Software & Fonts


SILKin is software designed to facilitate collection, analysis, and reporting of kinship terminologies. The program graphically displays genealogical structures and intelligently supports development of term definitions.


  • The SILKin user draws family tree charts onscreen to record genealogical data of persons interviewed.
  • There may be multiple charts (of unlimited size) for a culture/language, with links between charts. You may choose, for example, to draw each family on a separate chart. If someone from the Smith family marries a member of the Jones family, the marriage can be drawn with Mr. Jones and a link to Miss Smith.
  • If the culture being studied has kin terms that reflect adoptive relationships, you can create User Defined Properties (UDPs) for one or more types of adoption. Then those adoptive relationships can be drawn on your genealogical charts and factored into the definitions of kin terms.
  • If the kinship system recognizes non-genealogical factors (e.g. clans) that do not appear on a family tree chart, those too may be defined as UDPs. Once defined they can be part of the definition for a kin term.
  • Any person on any chart can be designated "Ego" and another person designated "Alter." On a Details Panel for Alter you may enter name, birth/death dates, and notes.
  • You also enter on the Details Panel the kin term of reference that Ego calls Alter, and the reciprocal term. If there is a separate system of terms of address, those may be entered also.
  • When you choose a different Ego, the Details Panel records the kin terms for that Ego/Alter pair. This allows a compact chart potentially to capture all the kin terms used by all the Ego/Alter pairs.
  • When the definition of a kin term is known to SILKin, that term can be entered automatically for every Ego/Alter pair that meets the definition.


  • Charts have several labeling options. You can label each person with names or initials. Or you can label them with their kin term of reference (or address) with respect to the current Ego. Or both.
  • Printing charts with labels may aid your analysis. You have limited control over font sizes and spacing of symbols on the charts.
  • After some data is gathered, you may request Suggestions from SILKin. It will compare the patterns in your data with known patterns in its Library of kinship systems. If one of your kin terms matches a Library pattern, it will tell you what language/culture you have matched and propose that definition.
  • SILKin will also be on the lookout for factors that may complicate your analysis:
  • synonyms and umbrella terms.
  • alternate spellings or typing errors
  • anomalies in the patterns
  • If you deduce a definition without SILKin's help, you may enter the definition directly into the software. Or you can edit and simplify definitions originated by you or SILKin.


  • All SILKin data is stored in an XML file that can be formatted in various ways for reporting. SIL has produced one formatter that transforms your data into a web page with analytics about the kinship system.
  • SILKin data can be exported via GEDCOM formats to many other genealogical software programs.


  • Below is a series of 14 videos to demonstrate how SILKin is used. The first video should be helpful if you are not sure whether SILKin is the right tool for your project.

Table of Contents

  1. What is SILKin good for? (47Mb)
    • What SILKin does well, and what it doesn't
    • Data gathering and analysis is the focus
    • SILKin handles non-genealogical factors (e.g. clans)
    • SILKin detects data errors, synonyms, and umbrellas
    • SILKin suggests kin term definitions
    • Not a general genealogical database program
  2. How to download and install SILKin on your computer (63 Mb)
    • System requirements
    • Installation procedure
    • Folder structure of a proper installation. Don’t mess with it.
    • How to launch and quit SILKin.
    • Possible security warning when first launching
  3. Basic concepts used in SILKin (21Mb)
    • Context (target culture)
    • Persons
    • Marriage (union = 1 couple)
    • Family tree chart
    • Ego and Alter
    • Dyad
    • Kinship system
  4. More concepts used in SILKin (16 Mb) (see Note 1)
    • Kin term vs. kin type
    • Serial numbers
    • Restrictions on the spelling of kin terms
    • Multiple charts and links
    • Polygamy
    • Non-genealogical relationships.
  5. Editing a chart (43 Mb; see Note 2)
    • Opening a context
    • Removing a person from a family
    • Dragging items to new location
    • Snap-to-grid
    • Enlarging the chart
    • Entering detailed information
    • Date formats
    • Kin terms and “no__term”
    • Comments
    • Surname (or date) normally captured.
  6. More about Charts (35 Mb)
    • Colors of items
    • Linking kinsmen
    • Labeling with kin terms
    • Editable vs static
    • Removing a person from a family & consequences
    • Deleting persons & unions
  7. Multiple charts and Links (39 Mb)
    • Demo of creating new chart
    • Editing chart name
    • Using links.
  8. Printing charts (28 Mb)
    • Changing the fonts on charts
    • Changing the labels
  9. The Help system (16 Mb)
    • The mini-browser
    • Menu of Help topics
  10. Suggestions (53 Mb)
    • What is a suggestion?
    • Acting on suggestions
    • Umbrellas and synonyms
    • Potential errors
    • Library of known kinship systems
  11. User-Defined Properties (50 Mb)
    • What is a UDP
    • Why do we need them?
    • Demo of creating a UDP
    • Adoption UDPs
    • Clan UDPs
  12. Special Relationships (139 Mb; see Note 3)
    • How SILKin handles adoptions
    • Should adoptions be recorded explicitly or not?
    • Clans and special factors
  13. Entering and editing definitions (57 Mb)
    • Horn Clause syntax
    • Editing an existing definition
    • Creating a definition
    • Comments on definitions.
  14. Advanced operations (47 Mb)
    • Editing preferences
    • Editing the context
    • Exporting and importing files

Note 1: There are 3 spots in Video 4b where the voice track is cut-off. We are working with the engineers to fix this problem. In the meantime:

  • At 0:20 of Video 4b, the audio should be "They may be in different families or different villages. They might fill many screens."
  • At 1:01 of Video 4b, the audio should be "The size of your computer’s screen may be the driving factor."
  • At 2:29 of Video 4b, the audio should be "We will demonstrate the creation and use of links in a later video."


Note 2: There are 3 spots in Video 5 where the voice track is cut-off. We are working with the engineers to fix this problem. In the meantime:

  • At 3:53 of Video 5, the audio should be "We’ll discuss deletions in a later video."
  • At 9:01 of Video 5, the audio should be "These are the terms used by Adam and Jack. "
  • At 11:43 of Video 5, the audio should be "There are just a few restrictions on the characters you may use in comments, and SILKin will change them into acceptable characters if you forget."


Note 3: There are 2 spots in Video 12 where the voice track is cut-off. We are working with the engineers to fix this problem. In the meantime:

  • At 12:16 of Video 12, the audio should be "We want to make connections on equal values, and we don’t want a default value."
  • At 13:48 of Video 12, the audio should be "So if there were a kin term for 'my wife’s clan sister' we could enter it as what Ego calls Alter."


  • There is an extensive set of Help/Tutorial pages (under the Help menu) that should enable you to use the software without any formal training.
  • Some sample files are provided to illustrate SILKin's use.


Version 2.1 has all of the features requested by SIL field workers to date. It has been used and tested extensively. However, if you encounter any difficulties, please report bugs or problems to the developer via email: