Tutorial/TNG/Trees and branches

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How to set up trees


Before you start pumping all of your relatives into TNG, you do need to have at least one Tree set up.  TNG requires at least one tree to be in place to receive individuals, families, sources, repositories, places, etc. For this reason, one Tree is always set up for each new TNG site that is created for Guild members.

A Tree is basically a container of all information on one independent family line.  In TNG, a Tree is a separate data table independent of all other Tree data tables. [Note: when referring to a TNG Tree, we capitalize the word so as to distinguish this separate data table from its more generic use in genealogy, e.g. family tree.] Later on, we can look at setting up multiple branches in any Tree.

You can have multiple Trees in TNG, if you want.  But, bear in mind that within TNG, you cannot link a person or family in one Tree to another person or family in another Tree.  If you expect (or hope!) to make links in the future between individuals in different Trees, then it would be best not to use separate Trees, and instead to use Branches. [Note: when referring to a TNG Branch, we capitalize the word so as to distinguish this specific TNG feature from its more generic use in genealogy, e.g. family branch. For more on Branches, see below.]

A Tree is the place into which you will import your family GEDCOM file, or manually add data.  You can also send out information from one Tree by creating an export GEDCOM.  A Tree forms a repository for reports and graphs.


Where to start? Log into your TNG site as administrator, go to the Administration panel and then click on the Trees tile.

This should place you on the Tree >> Search box. If you are just starting new with your TNG, the search box will be empty. More likely, the Guild TNG Team has kindly entered your surname as a Tree for you.

If so, click on editing the Tree. If not, click on Add New. You should get to the screen, below.


Tree ID

This information will only appear on the address line of your browser, so best to keep it short and in all lowercase letters to a maximum of 20 characters.   Stick to letters and numbers, but no spaces or special characters.  Once saved, you cannot change it.

Tree Name

Use a short display name or phrase, such as Fergusson, or Fergusson Family.  This will appear in all Tree selection boxes and will be the name by which visitors know this Tree.

The rest of the text boxes are optional and you may elect to fill them in or skip this step.


This is your free-form area to have a longer description of the Tree and contents.


The person or organization who created, assembled and is maintaining the data in this Tree.


The owner’s e-mail address, to which suggestions pertaining to this Tree will be sent.


The owner’s location contact information.

Then we have three checkboxes.

  • Keep owner information private

Check this box to hide the e-mail address and other contact information for this Tree’s owner (from visitors in the public area).  This is your optional choice.

  • Don’t allow users to download GEDCOM files

Check this box to prevent visitors from downloading GEDCOM files from this Tree.  This would normally be checked.

  • Don’t allow users to create PDF files

Check this box to prevent visitors from creating PDF files from this Tree.  Whether to check or not, it is a personal choice.  If you are protective of your research material, you may want to check the box, although the information is visible to the public on the screens.

Review the Help for this area box for further information on Tree settings.

Adding and Deleting Trees


If you are new to using Trees visit the companion article: How to set up trees for an explanation.  You need at least one Tree in your TNG site to hang your ancestors on (if your ancestors are of the ‘hanging’ type).  You also will want to protect your Tree from downloading by any drive-by visitors, so see the related article at Trees and GEDCOM downloads.

Once you have one Tree set up, you might want to add some more.  If users are added to the site, then they might be associated with a new family Tree.  Or, a Tree might have to be taken down at some point.  However, it isn’t just so simple as chopping away on the main trunk.  Trees are intimately tied into prime functions of TNG.


As pointed out in the earlier article, TNG requires at least one tree to be in place to receive individuals, families, sources, repositories and places, etc.

You can have multiple Trees, if you want.  Bear in mind that within TNG, you cannot link a person or family in one Tree to another person or family in any other Tree.  If you expect links in the future, then it would be better to use Branches.

The image on the right is found in the Add New Tree area of the Administration panel.

For this article, we will talk about the top two text boxes.

