Genealogy Research Organizer

Genealogy Research Organizer is a program for Windows that lets you manage your genealogy data. Even complex family relationships become instantly clear, with GRO’s intuitive drop-line chart. You can arrange your ancestors as you desire, and GRO automatically draws the lines between individuals representing their relationship.

Just double-click an individual to see all of his or her events, attributes, partners, and children.


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Getting Started

The first time you run GRO, you can either create a new empty gedcom file, or open an existing one. If you create a new empty tree (menu: File/New), you can add individuals by choosing the menu Edit/New Individual, or by right-clicking on the chart and choosing New Individual.

Import Existing Data

Alternatively, if you have your family tree data in another program, you can try to export it from that program in GEDCOM format (remember where you save it!). Then open that exported file using GRO (menu: File/Open…).

Drop-Line Chart

The first time you open a GEDCOM file, the individuals will automatically be positioned on the drop-line chart, but they will probably not be very well organized. So the first task you may want to perform is to move the individuals around (by clicking and dragging them) and clean up the chart.


You can double-click on an individual to open up a new window that lets you modify their genealogical information. Their name is shown in bold; press the “name” button to edit the person’s name (use slashes around the surname). Use the gender button to edit their gender (male, female, or unknown). Events and attributes are shown in different lists (use the tabs to switch between them). To add an event or attribute to the person, double-click on or . To edit an existing one, just double-click the row. The other two tabs are Ancestors which shows a pedigree list-control, and Partnerships which lists the individual's spouses and children.

Events and Attributes

Choose the type of the event from the drop-down list. Enter the date by pressing the date button and entering the date information (for normal dates, choose “exact date”, choose the month, and enter the day and year, and click OK). Enter the place the event happened (include address if known, city, county, state, and country). The citation button allows you to cite the source of the event information. You can also enter any notes about the event you want.


This tab (on the individual window) lists all spouses (or partners) of the individual. For each spouse, it lists all “partnership events” (like marriage or engagement) followed by all children (from that partnership). (Note: you cannot add parters or children from this page, yet. For now, you go to the drop-line chart and add a new individual, then connect them.)

Citations and Sources

The citation dialog allows you to enter or modify information about a single citation. The citation is basically a page from a source. A source is a book, gravestone, census, newspaper, birth certificate, or other document where you got the information from. The citation is the exact page in the source where the information is located.

When entering a new citation, you can either choose an existing source (if you already entered it earlier) or add a new source. Click on the source button to do this. The source information is author, title, and publication information, as well as a repository (library or other building) where you found the source. Again, if you already entered the repository into the system earlier, you can just pick it from the list, otherwise you must enter a new one. The source dialog also has a place you can enter the actual text from the source document. This can be used to enter the entire text of a will, birth certificate, or any other text directly from the source document. Note that when you do enter text here, be sure to enter it exactly as it was in the original document. Don’t interpret the data when entering it here. For example, if the document says “3/1/26” then you should enter 3/1/26, not 1 Mar. 1926. If you want to add you own comment in the text, be sure to surround them with brackets [like this].

The author and title should be entered in their entirety from the title page if possible. For sources that aren’t books, you should describe the source as fully as possible. For example, a birth certificate could be entered like this: author: “Division of Vital Statistics, Department of Health, New York, USA” title: “Certificate of death; Smith, John; Number 9226”. Publication information should include the publisher, city, and year for published sources. For unpublished sources, enter the date the source was created, and the place it is located.

In general, when citing a source, try to be as complete as possible when describing it. The idea is that anybody else who reads the citation information you enter should be able to locate the same exact source by themselves.

The citation also contains a field called quality. This is a rough estimate of the reliability of the source, how well it can probably be trusted. Birth certificates, for example, are direct evidence of births. On the other hand, a newspaper article may by secondary evidence. Or you may be refering to a published genealogy that you know has many errors, so you might mark that source as unreliable.

More Details

Drop-Line Chart

You can use the drop-line chart to add new people to your tree. When you add a new person and enter his information (and close the window), you will want to “connect” him to an existing person on the tree. For example, assume you already have John Smith on the chart. Through your research, you find out that his father is James Smith. You’ll add James Smith to the tree, and then you’ll want to connect him to John Smith. To do this select BOTH people (click on one person, then shift-click on the second person) and right-click (on the second person) and choose “Connect”. This will bring up a dialog asking you how these two people are related. Choose the correct relationship and click OK. That’s all there is to it! (Note that you must enter the gender of parents before you connect them; this is necessary because the GEDCOM standard needs to know whether to give the person a HUSBAND or WIFE tag in the family.)


