by | Aug 30, 2008 | Genealogy

Wishin’ and Hopin’, Thinkin’ and Prayin’
Plannin’ and Schemin’ Each Night from the Start
That Won’t Get You into His Heart

The recent problems I have had with making our regularly scheduled updates to the Heycuz website has got me to thinking…Daydreaming really. Normally, it doesn’t do much good to wish. As my father used to say, “Wish in one hand and Hope in the other and see which gets fullest the quickest.” That said, perhaps there’s some programmer out there who’s looking for a “good idea” and stumbles unto this. Genealogy is a huge market these days and growing every day, so the programmer who’s into making wishes come true can make a few bucks to boot.

What if…(ripple dream visual) there was software just for Genealogy Groups like ours?

Here’s my dream of the perfect genealogy software, in no particular order:
1. The software would work on any system but powerful and robust enough to handle huge files in real time. Something like Google Calendar, where “subscribers” can add events to a group calendar and be notified when someone else has added a event. The files would be accessible from any computer or cell phone with internet access. That way, if I’m out of town without my laptop and we run into an old cemetery, etc. I can do a quick search of the database and see that Hey, My Great Grampa Fred is in there and I need a photograph. I manage to find him, take a shot with my cell camera and immediately can add it to the Great Grandpa Fred’s info. While I’m doing that I notice that I don’t have a Death Date for Great Grandma Beula and I can add it on the spot.

2. MULTIPLE USERS: This Dream Application would be created for Genealogy Groups and so it must be able to support many users at once. Multiple users could make updates in real time while others are browsing or updating other individuals.

3. CHANGES ALLOWED: Allow users to make changes to individuals or add individuals. This ability to make changes however, will be limited to registered users only. They will have an individual password and any changes they make will be attributed to them on the individual’s file. Changes would occur instantly on the individual’s file so others can see the correct information. At the same time, any visitor would be able to click on, say the changed date, and see what the previous date was. If they disagree they can either leave a note, alternative date, source info, etc.

4. ERROR CHECKING: This dream software would block known errors from being made. For example, some one wants to add a spouse to a person already in the file, but that person has written herself saying she never married that person and its a case of mistaken identity. So the member who was trying to make the change would be notified that their change was not made and why it was not made. Second, if its a highly questionable fact to be added there would be a “waiting period” until an administrator approved of a change. The administrator would be notified by email that a questionable fact needed to be approved. For instance, say someone was born in May 1842 and someone tries to add that he was a soldier in the American Revolutionary war. That would be impossible so it would be flagged as questionable. Or that someone got married at the age of three or after they died. The software would also block questionable relationships. People do not tend to marry their sisters. One specific example is Jimmy Wayne Sullivan, Jr. Several times, in sending updates, people have told me that Jimmy married his half-sister Joy Hudgins, both children of Elizabeth Hall, but by different fathers. This is not correct. The Joy that Jimmy married was Joy D. Smith, not Hudgins. It’s just a coincidence that he married a girl with the same first name and middle initial as his sister.

5. ALTERNATIVE FACTS: In cases where there’s a question of a fact, the alternative facts can be listed below the “accepted” fact with a note or icon to draw attention to the viewer that there’s a conflicting fact.

6. SOURCES: Any changes made by anyone will be sourced with information on who made the change. They should also have the ability to name their source, preferably with fields to make their reference as accurate as possible. Like Type of Source: birth certificate or book? Certificate No. or page No., etc. Then, finally the person who made the change would use a rating system as to the value of the source. If they KNOW it for a fact from personal knowledge, they would list it as a 5-star fact, if it came from a book then a 1-star fact. etc. So that viewers could see how differing facts would compare.

7. PROTECTION FOR THE LIVING: When entering new information, the submitter would be asked if the person is living. If so, information on birth and other vitals would not be viewable to the general public.

8. PHOTOGRAPHS: Ability for users to upload/download photographs or images of source documents and attach directly to the person’s page, and once the page is refreshed the photo would appear on their page.

9. DUPLICATE CHECKING AND MERGING. As a user adds people to the Heycuz or Group’s database, the software will check to see if that person already exists. If it does, it will compare the other facts, like birth date or whatever and notify them that they are attempting to add someone who might already be in the database. It will allow them to compare the alleged duplicate and if they believe the person is the same person they can select the option to merge the “new” person with the “old” person.

10. MULTIPLE NOTES: The software would allow users to add note fields to post “stories,” transcriptions of documents, or other items specific to an individual. Visitors would see a icon that there are notes available for that person and be able to view them along with who wrote them.

11. AUTOMATIC UPDATES: When a user “signs on” to the Heycuz/Group database. They will be notified that changes have been made since they last visited and give them the option of downloading the changes or waiting for another time. It will give them the number of changes and the estimated length of time it will take to update their files, taking into account the speed of their internet connection as set in their “preferences.”

12. WORKING OFFLINE: The Software would give members the option of “working offline” and uploading the changes all at once, in keeping with the duplicating checking and error checking protocol as mentioned above. It would also give them the option of withholding information for what ever reason–whether they are still working on fact-checking or are concerned with privacy–by allowing them to set a privacy or “omit from public” flag. Any ancestor flagged in an individual’s file will not be added to the Heycuz database until the user chooses to remove the flag.

