What is Arbor Vita?
||\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:
Each family page contains the vital stats
of the two parents and all children, and the descendants and ascendants
trees of both parents. The depth of these trees is configurable.
All pages are linked together through their last name: ascending
link for parents, descending link for
Color coded sex and family relationship for individuals (blue for boys,
pink for girls, white for in-laws)
5 indices available in each page header: list of families
or individuals sorted by first names,
names, birth dates and birthdays
Pages are pure HTML, they can be saved, e-mailed, printed, etc... and can display any HTML code (links, images) contained in the GEDCOM file
Pages can be generated as files to upload to your site, or can be generated
on-the-fly by your browser
Only the pages containing changes since the last file generation are generated
Configurable language and layout used by the HTML pages
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
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
To compare these two methods, browse the generated
files for the Kennedy family, then browse the same genealogy tree with
HTML file generation can create a lot of files and you might run out of
disk space on your local drive or your provider. Each time you modify your
GEDCOM file, some of these files have to be re-generated and uploaded to
your site. On the other hand, browsing your genealogy pages is faster.
Generating HTML pages dynamically is more convenient to manage as all you
have to upload to your site is your GEDCOM file. For the end user, loading
the initial page takes more time since that's when the GEDCOM file is processed,
but the subsequent pages are usually faster to display as the access to
the provider is no longer needed at that point, therefore the speed depends
on the user's computer.
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.
Download this self-extractible executable for
Windows and run it. You can also download this
Zip file and then extract the files from it using
into you local folder.
Alternatively, you can go to the Download directory
and download every file by right clicking on them and choosing the option
Save Link As... or Save Target As... from the popup menu and save them
in your local 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
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
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
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
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:
Please address them to firstname.lastname@example.org