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Example of TNG homepage

Welcome to using TNG for researching and storing your family study. We have a series of tutorials designed to assist you in using this program. This is where you start:- a series of articles to guide you forward, step by step, with explanations and illustrations.

This site and the tutorials were designed to help members of the Guild of One-Name Studies, but the tutorials should be of value to anyone wanting to use the TNG family tree application.

For Guild members that use TNG for their studies, they have two options within the Members’ Websites Project. If a member is comfortable with website tools, they may decide to have a site with a customized front end, using WordPress, for example. Then if TNG is also installed on the website, it is a standalone application, able to be customized to the member’s requirements. An alternative setup does not involve WordPress and just uses TNG. In this case, the Project can offer the member a fully installed TNG site, with all settings and configurations preconfigured and ready to roll. Members then do not need website setup experience and can start loading in their family tree data.

In either case, the TNG tutorials will be useful for both options. However, there will be some areas where the tutorial instructions are slightly different and will be so noted.

If at any point you have questions, or would like to have a mentor assigned to help you as you get started, do contact the TNG team.

Return to Tutorial table of contents.


An introduction to using TNG


When doing a One Name Study, or researching all people with a common surname, you will want to reach out and share information with other people having that surname. You may be lucky enough to have a large extended family, and have lots of cousins, aunts and uncles. But there may also be lots of other people with the name who you don’t know.

TNG is another way in which we can share and exchange information with others interested in the same surname.

TNG is short for: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, a long-winded title for a web-based application for managing a family tree. The next section What is TNG? will give you more background on the software itself, but this is a quick explanation on why you would want to consider using it. Some of the many benefits are:

  • It is easy to upload your family data in a GEDCOM format. Some other types of websites require you to convert the information into HTML scripting code, a difficult and labour-intensive task, which makes it hard to maintain a large family tree on the site.
  • The family data is stored in a real relational database, called MySQL. This means that reports can be created instantaneously from the backend data.
  • TNG has pretty well all of the features of a full-fledged family tree application, but hosted on the internet.
  • You can adjust privacy and living-individual visibility settings.
  • You can have as many relatives and researchers contributing to your study as you wish.
  • The individuals and families can be located on the built-in mapping feature. Births, marriages, deaths, burials and more can appear on a Google map that is zoomable.
  • You are not stuck with just one style of web page. TNG includes 18 different templates, of differing colours and layouts.
  • Being a web application, it is portable. You can have your family with you on the road, at the library or visiting relatives.
  • In the one application, you can have multiple trees and branches.
  • It supports images, which can be linked to the individuals’ pages.
  • TNG handles documents, headstones, photographs, albums, sources, repositories and if that is not enough, you can set up your own custom collections.

What is TNG?

TNG is a fully functioning family tree application that can house your family trees, branches, ancestors, their families, cemeteries and stories.  Even more, it can handle your sources, references and repositories.  Further, TNG holds onto photos, headstones, military records, census, birth / marriage /death / burial documents, and even more.

And most importantly, it does it all while being a software application on the internet.  TNG is a web-based family tree application that resides on your website.  This means that you can publish your family research on the day you start using TNG.  You can invite all your distant cousins to view the family connections and even contribute their branches, stories, documents and photos.

TNG is the abbreviation for The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding. More information can be found on the official website at:

Darrin Lythgoe

Where did it start?  The author of TNG is Darrin Lythgoe, a family man living in Sandy, Utah with his wife and three daughters.  Darrin grew up in Massachusetts.  It was by accident that Darrin got involved in the development of TNG.  He won a prize at the Comdex Show which led him to realize that there was a need for a program to store genealogical information on the internet.  So he borrowed some books on PHP from the public library and set out to build his own application. In his first year, he sold just one copy online.

It did get better. TNG now has over 15,000 users in many countries and languages.

The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG)

TNG is a server based genealogy program.  This means that the application and data reside on a remote server, which is where your website is hosted.  TNG users can access the program application with a web browser on their home computer, mobile tablet or even on a smart phone.  You can be at the library, on a bus or anywhere, with full access to your family information, just a click away.

TNG is a dynamic program.  The pages and information you see are created by TNG on the fly, which means that all of the information comes directly from one database, and is as current as the most recent data entry of any of your users.  If a cousin in California inputs some information, you can see the records immediately. Obviously, you can control who is allowed to do updates.

The program offers all of the expected features of a genealogy tool, so you will have family trees, person profile sheets, ancestor and descendant reports, charts and lists.  You can also see the information in place and time: locations can be viewed in a map mode and family milestones can be seen on a timeline.  And there are many more features.

How do I get a TNG account?

The Guild Members’ Websites Project (MWP) is open for new applicants for any of the three types of websites. TNG is one of these.

Start off with the main project page, at the Members’ Website Project page.  At the bottom, you can see some example screenshots of each type of website that is being hosted on the project website.  If this is of interest to you, then go to the Members’ Websites Project (MWP) page for full details.

