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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
A Weekly Summary of Events and
Vol. 7 No. 19 – May 13, 2002
This newsletter was sponsored by Ancestry.com,
To learn about Ancestry.com’s
Past issues of this Newsletter
This weekly newsletter is available in both HTML and ASCII text editions. Details are available at:http://www.RootsForum.com/newsletter
Please feel free to forward copies of this newsletter to othergenealogists.
Copyright© 2002 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.
- GEDCOM Explained
I frequently mention the acronym "GEDCOM" in this newsletter. This week a reader wrote to me with an excellent question: "What is GEDCOM?" I realized that I haven’t explained that buzzword in a long, long time. So here is a brief, non-technical explanation of the term for the newer subscribers to this publication.
GEDCOM is an abbreviation that stands for GEnealogy Data COMmunications. In short, GEDCOM is the language by which different genealogy software programs talk to one another. The purpose is to exchange data between dissimilar programs without having to manually re-enter all the data on a keyboard.
To illustrate the importance of GEDCOM, step back in time with me for a moment. Back before the invention of GEDCOM and before the invention of the home computer, I entered onto 80-column punch cards the names and limited information about 200 or so of my ancestors. I did this after hours in my employer’s data center. I then used the employer’s mainframe computer that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to sort the data and to print a few crude reports. Luckily for me, my employer allowed me to use all the mainframe time I wanted during the evening, after the company finished its daily work.
Around 1980, I built my own home computer. I decided to put my genealogy database onto the new system, but it would not read 80-column punch cards. I manually re-typed every bit of data into a dBASE-II program that I wrote. My database had grown; I had to enter data on 400 or so individuals. I stored the information on 8-inch floppy disks attached to my homemade 8-bit CP/M computer that had 64 kilobytes of memory.
Some time later I discovered a CP/M genealogy program that would operate on my system. Unlike my crude, homemade program, this new genealogy program printed pedigree charts, family group sheets, and other reports. I decided to convert to the new, more powerful program (although I must say that it was rather elementary when compared to today’s powerful programs). My database had grown to about 600 individuals, and I could not find any method of easily copying that data into the new program. I first printed out the information from the dBASE-II database. Then I sat at my computer for several evenings, reading the information on paper and re-typing every bit of it into my new program.
I bet you can guess the next step: I purchased an IBM clone in 1984 and decided to move my data to this new powerhouse. After all, it had 640 kilobytes of memory and a 20-megabyte hard drive that I was certain that I could never fill. Having been rather active in my genealogy research, now I had information about 1,200 people to re-enter. I printed out the entire database from the old system onto paper and then manually re-typed it into the new PC powerhouse. That effort took weeks, and I promised myself, "Never again!"
Newer genealogy programs appeared in the following years, each with new features that I found enticing. However, I continued to use the same program simply because I didn’t want to go through the keyboard effort again. Then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced something new: a file format called GEDCOM. This new proposed standard file format was designed to allow different genealogy programs to exchange data. There was only one problem at the time: the only program that could read and write GEDCOM data was the one written by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
GEDCOM is a standard, not a program. As such, genealogy programs that are going to use the same data have to be written by the programmers to handle GEDCOM files. If you are trying to transfer data from one program to another, only to discover that only one of the programs supports GEDCOM, you are out of luck. Instead, both programs have to support GEDCOM.
Slowly, over a period of several years, other genealogy programs began to add the ability to read and write GEDCOM files. It was now possible to move data from one genealogy program to another without manually re-typing everything. The author of the genealogy program that I used never did add GEDCOM capability. Luckily for me, someone else eventually wrote a small routine that would export data from this program in GEDCOM format, and I was then able to move my data to more powerful new programs.
By 1990, I was writing articles on CompuServe, advising everyone to never use a genealogy program that lacked GEDCOM capabilities. Luckily, that is not much of an issue this year. All of today’s major genealogy programs will import and export GEDCOM data. Data transfer is still a problem for those using older genealogy programs without GEDCOM capability; many people still find their data trapped in these "islands." For them, there is no easy solution.
Unlike the "dark ages" of the 1980s, it is now common for people to use two or three or even more genealogy programs. You may find one program that you prefer to use for storing all the bits of information that you encounter in your research efforts. However, you might prefer the printed reports or multimedia scrapbook features of a different program. Thanks to GEDCOM, you can easily move your data from one program to another. You can also share information with distant cousins using yet other genealogy programs by sending GEDCOM files to each other by e-mail.
The instructions for creating or reading GEDCOM files will vary from one program to another. You need to consult the program’s HELP files to find the exact sequence of instructions your genealogy program requires.
You need to be aware that the creation of the GEDCOM standard was not a perfect implementation. For one thing, not all the data fields are specified precisely in the GEDCOM specifications. Next, not all the programmers of the various genealogy programs interpreted the specifications in exactly the same manner. For instance, your present genealogy program might be perfectly happy with a birth date listed as, "after 1847 but before 1852." However, once that information is exported in a GEDCOM file and then imported into a different program, the birth date may say something else. Typically, it is simply left blank.
Another problem is that not all genealogy programs have the same ideas about databases. One program may have only one field for "occupation," assuming that every person on the face of the earth never, ever changed careers. Another genealogy program may have the ability to record multiple occupations during the person’s lifetime. When transferring data via GEDCOM from the more powerful program to the simpler one, some of these occupations will be lost. These are a couple of simple examples; you can find numerous other inconsistencies when moving data between dissimilar programs.
Another limitation is the fact that the present GEDCOM standard was created before the popularity of multimedia. You can transfer textual data, such as names, dates and locations rather well in GEDCOM. However, transferring scanned images, sound clips and movies from one genealogy program to another is almost impossible to accomplish via GEDCOM files.
There is another problem with translating from one format to another, that of data integrity. Translating from one program’s database to GEDCOM is sort of the same as translating from one spoken language to another. The basics work, but subtleties and details sometimes do not translate well. Then, when translating to the third language (the receiving genealogy program’s database), more translation losses creep in. I well remember reading a technical manual some years ago that had been written in Japanese and then translated into Chinese. At a later date, the Chinese version was translated into English. The resultant English manual was barely readable. The same may happen with translating a database from Program A into GEDCOM and then from GEDCOM into Program B.
A new method of transferring data between different genealogy programs was announced some time ago byWholly Genes Software. Their GenBridge technology reads data from one program directly into a second program without requiring a "double translation" via GEDCOM. The result is a much more accurate transfer process. However, other genealogy developers have yet to adopt GenBridge. To date, this technology is only available in software produced by Wholly Genes: The Master Genealogist and Family Tree Super Tools.
Despite all the shortcomings, GEDCOM is still a simple and somewhat effective method of transferring genealogy data from one program to another. Most of the data will transfer properly, and then there are easy ways of reviewing the data to look for errors. The names, dates and locations normally transfer correctly. Text, events, notes and source citations may not always work perfectly. The exact problems encountered will depend upon the two genealogy programs involved.
Most modern genealogy programs will create an error log of GEDCOM data imported but not understood by the receiving program. You can read that log file to see what the program detected as inconsistent, then manually go in and fix the errors. While tedious, this is still a lot better than re-keying everything!
A few weeks ago a new GEDCOM standard was proposed that is to be based upon XML, a programming language that is popular on the World Wide Web. This new standard should greatly improve data transfer accuracy. See my article athttp://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5626.asp for details. However, don’t look for this new GEDCOM 6.0 any time soon. It is still a proposal and probably will not appear in genealogy programs for another couple of years.
I offer this as a non-technical explanation of GEDCOM plus some commentary on its use. For more details and for technical explanations of the inner workings of GEDCOM, I would suggest that you read the following:
The long-awaited version 5.0 of The Master Genealogist was released on Tuesday, 21 May 2002, as a downloadable file from the Wholly Genes Web store. The Master Genealogist, or TMG as it is often called, enjoys a reputation as the most powerful genealogy program available today and is sometimes called "the one that does it all." Version 5.0 is a complete re-write of the program.
