Note: The information in this archived copy was accurate on the date of publication. Since then, Web sites have appeared and disappeared, companies have been merged and many other facts have changed. You may find references in this archived copy that are no longer accurate.
EOGN: Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
A Weekly Summary of Events and
Vol. 5 No. 25 Ė June 17, 2000
This newsletter was sponsored by Ancestry.com,
To learn about Ancestry.comís
Past issues of this Newsletter
Copyright (C) 2000 by Richard W. Eastman. All rights reserved.
If you do contact any of the companies or societies mentioned in this newsletter, please tell them that you read about their services in this newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE:
One of the more interesting announcements at the recent National Genealogical Societyís annual conference was that of a new service, called OneGreatFamily.com. I had a chance to use it this week for quite a while. This online service is a collaborative database where users pool their knowledge and records to build one huge, shared database. Unlike some of the other online services that accept GEDCOM files and then allow other users to search across the many files, OneGreatFamily.com really has only one database. Everyone contributes to that database although each record is tagged as to who submitted it. This online database can be available to all users or can be kept private, at the discretion of the person who contributed the data.
Quoting from OneGreatFamily.comís Web site:
OneGreatFamily.com is headed by Alan Eaton, a person with a lot of technical and genealogical expertise. Eaton spent five years at Novell and later was at LavaStorm, where he was technical lead as the company developed the online version of FamilySearch.org for the LDS church.
OneGreatFamily.com is in a "controlled beta" phase at this time. A controlled beta simply means that the owners of OneGreatFamily.com do not have all features available yet. During this phase the company will also control the number of users accessing their product. Assuming that all goes well, the site will be opened to everyone within a few weeks. When complete, OneGreatFamily will include a collection of tools for families to stay connected through the Internet. This collection includes features such as family news, scrapbook, calendar, personalized greeting cards and more, although many of the tools are not yet operational.
The beta isnít free, however. Beta testers can use the system at a 50% discount from published prices. Once the beta is concluded, there will be two classes of membership: (1.) a paid membership and (2.) a "free track." Details about the free track access have not yet been announced.
During registration I was asked if I wanted to join an existing family group or if I wished to start a new group. If I already knew that someone had contributed data about some of my ancestors, I might have wanted to join that group. However, I was unaware of any existing group that met my interests; so, I elected to start a new group. Users can join multiple groups or start new groups at any time.
I had to enter my credit card number online, but I did notice that the "padlock" in my Web browser was locked at that time, indicating a safe, secure and encrypted form for entering this sensitive information. I know thatís safer than giving a credit card number over the telephone or in person.
I did not gain full access immediately. The Web page explained that the Genealogy BrowserTM software was being released on a first come, first served basis, in limited groups. Apparently the Web owners donít want too many people joining in at once, so that they can monitor and control the growth. A few days later, I returned and found that I had normal access.
After logging on with full access, I was looking at a split screen. On the left there was a "Handprint View" that gives a close-up of the immediate family of any given person in your ancestry. If data is available, you will also see that personís parents, siblings, spouse and children. On the right side of the screen you see the Starfield View, which allows you to see an unlimited number of generations at once. When I say "an unlimited number of generations," I mean that literally; you can display a pedigree chart of as many as 30 or 40 or even more generations at once. Obviously each person in that chart is depicted as a tiny box or "node" in the network. However, you can quickly and easily zoom in and out at will for a closer look at the details on any person. If you click on any "box" in the Starfield view, that personís data is shown on the left in the Handprint view, along with parents, siblings, spouse and children.
These screens are quite difficult to explain fully in this text newsletter. However, you can see examples of these screens by going to: http://www.onegreatfamily.com/z?genealogybrowser
The screens are displayed in an Active-X window. The Active-X component is downloaded as needed and cached in your Web browser. You will experience a delay of 40 to 60 seconds while the Active-X component is downloaded to your computer. Once this download completes, all further response times are almost instantaneous. OneGreatFamily.com will work with Internet Explorer version 4.0 or later or with Netscape 4.6 and newer on Windows 95, 98, NT or Windows 2000. No other software is needed. The company does not yet support Macintosh, UNIX or WebTV at this time although they do hope to add some of those platforms at a later date. The primary constraint is the availability of Active-X for each of those platforms. When a version of Netscape or Internet Explorer for the Macintosh appears with full Active-X compatibility, Mac users will be able to use OneGreatFamily.com. The same is true for other operating systems.
The first time I logged onto OneGreatFamily.com, the data screens obviously were empty as the system was waiting for me to enter data. Users can either enter data manually, one person at a time, or can upload a GEDCOM file. Since I didnít feel like manually entering the required information of a few thousand people, I first went to my favorite genealogy program and told it to export its data in GEDCOM format. Once that was done, I then instructed OneGreatFamily.com to import the new GEDCOM file.
Within a couple of minutes I was looking at my own information in the Handprint View on the left of the screen. On the right side, I was looking at a Starfield View of my ancestors. I must say that it is quite neat to see a layout of all known ancestors in many generations, compressed into a few square inches of screen space. In the upper right corner, there is a slider bar, labeled "Info." I could move the slider bar back and forth to zoom in and out on the displayed pedigree chart. I could zoom in to the point that I was filling the display with one person, then zoom back out in a second or two to display 53 generations.
When the mouse cursor is held over the Starfield View, the cursor changes to an icon of a human hand. This indicates that you can "drag" information around; that is, press and hold the left mouse button to move the entire field to quickly find the person of interest. Then release the mouse button, move the icon over a person of interest and a pop-up window appears that displays the name of that person along with the date and place of birth and death, if known.
While I have said that the Handprint View is on the left and the Starfield View is on the right, I should also point out that this is simply the default. At any time you can zoom in and out, exchange the two sides, or display only one side as full screen. All of this happens almost instantly, rather than with the usual delays one expects when accessing data on the Web. In this case, the speed is gained through the Active-X component that executes on your PC. Your computer obtains data from the Web site, but the actual displays are created inside your won PC. In most other Web-oriented software, the views are created in the remote Web server and then transferred to your system over the phone lines. If you are using normal dial-up modems, this could create delays. OneGreatFamily.comís system avoids frustrating delays, except for the very first one, when the Active-X component is loaded. Everything after that operates at normal PC speeds.
I clicked on one of my "end of line" ancestors. (An "end of line" ancestor is one where I do not know either of his or her parents.) I defined this as a person of high ancestral interest. In the future, if anyone else enters data into OneGreatFamily.comís database about the same individual, an e-mail will be sent to me. I can then return to the database and look at the newly-submitted data to see if (1.) it is the same person and (2.) if I agree with the new data. If I agree, I can merge the two together; that is, I can tell the database that these two entries are indeed the same person.
OneGreatFamily.com will save notes, biographical data, sources, and even multimedia files. You can upload sound, pictures or even full-motion video clips of a person, if you wish. These files will be available to others. During the product introduction at the recent National Genealogical Society conference, the showís producers showed an example, using a video clip of Donnie Osmondís first appearance on the Andy Williams Show when Osmond was five years old. (Donnie Osmond was in the audience when this demo was being conducted.) The clip appeared to last a couple of minutes and had full motion and full sound, so I assume it was several megabytes in size. The creators of OneGreatFamily.com assured the audience that they had sufficient disk space available to store many thousands of such video clips. The site will initially be configured with 1 terabyte of storage, which will grow larger as the number of users grows.
During my testing I had fun with one feature: Common Ancestors. My ancestry is 50% French-Canadians. Anyone who has spent time researching Quebec ancestry can tell you about individuals who show up multiple times in a personís pedigree chart. I have a number of such examples in my family tree. In fact, several individuals show up five times or more. When I clicked on "Common Ancestors" blue lines appeared all over the Starfield View. Each line connected two or more different "nodes" in the family tree, showing the individuals who appeared in two places or more. Anyone with French-Canadian ancestry will see lots of blue lines! I suspect the same will be true for anyone who has successfully researched families who remained in small villages for many generations.
During this stage of the beta test, OneGreatFaily.com will only allow you to work with your own data. You can enter data or upload a GEDCOM file and then browse around that data. You cannot yet grant other people access to your data, nor can you see data contributed by others. However, this capability is expected within a few weeks, well before the end of the beta test. A number of other features are not yet available.
When fully functional, OneGreatFamily.com will constantly scan its database looking for matches. For instance, I entered information about all my ancestors this week. In the future, someone else will probably enter data about some of the same individuals. OneGreatFamily.com will automatically look for possible matches to see if a newly-entered individual might be the same as a previously-entered person. If a likely match is found, the system sends e-mails to both people who contributed the information. Then those two can work together to see if, indeed, they are both looking at the same individual(s). If so, the two records can be merged together to be one. OneGreatFamily.comís software never merges two people together by itself. Instead, the individuals who contributed the data first must agree and then manually merge the data by clicking on an icon.
I asked OneGreatFamily.com to conduct an Internet search for one of my "dead ends." The software warned me that this feature was not yet available but will be within a few weeks. Once activated, the Web site will automatically search Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Genealogy.com, Kindred Konnections, the U.S. National Archives, the Social Security Death Index and also RootsWeb for data about the person I had just highlighted.
OneGreatFamily.com has many more features than what I can describe here. I hope the above "peek" will give you an idea of what it is all about.
