GenPerfect–My Ideal Genealogy Software

Thursday, 17 Mar 2011 | by Mark Tucker

I grew up in Utah, have a brother-in-law that worked for WordPerfect, and used WordPerfect in high school and college before Microsoft Word became the dominant word processing software. So when I tried to put a name to all the ideas about what the ideal genealogy software would look like to me, GenPerfect was the perfect name.

I am sad that I missed RootsTech 2011, but am excited to see that it has stirred up ideas and there is a spirit of innovation that seems to be sweeping through the genealogy/technology community.  Some are having discussions about a new data format to bring GEDCOM into the 21st century and make sure it plays well in the online world of collaboration and social networking. One place you can find this is the BetterGEDCOM Wiki and another is the e-mail list for the FamilySearch Developer Network (FSDN).

Much of the recent discussion on FSDN has been around the main sticking points of the data model and whether the structure should be people-based or record-based. As a developer, I often want to jump down into the details of the problem and gnaw on it until I figure it out. But lately I am changing. I prefer to look at it from a user’s perspective. Call it product management or User Experience (UX), but if in the end the data model doesn’t allow the software to do what I think it can and should do, then I think a great opportunity would have been missed.

So back to GenPerfect. What do I think it should look like? What implications does that have on a data model? As a user, what is my vision of the perfect genealogy software?

Get Started

I have an empty database, what do I do first?  How about quickly enter in my name and those of my family members along with their birth information. Nothing new there. Or maybe I choose to select my family members from my list of Friends on Facebook or some other social site.


Record Questions

For each person, I would like a list of questions generated including:

  • What is Worth Tucker’s birth date and place
  • Did Worth Tucker marry?
  • When and where did Worth Tucker get married and to whom?
  • Is Worth Tucker still living?
  • When and where did Worth Tucker die?
  • Where is Worth Tucker buried?

There could be more questions based on age and locations where he lived:

  • Did Worth Tucker serve in the military during WWI?
  • Was Worth Tucker affected by the 1918 Influenza epidemic?

But then for each person, I could add my own questions:

  • What did Worth Tucker look like (height, weight, eye color)?
  • What were Worth Tucker’s occupations?
  • In what locations did Worth Tucker live?

I like the idea of being able to add a question about a relative/ancestor at any time and to have one place to keep that list.


Capture Sources

The next thing that I would like to do is add source documents. These could be scanned images of birth and marriage certificates, links to images that live online, a typed family history in pdf format, photographs, or many other forms. If the document is typed, then it would use OCR to create a transcript. In terms of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and Evidence Explained (EE) this is a derivative source as opposed to an original source. Now I have two sources that make up part of a source provenance. When a new source is added to the system, then by answering a few questions you can indicate if that source is original and if not then how it is or may be related to the original. Depending on the type of source entered, then using EE templates I will know the important information that I need to record about that source. This becomes my citation.

On websites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, or even family history blogs then clicking on a single link I can download the source image, the citation, and even the data into my database. For example, for a census result on Ancestry, I could choose to download information for a single household (names, relationship to head of household, ages, calculated birth year, gender, can read, can write, birth place, etc.) or for all households on this census page and the previous and next pages. They would be imported as single household clusters as well as being related to specific source pages.

For any source, I can choose to create a transcript or an abstract of the document. Either on the original or a derivative, I can highlight or annotate names, dates, places, or events and they would become part of searchable/accessible data in my database. For each source, I can indicate informants (either specifically like “Moses Tucker” or generally, “probably a doctor”). Knowing the informant(s) for a document, we can start to understand who might have provided which information (ex: death certificate can have both a doctor and family member as informants). Information is provided by either an eye witness or participant making it primary information or someone that received the knowledge from someone else which we call secondary.


Research Projects

Once I have the basics entered into the system for the first 1-3 generations, then I can move on to researching specific ancestors. I can take one of the questions associated with an individual and click to create a research project with that as the objective of the research. I could also use a statement or hypothesis as the objective of the research project. The project allows me to look at a subset of sources as they pertain to a specific goal. As I enter information or add sources, these will be recorded in a research log associated to the project.  I can add additional questions that I want answered as part of the project. EE defines evidence as being direct, indirect, or negative and that relates to how  well a piece of information in a source answers the research objective.  In these terms, then you cannot have evidence unless you also have a way to associate information to an objective.

Let’s say that I am collaborating on this project with others. I want a data format that allows me to share not only people, places, dates, events, and relationship but also objective, research log, sources, information, evidence, and questions. What if there are specific tasks that can be identified, then split among many participants.


Loosely-Linked People

What I mean by this is that just because I found a Worth Tucker in a document doesn’t mean that he is my Worth Tucker. There could also be different spellings of the same name in different documents. I would like to be able to link these individuals together and enter a reason why I think they are the same. Throughout the system, they would appear as one individual. For example, one research project could be about his birth and another about his death. But when I look at him in the system, I would see one individual (with possible name variations) and two events: birth and death. But I need to easily be able to get back to the list of “persons” that make up this person in case I discover that I am on the wrong track with one of the sources. I can then easily unlink them.


People/Names List

My database now contains multiple names for a single ancestor or even names for witnesses, neighbors, or people appearing in the same sources as your ancestors. With a single click, I can see a list of names of just ancestors or a list of names of people that haven’t been associated with a tree meaning they haven’t been proved as ancestors or that they are (or possibly are) associates of your ancestors. If I could list them in order of the number of times they appear in the system, I might be able to learn which ones my ancestors associated with most and ones that I might want to consider as research leads. Clicking on one of these names will allow me to create a research project for this individual. Sometimes the best ways to overcome brick walls in the research of our ancestors is to research someone they knew.


Resolve Conflicts

I need an easy way to list all conflicts for a specific research objective. By having all the conflicts in one place, I can makes notes by each one trying to resolve the conflict until I come up with the most plausible conclusion. At this point in time, based on the research that I did I can summarize my research as a conclusion. This will affect which information shows as the default on screen (and in reports) for an ancestor. Let’s say a research project to determine Worth Tucker’s birth date and location leads to many possible answers but as I go through each conflict, I feel best about 30 Nov 1870 and Laurel Township, Ashe County, North Carolina. So I indicate that that is my conclusion. When I look at Worth in the system, I see that as his birth date, but can also choose to see the other possible dates and places. The objective of the research project has been reached and I have a conclusion. The status of the project indicates that I have reached a conclusion on a specific date.

A year later, I get additional information about this research objective so I re-open the research project and add the information. This might lead to a different conclusion which now shows as the default. But in the research project, I can look at the research logs, questions, information, sources, conflicts, and conclusions separately.


Online Backup & Sync

Even though I may be doing the work on my desktop software, I want my work constantly backed-up to a secure location online so that I don’t loose any of my data or artifacts. In addition, I may choose to sync the data to an online database or peer-to-peer databases to protect my information and allow for collaboration.


Data Model

If we take the above as use cases or user stories of what GenPerfect should do, then we can understand that the data model needs to support:

  • People and/or Names
  • Relationships
  • Dates
  • Places
  • Events
  • Sources (GPS)
  • Source Provenance
  • Citations (EE Templates, GPS)
  • Association of People, Dates, Places, etc. to a Source
  • Projects
  • Questions (also Statements and Hypothesis)
  • Objectives(GPS)
  • Conclusions(GPS)
  • Research Logs
  • Tasks
  • Collaborators
  • Analysis: sources, information, evidence (GPS)
  • Media
  • Tree


What would be in your GenPerfect? What else should be in the data model?


  1. Sign me up for your GenPerfect, Mark! It’s spot on. My only addition would be to establish parental/child relationships that mirror marriage relationships – ie, documentation and analysis can be added to the relationship rather than to individuals. I love your loosely-linked people and the ability to record and track associated individuals. Right now witnesses, business partners, apprentices, slaves and migration companions are all recorded in individual notes. It would be so much more useful to actually track these people.

    And I’d like it to be offered for multiple operating systems and to produce a file that can be read by all versions of the software – be it Mac, PC or Linux.

    Comment by Susan — 17 Mar 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  2. GenPerfect should also run on all mobile devices and tablets.

    Comment by Mark Tucker — 17 Mar 2011 @ 1:17 pm

  3. Mark,

    An excellent post, and the kind of thinking about genealogy software that the developers and the collection providers should pay attention to.

    Thanks! — randy

    Comment by Randy Seaver — 17 Mar 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  4. Hiya Mark!
    Isn’t it wonderful that there is more thought on how sharing of data between users can be improved? Just a heads up that “BetterGEDCOM” was founded in November 2010 and predates the RootsTech 2011 conference held in February.

    Whatever data models are created by various software vendors, the bottom line at BetterGEDCOM is the stuff ought to transfer back and forth between users flawlessly.

    Randy Seaver has done some interesting work testing various genealogy programs who export a GEDCOM file and then import that file back into its own program. Of the programs he tested, only RootsMagic was able to do that without hiccuping.

    Comment by DearMYRTLE — 17 Mar 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  5. Brilliant! I especially like the sources section. Since GenPerfect isn’t available today I wonder if it is heresy to merely insert a pdf of a source (i.e. birth certificate) as a hyperlink and forgo filling in all the source fields in my current database program? An annotated pdf that I can click on and SEE is so much more interesting than tiny footnotes at the bottom of the page. The “sticky note” comments can provide the same info as a footnote, just in a different format.

    Sorry to go a little off topic, but if you can think out of the box so can I. Thanks for being so creative and coming up with all your great ideas.

    Comment by Susan Park — 17 Mar 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  6. I did know that BetterGEDCOM came before RootsTech 2011, but my post didn’t sound like it. I only wanted to recognize BetterGEDCOM in the context of what was talked about at RootsTech. Thanks for making sure the point was clear.

    Comment by Mark Tucker — 17 Mar 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  7. Love all your suggestions. Lately, after installing Ancestry on my iPhone, I’ve fallen in love with the touch capabilities. Imagine all your suggestions on a touch screen, smart screen, iPod or other devices. With a flick of a finger you can scroll through those longs lists of cousins with the same surname, or trace a tree nine generations (even if it scrolls off the screen), or shrink or expand the screen (photo, tree, etc). Imagine REALLY dropping and dragging that birth record into place with a finger. I love it!

    My dream for the future is some sort of 3 dimensional device to really display those tangled Mayflower lines. Wouldn’t that be cool?

    Comment by Heather Rojo — 17 Mar 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  8. Mark, thought-provoking and refreshing. I agree that the ideal future genealogy software package will be research-oriented rather than simply results-oriented. I echo Susan’s comment that all relationship types should be recordable and substantiated by evidence, not just marriages as in many genealogy programs available today.

    You may have implied it, but I would suggest explicitly that GenPerfect also track research queries automatically where possible (i.e., record search terms and databases searched, dates and times searches performed, and other such data). Stretching this idea further, using some standardized type of notification mechanism, perhaps as simple as RSS, web sites such as, FamilySearch, and others could notify GenPerfect when databases are updated (hopefully including some detail as to what has been updated) so that past queries could be re-run to see if any different results are found. This could even be done in the background, with GenPerfect notifying its user of updates only if an automated search suggested a possibility that different or additional results might be found. This could be something like a generic version of’s shaking-leaf notification mechanism.

    The bottom line: genealogy software should become research-oriented. And it should make research easier, automating it wherever possible.

    Comment by Aylarja — 17 Mar 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  9. This sounds great. I love the idea of asking questions based on location and age. I’m sure I overlook a lot of that myself, especially when not working on my ancestors, but information on people in the collateral lines might be easily searched online and I could fill in those blanks.

    If it’s web-based, it would work on all those devices instead of needing separate programming for PC, Mac, iPad, etc.. It might not pull in all the fancy touchscreen features, but it would work. Right?

    Comment by Banai Lynn Feldstein — 17 Mar 2011 @ 5:56 pm

  10. With HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, and other technologies you might be able to do touch for those devices that support it.

    Comment by Mark Tucker — 17 Mar 2011 @ 6:12 pm

  11. Mark,

    The domain name: is available. Go for it!!

    Comment by Louis Kessler — 17 Mar 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  12. Great ideas – I agree that GenPerfect should handle work in progress (a genealogists work book), not just the most likely facts. I’d love to be able to tentatively link someone into a family, and get told why that is or isn’t consistent.

    GenPerfect should know about DNA evidence, and be able to provide guidance on possible tests, and also understand the results and their implications i.e. show me people in my tree whose lines of descent match (or don’t match) a comparison of DNA characteristics.

    GenPerfect also knows that a physical location may have had different names over time, and allow me to find people who may have been in the same area, even if the location names are different.

    GenPerfect also knows how to link parts of media to events and location and people. I can tell it who the people are in a photo, and it would suggest who the unidentified people might be based on other photos. I could see how a person or place changed over time.

    Comment by Rod Van Cooten — 17 Mar 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  13. I would add an additional function:

    the ability to upload images of maps–either USGS surveys or historical maps from old atlases/Sanborn maps/etc.–or even link to Google Maps or Google Earth–and then plat tracts as layers on top of these maps. Also, the ability to include places as GPS coordinates of varying detail would be useful, and perhaps a library of historic jurisdictions that could be recognized by date/place.

    Also, the ability to actually link some of these unrelated people, such as associates and especially slave masters for my purposes, would be extremely useful. The Master Genealogist has the “Witness” field that allows similar functionality, but takes a little customization to be able to be used in exactly the way it needs to be.

    Even without these other additions, you have described a wonderful new standard for genealogy software to reach.


    Comment by Michael Hait — 17 Mar 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  14. I like your description. From a technical point of view, this seems quite similar to the gentech datamodel (I know, you did not want to focus on the datamodel…).
    You did not highlight the handling of places (nor does Gentech in fact) but a lot of people would love to be able to store historic information about places just as they do about people.

    As a developer myself, I have started a project (HTML5, CSS3, jquery and python on the server) based on gentech. Although it currently is read-only (you can just import a gedcom from the command line, and then probably not a gedcom from all applications although I’d love to enhance the importer), it already supports the notion of multiple personas that you describe: when I import a gedcom, I create one persona for each combination of gedcom individual and source. For instance, if there is a birth information with Source1, and a death information with Source2, that results in two personas in the database. Both of these are of course linked together via an insertion (currently, the rationale for the assertion will always read “same person in Gedcom”, but of course users should be able to edit that).

    From that point on, the software will only show a single person made of these two individuals (for instance, the pedigree view will get birth and death info from the two personas). The person view will give you a way to break the link between the two personas.

    My take is that genealogical software should be much more source centric. I do not intend to provide a way to add information in the database without giving a source. More importantly, and something I am missing in the (few) genealogical applications I have tried, I want to be able to easily enter all information I find in a source without jumping through dialogs. In a lot of cases, you open Person1, add her birth date and set the source, then open Person2 and set her marriage date with the same source. That’s a lot of jumping around.

    Instead, I propose to open a “source view”. This displays whatever representation you have for the document, and then lets you add as many assertions about as many persons as you want. What I have currently added is the following: after importing a gedcom, you can view a source page for any of your sources and all the information that was extracted from that source. I find it a convenient way to see whether I have missed anything.

    All of this is work in progress, but posts like yours are a great motivation for finishing. See my web page for more discussion on those various issues (if you are interested, of course…)

    Comment by Emmanuel Briot — 18 Mar 2011 @ 3:12 am

  15. I think you are on the right track concerning sources. I would want a scan of the original, full accession, catalogue and index data (a complete provenance from the archive), and a full and accurate transcript. Currently online sites do not offer this data for each record. Also, the indexing leaves a lot to be desired, so I would want much better quality transcripts to import into my database.

    Although some source templates exist, they are not at all user friendly and tend to be US biased. I want to be able to link a source citation to a particular word or phrase in the original e.g. I would link Joe Smith’s death to his wife’s status ‘Widow’ on a census return. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just click on that bit of information, and have the citation stored automatically? Even better if it showed beginners, or frustrated experience researchers just where to put each piece of the citation. I would also want to be able to build custom templates for documents that are not filled in forms. Many older legal documents do have a structure that should be recorded as templates.

    This and all the other suggestions depend entirely on a sound data model.


    Comment by Sue Adams — 18 Mar 2011 @ 4:59 am

  16. I wonder if GenPerfect would work better as an API standard instead of a file format. Since most applications are moving from the desktop to online services, API interfaces are starting to become more valuable. By having an API standard, websites could easily share information.

    Comment by Tpstry — 18 Mar 2011 @ 6:05 am

  17. Mark,
    I like your GenPerfect and agree with all that you propose. I would add the ability to add DNA results from multiple sources (ie FTDNA and 23andme) including personal genomics (medical gene info). This would need to be secured and not easily shared with others inadvertently.

