Fictional Family Trees: Simple Family Tree

When a new writing friend noticed that I was doing a series on family tree software for writers to use, she recommended Simple Family Tree. I’ve added it to me list on the main page and I’m sharing with you my thoughts on it.

Simple Family Tree allows you to use the program for free, so I will be able to explore the whole software. This should give me a good idea if I am interested in using the software.

It was super easy to download and get set up, so now it’s time to enter in a test family. Since my Trenton family from The Rules of Never is a complicated family with multiple marriages for several of the characters as well as some adoptions and name changes, that seems like a good place to start.


There are seven items on the toolbar. I won’t call them menus since only the first one acts like a normal toolbar menu: File, Font, Undo, New Individual, Individuals Info, List of Individuals, and READ THIS!


For the only actual menu on the toolbar it is the most basic menu I have ever seen. Hopefully that means they are living up to their name. It just lists: Open/Create, Print Screen, Exit. That’s it. That’s the entire menu. Simple right?

Clicking Open/Create pops up a screen for you to open a file to work on. Since I would love to work with an existing file, I went to some folders where I know there are files, but I haven’t converted them to .ged, so I’ll have to try that some other time. I don’t have any Simple Family Tree files yet, but the only option seems to be Open. I put in the name I want to use for the file and pushed Open. It does seem to create a file, so the wording is confusing, but it works.

Even though there is nothing to print yet, I tried Print Screen and was asked if I wanted to use a certain printer which has something to do with PDFs. I didn’t so I clicked no and was given another option. With each no, a new option was given. When I clicked yes on my actual printer, it informed me that I didn’t have enough ink. No kidding. I wanted a screenshot anyway. Maybe this is supposed to actually print the screen? Deciding to test that I tried again and picked the first option: PDF-XChange 3.0. It immediately started saving the PDF and when it was ready it popped up a save screen for me to name the new pdf and save it. I named it test.pdf and saved it. This immediately opened the new PDF which was completely blank other than a notice to buy the software (PDF-XChange, not Simple Family Tree). I knew I didn’t recognize that name. I’ll try this again when I have some names in the database.


This pops up a window for altering fonts. I’ll wait until I have actually got some fonts to change.


Per the READ THIS! pop up: To undo the last change you made, select Undo. When you make any change in Simple Family Tree, the current Gedcom data file is first backed-up, and then the change is written to it. Undo swaps the Gedcom data file and the back-up file, thus undoing the last change.

So presumably you can’t undo very much and you can’t wait too long to undo it. But usually you aren’t going to need to undo a bunch of stuff anyway, so I don’t see this as a problem. And if you ever run into a time when you do need to undo things on a large scale, usually that will be because you discovered your original data was correct and you will have said data in front of you, so you can just put it back in.


Since I mentioned it, this was the first thing I pushed. The all caps do their job well, drawing your attention to this button on the toolbar. It is a two page list of little tidbits about how to use the program. It’s basically your help menu, but with all the info together.

New Individual

Since we don’t have any names in this database yet, this is a good spot to start that. I’m going to start with Don Scott since he’s one of the more complicated characters in the Trenton family and I have information about his parents (both sets), his spouse, and his daughter, as well as siblings from both sets of parents. He should make a good test subject.

When I hit the button a popup shows up with minimal information. There is a button at the bottom in all caps that reads: READ. Okay, let’s do that.

Useful information. Not too thrilled about the date format, but I can live with that.

It asks, MR or MS, which I presume is its way of trying to figure out the gender of the person in the family tree so they can decide if someone is a mother or a father to their child if they have one. There is no indication if name should be birth name or current name, but since Don was adopted, I figured his name after adoption made sense.

I pushed okay and it dropped him in the corner of the screen. After some playing around I discovered that right clicking on this little block pulls up a new screen which is identical to the next button, so let’s go on to that.

Individual’s Info

There are a lot options here. Once more there is a READ button. Let’s see what it says.

Several pages of useful information, some of it we’ve already come across in other READ pages. Back to playing with buttons.

Edit Name/Born/Died lets us alter any of the info we just put in other than the choice of Mr./Ms. A little annoying, but most of the time my mistakes with gender are when making kids and it automatically assumes that a child is one gender or the other. We’ll see how they handle that stuff shortly. There are sometimes you simply don’t know, so the lack of an ability to change when you find out is a little annoying, but presumably you don’t know much of anything about them, so I guess if you have to you can just delete them and start over.

