Exploring Obsidian with Genealogy, family trees

I have never been happy with the genealogy software so I’m exploring Obsidian for this. I’m using back links to connect the people and tags for each of the data categories. So far this structure has been working well but I anticipate future adjustments:

Folders:

  • Person folder: each person has their own note with tags used for each piece of data
  • Dates folder: each date of significance has its own note - I’m linking back to dates which are only M-D. My thought is that I could look at any month-day and look at family from a “This day in history” kind of thing
  • Places folder: each place gets its own note with compilation of all the family members and notable events that took place there. I’m thinking of sharing some “The significance of this place to our family” stories with other family members.
  • Images folder: the more important and representative family photos

I’ve created a template for the daily notes which opens with the following tags that I fill in for new people added. I use the #Tree tag as a filter in the graph to see the “Family Tree”. Parents and kids create a satisfying starlike pattern. Would love to chat if anyone is is considering or trying this.

#FirstName:
#LastName:

#BirthDate:
#BirthPlace:

#DeathDate:
#DeathPlace:
#Burial:

#Religion:

#Mother:
#Father:
#Brother:
#Sister:

#Partner:
#MarriageDate:
#MarriagePlace:
#Child:

#Occupation:

#Notes:

#Tree

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I think this is something Obsidian could be very good for. Meticulous research with multiple links and hypothesised links.

I strongly advise following a properly constructed ID structure for places on the tree. You would need one ascending system and one descending system. Many hypothesised members will prove not to be, or, in the case of many online trees, provably wrong or even internally inconsistent.

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I love this idea. Thanks for sharing how you are implementing it!

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I have had this on my todo for a while, so far I’ve only used it to write research questions! I agree that Obsidian could very well be a local/private Wikitree, so here’s the template I have so far (although I haven’t had time to use it yet!):

# Full Name
<!-- Make the last names in the title links -->

## Facts
Born on  **<!-- link to date -->** in **<!-- link to place -->**
Son/Daughter of <!-- Link to father --> and <!-- Link to mother-->.
His/her siblings were <!--Links to siblings -->.
Married to  <!-- Link to husband/wife--> on <!-- link to date --> in <!-- link to place -->.
Parent of <!-- Links to children --> 

Died on  **<!-- link to date -->** in **<!-- link to place -->**.

## Biography


## Sources

Btw, someone in Discord recommended Tropy, I don’t think the markdown support is fully there yet but I’m excited for a potential Obsidian Genealogy plugin (+ Tropy support for the sources).

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I really like this approach which creates a narrative!

Are the <!-- Link – > references pulling data from notes or are they place holders for where data will be entered? I’m still on the incline of my Obsidian.md learning curve :slight_smile:

They are placeholders in a way. If you use HTML comments in markdown they don’t show up in preview. I set it up this way so things I don’t know yet don’t show up, but now that I have written about it I’m wondering if it would make sense to have a link there to gather all the things I don’t know yet in the backlinks.

Edit: I also can’t fully take credit for the template, I based it off Wikitree and just modified it a little!

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This might be useful: Neo4j Graph View Plugin (v0.2.0): Advanced Graph View in Obsidian using Neo4j

Also for powerful recursive queries over (not only) the family trees.

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@Rezedu That’s really a great template. Have you been using the same or were there any more improvements over it.

I am trying to build a vault for people I am connected to myself. One thing I want to know is what do you fill under #Tree section.

Also, it would be great if you can provide a sample note filled with dummy data to help me understand more.

I am late to this thread but new to Obsidian. I do my genealogy on Family Historian which I think is a very good program. I am using Obsidian for my research problems: Person born 1780 - common name of Thomas Dix in Kentucky; father born in VA? Too many possibilities to count. I have found that this program has allowed me to eliminate 3 possible fathers. Early ancestors often have few records so secondary info is sometimes all you have. Once you have a number of secondary topics, i.e. naming patterns, children’s names, places and times, etc. and start the linking/back linking it become clear rather than comparing reports from your genealogy program. It think it is a valuable tool in genealogy research. Charlene

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Hi. I’m very late to the party, but after looking at numerous other options including Infranodus, one of their talks led me to Obsidian, with me thinking… “this could be a great way to document family trees…” and then finding out you’re all here well ahead of me. What’s the present position with this? Has anyone taken things further? I’m about to start using the template in this thread to see what sort of a graphic output I get, but if folks have gotten further I’d appreciate a headsup… Thanks in anticipation - Stuart

Hi @dkush,

Yes, I’ve been continuing to use the same template and it has been working great!

