Webtrees Administration

Webtrees Administration is done by administrators who have the authority to administrate every setting on the whole of a Webtrees website.

Webtrees Update

Webtrees Administration Update

When you log in as an administrator, there will be a message visible if a new version of Webtrees is available. You should upgrade to the new version by clicking on the link as soon as possible in case it includes a security update.

Webtrees Administration Control Panel

When Webtrees Administrators click on the ‘My Pages’ link in the top menu, the ‘Control panel’ link takes you the Webtrees administration control panel from where you can change all the options on the whole website. Options are grouped into the following six major categories:

  1. Website
  2. Family Trees
  3. Users
  4. Modules
  5. Media 
  6. Map

Webtrees Administration of Website

Webtrees Administraton Control Panel

Website Preferences

There are only five Webtrees administration options in the Website Preferences section.

  1. Data folder is the first option. This is the name of the folder that will contain any data (images, sound files, video files, and GEDCOM files, etc.) uploaded onto the Webtrees site. It is the data/ folder by default. The folder will contain confidential details (images of the marriage certificates of living persons for example) and is protected by an Apache configuration file (the .htaccess file) which blocks all access to the folder.  If your web-server does not support .htaccess files, and you cannot restrict access to this folder, then you can select another folder, away from your web documents. If you do select a different folder, you must also move all files (except config.ini.php, index.php and .htaccess) from the existing folder to the new folder. The folder can be specified in full (e.g. /home/user_name/webtrees_data/) or relative to the installation folder (e.g. ../../webtrees_data/).
  2. Time zone is the second option. By default it is UTC, but the drop-down menu allows you to select your own time zone from the list that is in Continent, then city, order.
  3. The Default theme option allows you to select which of the activated themes will be the default theme for your site visitors. You may have limited the number of activated themes available to you. We look at theme activation elsewhere.
  4. The Language option allows you to select which of the activated languages will be the default language of your site. You may have limited the number of activated languages available to you. We look at activation of languages elsewhere.
  5. The Show list of family trees option allows you to show the list of family trees in the main menu if your Webtrees contains more than one family tree.
Sending e-mail

If the following Webtrees administration section does not make much sense to you, then you need to take this up with your webmaster or check the webmaster section of the manual.

Messages: Webtrees needs to send e-mails, such as password reminders and website notifications, and this drop-down list determines how those emails are sent from your website. You can use sendmail or SMTP.

Sender name: This name is used in the ‘From’ field, when sending automatic e-mails from this server. You could insert your email in here, for example, or ‘Message from … Website’ or something similar.

Server name: In most cases the default of ‘localhost‘ as the name of the SMTP server will be correct.  If not, it will be the name of the mail server running on the same web server your Webtrees site is running on.

Port number: By default SMTP works on the default of 25, but some hosting companies may changed their SMTP port number.

Use password: Most SMTP servers require a password.

Username/Password This is the username for your authentification with the SMTP server. The username will differ from server to server, but will often be your server email address. The password will be the the password associated with the SMTP server, often the same password as your server email password.

Secure Connection: Most servers do not use secure connections, but this setting allows you to select ssl or tls if required.

Sending server name:

Most mail servers require that the sending server identifies itself correctly, using a valid domain name. This would be the domain of your Webtrees site but without the https:// in front. Failure to insert your server name here will usually result in emails going straight into spam folders.

DKIM Digital signature

The DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) system inserts an encrypted signature into the header of emails sent from your server to prove they are legitimate. It validates that the domain sending an email is the actual sender and not a phishing attack. It is a style of email authentication mostly used by businesses rather than on sites such as a Webtrees site, but if your mail server offers DKIM you will be able to complete this section with your domain name, and the Selector and Private Key supplied. Fuller information about DKIM can be found on the DKIM website.

Testing and Saving: Once you have completed all the relevant options you should click in the ‘Send a test email using these settings‘ box, and then click on the ‘Save‘ button. You should receive a test email, which will confirm your setting work.

and Registration

Welcome text on sign-in page: The drop-down menu in this section allows you to choose a message that appears on the sign-in page.  The three supplied message are:

  1.  All users can request a user account.
  2. The administrator will decide each request for a user account.
  3. Only family members can request a user account

If none of the above options are appropriate, you can type your own custom welcome text in the box.

Allow visitors to request a new user account: You would usually want to allow visitors to request a new user account (Yes) but some family trees may want to only allow new users by invitation (No). If set to yes, then any new user would need to confirm their email address before the account is created. You, as the administrator, would be notified on creation of the account, and there is an admin setting (in the Users section of admin guide) in which you have to approve the account and select an access level before they can sign in.