    My ideal program would also have considerable output options – For example, the ability to make continuous family tree banners or highly customizable ebooks. Examples of customized ebooks – Perhaps feature all the women of a line. …or perhaps a book on all the men along a surname line with info about the YDNA results, etc etc. Perhaps we could have a GenPerfect Journal publication.

    The backup would live in a cloud and sync across computers – similar to dropbox. All the research notes, photos, pdfs etc would remain linked to the cloud based backup.

    Re citations – look to Endnote and Reference Manger and similar programs for guidance in designing citation capture and output capabilities.

    Another idea – open source GenPerfect with plugins such as WordPress does with blogging software.

    Good work, Mark!


    Comment by Joan Miller (Luxegen) — 18 Mar 2011 @ 8:16 am

  18. Sounds wonderful Mark. I have been recently shopping around for genealogy software to begin my database from scratch fully sourced. It seems that every software package approaches the problem backwards – we enter conclusions, then source them. But actually doing genealogy involves looking at sources, extracting every bit of information and then making conclusions. Why is there no software package that aids in this process? I would pay big $$ for such a program. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see it coming out of the major companies anytime soon – it’s much easier to modify existing code to add new features than to start over from scratch with an entirely different model. There is certainly a major opening in the market for a new company that would be willing to look at the issue differently.

    Comment by Perry Iverson — 18 Mar 2011 @ 8:42 am

  19. I love this post. I would like genealogy software to be fun and interactive. I should be able to run it anywhere: phone, desktop, tablet, etc… After I’ve entered my information into the program, I should be able to learn things I never realized and help me make connections that I hadn’t made and wouldn’t make without it.

    Comment by Jay Askren — 18 Mar 2011 @ 9:12 am

  20. Love your perspective, thank you for putting this together.

    I especially appreciate attention to “work in progress.” This is why it is necessary to allow providing an evidentiary citation for each bit of data: in DOB for day, for month and for year, for example.

    The ‘associated persons’ avenue is a particularly helpful perspective, allowing entering folks for whom relationships are uncertain or possibly nonexistent. For example (a), the many US Census reports 1880+ where a child is in a grandparent’s household — in many instances a certain tree-hosting/database site’s extractors invent a parent from among persons also in the household, which is very often a wrong conclusion (and in any case usually not indicated in the actual document). For example (b), a child was born to an unrecorded marriage, hubby left and divorced spouse in distant state, came back and took the child, and gave him a different name from the one the mother assigned; there’s a court record with affidavits as to the events, and each affidavit tells a fragment of the story. For example (c), one of my relatives was enumerated in a household first as ‘foster child’ and next as ‘nephew’ — it took a lot of research to find only circumstantial evidence (date of death of probable mother) as to who the parents of the child were, but I’d love to have him flagged as an associated person awaiting further identification.

    Related to (c) is that tree-hosting-site developers need to be able to use the PerfectGen model for actually displaying the true relationships — not a single ‘default’ relational path.

    Thank you again!

    Comment by Jade — 18 Mar 2011 @ 9:51 am

  21. This is an interesting project. I’ve been involved in some software projects, and keep thinking that every time we come up with another feature we’re adding at least another $100K in development costs.

    With that said; howeve,r I’d like to add my $300K worth:

    Templates for common sources, such as censuses, which would allow data to be transcribed, and would automatically link the source to the individuals mentioned. Such templates should also create the correct citations.

    Along with all of the usual book features, export the books as formatted to Word, WordPerfect, etc. so that text not contained within the software can be entered. I’d like to be able to use the powerful word processing functions without having to reformat each picture, and without losing links within the document for footnotes, etc. I’d also like to be able to add text about personal anecdotes and stories which don’t necessarily deserve an event or formal source.

    Web pages created using something like Dreamweaver templates, so that, If I choose to change some element, I can have that change automatically transmitted to all pages, instead of changing each page individually.

    Comment by Walt Quering — 18 Mar 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  22. Mark, a very thought provoking post, the comments attest to the passion of this community. I have been in software development for 20 years and genealogy for half of that, giving serious thought to how I merge those two for a couple of years.

