An Introduction to Family Bee

Family Bee is a full-featured industrial strength family tree browser. It allows you to view information about families and individuals stored in GEDCOM genealogy files.

Whether you family is large or small, you can carry it with you on your phone. Your GEDCOM files are stored on your SD card, and the system has been tested to provide solid performance on files up to 12 megabytes (32,000 names). Our reader fully understands the industry standard GEDCOM 5.5 format, and supports all official character encodings: ANSEL, ASCII, UTF-8, and UNICODE.

Family Bee lets you store an unlimited number of trees; supports fast searches over the individuals in the trees; and provides specialized views of families, individuals, "pedigree" trees, and descendents. All facts, events, notes, and sources are at your fingertips.

Family Tree file: GEDCOM

The standard format for family trees is the GEDCOM file. This format is supported by every major genealogy program on the market, and by public repositories such as ancestry.com. Family Bee will allow you to load these files on your Android phone and view their contents wherever you are. (It will not create the files for you. There are many fine desktop programs, many of them free, that will to do that job for you.)

There are three primary methods of loading GEDCOM files into Family Bee:

  1. Download directly from the web

    If your GEDCOM is already stored somewhere on the web, you can simply surf to that page in the android browser and download it. The android OS should either automatically recognize it as a Family Bee file and directly load it, or it will ask you which program you wish to use, and let you choose Family Bee.

    If the phone doesn't recognize your particular ".ged" file as a Family Bee file, send us mail with a pointer to the page and we'll figure out how the file types can be adjusted.

    There is a known bug with the android browser which prevents it from correctly downloading GEDCOM files from "ancestry.com". This is beyond our control. We would recommend that you download these files to your computer and then use techniques (2) or (3) to transfer them to your phone.

  2. Email as an attachment

    Any ".ged" file which is mailed to your phone as an attachment (whether via gmail or other email service) can be loaded by "previewing" that attachment.

    Although you can do this using any email program, most of them end up encoding the file so that you have to view every line of the file before getting to the preview button. We therefore have provided a service at http://beekeeperlabs.com/familybee/GEDSend.html which will upload a file, encode the file in a way that is recognizable as a GEDCOM file without being mistaken for an arbitrary text file to be displayed, and mail it to your account. You may freely use this page to send trees to your phone.

    Because the Android OS doesn't tell "preview" programs the names of the files that they are opening, Family Bee will ask you to specify a name for the attached GEDCOM files. You can choose any name you like, and Family Bee will proceed to open and display the database. (If you decide that you don't want to open the attachment after all, you can of course hit the BACK button.)

  3. Copy from your computer via USB

    Your phone should have come with a USB cable that allows it to be hooked up to your computer. When you attach it in this way, you can use the "USB Connected" item in your announcements "window-shade" to show the phone's SD card as a file system on the computer. Copy your file(s) to the "Family Bee" directory on that file system, and then select "Turn off USB storage".

    The next time you open Family Bee, the copied files will be available in the DB list for opening.

DB Selection

When you enter Family Bee normally (i.e. not as a result of a "file preview" operation), you will first be shown a list of available databases. Click on any of these to load the appropriate database and start browsing.

The first time you open a DB, Family Bee will have to do a thorough scan of the file to index the internal references. Depending upon the size of the file, this could take a few seconds. (On a T-Mobile G1, it takes about 5 seconds per megabyte.) Future loads of the same database will take advantage of cached information, and will load 5-10 times faster.

From the initial load screen, you may also long click on any database name to delete or rename it, or you may use the menu/help to review the database loading instructions from the previous section.

Individuals List

Upon opening a database, you are presented with a list of every person described in the DB. They are sorted in standard order -- first by surname and then by the rest of the name. (The surname is shown in bold for easier reference.) Additional data is provided if known: the gender is indicated via blue or pink coloration; birth year, death year and spouse are shown; and a "*" is shown before the spouse if the family has known children.

You can scroll through the list via normal "flick" scrolling or using the "quick scroll" tab that appears on the right side after a flick.

You can also narrow the list via the search box at the bottom. Each part of the entered search matches against the start of any part of a persons name. Thus, you could match "John Fitzgerald Kennedy" via:

When you find the person you are interested in, click on his name to browse his family information.

Family Information

The family page shows information about all of the immediate relatives of an individual, and about his marriage(s). This includes full birth and death information for each relative (and the individual himself). For each marriage, it shows basic date and location information, as well as any extra facts, notes, and sources which are specific to that marriage.

You can click on the target individual's name to get detailed biographical information about him, or you can click on any of the other relative's names in order to go to a new family information page centered on the new individual.

Certain pieces of information may have "source", "notes", or "extra" buttons, or may have information ("i") icons. You can click on any of these to pop up a window giving more context for that information item. (For example, marriages may often have notes or sources with archival information about the ceremonies.)

If you click the menu button, you may choose to see the tree view of the individual's parent's and grandparents (i.e. "pedigree") and, if he has children, a list of descendents.

Biographical Details

The "details" page for an individual (reached by clicking on the top name within a family page) shows all available information about that person. This can include "facts" such as occupation, education, etc.; "events" such as birth, death, baptism, military service; and buttons that let you access "sources", "notes", and "extras" (typically DB id numbers).

Individual events typically have sub-information such as dates and places. However, both facts and events may also have other arbitrary annotations associated with them. In this case, you will see an information ("i") icon next to the fact/event. You may click on the fact/event to view the additional information.

Pedigree Trees

You can access pedigree trees for any individual's family via the Menu button. These trees show the parents and grandparents (as available) for the designated individual. You can walk "up" the tree by clicking on the box for any ancestor who will be selected as the root of a new tree. Walking "down" the tree involves clicking on the "root" box for the individual: this will show a list of children (if any exist) and one may be selected as the root of a new tree.

Long-clicking on the box for any individual will take you to the family page for that individual.


You can access a list of descendents for any individual with children via his family page by clicking the Menu button. This list will show the individual and three generations of descendents (i.e. his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren). The list will be indented to show levels of descent.

The information shown for each individual is exactly the same as is shown for the initial individuals list. As with that list, you can click on any individual in the list to go to his family page.

Extra Menu Items

Most pages you will visit have three extra menu items: