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Tuesday's Tip - Ancestor Colors? (Beginner)

Ancestor Colors?

Tuesday's Tips provide brief how-to's to help you learn to use the Legacy Family Tree software with new tricks and techniques.

Ancestor Colors? (Beginner)

One thing that y'all* should know by now is that I love color and I use all of the different color options that Legacy offers. I will also tell you that I am a bit of a dinosaur because when I started researching my family I didn't own a computer. Everything I did was on paper and I had my file folders color coded to match what the Family History Library recommended. This color coding system is still a great organizational tool and you can now tie your Legacy family file to your paper filing system using these colors. One of our webinar speakers, Mary Hill, AG, was the person who designed this color system which the Family History Library adopted and published in one of the Research Guides back in the mid 1990's. You can learn more about this filing system by watching Mary's webinar, Get Organized Using the FamilyRoots Organizer Color-Coding System and by visiting her FamilyRoots Organizer Color-Coding System website. 

*y'all - the correct way to say "you all"

Nutshell version: Your paternal grandfather's line is blue, your paternal grandmother's line is green, your maternal grandfather's line is red, and your maternal grandmother's line is yellow. You can see at a glance which line a person belongs to based on their color. Legacy allows you to color code your ancestors in this very same way. 

The first thing you need to do is go to Options > Customize > View > Option 8.3. I want to see these colors on every view so I have all of the boxes check marked. Notice that this option has an (ff) behind it which means it is Family File specific. If you have more than one family file you will need to set this option on each one.

Ancestor Color Coding
(click image to enlarge)


Also notice in the above screenshot that you can Apply the Ancestor Colors and you can Change Colors right from this screen but I am going to show you another way. You can also go to Tools > Set Ancestor Colors

Tools > Set Ancestor Colors
(click image to enlarge)


And here is what you will see: 

Set Ancestor Colors dialog box
(click image to enlarge)


The default is to set the standard 4 color Ancestor Colors to yourself (you will need to put yourself in the box) but Legacy has added some nifty enhancements to this. You can track your 4 grandparent lines OR you can track your 8 great-grandparents lines AND you can apply colors to TWO different anchor people (usually yourself and your spouse) AND you can also change the colors if you would prefer colors other than the standards (Edit Colors button). I love it! If you chose to go with the default colors, the Group 1 colors will be pastel and the Group 2 colors (for your second anchor person) will be bold so that you can tell them apart. 

Here is the Edit Colors dialog box and what you are seeing are the default colors for both Group 1 and Group 2 as well as for 4 colors vs. 8 colors. If you want to go wild and change the colors all you have to do is click on each color box to make the change. 

Change Ancestor Colors
(click image to enlarge)


I have mine set using the standard colors for 4 lines. The Group 1 colors are mine and the Group 2 colors are for my husband.  Make sure that when you switch over from Group 1 to Group 2 that you change the name of the anchor person in the box. Here is what it looks like in the Pedigree View. I used my husband because the bold colors look better on a screenshot. 

Pedigree View
(click image to enlarge)


If I navigate to a different person in his line you will see that the colors reflect where I am. Everyone is yellow so these people belong to his maternal grandmother's line.

Maternal Grandmother's Line
(click image to enlarge)


I have saved the best for last. I have set the Ancestor Colors to my dad (Group 1) and to my stepmother (Group 2) because they happen to share a common ancestor. That common ancestor gets TWO colors! Blue to show this is my dad's paternal grandfather's line and yellow to show it is my stepmother's maternal grandmother's line. How cool is that!

Common Ancestor
(click image to enlarge)

 You can also color code in Legacy Charting but it is limited to one anchor person since there is only one anchor on a chart. It is also is limited to the 4 colors for the 4 grandparent lines. In Charting, open any Ancestor type chart. Go to Appearance > Color, In the Drop down box select 4 Color.  You will see Mary Hill System - Light and Mary Hill System (original bold colors) and then click Apply Color Theme to Chart. You can also change the colors at the bottom of this dialog box.

Mary Hill Light Colors
(click image to enlarge)
Mary Hill Dark Colors
(click image to enlarge)

Even if you don't use the color-coded, paper filing system this is still a great way to see where someone fits in at a glance. I hope you enjoy working with color as much as I do. 


Find tech tips every day in the Facebook Legacy User Group. The group is free and is available to anyone with a Facebook account.

For video tech tips check out the Legacy Quick Tips page.  These short videos will make it easy for you to learn all sort of fun and interesting ways to look at your genealogy research.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


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Immediately after seeing Mary Hill's Legacy webinar on the color-coding system, I purchased a set of colored markers to coordinate my paper files with my Legacy Family Tree screens. A few months later, I took the use of color a step further acquiring Folderico, billed as "Folder Color & Icon Changer Software" ( This software allows me to colorize the folder icons on my PC to match the color-coding of my paper files and the colors within Legacy.

I have colored folders on my computer too :) :) :)

I have used Mary's system for 10 or more years, and I love it. Every family with colored file, colored hanging file in my large file cabinet... in alpha order... wonderful way to keep paper records straight.

Considering that this system has been around for over 20 years attests to its usefulness :) Mary Hill really came up with a winner.

Thank you for a great article, Michele! You did a wonderful job showing us how to set up the color coding in Legacy FamilyTree software! I am also grateful to know about so I can color code my files on my computer. It is amazing to realize I got the idea to color code my 4 grandparent lines some 22 years ago! It surely has helped my ancestors to be findable in my files and I am glad Legacy has added the ability to color code the software!

Many people are benefiting from your idea :) :) :)

I have newsletters regularly and find them very interesting but (I only have Apple computers so cannot join. When is a dedicated Apple version going to arrive? I have been watching and waiting for about 10 years but only hear promises.

Part of the programming is being done by a 3rd party company/programmers so we are waiting on them :)

Can you color individual ancestors to identify those with something special - ie: well documented, unsure data, incomplete data, DAR/SAR, immigrant, or any other individual identifying factor? Can you outline, use stippled background color, etc. for specific ancestors. Currently I use " **" to identify well documented ancestors but I have no code for ancestors I feel may be incorrect or poorly documented.

This is something that is well-suited to Hashtags :) There is a suggestion in our tracker for the programmers to consider an option to color code the Hashtags.

Mary Hill came up with one of those ideas that is so simple and elegant that I cannot help but slap my forehead and say, "Now, why didn't I think of that?"
The only problem I have with Mary's system is that I am an atmospheric physicist, so I have to put them in spectral order: red, yellow, green, and blue. Otherwise I get mixed up. I simply cannot force my brain to think otherwise. Kudos to the programmers; Legacy makes it easy to make my own color scheme.

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