    You spoke of the user experience which I agree is absolutely critical, the demands of software users will change radically over the next 10 years. Those data entry screens that we have been used to for so long will be replaced by user interfaces that focus on user engagement not data collection.

    What I want from genperfect is software that grows with the user. There is a demonstrated community here of very sophisticated users that demand a product that meets their needs. What I am hoping to do in the genealogy software community is to bridge the gap, to get more people interested in doing this research and getting their data published and moving them gradually down the path of genealogical sophistication.

    So, bottom line for me is an adaptive program, one that is simple enough to help bring more family historians and their data into the community and sophisticated enough to satisfy the more demanding and serious genealogist. Great post.

    Comment by Dave Voelker — 18 Mar 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  23. [...] have so much appreciated all the comments that came from my first post about GenPerfect. I so wish that such software already existed. Here are more ideas that are part of GenPerfect for [...]

    Pingback by More GenPerfect | ThinkGenealogy — 19 Mar 2011 @ 1:41 am

  24. Thanks Mark for kicking off a very thought-provoking discussion. I think between your original post and comments almost all of my desires have been covered, except one parochial interest of mine. GenPerfect ideally would interface smoothly with voice recognition software. It might also have screen capture capabilities in its media capabilities.

    Comment by Craig Manson — 19 Mar 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  25. I didn’t get to attend roots tech either but I am really enjoying the fact that they posted the videos online:

    Comment by Second Chance — 19 Mar 2011 @ 10:30 pm

  26. I agree with Tpstry that APIs have great potential. I’ve watched how apps like Flipboard have used APIs from Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc. to build customized news magazines. If existing data sources – Internet Archive, Family Search, WeRelate, USGS, etc. – offered APIs then any enterprising developer could build any number of useful apps.

    Comment by Denise Olson — 20 Mar 2011 @ 6:51 am

  27. Ol’ Myrt here is concerned when a genealogy website is the “broker” between two genealogists who simply with to exchange their data.

    I do love the idea of something innoculous (and non-genealogy oriented) like Dropbox was part of the syncing — makign a fully functional copy of my genealogy database and accompanying images and other multi-media files.

    Having things “backed up” requires “restoring” and that can be problematic if done using say an earlier Windows XP and something yet to be designed by our “friends” at Microsoft. Hopefully, though, genealogists are backing up more frequently than every few years. LOL.

    THANKS for writing, Mark. This is a most interesting discussion.

    Comment by Dear MYRTLE — 20 Mar 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  28. [...] my first GenPerfect post I mentioned that you could add living members to your database via Facebook. Lately my third cousin [...]

    Pingback by GenPerfect 3 | ThinkGenealogy — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  29. [...] Mark Tucker discusses what genealogy software would look like in a perfect world. Read about his vision of ‘GenPerfect’. It’s intriguing to think of a genealogy program that can handle the perspective of open [...]

    Pingback by Links, 3.21.11 « The Ancestral Archaeologist — 21 Mar 2011 @ 8:02 am

  30. This is a great start! As others have, I’ll add my 2 cents.

    RESEARCH PROJECTS: I like the research projects, but I would like to be able to link projects. Inevitably when you are researching one question, there are multiple people involved. You may find evidence that should be included in other research projects. The link should be something the user defines, not just an implied link based on the individuals associated with the project

    In addition to linking research projects, any research notes for a source in one project should be accessible, at least displayable, to other research projects.

    PEOPLE RELATIONSHIPS: For associated people, I would like to be able to define my own relationship types – there are familial relationships and non-familial relationships. I want to define some of both kinds. I would like to record friend, neighbor, witness, priest, god-parent, etc. Additionally I want to have multiple relationships between people to reflect changes over time. For example, Myrtle Braun was the housekeeper for the Allen family. The Allen family was comprised of James Allen, Helen Burman Allen, and Helen’s children from her first marriage. Later, Myrtle married Helen’s son.

    I like the possibility of displaying people of the same name who are suspected to be the same person as one even though they are entered as separate individuals. But, I would want to control when that happens.

    LISTS: I like the idea of expandable lists – like the plus sign where you can expand or collapse the menu. You would have lists of people, sources, locations, research reports and then show each of the other options under the main item. From each list, you could open an individual view, family view, pedigree, research project, source, map, etc.

