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 dev.ProgenyLink.com. (These things are always just a few weeks away from completion, right?) If you go to dev.ProgenyLink.com/about.php 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 firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
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!]]>
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.]]>
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.]]>
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.]]>
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!]]>
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!
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.
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…)]]>
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.