Check out the contents box to the left and explore the ”’Types of website”’ and the ”’Project history”’ for some background.  Then go to ”’Full list”’ to visit some more of the MWP websites run by fellow Guild members.

Now you have decided to participate and have selected which type of website suits your preservation requirements.  What do you do next?  You need to log onto the Guild website as a member.  Then go back to  Members’ Websites Project (MWP) and check the contents box to the left again; now there is an Application Form link.  Just fill in the form and do read through all of the ”’Terms and Conditions”’: they are important.  Click on ”’Submit”’ and the MWP team will get in touch with you by email.

Let’s assume that you decide upon and apply for a site which uses TNG:

Once your application has been received and accepted by the MWP Project Leader, you will be asked to pay for a licence fee. Once this is done, your details will be forwarded to the TNG team for action.  This team will set up your new website, using your registered study surname, and the site will be: ”surname”  A new installation of TNG will be created for you, with a waiting but empty database and a starter homepage.  The TNG team also sends out a welcome email and starter instructions.

A tour of your TNG site

The starter homepage for TNG


So, what do you get, when you open your new Website? You get a screen which may confuse you. First, you will see a photo of a rundown looking street, which has nothing to do with your ancestors. You also see a welcoming paragraph in some foreign Latin-like gibberish.

This is the default TNG installation template. So let’s explore it a bit further.

TNG has numerous tools behind this first page. There is a fully powerful database manager, known as MySQL, designed to store details of the people who you are researching.

It will also hold security information on you, your invited users, passwords and data access. The database knows how the individuals you have researched are related to the stored images, cemeteries, headstones, documents, sources, repositories, mapped locations and more.

This main page, called the homepage, is where you, your users and your visitors will normally start. Later on, we will show how you can go directly to an individual’s information page, once the data is populated.

Are you stuck with this single photo, one paragraph layout? No. There are 18 different layouts, called templates, available. These will be covered in a later tutorial. The one you are looking at is template #4. This is the default which is set up for you by the TNG team.

The Header


In this example, along the top (A), you will see “Our Family Genealogy Pages”. You can replace this with your own heading.

Along the left there are two text boxes, First Name and Last Name (B), which your visitors can use to search for people in your tree.

Homepage Main Area

On this template, the main part of the homepage has three areas of interest. Along the left-side (C) is the main menu, which gives visitors links into your family tree information.

The Statistics link shows how many people you have information on, and it also includes some interesting facts, such as the oldest person in the database. Some items might be removed from view by you, such as Contact Us and Register for a User Account, depending on permissions that you control.

The featured photo at (D) is a ‘placeholder’ set up by the software author. You will find out later, how to substitute your own image.

The last item on this homepage is the welcoming paragraph at (E). The title, Main Feature and the contents will be replaced by your own text. Here you can get creative, putting in paragraphs, links to other sites and embedded images.

Once you start updating your the homepage, what can you achieve? Here is one example. Visit other members TNG sites to see different examples.

An Example of a Custom Homepage

Example of a custom TNG homepage

Administration Panel

The control of TNG takes place using the Administration panel.

Log into your TNG site. If you are still using your temporary password, now is a good time to change it to something a little more familiar for you. See the Getting Started – Passwords tutorial

The screen appears to not have changed, but it has. The main menu at the top was ”’Log in”’ but now it says, ”’Log out”’. Click on the ”’Administration”’ link and you should see the screen, below, showing up to 21 options. You will be using most of these options as you set up your new website.

The TNG administration panel

Points to Note:

Guild Members who have chosen to use a Type 3 TNG site are sharing one installation of the TNG software. You may see this referred to as a ‘shared platform’.
This means that individual users do not have the factility to modify the layout or colour of the template you have selected. It also means that you cannot change ‘Contact Us’ to Contact Me’
Neither can you install Modifications [Mods] which you may read about on the TNG forum.

Final Thoughts:

Don’t forget, if you have questions, you can contact the TNG team

Finding Help Within TNG

“Help for this area”

Sometimes, we just need a little help from our friends. TNG does have help available and it is built into your edit and administration pages. For people able to log in and to edit the pages, help is found up near the tabs along the top of the page. Look for the “Help for this area” tag. You can click on this tag and TNG will open up a pop-up window, with help instructions for that particular page.
For example, let us edit an individual. This also works whether you are in edit, modify, search, merge or other functions. Just look for the help line:

Example of a help pop-up

The pop-up window will have an excellent overview and instructions to guide you through the process. There will be several sections, depending on the function being described. Read through the whole help box for a full understanding.

A couple of Do’s and Don’ts for your TNG website

DO change your password.

Within ‘Administration – Users’, DON’T delete the User called TNGteam from your site.   They are your support team.  If something goes wrong, they may not be able to help you if you have deleted their sign on.

DON’T use the Table Names option within Administration / Setup / General Settings. Doing so can cause real problems.

DO enjoy using TNG to set up your new website.