Tutorial/TNG/In the Beginning

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Welcome to using TNG for researching and storing your family study. We have a series of tutorial articles designed to ease you into using the core features of this great website utility. Using TNG for the first time can be confusing, on where to get started. This is where you start:- a series of articles to guide you forward, step by step, with explanations and illustrations.

Enjoy the journey; it will be worth it.


An introduction to using TNG in your family study


In doing a One Name Study, or researching all peoples with a common surname, is the challenge of reaching out and sharing family information with those of a common last name. If you are lucky enough to have a surname with a large extended family, then you are also a person with lots of cousins, aunts and uncles, maybe separated by several generations. And likely separated by far distances.

TNG is another tool in our kit to be able to exchange information with others interested in the same surname, using the internet.

TNG is short for: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, a long-winded title for a web-based application for managing a family tree. The next article, What is TNG? will give you more background on the software itself, but this is a quick explanation on why you would want to consider using it. Some of the many benefits are:

  • It is easy to upload and download your family data in a GEDCOM format. Some other types of websites require you to convert the information into HTML scripting code, a difficult and labour-intensive task that makes it hard to maintain a large family tree on the site.
  • The family data is stored in a real relational database, called MySQL. That means that reports can be created on the fly from the backend data and that backing up and archiving the information is easy to do.
  • TNG has pretty well all of the features of a full-fledged family tree application, on the internet.
  • You can adjust privacy and living-individual visibility settings.
  • You can have as many relatives and researchers contributing to your study as you permit.
  • The individuals and families can be located on the built-in mapping feature. Births, marriages, deaths, burials and more can appear on a Google map that is zoomable.
  • You are not stuck with just one style of web pages. TNG includes 14 different templates, of differing colours and layouts.
  • Being a website application, it is portable. You can have your family with you on the road, at the library or visiting relatives.
  • In the one application, you can have multiple trees and branches.
  • It supports images and the images link to the individuals’ pages.
  • TNG handles documents, headstones, photographs, albums, sources, repositories and if that is not enough, you can set up your own custom collections.

What is TNG?

First of all, “TNG” does stand for something.  It is The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding.  Okay, that doesn’t fully explain it.  Let’s try again.

TNG is a fully functioning family tree application that can house your family trees, branches, ancestors, their families, cemeteries and stories.  Even more, it can handle your sources, references and repositories.  Further, TNG holds onto photos, headstones, military records, census, birth / marriage /death / burial documents, and even more.

And most importantly, it does it all while being a software application on the internet.  Yes, TNG is a web-based family tree application that resides on your website.  Which means that you can publish your family research on the day you get stared with TNG.  You can invite all your distant cousins to view the family connections and even contribute their branches, stories, documents and photos.

Darrin Lythgoe

Darrin Lythgoe, author of TNG

Where did it start?  The author of TNG is Darrin Lythgoe, a family man living in Sandy, Utah with his wife and three daughters.  Darrin grew up in Massachusetts.  It was by accident that Darrin got involved in the development of TNG.  He won a prize at the Comdex Show which led him to realize that there was a need for a program to post genealogy on the internet.  So he borrowed some books on PHP from the public library and set out to build his own application.

In his first year, he sold just one copy online.

It did get better.  TNG is now in the hands of over 15,000 users in many countries and languages, so he did get past the first sale.

The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding

TNG is designed to be a server-side genealogy program.  That means the application and the family data resides on a remote server, wherever your website is hosted.  The TNG users access the application with a web browser on the home computer, mobile tablet or even on a smart phone.  You can be at the library, on a bus or at an aunt’s house, with all the access to your family information, just a click away.

TNG is a dynamic (not static) program.  The pages and information you see are created by TNG on the fly, which means that all of the information comes right from the one database, and is as current as the most recent data entry of any of your users.  If Cousin Robert in California puts in information on Grandpa Jones, you can see the records immediately.

The program offers all of the expected features of a genealogy tool, so you will have person profile sheets, ancestor and descendant reports, charts and lists.  You can also see the information in place and time: locations can be viewed in a map mode and family milestones can be seen on a timeline.  And there are many more features.

How do I get a TNG account?

The Guild Members’ Websites Project (MWP) is open for new applicants for any of the three types of websites.

Start off with the main project page, at the Members' Website Project page.  At the bottom, you can see some example screenshots of each type of website that is being hosted on the project website.  If this is of interest to you, then go to the Members' Websites Project (MWP) page for full details.

Check out the contents box to the left and explore the Types of website and the Project history for some background.  Then go to Full list to visit some more of the MWP websites run by fellow Guild members.

Now you have decided to participate and have selected which type of website suits your preservation requirements.  Where do we go next?  This will require your logging into the Guild website as a member.  Then go back to Members' Websites Project (MWP) and check the contents box to the left again; now there is an Application Form link.  Just fill in the form and do read through all of the Terms and Conditions: they are important.  Click on Submit and the MWP team will get in touch with you by email.

Let’s assume that you decide on Type 3, which uses TNG, and continue on.

