I've put together a list of the absolute, hands-down BEST resources for genealogy website building to help you get up and running quickly.
I have helped build multiple websites throughout the years, and the resources listed below are, in my opinion, the best resources available to you for building your website while allowing for growth (more eyes on your site = better cousin bait!).
Please note that this post does contain a few affiliate links -- meaning that if you click through and purchase a product, we will receive a small commission off of your purchase at no extra cost to you. We use these commissions to help keep the The Welsh of Harpers Ferry online and running smoothly.
As the webmaster and the main researcher here at The Welsh of Harpers Ferry, my duty is first and foremost to our lovely visitors and our family. Because of this, I never promote products or services which I have never used or do not love myself. This post is truly a culmination of what I have used and LOVED in my website building adventures.
Wordpress started out as a blogging platform, but it has turned into a full-fledged content management system with an extremely loyal following.
Wordpress packs a ton of functionality into a FREE, open-source package which is being constantly updated and further developed. With over 53,000 plugins and themes available, you can add further functionality on an as-needed basis (without a developer or learning funky computer code!).
of the web is powered by Wordpress
Wordpress.com severely limits your customization and flexibility options, and if you ever need to upgrade your website's plan to paid you are going to pay so much more in hosting fees.
It is also difficult to transfer a Wordpress.com website to a different host in the future. While your Wordpress.com does run on a version of the Wordpress software, it is much different than the more powerful, open-source version other hosts have access to.
Whether or not you choose to power your website by Wordpress, you still have to have a web host. With website hosting, you are essentially renting space on someone else's server for your website.
I host all of my websites on Siteground. While I have tried many other hosts, Siteground is by far my favorite for many reasons.
Every Siteground web hosting plan comes with a free SSL certificate (think extra security and better placement on Google). If you already have a website and are looking to simply switch hosts, Siteground will migrate your website to their servers for free! Siteground also allows for a simple, one-click install of Wordpress saving you the hassle of attempting to install Wordpress manually.
For most genealogy websites, the start-up plan will allow for more than enough room to grow. You can grab this plan for only $3.95 a month. That's only the price of about two cups of coffee!
All websites need a design. While you can find free Wordpress themes in the theme repository and free HTML designs with a quick Google search, my first stop when designing a new website is always Theme Forest.
While free themes are great to get started with, I like knowing that my purchased themes will work out of the box and offer easy customization.
Purchased themes also offer support, and I tend to heavily lean on a theme's support team while I'm ironing out the kinks in my website design. (No more stressing because you can't figure out why or how you messed up your entire design!)
Theme Forest is made up of many different theme authors, but the company vets all of the themes for quality before a theme is included in their marketplace, so you can be sure you are always purchasing a high-quality website theme.
The Welsh of Harpers Ferry itself is built on Be Theme by Muffin Group, and I would venture to say that it is my favorite and the most user-friendly theme that I have purchased so far!
Using the resources listed above will give you a great foundation for your website. But, like most genealogists and family historians, you probably have a rather large GEDCOM file you'd rather not try to transfer by hand to webpages. Luckily, you have a couple options available to you.
The easiest way to put your genealogy online is through the use of GEDCOM import software. This type of software allows you to import a GEDCOM file from which the software will create webpages.
I have tested many genealogy website engines and for a basic GEDCOM web/authoring tool, I personally prefer Genealone for its flexibility and the ability customize every aspect of the software's output.
You can run Genealone as either a stand-alone website or as part of a Wordpress installation via the plugin.
The software does have a free version, but it is limited to only 50 people and 10 images. You can purchase the full version of the software for a one-time fee of $24.00, which includes a year of free updates. After this year is up, you will need to purchase an update license key for $12 to gain access to future updates.
For a more advanced GEDCOM to web authoring tool or for societies and associations, I generally recommend TNG, The Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building for its ease of use and advanced functionality.
Like Genealone, TNG can run standalone or be integrated with Wordpress. There are a variety of methods for integration with Wordpress, each with their own drawbacks. TNG can be customized quite easily with knowledge of CSS and HTML, and even has a WIKI with various "mods" to help you tweak the software to run exactly how you want it to. If you'd rather your genealogy program be your website, TNG can help you do that, too.
Darrin, the creator of the software, is extremely responsive to his support requests. You'll never have to worry about purchasing this software and being "hung out to dry".
The current price of TNG is 32.99 for a new licenses. This price includes any small incremental updates, although new versions incur an additional upgrade fee.
So far, we've discussed two great pieces of paid software that can help you accomplish building a genealogy website. But there is another piece of software, designed to work specifically for Wordpress websites, we haven't yet discussed. This software is RootsPersona.
RootsPersona is a FREE Wordpress plugin which adds GEDCOM import functionality to your site. The plugin automatically creates cross-linked pages for each person in the file. Once the plugin creates the pages, you can also edit information directly on your website.
Like TNG, the creator of this plugin, Ed, is very friendly and responsive to support and feature requests. While this plugin is not quite as advanced as the other two options, it has a long list of very notable and worthy features. The plugin does accept donations for continued development.
I have had some questions on what software the Welsh of Harpers Ferry uses, specifically, as it is set up so different than the traditional genealogy program.
Our site is built mainly upon a custom plugin that we created ourselves, with the occasional help of a developer from Fiverr for problems we couldn't figure out ourselves.
The Welsh of Harpers Ferry is not equipped with GEDCOM import functionality -- mainly because we wanted the ability to fine tune what we put on the website, and what we did not, and how information is referenced, cross-linked, and displayed.
The Welsh of Harpers Ferry is hosted on Siteground, built with Wordpress, and themed with BeTheme by Muffin Group. We use the plugin Advanced Custom Fields Pro to handle our custom fields and relationships between pieces of content on the site.
If you decide to go this route and build something yourself, you'll need knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP, as well as an idea of how Wordpress works. None of those languages are hard to learn -- what we did is completely do-able! But, it is quite the undertaking and it will take plenty of time.
We suggest trying out each one of the software above to see if any one of those best fit your needs (or can be tweaked to work!) before taking on such a large project.
What have you found to be the most overwhelming aspect of creating a genealogy website? What are you struggling with while building your website? Have you found any resources that have been incredibly helpful to you? Let us know in the comments!
Happy researching (and site building!),