I did find a few "abnormalities" when using OneGreatFamily.com. When uploading a GEDCOM file, the screen said "processing GECOM file." Once the GEDCOM upload completed, the status information said that it had uploaded 8000% per cent of my file. The on-screen information referred to the LDS online database as FamilySearch.com while it really is FamilySearch.org. The software also warned me that my screen was set to 800-by-600 pixels and that I should change to 1024-by-768 pixels to gain the best view. However, the warning was false as my screen was already set to 1024-by-768. Such issues are trivial and are to be expected with beta software. I never experienced any crashes or data loss.
There are a few things about OneGreatFamily.com that concern me. First, there is no method of hiding information about living individuals. The company says that the responsibility for protecting a living individualís privacy lies with the person who contributes the data, not with OneGreatFamily.com. While that sounds good in theory, I am not so certain that the company can totally escape responsibility.
Another concern is the quality of data. All of the other online databases of user-contributed information have had quality control problems. Serious genealogists who do their homework properly will only contribute data that has been verified. However, a few people contribute data that is conjecture or copied from inaccurate sources. Several of our present online genealogy databases already have lots of conjecture in them. The future user has no way of telling fact from fiction, other than going out and re-verifying data (which is always strongly recommended in any genealogy effort). I am not surprised that such data appears. However, I have always been frustrated at the difficulty of removing such data.
To their credit, OneGreatFamily.com does seem to have a better system for correcting misinformation than do most of their competitors. The system at OneGreatFamily.com allows and almost forces contributors to work together to resolve differences. I did not have an opportunity to try that system when writing this review.
I do believe that we are seeing a major shift in the way genealogy research is conducted and shared. Until the last few years, the only effective method of sharing your research was to publish a book of your findings. This is an expensive and difficult process for most people. As a result, most genealogy research was not carried on to future generations. Millions of people spent time and money researching family trees, and then the data was lost when the researchers died. In the past two decades the sharing of information has become easier, first by exchanging files in e-mail or on diskette. Then several databases started to appear, first on CD-ROM and then later online. OneGreatFamily.com has taken this effort a bit further by creating one large database and inviting everyone to contribute and then work together to continually update and correct the data contained inside.
Of course, this is not the first such single database to appear. The Ancestral File maintained by the LDS Church is quite similar in concept. However, correcting and updating information in the Ancestral File is difficult, as it was not originally conceived as an online database with easy public access. Corrections and additions are contributed in an offline manner and then processed as batch jobs, not interactively by the submitters. Later online databases have appeared with more streamlined methods, and OneGreatFamily.com simply is the latest iteration of user-friendly genealogy databases. It couples this ease of update with a great user interface that allows for almost instant maneuvers around a display of thousands of individuals.
OneGreatFamily.com has an excellent method of displaying pedigree charts and moving around those charts. It can hold information on millions of individuals from throughout history. It is easy to use, even in its present beta stage. I believe that OneGreatFamily.com is a winner and will become very popular. I also believe that it will spark the appearance of new competitors within a year, competitors that offer the same and even more features. The computer industry is full of such example: one company brings out a good service or product and then a competitor finds a way to improve upon it. The originator then improves the software still more, thereby "leap frogging" over the competitor. On and on it goes, in the best entrepreneurial manner. The big winner is the consumer. OneGreatFamily.com undoubtedly is going to attract competitors.
OneGreatFamily.com has announced the following prices for their paid memberships:
During the public beta, the six month and twelve month prices are reduced about 50%. The full launch of OneGreatFamily.com is expected to occur in July. The site expects 250,000 unique visitors in its first two months and several million within the first year. Details are available at:http://www.onegreatfamily.com/z?subscription
For more information, or to subscribe, go to: http://www.OneGreatFamily.com
The New England Historic Genealogical Society has had a Web site for some time. Like many genealogy societiesí sites, it has always been "static," displaying mostly information about the society and its services, along with information on how to contact the society. However, a few months ago the society launched a second site called "NewEnglandAncestors.org" and this new site is quite different.
NewEnglandAncestors.org is aimed primarily at members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Members can find a growing list of useful databases, message board forums and columns written exclusively for the site by a number of well-known genealogists and historians. Members also have easy access to information about NEHGS publications, educational programs and genealogy-related events in New England and around the country.
Michael Caito, Internet Services Manager for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, has created a much more interactive site than the previous edition. I have to say that I also found it to be much more interesting. The list of available services is lengthy, including:
This Web site is a winner. If you have New England ancestry, you need to check out this site. If you want to see what your genealogy society could accomplish in a Web site, you, too, need to check this out. Go to:http://www.NewEnglandAncestors.org
- Heritage Quest Completes Digitization of entire U.S. Census
The following is a press release from Heritage Quest:
Bountiful, UT--Heritage Quest Genealogical Services announces the completion of its massive digitization project of the entire U.S. Federal Census Records from 1790 to 1920. This project, which has taken over two years, makes available to genealogists and other researchers enhanced digital images of all 12,555 rolls of census microfilm in easy-to-use CD-ROM format for home computer use. Each roll of microfilm has a corresponding CD that is numbered with the National Archive and Record Administration (NARA) number. The digitized microfilm images are stored as databases and are replicated as CDís on demand. Orders for the digital microfilm census CDís are processed within three days of the time they are received.
