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Splitting Family Files in Legacy

by David Berdan
President, Millennia Corp.

Most people like to keep all of their information in one family file. Legacy easily accommodates this because of its nearly unlimited capacities. However, as a file grows very large, it gets harder to work with. A file containing over a hundred thousand individuals can be a little cumbersome. Although Legacy will handle up to two billion individuals, it is often desirable to keep your family files to a more manageable size.

When splitting a family file into smaller units you must first decide how many pieces you want to work with. To help you decide where to split a file you might want to print out an ancestor or pedigree chart. As a file grows, the first obvious splitting point is between your line and your spouse’s line. This will result in two new family files. If your database is larger, you might want to split it at your parents and your spouse’s parents, resulting in four files. Extremely large files could be split at the grandparent or great-grandparent level, resulting in up to eight or sixteen family files respectively. Whether you are splitting your family file into two pieces or more, the steps are the same.

Copying a family line from a large file into a new one is extremely easy in Legacy. Here are the steps:

Note: To follow along with this example, make sure you have the latest version of Legacy. Many of the features used here are new to the program. You can download the latest update from the Legacy web site at for free.

  1. Make sure the large family file is open in Legacy’s Family View.
  2. Click View on the menu bar and select Split Screen from the View menu to open a second view on the screen. 
  3. These will be displayed side-by-side and a message box will appear asking if you want to open a different family file in the new window. Click No.
  4. Click on the title bar of the left window to make sure it is current. (For this example we will be copying lines from the large file on the right to the new file on the left.)
  5. Choose New Family File… from the File pull-down menu.
  6. Enter a name for the new file and then click Save. All the names in the window on the left will be cleared when the new file is created.
  7. In the right window (the large file), select a point where you want to split the file. Do this by displaying the husband and wife whose separate lines you want to copy.
  8. Drag the husband’s name from the right window and drop it onto the blank name box on the husband’s side of the left window. When you do this, a window appears entitled Copy Between Family Files.
  9. Click the Family button. This will open another window showing the spouses of the husband.
  10. Click the All Spouses button.
  11. Press the Ancestors… button. The Ancestor Options box appears.
  12. Make sure the Direct Line Ancestors option plus the three check boxes below it are selected and then press OK.
  13. Now, press the large Start Copy button. All the selected individuals and families are now copied from your large file into the new file. (Nothing  is removed from the large file.) When the process is completed, the smaller, separate family line appears in the left window.
  14. Now, repeat steps 3 through 12 dragging the wife’s name instead of the husband.

If you are splitting your family file into more than two pieces, repeat the above steps for each line you want to separate. The end result is two or more smaller files that are more manageable and easier to work with. And it’s so easy…

David Berdan is a long-time computer genealogist and is one of the founders of Millennia Corporation, the developers of Legacy. He can be reached at

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