    In people lists, it would also be nice if women with unknown maiden names could be displayed with their spouse rather than in a set of people with no last names or with a manually entered “Unknown Last Name Wife of Walter Scott” type of notation.

    LOCATIONS: It would be great to see all the people who lived in an area at a particular time. Choose a location and search radius. Then, display a list of people/households and on a map, pinpoint the location of each within a certain radius of the chosen location. This would be similar to the Google function of displaying restaurants near where you live.

    Historical place names may not match current place names (county, state, and country border changes). Users have to be able to link historical places with current place names either manually or by matching GPS locations. This would also help with place nicknames. For example, my great-grandparents first lived on “The J. W. Hooker Farm.” A neighboring farmer lived at an intersection called “Skinny Patton’s Corner.”

    Thanks for this Mark!

    Comment by Jennifer Wilhelmi — 21 Mar 2011 @ 9:17 am

  31. One feature that I hadn’t seen in Genperfect and rarely see online is a semantic query, “Who of my ancestors fought in the civil war? On which side?” or “who died from a specific cause of death?” I’m just starting my own family site and am combining the genealogy functionality of TNG with a semantic mediawiki. Love your blog, and just signed up to follow you on twitter too.


    Comment by Robb Stacy — 25 Mar 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  32. Mark,

    I just stumbled upon your website and blog.

    It looks like I’m about two years too late on your good idea to start some kind of a community effort.
    Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place for more current activity and commentary.

    Oops. I see that you described your GenPerfect idea in March of this year, 2011.

    I have looked through some of your materials, including your research chart, dated 2008.

    So here is my idea as it relates to your GenPerfect concept:
    I am guessing that the very large amount of thought which has been devoted to the data model is actually a symptom of something else. So your idea of a more general description of the needed system makes sense. The data that we see on the Internet and in other public places is usually of very low quality, with zero or minimal sources, etc. Obviously, if people would only put out high-quality data, with lots of sources, then we might have less duplication, because we could use other people’s stuff. But I would still maintain that would not be a very effective solution because it still implies massive duplication and minimal cooperation. People may cast their high-quality data out into the waters, or the Google-sphere, but it would still be enormously difficult for someone else to use that data, even if it were of exceptionally high quality. The inefficiencies and duplication and lack of cooperation would still be so horribly large, that we would still make very little progress.

    I am suggesting that the thing which has to happen first is a highly efficient cooperation system, something which does not exist in the slightest at this point (except for my beta-test website), and then the data quality issue can almost take care of itself. The endpoint on your research diagram is an intelligent discussion of the evidence and the conclusions. That is one aspect of the data system which I am promoting and building.

    My illustration of what I mean by serious cooperation would be to have each of the 4 million genealogists in United States each do a good job on 18 names and then put them together in a database designed for that exact purpose. That would complete the 70 million U.S. people who died before 1930. If each of those names could be collected together and entered properly during a four-hour period, including adequate sources, that would mean the entire operation would take two work weeks. That kind of cooperation and efficiency is apparently incomprehensible to genealogists today, so my mission is to try to make a dent in the sense of futility, hopelessness, and isolation that so many people feel today.

    My current embodiment of the concept can be seen at (These things are always just a few weeks away from completion, right?) If you go to you can skim down and find the e-book entitled “Doing Genealogy the Henry Ford Way.” This book explains in some detail how we could assemble high-quality genealogy data up to 2000 times faster than we see it happening today. As it explains there, the implied average duplication rate of everyone doing their genealogy back 12 generations in the United States is about 37,000. Obviously, that astronomical duplication rate implied by traditional methods is more than enough to almost stop us in our tracks, as it most certainly has. If we can bring that duplication rate down to zero and go beyond that to make things up to 2000 times more efficient, then we could quickly finish the basic genealogy for the whole United States.

    Most people have been so focused on their own families that they cannot comprehend why anyone would ever set the goal for doing genealogy for the entire United States. However, if people will take the trouble to work through the mathematics, they will see that doing the entire United States at once using cooperative methods can be hundreds of times faster for everyone involved than their trudging along doing their own isolated work. If that concept can ever penetrate the public consciousness, then we can make some serious progress.

    Kent Huff

    Comment by Kent Huff — 31 Aug 2011 @ 10:17 pm

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