Split Your Family Tree

During your genealogy research and building your family tree, there might come a time when you might find it beneficial to split off specific branches to improve your research or to play around with different techniques without damaging your main tree.

Splitting your family tree isn’t easy to do but it’s absolutely possible.

Reasons you may want to split your tree

  1. Isolate specific family lines and hints provided by the genealogy websites (helpful when you have duplicate names and other confusing or conflicting information between lines)
  2. Share a specific branch with someone else who only needs certain pieces and not the entire tree
  3. Keep unrelated family separate and better organized
  4. A tree specifically for research and “playing around”
  5. Your tree might be what you consider “too big” and a smaller tree would be easier to manage

It’s all about your personal preference and there’s really no right or wrong answer.

How to Split Your Tree

If you use an online family tree on a genealogy website, you’ll notice that there probably isn’t an option for splitting or removing specific sections from your tree. However, working around the online family tree system, this can be accomplished in just a few steps.

Step 1

Download your family tree into a GEDCOM file. This blog provides the instructions to download a GEDCOM file from many genealogy websites.

Step 2

Download and install a desktop family tree software program such as MyHeritage Family Tree Builder. It’s also free.

Step 3

After you’ve installed the desktop family tree software program, follow all the instructions for starting your family tree (don’t build anything yet). MyHeritage makes it easy to do this by using your username and password just as if you were on the website. They offer a variety of sync features but for the purpose of this blog, we’re not going to get into them.

Step 4

Load your GEDCOM file into the desktop family tree maker software. Depending on the size of your GEDCOM file, it may take anywhere from a few seconds, to minutes, hours….. Size is based on the number of profiles and data information attached to the profiles.

Step 5 

Once your GEDCOM file is loaded and you confirm that the tree is complete, it’s now time to split specific branches.

This is done by an export tool that can be found under the File menu.

A window opens to start an export GEDCOM wizard. Click Save As to name your new GEDCOM and select the location to save the file.

Click Next.

Now you can provide a description of what’s in the GEDCOM and provide author information. This isn’t required so you can just click Next and move on.

Step 6

This where the split happens. This window provides the option to include only selected people.

Click this option and then click on the box that says “Select”.

This will now bring up a list of everyone in your family tree that was loaded from the original GEDCOM File. Select the highest level person of what you want to see in your split tree either by using the quick find fields or scrolling through the list. If you want to add other branches, you can select more than one person in the next step.

You also have the option to include descendants, ancestors and spouses. It’s all about which way you want this to split.  Feel free to play around with this to fine-tune how you are going to split your tree.

Once you’re happy with whom you’ve selected, Click Ok.

Step 7

You’re now back at the window mentioned in step 5 and you have the option to select what you want to include in the new GEDCOM file. Once you’ve made your selections, click Next. A window will pop up asking if you want to create a subfolder for photos. This is also up to you.

That’s it! Your new GEDCOM file that has a split branch from your main tree is now complete. Now, you can go back to your online family tree website and upload your GEDCOM for this new branch and continue.

Instructions for uploading a GEDCOM file to the most common online genealogy websites can be found in this blog.