When GRO opens a GEDCOM file that was created in another application (like PAF or FTM), it needs to decided how to arrange the individuals on the drop-line chart, because no chart-positioning information is stored in the GEDCOM file (indeed, most programs do not even allow the user to move individuals around on a chart layout at all). Versions of GRO prior to V1.4 did not do a good job of arranging the people on the chart. People would overlap to a great extent, and families would not be logically layed out with respect to each other. Large trees would become a complete mess that was almost impossible to rearrange manually. As of V1.4, the automatic layout algorithm as been greatly improved. This command can be accessed from the menu: Edit, Clean Entire Tree. (Previous versions had a Clean command that operated on selected people; V1.4 only has the ability to clean the entire tree). Since this command rearranges every individual in the entire tree, you should take the precaution of backing up your current tree before you clean the entire tree, in case you don’t like the way it arranges it. The command will search for the longest paternal line and arrange the generations of that family (generally of one surname). Then it will arrange related families in a similar fashion, off to the right. It will repeat this process as needed to arrange the entire tree. In practice, this will expose some unrelated people (or families), and will move them far away from the rest of the tree. Generally this is the result of a mistake in the tree, where a person was added but not connected. In this way, the “Clean Entire Tree” command will help you to find such errors in your tree (in the hopes you would like to correct them). Once GRO has arranged the families in the tree, you will, no doubt, want to rearrange some of the people yourself. This should be much easier than in prior versions of GRO, because there will be no overlapping people.

Copy and Paste

The drop-line chart allows you to copy and paste individuals (from one Gedcom document to another). Note that related items will also be copied and pasted. This includes family records, and all citation, source, and repository records referenced by the copied individuals.

Fonts and Scaling

The drop-line chart can be re-scaled when a different font (or size) is chosen. In versions of GRO prior to V1.4, increasing the font size would not move people over, and therefore would cause them to overlap. As of V1.4, an option is provided to re-scale the chart when the font is changed. The checkbox is on the Options Font dialog (at the bottom), and is turned on by default. In addition to rescaling the chart, you can simply “zoom-out” to get a better view of the chart as a whole. This will not permanently change the chart’s scaling, it will simply shrink it on the screen for you to look at. Choose from the menu: View > Scale, and you can enter the scale you want to zoom out to. For example, enter 10 (meaning 1:10 scale) to display the chart at one-tenth the actual size. When zoomed out, you can move individuals around, and double-click on them, just as if you weren’t zoomed out. To return to normal (1 to 1) scale, there is a convenient command on the menu: View > Normal 1:1 Scale. When returning to 1:1 scale, the chart will automatically scroll to the selected individual (just as a convenience).

Dim and Show

These commands allow you to more easily see the selected set of people on the drop-line chart by “dimming” the other people. For example, try selecting two siblings on a chart, then choose from the menu: Edit, Dim Unselected. The two selected siblings will still be visible, as will the line connecting them, but the rest of the people on the chart will be very dim. To restore the original view, choose from the menu: Edit, Show All.

Traversal using Keyboard Shortcuts

You can navigate through people on the drop-line chart by using keys. The navigation is accessed by holding down shift, or ctrl and shift, and pressing the arrow keys. Start by selecting one person on the chart, then hold down the shift key (or the ctrl and shift keys) to jump to the relative, as indicated by the following list:

hold down: and press this arrow: to jump to this relative:
shift left or right siblings
shift+ctrl left or right spouse
shift up father
shift+ctrl up mother
shift down child
shift+ctrl down child

Note that when jumping to a child, it will jump to the left-most child, or the previously selected child.