Show acceptable use agreement on ‘Request a new user account’ page: This option can be set to yes, or no. If set to yes, the acceptable use agreement is displayed as new users register.

Save: Once you have made your selection, or any time you make any changes, don’t forget to click on the ‘Save’ button.

Website Logs

Webtrees Control Panel Logs

The Website Logs provide you with a comprehensive Webtrees Administration Log of all the important events on your website. This includes a list of every time someone has logged in or out, every time a setting or site preference has been changed, every time a user has been created or a users status is changed, and every time there has been an error.

The log is displayed as a table that includes the time and date, the type of log, the log message itself, the IP address of the person who was logged in and took the action being logged, the name of the person who took the action, and the name of any family tree involved.

The log entries can be filtered using the filter boxes located above the log itself, and if you make a filtering selection you then need to click on the ‘Search’ button to filter the display.

Filter by Date: The ‘From’ and ‘To’ dates can be changed so that when necessary you can limit the display to a single day, or a particular few days.

Filter by Type: The drop-down menu lists all the different types of log entry.

Filter by IP address: It is useful in some circumstances to find what changes are being made with users with the same IP address.

Filter by Message: If none of the filters meets your need, typing a word or phrase here will display all the log messages containing that particular word or phrase.

Filter by User: The drop-down menu lists all the members of your site, and selecting one filters the log to only display log entries for that member.

Filter by Family Tree: The drop-down menu lists all the family trees on your site, and selecting one filters the log to only display log entries for that particular family tree.

The filters can be used together. So, for example, you could look for a particular user on a particular date.

One of the most useful log entries when something goes wrong, are the ‘error’ entries. If you do not understand the error, copying the first line and pasting it into a search engine will usually find an answer.

The log entries can be ‘Downloaded’ or ‘Deleted’ using the buttons under the filter boxes.

By default, only ten log entries are displayed at a time, but if you scroll to the bottom of the entries there is a ‘Display’ option that can change the number of entries displayed.

Clean-up Data Folder

Clicking on this link takes you to a Webtrees administration page displaying a list of all the folders in your data folder, but some of them can be deleted from time to time to get rid of accumulated rubbish that is no longer needed. There are indications on folders that can’t be cleared, but the cache, thumbnail-cache, and tmp folders can always be cleared out, as can any GEDCOM files that have been dealt with.

Server Information

The server information link takes you to a page displaying what version of PHP your site is using, and it lists all the current system and configuration settings. Whilst all the settings are comprehensively displayed (so you know what the settings are) none of them can actually be changed from this location, so it is for information only. The settings themselves are discussed in more depth in the Webmaster section of the Webtrees Manual.

Website Administration of Family Trees

Webtrees Administration Family Trees

Create a Family Tree

This takes you to a simple form with only two fields.

  1. Family Tree Title: This should be the name of your family tree. ‘Smith Family Tree’ for example.
  2. URL: This will be the URL of your Webtrees site, but with the family name on the end. ‘//yoursite.com/tree/smith/’ for example
Set Default Blocks For New Family Trees

Webtrees Control Panel Adding a Family Tree

This option allows you to select the blocks to be displayed on a new family tree by default. The blocks can be dragged into new positions or deleted, and new blocks can be added from those that are visible underneath. The number of blocks visible in this setting is determined by the choices you have made in the ‘Modules Section‘ of the Webtrees Administration Control Panel.

Family Tree Settings

Most of the family tree settings have already been described in the Webtrees Managers section of the manual. One of the settings that Webtrees Managers do not have access to is the Data Fixes link.

WARNING: Be very careful using data fixes, especially if you use the batch ‘Update All’ button. There is no UNDO facility so you should create a backup first.

Data Fixes: In Webtrees 2 Data Fixes replaced the old batch-update module. This is most widely used to help correct any irregularities in an imported GEDCOM file. For example, you may have imported several people who are obviously dead, but who are not listed as dead because their date of death is unknown. Using the Data Fix module allows you to add an entry that they have died if they are, for example, over 100 years old.

Before telling you how this works, it is worth bearing in mind that you may want to check this data without actually marking everyone over 100 as dead. It provides you with a list of people who have obviously died, but for whom you have no record of death. Rather than simply marking them as having died, a better option would be to search archives and try to find a death record that can be added to each of the individual people listed.

