Arbor Vita

What is Arbor Vita?

Arbor Vita(e): \Ar"bor vi"t[ae]\ [Latin, tree of life.]
Botanical: Thuja occidentalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Coniferae

Arbor Vita is a freeware that lets you display your genealogy tree on the web by generating HTML pages. Unlike many other softwares of this kind, it displays genealogy trees graphically and minimizes the number of pages generated by generating one page for all individuals in the same family. You have the choice of generating these HTML pages as files once for all, or let the java applet generate them on-the-fly while the user browses the pages. Another particularity is that it is configurable enough to let you generate your pages in the language of your choice. A web page being worth a thousand words, take a look at this example based on the Kennedy family.

What do you get?

These are the features offered by Arbor Vita:

How does it work?

What you need first is some genealogy data in a GEDCOM format. Most genealogy software can save your data under this format. For example, the Kennedy family data come from the GEDCOM file Kennedy.ged.
ArborVita is a program written in Java that reads this file and generates the corresponding HTML pages. Since it's written in Java, it runs on any platform (Windows, Mac, Unix, ...) and it can be executed right from your browser.
There are two ways to use this software: either it generates HTML files that you upload to your site, or it generates dynamic HTML pages directly from the GEDCOM file on your site. Both methods have their own advantages and drawbacks: To compare these two methods, browse the generated files for the Kennedy family, then browse the same genealogy tree with dynamic pages.

Installation instructions

A number of small files are needed to execute this program. First create a folder (e.g. ArborVita) on your local disk to store them. You can download them in two ways: You must then copy your GEDCOM file to the same folder.


Choose one of the two methods below:

1) HTML File generation

The execution of this program depends on what browser you are using. Please refer to the one that applies to you: Executing the program is done through the AVFiles.html web page, whether open locally or from this site, it depends on your browser and your security settings. Once the processing is done, the applet will open index.html in your browser and you will be able to browse your genealogy tree.
If you use another type of browser or you have difficulties executing the program this way, you can also run it manually from a command line interface by following these instructions.

To publish your genealogy pages on your web site, upload all these generated HTML files along with the .gif files you downloaded. It is not necessary to upload AVFiles.html and ArborVita.jar. Note that future executions of the program will not re-generate all HTML files, but only the ones that have changed, so a good way to upload your files is to sort them by date and upload only the most recent ones.

2) Dynamic HTML pages

Modify the Input.html file using a text editor to update this line with your own GEDCOM file name:
<PARAM name="GEDCOMFILE" value="Kennedy.ged">
To publish your genealogy pages on your web site, upload all these files along with your GEDCOM file. The link to your genealogy tree is the AVPages.html file. This file is provided as an example, alternatively you can copy the content of this file to the page from which you want to link your genealogy tree.



The language used in generating the HTML files is configurable through a text file. The one provided here is english.txt, but you can define your own language file at execution by translating all items in the file in the language of your choice. Each line in the file contains a key-value pair: the key must not be modified as it is used internally by the program, and the value associated is the text that will appear on the pages. You can modify this value to accomodate your needs. As an example, a French version and a German version of this file are also provided.
For generated HTML files, In addition to defining the language of your choice for all pages, you can make the program generate each family page in their own language. This is particularly convenient for bilingual families for example. To do this, the program relies on the nationality field of the father in the GEDCOM file, and uses this field to match it to a language file.
For more information on how to customize your language files, please refer to the language file section.


The .gif files provided with the program are just an example of images that are used to display your genealogy tree. You can use other ones by copying them in place of the ones you downloaded. Here is a description of how they are used:

Questions? Comments?

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