Tree ID


This information will only appear on the address line of your browser, so best to keep it short, one word, to a maximum of 20 characters.  This information will not appear anywhere except in the address line of your browser, so it can be all lowercase.  Stick to letters and numbers, but no spaces or special characters.  Once saved, you cannot change it.

Can you have a blank name for a Tree?  Yes, it can be done, but this should be discouraged.  This plays bad when you set up new users and decide whether they should be restricted to one Tree or have access to all Trees.  The latter setting is done by leaving the user’s Tree selection blank.  But if you have a Tree ID already set to ‘blank’, then TNG will tie them to this unidentified tree.  Not good.

Tree Name

Use a short display name or phrase, such as Fergusson, or Fergusson Family.  This will appear in all Tree selection boxes and will be the name by which visitors know this tree.

Tree Description

Use the Description box to write out a short paragraph that more fully describes your family Tree to visitors.

Delete a Tree

So now, we have one to several Trees in our TNG, all nicely identified and named.  Along the way, we have attached our registered users to the correct family Tree.  Some users might, especially you and other administrators, have open access to any Tree.

But now you have one of your Trees that is no longer required.  Can we just go back to Trees and delete?  You can, but be careful.  Any users that you have restricted to a Tree that gets deleted, they end up in limbo.  More specifically, they can no longer log into your TNG, they get removed from the Users list and they get flipped out and into the Review tab on your Users screen.  They are treated as though they are now new-user account applicants, pending your approval. This includes you, as Administrator, and the TNG Team, as well.

It could be worse.  If you did set up a Tree with a blank ID, and then decided later to delete it, you as Administrator will get removed.  Any user with access to all Trees, that is, where Tree = [blank], will be moved to Review status when the ‘blank’ Tree is deleted.  As soon as you log out, you will be unable to log back in.  Bad news.  Contact the TNG Team if this does happen to you.

You should always have at least one Tree in your TNG site, to which you are assigned and for any GEDCOM uploads.

Let’s delete a ‘named Tree’, one that does have a Tree ID.

Start with the Trees >> Search tab.  Check that the Tree that you want to remove is in the list.  Then click on the Trees Edit icon, the left-most icon on the same line as the Tree to be removed.  This will bring up more details on that Tree:


Note the information on the right: people, families, sources, repositories and notes.  They are all associated with this Tree and will be deleted along with the Tree.  So make sure you are okay with this, or else get them assigned to another Tree.  Also, any registered users to your site who are assigned to this Tree - they will also be removed from any access to the site and will be placed into “Review” status.

But if you are satisfied that all is ready to go, then click on the Search tab.  That returns you to the list of Trees.  Click on the Delete icon for the intended Tree, the row will change colour and then vanish as the Tree is deleted.

Deleting a Tree: A Caution


Deleting a Tree in TNG is relatively easy.  You just go into the Administration panel, select Trees, find the Tree that is dead to you, and chop away (i.e., click on the Delete icon).  And it is gone.  Along with a lot of other items that you did NOT want removed.  Some explanation.

As explained in the on-line user help notes inside TNG, when a Tree is deleted, ALL data associated with the Tree (including people, families, sources, repositories, media and branches) will all be deleted.  Ouch!  Be cautious.

Some of our members have really been caught by this.  What the help note does NOT say is that Users linked to that Tree are also removed.  Your users.  And you, as Administrator.  Yes, you are no longer recognized by your own TNG site.  You go ahead and delete the Tree and that works just great.  As long as you stay logged in, you continue working as Administrator.  But as soon as you log out, then your TNG site blocks you from logging back in.  Asking it for a temporary password is also ignored.  Only the TNG Team has the tools to restore you back to your own site.  What is going on?

The Administrators of a TNG site are normally not assigned to any Tree (this is set in the Users profile screen).  You, as Administrator, are not assigned to any Tree, so if ANY tree gets deleted, you are also removed.  I know, it is perverse thinking, but I didn't design it.  What to do?