Since Don was adopted, this isn’t his only name, so Name2 sounds like a good spot for next. The pop up allowed me to type in one name and it is listed in the info for him. Clicking it, again, just lets me edit it, so I guess it only allows for one name change. That’s pretty normal.

Don’s only been married once, so Marriage should be simple. Huh. Clicking that says the individual isn’t married, so I guess it just lists marriage. In that case, I’ll try Add a Spouse. That brings up the options of: Link to an Existing Individual or New Individual. Since I don’t have any other individuals, let’s add his wife, Beck. After adding her it just added her to the main page with double lines connecting them. It didn’t ask for any information about their marriage, so I went back to Don and clicked Marriage, again. This time it popped up a list with Married to, Date, and Place. This could prove interesting when I get to Don’s niece, Trixie. Since I never figured out when Don and Beck married, I’ll leave that alone for now.

Don and Beck do have one child, Jaymes, so let’s add her to the page. When we click Add a Child we get the same quick menu as we did with Add a Spouse, so I chose New Individual. After I put in her information, it asked for verification that Don and Beck were her parents. Since they are, I pushed yes, but we’ll test that later. Jaymes was added with a line coming from between her parents to the page. I’m going to Jaymes’ family real quick and then go back to the task of adding more about Don using the Add a Father and Add a Mother buttons.

For fun, I tested the parents question when adding Jaymes’s son, Jeremiah. When I pushed No, it then asked if just Jayne Marie Scott (Jaymes is a nickname) and no one else. Since I’m going to have to fix it anyway, I pushed Yes. I’ll try no with his sister.

Doing that attached him to Jaymes with a line. To fix it I tried the Add a Father button, which not surprisingly gave me the menu, again. This time I clicked Link to an Existing Individual. I clicked on Galen, Jaymes’s husband and was promptly informed that Un-link the child or spouse first. Okay, fine.

I clicked Unlink and after a some playing I got him relinked to his parents, both of this time. I would imagine hitting no with his sister is going to just make me go through that, again, but I’m tested it anyway and found out that I was right. Their little sister should be quick.

Adding an individual without adding a gender gets a popup that asks if the individual is a male. Of course, since Zoë isn’t, I hit no. Now, I have a tiny little family tree, so it’s time to add Don’s parents, both sets.

I put in his adopted parents first and then hit father, again. This told me to make his adopted father first and then link them. Whoops! Guess I should have made his biological parents first. Although I haven’t seen any place where that makes a difference yet.

After adding Robert and Julia Scott and Mike and Laurie Trenton, I clicked on Don. There is a new button allowing me to switch between primary and secondary parents. To make the differences a little more obvious, I’m going to add Don’s brothers and sister.

While doing this, I discovered that I can format the dates however I like as it doesn’t actually take notice of the month or day for listing purposes. Also, it will add exactly what you put in, so if you put in 28aug1975, that’s what it will say. Some programs change that to 28 Aug 1975 or 28 August 1975 or even (my preferred) August 28, 1975. This does not.

I got to Don’s brother Tad and his two marriages. When I added his second wife, it listed her after his first wife with two lines. It kind of looks like Cecilia and Andrea are married, not Tad and Andrea. When adding, Conrad, Tad’s son from his second marriage it asked me if he was Tad and Cecilia’s and then asked me if he was Tad and Andrea’s. That works well enough. However, as suspected, Tad’s daughter Trixie proves to be a problem. She is biological daughter of Andrea and some unnamed man (I know I should have figured that out, but he really isn’t all that important), but she is also the legal daughter of Andrea and Tad. Essentially Tad adopted her. It will not allow me to put her as the daughter of Andrea and both men. In order to add Trixie as Tad’s daughter I had to make up a third wife (I mean he has one eventually, but that’s not until Conrad and Trixie are all grown and their mom is gone, so she’s just Trixie’s stepmother, not her adopted one) and make Trixie Tad’s with her. It works, but it’s annoying. It also told me that someone can only have two sets of parents. Don’s brother Lee has a younger sister whose younger sister might have three. This is extremely uncommon and even if she does, I’d probably only list Lee (who adopts her).

New Individual

This last one is pretty straightforward. It pops up a list of all your individuals with birth year if you’ve got it (I imagine to differentiate between people with the same name) and a number identifying in what order they were added to the database. It also tells you have many individuals are in your database. I currently have 33. And below that there is a button to let you look at information about individuals in the list. just click on them and push the button. Or double click. Either works.


Over all it does live up to its name. It is fairly simple. I’m not sure it’s right for me, but it does have promise.

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