How to build a family tree website

Family history is fascinating. 

It’s thrilling to receive DNA analysis and learn more about where your roots lie, how you’re related to important historical figures, and even be able to locate long-lost family members.

A friend of mine recently submitted a DNA test only to learn for the first time ever that she was adopted. Through family history, she was able to locate members of her biological family, and build new and tender relationships.

Like I said, it’s fascinating.

Once you catch the genealogy bug, it’s hard to stop investigating. But, here’s the thing. It doesn’t take long to realize you need an efficient way to organize the pages of historical and family tree data in a way that makes it easy to access, add to, and enjoy.

The best way to keep your personal history organized is to leverage technology, and build a website. This article will walk you through how to use WordPress to build your family tree website.

What is WordPress?

Before diving into how to start a website, let’s talk about what WordPress even is.

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) around the globe. There are over 64 million sites built on WordPress, including some of the most recognizable sites like The New Yorker, TechCrunch, and even The Official Star Wars Blog.

WordPress is an open-source platform, which means the original source code is open to everyone. This means that anyone with coding skills can modify the code.

Non-technical translation: anyone can create easy-to-use WordPress tools like themes and plugins to make it easier for the layman to build a website.

This brings us to the next question.

Why should you pick WordPress to build your family tree website?

Here are three reasons why.

1. WordPress is easy to use

The main—and most important—reason to select WordPress as your site builder is ease.

Since WordPress is an open source platform and because so many people are invested in making it great, WordPress is extremely intuitive to use.

Even if you’ve never built a website in your entire life, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to build a basic WordPress site.

Once you follow the steps to purchase a hosting plan from HostGator, all you have to do is use the one-click button to install WordPress. 

As soon as you’ve installed WordPress, you can follow the step-by-step WordPress Site Builder directions to get started. 

wordpress site builder

If you’re a little more versed in WordPress, you can skip using the WordPress Site Builder, pick a theme, and start customizing.

Either way, the WordPress learning curve is small.

2. WordPress has tons of free themes

While the main purpose of your family tree website will be to present information to you and your loved ones, it’s still important to give your site a nice design.

Good news! WordPress has you covered.

You don’t need to know one single line of code to make your website look pretty. Instead, you simply have to pick a free theme. Quick note: you can purchase a paid theme and upload it to your site as well. 

For the purposes of this article, here’s how to pick a free theme. 

How to activate a WordPress theme for your family tree website

  1. Locate “Appearance” on the left-hand menu. 
  2. Hover your cursor over “Appearance” and click on “Themes.”
  3. WordPress will redirect you to the “Themes” page. From here, you can either use one of the pre-installed themes, or search for another theme by pressing “Add New Theme.”
  4. Once you’ve found a theme you like, hover your cursor over the respective theme box, until you see the word “Activate.”
  5. Press “Activate.”

Now, you’re ready to roll. There are a few more steps to follow if you’re purchasing a theme, but this will get you started with a nice, free theme.

3. WordPress has tons of convenient plugins

We already talked about how WordPress is an open source platform where other people can create tools to add WordPress functionality.

The main tools people use to add functionality to a website are called plugins. In other words, instead of adding code to your website to get it to do something, you can search for a plugin, install the plugin, and activate the plugin. Then, follow the directions to set up a plugin to get your site to do whatever that plugin does. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you want to display your family tree, but you don’t want to design it yourself. You want a tool that will make it easy to manage your family tree and add people as you continue doing genealogy.

For this, you can browse the WordPress plugins, and select a family tree plugin like TreePress, for example.

TreePress’s basic features will help you:

  • Display a family tree of up to 200 members
  • Add unlimited family members
  • Display each family member’s info on a separate page
  • Create a family listing page
  • And more!

Once you’ve found the plugin you want to use, here’s how to add it to WordPress

How to add a plugin to WordPress

  1. Download the plugin and save the .zip file to your desktop.
  2. Return to your WordPress dashboard.
  3. Find “Plugins” on the left-hand menu.
  4. Hover your cursor over “Plugins,” and click on “Add New.”
  5. Click on “Upload Plugin,” and attach your file.
  6. Click on “Install Plugin.”
  7. Activate the plugin by pressing “Activate.”
  8. Follow the instructions to customize your plugin.

That’s it!

Once you have installed a theme, and activated the plugins you want to use, you can start creating pages for your family tree website.

Learn how to create a page in WordPress here.

What pages to include in your family tree website

The pages that you add to your family tree website will largely be dedicated by how you want your website to function, and what you want to include.

While you can get as creative as you want to get, it’s smart to start with the basic pages that people are used to seeing on a website. For example, you’ll want to include the following pages:

  • Home
  • About
  • Contact

When it comes to a family tree website, here are some additional pages you may want to consider adding:

  • News – The news section could include any fun new findings you learn. For example, if you locate a long-lost family member, members of your website will want to know.
  • Family tree – Since your family tree can get highly information-intensive, it’s smart to dedicate an entire page to the family tree.
  • Photo gallery – Part of family history includes finding old photos. Reserve a special place on your website where you can add new pictures.
  • Video gallery – It’s possible you’ll gather several videos as well as photos. Consider creating a separate video gallery page to keep things organized.
  • Resources – It’s smart to keep all important family history resources together in one page. You could create a resources page that directs others to sites like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and more.

Remember, the world is your oyster when it comes to building a WordPress website. You have full control on what pages you want to include and how you want your site to look. That’s the beauty of using the world’s largest content management system, WordPress.

Start building your family tree website with HostGator today!

If you’ve been itching to build your family tree website, the time to get started is today. Remember, the first step in setting up a website is signing up for a web hosting plan. 

Check out HostGator’s WordPress hosting plans today to find one that best suits your needs!

Casey is the Senior Director of Marketing for Hosting and has been in the web hosting space for 7 years. He loves the slopes and hanging out with his kids.