This week’s announcement from Wholly Genes Software, producer of The Master Genealogist, says that version 5.0 will feature the following:
In addition, the following features were available in earlier versions but have been significantly improved in version 5.0:
One item to note is that a few of the fancier reports have not yet been certified by the beta testers. As a result, the program is being released this week with the report output limited to charts (ancestor, descendant, hourglass, and fan charts). However, the remaining reports will become available once they are certified and will then be easily downloaded online at no additional charge. This should happen within a few weeks. The rest of the program is complete now.
The TMG 5.0 download is about 20 megabytes. That will not be a problem for anyone using a cable modem or DSL Internet connection. However, dial-up users who are limited to 56 kilobaud connections may wish to wait for a CD-ROM version to become available within a few weeks. The release on May 21 is only for the downloadable version. The CD-ROM version and a printed manual will not be available for a few more weeks.
The purchase price of version 5.0 will be $79.00, a 20% reduction from the price of the earlier Gold Edition. Registered users of TMG version 4.x may upgrade to 5.0 for $30.00. In addition, registered users of Family Tree SuperTools may upgrade to TMG version 5.0 for $59.00.
You can read Wholly Genes’ full press release at:http://www.whollygenes.com/press/pr_tmg5date.htm
I suspect the download site will now be very busy. I hope to obtain a copy of The Master Genealogist version 5.0 and write about it in this newsletter in the near future.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the Society of Genealogists’ annual Family History Fair to be held in London May 4 and 5. I was unable to attend this year, but several newsletter readers who did make it wrote to say that this year’s event was a big success.
John Konvalinka, an American attending his first SoG conference, wrote, "I spent a little time at the FHF today, not enough to give you a detailed report, but my impression was that it is quite successful… . … the exhibit area was a beehive, and the lectures I popped into were good."
Ed Lear wrote, "Just happened to be in London so went to the fair and looked around. … Talked to several genies from Australia, U.S., etc. and they all felt that it was a well-done show, as did I."
You might want to plan now to attend next year’s Family History Fair. It’s a great excuse to visit London, and the airfares in May are usually reasonable, preceding the big tourist rush of the summer. I haven’t yet seen any announcement for next year’s event as I suspect the organizers are still catching their breath after this year’s success. However, the fair is usually held on the first weekend in May, and my calendar says that it should be May 3 and 4, 2003. Check for confirmation later this year.
- NGS Conference This Week
The annual conference of the U.S. National Genealogical Society will be held this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This conference is usually the largest in the U.S., typically attracting more than 2,000 attendees. Many companies also announce new products and services at this conference. I hear via the rumor mill that one brand-new genealogy program will be exhibited for the first time at this year’s NGS conference. In addition, the newly released version 5.0 of The Master Genealogist will be shown. (See the earlier article in this newsletter about this new version.)
I will be attending the NGS conference this week and will be spending a lot of time in the vendors’ area talking with the companies who exhibit there. I certainly will be watching any demos of new products and will be taking notes. I hope to write about these discoveries in next week’s newsletter.
As always, there is some risk of the computer gods not cooperating when traveling. I will be writing next week’s newsletter on my laptop and handheld computers while in Milwaukee, so I will be dependent upon dial-up telephone connections from the hotel and wireless modem connections at airports and other locations. There is a risk that next week’s newsletter will be delayed a bit.
I would also like to invite newsletter readers who are attending the conference to join me Saturday evening for a Dutch treat dinner. The Saturday evening dinners have become somewhat of a tradition over the years. These dinners occur after the conference has finished and everyone can sit back and relax. The dinners started off some years ago as a number of genealogists found themselves alone in a strange city, looking for a place to dine. Some of these strangers, myself included, compared notes, and then all went off together as newly found friends. Spending dinner with people with similar interests as your own is always better than dining alone in a strange city.
