppercase letter lowered and any blank or non alphanumerical character will be replaced by an underscore _.
For instance, the person named Anne-Cécile Dupont de Nemours will use anne_cecile.0.dupont_de_nemours as filename.
  • Nickname is a public name typically attached to some well known persons. For instance "Louis VI le Gros".
A person having a nickname can be searched using "first-name nickname" combination rather than "First-name Last-name". For instance again, "Louis VI" (his public name) is reachable as "Louis le Gros", "Louis VI le Gros", "Louis Capet", etc. Note that "Le Gros" is not considered as a last-name and is not shown in the last-names list.
A person may have several nicknames. "William the Conqueror" is also known as "William the Bastard", hence the necessity allow for multiple nicknames capture zones
Is a nickname exists, the public-name (or the first-name if there is no public-name) will be displayed first as title on the personal page, the first-name last-name being shown below.
  • Alias is a name under which a person is known, without that being an alternate first-name. For instance, "Aurore Dupin" is known as "Georges Sand". Similarly "Anne-Marie d’Orléans", daughter of "Philippe Ier" et niece of "Louis XIV" is known as "Mademoiselle de Valois".
An alias is a whole and is not broken into first and last. So "Aurore Sand" and "Georges Dupin" are not valid search criteria for "Georges Sand" or "Aurore Dupin", neither is "Mademoiselle d'Orleans.
If there exist multiple aliases, they are displayed in smaller bold face below the title.
  • First-name alias may have several uses:
    • It can be the list of your first-names recorder with the authorities.
    • It can be a familiar nickname used by friends and family as "Bobby" instead of "Robert"
    • It can be an alternate first-name with varying spelling or hypothesis as extracted from anciens documents
There can be multiple first-name aliases
When present, they are displayed in smaller typeface below the title
  • Name alias is a placeholder for alternative last-names when spelling is not stable for instance.. Usage is not frequent.
  • Birth and baptism record date and place of those events. No specific problem.
  • Death record death information. No issue again except for the "automatic choice" explained below:
The death zone offers a pull-down menu whose first option is -. This value means "unknown". Based on this, provided you do not supply a date of death, GeneWeb will record "alive" for persons younger than 80 years, "unknown" for persons aged between 80 and 120 years, and "dead" for persons older that 120 years. You can always select yourself manually the option which you prefer.
Persons whose death status is "unknown" will not have an age computed on their personal pages. So you should make your own educated choice for persons aged between 80 and 120 years.
If you specify the death reason (Killed, Murdered, Executed, Disappeared) you must provide a date. If such a date is unknown, enter this fact in the textual date field.
  • Occupation records the main professional activity. It should not become a full biography which can be more easily expanded in the notes section.
  • Titles record nobility titles. There may be multiple titles, and a check-box "insert title" is available. Clicking on the Ok button when one of these checkboxes is active will publish a fresh form with an additional title zone.
Titles are broken into two separate items: a title proper and a place. The title proper contains the title name: Count, viscount, dike, king… The place contains the territory linked to this title.
Note the particle: at display time, both parts will be joined such as in "Count of Anjou", "Duke of York", "King of England"… Each of these will be clickable, allowing the display of the other tenants of the same title for the same place. But managing separately those two parts will also allow to query for all "counts" ro all "kings", or for all titles associated with a place.
The field name associated to a title allows to enter a public name associated to the title. For instance, "Charles Quint" is called "Charles 1er" as "king of Spain", and "Charles IV" as "king of Sicily", etc..
The field N-th is used for titles numbered in sequence as in "3rd count of Warwick". in this case, the value to enter is "3" (not 3rd!). This should not be confused with a number such as "Louis XIV" which indicates that he is the 14th Louis, but not the 14th king of france.
The button "main title" allows to select the main title which is the only one displayed in some contexts (on the page of a spouse or a child for instance). This obviously applies only if multiple titles exist.
To suppress a title, blank out the first capture field of the title zone
  • Access defines the rules for access to the personal data according to the friend/wizard status or the visitor. This applies only to persons younger than a limit defined by the configuration parameter private_years (default is 150).
    • By default, persons bearing a title, or whose one parent has a title is considered "public" and visible by all visitors.
    • If the value of access is "public", then this person is visible to all
    • If the value of access is "private", this person is visible only to friends and wizards, and invisible to other visitors.
  • Notes contains any other data you wish to record and display about a person. The formatting of this area is driven by HTML tags (limited to the tags listed in gw/tags.txt,), and a wiki style syntax described here.
Note the existence of several sub-notes area associated with events such as birth, wedding, death, etc.
  • Sources records your sources for data about a person. This field is not extensible beyond limits, and it may be necessary to overflow into the notes area as needed.
Note also a source sub-field associated with events.

Suppress a person

This page appear after selection "Suppress person" in the "Update person" page.

This form contains only the Ok button for your confirmation. If you do confirm, a new page confirming the deletion will be shown.

A deleted person does not in fact totally disappear from the base. All its personal data and its links to parents do disappear, but its link to a spouse and children is maintained and is displayed as if both its first-name and last-name were a ?.

Send an image

This form appears after choosing "Update person" and "Send image", provided the owner/manager of the base has allowed it, and that the field "image" of the person is empty. To force this situation, do an "Update person" and clear the "image" field.