Once your application has been received and accepted by the MWP Project Leader, the information will be forwarded to the TNG team for action.  That team will activate a new website, using your registered surname of study, and the site will be: surname.one-name.net.  A new instance of TNG will be created for you, with a waiting but empty database and a starter homepage.  The TNG team also sends out a congratulatory invitation and starter instructions.

A series of tutorial articles have been published on the TNG project blog page, which you can find at ONS Analytics.  There you can find current articles on the front page and more under the How to/Recent Tutorials tab.  The articles are sent to TNG users weekly in an e-newsletter and also posted on the Guild’s Facebook and Google Plus sites.

A tour of my first TNG site

the default homepage

So, what do you get, right out of the TNG box? It’s a screen that is downright confusing, see below. First, you see a photo of a rundown small-town with a beat-up string of stores, of a town that is nowhere near your ancestors. And a welcoming paragraph in some foreign Latin-like gibberish. This is not what you signed up for.

But it is the default TNG installation as it comes from the factory. So let’s explore around a bit further.


TNG has a wealth of useful tools buried behind the opening page. There is a fully powerful database manager, known as MySQL, designed to house your ancestors, their families and all of the family connections.

It will also hold your security information on you, your invited users, passwords and data access. The database knows how your family members are related to the stored images, cemeteries, headstones, documents, sources, repositories, mapped locations and more.

This main page, which we will call the homepage, is where you and your users and your visitors will normally start. Later on, we will point out that you can go directly to an ancestor’s information page, once we get the family tree populated.

Am I stuck with this brownish, single photo, one paragraph layout? No. You have 15 different layouts waiting for you, called templates. That will be covered in a later article.

Homepage header

The Header

Along the top (A), we can read “Our Family HISTORY”. This is an image that you can replace with your own family title and byline.

Along the right there are two text boxes (B), where your visitors can enter in a search for potentially interesting people in your tree.

homepage main area

Homepage Main Area

The main part of the homepage has three areas of interest. Along the left-side (A) is the main menu, which gives visitors viewpoints into your family tree. If they have been set up as users by you, they can log in for even more information.

The Statistics link is interesting, as it shows just how large your tree has grown and also includes some interesting facts, such as the oldest person in the database. Some items might be removed from view by you, such as Contact Us and Register for a User Account, depending on permissions that you control.

The featured photo at (B) is a placeholder set up by the software author. You will find out later on a method of substituting your own image.

The last item on this homepage is the welcoming paragraph at (C). The title, Main Feature and the contents will be replaced by your own text. And you can get creative, putting in paragraphs, links to other sites and embedded images.

a customized homepage (template #12)

An Example of a Custom Homepage

Once you get into overhauling the homepage, what could I expect? Here is one example, to the right. Visit the other TNG sites on this site of the society to see other, even better examples.

The administration panel

Administration Panel

The control of TNG really takes place on the Administration panel.

Log into your TNG site. If you are still using your temporary password, now is a good time to change it to something a little more familiar for you.

The screen appears to not have changed, but it has. The main menu at the top said Log in but now it says, Log out. Click on the Administration link and you should see the screen, left. You will be visiting most of these selection ‘tiles’ during your exploration of TNG in the next few months.


How to change your password when first starting

When you first start with a TNG family tree site, you were sent a temporary password by email.  But that is not one of the passwords you usually use for your regular website work.

By the way, for Guild members, the Username is your Guild membership number, same as for logging into the Guild’s main website.

So go to your own TNG site, which you can find at: surname.one-name.net, replacing surname with your own surname of research.  On the home page you will find a clickable link labelled “Login”.  Click on that to get to the Login pop-up window:

Reset your password.png

Notice the check box labelled “Reset your password”.  When you click there, a new line will appear for you, “New Password”.  Fill it in with your preferred password and click the “Login” button.

Be sure to note your new password somewhere for future reference.  If you do forget your password (see next article, below) sometime, you can return to the login window and request that the password be emailed to you, or request a new temporary one.

Forgot your password?

Password forgot.png

If you forgot your password to log into your TNG website, all is not lost.  Go to the home page and click on the "login" link.  That will show a pop-up window for normal logging in.  Note the last choice of: "Enter your e-mail above and your username below to have your password reset (a temporary password will be sent to you)."

So add your email address and your Username into the boxes.  Then your TNG site will send you a temporary login to get you going.  Don't forget to change the temporary password to a more familiar one.



How to use the help section

Sometimes, we just need a little help from our friends. TNG does have help available and it is built into your edit and administration pages. For people able to log in and to edit the pages, help is found up near the tabs along the top of the page. Look for the "Help for this area" tag. You can click on this tag and TNG will open up a pop-up window, with help instructions for that particular page. For example, let us edit an individual. This also works whether you are in edit, modify, search, merge or other functions. Just look for the help line:

Help online 1.png
Help online 2.png

The pop-up window will have an excellent overview and instructions to guide you through the process. There will be several sections, depending on the function being described. Have a read through the whole help box for a full understanding.

A couple of Do's and Don'ts for your TNG website

Do's and Don'ts

DO change your temporary TNG log-in password.

DON’T delete the other Administrators for your site.   They are your TNG team.  If something goes wrong, they may not be able to help you.