Using Data Fixes: Using the drop-down menu, select ‘Add missing death records’ then click on the ‘Next’ button. This displays a message that ‘You can speed up the privacy calculations by adding a death record to individuals whose death can be inferred from other dates, but who do not have a record of death, burial, cremation, etc.’ This displays a list of everyone in your database, and alongside the ones over 100 years old without a death record there will be a ‘Preview’ and an ‘Update’ button. The ‘Preview’ button displays the current GEDCOM file with a highlighted preview of any alteration that should be made. The alteration itself can then be made with the ‘Update’ button. Instead of updating these separately, they can also all be updated in a batch by clicking on the ‘Update all’ button at the top.

Adding the new last name to a married woman if it is missing is done in a similar fashion, and other options include a full ‘search and replace‘, the ability to replace old-style GEDCOM tags, slashes, and spaces with the current GEDCOM standard ones.

Website Administration of Users

webtrees User Administration

The user section of the Control Panel gives you full control of all the users on your site.

User Administration

The ‘User Administration‘ link takes you to a list of all the registered users on your Webtrees site and gives their username, email address, language, date registered, and date they last logged in. New members have to verify their email by clicking a link in the registration email sent to them, and also have to be approved by you.

Each username is preceded by a drop-down menu that allows you to delete the user, or to masquerade as the user. The masquerade is useful for you to make sure the required options are working correctly, as it enables you to view the website as a member or editor, etc. would see it.

The third option in this drop-down menu is the Edit option. This displays a form in which several details can be changed:

Account approval and e-mail verification. When a user registers for an account, an e-mail is sent to their e-mail address with a verification link. When they follow this link, we know the e-mail address is correct, and the ‘e-mail verified’ option is selected automatically. If an administrator creates a user account, the verification e-mail is not sent, and the e-mail must be verified manually. You should not approve an account unless you know that the e-mail address is correct. A user will not be able to sign in until both ‘e-mail verified’ and ‘approved by administrator’ are selected.

Changes. Normally, any changes made to a family tree need to be reviewed by a moderator. This option allows a user to make changes without needing a moderator. This option allows you to permit this for some ‘editors’ but not others.

Access to Family Trees. This section shows you the family tree (or trees) the person belongs to and their roll in that tree. Using the ‘Roll‘ drop-down menu you can make visitors into members, or members into editors, moderators, or managers. Using the ‘Individual record‘ search-box allows you to select that person’s record so their own record becomes their default starting point on charts. The ‘Restrict to immediate family‘ box allows you to permit limited access to a logged-in user’s own immediate family even if they are still living, whilst still preventing them from accessing the details of more distant relatives who are still living. The number you enter in this section limits the number of relationships the person can see. For example, if you specify a path length of 1, the individual will be able to see relatives that are up to 1 step away. This would allow them to see the following records.

  • Parents (1 step away)
  • Children (1 step away)

2 steps away would include the above plus

  • Grandchildren (2 steps away – the child of their child)
  • Aunts/Uncles (2 steps away – the sibling of their parent)

3 steps away would include the above plus

  • First cousins (3 steps away- the child of their parents sibling)
  • Great grandchildren (3 steps away -the child of their child’s child),

Note: longer path lengths require a lot of calculation, which can make your website run slowly for these users.

Administrators. Immediately above the ‘access to family trees’ section, there is a box you can select if you ever want to make a user into an administrator to increase the number of people doing webtreees administration.

Add a User

This option is similar to the form new users would use to register, but it allows you, as an administrator, to create new users yourself. You have to complete their real name, username, password, and email. If you do use this option, you also need to approve the account as described in the previous section.

Delete Inactive Users

If someone has not logged in for six months their details will appear here and you will have an option to delete them is they are no longer required.  The six-month default can be extended to a longer period if needed.

Set Default Blocks For New Users

This option allows you to select the blocks to be displayed on a new user’s ‘My Page’ by default. The blocks can be dragged into new positions or deleted, and new blocks can be added from those that are visible underneath. The number of blocks visible in this setting is determined by the choices you have made in the ‘Modules Section‘ of the Webtrees Administration Control Panel. This setting only determines the blocks seen by new users. Once users are logged in they can rearrange the blocks, or delete or add others.


The Webtrees administration control panel/Users section contains three messaging links;

  • Send a message to all users opens a message box similar to how you would send an email, with a box for a title, plus another box for the body of your message. The names of all users are listed in the ‘To’ box.
  • You can send similar messages to ‘users who have never signed in‘ or ‘users who have not signed in for 6 months‘.


The Modules section has 180+ webtrees module administrative settings and had a page of its own.


Administering Media

Manage Media

The ‘Manage Media‘ link takes you to a table which lists all your media. The location of your media folder is displayed above the table, and if you have sub-folders your table can be filtered by means of the drop-down menu. For example, on my own site my media folder contains a births folder, marriage folder, etc., so using the drop-down menu to select data/media/birth filters the media to birth records.