The form selects then sends an image file with extension .gif, .jpg ou .png which will be attached to that person with the name first-name.occurrence.last-name (see #Description of the various fields above). This file will replace pre-existing files associated with the person and will be stores in the bases/images/base folder. The older file will be suppressed on your disk

Suppress an image

A button allowing image suppression appears after choosing "Update person" and "Send image", provided the owner/manager of the base has allowed it, and that the field "image" of the person is empty. Clicking on the button will open a confirmation page. If you confirm, the image will be disassociated from the person, and will be deleted on your disk.

Updating families

The wrench button directly link to the Update family form.

Modify a family

This form is reached from the “Family” pull-down menu. It can also be reached directly by clicking on the small wrench icon appearing next to each family in some templates. It contains several zones for spouse one, spouse two, spouse event, comments, children and sources. Both the spouse event and the child zone have an “insert event” or “insert child” checkbox allowing to expand the form to provide additional events or children.

Any pre-recorded data in the form can be edited, modified, suppressed. Those actions will not be valid until the Ok button triggers the confirmation page.

Any zone making reference to a person has the three input zones for first-name, occurrence and last-name, and has the important radio button to select “Create” or “Link” (See Creating and linking).

Remember that

  • when linking, accents are not necessary
  • additions and corrections for a person to be linked, although doable, will no be taken into account at Ok time. These additions and corrections must be done through the “Person” page of the existing person.

When adding a child to a family, you are given the opportunity to specify:

  • sex
  • dates and location for birth and death

Any other personal information must be entered through the Update person mechanism.

Any child whose first-name is empty is ignored

Any child whose last-name entry is empty will inherit that of his or her father.

Suppress a family

This form is reached from the “Family” section, then “union with xx”, then “Suppress family”. It contains only the Ok button, for your confirmation. If you do confirm, then all the links between the family members will be severed, but no person will be removed from the base. The only data lost will be that relative to the specific union event (marriage/divorce dates and places, and witnesses…).

One potential result of this action is to create isolated persons, that is persons belonging to no family (as child, parent or spouse), or no longer witness. These persons will disappear from the base at the next clean action!

One method to detect such persons (but possibly not all), is to click on the last-name of one of the former family members (you can always backtrack with your browser, and "see" those names in your window. The URL links to their personal pages are still valid!). Clicking of such a last-name will display all its bearers, giving you a chance to spot isolated former children. treating witnesses with the same approach is harder.

Reverse and merge families

Two more options can appear in the “Update family” submenu. On default template, you reach them by clicking on the “Family” button in menu bar.

“Reverse” appears if the individual has multiple families. It allows to permutate the order between two families. The detail of the operation are shown and you need to confirm the action with Ok button.

“Merge” appears if two relations between the same persons appear twice in sequence. It allows to merge the two families in one. Reverse as much as needed to have the good order to be able to merge.

If using templm, these button appear directly on the individual page in the Descendants section: ^ button between the spouses to reverse, and ^ Merge button to merge families.

Add, remove and sort children

In order to add a child to a family in the Children section of the Update family form, you must fill the blank zone. If a child already exists, the blank zone is not available: you can add other children by selecting the checkbox insert _ child/children [x] and entering the number of children you want to add. Press Enter or hit OK at the bottom and the form will update. You can now fill the new blank zones for children.

If the birth dates of the children are known, GeneWeb will sort them in the proper order. If the dates are not known, you can rearrange the order by permuting adjacents children, or by exchanging their first names with copy/paste. In this last case, remember to select “Link” rather that “Create” for any child that already exists.

If the birth place of a child is prefixed by b/, the full entry (date and place) is considered to be related to the baptism of the child.

If you use templm, you can add a new line for a child clicking + at the bottom of the Children section or hitting Alt + 2. You can sort children using different keyboard shortcuts when the cursor is on the first field of a raw; a reminder of all availables shortcuts is given if you do a mouseover on the title of the first column title #.

To suppress a child from a family, blank out his first name zone. This only removes the link between the child and the family, and the “person” child stays in the base.


In the family of Bob Thomson and Alice Barr, you want to add Hubert as a new child:

  • Case 1: Hubert does not exist: Open the “Family” page for Bob or Alice, select “Update family” and check the mark to create a new a child at the position you think is appropriate.
  • Case 2: Hubert exists:
    • Same as case 1, but link to Hubert rather than creating him.
    • Alternative: open the “Person” page of Hubert and select “Add parents”, but make sure you link to Bob and Alice rather than create a new Bob and a new Alice which you would have to merge later.

Change children names

This form appears after selecting "Update family" and ""Change children names".

All children first-names and last-names are displayed giving you a chance to edit all first-names and last-names field in one swoop.

If you suppress the last-name, that of the father will be automatically applied. This can be efficiently used to change all children last-names: change the father's last-name and zero all children last-names with the "Change children names" command

Updating the first-name or last-name of a child

Although this is not a specific command, this is discussed here as it is an opportunity for errors

As an example, in the family of "Bob Thomson" and "Alice Barr", a child was wrongly named "Robert" when his first-name really is "Philip".

What should be done:

  • Open the "Person" page page for "Robert Thomson" (assuming occurrence is "0"), and then modify the data that needs correction as described in Update a person, then click Ok.

What should NOT be done:

  • Open the "Family" page for Bob or Alice, select "Update family" and change the first name of Robert in this page.
    • This would cut the parents/son relationship between Robert and his parents.
    • This would also create a new person called Philip Thomson, unless a "Philip Thomson" already exists in which case an error will be reported.

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