When a Tree gets deleted, then any users associated with that Tree, and any Administrators are automatically removed from Active status and are now in Review status. You are still there, but in a sort of quarantine box.  So, after deleting a Tree but before logging out, go to the Users screen.  You might be missing on that page.  Check the Review tab; you might be there, along with some of your other regular users.  To correct the situation, you need to edit your profile.  Click on the Edit button (still in the Review tab), and when your profile information comes up, click on the Save button.  You will now reappear on the Search tab as in Active status.  All your information should be unchanged, including your password.  Now, it is safe to log out.

What about the loss of the other stuff inside that deleted tree?  That is - individuals, families, sources, repositories, media links and branches?  You can likely set up new Branches somewhere and associate all that information to the new Branch.


Trees and GEDCOM downloads


My own TNG site was looking pretty spiffy last week, all plump with lots of dead relatives and images.  Then I noticed, on one of my individual’s pages, something that should not be there.  No, I screamed (silently to myself, we family researchers being a quiet lot), NO!!!

There, on the individual profile page, along with the tabs for Individual, Ancestors, Timeline and Edit, was a tab for GEDCOM.  I was not logged in but my site was offering my GEDCOM for any drive-by visitor to download all of my family research.  How did that get there?

Time to dig through the settings.  First thought was the General Settings page, likely under Privacy or Miscellaneous, or somewhere in the vicinity.  No luck.  Well then, it must be a User setting because that is where you restrict people’s roles and responsibilities, right?  Again, no luck.

My son kindly led me to the right page: Trees.  Which makes sense in the end, as a GEDCOM is associated with one Tree, inside TNG.  You export one Tree at a time, and you import the GEDCOM into a selected Tree.  So you control access to any GEDCOM through the Tree page.  Let’s explore.


Setting up of a Tree is straight-forward and visit the article How to set up trees for an explanation.  Note on the bottom of the page a set of check boxes, including one labelled as: “Don’t allow users to download GEDCOM files”.  That’s the magic key.  By selecting that, the GEDCOM tab will not appear on either individual or family pages to the visiting public.  It will also not be visible to your registered users unless you set their User page GEDCOM permission to “Allow”.  See the article Security and users for more explanations.

If you have multiple Trees on your site, as I do, you can set some Trees to allow GEDCOM downloads to users and other Trees to disallow.  This is a personal choice.  I tried it out and it does work.  Each individual and family in TNG is associated with a Tree and the GEDCOM access is controlled by the Tree setting.

I now have all of my Tree GEDCOM permissions set to disallow user and public access and can be confident that my research remains within the family.

Trees versus Branches

Here are the most important points on the differences between TNG Trees and Branches:

  1. TNG does not allow merging of different Trees using TNG merge processes, each of which have their own set of individual and family ID numbers, sources, places, etc.  You can have the same individual in separate Trees, but would have to create that individual separately in both Trees.  There IS a way to combine Trees in TNG, if needed.  One would export a GEDCOM of one Tree and import it into the other Tree.
  2. Designating a Branch adds a Branch ID and description to all persons connected via birth (and marriage if this is also chosen).  This description does nothing to alter the underlying data, and can be modified at any time.  The public can see these Branch descriptions on individual data pages for those who are not living [You did restrict the public from viewing information on living persons, didn't you?]  If you add persons who are connected to any Branch at some later date, just go to Branches in your TNG Admin area, and have it re-label them all.  It works quickly.  Branches can have the same individual in many of them.  There is no tutorial for creating Branches because it is really very simple.  You just select an individual to start with, along with his/her ancestors and descendants whom you want to have displayed, along with creating a Branch ID and description, and after saving that info. and having TNG create the Branch list, the Branch description will then show on each individual's data page.  Finally, you cannot upload a GEDCOM into a Branch, on a Tree.
  3. If you wish to register users and restrict their access to a specific Branch or Tree, you can do that.

Per Jim Culbert, who manages the Culbert ONS: "I chose to designate Branches for my biggest connected family groupings (over 1000 individuals).  Thus, at a glance, I can see who is the most distant Culbert ancestor that they are related to.  This is most helpful to me for those folks not carrying the Culbert surname, as I cannot memorize the specifics on over 31,000 individuals in my database."