Douglas Garland wore a blue jail jumpsuit and appeared via closed-circuit TV in front of a packed public gallery.
The case has been adjourned to Aug. 14 to allow time for evidence to be disclosed to the defence.
Garland faces two count of first-degree murder and one charge of second-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien.
Their bodies have not been found, but Calgary's police chief says investigators have evidence they are dead.
Garland's sister was in a relationship with a member of the Liknes family, but police have not disclosed what they think motivated the killings.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Garland was in a relationship with a member of the Liknes family.