I have added a few things:

  • a story folder for recounting stories (which I connect to the people)
  • a burial sites page where I am documenting GPS coordinates for cemeteries and monuments which I then connect to each of the people.

For the #Tree flag, I just add it to each person’s page so that when I am visualizing, I can use it as a filter for a diagram depicting the relationships between all the people. Without it, when I use the visualization it just shows all the files. This way it shows only the files of the people that I have information on.

Apologies for taking so long to return, it’s been a busy spring and summer of documenting :slight_smile: I’ll try to pull together a couple examples.

@CliffeActual hopefully some of this will be helpful to you as well.

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Nice… Keep it up. :smile:

Hello @rezedu: I have been doing genealogy on traditional genealogy tools such as Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic for several years. Over that time I have accumulated data on several thousand profiles for people in the tree, some of them going back a thousand years. I think it is too complex to just try and convert all of that data to Obsidian notes. HOWEVER, the traditional genealogy tools are poorly suited to constructing stories or narratives for a family history. They lack two important ingredients to a history: context, and (supporting) characters. The context in a history has to cover developments in technology and life to show the external events that affect everyone. The other characters are generally known as Friends, Associates, and Neighbors (or the FAN club). These characters also influence history, but they are not connected to the family tree by any family relationship. Genealogy tools are useless for tracking and organizing these parts of a history, while Obsidian is more flexibly structured to allow these to be added to the database.

Although Obsidian can’t replace the family tree structure (yet!), I would really have liked to have a tool like this to manage my research notes. These are still currently stuck inside MacFamilyTree and it seems difficult for me to get them easily out at the moment.

Not only that, there are so many issues from the multiple variations in GEDCOM that after my last attempt at migrating from one program to another I promised myself that I would never store anything of my tree in something other than text plain files. This is actually long-term much more likely to be useful to other people too!

My hope is to eventually have a locally-stored WikiTree-style tree (and thankfully under my control only!) using Obsidian at some point. I’m sure we could see a genealogy plugin at some point in the near future.

Hi @argentum: Just a few remarks about genealogy databases and storage… Over the years I have tried Family Tree Maker, Roots Magic, webtrees, Family Tree Builder, and other tools. Some are better than others, and some are better at some tasks such as research. On line, I have tried Family Search, Ancestry, Find My Past, My Heritage, WikiTrees, and other databases. From the standpoint of research and collaboration, I think the best choices are Family Search and WikiTree. If you want some database that will still be around in a century, then Family Search is definitely the best bet. They have been sustaining their databases now for more than a century, and no other service even comes close. I agree with your point about plain text. This is one attractive feature of Obsidian (there are others) that is absent in most other databases (WikiTree though, comes close). What I like best about Obsidian is the flexibility and versatility. Obsidian can handle research and notes on any topic, while genealogy tools are specialized and restricted to genealogy alone.

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Absolutely! I also use or have used MyHeritage, Ancestry’s and Family Search’s databases. For collaboration they are without a doubt the best options out there. It comes with a few trade offs or things to keep in mind (since anyone can edit them too), but for sure as a (hobby) genealogist you definitely want to keep (at least a copy of) the tree with only your own research and evidence. Myself, I’ll probably be sticking with obsidian for that!

This is just a note about further genealogy development and family history development.

I have started to use a couple of Obsidian templates for genealogy profiles. One template is given below. I use meta-data with YAML for the basic genealogy data values (names, dates, places), and then text for any history details, such as obits or newspaper stories.

I still use other genealogy software for research purposes, since FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast can interact with a tool like RootsMagic or FamilyTreeMaker to find relevant genealogy records in online databases. For a “permanent” record, I rely on FamilySearch profiles to be maintained over the next century, so I try to keep FS profiles up to date for important people in my family (parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, …). Of all the databases I have explored for genealogy, FS is the only one that has lasted longer than a century, so far. It might seem that some archives, that the US federal government archives, could last more than a century, but there are some famous cases for genealogy where records were discarded, burned up, or simply lost from neglect. Most of the US military records from WW II and Korea were lost, for example, in a huge fire in Overland, Missouri, on July 12-16, 1973. Practically all of the Irish census records from the 19th century were lost when the Four Courts building in Dublin was bombed in 1922. Census records from most of eastern Europe have been mangled or destroyed during the wars in the 20th century.

It might be nice to have some kind of Obsidian tool to convert GEDCOM text files to Obsidian notes, but this is probably going a step too far at this time. GEDCOM is now about 3 decades old, and it has several limitations that will never be corrected. Perhaps a better thought is some sort of tool to convert WikiTree profiles to Obsidian notes. WikiTree can borrow genealogy data from FamilySearch, and it is free and open on the internet. WT also follows a fairly consistent format for each profile.

<< begin excerpt for Obsidian template >>


Tags:
Name: name
Gender: male-female
Birth:

  • Date: YYYYMMDD
  • Place: city, county, state, country
    Father: name
    Mother: name
    Occupation: work
    Marriage:
  • Date: YYYYMMDD
  • Place: city, county, state, country
  • Spouse: name
    Children: none
    Military:
  • Date: YYYYMMDD to YYYYMMDD
  • Wars: Wars served, ranks if relevant
    Death:
  • Date: YYYYMMDD
  • Place: city, county, state, country
    Burial: place
    FSID: Family Search ID
    FAG: Find A Grave Memorial
    WikiTree: WikiTree profile

Name

Contents

Table of Contents is only necessary for very long biographies with multiple sections.

Biography

Family descriptions, names, dates, places, residences, events, notes, photos.

Sources

Notes, acknowledgments
DNA tests
Profiles on FamilySearch, Ancestry

Links

3 Likes

Hello everyone!
I think “Breadcrumbs” is the plugin you are looking for.
GitHub: https://github.com/SkepticMystic/breadcrumbs
Wiki: https://breadcrumbs-wiki.onrender.com/

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Been playing with the Breadcrumbs suggestion as well as experimenting with how to somehow mung GEDCOM (or at least myhertiage’s version of it) into YAML format. The idea being that it should be possible to script the conversion because I dont want to type it all.

Here is what Ive generated sofar from this exercise:

---
# [GEDCOM-Tags - GenWiki](http://wiki-en.genealogy.net/GEDCOM-Tags)
NAME:
- NAME: ""
- GIVN: ""
- SURN: ""
SEX: ""
BIRT:
- DATE: "YYYY-MM-DD"
- PLAC: 12345
CHR:
- PLAC: ""
RES:
- ADDR:
  - CITY: ""
  - CTRY: ""
  - POST: 54321
EDUC:
- PLAC: ""
NCHI:   # Number of children


parent: [[person1]]
parent: [[person2]]
sibling: [[person3]]
spouse: [[person4]] # HUSB/WIFE
ASSO:  # ASSOCIATES - An indicator to link friends, neighbors, relatives, or associates of an individual.
---

# ALIA: [[person0]]

# FACT:

# NOTE:

General notes:

  • I also didnt want to make it too painful to export these records back to GEDCOM format.
  • The sections outside of the YAML block are intended for more free-form text.
  • The # ALIA: [[person0]] section: Ive written a script which will convert my phone’s exported address book into separate .md files with a link to the associated .vcf file. The ALIA is intended to link the genealogy record to that address book record

Breadcrumbs specific:

  • Bit of a learning curve with this one.
  • Breadcrumbs could be better about how it handles multiple of the same label.
  • I really wanted the Juggl interface to work better. The “multiple of same label” issue is a big problem here
  • I ended up turning off the breadcrumb view and work entirely off the matrix view
  • I ended up creating multiple hierarchies because things like child, spouse was horribly confusing in the matrix view
  • apparently when you rename a note in Obsidian, it does NOT update the other notes’ references in the YAML header.
  • couldnt get breadcrumbs to work outside of the YAML header. Perhaps there is a setting for that?

Anyone else experimenting with this?

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Id really like the genealogy equiv of pandoc. Preferably with an API so I could export the data into whatever data structure I like.