At the next genealogy conference, some of us got together to do the same thing again, and we invited still more people. We did this again and again, and now these dinners have occurred for fourteen years. There is never a set agenda; we simply eat and talk.
As always, this year’s dinner is not planned in advance. It will be a last minute effort; no restaurant will be selected until after we all arrive in Milwaukee and scout out a place willing to seat a large bunch of raucous genealogists on a Saturday evening. As you might imagine, not all restaurants are willing to seat that large a crowd on what might be their busiest night of the week.
Previous Saturday evening dinners have had varied results. The number of attendees has varied from twenty to perhaps fifty or so. At some conferences we have had private rooms while other years have seen us seated at multiple tables in the restaurant’s main dining room. The food has also varied in quality and in price. The ambient noise level has also varied widely. However, I think everyone has enjoyed himself or herself. I know that the conversations over dinner typically have been first rate.
There will be a sign-up sheet for dinner on the bulletin board that typically is provided for postings at these conferences. We usually need a firm headcount by Friday night or early Saturday morning, as we have to notify the restaurant. By sometime Saturday, the sign-up sheet will also list the time and location of the dinner.
Milwaukee residents: Do you have any recommendations for a restaurant within walking distance of the convention center or within easy access via public transportation? One that can handle a crowd on a Saturday night? If so, send a note firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also appreciate it if a local volunteer would step forward to help me coordinate all this. A lot of genealogists certainly will say "Thank you" if you could help make our stay in your fair city a more enjoyable experience.
The U.S. National Genealogical Society has announced a new online genealogy newsletter. That sounds like a great idea; I think there is room for many more newsletters online.
The following announcement is from the U.S. National Genealogical Society:
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & UNSUBSCRIBE
- Gary B. Mills Dissertation Scholarship Fund Announced
Gary B. Mills was a well-known genealogy expert. Amongst his long list of accomplishments, he was probably best known for his work as Associate Editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 1987. Mr. Mills died 25 January 2002 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His obituary was published in this newsletter, you can read it at:http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5275.asp.
Now a scholarship fund has been established inDr. Mills’ honor. The fund’s organizers are seeking additional financial support.
The following is an announcement from the Mills family:
The following is an e-mail from Howard W. Henry that I found interesting. I decided to republish it here in its entirety:
If you would like more information about this worthwhile project, you can contact Howard W. Henry directly at:email@example.com
- More Counties Added to Boyd's Marriage Index
Origins.net has announced that the following counties have now been added to Boyd's Marriage Index.
This now brings the total number of Boyd's records on English Origins to over 3.5 million. For further details on Boyd's Marriage Indexes, please go to:http://www.englishorigins.com/bmi-details.html
Last week I wrote about Genealogy-Developments.com, an online site that charges $45.99 to $69.99 and then delivers information to you that is available at no charge elsewhere on the Web. I also mentioned FamilyDiscovery.com, a similar operation that has since disappeared. Apparently the Internet service provider that hosted FamilyDiscovery.com shut it down after complaints by many users.
My mailbox filled up quickly after last week’s article was published; several people wrote about still other scam operations on the Web. A newer site has appeared recently that seems to be very similar in operation. GenLocator.com. This new site offers essentially the same "service" as Genealogy-Developments.com although the price is slightly different: $39.99 for two years.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Web sites spring up soon with similar "offers." I would assume that having more sites in operation will create more income for the site owner(s). After all, it doesn’t take much work to create one of these Web sites that simply links you to other sites.
If you have suspicions about a site’s services, I would suggest that you check this newsletter as I normally write about all new major sources of genealogy information within a week or two of their appearance. You can easily search past newsletters athttp://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/eastman.asp. Simply type in the questionable site’s name in the "Search the Library" box and then click on SEARCH. You will then find any articles that I have written about that site, whether it is a positive or a negative review.
There are several other "watchdog sites" that monitor websites like FamilyDiscovery.com, Genealogy-Developments.com and GenLocator.com. The International Blacksheep Society of Genealogists maintains a "Genealogy Hall of Shame" at:http://blacksheep.rootsweb.com/familydiscovery.htm. The Watchdog Committee maintains the "Genealogical Web Site Watchdog" at: http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm. You might also want to check Cyndi’s List at: http://www.cyndislist.com/myths.htm#Consumer.