- Conference of the Century in Fort Wayne, Indiana
The Millennium Conference, sponsored by the Allen County Public Library and the ACPL Foundation, will be held in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 19-22. Held at the Grand Wayne Center, just one block from the library, this conference is offering over ninety lectures. Topics will cover research methods, technology in genealogy, and research sources. Major genealogical vendors offering books, software, and publishing information will be in attendance also.
And as a special resource, the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library will have extended hours, which include being open until midnight July 19 and 20, and early bird opening at 6am July 20-22. These special hours will be reserved for conference attendees only.
The conference brochure can also be found at http://www.genealogycenter.com.
Now hereís the best part: the organizers of the Conference of the Century told me that readers of this newsletter can register by June 30th and avoid late registration fees. They do ask that, when you register, put "Dick Eastmanís newsletter" on your registration form.
The registration form can be found athttp://www.genealogycenter.com but make sure you write "Dick Eastmanís newsletter" on your registration form before sending it in.
- Savageís Genealogical Dictionary is now Online
James Savageís "Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before May, 1692" is one of the greatest resources for anyone doing genealogy research in colonial New England. These books were originally published during the U.S. Civil War and still remain today as one of the greatest resources we have. If you do not have easy access to a library copy, however, modern-day reprints cost more than $100. A few years ago the same volumes were digitized and released on CD-ROM disk and are available for under $50. Now the same volumes are available online at no cost. You can download the volumes and store them on your own hard drive.
Quoting from the Web site:
To obtain electronic copies of these books, go to:http://genweb.net/~books/savage/savage.htm
- Recent Announcements
The Recent Announcements section of the newsletter is published once per month, usually in the third newsletter of each month. Each announcement is a brief mention of a new product or service, followed by either an e-mail address or a Web page that you can use to find more information. Since detailed information is available via e-mail or the Web, I will not list the details in this newsletter. If you do contact any of these companies or organizations, please tell them where you heard about the event.
Abbots Technology Limited offers birth, marriage and death certificates from England & Wales. They also can obtain baptism, marriage and burial records of your British ancestors in India. They have several other such services available at;http://www.abbots.mcmail.com/
Kindred Konnections has announced that MyTrees Online, a free Internet-based genealogy program, now has Match/Merge capability, as well as its immediate data access function. The new Match/Merge function allows the user to upload additional GEDCOM files and add them to his/her already existing MyTrees Online database. Details are at:http://www.kindredkonnections.com
The Italian Genealogical Group has announced the availability of the complete index to ALL of the Naturalization Records of Suffolk County, NY. These naturalization records are of extreme importance not only to genealogical researchers but also to others trying to find either historical or personal information. The complete database has over 67,000 names from as early as 1853 up to 1990 when the Federal government assumed control of the naturalization process. Individuals naturalized were from all over the United States, particularly for soldiers who were processed for discharge at the end of World War I in November 1918. These men were very often not from the New York area. Look at:http://www.italiangen.org/suffolk_records_intro.stm
The USGenExchange is presenting a "Dedication to Freedom" by holding an essay writing contest. Everyone is invited to participate. There is no age limit. Each essay may include, but is not limited to the inclusion of the following information: Name of subject, Birth date, Birth place, Education Background, Family Background, Description of Accomplishments, Place Of Death, Date Of Death, Quotes, Images, Links to online information; bibliography. Look at:http://www.genexchange.org
"Our Loose Ends" genealogy column accepts queries related to families living in or migrating to Central and East Texas counties, published free, on a space available basis. For information on this column, visit:http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/2670/COLUMN-001.htm
If you would like to see your announcement listed in a future newsletter, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You must include either a Web page that gives details or an e-mail address for someone within the organization who is willing to supply the meeting details upon request.
Are you interested in the articles in this newsletter? Would you like to learn more or ask questions or make comments about these articles? Join this newsletterís online discussion group on CompuServeís Genealogy Techniques Forum. CompuServe members using Netscape, Internet Explorer or CompuServe 2000 can go to http://go.compuserve.com/GenealogyForum. If you are using Classic CompuServe, you can GO ROOTS.
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About the author: Dick Eastman is the forum manager of the three Genealogy Forums on CompuServe. He also is the author of "YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer" published by Ziff-Davis Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com