Select Relatives

The “Select Relatives” command in versions prior to V1.4 has proven to be fairly useless. It used too much memory and so would often fail. Also, the choices provided were too confusing, and didn’t always work correctly. As of V1.4, the choices have been reduced to the most useful, and two new choices have been added, ones that concern DNA of related individuals. One DNA-related selection is the common Y-chromosome. This will select all individuals (males) that have (or should have) the same Y-chromosome as the currently selected male individual. The Y- chromosome is passed (mostly) unchanged through the paternal line, and therefore follows the family’s surname (in most western cultures). The other DNA selection available is the mitochondrial DNA selection. This will select all individuals that have (or should have) the same mitochondrial DNA as the currently selected person. The mitochondrial DNA passes unchanged through the female line, and is present in both males and females. These DNA selection options may prove useful if two relatives might have their DNA tested; the selection will help show if the two people should have a common Y-chromosome or common mitochondrial DNA.

Pedigree Chart

From the drop-line chart window, you can right-click on a person and choose “View Pedigree” (or click the pedigree tool bar button) and it will open up a new window with that person’s pedigree. You can open a pedigree for any person in your tree. Once you are on the pedigree window, you can resize the window to change the size of the chart, and you can type + or - (plus or minus) on the keyboard to change the number of generations displayed on the chart.

Index of Individuals

You can choose from the menu: View, Index of Individuals to open up a new window that lists all the individuals in your tree. The list shows surname, given name, birth date, and death date. Click on a list heading if you want to sort the list by that item. Double-click on a person to open that individual’s dialog.

List of Sources

The toolbar has a button with a book icon on it that opens a new window listing all the sources in the tree (sorted by title). Double-click a source to bring up the dialog that allows you to change it (or delete it).

Dates and Calendars

GRO’s date entry dialog allows you to be very specific about the dates you enter in your genealogy. You can specify any date as either an exact date, an approximate date, a range of possible dates, or as a period (span) of time. You enter two dates to specify a period of time, and GRO will automatically calculate the number of days long the period is.

The date entry dialog can also be a very useful tool in your research. It allows the usual entry of month, day, and year. Also, it allows you to enter years BC if you so desire. It automatically calculates the day of the week for any exact date you enter.

The date dialog also allows you to specify the calendar (Julian or Gregorian) of the date, and it allows you to convert between the two calendars.

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar in normal use in the United States of America today. It was first adopted at different times by different countries; the English colonies adoped it in September 1752. The calendar in use before that was called the Julian calendar (sometimes called “Old Style” or “O.S.”, versus “New Style” or “N.S.” for the Gregorian calendar). When you enter a date with the Gregorian button chosen, GRO assumes it to be Gregorian; if you then click the Julian button, GRO will convert it to the same day on the Julian calendar.

Another change to the calendar occurred in September 1752 as well. The beginning of the year was changed from March 25 to the more familiar January 1. It was this March 25 New Year’s Day that led to the “slashed year” (for example “Feb 9, 1749/50”) that can be found in many old records. This can led to much confusion in your research if you’re not careful. The best bet is to interpret slashed years using the second year shown. For example, treat 9 Feb 1749/50 as 9 Feb 1750.

For more information about calendars, see GenFair’s summary of Old Style and New Style. Or see the Calendar FAQ.


Have you ever asked yourself a question like “On what date did Easter fall in 1837?” GRO can help answer this type of question. GRO can determine the date of many common holidays in any given year. Choose from the menu Tools, Holidays. Enter the year and pick the holiday; GRO will calculate the date of the holiday.

Character sets (ANSEL, Unicode, ASCII)

GRO handles all the ANSEL characters used in GEDCOM files (as indicated by the GEDCOM 5.5 standard). ANSEL is a particular character-encoding scheme used primarily by GEDCOM files, and the US Library of Congress (of all things). Its use is being phased out, in preference to the Unicode standard. Nevertheless, many GEDCOM files are encoded in ANSEL, including those downloaded from, so GRO has been designed to import all characters correctly. Versions of GRO prior to 1.4 only handled a limited subset of ANSEL characters. Note that GRO uses Unicode internally. Note that when saving your ged file, you have to option of using ASCII or Unicode. ASCII is the most popular, but it cannot represent all letters with diacritical marks. Unicode is a more universal and complete standard, which can represent literally every single character that has ever existed, but the file may not be readable by other Genealogy programs or by text editors. Also note that GRO stores Unicode files with 16-bit characters, so a given file stored as Unicode will be twice as big as the same file stored as ASCII. You can choose whether to save file as ASCII or Unicode in the Options Unicode dialog.