The other filter at the top of the table enables you to filter any media files that have not been allocated to any individuals on your tree (Unused files), or to any images that are not on your own server but on someone else’s website (external files)

The media table itself displays the title of your media file (Media file column), a thumbnail of image files (Media column), and the description and link to any individual record where the image is being displayed (Media object column).

Upload Media Files

The ‘Upload Media Files‘ link takes you to a page from where you can upload media files from your local computer. Media files can be pictures, video, audio or other formats. Before you upload media files you should read the ‘Reducing Media Sizes‘ section which is below this ‘Upload Media Files’ section.

Click on the ‘Choose File‘ button and select the file on your local computer. You can leave the name as it is, or you can use the ‘Filename on Server’ box to give it a more meaningful name. You can select the folder on the server to which the file will be uploaded.

The Webtrees administration control panel allows you to upload several files at one time as long as all the files are within the servers maximum upload size. When you have finished don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the ‘Upload‘ button.

Reducing Media Sizes

Media files can take up a lot of space on the server. More importantly, it can reduce the speed at which your site loads in a browser, and increase data use when viewed on a mobile phone. What may be imperceptible to you (milliseconds) is important to search engines such as Google which penalises slow websites. Webtrees administration of media needs to take this into account.

  • Image files should be in .jpg format and reduced to 70% quality. Images displayed on a screen (as opposed to being printed on paper) appear the same at 70% quality as they do at 100% so high quality is not needed and makes no difference to the viewing experience.
  • Video and Audio Media Files should be edited to be as short as possible with all unnecessary footage cut-out, and they should not run automatically.
Link Media Objects to Facts and Events

Clicking on the ‘Link Media Objects to Facts and Events‘ link takes you to a table that lists media that is linked to individuals without being linked to an event. Sometimes this will be correct. For example, you may have an image of someone that is unconnected with any particular event. Other times this will be incorrect. For example, if you have an image of a birth certificate linked to a person, that image should also be linked to the entry recording their birth.

The table displays the name of the family tree, the name and title of the media object, and the name of the individual the object is linked to. The final column displays buttons for all the facts and events listed for that person.

Linking Webtrees Images to Facts

How this works in practice is best illustrated with an example using the filter at the top of the page. Adding ‘Birth‘ into the filter will display all the images linked to an individual where that individual also has a birth record. Where the image is of a birth certificate, clicking on the ‘Birth’ button will ensure the image is linked to the birth record of the person concerned. You will be asked to confirm the move, and once confirmed the entry will be removed from the table. Once you have linked all the birth certificate images to the birth records you could do the same for marriages, deaths, etc.

Import Custom Thumbnails From Webtrees 1

In webtrees version 1, you could add custom thumbnails to media objects by creating files in the ‘thumbs’ folders.
The webtrees administration in version 2 is different, and custom thumbnails are stored as a second media file in the same media object. Because of this, if the thumbnail image is the same as the original image, it is no longer needed.  If you have upgraded from Webtrees version 1 to Webtrees version 2 the ‘Import custom thumbnails’ setting allows you to delete any thumbnails no longer required or move any custom thumbnail images that are required. This is a simple housekeeping setting that will improve the performance of your site.

Clicking on the ‘Import custom thumbnails from webtrees version 1‘ link takes you to a table listing all your thumbnails alongside an image of the main media file. The ‘Comparison‘ column tells you whether both files are identical or nearly identical (100% or 99% for example) in which case the thumbnail can be deleted using the ‘Delete‘ button.

If they are different, then you need to click on the ‘Add‘ button.


Map control panel

There are various places on Webtrees where maps are displayed (the pedigree map for example is a chart on which birth locations are displayed).

Map Provider

Clicking on the ‘Map provider‘ link takes you to a page from where you can turn this option off and on and lists the available map providers.  There is also an option to use the GeoNames database to help autocomplete as you enter places. The GeoNames database is a large database of place names but to use the database you need to register for a free GeoNames account and provide the username.

Geographic Data

Map Country Table

  • Clicking on the ‘Geographic Data‘ link will take you to a table of all the countries listed in your family tree.
  • Clicking on the country takes you to a table of all the counties or states in that country.
  • Clicking on the county or state, takes you to a table of all the towns listed in that county.
  • Clicking on the town takes you to a page where a map of the location is displayed, together with the name of the place and the latitude and  longtitude, all of which can be edited. The flag on the map can be moved to a specific location (a particular area, street, or building).

Clicking on the pencil icon at any stage allows you to edit the entry of that stage.

Webtrees Administration