13. STANDARDIZED SURNAMES: Those of us with surnames that have multiple spellings, will agree with me on this. The software’s index should be able to search for all of the possible spellings of surnames. One of my ancestor’s is a Hutchinson. Whenever I’m searching an electronic database I have to search every one of the possible spellings to see if he’s even in there. For years I couldn’t find him on census or marriage records and it all had to do with the spelling of his name. Soundex doesn’t seem to do it for certain names. I’d search for the obvious Hutcheson, Hutcherson, Hutcheson, Hutchinson, but finally when I was looking for somebody else, guess who popped up? Good ol’ great great gramps Floyd Hutchinson spelled on one census, as Floyd Hutceson. On a hunch, I noticed that he was living next to a Langdon family, so I started searching for them instead, and that helped me find him nearly almost always. That got me to thinking he must be related to the Langdon’s and after a search, I found his marriage to a Mary Langdon, his name was recorded as Alexander F. Huchason, not only a different spelling of the last name, but his first name. No wonder I couldn’t find him. The Hutchesons of Williamson County are even harder, as someone reported on a rootsweb post that one branch changed its name to King of all things. And in the case of the Kennedy, Canady, Canaday, Canida, OMG!!!! So, there should be a way that would offer a alternative name field for both a “standardized” spelling and the spelling the person used and typing the name in the index would search of the database would search for all optional spellings. Now, I have to do a any field find, which takes longer and isn’t as handy.

15. MARRIED NAME. While I’m talking about names, it’d also be great to be able to view an index sorted by married names. As it stands now, say I’m browsing in a library and see a reference to Mrs. Ethel Hudgins, I have to set up a search that finds first name and married name. It’d be SOO much handier if the index let me just show married names and then I’d just type in Hudgins, Ethel and all the possible ancestor’s would appear.

14. UNIVERSAL FIELDS. If you do a lot of switching between genealogy programs, like I do, you begin to notice that there are indeed differences which have some dire consequences. Most of this is due to the way each application handles information. In my preferred program, Reunion, I use a memo field after each fact to describe the specifics of an event or fact. Like Cause of Death, in the death event field, or who sold what to who in the Land Sale field, but Family Tree Maker uses a specific Cause of Death field and either drops my memo or merges it with the notes field so that the memo is unclear as to what it goes with. Reunion also uses a “status” marker to denote such things as died as an infant, twin, or adopted and when I import files to FTM, via gedcom, all of those markers are lost. So, I want this software to be completely universal so that the information I see on my computer is the same as what someone else sees no matter what platform they are on. People can of course add fields as needed but those fields will be viewable when I open the file too.

15. WANTED or RESEARCH CHECKLIST. When viewing the information, it should be immediately apparent that a specific fact, event, or census is needed. When a new person is entered into the data base, it will review the birth and death dates and automatically add to the checklist the years of the Census, (or military records, etc) that should be checked. That way, if someone has it already they can see that its needed and input it. Or seeing that it is already there, not to bother putting it in again. Users can also attach queries to a specific person so other’s can view it and, hopefully, solve the question. On the other side of the coin, it would also list sources that have already been checked so we don’t keep researching the same files over and over. For instance, if we already looked in Dickson County, Tennessee’s Wills and Administration and found nothing, we could let others know, or remind ourselves, so that we don’t waste time and look through it again.

16. UNIVERSAL PLACES. Most genealogy software, including Family Tree Maker and Reunion, have an automatic fill-in feature that occurs as you start to input a place into the field. This is great because everyone enters information differently and I’m a fanatic for consistency. It drives me nuts trying to figure out which Tidwell Cemetery is the correct one, though. So, there should be a pop up or another indicator when someone types Tidwell Cemetery, to come up and point out which specific Tidwell Cemetery or what ever is referred to. In the same vein, the quick fill in should be able to tell the difference in places by not giving the person inputting information the option of having a person get married or be born in a cemetery. I covered a wedding once in a cemetery as a Movie stunt but it is an unlikely venue, and it’d be nice if my Dream software could tell the difference.

17. BACKUP: The Software’s database would have an automatic mirror site/backup so that there’s no chance of losing info if one server goes down, or slowing down the whole system if it gets too busy.

18. BOARDS: Members would have access to Chat and a message center just for them so communication would be easier. They could see when another member is online, unless the person wants to remain hidden, and invite them to a chat room to tell them the great news about uncovering a lost cousin or whatever.

19. CORRESPONDENCE HISTORY. In a person’s file, any user would be able to see the emails, chats, or letters that they sent or received to that person in their copy of the family file. This would have a send note option and other correspondence. It would be only viewable between the correspondent and the viewer, unless it was “marked” as a group email at which point all members would get a copy of the same email. A specific correspondence could also be linked to any ancestor who may have been the target of the discussion. Right now, I just dump emails into my “research notes” area and it gets mixed in with other notes and isn’t easily searchable. It’d be great to have an “at a glance” look that reminded me what has already been discussed, sent or if I’m awaiting a reply.

20. COST. I understand that the programmer who designs such a Dream program would want to be paid for his hard and much appreciated work, however, groups like ours don’t have a budget. Our site has always been free, and asking people to start paying now would be difficult. So, it’d be great if we could have such a program that was based on donations.

  1. Ah, oh well. It’s just a dream, right? Well, I found software very close to that dream and am in the midst of installing it right now! I’m excited. This will mean that I others will be able to make changes and update the database without having to wait for me to do it. I haven’t even explored all the benefits this software has as I’m still working with my server to get it working. I can’t wait!

Your cuz,