If you ever have a question about an online genealogy "service," I’d suggest that you check the above sites before spending any money.
Local authorities seeking to boost their budgets resulted in Turkey counting at least 3.65 million non-existent people in a national census in 2000. "It has been established so far that 3,651,000 people were recorded as imaginary population," Sefik Yildizeli, the country's chief statistician, told reporters Thursday.
Officials acknowledge that the 2000 census, which reported a national population of 64,059,000, was distorted by fake counts at scores of municipalities, whose state budgets are tied to population size. Statisticians are trying to strip the results of the corrupted data and revise the figures.
The "Home Pages Highlighted" section consists of new genealogy-related home pages that you, the readers of this newsletter, nominate for publication in this newsletter. While anyone may nominate any genealogy-related home page, the process seems to work best when the webmaster for a home page nominates his or her own work. Nominations are now done online athttp://www.rootsforum.com.
The following is a list of some of the genealogy-related World Wide Web home pages that have recently been listed by newsletter readers athttp://www.rootsforum.com:
PastPlaces is a new resource for information, images and video of places and people - past and present. There are literally millions of old photographs sitting in albums, draws and attics around the world, chronicling past places, events and people. Until now, these images have been seen by only a few. Memories of homes, streets, towns, and cities, friends, family and neighbours. Places and events that you may have witnessed but did not photograph - others might have.http://www.pastplaces.com
Helmut Ramm’s ancestors and other genealogy information from East Prussia, primarily on village of Albrechtsdorf, circle Pr. Eylau. This site reports on the escape of 1945 and the life thereafter. It includes an eye-witness report on the fall of the "GOYA" in less than 10 minutes when over 7,000 people drowned. The site is in German:http://www.people.freenet.de/helmut.ramm/
Gootee family outline from 1662 with a query page and a list of Gootee and related families:http://www.ecosinc.com/gootee
Jay Bond's Genealogy Home Page with extensive information on many ancestral families:http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~radbud/
Ukrainian Genealogical Society’s home page - to support and aid the Ukrainian genealogist and those that are conducting their family research into their Ukrainian roots:http://www.rootsweb.com/~ukrgs/
Ferguson Ancestors' Attic, includes surnames of Ferguson, Clark, Juhl, Kauffman, Madsen, Payton, Price, Swift and Willer:http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~fergusonweb/index.htm
Duerden family tree home page:http://www.btinternet.com/~raymduerden
Ancestral lineages of the Bennett, Drew, Featherstone, Hoggard, Logie, Mulford and Tirrell families in America and England:http://www.famhist.com
Whitehead's of Whitehall, NY and surrounding areas:http://www.whiteheadancestry.com/
To submit your genealogy page to this newsletter, enter the necessary information at:http://www.rootsforum.com. Due to the volume of new Web pages submitted, I am not able to list all of them in the newsletter.
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 newsletter’s online discussion group on CompuServe’s Genealogy Techniques Forum. The CompuServe forums are free and are available to anyone using Netscape, Internet Explorer or CompuServe’s own software Go to:http://www.rootsforum.com.
If you would like to submit news, information or press releases for possible inclusion in future newsletters, send them firstname.lastname@example.org. The author does reserve the right to accept or reject any articles submitted.
DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is being written and sent via e-mail at no charge. I expect to write one new issue on a more or less weekly basis. However, life sometimes interferes, and the need to earn a living may create an occasional delay.
COPYRIGHTS: The contents of this newsletter are copyright by Richard W. Eastman with the following exception:
You are hereby granted rights, unless otherwise specified, to re-distribute articles from this newsletter to other parties provided:
Also, please include the following statement with any articles you re-distribute:
Thank you for your cooperation.
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. Due to the volume of e-mail received, he is unable to answer every e-mail message received.
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